Can You Hear Me Now? Searching Cell Phones for Forensic Evidence

Alex Helfand, ENCE, Computer Forensic Specialist

Digital forensics investigations are not limited to computers and removable media.  Mobile phone forensics is an important part of the digital forensics landscape; mobile phone usage is quickly growing and these devices are increasingly being used in a variety of crimes.

What evidence can be found on a mobile device?

Not only can mobile phones create logs of all calls and texts, but now smartphones are increasingly storing both personal and work emails for users.   Furthermore, phones can also store user text and picture messages, sometimes through the use of removable media cards.

Additionally, most phones now come with pre-installed GPS software.  Last month, iPhone users were enraged when they discovered thatApple has been recording all GPS locations for users .  There are endless possibilities that GPS locations with timeframes could have in providing convicting evidence for major criminal investigations.

As time goes on, mobile phones are becoming more sophisticated and are reaching computational capabilities that are closing in on desktop computers and other digital devices.  Later this year many dual core phones will be released that will allow users to run more applications on their phone to increase productivity, which will also increase data stored and potential forensic evidence.

What does this mean for the security of users’ data?

On the flip side, users must be responsible with their data and protect themselves from hackers and phishing schemes.  A study from data security firm CPP recently concluded that half of a sample of used cell phones still contained personal information.  Data security is of increasing concern to users and forensic specialists alike.

Overall, the new technologies within mobile phones continue to push the digital forensic field to expand its capabilities.  Mobile phone forensics hardware and software, such as EnCase Neutrino and Cellebrite, are becoming increasingly accessible and necessary as more and more data are stored on mobile devices.  Whether it is a criminal or civil case, applying e-Discovery methods and technologies to mobile devices will soon be an essential part of any investigation.

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