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NIJ and Synercon Technologies: Improving the Reliability of Forensic Data From Vehicle Data Records

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2017
2 pages
This paper describes the features and discusses the benefits of three technologies that enable law enforcement investigators to acquire digital forensic data from the event data recorders (EDRs) of commercial vehicles faster and more reliably than older technologies.
EDRs in vehicles store information relevant to the vehicle's operation and other environmental variables. The content of a vehicle's EDR can be useful in criminal investigations that include vehicle crashes, speeding, drug trafficking, manslaughter, aggravated homicide, and even acts of terrorism; however, the data extraction process uses original equipment manufacturer (OEM) software designed for vehicle maintenance rather than forensic use. The downloaded data can be overwritten, presenting challenges when assessing data integrity and validity for evidentiary use. Also, when an EDR is damaged, extracting data can create new fault codes that are unrelated to the event of interest. This paper describes newly developed technologies funded by the National Institute of Justice that can acquire digital forensic data from vehicle EDRs faster and more reliably than older technologies. One technology developed is the forensic link adapter, which is a universal device for downloading digital data from vehicle EDRs. This is a field computer that communicates directly with a vehicle's electronic control module (ECM) and downloads EDR data. A second technology is a smart sensor simulator, which emulates the electronic system of a vehicle for an ECM, enabling investigators to retrieve and perform a forensically sound download of ECM data. The third technology is TruckCRYPT software, which runs on the forensic link adapter to interpret and secure all critical digital forensic data in a commercial vehicle. These three technologies provide a time-saving and safer way to collect data from a commercial vehicle involved in a crash that may have criminal implications.

Date Published: December 1, 2017