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Meet the Recipients of the 2021 Magnet Forensics Scholarship Award!

In 2018, we launched the Magnet Forensics Scholarship Program to help agencies with limited or no digital forensics capacity to utilize digital evidence to get to the truth in investigations into crimes such as child sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and others involving digital evidence.

We’re proud to announce the four scholarship winners for 2021:

Advanced

Alberto Magno: Civil Police of the Federal District in Brazil



Jacob Walk: Franklin County Sheriff’s Office in Missouri

New to Forensics

Caroline Torie: St. Joseph County Cyber Crimes Unit in Indiana
Richard Gomm: Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission in Ireland

As recipients of the scholarship, they will receive:

  • Access to the full training curriculum (from the basics through to advanced computer and mobile forensics) required to be a digital investigator
  • Eligibility to earn a leading digital forensics certification  
  • A one-year digital forensics software license

We caught up with the winners to find out more about their experiences in the field, their hopes for the Magnet Forensics Scholarship Award, and more — read more below.

Q&A With the 2021 Magnet Forensics Scholarship Award Winners

Magnet Forensics: Tell us about your current role/department.

Alberto Magno: I work as a Digital Forensics Expert at the Advanced Computer Forensics Section at Criminalistics Institute of the Civil Police of the Federal District in Brasília, federative capital of Brazil. At the Advanced Computer Forensics Section, we conduct detailed analyses on items of evidence that may contain or conceal electronic evidence used in the commission or as an instrument of a crime. We also act in legal computer hacking and participate in search warrants. As forensics experts, we also research and evaluate the applicability of new systems, instrumentation, and techniques to the forensic needs in digital forensics.

Jacob Walk: I am a detective with my agency and the coordinator for our Cyber Crime Task Force, an affiliate of the Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, which investigates child exploitation within four counties in east central Missouri. We also assist agencies within those counties.

Caroline Torie: I work for the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office Cyber Crimes Unit. We are a digital forensics lab that extracts data from various devices, then we process the data and analyze it. Dozens of police agencies in our region utilize our services to assist in their investigations. In my role as a Deputy Director, I help manage operations with two other full-time staff in the unit and conduct forensic examinations. A unique aspect of our unit is the collaboration with the University of Notre Dame. Our office is located on campus, and we oversee forensics training of 20 Notre Dame students. They are all sworn investigators that work on real digital forensics investigations.

Richard Gomm: I am an Investigations Officer within the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. It is our function to investigate allegations of wrongdoing made against Ireland’s unitary police service the Garda Síochána. This role requires me to conduct both discipline and criminal investigations. Whilst conducting criminal investigations I am empowered with all the powers, immunities, and privileges of a police officer in Ireland.

MF: What has been your policing experience up until now?

AM: For more than nine years as a Forensics Expert at the Police, our team fights hard against crime, despite our high demand and lack of resources. Nowadays, with hackers in the pandemic, more than before, our police require our effective contribution with forensics solutions to fight back against crimes involving digital evidence.

JW: I’ve been in law enforcement for 20 years, the past 13 of which has been as a detective. Since 2013, I’ve been assigned to the Missouri ICAC Task Force investigating online child exploitation and conducting online stings to catch online predators looking to exploit children.

CT: My policing experience before starting work in the unit was mostly from the outside looking in. However, I had a bit more access to law enforcement operations than the public. In the five years prior to my transition to forensics, I worked as a reporter for a local television station. As a journalist, I frequently communicated with law enforcement to get information related to ongoing investigations and observed their work in action as I reported live from crime scenes.

RG: I joined the Metropolitan Police, London, England in 2002. I worked in several areas including general policing, detective duties including a specialist sexual assault unit, and a public order unit where I was trained as a PSU Commander. I was promoted to Sergeant in 2004 and placed into the Wembley borough, one of the most diverse and challenging boroughs in London. In 2006 I left the Metropolitan Police and moved to Ireland for the new challenge of policing oversight.  Since joining the Garda Ombudsman, I have been involved in the most serious of investigations including sexual assaults of both adults and minors, cases of corruption, perversion of justice and deaths in custody. I have presented evidence at the various level of the criminal system but also at many internal An Garda Síochána discipline boards.

MF: How would you describe your knowledge of digital forensics up until now?

