CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Fight Against Sex Offenders on MySpace, Facebook, and Other Sites

From Last week, 29,000 registered sex offenders were identified and removed from MySpace. And this week, the Connecticut attorney general said he was looking into a few cases of convicted sex offenders setting up profiles on Facebook, another popular site. Those on the front lines of the fight against predators on the Web, who use these sites to find young people and lure them to meet, say the battle is complex and will take a combination of education, high-tech security, old-fashioned investigative work, and cooperation among police, lawmakers, schools, parents, teens and the sites.

"This isn't going to be something that we just solve," said Chad Harms, an assistant professor at Iowa State University who serves on the advisory council for the Iowa Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. "This is a relatively new problem, and the light has only been shed on this issue in the last two to three years. In terms of combating this problem, this will be a continuous battle."

Facebook, like MySpace, has tools to allow users to customize privacy settings. Facebook officials could not be reached yesterday to comment on the investigation into sex offenders on its site or its efforts to police the site. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

July 31, 2007 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

States Calling for MySpace to Release the Names of Sexual Predators

From An untold number of sexual predators could be using the popular to lure children into dangerous face-to-face meetings, said attorneys general from eight states, including Ohio, who want to crack down on the Web site.

MySpace earlier this year said that it had worked with an online security company to discover hundreds of registered sex offenders with MySpace profiles and had taken steps to block their access to the site.

But that's not enough, said the attorneys general from Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia, Idaho, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and Connecticut, who on Monday sent a letter to MySpace calling for it to reveal the names of those predators. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 16, 2007 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Bill Passed to Help Stop Identity Theft

From The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee recently unanimously approved a pair of bills that aim to bolster consumers' protection against misuse of their social security numbers and computer-borne spyware.

The two bills, known officially as the Social Security Protection Act of 2007 (HR 948) and the Securely Protect Yourself From Cyber-Trespass, or Spy Act (HR 964), respectively, are now headed to a House-wide vote in the coming weeks.

"Identity theft is a scourge on the American consumer; it exacts a heavy financial toll on individuals and on businesses," Congressman John D. Dingell, a Michigan Democrat and Chairman Committee on Energy and Commerce, said in a statement on the bills, both of which he helped sponsor. "These two bipartisan bills strike a blow against this problem in a fair and balanced manner."

The Social Security Protection Act of 2007 -- first proposed by Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat -- makes it illegal to purchase or sell social security numbers in a manner that violates Federal Trade Commission (FTC) anti-fraud regulations.

Among the recent amendments made to the bill before its approval were a number of exemptions to the rules to help law enforcement, national security, public health or safety, and credit verification organizations utilize the numbers for purposes of identification. The bill would also preempt similar state laws if passed, and provide for enforcement of the rules by individual state attorneys general.

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

May 14, 2007 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Archiving Security Cameras to Catch Suspected Criminals

From In an attempt to capitalize on the ubiquity of security cameras, police are trying to search thousands of videos for suspected criminals. They input specific criteria — the name of a weapon or a region — and the computer determines if any of the images are a match.

But there is too much video to sort through. With new equipment, police in Cincinnati and in a handful of other cities will be able to archive and find videos based on certain specifications, as in: all female bank robbers using shotguns; convenience store hold-ups where the suspect wears a blue baseball cap; and other cross-referenced criteria. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 21, 2007 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

University of Texas Launches Actual Innocence Database

The Tarlton Law Library at The University of Texas at Austin has compiled an Actual Innocence awareness database which contains citations, and links where possible, to current articles, scholarship, legislation and other materials in the area of wrongful convictions.

The materials are classified into what are considered the primary causes of wrongful conviction. They include forensics/DNA; eyewitness identification; false confessions; jailhouse informants; police and/or prosecutorial misconduct; and ineffective representation. There is also a “general” category for those items which defy further categorization.

The project developed out of a need to support the Texas Center for Actual Innocence and the Actual Innocence Clinic at The University of Texas Law School, as well as other innocence projects around the country.

