Computer Crime: Forensic Device Allows Investigators Quick Access to Critical Data
By: Jim Kouri, CPP
It seems that no matter what illegal activity is pursued, whether it is pornography, kidnapping, murder, or even terrorism, the so-called criminal masterminds leave a winding but traceable trail of related computer data linking these perpetrators to their crimes. In the current era of escalating crimes involving computer usage, it has become essential that law enforcement has immediate access to potentially critical computer data.
Such immediate access not only helps to ensure apprehension and conviction of the perpetrator, but contains within it the promise of the prevention of the unthinkable. While technology currently allows forensically sound and virtually instantaneous access to potentially critical crime-related computer data, this technology is not employed in nearly enough cases.
Crime waits for no man. Right now, computer crime labs across the nation are backed up from as much as several months to a year for forensically processing and obtaining vital information from suspect computers. Local investigative teams are hampered by computer forensic tools that require hours to forensically copy and transfer data for viewing, in order to maintain forensic soundness.
However, there is no need to wait for processing according to David Biessener, CEO of Voom Technologies, Inc. (http://www.voomtech.com/). Using a unique device called the Shadow, patented by Mr. Biessener in 2002, a suspect computer can be booted and run on the spot, allowing immediate examination of its contents, without forensic compromise (i.e., the chain of evidence remains intact and the contents of the computer remain in an unaltered state, fit for use at trial).
“What a competent [computer forensics] examiner can do in a day with the Shadow, would surely take weeks or months using alternative forensic procedures,” notes Will Docken, former U.S. Customs Special Agent and founder of Will Docken Investigations. “The ability to [immediately] boot, run, and thus investigate any computer with any operating system is not possible with any other forensic procedure or device of which I am aware,” says Docken, a computer forensics expert and long-time user of the Shadow.
“Immediacy of access to digital data is essential,” states Detective Bobby Benton of the Wilmington Police Department in North Carolina. After having the Shadow demonstrated to him, Detective Benton lamented not having access to this technology sooner.
Benton explains, “Recently, there was a shooting in a local store. The homicide was caught on security cameras located on the premises and stored digitally. These images, however, were not able to be viewed immediately in order to maintain the forensic integrity of this digitally stored data. Identification of the perpetrator was, therefore, delayed by seven or eight hours.” In the meantime, the perpetrator eluded authorities and made his way hundreds of miles and several states away where, fortunately, he was eventually apprehended.
“The suspect may not have made it out of North Carolina,” Benton says, “if the Shadow had been available to us at that time.”
Take the case of Mark Jensen, convicted in February, 2008, of murdering his wife. Initially, Rhonda Mitchell was called by the prosecution to testify in the capacity of computer forensic expert. Upon cross-examination, however, she was unable to effectively explain the manner in which the forensic soundness of the computer evidence was maintained, due to the complicated and technical nature of the process.
Because of this, Martin Koch was then called to testify in this capacity. Mr. Koch used the Shadow to effectively present and explain the computer evidence to the judge, jury, defense and other court attendees. In fact, one of the three key pieces of evidence quoted by the jury as essential in reaching their guilty verdict, was evidence presented by expert Martin Koch, using the Shadow. During the trial, the Jensen home computer was brought into the courtroom, the Shadow was connected, and that which would have been displayed on the monitor was projected onto a screen for the court to view.
Part of the evidence accessed and shown via the Shadow included links to poisons and their effects. It was ultimately demonstrated that links to antifreeze poisoning were followed (the decedent was found to have antifreeze in her blood at the time of death), a link to the symptoms of antifreeze poisoning was followed, however, no link to remedies or antidotes to poisons had been followed. Defense tactics aimed at suggesting suicide were thwarted due to the fact that by the defendant’s own words, his wife was completely bedridden for three days prior to her death, and the Shadow showed clearly that the sites in question (including their contents) had been accessed during that time period.
Mark Jensen was sentenced to life in prison without parole in Walworth County, Wisconsin, in connection with murder of his wife 10 years prior (i.e., 6 years prior to the invention of the Shadow right across the state line in Lakeland, Minnesota).
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a staff writer for the New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he’s the new editor for the House Conservatives Fund’s weblog. Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty.
He’s former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed “Crack City” by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He’s also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He’s a news writer for TheConservativeVoice.Com and PHXnews.com. He’s also a columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he’s syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. He’s appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com. Kouri’s own website is located at http://jimkouri.us
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a columnist for The Examiner (examiner.com) and New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he's a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB (www.kgab.com). Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He's a news writer and columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he's syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. Kouri appears regularly as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Fox News Channel, Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, etc. To subscribe to Kouri's newsletter write to COPmagazine@aol.com and write "Subscription" on the subject line.