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Monday, August 31, 2009


Folks are discovering the wonders of social networks. They've found me on Facebook and now are starting to find me on LinkedIn.

The nice thing about LinkedIn is the professional nature of the site. What Facebook is to your personal life, LinkedIn is to your professional life.

If you aren't part of LinkedIn, you should be. There's tons of groups and some really good discussions on forensics / art / photography and so much more.

See you there. If you decide to join my network, please send me a note and mention the blog.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Computer Forensics Platform

A few readers have written in to ask if I perform computer forensic exams as well. While I can't officially comment on the state of my work for my daytime employer, I can say that I've performed several in my work as a contractor.

As I have a Mac-only lab, with windows running virtually, my weapon of choice is Blackbag's forensic suite. I like it's ease of use as well as its no-fuss interface. The more I show it to law enforcement folks, the more they like it too.

Check out what others are saying about computer forensics on the Mac by clicking here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Snow Leopard news

Many readers are still using Photoshop CS3. The Mac CS3 users are wondering if there will be any compatibility issues when upgrading to Snow Leopard (Mac OS 10.6).

According to Adobe's John Nack, "It turns out that the Photoshop team has tested Photoshop CS3 on Snow Leopard, and to the best of our knowledge, PS CS3 works fine on Snow Leopard."

Read John's comments here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cell Phone Case Law

Since I sat through my first training session on mobile device forensics, I've been intrigued by the movement of case law related to cell phones. It's always interesting to see how less than tech savvy attorneys and judges interpret the law as technology shifts gears.

There's a great blog out there dealing with mobile phones. Recently, the author put up a list of case law that he's been working on. While it's focus is in the UK, there's enough meat on the bone to give you some ideas as to how to adapt the ideas to your own area's laws.

Check it out by clicking here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tips for saving the planet and your sanity

Vincent Toesca, Sr. Product Manager, Adobe Systems, offers some great advice on working remotely using Connect Pro. Working remotely can help save money, ease traffic, and allow workers to wear their fuzzy bunny slippers whilst working. What could be better?

Click here to read the report.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sending files by e-mail

A reader writes in about the frustration of IT departments and file size limitations. It seems that he's trying to e-mail some images to an attorney, but the low file size limitation is keeping him from doing so. Not to worry. There's a simple solution in Photoshop (of course).

As long as you know what the size limit is, you can target for it. Here's how.

Click on File>Save for Web & Devices.

When the dialog box pops up, click on the fly-out menu and choose Optimize to File Size.

Then enter your desired file size and click OK.

Once selected, just click on Save.

Just remember, Optimization reduces file size - and it also affects quality. So don't do this with your evidence files, just in the demonstration files sent through e-mail.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lossless compression

A reader writes in to ask about file formats that support lossless compression. Here are the choices that Photoshop CS4 presents when saving an 8bpc file with no layers.

The main consideration when choosing a format (for me) is the person(s) who will be opening the file on the other end. Am I sharing it with an attorney? Then I need to send a file that can be viewed on a regular business desktop - like PDF. Am I sending it to a colleague for review? Then I can send a PSD or TIFF. PDF, TIFF, PSD, JPEG2000, and PostScript language file formats all support lossless compression. Thankfully, Photoshop gives you the ability to work with all of these.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New CP law in Nevada

From the Las Vegas Sun:

During the 2009 Legislative session, an important step was taken to better protect children with the passage of Assembly Bill 88, a bill that makes two significant changes to Nevada law to combat the problem of child pornography.

This legislation was developed by the Technological Crime Advisory Board, which I chair. AB88 addresses the board’s concern with some of the challenges that exist for law enforcement in areas where the Internet is an integral part of the crime of child pornography.

The bill updates Nevada’s criminal statutes to account for evolving technology that has resulted in the widespread dissemination of child pornography over the Internet. AB88 makes it a felony to intentionally use the Internet to control images of child pornography for the specific purpose of viewing such material. This includes conduct such as searching for and locating Web sites with images of child pornography, opening and navigating such sites, and accessing and browsing child pornography online.

