NIST Looks into the Black Box of Computer and Mobile Phone Forensics

According to Barbara Guttman, leader of NIST’s digital forensics research program, “We want to understand the state of the practice. Can experts produce accurate and reliable information when extracting data from a digital device?”

en flag
nl flag
et flag
fi flag
fr flag
de flag
pt flag
ru flag
es flag

Editor’s Note: Taken directly from the recent NIST media release highlighting the first large-scale “black box” study to test the accuracy of computer and mobile forensics, the following information is provided to describe the new digital forensics research initiative from NIST which, according to Barbara Guttman, leader of NIST’s digital forensics research program, is designed to help better understand the state of the practice and measure how well digital forensics experts do their job.

NIST Media Announcement

NIST to Digital Forensics Experts: Show Us What You Got

Digital forensics experts often extract data from computers and mobile phones that may contain evidence of a crime. Now, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will conduct the first large-scale study to measure how well those experts do their job. But rather than testing the proficiency of individual experts, the study aims to measure the performance of the digital forensics community overall.

In this study, to be conducted online, participants will examine simulated digital evidence, then answer questions that might arise in a real criminal investigation. The exercise should take about two hours, and participation is voluntary. Enrollment is now open, and the online test will be available for approximately three months.

“We want to understand the state of the practice,” said Barbara Guttman, leader of NIST’s digital forensics research program. “Can experts produce accurate and reliable information when examining data from a digital device?”

In any forensic discipline, experts can encounter difficult cases. Fingerprints can be smudged and distorted. DNA can be degraded. One challenge with digital evidence is that it can often be difficult to find key bits of evidence among large volumes of data. Also, technology changes so quickly that it can be difficult to keep up.

“Forensics experts can’t extract data perfectly in every possible scenario,” Guttman said. “Phones change. Apps change. The world just moves too fast.”

While no forensic method works perfectly all the time, researchers can measure performance within a discipline by testing the experts. For instance, researchers might show fingerprint experts a series of prints and ask whether they do or don’t match. The study designers know the correct answers, and by combining the results from many experts, they can gain insight into the reliability of the method overall.

These studies only determine whether the expert gave the correct answer, without concern for how they reached it. In other words, they treat the expert as a black box — something you cannot see inside. Researchers use black box studies to assess the reliability of methods that rely on human judgment.

For the NIST black box study, participants will download simulated evidence from the NIST website in the form of one virtual mobile phone and one virtual computer. Such virtual devices, called “forensic images,” are commonly used in digital forensics, and study participants will be able to connect to them using the same software tools they use when working on real cases.

The forensic images created for this study simulate imagined but realistic scenarios involving a potential homicide and a potential theft of intellectual property. Study participants will download the images, examine them using whatever forensic software tools they choose, and answer a series of questions. For instance:

  • What software program was used to discuss a potentially illegal transaction?
  • What was the VIN number of the vehicle that connected to the phone via Bluetooth?
  • What location information can be gleaned from the photo of a black Labrador found on this device?

The study is open to all public and private sector digital examiners who conduct hard drive or mobile phone examinations as part of their official duties. NIST will not calculate the performance of any specific expert or laboratory. Instead, NIST will publish anonymized and aggregated results that show the overall performance for the expert community and different sectors within that community.

This study will fulfill a critical need identified in a landmark 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences. Titled Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, that report called for black box studies to measure the reliability of forensic methods that rely on human judgment. Courts and jurors can then consider the results of those studies when weighing evidence. The results of this study will also provide strategic direction for future research.

This black box study is part of a larger effort to evaluate the scientific foundations of digital forensic methods. NIST is also conducting scientific foundation reviews for DNA mixtures, firearms identification and bitemark analysis.

For more information and to enroll, visit the NIST Blackbox Study for Digital Examiners webpage.

