Cellebrite's updated tool can unlock most new smartphones

Cellebrite's updated tool can unlock most new smartphones

Bottom line: The Israeli forensics firm Cellebrite, famously believed to have assisted the FBI with cracking the San Bernardino iPhone, has come up with an updated version of its Universal Forensics Extraction Device (UFED), a tool which the company claims can now unlock almost all of the latest iPhones and Android smartphones.

Tools and techniques allowing law enforcement and intelligence agencies to help extract data from locked smartphones for uncovering evidence have mostly been kept in the dark, which meant the public is usually not aware of behind-the-scenes tussles between smartphone manufacturers introducing new technologies and security layers to protect customers’ data on their smartphones and the efforts undertaken by security firms and criminal hackers to circumvent these measures.

One such tool is made by forensics firm Cellebrite. The company doesn’t want to keep it a secret and has announced a new version of its UFED tool, called the UFED Premium, which is “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.”

The tool is claimed by Cellebrite to support (which in this context means hack) the widest range of devices in the industry. The list includes iPhones running on any version between iOS 7 and 12.3 as well as “high-running” Samsung Galaxy models from the S6 to the S9 series and popular models from the likes of Motorola, Huawei, LG and Xiaomi.

Apple’s latest iOS 12.3.2 release is likely susceptible to UFED Premium as well, considering that it was only targeted at the iPhone 8 Plus for a dedicated bug fix. “iOS 12.3.2 resolves an issue that could cause Camera to capture Portrait mode photos without depth effect on some iPhone 8 Plus devices,” Apple mentioned in the update.

Another major omission from UFED’s list includes the Galaxy S10, S10 Plus and S10e models, all of which seem to have beefier security and encryption that’s still proving to be a tough nut to crack.

UFED Premium is currently available to industries that fall under the “Law Enforcement” or the “Military/Intelligence” category. It will be available for conducting “on-premise” investigations allowing agencies to operate the device and get results independently of Cellebrite, with bold promises including “access to 3rd party app data, chat conversations, downloaded emails and email attachments, deleted content and more”.

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