Mobile Forensic

How much does cell phone forensics cost?

Computer Forensics is the analysis of information contained within computer systems. The Computer Forensics Investigator’s first step is to clearly determine the purpose and objective of the investigation in a free consultation. We will work with you to identify where your data is located. We will document the legal chain of custody of the media, and we will make a bit by bit copy and preserve the original. The computer forensic analysis will examine and extract the data that can be viewed by the operating system, as well as data that is invisible to the operating system, including deleted data that has not been overwritten.

 

The Computer Forensics Investigator also addresses the legal issues associated with electronic evidence, such as relevant case law, how to navigate the discovery process, protection of privilege, and in general, working with attorneys and other professionals.

 

Besides, an examiner will work to uncover all files on the subject’s system. This includes existing active data, and invisible files, hidden files, password-protected files, and encrypted files. In many cases, information is gathered during a computer forensics investigation that is not typically available or viewable by the average computer user, such as fragments of data that can be found in the space allocated for existing files (known by computer forensic practitioners as “slack space”). Individual skills, tools and software are needed to obtain this type of information or evidence.

 

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A Computer Forensics expert can recover all deleted files and other data that have not yet been overwritten. As a computer is used, the operating system is regularly writing data to the hard drive. From time to time, the operating system will save new data on a hard drive by overwriting data that exists on the journey but is no longer needed by the operating system. A deleted file, for example, will remain present on a hard drive until the operating system overwrites all or some of the data. The ongoing use of a computer system may destroy data that could have been extracted before being overwritten. That is why we stress that time may be of the essence. Fortunately, the costs of acquisition are very reasonable, and the process is generally not disruptive.

Mobile Forensic 1

After an investigation, our Computer Forensics investigator will provide a detailed analysis of the computer system in a written report. We will also offer our clients with a copy of all relevant data in digital form.

 

Mobile phones have become a fixture of everyday life for the vast majority of people in our society, and it is rare that a person is separated from his or her phone for any period of time. As technology has developed, phones have become more sophisticated and are now capable of many of the tasks previously performed by desktop computers. In a world where seamless and efficient data transmission is now standard, we rely on our phones to be able to connect and communicate with others instantly.

 

While smartphones may be great tools, mobile phone activity leaves behind a digital record that can reveal a detailed portrait of the user. In the hands of the wrong person, data stored on the phone can be hazardous, so it’s essential that you secure your device and the online accounts you access through your mobile device. If you believe your phone or your accounts have been compromised or if you feel you need to examine your method for evidence or data recovery purposes, then you may need the assistance of a forensic expert.

 

A digital forensic expert is a person who is accepted in a court as an expert in the analysis of digital evidence, including the study of mobile phones and mobile devices (like tablets). In the hands of such an expert, it may be possible to uncover a wealth of crucial evidence from a mobile device. This evidence can include text messages, emails, browsing history, and even the GPS location of the phone historically. Often, deleted data can be recovered—many factors impact on what can be retrieved during a forensic phone examination. A forensic expert can also advise you whether there is a sign that you have been compromised or hacked.

 

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If you intend to provide a phone for forensic analysis, you must have lawful possession of the phone. This means it needs to be your phone or you need to have the permission of the owner of the phone to handle the phone.

 

Evidence from mobile phones can be used for court or just for your peace of mind. Such evidence might be relevant in family law disputes, to exonerate one from guilt in a criminal trial, to prove or disprove allegations made in civil disturbances or disputes over estates (such as family provision disputes). Improper use of mobiles by employees may result in the need for a business to preserve data. Perhaps you just want to retrieve data like photos or SMSs to resolve a dispute with a partner or loved one. Maybe you’ve noticed the unusual activity, and you suspect you have been hacked. If you want a definitive answer as to whether you can achieve your objective, the best person to consult is a mobile forensic expert who won’t take shortcuts and will get you best chance at recovering what you seek.

 

Laws vary from state to state, and there are specific state and Commonwealth laws that impact on accessing data so ensure you engage an experienced investigator with a proven track record of acting lawfully. As is the case with computers, when it comes to phones and mobile devices, it’s essential that if there is going to be any dispute over the evidence down the track that an amateur does not access it. Don’t try to extract or examine the data from a device yourself and don’t use a regular IT contractor. Taking such a course of action has the potential to corrupt the evidence and affect metadata. Consult an expert and then decide as to how you would like to proceed. It costs nothing to contact an experienced digital forensics firm and seek advice. Digital forensics experts can make the difference between a weak accusation and a watertight case that’s backed up by irrefutable digital evidence.

 

As Electronic Evidence Experts who specialise specifically in digital forensics, cybersecurity, and e-discovery, we recognise that your first priority is to determine a budget for yourself or your client to make sure you can afford the digital forensic services you need. Services that can help uncover the evidence, settle the dispute or win the case.

