The police have grown increasingly fond of an iPhone hacking tool called GrayKey. It’ll now break … [+]
Grayshift, an Atlanta-based startup that made its name with the GrayKey hacking tool that breaks Apple’s iPhone defenses, now officially does the same for Google’s Android operating system. Forbes first reported Grayshift was to try cracking Google’s OS back in 2019. The company confirmed it Monday.
It is starting out small, however, only focusing on the Samsung S20 and S9 devices, according to a company statement. The company previously only focused on unlocking locked iOS phones and has gained plenty of customers across both federal and local law enforcement in recent years, including 2019 and 2020 contracts worth millions of dollars with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Secret Service and the FBI. Late last week, it signed a deal through forensics partner Magnet Forensics to provide Graykeys to Customs and Border Protection, with whom it already had contracts.
Now able to crack iPhones and Androids, Grayshift is positioning itself as the main American provider of law enforcement hacking tools, as the U.S. government continues to struggle to get into heavily encrypted smartphones. Last year, it raised $47 million in a funding round led by private equity firm PeakEquity Partners. Its main competitor remains Cellebrite, a long-established Israeli phone forensics supplier, which has contracts with police and law enforcement agencies around the world.
Grayshift said that with its tools, it could now provide “lawful same-day access for both iOS and leading Android devices, often in less than one hour.” The cost for a single GrayKey annual license starts at just under $10,000, which appears to be a reduced cost from the previously-reported $15,000.
“Legacy digital forensic investigations tools often fail to support the latest mobile devices and can require weeks if not months to access and extract digital evidence. Law enforcement agencies need solutions like GrayKey that can lawfully and quickly access digital evidence to accelerate criminal investigations and reduce the backlog of mobile devices sitting in evidence,” said David Miles, co-founder and CEO of Grayshift.
“The ability to access a locked Samsung phone is invaluable. Not only have we been able to access devices that were previously inaccessible, but also the amount of data extracted by GrayKey is far more than any we have even seen previously extracted from an Android phone,” added Mitch Kajzer, director of St. Joseph County Cyber Crimes Unit at the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney.
Though a huge boon for law enforcement, privacy advocates have raised concerns about such powerful tools being put in the hands of law enforcement officers, in particular at the border, where no warrant is required to search a device.
In October 2020, nonprofit Upturn, which looks at the expansion of surveillance tools across the globe, reported on the widespread adoption of phone forensic tech, warning: “Given how routine these searches are today, together with racist policing policies and practices, it’s more than likely that these technologies disparately affect and are used against communities of color.”
This content was originally published here.