Cyber Crime Police Units to Support the Community

The Internet, the technology that links us to, is becoming second nature in our lives but it also becomes a place where crimes are being committed every day. Police today face challenges that didn’t even exist 10 years ago. Keeping pace with the criminals and their technology requires an investment in equipment and perhaps, more importantly, special investigators who are tasked with being on the front line of cybercrime.

As technology advances, so must police. It’s a concept that is not lost. Computer crime units are vital to our operations. We’ve seen an explosion of computer-related crimes in the last very short period of time actually, probably 5 10 years or even less, than some cases. You know the investigations of economic crimes and certainly online situations with children and child porn, those types of investigations are important. These are victims that are very vulnerable and it’s important to losses of police service that we investigate these types of incidents very thoroughly and try to get these people off the street.

The Police cybercrime units were established over 12 years ago and have evolved to a state-of-the-art fully functioning investigative team after long training. The unit presently has three full-time detective constables who are tasked with the growing complexities of various police investigations.

It has completely changed every aspect, the Internet’s, the equipment, the devices completely changed. When it first started you would see old computers and pretty much that’s what we had to there being 20 gigabytes 40 gigabytes of data, cell phones were the tiny little flip phones, they didn’t have very much data, and at that time there weren’t a lot of tools for doing that kind of work, so you had to be creative trying to find ways to extract that information. Between the provincial strategy and the police both of whom invested heavily in this section, we have completely changed the way we do things. We have four supercomputers to two servers to help with the processing of the ever-growing amounts of data that we see, software continues to get better and better at doing that, more efficient. Different tools aid us in helping to pre-identify what some of these pictures are, and what some of these videos are just once again streamline and once again. We use even 3rd party software to protect our computers since we are targeted by criminals, so we get a lot of phishing attempts and viruses been sent to our unit. We use for that Zonealarm to start with, but with many others. The goal is that the faster we can do that the sooner we can get back on the internet and start looking for other people doing this.

These investigators view horrific images, perhaps one of the most disturbing crimes, involves the exploitation of children through child pornography. This aspect can have a significant effect on the investigators. There is an impact, no doubt about it, some of what we look at is the worst things manageable depending on the individual who’s trading and what their particular interest is. We can see pictures of video involving infants to teenagers. I think as a unit, we stick together pretty close, keep an eye on one another, we always work together so that no time is there an individual in here looking in that media by themselves.

Policing, in general, is a difficult profession to be in and certainly being a cybercrime unit where you’re looking at some pretty horrific details and photographs and things of that nature certainly adds another level to that. We’ve kind of followed suit with other departments in what they do with their personnel in those places so there’s yearly testing we can have them interviewed by mental health experts make everything’s okay. Certainly, from a police chief’s perspective, you want to make sure that your people are healthy. They do a good job, we want them to continue to do a good job but we want them to be healthy.

The provincial strategy to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation is a coordinated effort. The goal is to combat Internet crimes against children. It’s a tremendous amount of work, whether it’s a cell phone and a tablet or a computer. It’s a tremendous amount of work. Everything is done as the name suggests forensically, scientifically the same way every time, very carefully. It’s very work-intensive. Once the data has been extracted and we have to go through it in the case of pictures or videos, we will do what we call “categorizing” and we will separate child pornography from just pictures of kids or anything else that might be on the device. Putting together of all that data, once again is time-consuming, after doing the examination now you’ve got many days worth of taking everything you found and trying to make it easily understood but also technical enough that you can’t be challenged on how we got it, or where it came from on that device. So it’s a fine line, it’s a balancing act, not to get too complex but not get too simple. We have had cases of victims in that have been identified sad but it’s true, it does happen. It happens everywhere. Once again, that’s that is our goal not to try and find these
individuals prior to them becoming hands-on offenders. If we, through our examination, find connections to other places or information in one of the pictures as to where it may have come from or originated, then we will afford that on to that organization so that they can look into it, so it’s a cooperative between all police departments across the world with the single goal in mind.

Advancements in technology have made investigating the cyber world challenging larger storage capacity allows for predators to collect an extraordinary number of files which the police must examine.

That is one of the most fatiguing things it’s not just a case of quickly scrolling through pictures and yeah yeah yeah yeah that that’s a new child I’ll put that, it that’s not the case you’ve got to stop. At each one look at it yes or no, and when you have 1.2 million pictures it takes months.

Despite the personal cost why do we choose to be part of the cybercrime unit? We have a real desire to save children as such this is what we have to do and we accept that and do it so if looking at that type of media begins to bother you, I think you can reflect on the fact that you know by me doing this work or James or Kathy doing this work that perhaps we can stop somebody from hurting another child. That makes it worthwhile.