Lessons from testing decades of forgotten rape kits: serial rapists are common, they don't follow a pattern, they're not very bright, and they're often the same men who commit acquaintance rape

America has an epidemic of untested rape kits, thanks to the institutional misogyny of police departments and prosecutors, especially when it comes to rapes committed against poor and racialized women. Read the rest

Sleuthing from public sources to figure out how the Hateful Eight leaker was caught

In 2014, Quentin Tarantino sued Gawker for publishing a link to a leaked pre-release screener of his movie "The Hateful Eight." The ensuing court-case revealed that the screeners Tarantino's company had released had some forensic "traitor tracing" features to enable them to track down the identities of people who leaked copies. Read the rest

This is the reconstructed face of a pet dog that lived 4,500 years ago

Archaeologists uncovered the skeleton of this neolithic dog more than a century ago in a 5,000 year old tomb on on the island of Mainland, Orkney, Scotland. Now, forensic scientists and artists have reconstructed the animal's face. According to Historic Environment Scotland researcher Steve Farrar, this dog and 23 others found in the "Cuween Hill (tomb) suggest that dogs had a particularly special significance for the farmers... Maybe dogs were their symbol or totem, perhaps they thought of themselves as the 'dog people.'" From The Scotsman:

As HES observes, the fact that the Orkney residents placed canine remains alongside those of humans could also speak to their belief in an afterlife for both parties.

The latest work was originally created in clay using traditional methods, with a 3D print of the Cuween Hill skull as the base to build the anatomy on to.

It was then cast in silicone and finished with the fur coat resembling a European grey wolf, as advised by experts...

(Forensic artist Amy) Thornton, who trained in facial reconstruction methods at the University of Dundee, said: “This reconstruction has been a particularly interesting project to be involved in, as it marks the first time I’ve employed forensic methods that would usually be used for a human facial reconstruction and applied these to an animal skull.

“This brought its own set of challenges, as there is much less existing data relating to average tissue depths in canine skulls compared to humans.”

Read the rest

If you're an American of European descent, your stupid cousins have probably put you in vast commercial genomic databases

Remember when they caught the Golden State Killer by comparing DNA crime-scene evidence to big commercial genomic databases (like those maintained by Ancestry.com, 23 and Me, etc) to find his family members and then track him down? Read the rest

Security researchers identify "fingerprints" in 3D printed objects that can be used to trace their manufacturing

In PrinTracker: Fingerprinting 3D Printers using Commodity Scanners (Scihub mirror), a paper to be presented at the ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security conference in Toronto this month, a group of U Buffalo and Northeastern researchers present a model for uniquely identifying which 3D printer produced a given manufactured object, which may allow for forensic investigators to associate counterfeit goods, illegal guns, and other printed objects with the device that manufactured them. Read the rest

Forensics company advises cops not to look at seized Iphones, to avoid facial-recognition lockouts

A leaked police-training presentation from digital forensics company Elcomsoft (a company that made history due to its early run-in with the DMCA) advises officers not to look at Iphones seized from suspects in order to avoid tripping the phones' facial recognition systems -- if Iphones sense too many unlock attempts with faces other than those registered as trusted, they fall back to requiring additional unlock measures like passcodes or fingerprints. Read the rest

Anonymous stock-market manipulators behind $20B+ of "mispricing" can be tracked by their writing styles

In a new Columbia Law and Economics Working Paper, Columbia Law prof Joshua Mitts uses "stylometry" (previously) to track how market manipulators who publish false information about companies in order to profit from options are able to flush their old identities when they become notorious for misinformation and reboot them under new handles. Read the rest

Cops use backdoored WhatsApp photo to extract fingerprints and convict user

South Wales Police announced they were able to access a WhatsApp user's photos through a backdoor, then extract fingerprint data from a picture of a weed dealer's hand to help convict 11 involved people. Read the rest

What is bias in machine learning, when does it matter, and what can we do about it?

