Increasingly, criminals are using computers to commit crimes or to keep track of their “business dealings.” These days, when officers serve a search warrant, some of the most important evidence may be stored on a suspect’s computer. Retrieving the computer records necessary to solve these crimes is complex and highly technical, and must be done in a manner that ensures that the evidence can be used in court.
In response to increasing demand for specialized assistance in this field, the Division of Criminal Investigation established a Computer Crime Unit in 2000. This unit serves as a resource to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in the investigation of crimes involving computers. Investigators use specialized equipment and extensive training to successfully extract evidence from a suspect’s computer. Once a computer is seized, investigators follow specific procedures to ensure that the evidence can be presented successfully in court, where the investigators may testify as experts in computer forensics.
Equally important is the work the Computer Crime Unit does to protect children. All too often, those who seek to sexually exploit children use the Internet as a tool. These predators engage children on the Internet and entice them to meet. The unit works with the Montana Cybercrimes Task Force, which includes representatives of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, to actively investigate these activities in an effort keep the Internet safe for children.
The Computer Crime Unit trains law enforcement officers statewide in the area of computer crime. The unit also develops programs for schools and parents’ organizations to acquaint them with the safety rules of using the Internet and computers.
Types of Computer Crimes
- Hacking – using a computer system to obtain illegal access to computer systems owned by private corporations or government agencies
- Robbery, burglary, theft of computers or their components
- Financial crimes – identity theft, fraud, forgery, theft of funds committed by electronic means
- Exploitation of children – child pornography and sexual predators
- Drug crimes – customer records, formulas for drug manufacture, financial records
- Counterfeiting – use of computers and laser printers to print checks, money orders, negotiable securities, store coupons
- Telecommunications crime – unauthorized access to telephone systems, cloning cellular telephones, intercepting or creating false communications
- Homicide – evidence retrieved from victim’s or suspect’s computer