Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Phone companies' ditching of text messages might hamper crime investigations

mobile phone text messageImage via WikipediaHolly Zachariah, a  reporter for The Columbus Dispatch filed this story on Sunday, May 1, 2011:

Phone companies' ditching of text messages might hamper crime investigations

And her is report is right on the money.  The value of text messages in criminal cases cannot be denied.  They can be critical on both sides of the case.

The fact that the cellular carriers like Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, etc. don't keep them for any period of time  is even more of an issue for the defense where they may not even know of the need of text message preservation for several months after a crime occurred.

The good news / bad news is that text messages, even deleted ones, can be retrieved from the phones themselves in some cases.

But that is not always the case, nor even the most common scenario.  Much of the time cell phones are not collected and preserved properly, leading to the loss of valuable data that can be used in cases.

If you are an attorney and have a client contact you with a case involving text messages, civil or criminal,  a couple of things should probably happen:

One: If the incident is recent enough or you have an ongoing situation involving text messages, it may be a good idea to issue a preservation order to the carrier so they stop purging them.

Two: Take immediate steps to preserve the evidence on the phone  by having a qualified cell phone forensics expert collect the data from the unit.

 If you have a case where neither of the above occurred, all is not lost;  Have the phone examined to see if the deleted messages can be retrieved.  Even still, time is of the essence since deleted text messages do not remain forever on a cell phone.  They should be collected right away.  Not all phones allow for the retrieval of deleted text messages.  Your cell phone examiner can tell you if the phone is supported for retrieval of deleted text messages in most cases.  However, due to the nature of cell phone forensics today, sometimes the only way to know if deleted text messages can be retrieved from a particular phone is to make the attempt using forensic tools.

Processing a cell phone is not expensive or very time consuming.  It is well worth the investment if you need to preserve evidence in  case.
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