It seems like with each day that passes by, new information about the Jussie Smollett Attack/Hoax comes out. For even the most well thought out plans, it’s practically impossible to get away with any sort of crime without being discovered by today’s technology. Between eye witnesses, security cameras, and cell phone activity, a story can quickly be proven incorrect. In Jussie Smollett’s case, one of the first things that was asked of him was to turn over his phone. When he refused, that was the first sign that everything might not be as it seemed. Here are some of things that the police might have been interested in on his phone:
GPS tracking or check ins. iPhones track your frequently visited locations and place you in certain areas with a timestamp. Had he gone to this location to scout out the security cameras beforehand?
WiFi connections. Had his phone automatically connected to different WiFi connections on the night of the attack or in the days leading up to it? Possibly at the brothers apartment, his own apartment, restaurants, etc.
Text messages. Had he planned this attack through text? Had he texted the brothers about times and places to meet? Had he texted his manager? Had he been texting anyone leading up to the attack?
Photos. Had he taken any photos of the location or the supplies to send to his potential “attackers.” Photos also may have location-based metadata.
Search history. Had he looked up places that he knew had security cameras? Had he googled the supplies, like bleach or a rope?
Call history. Jussie Smollett’s biggest “alibi” was that he was on the phone with his manager during the attack. The phone would show if that was true, when the call was made, and how long it lasted.
Credit card purchases. Had he bought these supplies using a credit card, or had he reimbursed the two brothers using Apple Pay or Venmo?
Apps. Ultimately what led the police to the brothers that “attacked” Jussie was the GPS tracking device from a Lyft ride they had taken from the area. Even if your own phone’s location services are turned off, you are always surrounded by other people that have theirs on. In this case, the Lyft service.
The reason that Jussie said he did not want to hand his phone over to authorities was for fear of personal photos leaking, because he was famous, and also that he could not be without his phone for a long period of time. But that’s not what would have happened had our team been in charge of collecting the forensic data from his phone. The process for us would have been:
- Scoping call with attorney to give us an overview of the project. What are we looking for? Where do we suspect this data is located?We work with the attorney to get a carefully crafted protocol with protective measures.
- Get the phone from attorney. Make a cloned image of the phone so that the client can have it back. This process if relatively short and can be done within a couple of hours.
- Analyze the data based on what was asked of us. We will not be looking at random app history, texts, or photos that are not part of the search, and we definitely wouldn’t share them with the public.
- Report back findings to the attorney, and discuss if there are any other items that need to be addressed.
- Expert testimony in court, if requested.
Had Jussie turned his phone over at the beginning, his story could have been corroborated or disproven right away and saved a lot of people money and effort. We will be interested to see how digital forensics is used in the case if and when it goes to trial.