Computers are not always used in a legal way, and law enforcement is now dealing with cyber crime, or illegal activity involving a computer or network, on a daily basis. There are tools available to help law enforcement agencies investigate this growing type of crime and identify the individuals committing it.
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Data Recovery Programs
Data recovery programs are software used to extract information from a computer's hard drive after it has been erased or damaged. Most programs can restore deleted files and provide a list of all storage devices currently attached to the computer the drive is in. This type of software is used to recover files that a suspect may have tried to remove, such as evidence of a child pornography ring. Not all data will be recoverable. The quality of the files retrieved depends on certain factors, like what method was used to delete the files and the physical state of the hard drive itself.
Honeypots, in cyber crime, are traps set for criminals interested in specific information. Typically, a honeypot is a computer or website that appears to be part of a larger network and is relatively easy to access without the proper permissions. In reality, the honeypot is isolated and being closely monitored by whoever set the trap. For example, a honeypot that is being designed to trap a credit card fraud ring may contain fake credit card account information and other lures to entice a criminal in the ring to illegally access it. From there, information on the location and the method of the criminal may be revealed to the person monitoring the honeypot.
IP Address Tracking
An Internet protocol (IP) address is a number assigned to a computer or other device on a network accessing the Internet. This number can reveal specific information about the computer that is using it, such as a general location or even the name of the owner. Tracking software can be used in order to create information logs of IP addresses used by criminals in the commission of a crime. Because IP addresses can be hidden, "bounced" from computer to computer or even altered, success using this software depends on the level of skill of both the person using it and the person committing the crime.
Chat Room Monitors
Chat rooms, online gatherings of individuals interested in a particular subject who talk to each other in real time, are sometimes a target for law enforcement investigations. A popular website for children may lure paedophiles, and an officer or agent will go online and pose as a member of the chat room in order to catch the paedophile in the act of soliciting a minor. Programs are now used to monitor and record chat sessions, as well as flag any words or phrases specified by the person using the program.
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