At Gillware Electronic Discovery and Gillware Digital Forensics, we deal with mobile phones quite a lot. When collecting electronically stored information (ESI) as part of an e-discovery matter, it’s common sense that a great deal of information related to communications is contained within these devices, and this information often is extremely important—so important that failing to do your due diligence and make a good-faith effort to collect the ESI contained within can have serious consequences for your case in the form of sanctions.
The wealth of communications related ESI you’ll find on a mobile phone includes the contents of:
- Call logs and potentially stored voicemail messages
- SMS and MMS text messages
- Logs from third-party mobile chat applications
The way we use our phones can make them an even more crucial source of ESI. People often turn to their phones when they wish to have “unofficial” or “off-the-record” communications instead of using email, like Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and his administration once attempted to do. Legal professionals today know very well now that the wealth of data contained on a mobile phone simply cannot be ignored, nor its importance underestimated.
But what do you do when the phone you need to pull ESI from is broken? When that phone has suffered heavy damage and won’t even turn on, you might feel like there’s nothing you can do to get the data you need off of it. And if there is anything you—or someone else—can do, then it’s too expensive, too labor-intensive to be cost-effective.
You’re most likely to have to deal with a broken phone than you think: A whopping forty-five percent of all smart phone owners, nearly half of all smart phone owners, will eventually damage their phones, with the average phone lasting only ten months before it befalls an accident that leaves it at least cosmetically disfigured—if not damaged enough to render it totally inoperable!
So, what do you do when tasked with retrieving ESI from a broken mobile phone? Is forensic data recovery truly outside your budget, or even outside the realm of practical possibility? In order to respond reasonably to requests to turn over mobile ESI, you need to know how to answer both of these questions.
And fortunately, for the most part, the answer to both questions is a resounding “No!”
ESI Collection is Possible and Affordable with Broken Phones
When a phone gets broken, it’s all too easy to assume that it’s “toast”, that it can’t be repaired or its contents salvaged—or that it can be repaired, but at a high enough cost to make such salvage operations out of the question.
These are dangerous assumptions to make! Even when a phone is so heavily damaged that it’s completely inoperable, repairing these devices and salvaging data from them isn’t always as difficult or as involved as you might think. True, the work is hard, and requires very specialized expertise, but there are plenty of people who can do it, and at more affordable rates than you might think.
Take, for example, the data recovery technicians of Gillware Digital Forensics. At Gillware, we can draw on the experiences of highly-skilled experts in the realm of mobile phone repair and data recovery, thanks to our advanced data recovery facilities, and quite frankly, these folks are capable of working what might as well be miracles.
A rusty, filthy, water-damaged phone can be repaired and its contents salvaged and examined in the hands of forensic data recovery experts. Phones that have been run over by cars and crushed, subjected to intense heat, and even left languishing in bodies of water and swamps can still retain most, if not all of their critical data as long as certain small—and very resilient—portions of the phone such as its flash memory chip or removable microSD card escape the worst of its damages.
For eDiscovery clients, the benefits of forensic data recovery work for mobile phones can be vast. A forensic examination of a damaged and inoperable mobile phone and the collection of its data can yield ESI that might not be shared on any other devices you’re concerned with checking out. In other words, the data that could turn your case around could live on that phone—but if you don’t give forensic data recovery a shot, it won’t.
Is Forensic Data Recovery Too Expensive?
Data recovery is a very specialized field and true experts can be hard to come by, especially once you get into the gritty and difficult work needed to be done to repair severely damaged mobile phones and salvage their data. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that forensic data recovery is too expensive to be within your grasp.
The cost of mobile phone data recovery might not be as high as you think, and when you’re a client of a digital forensics firm or e-discovery firm that has such data recovery capabilities, the cost for the work can be included as part of the hourly rates of service.
Forensic mobile phone data recovery is more possible than you think it is, and less expensive than you think it is. Don’t miss out on critical data from broken phones—seek out eDiscovery and digital forensics companies with advanced data recovery capabilities.