'Paradigm shift' in digital investigation as MPS announces new collaboration

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is to transform the way it deals with crimes involving computers, smartphones and other devices after announcing a collaboration deal with a major developer of digital investigation software.

Aug 9, 2021
By Tony Thompson

The force has teamed up with Magnet Forensics, a developer of digital investigation software, which has created a new product that can speed up digital and data analysis investigations by a factor of three and enable non-technical investigators to take on more cases.

The rapid proliferation of digital devices and data relevant to investigations has put pressure on police agencies worldwide, creating backlogs in digital forensics labs, delaying cases and putting justice at risk. The highly technical nature of traditional digital forensics tools limits collaboration between digital forensic examiners and non-technical investigators, who have the full context of cases.

The new system, delivered through Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service, is known as Magnet REVIEW. The platform makes it possible for investigators to access and examine digital forensic evidence such as photos, chat logs and documents through an easy-to-use interface through a web browser.

The platform also allows investigators to collaborate with technical personnel in the digital forensic lab and other units remotely, while maintaining the forensic integrity of the evidence.

Darren Scates, chief technology officer at the MPS, said: “The Met is committed to being a leader in the digital transformation of policing. Our collaboration with Magnet Forensics and Microsoft aims to ensure that digital evidence critical to investigations is reviewed in a simple, timely, effective and secure manner to ensure justice is achieved.

“Our digital forensic evidence review process is undergoing a paradigm shift with the introduction of Magnet REVIEW.”

The new system will ultimately replace a dated but standard operating procedure common to many police agencies around the world: Forensic specialists conduct their examination and export the outputs on to USB drives or CD-ROMs, often left insecure, that non-technical investigators can view only after travelling to the digital forensics lab and waiting for a workstation to become available. The outputs of various digital forensics tools are different, technical in nature and often require further assistance from an examiner. These inefficiencies result in delays in investigations and prosecutions.

The MPS said the system will enable it to:

  • Complete data analysis and investigations up to three times faster, allowing non-technical investigators to take on more cases;
  • Build trust by returning devices to victims and witnesses at a quicker rate;
  • Significantly reduce cost and inefficiencies such as external media to store evidence and reduce the risk of data corruption and breaches; and
  • Benefit from the increased security, remote accessibility and infrastructure maintenance savings that deployment in the cloud will provide.

Magnet Forensics chief executive officer Adam Belsher said: “Time is lost in physically transporting devices, waiting for digital forensics specialists to become available to conduct an examination and for them to communicate the findings to the officer responsible for the investigation. This has led to significant backlogs that ultimately compromise the pursuit of justice.

“Developed in concert with the Met, Magnet REVIEW enables investigators to remotely review critical digital evidence in their cases, leverage analytical tools to get to it faster, and collaborate with digital forensics labs and other stakeholders.”

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