Mobile forensics:Challenges facing law enforcement agencies

Posted on September 2, 2014 08:49 am

A law enforcement expert working with a provider of mobile forensic and mobile data transfer solutions in Sub Saharan Africa has revealed to me how encryption of data on smartphones to protect personal privacy and corporate data, has made forensic examination more challenging than ever before. To him, Mobile devices advance as witnesses and any investigator can look for mobile devices and the data they contain to take centre stage in criminal investigations. Recently he was in Georgia US working with a forensic firm on mobile forensics tools that could help find ways to bypass a greater number of passwords and device locks, as well as address advanced encryption technology. Although Android phones have 80% market share according to the latest estimates, for a mobile forensics professional, market share isn’t a big deal. He informed me that while Android is the predominant operating system in regions like Africa, Asia and even the western countries, the bulk of the bandwidth is still taking place on iOS devices, making it critical to many investigations.Windows 8 phones are the wildcard according the forensic expert because the rise of Microsoft in the mobile device market is the latest test in their work and there’s need for mobile forensic tools providing support for Windows will increase. Now, more than ever before, forensic experts need comprehensive training in order to ensure the proper extraction of all relevant data from mobile devices.

In United States,in a decision that changed the way law enforcement officers collect electronic information, the Supreme Court ruled in Riley v. California, that officers may not search a cell phone incident to a lawful arrest without first obtaining a search warrant.  Legal and forensic experts said the ruling was an embrace of digital privacy, touching upon remotely stored private information like “cloud” computing and geographic tracking data that cell phones often contain. In Forensic world, the regulatory and legislative landscape remains uncertain. “Lawmakers and judges are looking at cell phones much more critically than they did computers, according to latest data on mobile forensics. Technology, they are erring greatly on the side of caution and this speaks to the need for greater education regarding the scope and possibilities of mobile forensics and what it means for privacy and pre-trial revelations. For law enforcement and forensics experts, mobile malware means dealing with potentially compromised devices that may help perpetrators cover their tracks, making it increasingly difficult for investigators to meet the threshold of reasonable doubt. A recently published research on forensic showed mobile malware’s incidence are on the rise and malware on smartphone platforms like Android, Windows and tablets are expected to increase exponentially. Mobile forensics vendors have so far failed to provide stronger capabilities for enterprise wide smartphone investigations to support the investigation of data breaches targeting smartphones. Increased use of mobile evidence to challenges stemming from the rise in tougher encryption methods, there are a number of areas that demand the attention of mobile forensics professionals. As the forensic industry continues to evolve, it will be vital for the law enforcement agencies, as well as the enterprise, to invest heavily in training. Important as well is to ensure their budgets allow them to meet the growing demand for sophisticated device analysis and data extraction.

Contador Harrison