Frighteningly, an Israeli company called Cellebrite is bragging it can crack any smartphone.
In fact, the company Tweets “Cellebrite is proud to introduce #UFED Premium! An exclusive solution for law enforcement to unlock and extract data from all iOS and high-end Android devices. To learn more, click here.”
There is even a website that advertises UFED Premium to law enforcement. In detail, UFED stands for Universal Forensic Extraction Device, Wired reports.
Phones the UFED Premium could crack include Apple devices running iOS versions 7 through 12.3, and the Samsung Galaxy S9, Wired claims. In addition, Wired names Huawei, LG, and Xiaomi devices as vulnerable to UFED.
Can anybody Crack your Smartphone?
Cellebrite’s marketing is frightening because there is no way to keep UFED out of the bad guys’ hands.
Corrupt cops could order a copy of UFED Premium and sell it to criminals, for example. Moreover, hackers could steal UFED Premium from law enforcement agencies or Cellebrite. Once they get their hands on UFED Premium crooks can copy the app and sell it on the Dark Web.
Finally, corrupt police will abuse and misuse UFED Premium. An unethical cop could use UFED Premium to crack his ex-wife’s phone, for instance. Or cops could try to crack the phones of journalists or defense attorneys.
Is UFED Premium legal?
Oddly, UFED Premium may not be legal in the United States. To elaborate the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution bans warrant-less search and seizure.
Therefore, information gathered by UFED without a warrant cannot be used as evidence in American criminal courts. Thus, blatantly guilty criminals could walk free because cops abused UFED Premium.
I think it will be difficult for cops to remember to get a warrant every time they use UFED Premium. Instead of making life easier for cops, UFED Premium could create legal nightmares for police and prosecutors.
Will UFED Help or Hurt Law Enforcement?
Clever criminals will have no problem avoiding surveillance by UFED Premium. Crooks could use burner phones, or several different smartphones for communications.
In addition, gangsters can go back to older methods of communications like mouth to mouth or couriers. An obvious means of relaying messages is to have somebody relay messages via a smartphone.
Beyond, low-tech methods I think the technology to defeat and fool UFED Premium already exists. For instance, I believe the technology to create smartphones that erase all data after calls or messages as they are sent exists.
Crooks will Outwit UFED Premium
In addition, you could create apps that route messages or calls through hard to track and crack ecosystems like blockchains or sidechains.
An obvious means of outwitting UFED Premium is messages hidden in cryptocurrency, or smart contracts. You could even build a smart contract that fools UFED Premium or attacks it with malware.
If these apps do not exist some evil genius will create and market them. Cellebrite’s executives will not care because they can create and market better versions of UFED Premium to defeat the crooks.
Indeed, cynics will charge that Cellebrite has a strong incentive to put UFED Premium into criminals’ hands. To clarify, if crooks outwit UFED Premium, Cellebrite can sell law enforcement a newer and better version of the program.
Is UFED Premium a Threat to Your Privacy?
Worst of all, UFED Premium could present little threat to criminals but a menace to law-abiding citizens.
Law-abiding citizens will have no defense against UFED Premium because the do not know it exists. Sophisticated criminals, however, will quickly learn of UFED Premium, and take precautions against it.
Consequently, only law-abiding people with limited economic resources will fall prey to UFED Premium. Professional crooks, on the other hand, will easily adapt to it and guard their privacy.
Thus, we are living in a brave new world where criminals have privacy but law-abiding citizens do not.