A federal investigator uses a pen tool to pan and scan over photo evidence in Adobe Photoshop. (credit: CNN)

On Thursday, a CNN report showed exactly how a major 2013 online child-pornography bust went down.

The case’s breakthrough came from the kind of photo manipulation that happens on TV crime dramas, in which a horribly blurry photo is somehow magically “enhanced.”
Homeland Security Investigations special agent Jim Cole showed CNN how a blurry photo of a bottle of prescription pills led to the 110-year conviction of Georgia sexual predator Stephen Keating.

Though CNN described the analysis as “game-changing,” the tools used to confirm the suspect appear to be relatively common.
In 2012, photos recovered from a computer by Danish investigators was handed off to the HSI’s Cyber Crimes Center.

Cole demonstrated that filters built into Adobe Photoshop were used to sharpen the text on a bottle—which was visible because a victim was photographed in front of a bathroom cabinet—to confirm a first name, the first two letters of a surname, and the beginning of a code for a prescription type.
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