Jad, you're the Founder & CTO of Magnet Forensics. Tell us about your role: what does a day in your life look like?
As you can imagine, there’s never a dull moment! Outside of the strategic product initiatives and broader corporate duties I take part in co-heading Magnet with our CEO, Adam Belsher, I spend a lot of time throughout my day talking to people. Whether it’s in-person meetings with our customers, checking out the listservs and social media to hear from the forensics community, or talking to our developers and engineers about the work that needs to go into making AXIOM better and better. Our customers depend on us to give them a flawless product that will help them solve cases faster than ever — and that’s not a responsibility we take lightly.Of course, there’s a lot of fun to be had throughout the day too — we’ve got an amazing team here at Magnet that keep me laughing day in and day out. They say you can hear my laughs reverberate out in the hallways upstairs, even when I’m downstairs.
Magnet has been tireless in its goal to protect children from exploitation online; what is it about this area that particularly appeals to you?
When I was a police officer with the Waterloo Regional Police Service, I saw things that no one should ever see. The sheer amount of exploitation material available and the abuse that’s happening from predators is unbelievable. These victims are the most vulnerable members of our society and they need to be protected. Knowing that the tools we create can help stop these predators from hurting children gives me the drive to continue making our products the best they possibly can.
Can you tell us more about why the partnership between Magnet Forensics and Child Rescue Coalition makes sense to you?
Our driving principle at Magnet Forensics is: “Seek Justice. Protect the Innocent.” No one person, community group, law enforcement agency or organization can do that on their own. If we are serious about that purpose, we know that dedicating ourselves to making great software products isn’t enough. We have to find new ways to support others who have the same goals and work together to expand our reach.
Child Rescue Coalition (CRC) is a great example of just that. The work they do and technology they provide has helped thousands of children around the world. They are a nonprofit organization whose sole mission is to protect innocent children through technology. The whole team at Magnet Forensics is proud to have the opportunity to support their incredible team, and with our donation, help fund and sustain the important work that they do.
Bottom line, we know that by working together, we can help law enforcement get even more predators behind bars.
There are some pretty grim statistics about Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) and you mentioned the strong correlation between viewing abusive material and actually committing offenses. Can you explain more about how technology facilitates these crimes?
Technology like cell phones, social media, and chat apps has unfortunately made a lot of things about child exploitation and abuse easier. It’s easier for offenders to find one another and to validate their actions. It’s easier for offenders to find new victims through apps and websites. It’s easier for them to record their offenses, and to share those recordings, or even live streams, with other offenders. And, it’s easier for them to hide their tracks thanks to encryption, proxies, anonymization, etc. All of this activity results in a huge increase in both the data involved in each case and, sadly, the number of crimes committed.
However, technology also has a huge role in helping to solve these crimes. Technology like CRC’s Child Protection System (CPS) aggregates and indexes historical data from 12 billion peer-to-peer and chat network records to reveal patterns of predatory behavior. It includes sophisticated analytics to help investigators around the world focus on the offenders who are in their local area and/or who are most likely to abuse children. It provides investigators with meaningful information about activity in their locality that they may not have otherwise known. It enables them to be proactive and identify offenders who may be targeting children in a specific area, and then also helps determine whether a local suspect may have access to children in some kind of trusted role.
CPS is used by law enforcement in 79 countries around the world. Since 2014, it’s enabled investigators to arrest 10,000 online predators and rescue over 2,300 abused children. Those are pretty compelling statistics and certainly an organization we want to support.
Tell us more about how this partnership will work.
Our tools and our approaches to our users come from very similar places and we’ll aim to make it easier for law enforcement to find and prosecute child predators.
The new integration will use an enhanced, streamlined two-step workflow: CPS lets investigators target suspects based on the type (and amount) of material that has been downloaded or shared in their jurisdiction. Once a search warrant is served, the team uses AXIOM to image any seized devices and imports the CPS file with identifiers and chat activity which AXIOM can then categorize and index. From there, AXIOM can show connections between that suspect, the exploitation material and any other previously unknown suspects that may have come into contact with it — giving investigative teams across different jurisdictions power as they share information on known (and unknown) predators that can help them in their own investigations.
In your opinion, what could digital forensics companies and practitioners be doing to address the challenges associated with child protection investigation online?
The biggest overall challenge everyone in the field has is having enough time and resources. With digital information exploding, it’s getting harder and harder for investigators to spend the time combing through the data to find the evidence. What we’re working hard to do is use technology to help surface that information as quickly as possible so if a child is abused, investigators can bring the perpetrator to justice before they have a chance to do it to another child. With something like Magnet.AI in Magnet AXIOM, we use machine learning to bring possible child luring conversations right to the top of an examiner’s results, so they can act faster.
Unfortunately, predators are always going to find new ways to try and remain hidden. It’s more crucial than ever for the community to share information on what technology they’re using, what networks they’re a part of, and where they can be found so we can stop them before they can even get started.
Magnet Forensics provide digital forensic solutions that help investigative teams find more evidence and uncover the truth.