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West Midlands Police Become First Force to Deploy Exterro’s Pioneering Cloud-Based Digital Forensics Platform and Surpass Digital Forensic Science Strategy Goal

May 2022 by Patrick LEBRETON

Exterro Inc. – the industry’s first provider of Legal GRC software, which unifies e-discovery, digital forensics and data privacy to drive successful, defensible outcomes for in-house legal, IT teams, privacy and law enforcement worldwide, today announced that the West Midlands Police are the first force to deploy its cloud-based digital forensics platform based on the FTK® Central platform housed on Microsoft Azure. This is a pioneering project that has paved the way for a national digital forensics service, enabling cases to be worked on remotely, officers to collaborate and cases to be resolved at speed.

Police forces have been challenged by digital forensics processes that are slow, fractured and disjointed, creating huge backlogs of data which delays the criminal justice process. Digital forensics investigations are currently siloed with police forces seeking to capture and preserve data from multiple devices and operating systems, as well as collate, submit and review evidential data separately and using their own regional Digital Forensics Units (DFUs). The dire need to transform the process was recognised in the recent Digital Forensic Science Strategy and regarded as technically impossible until 2025.

Recognising this need, Exterro has worked with Microsoft to develop a leading-edge cloud-based digital forensics and incident response (DFIR) solution. This sees Exterro’s FTK Central platform housed in Microsoft Azure, enabling the collection, processing and review of extremely large volumes of data at speed, whilst also centralising access and thereby allowing officers and investigators to work collaboratively.

West Midlands Police (WMP), one of the largest forces in the country with 52 police stations and 6,846 officers responsible for 2.93 million civilians are the first force to deploy the solution. This has enabled digital forensic investigators and its officers on the ground to work on evidential data simultaneously without the need to be physically in the Digital Forensics Units (DFU). The secure upload of sensitive forensic data into the cloud marks a huge breakthrough and has proven the viability of the solution, effectively paving the way for the creation of a cohesive national forensics ecosystem, as envisaged by the Digital Forensic Science Strategy.

Exterro’s FTK Central solution allows WMP’s officers to process and validate large amounts of different data quickly, and at scale. It offers processing ten times faster than that of other solutions as well as innovative forensic and legal review workflows delivered via a single collaborative, web-based tool that gives users a real-time view into their assigned cases. As the solution requires minimal training, this has enabled WMP’s front line officers to work with forensic reviewers, examiners, and investigators to collect, process, and review key case-evidence.

Using FTK Central has enabled WMP to benefit from a number of features, including offline language translation support for cross-border investigations, AI-powered Video Recognition and Explicit Image Detection which supports CAID and Project Vic, a comprehensive unified missing/exploited children database. Now, action can be taken sooner to safeguard children. The Explicit Image Detection feature also provides a mental health shield for investigators by guarding against unnecessary exposure to graphic material during forensic review.

Other forces stand to gain the same benefits as experienced by the WMP whose officers and investigators can now work flexibly and collaboratively, freeing up resource and eliminating the delays that have allowed case load data to accumulate. Forces are also much better placed to deal with future change, with the ability to access data over a variety of endpoints and help maintain accreditation with the ISO17025 quality standard for their forensic science activities which is now a mandatory requirement.

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