Government plans to acquire software to tackle smartphone crime


NEW DELHI: The government is gearing up to arm cyber sleuths with forensic tools to catch up with criminals who outsmart investigators by using secure mobile phones or password-protected computers that leave few footprints once the data is deleted. 

The Union home ministry has decided to buy more than 30 licensed software from firms in the US, Canada and Israel to crack open data in seized mobile phones and computers. The move comes after cyber forensic investigators failed to make much headway in deciphering password-protected data or retrieving deleted data from seized iPhones, BlackBerry handsets, Apple computers and even Windows-based mobile phones. 

An official, who did not wish to be named, told ET that criminals are increasingly using such gadgets, which don't allow access to password-protected data and leave virtually no trace of deleted email content and Internet history. 

The software, for which a bid was floated recently, will be used by the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) in Delhi and the five regional CFSLs in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Guwahati and Jammu, the official said. 

The software will help access and recover data from 4,000 types of mobile phones, including those running on Apple, BlackBerry and Windows platforms. 

Besides retrieving email and Internet history from the seized gadgets, the software will also prepare a "built-in smartphone report", throwing up crucial evidence to be presented before the courts and furnishing further leads to the intelligence agencies. 

Encase 7, a forensic analysis and imaging software of M/s Guidance Software, tops the ministry's shopping list. This software can acquire data from devices running on operating systems such as Apple's iOS, Google's Android, RIM's BlackBerry, HP's Palm, Nokia's Symbian and Microsoft's Windows Mobile. It can retrieve emails and Internet history on the device, helping identify all individuals related to a criminal case. 

The ministry is also set to procure a portable version of this software, which comes with a pocket-sized kit that can be transported to any location and search a targeted computer without leaving a trace on the target machine but automatically collecting all the data, including entire hard drives. 

Another software being procured, Oxygen Forensic Suite, supports forensic investigations on as many as 2,500 different makes of mobile phones and can extract multimedia messages, emails, information on caller groups and GPS maps, besides analysing web browser caches of the seized phones. 

Special password recovery software being bought from the US will help the sleuths in retrieving password-protected BlackBerry and Apple backups. For deciphering data on Android and Windows phones, the ministry has chosen Universal Forensic Extraction Device, a product of Israel's Cellebrite. 

Device Seizure, developed by the US-based Paraben Corporation, can extract data from as many as 4,000 types of mobile phones. The government has for long been negotiating to get real-time access to data exchanged on BlackBerry, Google Chat and Skype platforms by people who are under the scanner of the intelligence agencies.

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