Forensics in a Mobile World

Legal Compliance Resource
September 9, 2013 — 881 views  

The proliferation of mobile phones has been more rapid in recent years than any other device. By the year 2008, the mobile subscriber base was estimated to be at 4 billion. Today, there are three mobiles to every computer, however, the mobile phone forensics is still behind the computer. Despite lack of validated techniques and frameworks to acquire mobile data, they are proving useful in civil and criminal cases.  

Challenges of Mobile Forensics 

Although mobile technology is increasingly advancing, there are several challenges before cellular forensics. As far as mobile technology is concerned, there have been rapid advances in technology to benefit forensics. Today, it is possible to store and transmit corporate and personal information with the use of mobiles. Spread sheet, word processor, and other applications are common. Billions of text messages are sent each day using mobiles. Mobile phones are also good, convenient tools for online transactions.

However, there is a considerable gap between organized crime and law enforcement. In the 1980s, pagers and mobile phones were used by the organized crime to evade arrest and to facilitate their operation. Forensics and law enforcement however, still lag behind in making the best outcomes from mobile technology. There could be several reasons for cellular forensics lag including the requirement of specialized interfaces, volatile memory, and hibernation behavior when power is switched off.

Mobile Forensic Kits and Using Mobile Data as Evidence

In the earliest phase of cellular forensics, that is, in the 1980s, live analysis was the means to carry out investigations. In the 1990s, however, proprietary software and hardware tools were created to assist investigations without tampering with the media. In the early phase the focus was on computer forensics, but in recent years tools compatible with mobile technology have been developed to assist investigations.  

In addition, there are guidelines from different agencies, including United States Secret Service (USSS) which offer guide on accessing evidence on mobile phones. According to their rules on whether to turn the device off or on, the device should not be turned off if it is on as lockout feature could be activated. It is advisable to photograph the display along with all information. The device should be left off if it is already off as turning it on may likely alter evidence. It is critical to note that a mobile may contain valuable forensic evidence so it should be handled carefully.

Trends for the Future

Future trends in mobile technology include their components being designed to enhance memory and storage capacity, technologies affecting battery and processor component and speed. All of them will eventually impact cellular forensics. The change in the architecture of the processor to include high speed, and SoC could have an undesirable impact as far as forensics is concerned. 

Battery life can have huge implications for the forensics evidence. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Wi-Max will drain away batteries rather rapidly with the possibility that the volatile data will be lost. In addition, flash memory or ROM and RAM in mobiles will grow in the future so that there is the possibility that the data access will improve in future. With the diminishing size of mobile devices, they can be easily concealed by those who are causing trouble. In addition, some mobile phones make it possible to swap external memory without putting the device in the off mode.

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