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Smart phones call for even smarter forensics

Digital forensics unit gravatarEach day, there are at least 10 times more mobile devices being produced in the world than babies being born (Global). Recent research conducted by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Special Investigations Department examined such growth in mobile technology, its uses within the workers’ compensation realm, and its future implications on fraud investigations. Mobile devices are projected to be the most common way Americans access the Internet by 2015, with a compound annual growth rate of 16.6% according to the International Data Corporation (DeGrasse). 

The health information field is leading the growth, with investment in companies that make health information mobile apps rising 78% in 2011 to $766 million (Edney; Bloomberg). In 2012, nearly 420 million smart phones and 44 million tablets will ship worldwide (Canalys). With smart phones and tablets increasingly being used to perform work previously done on a laptop or PC, the workers’ compensation system can expect to see increased use of mobile devices and applications in the daily activities of its healthcare providers, employers, and workers.

Taking advantage of recent trends, the BWC formulary went mobile in April 2012, allowing healthcare professionals immediate access to a formulary at the point of care and helping to ensure prescription safety and accuracy. Epocrates, Inc., available through app stores, can also be utilized by employers and workers. Another app, called PillManager, boasts of “unparalleled connectivity between consumer and pharmacy” where consumers can track their own medications and submit a repeat request for any prescription directly from their handheld device.

Mobile devices can be used outside of the healthcare realm, however, with apps aiding employers and workers during work activities. The U.S. Department of Labor and OSHA teamed up to allow worksite heat index tracking in order to reduce heat-related illnesses for workers outdoors. Using GPS data and information from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration the app addresses risk levels and advises of rest breaks, fluid consumption, and adjustment of work operations. The NIOSH Lift Calculator app is also within the public domain, utilizing real-time feedback to reduce lower-back injuries; the app uses variables, such as horizontal distance, to calculate stress on the lower back during lifts.

Conversely, workers’ comp officials are concerned that injury exposure may grow as more workers go mobile – 2012 is expected to see nearly 35 million people working from home or other locations (Simpson). Mobile devices, although helpful in many realms, can prove to be a dangerous distraction while walking or driving; if the devices are owned by the employer, injuries while using such devices may present unclear compensability situations.

Mobile phones are being used in virtually all levels of criminal activity, making it easier for investigators to use mobile technology as incriminating evidence in an investigation. Personal surveillance has evolved with social media and mobile technology; as a result, officials can conduct investigations through “open source intelligence”. It has become common for investigators to identify false worker’s comp claims from social media websites like Facebook and Twitter documenting able-bodied activity (Newberry).

In addition, mobile applications create a full electronic audit trail enabling the tracking of people and transactions in both space and time. Within workers’ compensation, claims data can be correlated with information from apps to identify “hotspots” of activity at different pharmacies; problem pharmacies or providers can be identified and investigated more quickly (Savitz; Forbes).

Mobile technology, although helpful in a variety of field investigative aspects, can prove to be a challenge to a digital forensic examiner. The number of operating systems is much greater for mobile devices (>10) than for desktops (3) and each OS differs from the next in the way data is stored and security is provided. DFE’s must have the knowledge and tools to access information from each type of OS. In addition, the move to mobile technology has increased the use of cloud data storage, making it commonplace; Strategy Analytics forecasts U.S. spending on cloud services to grow $50 billion by 2016. Digital evidence has shifted to the cloud, where information may be found in multiple places and on a variety of platforms; also, data processing is decentralized in the Cloud, with a lack of physical access to servers (Grispos, Glisson, & Storer). As a result, traditional approaches to evidence collection are void Investigators must identify that an individual is using the cloud, obtain a search warrant, and overcome the final obstacle that current digital forensics tools are intended for media that is under the investigator’s control. As the transition is made to mobile device storage, investigators must be ready to make the change to better (and more expensive) technology for digital forensics labs.

As technology changes, the BWC Special Investigations Department continues to change its investigative efforts.  While the majority of people use technology to improve business operations or enhance communication, we are prepared to investigate those that use these types of technologies to commit fraud against the Ohio BWC.

To report suspected workers’ compensation fraud, call 1-800-OHIOBWC, visit ohiobwc.com, or visit www.facebook.com/ohiobwcfraud.

Sources:

Apple App Stores. Available from: http://www.apple.com/iphone/from-the-app-store or http://www.apple.com/ipad/from-the-app-store; 2012 [accessed 06.26.12]

“App stores; direct revenue to exceed $14 billion next year and reach close to $37 billion by 2015.” Canalys. Available from: http://www.canalys.com /newsroom/app-stores-direct-revenue-exceed-14-billion-next-year-and-reach-close-37-billion-2015; 2012 [accessed 06.26.12]

DeGrasse, M. “Mobile devices projected to overtake PCs as connections to Internet.” RCR Wireless. Available from: http://www.rcrwireless.com /blog/20110912/devices/mobile-devices-projected-to-overtake-pcs-as-connections-to-internet/; 2012 [accessed 06.26.12]

Edney, A. “iPad-toting doctors spur venture funding in medical apps.” Bloomberg Report. Available from: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-18/oprah-aids-doctors-as-app-investments-soar-health.html; 2012 [accessed 6.26.12]

Grispos, G., Glisson, W., & Storer, T. “Calm before the storm: the emerging challenges of cloud computing in digital forensics.” 2009. [accessed 06.26.12]

Hobson, E. “Securing the cloud: digital investigations for the cloud.” Qinetiq. 2010. [accessed 06.26.12]

Newberry, L. “Social media footprint helps Pa. investigators.” Officer.com. Available from: http://www.officer.com/news/10731208/social-media-footprint-helps-pa-investigators; 2012 [accessed 06.26.12]

Ohio BWC Web. [accessed 06.26.12]

Savitz, E. “5 ways mobile apps will transform healthcare.” Forbes. Available from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/06/04/5-ways-mobile-apps-will-transform-healthcare/; 2012 [accessed 06.26.12]

Simpson, A. “As more workers go mobile, workers’ compensation exposure grows.” Insurance Journal. Available from: http://www.insurancejournal.com /news/national/2011/06/01/200720.htm; 2012 [accessed 06.26.12]

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