Security & Fraud

New York’s New Digital Crime Lab Fights Fraud

New York City has a new fighting chance against the proliferation of cyber fraud in the form of a state-of-the-art, $10 million digital crime laboratory.

A culmination of six years of ideation and effort, the lab is unprecedented in scale and cost. It is considered by many to be necessary, especially after the DDoS attack in late October brought to light just how vulnerable the U.S. is to the whims of cybercriminals.

The New York district attorney’s office estimates that over a quarter of its cases annual involve digital evidence — and the trend is growing. To combat cyber crime, dedicated techs at the lab work to infiltrate the dark web, acquiring big data, gathering intelligence and building cases. But it’s not just about hackers and deep web mystique.

New York’s lab is mostly equipped to process evidence from mobile data. New lab comes equipped with a Faraday cage, a shielded room that blocks external signals to prevent outside interference of devices, which could easily hamper an ongoing criminal investigation.

The lab also reportedly has a Ramsey Box, which cuts off a cellular device’s signal. Technicians handle devices inside the box with gloves (think Homer Simpson handling plutonium at the Springfield nuclear power plant).

The biggest challenge that the lab faces seems to be the inaccessibility of Apple devices since the launch of iOS8. It is effectively impossible for the vast majority of crime units to access stored phone data in a criminal investigation without the user’s permission — the downside to such secure encryption. With each new update companies roll out, phones get even tougher to crack.

Still, whether Congress will eventually require tech companies to grant access to law enforcement investigators or the phones remain 100 percent inaccessible to everyone but the owner, the technicians in the new lab in New York City will have their work cut out for them.

This will be true not just in New York City, but worldwide.

Security solutions provider RSA estimates a 173 percent increase in cases of mobile fraud worldwide between 2013 and 2015. More recently, data breaches reportedly went up 15 percent year over year with 424 million compromised data files (and this was before the Yahoo! data breach). Europol reported a surge in cybercrime in the EU.

Hackers are upping their game, so it’s nice to know that the people working to combat them are as well.

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