Charlottesville police buy equipment to crack locked iPhones

CHARLOTTESVILLE — A device specifically designed to break into iPhones and Apple operating systems and allow access to encrypted files has been approved for purchase by the Charlottesville Police Department.

A notice posted on the city’s purchasing website last week showed the police department had agreed to buy the device from Grayshift LLC, citing the company as the only source for the “‘microcomputer hardware unit/software to extract pass code and data from iOS devices.”

“The software is a tool utilized in digital forensics, pursuant to valid legal authority,” said Sgt. Tony Newberry.

The device is called a GrayKey and was developed to unlock iPhones, including models running iOS 11.3 and the iPhone X, according to computer security analysts and the company’s advertisements.

Although the Grayshift website has no information available, reports by computer security analysts and posts on a variety of social media and industry forums indicated the company offers a $15,000 annual license to use its internet-based software up to 300 times to crack codes. A device can also be purchased for $30,000 and used as many times as the agency wants without accessing the internet except for initial setup and software updates.

The purchase announcement did not specify which option the city took.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that in most cases police will need a search warrant to access information on a cellphone. In limited cases, if police have reason to believe information from the phone is needed to thwart a crime or that the information may be destroyed, they may search the phone prior to receiving a warrant. ..Read More..

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