Category Archives: Announcements

Content Triage

Here in the US, we’re hyper-focused on standards and compliance. In the aftermath of the 2009 paper, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, many national and state initiatives were put forward to address the issues raised in the document.

We love checklists. Yes, sometimes there’s a need to stray a bit from the workflow, but checklists help guide the work.

In our classes here, we present the workflow from the standpoint of science and the law. One of the most important steps in the beginning of the workflow is Content Triage.

Content Triage is the process of asking of one’s digital multimedia evidence, “do I have the appropriate quantity/quality of data to answer the questions in my case?”

If you do, great. Proceed with your work. If not, your results will be limited and those limitations should be noted in your report. An example of a limitation can be seen in the many files processed where the target area lacks sufficient resolution.

I’ve got a short video on this topic over on our YouTube page (click here).

I’ve been traveling the country speaking on this topic and its importance in investigations. My next stop will be at the Society for Integrity in Force Investigation and Reporting Annual Conference in Henderson, Nevada. You can get more info on this event over on our Events page. I hope to see you there.

Using Enhanced Images in Court

I recently testified in court as a forensic image and video expert and, as is sometimes the case, the use of some filters to enhance images was questioned. As I have written before, there is some processing that should be entirely avoided, since it lacks accuracy and repeatability. For example, we should avoid techniques which add new information relying on data obtained by a training set, or techniques which have a random component.

Some years ago, there was a school of thought that said, only classical image processing techniques available for the analog photography can be applied to digital photography in the forensic context. What are the risks of applying the wrong processing? We are not interested in having a “pleasant” image, we are concerned about extracting information from it. The risks of wrong processing are:

  • Removing existing information: for example, removing the grain in a dark image can remove also important details.
  • Adding new information: for example, creating or amplifying image artifacts which may be misinterpreted as a real detail.

In this reasoning, we are not referring to details at the pixel level, but at the image semantic content. In general, if I resize an image, I add a lot of new pixels but if the processing is correct I am not adding any new relevant information.

It’s important to understand that most of the image processing techniques present a compromise: I enhance something at the expense of damaging something else. For example, if I lighten an image to show better a dark part, it’s very likely to lose details in the parts of the image that are already bright enough.

For this reason, it’s very difficult, in general, to say which techniques are good and which techniques are bad. Their applicability must be related to the specific case and the parameters used. Filters are just tools, and as such, they can be used in the right way, obtaining better images, or in the wrong way, damaging the image quality or presenting wrong information.

Because of this, it’s important not to blindly apply different enhancement and restoration filters, but to apply them in order to correct a specific defect. Similarly, the tuning of their parameters must be consistent with the amount of defect I want to correct. Abusing the filters can create images which are much worse than the original.

It is therefore important, as I’ve said many times, to work with experts who have specific experience in the forensic image and video analysis field. Who know what to do, and how to identify what has been done incorrectly.

A lot of pressure may be put on the processing done by the experts, but most people ignore that there are many other processing and possible issues happening during the image acquisition and visualization phases.

A lot of processing happens in the camera itself, from CCTV to smartphones. Unless raw image pictures are used, and this is very rare, the value of the pixels in an image are hugely dependent on the processing and encoding which automatically happens inside the device to obtain the ratio between image quality and technical limitations that the producer wished to obtain.

And then, even to simply visualize the image, there’s a lot going on under the hood. Different software can decode the image in a slightly different way which can enormously impact the final result, and a lot of image processing happens on the graphics card of the PC, on the screen, or on a projector. Just play with the brightness of the projector to realize how much the visible information in an image can be impacted by such simple tuning.

There is then the most critical part of the processing: our eyes and our brain. Different people see and want to see different things in the same image. Analyzing things in an objective and unbiased way is often very difficult unless you can measure things numerically. And in fact, avoiding and limiting the various types of biases are one of the most important aspects of forensic science currently studied.

This article, written by Martino Jerian, was originally published in Lawyer Monthly magazine. Click here for the published article. 

Amped Authenticate Update 11362: JPEG Dimples, Improved JPEG HT, Social Media Identification, and much more!

Not long has passed since the release of Amped Authenticate 10641 but… yes, the next one is already out! Amped Authenticate 11362 is now released with a lot of improvements, including two new filters based on JPEG Dimples, one of the last discoveries of the image forensics scientific community!

