You must be wearing a tinfoil hat and reading this on Windows 98 if you’re not keeping most of your personal data on your smartphone. Over the years, us Malaysians have been accustomed to increased security measures like fingerprint scanning and facial recognition, as they have all become commonplace in smartphones as to keep the privacy of their users. Now we know that none of that is completely foolproof as an Israeli company claims that it can unlock any smartphone.
Cellebrite, a company based in Petah Tikva, Israel, developed the Universal Forensic Extraction Device or UFED, as a way for as a tool for law enforcement around the world. This latest version is called the UFED Premium, which is an “on-premises tool” for the police to use to unlock and extract data from various iOS and Android-based smartphones.
As Forbes noted, this program was able to unlock an iPhone X with no qualms. Cellebrite’s official website states that they are “the most advanced and trusted digital forensics solution on the planet”, and doesn’t shy away on their tech’s applications on law enforcement, military use, and businesses. The UFED is believed to be the tool that was used by the FBI to unlock the iPhone 5C of one of the shooters involved in the San Bernardino shooting in 2016.
So far, affected devices include iPhones and iPads that run iOS 7 to iOS 12.3, with Android smartphones that are affected include the Samsung Galaxy S6 to Galaxy S9 models, and numerous devices from LG, Motorola, Xiaomi and Huawei. With Apple ramping up their security measures with each iOS update, and Android phones having many built-in security measures, having a software like the UFED being available for businesses seems to be a breach in trust for smartphone developers and providers in Malaysia.
Cyber-security breaches and the protection of your personal data is definitely a major concern for the consumers of Malaysia, the governments of the world, and the companies making these various smartphones. On one hand, you have cases like the ongoing Huawei VS. The U.S Government which calls for increased security and transparency of data, while on the other, you have Apple and Samsung who are providing increased security as a selling point for their phones.
So what does this mean for us regular consumers in Malaysia? Well not much, unless you are somehow related to some shady stuff. If you’re working for the government or a company that has access to this software, you might be subjected to surrender your phone if you are implicated in an investigation. In any case, read your terms and conditions people, you never know what you could’ve subjected yourselves into.
Only time will tell if this will directly impact our current smartphones and our personal data. For everyone’s sake, let’s just hope this software does fall into the wrong hands one day.