The following is taken from an interview with a Virginia federal cybercrimes lawyer as they discuss the criminal investigation involved in these types of cases and what law enforcement will be looking for. To learn more call and schedule a consultation with an attorney today.
In almost every case, there will be a search warrant under which the government will seize every computer, cell phone, pager, tablet, and similar device.
Any device that can access the Internet will be taken and analyzed. Whatever they find, they will be able to use it against you. Therefore we need to be ready with our expert witnesses to also look at whatever evidence the government has and try to refute their theory of the case. The case really all depends on what is on the computer.
Since there are so many different types of cybercrimes, there are different agencies that might be involved. The FBI is almost always going to be involved, at least in the periphery. Due to the fact that there can be drug implications, the DEA might be involved. There could be securities fraud, which might trigger a Federal Trade Commission investigation.
Which specific agency will be investigating depends on the area of cybercrime involved.
Let us use child pornography as an example. The investigators will be looking for pornographic images that appear to involve minors on the computer.
One technique they may use is to see if the people involved in the pictures or videos might be close to the age of 18, and if they are not sure, they can look at a list of known victims and the days of production of these videos or pictures to compare them to a list of known victims whom they have proof are under the age of 18.
In fraud-based cases, any emails, text messages, or Internet sites that may have been accessed by the computer or other device will be discovered when they investigate what is on the device. Since that information could have been used while conducting the fraud, investigators will use that information against you.
Investigators have a dedicated laboratory for this type of investigation. They send off the hard drive and other devices that have been seized. The length of the cybercrime investigation depends on how easy or hard it is to access what is on your computer or device. If the information is well concealed, the investigator may need to use significant decryption efforts to uncover the data that has been concealed.
However, in other cases, it is much more obvious and takes much less time. It really depends on what they are looking for and how easy it is to access.