Category Archives: crime analysis

The Wilson Ruling: What it Means for ICAC Investigators

Case Closed Software™ recently worked on a project with the City of San Diego Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.

 

San Diego ICAC

The project arose out of a need for a sophisticated tool to help the multi-jurisdictional ICAC unit effectively triage and investigate criminal activity involving child sexual abuse materials (CSAM). In particular, we needed to come up with an investigation tool that would work around evolving laws and The Wilson Ruling of 2021.

Note: CSAM has previously been referred to as ‘Child Pornography’, but has evolved into a more accurate depiction of the abuse committed upon unwilling victims.

At the root of Wilson Ruling, which we will discuss in depth below, is the 2008 Protect Our Children Act sponsored by then-Senator Joe Biden and signed by then-President George W. Bush. The law requires “electronic communication service providers to notify the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) when they discover apparent violations of laws prohibiting CSAM.

NCMEC then creates and distributes CyberTips to appropriate law enforcement agencies and specially-trained agents.

The Anatomy of a NCMEC CyberTip for ICAC Units

Without getting too granular, a CyberTip is made up of several sections. There’s a front page, and Sections A through D. The front page will contain the date it was received, its assigned report number, and an executive summary. The executive summary will say what type of incident the report refers to, such as “Apparent Child Pornography”, and the number of files that were uploaded.

The first section of a CyberTip, Section A, has information about the reporting agency – Google, Facebook, TikTok and so on. It will also include a brief incident description, the time of the incident, the webpage involved, and the email, username, and IP address of the person reported.

Spoiler Alert… Here’s a key to The Wilson Ruling: For each file, this section says whether the reporting ESP actually viewed the file and whether the file was publicly available. We’re going to come back to this shortly.

Section B is geolocation information for the offending IP address given in the report. This helps NCMEC know which ICAC Task Force should get the tip. The ISP who owns or controls the IP address will also be listed.

Section C is for any additional information and may reference other CyberTips that are associated with the same username or IP address.

Here’s another key point related to The Wilson Ruling. The images or videos associated with the CyberTip are provided to the appropriate agency along with a PDF report, but they are NOT shown in the body of the report.

Why the CyberTip Matters

The point of describing the CyberTip here is to reinforce just how much unstructured data exists on them and foreshadow some of the pain points that ICAC teams experience in getting these CyberTips triaged.

That’s a significant component of the partnership that Case Closed Software has developed with San Diego Police Department… how to manage, de-conflict, and triage the overwhelming volume of CyberTips that each ICAC task force or investigator receives.

The other significant component of what we’ve worked on together from a technology perspective is related to how courts have applied Fourth Amendment doctrines to CSAM investigations. The Fourth Amendment, of course, is an important piece of our Bill of Rights and is supposed to protect all of us from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.

The ICAC Investigation into Luke Noel Wilson

Let’s look at The Wilson Ruling of 2021. This came out of the court’s application of the Fourth Amendment in the case of defendant Luke Noel Wilson who, in June 2015, attached several images containing CSAM to an email on his Gmail account. Google’s screening system –  which scans uploaded images and checks for identical matches in a database of confirmed CSAM – immediately flagged Wilson’s attachments as “apparent child pornography”.

Without having an employee review the attachments first, Google’s system then sent an automated report to NCMEC that included the images. As is standard policy for ESPs, the report contained information about the date and time Wilson uploaded the images, along with his email address, login information, and the IP address of the device he used to upload the images.

NCMEC subsequently forwarded the report to local law enforcement – in this case, the fine team at San Diego ICAC – where an agent reviewed the NCMEC CyberTip and inspected each of the images, confirming that they were indeed CSAM.

Relying on Google’s report and his personal observations, the agent then applied for – and obtained – a search warrant for Wilson’s email account. The agent’s affidavit accompanying the search warrant request included descriptions of the images but didn’t specifically contain any mention of matching hash values, nor any description of Google’s screening process for CSAM.

When, with search warrant in hand, the agent searched Wilson’s email account, he discovered several email exchanges in which Wilson received and sent CSAM and additionally offered to pay a woman to molest and exploit children.

Law Enforcement then obtained a search warrant for Wilson’s residence and vehicle where they discovered devices containing thousands of images of CSAM including the original four attachments. Wilson’s alleged attempt at throwing a backpack over his balcony was noticed by assisting agents and was found to contain a thumb drive full of additional Child Sexual Abuse Materials.

It was later estimated that Wilson possessed 500 videos and 11,000 images of child sexual abuse, and – a few months later – he was arrested and charged with Distribution and Possession of Child Sexual Abuse Materials.

