The test phone we bought, along with a reflection of my iPhone taking the picture.
The test phone we bought, along with a reflection of my iPhone taking the picture.

Recovery Type: Mobile Phone
Internal Memory: 1.79GB
Manufacturer: LG
Model Name: Optimus Fuel
Operating System: Android
Carrier: TracFone
Model Number: L34C
Manufacture Date: 09/2014
Main Symptom: Locked out
Type of Data: Photos, text messages, contacts
Data Recovery Grade: 10

Background:

Although the majority of data recovery cases Gillware sees involve hard drives, the number of mobile device data recovery cases we’re seeing is on the rise. As people begin to rely on smart phones and tablets more and more, the amount of critical data stored on them increases and, like all storage devices, they will eventually fail. Worse yet, the portability of cell phones makes them less likely to be backed up and more likely to undergo a catastrophic failure. (Think drops, spills and water damage.)

In this case, the phone came to us through a law enforcement official that specializes in technical and forensic evidence to solve crimes. The phone was involved in a drug investigation, and had been used as a “burner“, or a cheap, prepaid and mostly untraceable phone. Since the model is uncommon, the software the detective usually used to unlock phones for evidence, called Cellebrite, was unable to do the job. So he reached out to Gillware to see if we could help.

tracfone2
The guts of the phone.

Evaluation:

Gillware has a high success rate recovering data from mobile devices. However, since this particular model was unfamiliar to our engineers, we purchased one of the exact same type to evaluate and verify that our recovery methods could be successful with the phone. After performing the test recovery, engineers determined that they would be able to perform the recovery on the locked phone.

Recovery:

tracfone3
The phone disassembled.

As with most of our mobile device recoveries, our engineers performed what’s known as a “chip off” in which they remove the flash memory chip from the phone and place it in a special adapter in order to retrieve the lost data.

tracfone4
The phone’s circuit board and eMCP memory chip.

Results:

After performing the chip off, we were able to get an image of the data on the phone that the detective was able to use with the Cellebrite software in order to retrieve the lost data from the locked phone.

This same method could be highly successful in other applications as well. If you are a law enforcement professional looking for forensic data recovery from mobile devices, get in touch with our recovery team.

 

Flip side of NAND memory chip, note the circuitry.
Flip side of eMCP memory chip, note the circuitry.
Front of the NAND memory chip, note the inscriptions.
Front of the eMCP memory chip, note the inscriptions.