Think deleted text messages are gone forever? Think again

A former federal prosecutor and cybercrime expert tells CIO.com how IT departments can retrieve text messages that the user thought were deleted months or even years ago. As more litigation and investigations turn on the content of texts, every CIO needs to know how to find the smoking gun.

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Last month, National Football League special investigator Ted Wells delivered a shocking report about Miami Dolphins player Richie Incognito's bullying tactics aimed at teammate Jonathan Martin. At the heart of the report: More than 1,000 text messages, many of them outrageously explicit, that Incognito and Martin swapped between October 2012 and November 2013.

Deleted Text Messages

Wells most likely had access to both Martin's and Incognito's phones and possibly even backup laptops, which would hugely aid in the recovery of text messages. Yet some of these messages were no doubt deleted. How was Wells' investigative team able to access year-old deleted text messages?

For most CIOs, text messages on an employee's "bring your own device" phone are a blind spot. That is, text messages don't go through the corporate network and thus are unmonitored and presumed unrecoverable when deleted. Even phone companies supposedly don't store content of text messages.

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