JPEG Dimples

Despite many attempts to send JPEG into retirement, today the vast majority of digital images still use it. Amped Authenticate users know that traces left by JPEG compression are a superb asset when it comes to investigating the digital history of an image, as witnessed by the vast JPEG-based toolkit that Authenticate provides: quantization table analysis, JPEG ghosts, inconsistencies in blocking artifacts, double quantization traces in the DCT coefficients, and more.

But JPEG is still full of new surprises nowadays! A few months ago, while Amped was attending (and sponsoring!) the IEEE 2017 International Workshop on Information Forensics and Security (WIFS 2017), a new footprint was presented to the scientific community: JPEG Dimples (click here to see the original work Photo forensics from JPEG dimples by Shruti Agarwal and Prof. Hany Farid).

JPEG Dimples manifest themselves as a grid of slightly brighter/darker pixels, spaced by 8 pixels in each dimension. Like most image forensic fingerprints, even JPEG Dimples are hardly visible by the human eye, but they can be easily detected with a proper algorithm.

But why does this grid appear? And why is it important for our analysis? We’ll answer these questions in detail in a future blog post, however the reason behind JPEG Dimples is rather simple: during the DCT coefficients quantization phase, different operators exist to approximate decimal values to integer values: the round operator (which approximates the decimal number to the nearest integer) the floor operator (approximation to the nearest smaller integer) or the ceil operator (approximation to the nearest bigger integer). The table below shows the difference in approximating a Value (first column) to an integer using round, floor and ceil.

Value Round Floor Ceil
9.8 10 9 10
6.3 6 6 7
4.5 5 4 5
-7.3 -7 -8 -7

Obviously, using floor tends to produce smaller values in the 8-by-8 DCT block than using round, and the opposite with ceil. And when we go back to the pixel domain, this leads to a slightly darker or brighter pixel on the top-left corner of the pixel block (see example below)! Measuring the presence of this grid will tell us to which degree an image contains the JPEG Dimples footprint.

Image showing Dimples

Example of an image showing strong JPEG Dimples

Now you may be wondering “well, how many cameras will ever be using floor or ceil in place of the more classical round?” Not so few, actually. According to the work presented at WIFS 2017, more than 60% of tested cameras do introduce Dimples. We also carried out an internal evaluation on Amped datasets and numbers were less upsetting, still, we found Dimples in roughly 30% of tested cameras. A footprint with such a spread could not be missing in Amped Authenticate, and so here we are. Continue reading

CCTV appeals: Don’t underestimate the importance of image quality

‘Caught on CCTV’ — how many times do we read or hear those words?

With cities worldwide sitting under the gaze of millions of public and private cameras, it is no wonder that in many cases, the best chances of identifying an offender starts with the image caught on CCTV.

But, the simple task of getting an image can sometimes be a challenge so it is no wonder that people look at the shortcut and simply take a picture of the CCTV monitor with their phone. It’s quick, simple and you immediately have an image.

This is great when recognition is time critical. The image of the ‘man in the hat’, the 2016 Belgium terror suspect, was first released after a snap of a CCTV screen. Then, a few days later, the forensically acquired evidential images were released.

When something is not time critical, then the correct acquisition of the original video will help immensely in any integrity or authentication issue. Not only that, but if any restoration or enhancement is required, then you will have a much better chance of image recovery.

Faces and vehicle licence plates are often requested for recovery. They have two matching characteristics – high detail. It is these high details that are lost when a piece of CCTV is captured incorrectly, snapped from a PC screen, re-recorded with the analogue video output, or obtained any other way that changes the original digital structure.

An added problem with some of these processes is that small details can change shape and become blended together. Letters and numbers on licence plates start to look like other digits.

It can be frustrating to use multiple pieces of software with a need to ensure no loss of quality during every stage. This obviously adds extra and unnecessary time to the workflow. Time that is extremely valuable in today’s policing environment.

A by-product of using Amped FIVE, the ‘all-in-one’ solution, is that investigative decisions can be actioned much faster. “Am I going to get something from that?” If the answer is no, then it’s time to move on. Spend the time on what is achievable and negate the impossible.

