UCD researchers develop low cost weapon against cybercrime

Lee Tobin (left) and Dr Pavel Gladyshev at the Digital Forensics Investigation Research Laboratory (DigitalFIRE).

Lee Tobin (left) and Dr Pavel Gladyshev at the Digital Forensics Investigation Research Laboratory (DigitalFIRE). Photo: Science Foundation Ireland.

Researchers at UCD have developed a low cost device which can be used to gather digital data at crime scenes.

The device, called the FIREBrick, can help police gather data from computers at a suspected crime scene for a fraction of the cost of commercially produced hardware.

The FIREBrick is expected to be of particular use to police forces in developing countries or those with limited financial resources.

The research team, led by Dr Pavel Gladyshev, head of the Digital Forensics Investigation Research Laboratory (DigitalFIRE) based at UCD’s School of Computer Science and Informatics, is part of Lero, the Irish Software Engineering Research Centre.

“Digital data at actual or suspected crime scenes has an increasingly important role to play in building evidence against criminals or terrorists,” said Dr Gladyshev, who also serves on the INTERPOL steering committee on IT Crime.

“Our new device FIREBrick, which is an open source alternative to commercial hardware write blockers and disk imagers, can be assembled from off the shelf mass produced components with just a screwdriver for a total cost of around $199 whereas a commercial system could cost up to ten times this amount.”

FIREBrick is an easy to use modular platform which allows police to pre-process evidence on site. Features include autonomous disk imaging at speeds of up to 5GB per minute with storage mirroring and encryption, and free open source firmware.

“At one time fighting cybercrime was the sole preserve of specialist police squads but it has now become routine for regional and district police squads to become involved in the detection and analysis of this type of crime,” said Lee Tobin, Lero researcher at UCD. “But funding has not kept up with this development.”

According to Dr Mike Hinchey, director of Lero, which is funded by Science Foundation Ireland, the rise of cloud computing and mobile had increased the complexity in tracking evidence and cybercrime. “This new low cost device will increase the capabilities of law enforcement agencies globally to track breaches of security and help to deter further attacks,” he added.

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