"iPhones record every step you take and when you took it," says Mark McLaughlin of Los Angeles based Computer Forensics International. "Armed with that location data, examiners can draw a Google map of the route you took and the exact time you were there, down to the second." iPhones are the premier member of the smartphone family that record bucket loads of data and are built on a mobile computing platform.
The iPhone's location data is automatically captured from two sources: nearby cellphone tower sites and any wireless data network, like the Wi-Fi network at your local Starbucks. Unfortunately for the iPhone's owner, this data collection feature can only be stopped by turning off the phone's wireless transmit and receive capability -- also referred to as airplane mode. However, the previously recorded data will still be there and will be recoverable. iPads use the same location tracking technology.
Digital forensic examiners like McLaughlin, routinely use cutting edge software tools when analyzing iPhones and other smartphones on civil and criminal cases. They start by first making an exact copy of the phone's entire memory -- which includes active and deleted data. Then the copy is searched either visually or by using keywords for relevant evidence to the case.
This data can be a boon for attorneys and investigators working on civil and criminal cases. It could provide the corroboration to put a cheating spouse at a specific residence when they should have been at work. Or it could be used to tie individuals together in a criminal conspiracy where they otherwise couldn't be connected.
McLaughlin says, "This location data capture shouldn't be a problem for most iPhone owners. But if you're trying to hide where you've been, leave the iPhone at home."
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