Without Access, Mobile Forensics Fails to Deliver

By David Miles, co-founder and chief executive officer of Grayshift

Criminal activity has always been one of the frontiers of new technologies—and the digital age has seen a relentless expansion of that frontier. Every day, individuals commit crimes in new ways, using new tools and techniques that leave behind new forms of digital evidence. Law enforcement understands these challenges—and they know that it’s crucial to stay ahead of the criminals with tools and techniques that are just as powerful.

Today, virtually every criminal investigation involves digital evidence. Data recovered from phones, hard drives, and smart devices often prove to be the keys needed to solve today’s criminal investigations—and to equip the prosecution with admissible evidence to bring criminals to justice. To have any chance of success, advanced technologies for accessing and swiftly extracting digital evidence are no longer just nice for law enforcement agencies and investigators to have; they are essential.

It’s not just law enforcement agencies that understand the incredible value of digital evidence. Local residents and government officials agree that police must have the necessary admissible digital evidence for quickly solving cases such as those involving credit card fraud, illegal drug sales, as well as high profile investigations involving extremist activity and threats to national security. This is especially true for those that involve an ongoing threat to individuals or the general public, like missing persons cases, or the pursuit of predatory child sex abusers who are alluding capture. Generally, people understand that when there is limited time to find a missing victim, or to bring a violent suspect to justice, digital evidence can save lives.

However, there are several obstacles and challenges for law enforcement—both legal and technological—in seeking to access, extract, store, and analyze digital evidence. The technology landscape is rapidly changing and evolving. Regular software updates on contemporary mobile devices mean continual changes to mobile operating systems with new security and feature updates. In particular, the Android market is quite fragmented, with multiple different makes, models, chipsets and operating system versions available. Too often this leaves law enforcement in the difficult position of trying stay abreast of these rapid advances while trying to solve new crimes in real time.

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These technological challenges were bad enough in 2019. Today, law enforcement agencies must navigate technological shortcomings and restrictions in an environment complicated by community scrutiny and censure, calls to “Defund the Police,” and the relentless pandemic—all while governments and communities continue to apply pressure on law enforcement to solve complicated crimes more quickly than ever before.

Given this environment of constant technological change combined with unprecedented public pressure and scrutiny, agencies need and deserve a trusted partner with high ethical standards to equip them not only with the tools they need to solve crimes, but also the guidance, expertise, and credibility required to use those tools effectively. For many across law enforcement, that partner is Grayshift, a leading provider of mobile device digital forensics, specializing in access and extraction. The company’s GrayKey technology provides same-day access, complete control, and comprehensive data extraction from mobile devices. In many cases, GrayKey has meant the difference between life or death—and the difference between a conviction that sticks or a criminal escaping justice.

Legacy digital forensic investigative tools often fail to support the latest mobile devices and can require weeks if not months or even years to access and extract digital evidence. Additionally, the primary focus within the digital forensic industry is in the area of analysis. The most advanced forensic analysis tools are of no value if the data is unable to be accessed and extracted in the first place. Forensic access is the cornerstone of mobile digital forensics. Modern encryption on consumer devices is here to stay, and law enforcement agencies need solutions like GrayKey that can lawfully and quickly access admissible digital evidence to accelerate criminal investigations. GrayKey has an immediate impact, clearing out backlogs of mobile devices—each one holding critical evidence—that all too often sit on a shelf while criminals are roaming free and committing more crimes.

For too long, criminals have relied on encryption and an ever-changing technological landscape to hide their actions and evade law enforcement. Without the right tools, the right technology partners, and the right operational framework, the field was tipped against law enforcement. Operating in a digital world without the latest digital capabilities means that agencies and officers are behind from the start.

GrayKey provides the rapid access to mobile devices and admissible data that law enforcement needs—through a lawful and trusted process. Trusted, reliable, and effective technology like GrayKey takes allegations of bias and preconceived ideas out of the equation. The data speaks for itself—it is unbiased information in and of itself.

Scrutiny on the scope of what law enforcement can extract and gain access to via digital forensics within the definitions of a warrant has increased, and this scrutiny will continue to increase for the foreseeable future. At the same time, communities are asking law enforcement to deal with new and unprecedented threats. There is immense pressure on law enforcement, for example, to investigate and bring to justice the criminals behind the storming of the United States Capitol and other regional extremist demonstrations throughout the country—many coordinated online and leaving a vast wake of digital evidence. Even while scrutiny of law enforcement continues, Americans are recognizing that law enforcement needs and deserves the necessary technology to protect us.

As these conversations continue, new threats emerge, and new laws governing policing roll out, it will be critical for law enforcement agencies to be thoughtful when considering the credentials and credibility of their technology partners. An informed choice will mitigate negative public scrutiny, as a qualified technology partner will come equipped with credible, proven answers to difficult questions from lawmakers and community members.

Companies that have earned the trust of the public and government officials—like Grayshift—offer more than technology solutions. The Grayshift team is proud to have earned a reputation as a trusted and ethical partner to law enforcement—and we recognize that our responsibility to uphold that reputation is paramount.

About Grayshift

Grayshift is a leading provider of mobile device digital forensics, specializing in access and extraction. Grayshift solutions are purpose-built to help law enforcement and government investigative agencies swiftly resolve critical investigations and ensure public safety. The company’s innovative GrayKey technology provides same-day access, complete control, and comprehensive data extraction from mobile devices. Designed and assembled in the United States, GrayKey is trusted by 1000 agencies across more than 30 countries globally. For more information, visit www.grayshift.com.

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