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Notorious iPhone hacking company has its secrets revealed by hack

Cellebrite hack

Cellebrite, an Israeli firm that supplies “forensics tools” to agencies around the world, including US law enforcement, appears to have suffered a serious hack. Motherboard claims to have 900GB of Cellebrite data, supplied to it by an anonymous hacker. Among other things, the data reportedly shows that the Israeli firm has been selling its technology to regimes known for their human rights abuses, including Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia.

Cellebrite is best known for its rumored involvement in helping the FBI crack the San Bernandino shooter’s iPhone, as Apple fought an order to assist through the courts. In addition to helping the FBI in that case, Cellebrite also sells forensics devices and software to dozens of US law enforcement agencies and police departments. It’s also actively involved in developing the “Textalyser,” a device that would theoretically let cops know if a cellphone was being used right before a car accident.

The hack feels very similar to the 2015 breach of HackingTeam, an Italian company that provided spying tools to governments around the world. HackingTeam was shown to have sold its products to government agencies in Sudan, Ethiopia and Bangladesh, among many others. The scope of Cellebrite’s sales is not clear, but it’s still not a good look to be providing computer hacking tools to a Turkish regime being constantly criticized for its crack-downs on journalists and freedom of speech.

According to Motherboard, the 900GB data dump was provided by an anonymous hacker that disapproves of Cellebrite’s choice of customer. The data apparently includes snippets of Cellebrite’s customer database, data dumps from Cellebrite devices, and even evidence obtained from target devices. Cellebrite seemingly confirmed the authenticity of the data breach to Motherboard. 

Since the data dump is not public, the backlash against Cellebrite is unlikely to be as bad as the one seen by HackingTeam, which was forced to stop exporting its software after its data was leaked. But even if there’s no immediate consequence, details of an Israeli firm supplying digital weapons to nations like Russia isn’t going to do wonders for its US sales.