Computer Detectives

USF Programmers Help Hunt Online Criminals

Computer DetectivesPhoto by Alex Fedosov.

New software applications created by computer science students forgo the “gotcha” moment of Dateline NBC’s “To Catch a Predator,” but are designed to help police capture child sex predators just the same.

Three programs, developed by Chaoyi Du MS ’12, Chengzhi (Calvin) Liang MS ’12, and Xinli Feng MS ’11, crawl the Web hunting for child pornography. The programs then track the files and compile dossiers on suspects.

A fourth program, a wireless network analysis application developed by Simon Piel ’12, uses information gathered by the three-program suite to more closely link culprit computers to specific individuals who share such files over peer-to-peer networks.

The programs were designed with guidance from the Silicon Valley Internet Crimes Against Children (SVICAC) Task Force, which includes the 11 Bay Area counties, the FBI, and others.

“As a CS professor at USF, I believe we should be utilizing technology in the service of humanity,” said Patricia Francis-Lyon, assistant professor of computer science, who advised the three graduate students.

SVICAC plans to fine-tune the programs through beta testing in the coming months  and then, hopefully, share them with similar task forces throughout the nation, said SVICAC commander Sgt. Greg Lombardo.

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