High-Technology Environment Training (HiTET)
Embracing Modern Challenges
By Shawn Matthews, M.A.
Recently, during the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, social media outlets featured reports faster than those reported via 911. Similarly, during the Boston Marathon investigation in Massachusetts, suspects used various forms of social media to express their disdain for the American way of life. Also, citizens provided photos and videos from numerous forms of technology, and the tracking of a carjacking victim’s cell phone provided the suspects’ location. Such technological leads now play as important a role for investigators as once did fingerprints, tool-mark analysis, and, in recent decades, DNA.
Daily, news headlines highlight the use of technology by criminals to conceal their acts; escape from authorities; and victimize, exploit, and harass individuals, corporations, and governments alike. Nearly all criminal violations feature a technological link to either the victim or the offender, providing investigators with a potential treasure trove of information. While once a niche specially reserved for cyber-specific investigations, technological evidence can arise from e-mail headers, domain registrations, telephone analysis, social media, storage devices of all shapes and sizes, and powerful smart-phone technology encountered by front-line officers and other investigators. All of these considerations leave agencies and investigators with a very urgent and important question to answer: Are we ready?
In response to this challenge, the FBI developed an enterprisewide training and information-sharing initiative called High-Technology Environment Training (HiTET). Beyond traditional training, HiTET represents a collaborative series of tools, job aids, courses, and guides that raise the level of knowledge and awareness of the FBI workforce while creating a culture that embraces modern technology and its application for investigators.
To carry out this mission, the FBI first began with a series of courses, such as the “HiTET Overview Course,” which provides baseline knowledge of technology and forms of digital evidence prevalent in today’s environment. Through an interactive, role-playing scenario, users locate various forms of evidence while executing a virtual search warrant on a business location. Users retrieve numerous items, such as a smart phone, MP3 player, and tablet device, while receiving feedback on the items’ evidentiary value.
The next course addresses the often misunderstood, yet relatively simple, form of data storage called “cloud computing.” In “The Cloud: It’s All About Communications,” users gain an understanding as to how a cloud functions, along with investigative and legal considerations for the investigator. Unique challenges, such as remote access and destruction of evidence, are highlighted while providing the student with an interactive and informative approach to learning.
Special Agent Matthews is a program manager in the Training Coordination and Support Unit at the FBI Academy.
Other courses developed include “Exploiting Mobile Communications,” in which investigators learn how modern cell phones and their networks function, along with how this data can be applied to investigations; “Tracing E-mail Addresses,” which involves course takers being guided through the dissection of e-mail address headers while learning how to extract potential clues as to the originators’ digital crumb trail and their potential identity; “Basic Networking for Investigators,” which highlights networking systems and how they function; “Obtaining and Analyzing Digital Records,” which guides users with the retrieval and application of digital records; and the soon-to-be-released “Social Media: Friend or Foe,” which takes investigators on an interactive manhunt for a band of bomb-toting terrorists extorting a cruise line while using social media.
With the highlighted courses serving as a resource backbone, quick-reference job aids, videos, podcasts, mobile applications, and short-summary articles have been created to provide the investigator with useful and relevant reference materials that can assist when on-the-spot knowledge is necessary. Examples include the Mobile Open Source Tool (MOST), a multifunction investigative technology awareness application that provides content through various forms of delivery, including how-to videos, product guides, investigative tips, and more, surrounding the multitude of social media and open-source tools available to investigators. While currently a Web-based program, MOST is being developed to ultimately become a mobile application downloadable on smart-phone devices. Additionally, short videos and podcasts are being created, to include the recently released “E-mail Draft Folder Messaging Podcast,” which educates listeners on a commonly used form of concealed communications.
Just as important as training and job aids to FBI readiness is the bureau’s ability to share this training with the greater law enforcement community and to collaborate, communicate, and intake information and knowledge from its law enforcement partners. To accomplish this the HiTET Special Interest Group (SIG) was created on the Law Enforcement Online (LEO) secure information sharing portal. Through the HiTET SIG and free of charge, members can access each of the aforementioned training courses, along with job aids, podcasts, the MOST application, as well as relevant articles and news content for the investigator.
Membership to the HiTET SIG and access to all of the HiTET content described is available at http://www.leo.gov. Current LEO members can search for the HiTET SIG and request access via the link on the HiTET main page. New members should receive automatic access if they are members of a U.S. law enforcement agency once their membership to LEO is granted. Additionally, LEO now provides agencywide access through its enterprise portal service, which allows law enforcement agencies to validate directly to LEO, thus, providing LEO access across the enterprise. More information on the Enterprise Portal Program can be found at https://www.cjis.gov/static/CJISEAI/LEO-EP_tri-fold_032112.pdf.