MANCHESTER — City police have the technology and expertise to bypass lock codes in mobile phones to obtain information hidden in the phone’s memory chip, police announced on Wednesday.
“In-System Programming” allows a police detective to connect wires directly to the memory chip of a cellphone to obtain evidence. The connections, done under microscope and with a soldering iron, bypass lock codes that would normally keep an investigator out, police said.
Manchester police obtained equipment and training from the U.S. Secret Service, which recently hosted a four-week Mobile Device Examiner training for Cybercrime Unit Detective Lou Krawczyk at the National Computer Forensic Institute in Hoover, Ala.
Cellphones are playing an increasing part in the investigation and prosecution of crimes. For example, evidence in the recently concluded trial of Squad gang-leader Brandon Griffin included cellphone videos of house shootings ordered by Griffin and text messages discussing the crime, according to Manchester police Sgt. Kenneth Loui, commander of the department’s Cybercrime Unit.
In a 2008 murder case, data from cellphone towers used by baseball-bat killer Todd Peters in Manchester pinpointed him at the crime scene as well as the location where the murder weapon was disposed of, Loui said.
“Cellphones are used today by virtually everyone, and as the primary communication tool, it can oftentimes be the primary source of evidence,” said Hillsborough County Attorney Michael Conlon, whose office won 53 convictions against Griffin.
He said cases involving drug transactions, thefts, domestic assaults, and sometimes commercial transactions are aided by access to cellphone evidence.
He noted that cellphones can also provide evidence favorable to a defendant.
Conlon said his office has never seen a case dismissed because it could not get to cellphone evidence. But cases could have been stronger with the data.
”It’s a big unknown when you can’t get in before the deadlines surrounding charges and trial, and the increased cybercrime expertise at the investigatory level should be helpful to prosecution in that regard,” he said.
In most cases, police need an approved warrant to search data stored on a phone. But they can do so with written consent and in cases of exigency, Loui said
In a statement to the media on Wednesday, Manchester police said phones can contain evidence such as photos, videos, GPS locations and communication between co-conspirators.
“The hard part is getting past the cellphone’s security features to recover the evidence,” the police news release said.