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The State Police Want to Crack Your Phone

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texts, emails, photos, Social media activity and messages, contact lists, phone logs, minute-by-minute location data, state police want it all.

The New York Focus has learned that the New York State Police are using a powerful hacking tool that allows them to download a complete, searchable copy of your phone’s data. The agency’s use of the infamous technology known as Mobile Device Forensics Tools (MDFT) has never been disclosed to the public.

Considering upgrades: Procurement documents show state police are looking to purchase additional products, services and training provided by Israeli company Cellebrite. .

“Never in the history of mankind have we collected and stored so much information in one place,” says Emma Weil, a policy analyst at technology research and advocacy group Upturn. “This is an unprecedented law enforcement force.”

Watch Dogs and civil liberties groups have warned that phone-cracking techniques have gained prominence in recent years. It warns that it is widely lacking.

“Technology is changing faster than any other area of ​​law or politics,” said Jerome Greco, supervising attorney in the Legal Aid Society’s Digital Forensics Unit. “There are few procedural restrictions or guidance on how law enforcement uses these tools and what to do with the data afterwards.”

The imminent purchase adds to the state police’s already hefty arsenal of invasive tools. fake account Used to monitor social media 120+ drones Aerial surveillance is possible.

read more: State Police sent you a friend request

The Cellebrite procurement is also part of a major expansion of New York Police Department surveillance resources announced by Gov. Kathy Hochul. New funding of $20 million After quietly slipping tens of millions of dollars into this year’s state budget for law enforcement surveillance and investigative tools. first reported Included by New York Focus $5.3 million To “modernize” investigations by “linking digital devices to crime,” experts speculated that this was likely a reference to the MDFT. State police told the New York Focus that the Cellebrite purchase, which is expected to cost about $120,000, will come from existing budgets, not from the governor’s initiative.

The governor’s office did not respond to the New York Focus’ request for comment.

The adoption of Cellebrite positions the State Police within a vast global network of subscribers.The company provides services repressive authorities around the world, including the Bahraini regime, using it prosecute tortured dissidentsBotswana Police access journalists List of sources. Last year, as the Israeli company was preparing to go public in the US, Cellebrite touted the end of its operations in poorer countries. human rights Records including Bangladesh, Belarus, China and Russia.However, the intercept has not yet been confirmed by the Chinese police. Purchasing Celebrite Products From brokers that the company left largely unchecked.

Technology moves much faster than any other area of ​​law or politics.

Jerome Greco, Legal Aid Society

In the US, Cellebrite is everywhere. Local, State, and Federal Agencies The company’s products are used all over the country.In New York, police officers and prosecutors in Manhattan, Suffolk and Nassau counties have used Cellebrite, among other MDFTs. But until now, state police have not disclosed that they were using the tool. The State Comptroller’s Office reports that while there are no active contracts with Cellebrite or any other known MDFT company of his, government agencies can acquire the technology through a number of third-party vendors.

“Do state police now use MDFT?” the New York Focus asked state police spokesperson Beau Duffy.

“Yes,” Duffy replied. He didn’t answer follow-up questions about any of the products.

long wish list

On October 21, the State Police opened a call for bids. procurement documentsthey hope to sign a five-year deal with a Cellebrite vendor by early 2023.

bid request form Asking price quote 20-80 subscriptions to almost all known Cellebrite products and services.Items included hardware and software It can break into most smartphones in the US and download data. This is a product that some consumer tech companies are trying to protect.For example, Apple upgraded the iPhone’s operating system to thwart such hacks, but Cellebrite’s “Premium” productsis also on the state police wish list, giving you access to many of the most secure phones. (Usually customers send those calls It will be sent to the Cellebrite lab for processing. )

State police are also seeking estimates if mobile devices are cracked using Cellebrite or other programs offered by the company. can access Social media, email, web and search history, and other internet-based information. Cellebrite’s analytics and project management software can use facial recognition to find people across devices. Compare minute-by-minute location data Figure out where people went and with whom from a few phone calls.using artificial intelligence Identify drugs, tattoos and weapons, and other items. Automatically sift through vast amounts of data to find new computer-derived leads.

Finally, the request for bid solicited quotes for dozens of training packages that Cellebrite will run. apple phone, video analysis, social media monitoringWhen cryptocurrency trading.

Overall, the requests, with a November 17th deadline, sought price quotes for approximately 225 products, services, and training packages. Including some overlap, it suggests state police are asking for more estimates than they plan to purchase.

Whatever the State Police’s current MDFT capabilities are, the Cellebrite purchase could expand them. Duffy claimed that state police are not currently using the Cellebrite product (included in the bid request), which allows him to hack social media and other internet-based data.

police hacker wilderness

Despite the widespread adoption of MDFT among US law enforcement agencies in recent years, it has taken time for policies restricting its use to catch up.

Normally, police departments can only use MDFT on someone’s phone if a judge signs a warrant or if the device owner consents to the search. But proponents argue that so-called “consent surveys” are far from true consent, as few people realize how powerful forensic tools can be.

New York’s search warrant law was written over 50 years ago, before modern computers became commonplace.

“Consent search is a big problem,” said Weil of Upturn, published in 2020. Extensive report Use of MDFT by Law Enforcement. “In principle, because of the power relationship between the police and the public.”

Weil described MDFT as an “escalator.” This means the tool can investigate far beyond what the police’s initial investigation asked for. And government agencies often lack policies that dictate how long police can store data and with whom it can be shared.in one Wisconsin case, the hit-and-run suspect told officers he could search his text messages and signed a general consent form. Police used his MDFT to extract all his cell phone data, kept them, and later shared them with another police department without warrant or consent for another investigation.

Of the 81 law enforcement agencies Upturn surveyed, nearly half admitted they had no internal policies related to MDFT searches, and most of the rest had “very vague” policies. The dataset did not include the New York State Police who refused to send Upturn her MDFT policy. The New York Focus’ public records request for policy has been pending since March.

“The terms of the search will be determined by a warrant or consent form,” Duffy told the New York Focus. MDFT’s search requires written consent and states that “data will be retained for as long as required in the specific case.”

Congress has so far failed to intervene to fill the policy void. And since state search warrant laws were written more than 50 years ago, before modern computers became commonplace, MDFT is free to apply law.

“Our state procedures are woefully inadequate,” Greco said.

I’m not saying he’s categorically opposed to MDFT. As head of Legal Aid’s Digital Forensics Unit, Greco one of the first Use them in your legal defense and find evidence of your client’s innocence.However look how strong He supports stricter regulations on how tools are used.

Courts have attempted to bring some order to this procedural chaos: in New York, downstate appellate judge made a ruling This provides guidance on how far-reaching a cell phone search warrant is.

But they are limited and temporary. Courts “must not go beyond what is put before them,” Greco said. “So we cannot deal with all of this.”

Also, with so many technologies on offer, it’s unclear exactly what needs to be addressed.

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