You might remember the old days when you walked into a Verizon store and bought a subsidized phone for just $99 or $199, and the rep transfer over your contacts to the new handset through a Cellebrite machine. The machines, used for the purpose of data extraction, would occasionally tip us off to upcoming new phones. The company of Israeli got plenty of press back in 2016 when Apple refused to follow up a federal court order to unlock the iPhone 5c that belongs to San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. This action would have forced Apple to create a specific version of iOS for the government, and the company was quite fearful that a leak would make every iPhone owner in doubt of having their handset hacked. Eventually, the FBI paid Cellebrite to open the phone, and eventually found no useful information.
Similar machines produced by Cellebrite and GrayShift plug into the Lightning port of an iPhone to bypass limits on passcode attempts. Apple believes that it had put the kibosh on these devices by adding USB Restricted Mode to iOS 12. For the purpose of preventing the port from communicating with other devices if an iPhone has not been unlocked in between the last hour. But Cellebrite and Apple each took turns to get the upper hand over the other, and Cellebrite clearly wins and is on top.
The Cellebrite website states that it can “perform a full file system extraction on any iOS device, or a physical extraction or full file system (File-Based Encryption) extraction on any many high-end Android devices.”
On its web site, Cellebrite also promotes its devices as a tool used for law enforcement. It states “Gain access to 3rd party app data, chat conversations, downloaded emails, and email attachments, deleted content and more, increase your chances of finding the incriminating evidence and bringing your case to a resolution”.
At the start of this year, we showed you how simple and straightforward it is to obtain a Cellebrite machine. Previously several used devices showed up on eBay in February, priced as low as $100 and under.
Cellebrite states that it can crack open iPhones running iOS 7 to iOS 12
If you consider that the use of a Cellebrite machine is not as useful as it seems like using wiretaps, Chief Marketing Officer of Cellebrite; Jeremy Nazarian said that there is a difference. The executive also pointed out that to use a Cellebrite machine requires physical access to one’s smartphone. “It’s not like anyone is listening to your iPhone or my iPhone,” Nazarian also said. “There’s nothing inherent in the technology that means it’s open to misuse.”
The Cellebrite website also shows that it can crack open Apple devices that are running iOS 7 to iOS 12.3. the machine also works on “high-running” Android models like the Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S8, and Galaxy S9. It can also crack certain Android handsets made by LG, Xioami, and Huawei. And if there is a really tough phone to crack, the company also has some certified forensic experts having the expertise to access sensitive mobile evidence from various locked, encrypted or damaged iOS as well as Android devices through advanced in-lab only techniques.
Cellebrite might be the most popular name in the industry, but it does have a rival in Grayshift. The GrayKey cracking machine of Grayshift defeated USB Restricted Mode of Apple last summer even before the time when iOS 12 had been released. But Grayshift appears to be more secretive of its device and methods it uses. The company requires that users need the approval of the company before being allowed to enter its website and states, “GrayKey is not for everyone. We kindly request that you tell us a bit about yourself and your organization.”
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