Smart Phones mean Smarter Forensics

19 October 2012

With the recent launch of the much talked about iPhone 5, have you ever stopped to consider the challenges faced by Digital Forensic Analysts as our smart phones get even smarter?

Today’s mobile phones are so much more than the telephone and text devices that they used to be. It’s now an expectation of consumers that the newest models of phone should include all of the functions they have come to expect, such as internet browsing, social media or downloadable applications. With increased storage capacity, it’s not just a phone anymore. Your smart phone is used to keep you connected in new ways. It’s a social device, a camera, a video recorder, a CD player, a radio, a book, a games console, a virtual office – and all able to fit into your pocket.

Latest statistics show that over 90% of individuals over the age of 16 own a mobile phone. So it’s hardly surprising that the interrogation of mobile phones play a part in a large number of criminal investigations.

We can gather a huge amount of data from today’s smart phones including:

  • Call logs
  • Text messages
  • Emails
  • Photographs, Video & Audio
  • Instant Messaging History
  • Application Data
  • Maps & GPS Information
  • Internet Browsing
  • Documents
  • Contacts
  • User Data

So with the rapidly changing environment comes the need for rapidly changing Forensic techniques.

We asked our experts what they felt were the biggest challenges with Smart Phone Forensics…

Challenge 1

It’s important at IntaForensics that we keep up to date with the latest technology trends, to ensure that we are fully equipped to deal with any of the latest devices that come to us for analysis. If we take the iPhone Operating System (IOS), this is updated frequently, with major updates on an annual basis. Comparing this to Windows, which updates its computer operating systems only every 3 years, it means updating our own techniques more regularly.

Challenge 2

I’m sure we’ve all been in that situation where you’re out of the house at a meeting, a friend’s house, dinner or work – and your mobile phone battery dies. You don’t have your charger to hand, so what do you do? If you ask around, you may be lucky if you have a popular phone such as an iPhone or a Blackberry. But what about the less widely used models of mobile phone? You can’t just use any power adapter. You have to use the charger that is specific to your model of phone. With such a huge number of power and data cord options, IntaForensics needs to ensure that each one of these is available for us when analysing a device.

Challenge 3

Mobiles are replaced frequently, and while this isn’t a challenge that affects the way an analyst operates, it’s a challenge that needs to be considered when hoping to find evidence to rely on in a criminal investigation. Most individuals upgrade their phone every two years. Some will do this annually. And upgrades aside, mobile phones can be lost easily, and then replaced. This then has an impact on the data that we are able to retrieve. If a suspect’s phone has recently been purchased, upgraded or replaced in some way, then the evidence available from that device will only be available from the date in which the mobile was acquired.

If you’re interested in finding out whether the IntaForensics experts could help you with your mobile phone forensic requirements, simply give us a call on 0845 009 2600. You can also send us an email at info@intaforensics.comwith further details about your enquiry.

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Case Review Manager - Criminal Cases Review Commission