Cellebrite and Cellphones

cell phone in person's hand at night

What Is Cellebrite?

Cellebrite is a cellphone extraction technology widely used by law enforcement to extract and organize the contents of seized cellphones. Law enforcement uses Cellebrite technology to sort through the contents of a cellphone in order to compile evidence.

What Does Cellebrite Do?

Cellebrite is capable of unlocking and extracting information from cellphones without obtaining user passcodes or biological access to the phones. Not only does Cellebrite gives law enforcement access to locked cellular devices, but it also filters and organizes the contents of the phone using AI, which assists law enforcement in finding relevant evidence more quickly and efficiently.

For example, instead of searching through every single photo on a phone’s camera roll, law enforcement can simply search for photos of cars, money, etc.

Does Cellebrite Work on All Cellphone Models?

While Cellebrite has the ability to extract the contents of hundreds of cellphone models, iPhone extraction is limited by what state of extraction the phone is in when law enforcement receives it. An iPhone’s two states are “After First Unlock” (AFU) and “Before First Unlock” (BFU).

What Is AFU?

AFU means that the device is turned on and has been unlocked via passcode at least once.

What Is BFU?

BFU means that the cellphone is either turned off or is turned on but has not been unlocked since being turned on. When you turn off your iPhone, it enters BFU and remains in BFU until you unlock it.

Currently, Cellebrite is only able to extract the contents of iPhones that are in the AFU state of extraction. When an iPhone is in BFU, Cellebrite is only able to extract very basic system data.

How to Protect Your Cellphone from Cellebrite

In order to better protect your cellular device from extraction technology like Cellebrite, consider the following:

  • Use an alphanumeric or six-digit passcode. Four-digit passcodes can be broken in as little as half an hour. Using a more complex passcode makes the process of unlocking the device harder.
  • Keep your device’s operating software updated. As companies like Cellebrite work to find chinks in your phone’s armor, cellphone manufacturers like Apple work to further protect the contents of your device. System updates often contain changes to software that will better protect your cellphone data.
  • Turn USB restricted mode ON. Disable the USB Accessories toggle in iPhone settings. This prevents access to the USB port if the device has not been unlocked in the past hour.
  • Trigger iPhone’s Emergency SOS mode. Pressing the lock button on an iPhone five times puts the device into emergency SOS mode and slows down passcode search speed, making it harder to unlock.
  • Turn your iPhone OFF. If handing over your phone, restart or turn off your iPhone to enter the BFU extraction state.

How Pissetzky Law LLC Can Help

An experienced attorney can identify any issues and errors law enforcement made during a phone extraction. If you are charged with a serious crime, your phone was seized, and extracted by law enforcement, call us to help you.

Call (844) 668-4258 or email us to discover your defense options in a case review with a recognized attorney at Pissetzky Law LLC in Chicago.