Undercover Internet Investigations
Undercover Internet Investigations are online activities carried out by law enforcement personnel and agencies in order to limit and prevent the vices and wrongs associated with the use of the internet (Casey, 2002). In the recent past, the main aim of undercover investigations has been to identify and capture sexual predators operating in the internet and individuals involved in the trade of child pornography. To achieve their aims and objectives, undercover investigators set up believable made up personas through which investigations are carried out. The durations in which the fictitious persona is kept in place depend on the severity and magnitude of the case. Various measures are established to ensure that identities are kept secret and protect the information gained from the investigation process. Inspired by the importance of undercover internet investigations, this research paper intends to provide a description of the process of conducting an undercover internet investigation. A number of approaches will be used to meet this objective. For instance, the paper intends to give the description of the online activities of a usual internet investigator. An analysis of the actions and activities carried out by an investigator following a prospective sex offender will help comprehend the process of undercover investigation.
The book “Investigating child exploitation and pornography: the Internet, the law and forensic science” by Monique Ferraro, Eoghan Casey and Michael McGrath provides an effective basis to understand the issue and process of undercover internet research. The authors help understand the need and importance of undercover internet investigations. The book states that great changes have been experienced in the nature of sexual exploitation of children and in the mode of trafficking in underage pornography. The book states that in the past, these wrongs were restricted to physical settings. For instance, this occurred in playgrounds, neighborhoods or churches. However, the great expansion brought about by the access and use of the internet provides a new avenue for occurrence of the vices. The book states that the internet has created a new hunting arena for sexual predators to target innocent children and led to the growth in child pornography. The authors state that half of cyber crime cases concern the issue of sexual exploitation aided by the internet. The major increase in the volume of child sexual abuse cases based on the internet indicate the great need for undercover internet investigation.
To help understand the process of investigation, the book provides a number of past child exploitation cases showing how technology can be used in the fight against child sexual abuse. The book also explains the nature of evidence contained in technology, how it can be derived and used in the procedure of investigation. The authors provide the different ways in which effective undercover internet analysis are conducted, how the related evidence is collected and the ways in which the gathered evidence is used to locate and capture the sexual offender. To facilitate the apprehension process, the book provides the various legal issues concerning the issue of sexual exploitation of children in the internet. The issues presented in the book help in the apprehension of offenders
The research helped identify and understand the procedure and techniques used in undercover internet investigation. The research illustrated that various techniques are used in undercover investigations by federal, local and private investigators. The research showed that the procedures used aim to gather and collect as much knowledge and information about a suspect without his knowledge (Johnson, 2005). The use of the internet in the investigation process is beneficial as it permits the accumulation of information about the suspect without putting the undercover agent investigator at risk.
The research indicated that the first step in the conduct of investigation is the performance of background checks. Background checks are put into use in the early phases of an undercover internet investigation. The research helped illustrate the importance of background checks. They are critical as they help provide information about the past of the suspect. For instance, the investigator gets to know the employment record of the suspect, imminent warrants, and level of education and property ownership of the suspect, which allows the investigator to know and understand the suspect. When performing background checks, the investigator can analyze the suspect’s activity in the internet such as email activity and involvement or contribution to social networking sites. The research showed that background checks are important as they facilitate the collection of information from a suspect without physical contact that may put the investigator in danger. It also reduces the need for warrants.
The research showed that the second step in undercover internet investigations is surveillance (Johnson, 2005). Surveillance involves scrutinizing the actions and activities a suspect engages in while on the internet. The investigator also analysis the persons the suspect associates with. This helps identify the interaction of the sexual offenders with children in the internet. The research helped show the importance of surveillance. It illustrated that surveillance is important as it helps identify the internet sites where the offenders deal with the children, the ways in which they deal with them and when physical contact is to happen between the children and the offender. Surveillance helps the investigator identify the sites to monitor and the approach to use to perform his checks.
Surveillance is followed by actual monitoring. The research helped identify a number of approaches that can be used in the monitoring process. The investigator may hack into the suspect’s email to retrieve and identify the nature of his communication. This enables the investigator to analyze all of the suspect’s incoming and outgoing e-mail messages. After the investigator monitors the suspect and gets the information and evidence needed to result to the arrest of an individual, the next step that follows is referred to as sting (Ferraro, 1999). This involves the use of approaches that help capture a suspect in the act of committing a crime.
An analysis of the online activities of an undercover investigator helps understand the process used to capture potential sex offenders online. The undercover investigator aiming to capture potential sex offenders engages in a number of activities to achieve his goals. The first thing that the investigator does is to create a fictitious individual in the internet through whom he carries out his activities. The fictitious character is usually determined by the nature of wrong the investigator aims to resolve. For instance, if the investigator aims to identify individuals luring young girls into pornography through the internet, the fictitious individual will be a beautiful young girl. If the investigator aims to capture persons engaging in the trade of illicit and child pornography, the fictitious individual in the internet will be a grownup looking for children pornography to buy. The investigator may also join websites that are suspected of known to provide an avenue through which sexual offences are committed such as recruiting children into pornography. The process of investigation helps illustrate and under the importance of the fictitious characters. The fictitious individual in the internet is critical as the individual provides an avenue for the investigator to connect with suspected sexual offenders. The fictitious character also helps make out persons engaging in sex offences.
Once a suspect is located, the first thing the investigator does is to conduct a background check on the suspect. This involves analyzing the activities of the suspect in the internet such as involvement in social websites and email activity. The background check is helpful as it helps obtain some basic information about the suspected sex offender. The background check helps the investigator identify the nature of work the suspects does, the suspect’s source of income, and the level of education The information provided helps in the analysis of the suspect. It helps establish whether the suspect has a criminal past. There are times when background checks help determine whether the suspect actually engages in sexual offences or not. The investigators activity shows that background checks are critical as they help provide information about the past of the suspect (Casey, 2002). It has a number of benefits in the investigation process. For instance, it ensures that the investigator gets to know about the suspect without physical contact.
After identifying the activities of the suspect in the internet, the investigator scrutinizes and examines to determine whether the suspect actually engages in sex crime. The undercover investigator analysis and examines persons the suspect has frequently interacted with in the internet. If the case concerns sex offenders, it helps identify whether the suspect has any dealings with children. If it concerns trade in illicit pornography, it helps determine whether they involve children. It also helps the investigator identify the sites to examine and the approach to perform his checks.
The undercover investigator then engages in measures to get any information from the suspect. Most investigators hack into the email of the suspect to get the information sent and received. The investigator also analyzes contributions the suspect makes in different social networking sites. This helps provide a confirmation whether the suspect actually engages in the sex offences. It also provides information that can be used as evidence against the suspect. Actual monitoring of the suspect also helps identify the approaches used by the suspect to engage in the sexual offences. Once the investigator confirms that the suspect is a sex offender, the investigator may either directly arrest the suspect or set up a trap to help capture the suspect in the execution of the crime. This ensures that there is sufficient evidence to lead to the conviction of the suspect.
Casey, E. (2004). Digital evidence and computer crime: forensic science, computers and the Internet. Boca Raton: Academic Press.
Casey, E. (2002). Handbook of computer crime investigation: forensic tools and technology. Boca Raton: Academic Press.
Johnson, T. A. (2005). Forensic computer crime investigation. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Bennett, W. W. (2006). Criminal investigation. Boston: Cengage Learning.
Ferraro, E. (1999). Undercover Internet investigations Woburn: Butterworth-Heinemann.