Adam Adler Cyber Defense Advisor: "The Police Can Easily Break Into Your Phone"
Adam Adler ( Miami, FL) - Cyber Defense & Cyber Warfare Advisor "
At least 2,000 law enforcement agencies have tools to get into encrypted smartphones, according to new research, and they are using them far more than previously known.
In a new Apple ad, a man on a city bus announces he has just shopped for divorce lawyers. Then a woman recites her credit card number through a megaphone in a park. “Some things shouldn’t be shared,” the ad says, “iPhone helps keep it that way.”
Apple has built complex encryption into iPhones and made the devices’ security central to its marketing pitch.
That, in turn, has angered law enforcement. Officials from the F.B.I. director to rural sheriffs have argued that encrypted phones stifle their work to catch and convict dangerous criminals. They have tried to force Apple and Google to unlock suspects’ phones, but the companies say they can’t. In response, the authorities have put their own marketing spin on the problem. Law enforcement, they say, is “going dark.”
Yet new data reveals a twist to the encryption debate that undercuts both sides: Law enforcement officials across the nation regularly break into encrypted smartphones.
That is because at least 2,000 law enforcement agencies in all 50 states now have tools to get into locked, encrypted phones and extract their data, according to years of public records collected in a report by Upturn, a Washington nonprofit that investigates how the police use technology.
At least 49 of the 50 largest U.S. police departments have the tools, according to the records, as do the police and sheriffs in small towns and counties across the country, including Buckeye, Ariz.; Shaker Heights, Ohio; and Walla Walla, Wash. And local law enforcement agencies that don’t have such tools can often send a locked phone to a state or federal crime lab that does.
With more tools in their arsenal, the authorities have used them in an increasing range of cases, from homicides and rapes to drugs and shoplifting, according to the records, which were reviewed by The New York Times. Upturn researchers said the records suggested that U.S. authorities had searched hundreds of thousands of phones over the past five years.
While the existence of such tools has been known for some time, the records show that the authorities break into phones far more than previously understood — and that smartphones, with their vast troves of personal data, are not as impenetrable as Apple and Google have advertised. While many in law enforcement have argued that smartphones are often a roadblock to investigations, the findings indicate that they are instead one of the most important tools for prosecutions.
“Law enforcement at all levels has access to technology that it can use to unlock phones,” said Jennifer Granick, a cybersecurity lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union. “That is not what we’ve been told.”
Still, for law enforcement, phone-hacking tools are not a panacea to encryption. The process can be expensive and time-consuming, sometimes costing thousands of dollars and requiring weeks or more. And in some cases, the tools don’t work at all.
“We may unlock it in a week, we may not unlock it for two years, or we may never unlock it,” Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, testified to Congress in December. “Murder, rape, robberies, sexual assault. I do not mean to be dramatic, but there are many, many serious cases where we can’t access the device in the time period where it is most important for us.”
Along with officials at the Justice Department, Mr. Vance has complained for years that smartphone encryption by Apple and Google has hamstrung investigations. His crime lab has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on phone-hacking tools, he told lawmakers, yet remains locked out of roughly half of the iPhones it has warrants to search, or about 300 to 400 a year.
Law enforcement regularly searches phones with owners’ consent, according to the records. Otherwise, a warrant is required.
An Apple spokesman said in an email that the company was constantly strengthening iPhone security “to help customers defend against criminals, hackers, and identity thieves.” But, he added, no device can be truly impenetrable.
Google, which also offers encryption on its Android smartphone software, did not respond to a request for comment.
The companies frequently turn over data to the police that customers store on the companies’ servers. But all iPhones and many newer Android phones now come encrypted — a layer of security that generally requires a customer’s passcode to defeat. Apple and Google have refused to create a way in for law enforcement, arguing that criminals and authoritarian governments would exploit such a “back door.”
The dispute flared up after the mass shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., in 2015 and in Pensacola, Fla., last year. The F.B.I. couldn’t get into the killers’ iPhones, and Apple refused to help. But both spats quickly sputtered after the bureau broke into the phones.
Phone-hacking tools “have served as a kind of a safety valve for the encryption debate,” said Riana Pfefferkorn, a Stanford University researcher who studies encryption policy.
