We are just days away from our User Day in Bled Slovenia

Team Amped is getting all packed and ready to go to Bled, Slovenia for our first ever Amped User Day event! On Friday, September 21, Amped users will meet the team behind the Amped Software products, exchange ideas, ask questions, discuss product improvements and meet other expert Amped users from around the world.

If you have not registered yet, and just happen to be in the area, contact us to see if we have some last-minute seats available for you.

For more information about our event: https://ampedsoftware.com/amped-user-day-2018

We are so Amped up to see you!

#ampeduserday

Amped at HLS in Indonesia

Together with our partner Omni Integer we are participating in the Homeland Security (HLS) Indonesia event from 19-20 September at the Jakarta Convention Center.

This is an exciting new conference and exhibition covering the full spectrum of homeland security and law enforcement. HLS Indonesia 2018 is projected to attract at least 60 leading exhibitors plus 3000 trade visitors, offering an unparalleled trade and networking platform for the industry to meet officials from the nation’s key security, police, and paramilitary agencies and address their challenges and requirements.

Stop by Booth 312 to see what’s new with Amped Software!

For more info visit: https://www.hlsindonesia.com/

Getting the Result

As a Certified Forensic Video Analyst, one of the hardest calls is stating that nothing can be done. I cannot recover that face, that logo, or that license plate.

I have written many articles, and spoken at conferences, about the challenges with CCTV video evidence, so getting a result from poor footage can be immensely satisfying.

So, what is required then to get the result?

The planets of Evidence, Tool and Competency all need to be aligned.

Continue reading

DVRConv Update 11571: Multiplexed streams, timestamp extraction and more formats now supported

We’ve released another update for Amped DVRConv, one of the fastest ways to cleanly convert video. It is also the simplest; a clean installation tool that allows anyone who works with digital video to drag and drop proprietary video evidence in order to achieve a standard playable file – cutting out the hours, or even days, it takes to locate a proprietary player. Drag and drop – it’s that easy! With DVRConv, alongside Amped FIVE and Amped Authenticate, your workflow from scene to laboratory is completely covered and together they provide great weapons in your forensic video and image analysis arsenal!

Let’s say you regularly process video evidence and, like a lot of technicians and analysts, you are tasked with retrieving video from a scene at a location other than your lab or office. Retrieving CCTV from DVRs at scene can often be laborious, fraught with difficulty and a lot of the time the scenes are a fair distance away from your usual office. One of the most important steps during the recovery of CCTV evidence is checking to see if the download has been successful, which means playback of what is more likely to be proprietary video at scene using only a laptop and your recovery tools.

Saving time at a video recovery scene is crucial and it’s a nightmare having to trawl through hundreds of proprietary players, some of which won’t work on your current operating system or might have different versions of the same type of player. The conversion engine in Amped FIVE would be ideal, but you want something more portable to add to the tools on your retrieval laptop. This is where DVRConv steps in to quickly convert and playback your downloaded files in an easily customisable and cleanly installed package!

Utilising exactly the same conversion engine as FIVE but with twice the portability, you can not only playback and confirm your video files at scene, but have them ready for clarification and enhancement in FIVE for when you return to the office or lab.  Logs are provided for disclosure and the original files are left untouched, maintaining the continuity of your video evidence from the beginning.

Continue reading

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

Extracting Channels

If you’ve attended one of my classes or lectures, you’ve likely heard me say the following phrase many times, “There’s what you know, and there’s what you can prove.” The essence of this statement forms the basis of the Criminal Justice system as well as science.

What I “know” is subject to bias. What I “know” is found in the realm of truth. As a Kansas City Chiefs supporter, I “know” that the Oakland Raiders are a horrible team. I “know” that their fans are the worst in the world. After all, the Chiefs are the best and their fans are as pure as the wind-driven snow. This is “true” to me. Whilst funny and used to illustrate a point (I’m sure there are some really great people among the Raiders fan base), truths are things we “know.” Truths are rooted deep in feelings/emotions and unlikely to be changed by facts. There is a segment of the US population that believes it true that Elvis is still alive and that he’s likely hanging out on some Caribbean island with Tupac and Biggy Smalls.

Facts are measurable; they form the basis of tests of reliability. I can measure the temperature in a specific location and you, standing in the same location, can perform the same test and come to the same measurement. Supported by facts, our tests in this discipline become reliable, repeatable, and reproducible. Our conclusions can thus be trusted.

What on earth does this all have to do with Amped FIVE and Forensic Multimedia Analysis? I’m glad you asked.

By now, you’re well familiar with the fact that Amped Software operationalizes tools out of image science, math, statistics, etc. We also operationalize tools and training out of the world of psychology. By this I mean if we’re going to work in the visual world, we must know how that visual world operates not only from a mechanical standpoint but also from how the brain processes the inputs from its collection devices.

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!