Wilson was convicted and sentenced to 45 years in prison.

So, this seems at this point like a fairly standard ICAC case. What then happened that fundamentally changed the way ICAC units operated to triage and investigate CyberTips?

The Motion to Suppress

After his trial, Wilson filed a motion to suppress the four original attachments (the ones included in the original CyberTip) AND all evidence subsequently seized from his email account and residence, arguing that San Diego ICAC’s initial review of his attachments was a warrantless search in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The District Court denied his motion, however, reasoning that the government does not perform a ‘search’ within the context of the Fourth Amendment when it inspects something that is ‘virtually certain’ to contain contraband.

Wilson subsequently appealed that decision to The Ninth Circuit which reversed the lower court’s decision, concluding that the agent’s viewing of the attachments violated Wilson’s 4th Amendment rights and rejecting the position that there was ‘virtual certainty’.

Basically, the Ninth Circuit said that Google’s initial report specified only the ‘general’ age of the child and the ‘general’ nature of the acts shown, and had not been viewed by any Google employee.
By viewing the four attachments without a search warrant, therefore, the higher court concluded that law enforcement unlawfully obtained new, critical information, and then used that new information to obtain warrants to search Wilson’s home and email account.

Of key importance in the ruling was the assessment that, even though Google employees viewed images identical to Wilson’s to create Google’s database of suspected CSAM, they had not viewed the actual image itself.

By contrast, after viewing the images, law enforcement could describe “the number of minors depicted, their identity, the number of adults depicted alongside the minors, the setting, and the actual sexual acts depicted.”  So, even though Google’s algorithm had flagged Wilson’s attachments to a mathematical certainty that his images were “bit-for-bit” duplicates of images identified by its employees as CSAM within their database, Wilson’s motion to suppress was granted.

The Fallout

The fallout for ICAC Task Forces has been tremendous because of this ruling. How are ICAC units and their respective affiliates, supposed to expeditiously review, triage, and investigate a massive and growing number of CyberTips while tip-toeing around an individual’s 4th Amendment rights?

Case Closed Software for ICAC

Last year, San Diego ICAC approached Case Closed Software™ with this exact set of problems and we began work on a tool designed to systematically process CyberTips – one that automates what is currently a time-consuming chain of events.

The Trouble with Triage

For most ICAC Units, individual CyberTips must be downloaded as zip files via NCMEC or IDS. Those zip files contain PDF files with unstructured text that lists:

• Reporting Agencies
• Usernames
• Email Addresses
• Telephone Numbers
• IP Addresses
• Hash Values
• Physical Addresses
• Sender IDs
• Recipient IDs
• Suspect Names
• Victim Names
• … and much more.

Triage administrators must:

  1. Download each CyberTip locally
  2. Unzip the file
  3. Begin a long process of putting those data elements together to create a connected view of those data elements to determine solvability
  4. And then assign to an investigator – internal or affiliate.

Oh, and then do the same for the next CyberTip… and the next one… and the next one after that.

Problem Solving for ICAC

Working with San Diego ICAC, we created a tool that allows administrators to save CyberTips directly a CJIS-Compliant ‘black box’ server instead of downloading them locally. That black box contains proprietary logic that systematically opens those zip files, pulls all of those data elements from the PDFs, grabs all of the attachments and underlying hash values, and links them into a single interface for the administrator. Important to note is that this process happens quickly and virtually eliminates the manual efforts in existence now.

CyberTips Triage and Case Management

 

We have essentially created a unique, user-friendly system where investigators cannot view attachments until they purposely elect to.
They can see usernames, IP Addresses, filenames, and an array of other information… but not the images. Images cannot be revealed until investigators have proper authority in compliance of the Wilson Ruling. It’s a simple but brilliant addition to the process that protects all parties.

Just to tie a bow around Mr. Wilson, he was eventually convicted of child molestation on the Stateside and sentenced to 25 years. He was subsequently charged and convicted of possession and distribution of CSAM on the federal side and received an additional ten years. He is where he should be, but his entire case was thrown into jeopardy when one agent viewed four files that one court felt violated his rights.

The Proposed Solution: Case Closed Software™

At its core, Case Closed Software is a multi-jurisdictional investigation case management system for complex criminal investigations.

The ICAC-specific functionality that was added to the system takes what was once a CyberTip and, using what we call our ‘One Page Case Management’ methodology, helps turn it into a conviction.

