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Why Mobile Forensics? Part II

What options do attorneys, investigators, and government agencies have given the forensic limitations and deficiencies in cell phone business records?  Thankfully, a new genre of cell phone extraction tools has given birth to break-through capabilities in forensic evidence collection and authentication for personal handheld devices.  These new tools bypass service providers entirely and are capable of directly accessing over 23,000 makes and models of cell phones and GPS units including smart phones like iPhone, Android, Microsoft, and Windows Phone.  All of the information on the device is extracted and presented in reports including text messages, multimedia messages, call histories, address books, images, videos, audio recordings, ringtones, e-mail, instant messages, calendars, application files, and important subscriber identity information.  Even text messages, images, and videos that have been deleted by the phone’s user can often be retrieved and presented as digital evidence.  Carney Forensics will bring all of these new capabilities to its clients.

Digital evidence is usually presented as a stream of bits and bytes in forensics reports that are at best sorted into buckets of similar items.  The call logs appear in one section, the text messages in another and the address book in yet another.  This primitive presentation technique makes forensics data available to clients, but hard to understand.  What does it mean?  How can clients, who are not computer scientists, work with it and derive value from it?

An insight this forensics business is built on is the idea of using software to visualize forensics data and “see” patterns and relationships in the phone’s contents.  In so doing data is elevated into information, or even knowledge, that clients can use for decision making, strategy formulation, and taking meaningful action in a legal, investigative, or corporate context.  Attorneys, investigators, HR professionals, and others perform their work with timelines and maps, not data streams.  They map and chart factual information like events, actions, incidents, messages, calls, and so forth.  They deal with facts visually.  Forensics information must be visual in order to be optimally useful and valuable to clients.  This new mobile device forensics business understands this requirement and is building software bridges between the top mobile forensic extraction tools and the most popular timeline, digital map, and link analysis software packages used by attorneys and investigators in their work.

Carney Forensics is dedicated to the principle of serving clients by providing expert guidance and practical assistance that leverage the many advantages of digital evidence in the court room and in the enterprise.  Clients need our help and we enjoy consulting with them to obtain the most relevant evidence in the most cost effective way.  We travel to client locations with our mobile device forensic toolkits to conveniently extract information and deliver reports within a few days.  We also provide expert witness services, if they need us to get their evidence admitted.  Client service is the bottom line and the foremost reason we have formed this new mobile forensics business.

Why Mobile Forensics? Part I

This is the inaugural blog post on Carney Forensics.com and Part I of a two part post.

Why start a forensics business serving attorneys, investigators, and government agencies by collecting, analyzing, and producing digital evidence on portable handhelds?

Back in the Year 2000 only 37% of the U.S. population carried and used a mobile phone.  Today 100% of us do.  And today many of U.S. households are “wireless only”.  Yes, we are a mobile culture and we communicate incessantly.  Today we do it on mobile and smart phones, and as a result industry analysts predict that in three years mobile phone sales will outpace personal computer sales.

Mobile phones and other portable handhelds have become our “personal diaries”.  As Robert Morgester, Deputy Attorney General in California says, “The reason why the cell phone is important is that you are carrying around a personal diary of who you talk to and often what you talked about.”  We are a mobile society and our lives are now on our phones.  A side effect of that mobility and our carrying these personal communicators with us is the times, places, and messages of our lives are recorded digitally.  Thus, digital evidence is everywhere – it is ubiquitous.  Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, goes even further with this concept when he says, “Your phone is your alter ego, an extension of everything we do.”

Four business drivers have propelled this mobile forensics business idea:  It’s coming and it’s a game changer.  It’s mobile.  It’s visual.  And clients need guidance and practical assistance to leverage its many advantages in the court room and in the enterprise.

For years evidence from cell phones has been obtained from service providers like Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint in the form of business records.  Legal process and the approval of the court were required.  Other red tape and delays often ensued and the records were often difficult to interpret and understand.  Help was rarely available from service providers whose business was selling phones and minutes.  Requesters could obtain subscriber information and call detail records which consisted mainly of incoming and outgoing call logs.  Sometimes location data from the base stations of cell phone towers could be obtained, but it was usually imprecise and extremely difficult to interpret with any accuracy.

Business records also fail to report on the multimedia and messaging innovations that have propelled the mobile phone into the role of our personal diary or alter ego.  Mobile phone service providers do not have access to, nor do they track, photos, videos, audio clips, ringtones, and phone address books.  They track text messages and multimedia messages only for a few days and many of them don’t track them at all.  They are practically impossible to obtain as part of business records.

What options do attorneys, investigators, and corporate personnel have given the limitations and deficiencies in cell phone business records?  Stay tuned for Part II of this post.