General Question

chyna's avatar

Can deleted text messages be recovered by savvy IT people?

Asked by chyna (50802points) July 21st, 2022
9 responses
“Great Question” (4points)

I know emails can be, but what about texts?

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Caravanfan's avatar

Yes, of course they can.

Jeruba's avatar

In all cases (I think), it depends upon whether the data stored on the device (or on whatever it’s connected to) has been overwritten by newer data. But there’s the matter of backup, e.g., to the cloud. You’d think that highly sensitive government data, for instance, would be stored in duplicate or triplicate somewhere.

elbanditoroso's avatar

In general yes, but as always for questions like this, details matter.

More difficult to get them from Apple, somewhat less difficult to get them from Android phones. But that’s on the phone itself.

If you figure that any text message passes from your phone to your provider’s server, and from them to the recipients server, and finally to the receipient’s phone – any one of those intermediate steps could maintain logs of the message timestamp and (probably) the message itself.

And I assume that the NSA or some other government agency sucks up every message eveywhere that is sent in the US, and probably abroad. And I imagine they decrypt them along the way.

The trick on the last two—servers and government agencies – is that they wouldn’t admit anyway, and if you needed to find something important on an old message, there is no way for them to assist you on a one-on-one basis.

Good luck.

JLoon's avatar

There was a very good discussion on NPR’s afternoon news about just this question. Specifically regarding texts erased by Secret Service agents following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot :

“Can deleted text messages actually be retrived?”,the%20story%20is%20still%20intact.

The interview featured comments by a former Justice Department cybercrimes expert. Bottom line is it depends on whether messages were only deleted, or “wiped” from a device.

Zaku's avatar

Also on who provided the cell service, and whether the SS’ phones can be traced to the provider’s records, and whether the providers have some agreement to wipe those records, or not.

gorillapaws's avatar

It’s weird to think about the Secret Service using AT&T (or Verizon, etc.) wireless plans. I picture them using some hardened, NSA-approved military-supplied service for all of their communications related to the POTUS and banning civilian wireless providers from the premises by agents while on duty or near the POTUS.

It sounds like reality is very different from how I imagined things in my head.

@JLoon‘s link was insightful. It sounds like a “maybe.”

jca2's avatar

Yes, with a warrant.

SnipSnip's avatar

Every conversation and text is recoverable from the carrier. Should take a subpoena but the big ones are rumored to giver Congress anything it wants. So the answer is “Who wants the info?”

RayaHope's avatar

Yes so watch what you write.

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