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A forensic expert examines a mobile device that was seized during an investigation. Digital forensic experts support DSS cases by analyzing computers, mobile devices, and other technology for evidence of criminal activity, Arlington, Virginia, Oct. 5, 2017.

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, but for the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), cyber security and investigations are a daily activity. Today, no law enforcement agency can carry out its investigative mission without some digital forensics capability, and DSS is no exception.

DSS has computer forensics analysts and experts who support DSS’ criminal cases by collecting digital evidence, conducting online investigations, and examining and processing digital media. Other experts assist with technical surveillance by providing devices, equipment installation and other needs to support DSS investigations. When requested, the specialists also advise DSS special agents on best practices for using the Internet as an investigative tool as well as how to use digital evidence to strengthen their cases.

These cyber sleuths have supported a number of unique and sensitive cases. For instance, they supported the espionage investigation of former U.S. Department of State official Walter Kendall Myers, who was convicted  of spying for Cuba. More recently, DSS computer forensic analysts and technical experts were instrumental during Operation Cinderella Story, a DSS-initiated and -led investigation that dismantled a transnational human trafficking network operating in the Republic of Korea and the New York City area. Early on in the investigation, a forensics team recovered incriminating communications used by the criminals. After search warrants were executed, they collected and analyzed hundreds of thousands of digital media and data that were key pieces of evidence during the trials.

According to Special Agent David Trosch, forensics analysis is a blend of science and art. “The science part is technical competency; how to use specialized software, and examining devices and data. The art component is the investigative aspect. A good analyst is inquisitive, tenacious, innovative, and understands human psychology.” As director of the Office of Cyber Threat and Investigations, Trosch manages DSS’ computer forensics analysts and technical experts.

Although DSS’ cyber sleuths perform work similar to characters on popular crime dramas, Trosch warns that those depicts rarely match the reality of the job.

“The average person’s exposure to the forensics field comes from the media,” Trosch said. “TV shows wow viewers with fictional forensics practitioners who achieve spectacular results in no time. The reality is it can take weeks, if not months, to complete our work.”

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A digital forensic expert hands sealed evidence to another expert to store in a secured location. Evidence collected as part of an investigation is processed in one location, then transferred to a secure location in another room to maintain the integrity of the evidence, Arlington, Virginia, Oct. 5, 2017.

U.S. Department of State

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