30 Jun

Forensic Pathways & Aston University – Celebrate Innovate UK success!

The recent SMART award round by Innovate UK has seen success for leading threat intelligence company Forensic Pathways Ltd and its academic partner Aston University (Aston Institute for Forensic Linguistics). 

The LEADS-ENGINE (Linguistically Enabled Analytic Dark Search Engine) project funded by Innovate UK will run for 18 months.

The project will develop innovative techniques for the detection and prediction of cybercrime and fraud on the dark web.  The project will build on Forensic Pathways’ technology ‘Dark Search Engine’ (DSE), developed in 2016, and will provide clients with actionable intelligence they can use to significantly enhance their protection measures/systems.   

The UK National Fraud and Cyber Crime Dashboard (NFB) shows that, to date in 2021, organisations have been impacted by 57,304 fraud-related cybercrimes, costing £637.4m. There has been a 64% rise in cyber attacks with the shift to remote/home working (mimecast.com).

While there are multiple dark-web monitoring tools/services, they lack the ability to automatically identify threats based on linguistic and behavioural patterns, which currently requires extensive manual analysis using techniques like Forensic Linguistics.

Forensic Pathways Limited (FPL), a Birmingham (UK) based SME has provided investigation, due diligence, threat intelligence/cyber security services for 21 years. In 2016 FPL developed Dark Search Engine (DSE), an automated crawler/scraper of the Tor .onion browser  in order to provide an additional level of intelligence to companies wishing to monitor the dark web for the illegal sale of assets, bank details, client data and email accounts, for example.  DSE has currently indexed over 55 million URLs, with the database updating every four hours.  Previously IBM have quoted over 280 days before companies are aware of a data breach and the ability to know if data has been stolen within a short time frame significantly impacts on the cost to business.

Ben Leary, Director said “Companies are used to looking to the clear net (regular internet) for information on the businesses or individuals they want to do business with or want to go through M&A, however, the open web is just one half of the picture.  They are also under significant pressure to protect their data and reputations”.

We have teamed with Aston University’s world-leading Forensic Linguistics Institute to enable us to go beyond the monitoring/alerting state-of-the-art by providing actionable intelligence and enabling the rapid identification of new threats, feeding into risk assessment tools and adding to a continually developing database of online fraud strategies and behaviours”.

Dr Emily Chiang of the Aston Institute for Forensic Linguistics said, “Dark-web crime occurs almost exclusively through language. As such, linguistic methods can help establish important information about individuals and communities engaging in criminal activities”.

This is the third successful Innovate UK award for Forensic Pathways and highlights the significant value in collaboration between business and universities. Both organisations are members of the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce.

In 2020 Forensic Pathways completed an Innovate UK project with Huddersfield University and prior to that with Staffordshire University.

For further information please contact:  ben.leary@forensic-pathways.com or call 0121 232 4662

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18 Jun

‘Wolves of the Internet’

Where do fraudsters hunt for data online?

Cifas & Forensic Pathways Ltd 

“With identity fraud levels at an all-time high, the need to look at how criminals gain access to personal data is essential in trying to develop successful preventative measures. This collaborative research presented an exciting opportunity to combine the forensic expertise and investigative techniques of Forensic Pathways with the fraud knowledge of Cifas, together providing insight into how personal data can be pieced together from various online sources to commit identity fraud.”

“The findings are eye-opening. This report not only demonstrates the vulnerabilities of personal data held on surface web platforms, but also highlights the pressing need to monitor these with more vigour, as well as look more closely at the use of software such as application programming interfaces (APIs), which allow for a mass of data to be obtained from these platforms. It also reminds us that although illegal activity occurs on the dark web, it is also prevalent on the surface web, where the selling of personal data through forums and online shops is clearly evident. We welcome further collaboration from all industries and sectors in the fight against identity fraud.”

Deborah Leary OBE, CEO, Forensic Pathways

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05 Nov

Dark Web Monitoring: A New Approach to Threat Intelligence and Risk Management

Forensic Pathways have developed their own in-house ‘dark web crawler’ for monitoring the dark web for potential data breaches and/or threats. The software has been built to refine and enhance your threat intelligence and risk management process. By incorporating the dark web monitoring into your processes you increase your visibility of the dark web and reduce the risk of exposure to your company, your data and your reputation.

