Crimes at Cyber Headlines

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cyber Crimes Center


The Cyber Crimes Center (C3) Child Exploitation Section (CES) investigates the trans-border dimension of large-scale producers and distributors of images of child abuse, as well as individuals who travel in foreign commerce for the purpose of engaging in sex with minors. The CES employs the latest technology to collect evidence and track the activities of individuals and organized groups who sexually exploit children through the use of websites, chat rooms, newsgroups, and peer-to-peer trading. These investigative activities are organized under Operation Predator, a program managed by the CES. The CES also conducts clandestine operations throughout the world to identify and apprehend violators. The CES assists the field offices and routinely coordinates major investigations. The CES works closely with law enforcement agencies from around the world because the exploitation of children is a matter of global importance.
C3 brings the full range of ICE computer and forensic assets together in a single location to combat such Internet-related crimes as:


  • Possession, manufacture and distribution of images of child abuse.

  • International money laundering and illegal cyber-banking.

  • Illegal arms trafficking and illegal export of strategic/controlled commodities.

  • Drug trafficking (including prohibited pharmaceuticals).

  • General Smuggling (including the trafficking in stolen art and antiquities; violations of the Endangered Species Act etc.)

  • Intellectual property rights violations (including music and software).

  • Immigration violations; identity and benefit fraud


C3 consists of four sections, three of which provide cyber technical and investigative services, the Cyber Crimes Section (CCS), the Child Exploitation Section (CES), and the Digital Forensic Section (DFS). The fourth section, the Information Technology and Administrative Section (ITAS), provides the technical and operational infrastructure services necessary to support the other three C3 sections. The center is a co-location of special agents, intelligence research specialists, administrative support, and contractors, all of which are instrumental in operational and technical continuity. Within each section, there are various program managers assigned to certain programmatic areas. These program managers are responsible for supporting ICE Internet investigations through the generation and the dissemination of viable leads. Program managers are available to provide guidance and training to field agents as well as to other law enforcement (foreign and domestic) upon request.



Child Exploitation


The C3 CES investigates large-scale producers and distributors of images of child abuse as well as individuals who travel in foreign commerce for the purpose of engaging in sex with minors. The CES employs the latest technology to collect evidence and track the activities of individuals and organized groups who sexually exploit children through the use of websites, chat rooms, newsgroups and peer-to-peer trading. The CES also conducts clandestine operations throughout the world to identify and apprehend violators. The CES assists the field offices and routinely coordinates major investigations. The CES works closely with law enforcement agencies from around the world because the exploitation of children is a matter of global importance.




  • Operation Falcon — A joint international images of child abuse investigation initiated by ICE that identified 39 websites distributing child pornography. Further investigation led to the arrest of 1,200 international downloader’s and more than 300 U.S. customers. Nine individuals from the United States and Belarus were identified and charged as the principals in this investigation. All principals were convicted on various charges related to money laundering, structuring and the production and distribution of images of child abuse.


  • Operation Mango — An extensive investigation that closed down an American-owned beachside resort in Acapulco, Mexico, which offered children to sexual predators. The resort was a haven for pedophiles that traveled to the facility for the sole purpose of engaging in sex with minors. The proprietor of the business was convicted. As a result of this investigation and others, the government of Mexico recently created a Federal task force to address crimes against children in its country.


  • Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force — The Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Juvenile Justice Programs, ICAC Task Force comprises 45 task forces. The task forces were created in cooperation with the DOJ ICAC to provide reporting, a means to provide a virtual pointer system for Child Exploitation and images of child abuse cases and secure collaboration for various Federal, State, and Local law enforcement organizations, task forces, and affiliated groups around the world. DHS/ICE strongly supports the efforts of the ICAC task forces as demonstrated by ICE special agents being active members of the ICACs throughout the United States. The Northern Virginia/Metro DC ICAC is housed at the DHS/ICE C3.



