Paul Slater, Customer Strategy & Innovation, Nuix

FF: Paul, tell us about your background in digital forensics and your current role at Nuix.

My journey in the world of investigations and digital forensics spans over three decades. Originally a software developer, it all began when I joined the Greater Manchester Police in the early 1990s as a Police Officer, before quickly finding myself being transferred into the Computer Examination Unit. Little did I know then that this role would ignite a lifelong vocation!

After honing both my digital forensic and investigation skills in law enforcement (and gaining an MSc), I ventured into the government and corporate world, working at QinetiQ, PwC and Deloitte. During my time at PwC, I was lucky enough to be seconded to head up the Digital Forensic Unit of the UK’s Serious Fraud Office. During this time, and as part of an agency wide digital transformation, I helped shift their focus from painstaking single user/single device deep-dive digital forensics to a broader investigative workflow – effectively enabling them to process 20 times more electronic evidence each year.

My introduction to Nuix was a pivotal moment in my career. I was captivated by its potential during my time at the Serious Fraud Office and didn’t hesitate to join when the opportunity arose. For the past 11 years, I’ve been part of the Nuix family, where I’ve had the privilege of helping shape many of our products and solutions. My various roles have taken me around the globe, where I have primarily focussed on driving and supporting our investigations business and our solution offerings.

It has been an extraordinary journey, supporting our customers, helping them to use our technology to solve some of the world’s highest profile investigations. Currently, as a member of the Customer Strategy & Innovation team, one of my most significant achievements has been playing an instrumental role in the development of Nuix Neo Investigations solution. This innovative solution meets the evolving needs of investigators tackling complex cases, enhancing traditional investigation workflows with intuitive technologies for exploring connections, identifying patterns, and uncovering critical insights. It represents a significant leap forward in supporting their ability to handle ever larger and more complex investigations.

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FF: What are the biggest challenges digital forensics practitioners face today?

In the rapidly evolving world of digital forensics, practitioners are constantly navigating a sea of challenges. The sheer volume and complexity of data we deal with is mind-boggling. A recent study found that the average smartphone user generates over 1GB of data per month, which includes messages, photos, and other content. It is not uncommon for a single mobile phone to contain millions of messages, photos, and contacts. Considering how often one or more mobile devices are part of an investigation today, the first hurdle that comes to mind is the overwhelming volume and complexity of data that investigators are faced with. But it’s not just about mobile devices. We’re dealing with a myriad of evidence sources, from computers and cloud storage to IoT devices. As the data formats keep evolving, our tools need to adapt swiftly to support these diverse types.

Scalability is another significant issue. A study published in the Journal of Digital Forensics, Security and Law found that traditional tools struggle to scale and handle complex cases efficiently. This is not difficult to believe given that many tools were designed for a simpler time when you would analyze “one” device at a time.

Collaboration is yet another challenge. Modern investigations often require input from various stakeholders and the use of multiple tools from different vendors. If these tools and data sources are not seamlessly integrated, it can seriously hinder our ability to work together effectively.

So, in a nutshell, we’re grappling with data overload, rapidly evolving technology, scalability limitations of traditional tools, and the need for better collaboration and integration. It’s a lot to tackle, but that’s what makes our field so exciting and dynamic!

FF: How does Nuix address these challenges?

In response to the significant challenges faced by digital forensics practitioners, Nuix has developed Nuix Neo Investigations. This solution is specifically designed to efficiently help manage larger and more complex investigations. It offers a comprehensive suite of features that significantly enhance digital forensics and investigation workflows.

Nuix Neo Investigations excels in scalability. It can process and analyze vast amounts of unstructured data from various sources like emails, documents, mobile devices, and forensic tool exports. This scalability is essential for managing the enormous volume of data in modern investigations. Nuix Neo Investigations leverages responsible AI technology with natural language processing (NLP) to automatically enrich processed data. This technology extracts relevant information, highlights patterns, and surfaces critical insights, making it easier for investigators to identify key evidence and trends quickly. Nuix Neo Investigations supports collaboration by enabling multiple users to access the same case simultaneously. This capability facilitates teamwork among forensic practitioners, investigators, analysts and other stakeholders, ensuring that all relevant parties can work together efficiently on the same investigation – at the same time.

