SCC Affiliated Visiting Researcher Award: European Emerging Forensic Scientist 2018

Doctor Heckmann Thibaut, who was a SCC’s academic visitor from 2017 to 2018, was rewarded with the “European Emerging Forensic Scientist Award 2018-2021” at the European Acadamy of Forensic Science (EAFS) conference, which took place in Lyon from August 27 to 31, 2018, and which brings together all the European forensic laboratories.

This prize rewards a process of collaboration between the RHUL, the Ecole Normale Superieure of Paris (ENS), and the Forensic Science Laboratory of the French National Gendarmerie (IRCGN). In that sense, when considering the latest generation of encrypted mobile devices (BlackBerry’s PGP,Apple’s iPhone), data extraction by forensic experts is an increasingly complex task. Forensic analyses even become a real challenge following an air crash or a terrorist attack. The collaboration between the SCC, the ENS and the IRCGN has helped to develop physical recovery of data on encrypted systems for the purpose of forensic analysis.

The EAFS committee noted that “the recovery of data and exploitation of electronic devices is a fast growing investigation field in forensic IT. Only a limited number of scientists are available in this discipline and all possible incentive needs to be going their ways. Data extraction from embedded and encrypted mobile phone devices is a highly complex task. Those data extractions are most important and fundamental in terrorist cases. In our opinion reading encrypted data is one of the most essential fields of Forensic Sciences in future”.

The techniques developed during SCC/ENS/IRCGN collaboration , put end-to-end and coupled with physical devices (X-ray 3D tomography, laser, SEM, fuming acids), have made it possible to have  successful  forensic  transplants  of  encrypted  systems  in  degraded  conditions and applied, for the first time, on a PGP-encrypted BlackBerry mobile phone (used by terrorist networks and drug traffickers).

Finally, beyond the field of research, the work of the SCC, the ENS and IRCGN had a significant impact on the work of international forensic experts, particularly in the recovery of damaged and encrypted phones.

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