A “major expansion” of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Fairfax, Virginia-based Cyber Crimes Center in order to provide increased capabilities to combats cyber crime cases involving underground online marketplaces, child exploitation, intellectual property theft and many more cyber-related crimes, was announced Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The expansion includes the build-out of a 5,000 square-foot forensic laboratory, space for coordinating large cyber operations, an evidence vault and multiple training and conference rooms.
“The men and women of [ICE] Homeland Security Investigations [HSI] perform critical work in combating criminals that use the computer as their weapon, perpetrating crimes ranging from child exploitation to the theft of intellectual property,” said Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. “The development of this expanded Cyber Crimes Center provides this great workforce with the facility and tools they deserve to accomplish their mission.”
ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña, who joined Mayorkas in unveiling the expansion of the agency’s Cyber Crimes Center, agreed that the expanded center will provide ICE HSI with “enhanced operational and training capabilities in order to meet the growing cyber mission of the agency and increasing workload of criminal cases with a cyber-nexus,” DHS said in a statement.
In 1997, the US Customs Service created the Cyber Crimes Center – which became known as “C3” – in response to changing technologies and its effect on criminal trends. But while C3’s mission “evolved dramatically since its creation, little renovation has been made since then to update the physical space,” DHS stated.
According to Saldaña, today’s C3 is better equipped for combating cybercrime in today’s age.
DHS said, “ICE’s cybercrime strategy focuses on network intrusion and online theft of intellectual property and online theft of export controlled data; cyber economic crimes to include the sale and conversion of stolen credit card data and personally identifiable information into criminal proceeds; and cyber enabled crimes like child exploitation, illicit underground marketplaces, document fraud and other crimes that have transitioned from the physical to virtual world.”
Continuing, DHS explained that, “C3’s current mission involves keeping pace with emerging computer technology and Internet processes; proactively using these new technologies to combat criminal activity and address vulnerabilities created by the Internet; disseminating investigative leads and intelligence to field offices and international law enforcement partners; and supporting field investigations.”
The center has developed a cybercrime curriculum to train HSI special agents and law enforcement partners in conducting cyber investigations, and provides classes on subjects like cyber smuggling and undercover and network intrusion investigations, which are slated to begin at the new C3 facilities in early 2016. C3 is already using the new space to provide training in advanced software applications for victim identification in support of child sexual exploitation investigations.
“C3 delivers computer and cyber-based technical services in support of HSI cases – including investigationsinto underground online marketplaces selling illegal drugs, weapons and other contraband; the trading of images of child pornography; and the theft of intellectual property,” DHS said.
Continuing, DHS said the most examples of the types of cases investigated and supported by C3 include the takedown of underground online marketplaces like" The Silk Road — about which Homeland Security Today published the exclusive report, The Dark Web: The Place Where Digital Evil Lurks — the Black Market Reloaded, cyber theft and piracy of the Hollywood movie, "The Expendables 3" and the dismantling of one of the largest child pornography websites on the dark net with more than 27,000 subscribers, as part of Operation Round Table.
Photo top:An ICE Cyber Crimes specialist works in a room that is set up to help identify child abusers and their victims.
Photo middle: ICE Cyber Crimes specialist looks through a microscope to connect wires to the motherboard of a phone. This will let him get into the phone and search it for evidence.
Photo bottom: ICE Cyber Crimes specialist looks at the arms of confiscated hard drive that he took apart. Once the hard drive is fixed he will put it back together so they can get the evidence they need off of it.