Cyber Investigations, A Law Enforcement Needs Assessment

Cyber Investigations, A Law Enforcement Needs Assessment

Frank X. Hartle III (Robert Morris University, Moon, USA) and Christopher Wydra (California University of Pennsylvania, California, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/IJCRE.2019070106


The purpose of this article is to assess the needs of local and state law enforcement agencies to investigate both cyber-enabled and cyber-dependent crimes. While large federal investigative agencies have the skills, tools and resources to investigate cyber-crimes, the increasing propagation of such crimes has overwhelmed their ability to investigate all but the most serious national security threats and large-scale cyber-crimes. To that end, this article assesses the current knowledge, skills, and abilities of local law enforcement to perform cyber-crime investigations and more importantly their desire to do so. As these crimes grow in ease and popularity it is posited that local law enforcement will be required to have the technical skills to investigate a myriad of cyber-crimes at the local level. As such, there will be a need for local training in cyber-crimes investigation and shared investigative resources. Additionally, this paper gauges local law enforcements' willingness to participate in such training.
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The proliferation of cyber-crime and cyber-crime complaints continue to increase at an exponential rate. Complaints of cyber-crimes are in the millions since 2000, which does not include non-reported cyber-crime incidents. MacAfee, a well-known global cyber-security software company reported that cyber-crime costs approximately $600 a year (Lewis, 2018). Due to the impending and continuous cyber-crime problem, local law enforcement will need to increase their efforts investigating cyber-crime and using information technology to combat cyber-crime. Agencies, such as, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and Department of Homeland Security recognize that there has to be collaboration among federal and local law enforcement agencies to address the cyber-crime problem. Albeit, the federal agencies also acknowledge that there are deficiencies with local law enforcement agencies being equipped to handle cyber-crime investigations.

Local law enforcement agencies are small to mid-sized agencies that investigating crime, including cyber-crime at the local level. These small to mid-sized law enforcement agencies lack the ability and resources to be able to collect digital evidence, which is a key component of being able to successfully conduct a cyber investigation. Additionally, issues related to small to mid-sized agencies being able to effectively investigate cyber-crime is the lack of funding that is needed to provide cyber investigation tools and training investigators. This paper examines and assesses the limitations and inabilities law enforcement agencies experience while conducting cyber-crime investigations.

This paper is aligned with the 2001, Stambaugh, Beaupre, Icove, Baker. Cassaday and Williams published a research report through the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) called Electronic Crime Needs Assessment for State and Local Law Enforcement. This research focused on assessing local law enforcements’ need to combat electronic crime in the early part of the 2000’s. Ten critical needs were identified in their report (Stambaugh et al. 2001). These included:

  • Improved Public Awareness of electronic crimes

  • Improved data and reporting of electronic crimes, offenders, and case outcomes

  • State and local uniform training and certification courses

  • The development of electronic crimes units and task forces

  • Updated laws to reflect new ways to commit crime electronically

  • Increased cooperation between government and industry

  • A comprehensive directory of training and other resources

  • Management support and awareness of the need to combat electronic crime and the training, tools and manpower to do it.

  • Up to date investigative and forensic tools

  • The development and structing of local computer crime units

Almost two decades on, the needs outlined in this early report are still unmet (Taylor, Fritsch, Liederbach, & Tafoya, 2019). This paper intends to illustrate that despite the early warning and professed awareness of the needs of local law enforcement to combat cybercrime, then referred to as electronic crime, little has been accomplished (Holt, Burruss, & Bossler, 2015). Despite the multiple reports, perceived awareness and research on the subject little progress has been made in the almost two decades since Stambaugh et al., was first published (2001). This current study examines potential reasons for the lack of progress based on a recent survey (2018) of 31 local and state law enforcement agencies. Compounding the inability of both the federal government and state and local law enforcement readiness is the continued proliferation of cybercrime and the evolution of such crimes using new and innovative approaches (Goodman, 2015). Finally, the terms used to define cybercrime have evolved as well.

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