This is important because modern technology eliminates the need to download a file to a local computer for viewing. The Internet provides the ability to control photographic images or streaming video without actually downloading the material. In effect, child pornography can be “viewed” on the Internet without physically possessing an electronic file that produces video or still images.

While Nevada law provides criminal penalties against the production and promotion of child pornography, it is also important to target the audience for this material. Consumers of child pornography on the Internet share culpability in the victimization of the children involved, and now face criminal penalties for their conduct. Moreover, research indicates that as many as 85 percent of child pornography viewers and collectors eventually commit sexual offenses against children.

Read the rest of the story by clicking here.

CCTV at the heart of a wrongful conviction

" ... Many police forces in England and Scotland use video line-ups instead of live identity parades. This has made it cheaper and easier to run a line-up, and means that many more are being conducted. "There are currently up to 100,000 line-ups held per year, compared to around 2,000 at the time of the Devlin report," said Professor Tim Valentine, a leading eyewitness researcher at the University of London. "Errors are going to be proportionate to the number of procedures that are run, so I wouldn't be surprised if there are more errors now than there used to be."

The proliferation of CCTV cameras has also led to an increase in the availability of identification evidence. According to the Police Foundation, the UK now has more surveillance cameras than any other country in the world, and footage is used to solve around 160,000 criminal cases a year. When CCTV footage is used to identify someone in court, a police officer or relative may claim to recognise that person from the footage, a jury might be asked to compare the defendant to someone in CCTV images, or an expert can use facial mapping techniques to compare the defendant's face to that of the suspect.

Under the Turnbull guidelines - introduced in 1977 by a judge who found that visual identification "can bring about miscarriages of justice and has done so" - a judge has to warn the jury of the need for special caution when relying on such evidence. But eyewitness testimonies can still be one of the most persuasive types of evidence a jury will hear. "A witness standing up and saying: 'That's the man, I saw him, I will never forget his face' is extremely compelling to a jury," said Valentine. "Witnesses can be completely honest and be mistaken."

Psychological experiments have shown that facial recognition from CCTV can be as prone to error as traditional eyewitness evidence. In an experiment which looked at 600 identity parades, a fifth of eyewitnesses
picked the wrong person, Valentine said ... "

Read the complete story by clicking here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

DNA evidence can be fabricated

From the New York Times:

"... “DNA is a lot easier to plant at a crime scene than fingerprints,” she said. “We’re creating a criminal justice system that is increasingly relying on this technology.”

"John M. Butler, leader of the human identity testing project at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said he was “impressed at how well they were able to fabricate the fake DNA profiles.” However, he added, “I think your average criminal wouldn’t be able to do something like that ..."

Read the rest of the article by clicking here. "Photoshopping" DNA? Who would have thought?

Crime Busters

From the UK Telegraph:

CCTV images of shoplifters shown on retail chain's website

A discount retail chain is stepping up the battle against store theft by displaying pictures of suspected shoplifters in shop windows and on its website.

Home Bargains has introduced a new hardline approach to in-store theft by launching an online campaign to identify suspected shoplifters, as well as putting posters of the suspects up in stores.

The retail chain, which has 190 stores countrywide, estimates that shop theft costs it an estimated pounds 6 million a year and says it is determined to crack down on the criminals.

It is displaying CCTV images of six suspected shoplifters in Home Bargains stores in June and July on its website.

Tjmorris.co.uk, the company behind Home Bargains, has added a tab entitled 'crime busters', featuring pictures of suspected criminals in its shops along with the date and location of the alleged crime.

The images are also being displayed in the windows of the stores the people are suspected of stealing from.

In addition the retailer is offering a reward of up to £500 to anyone who offers information that leads to the arrest and successful prosecution of a shoplifter.

Home Bargains launched the initiative last month after discussing with police how best to handle the problem and says it is confident that innocent shoppers would not find themselves on the website or on posters.

Read the rest of the article by clicking here.

