For the past 14 years, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been responsible for training ICE officers and special agents to become computer forensic investigators.
ICE teaches the class in conjunction with the U.S. Secret Service and the Internal Revenue Service.
Each year, two, six-week classes are offered at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Charleston, S.C. The class is comprised of 24 students – eight from each agency. Next year will be the 14th consecutive year of the program.
After each session, instructors get together to figure out what tweaks need to be made for the next class. Keeping the sessions as up-to-date as possible is a key priority.
"It's ever changing," said Computer Forensic Unit's Matthew Swenson. "Each year, we try and take into account and implement things that are relevant."
The course is comprised of two parts: Basic Computer Evidence Recovery Training (BCERT) and Post Computer Evidence Recovery Training (PCERT). The first two weeks are taught by Hewlett Packard employees who teach students the ins and outs of computer software and hardware. The next four weeks focus on teaching students how to use that knowledge to actually conduct a computer forensic investigation. Participants learn how to examine the computer, how to find evidence and how to write a report that all parties involved in an investigation can understand. Swenson noted that it's not only the investigators who have to be able to understand the report, but also everyone in the justice system who will be involved in the sentencing.
As technology continues to advance, Swenson said the need for computer forensic investigators also rises. These days, he said, almost all criminals use some kind of technology that evidence can be found on.
"We take regular investigators off the street and teach them everything the need to know," he said.
There are currently 250 computer forensic agents within ICE, working at fields offices throughout the nation and attaché offices across the world.