Cyan Forensics: the Edinburgh tech company trying to become 'the first line of defence against harmful and illegal content'

The Scottish tech company specialising in offering fast-paced triage solutions to catching paedophilic and terrorist content online has just raised £5 million in its latest funding round and now looks to take its solutions across the pond.

By Liv McMahon
Monday, 29th March 2021, 6:16 pm
Ian Stevenson, CEO of Cyan Forensics Ltd, hopes that his company's technology will assist in tackling the increase and availability of illegal content like child sexual abuse imagery online.

Cyan, based in Edinburgh’s CodeBase, has been lauded by government agencies and bodies for its rapid digital triage solutions helping to clamping down on child sexual abuse and terrorist content online since first launching in 2016.

The company’s software allows the police, government bodies like the Home Office, social media platforms and cloud companies to locate harmful content on the devices of suspects, as well as moderation and blocking content online.

Cyan’s technology is currently used in the Home Office’s National Child Abuse Image Database and by police forces across the UK to speed up the process of finding evidence of posting or downloading paedophile or terrorist content.

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The company’s Forensic rapid scanning software enables frontline responders and investigators to quickly check devices for illegal content with a range of different services and devices for different needs. Meanwhile, Cyan Protect tools provide developers of products ranging from apps to operating systems with the means to block harmful content.

"Our technology is a bit like an airport metal detector,” said Cyan’s CEO Ian Stevenson

"For most people there's absolutely no infringement of privacy whatsoever; they're not patted down or x-rayed or searched in any great detail at all. But if we flag the presence of a piece of child abuse content, it's then up to the service provider to decide what they want to do – but they're likely to block that and in many parts of the world they'll be obliged to report it.

“We're not trying to be the arbiters of what should and should not be allowed, but if for example a particular social platform were to decide that a piece of political disinformation breached its terms and conditions and they wanted to block it, you can feed that back into Cyan Protect to block it from appearing again.”

Having raised £5 million in funds to further develop their solutions, Mr Stevenson hopes that expanding these to the US will enable them to curb the rise of online harmful content as an international issue by working with larger Big Tech companies seeking new methods of moderation.

“We view it as a global problem. We're moving to the US, not specifically because of their legislative agenda at the moment but because a lot of the Big Tech companies that will be customers for Cyan Protect are based there.

“Of course it has a large law enforcement market as well,” Mr Stevenson added, “so it is an attractive market for us.

"But more broadly we see ourselves as part of a movement, part of this voice of hope trying to break the stalemate in the debate between those who want the internet to be safe and those who want to maintain the status quo and say ‘well actually, here are some incremental things we can do that make it a lot safer at relatively little cost’. Why wouldn't we do them?”

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