Exploring a cloud-based future for image forensics

1 July, 2022

By Matt Burns

Exploring a cloud-based future for image forensics

We’ve already explored how the cloud enables us to perform much of our work here at CameraForensics, but how can it make a difference to online image forensics on a global level?

While a future in which online image forensics and analysis hosted purely on the cloud may not yet be a reality, such a future could bring a whole host of advantages to investigators.

A cloud-hosted environment could streamline online investigations, better encourage collaboration, and introduce greater privacy. But some significant challenges are preventing it from being a reality.

Below, we’re exploring the benefits of a universal cloud-hosted environment for image forensics, and discussing common challenges, to learn more about the current limitations and state of the cloud, and what the future holds.

Read on to learn more.

The benefits of universal cloud-hosted image forensics

In our blog exploring our cloud infrastructure, we looked at the benefits we get from using the cloud. However, a universal approach means universal advantages. Increased collaboration across departments and agile case research are just some of these.

These benefits are hugely important when applied to online image forensics, and are something we’re continuously seeking to improve for our users. They mean that victims of exploitation can be identified and safeguarded quicker – a mission our entire team is devoted to.

A global collaborative network

When it comes to gathering new information to uncover new intelligence, it can often be a case of who you know, as well as what you know. With a universal cloud-hosted approach to image forensics, collaborating with a wide array of specialists will be more accessible than ever.

Every specialist can provide unique insights and skillsets which helps investigators source new information, and close cases, faster and more strategically.

No time maintaining servers or upgrading

We already know that one of the big benefits of storing data in the cloud is that you’re no longer constrained by on-premises space.

Data can grow indefinitely, and as it does so, you need to ensure that your data storage platform can accommodate it. As we move deeper into the realms of big data, this can prove challenging. Maintaining on-premises data storage grows more and more time-consuming and upgrading these same platforms can mean costly investments and downtime.

With a cloud-based approach to data storage, users can continue to access critical data easily. When datasets outgrow capacity, more storage can be easily spun up, meaning minimal disruption and more efficient investigations. Users can better make use of the time that could be spent developing tools and performing research by removing this time spent on maintenance – streamlining online research.

Gaining intuitive insights into user behaviour

With all platforms integrated with the cloud, we can explore the user behaviour of online image investigators and access insights that can shape how we develop our tools.

Are users focusing on specific filters? Do they prefer location-based visual reports, or volumes of raw data to crawl through independently?

Accessing user behaviour insights may also help introduce wellbeing features to help users cope with stress, overwhelm, fatigue, or other difficult side effects of dealing with sensitive imagery.

These insights can also help enforce secure data governance processes throughout operations. It could ensure that only people with the correct clearance can access sensitive imagery and would audit each interaction. As a result, we can ensure that all data is being handled correctly while respecting the privacy of the victims concerned.

Keeping up with evolving mediums

It’s no secret that technology isn’t going to stop evolving at a breakneck pace.

Each innovation threatens to pose new challenges to our work, or introduce another medium that CSAM can be generated on – such as the introduction of livestreams and user-generated content apps such as TikTok.

With access to a more agile environment, cloud-based investigators can better keep up with emerging mediums, and with platforms that cater to new data formats, sources, and sizes, without sacrificing time or investment.

The cloud and its challenges

The future of fully cloud-based online image forensics boasts significant advantages. Yet reaching this stage isn’t easy, or even universally thought of as possible… yet. To understand why, we must explore some of the core challenges facing widespread adoption.

Risks and liability fears

When working with online image forensics, security comes before all else.

Image forensics involves dealing with highly sensitive imagery. Incorrectly handling this material could be both damaging to the wellbeing of victims, and overall security.

This continues to be one of the core challenges facing a cloud-based approach to image forensics. While the advantages of such a platform existing are distinctive, developing such an environment incorrectly could be devastating. As a result, many groups are reluctant to take on the responsibility of doing so – although some smaller isolated projects are in known development.

Legislation and responsibility

Societies around the world are trying to understand how to handle a constant internet presence – legislation, too, is constantly being revised as we better understand how the internet continues to affect our daily lives. In many jurisdictions, current legislation prevents law enforcement from managing this kind of data in the cloud. Unless the legislation changes, some of these options are impossible.

Some questions we need to consider:

  • What’s the most careful, accurate, and efficient way of sharing sensitive information over the internet, and for what purpose?
  • How does the sharing or accessing of images for online investigations affect the victim?
  • What can we do to make sure that we’re always operating at an optimum level?
  • Are we reaching the best outcomes for all?

As legislators reflect on the answers to these, we can support a successful governed, trusted, and monitored cloud.

Anxiety over security

As an emerging cloud-based tech landscape continues to develop, one concern prevails above all else – personal security.

Disrupting the status quo of traditional on-premises data storage, this new invisible means of location-less data storage has prompted resistance since its inception. However, with constant developments released and in progress, such as network segmentation and improved server reliability, it is now safer than ever to store data in the cloud.

We interact with the cloud daily, using it as a catalyst for our R&D projects, analysis processes, and collaborative workspaces.

To learn more about our R&D capabilities, and why we’re committed to deploying tech that drives positive change, read our insights here.

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