Whether law enforcement agencies are attempting to uncover evidence in international cyber warfare cases or discover people of interest in internet harassment issues based out of Minnesota, allegations of internet crime all involve similar investigatory processes. Understanding these techniques, along with what may go wrong in the process of investigation, is often a prerequisite for a successful defense against wrongful charges.
The Cyber Center, a joint effort of various law enforcement agencies, provides explanations of two major steps to explain how police investigate internet crimes:
- Retrieval of information
- Analysis and investigation
There are many rules governing both of these stages, for good reason. If the police or federal agents involved mishandle the devices they seize— or if they collect information illegally— the final evidence could include tainted or forged data.
The FBI goes into more depth on the general subject of cyber crime, specifically stating when the federal government gets involved in internet crime investigations. The agency lists child exploitation, internet fraud and identity theft among its top prevention priorities. It also mentions several partnerships with other federal law enforcement teams.
Collectively, these agencies have access to many of the most advanced technologies, such as decryption programs and data analysis tools. Additionally, since criminal investigatory and trial processes might last for some time, there is always a chance that someone will develop new technology to defeat previously unassailable security measures before a verdict is issued.
These large federal organizations are powerful, resourceful and staffed with many of the brightest technicians available. That does not make them infallible. When using the right tools and expertise, those standing falsely accused of internet crime should often be able to uncover the error or wrongdoing on behalf of law enforcement that led to the spurious charges in the first place.