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Behind the scenes of the FBI digital forensics lab

Posted at 6:05 PM, Aug 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-20 20:05:14-04

SALT LAKE CITY — In an unsuspecting office building in the heart of the gateway is the Intermountain West Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory (IWRCFL) run by the FBI.

From the Lauren McCluskey homicide case, to the saga surrounding Josh Powell and the death of Susan Powell, and most recently the case surrounding Chad Daybell and Lori-Vallow Daybell, this office has handled them all.

“Many of the cases that are out there that rise to the level that people hear about it do end up here.” FBI special agent Cheney Eng-Tow told us.

Eng-Tow is the Lab director at the IWRCFL and they are the experts that are called in when evidence in a case is on technology.

“Our job is to do digital forensics… examinations on computers, phones, drones, whatever has digital evidence.” Eng-Tow says “When you delete a file you’re not really deleting it.”

How it works is the device will be sent the lab and agents and specialists get to work whats called imaging that device or creating an exact copy of the digital items on whatever the tech is.

The machines used to this are very precise and often times require other tech to make sure that noting is being written onto the device from the side of the FBI to make sure the evidence isn’t contaminated.

Then once a perfect duplicate is made, agents start to pout through the data, sometimes not even knowing what they are looking for and other times knowing exactly where to look.

All of this might seem like an episode of your favorite crime-drama but according to Eng-Tow its nothing like the shows.

“Shows like that everything gets wrapped up in 30 or 60 minutes… I wish it was that fast but it’s not” he said while laughing.

While the public may never know all of the details of the investigation, the men and women who work here are the front lines of combating criminals by sorting through terabytes of data to see justice served.