Node4 creates first cloud-based digital forensics analysis solution for West Midlands Police
Fri 19 Jan 2024
Node4, in collaboration with Microsoft and Exterro, has developed the UK’s first cloud-based digital forensics analysis solution for the West Midlands Police Force.
The FTK Central solution is designed to address the challenges of processing large volumes of digital evidence in criminal investigations, particularly in cases involving indecent images of children and other vulnerable individuals.
The solution is hosted in Node4’s data centre, which allows for scalability and data management in a managed cloud environment.
Transforming Digital Forensics for Enhanced Public Safety
The West Midlands Police established its digital forensics team in 2003 to manage the increasing volume of digital evidence. With most investigations today involving multiple digital devices, the team faced challenges with their on-premises IT infrastructure, including data storage and processing.
“If you go back 10 or 20 years, the vast majority of people would have had one phone in the house and probably one PC,” said West Midlands Police’s Digital Forensics/Incident Response Supervisor, Detective Sergeant John Price KPM. He has been recognised for his leadership and innovation on the 2024 New Years Honours list with the King’s Police Medal for Digital Forensics.
With per-case data volumes routinely passing the 4TB mark and multiple cases on the go at any one time, they struggled to manage the necessary IT infrastructure, such as physical storage, processing power and SQL databases.
“Today, when we enter a suspect’s house, most have a work phone, a personal phone, tablets, and laptops. Plus, there are doorbells, dashcams, body cams, car cams, security cameras, smart TVs, game consoles and a whole load of other internet-enabled devices that record data and could be potential evidence or exhibits,” added Detective Sergeant Price.
How FTK Central Helped West Midlands Police
FTK Central processes data from seized devices, building links between different exhibits and enabling concurrent investigations for faster convictions. The cloud-based solution has been pivotal in processing data for 70 cases since its launch in May 2022, significantly speeding up investigations.
Detective Sergeant Price said: “When you understand that around 75% of the cases we handle deal with indecent images of children, you can see why speed and accuracy are so important. Using this tool, cases that once took months now take weeks. Those that took days can be solved in hours.”
DS Price KPM highlighted the tool’s role in safeguarding children and other vulnerable victims by enabling quicker identification and response to abuse.
The cloud-based solution also ensures compliance with various standards and regulations, including ISO17025 2017 and the Forensic Science Regulators Act.
DS Price KPM praised Node4’s commitment and support: “There’s an honest passion from the Node4 team to get this right for us … They understand the importance of our work and have delivered the tools and framework that allow us to work quickly, accurately and professionally to protect some of society’s most vulnerable people.”
West Midlands Police Force is the UK’s second-largest police force. It covers an area of almost 350 square miles and serves around 3 million people. The force deals with more than 2,000 emergency calls each day while also patrolling the streets and responding to incidents.
West Midlands Police established its digital forensics team in 2003 to help officers deal with an increasing volume of digital evidence.
It is estimated that 90% of UK crimes have a digital footprint, and the team’s task is to sort that data into actionable intelligence. Today, the digital forensics team’s services are a vital crimefighting tool across the West Midlands and Warwickshire, covering all areas of criminal activity but with a strong focus on investigating and prosecuting child exploitation and abuse.