The Analysis and presentation of forensic information

Step 4: Analysis and presentation of forensic information

The mobile forensic process is similar to the ones in other branches of digital forensics. However, it has its own particularities which should be highly considered. Following correct methodology and guidelines is an important precondition in the forensic examination of mobile devices. The forensic investigation process of mobile devices involves four main phases; seizure, extraction, analysis, and reporting. These stages help the investigator to come up with an efficient standard model which can assist in keeping the track of investigation.
The mobile forensic process starts with careful confiscation of mobile devices. During the seizure, the investigator should ensure secure evacuation of the evidence and protection from any possible physical damage. Mobile devices are usually recovered when switched on. The investigator is advised to keep the phone turned on to avoid the shutdown, this is achieved by through airplane mode or faraday bags. The main aim is to preserve the device in its original state. There are two major risks involved in this phase; lock activation and network connection. The lock activation problem is solved through non-invasive methods such as the JTAG method. Network connections are solved through switching on the airplane mode or cloning the SIM card. Faraday bags prevent the damage of the data through electromagnetic fields. The main aim of this seizure phase is to protect the integrity of the data.
The second step is the acquisition and extraction of the data from the mobile device. Due to the proprietary nature of the cell phones, it not possible to extract data when it is switched off. Data acquisition is often done when the mobile phone is on. The investigator should recharge the mobile device to avoid shutdown during the extraction process. Data from mobile devices can be acquired through two main ways: physical acquisition and logical acquisition. The physical acquisition involves capturing data from the memory chips of the cell phone. This process allows the forensic tools to collect the remains of the deleted data from the phone. The logical acquisition involves extracting the files without any of the deleted data from the phone. The tools are used to make copies of the pictures, SMS, call history, calendar, etc.

examination of the extracted data

The third step involves examination of the extracted data to identify evidence which ascertains or contradicts the hypothesis of the data tampering. In this phase, the investigator aims at identifying the type of mobile device, type of network, carrier and service provider. Due to the sheer diversity of mobile devices, the investigator is required to use various tools when analyzing the extracted data. To analyze the data, the investigators use tools such as AccessData, FTK, Encase, and Sleuthkit. The analytic tool used is determined by the type and model of the mobile device. Different mobiles devices have different operating systems which requires unique examination tools. The type of the data varies depending on the investigation but investigators commonly use call logs, text messages or internet history. The acquired data is hashed and compared to pre-compiled lists to identify the evidence of data corruption.

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Data recovery

The data can be recovered from accessible disk space, deleted space of operating system cache files. Some phones have file systems which make it easy for the investigator to analyze. The commonly used file systems include FAT file system, NTFS file system, and EXT file system. During file system analysis, the investigator examines the FAT file system which has some recovery features in the event of device shutdown. By using the FAT file system, the investigator is able to analyze the deleted files in the operating system. In this phase, the relevant and irrelevant data is segregated based on the case background. The investigator finds the data which can satisfy the hypothesis formulated before the start of the relationship. The extracted images are mounted on an analytic tool which gives the clue of data breaches or corruption.
Data carving is also crucial during the forensic examination of a cell phone. This process allows the investigator to locate data which would have not been available. File carving extracts the structured data from the structureless, unallocated place in the mobile device. With carving, the investigator does not rely on the files as they are either overwritten of fragmented on the disk. Instead, the investigator will look for a particular pattern of signatures which give the clue on the relevant data stored in the memory chip. When carving data, the investigator has to consider different languages and data encodings. This is because the characters in different language differ and also data encodings are different. By analyzing the information read from the memory chip, the investigator can typically detect the text information.
Once the evidence is recovered, the information is analyzed to reconstruct the events or actions which enable the investigator to build a comprehensive conclusion. Before the evidence is taken to court, the investigative agency should allow an independent third party to analyze the mobile device. The third party should use different extraction and analytic tools to ascertain whether the study was valid and error-free.
In order to keep track of the investigation, every procedural step is documented. The representation phase shows the results of the analysis phase. The report should be represented in a form which would be suitable for non-technical individuals. It should include audit information and other metadata documentation. The report is passed to those commissioning the investigation to decide whether it can be used as evidence in the court of law.

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