Stefano, tell us about your multiple roles as Trainer, Software Developer and Technical Support at Amped. What does a typical workday look like for you?
My workday is quite unpredictable so this question is rather hard to answer! My day can be divided into slots: I dedicate a slot to development, a slot to training and another slot to technical support. Depending on the day, the order and size of these slots change.
What's your favorite aspect of each role?
As a developer, the best advantage is to be able to look at and improve the products we use: it’s just like driving a car and having the possibility to always take a look inside the engine to see what happens in detail and also use my hands to make it run better. This helps me to learn something new every time and to have a deeper understanding of the software itself.As a trainer, the best part of it is being in contact with the people who use or will use the products: the constant feedback is very precious to me and to the entire team.
As a member of the technical support team, my favorite aspect is being able to practice using the software with new samples submitted by our users, which is a daily ongoing challenge! This keeps me and all the members of the support team ready for every challenge that may come.
How do these three roles intersect – in what ways do they benefit one another?
Development, training, and support intertwine more than some may think: it’s amazing how one role can take information from the other. Being a member of these three worlds is a big opportunity: you cannot have the deepest knowledge possible of each one (we have limited time), but being a part of all three is definitely a big advantage.
What led you to digital forensics and to Amped?
It came by chance! I did my university thesis here at Amped. I saw an Amped presentation at the university I was attending at the time (2013) and I fell in love with the Fourier filter in Amped FIVE! I thought: “All the years I went through studying these powerful yet hard to understand formulas become practical in a really effective way”.
Some months later I was working on my thesis at Amped, which laid out the foundation of the video conversion engine used for proprietary DVR formats in Amped FIVE, Amped DVRConv and Amped Replay.
In the past five years working here, what is the biggest challenge you've seen emerge for your customers, and how are you and Amped addressing it?
In this “short” period I can see that video evidence is becoming more and more present and considered as a key source of evidence for investigations. The amount of time each officer has to examine videos is always the same though: managing this huge load of data coming from different sources.
On the other hand, the tools are getting more advanced and easier to use, to allow the user to concentrate on the actual evidence. One of the most time-consuming tasks is to get the video footage playable: this is purely a technical job that requires a lot of effort and knowledge but can be done with specific tools without requiring too much effort.
The other problem people are facing is trusting the material they have: I am talking both about the possibility of tampering and the quality of the material itself. The common saying, “something is better than nothing” can be dangerous in this field: bad input always leads to bad output. If we are working on something which is of bad quality or not original, we cannot draw a proper conclusion or we come to a completely wrong one.
The last thing is about the procedures: almost every territory adopts different procedures to find a solution to the same problems that are common all over the world. Most of them are really clever and scientifically convincing, others care more about the result without taking care of the chain of custody. I am confident that if something is scientifically sound it is harder to be questioned.
What are you proudest of, that you feel has been most valuable to Amped's customers and the broader community?
I think it is how we take care of people. How our technical support team quickly replies to users, how our users’ requests really get considered as a new feature in our products, and how we try to help each individual during our training sessions.
I like keeping our training sessions as discussion-oriented as possible so that people can learn from each other. It is great when we have people from around the world in our classes who share similar problems and are able to bond even if they come from different cultures and may have never met if it was not for our courses.
What's next for you and for Amped? What general kinds of things can we expect to see in 2020 from you?
More training sessions, first of all! We are continually improving the training sessions we provide, in order to deliver the content in the best and most effective way possible, but still maintaining a high level of science. I would like to develop new things regarding video decoding in Amped FIVE and DVRConv, but I also have some ideas about Amped Authenticate too. Let’s hope I can be organized enough to get these things accomplished. Unfortunately (or luckily) we are slaves to time, and there is something personal I would like to cultivate too.
When you aren't training or working on software, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I do a lot of things in my spare time! I practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a kind of martial arts. If the weather is good enough, I really love riding my motorcycle in the countryside and taking good care of it. I also like learning about and repairing vintage cars (mechanics is another passion of mine and I just bought an old FIAT 500 that I plan to restore!). I enjoy tinkering with computers and electronics and I like reading about technology and science. I just like learning: I always say “we live until we learn”.
Last but certainly not least the most important thing: whenever I can, I pay a visit to my friends and family. I don’t want to neglect them. It is easy to lose the people we love, but when we lose them, they are gone and it is hard to bind the ties again.