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Police grab DNA from server thieves

How to avoid leaving your sweat on a Sun server case

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The police have teamed up with forensic scientists to discover ways of grabbing DNA samples from serious IT hardware blaggers.

The cops are so concerned about the multi-million pound thefts of high-end server mobos, they're taking forensic experts back to the scenes of crimes to grab DNA samples - usually sweat and saliva - from computer casings left behind in a robbery.

Pioneering the work is the City of London force, which is working with two researchers from the Forensic Science Unit at South Bank University.

Sun servers are the most popular boxes for the hardware bandits, but Dell, Compaq and Cisco kit is also highly prized in the digital underworld.

The forensic science researchers have been taught how to get inside a computer case so they'll know the most likely places DNA would have been left by the thieves.

Salma Islam, one of the researchers, said that Sun cases need to be opened using two screwdrivers simultaneously. The case is then popped open by moving some clips. "The clips might be a bit rough so we swab them," said Islam. "We look for sharp areas."

Compaq cases need to be lifted up, while the thief reaches inside. "We swab the side and back of these cases," said Islam.

Detective Inspector Phil Carson, head of scientific support at the City of London Police, told the Independent that the thieves had to take off their gloves to remove some of the computer components and could leave DNA traces when this happened.

The City of London police believe the high price hardware is stolen to order by professional gangs of thieves. The genetic fingerprints they'll get from the DNA testing will allow the police to match these with a database of convicted criminals and with samples from other crime scenes.

The force is concerned about the high tech crime because the tech savvy thieves seem to have moved on to targeting City institutions after plaguing universities.

In November 2000 three people were charged with burglary following the arrest of eleven men suspected of stealing computer hardware from City banks. Some of the suspects in the crime were also questioned in relation to robberies of five major banks in the City and a host of Internet firms. During a string of raids since March computer equipment worth an estimated £15 million was stolen, much of it the form of processors and memory from Sun servers.

And Deutsche Bank is understood to have been broken into on 23 November where 49 pieces of equipment was stolen worth £1.6 million. The bank lost a further £25 million in business due to the disruption.

Salma Islam, and her collegue Shanee Samarasingher are both 3rd year students doing a combined honours degree, majoring in forensic science, combined with law at South Bank University. ®

Related Link

FORENSIC SCIENCE UNIT, South Bank University

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