Address to e-Crime Lab Project EVE launch

  • Judith Collins

Thank you for inviting me to join you today as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the e-Crime Lab (ECL) and launch the Environment for Virtualised Evidence, or Project EVE.

The launch of Project EVE is a fitting tribute to the growing role of the ECL over the past quarter century.

When ECL was launched in 1984, the internet was a decade away for New Zealanders and cyber crime was still an idea out of science fiction.

The ECL's main role in those early days was to recover electronic evidence from audio and video tape.

At the time it had only one staff member, Maarten Kleintjes, who is still with the ECL today and now heads a dedicated team of 31 staff.

As the devices on which people process and store information have become more sophisticated, more widespread and more interconnected, the role of the ECL has grown considerably.

The number of exhibits processed by the ECL has grown from about 40 per year in 1985 to over 16,000 in 2004.

While new communication and computer-based technologies have transformed the lives of many New Zealanders, they also offer new opportunities for criminals.

Criminals use information technology for record keeping, as communications tools to plan crimes, as devices to execute fraud, to transmit pirated software and a host of other illegal activities.

In some cases computers may simply serve as a silent witness to a crime by storing information about the offending.

Of great concern is the use of information and communications technology by organised crime to conceal their activities, reach a wide range of victims, and network with other criminal groups.

In the online world, the distance that shields New Zealand from overseas criminals does not exist.

The increase in organised criminals' use of secure communications technology, the potential for global reach and the networking of criminal groups internationally are significant concerns to the police.

Today, the fingerprints that can link criminals to their crimes are often scraps of data buried deep within hard drives on computers or other devices.

For many New Zealanders e-crime is invisible. It doesn't instil concern the way gangs, or methamphetamine, or repeat drink drivers or home invaders do.

But it will directly or indirectly touch many lives, and the effects will be just as serious.

New Zealand's future economic prosperity and growth relies on the secure use of information technology.

Increasingly, New Zealand's exports to the world will be innovation and ideas.

Growing the knowledge economy is a priority, and a safe and secure digital environment is essential to its success.

Entrepreneurs and investors must have confidence that their networks and their intellectual property will be protected while conducting business in New Zealand.

To achieve this, the police must demonstrate they have the capability and the commitment to detect and fight electronic crime.

It's not only important that police investigate electronic crime thoroughly, but also that they can extract important evidence in a timely manner.

A criminal's computer or mobile phone often contains incriminating evidence that might not have been accessible 20 years ago.

The specialist staff at ECL have over the past decade given police capability to recover evidence from computers and other electronic devices. 

However, advances in technology mean that the skills to identify and recover evidence from electronic devices need no longer be restricted to specialists.

EVE enables frontline investigators to view data held within electronic devices, such as a seized computer, while retaining the forensic integrity of the exhibit.

Police can log on to EVE from anywhere on the police network, and either search the contents using the customised web search facility, or start the computer and use it as a suspect would have used it.

This provides a powerful visual tool that will be invaluable in presenting electronic evidence when cases are brought before the courts.

Already EVE has allowed the ECL to cut through a significant backlog of cases, bringing faster justice for many.

In addition to boosting the capability of investigators, this technology sends a strong signal to criminals that they cannot hide their electronic fingerprints and they will be caught.

I'm told that the only way to hide information on a hard drive from the team at ECL is to take it to the middle of Cook Strait and throw it overboard.

This technology sends a strong signal to innovators and industry that this country conforms to the highest international standards in IP protection and combating cyber crime.

It sends a strong signal that the police are working hard to provide a safe and secure online environment for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

To the staff of ECL, I would like to acknowledge your good work.

You have recovered crucial evidence in hundreds of cases over the years and continue to provide expert testimony in Courts around New Zealand.

EVE is a world-first solution that was developed without extra staff, equipment or money. This is a testament to the energy, innovation and can-do attitude that exists within this team.

Yours is an increasingly important and pivotal role within the police and the wider justice system that too often goes unthanked.

So thank you. 

Congratulations on the anniversary, and all the best with the testing and pilot trials of Project EVE.