Getting smart about fighting cyber crime

The nation’s largest cyber crime conference for law enforcement — now underway in Norwood — is focused on how to keep up with criminals’ use of changing technology, with 600 prosecutors, police and forensic examiners discussing how the constant evolution of digital evidence is changing the way crimes are investigated and solved.

“The digital evidence we must obtain is now no longer largely confined to computer hard drives,” Attorney General Martha Coakley said at the outset of the three-day conference, nearly all of which is closed to reporters.

One of the more common places evidence is found now is on cellphones — the subject of two cases being argued today before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Boston, a federal appeals court ruled that police must have a warrant before searching suspects’ cellphones after police arrested Brima Wurie on suspicion of selling crack cocaine, checked the call log on his flip phone and used that information to determine where he lived. When they searched Wurie’s home, armed with a warrant, they found crack, marijuana, a gun and ammunition. The evidence was enough to produce a conviction and a prison term of more than 20 years. But the appeals court ruled for Wurie.

In San Diego, police found indications of gang membership when they looked through defendant David Leon Riley’s smartphone. Prosecutors used video and photographs found on the smartphone to persuade a jury to convict Riley of attempted murder and other charges. California courts rejected Riley’s efforts to throw out the evidence and upheld the convictions.

Coakley declined to weigh in on whether cellphone searches should require a warrant. But Harvey Silverglate, a Boston lawyer specializing in criminal defense and civil liberties, said they should because they are the electronic equivalent of one’s home.


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