If there was not a correct acquisition of this original video, it may not have been possible to enhance the dark image to recover the details of the vehicle and license plate.

Licence plates usually stay within the policing world but faces, clothing configurations, and tattoos regularly end up in the press, social media, and within online galleries for recognition.

Therefore, it’s worth taking a bit of time with these to ensure the highest possible chance of some good intelligence. It can also avoid some embarrassment – reading through public comments on a few sites makes for painful reading due to the image posted being so bad!

Read the full article originally posted on Police Oracle.

When in Rome….go to the Digital Forensics & Investigations Conference

“Rome, Italy’s capital, is a sprawling, cosmopolitan city with nearly 3,000 years of globally influential art, architecture and culture on display. Ancient ruins such as the Forum and the Colosseum evoke the power of the former Roman Empire. Vatican City, headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, has St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, which house masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes.” Excerpt taken from here.

But there’s more to see and do in Rome than what the travel guides tell you! If you are visiting this magical city, remember to stop by the Digital Forensics & Investigations Conference 2018 from June 26-27, where Amped’s CEO and Founder, Martino Jerian, will present a series of presentations and workshops for the experts and non-experts in image and video forensics.

The Amped Software sessions include:

Miglioramento di Immagini e Filmati in Ambito Forense
June 26, 15:30 – 16:00, Sala Garden

Autenticazione di Immagini e Riconoscimento della Fotocamera
June 27, 11:00 – 11:30, Sala Segreteria

Introduzione al Miglioramento di Immagini e Filmati con Amped FIVE
June 27, 16:00 – 17:00, Sala Umanesimo – Laboratorio Pratico

Click here to find out more, and to register!

A presto!

Amped FIVE Update 11284: Multiplexed Stream Support, Proprietary Timestamp, Remove Frames Filter, and a Whole Lot More

Whilst it’s been a busy time for us here at Amped with the demand for training higher than ever, we have made sure our development is continuous and we’re here again with another huge update for Amped FIVE.

A Completely Revamped Conversion Engine

As you will know, one of the biggest struggles within the world of CCTV and video analysis is the ever-increasing number of proprietary formats. Our support and development team are constantly receiving requests for new format support and in our latest update, we have enabled conversion support for BVR, DVS, H64, PSF and SHV formats, along with some variations of other formats already supported in previous versions.

All these formats are multiplexed streams. This is when a manufacturer has placed all camera footage into a single time-based video stream.

The latest FIVE not only converts the files straight away, but demultiplexes each video stream, splitting them into their own individual chains within the software. Under the Convert DVR Advanced tab you will find the options to enable this time-saving function.

Files to Convert > All, one chain per file.

No more mixed streams, no more time wasted writing carving scripts. A few clicks will now save you hours!

Multiplexed single stream decoding is huge, so expect a dedicated blog post in the next few weeks looking more deeply into decoding files of this type.

But the new conversion engine does not stop there! There are a lot of benefits even on single stream video files. Standard conversion done with vanilla FFmpeg is often not enough – there may be the risk of losing video frames because of wrongly interpreted proprietary metadata. Our new engine not only cleans almost every proprietary video format, being in MPEG4, H263, H264 and H265, but for many of them also recovers the proprietary timestamp. We found more than 50 different variations of timestamp formats!

Continue reading

A Lucky, Happy User!

Amped Software was one of the main sponsors of this year’s Ontario Forensic Video Analysts Association Training Conference (www.OFVAA.com) held in Niagara Falls, Canada, where 30 analysts from Canada, the US, and the UK attended.

Given the outstanding relationship Amped Software has with the OFVAA, we decided to do something exceptional this year and provided an Amped license for a draw during the event.

Michael (Mick) Green, from North Wales Police in the UK, was the lucky winner.

Mick paid for the travel and training himself, to gain insight into the techniques used to establish suspect height ranges as this is an important part of his daily work.

A few days ago, our international trainer, David Spreadborough, attended North Wales Police to deliver the software and give Mick a few tips on its use.

We hope you enjoy using Amped Mick! And we look forward to seeing you soon on a training course to get hands-on training on the use of our products as well as get some insights into the challenges users face in forensic video and digital multimedia evidence processing.

Now it’s time to go get your evidence Amped!

