Identifying the Make and Model of a Mobile Phone
May 21, 2012
The role of e-Discovery in anti-corruption cases
June 14, 2012
Show all

3 Steps to Effective Cell Phone Investigations

Conducting an effective cell phone investigation entails much more than just installing some type of “cell phone spying” software and waiting for the results.  When done properly by a qualified and experienced investigative professional, this process includes using cutting edge techniques to extract data, then documenting and presenting the findings.

Just as there are numerous types of cell phone devices that we may have under surveillance, there are many reasons why people choose to investigate these mobile devices. But no matter which device we are tracking or the reason for the investigation, one thing every good investigator has in common is the goal of producing effective and accurate data.

Step 1 – Proper Documentation

Documentation occurs in each step of a successful investigation and is a critical factor that is often overlooked. Examination worksheets are often used by a professional to record the basic information and keep up to date throughout the investigation.

Information we collect may include:

  • What condition the phone or device arrived in
  • Times, dates and other information as the data is collected
  • Any physical defects or manipulations
  • Photographs of the phone to confirm written documentation
  • Which tools were used and when during the investigation
  • What data was documentation during the investigation

Step 2 – Valid Reporting

Most cellular phones have the ability to capture or report information. This may or may not be known by the user depending on the software. Cell phone tools may be used to collect this data. All information extracted must be verified due to an increase in the methods used to mask the true identity of a mobile phone.

Reporting on cell phone surveillance can be especially useful in situations where there have been physical changes made to the phone. These changes may include normal wear and tear, or in other cases purposeful changes to ESN, MIN or MDN numbers.  In short we are looking for any changes that can give us a deeper understanding of how the device was used.

Step 3 – Effective Presentation of Data

Effectively presenting the data collected by a forensic investigation is as essential as the investigation itself. Consideration should be given throughout the examination as to how the information extracted and documented can clearly be presented to the client, another investigator, a prosecutor or to the courts.

Other points of consideration may include:

  • Reference information regarding the source of a time and date claim
  • EXIF data extracted from images and other data formats commonly used
  • Media may be used as compelling exhibits

Many people choose to use a PowerPoint presentation or other timeline software to show the correlation of data with the dates and time and how it applies to the case in question.

Seek Professional Assistance Where Possible

Because of the amount of time and care required documenting, reporting, and presenting on cell phone surveillance, the aid of a professional, such as USA Investigators, can help immensely. Where tools, experience and expertise are required, a professional can help ensure a complete and thorough investigation from start to finish.