As Private Investigators at SBI we receive calls daily asking if deleted text messages and photographs are truly gone once deleted from a smartphone. The answer is, “No.” Here’s how it works. As a text message is deleted from your cell phone, you’re essentially telling your phone not to show you those messages any longer. However, your cellphone still stores the data on your device. A professional “physical” analysis can typically retrieve deleted information that is hidden deep within a smartphone’s memory. Forensics experts frequently say, “Phone texts don’t die, they simply hide.”
Deleted messages may be overwritten by new incoming or outgoing messages. This will affect the quality of the message recovery process. The sooner you act, the better the results will be. With the increasing memory on cell phones, it’s not unusual to have thousands of text messages.
The delete button on your cell phone should in fact be called the ”hide” button, because the SMS data is still there, you’re just unable to see it. In a forensic process it can be recovered. Even a factory reset or wiping of a device doesn’t mean the data can’t be recovered.
For example, a Sim card (subscriber identification module) doesn’t immediately erase a file once you’ve delete it. Instead it frees up the space that was occupied by that file and lists it as available re-usable space. However, until that space is overwritten by new data, such as new messages, phone numbers, photos etc., your old deleted files are still there and can be recovered.
In 2012 the Forrester Research Mobile Media Application Spending Forecast stated that more than 2 trillion SMS messages were sent in the US in 2011, which equates to more than 6 billion SMS messages sent per day. Text messaging users send or receive an average of 35 messages per day.
With an average of 193.1 billion text messages sent every month in the United States, the importance and use of text messages in civil litigation and criminal cases is ever-increasing. As a consequence, the importance of text message preservation for e-discovery is also growing. Understanding how text messages can be preserved and the pitfalls to avoid is essential.
While some may hold text messages at a lower value, this form of communication provides convenience and a more permanent form of messaging. In addition to allowing cell phone holders to send a quick message rather than having to make a longer call, text messages can also be used in civil litigation and criminal matters. More than just a virtual message, a text can offer evidence and insight into a case. While not all phone calls are recorded or can be deleted, a text is more permanent and can offer inerasable facts.
It is best to turn to a professional when considering text message recovery. Contact us at Sunset Blvd. Investigations, Inc. to learn the ways that we can aid you with our investigation techniques.
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