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Police dog sniffs out hidden memory cards, flash drives to search for child porn

police dog
Credit:https://www.flickr.com/photos/exfordy/123347917

Police in Rhode Island have a golden Labrador "trained to sniff out hard drives, thumb drives and other technological gadgets that could contain child pornography."

If you’ve ever built a gaming PC, then you know how each unboxed component has its own “new tech” scent. That’s similar to new car smell, only geekier and less expensive. Although it depends upon your sense of smell, it’s much more difficult to catch the scent of “tech” when you open a new SD card, USB drive or other hard drive. Take away the “new” factor and change it to previously-used memory filled with child porn and then hidden away; that is what a new type of police dog is supposedly detecting.

You may have heard of memory sniffing attacks, but it likely did not include a dog as part of the scenario. While discussing new methods police are using to fight child porn in Rhode Island, the Providence Journal reported that includes police dogs allegedly capable of sniffing out hidden memory cards and storage drives, which will be used during the investigation of suspected child pornographers.

The state police task force’s hunt to track down “the worst of the worst” offenders now includes a golden Labrador named Thoreau that “received 22 weeks of training in how to detect devices in exchange for food at the Connecticut State Police Training Academy.” This “makes Rhode Island the second state in the nation to have a police dog trained to sniff out hard drives, thumb drives and other technological gadgets that could contain child pornography.”

Given to the state police by the Connecticut State Police, the dog assisted in its first search warrant in June pinpointing a thumb drive containing child pornography hidden four layers deep in a tin box inside a metal cabinet. That discovery led the police to secure an arrest warrant.

“If it has a memory card, he’ll sniff it out,” Detective Adam Houston, Thoreau’s handler, says.

At times, child pornographers hide devices in ceiling tiles or even radios.

Detection dogs have been credited with being capable of sniffing out cancer, alerting diabetic owners to dangerous blood sugar levels, finding endangered species, mold, drugs, human remains, firearms, landmines, and other evidence of crimes. At one point, after spending $19 billion for new-and-improved tech, the Pentagon claimed that dogs beat them all and are the best bomb-detectors.

Then there was Lucky and Flo, a pair of black Labradors sponsored by the MPAA as being the first animals trained to sniff out counterfeit DVDs. The MPAA told the BBC that the dogs “have been well trained to specifically smell the unique chemicals that go into polycarbonates and the solvents that glue the DVDs together and they are very, very effective at doing that." Something along those lines may be how dogs sniff out hard drives, but Lucky and Flo’s trainer admitted the dogs could “find, but cannot distinguish between, CDs and DVDs, burned and replicated disks, or legitimate and pirate disks.”

By the same logic, the memory-sniffing police dogs would not be able to distinguish between SD cards or other memory full of child porn and those storage devices that are not; the same goes for encrypted versus non-encrypted hard drives. Some people may believe this entire idea stinks like when cops allegedly use dogs to sniff out and "find" drugs that were otherwise reported by narcs. Yet others may believe that busting pedophiles could never be a bad thing.

The hunt for child pornographers in Rhode Island, according to the Journal, includes collaboration between Homeland Security, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Internet Crimes Against Children task force and 10 police departments across the state. Homeland Security is working with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children on Project iGuardian, a national campaign to teach kids to “think before you click” and avoid being victimized online.

Numerous states are launching public awareness campaigns about human trafficking in the digital age, a topic tackled by Chris Jenks at Circle City Con in Indy. If the topic interests you, Adrian Crenshaw posted the Chatham House Rule talk on Iron Geek. It remains to be seen if other states will add memory-sniffing police dogs to fight child porn.

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