Identity modules (commonly known as SIM cards or UICC) are used with mobile devices that
interoperate with GSM cellular networks. Under the GSM framework, a mobile device is referred to as a Mobile Station and is partitioned into two distinct components: the UICC and the Mobile Equipment (ME). A UICC is commonly referred to as an identity module (e.g., Subscriber Identity Module [SIM], Universal Subscriber Identity Module [USIM], CDMA Subscriber Identity Module [CSIM]), is a removable component that contains essential information about the subscriber. The ME and the radio handset portion cannot fully function without a UICC. The UICC’s main purpose is to authenticate the mobile device user to the network providing access to subscribed services. The UICC also offers storage for personal information, such as phonebook entries, text messages, last numbers dialed (LND), and service-related information.

A preset number of attempts (usually three) are allowed for providing the correct PIN code to the UICC before further attempts are blocked completely, rendering communications inoperative. Only by providing a correct PIN Unblocking Key (PUK) may the PIN value and its counter be reset on the UICC. If the number of attempts to enter the correct PUK value exceeds a set limit, normally ten, the card becomes blocked permanently. The PUK for a UICC may be obtained from the service provider or network operator by providing the identifier of the UICC (i.e., Integrated Circuit Chip Identifier or ICCID). The ICCID is normally imprinted on the front of the UICC but may also be read from an element of the file system.

Due to the GSM 11.111 standard, mobile device forensic tools designed to extract data from a UICC either internally or with an external Personal Computer/Smart Card (PC/SC) reader should properly acquire, decode, and present data in a human-readable format. A limited amount of information may be stored on UICCs such as Abbreviated Dialing Numbers (ADNs), Last Numbers Dialed (LND), SMS messages, subscriber information (e.g., IMSI), and location information (i.e., Location Information [LOCI], General Packet Radio Service Location [GPRSLOCI]).


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