Artificial intelligence is being prepared to serve on the front line of UK policing.
Looking at how AI techniques can boost digital forensics, the government-funded Cyber Security Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) will examine the potential use of AI in web counter-terrorism surveillance, fighting internet fraud, masking identities online and data mining.
The KTN will consider how artificial neural networks can intelligently pull together evidence from different online sources and databases, and how particle swarm intelligence — inspired by the behaviour of flocks of birds — could probe information shared by groups on social networks.
It will also look into how "autonomous agents" or intelligent programs could preserve images of hard drives and pluck out useful information flowing over networks and the use of "serious computer games in information warfare".
The KTN says AI will be necessary for business and law enforcers to make sense of the mountains of information being generated on the web, in public databases and on corporate networks.
To do this the KTN is setting up an AI and forensics special-interest group to bring together forensics and AI experts to discuss how artificial intelligence can help shape the digital forensics of tomorrow.
Nigel Jones, director of the KTN, said: "In today's age of distributed networks and with moves towards cloud computing, there is a lot more information out there that might be useful in terms of evidence.
"There is a problem in handling that mass of data, in storing it, routing it, tracing it and in finding patterns.
"The special interest group will look at the role that AI could have in gathering and analysing that information, which could be used in investigations or in intelligence gathering to trigger alerts."
According to Jones, the challenges of modern cases are prompting the interest in AI. "Law enforcement is dealing with increasingly complex cases where they need to look for connections between events and people among a large volume of data and they need to gather the evidence very quickly.
"In the case of business it could provide the forensic readiness, for instance, to be able to go back and see exactly what happened after they have been stung by fraud," he told ZDNet UK's sister site, silicon.com.
He said AI could also be used to safeguard privacy, by monitoring precisely what information is being sent where and how much of it is being stored.
As well as looking at how emergent AI trends could be used in digital forensics, the group will also propose a framework for how AI tools should be used in criminal investigations to ensure that evidence remains admissible in court.
The group hopes that its work will produce a set of guidelines for investigators on best practice for conducting forensic analysis on computers and digital media.
The KTN AI and forensics special interest group will hold a start-up meeting on 28 November.