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Crime Technology

Police Using Dogs To Sniff Out Computer Memory 415

First time accepted submitter FriendlySolipsist points out a story about Rhode Island Police using a dog to find hidden hard drives. The recent arrival of golden Labrador Thoreau makes Rhode Island the second state in the nation to have a police dog trained to sniff out hard drives, thumb drives and other technological gadgets that could contain child pornography. Thoreau received 22 weeks of training in how to detect devices in exchange for food at the Connecticut State Police Training Academy. Given to the state police by the Connecticut State Police, the dog assisted in its first search warrant in June pinpointing a thumb drive containing child pornography hidden four layers deep in a tin box inside a metal cabinet. That discovery led the police to secure an arrest warrant, Yelle says. “If it has a memory card, he’ll sniff it out,” Detective Adam Houston, Thoreau’s handler, says.
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Police Using Dogs To Sniff Out Computer Memory

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2014 @12:23AM (#47397315)

    A search cannot be legally executed unless there is probable cause established before hand.

    1. That's naive. It's quite common to conduct a search and then dream up the probable cause later.
    2. Establishing probable cause is easier than most people think.
    3. They don't need probable cause to search when crossing the border of the country.
    4. Or when you're within an area referred to as a 'buffer zone' or 'national security corridor', which extends something like 100 miles from the international border itself, and can go even further in some cases.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @01:39AM (#47397537) Journal

    Any Memory?? what judge will go on just that? hidden four layers deep why that for a USB stick? doing that will make them want to look at the data. Just shipping them unhidden is more likely to just pass though

    No judge will go on this case, the police had been following the guy compiling evidence for seven months before getting a warrant. The guy was abusing a 7 year old girl and taking pictures of her. They brought the dog in after the search warrant was obtained, because a lot of times child-molesters hide the pictures on small SD cards in ceiling tiles or something. At least read the article before getting outraged. Even if it's not as fun.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 07, 2014 @01:57AM (#47397579)

    The difference with "normal pornography" is that no crime is being created within the video itself.

    Imagine, if you will, people filming murders and then trading those videos around. It could very well be easy enough to outlaw said videos, but we don't because of cultural norms. I assume they're not illegal in the U.S., but I'm not sure.

    I think the problem is that the video drives people to create more. Making it illegal to possess them might cut down on the child abuse happening. If that's not good enough, then consider it a form of copyright infringement to possess said videos.

    Yes, we need to follow the money to stop the child abuse at the source. Not only that, we should be trying to figure out why some people enjoy such things. Getting into the area of "thought crime", we should be dealing with this as a mental health issue. Treat the possessors of said material as those who need mental help.

    Read the article. There was one case where they were able to identify the child and track down the person who committed the actual abuse. As for the thing about using dogs to track computer memory, I'm assuming that's just a tool, an aid, in searching someone's house with a warrant. The whole issue of warrant abuse (judges rubberstamping) is another totally separate issue.

    Hiding a USB thumbdrive doesn't mean something is illegal on it. It just means you don't want someone to find it. Perhaps you store passwords, financial information, etc. on it. Even if encrypted, it provides an extra layer of protection by making sure someone can't easily find the USB stick thumbdrive to begin with, especially if you're home is likely to be burgled.

  • Re:Amazoing (Score:5, Informative)

    by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @02:35AM (#47397667)

    That's called 'parallel construction' - the practice of fakeing a source in order to conceal the real source. It's used to protect informants by allowing for plausable deniability, giving the appearance that the police stumbled upon a crime by other means or sheer luck.

    It's still controversial because it can also be used to aid the police in using illegally gathered evidence while concealing that fact from a court.

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @07:39AM (#47398307)

    There was a Mythbusters where they tried to fool a drug dog. I only caught the tail end of it (no pun intended) and the only attempt I saw was the target item inside a suitcase with dirty diapers in a room full of suitcases. If I remember the wrap-up scene the dog always found the target.

    I'm curious what else they tried to trick the dogs with. The cynic in me believes the cops wouldn't have cooperated if they had actually come up with a technique that worked.

    I wonder if vacuum sealing works -- presuming of course you wash the exterior of the vacuum sealed container and possibly double-bagged it. I use a FoodSaver model for food items and since the sealed bag holds a vacuum, presumably there's no way for the odor to migrate out.

  • Re:Amazoing (Score:4, Informative)

    by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @08:00AM (#47398359)

    That's called 'parallel construction' - the practice of fakeing a source in order to conceal the real source. It's used to protect informants by allowing for plausable deniability, giving the appearance that the police stumbled upon a crime by other means or sheer luck.

    No, what GP described is NOT the potentially legal version of "parallel construction." Parallel construction, done properly, is supposed to involve the construction of a legitimate alternative chain of evidence, where the original chain of evidence came from a questionably legal information source (e.g. NSA wiretap, improper search) or a source that can't be exposed for some reason.

    The way this is supposed to work is that all the legally obtained evidence is given to a separate law enforcement person, who doesn't know the case or have the detailed evidence and who then investigates in a legal fashion. As long as there is no "fruit of the poisoned tree," the investigation can be legit. The recent controversy is often that in new cases, the NSA will convey an "anonymous tip" or something to law enforcement to search a particular place... but after that tip, the police are still expected to act legally.

    In GP's case, the officer presumably received a tip that that particular house had drugs. The dog was brought past to provide probable cause (in addition to the tip) for a search. However, in this case the dog didn't sense anything, so the officer chose to commit an overt illegal act and fabricate evidence for the probable cause.

    So, while "parallel construction" is on questionable legal ground in many cases, GP's description involves fabrication of evidence... which does not lead to parallel CONSTRUCTION, since no legitimate chain of evidence was legally constructed.

  • by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:20AM (#47398895)

    Actually diddling kids has been standard practice in many cultures until fairly recently - it's only in the last few centuries that it's begun getting a bad name in the West. Hell - take the word "erotic", derived from the Greek "eros" - an emotion that was accepted to only be possible within the confines of a relationship between an adult man and a young boy - something that was openly embraced at the time.

    Moral of the story: don't assume that your modern moral compass is of any use in determining historical reality.

  • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @12:00PM (#47400161)

    And the supreme court ruled that even if there is evidence that the dog was broken or the handler was lying (a case where a dog supposedly indicated on the same guy twice and no drugs were found either time) as long as there is some test in the past that indicates that the dog works that there is no evidence of misconduct on the part of either the dog or handler.

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