Israeli firm can steal phone data in seconds

Nov 25, 2016 | 5:54 pm

Published by | Chandan Singh


This takes only a few seconds for a worker of just one of the leading hacking companies to take a locked mobile phone and pull the data from it. Israeli company Cellebrite’s technology offers a glance of a world of possibilities accessible to security agencies globally that be concerned privacy advocates.

The company has contracts much more than 115 countries, many with governments, and it shot to global dominance in March when it was reported the FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION used its technology to crack the iPhone of one of the jihadist-inspired killers in San Bernardino, California.

There have since been reports that Cellebrite was in fact not involved, and the organization itself refuses to comment.

Irrespective, it is recognized among the world’s leaders in such technology. It can reportedly take a variety of information off devices: from the content of SMS to potential details of in which a person was at any given instant.

Even messages deleted years before can be possibly retrieved. “There are many devices that we are the only player in the world that can unlock, ” Leeor Ben-Peretz, one of the industry’s top executives, told AFP in English. But personal privacy and rights activists be concerned such powerful technology can wind up in the incorrect hands, leading to violations.

Cellebrite’s technology is not online hacking. It only works when the mobile phone is physically linked to one of the business devices. The company lately demonstrated its functions for an AFP journalist. The password on a mobile phone was disabled and recently taken photographs appeared on a computer screen, filled with the exact location and time they were used.

The phone in the demonstration, an LG G4 run on Google’s Android operating system, is a model Cellebrite had already cracked, therefore the extraction do not take long. The real challenge, Ben-Peretz wants, is staying in the lead in a competition where phone manufacturers constantly launch new models and update software with ever before more complicated security. In the firm’s lab, they may have 15,000 phones — with around 150-200 new models added each month.

Each time a new phone is launched, Ben-Peretz said, their 250-person research team races against competition to find a chink in the armor, a process that may range from a few days to months.