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Lack of Resources Hamper Cyber Crime Investigations, Survey Shows

A majority of law enforcement agencies in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia do not feel that they have adequate resources for investigating cyber crimes, according to a survey completed by Duquesne University, in conjunction with the FBI’s Pittsburgh Division.

This survey was the first in this region to gauge how local law enforcement tracks and responds to cyber crimes, said William Shore, Supervisory Special Agent, FBI Pittsburgh Office. 

“Cyber crime is a growing threat and law enforcement agencies around the country are grappling with how they can change their investigative techniques and priorities to best to address it,” Shore said.

“Because of the temporary and technical nature of internet postings and the fact that the internet can cross many enforcement jurisdictions, it’s becoming more important for law agencies to collaborate and to turn to specialists to help effectively fight these crimes,” said Dr. Kenneth Saban, the Duquesne associate professor who helped draft the survey, analyze its results and develop the report.

The regional findings aligned with national trends reported in the 2005 FBI Cyber Crime survey, which showed that business were most threatened in the cyber world by viruses, spy ware, port scans and sabotage of their data or networks, as well as by intellectual property infringement. Cyber attacks on individuals, both regionally and nationally, included fraud, threats and crimes against children.

Significant findings from this landmark regional survey include:

  • Nearly nine out of 10 agencies do not feel they have adequate resources for investigating cyber crimes.
  • The top three resources that agencies say they need to enhance their investigation abilities are training, additional money and software.
  • About 75 percent of the respondents report that their investigators and forensic examiners have no special training to handle cyber crimes.
  • More than half of investigators do not collect digital evidence when investigating crimes.

The survey findings could lead to the formation of a Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory, a special crime lab that would collect, process and analyze digital evidence, and encourage sharing information and techniques through existing organizations to fight these crimes. A number of Regional Computer Forensics Laboratories have been created across the country, gathering together specialists to fight cyber crime, Shore said. Though the FBI has funded existing regional centers, these centers also depend on funding and participation from other agencies. More than 60 percent of the survey respondents said they would use a regional laboratory if one existed.

Until money would become available for such as initiative, other steps could be taken, according to Saban.

Four key steps would be:

  • Develop a basic cyber crime investigations training program that would address legal and “best practices” information when seizing evidence. Use online instruction to fill the training gap in a cost-effective, timely way.
  • Encourage outreach efforts from professional groups. Partner with subject matter experts and existing anti-cyber crime organizations to develop training materials.
  • Increase collaboration through existing cyber crime task forces.

“This is only the first step in Duquesne’s cyber crime research collaboration with the FBI," Saban said. “In the near future, we plan to determine how local businesses and educational institutions are prepared to protect themselves against these types of crimes and the kinds of resources they need to reduce their vulnerability.”

This survey was sent to nearly 700 law enforcement agencies in West Virginia and 25 counties in Pennsylvania within the FBI Pittsburgh Division’s territory: Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Fayette, Forest, Greene, Indiana, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Mercer, Somerset, Warren, Venango, Washington and Westmoreland.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.