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Is the Cloud Making Mobile Device Data Recovery More Difficult?

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on September 09, 2016 1:58 PM

A few years ago, your "smoking gun" was likely to show up as a "smoking email," some sort of electronic document, probably found on a single computer, giving essential information in civil litigation, criminal inquiries, or internal investigations. Today, those electronic documents still remain essential, but they've expanded from the smoking email to the smoking text message, or even the smoking Snapchat.

But as information from mobile devices (cell phones, tablets, and the like) has become increasingly important, developments in cloud computing are making accessing that information ever more difficult. Here's why.

Cloud-Based Headaches

Thanks to the cloud and other technological developments, data on a mobile device is no longer confined to that device. Mobile data can be found in many different locations -- from carrier cell tower information, to email servers, to the phone or tablet itself, to all the various apps that store user information on their own servers.

And the more that cloud services are making it easy to move data from one device onto the cloud, the more that collecting such data is becoming "a time-consuming challenge," writes Deloitte's Michael Weil in Legaltech News. He continues:

Another vexing, cloud-related issue arises from the many mobile device text and chat applications, particularly those used in regions of the world that have popular applications that are uncommon in the United States. The breadth of mobile device cloud applications, each with their own vagaries, can add time and expense to data identification and forensic collections.

Making It Better With MDMs

Mobile device management systems, or MDMs, may provide a partial solution. These systems allow an organization to control and track their mobile devices, making the recovery of relevant data easier. Easier, but not foolproof, for even the best MDMs have limitations. Again, Weil:

The MDM limitations, in some instances, are mobile operating system-based-that is, the MDM does not fully interoperate with the particular operating system on the device. In other cases, limitations are application-based-the MDM does not interoperate with the specific application.

For example, an MDM may be able to capture text messages from one system, such as Apple's iMessage service, but not through the WhatsApp app. And the more data that's held on multiple, outside clouds, the harder that information will be to access, no matter how sophisticated the MDM. Which is to say, a good management system will make data collection better, but we're still far from having a comprehensive solution that can ease mobile and cloud-based data recovery.

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