Karen Bartlett is a writer, journalist and film maker.
Karen writes for The Times, The Sunday Times,The Guardian, WIRED and Newsweek. In broadcast Karen has made documentaries for the BBC World Service, and directed a series on the economic meltdown.
Karen’s book 'After Auschwitz' is a UK bestseller and she is the author of a critically acclaimed biography about Dusty Springfield. Her third book about eradicating disease in the Twenty First Century Century will be published in 2016.
Growing Up X
Fifty years after he was killed, the daughter of Malcolm X wants to make sure her father isn't written out of history Half way down a winding country road in New York’s wealthy Westchester County, one of America’s most famous revolutionaries lies buried under three feet of crisp white snow. I...
How one man gave Congo’s women hope
Life is hell for women caught up in the conflict in the Congo. But one remarkable doctor helps survivors to build a future Why are the lives of African women worthless? It’s a question that Denis Mukwege asks every day that he works with the raped and mutilated women of the Democratic Republic...
The Times - World
‘If they gave me a house, I’d take it tomorrow’
All I want is to die under this mountain.” Noor Ebrahim, a slightly-built former messenger for Reader’s Digest, has returned to the area where he grew up. Now retired, he likes to remember the old days; he can point out his school — “it was tough” — the mosque where his family prayed and the spot...
The Times - World
Momma D: Dionne Warwick, the Grande Dame of Divas
She learnt her stagecraft from Marlene Dietrich; 50 years on, she’s mentor to Whitney Houston and P. Diddy Dionne Warwick opens up her arms in a stage bow: “I’m looking pretty good, don’t you think,” she says. The singer seems slightly surprised to be turning 70, and, with pearly white teeth a...
The Times - Arts
India's Barefoot Revolution
What would it be like if women ran the world? In some parts of India, it’s already happening If all revolutions begin in unlikely locations, few could be as unpromising as Borda. It’s a poor village in the poorest district of one of the poorest states in India. Only the blasting from a nearby ...
The Times - World
It’s murder on your mobile, says The Killing’s Sarah Lund
Hit crime drama The Killing is back for a second series, and Karen Bartlett talks mobile phone forensics with actress Sofie Gråbøl Detective Sarah Lund is a Luddite. The loner heroine of Denmark’s hit crime drama The Killing is as much of a 70s relic as her Faroe sweaters: She makes notes by h...
Skateistan: How skateboarding took off with Afghan kids
It’s no surprise that in a world full of rules most kids want to do something with no organisation, and no adults. “This country has more restrictions than just about any other,” Oliver Percovich says, explaining how his own passion for freedom and fun led to groups of boys and girls flying acros...
The Times - World
Life and Love with 'The Greatest': Muhammad Ali
When Yolanda “Lonnie” Williams was six years old she looked out of her front door in Louisville, Kentucky, and saw an energetic young man holding court to a wide-eyed gaggle of neighbourhood boys, including her brother. “Who’s that big man?” she asked her mother, not knowing that the answer wo...
The Times - Arts
Polio's Last Stand
Eradicating the Last 1% of Polio Is Deadly But Essential When 40-year-old Liberian civil servant Patrick Sawyer died of Ebola earlier this year in hospital in Lagos, having carried the disease from his home country to Nigeria, global health workers feared the epidemic would spread in West Af...
Bringing Anne Frank Home – to Germany
Like many people in their seventies and eighties, Buddy Elias and his wife Gertie are downsizing – clearing out the attic and getting rid of several generations’ worth of papers, clutter and possessions from their family home in Basel, Switzerland. Unlike most other pensioners, however, Elias is ...
A Race Apart: the beauty queens of the apartheid era
The Miss World finalists are now at the World Cup, but the women who represented South Africa in its past have divided memories So far the game has not been beautiful for the World Cup’s “33rd official team”. They have gone largely unnoticed in South Africa’s impressive new stadiums, despite d...
The Times - World
Maki Mandela: “As Nelson's child, I can say I am proud of him”
In the week that London marks the statesman's 90th birthday, his daughter reveals how she overcame her resentment that he was a father to the world, but not to her Nelson Mandela arrives in London today for what is likely to be his last major public appearance; a 90th birthday charity concert ...
The Times - World
The Vagina Monologues turns ten
Eve Ensler transformed the New Orleans Superdome into ‘Superlove' for a celebrity-studded event to campaign against violence towards women Few people know that New Orleans is the vagina of America. Few would suggest it. “It is fertile. It's a delta. And everyone wants to party there,” explains...
The Times - Arts
Hit crime drama The Killing is back for a second series, and Karen Bartlett talks mobile phone forensics with actress Sofie Gråbøl
Detective Sarah Lund is a Luddite. The loner heroine of Denmark’s hit crime drama The Killing is as much of a 70s relic as her Faroe sweaters: She makes notes by hand and shuns modern communication.
“Check out Sarah’s mobile,” says, Sofie Gråbøl the actress who plays her, “It’s an antique!”
In The Killing, only the bad guys have an iPad, says producer Piv Bernth, while Lund pursues her obsessive investigations with a vintage Scandinavian handset.
“Sofie thinks she makes too many phone calls,” Bernth says, “We’re actually a very low tech show.”
Gråbøl took issue with the original ending of Series 1 where her character phoned in the identity of the murderer from a kitchen table. She wanted to hijack a car at gunpoint instead. And the script was duly changed.
“You just wanted to fire a gun,” Bernth tells her. “I didn’t actually shoot him though,” Gråbøl replies.
Now she’s back in The Killing Series 2. This time she’s working on a different case, but following on from where the first series left off with shadowy figures recorded on CCTV, crimes filmed and posted on the internet – and police conducting investigations by following convoluted email trails and making, and tracing, endless phone calls. Welcome to modern policing.
