Combating Global Corruption with Digital Forensics: Organized Crime

In a recent post, we took a look at the invaluable role that digital forensics can play in helping to combat global corruption in the business world, focusing in particular on the issue of workplace sexual harassment. However, as we noted in that original post, corruption is a pervasive problem that takes many forms, and it is by no means restricted to the working world. For the second post in our global corruption series, we’ll take a look at another form of corruption—one less common than workplace misconduct but, in many cases, far more dangerous: organized crime.

For those who don’t work in the field of law enforcement, the phrase “organized crime” usually brings to mind images pulled straight from The Godfather trilogy or The Sopranos. It evokes outdated ideas of the close-knit, Italian-style mafia family—small, regional criminal organizations that carry out Machiavellian schemes and extreme acts of violence in the name of gambling debts and protection racquets. However, when we examine the real-life transnational crime syndicates that are responsible for the organized crime we see today, the picture we get is far different.

How Corruption Helps Organized Crime Keep Up with The Times

In reality, organized crime hasn’t just endured since the era of Vito and Michael Corleone, it’s evolved. Today’s organized crime is run not by small families, but by massive, multi-billion-dollar organizations that operate much more like multinational corporations than the more informal crime networks of the 20th century. As FBI Director Christopher Wray observed in Congressional testimony delivered earlier this year, these are sophisticated enterprises comprising flat, fluid networks whose reach extends across the globe.

The organizations responsible for the transnational organized crime we see today still participate in “traditional” criminal activities such as extortion and murder. In fact, the 2019 Global Study on Homicide, a report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, found that organized crime was responsible for a fifth of all murders worldwide—a truly stunning figure by any measure. However, in recent years, they’ve also added an entirely new set of all-too-modern crimes to their repertoire, including stock market manipulation, cyber theft, human trafficking, and more.

New forms of crime mean big business for criminal enterprises. Earlier this year, scientists at Michigan State University published new research on modern cybercrime networks, estimating the total global costs of cybercrime to be somewhere between $445 billion and $600 billion annually. And while a number of factors contribute to this success, corruption is one of the most important. Organized crime enterprises rely on corrupt public officials, corrupt executives, and other compromised authorities to enable their schemes and evade prosecution.

Organized crime may have evolved with the times, but thankfully, law enforcement has done the same. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the ways that digital forensics tools, and Oxygen Forensic® Detective specifically, are helping today’s investigators identify and dismantle even the most sophisticated criminal networks.

AI-Powered Image Search

In our workplace harassment post, we wrote a fair amount about the important role that images play in investigations, where they can provide useful evidence of workplace misconduct. Images also play an important role in organized crime investigations, but not in the way you might think. Forensics tools like Oxygen Forensic® Detective give investigators the ability to tap the power of A.I., which can quickly search a device to detect, analyze, and categorize thousands of images. These don’t just include photos of criminal activity, but also scans of key financial and identification documents, which are pivotal in organized crime investigations. Ultimately, organized crime is a business, and all businesses require some form of documentation. In many cases, the right ledger or falsified ID can be the key to unraveling an entire organization.

Identifying Key Players with Social Analytics

Digital forensics is a powerful tool for accessing the information from a single user, but they become even more valuable when applied to an entire network of criminal actors and devices. While not every forensics tool offers this functionality, Oxygen Forensic® Detective offers features like Social Graph, which analyzes the relationship between individual user profiles and devices to identify common contacts and other persons of interest. This means investigators can quickly discern, for example, an international drug kingpin from a street-level dealer—both of whom may participate in the same criminal network. For larger or more complex investigations, Oxygen Forensic® Detective offers the exclusive ability to perform simultaneous data extractions on as many devices as needed (for example, the hundreds of burner phones that many criminal organizations use), with the only limitation being the number of USB ports available to the computer it’s running on.  

Oxygen Forensic Detective Social Graph in action

Access to Applications and Cloud Data

The most powerful digital forensics tools will not only provide an investigator with access to the data stored in a user’s personal folders but also to data stored in applications and the cloud. Civilians would likely be surprised to learn the number of wealthy criminal enterprises that still rely on free services such as Google Drive or OneDrive to store sensitive data. The Oxygen Forensic® Detective Cloud Extractor provides access to just about any application in popular usage today, while its powerful JetEngine gives investigators an unparalleled ability to parse and display vast amounts of data all at once.

Combating Organized Crime with Digital Forensics

Organized crime is a dangerous and widespread form of corruption that is only growing more and more prevalent. Digital Forensics tools can make a tremendous difference for the LEOs working to bring it to an end. To ensure your investigators have the tools they need, and to find out if Oxygen Forensic® Detective is the right solution for you, click here, and be sure to follow us on Twitter @oxygenforensic.

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