Istanbul Airport Attack: a Multimedia Forensics Perspective

After the attacks of Paris, Brussels (and unfortunately many others), three days ago there was another major event at Istanbul Airport. While its origin is yet to be officially confirmed, strong hints are again at ISIS terror strategy. The number of victims is currently set at more than 40 and growing, with more than 160 persons injured. This is, again and again, a very sad story and our prayers are with the victims, the wounded and their family.

As usual, in these major events, it is interesting to analyze the different audio and video sources and their use. In this case, there have been multiple sources of data, but primarily images and video coming from the airport CCTV system and images and videos taken by individuals with their cameras or smartphones. In addition to this, videos taken by the journalists with professional equipment, but only after the event.

Most of the videos from CCTV that have been shown on the news, have been simply captured by filming the monitor with a smartphone, causing low quality and recapture artifacts as moire and shaking. This is an interesting situation: we always recommend to capture the videos in a proper way, avoiding recompression and even screen capture if possible, but if there is nothing else to do, nor the time or the technical skills to do anything different, video recapture is a quick and dirty solution which could be adequate for fast news reporting. However, in actual investigations, a lot of detail can be lost in this way of acquisition, and we hope the experts working on the case have the actual evidence data still available for a proper acquisition. And don’t even get me started on all the problems there could be in using this kind of recaptured video as evidence in court…

Similarly, all the pictures and videos shared on social media may lack important data and metadata which may be useful for investigations. Social media investigation is in itself a challenge in order to gather and organize all the sources of information.

Last but not least, as it happens basically every time, the urge for a quick scoop leads to the release of pictures with wrong attributions and other imprecisions. If you work on the news side, always verify the authenticity and the source of images to avoid issues.

This image has been shown on many TV news channels and newspapers, despite not being related to the Istanbul attack but rather the Brussels one.

What’s the bottom line? Multimedia data (and social media) is nowadays a part of everyday life, including happy moments, everyday routines, terrible events and the news. But, depending on the situation, different approaches must be used for its generation, acquisition and consumption.