Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations Unit Stays atop Growing Computer Crime

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Computers are used for communication, for education and for entertainment. And increasingly, they are used for crime.

Every type of crime that was in existence before computers is being now committed either with computers or on the computer, said Mark McCoy, a deputy inspector with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations. We're finding that just about any crime now will contain some form of digital evidence.

McCoy leads the OSBI's computer crimes unit, formed in 2001. The unit investigates any crime where computers are involved, including Internet fraud, computer hacking, identity theft and child pornography. Agents also examine digital evidence related to other cases, including violent crimes, arson and embezzlement.

We've looked at computers in homicide cases, and we've done investigations in identity theft and fraud online on eBay auctions and those types of things, McCoy said.

The unit has agents in Oklahoma City, Weatherford and Tulsa, and is the lead agency in the state's Internet Crimes Against Children task force. Investigators are certified forensic computer examiners and members of the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists.

The unit employs the same basic investigative procedures used for other crimes, but because technology changes so rapidly officers need additional computer forensics training to maintain an edge over computer criminals, McCoy said.

It takes every bit of effort for investigators and agents to keep up with technology changes to do examinations or to get intrusions into different computer systems, he said. That's why a single unit was created, just because of the skills needed to do these types of cases.

As valuable as computers are to criminals, they are equally as important to the officers investigating their crimes.

There's artifacts on the computer that the normal user may not know are still there, even after they think they have gotten rid of the information, McCoy said. …