As devices improve, a tiny microSD the size of a fingernail and less than a millimeter thick can hold hundreds of gigabytes of data. With this advancement comes the tools for criminals to hide and transfer enormous amounts of information without even lifting a finger. Where does that leave the fine men and women tasked with staying one step ahead? In Ogden, Utah and across the United States, they are getting the edge with their friendly Labrador companions. Ogden is home to one of fewer than two dozen “Electronic Sniffing” dogs in the nation’s police force and his name is URL (pronounced “Earl”). URL sniffs out electronic media like flash drives, memory cards, and cell phones. While they’re not exactly cryptography experts, they are consistently able to find devices that humans might otherwise miss.
Starting around 2015 with a K-9 named Bear, investigations involving trafficking, pornography, and counterterrorism have had success with the sharp noses of the dogs alongside them. The dog’s expertise comes from playful, but rigorous training exercises and are on a food-reward diet. Dogs could be led to search an office piled to the ceiling with boxes, or an open field with evidence buried underground, and within minutes they will lead their handlers to the prize. What’s the secret? The common element between all these eletric devices is a circuitboard. Compounds are added to the board to help them deal with overheating and it’s this compound that officers train their K-9 partners with. Initially using large amounts and then all the way down to a standard thumb drive, the dogs familiarize the scent and the training to be able to search houses, vents, cars, and people if deemed necessary.
From detecting drugs, to explosives, and now to electronics, the utility of a canine’s senses can’t be understated. Craig Angle the co-director of the Canine Performance Sciences program at Auburn University said he’s seen dogs identify very small targets from incredible distances. “I’ve seen them detect two ounces of explosives from more than 300 yards away,” he said. “They can detect through barriers and masking agents. We see a lot of natural instincts in a dog’s ability to detect innate behaviors like understanding and utilizing wind currents and scent plume.” From a researcher perspective and from the law enforcement officers working with these animals, it’s clear that the full potential of cooperation like this has immense potential for evidence gathering in the future.
The System Volume Information folder is set with strict permissions to prevent user access, even for administrators. This is to keep the settings inside untouched because they contain protocols for how Windows wants to interact with the USB device. As we tested, however, our drives functioned just fine without it, even with varying types of data stored on them.
According to the Windows documentation, this folder is where certain behaviors are stored when creating a System Restore point but that doesn’t apply to all users and furthers the confusion as to why it would be located on a drive that is being used for other purposes. To minimize the useless space taken up on our drives, the first attempt was to shrink it through the Control Panel. Through the Control Panel > System and Security > System > System Protection, there are Protection Settings which can enable System Restore and control how much disk space Windows uses.
Unfortunately shrinking it did not free up as much space as we were looking for so the next step was to find a way to get rid of it. Now since this is a Windows file, and Windows isn’t even too keen on letting us access the file, it doesn’t like the idea of deletion at all. After trying to find ways within the operating system to allow us to remove the file, we ended up looking at an outside option from Nexcopy whom we had worked with in the past. Their tool wasn’t built for deleting a single file but since we could just move our desired content back onto the drive after using their “Erase” function, and since it’s free, it ended up being a solid workaround. The end result? No more unruly folder and a useful software to keep around in case we find other unwanted files that our operating system won’t let us get rid of.