So, for this special Halloween installment of “My Favorite Artifacts,” let’s head down to Camp Crystal Lake and take a look at all the goodies that can be gleaned from .json files.
What Is JSON?
For those of you who might not be familiar with JSON, here’s a quick overview:
Put simply, JSON is an open-standard and language-independent text file format with notation designed to be “easy for humans to read and write” and “easy for machines to parse and generate.” In layman’s terms, JSON is designed to make it easy for humans to help machines do things for them quickly and with little effort.
JSON is very commonly used to communicate changes between mobile devices (or other computers) and servers. Because if you think about it, a really common task for smartphone applications is to query a server for some type of information, process that information, and then present it to the user. All of the changes made on the phone have to get back to the app’s server somehow, and JSON is a great way to make that happen.
If you look at a .json file, you won’t see anything complex. In fact, even if you’ve never heard of JSON schema or syntax before you started reading this article, you’ll find it startlingly easy to understand! That’s the beauty of it. JSON files contain metadata in a simply-laid-out text format.
Most programming languages understand and process JSON natively since it uses many of the same conventions in its syntax. As you might imagine, it’s a handy data-interchange format for programmers, especially mobile app developers.
Using JSON schema, a mobile or desktop app can very efficiently comprehend data from other sources, such as Google Maps, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, YouTube, Word Press, SQL databases, or any other external source it needs to function. Sweet! Right?
How is JSON Useful in Mobile Forensics?
As you can imagine, JSON has quite a lot of utility for programmers. In my experience though, it tends to be overlooked by forensic investigators. Most mobile forensics tools won’t seek it out or parse it, which means you’ll have to be proactive in your investigation if you want to reap its benefits. Here are some of the ways .json files can help in your iOS- or Android-based mobile investigations if you take the time to seek them out.