In the DEA case, Tarantula acquired evidence from three Chinese knock-off (“white-box”) cell phones seized from the suspect. The system acquired previously deleted data such as text messages and contacts from the devices and, possibly most valuable, was the acquisition of user PIN lock codes, allowing investigators to unlock SIM cards that provided further evidence. The LAPD investigator on the case explained, “Without [Tarantula], valuable information to further tie the suspects together would not have been found. eDEC's advanced technology and Chinese chipset knowledge proved invaluable in this case.”
Cheap, knock-off phones being exported from China to international markets have long frustrated forensic investigators. The absence of industry standards makes them time consuming and sometimes impossible to analyze. This has made the inexpensive phones a favorite of criminals, including terrorists, gang bangers, and organized smugglers.
Tarantula was originally developed for use in China where law enforcement first encountered the knock-off cell phone problem. But with China exporting hundreds of millions of phones every year to international markets, the system is now in high demand by both western law enforcement and the military.
eDEC employs a technical team in Beijing to constantly scour the market for new devices turning-up in markets there to keep the tool up-to-date in one of the fastest growing industries in the world.
Manufacturers of cell phone analysis tools often tout the number of phone models their systems can analyze as the measure of their efficacy. By that standard Tarantula analyzes tens of thousands of models — more than any tool in the world.
“To talk about Chinese phones in terms of models is senseless because there are so many variants,” says Ryan Judy , the company's Sales Manager. “We measure our tool by the number of chip sets we can access and decode,” referring to the sets of memory chips manufactured and sold to phone developers by Taiwanese companies such as Mediatek, Spreadtrum and Infineon that are the platforms around which these phones are designed.
China 's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology(MIIT) reported that a record 700 million cell phones were produced from January to August in 2011, up 19% from last year. Tarantula supports the vast majority of these phones.
These phones are now found nearly everywhere in the world and as the chips become more powerful and more reliable they are finding their way into branded phones, including some phones from familiar names like Motorola and Lenovo.