Whether Sarah Lund likes it or not, any police officer now attempting to solve a crime will encounter some aspect of mobile phone forensics.
The Mobile Forensic Lab, Chicago:
The phone rings. It is 1am, and Detective Josh Fazio is asleep. A baby has been abducted. They have the suspects down at the station, but they’re not talking. All they have is a cell phone – can Fazio get the data and find the missing baby?
“There’s not a case we work on now that doesn’t involve a cell phone, a GPS or a video,” says Detective Fazio who set up the mobile devices forensics lab at the Will County Sheriff’s department in Chicago six years ago. That year his team of three investigators dealt with 10 phones. This year he has already processed 900 phones.
“Today 80-90% of every crime involves a digital component – that might be a smartphone, a GPS or another mobile device,” says Rick Mislan, who helped Fazio set up his lab. Mislan is now an academic specializing in Small Scale Digital Device Forensics at Purdue University, and was formerly a Communications Electronic Warfare Officer for the U.S. Army.
Mobile phone forensics has been a growing field in law enforcement since the dawn of the first smartphones, and the immense volume of data has been what Josh Fazio calls a “nightmare” for police and intelligence services.
“We can’t keep up,” Fazio admits. “When we started, we had to buy thousands of different cables because none of the phones were standardized. Now we have to buy less hardware but we have an even bigger problem which is that every handset maker adds individual layers and complexities to each version of the operating software, and has a proprietary file system – making it more difficult for us to access that information.
Fazio is an overworked police officer with 16 years on the force. After working in different divisions including the SWAT team, and eight years as a general investigator, he was frustrated when a case fell apart because the police didn’t have the ability to undertake sophisticated computer forensics: “I started from scratch, I went back to to school and took classes to learn this and set up the lab.”
Now Fazio estimates that he can get all the data needed in 65% of cases. As smartphones have more functions, the police need more tools to access them.
“Five years ago I had one tool, now I have to apply more than five tools to each phone,” he says.
Equipment is expensive, and there are still limitations on what investigators can discover, for example US investigators would be unable to trace a phone with UK numbers.
More and more of us are using smartphones, and they operate as an extension of every aspect of our lives, containing a wealth of information.
“Low level drug pushers used to have these rinky dinky little cell phones, now they are all out on the streets with smartphones,” says Fazio.
Detectives work with the mobile forensic lab in Will County, Chicago for a wide variety of cases.
“Today we had five phones come in on a narcotics case. The investigators want to know what’s in the phone book, the call log and the text messages,” explains Fazio.
“Then we had two phones come in relating to an indecent solicitation case and for that we’re looking for GPS coordinates, wireless access points and Facebook and Twitter.
“Now we’ve had two more phones in a domestic battery case. We’re looking at text messages for that in terms of possible harassment. And we’ve just had a phone logged in connected to a burglary case.”
An average smartphone might contain thousands of contacts, hundreds of thousands of text messages, photos, videos and location information. Developers in the military, intelligence agencies and law enforcement are working on new analytic tools which make processing that data easier – but, by and large, it still comes down to an individual investigator looking at, and judging, each piece of information in relation to the case.
“They have to decide what’s important,” Rick Mislan says, “Is it the network of contacts, the inbound and outbound calls, or the timing of those calls?”
Police officers may use that information by sifting backwards to piece together evidence about a crime that has already been committed, but for intelligence agencies the key is to access and interpret information ahead of, for example, a major event like a terrorist attack.
“Technology companies have very valid concerns about customers’ privacy,” Detective Josh Fazio admits. And many civil liberties groups, and ordinary phone users, would rightly demand proper procedures and laws about giving information to government agencies, or the police.
“At the bottom of this though, people’s lives are at stake – and we need help,” Fazio says.
In the case of the abducted baby, the evidence from the cell phone proved to be crucial. “The suspects had walked into a house and stolen the baby. They had communicated all of this by text message, including where they had left the baby in a local park.
“When we accessed that text message we sent an officer down there straight away – and we rescued the baby before it could come to any more harm.”
The Killing’s Sarah Lund might like to work alone, with only her intuition to guide her and an unfashionable wooly sweater to keep her warm: “She could become Denmark’s Miss Marple,” says Sofie Gråbøl in her character’s defence – but smartphones need smarter investigations, so even heroines in Nordic noir had better get used to it.
This article was written for Republic Publishing and Conversations by Nokia
Welcome to my website. I hope these pages give you a flavour of some of my work in books, print, onl…
Last week I was in Istanbul attending a Youth Forum for teenagers from around the world. But not eve…
When Nelson Mandela retired after serving one five-year term as President of South Africa in 1999 he…
I’ve just returned from China, after a gap of about 16 years, and I met these undergraduates – comin…
Eradicating the Last 1% of Polio Is Deadly But Essential
When 40-year-old Liberian civil servan…
When Yolanda “Lonnie” Williams was six years old she looked out of her front door in Louisville,…
She learnt her stagecraft from Marlene Dietrich; 50 years on, she’s mentor to Whitney Houston and …
What would it be like if women ran the world? In some parts of India, it’s already happening
*Life is hell for women caught up in the conflict in the Congo. But one remarkable doctor helps surv…
All I want is to die under this mountain.” Noor Ebrahim, a slightly-built former messenger for Rea…
Hit crime drama The Killing is back for a second series, and Karen Bartlett talks mobile phone foren…
It’s no surprise that in a world full of rules most kids want to do something with no organisation…
Fifty years after he was killed, the daughter of Malcolm X wants to make sure her father isn’t writt…
Like many people in their seventies and eighties, Buddy Elias and his wife Gertie are downsizing –…