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Summit to target cyber crime

For three days starting Monday, more than 450 law enforcement officers and prosecutors from across the country will gather in Norwood to get an education in 21st century crime-fighting.

The occasion is the three-day 2012 National Cyber Crime Conference, hosted and organized by the office of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.

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The event, at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel, will be organized into three tracks: one for prosecutors, one for investigators, and a third devoted to computer forensics. The conference will address a crucial and growing need for information about computer crime and evidence, Coakley said.

“The reality today is that there are very few criminal investigations that don’t involve some form of digital evidence,’’ she said. “Even crimes that don’t seem ‘cyber,’ like a drug deal gone bad or an incident of domestic violence, often lead investigators to a text message, or a posting on Facebook, or an e-mail message. It’s important that police and the courts know how to deal with this evidence.’’

Sessions are being held to cover technical evidence from the 2009 investigation of the so-called Craigslist Killer, Microsoft Xbox video game console forensics, Google for investigators, and the search and seizure of mobile devices carried by juveniles.

Topics such as harvesting digital evidence stored on Apple iPads and iPhones, data breaches, and effective methods for presenting digital evidence in court will also be covered.

“The goal is to get people thinking beyond the simple stuff,’’ said Mark Menz, a computer forensics specialist who will be leading a session on Internet investigations. “Many people will check a suspect’s Internet history, for example, but it’s important to know that with a warrant you can also look at the logs of the Web servers that the suspect was visiting.’’

The conference, the first multiday event of its kind, is not open to the public. Coakley will give the keynote address Monday morning.

“There’s very little training available in this field,’’ said Lieutenant Peter Kelly of Norwood, who heads the computer crime unit at the Metropolitan Law Enforcement Council, a consortium of more than 40 Massachusetts police departments. “It’s important that officers get a chance to network with specialists in the field, learn how to handle digital evidence, and how to present that evidence on the witness stand.’’

Coakley was the first Massachusetts attorney general to establish a computer forensics lab and a stand-alone, dedicated cyber crime unit, which now has a staff of about a dozen lawyers, investigators, and state police.

Among the partners running the event with Coakley’s office are the National District Attorneys Association and the National White Collar Crime Center.

Menz said he is not surprised the conference is nearly sold out. “Once you know how to use these tools, you can discover that a case you thought was dead is not really dead,’’ he said. “That’s a powerful motivator for the law enforcement community.’’

D.C. Denison can be reached at denison@globe.com.
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