The Forensics Europe Expo covers all aspects of forensics, including bioforensics and other areas unrelated to digital forensics, and is held in conjunction with the Counter Terror Expo, which takes place in the same space.
This year’s expo had a much higher dedication to digital forensics than in previous years, with day two of the conference proper being dedicated to computer forensics and cybercrime. Throughout both days, there were also seminars from various digital forensics companies taking place in the smaller seminar area separate from the main auditorium.
The first day of the conference discussed certain methods and ideas for models of forensic sciences, including the Scottish way of working in which the Police Authority provide all forensic services for the country, rather than these being split between various private companies and corporate bodies. A couple of interesting case studies highlighting the challenges and advantages of collaboration were presented, including Angela Davies and Dionne Wightman discussing multidisciplinary working in mass disaster situations, and Steve Horgan of the NCA talking the audience through a large-scale international drug trafficking investigation centred on the Gambia.
Day two was when the digital forensics part of the conference properly began. It started with a talk by John Bertrand from SAP, who highlighted that online banking fraud has increased by 71% since 2011, and went on to discuss potential ways to prevent payment fraud in real time.
Professor John Walker from HEXFORENSICS then took to the stage, speaking about the increasing prevalence of both digital-only crimes such as cyberbullying, and of more “traditional” crimes having a digital element. Concerns about the rapidly developing pace of technology, along with a lack of standardisation and inadequate training, were discussed, as well as a general lack of understanding from boards of corporate directors when it comes to the importance of computer security.
Walker’s concerns were consistently addressed by other speakers throughout the day, with the vast majority expressing a similar level of concern about the sheer amount of digital forensic data generated by each crime.
There was an overarching feeling that the situation is only getting worse, as well; as the number of internet-connected devices increases, so too does the opportunity for digitally-aided crimes.
The majority of the afternoon sessions focused on CCTV, from police super-recognisers being used to search for targets in CCTV footage of crowds, to contamination of CCTV evidence and a review of common approaches to forensic facial image recognition software.
Terrorism was also a hot topic of discussion – unsurprisingly, considering that the Counter Terror Expo was happening simultaneously just next door. From the mass disasters talk on day one right the way through to the conclusion of the conference, counter terror kept coming up as an area of great urgency.
During the afternoon of the second day, DCI Dominic Murphy, the Head of Digital Investigations at London’s Metropolitan Police, spoke about the importance of digital forensics particularly in helping to foil terrorist plots and providing sufficient evidence to bring perpetrators to justice.
Prevention came up again and again throughout both days, with a pithy quote from John Bertrand on the second day:
The main takeaway of the talks at the Forensics Europe Expo, therefore, seemed to be that a greater emphasis needs to be put on security and the prevention of crimes taking place, rather than on seeking out those who have already committed crimes. This is, of course, easier said than done and there were few suggestions on how this could realistically take place. The feeling generally was one of trying to catch up: that law enforcement and forensic investigators – of all kinds, not just digital – are constantly lagging behind the criminals, trying to uncover the details of what has already happened rather than being ‘ahead of the game’, as it were.
Of course, this is partly just the nature of forensic science: looking for evidence that will stand up in a court of law. But the Forensics Europe Expo really highlighted the need for both ends of the cybercrime process – security and investigation – to work together more closely in order to prevent as many crimes from taking place as possible and create a safer world online.
The next Forensics Europe Expo will be held at Kensington Olympia Conference Centre, London, UK on the 3rd-4th of May 2017. Anyone interested in attending should consult the official website for details.