India’s Buying Cellebrite Technology to Become A “Global Hub” of Unlocking iPhones

Rafia Shaikh
Posted Nov 4, 2016
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The Indian government is buying the technology that the Israel-based Cellebrite used to help the FBI unlock the iPhone in the San Bernardino shooting case. The country plans to become the “global go-to place for law enforcement agencies seeking to unlock high security devices,” the Economic Times reported.

The FBI reportedly paid close to $1 million to the company who helped the agency in unlocking the iPhone, that ended the court battle between Apple and the law enforcement agency. The FBI didn’t even buy the rights to the unlock method for that price.

FSL to buy the iPhone unlocking technology from Cellebrite

The Indian law enforcement has now struck a deal to buy the technology that is notorious for unlocking hard to crack iPhones and other encrypted phones using hidden vulnerabilities. The country’s premier forensic institute located in Gandhinagar, Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), will be buying this technology from Cellebrite. India aims to assist other law enforcement agencies around the world to unlock high-security devices.

We are likely to have the technology within a month or so. India will become a global hub for cases where law enforcement is unable to break into phones,” a senior Forensic Science Laboratory official said.

At this point, it’s unclear whether India is buying the exclusive rights to the technology. Even if so, the technology used to unlock the iPhone 5c might not work on the later generations of the iPhone, making it useless for more latest devices. It is unknown to what extent this technology has improved and what exactly is the Indian agency buying. The Indian government also hasn’t shared the terms it would make its services available to other governments.

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A senior FSL official said the laboratory had previously sought help from the Israeli firm for a few cases. But now the “entire tool” will be acquired, making FSL Gandhinagar, the only place to have this technology. Other governments and law enforcement agencies that may need such services will have to pay a fee to FSL Gandhinagar.

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