“We hope that the database will be a valuable resource to the community of attorneys, scholars and students who work tirelessly to release those who have been wrongly convicted,” said Melissa Bernstein, the reference librarian in the Tarlton Law Library who compiled the materials.

The purpose of the database is to create a type of “virtual library” that brings together and organizes the overwhelming amount of material that is now available on wrongful convictions, from popular media (such as newspaper articles and segments on television news magazines), to journal articles, books, reports, legislation and websites. Materials from approximately the last 10 years have been included in the database, which was designed by Scott Webel, print and digital publications designer in the Tarlton Law Library. [Mark Godsey]

April 15, 2007 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Monday, April 9, 2007

911 is in a State of Crisis

From As in many areas of the country, more 911 calls here come from cellphones than land lines. But 40 percent of the nation’s counties, most of them rural or small-town communities like this one, cannot yet pinpoint the location of cellphone callers, though the technology to do so has been available for at least five years.

Since the inception of 911 more than 30 years ago, the three-digit S O S has become universally familiar and relied upon. But the system has not kept pace with the nation’s rapidly changing communication habits. As it ages, it is cracking, with problems like system overload, understaffing, misrouted calls and bug-ridden databases leading to unanswered calls and dangerous errors.

At the same time, the number of calls continues to grow. In Cherokee County, for instance, the volume has increased by 20 percent a year.

Officials in places large and small have declared a 911 crisis. When 30,000 emergency calls went unanswered in Chattanooga, Tenn., where Bob Corker, the Republican candidate for United States Senate in 2006, had served as mayor, his Democratic opponent, Harold E. Ford Jr., made it a campaign issue.

Officials in Riverside County, Calif., fed up with misrouted calls, have been advising residents to call the sheriff or local fire department directly.

In Bessemer, Ala., city employees could not get through to their own 911 system when a colleague had a seizure, at a time when the city and others like it are struggling to upgrade their systems at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Yet even the newest systems cannot adequately handle Internet-based phone services or text messages, which emerged as the most reliable form of communication during Hurricane Katrina.

“Everyone expects 911 to work perfectly 100 percent of the time,” said Patrick Halley, the governmental affairs director for the National Emergency Number Association, whose state-by-state tracking shows that New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are in the forefront of adopting new technology. “And the public doesn’t really care about 911 until they go to use it and expect it to work perfectly and it doesn’t.” Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

April 9, 2007 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ohio Plans to Link All Courts to One Website

From Ohio Supreme Court hopes to launch an online site by December that within two years could contain legal records from all 385 Ohio courts - from the high court down through the municipals.

"Ohio cannot afford not to do this," said Chris Davey, spokesman for Chief Justice Thomas Moyer. "Under the current system, a person could commit domestic violence in Cuyahoga County and move to Medina County, and the courts would not have 100 percent ability to know about that previous offense."

The Ohio Courts Network - discussed within the legal community since 2003 but with nothing tangible to report to date - received a big boost last week when Gov. Ted Strickland included the idea in his state budget lineup.  Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

March 20, 2007 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 26, 2007

The No Lie MRI: Next Step In Human Lie Detection

From Most of us think that we're pretty good at identifying liars. However, a lot of experimental data says that we're wrong. Most people can distinguish truth from lies at a rate no better than chance. Not even professionals, such as cops and judges, do much better. Of course, humanity has been ceaselessly seeking the fool-proof lie detector, ranging from thumbscrews to polygraph testing.

With regard to the latter, the National Academies of Science issued a comprehensive report in 2003 on polygraphy that concluded, "There is essentially no evidence on the incremental validity of polygraph testing, that is, its ability to add predictive value to that which can be achieved by other methods."

A machine that could reliably identify the neural correlates of truth and deception would be the ultimate lie detector. Now a couple of American companies are claiming to be able to do just that. No Lie MRI in Tarzana, Calif., and Cephos Corporation in Pepperell, Mass. use fMRI scanning to uncover deception. No Lie MRI asserts that its technology, "represents the first and only direct measure of truth verification and lie detection in human history." Both companies say that their technology can distinguish lies from truth with an accuracy rate of 90 percent.

