The advent of mobile forensics
Tuesday, September 25, 2018
- The global cost of cybercrime will reach $2 trillion by 2019, a threefold increase from the 2015 estimate of $500 billion.
- The "Q1 2018 Cybercrime Report" by ThreatMetrix reported a staggering 1 billion bot attacks. Out of these, 100 million came from mobile device users.
- The global digital forensics market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.7 percent between 2017 and 2025.
- The mobile device forensics market will grow at a CAGR of 16.4 percent through 2028.
Mobile usage has outpaced all other platforms. Therefore, it is only natural that mobile forensics has become an integral part of criminal investigations.
The recovery of digital evidence or data from a mobile device under forensically sound conditions needs more than sophisticated technology. It also requires advanced mobile forensics training for law enforcement officers.
In many cases, mobile digital evidence is critical to a conviction. But the lack of trained officers in this area thwarts that process.
This means that communities need more law enforcement personnel trained in mobile forensics who can help tackle the backlog of evidence at regional crime labs.
Furthermore, there is a proliferation of apps, which means that forensic investigators must stay on top of changes. For example, criminals often try to destroy their phones when on the brink of an arrest.
Sophisticated technology has the power to unearth evidence from even damaged SIMs, deliberate or otherwise. Experts know that each app comes with its peculiarities and secret places where data resides.
For most departments, the existing forensic software tools address regular telephonic data like texts, call logs, voicemail or contact lists. These departments do not have the bandwidth to do in-depth analyses of information saved in third-party applications.
Tools like MagnetForensics’ Internet Evidence Finder or AccessData’s Mobile Phone Examiner (MPE) Plus are powerful enough to extract this information. In many cases, they find that people use third-party applications to communicate about their crimes, since they feel they won't get caught.
Evidence collection and analysis is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. Our digital lives have complicated that process further, with hardware-based data as well as cloud data.
Newer tools focus on simplicity, even if an investigator didn’t have a technical background or training, he or she could use the software to find the information they need with ease.
Sophisticated mobile forensic methods also extract valuable information from the victim's phone. They can use that information to help corroborate their statements, confirm or disprove events under investigation.
Automated tools, however, have their limitations. Training of forensic experts is therefore imperative. Officers and investigators need training and state-of-the-art equipment to recover to carve data from digital devices.
Significant strides are needed for funding mobile forensic equipment and training officers in their usage. But whatever progress we have made, has increased the number of cases investigators can pursue and solve.
Maui County, Hawaii, police officers recently made headlines for their proactive adoption and training in this area. Along with law enforcement personnel, University of Hawai’i Maui College administrators and tech personnel joined in the training workshop as well.
As we can see, mobile forensics is a relatively new science. But it is evolving due to the fast pace of mobile usage and the nature of crimes. The sheer volume of data is daunting, and that’s the reason why investigators need the best tools at their disposal.
We see an interesting trend developing to beat these odds — the advent of mobile labs for mobile forensics.
One of the first is the Anoka County, Minnesota, Sheriff's Office, which converted an ambulance to build the state's first mobile digital forensics lab. Detectives can now gather and analyze electronic data from crime scene devices fast without taking them to a lab for testing.
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