Fast forensic search and authentication for obtaining valid video evidence

The availability and authenticity of video data is playing an increasingly important role in legal proceedings, providing a clearer and more accurate representation of actual events. However, security teams and law enforcement officers must be equipped with video technology that can accurately provide video evidence that can hold in court.

This key requirement has driven innovation in video technology. The first stage of evolution was the optimisation of image quality, then, as the use of cameras proliferated, advances in metadata helped to quickly identify relevant scenes. These criteria remain vital but coinciding with increased use of video evidence is a greater focus on its authenticity, and now this can be achieved through secure signature technology.

Today best practices such as those presented in the Budapest Convention, the ISO Digital Forensic, and Directive (EU) 2016/680 (also known as the Law Enforcement Directive, or LED) follow increasing scrutiny on the authenticity of video evidence. For these reasons, it’s increasingly important for stakeholders across law court cases to be supported by technology that quickly identifies evidence, with validity and authenticity, for the best legal outcome.

Find the evidence you’re looking for – quickly

For video operators and law enforcement agencies, the initial challenge of forensic search requires the ability to find evidence and ensure its clarity. First, the video must clearly identify the necessary detail of the situation. This demands high image quality, and as incidents can occur at any time of day or night, cameras should be able to deliver high resolution images with minimal noise and artefacts across varying light conditions.

A camera that achieves high image quality also helps to optimize metadata. This enables the event of interest to be found, allowing detection and classification of objects involved, such as a person or people, or vehicles, as well as observation of the incident in question. This improves the quality of analytics to correctly apply and perform the desired search criteria on a reliable basis. When a desired scene is found, the stream of the reconstructed dynamic must also be continuous between different cameras, without any fragmentation or interruption that can obscure events.

Moreover, the right evidence usually has to be identified from amongst a high volume of video, from multiple cameras in various city locations. This puts reliance on the ability to filter search criteria quickly. The longer the forensic search period takes, the greater the time required by the operator, and the higher the cost of the process. More importantly, the longer it takes to identify the evidence, the greater the risk of endangering the success of the legal procedure.

The initial concern is the increased likelihood of the perpetrator avoiding detection. This is also crucial from a safety and security perspective, where a potential criminal can continue to operate while they’re still at large. In addition, the more time a suspect has, the easier it is for them to remove or destroy evidence. And, even if a suspect has already been detained, there’s just a 24- to 48-hour custody window, dependent on the jurisdiction, in which to identify sufficient evidence to bring a charge.

When video evidence is identified, it must achieve sufficient validity and authenticity to ensure the best legal outcome by withstanding rigorous courtroom analysis. Again, this means ensuring high video quality, so that events, people, and any objects involved, can be clearly identified by stakeholders within a law court.

To prove authenticity, video should also include a secure signature to confirm that the images displaying the incident have not been tampered with. Previously, the task of adding a secure signature to the video was manually performed by the operator of the management system after the video was received by the camera. Not only is this process time-consuming, but it doesn’t allow for tracing back the origin of the video to a particular camera. This results in overall inaccuracy in the chain of custody, which is of significant importance for the legal process. Now, end-to-end data integrity is achieved by adding a secure signature at the earliest point possible, right when the camera captures the video. This secure signature is generated in a hardware-based, tamper-protected secure cryptographic computing module using the camera’s globally unique ID. Protecting video with this technology removes the ability to subsequently tamper with the stream.

Proving video authenticity is a growing requirement that will be increasingly important in future. Not only will a more robust approach to video authenticity increase the validity of a legal outcome, but it will also help protect human rights. The more secure the evidence in identifying actual events, the greater the ability to defend innocent people.

Best practices to increase the validity of video evidence are identified within the Budapest Convention. As the most recognized global standard relating to electronic evidence and cyber crime, the Budapest Convention provides a framework regarding offences committed against and by means of computers, including video evidence. Video evidence best practices are also presented in regional and local judicial systems, such as the UK Data Protection Act, which states that recordings should be dated, timed, and securely stored to prevent tampering.

As a result of the growing adoption of recognized best practices, ensuring video data authenticity also demands a system’s robust cyber security protection. This includes best practices deployed to protect the camera network from attack, such as hardening, as well as the strength of the cyber security technology itself.

As the attention on validity and authenticity of video images in courtrooms is increasing, stakeholders within the legal process need to be supported by capable video technology. Better network video will help security teams and law enforcement agencies quickly build the evidence they need to bring a case to court. Ultimately, this technology will also give a more accurate and reliable understanding of events that will help improve the legal process for prosecution and defense alike.

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