Jim, you're CEO & Co-Founder at Black Rainbow. Tell us a bit about the company and its aims.
BlackRainbow design and build off-the-shelf and bespoke software solutions for the security industry. We’re trusted advisors to corporate and government sectors, leading the way in forensic & investigation case management, orchestration, quality management systems (QMS) and intelligence generation. We provide modular capabilities that build to nationally deployed systems supporting multiple policing, CT and military forces simultaneously.What does a day in your life look like?
A typical day consists of working with some of our national agencies and government bodies to understand the practical day-to-day problems impacting the investigative community, digital forensics, traditional forensics and investigators. These problems will typically centre upon the presence of multiple non-integrated legacy systems, system overwhelm due to lack of capacity and capability, non-orchestrated workflows and the absence of generation and access to case intelligence.
We design solutions against these user requirements before building them with our dedicated development teams – and finally add a sprinkle of excellence to bring them to life.
You've just released Nimbus, a new lab management tool. What are some of its features?
Nimbus takes and redefines how and what we think about case management, moving from the days of excel spreadsheets & access databases into a more innovative and modern system that can grow and evolve alongside client and data demands.
Nimbus combines traditional forensics case management, evidence tracking and all the goodness you would expect from an enriched case management platform, but it also adds automation and orchestration alongside customisable workflow. This allows Nimbus to instruct your digital forensic technology estate to carry out functions such as imaging, processing, export and many others which enhanced the tools you already have, and our integration list is extensive.
As Nimbus evolved and ISO 17025 became more prominent the needs to validate assets, people, standard operating procedures in a combined environment drove an integrated QMS system to accelerate the route to accreditation and to the next step which is a total Forensic Management Unit capability introducing DNA, fingerprints, drugs & firearms analysis management reporting.
Wrap this up with operational analytics, Elasticsearch with cross case capability, case notes, automatic building of reports such as MG11, MG12 and MG6 for statements, exhibit lists and disclosure and we start to come close to some of the capabilities within Nimbus today.
Is there a typical user of Nimbus?
Nimbus has a fantastic uptake in the digital forensic community, it powers some of our largest police agencies and has spread throughout Europe into the middle east and into the far east as a customer base.
The typical users are digital forensic investigators and managers, quality management teams, cyber crime triage teams and major crime investigation teams. However, there is growing interest from advisory firms and the financial sector.
In your opinion, what are some of the main challenges facing digital forensic investigators today, and how does Nimbus help to address these?
Well, there are a few that hit the horizon. ISO 17025; as always data volume and scale; repeatable and auditable outcomes; disclosure and reporting rules.
Nimbus has evolved with some of these in mind, with the integration of the QMS and case management capability insuring repeatable outcomes. It allows SOPs to be defined in the lab and built into repeatable workflows to ensure consistent outcomes, but it goes one level deeper so that the user running the workflow must be trained and competent to complete the task in hand with the technology and software assets that have been through the correct validation process.
Data volume and scale is always a stock answer but nonetheless remains as a pain point. Nimbus gives the ability to wrap a management layer around the data complexity and volume to ensure the way we work with the data remains consistent and auditable and leaves no trap door in the process. The workflow layer allows parallel actions to be carried out on case data, so you can drive efficiency and get maximum utilisation out of your forensic technology and infrastructure assets. Whilst carrying out these actions case notes are being populated, disclosure schedules are being built and statements constructed.
Standardisation is on many people's minds at the moment – what are your thoughts on current solutions, and what do you think could be improved?
This is always going to be complex, as the community we work in wants to push boundaries, wants to innovate and be creative which is vital if we want to progress and move with the times. However, alongside this runs due diligence, compliance, Standard Operating Procedures and validations.
Each investigator has their tool of choice which is why our orchestration capability had to account for the different tools in the market and allow for deviations from standardisation when needed. One stronghold the idea of standardisation carries is to reduce the risk for individuals, which is always a positive step.
What do you think is the "next big thing" in digital forensics?
The visual analytics capabilities and intelligence generation. Now that the analytics technologies and capabilities are maturing as point applications, I think intelligence generation from all available data sources will become a fundamental part of any forensic lab. Technology needs to humanise the data on the screen and enable the investigator to highlight the appropriate patterns.
This will allow for faster assessment and investigation into complex and large data sets without having to go into the minutiae unless really needed. This in combination with advanced intelligence extraction and unified models to share information will allow for a true transformation in the digital forensic community, building a common information infrastructure so that all investigative disciplines can excel.
What are Black Rainbow's plans for the future? What can we expect to see over the next year or so?
Watching how Nimbus has evolved alongside our original strategy has been a fantastic journey so far, over the next year a truly intuitive investigative and intelligence platform, which has always been part of our end game, will become a reality.
The aim is to bring all disciplines from case investigating officers, digital forensics, traditional forensics (fingerprints, drugs, DNA & firearms), CJS, resource management, outsourcing control, operational analytics & investigation super timeline, full in-line case file construction and disclosure, into a combined digital intelligence & investigation environment to align with the relevant quality control standards and drive case efficiency from inception to outcome. Finally, the system will offer controlled access to the different national stakeholder groups such as the other policing groups, Crown Prosecution Services, Home Office, government agencies and the public.
Finally, when you're not working, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I have a large family of six children and two grandsons which absorb most of my spare time but when I do manage to get a small measure of peace it is spent working on and restoring my classic car.
Black Rainbow provide expert bespoke solutions in technologies, workflows, protocols and processes across the fields of investigation, intelligence & cyber security. Find out more on their website.