Warning: Cops Stealing Deleted Text, Photos and Much More about You
Police Device Used To Steal Your Cell Phone Data
You may have heard about the Cellebrite cell phone
device (UFED) in the news lately. It gives law enforcement officials
the ability to access all the information on your cell phone within a
few short minutes. When it became known that Michigan State Police had
been using the tool to access cell phones during traffic stops, it
raised concern with the ACLU. Now, everyone is wondering if cops will be
using devices like this elsewhere. Will this new law enforcement tool
be abused, or will it be used responsibly in the pursuit of justice?
Call us paranoid, but we obtained a law-enforcement-grade software
extraction tool for the iPhone to see exactly what data is
up for grabs. You’d be surprised to see just how much data today’s
smartphones can store — and police can access.
This is the Cellebrite Cell Phone Extraction
Device (UFED) and it can be used by police to extract your cell phone
data during a routine traffic stop. The UFED comes in a rugged,
road-ready case with all the connectors needed to grab info from almost
every type of cell phone and portable GPS unit.
Cellebrite claims that their UFED device can grab
data from more than 1800 cellular devices. The UFED is also frequently
updated with new phone profiles. Every manufacturer, wireless provider,
and mobile operating system is vulnerable.
After the officer gets hold of your phone, the
device is connected to the Cellebrite UFED scanner and a screen pops up
to select the cell
phone model. As you can see from just the top few,
many of the popular
The next screen shows what data can be pulled from
the phone, which the officer will then select from.
After the data has been snagged from the cell
phone, it’s stored on a USB flash drive. The officer can then
load the data into Cellebrite’s app to analyze in an easy to read
Even deleted call history, text messages, images,
phonebook entries and videos can easily be recovered in seconds. The app
shows how much deleted data was recovered in red.
We had to see for ourselves just how much data
could be extracted, so we acquired a software program called Lantern
from Katana Forensics.Although Lantern is not the same software
Cellebrite uses, its a similar law-enforcement-grade data extraction
application, which can nab surprising amounts of data from an iPhone.
After a simple extraction that took only a few minutes, Lantern was able
to get all of our contacts, call logs, voicemails, text messages
(deleted ones too), all our notes, recent map searches, Facebook
contacts, all locations (WiFi and Cellular), and current and deleted
With the information above, officials could
discover your exact past locations for as long as you’ve owned your
phone. There is even a ‘map this item’ button that will bring up Google
Maps, displaying the location. Luckily, this application isn’t available
for jealous girlfriends or unwanted admirers. Only law enforcement and
government officials are able to gain access to Lantern.
These tools can be very useful to law enforcement.
Say, for example, a homicide was being investigated. Officers would be
able to scan cell phone data to obtain the whereabouts of a suspect or
victim in hopes of gaining more insight into the investigation. Legally,
during traffic stops, officers need a warrant to search your cell
phone; however, if you give them your phone voluntarily, they can use
these tools to search it. Next time an officer asks you to give up your
phone, ask to see a warrant fir
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