The New Scientist cites the case of a No Lie MRI client, Harvey Nathan, whose deli burnt down in 2003. His insurance company refuses to pay him because of suspicions that Nathan may have set the fire himself. In order to prove his innocence and thus collect his insurance money, Harvey had No Lie MRI scan his brain. The result? The scan says Nathan is innocent. No word yet on how impressed his insurance company is. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 26, 2007 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ohio Town Will Broadcast Criminal Cases

From Starting today, Mason Municipal Judge George Parker will broadcast criminal cases live on local cable stations. It's part of Parker's effort to educate the public about how the court system works, according to his staff.

"He's dedicated to the education of young people as related to the judiciary," said Clerk of Court William Scherpenberg. "He considers this an educational phenomenon. Students can tie into (the broadcast through) the school system and see what goes on in court."

Mason will likely be the first trial court in Ohio to broadcast live, according to an Ohio Supreme Court spokesman.

The experimental program will run for 60 days, then be re-evaluated. It does not cost taxpayer money. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 22, 2007 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Using DMV Photo Databases to Detect Fraud

From At least seven states have or are working on enormous databases of driver’s license photographs. Coupled with increasingly accurate facial-recognition technology, the databases may become a radical innovation in law enforcement.

Other biometric databases are more useful for now. But DNA and fingerprint information, for instance, are not routinely collected from the general public. Most adults, on the other hand, have a driver’s license with a picture on it, meaning that the relevant databases for facial-recognition analysis already exist. And while the current technology requires good-quality photographs, the day may not be far off when images from ordinary surveillance cameras will routinely help solve crimes.

Critics say the databases may therefore also represent a profound threat to privacy.

“What is the D.M.V.?” asked Lee Tien, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a privacy advocate. “Does it license motor vehicles and drivers? Or is it really an identification arm of law enforcement?”

The databases are primarily intended to prevent people from obtaining multiple licenses under different names. That can help prevent identity theft and stop people who try to get a second license after their first has been suspended.

“The states are finding hundreds of cases of fraud each year in each state,” said J. Scott Carr, executive vice president of the Digimarc Corporation, which says it has sold biometric technology to motor vehicle departments in seven states and has a role in the production of more than two-thirds of all driver’s licenses in the United States.

But the databases can also be used for law enforcement purposes beyond detecting fraud.

A page concerning Mr. Howell, printed out from the “America’s Most Wanted” Web site, is taped to the wall of the investigators’ office here. It is a kind of trophy. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 19, 2007 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Terrorists Likely to use Mother of Satan Explosives

From Kirk Yeager makes bombs from the stuff found under kitchen sinks. He does it to help the FBI defend against what officials say is the next frontier for terrorists in the United States.

Ten years ago, peroxide-based bombs were mostly the work of young pranksters. But the easy-to-make yet deadly chemical cocktails were embraced in the late 1990s by Palestinian militants and suicide bombers bent on killing large groups of people.

Now, Yeager says, the "Mother of Satan" explosives are considered the most likely weapon that terrorists will use against the U.S., more so than a nuclear or radiological "dirty" bomb.

"Every serious terrorist group knows about them and knows how to make them," Yeager said. The forensic scientist heads the explosives unit at the FBI's laboratory in Quantico, Va., about 35 miles south of Washington.

"Bad guys are bombers. You don't have to have the level of sophistication to make a bomb that you need to get nuclear materials," Yeager said.

The bombs are made by mixing chemicals that are used in common household items, including hydrogren peroxide and paint thinner, and easily found at drug stores or hardware stores. Experts know them as TATP, short for triacetone triperoxide, and HMTD, or hexamethylene triperoxide diamine.  Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

February 19, 2007 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Technology Links Cold Murder Case to Former Black Panther Associates

From Eight men linked to the Black Panthers were recently arrested in connection with the 1971 murder of a San Francisco police sergeant. The officer was killed during a shotgun attack on a police station in San Francisco's Ingleside neighborhood.

