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May 9, 2014

Can police cut crime by analysing seized data?

Investigators are rapidly importing and analysing huge volumes of structured and unstructured data.

By Duncan Macrae

Intelligence solutions provider NetClean has launched NetClean Analyze Digital Investigator (DI) 14.1, which it says is a huge leap forward for law enforcement in terms of managing and studying forensic data.

Analyze is an investigative tool used by major international, national, federal, state and local law enforcement organisations.

With this launch, NetClean’s expertise in image and video analysis, built through involvement in the investigation of thousands of child sexual abuse (CSA) cases, will be brought to bear on a wider range of crimes.

The launch of NetClean Analyze DI 14.1 adds integration forensic tools, sophisticated image and EXIF data analysis, identification of the social media profiles from which images or videos have been downloaded, and the ability to search visual data by similar objects or environments. The tool is the most polished and intuitive investigative tool on the market, and is donated pro-bono to law enforcement.

Johann Hofmann, Analyze product manager at NetClean, said: "The proliferation of smartphones and digital cameras means that the number of illegal images and videos under investigation has soared.

"In addition to increased digital forensic data on devices, hard drives and online accounts, there is now an unprecedented amount of citizen-captured evidence that police have to process alongside that from other established sources. This volume of images, videos and accompanying metadata is simply too much for police officers to handle effectively without new tools."

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Ten years ago an individual computer forensic investigation might have comprised tens of thousands of images. Today the figure can be in the millions, hidden among terabytes of other seized data.

Traditional digital forensic tools are not designed to deal with visual evidence. As a result, reviewing videos and images found on seized assets is often a manual task. This is not only a slow laborious process, but in cases dealing with child sexual abuse, trafficking and murder, it is also extremely harrowing for the officers involved.

With limited or no access to additional resources, police forces are struggling to process increasing volumes of data in a timely manner. As a result, the majority are forced to focus on compiling enough evidence to close cases swiftly, rather than prioritising and uncovering new leads, or finding new victims.

Using image fingerprinting technology and support to share data between local, state, federal, national and international police databases, Analyze DI 14.1 automates the review and categorisation of known illegal images, allowing officers to devote their attention to new or unseen images and footage. The tool enables police forces to update and maintain central image-fingerprint databases, sharing leads and information on solved cases to help crack international crime.

The updated suite includes the Forensic Utility Pack (FUP) to support native forensic images such as the E01 file format used in EnCase Forensic, the industry standard for digital investigation technology from Guidance Software. The plug-in allows smooth integration of Analyze DI 14.1 into current forensic and investigative workflows, enabling investigators to swiftly and easily import case data from EnCase® Forensic to better tackle visual evidence. The free app also includes further forensic capabilities such as a fully equipped hex viewer, providing visibility intothe exact contents of a file.

The NetClean Forensic Market – the app store for the Analyze suite – allows users to customise the suite using specific applications and functionality created by specialist developers in the field. The quick time to market for these apps helps law enforcement to keep ahead of criminals, updating their investigative tools as new functions become available.

Some of the latest updates include ‘Social Media Identifier’ a tool that enables police forces to quickly and easily find the online identities associated with seized visual evidence. In instances such as London’s 2011 riots or the 2013 Boston bombings, citizen-captured photos or videos on social channels such as Twitter, Facebook or Flickr provided crucial evidence to investigators.

NetClean Technologies donates the Analyze DI software free of charge to law-enforcement agencies. It is currently being used in 25 countries worldwide.

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