Friday, 4 November 2011

Company helps police bust computer criminals

A company in Ithaca is combating cyber crime and making it harder for crooks to get away with it.

Located at the Cornell Business and Technology Park, ATC-NY works virtually to help law enforcement track, gather and process online forensic evidence. ATC-NY is a subsidiary of Minneapolis-based Architecture Technology Corp., which acquired the Cornell University spinoff in 1999.

With a staff of 30, ATC-NY specializes in cyber security and information management. It develops cutting-edge technology used by state and federal law enforcement and private companies to identify illegal online activity.

The staff is made up of experts in the field such as computer scientists, electrical engineers, computer forensic specialists and mathematicians.

"We're like a mini computer science department," said Julie Baker, ACT-NY general manager.

Before it was acquired by ATC, the company was called Odyssey Research Associates. It was founded in 1982 in Ithaca by a group of mathematicians and computational linguists led by Cornell professor Richard Platek. Odyssey Research Associates conducted research and developed a niche in cyber security, Baker said.

As the Internet rapidly becomes the next frontier in battling crime, the challenge is to stay a step ahead of potential criminals, Baker said. Online scams from financial fraud to illegal file sharing have gotten more sophisticated and cases have increased, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center's annual report.

"Collecting and analyzing the electronic evidence can be time-consuming for law enforcement," said Baker, whose background is in computer science. "Our software extracts potential evidence from large amounts of raw data seized on disks ... Traditional forensic software presents data at a very low level, requiring the investigator to sift through mountains of data in the search for evidence. We've come up with software that simplifies the process and lets departments share information," she said.
In September, ATC-NY received grants from the National Institute of Justice's Electronic Crime and Digital Evidence Recovery Program to develop its technology.

In a recent statement regarding the grant issuance, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said, "Criminals can no longer run and hide from forensic evidence." Currently, 3,000 federal law enforcement personnel, including FBI agents, use the software.

Live Marshal is ACT-NY's latest tool that runs on Windows and Linux. It enables forensic investigators to perform a live remote investigation of computers over a network without preinstalled software. The tool is also used in corporations to make sure there is no illegal file sharing among employees.

Another tool, Mac Marshal, is in wide circulation and helps extract and analyze forensic information specific to Macintosh computers. A tool still in development is Mobile Marshal, which can target cell phones by extracting SMS messaging data and call logs and records all the actions taken on the device. Police would need a warrant to obtain the information.

ACT-NY's digital forensics software was developed with funds from the Department of Justice and is free to law enforcement around the country. For more information, visit

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