"The Trouble with Bias," Kate Crawford's (previously) keynote at the 2017 Neural Information Processing Systems is a brilliant tour through different ways of thinking about what bias is, and when we should worry about it, specifically in the context of machine learning systems and algorithmic decision making -- the best part is at the end, where she describes what we should do about this stuff, and where to get started. (via 4 Short Links) Read the rest

Forensic experts recover novel written by blind woman with a pen that had run out of ink

Trish Vickers of Dorset, England, decided to write a novel. Though blind, she preferred to work the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper, with her son dropping in weekly to type up the results. On one visit, though, she learned to her horror that her pen had ran out of ink fully 26 pages ago. But all was not lost!

Not knowing what else to do, she and Simon called the police. To the Vickers’s surprise, officers at Dorset HQ volunteered to work during their breaks and free time, hoping to use their forensic tools to help. And, five months later, the police reported back with success: they recovered the never-written words. Vickers told a local newspaper that the pen she used to write the pages — even though there was no ink left in it — left behind a series of indentations: “I think they used a combination of various lights at different angles to see if they could get the impression made by my pen.”

Vickers finished the book, Grannifer's Legacy, and died the day it was published. [via MeFi] Read the rest

The "universal adversarial preturbation" undetectably alters images so AI can't recognize them

In a newly revised paper in Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, a group of French and Swiss computer science researchers show that "a very small perturbation vector that causes natural images to be misclassified with high probability" -- that is, a minor image transformation can beat machine learning systems nearly every time. Read the rest

Photos from the Body Farm

Texas State University's Body Farm (AKA Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State University or FACTS) is a 45-year-old facility where the corpses of medical body donors are left to decompose so that researchers can observe the rate at which human remains are consumed by the elements, scavengers and microbes, allowing them to accurately date the bodies of murder victims and those who died accidentally. Read the rest

Taser ships a pistol-holster sensor that triggers record mode in all nearby bodycams when cops draw their guns

The Signal Sidearm is a sensor designed to be fitted to a police pistol holster: when triggered, it wirelessly signals all nearby police bodycams to go into record-and-archive mode. It's made by Axon, the bodycam division of Taser International. Read the rest

Edward Snowden to Trump campaign: "old laptops" could vet 800,000 emails in "minutes-to-hours"

As the FBI announced that it had reviewed the emails on Anthony Weiner's laptop and determined that there was no incriminating material about Hillary Clinton on them, the Trump campaign roared with incredulity, insisting that it was inconceivable that the FBI could have vetted 800,000 emails in 8 days. Read the rest

Optography: retrieving a dead person's last sight from their retina

Could you recover a murder victim's last sight of their killer by extracting it from the retina? Little more than a century ago, forensic scientists thought it might be possible. After all, in 1877 physiologist Wilhelm Friedrich Kühne was able to develop a simple image from an albino rabbit's dissected eyeball. (Above, the two images on the right come from rabbits who stared at two different windows. The left shows just nerves and blood vessels.) From Smithsonian:

The College of Optometrists in the U.K. reports that police photographed the eye of a murdered man in April 1877, "only partly aware of what optography involved," and that investigators on the trail of Jack the Ripper may have considered a proposal to use the technique.

Faith in optography was misplaced, however, as Kühne's experiments showed that only simple, high-contrast surroundings were able to produce interpretable optograms, Douglas J. Lanska writes in Progress in Brain Research. Furthermore, the retina needs to be removed very quickly from the recently deceased.

"How Forensic Scientists Once Tried to "See" a Dead Person's Last Sight" Read the rest

Man jailed four months for "meth" that was epsom salt

While an Australian man cooled his heels in jail for 16 weeks, forensics took their sweet time in determining the "ice" he was busted for was epsom salt. Read the rest

A new theory for the death of King Tut

What killed the young Pharaoh Tutankhamen? Theories have ranged from assassination plots to epilepsy, but a new analysis of injuries visible on his mummy suggests that a chariot race accident might have been to blame. Read the rest

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