2016, Apple made headlines for
its refusal to unlock an iPhone at the insistence of law enforcement.
What the technological giant’s CEO Tim Cook called a defense of civil
liberties was lauded by privacy activists and civil libertarians
worldwide. Cracking open iOS devices used to be a surveillance state
pipe dream, but a prominent U.S. government contractor may have found a
way to do just that.
an Israeli company focused on “empowering law enforcement, military and
intelligence,” publicly boasted about their abilities to unlock pretty
much any iOS device currently available on the market. In a data
sheet published on the company’s official
website, in a separate section listing the devices supported for
“advanced unlocking and extraction services,” Cellebrite noted that it
has the ability to break the security of “Apple iOS devices and
operating systems, including iPhone, iPad, iPad mini, iPad Pro and iPod
touch, running iOS 5 to iOS 11.”
section on Apple’s official website states the
Apple, we believe privacy is a fundamental human right. And so much of
your personal information — information you have a right to keep
private — lives on your Apple devices. Your heart rate after a run.
Which news stories you read first. Where you bought your last coffee.
What websites you visit. Who you call, email, or message.Every Apple
product is designed from the ground up to protect that information.
And to empower you to choose what you share and with whom. We’ve
proved time and again that great experiences don’t have to come at the
expense of your privacy and security. Instead, they can support them.”
precedent, and seemingly a major victory for the surveillance state, was confirmed by
sources, who asked to remain anonymous, to Forbes magazine.
Furthermore, Forbes obtained
a warrant of
what is probably the first known government inspection of an iPhone X,
Apple’s newest smartphone. The warrant, a probe into a suspect in an
arms trafficking case, does not reveal what data has the law enforcement
obtained, but it does show that the suspect’s iPhone X was sent to a
Cellebrite specialist at the Department of Homeland Security in Grand
according to Forbes writer
Thomas Fox-Brewster, is a “significant moment for law enforcement, not
just in America, but across the globe.” With each new release, iPhone
has improved its security with layers upon layers of encryption, but it
seems their devices, even the newest ones, are not impenetrable after
famous whistleblower and a vocal critic of the surveillance state,
Edward Snowden, shared his thoughts in a tweet. “The only compelling
reason for someone to buy an iPhone over more open, less expensive
competitors was Apple’s stronger stance on users’ right to privacy and
security,” Snowden wrote, adding that this “threatens the core of an
the longest time, Apple’s key product was something you cannot buy: a
commitment to privacy.
Apple failed its faithful customers? Edward Snowden’s sentiment – that
Apple’s stance on users’ right to privacy and security is the only
compelling reason for someone to buy an iOS device – might not be shared
by the average iPhone owner, but privacy advocates probably feel the
has still not responded to Cellebrite’s claims that it can crack open
iOS devices and help law enforcement in what is a perfectly fine way to
pursuit criminal justice to some, and a colossal threat to civil
liberties to others.