Magnet User Summit 2019: Solving Cyber Crimes with the University of Notre Dame

Mitch Kajzer presented this talk at the Magnet User Summit. He is the director of the Cyber Crimes Unit in St. Joseph County, Indiana, and also an adjunct professor at Notre Dame. He talked about the changing nature of digital forensic investigations and how police agencies need to adapt. Technology is now involved in most crimes because each person has an average of 4.3 internet-connect devices. Typically major cases get forensic attention which prevents some digital forensics exams from happening. If they do, some have backlogs and wait times of months to years. The solution in St. Joseph County was to enlist the help of college students.

Partnering with the University of Notre Dame

Mitch talked about the partnership that the Cyber Crimes Unit has with the University of Notre Dame. They have a paid internship where students of any major train and receive background education in digital forensics and get to work in the Cyber Crimes Unit.

All students are sworn police investigators who work on the same cases officers work on. They provide analysis on digital devices, write search warrants, execute them, and even appear in court. Students are involved in 95% of the cases in the department, are primary investigators in about a third of these cases, and conduct 65% of all digital examinations. Mitch said that the students leverage AXIOM a lot for their investigations, and helps to create portable cases to show the digital analysis results to the officer/detective assigned to the case.

Since starting, St. Joseph County’s Cyber Crime Unit has gone from a turnaround of fourteen days and a backlog of thirty cases, to now having a turnaround of only four hours and no backlog at all. Students are having a direct impact on the digital investigations, and are solving cases by themselves. In addition, most of the intern workforce has been women, which is awesome for getting more women into this field. I asked Mitch at the end of the presentation whether or not there was a legal implication for all this. Does the evidence students find hold up in court? He told me there have been no implications because of the extensive training and certification all interns receive.

Conclusion

I think this model is really amazing and can clearly change the way digital investigations are done within police departments. I hope the country catches on to what incredible work is coming from the partnership between Notre Dame and St. Joseph County’s Cyber Crime Unit. I also think it would be interesting to see this model implemented in Burlington itself with Champlain students, especially those working at the Leahy Center for Digital Investigation (LCDI). The LCDI already does investigative work, but I think that if there was a partnership with the Burlington Police Department, it would help students gain real-life experience while helping out the local community.

 

Blog written by Champlain College fi-year Madi Brumbelow.

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