The United States government is reviving its push to convince companies to build backdoors into smartphones, which it claims would give law enforcement agencies easy access to the data, and help them to prevent terrorist plots and mass shootings in the country.
However, companies like Apple have refused to cooperate. At the same time, critics have also spoken out against the government having easy access to private data as it defeats the purpose of encryption.
According to a report by Vice, the government doesn’t appear to be waiting around for smartphone manufacturers to provide “backdoors”. It is using smartphone-cracking tools provided by third-party companies.
The report also claimed that Android encryption is getting stronger, making the job to crack them increasing difficult as compared to iPhones. Detective Rex Kiser, who conducted the digital forensic examinations for the Fort Worth Police Department, told Vice, “Some of the newer operating systems are harder to get data from than others. I think a lot of these [phone] companies are just trying to make it harder for law enforcement to get data from these phones under the guise of consumer privacy. Right now, we’re getting into iPhones. A year ago, we couldn’t get into iPhones, but we could get into all the Androids. Now we can’t get into a lot of the Androids.”
The investigation revealed that a smartphone cracking tool designed by the Israel-based company Cellebrite could break into iPhones up to the iPhone X. The tool extracts data such as messages, call logs, contacts, GPS records and even specific data from social media platforms. However, Cellebrite’s phone cracking tool is less effective against Android’s encryption on premium handsets.