July 21, 2022

Paul Luehr Addresses Text Message Deletion With National Public Radio

In an interview on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” privacy, cybersecurity and data strategy partner Paul Luehr discussed what happens when text messages are deleted.

“There’s a big difference between deleting and wiping a message,” explained Luehr. “When you delete a message as a normal consumer, the message is actually not gone. Think of it like a table of contents that’s been ripped out of a book. You might not be able to find the chapter page where that section of the book begins, but the story is still intact.”

When asked about the Secret Service’s saying messages were erased in a system migration, Luehr said, “That’s probably wiping. If you simply delete a text, they are still available. And there are common forensics tools used by both law enforcement and civil investigators to recover them.” He added that if messages or the phone have been wiped, “that’s a bigger problem because in that case, the underlying content has actually been zeroed out or overwritten, and therefore it’s no longer available, at least on that device. And that’s kind of what’s key here.”

Further, Luehr addressed the possibility of retrieving these messages by going to other people in the conversation and message ownership. He also weighed in on potential consequences since leaders of the January 6 Committee have stated that the Secret Service might have violated the Federal Records Act by deleting messages.

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