By: Vincent Esquivel
In 2015, a controversial iPhone made the headlines and became a topic of discussion for a controversial reason. After the San Bernandino shooting, the police had confiscated an iPhone that belonged to the shooters. This phone soon took center stage of the investigation. Who were the shooters talking to? Who else may have been involved? A known terrorist group?
With those type of questions having to be answered, the investigation was no longer a local matter. The case was quickly taken over by the FBI. And, so was this phone. Soon the FBI was blaming the local authorities for making matters worse by trying to unlock the phone themselves. This had led to the phone locking itself down after failed attempts of unlocking it. So, the FBI went to Apple so they could unlock the phone and they could get into the data. Apple declined. This led to a legal battle. Apple stood behind their decision.
Everything was quiet until the FBI admitted they went with a third party and got the phone unlocked. There were rumors that it was one individual and that $1 million was paid for the service. But, no specifics were given.
Personally, I felt that not giving any details of who was responsible for the unlocking was a good thing. As soon as a name was released, I knew through history that a hack or attack was bound to happen. These type of tools and techniques are sought after by hackers. We put our whole lives are on our cell phones. Some of these hackers don't have the best of intentions.
Then, Cellebrite appeared. Soon, they were on news reports explaining their business. They just don't unlock iPhones. They unlock Android and Blackberry phones, too. Their clock started ticking.
The data and various cracks were leaked by a hacker last month.
As reported by Motherboard:
Now the hacker responsible has publicly released a cache of files allegedly stolen from Cellebrite relating to Android and BlackBerry devices, and older iPhones, some of which may have been copied from publicly available phone cracking tools.
"The debate around backdoors is not going to go away, rather, its is almost certainly going to get more intense as we lurch toward a more authoritarian society," the hacker told Motherboard in an online chat.
"It's important to demonstrate that when you create these tools, they will make it out. History should make that clear," they continued.
Cellebrite is an Israeli firm which specializes in extracting data from mobile phones for law enforcement agencies. The company's flagship product, the Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED), typically comes as a small, laptop-sized device, and can pull SMS messages, emails, and more from thousands of different mobile phone models. The investigator needs to have physical access to the phone to analyze it.
A Motherboard investigation found that US state police and highway patrol agencies have collectively spent millions of dollars on Cellebrite technology.
Later in the same article:
"@FBI Be careful in what you wish for," the hacker's message reads, before signing off with a piece of ASCII art, which says "Backdoorz."
Encryption and privacy will always be subjects of debate. Hacking is not going anywhere. But, my advice to you is to encrypt your cell phone. Transfer and delete files and things you don't want to end up in the wrong hands. Think about limiting your cell phone use to just using it as a phone. Maybe your banking should be done only on the home computer. These are just suggestions. But, it's something to consider. Protect your data. Protect your identity.