Computer Science Grads to Help Catch Crooks as Part of Oak Ridge National Laboratory Internship

Jeff Raynor and David Macurak

Jeff Raynor (left) and David Macurak work in UNCW's computer science laboratory.

Child pornographers should be nervous: a technology tool being developed by an Oak Ridge National Laboratory group will aid law enforcement in scanning suspicious hard drives more acutely and efficiently, which could help put them behind bars.

Jeff Raynor and David Macurak, soon-to-graduate computer scientists, will dive head first into this project, known as Artemis, when they serve as interns at Oak Ridge National Laboratory this summer. The students' highly competitive internships came as a result of their work with UNCW associate professor Karl Ricanek and UNCW's Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies in Identity Sciences, which became a partner in the Artemis project in 2010.

For the partnership, Ricanek and crew have been developing key technology that can quickly identify the gender and age of people in hard drive images, which means that a human does not have to physically examine every image to check for pornography. This may dramatically shorten the time needed to investigate the computers of child pornography suspects. Working at the national laboratory this summer will allow Raynor and Macurak to work even more closely with the project.

"It is rare to have undergraduate computer science students working in a highly competitive and internationally known laboratory," Ricanek said."The students will have the opportunity to work with some of the brightest minds in computer science and engineering on some very difficult projects."

More than 20 percent of all pornography on the internet is child pornography, according to an estimate by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Examination of a child pornography suspect's computer can take a law enforcement officer up to nine days with current technology. The Artemis technology tool will enable law enforcement to examine 25 times less data; it runs on a thumb drive at approximately 20 images per second. This means faster investigations, which may also result in faster and more successful prosecution and conviction of guilty suspects.

For Raynor, who holds another bachelor's degree in criminal justice, developing a tool to be used by law enforcement is especially rewarding.

"I know the side they're coming from, and now I'll know the computer side as well," he said. "It's important that we create these programs to be user-friendly."

Raynor and Macurak expect to return to UNCW in the fall to begin the computer science graduate program.

By Lindsay Key '11 MFA