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Mobile Device Forensics: Challenges, Threats, & Solutions

Posted on November 21st, 2022

Mobile forensics is the process of accessing, recovering, and analyzing digital evidence from mobile devices using a court accepted methodology. The information that can be gleaned from a criminal’s phone is highly valuable. That’s why mobile forensics and digital forensics as a whole are valuable assets for law enforcement and intelligence agencies worldwide. In the cybersecurity world, similar tactics can be used to prevent mobile security breaches and keep your organization’s data secure.

Why do we need mobile forensics?

We generate and store a lot of data on our mobile devices. This data can be anything from financial information to intimate conversations. If these mobile devices fall into the wrong hands, this data could be used against us. This is particularly concerning for businesses because mobile devices contain critical business data and personally identifiable information (PII).

Mobile forensics can help you recover lost or deleted data, as well as investigate a potential mobile security breach. In some cases, mobile forensics can even be used to prevent data loss in the first place.

What are the biggest threats in mobile forensics?

There are many mobile device risks, but the three biggest threats to data stored on mobile devices are:

Physical device loss or theft

Because mobile devices are small and portable, it is easy to misplace them. Lost devices may fall into the wrong hands, meaning someone can gain access to the data and information on the device.

Malware and other mobile attacks

As with all devices connected to the internet, mobile devices are susceptible to malware, phishing, and other cyber attacks. This susceptibility increases when these devices access the internet through public Wi-Fi or unprotected networks.

Human error

Still, the weakest link when it comes to cybersecurity is humans. Humans are notorious for clicking the wrong links or being lured by phishing email attempts, enabling cybercriminals unauthorized access mobile devices.

Mobile forensics can help mitigate the risks associated with lost or stolen mobile devices by helping organizations to remotely wipe data from lost or stolen devices. Mobile forensics can also help investigate potential mobile security breaches and recover deleted data. Finally, mobile forensics tools can be used to educate employees about best practices for safeguarding company data on their mobile devices.

What are the challenges of mobile forensics?

The biggest challenge in mobile forensics is keeping up with the rapid pace of change in mobile technology. New devices and operating systems are constantly being released, each with its unique file system and data storage methods. This makes it challenging for mobile forensics experts to stay current with the latest changes.

More broadly, the challenges associated with mobile forensics fall under the following categories:

Differences in hardware:

Mobile devices come in all shapes and sizes, with different types of hardware. This can make it difficult to develop mobile forensics tools that work on all devices.

Password security and encryption:

Many mobile devices are password-protected and encrypted, making data recovery and mobile forensics difficult.

Mobile operating systems:

There are many different mobile operating systems, each with its own file system and data storage methods. This can make data acquisition and interpretation difficult.

Accidental device reset:

One of the most common problems mobile forensics experts face is when a user accidentally resets their device. This can delete all the data on the device, making it difficult to recover.

Lack of tools and equipment:

Mobile forensics is still a relatively new field, and relatively few tools exist. This makes it difficult to perform mobile forensics efficiently .

Anti-forensic techniques:

As mobile forensics becomes more popular, criminals are also becoming more aware of it and are using anti-forensic techniques to prevent their data from being recovered.

Mobile platform security features:

Many mobile devices have built-in security features that can make data recovery difficult. For example, Apple's iPhone has a "Secure Enclave" feature that encrypts all the data on the device.

Preventing data modification:

One of the goals of mobile forensics is to preserve the data on a mobile device so it can be used as evidence in court. However, this can be difficult if the data is constantly modified. Many mobile devices automatically delete old data to make room for new data. This can make it difficult to recover deleted data.

Dynamic nature of evidence:

Mobile devices are constantly changing, making it difficult to keep track of all the data on a device. A user might install a new app or delete an old one, which can change the data on the device. This makes it difficult to know what data is relevant and what isn't.

Device alteration:

Mobile devices can be easily altered. For example, a user might root their device, which modify’s the default data on the device and make it difficult to recover.

Communication shielding:

This is when a user uses a mobile device to communicate with someone they don't want to be tracked. For example, they might use a burner phone or an encrypted messaging app. This can make it difficult to recover the data from the mobile device.

Malicious programs:

These programs are designed to prevent mobile forensics experts from accessing data on a mobile device. For example, a user might install a program that encrypts all the data on their device.

Legal issues:

Mobile forensics can be used to recover a lot of sensitive data which can be used in a court case. However, many laws govern how this data can be used. For instance, there are laws that protect a user's privacy.

How SecurityScorecard can help

The mobile forensics landscape is constantly changing, and SecurityScorecard is here to help you stay ahead of the curve. SecurityScorecard's digital forensics solutions can help you extract and recover information and data from mobile devices, including phone calls, chat messages, images, videos, and hidden artifacts. By conducting both static and dynamic analysis, we can dissect and understand attacks, eliminate infection effectively, and examine the behavior of malware.

SecurityScorecard’s Digital Forensics and Incident Response (DFIR) team is experienced with high-profile matters in civil and criminal proceedings, including analysis of advanced malware engineered by sophisticated state-sponsored attackers. Our digital forensics experts have worked on a wide range of criminal cases involving a digital element, including organized cybercrime, online money laundering schemes, cyberstalking, data breach litigation, digital extortion, ransomware hacking incidents, DDoS attacks, and more.

Whether you are collecting evidence for a court case, looking to enhance security, or recover from a mobile breach, SecurityScorecard can help. Our mobile forensics solution is constantly updated with the latest tools and techniques. Request a consultation today to learn more.


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