New Forensic Tool Roots Out Illegal Images

This week, LTU Technologies launched a software plugin that strengthens the image analysis and indexing features of Guidance Software's Encase Forensic platform, which is commonly used by law enforcement and government agencies to sift through digital evidence during the course of investigations.

LTU's ImageSeeker For Encase plugin examines individual pixels in image and video files, taking into account a dozen different parameters that make up the image content, as opposed to just searching image metadata. This approach boosts the accuracy of the platform when it comes to identifying images with illegal content, said Kevin Smith, vice president of North America sales for LTU, which has offices in Paris and Washington, D.C.

In addition to quickly categorizing image data on hard drives, ImageSeeker For Encase allows field investigators to compare images against various databases of known illegal images to determine if a PC has been used in a crime, said Smith, adding that ImageSeeker can also analyze images without being connected to a database.

To make it impossible for criminals to cover their tracks by deleting files, ImageSeeker can search unallocated space on hard drives to find file data after it has been deleted from the recycle bin, according to Smith. "It has been tough for investigators to examine this unallocated space without knowing what they're looking for," Smith said.

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ImageSeeker is also appropriate for private companies that have large volumes of images and don't have the time to evaluate and organize them to make them accessible during legal discovery proceedings, Smith added.

LTU was founded in 1999 by researchers from MIT Media Lab, Oxford University and INRIA (French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control), and works with Homeland Security, FBI, the Department Of Defense and other government agencies.

The vendor does about 20 percent of its current business through private sector companies, but Smith said plans are to boost that number to between 25 percent and 30 percent in the coming year.

Earlier this week, Guidance Software, maker of the Encase platform, settled a case with the Federal Trade Commission that stemmed from a 2005 database breach that exposed the credit card and personal data of thousands of law enforcement and security workers.