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Data Pirates (aka Cops) Can Hack Your Cell Phone

Data Pirates (aka Cops) Can Hack Your Cell Phone

By now, many of you may have heard about iPhone tracking and recording your location data, but is there anything else being extracted from cell phones without our knowledge? If you’re a Michigan state resident, the answer is an alarming “maybe.”

Michigan’s police department have been using handheld gadgets called “extraction devices” for nearly three years now, which can take every lick of data from a mobile phone. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan claims that these DEDs (data extraction devices) are being used to secretly copy cell phone data during routine traffic stops.

Seems like a serious violation to the 4th Amendment, right? If the search and seizure law prohibits police officers from checking your trunk after getting pulled over, how could stealing your cell phone data be an exception? Do they really need to investigate your photos and texts? Don’t worry, the ACLU are on the case (despite being unsuccessful).

The extractors are called UFEDs—Universal Forensic Extraction Devices—which are made and sold to law enforcement by Cellebrite. The data stealer can swipe everything in under two minutes, including text messages, photos, videos, passwords and even GPS data, from over 3,000 different mobile devices. It can even take encrypted data, and no password can hold it back.

However, the Michigan State Police department have recently issued a statement to defend their use of this hacking technology. In it, they claim that the DEDs are only used if a search warrant is obtained, or if the person gives consent to have his/her phone searched. Also, they state that only specialty teams use them on criminal cases, not during routine traffic stops. And the kicker—the devices are commercially available.

If you want to purchase one, you can try getting a quote from Cellebrite, but it will probably end up costing you more than $4,000. But it’s not just used for hacking—it’s most commonly used commercially as a data swap tool for wireless service providers who can transfer your data from an older phone to a newer smartphone.


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