Cyber Crimes Section



The Cyber Crimes Section (CCS) is responsible for developing and coordinating investigations of Immigration and Customs violations where the Internet is used to facilitate the criminal act. The CCS investigative responsibilities include fraud, theft of intellectual property rights, money laundering, identity and benefit fraud, the sale and distribution of narcotics and other controlled substances, illegal arms trafficking and the illegal export of strategic/controlled commodities and the smuggling and sale of other prohibited items such as art and cultural property.



The CCS is involved in the development of Internet undercover law enforcement investigative methodology, and new laws and regulations to strengthen U.S. Cyber-Border Security. C3 supports the ICE Office of Investigation’s (OI) domestic field offices, along with ICE foreign attach├ęs offices with cyber technical, and covert online investigative support.




  • Operations Apothecary – The CCS, the ICE Commercial Fraud Office and the National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Coordination Center have partnered together and launched a comprehensive Internet pharmaceutical initiative designed to target, arrest and prosecute individuals and organizations that are involved in the smuggling of counterfeit pharmaceuticals of a controlled and non-controlled nature as well as scheduled narcotics via the Internet. The focus is also on the affiliates of the rogue pharmacies that are typically operated by criminal enterprises whose sole purpose is to generate large sums of money, with no regard to the health and welfare of the public.


  • Intellectual Property Rights - The CCS has encountered thousands of web sites based in the United States, as well as foreign that are engaged in the sale of counterfeit merchandise (including music and software) via the Internet. The CCS continues to work closely with the National IPR Coordination Center, the Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) at the DOJ, and industry representatives to identify web sites responsible for the sale of the counterfeit items.


  • Arms and Strategic Technology - The CCS supports ICE’s mission to prevent proliferate countries, terrorists, trans-national criminals from obtaining strategic materials, funds and support and to protect the American public from the introduction weapons of mass destruction and other instruments of terror from entering the United States.


  • Identify Fraud Initiative - The availability and use of fraudulent identification documents has always been a concern to the law enforcement community. While traditionally available from street sources, fraudulent identification and travel documents, of all types, are also readily available for sale via the Internet. In the post 9-11 world, fraudulent identity and travel documents are of an even greater concern to ICE because of the alarming threat they pose to ICE's primary mission of protecting the United States, and its citizens, from threats arising from the movement of people and goods into and out of the country. With addressing these documents and their threat in mind, the CCS has sought to identify sources for fraudulent identity and immigration documents on the Internet. Those sources identified are pursued for criminal violations either locally or referred to other ICE field offices."




Digital Forensics Section


Digital evidence has become prevalent in every ICE investigative case category. Digital evidence is quickly replacing documentary evidence as the “smoking gun” in investigations. As a result, ICE investigations increasing demand that vital evidence be identified, seized, and recovered from a variety of electronic devices. ICE special agents need access to information stored on personal computers, complex business networks, personal digital assistants (PDA), cellular telephones, and multifunction communications devices.



Under legacy US Customs and US Immigration, ICE began training special agents to address this problem. The merger of the two agencies’ legacy computer forensic programs now provides ICE with more than one hundred and twenty-five special agents trained to process digital evidence.



The C3, Digital Forensic Section (DFS) provides programmatic oversight to the ICE Digital Forensics Program, operates the ICE National Digital Forensics Lab, and participates jointly with the US Secret Service and the Internal Revenue Service in the legacy Treasury Computer Investigative Specialist Training Program.



DFS Digital Forensic Agents (DFA) serve as the primary source for ICE field DFAs for technical forensic support issues, conduct research and development on new and emerging technologies, and develop and deliver training to field DFAs.



The DFS operates a state of the art Digital Forensics Lab that processes “strange and large” digital evidence seized by ICE field offices. Digital evidence resident on “non-standard” hardware or too voluminous for field office to process may be forwarded to the DFS for examination.



The DFS also provides ICE with advanced data exploitation capabilities. Digital evidence submitted by ICE field offices can be imported onto the DFS Lab network, indexed, and searched using advanced data exploitation tools. Large volumes of unrelated data can quickly and efficiently be mined for evidence of criminal activity.

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