There is hardly any criminal investigation left without digital traces. The investigation services in the Netherlands frequently use the Hansken search engine to quickly gain insight into digital traces. Foreign investigation services are also increasingly working with Hansken. That is why Leiden University of Applied Sciences (HS leiden) and the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) have agreed that students from the Computer Science programme will learn to use the search engine. Starting from the new academic year, Hansken will be a fixed part of the subjects that students in 'Forensic ICT' follow.
The forensic search engine will be installed next month in the IoT Forensic Lab of the University of Applied Sciences, which is located on the HSD Campus. "It is a win-win situation," explains Hans Henseler, lecturer Digital Forensics & E-Discovery of HS Leiden. Henseler also works for the NFI. "There is a good chance that students will later work for one of the investigation services or the NFI. They have a great advantage when they get to know how Hansken works during their studies." Erwin van Eijk, Division Head at the Digital and Biometric Traces division of the NFI, adds: "And the NFI in turn benefits from the knowledge of students. Digital developments are happening so fast that the NFI cannot keep Hansken 'up to date' on its own. Hansken has to keep up with new developments. We can really use the help of students for that."
More and more digital traces
"Computers are in everything these days. Think of security systems, cars and not to forget mobile phones. Information from computers often helps to establish the truth in a criminal investigation," says Van Eijk. If large amounts of data have been seized from suspects, Hansken can quickly provide insight into this. The best-known example is that the search engine was used to search through seized data from Encrochat, the chat service that many criminals used because they thought that the police could not intercept those messages.
Students will learn to build tools
After the Norwegian University (NTNU), HS Leiden is the second educational institution to link up with Hansken. From August 2021, around 150 students from 'Forensic ICT' will learn to work with the search engine. "Hansken is a welcome addition to the standard tools available in our research lab. Because of the open nature of the search engine, students can learn to build new tools for it themselves," explains Henseler. New functionalities appear in computers and mobile phones every day and the search engine has to be constantly adapted to respond to these. There is now a worldwide 'Hansken community' with international experts who are constantly developing new modules to plug into Hansken.
The importance of collaboration
Collaborating with colleges and universities fits in with the vision on forensic research and the vision of the NFI, says Annemieke de Vries, director of science and technology of the NFI: "The NFI is a leader in forensic research and wants to stay that way. Developments are happening faster and faster. To be ready for the forensic demands of tomorrow, the NFI needs to invest and innovate continuously. Collaboration with colleges and universities is necessary in order to think about the forensic possibilities of new technical developments. Patrick Pijnenburg, director of the Faculty of Science & Technology agrees: "For Leiden University of Applied Science it is also important that we connect with forensic practice during our courses. This is made possible by this collaboration with the NFI.
In addition to the regular bachelor's programme, the University of Applied Sciences will also start a dual variant of the Forensic ICT programme in September at the request of the police, and recently submitted an application to set up a master's programme in Digital Forensics. "Both the dual bachelor and master programmes fit in with the development that learning and working are coming together more often and professionals can continue to acquire knowledge in a flexible way," says Pijnenburg.