New document shows extent of the government’s ability to search your iPhone

By , Feb 27, 2013

iphone user

A new document, submitted to court in connection with a drug investigation, has been discovered that provides a rare look at the amount of data the government can pull from a seized iPhone using advanced forensic tools.

Of course, we all know that phone searches are a common law enforcement tool. But up until now, we’ve mostly been in the dark regarding what information the government can grab with this invasive search technique…

iphone court document

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who spotted the court document, offers some background:

“Last fall, officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seized an iPhone from the bedroom of a suspect in a drug investigation. In a single data extraction session, ICE collected a huge array of personal data from the phone.”

As you can see in the image above, the ICE team was able to pull call activity, contact information, stored text messages and voicemails, photos, videos, passwords and over 650 geolocation points from the suspect’s iPhone.

That’s pretty crazy when you think that before smartphones came around, it was nearly impossible for police to gather all of this intel—who you’ve been talking to, the places you’ve been. Now all it takes is a computer session.

The scariest part of it all is that in most states, police aren’t required to obtain a warrant to run this forensic software. And with their mobile Cellbrite machines, it’s possible that they could do so during a routine traffic stop.

No, ACLU isn’t saying you should throw away your phone and sit in your room with a tinfoil hat on your head. But it is trying to spread the word about this poorly regulated practice, and it suggests you use a passcode on your iPhone.

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  • http://www.eraser.org B. Braun

    You can get those data from every smartphone, and providers have them even from dumb phones. This is FUD

  • At

    Don’t do anything illegal, like selling drugs, and you won’t have to worry about it!

    • disqusted

      Huh? Selling drugs is illegal?! Since when? Oh wait— does this coincide with the “unlocking is now illegal” law stuff? Sneaky deaky! But as long as they’re prescription drugs then it’s still cool, I’m assuming? The day a fellow can’t sell a couple of uh… boxes of Fentanyl patches to his friends, family and vague associates is the day they might as well burn the Constitution! Whatever the f**k that is… Isn’t that the southern flag? The constitution flag? Stars and (Xannie) bars? You can take my wife— but you will never take— my freedom!!!

      EDIT: Actually, as it turns out, they *can* take your freedom… WTF. I thought that was the primary law of the US?!

      Law #1- You can’t take our freedom
      Law #2- You can’t take away Law #1
      Law #3- You do not talk about Fight Club

      I feel like I’m living in China or North Korea with—

      Cum Dong II: I Shoot Missle! I Don’t Give Fuk About American! I Do What Fuk I Want, Stupid S-Hole!
      (2013, Film Not Yet Rated)

      • 4p0c4lyps3

        Lolololololololololol!
        Some blues ftw?

    • Tr1pTr0p

      Congratulations for completely missing the point and acknowledging and accepting your freedom, as well as your privacy being infringed upon. How nice of you.

      • At

        I forget sarcasm doesn’t work in text. But at the same time, if you’re breaking the law I believe you should not have the same rights as a law abiding citizen.

      • http://www.yourwritingcoach.com j4london

        These searches can be done before you’re even charged with anything. And I guess there’s no chance of mis-use of this, right? I mean, when have the police ever done anything against law-abiding citizens like blacks, gays, hippies, demonstrators, whistle-blowers or others they don’t like? Oh, wait…

      • http://twitter.com/e420kush e420Kush

        Seriously! If we accept it for it to be ok then they will just abuse like they already probably do. Nobody has ever had anything planted on them before…..ya right….

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

      lol but humans need drugs and they have to buy them so there will always be humans selling drugs… even politicians and law makers and cop use drugs..lol

      • At

        Lets turn the table and steal their phones and find out where they are going and who they are calling. See how they like it!!

      • http://twitter.com/e420kush e420Kush

        I agree Joe Jonsen Big pharm is the biggest drug dealers in the world and thats perfectly fine to give vicodin (an OPIATE a HERION DERIVATIVE) which kills many of thousands every year. I guess those drugs are ok because they are approved by the FDA right? right…

      • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

        yup govt is now a business

    • http://twitter.com/MetalxMassacre Chad Finch

      Your missing the point.

    • a smit

      you’re a short-sighted fool – what happens if (or when?) ‘leaders’ of the future decide that almost anything you do compromises ‘national security’ – intel gathering at this level will have already been a well oiled procedure… people will be used to being bullied around

      its almost never about whats happening today, it about what this means for the future

      • At

        Settle down now, if you read all of the comments you will see where I posted that I meant it to be sarcastic….

  • Tr1pTr0p

    Americans, please tell me more about your freedom. Why aren’t you fighting against this bullshit?

    • EpicFacepalm

      Don’t use Apple, Microsoft, Google (USA) products and you’re good. Just kidding…

    • http://twitter.com/e420kush e420Kush

      what can ya do….please enlighten us.

      • Tr1pTr0p

        Icelanders have overthrown their corrupt government, took things into their own hands and saved their country.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

      the civilian population is powerless

      • Tr1pTr0p

        Quite the opposite. Civilian population holds all the power in their own hands.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

    fact is if they can find bin laden.. they can find you too

    • a smit

      you mean the bin laden that was dead for almost 10 years?

    • Hyr3m

      They knew where he was all along… since the beginning and until his death 10 or 11 years ago… Anything even loosely related to 9/11 has been nothing but a pack of lies and deceit.

      • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

        thats deep….. the govt has godly powers

      • Hyr3m

        The CIA tends to keep track of its agents.

        Also, the guy needed a dialysis every 2-3 days, he had to go to a hospital to get one.

        I know you like to look like a fool by mistaking opinion and fact but don’t go down that path about false-flag operations. Gulf of Tonkin, Pearl Harbour, The Lusitania, the Northwoods proposals… Do some research before trying to be a smart-ass. We can laugh about “ios vs. android” or “apple vs google” but this is a serious matter.

  • 4ensics_pete

    This is the standard info pulled from any phone, with my Cellebrite Touch UFED I can see every hotspot and tower the phone has been connected to… :)

  • TheAngryPenguin

    “As you can see in the image above, the ICE team was able to pull call activity, contact information, stored text messages and *voicemails, photos, videos, passwords* and over 650 geolocation points from the suspect’s iPhone.”

    What image were you looking at? Or are you just seeing things (*voicemails, photos, videos, passwords*)?!?

    • 4ensics_pete

      The screenshot of the Cellebrite report which lists the count of each category that was collected and parsed.

  • http://www.eraser.org B. Braun

    First step before doing illegal things: turn off your Phone
    Suggestions: Do not set your Status to “about to sell some Meth at the schoolyard”
    And do not shoot pics of you in front of your stolen car and share them on Twitter while GPS function is on.

  • iCandy

    Is there a way to clear locations from your iPhone? I don’t want to turn them off, just clear at some point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shaun.conway Shaun Conway

    Somone needs to make a jailbreak tweak that can cause even one of these things that they pull from the phone to be wrong or add false information then none of it would be admissable in court anyway. There wouldnt be a use for this technolgy on the police side if it wasn’t usable.