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Turn Their Gadgets Against Them

Every bad guy has a cell phone and a computer, and the savvy investigator can use the evidence left on them to close cases.

February 01, 2009  |  by David Spraggs

Cell Phones

In addition to social networking Websites, I've seen cell phones playing an ever increasing role in criminal investigations

Cell phones aren't just for phone calls and voice mail anymore. They are powerful handheld devices that can take photographs, videos, send and receive text messages, and even allow the user to surf the Internet and check e-mail. They can provide enormous amounts of critical information to criminal investigators.

Often cell phone records are the best way to establish an accurate timeline surrounding a criminal event. The dialed and received call logs and text message logs include the date and time the call or message was placed.

However, all of the information contained in the phone can't be retrieved by simply executing a search warrant with the cell phone carrier. The printed record generally only includes a call log, not text messages, photographs, contact list, etc.

If we do have the phone, there's specialized hardware and software that will allow us to gather all of its data. But even after using this specialized equipment, my department's forensic cell phone technician actually uses a digital video camera to videotape the cell phone's LCD screen. While video recording, the cell phone technician carefully accesses every possible bit of information on the phone such as contact lists, text messages, incoming and outgoing calls, videos, and photos. This is often the best way to perfectly preserve and record all of a cell phone's data.

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