The dark web lives up to its name, creating a platform that allows users to operate on the web whilst remaining in the shadows and avoiding detection from law enforcement. A community of cyber criminals now thrives on the dark web due to the levels of anonymity and lack of traceability reducing risks for criminals, who have created a community of advertising, discussing, buying and selling of illicit goods and personal information.

From guns to guides, stolen data to sensitive, confidential information, there is a market and a marketplace for everything; you can find a buyer and seller for almost anything illicit. This can create a crisis for businesses.

There are established marketplaces operating much like eBay, where sellers advertise what they have for sale, allowing buyers to review the offering and the sellers, all of whom are graded and ranked, helping other potential buyers to identify ‘legit’ sellers.


Figure 1 An example of an advert for a banking template found on a popular dark web marketplace. Identity of exploited company protected due to being a house hold name

Figure 2 An example of the review and ranking system of vendors

There are forums dedicated to discussing, sharing and selling valuable and exploitable information, from identified network frailties to stolen company data.

Unlike the ‘open web’ (the internet we use daily), the dark web is not indexed. This means that it can be very difficult to search for and detect specific information. However, as this labyrinth of information and intelligence cannot be neglected, Forensic Pathways opted to deliver a solution that could revolutionize how we identify and process intelligence found on the dark web.

Drawing on over 10 years of due diligence and open source intelligence experience, the company recognized that replicating services and techniques utilized in open web due on the dark web would create new opportunity for the company and its clients.

After conducting rigorous analysis on consumer needs, market trends and competitor offerings, Forensic Pathways have launched a new dark web monitoring and investigations solution that will significantly increase the scope and visibility of intelligence, offering clients a more robust, thorough and proactive solution to brand reputation and threat intelligence.
Forensic Pathways have developed our own in-house crawler, capable of crawling, harvesting and storing data that is searchable through a secure, password protected search engine. This allows users to not only draw on historic findings and locate possible threats, it also allows users to create an alerting system that will identify specific search terms and key words. Furthermore, our crawler is not restricted. There is no ‘focus crawl’ – we feel that vital information could be hidden away in the cracks and crevasses of the dark web, and so we have developed a solution that will blanket search multiple platforms within the dark web, ensuring investigations cover all angles and provide maximum visibility.

Figure 3 An example of the dark web search engine in use

Figure 4 The above search for ‘bitcoin’ found over 500,000 items in 38 milliseconds

This is just the beginning. Forensic Pathways have a very exciting pipeline and have ambitious aspirations for delivering the most innovative, thorough and robust dark web monitoring and investigation services. The capabilities the company will be adding to the current solution will revolutionise how we use the dark web as part of our threat intelligence and risk management processes.

For more information on dark web monitoring and investigation services and software offered by Forensic Pathways please contact sales@forensic-pathways.com or call 0121 250 3642.

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05 Nov

Dark web monitoring: A new service from Forensic Pathways

The sale of drugs, weapons, personal information/data, illegal pornography and intellectual property is readily available to buy on the Dark Web as buyers/sellers can browse anonymously with ease. According to the World Economic Forums Global Risk Report (2018) cyber security attacks are the third-largest threat facing the world. The dark web plays a massive role in this global issue…

The dark web is still relatively new to most of us. Its anonymity has been exploited as an underground criminal platform for some time, however, there are not many companies currently operating within the field of dark web monitoring and investigation. As a company who always strives for innovation, Forensic Pathways feels it can help shape and develop the industry ensuring the solutions available are able to provide robust protection across industry sectors. Unfortunately for business the threat of the dark web is ever growing. Coupled with GDPR regulations organisations need to be prepared for cyber security attacks and data breaches. More companies are looking to the dark web as a means of protecting themselves from such exploitation. Forensic Pathways anticipate that, as always, criminals will continue to utilise the dark web and introduce more innovative ways to commit crimes without being caught, and as such, we envisage a great and growing need to continue to combat these threats by providing innovative technologies that will help identify and understand the illegal activity that occurs.

