Digital Forensics

Breaking Locks: Envista Forensics Can Unlock Cellphones

31 October 2023

Envista's Digital Forensic team is equipped with industry-leading technology required to access locked cellphones and other mobile devices and is trained to handle the most complex cellphone investigations.

The Challenge of Passcode Locked Cellphone and Other Devices

In 2015, the high-profile case involving the Apple vs. FBI highlighted the complexity of unlocking devices. Following a tragic shooting at a California holiday party, the Federal Bureau of Investigations sought Apple's assistance in accessing the suspects' devices. Apple's refusal, citing concerns over user privacy and security, set the stage for the development of tools used today to unlock devices in both the public and private sectors.

In many litigation and investigation scenarios, situations arise where a critical piece of evidence is stored on a locked smartphone, and its retrieval could make or break the case. The Digital Forensics Practice at Envista has helped attorneys and insurance professionals gain access to locked mobile devices for some time, but this service has never been made available to the public, until now. 

The Digital Forensics Practice at Envista has helped attorneys and insurance professionals gain access to locked mobile devices for some time, but this service has never been made available to the public, until now.

Many instances arise where an individual has valuable data stored on an old locked device. This could be essential financial information, irreplaceable personal memories, or important company data. This once unrecoverable data due to passcode-locked mobile devices can now be accessed. 

Retrieving Memories and Offering Closure to Bereaved Families

The unexpected loss of a family member can be devastating and comes with emotional and logistical challenges. Be it the result of a car accident, accidental overdose, or other unfortunate circumstances, gaining access to a locked cellphone allows for the grieving family to recover cherished memories in the form of photos, videos, and messages, as well as crucial data, such as banking information and documents, from locked cellphones.

Lost Access to a Cryptocurrency Wallet on a Locked Cellphone

The encryption on modern cellphone devices and security measures means that the only safe method to recover the password is through forensic software. Attempting to guess the PIN multiple times could lead to the device permanently locking or erasing data—a nightmare scenario for anyone with a substantial cryptocurrency investment. If you invested in cryptocurrency years ago and stored it on an old smartphone, but you can't remember the six-digit PIN to access it, we can unlock the device so you can recover your investment. 

Loss of Sensitive Data on a Corporate Owned Locked Cellphone

Employees may accidentally lock a device containing sensitive or proprietary data required for a project. Access to that data is critical and can be solved by unlocking the device. When an employee leaves, the company is often interested in the activity on that device before the employee’s departure. There are often concerns that they could have transferred proprietary or trade secrets to another party for financial gain, or the employee may have downloaded client lists and accounts before departure. The ability to unlock the device and obtain details about device usage may be critical to the operations of a corporation.

Ensuring Best Results: Steps to Take to Protect the Cellphone Before It Gets to Us

When it comes to unlocking a passcode-locked cellphone, one crucial step that often precedes the involvement of our expert team is ensuring the proper protection of the device. Before entrusting us with the task of unlocking it, it's imperative to take measures that safeguard your device and the data it contains. These steps are designed to ensure the security and integrity of your device while minimizing risks and enhancing the success of our unlocking process.

Power the Cellphone Off

One of the fundamental steps in safeguarding your cellphone and its data is to power it off. This action is crucial because it effectively "freezes" your phone's data at a specific point in time. When a phone is powered on, it can receive new data and updates, potentially overwriting or altering existing information. By turning it off, you preserve your device's data just as it was when you powered it down.

Proper Environmental Conditions for Cellphones

To protect your cellphone from damage due to poor environmental conditions, consider proper storage.

Temperature to Keep Your Cellphone

Avoid exposing your phone to extreme temperatures. High heat can damage the battery, while extreme cold can affect the device's performance. Don't leave your phone in a hot car during the summer or exposed to freezing temperatures in the winter.

Moisture Exposure of Cellphone

Protect your phone from moisture and humidity. Moisture and humidity can pose significant risks to cellphones, potentially causing issues like corrosion, short circuits, screen damage, battery problems, and audio malfunctions. Corrosion can harm internal components, while short circuits may disrupt functionality. High humidity or exposure to moisture can lead to screen damage and affect the phone's battery life and performance. avoid moist environments by storing it in a dry and cool place, and consider using silica gel packs to absorb moisture.

Keep Dust and Dirt Away from Your Device

Keep your phone away from dusty or dirty environments by storing it in a clean location. Dust and dirt can have adverse effects on cellphones, potentially causing various issues. Particles of dust and dirt can enter the device through ports and openings, leading to problems such as clogged speakers or microphones, compromised button functionality, and even damage to internal components.

Do Not Attempt to Unlock the Cellphone If the Passcode Is Unknown

Trying to unlock a cellphone without knowing the passcode can be risky. Many smartphones have security measures that, after multiple incorrect attempts, can initiate a permanent data wipe to protect user information. Be cautious and patient when entering your passcode. This also applies to phones that can be unlocked biometrically with facial or fingerprint recognition. Incorrect attempts with these methods can also trigger data wipes.

Contact Us to Gain Access to a Passcode Locked Cellphone

We strongly recommend reaching our professional digital forensics experts to unlock a passcode-locked cellphone. We are utilizing state-of-the-art forensic technology to allow you to gain access to a passcode-locked cellphone that prevents the risk of inadvertently triggering security measures that could lead to the permanent loss of data. Multiple incorrect attempts may trigger security features, resulting in the irreversible erasure of data. By engaging our professionals, you mitigate these risks and ensure a legal and technically sound approach to accessing locked cellphone data.

Don’t Let Passcode-locked Mobile Devices Stand in the Way of Crucial Information

Envista's Digital Forensic team utilizes cutting-edge technology and has extensive expertise in handling complex cellphone investigations. We now leverage our technology and expertise to aid the public in gaining access to passcode-locked mobile devices. Don't let locks stand in the way of crucial information. Contact our Digital Forensics team today to gain access to your locked devices.

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About The Author
Spencer McInvaille
Spencer McInvaille, CWA, CTNS, CCO, CCPA
Technical Lead
Digital Forensics

Mr. Spencer McInvaille is a Technical Lead of Digital Forensics specializing in geolocation analysis at Envista Forensics. He holds certifications in telecommunications and mobile device forensics, such as Cellebrite Certified Operator, Cellebrite Physical Analyst, Certified Wireless Analyst, and Certified Telecommunications Network Specialist. Mr. McInvaille is also a leading expert in the area of Google Location History and Geofence warrants.

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