The Safety Concerns:
A True Story:
You have probably been cautioned about not using government owned computers or computers connected to the Internet through government servers for covert Internet work. Generally, it’s good advice. The concern, of course, is that a cyber-criminal will be able to use your IP address or your computer registration information to identify you as a law enforcement officer. This could compromise your case and even your personal safety.
However, purchasing cold computers and cold high speed Internet services can be expensive and complicated since it normally has to be done outside the usual bill paying methods used by the government. Bureaucratic necessities can make it difficult to get approval or can delay the purchase and installation of appropriate undercover equipment. In this article, I’ll discuss what I believe are some of the myths about using government computers to do undercover work over the Internet and how I have attempted to verify my opinions.
In 1989, when computers were quickly gaining a foothold in American business and public use of the Internet was in its infancy, we started to hear news stories about viruses spreading to computer hard drives through floppy drives. The regional supervisor of the private company I worked for at the time held an office-wide meeting where he announced that we should be sure to keep all desktop computers in separate rooms and never place them next to each other for any reason. By doing this, he was confident we could avoid the transmission of any computer viruses. It’s funny now but at the time he was very serious and there were more than a few people in the room who thought it was a reasonable precaution to take. Because so many people are unfamiliar with the technical workings of a computer, its software, and Internet connections, it is easy for half-truths and myths to be spread, grow, and become more credible with every telling.