Try this investigative tool for catching online child predators

While researching Blue Knight Productions — the company that created the e-Copp program cops can use to teach little kids bout online predators and other dangers on the Internet — I came across another product worth mentioning as we continue to focus in on “tech to help cops keep kids safe.”  

Paraben’s Chat Stick is a thumb drive device that will search an entire computer, scanning it for chat logs from a wide variety of chat rooms and instant message programs during an investigation into possible child predation online. 

Naturally, it can also be used to check on your spouse’s faithfulness, and I bet a bunch of these are sold to people who suspect their intimate partner is “stepping out online” but the application for police is immediately apparent. 

Because the chat analysis software is embedded in a USB thumb drive, you can easily take it anywhere and use it on any computer to which you gain access under warrant.

One caveat is that you will need to be logged into the system you are investigating, and therefore you will need that computer’s password. If you plan on using the “Remember This Computer” option, you will need to be logged in as Admin, and will need the Admin password.

As we know from Val Van Brocklin’s excellent article on this topic last month, there is some question as to whether or not the Fifth Amendment protects a person’s encrypted computer files — Val and I both believe this question is bound to land before the Supreme Court.

Another important caveat is that in order for the device to work, the chat logs feature in the IM platform has to be turned on. For a bad guy with ill-intent, they may have the foresight to shut that down, but generally speaking if you’re investigating the other side of the equation—the child whose parents have called you to investigate their safety online, that feature will be switched on, making the logs available for your review. 

Paraben's Chat Stick supports the Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 operating systems. I did not find any official MSRP listed on the Paraben website, but a quick surf around on a handful of online “spy stores” gives me the impression that you can probably find one for between $150 and $200 bucks, depending on how much time you devote to finding your best possible price.

If catching Internet sickos is part of your bailiwick, you may want to consider giving one of these little gizmos a try.

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