The term “mobile devices” encompasses a wide array of gadgets ranging from mobile phones, smartphones, tablets, and GPS units to wearables and PDAs. What they all have in common is the fact that they can contain a lot of user information.
Mobile devices are right in the middle of three booming technological trends: Internet of Things, Cloud Computing, and Big Data. The proliferation of mobile technology is perhaps the main reason, or at least one of the main reasons, for these trends to occur in the first place. In 2015, 377.9 million wireless subscriber connections of smartphones, tablets, and feature phones occurred in the United States.
Nowadays, mobile device use is as pervasive as it is helpful, especially in the context of digital forensics, because these small-sized machines amass huge quantities of data on a daily basis, which can be extracted to facilitate the investigation. Being something like a digital extension of ourselves, these machines allow digital forensic investigators to glean a lot of information.
Information that resides on mobile devices (a non-exhaustive list):
- Incoming, outgoing, missed call history
- Phonebook or contact lists
- SMS text, application based, and multimedia messaging content
- Pictures, videos, and audio files and sometimes voicemail messages
- Internet browsing history, content, cookies, search history, analytics information
- To-do lists, notes, calendar entries, ringtones
- Documents, spreadsheets, presentation files and other user-created data
- Passwords, passcodes, swipe codes, user account credentials
- Historical geolocation data, cell phone tower related location data, Wi-Fi connection information
- User dictionary content
- Data from various installed apps
- System files, usage logs, error messages
- Deleted data from all of the above