Adam Belsher, CEO, Magnet Forensics

Adam, it’s been a while since we sat down with you! Since our last conversation, this time three years ago, how has the digital forensics landscape changed — and what (if anything) has remained the same?

It’s nice to have a chance to catch up (or as our Director of Forensics, Jessica Hyde, puts it: Cache Up.) In the past three years, we’ve definitely seen a lot of the trends we’ve been working towards continue to come to fruition.

In the realm of public safety, we continue to see there is a tsunami of data coming at police departments around the world. With the continued expansion of device storage, the transient nature of data in the cloud, and the ubiquity of mobile devices, the complexity of these investigations is getting harder and harder to get a handle on. When you pile a talent crunch on top of these issues, it makes it extremely difficult for law enforcement to stay ahead of crime and protect those at risk. That’s why we’ve really been focused on an integrated platform with AXIOM and leveraging technology like automation, and A.I. — to help take out many of the inefficiencies that are keeping teams from doing the work that their expertise demands.

In the private sector, we’re really noticing that enterprise and service providers are not only continuing to experience challenges when it comes to internal and external threats, but also increased security risks with disparate workforces that are no longer within the same walls. Additionally, they’re also dealing with similar challenges related to time consuming manual tasks that are keeping highly trained professionals from focusing on the work that benefits from their expertise the most.

And that’s not even taking into account all the challenges that COVID has brought us in 2020…

What was your biggest goal for Magnet Forensics in 2020, and how did pandemic-related pivots change — or not change — this?

Our biggest goal has always been to be there for our customers in whatever they need. Whether it’s ways to assist with officer wellness, or the unique challenges brought on in corporate investigations, we’re always striving to meet the problem as soon as possible so our customers can continue doing such important work.

Obviously 2020 was a huge disruption around the world and it meant we had to shift just like everyone else. But our goal never wavered. We worked hard to find ways to help our customers perform their duties while they were challenged with working remotely or in compromised situations. We assisted them with licensing so they could work safely from home, we switched our Magnet User Summit from a paid central event in Nashville to a free month-long virtual conference full of amazing presentations from the community, and so much more.

We really can’t wait to get to see our customers in person again and look forward to the time when it’s safe to do so, but in the meantime, we’re so thankful that our customers are still moving ahead and not letting anything stop them in the pursuit of justice.

What was customers’ reception to AXIOM 4.0’s launch amidst everything else this spring? What should customers look forward to this coming year?

AXIOM 4.0 came along just as we were kicking off the Magnet Virtual Summit, so we were in a unique position to get to hear from more customers in real time as they shared their thoughts during the presentations throughout the month. We heard that they were extremely happy to have increased speed, flexibility, and reliability within AXIOM — with filtering speeds increasing by up to 5x faster, and stronger scan summary and exception reporting. 

There was also a lot of excitement around being able to bring remote collection from Macs in Magnet AXIOM Cyber 4.0. In fact, we’ve advanced our support for Macs in AXIOM to such an extent that AXIOM is now the primary platform for analysis and reporting on Mac computers for an overwhelming number of customers. We’re proud to be able to offer the best all-in-one solutions in AXIOM & AXIOM Cyber and simplify investigations for our customers.

In terms of what we have coming up this year, you’ll have to wait and see, but I can tell you that right now we’re really excited to make it easier for customers of AXIOM Cyber to be able to perform off-network remote acquisitions and run instances of AXIOM Cyber in AWS.

What are you personally proudest of this year? Excited about for next?

I am unbelievably proud of the Magnet team for not only being able to pivot so expertly this year, but for how they never took their focus away from doing what was best for our customers. Their passion for our mission never slowed down and the products we’ve released and updated — AXIOM, AXIOM Cyber, Magnet AUTOMATE, and Magnet SHIELD (now a free tool!) — really demonstrate that commitment. Every employee at Magnet Forensics contributed so much to the success of the company and Jad and I are so grateful for it.

Going into 2021, what are the biggest challenges facing public safety and enterprise customers?

The challenges we have heard most often from police agencies and other government entities are the volume and complexity of data they’re facing in the lab. We as a society are generating more and more data every year via new device types and applications. Our police agencies don’t get afforded additional budget to hire more examiners based on this growth and complexity. Even if they do get more funding for their lab, finding and training up skilled professionals quickly, and maintaining their current complement of examiners, is a challenge. This is driving Magnet’s product roadmap for tools like AXIOM, AUTOMATE and REVIEW: We’re automating repetitive tasks so examiners can focus on high-value interventions. We’re getting more analytics in these platforms to help get to the critical evidence in a case faster. And we’re also working hard to democratize parts of the workflow, so that non-technical investigators, with the context of a case, can review digital evidence remotely. 

In an enterprise context, there are some similar challenges, but some unique ones as well. As more and more companies pivot to work from home, we see increased cyber-risks to the business. For example, a team member accessing critical company information, like customer data, on an insecure home network can create an issue if they’re hacked. Also, with more companies adopting cloud-based productivity and communications tools like Office 365 and Slack, there are new arenas for human resource violations. The need for timely and effective remote data collection is integral given these realities. It’s why we prioritized it in our AXIOM Cyber roadmap. We’re also placing a lot of emphasis on the recovery of cloud-based artifacts. 

What New Year’s resolutions would you like to see customers make for 2021? What are some of your own?

My own personal resolution, and one that many of our customers likely already have, is to continue to think ahead to what challenges wait for us. It’s what drives so much of what we do here at Magnet Forensics because we can’t afford to make products that are purely reactive to problems our customers face. That’s why we’re always talking to people within the community — whether they’re our customers or not. We can’t afford to fall behind for their sake and we will always strive to be there for them.

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