AM: I describe it as a continuous and accumulative learning. Despite postgraduates in digital forensics and many years of experience in that subject, I need to keep learning and renewing my knowledge of digital forensics.

JW: Since 2011, I began performing phone forensics utilizing Cellebrite tools for my agency as well as agencies within our Cyber Crime Task Force. In 2021 I attended the IACIS BCFE course and received my CFCE certification.

CT: Prior to this I had a limited knowledge of the digital forensics process. A lot of what I knew was pretty much based on what I saw on crime TV shows and movies. However, a small part of it, I learned from the Director of the Cyber Crimes Unit, Mitch Kajzer. I had the pleasure of interviewing him for a handful of stories related to the unit while I was a reporter.

RG: I’ve always had a strong IT background but my first full exposure to digital forensics was during my MSc in Forensic Computing and Cybercrime Investigation (for law enforcement personnel) that I completed with the University of College Dublin in 2014. I then started a PhD shortly afterwards and that continues. During both of those programs, I have written several research papers specifically regarding CCTV forensics. Outside of my academic roles, I have focused on a practical knowledge completing several investigative cases within the Garda Ombudsman utilising a vast array of tools and software. Within the Garda Ombudsman, I am the operational project lead responsible for developing the digital investigation strategy. This has included identifying current and emerging technological threat/opportunities but also engaging with an international expert in forensic cyber psychology to develop a greater understanding of how cyber threats will evolve and effect policing integrity.  

MF: What made you want to get into the field?

AM: I have always been passionate about new challenges and attracted to science and technology. Working in the law enforcement area is always a challenge where I can contribute to justice using the knowledge I acquired. It’s the perfect match and a perfect job for me.

JW: The outside agency we contracted with lost their ability to perform computer forensic examinations so there was a need for computer forensic examiner at my agency, therefore I started training in the field.

CT: Forensics has always intrigued me. My mom and I loved to watch the show Forensic Files. One reason is because forensics don’t lie. They can show truth even when a person says otherwise. A big reason why I wanted to get into digital forensics was my desire to change the way I could impact the pursuit of truth and justice in my community. While working in media, I always aimed to tell factual and accurate stories under strict deadlines. However, when reporting on police investigations, I knew I didn’t have the power to change the speed or quality of those investigations. But now in my new forensics’ role, I can use my analysis and reporting skills to directly affect an investigation’s outcome and ensure justice is served in a timely manner.

RG: From an early age I was afforded access to ‘state of the art’ computers, and in revealing my age this started with the Amstrad 8086 (Turbo edition!) and then various Olivetti’s and home built machines. I focused on learning them from the ground up, examining on each component learning how to enhance the machines through various techniques like overclocking, RAM disks (prior to SSDs) and co-processors. Then when entering the police, I found that a majority of frontline officers had very limited IT skills, which could lead to various avenues of investigation being missed or overlooked. This became particularly relevant within domestic violence cases where phone and email evidence were difficult to gather and even harder to present to a court in a way a jury could understand. It was here that I released I could marry my IT background and my policing skills into an overall package. Recently, one of my academic papers focused on the issue of how to present evidence to Courts and proposed a new model for the same.

MF: How did you hear about the Magnet Forensics Scholarship Program?

AM: As a necessity of my job as a forensic scientist, I always try to keep updated in the digital forensics area–reading articles and participating in valuable works and events related with digital forensics. In my research, and after years using the Magnet IEF solution to solve a number of real cases, I wanted to learn more about Magnet AXIOM solution and if it could help with our investigations. Reading about the solution, I heard about the Magnet Forensics Scholarship Program, and about the award, last year, of law enforcement colleagues around the globe.

JW: A friend recognized the need by my agency and encouraged me to apply for the scholarship

CT: Director Kajzer let me know about the incredible scholarship opportunity and he encouraged me to apply.

RG: I had the opportunity to use AXIOM on a trial license regarding a previous investigation within the Garda Ombudsman that focused on a high-profile death. I was very impressed with the capability and functions AXIOM allowed me to utilise, after that I continued to follow the Magnet programs and software development. I came across the Scholarship program whilst browsing the Magnet Forensics website

MF: What are you hoping to achieve after completing the Scholarship Program?

AM: I hope to better contribute with knowledge and tools in our work processes–especially with solutions to efficiently respond to justice system, despite the growing volume and diversity of digital evidence types.

