Forensic Investigation - The Importance of Mobile Phones - Qldcovertpi
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Forensic Investigation – The Importance of Mobile Phones

Mobile forensics. That’s all the rage when it comes to private investigation, criminal case investigation or any other kind of investigation. But why is it so important? What is so special about it? To find out, keep reading

Evolution of Mobile Forensics

From PDAs like Palm Pilots to simple mobile phones to smartphones, mobile forensics has come a long way in the last two decades.

With introduction of mobile phones, we witnessed a revolution in our communication medium. Yet, due to limited capabilities of early mobile phones, the information extracted from early phones were of little use for law enforcement agencies.

Some text information, phone logs and smaller sized and less detailed photos were about the limit for the information that could be extracted from these devices. At the same time, the forensic tools available were what would today be characterized as primitive. There was also a lack of standardization so these tools could only be used on certain makes and models of mobile phones.

However, in the last two decades, mobile phone forensics has taken a humongous leap forward. There is now a wealth of information available on the modern smartphones, all of which can aid in criminal investigations.

Experts at Telcoworks
 say, “Using the metadata in phones to track people has its advantages and disadvantages. While it is undeniable that technology is keeping us connected and has made possible what was impossible, it is still a scary prospect to think about the power our smartphones have over our lives.”

Each phone leaves a digital trail of our physical locations at various times, who we have contacted, online purchases and more. Apps, videos and browsing history as well as various other types of metadata can now be extracted using modern forensic tools. 

Hacking into a Damaged Phone

An industry association known as the ‘Joint Task Action Group’ (JTAG) was tasked with developing a standard for the manufacture of integrated circuits. The initial study only included Android devices as these are what is known as ‘J-taggable’. iOS devices are not. The forensic technique used on the j-Taggable phones uses ‘Test Access Ports (TAPS). These are used by manufacturers to test circuit boards. By accessing these TAPS (soldering wires onto them) the data on chips can be accessed.

Chips are connected to the circuit board by fine and extremely delicate metal pins. A now-obsolete method (called ‘chip-off) was used to pull the chips of the printed circuit board (PCB). However, there was a risk of damaging the pins and making accessing the data impossible. The newer method used by experts involves grinding down the PCB to the pins and then placing the chip in a reader.

Once experts extract data, the forensic team can use specialized software to interpret the data. An enormous amount of information can be recovered, including locations, contacts, social media use, browsing history, internet usage pattern and much more.

Both J-Tag and chip-off methods are highly effective in extracting data and helping in investigation.

The Checklist

In any investigation, for the data recovered to be deemed useful, the following must be checked:

Call history (incoming, outgoing, and missed calls).

The phone book and contact list details.

Messaging, multimedia, SMS content, and app-based content.

Video and images, as well as audio files (voicemail messages also need to be reviewed).

Browser history, content, and analytics information.

To-do lists, calendar entries ringtones, and notes.

Spreadsheets, documents, presentations, and other data input by the user.

Passwords and related security features.

Geolocation data, mobile phone tower-related data.

Wi-fi connection data.

User dictionary content.

App data and changes to that data.

Usage logs and system files – as well as error messages.

All deleted data.

However, data extraction can’t be done if we don’t have the legal right to do so. It needs to be your phone or alternatively, you need the express permission of the phone’s owner or unless required by law.

Experts from My Design App say, “Phones have given us the power to do everything from our fingertips. From using social media to running businesses or ordering online, we can all do it from our phone. Phones have become our personal diary. One look and others can get a glance of the type of person we are.”

The evidence gleaned from a mobile phone can be used in court – or accessed to provide peace of mind. The evidence that as gained from a forensic examination of the phone can be used in family law, to prove innocence in a criminal matter, to prove (or disprove) claims in civil matters or in estate matters (such as inheritance and similar).

Businesses may also ask for a forensic examination of employee phones in order to prove fraud claims. Alternatively, perhaps you are unable to retrieve important documents or images from your phone in order to resolve a partnership dispute. Unusual activity may indicate that your phone has been hacked and this may require the services of a skilled mobile forensic practitioner in order to identify the perpetrator and what data has been compromised.

Experts from Gary Hamer Interior Design say, “More and more homes are getting smarter and all the data from smart homes are ultimately being sent to mobile phones. In any case of investigation, data gathered by phones can be invaluable. In our designs of smart homes, we have to take into consideration this factor to ensure maximum security and privacy.”

Mobile forensics have become more important as we have become more dependent on smartphones for our day to day activities. In fact, smartphones have become a staple of our daily lives, so much so that one look at your smartphone data can provide the entire history of you. In our current world, mobile forensics has become one of the most important tools in any kind of investigation. Please call us on 1300 553 788 for further information.

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