West Midlands Police becomes first force to deploy Exterro’s pioneering cloud-based digital forensics platform, surpass Digital Forensic Science Strategy goal
Exterro, 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, while also centralising access and thereby allowing officers and investigators to work collaboratively.
“Exterro’s FTK has massively reduced processing times and improved forensic readiness, with processes that previously took days to complete now almost instantaneous. We anticipate that we will see continued improvements over the coming months, including vastly reduced data backlogs, minimised detention times for suspects and expediting of cases, resulting in faster speed to justice, which will see the innocent released, the guilty convicted and a sense of closure for victims and their families. This is going to be game-changing for our force and all those that follow,” said John Price, Detective Sergeant, West Midlands Police.
West Midlands Police (WMP), one of the largest forces in England, with 52 police stations and 6 846 officers responsible for 2.93 million civilians, is 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 DFUs. 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 10 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 frontline officers to work with forensic reviewers, examiners and investigators to collect, process and review key case evidence.
Harsh Behl, Director of Product Management, Exterro, commented: “The WMP project has demonstrated the speed, scalability and flexibility afforded by a cloud-based DFIR platform and we are confident that this project will provide other police forces with a blueprint on how to move from a hardware-based evidential process to one located in the cloud. The success of this deployment may well determine the future of digital forensics and see processes for police forces and digital investigators change dramatically.”
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.
Kirk Arthur, Director, Business Development, Worldwide Public Safety & Justice at Microsoft, commented: “Microsoft is proud to partner with Exterro and the West Midlands Police in helping to address the growing forensics backlogs that plague law enforcement agencies across the globe. Through this public-private-collaboration, Exterro and WMP benefit from our Microsoft Azure cloud platform to deliver frontline capabilities that will dramatically reduce investigative turnaround times. As technology advances, so does the volume of data that must be captured and processed – law enforcement agencies can benefit from the advanced capabilities Exterro’s FTK Central platform provides to meet mission requirements.”
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 resources and eliminating the delays that have allowed caseload 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.