Meet The Team: Rob Bell
After three decades in Law Enforcement, Rob Bell joins our Digital Investigation Unit (DIU) at IntaForensics as a Senior Digital Investigator. We’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Rob to dive deeper into his passion and experience in digital investigations.
What was it about IntaForensics that made you want to join the company?
“IntaForensics are a great company. I’m really enthused by the company’s desire to improve things through seeking accreditation and their desire to follow accredited practices. Also, the connection between IntaForensics, and the Forensic Access Group interested me.”
“There’s a lot of room to develop closer working practices between forensics specialists and the digital investigation specialists. As a His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) report on digital forensics has highlighted, there is a need to integrate digital forensic services under the existing forensic science structure. This places IntaForensics in an enviable position, given the connections to the wider Forensic Access network of companies.”
What experience do you have in law enforcement and the criminal justice system?
“My 30-year career with Northamptonshire Police began – as everybody does – in uniform policing. I did response work and area officer duties – I then focussed on proactive policing.”
“I worked on one of the first Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) response teams. This involved setting up a small team to respond to the ANPR data accessed through existing CCTV cameras. We were very successful, and I like to think that this played a small part in the success that subsequent ANPR response teams have gone on to become.”
“The next few steps in my career included joining the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) where I became a Family Liaison Officer. Then I joined a Counter Terrorist Intelligence Unit (EMSOU-SB), where I became a Force Lead for CT Internet Investigations and Intelligence Development. I was trained in several different Intelligence roles and in CT forensic scene management.”
“In 2017, I moved to the Northamptonshire Police Digital Investigation Unit. Initially I was asked to work on child sexual exploitation cases, primarily the exchange of indecent images of children, before moving on to more traditional Digital Media Investigation (DMI) work and eventually specialising in vehicle data.”
“Having reached my 30 years’ Police service, I took the opportunity to come and work in the new Digital Investigation Unit at IntaForensics.”
When did you discover your passion for Digital Investigations?
“It started about 15 years ago when I completed an ‘Internet for Investigators’ course, we were shown a video that demonstrated the exponential growth of technology and that just blew me away.”
“I saw the incredible opportunities that digital data would provide for investigators. After this course, I became the Force Lead within Northamptonshire Police for CT Internet Investigations and Intelligence, and my interest in digital investigations grew from there.”
What is the most interesting and rewarding aspect of your job?
“At the heart of it all, is the desire to uncover information and present the truth. I get a kick out of uncovering information. There’s so much data available, it’s just all about analysing it, and then presenting the data in an understandable way, either to the primary investigator or as an expert witness in court.”
What would you say the most challenging aspect is?
“The time constraints are the most challenging because digital investigations can generate a lot of data. Reviewing the data and extracting those valuable pieces from a huge volume, with a court deadline looming, can be difficult.”
“Despite the time constraints, we can deliver high-quality analysis of the digital data that provides a well-informed interpretation.”
Can you let us know the most memorable case you’ve worked on?
“The case that I am most proud of is one that demonstrated my resilience and skill to gather the data required to prosecute the offender.”
“I received intelligence about IP logon history and some user identity data for a suspect that was involved in the sharing of indecent images of children. The suspect was using mobile data and VPNs, but most activity was via public Wi-Fi. This case required a huge amount of perseverance to review large volumes of data and identify the suspect’s public Wi-Fi account through a process of elimination. That allowed me to fully identify the suspect.”
“Right from the start I knew that the challenges of identifying him would be significant and others might not pursue it with as much vigour as I did.”
“I was able to pass the information onto the police force in the offender’s area, who moved quickly to make an arrest and recover evidence linking him to the sharing of indecent images.”
What does the future of Digital Investigations look like?
“The pace of digital development is continuing to accelerate. We all have devices and social media accounts that generate digital data and there will increasingly be more and more of it.
“Another area for growth is my specialist area, vehicle data. The volume and quality of the data that a vehicle can generate provides another huge opportunity to assist in digital investigations.”
“Cloud data also has evidential opportunities for future digital investigations. Obtaining cloud data has technical and legal challenges, but it can be very valuable. It will be increasingly important for investigations, as it can identify device generated location data.”
“The increasing co-operation between digital forensic specialists and the digital investigation specialists will help to really maximise those opportunities.”
How did you know you wanted to specialise in vehicle data?
“I attended a presentation that provided an insight into the data that’s contained within a vehicle and how effective it can be in helping to resolve investigations. I found it fascinating and was enthusiastic about the data opportunities.”
“Vehicle data was an area that the Northamptonshire Digital Investigation Unit hadn’t really focused on – so I saw an opportunity to try and fill this gap. I was allowed to focus on that area of work, develop our practices regarding vehicle data and that led me to become a specialist.”
“As vehicles become more automated, they will generate more and more data. My role continues to evolve as I learn more about how to access and use the data to assist with investigations. It has its challenges and difficulties, but I think it’s a worthwhile area to focus on.”
Thank you very much to Rob for his time and insight into his career and the world of Digital Investigations.
For more information about our Digital Investigation Unit and how they can assist you, please contact us.