The US Department of Immigration and Customs (ICE) has expanded its partnership with Israeli digital forensics company Cellebrite to unlock and extract mobile phone data, reports The Daily Beast. The company is expected to be between 30 and 35 Millions of dollars to procure Universal Forensic Extraction Devices (UFEDs), accessory licenses, training and support services. The contract has a term of up to five years.
Cellebrite, best known for helping the FBI unlock the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone in 201
The order from the Dallas ICE office states that the Homeland Security Investigations (HS) of the Law Enforcement Agency I) and the Cyber Crimes Center (C3) should also benefit from Cellebrite's instruments.
While HSI cites investigations into all types of cross-border criminal activity, including human trafficking and immigration fraud, C3 prosecutes HSI-related crimes.
The hacking tool order has been thoroughly reviewed as the partnerships between ICE and Amazon and the data mining company Palantir, both of which have been criticized for their cooperation with the Department of Immigration of undocumented migrants.
Cellebrite is proud to introduce #UFED Premium! An exclusive law enforcement solution for unlocking and extracting data from all iOS and high-end Android devices. To learn more, click here: https://t.co/WHsaDxzoXz pic.twitter.com/BSixEkyAuL
– Cellebrite (@Cellebrite_UFED) June 14, 2019
UFED Premium can unlock all devices with iOS 7 to iOS 12.3 as well as high quality Android smartphones like Samsung Galaxy S6 to Galaxy S9 and devices from Huawei, LG, Motorola and Xiaomi.
It is worth pointing out that ICE gave the order barely two weeks after Cellebrite's public announcement.
The UFED is sold as an "on-site tool" so that law enforcement agencies can buy and use the device at their own discretion. "But it also increases the risk of Cellebrite losing control of its latest unlocking techniques or falling into the hands of criminals or repressive governments," Wired noted.
It is likely that the release of Android 10 and iOS 13 will protect devices from such threats and, at least for some time, put these companies in first place.
If anything, this is an altercation between the good and the bad actors, with the smartphone makers looking for new ways to defend themselves while manufacturers of such hacking tools are looking for ways to defeat their security. This is not the first technological dispute between the two sides, and it will not be the last.