Full Access to Billy Rodgers and Olin Rankin
Many challenges accompany investigations on the dark web. Jurisdiction isn’t the only hurdle. The investigator must also find a prosecutor who understands the investigation and is on board to tackle the challenge. With crypto, is enough money involved to get someone’s attention with everything else they’re doing? With a dark website, appropriately dedicated equipment is necessary. Not every agency can do that.
Learning to navigate the dark web requires time. Interacting with it is the best way to learn. Because it’s so easy to download, Billy and Olin focus on teaching people how to get connected with it. Then investigations consist of taking the information found on the dark web to traditional places and hoping the criminal messed up somewhere.
[00:55] Profile of this episode’s guests: Billy Rodgers and Olin Rankin
- Both Billy and Olin are instructors for NW3C.
- Billy began his career as an adult probation officer in Pennsylvania, was a DEA agent for over 23 years, and now works as a high-tech crime specialist for NW3C.
- Olin teaches throughout the U.S., focusing on basic and intermediate instruction in classes such as Dark Web virtual currency and basic digital forensic analysis.
[07:14] Billy’s experience with the first-ever tapping of a website
- There was an individual who was selling chemicals on separate websites. When these chemicals were combined, they would create a drug.
- In the early 2000s, there wasn’t a playbook for tapping websites. Billy was the person who forwarded everything to the agents who were working on the case.
- Billy had the opportunity to be part of the arrest team in Quebec for this case.
- This experience started Billy’s interest in the nerdy part of investigating.
[10:47] Olin’s law enforcement career and move to cryptocurrency
- Olin started his law enforcement career as a desk clerk.
- Olin would enter all the data that had come in for service calls from the Russell Police Department’s dispatch center. At the time, the calls for service were hand-written.
- Because he was still under 21, Olin moved into corrections for 12 years.
- When the county sheriff’s office had an opening in the cybercrime division, he transferred there as a forensic examiner.
[13:37] How can smaller agencies develop their own cybercrime divisions?
- The smaller an agency is, the harder it is for them to have the capital to start a cybercrimes division.
- Olin learned about a fund in the narcotics division where anyone convicted of a drug offense pays into a budget for the narcotics division to use for equipment. So Olin worked with Senator Bart Hester to create a similar cyber fund in Arkansas.
[18:26] Funding undercover operations via a Bitcoin mining program
- Olin wanted his sheriff to be able to have every option on the table if they were hit with a ransomware attack.
- He proposed starting a mining operation where they could utilize seized mining equipment instead of auctioning it off.
- The funds were used for undercover operations, prostitution stings, and dark web investigations.
[21:31] Understanding cryptocurrency
- Cryptocurrency is a decentralized exchange medium allowing peer-to-peer and borderless payments.
- The software that manages different cryptocurrencies is called a wallet.
- The blockchain is a public ledger where all the transactional data resides.
- Any transaction that’s ever occurred can be seen in the transactional data.
- Many people think crypto, like Bitcoin, is untraceable, but it isn’t. There are ways in which the transactions can be followed to identify who is responsible.
[29:11] What is an NFT?
- NFTs are also stored on the blockchain.
- They are designed to be specific, unique tokens representing various things.
- There have been money laundering cases where people sold NFTs to themselves and transferred money from one address to another. This process is also used to build the price up to scam people out of more money.
- NFTs could potentially become a better form of identification for people in the future to prevent identity theft and fraud.
[34:03] The dark web, crime, and investigations
- The dark web is another form of communication. It’s essentially a different browser that is more complicated to connect to, and it’s slower.
- While the dark web isn’t inherently bad, it can have marketplaces where people sell awful things.
- The dark web makes transactions anonymous. People don’t even have to meet face-to-face.
- There are many types of crime on the dark web, such as drugs, child exploitation, selling stolen goods, and anything you could find in traditional crime.
[56:37] What types of training are available with NW3C?
- NW3C.org has a complete catalog of courses available.
- Webinars, online training, and in-person training
- There are intelligence courses, financial investigation courses, courses on high-tech crimes, and something for everybody in law enforcement.
- NW3C also offers technical assistance
- Training is open to investigators, digital forensic examiners, prosecutors, and anyone in a law enforcement agency.