January 25, 2007

New Connecticut-Based Company Specializes in Cell Phone Forensics

By Chris Bosak, The Hour, Norwalk, Conn.

Jan. 25--NORWALK -- It is far more difficult and confusing for investigators to extract potential important information from cell phones than from computers. Perhaps that is why cell phone forensics is only now catching on as a valuable law enforcement tool.

Teel Technologies, a new Norwalk company, is at the forefront of the movement in the United States.

"Our dedication to cell phone forensics is unparalleled," said company founder Bill Teel from his Knight Street office this week. "We try to make sense of this confusing, ever-changing industry."

Teel Technologies provides solutions for law enforcement professionals who investigate wireless devices, such as cell phones, and also offers network analysis and secure communication devices such as CryptoPhones. The company's clients include the U.S. Navy, FBI and several police departments.

Teel Technologies also launched earlier this month www.MobileForensicsCentral.com, a free Web site that assists digital forensics examiners by allowing them to search for tools that will search specific cell phone models.

Teel, a Norwalk resident, started Teel Technologies after working in the industry for several years for a European company. He said cell phone forensics is much more common and advanced in Europe and the U.S. is playing catch-up.

"It's becoming more and more relevant," he said. "Investigators didn't realize how much information you can get from a cell phone."

As an example, Teel said cell phone forensics provided important clues after the 2004 train bombings in Madrid. The bombs, he said, were detonated by cell phones; however one bomb failed to explode and the attached phone provided vital information in the case.

Teel runs the company along with Tim Sullivan, who joined Teel from a career in high-tech boat sales. His wife, Julia Formichella, helped launched www.MobileForensicsCentral.com.

The Web site allows users to search a variety of phone brands and models for compatible forensic software tools. It also serves as source of information on current industry news and software update announcements.

"The site enables analysts to quickly identify which tools will examine a particular phone, as well as what information the tools will provide," Teel said. "Considering how quickly mobile devices are evolving, updates are issued all the time from the mobile forensic solution providers. Our job is stay on top of the industry's evolution."

Examining a cell phone, Teel said, is not like examining a computer.

Personal computers have three dominant operating systems, and "you know what you're getting," he said. "With cell phones, each manufacturer has its own system, so it's a moving target for examiners, which is often frustrating.

Our goal is to help the emerging industry along by easing the effort."

Depending on the cell phone brand and model, software may extract information such as call logs, text messages, pictures, documents and phone books. Teel said law enforcement investigators find picture extraction to be particularly useful. He added that pay-as-you-go phones are popular with criminals as they are difficult, if not impossible, to trace back to the owner.

"It's not one size fits all," Sullivan said about extracting information from cell phones.

Teel was increasingly frustrated at his prior job because no company had aggregated the solutions to the various cell phone models. With Teel Tech and MobileForensicsCentral. com, he believes he has done it.

"I wanted to create this tool to help investigators determine what tool he needs," Teel said. "We represent 85 percent of the tools and software that will perform forensics on phones and what data it will extract. We're the only company aggregating the tools. To offer a comprehensive set of tools is the best way to support the industry.

"We launched the site only a few weeks ago and we've already received a lot of comments about how helpful it is."


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