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Cybercrimes the focus of new Central Coast forensics lab and education center

Greta Mart/KCBX
Staff members of Cal Poly’s Information Technology Services department gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new CCCFL.";

A ceremony Wednesday morning marked the opening of the Central Coast Cyber Forensics Lab, a group project of Cal Poly and the California State University system, along with the county DA’s office and the California Military Department. The lab will serve both as a classroom for future cybersecurity experts and a high-tech evidence collection facility. 

The lab and adjacent training complex is at Camp San Luis Obispo, the active California National Guard military base midway between San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay.

The base had the necessary vacant buildings to set up the center. The new lab is an offshoot of Cal Poly’s Cybersecurity Center. Its director, Bill Britton, says at the new center, students will work beside cyber forensics experts.

“There are different facilities like this throughout California but none in a collective, collaborative environment,” Britton said. “So we have academia represented, National Guard, and law enforcement and civil agencies that are all working collectively here.”

When the complex is fully up and running, Britton says it will employ 30 to 40 full time staffers, and train hundreds annually in the “basics of digital evidence collection and preservation,” according to Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier, along with learning about legislation concerning the “legal aspects of digital evidence and collection tools.”

San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow said the unique partnership has not been done before.

“We’re very, very excited about this first step in creating the larger training center, but this laboratory, it’s up and running today with multiple of our local law enforcement agencies working together to solve crime and use all the very latest technology tools to do that,” Dow said.

At the lab, investigators will gather digital evidence from computers, devices and through the internet to solve crimes like drug and human trafficking, identity theft or even domestic violence.

“Crimes today, almost all involve some sort of digital evidence,” Dow said. ”And because of that, this lab gives us the capability to fully investigate cases that we were not able to get all the evidence that we needed before to prove cases in court.”

Cal Poly officials say the center will enhance the university’s cybersecurity education.