Fort Smith Police seek forensic review of ‘malicious’ software allegation

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 322 views 

The city of Fort Smith has contracted with a Texas computer forensics firm to defend against an allegation that an officer or officers with the Fort Smith Police Department planted malicious software on the computer of Little Rock attorney Matt Campbell.

According to documents received by The City Wire following a Freedom of Information Act request, CyberEvidence, based in The Woodlands, Texas, was sent an external hard drive with a copy of computer documents from the computer that may have sent the software to Campbell. The Texas company was recommended by Adam Holland, a Wal-Mart Stores senior manager and lab director who works in forensic services for the global retailer.

According to the CyberEvidence website, the company provides digital forensics for international, federal, state, local law enforcement and the military. The company also provides incident response for corporations, and computer forensics education for universities teaching criminal justice and forensics.

“I wanted to do a quick email to get you in touch with Alvey. He works in the lab back at Fort Smith PD. They are searching for a forensics and malware expert to work a case where defense is alleging they planted malware to hack the attorney’s computer,” Holland noted in the email to Fort Smith Police Officer Alvey Matlock and Paul Brown, president and founder of CyberEvidence.

Brown also works as a police commander in Conroe, Texas, and is a more than 20-year veteran of the Houston Police Department.

The first contact between Alvey and Brown was made April 20. By April 21, working through attorney Doug Carson with the Fort Smith-based law firm of Daily & Woods, an external hard drive “containing a scan of (Capt.) Alan Haney’s work computer documents and the copy of Alan Haney’s 2012 and 2014 evidence files” was sent via FedEx to CyberEvidence.

Campbell has alleged in a lawsuit that an officer with the Fort Smith Police Department attempted to place “malicious software” on his law office computer. Campbell is the attorney representing former Fort Smith police officer Don Paul Bales in his lawsuit against the police department.

Bales was fired in October 2014 by the Fort Smith Police Department. He was accused of providing inside information about a police matter to Campbell, and lying in correspondence to a supervisor and to City Administrator Ray Gosack. His firing was upheld by the Fort Smith Civil Service Commission. Bales is also the leader of Take Back the Fort, a group attempting to raise enough signatures to call for an election changing the form of government in Fort Smith.

In a “Motion for Sanctions” action filed April 10, Campbell alleges that certain members of the FSPD “engaged in intentional spoliation of evidence,” provided emails with “improper redactions” and, in responding to a documents request, supplied Campbell with an external hard drive that “contained malicious software designed to hack into Plaintiffs’ counsel’s computer, rendering the hard drive unsafe for Plaintiffs’ use.”

The filing by Campbell includes an affidavit from Geoff Mueller, manager of information security at the Lower Colorado River Authority. Mueller said he found four “Trojans” designed to open Campbell’s computer up to outside control. The Trojans included a password stealer, malicious software installer and “control and command of infected computer,” according to Mueller’s report.

Mueller said his review of the hard drive and its contents indicated that the bad software “were not already on the external hard drive that was sent to Mr. Campbell, and were more likely placed in that folder intentionally with the goal of taking command of Mr. Campbell’s computer while also stealing passwords to his accounts.”

The city has declined comment on the issue.

Campbell said the review of a scan of Haney’s computer does nothing to determine what is on the hard drive he received.

“I'm at a loss for just exactly what this is supposed to demonstrate. At best, it could show that there were not Trojans on the copy that Daily & Woods sent. That proves nothing in terms of the hard drive that was sent to me,” Campbell said in a statement sent to The City Wire. “After all, we have no proof that the second drive was made at the same time as the first drive, how it was made, etc., and we're talking about a police department that has admitted to destroying evidence during the course of this litigation. So, I suppose you'll have to forgive me if I'm not willing to take much of this $225/hr song and dance at face value.”

It is unclear from the documents how much the forensic work with cost the city. The “standard rate sheet” for CyberEvidence shows a $350 per hour charge for a master forensic examiner and a $225 charge for a forensic examiner. Expert testimony comes with a rate of $475 per hour, and a minimum initial retainer is $2,500.

One hour of “triage” on a device like a hard drive is $495 per device, with the eight-hour rate at $1,695 per device and 16 hours at $2,995 per device.

Documents received by The City Wire through the FOIA request also show that Fort Smith Police talked April 17 with Carson about how to respond to Campbell’s allegation. A principal action was removing Haney’s computer and placing it into evidence.

“That recommendation is being made as a safeguard to any additional allegations made by Matt Campbell and his clients,” Matlock noted in an e-mail to Carson, Police Chief Kevin Lindsey and several other police officers.

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