California Creates Center to Combat Cyber Crime
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris….announced the creation of the California Cyber Crime Center (C4), a new initiative within the California Department of Justice to fight crime in the digital era by bringing state-of-the-art digital forensic capabilities and cyber security expertise to law enforcement across the state.
“As the world becomes increasingly digital and crime evolves, the tools we use to prevent, investigate, and prosecute crime must keep pace. Criminals are operating online with alarming sophistication, committing identity theft, hacking, cyber exploitation, and other crimes that involve technology, and law enforcement must stay one step ahead,” said Attorney General Harris. “The California Cyber Crime Center brings legal, technical, and forensic capabilities to law enforcement across the state, helping our partners combat crime and building on our commitment to bring innovation to government.”
C4 brings together the eCrime unit, established by Attorney General Harris in 2011 to investigate and prosecute large-scale identity theft and technology crimes; the Network Information Security Section (NISS), the California Department of Justice (DOJ)’s office of cyber security experts; and the Digital Evidence Unit, which was first piloted in the California DOJ Bureau of Forensic Service state crime labs in 2011, making California one of the first states in the nation to develop this capability. The Digital Evidence Unit uses scientific methods to extract and analyze information from technological items like cell phones and offers foundational classes on forensic training for law enforcement. To date, nearly 1,300 law enforcement personnel have been trained through these courses, with approximately 80 agencies per year trained since 2012.
C4 also includes a newly created unit— the Office of Digital Investigations (ODI)—that focuses on emerging technologies like software and data forensics and website reconstruction. ODI provides law enforcement with the capability to restore the digital scene of a crime to aid investigators in uncovering crucial evidence. This unit’s technical expertise was critical in the first-in-the-nation criminal convictions of cyber exploitation website operators Kevin Bollaert and Casey Meyering which Attorney General Harris secured last year. Bollaert and Meyering were sentenced to 18 years and three years respectively for running websites where users could post intimate images of unsuspecting victims without their consent.
The final component of C4 is a brand-new Cyber Accelerator, a program that brings together members of the Digital Evidence Unit, the Office of Digital Investigations, and the eCrime Unit to focus on research and development and collaborate on new innovations. The first product developed in the Cyber Accelerator is a Cyber Response Vehicle (CRV)—a re-purposed Mobile Command Vehicle that was retrofitted into a mobile digital forensics laboratory. The CRV allows multiple staff to collect, acquire, and process media, mobile devices, personal computers, servers and other sources of electronically stored information on-site during the course of an investigation.
Attorney General Harris has developed and implemented a range of initiatives to protect the privacy and cyber security of California’s residents and businesses. Last year, Attorney General Harris launched an online resource hub with helpful tools for victims, the technology industry, and law enforcement agencies to combat cyber exploitation, where intimate images are shared without consent in order to humiliate or extort the victim. The Attorney General supported legislation signed into law last year by Governor Jerry Brown, Senate Bill 676 (Cannella, R-Ceres) and Assembly Bill 1310 (Gatto, D-Glendale), expanding the tools with which law enforcement can gather evidence in cyber exploitation cases and more effectively prosecute these crimes.
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris created the Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit in 2012 to focus on protecting consumer and individual privacy through civil prosecution of state and federal privacy laws. The eCrime Unit, created by Attorney General Harris in 2011, opened 22 investigations, filed 23 complaints, and obtained 44 convictions, securing a total of $30.6 million in restitution for victims and taxpayers in 2014-2015 alone.