Mobile device forensics is a branch of digital forensics relating to recovery of digital evidence or data from a mobile device under forensically sound conditions. The phrase mobile device usually refers to mobile phones; however, it can also relate to any digital device that has both internal memory and communication ability, including PDA devices, GPS devices and tablet computers.
The use of phones in crime was widely recognised for some years, but the forensic study of mobile devices is a relatively new field, dating from the early 2000s. A proliferation of phones (particularly smartphones) on the consumer market caused a demand for forensic examination of the devices, which could not be met by existing computer forensics techniques.
Mobile devices can be used to save several types of personal information such as contacts, photos, calendars and notes, SMS and MMS messages. Smartphones may additionally contain video, email, web browsing information, location information, and social networking messages and contacts.
There is growing need for mobile forensics due to several reasons and some of the prominent reasons are:
Use of mobile phones to store and transmit personal and corporate information
Use of mobile phones in online transactions
Law enforcement, criminals and mobile phone devices
Mobile device forensics can be particularly challenging on a number of levels:
Evidential and technical challenges exist. for example, cell site analysis following from the use of a mobile phone usage coverage, is not an exact science. Consequently, whilst it is possible to determine roughly the cell site zone from which a call was made or received, it is not yet possible to say with any degree of certainty, that a mobile phone call emanated from a specific location e.g. a residential address.
To remain competitive, original equipment manufacturers frequently change mobile phone form factors, operating system file structures, data storage, services, peripherals, and even pin connectors and cables. As a result, forensic examiners must use a different forensic process compared to computer forensics.
Storage capacity continues to grow thanks to demand for more powerful “mini computer” type devices.
Not only the types of data but also the way mobile devices are used constantly evolve.
Hibernation behaviour in which processes are suspended when the device is powered off or idle but at the same time, remaining active.
As a result of these challenges, a wide variety of tools exist to extract evidence from mobile devices; no one tool or method can acquire all the evidence from all devices. It is therefore recommended that forensic examiners, especially those wishing to qualify as expert witnesses in court, undergo extensive training in order to understand how each tool and method acquires evidence; how it maintains standards for forensic soundness; and how it meets legal requirements such as the Daubert standard or Frye standard.