Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cell phone forensics training and resources

We've just inked a deal to package training on FinalData's cell phone forensics products, as well as to write the training books for the basic and advanced users classes that we'll be offering. We'll offer the classes first in Southern California, then take them on the road.

If you've been looking for some serious hands-on, here's your chance. We'll be hosting the first set of classes in the 1st quarter of 2010 in Pasadena.

We've had some amazing successes getting data from CDMA phones with FinalData. We liked the product so much, we approached the company with a proposition - we'll create a training program and training materials, package the software with a laptop, and offer training classes. It's a true win-win. When it comes to CDMA phones, the other products out there profess to get the data ... FinalData actually does it.

When the dates are finalised, I'll post them on the blog.

Enjoy.

Choosing the right lens and settings

For those that have trouble choosing the right lens and settings to capture motion, like in surveillance photography, check out Scott Kelby's blogpost on shooting a recent college football game. I've found that (aside from lighting) shooting fast action sports is a good place to get the kinks worked out of your surveillance photography kit - without the risk.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Premiere Pro & Photoshop CS5 Extended for DSLR video shooting

You are invited to attend an Adobe Connect session on using Premiere Pro and Photoshop CS5 Extended with your DSLR footage this Friday, October 1 from 10-11am. Guests will be let into the session 10-15 minutes early. Click here to join the session. You can also find the event listing on Facebook.

Enjoy.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Interdependence of Science and Law

Today's topic comes from recent events in the court. The title comes from an article by Assoc. US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

A local attorney enquired recently as to efforts underway to mitigate the Beckley decision here in California. It sparked an interesting discussion. I got to thinking ...

Should Beckley be mitigated? Certainly the technology exists to authenticate images independent from the subject of the photo or the photographer. But there aren't enough people, outside of academia, to work on the volumes of cases being tried around the state. There's got to be a better way.

Here's an idea from Justice Breyer: "Judge Jack B. Weinstein of New York suggests that courts should sometimes “go beyond the experts proffered by the parties” and “appoint independent experts” as the Federal Rules of Evidence allow. Judge Gerald Rosen of Michigan appointed a University of Michigan Medical School professor to testify as an expert witness for the court, helping to determine the relevant facts in a case that challenged a Michigan law prohibiting partial-birth abortions. Judge Richard Stearns of Massachusetts, acting with the consent of the parties in a recent, highly technical genetic engineering patent case, appointed a Harvard Medical School professor to serve “as a sounding board for the court to think through the scientific significance of the evidence” and to “assist the court in determining the validity of any scientific evidence, hypothesis or theory on which the experts base their testimony.”

In other words, why not create a panel of experts who have the tools, training, and experience in independently authenticating images? Sure, the panel would be small ... but why not? California is not that big, is it? Those of us that follow Hany Farid's work (and have applied it to cases) could collectively pick up the slack whilst others got their training and tools together?

It's just a thought ...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fun with stats

From Walter Moore's blog: "You can read in the Los Angeles Times that crime rates are down, and there were "only" 208 murders so far this year. Groovy.

What they never tell you, however, is how very many crimes are committed in the City of Los Angeles. Nor do they ever tell you how much lower the crime rates in surrounding cities are.

So I will. When you look at those numbers, you realize that Villaraigosa's and Beck's self-congratulatory press releases about crime rates dropping are like a kid waving around his report card merely because he brought his "F-" grade up to a solid "F."

Let's start with the actual number of crimes committed in the City of Los Angeles so far this year:

The number of women raped so far this year: 541. You think they're pleased that the crime rate is supposedly down? By the way, do we still have a massive backlog of unprocessed rape kits? If City Hall had eliminated that backlog, you can bet we would have heard about it.

The number of people robbed in the first nine months of this year: 7,930. That's ROBBED, as in, "Give me your money or I'll shoot you, M.F." That's nearly as many robbery victims as we have police officers.

Aggravated assaults: 6,803. How much do you enjoy getting beaten up?

Then there's property crimes, including burglary, grand theft auto an so on: 62,481 victims so far this year.