San Diego (ICAC) Task Force aids development of technology in the fight against child pornography and child sexual assault material

August 1, 2022 (San Diego, CA)  The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) is on the front lines of the fight against online crimes against children. Their ‘CyberTipline’ is the country’s centralized system for reporting the online exploitation of children.

According to NCMEC’s website, “Concerned individuals and organizations make reports of suspected online enticement of children for sexual acts, child sexual molestation, child sexual abuse material, child sex tourism, child sex trafficking, and unsolicited obscene materials sent to a child.

A full report of the CyberTipline can be found on the NCMEC website.

Working with Law Enforcement

In this important work, NCMEC works closely with The Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program. That program was created to help law enforcement agencies enhance their ability to investigate offenders who use online communication systems to sexually exploit children.

In the United States, there are over 60 regional ICAC Task Force agencies representing almost 5,500 individual agencies.

San Diego’s ICAC task force simplifies the triage and investigation of CSAM and crimes against children incidents.

Sergeant Garrick Nugent is commander of the San Diego ICAC Task Force. His task force consists of roughly 33 different agencies that endeavor to work together to investigate cybercrimes against children in San Diego, Imperial, and Riverside Counties. According to Nugent, most investigations begin with NCMEC, which contacts San Diego ICAC when it believes there’s a local case. These tips, referred to as CyberTips, number in the thousands each year for San Diego ICAC alone. And that number has risen consistently over the past five years.

“I truthfully believe there are more cases,” said Nugent in a 2020 interview with a CBS affiliate in San Diego. “I wish I could say we are (keeping up with the volume). We have both children and predators that are at home. They have unprecedented access to the internet. They’ve got lots and lots of time on their hands and therefore I think we’re seeing the increase as a result.”

Dealing With Growing Volume

With each CyberTip comes a host of investigation intelligence including perpetrator usernames, unique IP addresses, suspect information, Internet Service Provider details, and much more. CyberTips also include disturbing multimedia evidence of child sexual assault materials (CSAM) that must be verified by the task force. Each CyberTip must be downloaded, opened, reviewed, verified, prioritized, and assigned to investigators who already maintain a full plate of cases to investigate. To say the problem is overwhelming is an understatement.

Case Closed Software™ and San Diego ICAC’s Investigation Software for ICAC Units

Since 2020, however, Nugent’s ICAC task force has worked in partnership with Texas-based Case Closed Software to develop innovative new systems designed to simplify and speed up the entire process of triaging and managing CyberTips.

The new system was implemented last year and now, according to Nugent, “greatly helps his ICAC task force to efficiently triage the NCMEC CyberTips and to control, direct, organize, review, and track our multi-agency investigations into child abuse and exploitation.”

Working Hand in Hand to Solve Problems

A quote from Nugent on Case Closed Software’s website states “This software is a must-have for ICAC units.”

Douglas Wood is the founder and CEO of Case Closed Software. According to Wood, his company has unique functionality to allow near-instant triage of CyberTips.

“As a result of our unique partnership with San Diego ICAC, users can simply save CyberTips to our CJIS-compliant cloud service, and moments later view all pertinent information for quick and effective triage”, says Wood. “They can then be assigned to any task force case agent who can use the ICAC investigation case management system to work more efficiently through investigations and prosecutions.”

The Crimes Against Children Conference

In a joint announcement, Case Closed Software and San Diego ICAC Task Force stated support for the upcoming 34th annual Crimes Against Children Conference (CACC) in Dallas, TX beginning August 8, 2022.

According to Case Closed Software, conference attendees will be able to see the ICAC task force software in action at the Exhibitor’s Hall. CCAC is presented annually by the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center and provides training to agencies in the fields of law enforcement, social work, child protective services, child advocacy, therapy, and medicine who work directly with child victims of crime.

Texas HIDTA Drug Task Force Deploys Case Closed Software™

A large, multi-jurisdictional drug task force in Texas has turned to Case Closed Software™ in its fight against drug trafficking, in partnership with the U.S. High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program.

The drug task force consists of several county and local law enforcement agencies in conjunction with the District Attorney’s Office.

The HIDTA program, created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, provides assistance to Federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States.

The HIDTA’s mission is to reduce drug availability by creating intelligence-driven drug task forces aimed at eliminating or reducing domestic drug trafficking and its harmful consequences through enhancing and helping to coordinate drug trafficking control efforts among federal, tribal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

By deploying Case Closed Software, agents across the county can track cases, suspects, reports, evidence and an array of other information to increase prosecution and conviction rates.

 

Case Closed Software™ to sponsor NW Regional ICAC Conference

Case Closed Software, located in the technology hub of Austin, Texas today announced sponsorship of the 2021 Northwest Regional Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Conference.

