Is that image authentic?

With digital images, people are starting to ask the question – “is it authentic?”

My first digital camera was probably around 1997/8 – that’s nearly 20 years ago! It was a Canon and stored its tiny images on a CF Card. It was pretty heavy and bulky, but a huge step up from the first Kodak prototypes of the 1970’s.

Those had to store an image onto a cassette tape!

In 1990, a few years before my first adventures into digital imaging, Adobe released Photoshop for the Mac.

Take a look at the digital photography timeline to learn more:

This little trip down memory lane has revealed that for over 25 years, people have been able to easily capture and edit digital images. We have reached a point where high-quality images can be captured quickly, edited, and then shared within a few clicks of a mouse or taps on a screen. It’s no wonder then, that during this digital generation, people have also learned how easy it is to change that picture for unlawful reasons.

You are, most likely, from within the investigative community, so you can probably think of many different reasons why someone would want to, ‘tell a different story’. A digital image can be manipulated to reinforce that story, and up until now, many people have trusted that image as being a true and accurate representation.

The rise in ‘fake news’ over the past few years though has brought image manipulation into the minds of people that may not have immediately considered it beforehand.

They are now asking the right questions of the image before it gets used:

“Is the view of that room correct?”

“Does the vehicle have that damage?”

“Are the bruises real?”

“Was the person really there?”

“Has anything changed in the image since the time of acquisition?”

It’s simple to ask the question, but finding the answer takes a little more time and effort.

On the flip side of the image, we have the device that may have been used to capture it – the camera. We have questions here also:

“What type of camera took that image?”

“Did that camera take that image?”

“How many images do I have that have come directly from a camera? And how many may have been edited?”

It doesn’t matter what you start with: a single image, a camera, or thousands of images. What matters is that you ask the questions and then use the right software to help you in finding the answers.

Amped Authenticate is a truly unique application that does just that – it helps you find reliable answers.

Can it detect manipulation – Yes.

Can it identify inconsistencies in data – Yes.

Can it conduct image comparisons – Yes.

Can it work on thousands of images – Yes.

Can it tell me if a certain camera took a certain picture – Yes.

Can it do lots of other things – Of Course!!!

It is great that the questions are now being asked, and with Amped Authenticate, we can obtain an answer. The final step, and it’s the one that some people find difficult, is interpreting that answer (but that’s why we also provide training courses on using Amped Authenticate).

Often, in image manipulation cases, we don’t have the original. We may never know what the original image looked like. We can only see the traces of manipulation left behind.

Think of a clean sandy beach…

We can see footprints. Now imagine that we are on that beach and we remove the footprints by pushing the sand over the holes.

We can no longer see the type of shoe or size of the foot that made the prints; we wouldn’t even know that there were once footprints. We can see the patterns left behind though. That’s what Authenticate does – it shows you what’s been left behind.

We can then say that, based on analysis that is reliable and repeatable, there are signs of manipulation and/or inconsistencies that we are unable to explain. The more unexplained issues, the higher the weight.

With law enforcement agencies recording previously unthinkable amounts of digital multimedia and the forensic requirement to ensure evidence integrity, any solution must have authenticity checking built in. This is great when they maintain the chain of custody, but what happens when they don’t? What happens when an image gets introduced by a witness, or by a suspect, perhaps to maliciously accuse the innocent or aid an alibi?

Identifying manipulation and image to camera identification is a fantastic and unique part of image forensics that is now vital to understand. In a world where a face can be changed at the touch of an app, or an object removed through the click of a mouse, we must always consider the questions:

“Is there any reason why someone would modify this image? Can I rely on the image in front of me?”

If you need an answer, take a closer look at Amped Authenticate.

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