Seven of the suspects were members of the Black Liberation Army, which was an offshoot of the Panthers. Detectives say they finally got a break in the 35-year-old cold case based on new advances in forensic technology. Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

January 24, 2007 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

US Dept of Justice Publishes Internet Manual for the Technologically Challenged

From The US Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs recently published what amounts to a manual for tech-challenged gumshoes, covering everything from how to track suspects through an Internet Relay Chat network to targeting copyright thieves on peer-to-peer networks.

The new 137-page manual appears to represent the Justice Department's attempt to offer at least some basic technical and legal tips to law enforcement agencies that may not have computer experts on the payroll.

The manual warns of the perils of assuming that the owner of a computer--especially Windows PCs, which can be vulnerable to security breaches--is responsible for what's actually on it.

"Because investigations involving the Internet and computer networks mean that the suspect's computer communicated with other computers, investigators should be aware that the suspect may assert that the incriminating evidence was placed on the media by a Trojan program," it says. "A proper seizure and forensic examination of a suspect's hard drive may determine whether evidence exists of the presence and use of Trojan programs."  Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

January 24, 2007 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Brainwave Security? Not Quite the Wave of the Future

An electronic security system that purportedly identifies people by monitoring the unique pattern of electrical activity within the brain is being tested by European scientists.  The system was developed by two companies - Starlab in Spain and Forenap in France - in cooperation with researchers at the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas, in Greece. It uses an established method for measuring activity in the brain, called electroencephalography (EEG).

EEG measurements identify the location and intensity of millisecond-long fluctuations in electrical activity in the brain via electrodes positioned around a person's scalp. (The person has to be wearing a wired helmet to take the measurement). Since an individual's brain activity is determined by the unique pattern of neural pathway in their brain, measuring brain activity could be used for identification, says Dimitrios Tzovaras, who is the coordinator at the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas. "So it could be a very good security control," he says.

But, separate groups studying the same technique question is reliability and practicality, for some blatant reasons. A research group at the University of Warsaw in Poland point out that the method can only identify subjects with 88% accuracy.  A biometrics researcher at the University of Cambridge is bothered by the method's invasiveness. "Wearing a wired helmet with sensors on one's scalp might change the ambiance of the workplace somewhat," he says.  Plus, stressful situations complicate the results.  "You might not want to be taken for someone else at the airport just because you had a bad night before." Full story here from . . [Michele Berry]

January 19, 2007 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 11, 2006

On Campus Recruiting for Cyber-Crime Gangs

From psfk:  According to a report conducted by Mcafee, the recent boom in cyber crime is forcing criminals to go to great lengths to recruit skilled hackers.  The report claims that cyber crime gangs, who have the inclination and criminal skills no longer have the technological know-how to keep up and are being forced to recruit younger, tech-savvy students to carry out their cyber biddings.

These cyber gangs are recruiting the next generation of techies by sponsoring students through their IT degree, with the expectation that they will bring their 'unique skill set' back to the gang after graduation. Hyping up the glamours hacker lifestyle (as seen in this movie) is apperantly also a favored tactic for the criminal recruiters when reaching out to the younger kids.  Rest of article....[Mark Godsey]

December 11, 2006 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

FBI, Cyber Slackers? Taiwan Says Yes

Law enforcement officials in Taiwan are calling the FBI slackers when it comes to fighting cyber crime in Taiwan and other countries abroad, even when the cases directly affect the U.S.  Because Taiwan doesn't have any FBI agents, Taiwanese law enforcement must go through the American Embassy in Tokyo when they want to pursue cyber crime involving the U.S.  But Lee Hsiang-chen, director of the High-tech Criminal Center of the National Police Agency, said Taiwanese requests for help from the FBI representative at the American Embassy in Tokyo routinely go unanswered, though they involve serious crimes such as child pornography or major fraud scandals.  The U.S., he says, is simply unresponsive. 

