Cell Phone Forensics – A Growing Profession
Cell phone forensics is today an important branch of law enforcement. It is responsible for the capture and disposition of criminal activity, particularly cellphone related activities. Cellular phone forensics is also known as cellular engineering or cellular communications engineering. It basically deals with the recovery of digital information from a cellular device, usually a cell phone, under controlled and forensically proven circumstances.
Cell phone forensics is an exceptionally complicated and specialized field. It requires specially qualified experts and is often a highly charged and competitive arena. Specialized digital devices such as cell phones and pager boxes are usually used by criminals to conceal their activities from the police and other law enforcement officials. These devices are routinely captured and inspected by specialized law enforcement personnel who are aided by sophisticated surveillance equipment and laboratory facilities.
In order to extract digital information from mobile devices, special technologies and tools are required. The most common tools used for cell phone forensics are digital imaging devices, including digital video recorders (DVR), mobile imaging cameras and GPS/Tracker Devices. The digital devices used for cell phone forensics come in two forms: the soft cell phone forensics tool and the hard cell phone forensics tool. The soft tool extracts information from the memory of the targeted cell phones. The hard cell phone forensics tool extracts digital data from targeted hard drives or digital media such as digital photographs, videos, documents and files.
Generally, the digital devices used for cell phone forensics analysis are targeted, meaning they are generally smart phones or PDAs. However, sometimes other mobile devices may be targeted as well, such as Blackberrys. Some mobile devices can be compromised through malware or spyware. Other digital data can be extracted using extraction software from memory of the targeted cellular device.
One popular area in which the forensic experts analyze cell phones is credit card fraud. Most credit card fraud happens at the point of sale. This is where the thief infects a particular cell phone with malicious programs that allows the thief to track and monitor all of the purchases that are made. A cell phone forensic expert can use the device’s log and call history to identify the specific numbers used to make the purchases.
Many crimes have their root causes traced to a specific location. If forensics experts are able to examine a cell phone that is in the possession of a suspected criminal, then the root cause of the crime can be easily pinpointed. For example, if a thief committed bank robbery because he was angry at his spouse for nagging him about housework, then the location of where the robbery occurred can be easily pinpointed. This kind of mobile device forensic investigation is known as location-based forensics. In this type of investigation, forensics experts use signals intelligence, cell phone imaging and network forensics to determine the specific location of a mobile device.
Another area in which the skillful forensic analysis of cell phones can help in convicting criminals is in child pornography cases. The images and chat logs of the children who are suspects in these cases often contain explicit conversations. These images can sometimes lead to the arrest and conviction of the suspect in a very short period of time. The expertise of the experienced team of cell phone forensics experts can help in not only identifying the suspect but also in gathering evidences to prove the guilt of the person.
It is important that the right people who need to access the cellphone data must be given authorization by the owner of the device. With the help of a cellphone forensics expert, it is possible to access deleted text messages, call records, pictures, videos and other data stored on a cellphone. Such data can be an important tool in fighting child pornography cases. Such expertise has made it possible for authorities to bust drug dealers and other criminal elements who used sophisticated devices to send messages and sell drugs.