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Beyond Text Messages

The various forms of chat communications.

On a mobile device or computer, communications can exist across a variety of applications; IM and text messages are just the start of the potentially-relevant user messages. People hold conversations across forums, social media, game platforms, and team collaboration software. When seeking to preserve or analyze communications in a case, a digital forensics provider can help identify potentially crucial evidence.


Smart Phone Chat Apps

Searching for communications on a smartphone can be challenging due to the sheer number of apps available for messaging. A user may use more than one messaging app depending on the nature of their conversations or their privacy and feature needs. Some of these apps include:

  • Android Messages
  • Google Hangouts
  • iMessage
  • WhatsApp Messenger
  • Yahoo Messenger
  • WeChat
  • Line
  • KIK
  • Viber
  • Blackberry Messenger (BBM)
  • Telegram
  • Signal (encrypted SMS)
  • Skype
  • Slack
  • Yammer

Some chat apps are “cross-platform” and can be accessed through a desktop computer or browser session as well as through a smart phone.


Social Media


Some individuals use social media messaging more than text messaging. Social messaging artifacts from Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and more can reveal full conversations between individuals who may not have each other as phone contacts.

Dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble, Zoosk, OkCupid, and Grindr are another source of social media conversations beyond those that one would normally find in SMS messaging apps.




Game chats can occur on Android, iPhone, PC, Mac, tablets, PlayStation, Nintendo 3DS – nearly any smart device has some capacity for running multiplayer games or hosting player interactions.




Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a less popular but still well-used mode of digital communication. IRC chat distributes conversations across several connected servers by channel (like a “chat room”). When collecting IRC communications, investigators may have to subpoena several IRC network or server administrators for records on one user. Examples of IRC networks include freenode, QuakeNet, EFnet, and IRCNet.


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