Number of reports of shots fired: 2,146.

Here's one of my favorites. The number of shooting victims -- and the year isn't over -- is 1001 ..."

To keep reading this article, click here.

In terms of disclosure, Walter Moore ran for Mayor of LA last time around and came in second. I voted for him and supported his campaign. I'll do it again. We need this kind of discussion about real numbers - and real people. In the sick world of spin, we celebrate the fact that only 541 women were raped thus far in LA. Sure, the number's down. I doubt that any one of the 541 are cheering. The real sad thing is that you won't find any of the official leadership of the city talking like Walter Moore ... and that's really sad.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Police Salaries

From the Cliffview Pilot: "EDITORIAL: The suits at The Star-Ledger made a huge display of reporting last weekend that New Jersey police salaries are the highest in the land. To paraphrase a man who puts his life on the line every day to protect his community: Does a bullet feel any different if it's fired in, say, Lyndhurst, than it does in Paterson? Know how many cops have been killed in the line of duty in Lyndhurst? Four. In Paterson? The same.

Top of the heap in cop salaries, the newspaper said, is Bergen County -- coincidentally one of the wealthiest counties in the nation. In fact, the story began with a cop in Closter, where I've lived the past few months.

You know how often I've seen Closter police respond to accidents and other incidents? A lot. Sometimes they're dealing with dead people inside wrecked vehicles, other times with domestic disputes, and sometimes with weapons calls. At no time can they be 100 percent that a seemingly routine incident won't turn into a dangerous confrontation.

Ask police in hoity-toity Glen Rock, where a drunken man threatened to shoot three officers last night, then got into a fistfight with them.

Or try New Milford Police Chief Frank Papapietro:

After rushing to a report of a vehicle stuck in a ditch, two of his officers came up against a familiar face -- that of 59-year-old Daniel Cardinali, who just weeks earlier tangled with patrolmen sent to his house.

This time, Cardinali began swinging a club before he was subdued -- the eighth time this summer a police officer in tiny, working-class New Milford was attacked.

“When people complain about how much officers are paid, they should ask themselves if they could stand up to situations such as these and conduct themselves as professionally as did these officers,” Papapietro said. “They should ask themselves if they could even keep from running away."

I've been in journalism 30 years and I never saw a colleague do anything beyond ask questions, take notes or take photos. I had a knife put to my throat in a Perth Amboy housing project while on an assignment late one weekend night. How many other "journalists" can say the same? ..."

To continue reading this story, click here.

Here's a little perspective on my area: median household income for the city of Los Angeles in 2008 - $55,452. (source) The highest possible starting salary for an LAPD officer, $48,880. (source)

Median home prices vary by neighbourhood. In Chatsworth, where I used to hang my hat, the median price of a single family home is $474,000. A 30 fixed rate mortgage at 6%, with property tax impounds, would run about $2850/month. If you're bringing home just a little over $4k/month to start ... you won't qualify for a mortgage in Chatsworth. Still think cops are over paid? I couldn't afford to live there anymore, so I left LA. The median price of a home in my part of the mountains is around $150k. With that low monthly mortgage payment I get a 160mi round trip commute. Life's a series of trade-offs.

Most folks that work for the city live outside of the city and face long commutes. Not all cities allow for this. Some require residence - so the salary has to match with the economic realities of the city.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Help with Daubert

A reader wrote in to ask about the Daubert ruling and if it applies to his home state. The majority of states either apply Daubert directly or have created a sort of hybrid. California is one of (I think) 5 states that do not use Daubert.

Here's a link to an outstanding set of notes on Daubert, written in the aftermath of the decision.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

NCIS: Los Angeles - surveillance video

From TV Technology: "CBS primetime drama "NCIS: Los Angeles" is using JVC ProHD camcorders to produce the "surveillance video" monitored by undercover agents who are on a mission to thwart criminals that threaten national security.

The visual narrative of the series relies heavily on this surveillance footage which, according to the show's writers, is procured by a variety of sources ranging from security monitoring systems in banks and parking lots to "spycams" worn by the agents and installed in vehicles. The video is regularly displayed at the headquarters of their "Office of Special Projects," making it an element that has to be on set, ready for playback during the shoot.

