Monday, May 20, 2024

Microsoft Unveils Apps for Crime-Fighting Data Mining

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Once again, software is fighting crime. Microsoft unveiled a suite of tools and initiatives for law-enforcement groups “specifically designed to improve public security and safety,” the company said.

Law enforcement agencies, like businesses, face a mountain of data that they are not adequately analyzing. Microsoft’s Citizen Safety Architecture resembles IBM’s BAO announcement in that both comprise a tool set and method to analyze extremely large data sets and to collate data from many sources.

That’s what Microsoft is aiming to help solve with efforts like its Citizen Safety Architecture (CSA), which it introduced this week. The architecture includes software components and three Global Security Operations Centers (GSOCs), which are located in the U.S., U.K. and India.

CSA, like BAO, is designed to work with whatever data agencies have, using structured and unstructured data. “Examples of unstructured data could be CCTV surveillance, unified communications and weather updates,” said Andrew Hawkins, Microsoft director of public safety solutions for the Worldwide Public Sector.

It’s also the latest example of law enforcement officials arming themselves with better technology to help fight crime. The FBI, for instance, said that new database and data-sharing efforts have resulted in solving a number of difficult highway serial killings.

Gathering that data is key. That’s why Microsoft this week said it is giving a free tool to INTERPOL called the Computer Online Forensic Evidence Extractor (COFEE), an application that “uses common digital forensics tool to help officers at the scene of the crime.”

The company is working on a mobile version for future release, said Richard Domingues Boscovich, senior attorney for Microsoft’s Internet security program, told in an e-mail.

A larger tool set for large-scale crimes is Microsoft Intelligence Framework, which is aimed at helping intelligence and law enforcement agencies coordinate information to detect and prevent terrorism, and to solve organized and major crime cases. The framework offers tools for storing and analyzing evidence and information across a variety of sources.

Other parts of the effort include the Microsoft Incident Response Platform, which helps managers provide process and role guidance during emergencies as well as deliver information to those on the scene. It takes advantage of software from several key partners.

Once data is gathered, another component, Microsoft’s Single View Platform (SVP), brings it all together, merging map data with documents and numbers to help users make the right decision.

“The single view is built up through the use of geospatial information that, when aggregated, provides information for decision-making,” Tim Bloechl, Microsoft managing director for worldwide public safety and national security told in an e-mail. He added that Microsoft works with Scyron for video data analysis, especially surveillance data, and with NICE Systems for analytics. The SVP is open and standards-based, Microsoft also said.

But however well agencies gather data, they are often constrained by statute from sharing it. “We know from what we’re doing that there continues to be major policy constraints between some organizations that preclude the sharing of information,” Bloechl said.

The answer seems to be to work on one nation at a time to develop a customized solution. Microsoft has two ongoing efforts, one called “Eagle” in the Netherlands and one called “FusionX” in the U.S., to help agencies collaborate. FusionX, for example, is designed to enable the sharing of data between federal, state, local and tribal governments and was inspired in part by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

This is not the first time Microsoft has worked with law enforcement. Much of the work described here is ongoing, the fruit of years of labor.

Nor is it the first time Microsoft has worked closely with law enforcement groups.

The company said its intelligence Framework developed from a five-year collaborative partnership with several nations’ law enforcement agencies in response to the threat from increasingly sophisticated criminals.

As with COFEE, Microsoft also has given away some tools to law enforcement for free.

“Several years ago, Toronto Detective Sergeant Paul Gillespie send a letter to Bill Gates asking for help in dealing with the growing Internet-based crimes against children,” Bloechl said. “Our response as a company was to look across our technology to find a way to help.”

Bloechl said the Result was the Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS), a free tool free provided internationally by Microsoft “to help law enforcement find, track down, arrest and lock up pedophiles in our societies,” he said. The tool has since been deployed in seven countries and has been used in more than 800 investigations, he added.

“CETS has improved police analytical processes and has led to the apprehension and imprisonment of numerous sex offenders,” Bloechl said.

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