Supporting the Prosecutor’s Office Is Their Priority: Mexico’s Jalisco State Forensic Investigators Manage Nine-fold Increase in Digital Evidence With Cellebrite Solutions
Emmanuel Hernandez Gomez is coordinator of information technology for the Instituto Jalisciense de Ciencias Forenses (IJCF), a department of the Jalisco, Mexico state government that provides expert opinions on forensic disciplines in support of the Jalisco state prosecutor’s office.
Hernandez and his 10 forensic technology colleagues receive devices from various state prosecutors’ offices to analyze using Cellebrite solutions. Many of the cases his team works on involve kidnappings or people disappearing, unfortunately common in Mexico—or cases of domestic abuse.
“We spend part of our workdays dealing with the requests for expert reports that come to us on a daily basis,” Hernandez explained. “The requests usually come accompanied by cell phones or computers, or else they’re requests from the district attorney’s office to go out and collect digital evidence, either from here in the city of Guadalajara, from somewhere in the metropolitan area, or from a city in the interior of Jalisco.”
“On a daily basis, Cellebrite solutions help us move cases forward”
To date in 2020, for domestic violence cases that come to the IJCF, Hernandez and his team have captured and preserved digital evidence from nine times as many devices as they handled in 2019. The forensic experts’ knowledge of managing Digital Intelligence helps them keep up with the influx of devices. (Digital Intelligence is the data that is captured and preserved from digital sources and data types—smartphones, computers, and the Cloud—and the process by which agencies access, manage, and analyze data to efficiently run their operations.)
Contributing Truth to Investigations
Hernandez recalled the moments where he first fell in love with forensics, once he’d obtained his master’s degree in computer science and first began working for IJCF.
“I realized that when a crime is committed and one of the likely suspects or even the victim used digital devices before or during the crime, there could be information that would help inform the investigation that could either help to convict or free this person,” Hernandez said. “Knowing that there was information there that we could analyze and present, and that we could contribute truth to the investigation, has convinced all of us who are dedicating ourselves to forensics.”
Forensic investigators spend a significant amount of time examining and analyzing evidence in cases involving abuse of women by their partners. Nearly every day, the IJCF fields as many as six cases involving sextorsion, abuse and domestic violence. The women file their complaints at the Center for Justice for Women (CJM); if the cases involve evidence stored on smartphones, such as audio and video files or instant-messaging app conversations, the devices are turned over to IJCF for review.
The number of devices analyzed by the forensic team has increased dramatically, particularly devices involved in crimes of partner abuse. In 2019, only 40 devices were processed; from January to November 2020, 376 devices were processed, a nine-fold increase.
“The experts on my team process the device, and we deliver to the prosecution specifically what they ask for,” Hernandez explained. “Sometimes it’s just an audio recording, sometimes it’s a few videos, or a whole WhatsApp conversation that clearly establishes that the woman is being threatened, even receiving death threats or threats of harm to their children.”
Taking Care Of Evidence
It’s critical that IJCF’s forensic investigators manage evidence carefully according to protocols established by the state prosecutor’s office. For example, Hernandez and his colleagues, must identify the source of any evidence, preserve the integrity of content, and clearly document the procedures followed. Cellebrite solutions such as UFED 4PC and Physical Analyzer help the team adhere to requirements such as selected extractions.
“In cases of domestic violence and sextorsion, the prosecution already knows what’s on the cell phone that will help them in their investigation,” Hernandez said. “With other types of cases—like homicide or kidnapping—they ask us to get everything, so we send a report of everything the device contains, like deleted information, location data, and deleted images.”
To help law enforcement in nearby countries sharpen their skills, especially in using Cellebrite solutions, the IJCF teamed up with the Chilean Investigative Police (PDI) on Valparaiso Brigada Ciber for a cross-border training project sponsored by the economic Fund México – Chile. The objective was to obtain advanced certifications from the Cellebrite Training.
“We shared knowledge with the police who, on a day-to-day basis, ask us for various expert opinions in matters of forensic computation, about what their requests entail, the effort that must be made, the complications that we face, and even certain legal aspects that they were unaware of regarding digital evidence,” Hernandez said.
The rapid increase in devices that investigators must analyze helped make the IJCF’s Cellebrite deployment a must-have.
“On a daily basis, Cellebrite solutions help us move cases forward,” Hernandez says. We can better respond to investigators who need the Digital Intelligence we can provide.”