Most of the cellphone evidence presented to the High Court in the Oscar Pistorius trial was retrieved in South Africa using advanced mobile forensic technology that is readily available in this country.
That’s according to Adam Victor, MD, Pandacom Distribution, a leading supplier of forensic products into Southern Africa, who says that South African law enforcement agencies, like their counterparts overseas, are increasingly utilising this type of technology to solve crimes.
“In the Oscar Pistorius trial, very little, if any, additional information was retrieved from the mobile phones by experts outside the country. That’s because they use the same technology that was used by the South African forensic investigators involved in the case,” he says.
This technology, developed by Cellebrite Mobile Forensics, enables investigators to extract contact lists, pictures, videos, SMS and instant messages, as well as call histories – even if they have been deleted – from mobile devices and SIM cards.
However, this technology cannot be used to hack into cellphones in the same way that the UK’s News of the World journalists ‘eavesdropped’ on the private conversations of celebrities and royalty. It can, however, be used to detect when a cell phone has been infected by a Trojan virus and is thus vulnerable to hacking.
The technology is proving hugely successful in solving a wide range of crimes around the world, particularly as criminals routinely use their phones to co-ordinate or even record their crimes.
There are many examples of crimes involving syndicates that have been solved using this technology. Once the law enforcement agencies are able to obtain just one of the phones used by a syndicate member, it has been used to unlock the details of past and potential future crimes, as well as to identify other syndicate members.
“In South Africa, imagine the impact this could have on rhino poaching or child trafficking syndicates,” Victor says.
One might think criminals would be careful about the information they send via text messages, but it appears that this is seldom so.
In a recent spate of housebreakings in Los Angeles, for example, police were able to identify a suspect’s accomplices, determine the suspect’s location at the time the various crime were committed, and even obtain an ‘inventory’ of items that had been stolen – as well as their value.
In another case in Canada, a suspect smashed his cellphone when he realised the police were going to confiscate it – but to no avail.
“Although the phone was damaged beyond repair, the forensic investigator was able to extract data from the SIM card – and this helped to convict the suspect,” Victor says.
In England, the technology has been used to strengthen cases against members of paedophile rings, who often go to great lengths to protect each other. The technology was used to tie together the various strands of the rings by comparing text messages and instant messaging chats as well as call logs and contacts found on one suspect’s handsets with data found on victims’ or other suspects’ phones.
And in Wales, a paedophile who used his “dirty” phone to video his criminal activities, but always ensured he did not show his face, was caught when investigators found family photographs of him on his “clean” cellphone. In the innocent photographs, he was wearing the same shoes and other items of clothing.
“The availability of this technology in South Africa considerably strengthens the capability and capacity of our law enforcement agencies. It means we no longer have to rely on international experts to assist us in solving major crimes in our country,” Victor concludes.
About Pandacom Distribution
Pandacom Distribution is a Leading Supplier of Telecommunication, Security, and Mobile Forensic Solutions. Pandacom stocks a wide range of products and provides pre-sales and technical support to Resellers throughout Southern Africa. Our product range includes brands like Cellebrite, Audiocodes, Teles, Matrix Telecommunications and Security, 2N and many more.