JW: Familiarize myself with the AXIOM software for computer and phone examinations and obtain some of the certifications offered by Magnet for their tools.

CT: I am hoping to achieve a confident grasp on all steps of the forensics process. That includes how I provide guidance on best practices for law enforcement officers who seize evidence, how I conduct the extraction, processing & analysis of evidence and my ability to deliver sound court testimony.

RG: MCFE certification would be the top priority, however the focus will be to bring a fully independent digital forensic solution to the Garda Ombudsman for all digital devices.  

MF: What are you looking forward to learning in the program?

AM: Been a user of the IEF solution in the past and present, I look forward to learning about the many new features of the Magnet Forensics tools developed in recent years. I’m especially interested in the advanced forensics and cybercrimes area, where I believe the advanced courses MAGNET AXIOM CYBER EXAMINATIONS (CY200), MAGNET AXIOM ADVANCED COMPUTER FORENSICS (AX250), MAGNET AXIOM ADVANCED MOBILE FORENSICS (AX300), MAGaK (Magnet AXIOM & GrayKey), ADVANCED iOS EXAMINATIONS (AX301), and MAGNET AXIOM INCIDENT RESPONSE EXAMINATIONS (AX310) are going to be especially useful. I hope to combine my expertise with real cases with the knowledge acquired in the courses, using Magnet Forensics tools to maximize the efficiency of the investigations in our department.

JW: How the AXIOM software parses through data from computer and phone extractions and the use of the tool to exam the extraction. I am looking for a forensic tool I feel comfortable using and from talking to other computer forensic examiners, they all recommend AXIOM.

CT: I’m looking forward to learning and mastering new skills to use during my own forensic examinations. I’m also looking forward to passing those skills along to investigators I work with who can’t participate in a program like this.

RG: I’m particularly looking forward to the cloud training. I’ve had limited exposure to cloud forensics, and it is an upcoming important field.

MF: How has the support been from your leadership?

AM: My leadership is committed to my full engagement in the program, hoping I can do my best to grow our team. We have recently acquired five new licenses of Magnet AXIOM and getting this scholarship could not come at a better time. With the knowledge acquired in the courses, my leadership hopes that not only will I be able to maximize the result in my cases, but also pass the knowledge to our colleagues, achieving a significant grow in the results of the forensics investigations made by our department.

JW: My agency has been extremely supportive of this project and the needs of our agency regarding computer and phone forensic examinations. My command staff recognizes that technology is often utilized in most crimes and there is a need to obtain and analyze that data to assist with the prosecution of offenders. While my agency doesn’t have a lot of funding to support our task force, our command staff has supported all my attempts to apply for grants and scholarships to benefit our cybercrime task force.

CT: Support from Director Kajzer has been very positive. Mitch is always looking for ways to learn new information that can help him be the best forensic investigator to meet new challenges that develop. I am thankful that he encourages an environment of learning and growth, and that extends to my ability to fully be able to dive into the benefits of this scholarship.

RG: Fantastic. The letter of recommendation from Commissioner Hume was extremely flattering and showed a real understanding at the top of the organisation of where our forensic program needed to focus. We are also in a unprecedent busy period within the Garda Ombudsman, yet the leadership have undertaken to release me for the training required, which given the large catalogue of course could take some time.

MF: Any other thoughts you would like to share?

AM: I believe that great people with powerful tools can bring a big contribution to our justice system. I am very grateful to Magnet Forensics for this great opportunity.

JW: I’d like to thank Magnet Forensics for offering the scholarship program for law enforcement agencies which don’t have a lot of funding for their computer/phone forensics program. The software and training provided will be utilized to combat online child exploitation and obtain digital evidence in a variety of other crimes within Franklin County as well as other counties in east central Missouri. 

CT: I am excited for this opportunity to grow in a field that has an unimaginable potential to be a force for good in the world.

RG: I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity and I look forward to progressing AXIOM as our premiere digital forensic response tool for computer devices.   

Learn More About the Magnet Forensics Scholarship Program

We want to give promising new officers an opportunity to get a head start in digital investigations. If you are currently performing a non-technical role and would like to explore future career opportunities in digital forensics, or you’re currently inexperienced with Magnet AXIOM, then this scholarship program is for you. Visit our Scholarship Program page and send in your application today!

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us at scholarshipprogram@magnetforensics.com.

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