The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) of the Indian government is in negotiations to purchase the security bypassing technology used by Israeli mobile software developer Cellebrite, the company that the FBI enlisted to help unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter earlier in the year.
The law enforcement agency had first sought help from Apple, but the company denied the request on privacy and technical grounds. This forced the FBI to look for alternatives, including taking help from white hat hackers. Ultimately, it was reported that Cellebrite managed to unlock Farook’s iPhone 5c for which the Israeli company was apparently paid upwards of $15,000.
The terms of India’s purchasing agreement with Cellebrite were not laid out, but an anonymous official from the Forensic Science Laboratory said that the Indian government is expected to get the unlocking technology fairly soon.
“We are likely to have the technology within a month or so. India will become a global hub for cases where law enforcement is unable to break into phones,” said a senior FSL official. All officials spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The official said devices such as iPhones with operating systems iOS 8 and above are virtually impossible to break into without this technology. In iPhones, failed attempts to guess the passcode results in data deletion or turns data into gibberish. Another FSL official said the laboratory had sought help from the Israeli firm for a few cases. But now the “entire tool” will be obtained. Only FSL Gandhinagar will have this technology. Requests for cracking encrypted devices from the country’s other forensic institutes will be entertained at a fee.
It’s not clear how India’s purchase will be different from anyone else’s, or what would lead the country to become a “global hub” when others can also seek out help from Cellebrite.
It is likely that the Indian government will use the expertise it gains from buying Cellebrite for the benefit of its intelligent agencies. Whether the government will be willing to share Cellebrite’s tech and tools with law enforcement agencies from other countries or not.
Source: The Economic Times