The event takes place October 6 – 8 at Microsoft Offices in Redmond, Washington.

The ICAC Task Force Program is a national network of over 60 coordinated task forces representing nearly 5,000 federal, state, and local law enforcement groups.

Case Closed Software offers ICAC units a system to quickly and efficiently triage thousands of tips each day, as well as a full investigation case management platform purpose-built for multi-jurisdictional investigations and task forces.

The company looks forward to networking with existing and future partners.

Case Closed Software Announces Advances in Investigation Software

Crime Technology Solutions, LLC has deployed a new global release of its Case Closed Software that focuses on helping organizations better manage complex, multi-jurisdictional investigations.

“Case Closed Software is widely recognized as the only true investigation software for multi-jurisdictional investigative agencies”, said the company’s CEO and founder Douglas Wood. “With our latest version, we expand even further into solving the unique problems faced by task forces, global organizations, and other more specialized investigation units”.

New features of Case Closed Software include:

  • Multi-Language Support, which enables Case Closed Software users to interact with the application in any language they choose. All data is translated in realtime so users who speak different languages can share intelligence and case information.
  • Integrated Operations Plan gives organizations the ability to plan and execute strategic investigative operations across jurisdictions. With Case Closed Software’s Operations Plan, users are all executing their initiatives in sync, and everyone is on the same page in terms of strategy and tactics.
  • Improved data entry options, making it easier for investigators to quickly get relevant information into the system. The new system allows administrative re-naming of fields for localization, enhanced drop-down menu functionality, and the ability to remove unused fields completely from the interface.
  • Case Visualization allows users to quickly visualize the elements of their case. Entities such as people, locations, and vehicles are displayed in a simple ‘tree format’ that allows users to click through information related to those entities. With this feature, users can easily view where else their case entities exist within the system across cases and across jurisdictions.
  • Google Location Integration, allowing critical addresses and locations to be entered quickly and accurately. Not all locations are addresses, and the new Case Closed Software features allow users to pin locations on an integrated map. Lat/Long, country, province/state, etc are all auto-populated.

“With global customers like Humane Society International, Exodus Road, and others it is important to continually strive to keep our Case Closed Software at the head of the class. Our latest version is another step in our endless march to remain the go-to solution for investigation case management.”

Download the Case Closed Software product sheet for Multi-Jurisdiction Investigations.

Or, for more information about Crime Technology Solutions, LLC and Case Closed Software, visit https://www.caseclosedsoftware.com

Task force commander says Rossville drug bust took quarter-million dollars worth of drugs off the street

The Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit drug task force seized nine pounds of meth and arrested two people. The task force also confiscated eight ounces of heroin, 24 grams of psilocybin (mushrooms), a firearm and $1,300 cash.

Methamphetamine is often sold in bags that each contain 3.2 grams of the drug. The packet is known as an 8-ball. 

See the full story HERE

Case Closed Software to sponsor annual NNOAC conference

Case Closed Software™ has announced that the company is sponsoring the annual National Narcotics Officers’ Associations’ Coalition (NNOAC) conference in Washington, DC. The conference, attended by hundreds of narcotics officers and agencies across the country, is happening February 2 – 6, 2019.

NNOAC_logo-300x218

Case Closed is powerful Investigative Case Management Software designed and developed BY Drug Task Force investigators FOR Drug Task Force investigators. Case Closed Cloud is the industry’s only fully integrated web-based Law Enforcement Task Force software for managing investigations, evidence, intelligence, informants, and much, much more.

Built using the very latest technologies, Case Closed Cloud is NIBRS-ready, and can be accessed on any device at any time. Case Closed Cloud is accessed from our ultra secure, CJIS-Compliant cloud servers via any browser on any device. With a full feature set including:

• Designed for Multi-Jurisdictional DTF Use
• Tracks all Cases and Case Types
• Manages Incidents and Case Actions
• Mobile-Friendly for Field Use
• 100% C)IS Compliant
• NIBRS Ready Architecture
• Physical Evidence Management
• Stores all Document Types by Case
• Manages Statutes and Charges through Court
• Manages Confidential Informants
• Manages Tips and Leads
• Provides Internal Messaging and Reminders
• Tracks Gangs, Members, and Events
• Delivers ad hoc Reporting Tools
• Tracks all Persons/Places/Vehicles across Cases
• Creates Master Case File for DA Use

CaseClosedMain (2)Case Closed Software will show Drug Task Forces how they can FINALLY stop trying to manage with spreadsheets, paper files, antiquated systems, or poorly-designed RMS software.