Modern day hieroglyphs.

Depending on the age of the person using SMS messaging or receiving SMS messaging you may know what an emoji is.  If you do no know what an emjoi is let me give you first the description/definition and some examples.

Wikipedia:  Emoji (絵文字, or えもじ?); Japanese pronunciation: [emodʑi] is the Japanese term for the ideograms or smileys used in Japanese electronic messages and webpages. Originally meaning pictograph, the word literally means “picture” (e) + “letter” (moji).

Some examples of these from the iPhone emoji set:
iPhone emoji



So what do these little items have to do with SMS and more than one meaning.

Since SMS is utilized more than voice in today’s world we try to infer the meaning, the tone, the attitude of each and every SMS message.  These emojis can change the meaning of once thought benign SMS to fighting words in a blink of a smiley.

A perfect example would be a simple message sent from a colleague.

what was sent:          Hey, great job today!Thumb down

what was received:   Hey, great job today!

Now of course that is not the best example, but you as a receiver of this SMS message feel pretty good about how you performed (because you did not receive the emoji), but the actual sender thought differently.  Now lets think about this as a forensic examiner.  Could a message that is sent by a nefarious sender have a different meaning if your software cannot decode the iPhone emojis?

I am coming to get you!

I am coming to get you!

I am coming to get you!

Without a doubt the SMS messages have different meanings even with the same text content.  Which one would you like to take to court?  Most likely the one with the firearm, but what if the third is the only option as so many software solutions portray.

In AccessData’s MPE+ the iPhone emojis will display in the SMS readout to help portray the meaning of the SMS message.  Using MPE+ you can see exactly what emoji was used in the SMS message. and that can help explain what the sender was intending.  In the examples below you can see there are some messages that are just emojis.  What if your software is not displaying these for you?  You might miss the entire meaning behind the SMS, since it is none existent in your report!

As you can see in these simple examples MPE+ will display the emoji that was sent along with the message.

In today’s electronic discovery you must “see” the entire picture as it relates to communication.  Communication in the world today is done via portable devices via applications and SMS so you must be prepared to decipher the modern day hieroglyphs. Having a tool that can help makes that job just a little bit easier.

Lee Reiber

About Lee Reiber

Pioneering mobile device forensic examiner, consultant and trainer, software development innovator and former LE officer with the Boise Police Department
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