Lee's complaint appeared to stem from the deliberately low profile assumed by the U.S. representative office in Taiwan, which was set up when Washington transferred its recognition to Beijing in 1979. The mainland and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949, and the U.S. operates according to the principles of the "one China policy," which keeps its presence in Taipei deliberately low key.  The FBI's cyber crime division promises to investigate the problem.  Story from . . [Michele Berry]

November 29, 2006 in International, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

U.S's Only Jail Web Cam May Be Coming to an End

From For roughly six years, rural Anderson County, Tenn., has beamed live 24-hour video from its jail, offering anyone with a computer and the Internet a view into the realities of jail life. But because of security concerns, the experiment — which appears to be the only such system operating in the U.S. — could be coming to an end.

As of Tuesday, the Anderson County site had logged more than 8.8 million Web hits from across the U.S. and from places as far away as Sweden, Belgium and England.In December,, an Internet-based Web cam network, ranked the sheriff's site as one of the 25 most interesting cams in the world, placing it beside views of the Great Pyramids, koala and panda bears, swimming piranhas and a virtual 50-camera tour of Valencia, Spain.

But, some viewers have been using the cameras to harass female jailers by calling them on the telephone and taunting them as they work, sheriff's officials said.

In other cases, viewers are tracking inmate movements and using the information to coordinate deliveries of contraband to prisoners on work details outside the jail.

"It's a good public relations thing. It shows the public what we are doing. I like that idea," said Paul White, who in August became sheriff in the East Tennessee county of 75,000 residents. "But by the same token, the bad things that could happen are not worth the good things that happen out of it."

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

November 28, 2006 in Technology | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)

Monday, November 27, 2006

CSI: Parenting

The "CSI" craze has hit Miami, Vegas, NYC, jury boxes, and now, parenting.  Many parents across the country are swabbing the insides of their children's mouths to get a DNA sample just in case they need it if the youngster is kidnapped, runs away, or suffers a terrible accident.  The "insurance policy" of sorts they hope to never use.  Kits are being distributed by private companies, police stations, and orthodontists, ranging in cost from free to $60, and including a photo, fingerprints, a collection swab, and a special envelope in which to put the DNA sample. Story from . . [Michele Berry]

November 27, 2006 in Miscellaneous, Technology | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Deck the Cars with Digital Cameras...

Fa la la la la, la la la la.  Beginning next week, the Los Angeles Police Department will begin installing digital video cameras in some patrol cars to better track how arrests are made.  Arrest tactics have been an issue under scrutiny since the recent surfacing of two amateur videos, shot by passers-by, documented forceful tactics by officers. Officials hope to install cameras in most of the 300 patrol cars in that bureau by the end of next year, with the goal of expanding to the rest of the force over the next three years. As of Monday, the LA City Council approved $5 million for the cameras. Story from . . [Michele Berry]

November 22, 2006 in Law Enforcement, News, Search and Seizure, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Prosecutors' Catch 22, Forensic Science 101

Prosecutors in New Mexico say they face a Catch-22 situation because of delays in receiving DNA results from the state crime lab.  As prosecutors in New Mexico describe it--if they wait for the state crime lab to analyze DNA or other evidence before charging someone, they risk leaving someone who might be guilty on the street to commit other crimes.  But, if they file charges and go to trial without lab evidence, a guilty person might be acquitted or an innocent person might be convicted.

"Effectively, we can't get DNA analysis. We're not exaggerating the problem...It has been a nightmare," District Attorney Scot Key of Alamogordo.  In major cases, evidence is sent to private labs, but testing in a single cases easily can exceed $5,000. The crime lab has been backlogged for a decade, and now, each of the state's 19 forensic technicians would have to work 485 hours each just to handle what's backed up.  Sounds like more effective and efficient processes need to be put in place for collecting and processing evidence and more qualified forensic scientists are needed.

On the other hand, as eager as prosecutors may be to test DNA at the outset of the investigation, post-conviction DNA testing is often another story. [Michele Berry]

November 21, 2006 in Evidence, Law Enforcement, Technology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)