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Sat nav forensics in practice

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Firstly, as with computer and mobile phone forensics, when investigating a sat nav device, it is important not to switch the device on. In fact, the entire examination of a sat nav device should be conducted in a Faraday box, to prevent the device from picking up new GPS fixes.

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Sat nav forensics in practice

  1. 1. Sat Nav Forensics in Practice Firstly, as with computer and mobile phone forensics, when investigating a sat nav device, it is important not to switch the device on. In fact, the entire examination of a sat nav device should be conducted in a Faraday box, to prevent the device from picking up new GPS fixes. This minimises the risk of altering or overwriting the data stored on the device. It is possible to make a crucial mistake here, which could adversely affect any potential court case. Digital forensic analysis of sat nav equipment can reveal details of recent GPS fixes recorded by the device, depending on the make and model. But it can also provide additional information, such as stored ‘favourites’, journey plans and even deleted and archived information, which can be crucial in establishing facts to aid an investigation. In one case an analyst was able to find archived trip logs dating back seven months, which was useful in building a bigger picture of the user’s day-to-day activities. This information was easy to miss, as it was not picked up by the standard commercial forensic tools. However, with broad experience in the analysis of a wide range of sat nav devices and their file structures, it was possible to identify the archive files as containing potentially valuable data. Sat nav data can not only provide information on where the user has been, but can also help in establishing locations that the user has expressed an interest in, but not necessarily visited – e.g. ‘points of interest’ that have been programmed into the device. This can provide useful intelligence on a user’s planned activities, which the team in Miami would not get from their activity of merely looking at the recent GPS fixes. There can be a lot of useful data stored on a sat nav device, depending on the make and model. This ranges from GPS fixes, track logs, recently set destinations, saved favourites and archived data, to contacts, calls and SMS from paired mobile phones. However, care must be taken over the use of that data – for example, the difference between a track log or GPS fix, which is a guarantee of location and data such as recent destinations and saved favourites, which only indicate interest in a location, and cannot be relied upon to conclusively show where an individual was at a given date and time. Tthe use of GPS technology is no longer confined to simple car-windscreen sat nav units; most smart phones now come with GPS built in – for use with sat nav/GPS applications or other location-specific functions. This provides more opportunities for investigating the location of a user at a given date and time, which can provide crucial evidence to support a case. For more information about sat nav forensics or CCL’s other products and services please visit www.cclgroupltd.com. Nathan is a digital forensics specialist at CCL Group - the UK’s leading supplier of digital forensics, including: computer forensics, mobile phone forensics and cell site analysis services. Check out http://www.cclgroupltd.com/digital-forensics/

Firstly, as with computer and mobile phone forensics, when investigating a sat nav device, it is important not to switch the device on. In fact, the entire examination of a sat nav device should be conducted in a Faraday box, to prevent the device from picking up new GPS fixes.

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