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New police tech to help speed up digital forensic investigations

speed up digital forensic investigations

Exeter police are trialling new technology to help officers obtain data from victims’ or witnesses’ phones more efficiently and speed up digital forensic investigations.

As reported by the BBC, Police in Exeter are trialling a new technology to “reduce the impact and disruption on victims”. Devon and Cornwall Police said the scheme could limit officers having to seize devices and if successful could be rolled out across the whole of the South West.

The scheme would allow officers to obtain an “instant download of relevant data” from a victim or witness, helping to speed up digital forensic investigations. The new software will limit circumstances where devices need to be seized as at present a device is retained while a download takes place.

Detective Chief Inspector Lee Nattrass said;

“The usual process for digital data gathering is that a victim or witness would hand over their device which is then sent away to the Digital Forensic Unit for processing, which could see a victim without a mobile device for a considerable amount of time. We understand that such a process can be daunting to a victim, especially at their time of need when they’ve been a victim of crime. This is another step in the right direction in offering a compassionate victim-first approach to policing.”

CYFOR Senior Digital Forensic Investigator Sarah Felton commented;

“The use of this technology will undoubtedly speed up the process of obtaining data from digital devices, and reduce the stress and inconvenience caused to victims who would usually need to surrender their device(s) for prolonged periods. The victim being present whilst the download is conducted would likely provide some sense of reassurance to victims and a feeling of being included in the process. This could also give them a sense of being listened to and taken seriously by the Police.

The technology is said to obtain an “instant download” of “relevant” data. In digital forensics, the “relevant” data can change as the investigation progresses, and the focus could shift to the presence of digital data that may not have been considered during the initial download. With the technology targeting specific “relevant” data, this may result in artefacts of relevance, identified at a later stage, being missed. This could result in further inconvenience being caused as further downloads have to be conducted, or ultimately, could result in cases being dropped by the CPS or challenged by the defence because elements of doubt can be brought as the full data set is not available.

The pilot study aims to limit victim disruption, which is always a positive intention to have. With further development and research, the new technology could prove to be an effective method of quickly obtaining important data, particularly where the data may not be available at a later date, however, the risks of using this method in individual cases does need to be assessed.”

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