Many local agencies simply do not have the financial or personnel resources to adequately address this new wave of crime. In response, the Attorney General reallocated existing resources in the Department of Justice to provide this assistance so desperately needed by local law enforcement. The Louisiana Attorney General's High Technology Crime Unit (HTCU)
is a new initiative undertaken by the Attorney General and made operational in January 2001. The mission of the HTCU is the investigation, interdiction and prosecution of all crimes in the State of Louisiana which involve computers or other forms of recent advances in technology.
At present, the HTCU consists of a full-time criminal prosecutor completely dedicated to the eradication of computer crimes in our state. Additionally, a full-time investigator and a full-time computer forensics examiner complete the staff of this specialized enforcement unit. This investigator, since formation of the Unit, has obtained hundreds of hours of specialized training in the field of computer crimes and the techniques for following the electronic "fingerprints" left by the perpetrators. The computer forensic analyst has a traditional MIS background and impeccable credentials in the scholastic end of computer science. He has also completed extensive additional training aimed solely at computer crime. Most local law enforcement agencies in our state simply do not have the financial ability to hire and train this effective, but expensive team of specialists.
As our state moves forward in the new millennium, as we attempt to make sure that all of our children have access to a computer at school, as we increasingly rely on computers and other forms of technology for our everyday existence, the High Technology Crime Unit
of the Louisiana Attorney General's office stands ready to protect us from the cyber criminal.
In addition to specialized staff, partly through the award of a grant from the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement, the Attorney General has made available an impressive array of cutting-edge computer equipment to aid investigators throughout the state. Much of this equipment has been combined to create the very first statewide computer forensics laboratory. In this lab, the HTCU can analyze computers seized from suspects and recover data the criminals thought they had deleted to cover their tracks. The laboratory also provides the vital function of analyzing and recovering data in such a way as to assure that the data will be admissible in court as evidence and lead to a conviction.
Beyond assisting local law enforcement with their investigations, the HTCU also initiates its own proactive investigations into crimes involving computers and technology. This includes undercover investigations which occur completely online. No longer can pedophiles and others that attempt to prey on our children find refuge in the anonymity of cyberspace. After the normal workday is done, personnel from the HTCU remain online into the early morning hours, monitoring chat rooms, instant messaging and other forms of computer communication, looking for those that would lure our children away from home for illicit purposes.
Crimes involving computers can be broken down into three categories based on the use of the computer
- Computers can be weapons
Computers can be used as weapons by hackers and crackers in order to attack important government functions such as hacking into the computer used by a clerk of court and destroying electronic records of vital data (such as mortgage and conveyance records).
- Computers can be instrumentalities of the crime
Computers can be instrumentalities of more traditional crimes such as when images of child pornography are distributed over the Internet.
- Computers can be repositories of evidence
Computers can also simply store a list of drug transactions for a narcotics dealer, making the computers repositories of evidence in a traditional crime.
When time permits, HTCU personnel arrange training sessions for local law enforcement officers to make them aware of the problems in cyberspace. This training is also designed to provide the street cop with the knowledge necessary to take custody of a suspect's computer in such a way as to not jeopardize crucial evidence. Even more importantly, this training emphasizes the many ways in which computer criminals install "booby traps" into their computers so that officer safety can be maintained. Members of the HTCU are also available, as caseload permits, to address PTA's, local clubs and organizations, and other groups of concerned citizens.