EXCLUSIVE: Inside New York City’s Partnership With Israeli iPhone Hacking Company Cellebrite
Documents reveal the Manhattan DA subscribes to a program that lets authorities break into iPhones in-house
In June 2019, the secretive Israeli digital forensics firm Cellebrite, which works with law enforcement to unlock cell phones, announced a significant product development: For the first time, government agencies would be able to break into phones in-house using licensed Cellebrite software.
Cellebrite’s new UFED Premium program gave law enforcement the ability to “unlock and extract data from all iOS and high-end Android devices” on their own.
Previously, if law enforcement wanted to get into newer devices, they had to send the phones to one of Cellebrite’s digital forensics labs, located in New Jersey and Virginia. But Cellebrite’s new UFED Premium program gave law enforcement the ability to “unlock and extract data from all iOS and high-end Android devices” on their own, using software installed on computers in their offices.
The announcement made waves in the phone-cracking world. But documents obtained by OneZero reveal that Cellebrite had been selling this new product to law enforcement for over a year prior to making that announcement, and that New York City has been a customer since 2018.
A contract obtained by OneZero shows that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office — one of the largest and most influential prosecution offices in the country — has had UFED Premium in-house since January 2018. According to the contract, the DA’s office agreed to pay Cellebrite about $200,000 over three years for UFED Premium.
The $200,000 fee covered software licensing and installation, training for select office personnel on the platform, and an agreed-upon number of phone cracks. The contract also references about $1 million in undisclosed add-ons, but it’s not clear if the DA’s office agreed to purchase any of these additional products or services. The document also states that the DA’s office must designate a “secure room” where the software is housed, and that the…