Debby Schamber – For The Record

In a recent Orange County Commissioners Court meeting, a request from Sheriff Keith Merritt was approved for the $5,995 purchase of software which will enable detectives to be one step closer to collecting the evidence needed in order to close a case.

The Oxygen Forensic Detective is a forensic software for the extraction and analysis of data from cell phones, smartphones and tablets. The advanced software permits the forensics investigator to extract much more data than what has been readily available in the past. Using the software leaves no traces of what was extracted and does not make any modifications to the device. The software is not available to the general public, but is distributed to law enforcement, government agencies, military, private investigators and other forensic specialists.

“It’s a very important tool for our department, ” Merritt said during the commissioner’s court meeting.

The software is used from a desktop application to the licensed user. Once the software is applied it can acquire data from more than 8,000 various devices such as Android, iPhones and more. However, some devices will still pose a problem for investigators, according to Janois Strause with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Although some devices may be more difficult, forensic analysts are prepared to face the challenges and pull as much data as they can.

“There are some phones that will be harder to get information from,” Strause said.

Extracted information includes contacts, calendar events, text messages, event logs, passwords and files. In addition, the user can also retrieve a wide range of deleted data. Apps and social networks such as Facebook are not excluded from the list of information which can be retrieved. The program can extract data from clouds such as iCloud, Google, Microsoft and more.

The program offers import and analysis of call data records. In addition, it can visualize common locations of several users.

 Photos can also be retrieved, even if they are deleted. A screen lock is not enough to keep investigators from getting into the device with the assistance of the program.

But, before the software is applied to a device, investigators must first receive consent from the owner of the device or a warrant so they can proceed, according to Strause.

On a federal level, this type of software has met some larger issues which some have proven to be quite controversial. Most of which has been about the large amount of data retrieved and not so much about individuals. Following 9/11 the federal government reacted by passing laws they thought would protect the people.

The Patriot Act was an act of Congress which was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001. The title is a ten-letter U.S.A. P.A.T.R.I.O.T which stands for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct the Terrorism Act of 2001.  In 2011 President Barack Obama signed the Patriot Sunsets Extension Act of 2011 which is a four year extension of three key provisions of the original act with some modifications such as roving wiretaps, searches of businesses and records.

 Following a lack of Congressional approval, parts of the Patriot Act expired in June 2015. With the passage of the USA Freedom Act immediately following the expiration, parts were restored and renewed through 2019. However, Section 215 of the law was amended to stop the National Security Agency from continuing its’ mass data phone collection program.  The NSA can only obtain information about targeted individuals with permission from a federal court with a warrant. Such is the case of local law enforcement which also must obtain a warrant from local judges. Search warrants were also expanded federally, with the Act amending Title III of the Stored Communications Access Act to allow the FBI to gain access to stored voicemail through a search warrant, rather than through the more stringent wiretap laws.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office does not have the software yet, but after it goes through the proper channels such as the purchasing department, they hope to have it soon.