Spy Iphone Text Messages – A woman uses her phone in Tokyo on June 30, 2014. Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg Getty Images via file
The company has spent years and millions of dollars fighting off a small but talented industry working to figure out ways to help law enforcement crack iPhones. Currently, security experts believe that tools marketed to police will struggle to crack iPhone passcodes longer than six digits.
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But another tool previously unknown to the public doesn’t need to crack the code people use to unlock their phones. The code must be registered when the user enters it.
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A software called Hide UI, developed by Grayshift, a company that makes iPhone cracking devices, can track a suspect’s passcode as it enters the phone, two law enforcement officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Violation of non-disclosure agreements.
Spyware, the term for software that secretly tracks users, has been available for about a year, but this is the first time details of its existence have been reported, in part because of nondisclosure agreements when police departments buy the device. From Grayshift known as GrayKey.
These NDAs helped keep Hide UI a secret. Due to the lack of public scrutiny of the feature, as well as its hidden behavior, advocates, forensic experts and civil liberties advocates are concerned that Hide UI could be used without due process of law, such as a warrant, for owners.
“It’s confusing. Public oversight of policing is a core value of democracy,” said Jennifer Granick, ACLU attorney. “With new tools like this, we see a real government commitment to privacy.”
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It’s also the latest step in the cat-and-mouse game between law enforcement and Apple. The company refused to unlock iPhones for the FBI in the event of a shooting by the San Bernardino terrorists, arguing that doing so would make its phones less secure. The FBI said Monday that it had access to the iPhone of the gunman who shot fellow students at the Pensacola Air Force Base in Florida. A person familiar with the situation, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said the phone was cracked by finding the passcode, a common way for law enforcement to access iPhones.
With no help from Apple, law enforcement has relied on companies like Grayshift and Cellebrite to find vulnerabilities in Apple’s software and hardware and create tools that bypass iPhone security features.
Grayshift, an Atlanta-based company run by security engineers, declined to comment on the existence of Hide UI, but stressed that it is working to ensure that its technology is used legally.
“Grayshift develops technology that enables law enforcement agencies to access critical digital evidence during criminal investigations,” said David Miles, CEO of Grayshift. “We take every precaution to ensure that access to our technology is limited and we are a customer. agreements require that it be used legally. Our customers are top law enforcement professionals who use this tool only with the appropriate legal authority.”
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First discovered by Forbes and detailed by security blog Malwarebytes, the GrayKey device is a small box containing two iPhone Lightning cables released in March 2018. Law enforcement can connect any latest iPhone model to the cables to install. “agent” (piece of software) on the device. The agent then attempts to crack the passcode, estimating how long it might take.
According to calculations by cryptographer Matthew Green, associate professor of computer science at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute, cracking a four-digit pin can take minutes, while cracking a six-digit pin takes less than a day. Eight and 10-digit passcodes can take weeks or years. It is in these situations that Hide UI provides a faster way to access the device.
“If the standard agent doesn’t work, we can go to plan B, which is to hide the user interface,” said one law enforcement official familiar with the system.
For the feature to work, law enforcement must install stealth software and then set up a script to return the seized device to the suspect, said people familiar with the system, who spoke on condition of anonymity. For fear of breaching the NDA and accessing the device with Grayshift.
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For example, a law enforcement officer can tell a suspect to call an attorney or retrieve certain phone numbers from the device. Once the suspect does this, even if they relock their phone, Hide UI stores the passcode in a text file that can be retrieved the next time the phone connects to the GrayKey device. Law enforcement agencies can use the passcode to unlock the phone and extract all the data on it.
“It’s great technology for what we do, but as a citizen I don’t like how it’s being used. “I feel like sometimes the officers do things that are borderline and unethical,” said a law enforcement official.
A second law enforcement official said the software was “flawed” and that it was easier to give a suspect a passcode during interrogation than to use the stealth action required for Hide UI to work.
A screenshot of an iPhone X with Hide UI installed was shared with NBC News after it was posted on an online forum for digital forensics professionals. Its truth was confirmed by one of the representatives of the law enforcement agency.
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The screenshot showed a message on the iPhone screen indicating that hiding the UI also disables airplane mode and prevents anyone from turning off the device. This was confirmed by one of the sources in the law enforcement agencies.
Both law enforcement sources NBC News spoke with said they would only connect a phone to the GrayKey device if they had a search warrant.
However, forensics experts working with defense attorneys fear that given Apple’s certain time limits on data deletion, the hidden user interface could be used by law enforcement officials looking for shortcuts, perhaps without “emergency” arguments. his phones. NBC News has not independently confirmed that this feature was used without a warrant.
It’s unclear how often the feature is used, but hundreds of state and local law enforcement agencies in the U.S., some tracked by Motherboard and Forbes, as well as the FBI, DEA, CBP, Secret Service and other agencies, have access to GrayKey devices, according to public records. They cost between $15,000 and $36,000 per device, depending on the model.
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GrayKey’s marketing materials refer to “advanced features” but do not publicly reveal the hidden user interface. According to law enforcement officials, this feature and other intelligence-gathering capabilities are disclosed to potential customers only if they sign a non-disclosure agreement.
NBC News did not find any search warrants describing Hide UI’s features, although GrayKey is mentioned in court documents, including a search warrant for Apple’s latest, most secure phone, the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
“Not disclosing what they’re doing in terms the courts can understand is a huge constitutional problem,” said Lance Northcutt, a Chicago lawyer and former prosecutor. “That’s assuming there’s no wrongdoing, which seems ridiculous to me.”
Some civil liberties groups, including the ACLU, worry that prosecutors could drop cases instead of revealing how the technology works or subjecting it to public scrutiny. This used to happen with spying devices, which used cell towers to intercept phone calls and text messages made by nearby devices.
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Although a warrant was sought to search the device, it’s unclear whether the trick required to get the passcode from the suspect was told to prosecutors or the judge.
“It may be legal for law enforcement to use this ‘agent’ keylogger feature if the government’s search and seizure warrant for the device indicates that investigators are authorized to use it,” said Riana Pfefferkorn, deputy director of surveillance and oversight. Cybersecurity at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society. “Generally, I do not expect judges who authorize searches to plan to inject malware into a device seized by the government.”
Some specific warrants that allow Hide UI to be used include a “surveillance” warrant, which allows surveillance devices to be installed in a suspect’s home, or a Class III warrant, which is typically used to intercept electronic communications.
NBC News asked the Department of Justice if there are guidelines for using GrayKey and Hide UI similar to the guidelines for using scats. Department officials declined to comment, as did the National Sheriffs Association and the International Association of Sheriffs.
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