Cybercriminals can hide all the evidence on small thumb drives, which are easy to hide and often incredibly difficult for humans to find. This led a major with the computer crimes unit at the Connecticut State Police to ask their K-9 trainers if dogs could sniff out these devices. As it turned out, they can, and so the electronic storage detection (ESD) dog was born.
The key is a common chemical used in all electronic storage devices: triphenylphosphine oxide, or TPPO. The dogs are trained by smelling this chemical before they are fed, until they associate it with food and will actively seek it out in order to be rewarded. Only a very small handful of pups make the cut to be ESD dogs; they must be energetic risk-takers who aren’t afraid to break the rules and would do anything for food. Since Labradors have natural high energy and large appetites, this makes them an ideal breed for ESD work.
These good pups are helping law enforcement find evidence of things like child pornography and white-collar crimes on well-hidden phones, hard drives and microSD cards. Currently, there are an estimated 17 ESD dogs operating in the U.S., but as cybercrime continues to rise, it is likely that more dogs will be trained to sniff it out.