Tour Recap: The Exchange Brings Entertainers to the FBI

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“You have to talk to your kids.” Always solid advice for any parent, however when this “word to the wise” comes from a cyber crime investigator for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who specializes in breaking up online child pornography rings, this simple statement can resonate in ways far greater than face value.

FBI's cyber forensics unitOn February 1, The Science & Entertainment Exchange teamed up with Creative Artists Agency (CAA) to bring a group of writers, producers, directors, and entertainment executives into the FBI’s cyber forensics unit in Orange County. FBI presenters included Cyber and Computer Forensics Program Assistant Special Agent in Charge Gina L. Osborn, Sexual Assault and Felony Enforcement (SAFE) Team Supervisory Special Agent Michael Osborn, Orange County Regional Computer Forensics Lab (OCRCFL) Director Jason Weiss, and Public Affairs Special Agent Alonzo Hill.

Presentations gave an overview of the FBI’s Cyber Program and highlighted recent investigations relating to computer intrusions, crimes against children on the Internet, and intellectual property crime. Participants received rare insights into the relationship between Investigators and Computer Forensics Examiners, what the web knows about you, and how cyber investigations have improved the effectiveness of law enforcement.

Each presentation topic engrossed the audience and illuminated just how vulnerable many people can be to identity theft and online blackmail. In particular, case studies involving the exploitation of children struck a chord with the entertainers on the tour, many of whom have kids at home. A truly stunning revelation came from the idea that a record exists of virtually everything you do online, and that criminals with increasingly lower levels of technical knowhow can exploit the web activity of young people – who tend to share many more private details on the Internet than do their parents. During a lively question and answer period, entertainers peppered FBI agents with all sorts of queries about how cyber felons operate and think – did you know that it is possible for a hacker to take over your computer from anywhere in the world and record you and your children 24 hours a day on your webcam without your knowledge?

After the presentations, agents led the group on a tour of the recently opened OCRCFL. The OCRCFL is a state-of-the-art, one stop, full-service forensics laboratory and training center devoted entirely to the examination of digital evidence in support of federal, state, and local investigations. Entertainers were able to ask questions of the many employees who make the center work. Attendee and Screen Gems executive John Graham summed it all up, saying that, “the tour answered several specific questions we had about cybercrime and sparked creative conversations that will absolutely improve the characters we’ve been developing. This was a very productive trip for us.”

All told, the afternoon’s interaction helped a group of entertainers understand the real world of cybercrime and how law enforcement officers work tirelessly to protect our data. They learned how forensic techniques and computer science blend together to combat crime. Look out for more private Exchange tours in the future. A big thanks from The Exchange to Mark Wind and Chris Lawson at CAA for co-organizing the afternoon!

Free downloadable resource from the National Academies: Proceedings of a Workshop on Deterring Cyberattacks: Informing Strategies and Developing Options for U.S. Policy

Photo credit: Special thanks to Chris Lawson.


The statements and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the event participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for this event or of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.