A dedicated playback unit was created to provide the surveillance video to the set. Footage shot alongside the first unit on location is processed into clips with graphics, text, maps and photo montages during the first part of the shoot. It's quickly prepared for the portions of the episode shot inside the "NCIS:Los Angeles" headquarters, appearing on video monitors that include a large translucent screen, a touchvision screen and a wallsized main screen.

CREATING 'THE LOOK'

During the show's first season (2009-2010), Director of Photography Victor Hammer experimented with a variety of recording devices, including some consumer-grade security cameras, to create different "looks" for the surveillance footage. But—in the interest of efficiency, quick turnaround and budget concerns—the process had to be simplified.

The playback unit's "Plan B" opted for footage from four small JVC GYHM100U HD camcorders that serve as stand-ins for any kind of surveillance recording device. JVC footage was degraded and otherwise altered in post production as needed. These camcorders output to dual SDHC memory cards formatted in Native Final Cut Pro. The playback unit also had a file-based in-house processing network built around Apple's Final Cut Pro editing system ..."

To continue reading this article, click here.

Enjoy.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Headphone mystery

A reader wrote in to ask a question about a piece of equipment he saw on a TV series. There's a new show on the USA network called Covert Affairs. There's a character in the show called Augie - a blind tech genius. He's often seen with a rather distinctive set of headphones. The reader wrote in to ask if I recognised them.

It turns out that I did. They're Grado RS1i headphones, part of the Grado Labs Reference series of headphones. From the spec sheet on them, they look awesome. Unfortunately, at $695 retail, they're a bit out of my price range. I'll have to stick with my ear buds for now.

Enjoy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Grant Writing and Management Academy

The Bureau of Justice Assistance has established The Grant Writing and Management Academy for criminal justice practitioners and state, local, and tribal jurisdictions that apply for or receive federal grants. This training provides an overview of project planning, management, administration, and assessment of federally funded programs. The training encourages participants to think strategically about how they develop and fund projects. Participants are introduced to a variety of methods and tools used to identify community problems, administer and manage projects, and assess performance.

Training topics include:

  • Project Strategy and Design 
  • Problem Validation and Data Gathering 
  • Partnerships 
  • Management Strategies 
  • Project Integrity, Accomplishments, and Sustainment 
  • Resource Development

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Quick tip for shooting tethered

Here's a tip for those that shoot tethered from the folks at TetherTools.com:

Quick Tethering Tip - Proper Tethering Cable Care and Storage

As a photographer, you invest in the best tools available to help get the finest results. As you may already know, for equipment to last and work properly, special care is always needed. There is nothing worse than setting up for a photo shoot and discovering a piece of equipment was damaged in transport or not working properly.

Your tethering cable is no different. A good quality tethering cable is an investment and proper care and storage will help you get the most life out of it. Inside your USB, FireWire or Cat6 cable are sensitive wires and shielding designed for fast transmission speed and noise-reduction. Although fairly durable, if folded, bent or pinched you could experience communication errors. When storing, always try to lightly roll your cables into a loose coil going with the natural curve of the wire. When not in use, try storing your tethering cable in a protective case where dust and impurities will not get lodged into the connector ends.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Creative Suite 5 solutions for Public Safety, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice agencies

I've penned a guest blog post over at the Adobe Government blog. They posted it yesterday. Check it out by clicking here.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Child porn case sheds light on search and seizure laws

From the Utica Observer-Dispatch on-line: "About a week after Stephen DeProspero was arrested in May 2009 for possessing child pornography on his computer, the Rome man’s state employers alerted prosecutors that he might have victimized some of the young disabled children he once worked with, according to court documents.

But for nearly nine months after DeProspero’s initial arrest, evidence that he allegedly had recorded himself sexually abusing a severely autistic 9-year-old boy went unnoticed on one of his seized digital cameras, documents show.

The camera was never thoroughly examined by the New York State Police computer crimes lab, documents stated.

