A device that unlocks iPhones is becoming more common at law enforcement agencies across the U.S.

A device that unlocks iPhones is becoming more common at law enforcement agencies across the U.S.
Law enforcement agencies across the country have been buying a tool which is reported to unlock any iPhone. This device is rumored to work on even the iPhone X and IOS 11. It can bypass encryption and also unlock the device. The device is a small 4x4 inch box with two lightning cables. It reportedly ranges from $15,000 USD to $30,000 USD depending on which version is purchased. The higher end device has no unlock limit while the cheaper version requires internet connection and is limited. Supposedly, the technology takes somewhere between three hours and three days to unlock a phone, depending on the sort of password used. 

Gone are the days of law enforcement demanding a back door from tech companies. 

 At least when it comes to Apple devices. It would seem that law enforcement has a cheaper alternative compared to the millions of dollars spent in the past to access phones. It has become commonplace for law enforcement to complain about encryption on everything from apps to phones to computers. It is easy to see why multiple agencies have been buying multiple devices and more are placing orders every day. Some agencies reported to have the device already are the Maryland State Police, U.S. State Department, and even the Miami-Dade Police. Other entities are planning on buying the device and these include the Secret Service as well as the Drug Enforcement Agency. So far law enforcement officials that have spoken about the technology are quick to include that the device is used to access a phone only when legally permitted to do so. It is safe to assume that this will become a much discussed topic as technology privacy concerns continue to be on the forefront of public discussion. 



2. cncrim

Posts: 1588; Member since: Aug 15, 2011

Let's cat and mouse security game begin. OEM now have to step up their game and I'm sure OEM will and can creat better security lock.

3. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2391; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

It should be noted that the whole “hours to 3 days” to crack open the encryption is based on having a 6 digit numeric passcode. If you use an alphanumeric passcode, this thing would require months to years to centuries to crack (I think Apple allows up to 52 characters which would take forever to brute force into). You would more than likely pass the statute of limitations by the time they crack open your phone for evidence if you use a long alphanumeric password.

5. palmguy

Posts: 982; Member since: Mar 22, 2011

Soooo Android OS devices are not ever mentioned about security because it's not lifestyle popular like iOS, are more secure than iOS, or about the same and no one mentions them?

9. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2391; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

We would have to discuss each and every flavor of Android OS in order to talk about how it compares to iOS. And by that, I mean you would have to look at manufacturer's own Android overlays in addition to the foundation Android OS. Android OS in general is encrypted like iOS since Marshmallow (I believe), but the problem Android runs into is that when it comes to text messaging you have to download a third-party application in order to have encrypted texts and the other person has to have that same application. One of the main reasons law enforcement agencies want access to these phones is to look at messages. Text messages are not encrypted and can be easily obtained without even needing physical access to your device, but encrypted messages like iMessage require physical access to one of the devices that has that message stored on it. http://time.com/4905774/which-phone-is-most-secure/

10. GreenMan

Posts: 2697; Member since: Nov 09, 2015

Aye, most so called 'secure' texting apps encrypt data on THEIR servers instead of user's device and hence the servers wield the encryption keys, and not user's device. And that's why Canadian agencies were able to intercept texts sent via BBM! And later, they were granted the encryption masterkey by Blackberry (or RIM, if you prefer) according to The Verge and they've that privilege since 2010. https://www.theverge.com/2016/4/14/11434926/blackberry-encryption-master-key-broken-canada-rcmp-surveillance If there's one company that actually cares about its users' privacy, that's APPLE. But of course, you've to pay to play! G'Day!

11. cmdacos

Posts: 4220; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Or don't be a criminal... That's easier.

17. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2391; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

It’s not just about whether you’re a criminal or not. There is such thing as an abuse of power and it’s happened a lot. Not just in the U.S., but other countries as well. There have been stories about people getting their belongings taken from them under the auspices of a “warrant to investigate crimes” when there was no real probable cause or any crime committed. The Patriot Act has given broad authority to law enforcement to take your belongings with a very low bar of probable cause. While it may be fine for the younger generation to post their entire lives on social media for the world to see, there are those of us that pride ourselves on keeping certain business private and away from any prying eyes, no matter if it’s a corporation or government entity.

20. palmguy

Posts: 982; Member since: Mar 22, 2011

Thanks Dr Phil. I feel better now.

6. lyndon420

Posts: 6796; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

So... fingerprint info and Face ID won't save you either? Are you required to give a password/passcode during setup of your iPhone just in case biometric logins fail?

7. kiko007

Posts: 7493; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

You're required to do so on every platform (including Windows Mobile as well) for obvious reasons; failsafe.

15. middlehead

Posts: 457; Member since: May 12, 2014

Fingerprint and Face ID are legally LESS secure than a password or code. If you think there will ever be a reason for the cops to want in your phone, you're better off not even having those enabled.

13. lyndon420

Posts: 6796; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Interesting. Is it a failsafe feature for us (the people), or them (the authorities)??

22. tedkord

Posts: 17365; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

For us. You need a backup in case your primary stops working. FPS and FaceID are easier for the authorities to get into your phone (in the US), because courts have ruled those don't have constitutional protection from self incrimination, and they can force you to use either to unlock. You can't be compelled to give them your password or code because they've ruled them protected.

16. Rampage_Taco

Posts: 1061; Member since: Jan 17, 2017

the safest way to keep the authorities out of your phone is smashing it and setting it on fire

23. Barnagetam1986

Posts: 3; Member since: Apr 16, 2018

Law enforcement can still get into your info from your smashed phone. They don't need a working phone to get your info. All phones are subject to PD being able to get info no matter how hidden you think you made them! Smaller pd are getting these boxes for Android n apple alike, through grants in some small pds. So as Dr Phil said our rights are slowly becoming nil! If an law enforcement agency thinks you maybe hiding something then an open warrant is all that is needed. This goes way deeper then just loss of privacy, it goes to our rights, as they slowly shrink away! Just a thought!

18. michaelny2001

Posts: 330; Member since: Aug 01, 2012

why such a big deal with unlocking the phone? I for one, have nothing to hide and because i am a nobody, the NSA or any other government institution does not want my phone. the phones they want are from potential bombers, or spies, etc. Why not let them have it. I for one want to be safe in the USA. If i go abroad i take my risk but here i need safety. problem happens when they try to unlock phones to steal other countries's secrets. not cool. But if we have it, i bet you the russians, the chinese, etc have it too.

19. sissy246

Posts: 7121; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

I agree with you on terrorist and spies and drug dealers, and murderers but, the thing is it won't stop there.

21. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2391; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

Ok and how are they supposed to know who a potential terrorist or murderer is and who isn’t? Nobody really knew who Timothy McVeigh was until he blew up a federal building. Nobody knew who the Las Vegas shooter was until he killed dozens of people. How are they supposed to target “potential terrorists” without also getting info on those that turn out to be innocent citizens? There’s no way for them to pinpoint who is going to potentially murder or kill someone without also screening 10,000 more people who have no desire for violence whatsoever.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.