Andy, could you tell us a bit about your background and how you got into forensics?
I was not a natural Digital Forensics (DF) candidate, having joined the Marine Commandos at 18 and serving in the UK military for nearly 20 years. The last half of that in UK Special Forces (SF). During this time, I was privileged to work on multiple operations and initiatives with police and other government agencies where it became clear the advantage digital forensics could, and was giving, our teams in both the overt and covert space.
I was tasked under the Director of UK Special Operations to explore digital forensics capabilities for the entire organisation. The aim was to enhance our organic capability to exploit Materiel and Personnel (MPE) in a timely and effective fashion.
After working closely with seasoned agencies such as GCHQ, SO15, Scotland Yard, NATO exploit school, and others, I was lucky to be able to take the most relevant areas from each to implement an effective Sensitive Site Exploit (SSE) course.
We coupled this with a rapid technology procurement for modern military and police requirements, and I’m pleased to say this was commended by multiple agencies for positively enhancing critical UK and Foreign Government Security Operations.
Sady I was injured on a campaign and had to leave the military. Fortuitously, for me the transition was smooth, the government invests significant resources in the development of individuals in SF positions, and a huge amount of these skills are transferable into my current, more commercial world. Clearly some skills not so much, and remain firmly in my locker.
It was warming that the DF industry had recognised what myself and my team had achieved. At the time several key groups approached me to see if I was a good fit for their companies. Detego was one and required a business development director that could ‘wear multiple hats’ and it was a great fit for me. Not only could I expand my commercial experience and knowledge at the most senior levels in the company, but also could remain heavily engaged with the users and key organisations I had an affinity with. The rest, as they say, is history.
Tapping into your experience in the military and law enforcement sectors, what would you say are the biggest challenges faced by investigators in these fields?
Some that easily spring to mind: Too many devices, too much data, encryption and in some cases outdated policies playing catch up with technology advances. Amalgamate that with lower budgets, fewer investigators and more cases, it is an almost perfect negative storm.
Often some great investigators are hampered by these issues and archaic legal policies that can struggle to keep pace with the newer demands that the digital investigators face daily as they confront both ‘old school’ and tech savvy criminals, suspects and devices.
A common theme in the military was always achieving ‘more with less’, so advising on how our technology can assist both frontline police officers and lab specialists in achieving the ‘do more with less’ attitude of the world, is particularly satisfying for me.
I’m pleased to say Detego continues to build on its reputation in these circles as a go-to solution in the investigator’s toolbox to reduce many of the pressure points they encounter. Its capacity for running against multiple mixed devices simultaneously, automating many previously demanding processes, such as multi language optical character recognition, offline translation, Photo DNA, artificial intelligence-driven object detection and more.
If you then couple in our advanced patented technologies, including the ability to image device data faster than anything seen before in the industry, then we are really helping push back the digital tide.
All of this is wrapped up in a cost-effective modular capability that can run against the vast majority of device types including locked phones, drones, computers and more.
Could you tell us more about your role at Detego?
In 2014 I was medically discharged from the Forces after sustaining several severe Injuries ‘abroad’. This required 24 operations, mostly from our amazing teams at the National Health Service here in the UK. (Thank you NHS.) Sadly, I could not go back to full active Tier 1 service and had to leave the teams at that point.
Having been a Detego user in my previous role and providing a lot of robust user feedback, I was known to Detego. On talking with the CEO, it became clear I fitted in well with what Detego was trying to achieve for the digital forensics community.
The company’s board felt my experience and passion as a tactical user of the technology was complimented by my previous senior role, implementing cutting-edge technology projects across my entire previous organisation. Happily, this positioned me well to direct Detego’s global development and special projects.
7 years on, I remain DV security cleared advising and training my previous group and other organisations while providing international business development for Detego Global.
As a senior member of the management team, I’m also accountable for the effective company direction and performance.
Achieving rapid growth and client success by leveraging previous and newfound knowledge, background and invaluably, the amazing team here at Detego. All helping ensure we bring the very best tools and support to the market. It’s a great place to be and I’m proud, with my team, to still be bringing ‘advantages’ to those that serve.
How has your experience helped shape Detego’s solutions?
