January 1, 2009 Cyber forensic researchers designed a device to extract the memory of a mobile phone for crime scene evidence. The phone's memory card is placed in the device where computer software extracts and decodes the information--revealing call history, text messages, emails, images, video and the calendar. This information is then used by police as evidence in crimes.
A good fingerprint at a crime scene isn't always the smoking gun for solving crimes. Thanks to new technology, crime solving is going digital.
Ernest Brice had plans to rent out his house, but it became a target for burglars instead. Thieves stole almost everything inside.
"I feel victimized," said Brice.
Brice's crime was never solved, but police say digital evidence left behind from cell phones, computers or PDAs can be found at nearly every crime scene.
"A lot of times, it's evidence that will take you to your next step in the investigative lead, so it will tell us who this person has been in touch with or who they've been emailing or texting," said Richard Mislan, Ph.D., a cyber-forensic researcher at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.
To help dig up digital evidence and catch criminals, cyber-forensic researchers use a device called a flasher box. It finds clues hiding in cell phones.
"A flasher box is used for extracting a full memory from a mobile phone," Dr. Mislan said.
A phone's memory card is removed and plugged into a flasher box. Computer software extracts the phone's coded information and decodes the information to reveal the phone's call history, text messages, e-mails, calendar, images and videos. This information is then used by cops as clues to solve crimes.
"It's an inside look into that person, much more than just a fingerprint," Dr. Mislan said.
The technology also helps victims of serious crimes by finding clues from computers to show who last contacted the victim and last visited Web sites or e-mails.
"It's a way of helping us find the perpetrator or the suspect and taking us to that next step," Dr. Mislan said. Solving crimes isn't easy. Just ask Brice -- but now, technology may help cops get one step ahead of the bad guys. Researchers are now developing a first-responder digital evidence collection kit to gather evidence immediately at the scene of a crime.
WHAT IS CYBER FORENSICS? The subset of forensic science concerned with interpreting evidence contained in computers and digital media is called cyber forensics. The field is concerned with issues such as recovering lost data, and revealing and decrypting data hidden on a suspect's computer. In addition to computers, cyber forensics specialists can also recover information from cellular phones, mp3 players, CDs, DVDs and more. Approximately 80 to 90 percent of legal cases today involve some sort of digital evidence.
WHAT'S A FLASHER BOX? A flasher box is a device that transfers data from a cell phone to a computer, where people unfamiliar with the device in question can examine files for evidence. With one of these devices, non-experts are able to check for clues that may help them solve cases, even if they have never before seen a similar device.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.