Data

Faster data, better law enforcement

Shutterstock image (by Adam Vilimek): scale of justice amid a data transfer.

(Image: Adam Vilimek/Shutterstock)

In a sign of intensifying efforts from law enforcement to harness big data, the Justice Department's research and development arm is funding software and other tools that make it easier to store and process data for criminal investigations. The National Institute of Justice’s recent award totaling about $1 million to the Rand Corporation and Grier Forensics seeks to make data acquisition in investigations both rapid and forensically sound. The solicitation for the award laments the conventional collection time for digital media, which it pegs at 1.5 gigabytes per minute, as a "time consuming" process that creates a backlog of cases.

While the National Institute of Justice is responding to a demand for data harvesting that came from local law enforcement, the technology behind the award could find applications in federal government and the private sector.

Jonathan Grier, the digital forensics specialist behind his namesake firm, said the U.S. military has expressed interest in using the NIJ-funded software for cyber forensics. He also said Special Forces could use the software to backhaul data after a raid.

Grier Forensics is pivoting from one agency award to another. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency gave the firm about $175,000 to develop the software as part of DARPA’s now defunct Cyber Fast Track program, which sought to accelerate funding for a rapidly changing technology, according to Grier.

The software's next step, via the cash from NIJ, is to show full maturity by proving effective in a variety of scenarios. Grier said he is seeking to bridge a gap between the powerful software being tested in labs and the tools used by law enforcement.

Local law enforcement officials have told NIJ of their need "to be able to utilize visual media faster than [they] are currently capable of doing," said Martin Novak, an NIJ program manager. 

Novak described NIJ as in the middle of an R&D risk-taking spectrum, as neither playing it safe nor gambling on long-odds technology. "We tend to fund things that we feel have a good chance of success," he said.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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