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Blog - How Device Backlogs and Lack of Digital Forensic Expertise are Causing Law Enforcement to Outsource Digital Forensics

Blog - How Device Backlogs and Lack of Digital Forensic Expertise are Causing Law Enforcement to Outsource Digital Forensics

As examiners everywhere know, dealing with a backlog of lawfully seized digital devices in the search for key evidence is a critical challenge. With devices stuck in backlog storage, key data can’t be accessed and the path to justice is lengthened indefinitely.

In Britain alone, more than 20,000 devices are stuck in such backlogs, and that number doesn’t include devices waiting to be accessed in the UK’s two largest police forces – Manchester and London. Those figures made headlines earlier this year revealing the shocking number of computers, tablets, and phones awaiting examination across 32 forces.

The backlog figure has significantly climbed higher than the 12,000-device backlog in 2020 and 14,000 in 2021, clearly indicating the continued lack of resources available to properly access and analyze data that is holding back prosecutions.

Simon Kempton, the technology lead for the Police Federation of England and Wales, said, “The fact the number of digital devices waiting to be analyzed has not budged from last year shows how overwhelmed investigators are with the sheer volume of digital evidence. Forces are struggling to attract new detectives which is resulting in mounting workloads.

“There is also a need for forces to invest in technology which can help speed up this process by extracting and sorting this data automatically. Having the extracted data is one thing, but analyzing possibly hundreds of pieces of potential evidence from just one device once you’ve obtained it is quite another, taking a significant amount of time and skill – so we not only need to bring the number of detectives back up, but we also need to enhance their digital forensics skills.”

Cellebrite’s 2022 Industry Survey Confirms Trends

Kempton’s comments are confirmed by the findings of Cellebrite’s 2022 Industry Trends Survey for Law Enforcement which found that:

  • 51% of surveyed examiners agreed that case backlogs climbed in the past year
  • 49% of investigators defined themselves as being either average or poorly equipped to keep up with crimes
  • 14% of investigators stated they are not well equipped at all

Challenges, such as locked devices, remain a big problem for forensic labs: on average, 66% of devices that reach the lab are locked, compared with 57% in 2021.

Many examiners reported that their labs do have advanced digital forensic tools to unlock devices, however, 14% noted that when faced with a locked device, they simply exclude it – potentially missing crucial evidence. The reason is simply either a lack of qualified staff or lab workers not having enough time to carry out the unlocking and extraction of data.

Download the 2022 Industry Trends Survey for Law Enforcement here

Vast Number of Digital Devices and Amount of Data Generated

97% of Americans own a cellphone of some kind, while the share of Americans that own a smartphone is 85%, up from just 35% in Pew Research Center’s first survey of smartphone ownership in 2011.

In addition, about three-quarters of U.S. adults now own a desktop or laptop computer, while roughly half own a tablet computer.

This vast number of phones, digital devices, and the data they generate mean that agencies often must go to out-of-state forensics labs to access, collect, and analyze the data, causing additional delays to investigations.

Globally, the smartphone penetration rate as a share of the world’s population is estimated at around 80%, meaning agencies across the globe require cutting-edge solutions to overcome the current challenges of accessing new devices and making sense of encrypted data.

Cellebrite Solutions for Dealing with Backlogs

Zohar Avgar, VP of Advanced Services, says, “Cellebrite offers powerful solutions for agencies attempting to deal with growing backlogs. Our suite of Digital Intelligence solutions is aimed at providing technology to optimize their time and resources to deal with cases.

In addition, we provide outsource services where Cellebrite can do the work for law enforcement organizations to help them solve their cases faster and extend their capacity. Taken together, these solutions can act as a force multiplier to achieve more with fewer agency resources.”

These solutions and services include capabilities such as:

  • Bringing resilience to digital data examinations with Physical Analyzer Ultra (PA Ultra)
  • Gaining access to data on iOS and high-end Android devices with Premium, now affordable for agencies of all sizes
  • Outsourcing any digital device to a Cellebrite Advanced Services (CAS) lab to reduce backlogs
  • Expert training provided by Cellebrite professionals with years of law enforcement experience featuring a range of instructor-led, live online, and on-demand courses designed to fit your budgets and needs

Cellebrite Labs are Here to Assist

In cases where departments need to outsource devices to decrease their backlogs and/or need specialized expertise to solve a particularly difficult case, Cellebrite Advanced Services labs can help via 10 labs across the globe.

In June 2015, CAS was the first such service in the world to provide unlocking and data collection services for iOS devices, long considered to be the most difficult technical challenge in mobile security. This allowed considerable numbers of investigations to move forward.

CAS supports customers with thousands of cases each year by gaining access to almost any Android or iOS device on the market thanks to unique breakthrough solutions developed by Cellebrite’s top-level security research labs.

CAS has state-of-the-art technology, experts, and time-saving processes to provide digital forensics services as an extension of an agency’s labs. This year CAS expanded its offering to help agencies reduce backlogs for locked devices and unlocked or known-passcode devices requiring extraction and reporting.


Law enforcement professionals are facing major challenges, but with the right investigative solutions, what might have taken weeks or months to resolve manually can now be done in minutes, freeing up key personnel to concentrate on more complex cases.

Contact us now to discover how Cellebrite can transform your investigations.

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