Criminals don’t just have to worry about someone finding their drug stashes anymore, as police have started to employ highly trained, electronics-sniffing dogs to root out illegal material on USB thumb drives and SD cards.
Only five dogs have acquired this particular set of skills that can make them a nightmare for cybercriminals and child pornographers.
Police train the dogs to detect a particular odor that is unique to storage media. This lets the animals sniff out microSD cards, iPads, and thumb drives while ignoring less important items. Chemists isolated the specific odor in a lab, which trainers then used to teach the dogs what to look for.
“From what the chemists have told us, it really doesn’t matter what it is,” trainer Todd Jordan told NBC News (via CNET). “Whether it’s the metals or the copper that are all intertwined together, it’s significantly different from a remote control or an alarm clock.”
One of the electronics-sniffing dogs, a Labrador Retriever named Bear, recently assisted in the case of former Subway spokesman Jared Fogel by helping police locate a drive containing child pornography. Investigators hadn’t managed to turn up the evidence on their own.
“The electronic dogs take six to eight months [to learn],” trainer Dennis Clark told Fox News. “Obviously, a SIM card doesn’t have much odor to us, so it doesn’t have [as] much odor to the dog as, say, meth or heroin or something.”
Bear just received a transfer to the Seattle Police Department, which bought the animal for $9,500, but Clark says that electronics-sniffing dogs and their counterparts in narcotics are a sound investment.
“[They’ll] confiscate drugs, vehicles, and money, so they pay for themselves just over and over in a short amount of time. And they save so many man hours, too.”
Via Cult of Mac