Computer Forensics Labs
Making a Digital Difference
The following article is reprinted from FBI.gov, August 18, 2009.
Some of the electronic media awaiting examination at the Silicon Valley (California) RCFL.
A domestic terrorist. A kidnapper. A corrupt politician. An identity thief.
These are just of a few of those brought to justice with the help of our Regional Computer Forensics Laboratories (RCFLs), according to the latest RCFL annual report now available online.
Fiscal year (FY) 2008—which ran from October 1, 2007 to September 30, 2008—marked the ninth year for the RCFL program, which had 14 labs operating around the country by the end of the fiscal year. Labs planned in Orange County, California and Albuquerque, New Mexico will soon bring the total to 16.
How does the program work? We provide start-up and operational funding, training, equipment, a director, and a network administrator; state, local, and other federal law enforcement agencies supply forensic examiners to staff the lab.
RCFLs examine digital evidence in all sorts of criminal and national security cases. And the cases come from a variety of law enforcement agencies—at the local, state, and federal level.
Combined, our network of labs racked up some pretty big numbers during the year. The RCFLs and their examiners:
- Processed 1,756 terabytes of data (a single terabyte is equivalent to the content of one large library!);
- Conducted 4,524 forensic examinations;
- Assisted 591 onsite law enforcement operations;
- Trained 4,991 law enforcement officers in digital forensics techniques; and
- Appeared in court 74 times to testify at trial.
And here a few more numbers: RCFL personnel examined 58,609 pieces of digital media of all kinds. The most popular types included CDs and hard drives (about 17,500 each); floppy disks (10,982); DVDs (4,310); flash media (2,548); and cell phones (2,226). Other items included digital cameras, GPS devices, and video and audio tapes.
But even more impressive than these statistical accomplishments were the important investigations these RCFLs supported. For instance:
- The Miami Valley (Ohio) RCFL helped the Columbus Joint Terrorism Task Force investigate , who eventually pled guilty to conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction against targets in Europe and the United States.
- The Kentucky RCFL examined media seized during a civil rights investigation into abuses against inmates by Fayette County Detention Center corrections officers.
- The Heart of America (Missouri) RCFL uncovered clues on a computer belonging to Lisa Montgomery, charged with the murder of a 23-year-old pregnant woman and the kidnapping of the woman’s unborn child.
- The New Jersey RCFL supported the investigation into corruption charges against former by examining several computers related to the case.
- The Philadelphia RCFL uncovered documents and spreadsheets detailing the crimes of identify thief Jocelyn Kirsch and her partner, who stole personal information from friends, co-workers, and neighbors.
The number—and storage capacity—of electronic devices seized during investigations continues to grow. During FY 2008, RCFLs processed 27 percent more terabytes of data than they did during FY 2007.
But as the workload grows, so does our commitment to developing effective solutions with our federal, state, and local partners. Visit the RCFL website for more information on the overall program and on individual laboratories.
- RCFL Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2008