I simply returned native a fantastic few days in ~ the Virginia psychological Lawyers combination 2017 yearly conference. I invested 3 work meeting with litigators from all over Virginia around the various ways data can help in your cases. Component of the nuance of operation a digital forensic consultancy is to proactively listen and shot to drill down specifically how digital forensics and related solutions can include value in different species of litigation. Because that example, over there is data that is included on plenty of mobile devices that could serve to it is in the digital “smoking gun” through regard to distracted driving cases. However, the problem is that when litigation over distracted driving takes place, the data (and likely the device) are lengthy gone since the justice system grinds slowly. This renders the value that digital forensics can include in these instances somewhat minimized, uneven the case affiliated law enforcement and also they happened to have actually the foresight to obtain a an equipment extraction at or close to the moment of the incident.

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One of the an important areas i have been spreading the word about to every one of my partners in litigation is the strength of cellular speak to detail records. Everyone carries approximately a mini tracking device in your pocket in the kind of a clever phone and also it is virtually always connected to a to move network. That way data deserve to be retrieved, analyzed and also even mapped-out to display location information. Other an useful data deserve to be known associates, cell tower “ping” data, cabinet tower sector data and so on. However, every one of the cellular companies retain these documents for different periods that time. As soon as I talk about this with litigators and also their staff, they practically always ask exactly how long the data is retained. The prize is… (wait because that it)… the depends! Being the I gain this inquiry quite often, I chose to contact each the the five major U.S. To move carriers and also ask them myself. I have been through training formerly that detail this information, yet nothing beats getting the information straight from the source. So right here we go!


Before we discuss the retention periods themselves, some explanation is required. First, there room only 5 cellular companies who provide service in the joined States. They are:

Verizon WirelessAT&TSprintT-MobileU.S. Cellular

All the the others the you view commercials for on TV – Cricket, Boost, Virgin Wireless, Jitterbug, right Talk, Tracfone, family members Mobile – and so on, lease their service from one (or more) that the five carriers provided above. From an investigative standpoint, it makes it simpler that we only have 5 potential sources where the data might be kept.


Other ax is additionally important. Some added definitions because that terms that will be used later are:

SMS content: message message in-depth content. This has standard text message only and also is a different company from to apologize proprietary iMessages and third-party text message apps.Cell Tower: The sole-source link that a an equipment makes ~ above the given cellular network. Contact detail documents generally administer this details via general practitioners latitude & longitude. Plenty of will also have the sector or side of the tower detailed as well.Tower Dump: A listing of every devices associated to a given cellular tower in ~ a details point in time. This are mainly passive connections, yet all cell phones must be linked to a to move tower in stimulate to receive cellular phone call calls.PCMD: Per call measurement data. This data helps determine the distance a mobile (or handset) is native a specific cell tower throughout a call. That is allegedly precise within 10 meters or so.NELOS: The exact same as PCMD, only NELOS is the term supplied by AT&TRTT: selection to Tower. The same as PCMD & NELOS, but RTT is provided by Verizon Wireless

These meanings will end up being important as we perform the particular data areas and their retention periods.

Cellular Provider Retention Periods

All cellular business providers maintain different varieties of data for different time periods. As soon as investigating a case, it’s important to know just how long you might have accessibility to this data for, otherwise it could be an investigative red herring. It’s additionally important to keep in mind that this retention plans are not created in stone and deserve to be modified by the provider at any time. The retention periods below were noted by every of the 5 major U.S. Cellular carriers themselves on the date of this publication:

Verizon WirelessSubscriber Information: 7-10 yearsCall History: 7 yearsTower places as they related to speak to History: 1 rojo calendar yearSMS Content: 3-5 work (although I’ve to be told unofficially it may be as much as 7-10 days)Tower Dumps: 1 yearRange come Tower (RTT) Data: 8 days

AT&TSubscriber Information: 7 YearsCall History: 7 yearsTower places as they associated to contact History: 7 yearsSMS Content: not AvailableTower Dumps: 7 yearsRange come Tower (RTT) Data: 180 days

SprintSubscriber Information: 10 yearsCall History: 18 months. Bill reprint kind 7-10 years, pre-pay accounts just 18 months regardless.Tower places as they associated to speak to History: 18 monthsSMS Content: no AvailableTower Dumps: 18 monthsRange come Tower (RTT) Data: 14-90 days. The technician advised that after 14 days, particular detail in these records is purged, yet the remainder is maintained for approximately 90 days.

T-MobileSubscriber Information: 3-5 years. Canceled accounts are purged ~ account closes.Call History: 23 monthsTower areas as they associated to contact History: 23 monthsSMS Content: not AvailableTower Dumps: 3 monthsRange to Tower (RTT) Data: 23 months. This appears rather lengthy to me, however the technician repetitive it top top the phone.

U.S. CellularSubscriber Information: as much as 7 yearsCall History: 1 roll calendar year. Invoice reprint: 7 years.Tower places as they associated to speak to History: 1 rolling calendar yearSMS Content: 3-5 daysTower Dumps: 1 rojo calendar yearRange come Tower (RTT) Data: Not available (technician proclaimed would be coming soon).

As you have the right to see, the retention periods and even the varieties of obtainable records space not uniform, make this kind of information crucial in both criminal and civil investigate alike. For records such together bill re-print, the information in this data will be far less than we normally see in traditional investigative cellular contact detail records, so i wouldn’t rely on this info for anything various other than simple communication documentation. Together a rule, i recommend checking v the provider an initial to watch if the data you’re in search of is tho available.

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Wrapping that Up

In the best hands and also in the heart of the holistic mobile investigation, cellular contact detail records can be a powerful piece of evidence to help confirm or refute a person’s location throughout a offered time framework or incident. However, the capacity to understand what varieties of data are available, how long the data is obtainable for and how come analyze and also explain the data is a critical intangible in any kind of case. Without that, it’s all simply one huge spreadsheet!

About Patrick Siewart

Patrick Siewert is the primary Consultant of pro Digital Forensic Consulting (www.ProDigital4n6.com), based in Richmond, Virginia. In 15 year of law enforcement, the investigated hundreds of high-tech crimes, incorporating digital forensics into the investigations, and was responsible because that investigating some of the greatest jury and plea bargain child exploitation investigate in Virginia court history. Patrick is a graduate that SCERS, BCERT, the Reid school of Interview & Interrogation and also multiple online investigation schools (among others). He continues to hone his digital forensic expertise in the exclusive sector while farming his consulting & investigation company marketed towards litigators, professional investigators and corporations, while maintaining in touch with the public safety ar as a regulation Enforcement Instructor.