POLICE DOGS are being trained to sniff out hidden data devices in the first experiment of its kind outside the US.
Tweed (a 19-month-old springer spaniel) and Rob (a 20-month-old black labrador) have been trained to sniff out USB sticks, SD cards and hard drives being used to smuggle illicit files outside the UK.
Although it sounds bizarre, think outside the kennel for a moment and you'll realise there are all sorts of uses for 'digital detection dogs'.
Terrorism, fraud and child abuse are just three examples of where smuggled data could crack a case wide open if it were discovered.
Two police forces, Devon & Cornwall and Dorset, have trained the dogs alongside partners in Connecticut have already used Tweed and Rob at live crime scenes.
PC Graham Attwood who runs a joint department for the two forces, told The Guardian: "Myself and members of the alliance dog school initially handled and trained Tweed and Rob mainly in our own time as we were committed to our usual daily duties of training the forces' other operational police dogs."
Unlike your average police dog, these two had to be bought specifically for the role and came to Attwood aged around 15 months - meaning it has taken them just four months to be ready for active service.
The remaining questions that are pressing on the INQUIRER's hive mind is exactly what data smells of. Do spindle drives smell different to SSDs? Do SATA drives smell different to M.2? If the drive 7200RPM, does it smell faster? And what about helium drives? Does sniffing them make the dogs bark in a higher pitch? So many questions.
So far the dogs have spotted a fake coke can with SD cards hidden inside and a device hidden in a tiny drawer that the human eye might have missed.
In between warrants, Tweed and Rob live at home with their new full-time police handlers. If they continue to perform well, then others will be trained.
Oh - here's another one - do the ones smell different to the zeroes? µ
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POKE no more. Oh wait, that was 30 years ago