Forensic Terminology Explained: OSAC Releases New Online Lexicon

Forensic science is a broad field that encompasses a wide variety of disciplines and the roles of forensic examiners are diverse. Each discipline and role comes with its own set of vocabulary, which can quickly become confusing. One word may mean one thing to a DNA analyst, but mean something completely different to a handwriting examiner. The Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science (OSAC) has developed a new tool to help forensic scientists speak the same language.

If you are searching for what the word identification really means in forensic science, or want to gain a better understanding of cognitive bias, visit the OSAC Lexicon of Forensic Science Terminology.

The OSAC Lexicon Initiative began in 2016 when OSAC’s Forensic Science Standards Board asked each OSAC unit to identify and collect existing terminology related to their specific forensic science discipline. This database of vocabulary contains 4,000 terms organized by forensic discipline. Users can search by discipline and keyword, using either the term or definition and terms are browse-able by letter. Data is exportable to a CSV file.

Often many definitions exist for the same word, and clicking on the record reveals the source for each term. Readers can rest assured that the information comes from a trusted source. The terms and definitions come from the published literature, including documentary standards, specialized dictionaries, Scientific Working Group (SWG) documents, books, journal articles, and technical reports. In addition, the OSAC subcommittees and committees generated or modified many definitions.

OSAC’s goal for 2018 is to add new terms, remove terms, consolidate duplicate entries, verify sources of non-verified terms, and reach consensus on more OSAC Preferred Terms. Users may suggest a term or submit a comment as the Lexicon continues to evolve.

The Lexicon is a big step forward as OSAC seeks to increase clear communication between forensic scientists.

Digital Evidence: How Technology Changes the World of Crime

Our world today revolves around technology more than ever before. From cell phones to tablets to the latest social media application and beyond, countless opportunities exist for digital communication and entertainment.

The Unique Role of Digital Evidence in Forensic Science

The rise of the digital age has introduced a completely new type of crime. Did you know that every digital device such as a mobile phone or cloud storage is a forensic evidence generator? Each device produces mountains of data, carefully recording our every move. Today, emails, financial transactions, photographs, website browser histories and more can reveal key details in a criminal investigation.

Digital evidence involves a unique investigation process. Other types of forensic evidence analysis like shoeprints or fingerprints focus on comparing if the print left at a crime scene matches that of a suspect.

When forensic examiners investigate digital crime, they turn their attention instead to information that exposes the actions and behavior of the individual.

Key Questions Examiners Ask When Analyzing Digital Evidence

Examiners are interested in exploring a suspect’s intent and motive, and search for clues about a suspect’s location and relationship to the victim or others involved in the crime. To find the answers, examiners must ask several questions when analyzing digital data.

For example:

  • Where is the data stored?
  • Who was using the device?
  • Where did the crime take place?
  • Was the information damaged, destroyed or altered?
  • Are there deleted files that need to be recovered?

Digital evidence analysis focuses on finding the data stored on the device, and making sense of that information. The challenge is using analysis tools correctly, properly interpreting the results and proving the relationship between the individual and evidential data about a criminal activity.

CSAFE Answers the Call to Find New Solutions to Solve Digital Crime

As the digital world continues to change, there is an ever-increasing need for new techniques that allow efficient, accurate analysis and processing of digital evidence.

CSAFE brings together a collaborative task force of statisticians, machine learning researchers, forensic examiners and more to develop statistically based analytical techniques to improve digital evidence investigations. Learn more about our specific research goals on the CSAFE website.

Our team is investigating a wide range of digital evidence areas, from steganography which analyzes digital photos potentially containing hidden content to using mobile apps to solve digital crime. Review a recent CSAFE Center Wide webinar to see how our statistical approach to time-series of user-generated events captured on digital devices is answering questions about this type of data.

In an effort to provide digital evidence examiners with more tools to conduct digital evidence investigations, CSAFE work in digital evidence continues to expand. Discover how our new projects on digital crime scene reconstruction in cyber bulling and investigation of anonymous marketplaces on the dark web is addressing critical needs in digital crime.

As CSAFE and researchers across the country search for better solutions, we are guided by The Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science’s (OSAC) recently released report on digital and multimedia evidence in an effort to increase dialog and harmonize core forensic processes across disciplines.

Partner With Us to Improve Digital Evidence Analysis

Are you a digital evidence examiner or do you have research expertise in this area? We want to hear from you! Learn more about our collaboration opportunities and contact us to join us in improving the scientific foundations of digital evidence analysis.