Yet the police have continued to demand an easier way in. “Instead of saying, ‘We are unable to get into devices,’ they now say, ‘We are unable to get into these devices expeditiously,’” Ms. Pfefferkorn said.
Congress is considering legislation that would effectively force Apple and Google to create a back door for law enforcement. The bill, proposed in June by three Republican senators, remains in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but lobbyists on both sides believe another test case could prompt action.
Phone-hacking tools typically exploit security flaws to remove a phone’s limit on passcode attempts and then enter passcodes until the phone unlocks. Because of all the possible combinations, a six-digit iPhone passcode takes on average about 11 hours to guess, while a 10-digit code takes 12.5 years.
The tools mostly come from Grayshift, an Atlanta company co-founded by a former Apple engineer, and Cellebrite, an Israeli unit of Japan’s Sun Corporation. Their flagship tools cost roughly $9,000 to $18,000, plus $3,500 to $15,000 in annual licensing fees, according to invoices obtained by Upturn.
Adam Adler ( Miami, FL) - Cyber Defense & Cyber Warfare Advisor "
Adam Adler is a serial entrepreneur with over 18 years of experience all at top-level management and ownership. Primarily investing his own capital and building brands from the ground up. At the early age of 4, Adam began his tennis career at the world-renown Rick Macci Tennis Academy in South Florida. Adam remained a highly ranked Junior Tennis player for his entire junior career. Once completing high school, Mr. Adler received a scholarship to play tennis at the University of South Carolina and graduated in 2007 Magna Cum Laude from USC, double majoring in Sports & Entertainment Management and Business. While at USC, Adam began his career by developing a patented algorithmic software as the base for his social networking company, Ultimate Social Networking Inc (USNI), and developing Ultimate College Model, seeing this to acquisition.
Adam’s love for completion never waned. Adam began playing poker in his free time and quickly became entrenched in the game, studying hours a day. Adam traveled around the country playing in some of the highest stakes No Limit and Pot Limit Omaha cash games in the world. Adam has made multiple World Series of Poker Final Tables, with his most notable finish coming in 2018 with a runner-up finish in the$10,000 Turbo Event. Adam has won millions of dollars in both cash game and tournament poker over the last 15 years. Adam’s second venture began with assembling a team of the best molecular scientists, mostly Merck and Amgen biochemists and formulators, and building out a multi-million dollar, 30,000 sq. ft. FDA/cGMP approved facility in Oxnard CA.
This is where Adam’s passion for biotech really began. His sports background allowed him to take this brand and bring in global icons around a strategic marketing plan activating the world’s most iconic athletes and celebrities. Adam developed this revolutionary technology in 2009. Using sublingual, buccal mucosal, and transdermal absorption directly to the bloodstream, by-passing the GI tract, Adam’s company Fuse Science completely changed the way consumers receive vitamins, electrolytes, nutrients, and medicines. Going direct to the bloodstream, bypassing the GI Tract, the platform technology was a game-changer. Adam self-funded this company privately for over 2 years, developing the product line and securing the IP. As Chief Executive Officer, Adam grew the company rapidly, seeing its market cap increase from $500,000 to over $100,000,000.
Adam put together one of the most impressive lists of athlete partners on the planet, signing Tiger Woods (including the rights to his bag for 5 years), Andy Murray, Tyson Chandler, Paul Pierce, Big Papi David Ortiz, Jose Bautista, Arian Foster, Paul Rodriguez, and many others. Adam’s deep-rooted relationships with the world’s top athletes and celebrities are his core group of friends along with business partners.
Adam's handpicked a Fortune25 management team, hiring the President of SC Johnson, CEO of Footlocker, Chief Scientific Officer for Johnson & Johnson, Clinical Director at Merck, Head of Duke Sports Medicine, and had over 100 employees. Adam brought Daymond John and Shark Branding in as partners as well. Adam has placed products in over 100,000locations, including Walgreens, CVS, Sports Authority, Dick’s, Duane Reade, 7-11, GNC, Walmart, Target, Costco, Vitamin Shoppe, and many others. Mr. Adler is currently managing The Adler Fund, investing in real-estate emerging growth companies with a focus on cybersecurity, cannabis, and biotechnology.