A crime has occurred. Your investigators comb the area looking for clues. Your media relations staff hit the airwaves asking for the public’s help. Your social media cyber team trolls the Internet for images taken about the time of the crime and in the general location.
An image shows up on social media that was taken a few minutes before the crime occurred, looking down the street at what is now your crime scene. But, what’s wrong with this picture?
Taken into the setting sun, the features of the scene are back-lit. Useful information is lost.
Or is it? Continue reading
When a driver wraps his car around a tree, the damage is likely rather obvious. Same again for a head-on collision at high speed. There’s not much car left to repair, so the insurance companies will likely pay out on the policy.
But in today’s app-driven world, minor dents and scratches are now being handled by the policy holder through the use of mobile device apps. Simply snap a picture or video of the damage and upload it to the insurance company. Claims are processed the same day and your money arrives quickly. Folks love this mobile claims processing functionality so much that insurance companies are featuring their time-saving apps in their advertising.
Whilst customers love this convenience, so do crooks. It turns out that fraudsters are using photo editing software to create fake photo evidence in support of bogus claims. This type of activity affects all policy holders as losses are spread out across all customers, keeping rates higher than they should be in a fraud-free world.
Enter Amped Software.
Without naming names (I don’t want to ruin the fraud-catchers’ fun), our software is being employed as both a risk management function (catching fraud), as well as to assist claims processors when folks turn in proprietary CCTV files in support of claims. Continue reading
Back in 2009, an article in the North Dakota Law Review noted the following about the use of drones by law enforcement, “The widespread use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) in domestic law enforcement is imminent. Every police department, chief, and beat officer in the United States dreams of the ability to have eyes everywhere—a constant panoramic view of every angle in every precinct with the ability to instantly zoom in on suspicious behavior. That ability is available now. And it is on sale, cheap.”
That was 2009. We haven’t seen a surge in the use of drones by US law enforcement agencies. As the author noted at the time, “[t]he problem is regulatory uncertainty surrounding operations of UAVs in American airspace, and no one wants to be the guinea pig. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), tasked with ensuring the safe and orderly operation of aircraft, is regulating UAV operations of the kind that domestic law enforcement wants. The FAA has effectively stopped domestic law enforcement agencies from operating small UAVs in their operations without running afoul of FAA regulations for now.”
US Law Enforcement Agencies Using Drones
The market for dedicated UAVs and UASs hasn’t really materialized in the way that other equipment markets, like body worn cameras, has. In the absence of such a manufacturing segment, the few police agencies that have decided to deploy drones, like the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, are generally choosing to buy consumer-oriented models.
A key amendment to US Federal Rules of Evidence 902, in the form of new subsection (14), will go into effect on December 1, 2017. The committee note on the proposed rule lists the following as the justification for the addition of subsection 14:
“The amendment sets forth a procedure by which parties can authenticate data copied from an electronic device, storage medium, or an electronic file, other than through the testimony of a foundation witness. As with the provisions on business records in Rules 902(11) and (12), the Committee has found that the expense and inconvenience of producing an authenticating witness for this evidence is often unnecessary. It is often the case that a party goes to the expense of producing an authentication witness, and then the adversary either stipulates authenticity before the witness is called or fails to challenge the authentication testimony once it is presented. The amendment provides a procedure in which the parties can determine in advance of trial whether a real challenge to authenticity will be made, and can then plan accordingly.
Today, data copied from electronic devices, storage media, and electronic files are ordinarily authenticated by “hash value.” A hash value is a unique alpha-numeric sequence of approximately 30 characters that an algorithm determines based upon the digital contents of a drive, media, or file. Thus, identical hash values for the original and copy reliably attest to the fact that they are exact duplicates. This amendment allows self-authentication by a certification of a qualified person that she checked the hash value of the proffered item and that it was identical to the original. The rule is flexible enough to allow certifications through processes other than comparison of hash value, including by other reliable means of identification provided by future technology.” Continue reading
The Joint Technology Committee (COSCA)(NCSC)(NACM) had released version 1 of their document Managing Digital Evidence in Courts.
“Technologies including smartphones and body-worn cameras are capturing an ever- increasing volume of evidence. The exponential increase in the quantity of digital evidence is challenging the court’s ability to receive, evaluate, protect, and present digital evidence. This report identifies potential challenges and recommends steps courts should consider.”
In its recommendations around the conversion of proprietary video file types, it noted the following:
- Avoid creating arbitrary limitations on acceptable formats for digital evidence.
- Work with law enforcement, prosecutors, and local labs to consider the tradeoffs
between converting and not converting digital video evidence.
Interestingly, when the state of Texas (US) was considering a statewide standard for video sharing in its many court districts, Amped Software was the only company to be able to say: “Yes, we’re ready now. We can convert an overwhelming majority of proprietary file types into the proxy file type of your choosing.”
Want a .re4 file converted into a Raw MOV file? Done. Want a .SEC file converted into an MP4 or an AVI file? Done. Our standalone conversion tool is second to none. We’re converting over 80% of proprietary video file types found, with more being added as we encounter them.
Meet Amped DVRConv – our best-kept secret.
We receive quite a few phone calls and e-mails from well-meaning customers wanting us to “crack” secure in-car or body worn camera video files. They get frustrated because our conversion tools in Amped FIVE or Amped DVRConv don’t “crack” files for them. The easiest explanation is that our tools aren’t designed to defeat security.
It seems like only yesterday that I was flying out to Calgary to present image processing training at the 2007 LEVA Training Conference. I was so nervous to present in front of my peers. These many years later, I’m still at it … albeit with a new employer and an entirely new set of tools.
Recently, LEVA announced the schedule for their 2016 Training Conference. Once again, I’m happy to say that I’ll be there as a presenter. I’m also happy to say that I’m bringing a bunch of friends.
Everyone has a mobile phone …
A crime has occurred. What’s the first thing that people around the scene do? They grab their mobile phones. Why? To call the police or emergency services? Not usually. Not at first.
First things first.
They want to go viral on social media.
But it’s dark, and the person holding the phone is excited and moving around.
They capture the events and eventually send it to you. But it seems worthless. How can you make sense of this dark, shaking, video?
We decided to post this in light of a recent case which showed the complexities of image authentication and in general how to work properly according to requirements of US courts.
Without getting too political, folks in the US are used to getting citable case law from the coasts while the heartland and the South skate by relatively unnoticed. Brady v Maryland, Melendez-Diaz v Massachusetts, Beckley v California illustrate this point. A recent case from Louisiana changed that trend. Last month, the Louisiana appellate court, 4th Circuit, issued a written opinion in a criminal case disallowing key piece of social media evidence due to a lack of authenticity. (State of Louisiana v. Demontre Smith, La. Court of Appeals, April 20, 2016) Continue reading
Think about anything dangerous that you’ve done on a regular basis in your life. It’s in this context that I want to talk about the value of training.
Think back to the beginning of your law enforcement career. You entered the academy with a limited set of skills and knowledge. You were handed your service weapon. What happened next? Did you receive your weapon on the last day of the academy? Were you handed your weapon and told, “go serve and protect?” Of course not. You received training on how to safely handle the weapon. You received training on how to safely maintain the weapon. You didn’t receive a single round of ammunition for that weapon until your instructor was comfortable with you and your proficiency with the basics. Then you drilled. You practiced. You went through scenarios. You qualified … and throughout your career, you re-qualified over and over again. Failing to qualify has serious consequences to your career. Continue reading