Law enforcement groups are staying ahead of criminals’ ability to conceal information with the use of new data extraction tools.
Figure 1: The UFED Touch.
Handheld digital data extraction forensic devices are becoming essential tools for law enforcement agencies to rapidly and reliably obtain data from the wide variety of mobile phones and smart devices now available. Detective Dan Morrissey, the Gang Intelligence Supervisor for the Sacramento, California Sheriff’s Dept. was a beta-tester of Cellebrite’s recently introduced handheld UFED Touch, and a long-time UFED user. When this compact mobile device was introduced earlier this year, it was noted for its faster processing, ease-of-use with a large touch-screen display, larger storage capacity, and the wide range of evidence it was able to process.
One of Det. Morrissey’s favorite successful prosecutions involving the UFED includes a juvenile prostitution case. The officers knew the suspect was running several girls, but the District Attorney was having a difficult time proving the suspect was the pimp. When the officers arrested her, they saw that she had pictures on her phone, but it was locked. Using the UFED, the team was able to get through the password, extract a contact list with two other victims, as well as extract incriminating text messages and photos in just two minutes. This also helped elevate the case from a misdemeanor to a felony.
The editors of DFI News recently asked Det. Morrissey about his use of this device:
DFI News: How have you used this device to solve a particularly complex crime?
Det. Morrissey: We were recently investigating a rather large criminal organization and during the investigation, it was determined that some high-visibility street suppression would be useful in identifying unknown gang members who were known to travel in a specific geographic region. During the operation, one of the subjects was found to have more than five mobile phones on him. Several of the phones had little or no information on them because they were obviously “burner” phones, but two of the devices did. With the phones previously seized, and the phones recovered from this operation, an additional fifteen members were confirmed to have a nexus to the gang.
DFI News: What features of the UFED Touch do you particularly like?
Det. Morrissey: First of all, the device is significantly faster when extracting media content than previous devices we’ve used. This allows for a shorter time on target when completing examinations in the field, and the ability to do more examinations in a laboratory setting as well. The fact that it’s Windows-based, also allows for instant examination of the source data in the field. For rapidly evolving criminal investigations, having the ability to both acquire and present the information in the field is also a powerful tool for digital investigations.