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Attribution: A Growing Problem?


Attribution is a key part to an investigation. Suspects typically have an alibi claiming they were not near the crime, did not use that gun, or did not drive that vehicle. Law Enforcement then presents a form of evidence proving otherwise that results in a confession; or atleast that’s how it works in Hollywood. But what if attribution can be wrong? In the digital age this is very possible. What happens if your unit investigates, arrests, and holds the wrong person due to identity theft? Bitcoin and the Darknet can make this a very real possibility.


Identity theft is a rampant problem, thanks to the internet. The amount of databases breached daily is enormous. Many of the biggest companies have been breached at least once, or three times in a year if you’re Yahoo! This stolen user data typically ends up on the internet where it is sold in dark marketplaces for very low prices. Almost any type of account is available for a price.


This can become a serious issue for attribution. For example, one can buy a hacked Xfinity account on the dark web for about $3-$5 dollars. The data usually is the username and password for the individuals account, which allows one to stream onto their mobile device, unbeknownst to the actual account holder. This also allows the user to utilize Xfinity’s

public wi-fi hot spots located throughout the U.S. If the individual who bought the stolen data is using this public wi-fi to engage in child pornography, who is held accountable? Can law enforcement prove the account holder isn’t the individual committing this crime?


What if someone stole an EZ Pass tag? Many of the toll passes utilized today transmit an RF signal that could allow an individual to capture and clone the tag. What if Melanie McGuire had used a cloned tag when she dumped her husband’s body in the Chesapeake Bay? Would law enforcement be able to reconstruct her movements on the New Jersey Turnpike if a toll tag not assigned to her or her spouse was used?


The various technologies experienced today are creating numerous issues for law enforcement. The ability to attribute an individual to a crime will become a growing problem in the near future. Keeping current with technology is paramount to effectively fight crime. Hopefully this short post will cause readers to consider potential attribution issues law enforcement can face today and in the future.

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