Forensic Pathways has developed its own in-house dark web crawler actively crawling and indexing the dark web, with over 15 thousand domains already visited. The crawler feeds harvested information into a searchable database that provides easy, prompt and accurate results when key search terms are entered by the investigator. Forensic Pathways has worked in multiple industry sectors, on dark web monitoring projects, including a nationwide anti-fraud assignment ran in collaboration with leading fraud detection agency, Cifas, who manage the National Fraud Database (UK).

There are some barriers for organisations wishing to monitor the dark web. For example, a large proportion of the websites on the dark web focus on drug/human trafficking, child pornography, and theft. Therefore browsing can be highly dangerous and/ or cause significant distress. For these reasons organisations wishing to monitor and investigate key words/phrases are likely to resist permitting employees to use platforms, such as Tor and I2P to search the dark web. Additionally, Forensic Pathways discovered that a large proportion of the dark web monitoring software solutions on the market requires users to ‘browse’ the dark web… Forensic Pathways has a solution – ‘Dark Web Monitoring As A Service’. 


For more information please contact
sales@forensic-pathways.com or call 0121 250 3642

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10 May

New Crime Scene Stepping Plate Kit

Forensic Pathways are pleased to announce we have a new and improved carry case for our award-winning, unique and fully transparent crime scene stepping plate kits.


The new cases have been developed with anti-contamination at the forefront of the design. In the UK, strict measures are in place to avoid contaminating the crime scene and jeopardising the integrity of the evidence collected.

Collaborating with the reputable Versapak, the kit is now housed in an all new easy clean carrying device. The high quality 600D waterproof and easy clean PVC material allows for prompt decontamination allowing it to be redeployed into the field much quicker.

Furthermore, the cases now incorporate improved anti-tampering security; cases now come complete with T-seal locking, meaning when a unique seal is locked to the case, the contents of the kit cannot be accessed without breaking the seal. Once plates have been decontaminated and sealed into the carry case, SOCOs can rest assured that the kit they use at a scene is not contaminated and will not jeopardize the integrity of the evidence.

Numbered T2 Seals are provided with each kit purchase and can be purchased separately upon request.



The T2-Seal provide new, anti-tampering capabilities to the carry cases

The FSR (Forensic Science Regulator) have outlined anti-contamination policies which cite the use of crime scene stepping plates (see FSR-G-206 Issue 1), making them the ideal tool for anti-contamination.

For more information, get in touch today on +44 (0)121 232 3215


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14 Mar

Export Champions!

Forensic Pathways CEO Deb Leary OBE (bottom right) as Export Champion
Forensic Pathways CEO Deb Leary OBE (bottom right) with the team of Export Champions

Last week, Birmingham hosted the inaugural Midlands Engine Trade Summit, an exhibition celebrating and encouraging the continued growth of Midland firms exporting internationally.

The Midlands Engine is the long-term economic plan to achieve greater economic growth and productivity across the whole of the Midlands. Over 27,000 businesses across the Midlands Engine exported nearly £40 billion worth of products to over 100 countries in 2015 and the Midlands is responsible for 24% of England’s manufacturing output with particular strengths in automotive, motorsport, aerospace and rail.

Forensic Pathways proudly attended the event as CEO Deb Leary took to the stage as an Expert Champion; a high profile business leader from the Midlands region offering her expertise and advice to inspire companies to export and support existing exporters looking to expand into new markets. Addressing the 500+ delegate conference, Deb delivered an inspirational message highlighting the benefits international trade can bring to a business “Exporting adds real value to the brand, it promotes us as ‘Thought Leaders’“. Exporting internationally has done just that for Forensic Pathways, allowing the company to be positioned as industry leaders in forensic equipment and technology across the world, including South Africa, Germany, France, Italy, the USA & Canada and many more. In addition Forensic Pathways continues to provide Due Diligence and Fraud Investigation services internationally to both the public and private sectors.

Deb also touched on the importance of collaboration in the pursuit of international trade,

stating that “export enables us to create opportunity to work collaboratively with other industry experts”. As a result of international trade, Forensic Pathways have collaborated with ballistics experts Pyramidal, resulting in the collaboration of one of the most advanced, powerful and portable ballistic identification systems on the market, ALIAS. Furthermore, success overseas has generated even greater domestic success, and international trade has helped the company win business here in the UK as exporting globally means “we are seen as a global authority”.