Supporting (Little) Women in Tech

Ada Lovelace, a gifted mathematician, is considered to have written instructions for the first computer program in the mid-1800s. Ada Lovelace’s contributions to the field of computer science were not discovered until the 1950s. Her notes were reintroduced to the world by B.V. Bowden, who republished them in Faster Than Thought: A Symposium on Digital Computing Machines in 1953. Since then, Ada has received many posthumous honors for her work. In 1980, the U.S. Department of Defense named a newly developed computer language “Ada,” after Lovelace.

Read her full biography here https://www.biography.com/people/ada-lovelace-20825323

In 1946 six brilliant young women programmed the first all-electronic, programmable computer, the ENIAC, a project run by the U.S. Army in Philadelphia as part of a secret World War II project. They learned to program without programming languages or tools (for none existed)—only logical diagrams. By the time they were finished, ENIAC ran a ballistics trajectory—a differential calculus equation—in seconds! Yet when the ENIAC was unveiled to the press and the public in 1946, the women were never introduced; they remained invisible.

For more info read here: http://eniacprogrammers.org/

Yet, according to research, women make up a very small percentage of today’s software developers and leaders in the tech sector.

To help raise awareness of the low number of females in this industry and to encourage more women, starting at a young age, to enter the tech world, Amped Software is supporting a local project entitled “Piccole Donne del Coding” (Little Women of Code) to teach very young women, from age 5-7, to develop skills in computational thinking, using logic to solve problems unplugged – without the use of a computer, but through play and creative activities.

You never know – one or more of these little women may one day be a future Ampedeer!

For more info about the project visit: https://www.thecodingbox.com/piccole-donne-del-coding

Learn about the Science of Processing the Digital Crime Scene at IACP Tech Conference

Law enforcement professionals face the rising tide of technological innovation every day. Law enforcement executives must consider the benefits new devices, software, or protocols may have for their agency; IT managers must evaluate their network’s ability to withstand cyber-attacks in the wake of threats; Crime analysts and investigators depend on their agency’s capacity to recover and process expanding mounds of digital evidence.

The 2018 IACP Technology Conference held on May 21-23 in Providence, Rhode Island will address this broad array of issues in one location, providing law enforcement executives, IT managers, crime analysts, investigators, patrol officers, and local CIOs and CTOs with training, professional development, and a forum to share best practices and lessons learned on current and emerging technologies.

This year’s theme Technology, Transparency, and Transformation, focuses on how the law enforcement profession is utilizing technology to enhance services and communication and to transform agencies and communities.

Jim Hoerricks, PhD, Amped’s Director of Support and Training for North America, will present a workshop entitled: Proprietary Video Files – The Science of Processing the Digital Crime Scene, where he explores the digital crime scene, and its problems and proposed solutions with an emphasis on a scientific workflow and the eventual testimonial experience.

When: May 22, 11:00 – 12:00, Where: Tech Talk Theatre, Exhibit Hall C & D

Don’t miss it!

For more info about the event and to register click here: http://www.theiacp.org/Tech-conference

Have a drink with Amped at the Pint of Science event in Trieste, Italy!

Pint of Science is a global science festival that brings scientists to local bars to discuss their latest research and discoveries over a drink or two. The festival aims to deliver interesting and relevant talks on the latest scientific research in an accessible format to the public – mainly across bars and pubs. This is the perfect opportunity for the public to meet scientists and ask questions.

Where and when?

The main festival takes place annually over three days in the month of May and simultaneously in hundreds of venues across the world. Each country holds their main events on the same days, bringing the scientific community together.

There are thousands of events in 300 cities around the world including Amped Software’s beautiful home city, Trieste! This year’s events will take place from 14-16 May.

Amped has been invited to have a talk over a beer (or a glass of wine, or the local spritz) on May 16 at the TNT PUB in via della Ginnastica 46, Trieste, Italy.

Martino Jerian, Amped’s CEO and Founder, is scheduled to talk at 20:00 on how Amped Software’s scientific research provides customers with innovative and science-based software solutions for forensic image and video analysis.

Why not come and have a drink with us?

For more info:
https://pintofscience.it/event/elementare-watson-e-grafene
https://pintofscience.it/events/trieste 
https://www.facebook.com/pintofscienceitaly/