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Why You Need Photo Forensics

Posted by David Colvin on October 12, 2022
David Colvin

Photo forensics plays an important role in investigations. Increased access to electronic devices and growing social media platforms mean photos can be an important factor in an investigation.

Photo forensics is a powerful tool that can be used in various ways. It can provide crucial evidence in different types of cases, from proving a person's identity in a crime scene photo, and finding missing persons, to recreating the events of a crime. Digital image forensics can also refer to the profession dedicated to authenticating digital images to determine authenticity, or, it may refer to the capability of digital forensics software to find and identify photos. By understanding the role of photo forensics, we can ensure that our photos are properly analyzed and that the evidence is interpreted correctly. 

What can you do with photo forensics?

Photo forensics analysis software allows you to scan devices such as computers or mobile devices and obtain photo evidence for analysis. This software works by using key features to assist investigators in analyzing large amounts of photo evidence and filtering and categorizing them appropriately. This is accomplished with the help of image recognition, facial analytics, photoDNA, and screenshots. 

Facial analytics is a part of biometrics and is used in face detection, facial landmark localization, face attribute prediction, facial emotion recognition, and head pose estimation. It uses computer-generated filters to transform face images into numerical expressions that can be compared to determine their similarity. With facial analytics images that contain a person's face can be pinpointed rapidly by investigators. This is especially important in cases where victims are involved such as child exploitation and human trafficking. 

Image recognition uses artificial intelligence to identify objects, places, people, writing, and actions in images [1]. Due to exponential growth in the volume of images investigators are challenged when searching for illicit online activity, Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), extremist propaganda, or other types of image content. Being able to filter through photos and target specified image types reduces the time investigators spend searching for evidence that can be used in a prosecution. 

In 2009, the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Microsoft Research, and Dartmouth College to create PhotoDNA. PhotoDNA was a method to identify Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) and Child Exploitation Material (CEM). PhotoDNA creates a signature that will find the exact image and will also locate and identify images that are visually similar. With PhotoDNA copies of the images can still be reliably identified as well as the manipulated images, or those visually similar.

Screenshots allow investigators to take a screenshot of a connected iOS or Android mobile device making a copy of what is displayed on the device screen. This method makes it possible to collect digital evidence that would otherwise not be available in an advanced logical acquisition because the data is protected.

All of these features can be leveraged to make photo forensics analysis simple and rapid. Knowing the goal of a case can help you identify which feature to best use to your advantage. Photo forensics is a valuable tool that can be used to establish the facts of a case. As an investigator, the range of possibilities is vast, from reconstructing events to finding Child Sexual Abuse Material and Child Exploitation Material. Harnessing the power of photo forensics is an advantage in a society where technology is a major component of their everyday lives. 

ADF’S software gives agencies the tools they need to master photo forensics and provide the best investigative services to their community. ADF’s Digital Evidence Investigator PRO performs all of the tasks listed above including Photo Probability filtering to identify and score photos with a percentage probability score. This capability enables investigators to quickly filter out non-photographic graphic files such as icons or clip art.

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Topics: Digital Forensics, Digital Evidence Investigator, Photo Forensics, DEI PRO, PhotoDNA

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