Forensics Responds to 'Digital Proliferation'

The Homeland Security Department unveiled a computer forensics institute last week to strengthen its ability to analyze digital evidence. Everyone from prosecutors to judges, to state and local police officers are eligible to receive computer forensic training at the National Computer Forensic Institute in Hoover, Ala.

One of the areas the institute may want to explore is the massive amounts of data cyber investigators say they have to analyze -- and the unusual devices that it is stored in. In a CNet article, Jim Christy, a director of the Defense Department's Defense Cyber Crime Center, said law enforcement officials seize anything that can hold data, which increases the amount of data they have to sift through:

"This is everything that you got and gave for Christmas," Christy said. In one case, investigators found child pornography on a modified Xbox, he said. "The challenge is that with digital proliferation, the data volume is tremendous these days."

A single terabyte of data equals about 8,333 old-fashioned, five-drawer file cabinets packed with papers. "That's an awful lot for an examiner to go through," Christy said.

Cyber investigators are stretched thin and the industry needs to create some new tools to help sort through the piles of data, Christy says.

The Secret Service is developing the institute, and DHS' National Cyber Security Division is partially funding the effort.