CYBERSECURITYNew ‘Faraday Cage’ Research Facility to Help Combat Digital Crime

Published 5 December 2022

University of Huddersfield installing a new facility named the ‘Faraday Cage’ which will help speed-up the development and testing of new digital forensic processes to help law enforcement meet the huge growth rate in digital crime.

Certain computer forensic test procedures of electronic systems require an isolated environment free of electromagnetic interference known as a ‘Faraday Cage’.  Now, a bespoke digital forensics research facility at the University of Huddersfield– one of the first to be installed at a university – has mirrored the same technology on a larger scale to research and develop new techniques in order to combat digital crime.

Professor Simon Parkinson, Director of the University’s Centre for Cybersecurity, has been leading the installation of the new facility, aptly named the ‘Faraday Cage,’ located in the University’s newly refurbished Laura Annie Willson Building.

“This new facility allows us to accelerate the development and testing of new digital forensic processes to help law enforcement meet the huge growth rate in digital crime,” explained Professor Parkinson.

“We are one of the first universities in the UK to have this bespoke facility installed providing us with an exciting opportunity to create a research test environment and expand our forensic research to other pertinent challenges such as mobile phone forensics,” he said.

Professor Parkinson, Dr. Saad Khan, and Dr. Monika Roopak have been using the facility to research ways of assisting police forces and law enforcement agencies to meet the huge demand of viewing, processing and analyzing digital evidence.

One of these areas has involved investigating instances containing the storage and distribution of illegal images.

In the UK alone, Professor Parkinson has witnessed the number of cases rising from around 2,106 in 2002, to greater than 31,746 in 2020.  In addition, he said investigators can be presented with more than 60TB of data per case, meaning the length of time it takes in computer processing to extract, search and match known illegal content typically requires over two weeks per case.

Professor Parkinson and his team have applied new facial recognition methods to quickly enable early insight into the presence of illicit content, before utilizing artificial intelligence planning techniques to handle the concurrent processing of multiple cases.

“Timely victim identification is essential, otherwise perpetrators can continue committing and victims are left vulnerable,” he said.

Work is currently underway with Loadstar platform, Kurch Consult Ltd, and West Midlands Police Force, to benchmark and evaluate the new techniques but Professor Parkinson is confident they will reduce processing times and help police forces to keep pace with increasing case numbers.

“Developing software to reduce the human-hours involved and discover identity during investigation,” he said, “not only provides a timelier response to victims, but could also protect police officers from the impact of having to personally view explicit images.”

The facility and its research are also being used to teach students studying the Computer Science with Cyber Security BSc and Cyber Security and Digital Forensics MSc degrees, meaning students can be assured they are learning the very latest techniques being used to combat digital crime.