Israeli tech company Cellebrite, based in Petah Tikva and specialising in getting access to mobile phone data, has claimed on its website it has a solution “to unlock and extract crucial mobile phone evidence” from all iPhones and many Android-based devices, including flagship Samsungs.
The company marketed one of its products in this way. It promises clients to get “a full file system extraction” on any iOS and many high-end Android phones and pads, as well as a physical extraction for the latter.
The description says it can harvest not only 3rd party app data, chat conversations, downloaded emails and attachments, but also deleted content. According to the firm, the system is designed for law enforcement agencies and will allow them to increase “chances of finding the incriminating evidence and bringing your case to a resolution.”
As The Times of Israel points out, to hack a phone Cellebrite users have to plug a specially designed device into the target phone or tablet.
Technology such as Cellebrite, which infiltrates data, including messages sent over encrypted applications like Signal or WhatsApp, can be used by authorities in the US to get into suspects' phones, bypassing many security measures.
The Israeli tool was reportedly used by the FBI in 2016 to break into the San Bernardino shooter’s phone as Apple refused to provide US authorities with a backdoor entrance. At the same time, UK forces have spent US$492,000 (£371,000) on 41 devices by Cellebrite, often referred to as “cyberkiosks.”
The Israeli firm has been criticised over its refusal to cooperate with Apple and let it seal the alleged backdoors in order to make its operating system more secure. However, it fought this criticism off, insisting that it contributes to public safety, helping law enforcement counter homicide, crimes against children, drug gangs and major threats.
“We feel an obligation to those serving the public safety mission to ensure those capabilities are preserved,” chief marketing officer Jeremy Nazarian told Forbes last year.