‘Q’ said in the James Bond movie Skyfall: ‘’I’ll hazard I can do more damage on my laptop sitting in my pajamas before my first cup of Earl Grey than you can do in a year in the field.’’
This is well said, and points to the critical priority digital should take for both our military and law enforcement users, however we here at Detego figured how great it would be to be able to provide both! Interoperable frontline and lab technologies with speed and effectiveness at their heart, and I like to think some of my experience and input has had a positive effect on this approach.
For sure, there is a lot of my (and others’) DNA in Detego, it is a special set of capabilities that we all feel invested in and proud of creating. Critical, though, was understanding the importance of the learning points shared with us, and synergies, from both police and Special Forces units, which has been crucial and helped unite Detego to become a trusted unified solution.
Originally designed for elite military needs, it evolved as law enforcement principles, experience and requirements were blended into the tool creating a true all-in-one system that is assisting all user groups.
Finally, one of my main drivers is to ensure our client support and responsiveness to the user community is ‘on the button’. We provide powerhouse solutions, but still maintain that trusted British boutique feel with a genuine care about the people that use our tools. We react rapidly to the smallest of Detego users through to clients with multi-million-pound rollouts of Detego. I would say overall though, the real shape of Detego has come from listening, understanding and reacting to that client base.
Based on your experience in working closely with enterprise customers as Detego’s Global Head of Business development, how different are the challenges faced by investigators in corporate environments to the ones in military and law enforcement?
Apart from bullets, bombs, and handcuffs there is a lot of crossover. However, I can see the corporate leads saying, ‘You clearly haven’t been in our boardroom on a Monday after a data compromise, the bullets are flying then, for sure.’
Nevertheless, it’s like switching out one uniform for another suit, and the same can be said for Detego. It is used in slightly differing ways, but the core needs remain the same, complex technology delivered in an effective simplistic way to deliver the results this client base also demands.
A few areas that compound the difficulties in commercial space, bring your own devices to work, working from home more with corporate assets and sensitive data, as well as the wider linked network environment and company policies, all raise different issues we can assist with.
Enterprise is a growing space for us now, with the established Detego credibility in military and government groups, its usability and transferring that across to assist the corporate clients was a no brainer.
Perfectly timed question as we are also are launching, complimentarily to Detego Forensics, Detego Case Management (CMS), and Detego Endpoint solutions software to the market, it’s exciting times and look forward to bringing these technologies to the corporate client base.
Revisiting your experience both in the field and at Detego, would you be able to share some best practices for our readers?
Well, that’s a hard one. Lucky Detego is flexible enough to fit the best practices of each user group. From a training or consultancy POV, we look at the groups, their needs, what they are trying to achieve and assist. Where an organisation is new to digital, we take a collaborative approach to forming these in line with any legal and forensics requirements. Organisations that are current or already seasoned and working we can slot in with their established process and SOP’s.
Best practice can also change as technology advances, Detego’s patented Ballistic is a great example. Best practice for imaging in several frontline groups we work with has moved from multiple complex stages to our Ballistics ‘plug and play’ imager. This significantly reduced imaging times and requirement to remove drives, reducing cognitive overload in high stress environments while remaining forensically sound.
Conversely, best practice within our lab users’ environment for imaging would often be removal of a device drive and acquiring that through Detego’s Media Acquisition tool, with write blocking, hash validation and automatic audit trails.
When you’re not at work, how do you tend to spend your spare time?
Not at work…. the CEO might be reading, so of course I have limited down time. When I do, I enjoy the normal things, spending time with friends and family, my partner Fran and two girls Rosa and Marina. I enjoy good food, occasional good wine or a beer.
I’m a semisecret sci fi and movie addict, my ‘Zen space’ is a large screen, ideally bigger than the wall, tsunami creating surround sound, dark room, feet up and disappear into some movie escapism.
I try to stay reasonably sharp, hitting the gym in some form a few times a week, you can occasionally find me on the hills or on the water, and If I’m lucky I get to put some skis on every other year and telemark on the slopes.
I’m going through an audio books phase, great for car journeys, once work calls are done, or switching my head off so I can sleep when traveling.
Thanks all, stay safe and happy investigative hunting.