Friday, June 19, 2009

More toughts on Visualisation

The Brain, an iMindMapImage by charmainezoe via Flickr
Information visualisation is a rapidly growing research field and I see more and more people become interested in using visualisation techniques in the field of Digital Forensics. There were a series of discussions about "Visualisation" on computer forensic forums and digital forensics blogs. Last week I attended Australian High Tech Crime Centre (AHTCC) conference in Sydney where I met with a couple of researchers who were also interested in doing a research in this area.

Visualisation is a process or technique that graphically represents the collected data to enable better understanding of its significance. I have been using visualisation techniques since late 1990's after I discovered Mind Mapping technique, which was originated by Tony Buzan. Since then, I have successfully used visualisation for learning and in various presentations.

There appears to be many attempts made to enhance digital forensics techniques by adding visualisation to it. This is a welcome move considering the problems faced by forensic examiners while processing increasing quantities of digital evidence. These attempts however are mostly focused on automating the entire process, which in my view leads only to a dead-end. I believe that visualisation techniques, at least in digital forensics, must be separated in two distinct areas of 'analysis' and 'presentation. They are two different paths to two different goals.


The analysis side of visualisation involves digital data processing to produce data suitable for further analysis, pattern discovery, pattern analysis, detection of anomalies etc. In my opinion this is the most challenging area of visualisation. This is the knowledge discovery stage, which employs data reduction and data interpretation techniques and can only be performed by a qualified and experienced forensic examiner. Once such data processing is successfully carried out, a visual representation of digital evidence would enable a forensic examiner to see trends or relationships between various sets of data.


The presentation side of visualisation is simply a technique for making the facts visible and easily understood by the target audience. The significant relationships discovered during the analysis stage needs to be emphasised with vivid colours, charts, "3D" representations or Mind Maps. This PowerPoint presentation by the Department of Image Processing and Neurocomputing of University of Pannonia is good start.

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