Device information may be too useful for law enforcement investigations


Growth in use translates into terabytes of evidence

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Take a walk outside and, according to Umit Karabiyik of Purdue University, video doorbells or street cameras are recording you. He says most people carry at least three devices that each categorize different data about them.

For law enforcement investigations, all of this data is considered today’s digital “fingerprints” – information potentially needed to solve a crime.

Karabiyik, assistant professor of computer science and information technology at Purdue Polytechnic, focuses on this data – called forensic intelligence – to empower law enforcement at all levels of the investigation. receive and potentially process terabytes of this data.

“Think about the data on each device,” Karabiyik said. “Individuals digitally leave ‘fingerprints’ on their phones with their behaviors. Sometimes they are unique, and data created by individuals on different devices helps identify who was using the device.

In a society devoted to a myriad of devices, most people carry a laptop, smartphone, and, Karabiyik said, a fitness tracker or smartwatch every day. All three devices collect data ranging from photos and videos, to social media, and even geolocation that can potentially aid an investigation.

Karabiyik works on data collected in cases of mass incidents with multiple victims, including national or international terrorist attacks. The amount of potentially available data grew exponentially in the years following 9/11, when investigators were faced with just 80 terabytes of data.

“Today that could amount to 500 terabytes in an incident with thousands of people using smart phones and security cameras in the areas,” Karabiyik said. “It’s like trying to find a needle in a pile of needles rather than a pile of hay. Which needles are you interested in? What specific item do you need? “

Focusing on the data available from a device and identifying trends in the user of the device at the time provides insight into what happened. Gathering the evidence collected from multiple devices or shared devices allows investigators to draw conclusions about the identity of the user at any given time.

Karabiyik is a member of the Purdue Insurance and Information Security Education and Research Center (CERIAS). Purdue’s cybersecurity research and education initiatives center on CERIAS and its 135 affiliated faculty members from 18 academic departments.

Cybersecurity is a critical topic as part of Purdue’s Next Moves, ongoing strategic initiatives that will advance the university’s competitive advantage. Cyber ​​security research is a key part of Purdue’s national security and technology business.

Karabiyik is part of a team that has been working since 2016 on a faster way for anyone who wants to share data with law enforcement while maintaining their security and privacy. Applied to any forensic investigation – large or small – a victim or witness simply needs to download an app to relay potential information to law enforcement.

As part of the research, Karabiyik said nothing is shared with law enforcement unless specific consent is given on specific person data through the app. Current survey tools only allow a transfer of all information, such as emptying all photos from a phone rather than a selection of two or three.

“I think there has to be a balance between national security and privacy,” Karabiyik said. “It helps build a relationship of trust between the public and law enforcement so that the public can share their data in a secure manner.”

About Purdue University

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Editor, Media Contact: Brian Huchel, 765-494-2084, [email protected]

Source: Umit Karabiyik, 765-496-6877, [email protected]


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