UK Surveillance Commissioner's report released

Here are some interesting notes from the Annual Report of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner to the Prime Minister and to Scottish Ministers for 2008-2009

"5.20. There is also disparity in the qualifications to operate CCTV equipment. CCTV operators employed by local authorities are required to pass rigorous examination for the use of this controversial equipment, yet it appears that some police officers operate CCTV without obvious qualification."

"5.25. Though not a requirement of the legislation, it would be a useful practice for authorities to retain a record of the value of covert activity. This might assist Authorising Officers in judging whether future applications would be likely to achieve objectives or to identify other tactics that would be more proportionate. Such an ‘outcomes audit’ would assist the public authority to counter inaccurate criticism and provide evidence for public assurance."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Free Imaging Webinar

Introduction to Image Processing
Presented by: Nicholas Beavers, Applications Specialist, Media Cybernetics

Webinar Date:
Wednesday, August 19, 2009 10:00am - 11:00am EST
Click here to register.

Imaging in the life and materials sciences has become completely digital and this transformation of visual imagery into mathematical constructs has made it commonplace for researchers to utilize computers for their day-to-day image analysis tasks. Along with this change comes the need to fully understand how image data is handled within a computer and how image processing methods can be applied to extract useful measurements and deeper understanding of image-based data.

Attendees at this live, interactive and highly instructional webinar will learn the basics of image processing as it applies to the life and materials sciences and will leave with confident answers to questions such as:
  • What is a digital image?
  • What is bit depth and when does it matter?
  • How do settings such as brightness, contrast, and gamma affect my images?
  • What is background correction and how does it work?
  • How do image processing filters work, such as sharpening, low-pass, median, and others?
  • What are various ways of measuring image data, including distance, area, volume, roundness, roughness, intensity?
  • How can we identify and count objects in images?
  • How can fluorescence images be best visualized and measured?
Who should attend? Everyone who either performs digital imaging or needs to better grasp the processes that have been applied to images that are part of a lab’s research will benefit from attending this short web presentation.

Setting Up Colour in CS4

A few folks have e-mailed recently to ask about Colour Settings in Photoshop CS4 - wanting to know how my settings looked.

Well, here they are.

I've chosen the Fewer Options view for this snapshot, as there are just two items that I wanted to focus on - the RGB and CMYK values.

For RGB, many photographers and popular NAPP instructors will tell you to choose Adobe RGB (1998). While that may be fine for photography, it's not always the best for what we do. We want to make sure that we don't clip colours - thus we want the largest gamut possible. That's ProPhotoRGB.

On the CMYK side, I do a lot of direct-to-digital printing and my provider prefers the US Sheetfed Coated v2 setting.

If you are working in a completely colour managed environment, you'll have custom profiles to use. But for my mobile work station (the handy MacBookPro), the settings shown above work just fine.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Waiting ....

As my family awaits the overdue arrival of our son, I was pondering the health care debate in light of our time recently spent in and out of the hospital.

I found this from Dr. John David Lewis, an associate professor in the Philosophy, Politics and Economics Program at Duke University:

Aug 7, 2009
Guest Columnist, John David Lewis: There is no moral 'right' to health care

After 50 years of increasing government coercions, through a maze of agencies that control nearly half of all medical dollars, the costs of health care continue to skyrocket. The Obama plan, far from a socialist innovation, is merely an extension of the overall policy of government intervention we have embraced for three generations.

But rather than assume that more coercions are the answer, should we not at least consider that the source of the problem may be those very interventions? Shouldn't a serious discussion of the issue include that possibility?

Historically, the huge rise in health care costs began in the 1960s, when Medicare and other programs distorted prices by throwing billions of federal dollars into the industry under reams of new laws. Fiscally, Medicare is now approaching insolvency on a monumental scale.

To create another bureaucratic labyrinth now -- which, after juggling the figures, advocates are proud to say will cost less than a thousand billion dollars over 10 years -- is to add to the very cause of the rising costs. This all but guarantees an even greater crisis in the next decade. Economically, this is hard to dispute.

But economic arguments have not stopped the train to further government intervention, and we should ask why.

