UK Police Look To Internet Of Things For Evidence

Police say washing machines and refrigerators will provide invaluable evidence as they log residents’ every move

Scotland Yard expects Internet-connected home devices such as refrigerators, doorbells washing machines and light bulbs to play an increasingly significant role in crime scenes and is training detectives accordingly, its chief of digital forensics has said.

Police are also developing a digital forensics kit that could allow investigators to extract data from such devices rather than confiscating them, Mark Stokes told The Times.

Digital forensics

Vodafone Met Police Tablet 2

Connected home devices are increasingly inexpensive and the digital footprint they record of activities in and around the premises will be ever more valuable to investigators, Stokes said.

“The crime scene of tomorrow is going to be the Internet of Things,” he said. “A £3,000 fridge with a built-in family hub in it will soon be £400. Wireless cameras within a device such as the fridge may record the movement of suspects and owners.”

Samsung’s Family Hub refrigerator includes a camera capable of transmitting a live feed of the device’s surroundings and can log times and dates, Stokes noted.

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“Doorbells that connect directly to apps on a user’s phone can show who has rung the door and the owner or others may then remotely, if they choose to, give controlled access to the premises while away from the property,” he said. “All these leave a log and a trace of activity.”

Stokes is the latest to voice law enforcement’s growing interest in the data recorded by connected devices, a trend that has also raised privacy concerns with users and service providers.

Privacy concern

Arkansas police last year requested data from an Amazon Echo voice-activated device found at the scene of a murder investigation, but Amazon said it wouldn’t release data held on its servers without a “valid and binding legal demand”.

Apple similarly resisted helping investigators unlock an iPhone that belonged to a deceased suspect who was under investigation for gunning down 14 people in San Bernardino, California, on 2 December 2015. The FBI eventually used software supplied by a third party to unlock the device.

A Harvard study last year concluded that intelligence agencies were likely to benefit from the Internet of Things as it would provide them with ready means of spying on suspects.

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