One-in-three high-tech crime units now uses the Rimage Forensic Disc System (FDS) to help investigate crimes involving paedophiles and terrorists.
Vernon Pratt, Director of PowerImageIT, explains how others can also improve the service they provide while also gaining the massive benefits in savings.
The Forensic Disc System (FDS) enables high-tech crime units to automatically ingest, image and triage evidence from optical discs seized from suspected paedophiles and terrorists. Fill it up, walk away and leave it unattended to process hundreds of discs and then come back when it is finished.
Whether you then prefer to sit in front of a screen to preview the detailed HTML reports, import the E01 and ISO.CUE files straight into EnCase or FTK, or run your own script and compare the MD5 or SHA-1 hash reports against a known database, it is a triage solution that saves hundreds of hours and enables forces to work smarter.
Originally developed for the FBI, Rimage released the FDS in 2010 when I was its regional business manager responsible for the UK launch.
The humble CD – just 12cm in size but more trouble than it is worth?
Right from day one it was clear CDs were a real pain for investigations because of the time it took to view them manually; most forces agreed one person can process up to 150 discs a week and cases of 1,000-plus discs would tie up resources for several months. This was why the system was developed and by comparison can process 200 to 600 a day (depending on the model).
With one officer typically budgeted at around £30 an hour, the potential cost saving in man-hours on one large job would actually pay for the system so you would think it would be simple mathematics.
But, as we also discovered on our visits, every force has a different policy and attitude to CDs. Some say they never look at CDs as the evidence is the same as on the suspect’s laptop, but we would question if that is true.
Others believe they do not need to assess the CDs if they already identified 30 images on a computer because it would not alter the sentence. We feel this could lead to many victims being missed.
Based on this policy, one southern force destroyed all discs without even examining them, but had to defend itself in court when a suspect demanded the return of CDs containing his holiday photos. The FDS system would have shown what was evidential and what was not.
Other forces dip-test CDs, typically examining ten from a large batch and if they are clean they are all assumed to be clean. They say they ‘risk assess’ the CDs and do ‘the best job possible with the resources available’. With FDS every disc can be examined and they can genuinely feel they have done the best job possible. And, what is more, with the hash tables created they can add and grow their existing database to make the next cases easier to solve.
‘Nobody uses CDs any more’
The other amazing thing to emerge is that crime scene investigators (CSIs) have been slowly conditioned over time to not bring back so many CDs as they take too long to examine; many imaging departments now believe five or ten discs should be the norm as paedophiles no longer use CDs.
The reality is CSIs are leaving evidence behind. In one case, a victim’s brother found images of his sister two years after the father was convicted, because police did not seize everything. We advise CSI to “leave nothing behind”. One of our most recent sales in October 2014 was for a case involving 25,000 discs, showing that paedophiles do still use CDs as they are easy to store, hide and share. Threat or friend<
For every success we have also had some interesting objections, from “but if I had your system I would have to make two of my team redundant” to “we would have to let Mary go and she does the paperwork and makes the tea for everyone”. By combining the automation of processes with modern technology forces can embrace progress. Rather than the threat to replace people, quite the opposite; it should free them to do more productive quality work.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has recently identified this area as one in which forces can work smarter. Thankfully, many forces have immediately seen the benefits as well as the long-term savings. Other forces have simply been case-led and when faced with mountains of discs realised FDS was the answer; indeed our first UK sale was with Hertfordshire Constabulary after its officers seized two suitcases full of discs. Exceeding expectations
The system is able to read and forensically image numerous formats and consistently detects more images on discs than forces’ own internal departments. During a seven-day trial we surprised one of the UK’s largest forces when we discovered images in ‘hidden sessions’ on multi-session discs that they did not know existed. They were so impressed they purchased a system within two weeks of the trial ending.
We had similar results during an on-site demonstration in the East Midlands on a packet-written disc. This was the first time a force asked us to demonstrate using a disc from a live case. In just one hour, we found 7,000 more images (9,700-plus compared to their 2,500) and six more victims (nine against three) on the same disc. Yet it had taken them two days. The potential from this one case, if extrapolated across all 100 CDs seized, is 100,000 more images and 30 more victims at a fraction of the cost. .Investing to save money
Over the last 12 months the biggest challenge has been budget cuts and the subsequent change of managers and decision-makers. On at least three occasions business cases have been submitted for budget approval but then the championing manager has moved on or left. By investing in such a system, forces can save a lot more money than the original cost of under £11,000, with the potential to save hundreds of thousands of pounds in man-hours and overtime over three to four years, as well as improving the service provided to investigators.
Today, PowerImageIT is the official UK distributor for this solution, with AGX Holdings Ltd as exclusive reseller. Together we have handled the sales to one-in-three high-tech crime and counter-terror units, who are now successfully using the FDS to improve their investigations. It is not too late to invest as CDs are certainly not going away and will remain a pain point for police for many years to come.
•Capacity of 150 and 400 discs for unattended/overnight production;
•Two or four CD/DVD/Blu-ray drives for simultaneous processing for fast results;
•Built-in camera automatically photographs each disc label for easy identification;
•Embedded Windows PC;
•Built-in CD printer can be used to reproduce and make ‘working copies’ of evidence;
•Write-blocking so evidence cannot be altered (ie, CD-Rewritables);
•Creates ISO.CUE file;
•Creates E01 of each session (supports multi-session discs);
•Creates HTML case summary report with label photo and overview of each disc;
•Creates HTML disc report for every disc showing images, file info, hash values, etc;
•Creates MD5 and SHA-1 hash report (CSV) of every file, image, video;
•Option to detect and skip ROM discs and genuine CD-DA audio discs;
•Option to skip badly scratched discs or plough on and get what you can;
•Optional Media Reader enables external USB devices to be added to case reports.
The FDS is one of a range of evidence solutions for police and government agencies provided by PowerImageIT and AGX. LTA is an extremely cost-effective solution for long-time archiving of evidence for up to 50 years and has been adopted by all of the Dutch forensic departments.
Our surveillance offerings include fast and automated offloading of video from Ovation’s covert AfterBurner devices as well as for submitting and distributing evidence from leading video management systems such as Milestone, Genetec, etc. For further information or to set up a demonstration or trial please contact:
Vernon Pratt on 07973 470786 or firstname.lastname@example.org
or Richard Kemp on 01256 741500 or email@example.com