Read the original media announcement at NIST to Digital Forensics Experts: Show Us What You Got

Additional Reading

Source: ComplexDiscovery

A Matter of Pricing? A Running Update of Semi-Annual eDiscovery Pricing Survey Responses

First administered in December of 2018 and conducted four times during the last two years with 334 individual responses, the semi-annual eDiscovery Pricing Survey highlights pricing on selected collection, processing, and review tasks. The aggregate results of all surveys as shared in the provided comparative charts may be helpful for understanding pricing and its impact on purchasing behavior on selected services over time.



Access the Results Now!

ComplexDiscovery combines original industry research with curated expert articles to create an informational resource that helps legal, business, and information technology professionals better understand the business and practice of data discovery and legal discovery.

All contributions are invested to support the development and distribution of ComplexDiscovery content. Contributors can make as many article contributions as they like, but will not be asked to register and pay until their contribution reaches $5.

A Competitive Advantage? FTC and DOJ Issue Antitrust Guidelines for Evaluating Vertical Mergers

According to FTC Chairman Joe Simons, “The new Guidelines reflect our...

Morae Acquires Legal Management Consultancy Janders Dean

According to Janders Dean founder Justin North, "Now more than ever,...

eDiscovery Mergers, Acquisitions, and Investments in Q2 2020

From UnitedLex to Onna, ComplexDiscovery findings, data points, and tracking information...

An Irish Update: DPC Ireland Publishes GDPR Regulatory Activity Report

The purpose of this two-year assessment is to provide a wider-angled...

A Running List: Top 100+ eDiscovery Providers

Based on a compilation of research from analyst firms and industry...

The eDisclosure Systems Buyers Guide – 2020 Edition (Andrew Haslam)

Authored by industry expert Andrew Haslam, the eDisclosure Buyers Guide continues...

The Race to the Starting Line? Recent Secure Remote Review Announcements

Not all secure remote review offerings are equal as the apparent...

Enabling Remote eDiscovery? A Snapshot of DaaS

Desktop as a Service (DaaS) providers are becoming important contributors to...

Home or Away? New eDiscovery Collection Market Sizing and Pricing Considerations

One of the key home (onsite) or away (remote) decisions that...

Revisions and Decisions? New Considerations for eDiscovery Secure Remote Reviews

One of the key revision and decision areas that business, legal,...

A Macro Look at Past and Projected eDiscovery Market Size from 2012 to 2024

From a macro look at past estimations of eDiscovery market size...

An eDiscovery Market Size Mashup: 2019-2024 Worldwide Software and Services Overview

While the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for worldwide eDiscovery software...

Constrained Acceleration? The Summer 2020 eDiscovery Business Confidence Survey

Since January 2016, 2,089 individual responses to eighteen quarterly eDiscovery Business...

A Matter of Pricing? A Running Update of Semi-Annual eDiscovery Pricing Survey Responses

First administered in December of 2018 and conducted four times during...

A Pandemeconomic Indicator? Summer 2020 eDiscovery Pricing Survey Results

Based on the complexity of data and legal discovery, it is...

COVID-19 Constrained? The Impact of Six Issues on the Business of eDiscovery

In the spring of 2020, 51.2% of respondents viewed budgetary constraints...

Morae Acquires Legal Management Consultancy Janders Dean

According to Janders Dean founder Justin North, "Now more than ever,...

eDiscovery Mergers, Acquisitions, and Investments in Q2 2020

From UnitedLex to Onna, ComplexDiscovery findings, data points, and tracking information...

Mitratech Acquires CMPG Risk Solutions

According to the announcement, with the inclusion of enterprise and vendor...

Onna Raises $27M in Series B Funding

"Since we first invested in Onna last year, Slack deployed their...

Five Great Reads on eDiscovery for June 2020

From collection market size updates to cloud outsourcing guidelines, the June...

Five Great Reads on eDiscovery for May 2020

From review market sizing revisions to pandemeconomic pricing, the May 2020...

Five Great Reads on eDiscovery for April 2020

From business confidence to the boom of Zoom, the April 2020...

Five Great Reads on Data Discovery and Legal Discovery for March 2020

From business continuity considerations to cybersecurity attacks, the March 2020 edition...