Investigations with terabytes of data and millions of images

The investigations and cases that law enforcement is dealing with continues to increase. Exactly how large they have become is difficult to say. The answers span from small cases to extremely large cases. For example, police officers specialising in forensic investigations of mobile phones may only handle a couple of hundred images at a time. Whereas those working on the largest cases will have to deal with millions of files. As a result, it is difficult to put a number on the average case load. What we can present from the answers in the survey is an indication of the case load and how large the biggest cases are.

Many police officers reported that a normal case contains somewhere between 1-3 terabytes (TB) of data, 1-10 million images and thousands of hours of video material. This refers to all the material in a seizure that officers have to sort through in order to find and investigate the child sexual abuse material.

The largest cases are considerably larger than that. Even if the answers vary considerably, from one terabyte to 10, 20, 30, 40 or 65TB of material. A few police officers have answered that they’ve had cases as large as 100TB, over 100 million images and over 100,000 hours of video material.

”Four years ago our average seizure included 4TB of data that we needed to process to find the child sexual abuse material. Last year that jumped to 6TB, and it is probably going to keep going up.”

Jim Cole, Special Agent and Section Chief, Victim Identification, Homeland Security Investigations, Cyber Crimes Center, Child Exploitation Investigations Unit, USA

“The average size question is difficult to answer for INTERPOL because we only get the triaged material and the volume really depends on the case. However, the biggest seizure here at INTERPOL is 40TB of child sexual abuse material. It is the biggest seizure of child sexual abuse material we have ever seen in France.”

INTERPOL, Crimes against Children unit, Vulnerable Communities Team.

How much is 1TB and 100,000 hours of video?

A single TB is equivalent to a thousand gigabytes (GB), and a million megabytes (MB). The average computer has around 500GB of storage space, but a large hard drive can have up to 2TB of storage. A mobile phone has between 8 to 32GB of storage on average. Relative to the size of images, a normal sized image is usually around 5MB. This means that you can fit around 200,000 images onto a hard drive of 1TB.

To put into perspective just how much 100,000 hours of film is, a year is 8,760 hours. This means that it would take over 11 years to look at 100,000 hours of video material, if one person was looking at it 24 hours a day.

Comment about the result:

Explosion of material
Johann Hofmann, Head of Griffeye

It is incredible how the amount of data in circulation has increased in recent years…

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