Only after DeProspero, 36, had pleaded guilty to a lesser pornography possession charge, had been sentenced to six months in jail and had asked for his property back, did police do one last-minute search of his cameras and computer, attorneys said.

Now, because of that search, DeProspero faces a new series of felony child pornography and sex abuse charges in both Oneida County and federal courts.

This has led to defense and prosecution attorneys locking horns over whether police were right to search his property after his conviction ...

Click here to continue reading the story.

Enjoy.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Helpful advice for Packaging, Transportation, and Storage of Digital Evidence

From DFINews.com: "Digital evidence—and the computers and electronic devices on which it is stored—is fragile and sensitive to extreme temperatures, humidity, physical shock, static electricity, and magnetic fields."

The first responder should take precautions when documenting, photographing, packaging, transporting, and storing digital evidence to avoid altering, damaging, or destroying the data ..."

"Potentially valuable digital evidence including dates, times, and system configuration settings may be lost due to prolonged storage if the batteries or power source that preserve this information fails. Where applicable, inform the evidence custodian and the forensic examiner that electronic devices are battery powered and require prompt attention to preserve the data stored in them."

Click here to access the whole article.

Enjoy.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

NIST Colloquium Series: Digital Forensics

Dr. Hany Farid, a distinguished professor at Dartmouth College and the "father" of digital image forensics, is an expert on authenticating images. His most famous analysis: a photograph of Lee Harvey Oswald holding a rifle and newspaper. Dr Farid concluded the photo was not altered. In this NIST Colloquium Series presentation, he discusses the impact that camera manipulation and alteration have caused.

Click here to watch the lecture on Digital Forensics on YouTube.

Enjoy.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Confronting Science: Melendez-Diaz and the Confrontation Clause

From DFINews.com: "In an interesting turn of its docket this year, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case with an almost identical issue as a controversial decision from its last term. That second bite at the apple, however, did not bear fruit, with this year’s Court issuing a one-sentence opinion and sending it back down to the Virginia Supreme Court, merely instructing its members to make their ruling consistent with last year’s Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts. The Melendez-Diaz decision addressed the practice of using evidence affidavits in lieu of in-person testimony by forensic examiners, holding that the practice violates the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This article explores this decision and its implications for prosecutors relying on such examinations."

Click here to access the full article.

Enjoy.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The challenges continue

From the Belleville News Democrat: "Defense attorneys will attack the bloody fingerprint evidence that prosecutors say connects Darrell "Rell" Lane to the triple stabbing murders of a west Belleville hairdresser and his two clients.

Lane, now 20, appearing in court with his lawyers Ethan Skaggs, Andrew Liefer and LaToya Berry, filed a motion Tuesday asking St. Clair County Circuit Judge Milton Wharton to limit testimony regarding bloodstain pattern analysis and asking for clarification regarding testimony by state's witness David W. Carter, an Illinois State Police blood pattern expert.

Wharton will hear arguments regarding the bloody fingerprint evidence and other pretrial motions on Oct. 11. Lane's trial scheduled to begin Nov. 1.

Lane is accused of three counts of first-degree murder in connection with the stabbing deaths of hair stylist Michael Cooney and his two clients, sisters Doris Fischer, 79, and Dorothy Bone, 82. They were found stabbed to death on March 2, 2005, in Cooney's home-based salon at 7813 W. Main St.

The defense has asked prosecutors Jim Piper and Jon Allard to provide them with Carter's resume', including his education and training, as well as a list of other cases Carter has testified in, plus other details, including video or audio recordings, of any experiments Carter conducted in this case.

In the motion, Liefer cited a National Academy of Science report that found the bloodstain analysis "suffers from the worst deficiencies that impair the reliable determination of scientific truth."

Click here to the read the rest of the story.

The defense bar is taking the NAS report as gospel. In a future series, I'll tackle my response to the NAS report and what we're planning to do if certain scenarios come to pass. The good news is that the Forensic Photoshop workflow remains one of the only peer-reviewed and widely published workflows for the use of Photoshop in court matters.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bizarre Border Busts


Here's a link to an interesting series of photos taken on the border. They illustrate the lengths that people will go to in order to smuggle people and drugs into this country.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What codecs are installed on my PC?

