Carney Forensics Blog

Forensic Text Message Recovery: Uncovering Lost Evidence

Recover Lost or Deleted Text Messages

Are You Looking to Recover Lost Text Messages? You’re Not Alone.

Whether for criminal or civil cases or personal reasons, the need for forensic recovery of text messages from cell phones is not uncommon. The data on your phone can be crucial in many types of legal cases. What might be uncommon is recovering text messages and lost files correctly.

Before you try to recover lost text messages forensically, make sure you have looked at your easier options. If you accidentally erased important messages, can you restore a backup? Android phones can be restored from your computer or cloud-based account, while you can restore your iPhone via iCloud or iTunes backup. If you restore your device, you may be able to access the data you need.

Is Do-it-yourself Recovery Software Admissible in Court?

In your search for answers, you have likely found an inexpensive retail software option or a third-party app claiming to solve all your data recovery problems. Before you do this, however, remember that you get what you pay for. The mobile forensic practice of cell phone preservation and recovery is not something that can effectively be done on the cheap. While these downloadable options might allow some success, do you know how much you’re leaving on the table? If you’re looking to use this data in court, do you know if do-it-yourself recovery software will be considered admissible by the judge?

A best practice approach to eDiscovery requires hardware and software approved by the Department of Justice, as well as proper training and certifications for examiners. Tools like Cellebrite UFED and AXIOM from Magnet Forensics are worth considering, as they have been accepted in court countless times in the past.

How Does Forensic Text Message Recovery Work?

A simple way to explain how text messages are recovered is to compare it to the Dewey Decimal System at the library. Any book in the library can be found through this system, which classifies content into multiple categories, with each category containing thousands of identifiers or numbers. To find a book using this system, you use the numbers and the knowledge of what each number means to find the book you need. The way computers and cell phones store data is no different. When you send or receive a text message, it is placed in a database on your device. This database allows you to view the information by calling up the location in which it was placed on your device, just like anyone with access to the library could find a particular book by looking at a card that notes the Dewey Decimal System number.

If you remove the card from the card catalog, however, a person would need to manually search every shelf in the library for the book they’re looking for. This is what happens when you lose or discard a text message from your cell phone. The text message is still on the device, but the operating system no longer has a way to find it. A manual search must be done to discover it again.

Recovering Lost Text Messages

Forensic text message recovery can be done in varying degrees on both Android and iOS devices. The degree of success depends on the make and model of the device, the amount of time that has passed since the text messages were lost, the frequency of use of text messages (e.g., do you text like my 16-year-old daughter or my 65-year-old mother?) and the storage size of the device. This would also include MMS, or Multi Media Service, messages. The MMS message can contain a message in text format and an attached file that could be an image, video, audio, or other format.

The ability to recover lost text messages is usually highly beneficial. Most messages recovered by experts hold the answers to your questions and prove or disprove a legal matter. It is no wonder that a recent report showed that 62% of all legal matters use evidence from cell phones.

Need deleted text messages recovered?