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The police are buying Cellebrite again. What is this Israeli spy technology

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The Police Headquarters buys a three-year license for tools from the Israeli company Cellebrite for over PLN 6.5 million. When connected to a phone, they can, among other things, read user data stored in the cloud from over 50 sources, including Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Google Drive and WhatsApp. The controversial technology has been used to spy on Navalny’s associates in Russia and the LGBTQ community there.

Polish services – police, Central Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Border Guard – for years they have been using the UFED tool (Universal Forensic Extraction Device) of the Israeli company Cellebrite. This technology allows you to break the security of phones and take over user data from them.

In November 2022, the National Police Headquarters announced a tender for a three-year subscription to the UFED 4PC Ultimate software (18 pieces), UFED Cloud Analyzer (1 piece), UFED PREMIUM (1 piece) and Cellebrite Inspector (1 piece). The total cost of? Over PLN 6.5 million.

Cellebrite, like Pegasus manufacturer NSO Group, sold its technology under an export license from the Ministry of Defence Israel. In February 2021, however, the local authorities changed the law and relaxed the regulations on these systems. In Poland, devices and licenses for UFED systems are now sold by several distributors who specialize in computer forensics and detectives.

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What data will the police obtain?

The UFED tool does not work remotely like the Pegasus system. The police must first physically connect a mobile phone or tablet to the Cellebrite device that copies the data. UFED 4PC Ultimate allows you to break “uncomplicated security”, such as the phone screen lock (pattern lock, password) or PIN code. Works on Android phones and iPhones.

The police will use it to “extract” such information as the list of calls, SMS messages, MMS messages, e-mails, messages from instant messengers, photos, video files, history of web browsers or data about our GPS location. The system also allows, as we read in the tender documents, to “recover deleted data”.

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Much more interesting, however, are subscriptions to UFED Cloud Analyzer, UFED PREMIUM and Cellebrite Inspector software. The former allows services to “read data stored in the cloud” by the user from over 50 sources, including Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Google Drive, Dropbox, Instagram, Vkontakte and WhatsApp.

The police will be able to “accurately review the route taken step by step using the Google map analyzer”. Investigators will also get the ability to digital profiling – viewing all social media likes, published posts and activity related to events. “This information allows us to analyze the sociological profile of the victim/suspect,” we read.

UFED PREMIUM, in turn, allows you to make copies of physical memory of phones with better protection, including “the widest range of devices with the Android system” (e.g. from Samsung, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Nokia, OPPO, Xiaomi). Works on iPhone 12, iPad 5th and 6th generation, iPad Pro and recovers data from apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, Messenger, Telegram, Instagram and more.

The Cellebrite Inspector system, on the other hand, is used to crack computer security. It allows you to quickly and effectively access the history of web browsers, downloads, recent searches, most popular sites, locations, social media, messages, files deleted to the trash, USB connections and other properties.

The tool enables easy filtering and sifting of large datasets and allows the creation of “custom, court-ready reports”. “Reveals files deleted from the recycle bin (in Mac OS X and Windows systems), “reveals information about current and deleted user accounts” or “performs memory analysis of Windows systems” – we read in the subject of the order.

Lukashenko and Putin like Cellebrite

Cellebrite technology has been the subject of controversy for years – UFED was used, among others, by the Lukashenko regime and Russian services to spy on the opposition, Alexei Navalny’s associates and the LGBTQ community.

For example, a lawyer’s phone was hacked using the system Lyubov Sobol. After the disclosure of this case, Israeli activists forced the company to stop offering its products in Russia. The company declared that it would do so in March 2021. However, as the Haaretz daily wrote in October 2022, the local services continue to use Cellebrite tools to hack into the phones of arrested people.

In August 2022, activists asked the Israeli Ministry of Defense to block the sale of Cellebrite technology to Ugandawhere it was to be used for breaking human rights. UFED is also used by the Maduro regime in Venezuela and the elite anti-terrorist unit Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) from Bangladesh – called the “government death squad”.

READ ALSO >> They will retrace the criminal’s every move. What digital footprints are the police following?

Main photo source: Shutterstock



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