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Smartphone Cracking Tech Helps Police Arrest Murder Suspects

The advanced unlocking and info-extracting tool is only sold to government agencies and security researchers.

Smartphone Cracking Tech Helps Police Arrest Murder Suspects
Unlocking an iPhone ymgerman/iStock

Police in Brazil can thank Cellebrite's smartphone-cracking tool for its recent arrest of two child murder suspects in Rio de Janeiro. 

The Israeli software company's mission is to help private and public organizations, notably government agencies and security researchers, use digital intelligence to better protect and save lives, bring suspects to justice, and ensure data privacy.

It's a bit of a controversial tool, as 9to5Mac points out, because there's no guarantee it'll only be used for good. That said, in this particular Brazilian police case, it appeared to have done more good than harm. 

By using Cellebrite's system, Brazilian police confirmed on April 8 in the local newspaper, G1 (in Portuguese), that they were able to arrest two murder suspects by unlocking their iPhones.

How the police in Brazil were able to arrest suspects using the tech

The police had been investigating the death of a four-year-old boy for over a month. After being able to read the suspects' — the boy's stepfather and mother —messages, they were able to find written evidence that the boy's stepfather had badly beaten him before his death, and that his mother was fully aware of what had happened. 

In his account shared via G1, police chief Antenor Lopes said the team used Cellebrite's Premium tool to crack the suspects' iPhones security. 

On its website, Cellebrite claims that its security tool can unlock and extract information from iPhones, Huawei, Samsung, and LG smartphones. For example, it says that its tool works on all the latest Apple iOS devices including all iPhone models, from iPhone 4 to iPhone XS/XR. 

It's certainly much more advanced tech than using an antenna to unlock 26 iPhones simultaneously, but it still raises a few questions about private data breaches, as well as how secure our personal devices are. 

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