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Ex-officer says imaging software can help growing 'question' of authenticity

Monday, 17 July 2017

A former forensics officer says the increasing ‘issue’ of image authenticity can be tackled with software he has worked on.

David Spreadborough, an ex-imaging forensics officer at Cheshire Police for 24 years, has been working with Amped Software on a programme called Authenticate which can analyse images for signs of manipulation.

The software, which can be automated to run thousands of images, is designed to help law enforcement underpin the veracity of images submitted to them externally.

Speaking to PoliceOracle.com at the Forensics Europe Expo 2017, Mr Spreadborough said the programme would allow officers to apply the appropriate level of “weight” to evidence.

He said: “The software we are getting a lot of interest in is Authenticate. It helps identify whether or not an image has come from a specific device and identifies signs of manipulation in that image.

“People are getting asked about this and that is why it is becoming very, very popular.

“The question being asked is ‘is that a real image?’ and I think this comes from the media, the press, it’s coming into people’s minds that an image is easily faked.

“For twenty years I have been able to manipulate images in Photoshop but it’s now happening in our day to day lives with smartphones, so is it happening in law enforcement? Is it happening in the legal world?

“Nobody knows because there hasn’t been a product that is easily used to identify it, well now there is.”

The software identifies articles which are left behind an image if someone crops, clones or resizes it, amongst other modifications, much in the same mould as traditional forensics, according to Mr Spreadborough.

He continued: “In the same way as traditional forensics we are looking for what is added or removed from the scene and that is what the software does, it goes digging and digging and digging.

“For any law enforcement case we have to now ask the question ‘can I rely on what I am seeing’ because the ability is out there to change everything.

“From a policing point of view we have strong restrictions on how images are created, we have lots of guidelines surrounding image integrity and authentication but for an image sent to us from a victim, witness or defendant, where does that chain of custody start? What has happened to it before?

“What the software is able to does is identify any issues in a story or version of events.”

Mr Spreadborough, who works as an international trainer for Amped Software, said the company was beginning to try and introduce the tech to UK forces and says it will provide an “easy” way to conduct image forensics.

He added: “There has not been an easy solution to this before but now there is, it can be automated and batched quite simply.

“The model is now there to make these checks right at the start, law enforcement and legal professionals can then adjust the weight of evidence depending on what the software tells us.”

The firm is also in partnership with Axon, makers of Taser, supplying a similar product for their body worn camera technology and are hoping to introduce it to police forces here in the near future.