Whether you realize it or not, information from every website you visit is automatically stored on your hard drive. If you're a criminal, that could be very helpful in putting you behind bars. Detective Larry Manale of the Lubbock Police Department says, "We have 20 to 30 hard drives we are currently keeping as evidence in some sort of criminal type case."
Detective Manale is one of three at the LPD who specialize in computer forensics. In the late 90's, the department realized the growing popularity of the internet meant a growing need for investigators who could track internet crimes through one little box called the hard drive. Manale says, "What we'll do is take the computers we have and get an image of that suspect drive and we'll look at the drive for evidence pertaining to the case."
You're probably asking yourself, 'Can't you erase the hard drive?' Well,you can try. Manale says, "We've had a couple of suspects' computers, they've had these programs installed on the their computer that are designed to wipe out their internet history and stuff like that. Unfortunately for them, we were still able to gather information for prosecution."
Information gathered through computer forensics can put criminals behind bars for anything from fraudulent check schemes to child pornography. Manale says, "From what I've seen going to court, the people who get caught, arrested, and prosecuted tend to do quite a bit of time in jail for it."
The system can go the other way as well. Detective Manale says they've had people suspected of being involved with child porn and upon further inspection of their hard drive, they were cleared.