Gathering Evidence via Cell Phone Forensics

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Gathering Evidence via Cell Phone Forensics

In today’s technology-fueled society practically everyone has a mobile phone. These hand-held devices have become crucial to daily function for many people, helping them to become more productive, keeping them in touch with friends and family, and allowing them to gather information whenever needed.

As beneficial as cell phones can be, however, they are also being used to keep conversations and other communication more private than could be accomplished using a land line. They can also be valuable sources of information such as text messages, web browser history and call logs.  This is why many private investigators like to include cell phone examination as part of forensic investigations – especially in those cases where infidelity is suspected.

Changes in technology

The idea of phone surveillance is not a new concept, but today’s techniques for achieving it are.  Getting access to call information used to involve bugging a land line or dumpster diving for call logs.  However today we use software and computers to glean important data.

As mobile as today’s population is, it is much more likely that any unsavory activities will be done using a cell phone than over a traditional land line. This is why many organizations that are looking to identify individuals participating in illegal or unethical activities regularly turn to digital forensics.


Methods for gathering data from cell phones

Cell phone examination is actually much easier to accomplish than some people may think. It can be as simple as loading monitoring software onto the phone in question. While this does require that the phone is accessible even for a short time to load the program, the actual acquiring of the software is quite easy and the installation is fast. There are also certain apps that can be downloaded onto a smart phone or other hand-held device and used for digital forensics should it be possible to interact with the subject being investigated.

There are many ways that hand-held device forensics can be utilized. These include:

  • Review of the call history. An investigator may use the call log to record who has been calling that particular cell phone and who that phone has been calling, as well as when those calls were made and how long they lasted.
  • Text message review. Any text messages that have been sent or received on the phone and have not been erased can be read. There are even ways, in some situations, that those messages that have been erased can be recovered through the use of special methods. These messages can be extremely revealing and can be used to show a relationship, plans for a particular activity, or information that conflicts with reports that the subject has made regarding his whereabouts or activities.
  • Website activity. Through cell phone examination it is possible to identify the websites that the phone has been used to visit. This can pinpoint websites being visited that are relevant specifically to a case or infidelity investigation such as pornography, gambling, or other sites.
  • GPS tracking. Forensic software can also make it possible to access the GPS signal of a cell phone so that the position and movements of the phone—and therefore its user. This can be very helpful in keeping track of where a person is going, where they have been, and how often they go to certain places in order to enhance other forms of surveillance and build a file regarding a subject’s activities.

The role of the local investigator

It sounds simple enough to install software onto the cell phone of the person in question and try to gather this data on your own.  However, if done incorrectly, the person you want to learn more about might be tipped off to your interest and be able to change their habits before being caught.  This is where the expertise of a local, professional investigator comes in.

The professionals at Prudential Associates have extensive experience in this delicate area of forensic investigations and can implement the proper strategy, techniques and tools to ensure we get the data we need in a case such as this.  We provide digital forensics throughout the Washington, DC metro area for both personal cases, such as catching a cheating spouse, as well as corporate cases for employee theft, fraud, unethical behavior, and a number of other applications.