The BBC has uncovered information regarding the data on a quantity of tablets and phones that have been seized as evidence, is being wiped remotely whilst the items are in police custody. At least four different constabularies (Cambridgeshire, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Durham) have informed BBC News that the devices have been wiped remotely. The technology in wiping phones is designed to allow the owner to remotely erase any sensitive data from their phones if they are stolen or lost.
It has also come to light that Dorset police have said this had happened to six of the devices that they had seized and had in custody, within a one-year period. A spokeswoman for Dorset police has informed the BBC: “There were six incidents, but we don’t know how people wiped them…We have cases where phones get seized, and they are not necessarily taken from an arrested person – but we don’t know the details of these cases as there is not a reason to keep records of this.”
Ken Munro, A digital forensics expert with Pen Test Partners said. “If a device has a signal, in theory it is possible to wipe it remotely”
Cleveland police had said that they had confirmed a case of a phone that had been wiped but it was unclear “whether it was wiped prior to coming into police hands”. The police were asked if they felt the issue had damaged their investigation. The spokeswoman said: “We don’t know because we don’t know what was on the phone.”
Mr Munro, who analyses hundreds of laptops, tablets, phones and other devices for corporate clients, said: “When we seize a device for digital forensics, we put it immediately into a radio-frequency shielded bag, which prevents any signals from getting through…If we can’t get to the scene within an hour, we tell the client to pop it in a microwave oven…The microwave is reasonably effective as a shield against mobile or tablet signals – just don’t turn it on.”
Maybe the police should be investing time an resources on improving their methods and the technology they use, but as the advances in storage and the technology used in them becomes more and more advanced, they probably stand little chance of keeping data that criminals don’t want accessed.
Take, for instance a firm called, SecureDrives. They develop hard drives for military use and are currently working on a device that is due to be released next year, which can be physically destroyed by sending a text message. The drive costing approx £1,000, is also immune to the radio-frequency blocking bags. James Little, head of sales at SecureDrives said, “The hard drive is constantly looking for GSM [Global System for Mobile Communications] signals, if it is starved of them it would destroy itself. It would see such a bag as a threat.”
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