Report suggests NYC District Attorney's office has been able to break into iPhones since January 2018

What you need to know

  • OneZero report suggests New York City's District Attorney paid $200,000 to Cellebrite for UFED Premium.
  • Contract shows the DA's office subscribed to the Israeli firm's technology back in January 2018.
  • Cellebrite claims UFED Premium is an "on-premise solution for law enforcement agencies to unlock and extract crucial mobile phone evidence from all iOS and high-end Android devices."

A report from One Zero, via 9to5 Mac claims that the New York District Attorney's office in Manhattan has been using Cellebrite technology to unlock iPhones since January 2018. Cellebrite's UFED Premium can purportedly unlock any iPhone from iOS 7 to 12.3, bypassing or determining locks and performing file extraction.

Israeli company Cellebrite announced the service back in June 2019, claiming that it was offering the ability to unlock any iOS device "in-house". According to their website:

Bypass or determine locks and perform a full file system extraction on any iOS device, or a physical extraction or full file system (File-Based Encryption) extraction on many high-end Android devices, to get much more data than what is possible through logical extractions and other conventional means.Gain access to 3rd party app data, chat conversations, downloaded emails and email attachments, deleted content and more, increase your chances of finding the incriminating evidence and bringing your case to a resolution.

Now, the latest report from OneZero suggests that the Manhattn District Attorney's Office may have already been using this technology since the beginning of last year.

A contract obtained by OneZero shows that the Manhattan District Attorney's office — one of the largest and most influential prosecution offices in the country — has had UFED Premium in-house since January 2018. According to the contract, the DA's office agreed to pay Cellebrite about $200,000 over three years for UFED Premium.The $200,000 fee covered software licensing and installation, training for select office personnel on the platform, and an agreed-upon number of phone cracks. The contract also references about $1 million in undisclosed add-ons, but it's not clear if the DA's office agreed to purchase any of these additional products or services.

OneZero goes on to report how a Legal Aid Society Attorney Jerome Greco says that he believes that the phone of one of his clients had been accessed during a case in 2018:

Based on the language in the warrant, Greco suspected that prosecutors had used Cellebrite to crack his client's iPhone 6s Plus. At that time, it was assumed that if law enforcement wanted to unlock that phone model, they had to turn it over to Cellebrite so they could unlock it at one of their forensic facilities. Since the closest facility was in Parsippany, New Jersey, Greco thought this search warrant might have been unlawfully executed because, Greco says, "a New York judge can't let that happen without another state signing off."

When pressed for Comment Cellebrite said that it never discussed the details of its clients.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9