Sheriff's department seeks more funding to strengthen digital forensics

Major Barry Smith, Daviess County Sheriff's Department

The Daviess County Sheriff's Department is seeking $43,886 to enhance its digital forensics capabilities.

"That digital evidence is paramount and proven and is getting convictions on many of these cases," said Major Barry Smith, chief deputy for the sheriff's department. "The digital forensics on phones and computers is critical these days. We have to keep up with the constant changes in technology, and that has been difficult with our current budget constraints."

The department hopes to be able to achieve the necessary funding with a grant through the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security, which was prepared by Cheryl Purdy, special deputy and digital forensic examiner, who said she believes that these software and hardware upgrades are vital to the department's mission.

"I look back, and the significance of the digital part has just grown exponentially," she said. "In the beginning, no one really realized everything that we could do with this ... it was only a very serious crime that digital information was sought after."

Times have changed, and the ability to access an individual's phone, tablet or computer has become the cornerstone of investigations, often allowing investigators to retrieve information at a quicker pace, especially in terms of a time-sensitive investigation. However, like in the public sector, the technology needed to remain relevant is expensive, she said.

"Technology is a part of almost every crime, but the technology that we need, the price keeps going up," she said. "That little box that we all carry is actually a digital recording of our lives."

The are five critical pieces to the grant application that would allow for the department to ramp up its efforts in what is already a successful digital forensics program. Four of the areas, Magnet AXIOM, CelleBrite UFED 4PC, GeoTime Desktop and DVR Examiner are all software-related. The fifth, an updated forensic workstation, would meet the processing needs of running the new software.

The four software options would allow the department to not only have more success in pulling data from multiple platforms, but allow investigators to go as far as to create digital maps of an individual's location and create a "real-time" tracker using a device and cellphone towers, she said.

"For example, AXIOM is a new tool that has the capability of extracting data from computers and mobile devices," she said. "One of the great things it can do is make connections in the data. For example, I had a photograph that my daughter downloaded and texted me. I clicked on that photo, and the software showed me the path that photo came through. It makes all of those connections. I hope we get the grant. A lot will depend on who all applied and how Homeland Security prioritizes. I am hopeful."

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

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