Lake County Computer Crimes Task Force Gets High-Tech Help

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Gordon

Computer crime investigators in Lake County will now be able to speed their collection of evidence and do much more of it at the scene of the crime.

Officials of American Hotel Register Company in Vernon Hills, itself a victim of a computer hacker, were at Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller's office this week to hand over the keys to a high-tech mobile forensic computer for the Lake County Computer Crimes Task Force.

John Briscoe, a member of the task force and a detective for the Vernon Hills police, said the $6,500 creation of Forensic- Computers.Com will allow sleuthing through the intricacies of a suspect's computer in a flash.

Briscoe said the mobile computer can be hooked up to a computer police believe may contain evidence of a crime, copy the data inside and make it instantly available for analysis.

"Presently, we have to seize a suspect's computer, package it, send it to the state police or other lab and wait up to two months for a report on what is inside," Briscoe said. "With this device, we will have what we need on the same day we go looking for it."

Assistant State's Attorney Patricia Fix said the forensics computer copies information from another computer through a process known as bit stream imaging, leaving the original information inside the target computer undisturbed and preserved as court- admissible evidence.

"In a case where a company is having hacker problems or other criminal problems, we can use this device to capture what we need for the investigation without closing the company's computers down," Fix said. "There is a potential for this computer to save thousands of dollars for a company simply because their computer system will stay in operation."

Thomas Leahy, director of American Hotel Register, and Dan Guggenheim, director of corporate programs for the company, said they learned first-hand of Lake County law enforcement's need for such a computer during last year's investigation of Andrey Timokhin of Deerfield.

Timokhin, 21, hacked into the company's system and committed a series of cyber-vandalism acts, cost the company at least $5,000 to repair and is now serving a five-year prison sentence.

"In working with police to solve that crime, we became acutely aware of how restricted they are in some cases in gathering evidence," Guggenheim said. "We consider ourselves part of the community, and when we became aware of how much this computer could help the community, we were more than happy to donate it to the task force. …