TrendHouston computer forensics lab accredited

Published 17 July 2009

Newly accredited Houston lab expands Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory Network (RCFL), a national network of sixteen FBI-sponsored digital forensics laboratories and training centers devoted entirely to the scientific examination of digital evidence in support of criminal investigations

Fifty years ago, Walt Rostow wrote his influential The Five Stages of Economic Growth, the modest subtitle of which was: A Non-Communist Manifesto (Cambridge University Press, 1960). Here at HSNW we offer our corollary to Rotow’s theory — the “Three Parallel Tracks of Sectoral Economic Growth.” Here is a classic example of how the corollary unfolds. Take digital transactions and see how the sector grows along three parallel tracks: First, more and more businesses and individual conduct business on line, achieving efficiencies; second, criminals spot the trend and begin to exploit it for their on nefarious purposes, creating an off-the-books economic growth in illegal digital activity; third, a slew of security-related services emerge to protect the (legal) growth trend from the (illegal) encroachment. What we have here, then, is a growth along three parallel tracks, each contributing to the economy in its own way.
These meditation on economic theory was triggered by the fact that the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) accredited the Greater Houston Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory (GHRCFL) in digital and multi-media evidence. According to ASCLD/LAB, forty-five laboratories in the United States are currently accredited in this discipline — the GHRCFL being the 11th RCFL in the program to earn this distinction.

The GHRCFL is part of the RCFL Program, a national network of sixteen FBI-sponsored digital forensics laboratories and training centers devoted entirely to the scientific examination of digital evidence in support of criminal investigations. The GHRCFL is managed by a coalition of federal, state, and local law enforcement organizations, including the FBI through its Houston Division and FBI Headquarters; Harris County Precinct 4 Constable; Harris County Sheriff’s Office; Houston Police Department; Pasadena Police Department; Rosenberg Police Department; and Tomball Police Department.

The GHRCFL staff — along with their counterparts assigned to RCFLs nationwide — are FBI-certified as computer forensics examiners, and must strictly adhere to standardized operating procedures and institutionalized peer review measures to provide consistent, accurate, repeatable, and verifiable results.

The RCFL Program is funded and administered by the FBI’s Operational Technology Division (OTD), which is part of the Science and Technology Branch. OTD supports the FBI’s criminal investigative and intelligence-gathering efforts — and those of the GHRCFL’s federal, state, and local law enforcement/intelligence partners-with a wide range of sophisticated technological equipment, examination tools and capabilities, training, and specialized experience.

OTD’s assistant director Marcus Thomas said: “With this accomplishment, the GHRCFL joins the FBI’s accredited network where certified computer forensics professionals consistently follow a strict set of operating standards and procedures-providing reliable, proven, high-quality forensics services to the law enforcement community. These services are strengthening the criminal justice system’s ability to ensure that the innocent are not wrongly convicted-while keeping dangerous criminals away from society at large.”

According to ASCLD/LAB’s Web site, accreditation is part of a laboratory’s quality assurance program which should also include proficiency testing, continuing education, customer liaison, and other programs to help the laboratory provide more effective overall service. The accreditation process is an intensive assessment which evaluates the qualifications of all laboratory personnel; the laboratory’s operational and technical policies, practices, and procedures; and the laboratory’s quality management system.