A Labrador named Thoreau, trained by the Connecticut State Police, is said to be able to "sniff out hard drives, thumb drives and other technological gadgets that could contain child pornography." The Providence Journal reports that after 22 weeks of training, Thoreau can now identify the scent of the metal and other components used in such storage devices. Even though it cannot tell what the data inside is (of course), the dog is being used to combat child porn traffickers by finding concealed devices in the residences of suspects.
Connecticut State Police spokesperson, Lt. Vance told Gizmodo about the force's latest specialism in K-9 training. "We in Connecticut have developed many specialised dogs in our repertoire," he said. "The latest is sniffing out of electronic components, but we have arson dogs, bomb dogs, narcotics dogs, cadaver dogs, all individually developed."
The exact component the dogs have been trained to sniff was not specified. However it was said to be able to distinguish between an eelctronic device such as a television and a hard drive, though not between an iPad or computer and a hard drive. The dog's inability to tell between one small electronic device and another means that handlers do not carry any electronics on them when performing the searches.
Thoreau assisted the Rhode Island State Police in an arrest of a paedophile last month after locating a thumb drive containing child pornography "hidden four layers deep in a tin box inside a metal cabinet".
"If it has a memory card, he’ll sniff it out," Thoreau’s handler Detective Adam Houston boasted. Thoreau has located a hard drive inside a bag in the upper shelf of a desk, and a flash drive and a thumb drive in a drawer during demonstrations of its skills. "This is how he eats every day," Houston added, after rewarding Thoreau food for successfully identifying the location of the devices.