|Supervision in Cyberspace|
|By Art Bowker, Cybercrime Specialist|
Almost two years ago the article “Supervising the Cyber-offender: Are you ready?” appeared on Corrections.com detailing the need to get ready for the cyber-offender. There have been significant changes since that article appeared reflecting the growing community corrections role in cyberspace.
A contributing factor to this trend was the publication on July 2, 2008 of registration regulations implemented by the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking required by the Adam Walsh Act of 2006 . These regulations mandated that Internet identifiers, such as e-mail addresses and profiles, were to be disclosed by sex offenders as part of the federal registration requirements. Later, the Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act of 2008, also known as the KIDS Act of 2008, further solidified the disclosure of Internet identifiers as a Congressional mandate.
States hoping to maintain funding began to incorporate these disclosure requirements into their sex offender registration laws. As of July 2009, approximately twenty-five states had laws mandating Internet Identifiers be included in registration. Additinally, at least nine states (FL,GA, IN, IL, MN, NH, NJ, NV, and OK) now require computer conditions/restrictions for sex offenders on probation/parole.
Previously, some officers were limiting their efforts to either doing periodic searches for or of a computer and/or installing monitoring software. These practices were usually reserved for the sex offenders. However, some officers, such as Kentucky Parole Officer Shannon E. Blalock, soon realized that checking social networking sites can provide a massive amount of intelligence on all offenders and officers must start using these sites for supervision and fugitive apprehension. Blalock refers to the concept of conducting virtual home visits and notes:
Others expressed concern over the issue of “entrapment” Specifically, some believe merely verifying an offender has violated an Internet restriction through use of a covert on-line identity was unlawful. Legally, entrapment in cyberspace hinges on two interrelated questions, did the Government induce an individual to commit a crime and is the individual predisposed to commit a crime (U.S. v. Poehlman, 217 F.3d. 692 (9th Circuit, 2000)). An offender on-line against the law or a condition, has already engaged in prohibited conduct. Hence, in this scenario, a covert on-line identity cannot be an inducing factor in violation conduct that has already occurred. Obviously, more aggressive techniques, i.e., purporting to be a minor on-line to a sex offender authorized on the Internet, are clearly more problematic for rehabilitative goals. Additionally, collecting evidence in cyberspace, such as a troubling profile, needs to be done in a legally defensive manner. (Shipley, T. & Silbert, W., 2008 and and Shipley 2007) Considering all these factors, it soon becomes apparent that more training and clear guidance on cyberspace investigation practices for probation and parole officers are warranted.
There are numerous nonprofit organizations that can help officers prepare for cyberspace investigations as well as computer searches/monitoring. SEARCH: The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics has excellent training materials for officers starting out in cyberspace, such as "How to Capture a MySpace Page for Investigative Purposes." Likewise, the National White Collar Crime Center has computer investigations courses for officers. The American Probation and Parole Association offers the course “Managing Sex Offenders’ Computer Use.” There is also the free program Field Search, developed by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) - Rocky Mountain Division (RM) to assist officers supervising the cybersex offender. Joining a professional organization, such as the High Technology Crime Investigation Association provides not only valuable networking opportunities but they have the best annual three day training conference available (htciaconference.org).
Many community corrections officers are starting to understand that their duties do not always end in the brick and mortar world. They realize that, like the rest of society, offenders are using technology but some are finding it an attractive way to continue criminal and violation behavior. Managers and administrators must be willing to support their officers in developing and learning skills necessary to confront these new challenges. Otherwise offenders will be free to manipulate cyberspace for unacceptable purposes, creating a real risk to our communities.
Shipley, T. (2007), Collecting Legally Defensible Online Evidence: Creating a Standard Framework for I n t e rnet Foresnic Investigations. Vere Software (http://www.veresoftware.com)
Shipley, T. & Silbert, W. (2008) Online Investigation Best Practices presented at 2008 National Symposium on Cyber Crime, U.S. Pretrial Services, Southern District of California
Art Bowker has over 24 years experience in both law enforcement and corrections at the state and federal level. In 2008, he was the International President of the High Technology Crime Investigation Association (HTCIA). This professional non-profit organization is the largest of its kind devoted to the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of crimes involving advanced technologies (htcia.org). He is the 2010 International Secretary of HTCIA. Art is employed as Cybercrime Specialist with the U.S. Pretrial Services and Probation Office of Northern Ohio. He has a Master of Corrections degree from Kent State University. Follow Art on Twitter.com at: (http://twitter.com/Computerpo)
Other articles by Bowker:
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