Cyber Unit Pivotal in Solving Crime Online and Off

Virginia State Police Cyber Forensics Examiner Richard Seweryniak i i

hide captionRichard Seweryniak, a Virginia State Police computer forensic examiner, investigates electronic evidence on the Web and on the computers of victims and suspects.

Davar Ardalan, NPR
Virginia State Police Cyber Forensics Examiner Richard Seweryniak

Richard Seweryniak, a Virginia State Police computer forensic examiner, investigates electronic evidence on the Web and on the computers of victims and suspects.

Davar Ardalan, NPR

Hacking Your System

James Lewis, director and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ technology and public policy program, describes how cyber criminals operate. Hear Lewis on:

At the Computer Evidence Recovery Unit at the headquarters of the Virginia State Police, six cyber-forensic investigators surf through hundreds of thousands of documents online to help bring criminals to justice.

The small team examines the digital fingerprints — patterns of electronic behavior and keystrokes — in criminal cases. In 2007, the lab was instrumental in investigating about 100 cases, including ones involving a serial rapist and a Catholic priest who embezzled from two Virginia parishes.

The unit also examines evidence in high-profile crimes, including that of Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho. After the April shootings last year, the lab investigated equipment seized by the FBI.

Richard Seweryniak, a computer forensic examiner, says evidence that comes into the unit isn't always on a hard drive.

"Sometimes we might receive computers from a murder investigation which has dry blood or sometimes even liquid blood, if it's a high-profile case and needs to be worked immediately. So we do have to take special precautions," Seweryniak says.

Last month, the unit — along with Virginia Commonwealth University and the National White Collar Crime Center — announced plans to hire more than a dozen new experts and add space for more classrooms and training facilities.

Liane Hansen visited the lab just outside Richmond to learn more about computer crime and cyber-forensic investigation. Her report is the first in a four-part series examining vulnerability and security risks in today's virtual world. The series will also explore the increasingly popular specialty of cyberlaw, the threat of cyberfraud and the frightening growth of cyberstalking.

Weekend Edition Sunday's month-long series on Cyber Crime was produced by Davar Ardalan and Laura Krantz and edited by Jenni Bergal.

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