Using GPS Devices in Forensic Investigations

Making the most out of cookies for better web evidence
June 21, 2012
What to Look for in a Fraud Investigator
July 5, 2012
Show all

Using GPS Devices in Forensic Investigations

GPS devices are a commonly used tool in today’s high-tech world. Whether you have a dedicated GPS device, a smart phone that can track your location or a built-in system for navigation, we use them all the time and for many different reasons.

These small devices can also hold a lot of data which can be analyzed and compiled in a way that may give much more information than the user might expect.  And in forensic investigations, having data from a GPS unit can be incredibly important to a successful outcome.

GPS devices store valuable information.

Track points are one of the most valuable types of information gleaned from a GPS device, especially if the goal is to trace time or locations. Much like cookies from Internet browsing, track points are small capsules of data that can be recovered and analyzed. Each track point is able to tell an investigator where and when a device was used, accurate down to a very specific location.  Way points can be analyzed in similar fashion.

Combined with route histories, even devices that might not collect track points can be analyzed for further data. This information can also be used in conjunction with track points to determine a predicted route of travel and an actual route of travel. The information required may lie within these boundaries.

Both of these methods also come complete with timestamps to authenticate the time to the location. They can be used in conjunction with other forms of data in order to create a well-rounded analysis of the events as they happened in real time.

Additionally, because GPS units are now often built into phones or other devices, there is a good chance that most will have other valuable information including:

  • SMS messages
  • Stored contacts
  • Track logs
  • Call logs
  • USB storage devices

This type of information can prove very valuable, particularly when paired with a track log. The call logs and track logs allow an investigator to see what time a phone call was made and from what location. Connected devices add the complexity of having online content associated with them. Web histories such as Google searches, white pages searches, etc. can all be critical information when assembling details for an investigation.

How to Extract GPS Data

Data extraction is often best left to the professionals. Due to the meticulous documentation required and professional extraction software not readily available to the general population, it can be difficult to extract GPS data without compromising your evidence.  For more information on these types of services, call USA Investigators today for a free consultation.