If you need help identifying the codecs installed on your PC, or if you need help disabling one or more of them, you like NirSoft's Installed Codec.

"InstalledCodec is a small utility displays the list of all Codec drivers and DirectShow filters currently installed on your system. For each component the following information is displayed: Display Name, Type, Disabled Status, Installed/Modified Time, Description, Company Name, Filename, and more... It allows you to easily disable or enable any Codec/DirectShow component or export the list into text/xml/html file."

Enjoy.

Monday, September 6, 2010

True and Accurate

There's been a lot of discussion lately about compression and if a compressed photo or video of a scene "represents a true and accurate version of what really happened."

If the compression scheme, such as JPEG, throws out details and preserves the overall look and feel of the scene in order to save space ... does it accurately portray the scene that it captured? What about those DVRs that throw away ever other line of video in addition to employing some form of compression? If you are to present such files in court, and you don't know what's been lost, do you feel comfortable introducing the files as evidence?

I'd be interested to know what you think. Send me a note or post a reply.

Enjoy.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Photoshop: From the Ground Up - Part 1 - Online only workshop

From the Adobe Creative Suite User Group - San Jose: "We are happy to announce the first in a series of ongoing online webinars - "Photoshop: From the Ground Up". This new series of online meetings will cover all major aspects of Photoshop, beginning with the basics.

Our first one, slated for September 23 at 5:45 pm PST, will introduce you to Photoshop, and walk you through the interface, tools and important foundational features.

Even if you are a seasoned Photoshop user, you will learn new things. This is the workflow and content Steve and Sally use to teach Photoshop regularly, both online and in the classroom. We will be taking full advantage of Adobe Flash technology and host our meeting with Adobe Connect Pro ..."

Click here for more information or to sign up.

Enjoy.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Difficulties producing 'digital evidence' cause lawyers to lose cases

From SC Mag on-line: "... Almost all of the lawyers questioned (98 per cent) said that ‘digital evidence' identified during e-discovery had been vital to the success of legal matters in which they had been involved in the past two years.

Over half of the respondents (60 per cent) admitted they struggled with the amount of information that had to be searched; 29 per cent complained that they did not have enough time to conduct thorough investigations; while 24 per cent said they lacked sufficiently sophisticated e-discovery technology to fulfil requests effectively.

When asked how this might be alleviated, 57 per cent specifically called for 'improvements to search technology used to identify, preserve and process electronically stored information', over measures such as new legislation governing the presentation of evidence in digital formats or greater international collaboration ..."

ed: here's hoping they get the whole codec thing sorted out. As for a "universal video player," I won't hold my breath.

Click here to read the whole story.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New Digital Ink Library to speed up document investigation

From the Economic Times on-line: "Analysing ink samples to determine a document's origin can be a lengthy and time consuming process, but a new Digital Ink Library is set to change all that.

Currently, the International Ink Library managed by the U.S. Secret Service is used by police to analyse an ink sample. But the process is tedious.

To speed up the painstaking process and ensure its continued accuracy, the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) teamed up to support the development of a library that has these materials in electronic form, resulting in the Digital Ink Library.

The Library is a searchable database containing the electronic version of the International Ink Library's collection.

"With this digitized search system, search times through the repository are reduced to minutes, resulting in a list of potential candidates available for comparison," said Robert Ramotowski, chief research scientist with the Secret Service Forensic Services Division.

Ink of different types creates their own colour bands, thus forming a "fingerprint."

Scientists compare the unknown sample's bands to known samples to find a match. The software automatically selects the known samples that most closely match the ink of interest.

"The e-case system renders the overall examination more transparent and allows [users] to search and retrieve case archives, which is useful when there is a need to go to court several years after the actual processing of evidence," Dr. Cedric Neumann, professor at Pennsylvania State University, said ... "

Click here to continue reading.

Enjoy.