The answer is that the advocates of government medicine are upholding health care as a moral right. Desiring to mandate this "right" by law, they have been unwilling to face the cause-and-effect relationship between government actions and rising prices. That is because the moral goal of a "right" to health care has overpowered the economic arguments.

As a result, calls for more programs -- to enforce the "right" -- have continued, even as prices rise. Greater price distortions have fueled calls for more interventions, leading to higher prices and demands for more coercions. This vicious cycle is blinding people to the fact that the fundamental cause of the problem is the government interventions themselves.

Again, even a cursory look at the evidence shows the cost problem as beginning in the late 1960s, when the government set out to enforce this "right."

And if one thinks that England is health care utopia, one may not know the reality of six-bed wards in National Health Service hospitals, of patients waiting over a year for heart operations, or of refrigerated trucks in hospital parking lots to store the bodies during the flu season (all of which I saw when living there).

The "right" to health care in England is contingent on bureaucratic approval.

To address spiraling medical costs we should challenge the premises behind the government actions. The first premise is moral: that medical care is a right. It is not. There was no "right" to such care before doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies produced it. There is no "right" to anything that others must produce, because no one may claim a right to force others to provide it. Health care is a service, and we all depend upon thinking professionals for it. To place doctors under coercive bureaucratic control is to invite personal and national catastrophe.

The second premise is economic: that the government can create prosperity by expropriating billions of dollars from the most productive citizens. This is the road to stagnation and bankruptcy, not universal prosperity. The truth of this is playing out before our eyes, as medical prices balloon with every new intervention, and we face the largest deficits in human history.

If Congress wants to address health care issues, it can begin with three things: 1) tort reform, to end the ruinous lawsuits that force medical specialists into insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year; 2) Medicare reform, to face squarely the program's insolvency and its effect on prices across the board; and 3) regulatory reform, to roll-back the onerous rules that force doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies (who are pilloried for producing the care that many people demand as a "right") into satisfying bureaucratic dictates rather than solving patients' problems."

Read the article and the detailed analysis including citations from HR3200, click here and here.

As the head of a large household, I wonder if the "public option" will allow me to have more children ... or will they force us to stop, citing the carbon footprint of our already large family?

We'll resume the regularly scheduled programme of Photoshop stuff after the impending arrival ...

Until then, enjoy.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New PS Panels

John Nack's blog post today lists new PS CS4 panels for sharpening and blending. Check them out, they're worth a look.

If you are not checking out John's blog on a regular basis, you're missing a lot.

Virtual CCTV meeting

From Info4Security:

Want to log on, walk through your virtual Control Room and have live discussions with contractors and consultants while trying out design changes? Lambert & Associates will be showing you how TODAY!

How would you like to drop in at any time and walk around your new CCTV Control Room, even if that space is only a figment of your imagination scribbled on a napkin?

CCTV consultant Simon Lambert has built a programme that will let you do just that.

“The Internet and computer graphics available to us all now put amazing free tools within easy reach,” explained Lambert, whose company is a member of the Association of Security Consultants. “The example Control Room that I built (pictured, which shows Lambert's 'avatar' in the virtual space) in a so-called ‘virtual world’ allows clients, end users, contractors and consultants, etc to visit via the Internet for walk-throughs and hold live discussions. They can try out design changes there and then. When people can conduct the design phase at their own desks the costs of travel and time are saved.”

Read the rest of the story by
clicking here.

Monday, August 10, 2009


There is an interesting discussion on the merits and differences between NVRs and DVRs in this month's edition of CCTV Image magazine. There's also the first shot of Rotakin's replacement, NORMAN.

