October 8th, 2006 05:23 EST
Inside the FBI's Computer Crimes Task Force
An FBI agent sits in a bustling office, taking a call from a woman who believes she has been victimized by an Internet scam. Down the hall in a computer lab, a police detective poses undercover as a teenage girl in an online chat room frequented by sexual predators. Steps away, a forensic examiner is breaking passwords and decrypting files, gathering criminal evidence from a suspected hacker's computer.
Welcome to the Connecticut Computer Crimes Task Force, or CCCTF, the front lines of one state's war on all crimes cyber: hacking...Internet scams...e-mail spams and spoofs...virtual extortions...cyber terrorism...virtual copyright and identity theft...online child exploitation...and more.
As you walk into the state-of-the-art CCCTF facility—housed in the FBI's New Haven field office—you're greeted by the bronze seals of the U.S. Service Secret, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Department of Defense Inspector General, the Internal Revenue Service, and the FBI—all CCCTF members. And that's just the feds. Go a little further and you'll bump into investigators from the Connecticut State Police, the Connecticut Chief State Attorney's Office, and the Bridgeport, Glastonbury, Milford, and Avon Police Departments. The CCCTF is truly "e pluribus unum" at work—nearly a dozen government agencies from across the state combining their skills, resources, investigative strategies, and intelligence into a unified attack on virtual crime.
It's off to a good start so far. Since opening its doors in March 2003, the CCCTF's work has led to more than 60 indictments. Some recent successes:
- Tracking down a man distributing pornographic photos of his own grandchildren over the Internet (and thanks to CCCTF's fast work, he was taken into custody just hours before the children were to arrive for a weekend visit);
- Breaking up a massive online software, movie, music, and videogame pirating ring by spearheading a multinational investigation involving 30 FBI field offices and over 120 search warrants in 11 countries;
- Busting a thief who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of computer equipment from a defense contractor, then tried to sell it in an online auction; and
- Capturing two scam artists who stole the credit card numbers of unsuspecting consumers with "phishing" e-mails.
The CCCTF is also spreading its capabilities , thanks to its high-tech training lab—the first in the Northeast—where hundreds of law enforcement officials come each year to learn everything from how to analyze computer log files to how to interview cyber victims. The lab is also used to teach parents and civic groups online safety tips. Thanks to these and other efforts, our New Haven field office now boasts the second largest InfraGard chapter in the nation.
And the best news of all? There are 92 other computer crimes task forces just like the CCCTF across the country, similarly bundling their capabilities to help keep you safe online and off.
Stay tuned for an interview with an FBI agent who works undercover in the CCCTF.
Resources: CCCTF Ribbon Cutting | FBI Cyber Investigations