One of the greatest challenges facing border agents around the world is accessing data swiftly at checkpoints to determine whether those wishing to cross into another country are good to go or pose a potential threat. Typically, a border agent may only have a few seconds to verify:

  • Who the person is?
  • Are they really who they say they are?
  • Do they pose a threat?

Complicating this problem is that in many areas, those wishing to cross may not have any documentation. (Greece’s border challenges with the large influx of refugees arriving daily from Africa comes immediately to mind). Many, however, are carrying a mobile device and the data that’s stored there can be key to identifying criminals and keeping borders secure.

Having the means to access data from those devices—immediately in the field—is critical. The good news is that we have the technology to make that happen. However, being able to take advantage of the digital intelligence (DI) tools necessary to access data in the field, then manage and analyze it swiftly to provide actionable next steps, requires agencies to transform the way they are currently handling border security. Here are three ways that accessing mobile data can be a game-changer for border security investigations.

  1. Digital Triage

Imagine you’re an agent at a border crossing or airport. A person approaches the checkpoint. They might have some form of documentation (a passport that can be scanned and checked). But what if they don’t?

Today that person might be taken aside for questioning. But what if the agent had tools right there at their disposal to do a quick download of key information (not everything) to verify who the person is, where they’ve been, and who they might have been in contact with?

Cellebrite Responder Kiosk is just such a tool. With Cellebrite Responder Kiosk, border agents can quickly surface key insights by performing selective or full physical data extraction anytime, anywhere.

Having digital intelligence capabilities at border crossings eliminates having to send devices to a lab (in essence you’re extending your lab capabilities into the field), which saves time while taking pressure off the lab because frontline personnel is now conducting simple extractions.

More importantly, Cellebrite Responder Kiosk provides the information in real-time, allowing border agents to share information with sister agencies—Law Enforcement (drug task forces), Corrections (offender management), and Defense (terrorist watch lists)—that can provide additional information to help determine what their next move is. This is what digital triage is all about.

In the public safety world, this is being called “the mobile-first workforce.” By adopting mobile apps and tools, and transforming workflows to reflect these changes, cities are able to keep law enforcement out in the community instead of behind a desk at the station.

Several cities in the US have started pilot programs to test mobile-enabled workforces. The Chicago Police Department, for example, has deployed Samsung DEX solutions to half of its officers, using smartphones as a replacement for mobile data terminals in squad cars.

Implementation by the police in Portland, Oregon was originally designed to let officers communicate with one another, but the value proposition very quickly expanded to communicate with citizens and to manage much of a patrol’s workflow from the mobile device. Eventually, we may even see smartphones replace laptops and desktops to create truly mobile officers.

Using mobile-enabled workforces in border security is a huge opportunity. And no one understands this topic better than Col. Petr Malovec Ph.D., Head of Department – National Border Situation Centre, Czech Border Police. Malovec was the project manager for the implementation of a mobile inspection system to verify the authenticity and validity of electronic documents applied to border control and used by police in the field. He will be a featured speaker at Cellebrite’s upcoming webinar on September 16.

  1. Beyond Mobile First

For border agencies that are just beginning to flesh out their digital intelligence strategy, mobile-first is a great place to start. The next step to improving field readiness is the adoption of analytics and AI-driven technologies that police agencies have used to successfully transform the way they are running investigations. That strategy includes:

  • Using ruggedized tablets for on-the-go verifications or using cyber kiosks at border checkpoints.
  • Having the ability to quickly extract data from any mobile device (including drones) on site.
  1. DI’s Key Benefits

The potential benefits for border agencies to utilize digital intelligence technologies as a force multiplier to save time and resources are just the beginning. Here are just some of the innovations and the key benefits they deliver.

  • Selective extraction is a new way to capture chat data selectively and automatically. Using automated screen-capturing techniques, this solution will allow users to overcome the challenges of mobile application encryptions.

    Key benefit: This will accelerate the time-consuming manual processes such as using a camera to capture, review, and present app data. Selective extraction also addresses privacy concerns as agents are only capturing select types of data as well as time challenges.

Currently, extracting data from a consumer-sized hard drive can take eight hours – even a day in some cases. Detailed analysis by a police forensic analyst can take longer still. This is a lengthy process and makes it difficult to charge criminals in countries that have short windows for holding suspects, like the UK, where LE cannot legally hold a suspect for more than 24 hours without sufficient evidence to charge them.

  • Decoding while extracting reduces time to evidence by performing extraction and decoding simultaneously.

    Key benefit: This allows border agents to examine the recovered data while the extraction/decoding is still in process, which saves time.
  • Leveraging AI to boost field investigation and triage capability.

    Key benefit: When used in combination with AI-powered triage capabilities, border agents can automatically surface a suspect’s journey while also revealing suspicious images and text messages to help connect the dots between people, places, and IoT. 

Next Steps

Once you’ve accessed the data and insights, how do you securely manage the data and evidence along the chain of custody and investigation workflow? We’ll tackle the data management challenge in our next blog.

In the meantime:

Register here for Col. Petr Malovec’s upcoming webinar on “Overcoming Digital Data Barriers At The Border & Beyond.”

Download the eBookSolving Your Border Challenges with Digital Intelligence” to learn more about how Cellebrite’s digital intelligence solutions for border security can help your organization.

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