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Spotlight: An Honor From Abroad for the National Software Reference Library

A blurry figure in the background holds out a black police helmet with a silver seal that reads "Norfolk Constabulary."
Credit: R. Wilson/NIST

Far from home, this official ceremonial constable’s helmet from the United Kingdom rests comfortably in an office at NIST. But why?  

Note the name: NSRL.  

The National Software Reference Library (NSRL) on NIST’s campus in Gaithersburg, Maryland, contains more than ONE BILLION pieces of software — from apps to games and everything in between. Our researchers collect this data, creating a digital fingerprint (aka “hash”) for each piece.  

That data can be critical for law enforcement. When criminal investigators seize a computer, they need to quickly push aside the information that doesn’t relate to a potential crime and get to the point. The hashes help to wade through the unnecessary programs.  

In 2018, NIST researcher Douglas White from the NSRL team traveled across the Atlantic to meet with the U.K.’s Child Abuse Image Database (CAID) team. The CAID project works to identify and safeguard victims, improve the investigation of child sexual exploitation and abuse and support international efforts to remove images from the internet.  

By that time, the CAID team had been collaborating with NIST via the NSRL for four years. The library, particularly its gaming software, proved to be a big help to their efforts. In recognition, the CAID team presented NIST with the ceremonial helmet. 

Learn more about the NSRL.

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Released October 18, 2022, Updated October 19, 2022