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FBI may utilize new software to investigate Florida sex crimes

To investigate allegations of child pornography and child sex crimes in Florida and across the country, law enforcement officers often rely on software technology to scan computers for child pornographic images and videos. Now, new technology approved by the FBI is making that invasion easier than ever.

During the past two years, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force units nationwide have begun using 13 new software tools, all designed by the same FBI agent. The FBI reports that the tools are changing the way online sex crimes and child pornography are being investigated. In fact, 41 other countries are also reported to be using the new software.

One ICAC commander reports that the programs have cut in half the time needed to investigate the data on a computer hard drive. According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the software has led to 330 searches and more than 220 arrests since its approval.

The details about how this new technology has been able to reportedly cut investigative time in half are not a matter of public record. In that regard, the FBI agent who created the software specifically declined to discuss it in detail, perhaps believing that it could compromise active law enforcement investigations.

Traditional investigative software typically uses 3 types of search methods -- image analysis technology, hash matching, and keyword searches -- to automatically identify images and videos that are likely to contain child pornography. In this case, it is believed that the new programs run on a thumb drive that can search a particular computer or interact with a remote computer. The software reportedly searches for evidence like an officer would at a physical crime scene.

Source: Salt Lake Tribune, "Salt Lake City FBI agent changes how child sex crimes are investigated," Cimaron Neugebauer, Aug. 26, 2012

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