 

Our forensic services for cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices are broken into three levels. Each level has a flat rate charge: Level A $200, Level B $700, and Level C $1500. Level A and Level B costs are per device. The Level C cost of $1500 is for the first device, and each additional device has a $900 flat charge. If a client opts for a lower level and later determines that a higher level is needed, the extra work can be performed at only the difference in cost between the levels. For instance, if a client chose Level A and then decided to upgrade to Level B, the additional cost required would be $500 per device.

 

Our experts can extract data from almost any device. We can recover data from phones that no longer turn on, have been smashed, and anywhere in between. How much data is recoverable depends on the particular model and level of damage, or any failure of the device? The flat rate costs assume the device is functioning correctly. Additional charges for damaged devices may apply and usually fall in the $300 to $2000 range. The client will be apprised of any such required costs before work being executed. The flat rates don’t include future consultation or testimony which is charged at our standard rates.

 

Level A is the Data Recovery Level. If we are unable to recover data from your particular device with Level A, there is no charge. This level improves most current data on mobile devices, such as text messages, pictures, call logs, etc. This level is appropriate for general users who need to recover accidentally deleted photos, old text messages, and things of that nature. Level A is not recommended for producing data to be used in legal matters. For a complete depiction of what each level can do, please see the chart below.

 

Level B is the Electronic Discovery Level. In addition to the recovered data in Level A, Level B can recover data from many 3rd Party Apps, such as Kik, Skype, AIM, etc. Level B can also improve internet browsing history. Detailed reports about all the data extracted from the phone are provided. These reports include metadata, such as dates and times pictures were taken, dates and times text messages were sent or received, the GPS location of the device at different times, etc. A comprehensive timeline of events that occurred on the phone is provided.

 

Level C is the Forensic Analysis Level. In addition to everything provided in Level A and Level B, Level C includes a more in-depth examination of the raw data. Advanced SMS recovery is performed which typically recovers hundreds of additional text messages. Data Relation Analysis and other proprietary tasks are completed. An expert conclusion is formed after a thorough and detailed examination of all data. A formal and professionally written report of the expert’s findings is provided.

 

Apple iPhone has made a significant impact on society both as a handheld computing device and as a cellular phone. Due to the unique hardware system as well as storage structure, the iPhone has already attracted the legal community in the digital investigation of the device. Currently available commercial products and methodologies for iPhone forensics are somewhat expensive, complicated and often require additional hardware for analysis. Some products are not robust and often fail to extract optimal evidence without modifying the iPhone firmware, which makes the report questionable in legal platforms. In this paper, we present a simple and inexpensive framework (iFF) for iPhone forensic analysis. Through experimental results using the real device, we have shown the effectiveness of this framework in extracting digital evidence from an iPhone.

 

Mobile phone forensics has become more prevalent, with smartphone devices increasing in performance, data storage capacity and overall capabilities. Operating across the UK, Ireland and internationally, our digital forensic investigators are specialists in mobile phone investigations. We preserve, extract, analyse and report the electronic data retrieved from mobile devices for use in criminal, civil, corporate and legal aid matters.

 

How much does cell phone forensic typically cost?

In the past, computer forensic examinations could run tens of thousands of dollars because of the human resources necessary to examine a hard-drive thoroughly. With the advancement of technology in the computer forensics arena, that is no longer the case. The cost of a computer forensic investigation varies greatly, depending on the number of computers involved and the complexity of the recovery of evidence. A complete computer forensic examination is an examination of the entire computer media and includes a detailed written report. A comprehensive overhaul of 100 GB of data on a hard drive can have over 10,000,000 pages of electronic information. It may take between 15 to 35 hours or more to examine, depending on the size and types of media. A reasonable quote can be obtained before the investigation’s start. Remember, computer forensic investigations have an unusually high return on investment!

 

We have tools that allow us in many cases to perform rapid analysis of the media to see if we can locate indiscriminate evidence quickly, thereby, avoiding a full forensic examination.

 

Cell phone examinations can usually be completed in 5 to 8 hours.

 

Advanced cell phone forensics such as operating system examination, application analysis, and binary searches are quoted based on our initial evaluation determinations. Typically you will receive a flat rate and a detailed description of the work to be performed.

 

This is an additional option for the added on the price of $98.00 to the central database report. It includes internet data such as sites, chats, search terms, and social media programs, presented in an organised method.

 

Well, the short answer is – it depends.

It’s a lot like asking someone how much it costs to build a house. It involves a lot of factors. The more upfront information is known about the scope of work, the tighter the estimate will be. Regarding digital forensics, ranges can be a couple of thousand dollars to well over $100,000 with the typical analyses being somewhere in the $5,000 to $15,000 range, based upon factors involved.

 

Let’s explore some of the factors that affect digital forensics pricing. You’ll see that working with the ‘end in mind’ is critical. However, don’t despair if you don’t know all the answers to the sample questions below when you call for digital forensic services. A qualified and experienced service like Vestige can easily guide you through the process.

