Israel-based software developer Cellebrite, known for breaking into mobile devices like the iPhone to obtain sensitive data, has announced that it can now unlock any iOS device running up to iOS 12.3, which was released only a month ago.
The firm revealed the capability in a tweet posted late Friday advertising UFED Premium, the latest version of its Universal Forensic Extraction Device.
On its UFED web page, Cellebrite describes the tool’s ability to glean forensic data from any iOS device dating back to iOS 7, as well as from Android devices made by Samsung, Huawei, LG, and Xiaomi.
The Israel firm describes UFED Premium as “the only on-premise solution for law enforcement agencies to unlock and extract crucial mobile phone evidence from all iOS and high-end Android devices.”
If the claims are accurate, Cellebrite’s tool will enable authorities to potentially crack the vast majority of smartphones currently available on the market. As Wired notes, no other law enforcement contractor has made such broad claims about a single product, at least not publicly.
Apple continually introduces improvements to the security of its operating systems in order to keep ahead of companies like Cellebrite that are always searching for flaws and vulnerabilities to exploit in order to access the data on locked iOS devices.
For example, in October 2018 Apple’s successfully thwarted the “GrayKey” iPhone passcode hack, sold by Atlanta-based company Grayshift, which had also been in use by U.S. law enforcement.
Cellebrite first garnered significant attention in 2016, when it was believed the company was enlisted to help the FBI break into the iPhone 5c of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook after Apple refused to provide the FBI with tools to unlock the device.
The FBI did not use Cellebrite’s services for that particular case, but several United States government agencies do regularly work with Cellebrite to unlock iOS devices.
According to Wired‘s sources, Grayshift has developed tools to unlock at least some versions of iOS 12. If true, the firm is still keeping its cards close to its chest, but probably not for much longer.
Even as Apple works to increase the security of its iOS devices, Cellebrite’s brazen announcement suggests the cat-and-mouse game of exploiting vulnerabilities in mobile device software will only become more competitive, as rival companies attempt to grab a bigger share of the market.
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