How Digital Forensics Assist Law Enforcement

Columbia Southern University

Digital Forensics

With the growing technology in mobile devices, there is little that you do every day that is not tracked, documented, or known by many of different people. Mobile devices now a day know where you are and sometimes, without requesting it, will ask you to check in to areas or locations that you are near. Police and other Law Enforcement agencies have recognized how mobile devices can help them in investigations and solidify cases. With 88 percent of American adults relying on cell phones to text, take photos, send e-mail, and access their social networks (Miller 2013), there is a good chance that if a crime has been committed, the suspect most likely had a cellular device on them at the time. In this essay, I will discuss three keys features on mobile devices that help Law Enforcement investigations.

Location, Location, Location

Usually when you hear that word you think of real estate and how location can be everything to a sale. Location can play a major role in an investigation when it comes to suspects and victims. Not only can mobile devices help Police find guilty parties, but can also help exonerate falsely accused simply by the location of the mobile device. Say a robbery happens at an uptown gas station at 1700 hours (5:00 P.M.) and somehow you get blamed for the robbery. Now you are being questioned by the Police and they ask you, “Where you were at 1700 hours on the day of the crime?” Your response is that you were with friends across town at a bar. Now of course there will many of witnesses to back up your story and possibly some surveillance video, but for the sake of this illustration, they ask you for consent to search your cell phone. Investigators then can see that at 1655 hours, you took a selfie with a few friends at the mentioned bar across town and uploaded it to Facebook. If they wanted, they could go further and see that you used the Wi-Fi at the bar to upload the photo at 1702 hours. Using that information Police can quickly release you and began to look for the real suspect, all because of a well-timed selfie. “The location of every call is stored because the device has to communicate with cell phone tower(s). Every Wi-Fi network you’ve joined is recorded, along with the date(s) that network was accessed” (Lekowski 2015). When Police find their robbery suspect and gets a hold of the mobile device that he, or she, used to call the get-a-way vehicle, they will have the ability to see that the phone was used at that location at the exact time of the crime, using the location of where the phone was in relation to the nearest cell towers.


With the amount of personal information stored onto a mobile device, people would probably let a stranger take their car before they would let them use their cell phone. Most people use 4 digit pins or simple passwords to lock their phones and think that they are safe. With this sense of privacy, the user stores sensitive information such as bank statements, photos, and sometimes messages about illegal activity. From personal experience, I have observed that criminals like to brag about a crime they have just committed or discuss a crime that is about to happen. I was once involved in an investigation that involved a narcotic overdose death. I was able to get a hold of the deceased cell phone and review the last text messages that was received. Through investigative techniques, I was able to locate the dealer at which time he was taken into custody for further questioning. The suspect, thinking that since he erased all the message on his phone, gave me consent to search the cell phone. The suspect didn’t realize that just because the messages were deleted, they are still store on the phone. Using specialized equipment, I was able to extract the deleted messages and carry on with my investigation. The suspect, like a lot of others, believed that since it has been deleted that it can never be tied back to them, when in fact, with the right equipment, nothing is gone for good.

Behavior Patterns

Inductive criminal profiles are developed by studying statistical data involving known behavioral patterns and demographic characteristics shared by criminals (Tennakoon Unknown Date). Behavior patterns are also known as a criminal profile. Using all the evidence collected at the scene of a crime can sometimes be enough to know what type of suspect you are looking for. The same comes to when you collect digital data. When a child predator is caught, it is normal for all digital devices to be seized to include all mobile devices. Using coordinates collected from all the devices can log a route that the suspect took. That is when the investigators can see what schools, daycares, or playgrounds the suspect had been too. Using this information, they can see that the suspect had a planned-out pattern when committing the crimes. Having this information, they can also establish when the crimes where started and begin to form a criminal profile on the suspect, which in turn will assist them in catching other offenders.

In conclusion, the amount of data stored on a mobile device, especially for heavy phone users, is staggering. There are ways for suspects to attempt to protect their information, but forensics software can access most of the information stored on the devices, even if it has been deleted. With the assistance from specialized equipment, local law enforcement agencies are becoming much more efficient in generating solid cases with irrefutable evidence. So, when a suspect thinks he is committing a crime by himself, if he has a phone in his pocket, he is not alone.


Miller, C. (June 2013). The Value of Mobile Data in Criminal Investigations. Retrieved from

Lekowski, R. (February 2015). What Lawyers Need to Know About Data Stored on Mobile Devices. Retrieved from

Tennakoon, H. (Unknown date). The need for a comprehensive methodology for profiling cyber-criminals. Retrieved from

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