Feeds

Top UK cybercop dreams of PC breathalysers

Plod friendly kit tops PCeU technology wish list

The essential guide to IT transformation

A breathalyser-style tool for PCs capable of spotting potentially illegal activity is needed in order to address a mounting computer forensics workload. However experts in the field warn that such a device, desirable though it might be, could be difficult to develop in a reliable form.

Detective Superintendent Charlie McMurdie, who spearheaded the successful campaign to establish the UK's forthcoming Police Central E-crime Unit (PCeU), said officers needed an easy to use tool for computer forensics in order to deal with the growing numbers of seizures. Computer evidence increasingly forms a part of more and more cases ranging from the more traditional areas of fraud and child pornography to serious crime and murder investigations.

Instead of taking away all PCs to be examined in a lab, the equivalent of hauling every suspected drink driver in for a blood test, an easy to use tool could be used to carry out a quick assessment and retrieve evidence.

McMurdie told silicon.com: "Do we need to seize five computers in a suspect's house or could we use a simple tool to preview on site and identify there's that one email we are looking for and we can then use that and interview the person now, rather then waiting six to 12 months for the evidence to come back to us?”

"For example, look at breathalysers - I am not a scientist, I could not do a chemical test on somebody when they are arrested for drink driving but I have a tool that tells me when to bring somebody in."

Computer forensics analysis is typically carried out using the Guidance Software EnCase tool, often by computer forensics experts in private industry. The back log of this work is huge and officers can potentially wait months for the result of such forensics work.

Experts reckon that developing a simple PC breathalyser-style device would involve overcoming challenging technical problems. "From a practical point of view this is much more difficult than it might seems. You can't just plug a memory stick into a PC and extract internet history files, that will alter the state of the computer. Write blocking technology is needed and that's expensive," said Simon Steggles, director of of data recovery and computer forensics specialists Disklabs.

A simple computer forensics tool might be possible, Microsoft has reportedly supplied such a USB form-factor device to law enforcement agencies, at no cost and on a trial basis. But no off-the-shelf kit exists.

McMurdie also talked about plans to establish a "central forensic server" that computer forensics experts across the country might use. "Say one of the banks is attacked and we need to have a look at one of their hard drives: that bank would have something that they can plug their system in to and that connects to this central forensic server," she said.

"Say there is a copper who is a forensic expert in Devon and Cornwall, he could hook into the central server and deal with it from Devon and Cornwall, rather than traveling up to London." ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
GCHQ protesters stick it to British spooks ... by drinking urine
Activists told NOT to snap pics of staff at the concrete doughnut
Britain's housing crisis: What are we going to do about it?
Rent control: Better than bombs at destroying housing
Top beak: UK privacy law may be reconsidered because of social media
Rise of Twitter etc creates 'enormous challenges'
Redmond resists order to hand over overseas email
Court wanted peek as related to US investigation
What do you mean, I have to POST a PHYSICAL CHEQUE to get my gun licence?
Stop bitching about firearms fees - we need computerisation
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
NZ Justice Minister scalped as hacker leaks emails
Grab your popcorn: Subterfuge and slur disrupts election run up
We need less U.S. in our WWW – Euro digital chief Steelie Neelie
EC moves to shift status quo at Internet Governance Forum
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?