Future transformational change in digital forensics high on the agenda

By: Alan McConnell

Author Alan McConnell is Cyan Forensics’ Forensic Advisor. He is a skilled digital forensic analyst with over a decade of experience working in law enforcement conducting forensic and criminal investigations.

Although thought provoking in numerous ways, a clear stand out theme ran through several key speaker presentations and during the open forum discussions at the recent CityForum ‘Future Vision for Digital Forensics’ event, held at the BT Tower in London. It was highlighted and referenced throughout the day, how transformational change and greater consistency would be welcomed and is needed within digital forensics. A very timely discussion, as Cyan Forensics is intrinsically part of a new national digital forensics roll out across the UK which we believe will contribute significantly to help achieve this very thing.

The inherent governance challenges arising from England and Wales having 43 separate police forces were cited several times, and interest was also shown in the Scottish governance model where forensics services operate separately from police structures and from the Chief Constable’s chain of command. Whilst conversations mooting the potential unification of police forces are rightly outside the specialism and appropriate field of comment for Cyan Forensics, one area which we are involved in that that does currently offer the benefits of overarching central governance is CAID (The UK’s Child Abuse Image Database). CAID governs the entire collection, storage and grading of child sexual abuse images submitted by individual forces across the UK. CAID is also successfully and extensively investing in the role out of new digital forensics capabilities nationally, and excitingly, Cyan Forensic is part of this investment and national roll out.

Now that all UK police forces are connected to CAID, Scotland based Cyan Forensics has been contracted by the Home Office to deliver a new fast forensic triage capability for CAID. The tools allow investigators across the UK to rapidly detect indecent images of children known to CAID on suspect electronic devices in a matter of seconds. As part of this brand-new initiative, Cyan Forensics is providing every UK police force with licenses for Cyan Examiner, our transformational cutting-edge triage tool.

As well as contributing to a more centralised digital forensics working model, the CAID project will have the benefit of bringing together fragmented working practices at regional level. Currently it will still be the responsibility of individual police services to carry out accreditation to ISO 17025 (and in the future 17020), but it might be interesting to explore whether a central model could offer more financial efficiency.

Another organisation that aims to help police Digital Forensic Units to work together more effectively on a national level is the Forensic Capability Network (FCN). The FCN is being created by the Transforming Forensics program, run by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC). This organisation will be a community of forensic science professionals who will help share skills, expertise, services and technology to improve the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of digital forensic services. Collaborative working, such as that of the FCN, will undoubtablely be essential in creating the transformational change that is desired and required in digital forensics, and it is encouraging to see so many supporting it.

Could further leveraging of national projects, such as CAID and the FCN, help transform the current forensic landscape by delivering some of the benefits of centralised governance? Would attracting investment and creating alignment in this area, without the huge political challenges of police unification make even more of a difference? If so, could this also be a way of delivering the leadership and vision needed to create the innovation and vendor engagement that the sector needs? Cyan Forensics certainly hopes so and we are keen to support such national efforts in any way we can, alongside the work we already do centrally and with individual police services.

Digital Forensic Community