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MapExif: An Image Scanning and Mapping Tool for Investigators

Lionel Prat, Cheryl Baker and Nhien An Le-Khac
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Lionel Prat: French Gendarmerie Forensics Research Institute (IRCGN), Rosny-sous-Bois, France
Cheryl Baker: University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Nhien An Le-Khac: University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

International Journal of Digital Crime and Forensics (IJDCF), 2015, vol. 7, issue 2, 53-78

Abstract: Recently, the integration of geographical coordinates into a picture has become more and more popular. Indeed almost all smartphones and many cameras today have a built-in GPS receiver that stores the location information in the Exif header when a picture is taken. Although the automatic embedding of geotags in pictures is often ignored by smart phone users as it can lead to endless discussions about privacy implications, these geotags could be really useful for investigators in analysing criminal activity. Currently, there are many free tools as well as commercial tools available in the market that can help computer forensics investigators to cover a wide range of geographic information related to criminal scenes or activities. However, there are not specific forensic tools available to deal with the geolocation of pictures taken by smart phones or cameras. In this paper, an image scanning and mapping tool for investigators is proposed and developed. This tool scans all the files in a given directory and then displays particular photos based on optional filters (date/time/device/localisation…) on Google Map. The file scanning process is not based on the file extension but its header. This tool can also show efficiently to users if there is more than one image on the map with the same GPS coordinates, or even if there are images with no GPS coordinates taken by the same device in the same timeline. Moreover, this new tool is portable; investigators can run it on any operating system without any installation. Another useful feature is to be able to work in a read-only environment, so that forensic results will not be modified. This tool's real-world application is also presented and evaluated in this paper.

Date: 2015
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