Digital Forensic Investigative Unit
The Digital Forensic Investigative Unit operates with the Division of Drug and Crime Control of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. The Digital Forensic Investigative Unit supports the Patrol and other law enforcement agencies in the investigation of a broad range of computer-related crimes. The unit was created in 1998 as part of the Technical Service Section and was set apart as a stand-alone component in June of 2002. Due to the broad nature of computer crime investigations, the unit works closely with many local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
The Unit received approximately 750 Internet complaints last year. Although many of these complaints were not criminal in nature, many were investigated by this unit or forwarded to other members or agencies. The most common Internet complaint by far was Internet fraud. Approximately 50% of all the Internet complaints received center around Internet auction fraud. With millions of items around the world up for auction daily on Ebay and Yahoo, fraud is common.
The remaining investigations were divided among identity theft, intrusions, and stalking or harassment. The most common element of identify theft is credit card fraud. Innocent victims are defrauded of thousands of dollars by criminals with this fraud method. Intrusions are more commonly known as computer hacking. Hackers break into personal computers as well as computer systems in order to obtain personal or intellectual property from businesses.
In addition to working Internet complaints, the unit also receives computers, cell phones, and other digital devices for the purpose of gathering evidence for a case. The unit has worked on computers involving homicides, arson, child pornography and drugs.
So far this year, as of November 1, 2012, the unit has examined:
128 cell phones
4 GPS units
Due to the complexity of the examination, and amount of data which can be stored on current hard drives, computer exams can take a few days or up to several months complete. Officers take an image of the computer's hard drive and work from the copy in order to preserve the integrity of the original hard drive. Complex searches for text strings and graphics are conducted depending on the type of crime being investigated. The immense gigabyte hard drives available today make this a very time-consuming effort for officers in their search for evidence.