March 27

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When Everything Is Digital and Virtual, Will Every Investigation Also Become Virtual?

We live in an exciting time, where new technologies are providing us with fascinating capabilities that have never been possible.

We’ve previously talked about how some of these technologies can be used by criminals to help commit crimes or to make it more difficult for us to find them. If you haven’t read these previous posts, we’ve discussed the darknets, the Internet of Things, the risk from unsecured Wi-Fi, and cosmos computing.

I also talked about the need for a new vision in the world of investigations. It seems that the models we’re using aren’t making progress fast enough. Instead of gradual, incremental change, we need to evolve into the professions that will be needed for the future.

But today, instead of talking about how technology is making it easier for the techno-criminals, I want to talk about how we might leverage technologies that could potentially revolutionize investigations and our legal systems.

Two of these technologies are augmented reality and virtual reality.

Augmented reality will basically add layers of information on top of the real world that we see (I recommend starting this YouTube video at about the 27-minute mark, and you can watch as long as you’re interested). This may be in the form of some type of headset or specially-designed glasses that will work like a “heads up display.” It might be using the camera of your mobile device with artificial intelligence to provide more details about what you see. So this technology will augment, or add to, our perception of the world.

Virtual reality can also amplify the real world, but it can go even deeper to provide more immersive experiences. Companies are already designing virtual worlds where you can live, work, and play. In these worlds you can be anything or anyone you want to be.

You may think that virtual reality will only be like enhanced video games, but let me assure you that it will be much more sophisticated than that. Many of the virtual worlds will create entirely new environments that will be limited only by your imagination.

Who wouldn’t want to visit or live in a virtual world that could provide an experience that isn’t possible in the real world? In these worlds, if you could feel beautiful/handsome, stronger, more intelligent, or have super powers, would you at least be curious to give it a try?

The positive psychological and emotional feedback that these experiences can provide is why these worlds have the potential to be very attractive and massively addictive.

I’ve read many articles that use the term “metaverse” for these various new layers of reality that will soon be available to everyone.

With this technology you’ll be able to choose how many layers you use, and the deeper you want to go, the more immersive the experience can be. Some experts are afraid that these virtual worlds will be so addictive that some people may prefer to stay in those worlds and not function at all in our physical real world.

It’s interesting to think about the possibilities of having multiple personas in different virtual worlds, and how that could change our lives, but that’s not the focus of this post.

I want to think about how these technologies could be used to help us with some of the challenges that we’re facing with the future of investigations.

We’re already falling farther and farther behind the techno-criminals. We have limitations they don’t have, and we have to play by rules they aren’t bound by.

This situation can get much worse if we don’t start thinking about new and innovative ways to take advantage of technologies to give us faster progress.

There are predictions that by 2021 there will be 3.5 million openings for cyber security professionals that we won’t be able to fill.

Most law enforcement professionals will certainly agree that today we can’t hire enough digital forensics professionals. Most agencies with any type of digital forensics capability are overwhelmed with the demand for those services, and are either severely backlogged or are limited to providing digital forensics analysis for only high-priority cases.

This doesn’t include the significant demand for digital forensics experts in the private sector as well. Will the public sector be able to recruit and maintain the digital forensics professionals needed, while competing with the higher salaries and benefits that the private sector can offer?

In addition to these problems, as technology becomes more sophisticated, professionals in both security and digital forensics will be forced to specialize. It will critical to make sure they have the training, experience and the tools for their areas of technical specialization.

That could mean that for many cases involving technology and electronic evidence, you’ll need to assemble a team of these expert specialists to conduct your investigations.

If this assumption is valid, the person, agency, or company with the responsibility of conducting an investigation will need to know who these specialists are, how to contact them to determine if their expertise is what is needed for the case, and then find out whether they’re available to help.

I’ve called this the “Hollywood model of investigations” because it is similar to the process used to create a feature film. The producers choose a director, and then work together to identify the various specialists they want to work on the film, to include casting, video, special effects, costumes, set design, editing, and more. These specialists come together to work on the project, and when the film is completed they move onto the next job.

This may very well be the type of model that we’ll need for future investigations involving technology, because we can’t expect any single company or agency to have this wide range of specialized technical investigations expertise on staff.

So what possible solutions can we develop to help solve some of these challenges?

Could we use augmented reality or virtual reality to overcome some of the limitations we face?

Both of these technologies plus artificial intelligence could be used to develop training programs for digital forensics practitioners, demonstrating how to collect and preserve digital information from multiple devices. Step-by-step guidance through an established investigative strategy using best practices could also make sure that nothing is missed or completed out of order.

From a training perspective, being able to put investigators through simulated situations that appear to be more real will help them to learn and remember the information compared to traditional classroom teaching methods.

As more and more of our applications and data migrate to the cloud, will the physical presence of an investigator be required at a crime scene more…or less?

Consider the possibility of using virtual reality to give a tour of a crime scene by the best expert in the world investigating a specific type of crime. Could this be a more efficient use of their expertise, or would we lose the “sixth sense” perception from them being physically present?

We’ve already talked about how we will need more specialized technical investigators. Can these technologies allow investigative specialists from other countries to help from anywhere they happen to be, without the need for travel time and costs?

What about data collection and preservation from a cloud environment? Could augmented/virtual reality technology help to minimize the time and costs of this data acquisition?

Using augmented or virtual technologies will make authenticating the integrity of digital evidence even more critical, since there may be cases where a person from the investigative team never actually touches a device containing digital evidence.

This scenario could also create a need for universal expert specialist investigative certifications that would be recognized and accepted all over the world.

Could we also see a transformation to digital courts, where most or even all the participants are present virtually, but not physically?

There are already organizations virtually transporting jurors to crime scenes.

Think about the possibility of virtual courts. Could virtual reality testimony be more efficient? Or once again, do we lose a critical dynamic in a court setting when all of the participants are physically present?

Could this environment overcome the limitations of geographically based legal jurisdictions?

Technology continues to evolve.

The techno-criminals are already taking advantage of advancing technology. Why can’t we?

We should start thinking about how we can evolve…before we are left behind.

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Tags

Cybercrime, Investigations, Techno-Crime


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