Introducing one of our newest Magnet Forensics Trainers, Jerry Hewitt.
Jerry comes to us from an extensive background in UK law enforcement and, as a trainer, loves learning from his students. Check out our interview with him below!
Want to learn more about what courses are offered? Visit our Training & Certification page for more information.
MF: Tell us about your life before becoming a Trainer.
JH: Like many people I followed my fathers’ footsteps into Law Enforcement. I have always had an interest in technology and gadgets. I remember the excitement of getting my first electronic calculator and LED digital watch!
Building my fist ZX80 Sinclair computer in the late 1970’s was my start in computing. Becoming a licensed Amateur Radio Operator in the early 1980’s lead me to connect the two hobbies and my life with computers well and truly started.
While this was going on, I was a proud member of Northumbria Police. Moving from Uniform beat patrol to the Motor Patrols Department and then Air Support where I was the training officer. It was during my time there that I managed to link up some maritime navigation software on a laptop to a Tank, Trimble GPS system, giving us or first moving map display, back in 1995.
Some time spent as an authorised firearms officer (Not that many of us at the time in the UK) then eventually into the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). At the same time, I worked as a remote staffer with AOL UK, yep, I do still have an AOL Email address, in the Computing Help Forum where I tried to assist members with their PC Problems. During my time in CID I investigated a great deal of cases which involved Child Sexual Exploitation and Digital Forensics.
In 2009, after thirty years’ service, I retired from the Police Force only to go back three months later, as a High-Tech Crime Unit Forensic Investigator. It was during this time that I first came across JadSoftware’s Internet Evidence Finder (IEF). Six years after that and I became the Digital Forensic Unit Manager running a team of 30 staff and, with other stakeholders, helped make Northumbria Police DFU the excellent Unit it is today.
MF: What made you want to be a Trainer?
JH: Throughout my career I have been involved in the training of staff. I have been a Tutor Constable in both the uniform branch and in the CID. I have trained staff to use technical airborne equipment such as thermal imaging cameras, complex radio systems, GPS and Tactical tracking equipment, along with airborne navigation and police tactics. Even recently, I regularly provided classroom inputs to police officers and staff, lawyers and judges.
I really enjoy standing in front of a group of people and, hopefully, holding their attention. It’s a great feeling when the presentation takes on a life of its own and everyone participates. To see people learning the subject, then questioning it, and then using the imparted knowledge to dig deeper, is very rewarding. My aim is always to teach what they need but then send them away wanting to know more. Hopefully, I’ll get some feedback to improve my skills too!
MF: What type of training have you taken part in personally? What is your favorite part of the role?
JH: Due to the diverse nature of UK Policing I can’t remember a time when I hadn’t just been on a course, was about to go on one or was fighting to get the course I wanted. Everything from Advanced Driving techniques, Firearms training, Air Support courses and eventually CID training. Then after moving into the world of Digital Forensics completing a variety of courses both internally and externally where my Forensic skills were improved.
MF: What excites you the most about a new class?
JH: I always enjoy meeting new people. I know that I will learn something from them and that I will, hopefully, be able to improve their knowledge and understanding too. I really enjoy the diversity and, though sometimes the low-ball questions can put you on the spot, I like the fact I will be challenged as I will try to challenge the students.
Its nice when the class runs smoothly, but sometimes it’s the ones where things go wrong that end up being the most memorable. Fire Alarms and blue screen of death are always fun to deal with.
MF: Do you ever learn anything from the students?
JH: Even though I may teach the same topics over and over, each session is as unique as the students, every day is a school day for me too.
We all know just how hard it is to keep up with all the new devices, trends, apps and software. We are all constantly playing catch up so as the students can come from a variety of backgrounds there are always some new tips and tricks that they can bring into the lesson and, when they do, I will be happy to share to the next group
MF: Is there a particular moment that stands out the most to you in your career in the classroom?
JH: It wasn’t so much classroom based as helicopter based. I was completing the final check ride for a Police Air Observer who was reaching the last few days of his training course. He was a keen student but, sadly, I didn’t think he had the aptitude to navigate from the air and deal with all the other issues that were going on in his headset. This flight was ‘make or break’, and he knew it. I had tried all sorts of variations to try and teach him, but I was running out of ideas and even doubted my own ability. Half an hour into the flight he looked up and wow!! He had done it. He knew where we were, found the target, had dealt with the radios and formulated the tactics. On his very last flight he got it …. I am not sure who was happier, him or me. That was a great moment, and he got to do the job he had always wanted to do. More of those moments please… maybe on the ground this time though!
Lately, we have had to move the training online, thanks to COVID-19 virus. Challenging times but these will be met.
MF: What do students get out of training in person that they can’t get on their own?
JH: Self teaching has its merits, but it doesn’t always mean that you will find the best way of completing the task. The best way can sometimes be a simple keystroke or an in-depth analysis. Having an instructor with experience and knowledge can set the student down the right path. Where there are numerous people in the group, they will bounce ideas off each other during the breaks and even over lunch or dinner. Shared knowledge and experiences are invaluable, though it does mean that, as an instructor, you can end up with some really difficult questions to get answers for!
Learning is an enriching experience; people make it even more so.
MF: How prepared do you feel students are to use Magnet Forensics products after taking the training course?
JH: From my previous experience, every student that has carried out product specific training has always returned to their role with more knowledge and more confidence in their own ability and in that of the product.
MF: What is most unique about Magnet Forensics’ approach to training?
JH: Magnet Forensics’ ethics very closely match that of UK Law Enforcement. Their approach is to give the tools to Investigators and examiners to get the job done. Magnet Forensics Trainers have a solid background in Law Enforcement where it is all about the artifacts and how they relate to the investigation. The training is based on this model so the right data can be extracted and reported on in the best fashion possible.
MF: Why do you think certification is important to examiners?
JH: In the UK, Law Enforcement is going through a difficult but necessary process in having their methods for Digital Forensics accredited and validated. It is only right that the competency of the DFU Investigators can also be seen. Having a Magnet Certified Forensic Examiner certificate shows to all that the relevant training has been carried out on the tool that is in use. It lends credibility to the evidence and the Investigator.
MF: How do you manage to keep up on the latest trends in digital forensics?
JH: I have been passionate about technology for a long time. I like to watch trends and am always interested in what’s new. The Internet of Things means that there are always new toys and gadgets on the market. Ask my wife, our house has voice activated everything! There is always something new coming out and I always will try and get the opportunity to see how that device’s data could be used in an investigation. Where I can I go to trade shows or simply spend time scouring the internet forums. Research and development is something every forensic investigator needs to have a passion for. Meeting peers is a great way of learning and is something that should be encouraged. I have just enrolled in an online course for Open Source Intelligent, this will give me a better insight when I am teaching this topic.
MF: What trends do you see coming down the pipeline in digital forensics?
JH: As long as there is not a slowdown in technology due to COVID-19, I think the biggest change we are facing is the move from offline data storage and dead box forensics, to Online Cloud and Mobile evidence. With the imminent arrival of 5G and the change of user habits this will be where the evidence is found in the future … Watch this space!
Thank you, Jerry! Welcome to the Training team and to Magnet Forensics overall—we look forward to seeing your future contributions.