Buddy Tidwell, Senior Vice President of Global Training, Cellebrite

Since you joined Cellebrite, you’ve been focused on building the in-house training curriculum. What are the top three industry challenges you’ve faced in that time, and how did you overcome them?

The first challenge I initially faced when I joined Cellebrite was that there were about 12 courses being offered on Cellebrite’s tools, but none were taught by the Cellebrite team. I worked with our developers to create a series of classes that became our first learning track on core digital forensics. The course included our Logical Operator and Physical Analyst class, and became a critical track in developing digital forensics proficiency.

That consolidation allowed us to bring integrity and value to Cellebrite through our course offerings, bringing value outside of our products to customers. We’ve obviously come a long way since then, as our offerings have evolved beyond just forensics to include offerings that meet investigative needs through the life of the investigation all the way through to supporting prosecution.

Our courses are designed to make customers proficient in Digital Intelligence (DI), which is the data collected from digital sources and data types, including smartphones, drones, computers, CCTV, apps, cloud, and more, and the process by which agencies access, manage, and obtain insights from this data to more efficiently run their operations. This is an essential part of Cellebrite’s mission — to provide the tools, technology, and training to help agencies find the truth in our digital world and solve their cases faster and more efficiently. 

The second challenge is the decreasing access customers have to data as it has become more and more difficult to retrieve. Encryption and software upgrades from Apple and Android create obstacles for our customers, inhibiting their ability to access data and effectively do their jobs. Cellebrite has blazed the trail for evolving solutions to access data in a variety of situations.

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Lastly, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a number of challenges. The isolation created by lockdowns and stay-at-home measures is leading to more instances of cybercrime and child exploitation online. The pandemic corralled many vulnerable children onto the Internet, meaning predators have more access to victims than ever before.

Additionally, restrictions on travel and in-person training events have resulted in a mounting case backlog in Digital Intelligence labs. In our efforts to form mitigation strategies, we have developed various contactless methods to allow for online training and self-paced courses.

What feedback have you received about your live online training response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how are you implementing that feedback?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, we’ve pivoted toward online training and found many customers actually prefer this to traditional in-person training. The biggest challenge has been erasing the stigma of virtual training sessions as being less effective. Our instructors are able to interact with participants’ computers and conduct an interactive online experience, which gives reluctant students a new outlook.

After a recent training course with participants who initially wanted to wait for in-person training, participants felt it was a one-on-one training experience. They now prefer virtual training because of its accessibility and ease of use, especially for those in geographically isolated locations. Also, the travel costs are eliminated making this a great value for our students.

Pandemic aside, how do you see digital forensics evolving as we enter a new decade, and how is Cellebrite’s training adapting?

Challenges are developing at a rapid pace in digital forensics and training has to keep up. We’ve really seen digital forensics evolve to Digital Intelligence. Today, people need to be lifelong learners. The basic knowledge needed is vast and moving forward, we expect to see a greater focus on microbursts of learning, specifically tailored to highly focused issues or devices. “Microburst learning” is a method of concentrated and intensive-yet-short training sessions. As more software and devices enter the market, there will be a greater demand for timely, specialized training as specific needs and issues arise.

Tell us more about the strategy behind the investigative, advanced, and expert course additions to the core curriculum, as well as the official training partner (OTP) security courses. How do all the courses fit together?

We are official training partners (OTP) with (ISC)² and CompTIA to provide an advanced track for cybersecurity. Our expert track goes beyond what the automated tracks cover, teaching customers how to handle specialized cases.

We will also be offering tracks focused on computer forensics in 2021 to provide insights on the best practices around investigation tools and methods surrounding computers. My goal is to address Digital Intelligence and the training needed within the Digital Intelligence domain. We develop courses that give customers the skills to act competently and decisively in the field.

For eDiscovery training, Cellebrite currently offers both a Cellebrite Certified Operator (CCO) course and a Cellebrite Certified Physical Analyst (CCPA) course. Each is designed to help participants tasked with extracting data in a forensically sound manner using UFED Touch or UFED 4PC learn how to best use both devices.

These courses also aim to teach data extraction team members such as: technically savvy investigators, digital forensic examiners, IT staff, internal affairs investigators, first responders, and personnel designated to handle extraction of digital evidence and perform these extractions on a variety of devices.

What can trainees expect when they take Cellebrite training?

In designing the Cellebrite courses, we have set out to assemble a comprehensive way to deliver training so that all participants can show up with nothing but themselves and learn. This is a white-glove level of training and we provide all of the test phones and equipment needed to learn how to effectively analyze digital evidence.

Aside from that, participants can interact face-to-face with an expert who has done the job before. This is not a theory- or academic-based course, but one based on real-world experience and use cases.  A well-constructed DI strategy relies on training as much as the technology and support that law enforcement teams need in order to close more cases faster.

How about your newest course offerings; how do they support Cellebrite customers’ needs?

One of our main focus areas will be computer forensics. We’re incorporating BlackBag training into our own computer forensics course to build out that track’s offerings.

We are also offering a course on cryptocurrency investigations, as we recently launched our Crypto Tracer solution for which we partnered with CipherTrace, the leading solution for crypto investigations. This will not only teach participants about tracing cryptocurrency, but the critical background information on what it is and how it works. To prepare, instructors themselves took on a project to interact with crypto wallets, how artifacts are left behind, and conducted significant research to be able to provide a comprehensive course.

We’re also offering a “Collection, Apprehension and Triage” course, focusing on how to preserve the evidence from a mobile device or computer, and will certify participants in UFED and Image Collector.

What’s next for Cellebrite training finishing out 2020 and heading into 2021?

Heading into 2021, we will be scaling up our team to serve the forecasted increased demand for training courses while remaining in the lead by offering the most comprehensive training available to practitioners.

We plan on doing this by continuing to secure world-class trainers in the industry and continuing to build a comprehensive delivery system for our courses. We’ll be adding yet another method of delivery for training and practitioners will find training on a new issue or type of device and get real-time instructions. The goal is to develop meaningful micro-learning experiences that lead to comprehensive training. 

We’ll also be expanding our experiential training, which is so important since people learn best by doing. In our mentoring program, we’ll send trainers to customer sites to spend time with them, shoulder to shoulder, working through how to access and analyze data. We cover the most advanced problems they might encounter, such as performing an ISP extraction.

We’re very excited about this and feel like we have the largest cadre available of manpower, abundant technology resources and mission-minded people. 

What does a typical day look like for you, and how do you spend your spare time?

There are very few typical days in my role; there’s a new opportunity and challenge with every sunrise. Many days, I spend time crafting training proposals for our customers and equipping our teams with the tools they need to be successful and provide our customers the best value.

This support might be for equipment, education on new technologies, or assistance with personal issues team members may be having. It’s important to have the best and brightest people to develop value for Cellebrite, and my focus goes into making sure these teams have the resources they need.

I prefer to spend my spare time unplugged and outside with family; both in and out of the office, relationships and people are what matter most.

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