The Stack Archive

UK government offers £300,000 digital forensics challenge

Tue 25 Aug 2015

The UK’s Home Office is offering a £300,000 crop of contracts to companies, individual researchers or other organisations that are able to offer it better tools to examine digital devices seized during police investigations.

The announcement yesterday called for proposals for new technologies to provide ‘new and innovative ways of quickly recovering and thoroughly analysing data held on digital devices’ including games consoles, mobile phones, computers, tablets, smart watches and other devices. The Home Office will hold a briefing for potential participants on the 14th of September, with the deadline for applications set at 30th September.

Further details of the digital forensics competition state that Phase 1 of the contest will involve the presentation and analysis of submitters’ proof-of-concept techniques and technologies, and notes that the standards of the contest require ‘a significant advance beyond the tools that are already commercially available’. Interested candidates can register via EventBrite.

The SBRI (Small Business Research Initiative) is being run by Innovate UK on behalf of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT).

If you’re a geek with a curious streak, and would like to appreciate the nature of the problem, you could do worse than download the PDF manual (15mb+) for the Virtual Forensic Computing software package, which takes the reader through the processes necessary to analyse snapshotted criminal digital assets.

The initial competition details make no mention of the problem forensic investigators face in exfiltrating data from devices encrypted with ‘zero knowledge’ schemes (where only the user’s password or other login details can open up the device); however the steady stream of government protest across the UK and North America since Apple introduced ZK storage into its iOS infrastructure a year ago would indicate that encryption may be part of the challenge competitors must contend with. If the protesting voices from the likes of FBI Director James Comey, former Chief of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service John Sawers – and also premiers David Cameron and Barack Obama – are to be thought credible, the encryption issue is continuing to perplex investigators across all sectors of the government.


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