A company based in Israel has become the go-to entity for unlocking virtually any iDevice sold by Apple running iOS 5 to 11, according to anonymous sources.
Apple puts a great deal of effort into locking down its hardware from prying eyes to ensure the privacy of end users. It goes as far as to refuse to help police unlock iPhones of known criminals, often raising the hackles of the FBI.
But the US government and law enforcers have contracted a new one-stop-shop to have any iPhone or iPad unlocked, according to Forbes. And it’s halfway across the globe in Petah Tikva, Israel.
Sources tell the publication that Cellebrite, a digital forensics firm that specializes in unlocking mobile devices (including those running Google’s Android), can break into virtually any iPhone or iPad running iOS versions 5 through 11.
The information reportedly comes from sources who asked to remain anonymous, as they were unauthorized to speak on the matter.
However, the firm itself appears to make the same claim in a fact sheet advertising its services to future clients. The paper – publicly available in PDF format – states the following:
“Devices supported for Advanced Unlocking and Extraction Services include:
- Apple iOS devices and operating systems, including iPhone, iPad, iPad mini, iPad Pro and iPod touch, running iOS 5 to iOS 11.
- Google Android devices, including Samsung Galaxy and Galaxy Note devices; and other popular devices from Alcatel, Google Nexus, HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, ZTE, and more.”
Further down, the paper specifically outlines what the product does, namely that it “can determine or disable the PIN, pattern, password screen locks or passcodes on the latest Apple iOS and Google Android devices.”
However, the company doesn’t make its product available to the public. Rather, it asks clients to ship the device to be unlocked at their headquarters in Israel. Cellebrite can either ship back the unlocked device (for the recipient to download the data themselves), or exfiltrate the data in addition to unlocking the device, sources say.
Their reasons should be more than obvious. With access to the forensics tool, handset vendors could reverse engineer the product to develop patches for their devices, rendering Cellebrite’s services useless.
Going by a warrant found by Forbes in Michigan, the FBI has likely enlisted Cellebrite’s help in unlocking at least one iPhone X belonging to Abdulmajid Saidi, a suspect in an arms trafficking case. Neither Apple nor Cellebrite were willing to respond to media inquiries related to these developments.