Check it out. Better yet, become a member of the CCTV User Group.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

More Melendez-Diaz

The fall-out from the Melendez-Diaz ruling continues. Here's a blog posting showing how the ruling will effect DUI prosecutions across the country.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Digital Video Asset Management for Law Enforcement - Webcast

From ISC Education and LEVA:

Join us for a Webinar Wednesday, August 12, 2-3pm EST: Digital Video Asset Management for Law Enforcement

This webinar will help move organizations in the direction of achieving a digital video asset management solution (DVAMS) from crime to arraignment. This session will share the knowledge gained from the 5th largest municipal police force in North America. Topics will include:
  • Network Transmission of Video Evidence Files such as booking, interviews, breath tests, CCTV and in car cameras
  • Verification of file contents through MD Hash
  • Latency and Jitter Issues
  • Retention and Storage
  • Quality Control
  • Distribution
  • Content Management
  • Chain of Custody
  • Touch Screen
  • Fiber Optic Deployment
The webinar will include screen shots of a new digital asset management system that has been developed by Toronto Police Service .

Click here to register for the webinar.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Forensic Kindle?

Forensic Kindle? Well ... sort of. I was packing my Kindle for a day of sitting and waiting to be called to testify. I wanted to trim down the amount of stuff in my kit, so I started wondering about putting my notes in my Kindle. A little bit of experimentation was all it took.

I looked at the encoding of the "My Clippings.txt" file - Unicode 8 - and used my text editor to save my notes appropriately. I had a little cleaning up to do afterward, MS Word and other programs leave a lot of proprietary junk in the files. This junk shows up as stray characters when the file is viewed on the Kindle.

With the file saved correctly, I put it into the Documents folder. When I turned on the Kindle, my notes were there on the Home page. I now had my Lee Child novels ... and my trial notes. I was ready for a day spent waiting to get called in to the courtroom.

Check it out for yourself. The Kindle just got cooler.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Photo-Facial Comparison and Analysis

Photo-Facial Comparison and Analysis
By Barbara Martin Bailey at Forensic Magazine

Photo-facial comparison can be a useful identification tool, helping to determine whether two or more images are of separate persons or one and the same. The method can be used to compare photographs taken over an extended period of time as often happens with wanted fugitives, or over a limited time period such as the interval between bank robberies.

This article illustrates the process of facial imaging—the analysis and comparison of points of reference which can be utilized by a forensic artist who is familiar with laboratory workings, court testimony, and the process by which conclusions are drawn. With some time, effort, and knowledge of facial features and imaging, this process can be utilized by law enforcement agencies big and small (in manpower and budget) as another investigative aid to advance a cold investigation.

Read the rest of the story by
clicking here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Computer Forensics Case Assessment and Triage

I received an e-mail linking to an article entitled "Computer Forensics Case Assessment and Triage - some ideas for discussion."


In 1955, in an article in The Economist, Cyril Northcote Parkinson first suggested Parkinson’s Law that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. At that time he was referring to public administration but today’s corollary to this might be that “computer forensic examinations expand in proportion to the increase in size of forensic units thus maintaining a significant backlog.”

At present, in 2009, it is commonplace for digital forensic units to have a backlog, several as long as twelve months. Many units have increased in size but have still continued to have a backlog and it is suggested that bringing more staff into a unit will not on its own reduce the backlog of work. This paper discusses how cases submitted to units can be assessed and prioritised, and how software triage can be used to target resources more efficiently.

The author invites discussion on this topic and would welcome any comments on how the issues are dealt with within other units."

There's an increasingly strong cross-over between computer forensics techniques and DVR examinations / evidence retrievals. It's worth a look to see what's going on with this issue. Check it out for yourself by clicking here.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

UK's Number Plate Database growing

"Police are using surveillance cameras to photograph three billion car numbers plates a year - the equivalent of 100 pictures every second, new figures have revealed.

The ANPR - automatic number plate recognition - systems are taking images of registration plates at a rate of 350,000 per hour - or around 6,000 per minute."

clicking here.

What's interesting about the story is that they don't say how many arrests were made or crimes solved with the help of these cameras.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

CCTV Statistics

"The borough of Wandsworth has the highest number of CCTV cameras in London, with just under four cameras per 1,000 people. Its total number of cameras - 1,113 - is more than the police departments of Boston [USA], Johannesburg and Dublin City Council combined."

Check out this interesting article on the proliferation of CCTV in the UK by clicking here.