And let’s not forget about interoperability. Nuix promotes the use of best-of-breed point solutions and allows data to be decanted into the Nuix Neo Investigations solution, enabling seamless integration and analysis regardless of the original forensic tool used. I think this is a crucial aspect (and is supported by numerous pieces of research that highlight the importance of interoperability and data sharing in digital forensics investigations) as many investigations can start out small before quickly growing as more lines of enquiry, victims and offenders come to light.

In essence, Nuix Neo Investigations solution addresses the key challenges in digital forensics by offering scalability, advanced AI-driven data processing, effective visualization tools, robust collaboration features, and seamless interoperability. These capabilities, backed by solid research and a deep understanding of the unique needs of the field, make Nuix Neo Investigations a powerful solution for modern forensic investigations.

FF: How does Nuix leverage artificial intelligence in its digital forensics tools?

Nuix leverages advanced artificial intelligence (AI) within our Nuix Neo Investigations solution to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of digital forensic investigations. At the core of this innovation is our responsible AI technology, which uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to automatically enrich processed data. This enables the system to extract relevant information, highlight hidden patterns, and surface critical insights, making the investigative process significantly faster, accurate and focused.

Nuix Neo Investigations employs custom AI models designed for specific use cases like fraud detection (based on concepts derived from the fraud-triangle and known fraudulent language such as found in 419 scams). These models can be easily built and modified by organisations’ own subject matter experts through a user-friendly, no-code interface. The solution also incorporates smart link analysis capabilities that use AI to automatically map relationships and interactions between individuals, data points, and forensic artifacts. This helps analysts visualize complex networks and identify potentially significant connections, enabling practitioners to handle large, complex cases more efficiently and uncover critical insights from vast amounts of data.

FF: Nuix recently formed a strategic alliance with T3K. How will this partnership help mitigate the distribution of illegal content in images and videos?

Nuix and T3K have partnered to enhance media analysis capabilities within Nuix through the T3K CORE add-on.

The integration leverages Nuix’s powerful processing engine to offer advanced features such as object and similarity classifiers, pattern recognition, OCR in multiple languages, and sophisticated search functionalities like Text2Image and Image2Image similarity searches. Additionally, it provides face, age, and gender recognition, as well as transcription services for audio content in 100 languages. These capabilities streamline the identification and classification of important content within media data, facilitating investigations in areas such as CSAM, financial and organized crime by detecting relevant objects, schematics, and personal identification information swiftly and efficiently. Through these advanced functionalities, the partnership helps mitigate the distribution of illegal content in images and videos by enabling quicker and more accurate detection and analysis of such content.

One of the things that Nuix has always strived to do is to provide our users with best of breed capabilities. Part of our strategy has been to ensure organisations are not tied into a single vendor’s ecosystem – being able to use any best of breed point solutions to capture and/or interpret digital evidence and then decant that data into a platform that allows access to all case evidence irrespective of where it came from or what forensic tool was used. Partnering with T3K is a clear and obvious extension to this strategy – and one in part that is driven by Nuix’s Force for Good philosophy.

FF: Looking ahead, how do you expect the digital forensics landscape to change, and what innovations can we expect to see from Nuix?

That is a tricky question to answer without risking our legal team getting involved if I give away too many of our technology plans. All I can safely say, is that we will continue to make it easier to decant almost any type of digital evidence and will continue to build upon our AI and Deep Learning Frameworks within our Nuix Neo Investigations solution to provide our users with faster, easier, and smarter ways to investigate digital evidence.

FF: And finally, what do you enjoy in your spare time

I’m a keen walker/hiker and campervanner – so most weekends are spent trying to combine the two. It’s helped somewhat by living on the border of Wales, which as you know has some amazing countryside and mountain ranges to explore – with most routes we take weirdly always incorporating a local hostelry … Plus, I like to annoy my Facebook friends by using this “hobby” as a way to provide a “Pub” based update whenever I can…

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