Grand Theft App: Digital Forensics of Vehicle Assistant Apps

Simon Ebbers, Fabian Ising, Christoph Saatjohann, Sebastian Schinzel

Due to the increasing connectivity of modern vehicles, collected data is no longer only stored in the vehicle itself but also transmitted to car manufacturers and vehicle assistant apps. This development opens up new possibilities for digital forensics in criminal investigations involving modern vehicles. This paper deals with the digital forensic analysis of vehicle assistant apps of eight car manufacturers. We reconstruct the driver's activities based on the data stored on the smartphones and in the manufacturer's backend. For this purpose, data of the Android and iOS apps of the car manufacturers Audi, BMW, Ford, Mercedes, Opel, Seat, Tesla, and Volkswagen were extracted from the smartphone and examined using digital forensic methods in accordance with lawful government-approved forensics guidelines. Additionally, manufacturer data was retrieved using Subject Access Requests. Using the extensive data gathered, we successfully reconstruct trips and refueling processes, determine parking positions and duration, and track the locking and unlocking of the vehicle. These findings show that the digital forensic investigation of smartphone applications is a useful addition to vehicle forensics and should therefore be taken into account in the strategic preparation of future digital forensic investigations.

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