Deb wrapped up the passionate speech summarising the drive, determination and support needed to thrive when trading internationally, referencing our very own Team GB “You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to be a part of team GB, but you do need the same passion and people supporting you. The Department of International Trade and its export champions are here to support you on that journey, as are the UK embassies within the country – you just need to ask. Exporting is great, Britain is great, now let’s do great business. Thank you.”

Deb Leary OBE on the Q&A panel addressing the exhibition

Deb Leary OBE on the Q&A panel addressing the exhibition

Check out Forensic Pathways’ video case study for the Midlands Engine Trade Summit here:

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29 Jun

Source Camera Identification Using Forensic Image Analyser

Source Camera Identification Using Forensic Image Analyser (FIA) 

The Problem

Police Forces, intelligence agencies and digital forensic investigators recover huge amounts of images from laptops, mobile phones, storage devices (hard drives, pen drives) and the internet. Often these images need to be analysed to ascertain the source device (camera, cell phone) that was used to photograph the image(s), especially when investigating child sexual abuse (CSE) content.

A suspect might claim he/she didn’t photograph an illegal image(s) and simply downloaded the content by accident. For example in the recent Lee Mathews case https://www.forensic-pathways.com/new-forensic-image-technology-achieves-success-in-major-child-abuse-case/. Or, an investigator in a case may recover 500 illegal images on a hard drive and needs to quickly ascertain which of the images were photographed by the same device. In counter terrorism cases a suspect might be arrested with potential intelligence on their cell phone, for example ‘hate symbols’. These are just some examples where the ability to link images to devices is critical.

Currently Police Forces use ‘meta data’ to identify the make and model of the device that photographed an image(s).  However, meta and exif data can be removed and/or edited by suspects and criminal networks.  Furthermore, the process cannot distinguish between two devices that are the same make/model.

Another technique being used by analysts to classify images is the use of ‘hash sums’. However, if an image ascertain has been edited in any way the hash sum will change. This is not ideal when images are shared in their millions each day and automatically edited by internet sites. Consequently Police Forces need a robust and scientifically proven methodology for linking ‘images to devices’ and ‘images to images’.

The challenge for law enforcement is being able to speed up investigations, improve efficiencies and reduce unnecessary costs. Consequently, Forensic Pathways has developed a software https://www.forensic-pathways.com/forensic-image-analyser/ tool that can automatically identify the source device (camera, mobile phone) that photographed a particular image(s).

The Solution

Forensic Pathways Limited (FPL) has developed a peer reviewed, scientifically proven methodology for identifying the source device that photographed a particular images(s). The algorithm has been used successfully in a number of UK child sexual exploitation cases.  See www.forensic-pathways.com for more information. 

Forensic Image Analyser (FIA) extracts a latent feature, known as, Sensor Pattern Noise (SPN) from digital images. SPN occurs due to the natural imperfections in the silicon chip and varying pixel sensitivity to light in the sensor of the camera. The uniqueness of these defects makes SPN a natural digital ‘fingerprint’. Importantly, SPN can be used to differentiate between imaging devices of the same model. For example, the software can distinguish between the camera fingerprints of two iPhone 6 devices.  It is important to note that these SPN fingerprints contain no content. Thus the fingerprints can be shared without compromising security.

‘Standard SPN’ fingerprints are contaminated by scene details in the image, which leads to misidentifications. This is not at all helpful in forensic terms. Therefore, the use of standard SPN in forensics will not produce the required results. FPL has developed a unique ‘SPN enhancer’ (patents GB2467767, GB2486987, EU 2396749, USA8565529) that removes contamination from the standard SPN fingerprints and allows for higher identification rates.

There are two scenarios where FIA can be applied, namely image identification and image classification.  These are described below.


An example where the FIA Identifier can be used is when an investigator has recovered a memory stick with a number of illegal images and a smart phone from a suspect. The suspect denies that the illegal photos were taken using the phone. The investigator can use the Identifier to create a fingerprint for the camera and extract the digital fingerprint for each image. The Identifier will then match all the fingerprints obtained from the images against the camera fingerprint.

