For the last few months, Israeli spy firms have been making some strange claims such as Ability says that their “Unlimited Interception System” can trace calls, texts and location of every single mobile phone on the planet earth whilst another firm known as Wintego claims to have developed an app with “Unprecedented Capability” to steal encrypted communications of any WhatsApp account.
Now, one of the world’s leading hacking firms Cellebrite is famous for extracting data from any cell phone within seconds but it is surprising that the company can even extract information from a locked smartphone.
This firm already has customers in over 115 countries and in terms of hacking technologies, Cellebrite is world’s best. A majority of its clients are from the governments. A top official from the company, Leeor Ben-Peretz stated that:
“There are many devices that we are the only player in the world that can unlock.”
In fact, it is the same firm that was contacted by the FBI when the agency was trying to unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter but, Cellebrite has denied any involvement in the case.
The revelation from Cellebrite regarding information retrieval from locked phones has raised eyebrows of privacy activists and security researchers alike.
According to AFP, Cellebrite can access a variety of data from cell phones including text messages content, retrieving complete messages that were deleted years ago and accurate details about the user’s whereabouts at any given time frame. However, the technology can only work if the phone is physically connected to any of the firm’s devices. A plus point is that online hacking cannot be carried out using this technology.
On the other hand, civil rights activists and privacy advocates are alarmed because this is a powerful technology and if it lands into the hands of people with malicious or wrong intentions then it can cause serious privacy issues.
The firm also demonstrated how the technology worked. They managed to extract photos with accurate location and time from an LG G4 smartphone that ran on Android.
However, Ben-Peretz believes that their real challenge is to stay ahead in the competition with their technology since every other week there is a new model of the cellphone being launched with updated OS and highly complex security. The company’s research lab has cracked 15,000 phone models so far and around 15 to 200 new models are added every month that also includes the newest iPhones.
“iOS devices have strong security mechanisms that give us a challenge, but if anyone can address this challenge and provide a solution to law enforcement, it is Cellebrite,” said Ben-Peretz.
The company has a dedicated research team comprising of 250 members; the team starts finding a way to crack the device every time a new mobile phone is launched. The process usually takes a few days but may even become lengthier and involve months of research.