 

  • How much does the investigation team already know about the fact pattern? In essence, does the matter have a NARROW focus? (ex. We need to see if a document has been altered after this date). Or a BROAD focus? (ex. We suspect somebody did something covert in the past year.)
  • Names of the parties involved? (In order to assure a quick conflict check)
  • What type of investigation is expected to be performed? (ie. discovery, investigative matters, etc.)
  • What kind of activities are suspected? (ie. Alteration, theft (ie. data/money), deletion, defamation, anti-forensics software installed, physical damage, etc.)
  • Are there particular terms being sought?
  • How many devices are involved? (Don’t forget – Virtualized systems are equivalent to another computer.)
  • What types of devices are involved? (ie. Laptops, workstations, servers, mobile devices, tablets, cell phones, surveillance video or proprietary manufactured systems)
  • Is there encryption and password protection installed?
  • Are there multiple types of Operating Systems or virtual devices contained within the tools being analysed? (ex. some devices have a Dual Boot OS with various OS versions or even different versions, such as MAC OS and Windows loaded.)
  • How many users are utilising the device(s)?
  • What is the volume of activity that has occurred on the device(s) and rarely used? Heavy usage?
  • What type of output or report is required? (ie. a simple memo or finding; a story; an Expert report; Affidavit; Deposition attendance; Testimony at a hearing or trial?; etc.)
  • How much will data need to be searched and analysed? (ex. estimate in MB, GB, TB etc.)
  • What is the deadline/timeframe that the analysis needs to be performed?

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Other Things To Consider

There are two approaches to pricing when it comes to digital forensic services – one is Time & Materials, the other is Flat Fee Pricing.

 

Time & Materials Pricing 

Many industries, including legal, are accustomed to the Time & Materials pricing model because it’s how they run their own business, so it’s comfortable to work with.

 

However, when it comes to Time & Materials billing for digital forensics – Price Shoppers Beware!

Here are three areas to watch for with digital investigation costs:

  1. Low initial pricing. While this sounds great and appeals to the wallet, it is commonly caused by gross underestimation of the time a matter will actually take and is primarily a ‘foot-in-the-door’ tactic. There is some truth to ‘You Get What You Pay For’ in this business and once you sign the dotted line with an inexpensive IT guy who bought some off-the-shelf digital forensics software – regret is sure to follow.
  2. Failure to ask enough questions up front about a client’s scope of work. This leads to providing an underestimated number of hours to complete the job. Once the project is in full force, it then becomes obvious more hours are required to complete the project, thus … ‘hidden costs’ for digital forensic services can and do begin to appear.
  3. Time & Materials billers are often forced to hurry and do not perform a thorough investigation or are inexperienced in the legal and technical requirements and fail to deliver the detailed forensics correctly. This can cause arrival at a partial conclusion, ignored testing of evidence which can cause totally inaccurate judgments, and inadmissibility in court. This then causes costly time and money for back-tracking, or worse yet – the time and costs of starting over.

Today, you can expect to find hourly rates in the $200 to $450 range. A typical analysis on a single device, without any of the above complications (i.e. encryption, use of forensic tools, the broad scope of investigation work, etc.) will generally take 15-30 hours of work.

 

In our opinion, digital forensic services based on Time & Materials approach can quickly inflate and end up costing considerably more than what is initially agreed upon, can produce inaccurate or inadmissible results, and is unpredictable overall.

 

Flat-fee Pricing

While flat-fee pricing for digital forensics can seem expensive and produce temporary sticker-shock, in the long-run we believe it offers a number of benefits:

  1. An upfront understanding of exact needs and expectations. Knowing a tight scope of what you’re looking for helps speed along the process and aids in producing the most precise quotation – and will typically be less expensive in the long-run. Preparation to answer the aforementioned critical questions when working with a flat-fee digital forensic service provides tremendous assistance.

Look for certified digital forensic experts who will expertly and efficiently guide you through the process to determine who to find the answers from and precisely what to do each step of the way.

  1. Proper Preparation, Testing & Reporting. Flat fee pricing features the extra steps that matter — including preparation for trial at the onset. This way, there is no back-tracking. This requires analysts with a thorough knowledge of both the legal, as well as the technical side of digital forensics. The focus on experience and testing cannot be underscored enough. Many nuances get examiners – and subsequently, their clients – into trouble when opining on the evidence.

Be sure to engage a service that performs extensive testing on any digital evidence uncovered as well. Proper testing assures accurate, air-tight, and legally defensible opinions.

Finally, one needs to consider your needs as it relates to reporting. Reports should be easy to understand for the fact-finder, at the same time providing detail on the digital forensics procedures performed, verification of the tested results and any other information that aids in the resolution of the matter.

  1. Predictable Cost. Most importantly, experienced digital forensic services that offer flat-fee pricing can provide a quote for the entire cost of the project – that is upfront, predictable, with no added surprises.