Wearable Forensics

Smart Watches Can Solve Crimes

This semester, The Senator Patrick Leahy Center for Digital Investigation at Champlain College (LCDI) is continuing research from the spring of 2016 about wearable technology and the impact devices like the Apple Watch and Fitbit have on forensic investigations. The team hopes to create a guide law enforcement and forensic analysts can use to find information that could aid a criminal investigation. This could include data on the user’s location, movement, heart rate, and more.

Why Wearables?

These devices have exploded in popularity in recent years, with over 102 million wearable smart devices sold in 2016. As a result, forensic investigators and law enforcement have used data from these devices, especially Fitbit, to aid investigations and prosecute criminals in homicide cases.

Despite these successes, there is still little information available on how to pull information from the wearable devices themselves. Most often, investigations utilize data pulled from the paired phones or the account information stored in the cloud. The research team at the LCDI hopes to directly image the devices and see what information is available. This would provide a standard for cases where the phone isn’t available or information can’t be released by the company.

However, if the team is unable to pull information directly from the wearable devices, they will continue the research from the 2016 wearables team and investigate data available on the paired phones and information stored by the company in the cloud. These devices and accounts include various different databases with valuable information that can aid in criminal investigations.

Four Devices to Test

The team will work with four smart watches with fitness capabilities: the Samsung Galaxy Watch, the Fitbit Versa, the Garmin Fenix 5, and the Apple Watch Series 4.  These four devices are the top smartwatches currently available. This week, the team began with datagen for the Galaxy Watch and the Fitbit Versa. This included testing the movement and heart rate sensors, GPS, and third party applications. Beyond testing each device as a smart watch, a team member took the first two devices home for a night. Check back on the team’s next blog post to see what artifacts they were able to find!