Text messages can hold crucial evidence that can make or break a case, and the deletion of these messages can pose a significant challenge. But fear not, fellow professionals! This blog aims to educate on recovering deleted text messages, shedding light on the methods and tools available to attorneys in preserving this evidence.

Forensic Tools
These types of apps are at the top of the evidentiary food chain, and can also be successful in efforts to recover deleted text messages. Preserving and reviewing digital evidence requires adherence to protocols- both court-tested tools and forensic methodologies, to ensure that the evidence maintains its integrity. Apps like Cellebrite, Oxygen, XRY and others are used to acquire, preserve, analyze, report and produce digital evidence. I would hate to try to explain in a legal proceeding why I went with a different option.

The Backup and Restore Approach
But depending on the need, there are other options! Another method to recover deleted text messages is through backups. Many smartphones provide built-in backup systems that store data, including text messages. By restoring from a backup, you can retrieve lost messages, ensuring crucial evidence is preserved. For iPhone users, iCloud serves as a key resource, while Android users can utilize Google Drive or third-party apps for backups. One time we recovered over 200k messages from a client’s iCloud account. It is essential to educate clients about the significance of regular backups and the potential impact on their case. When we do a cell phone collection, we will often do an iTunes backup as well as pull down the data in iCloud . . . belt and suspenders!

Third-Party Applications
In some instances, third-party applications specializing in text message recovery can be engaged. Note that these are not for presenting in court, but for $40, they can do a quick phone dump if the forensic approach is unnecessary. Tools like Dr.Fone, iMobie PhoneRescue, iMazing and Enigma Recovery can scan devices or backup files to retrieve deleted messages. These applications offer user-friendly interfaces and some even provide free trial versions. Again, it is crucial for lawyers to exercise caution when using non-forensic applications to maintain data integrity and security.

Collaboration with Service Providers
When all else fails, lawyers can turn to service providers as a last resort. Telecommunication companies retain text message records for a specific duration. (Which is often too short to be useful!) Formally requesting the retrieval of deleted messages can provide valuable evidence. It is advisable to act promptly as data retention periods can vary, and delays may complicate the process.

The preservation of evidence is paramount, and recovering deleted text messages can prove invaluable. But to be clear, this is no slam dunk. But by utilizing forensic tools, backup systems, third-party applications, and collaborating with service providers, lawyers can enhance their ability to gather crucial evidence for their cases.