Breaking The Insanity Cycle: How Police Forces Can Eliminate Device Backlogs

Following a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, the UK’s “The Times” newspaper published a story reporting that the 12,000 digital device backlog faced by UK Police in 2019 remains unchanged in 2020. For many working within the digital forensics community, the above headline as reported in the Times article is not new, and to interpret this as Police Forces ‘standing still’ and not addressing the issue through inaction is unfair and incorrect.

Nationally and globally, digital forensics units are under constantly increasing pressure. Thanks to the rapid proliferation of consumer technology, almost any crime leaves a digital footprint, correct analysis of which has the potential to further an investigation.

However, the very factors that create this opportunity also introduce significant complications because the broad spectrum and volume of sources of investigable information require greater lab throughput and diverse skillsets to exploit effectively.

It is therefore only through continued investment in people that UK Police has been able to maintain this level of backlog, rather than seeing it spiral out of control. Essentially, many have seen the ’solution to the problem‘ as one linked solely to the number of resources and one that—if the headline is to be considered—has so far only allowed many agencies to ’stand still’.

Long-Term Implications

This does raise the question of what these agencies face in the long term. Year-on-year budget increases are unsustainable, the proliferation of digital devices and their relevance to criminal investigations is accelerating, and it is infeasible to match that growth with equivalent increases in funding. Adding additional resources also comes with the additional costs of training and associated technology (basically equipping each person with the skills and tools they need to perform their jobs).


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Einstein famously (and potentially incorrectly*) once defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Whilst we are not suggesting that managers of forensic units are mad—far far from it!—it may be time for them to “Think Different”  as Steve Jobs actually once said, and consider alternatives to simply adding headcount.

Agencies Thinking Differently

Rather than attempting to ‘scale up’ existing resources, some agencies have utilized new and innovative ways of meeting investigative requirements via alternative workflows and technology, especially using Nuix. Using Nuix Investigate®, forensic examiners can empower investigators to directly access digital evidence and search, review, report, and collaborate from their desk.

Given the COVID-19 situation, this has never been more important!

This new model of operation reduces administrative burden whilst speeding up case turnaround time, ultimately benefitting both digital examiners and investigators. One particular forensic team achieved over a five-fold increase time savings from extraction to reporting whilst others are reporting little or no backlogs of cases. Some have also realized that this model allows them to “Do more by doing less,” as it empowers people to actually do their jobs.

*The original quote goes back to Rita Mae Brown, the mystery novelist. In her 1983 book “Sudden Death,” she attributes the quote to a fictional “Jane Fulton,” writing, “Unfortunately, Susan didn’t remember what Jane Fulton once said. ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.'”

By Paul Slater, Nuix and Robert Savage, Avatu

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Alan Platt, Professional Services Consultant at MSAB, discusses his experience as a former UK police officer working in digital forensics. He talks about the different levels of digital forensics capabilities within police forces and how MSAB products like XAMN and XEC Director are used by frontline officers versus lab analysts. 

The discussion covers how MSAB partners with law enforcement to develop custom workflows for mobile device acquisitions that facilitate ISO compliance. Alan explains MSAB's managed service offering, where approved MSAB staff can remotely access a customer's XEC Director server to assist with software updates and troubleshooting. He emphasizes the strict data segregation policies enforced by customers to prevent MSAB from accessing any sensitive case data.

Looking ahead, Alan mentions MSAB's new CEO and hints at some exciting developments coming down the pipeline. He spotlights recent enhancements to XEC Director's speed and database functionality for managing large estates of networked Kiosks. Alan also plugs the new XEC Director training he created to help users fully leverage the platform's capabilities.

00:00 – Introduction to Alan Platt
07:00 – Training
12:00 – Workflows
17:20 – Ensuring a secure environment
19:45 – Customer training
20:35 – Helping customers comply with ISO accreditation
25:00 – Validation and verification
27:30 – ISO standards
30:00 – MSAB’s pipeline plans
32:40 – XEC Director 
43:45 – Privacy of user data

Alan Platt, Professional Services Consultant at MSAB, discusses his experience as a former UK police officer working in digital forensics. He talks about the different levels of digital forensics capabilities within police forces and how MSAB products like XAMN and XEC Director are used by frontline officers versus lab analysts.

The discussion covers how MSAB partners with law enforcement to develop custom workflows for mobile device acquisitions that facilitate ISO compliance. Alan explains MSAB's managed service offering, where approved MSAB staff can remotely access a customer's XEC Director server to assist with software updates and troubleshooting. He emphasizes the strict data segregation policies enforced by customers to prevent MSAB from accessing any sensitive case data.

Looking ahead, Alan mentions MSAB's new CEO and hints at some exciting developments coming down the pipeline. He spotlights recent enhancements to XEC Director's speed and database functionality for managing large estates of networked Kiosks. Alan also plugs the new XEC Director training he created to help users fully leverage the platform's capabilities.

00:00 – Introduction to Alan Platt
07:00 – Training
12:00 – Workflows
17:20 – Ensuring a secure environment
19:45 – Customer training
20:35 – Helping customers comply with ISO accreditation
25:00 – Validation and verification
27:30 – ISO standards
30:00 – MSAB’s pipeline plans
32:40 – XEC Director
43:45 – Privacy of user data

YouTube Video UCQajlJPesqmyWJDN52AZI4Q_ifoHVkjJtRc

How MSAB Is Managing The Digital Forensics Challenges Of Frontline Policing

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