It goes without saying that CCTV footage, dashcam and mobile phone recordings, and videos of witness statements can be integral pieces of evidence in criminal investigations and prosecution proceedings. However, without the right technologies in place to support and secure the ingestion and sharing of these files, they can cause significant issues for the police and wider justice community.
Concerns include the risk associated with managing digital files sent from an unverified source straight into the corporate network (as can be the case during evidence submission via websites). In addition, police need to make sure witness statements can be captured digitally, whilst ensuring that any sensitive data submitted with these files is appropriately protected. Additionally, it is important that sensitive data is effectively protected when shared between departments, police services and other justice organisations.
To facilitate this, organisations require a solution that can not only handle the transfer of large files into their corporate network (and mitigate the associated risks, such as malware and viruses) but also protect the sensitive data submitted alongside these files, for example witnesses’ names and contact details.
Facilitating the secure ingestion and sharing of digital evidence
There is a relatively simple solution for organisations to use when protecting online submissions. A secure web form can provide a single point of contact for online non-emergency incidents. This form can be tailored to include all necessary fields, and increasingly, these forms are being used to populate witness statements that are directly admissible in court. The forms must offer the ability to submit large files – so that files like CCTV footage and dashcam recordings can be easily ingested. In and of itself, this solution should also provide comprehensive auditing functionality.
As data breaches have shown us, when digital data is saved and transported physically, it is immediately at risk.
A secure web form would meet data protection requirements by encrypting personally sensitive information, such as witnesses’ names and contact details. It is also a more secure alternative than, for example, sending this information on a USB stick in the post or via courier. As data breaches have shown us, when digital data is saved and transported physically, it is immediately at risk. Additionally, posting and couriering items takes longer and makes submitting evidence a greater burden for witnesses – both of which swift and efficient justice should avoid. The secure form should also offer anti-virus scanning and protection as default, and therefore provide greater security to the network.
For additional protection, the data and files received should be sent to a secure collaboration environment. Again, the files can be scanned for viruses within this environment to increase information security. All data submissions should be stored encrypted at a file and folder-level to protect the personal data of the citizens involved. Users within the police service and related justice agencies can only access the files with the correct permissions and can be prevented from taking certain actions (such as downloading files), reducing the likelihood of an internal data breach. Finally, a full audit trail from both the secure form and the encrypted environment would help preserve the chain of evidence and could be relied on to verify when files were submitted and the actions taken with them. This functionality would also be crucial for compliance with data protection legislation, providing full visibility over sensitive information.
Finally, the secure collaboration environment should offer the ability to ‘onward share’ data with the relevant parties required for criminal proceedings. This, again, removes the risk of data loss and breach caused by sharing data via USBs, CDs / DVDs and printouts sent in the post or using a courier.