The FIA Identifier allows users to link digital media to imaging devices.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 11.43.47


A second scenario occurs when an investigator has recovered a laptop, memory stick and external hard drive, all containing digital photos. Some of these photos contain illegal content while others are innocent photos that were taken by the suspect’s camera. The FIA Classifier can be used to group all the images recovered according to the imaging device that created them. If both the illegal and innocent images are placed in the same group, it will show that they were taken from the same camera.Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 11.43.53

The FIA Classifier allows users to group together images that were created by the same imaging device.

For more information or to arrange a FREE TRIAL please contact ben.leary@forensic-pathways.com

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15 Feb

Lights, Camera, Evidence!

Since Alphonse Bertillon’s early 20th century photographs of homicide victims in France, the role of photographs in crime has grown exponentially, and the benefits of images in investigations can be monumental.


Alphonse Bertillon used his metric photography system to photograph the murdered corpse of Madame Langlois on April 5, 1905

Images can play an integral role in criminal investigations, and given what a photograph may contain, it is imperative to explore imagery in order to reveal any evidence that may be crucial in solving a case. The use of Forensic Image Analyser (FIA) can greatly enhance the ability to exploit digital images and help grasp the uncovered information it may hold, for example by linking an image with its source device, thus transforming a photo into empirical evidence.

This ground-breaking technology has already had a big influence on the way in which evidence is approached, with Forensic Pathways collaborating with the Paedophile & On-Line Investigation Team (POLIT) of Sussex Police.

FIA_logo_full (003)

In June 2014, Forensic Pathways was approached by Sussex Police for help in investigating the activities of Lee Mathews. The Company’s technology ‘Forensic Image Analyser’ was used to identify that the digital images on Matthews Apple iPhone had been taken by that device, as opposed to being sent to it or copied. Matthews had until that point denied that the video on one of his phones showing sexual activity with a child had been created on that phone. Through the use of Forensic Image Analyser (FIA), Forensic Pathways was able to show that the videos had indeed been created by Matthews’ iPhone, resulting in the successful conviction of the accused.

The ability to link digital imagery with its source device can act as a massive deterrent to offenders and help combat child sexual exploitation, enhancing the welfare of vulnerable children.

Read more on FIA here: http://tinyurl.com/oadvy8z
Read more on the use of photographs in crime…http://tinyurl.com/jm7525p

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09 Feb

Preservation is Paramount

“The important thing to remember is that forensic science begins at the crime scene, and it’s all going to be lost if that area of the crime cannot be properly preserved.” – Richard Saferstein (Former Chief Forensic Scientist)

The basic principle in CSI is that “every contact leaves a trace” – as such, here at Forensic Pathways, we understand that preserving the integrity of a crime scene is absolutely imperative when conducting CSI.  The Forensic Science Regulator has specified the importance of scene preservation, citing the use of crime scene stepping plates in order to reduce the risk of contamination at the scene whilst maintaining accessibility. Here at Forensic Pathways we combine industry practice with innovation; the result? The WORLD’s FIRST transparent crime scene stepping plate, designed and created by CEO Deb Leary, OBE.

Allowing CSI personnel the means to navigate a scene without jeopardizing the evidence, our transparent crime scene stepping plates fit the bill perfectly, allowing scene accessibility whilst maintaining complete visual awareness.

You can find out more about our industry-defining stepping plates here: https://www.forensic-pathways.com/clear-anti-contamination-stepping-plates/


Our multi stepping plate kit (MSPK), complete with both Standard Stepping Plates and Stair Stepping Plates

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21 Jan

Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse National Conference 2016

tackling CSE

Forensic Pathways are pleased to confirm our attendance in exhibiting at the annual Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse National Conference 2016 hosted by Lancashire Constabulary & Leicestershire Police. – http://tinyurl.com/hvphoob 

The February event will explore a number of topics relevant to CSE, including how to tackle online grooming and abuse and understand more surrounding the acts of CSE.

Efforts to combat CSE are imperative, and through implementing innovative technologies such as Forensic Image Analyser, we can take one step closer to preventing the occurrence of such acts and protect the welfare of children.


Read more on FIA here… https://www.forensic-pathways.com/forensic-image-analyser/

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