Sean McKeown is an early career academic at Edinburgh Napier University, focusing in the areas of Digital Forensic and Digital investigations, as well as general Cyber Security. Prior to joining Napier, Sean worked on Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) investigations, while his PhD moved to focus on fast digital forensics processing techniques, particularly for non-mechanical media. His PhD research drew the attention of a local forensics spinout after a presentation at SICSA Demofest in 2017, resulting in talks about how such an approach may be incorporated in commercial products.
Sean is particularly interest in image file formats and their various use cases in digital forensics. Recent work has had a focus on the High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF), used in modern Apple devices, and Perceptual Hashing. In the former case it was discovered that existing forensics tooling, even expensive commercial tooling available to law enforcement, isn’t particularly well equipped to handle it. He is in the process of releasing tooling that will help alleviate this deficit in capability, though he has already had conversations about the format with developers from Griffeye and Hansken. Similarly, noting that there is a dearth of evidence-based evaluation of Perceptual Hashing techniques, he is also in the process of expanding on the existing public evaluation and producing a framework to allow others to do the same.
The Perceptual Hashing work is forming the basis of an EPSRC New Investigator grant application, which is currently under development – the foundations of which were laid in the Safety Tech Challenge Fund award he was heavily involved in. The bid will seek to further develop public understanding and deployment of such technologies, particularly to understand their behaviour at scale.
Going forward, in addition to Perceptual Hashing evaluation, Sean is also keen to explore the forensics implications and tooling surrounding generative AI technologies, such as stable diffusion. Towards this end, he is taking on a PhD student to further explore this topic.