A phone, a computer, a watch… How do the gendarmes use them to solve their investigations

With 7,000 investigators, the gendarmerie command in cyberspace works specifically on connected objects or social networks to solve cases.

“A gendarme was found with its doors open and no one on board. Where did the gendarmes go?” During the allotted 13 minutes, the detectives at the “La Fabrique Défense” show, which took place last weekend in La Villette in Paris, participated in this “made in the gendarmerie” escape game: they must search for clues on board this vehicle. Trying to find the crew.

Quickly, we discover a cell phone in the glove box, then paper maps of Paris. In the back of the car, a laptop, a box with a code lock, and a laptop. What do you do with these things when the mobile phone is code locked, same for the computer? Where do you find famous symbols that will help advance the investigation?

Digital is present in all surveys

Finally, you have to rely on the QR code, famous for health permits, found on an item of the car, to find the formula that will unlock the phone. Inside, new clues for opening the box containing the USB key. To turn on the computer, it is necessary to show the opponent to get the password, and finally find out where the gendarmes actually went.

“Unfortunately, it is rare for computer code to be entered into a notebook during an investigation,” laughs General Mark Puget, who directs the Gendarmerie Command in Cyberspace (COMCyberGend).

On a daily basis, 7,000 gendarmes work on the digital aspects of online investigation or delinquency. “The digital carrier is present in all investigations, and the gendarmerie that specializes in this carrier contribute and participate fully in the investigations,” confirms General Puget. At a crime scene, the digital aspect must be “frozen” in the same way as other elements.

“We need to map all connected objects,” explains the head of COMCyberGend, which was created just under a year ago to combat cyberthreats. “This means that a device owned by a gendarme, for example, should not appear to be present at the place of the investigation.”

The importance of connected things

In the computer, the gendarmes will take care of documents, photos, emails, a history of visited sites but also encrypted or even hidden data, for example thanks to steganography. The latter makes it possible to hide information in photos.

In the phone, the contacts, calls or applications used are checked. For this, the gendarmes are able to recover deleted files or even reproduce damaged equipment in a similar way so that they can read the data.

General Boguet continues: “With connected watches, we can retrieve a person’s movements, see their tracks.” This was the case, for example, in the investigation of a 16-year-old jogger in Maine who simulated her disappearance.

Detectives must now also rely on connected objects that can be hidden, such as surveillance cameras that more and more people are installing in their homes.

Opinion polls sometimes “under a pseudonym”

And whoever says digital, also says internet and social networking. Networks that allow working on a person’s environment, whether he is a victim or a suspect. Investigations that may lead them to carry out investigations “under a pseudonym”.

Because if analyzing data in connected devices is part of the daily work of cyber army personnel implanted across the territory, their mission also leads them to track down hackers and cyber crooks. Dummy summoning scam, romance scam, dummy boss scam, fake technical scam… Online scams are proliferating and becoming more and more professional.

According to figures published by the Ministry of the Interior, scams increased by 15% in 2021. Two out of every two victims are trapped online. Among these victims are many elderly people whom the gendarmerie wants to spread awareness of this problem.

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