Technology hinders fraud investigations

In an interview with Computing, SFO Assistant Director Peter Kiernan, said new remote networked technologies and storage intense laptops, mean investigators have to search for more information sources and locations when tracking down fraudsters.

‘Criminals aren’t necessarily getting any more sophisticated, but new technologies are adding an extra level of sophistication which wasn’t there two to three years ago,’ he said.

To combat increasing levels of data, the government department that investigates and prosecutes high profile financial crimes, has introduced its ‘Docman’ electronic case investigation system (, 10 August).

After successfully testing it on three live cases, SFO now plans to make Docman the primary method for investigating new cases.

‘Most computers these days have around 20 gigabytes of storage and the biggest amount of electronic data we have seized was 20 terabytes, so having a tool for searching has been very useful.’

The evidence search and retrieval system, developed by LogicaCMG, scans documents – such as bank statements and correspondence – seized by the SFO, allowing investigators to analyse huge amounts of evidence with ease.

‘We want to deal with hundreds if not thousands of documents at a time, so we needed a system that allows us to manipulate the data,’ Peter Kiernan, Assistant Director at the SFO, told Computing.

Search engine and data categorisation software from Convera, has also been added so thousands of documents can be searched for evidence.

An initial trial of the system indicates that Docman will be able to reduce the time taken during the main investigation stage of a case by up to four months, while the evidence review stage can save an additional two months.

‘All case papers will be scanned so we can find something in a matter of seconds.’ Kiernan said.

‘Before we would have to manually input information from a bank statement into a spreadsheet and we do not need to do that any more,’ he said.

Using Convera’s RetrievalWare search-engine software, SFO will also be able to cross check scanned paper-based information against electronically seized data, such as emails.

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