I had a very interesting (and alarming) experience recently. It had to do with authenticating text messages. I had always thought that the way to authenticate a text message was fairly simple: You put the recipient on the stand and ask the following questions:
Did the owner of the phone and recipient of the texts ever see them displayed on the screen?
“Do you recognize the subject matter of this picture?” “Yes, it’s my cell phone.”
“How do you know it’s your cell phone?” “I was there when it was photographed.”
“Can you describe what is displayed on the phone?” “It’s a text message.”
“Were you the recipient of this text message?” “Yes.”
“Is it displayed on the phone here just as it was when you received it?” “Yes.”
“Is this a fair and accurate representation of the text message as it appeared on your phone?” “Yes.”
“Please read the text message for the Court.” “It says, ‘I want to touch you in a way that’s illegal in at least 11 states.'”
“Can you tell when the message was sent?” “Yes.”
“How?” “It’s displayed along with the message.”
“And when was it received?” “It was received on April 1, 2011, at 1:23 p.m., just as it says on the screen.”
And I was done.
But I was talking to a tech guy and he scared me. He took his phone and, in about 30 seconds, sent me a text from another person’s phone entirely. I’m not sure how he did it but I now know that it’s very easy to send texts to somebody while making it look as if the texts were coming from somebody else.