In our world of ever-increasing interconnectivity, mobile phones continue to play larger roles in our everyday lives. From a communications standpoint, cell phones have come a long way from the traditional calling and text messaging capabilities of their predecessors. With apps like Facebook and Instagram installed on millions of smart phones worldwide, users are storing more personal information on their mobile devices than ever before. When you include mobile banking apps, dating apps, and mobile retail apps like Amazon or Ebay, it’s easy to see the importance of keeping all of that personal data secure.
How many different smart phones have you owned? And how many of those old phones did you personally ensure underwent a factory reset or complete data wipe when you got rid of them? There are several software suites available that enable users to extract all sorts of data from mobile devices such as Cellebrite’s UFED Physical Analyzer or Oxygen Forensics. Some of the things that can be extracted using mobile device forensics software include:
- SMS Text Messages
- Call Logs
- GPS Locations
- Timeline of phone events
It is important to note that by using modern digital forensics software, even some files you thought you “deleted” can still be recovered. If one of your old smart phones was not properly wiped and fell into the hands of someone who understood how to use mobile device forensics software, you could find yourself in an extremely exposed position. Even locked phones are susceptible to data extraction, so the only surefire way to guarantee your data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands is to completely wipe your phone when you are retiring it.
Mobile device forensics is also prevalent in law firms and law enforcement to aid in criminal cases. If incriminating evidence can be extracted from a suspect’s phone, it can be a determining factor in the outcome of the trial. According to pewinternet.org, 64% of adults in America own a smartphone so it’s safe to say that cell phones have become a gold mine of evidence for our judicial and law enforcement systems. The fact that only one person has typically used a cell phone makes the evidence that much more compelling.
With the market for used smart phones on the rise (see this article from Forbes.com), the bottom line is that we need to personally ensure that all of our sensitive information is completely eradicated from our phones before we get rid of them. Mobile device forensics software is becoming more commonplace, and there are efforts being put forth to make it more affordable. The most recent winner of the Forensic Sciences Foundation Emerging Forensic Scientist Award, developed a mobile phone forensics device using open-source tools. You can read more about that here. In our increasingly tech-savvy society, the best thing you can do is to ensure your personal information is protected. Because once someone else obtains it, that information is no longer personal!