Ken's Korner Newsletter Logo January 2020
Phone Forensics

Somebody has been lying to you!

There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about how Apple needs to help the Government hack into a criminal's, (terrorist's) cell phone. The shooting at the Pensacola base in Florida is the latest act to perpetrate this siren song. The cry is that the phone is locked and they can't get the information contained within. This is nonsense!

Apple, Samsung, Nokia,
and the other phone manufactures are not going to provide a “back door” into the phone. That would be monumentally stupid as it would be exploited by unscrupulous types all over the world almost instantly. That much should be obvious to even a non tech-type. And it is not necessary!

Law enforcement already has that capability.
They have had it for years and they use it every day. Whether the device is an Android, Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry or even the older Symbian cell phones a wealth of data can be extracted. They can even create full physical data dumps from the “Chinese chipset” devices.

Oxygen Kit There is a whole industry of companies,
that make hardware, software and provide training to enable law enforcement to access the data on any cell phone. All it takes is money and you know how the federal government loves to spend money.

Companies like Cellebrite, and Oxygen Forensic, have decades of experience developing hardware and software systems for phone data acquisition. They work with the cell phone manufactures to insure fast, accurate performance across a wide range of devices. So in that respect companies like Apple have already cooperated with the Federal Government.

In fact,
In fact Cellebrite has had a standing contract with the Federal Government since back in the nineties. They not only sell the hardware, software and training to law enforcement, they will even perform the work if requested.

These are just two,
of many such companies. If you do a Google search you can find several pages of similar organizations big and small. Some are only in the US while others are worldwide and many of them work closely with law enforcement here and abroad,

Using these tools,
developed specifically for extracting data from mobile devices investigators can access the device and get information such as:

  • Device logs and location data displayed with Google Maps
  • All previous Wi-Fi connections
  • Passwords to the device owners accounts
  • Photos, videos, audio files and voice records
  • All the words ever entered into the device, (Device Dictionary)
  • SMS, MMS, iMessages and emails with attachments
  • Contact with all the data about the contact including contact photos
  • Organizer data (meetings, appointments, memos. anniversaries, tasks, notes, etc.)
  • Deleted data
  • User data from hundreds of applications like Facebook, Google, Skype, Whatsapp etc.
  • And of course the common device information like the phone number, owners name, address, serial number and other information unique to that device and the service provider's name.

This is just a partial list of what can be found in a full data dump from a modern smart phone. A good investigator will find things that you had long forgotten about. It can be kind of scary to think of all the data on your phone and the investigator with the right tools and training can get all of it.

Cellebrite Kit

Additionally there is the NSA.
They have the tools, (hardware, software and personnel) to access most anything, anywhere, any time. Realistically if the NSA isnít already inside your device there is only one of two reasons:

  1. It is against the law and the NSA is following the law. (Does anyone believe that? Anyone?)
  2. You aren't worth the effort, you're not important enough for them to bother with.

This technology isn't just for the law enforcement community. They also make less specialized products that are used throughout the mobile device industry. When you bought your latest smart phone and had the Verizon store employee transfer your contacts music and pictures from your old phone they probably used a Cellebrite device to accomplish the task.

These companies have been around for decades and are well known in the industry. So when some politician or other government flunky demands that companies like Apple help them access the data on a suspect's phone they are incredibly ignorant at best. So you decide, are they lying to us or what?

And remember — always back it up!



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