Why Mobile Forensics? Part I

This is the inaugural blog post on Carney 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.