MD5 Case Study: Flash Memory Chip Removal Water Damaged Phone

Case Brief

A Blackberry Bold 9790 mobile phone was submitted by the client in an attempt to explain the disappearance of a young man. The handset was found in the sea at the foot of a cliff. The IMEI number of the phone identified that it had belonged to the missing person. The handset had been submersed in salt water for several weeks.

It was not possible to power the handsets on or perform forensic extractions in the condition received.


Analysis and Examination

Assessment by the analyst determined the handset would not power on safely (and highly unlikely it would power on at all) so it was disassembled.
Due to the damage to the motherboard, neither JTAG nor ISP techniques would work on this model so our Analyst opted for a chip removal process and a direct read of the memory chip to get a full ‘physical download’ or binary dump of the device.


As a precaution, our Analyst also specially prepared the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) to ensure the chip would not be further compromised during the chip removal process. The device and components were cleaned and dried using specialist forensic techniques to ensure clean contact with the pins and to maximise the chances of a positive data dump.

Prior to cleaning, neither the 16GB memory card or SIM card would read but this process enabled a full download of data from both components.



The chip was successfully removed, cleaned up, prepared under a microscope and then read using specialist hardware. The acquired data was decoded and text messages, photos and other key data were found on the handset which gave our client and the victim’s family some important insight into what may have happened immediately prior to the phone being lost.


Download as PDF flyer

  • “MD5 supported my family and I to retrieve personal information in tragic circumstances. Their care, compassion and professionalism made a huge difference to us. Personal and genuine help when we needed it most.”

  • “We all appreciate the support and help you and MD5 have provided us.  Your software and customer service help considerably in our forensic work; particularly in the preparation of evidence in a user friendly way. - A North East Police Force