Law enforcement agencies are using a mysterious new tool to unlock the cellphones of criminal suspects and access their text messages, emails and voice messages. Some agencies around the country, concerned about security, are not even acknowledging use of the devices. Adding to the secrecy surrounding the new tool, one of the companies that makes and sells the devices to police and government agencies does not display their products on the company website.
Still, the I-Team was able to get access to a device used by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. Isaiah Kellar, a detective in the Special Investigations Unit, was willing to show us how it works.
“Pretty much anything you do on your cellphone, we’re able to look at through our computer software,” Kellar said…
While the devices are helpful in gathering vital information in police investigations, privacy advocates are concerned about the possibility of abuse by government agencies, employers, or anyone else with access to a hacking device.
Dale Carson, a Florida-based attorney and former FBI agent said Congress should step in and regulate the use of the devices to guard against abuse.
“Unless there’s a physical law that says you can’t do it and if you do, this is the penalty, then they’re likely to continue to do it,” Carson said.
The maker of the IPhone, Apple, already has responded to the use of the hacking machines. The company has changed the software for its newest phones to block the Cellebrite and Gray Key devices from bypassing the user’s passcode.
Professor David Salisbury of the University of Dayton said the companies already have said they plan to change their hacking devices to get around Apple’s new roadblock.
“For the foreseeable future I think it’s going to be a bit of an arms race,” Salisbury said.