Category Archives: Cases

Can you see in the dark?

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.

Bingo!

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

Insurance companies look to forensics to cut fraud and abuse – and save time

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

What about video from drones?

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.

LEAs using dronesUS 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.

Continue reading

A Witness with a Mobile Phone

Everyone has a mobile phone …mobile phone in hand

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?

before Continue reading

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.  Continue reading

Authenticating Social Media Images

This is the first in a series of posts on use cases for our products done by Jim Hoerricks. In this post, we’ll see the issues on authenticating images from social media.

As a general rule, there are three basic ways of authenticating an image prior to trial. The first way involves the photographer attesting to the image’s authenticity. The second way requires someone depicted in the image to say that, “yes, that’s me and that’s the scene as I remember it.” The third way gets a bit more complicated. The third way brings in a third-party to authenticate the image. It is hoped that this third-party authenticator’s findings are grounded in science and solid methods. Sadly, this is not often the case.

The scientific authentication of images that are taken directly from a camera are complex enough. But when the image is uploaded to social media, the images are changed. This change shows up in many freeware programs – like the one depicted to the right – as a warning that the image is processed or edited. Many unskilled technicians use a report like this as a basis to declare an image not authentic. This can cause problems in court. Continue reading

Increase Your Productivity with Amped FIVE

A big emphasis when designing Amped FIVE is productivity, however this is not usually what initially attracts people to the software. Most user feedback suggests that it’s the impressive samples of different enhancement filters.

After analyzing video for some time, you get acutely aware that in many cases, the quality of the video to analyze is simply not sufficient to get any of those amazing results seen in the samples. We have all been asked to get the licence plate from three white pixels or a face from a single macroblock.

It’s no surprise then that FIVE users report that it’s the speed and ease with which you can do routine tasks that makes FIVE their software of choice. FIVE makes easy tasks easy and difficult tasks, well, easy too. From converting a proprietary video file, to selecting a few frames, to add a time-stamp, to deblur a frame, applying super-resolution or apply a spotlight effect on a moving subject. And then, after the work has been completed, the reporting stage.

No need to hope that I have taken screenshots of all my software parameters and settings. With FIVE its just 2 clicks away. This means, without any exaggeration (many of our users prove it-Testimonials), that tasks which normally could take one or more days, can be done in a few hours.

There are many different tasks that an analyst or investigator may have to complete when dealing with a piece of video evidence. Ensuring that they can all be completed without unnecessary delay or technical challenges is one of FIVE’s many advantages. In this post I show a practical example of this.

The old way versus the new way

Some of you may remember a post on spreadys.com a number of years ago, explaining some of the challenges with Samsung AVI and SMI Files.

https://spreadys.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/samsung-mpeg4-avi-smi-files/

You will see that I had to utilize a number of different pieces of software as I was met with a number of different challenges. All of this takes time, and time is something we are all rather short of!

Amped FIVE not only makes it quicker, but it keeps everything contained and the best part is that, when it comes to reporting what you have done, its just a few clicks of the mouse.

This was highlighted to me this week with a new case, but with the same Samsung AVI and SMI Format.

Image 001

Cat or Duck? Authenticity versus Interpretation

The human visual system is highly complex. Linked with our memories, our brains are then able to quickly interpret shapes, objects and people that other people without the added bias of memory would not. That’s how people recognize others in poor CCTV. It’s that unique knowledge of a person or object that helps in the recognition intelligence.

Our minds can also interpret information differently, not only through experiences but also our emotions.

What do you see below?

illusion

Most of you would have probably seen this image before, but can you remember back to when you saw it first? Did you see the old lady or the young one? Is it an ear or an eye? People can interpret the image differently.

How about this?

cat

OK, it’s not a trick question! But you all said “a cat”, right? Correct!

The point of all this is that our minds are using half a black and white shape to tell us that it’s a cat.

From there we have 2 possible options… the first is that it is actually a cat. The second is that it is a single or series of shapes or objects positioned in a way that we interpret those objects as one, and we only perceive it to be a cat.

This was the predicament that photographer, David Burr, found himself in during the evening of 7th June 2014.

David had been at Bewl Water in Kent, UK, photographing the sunset across the lake. After returning home and examining his images, he had a choice to make – was he looking at a big cat, or was he interpreting another object to be a big cat moving across the lake behind the ducks?

Feline or Bird

Continue reading

Body Worn Cameras (BWCs) as a Silver Bullet, Vol 4: Impact on Society

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In our previous posts, we have mainly focused on technical issues, but to do this topic justice, we need to address the social and ethical issues as well.

Trying to predict how the use of BWC technology will impact society and ethics, in general, is very difficult, but we can ask a few questions that can stimulate thought on the subject:

  • When should these cameras be deployed or how invasive should they be permitted to be?
  • Can an individual request the officer to turn off his camera in his own home or should the officer be allowed to overrule that choice if he feels it could provide a benefit in safety for one or both parties?
  • Would that individual be given access to that video? And if so, how will that data sharing take place and how much would it cost?
  • Will the police use of this technology set a social precedent and will we see this technology spread as a result?
  • How will access to all this data change the way we feel about privacy in general?

Continue reading

Body Worn Cameras (BWCs) as a Silver Bullet, Vol 3: Storage

bodyworn-794100_640If we take volume 2 into account and apply correct scientific post-processing to our BWC footage, we now have usable video evidence but there are some further issues:

  • How will it be stored?
  • How much will that storage cost compare to the cost of not having this evidence?
  • What is the stance police departments will take on data protection and how will society respond to being further surveilled and having that surveillance stored?

This large-scale data collection has huge storage requirements, an example, pre BWC adoption: “In December 2012, IDC and EMC estimated the size of the digital universe (that is, all the digital data created, replicated and consumed in that year) to be 2,837 exabytes (EB) and forecast this to grow to 40,000EB by 2020 — a doubling time of roughly two years. One exabyte equals a thousand petabytes (PB), or a million terabytes (TB), or a billion gigabytes (GB). So by 2020, according to IDC and EMC, the digital universe will amount to over 5,200GB per person on the planet”. (Ref. http://www.zdnet.com/article/storage-in-2014-an-overview/) This is likely to increase as the BWC option becomes more widespread across the globe. Continue reading