It’s no secret that the system developed by Israeli company Cellebrite, which gains access into smartphones, is currently being used by national security agencies around the world. In the past it was claimed that the technology was used to track human rights activists in Hong Kong. A new report reveals that the system is not strictly deployed as a tool for law enforcement, but also for few surprising purposes.
Apparently, not just for law enforcement
According to a report from Gizmodo, in addition to the FBI and other U.S. law enforcement agencies, the U.S. school system is also counted as a happy Cellebrite customer. Apparently the need for schools to retrieve info from their students’ phones has led the school system to acquire the Israeli company’s system, as well as other competing systems.
One example of a school’s use of the system comes from Shelbyville, Texas. In 2016 the local school utilized Cellebrite’s UFED system to gain access into the phone of a student, who was suspicious of having an ongoing and illegal relationship with one of the teachers. The system revealed deleted texts where both student and teacher declared their “love” for each other. Two days after the student consented to his phone search, the teacher was arrested and charged with sexual assault of a minor.
In this case, Cellebrite’s system was not owned by the school but rather by the local Sheriff Department. However, since then, school systems have started secretly purchasing Cellebrite’s technology, and others like it. And the Shelbyville case wasn’t the only one. In March of this year, it was uncovered that a school district in San Antonio, Texas paid Cellebrite $6,700 for what was deemed “general services”. With further reports coming from Texas noting that two other school districts have purchased smartphone forensic systems as well.
The aforementioned report also revealed that the second largest school district in the U.S., with over 600,000 students, utilizes Cellebrite’s tool to gain covert access into students’ phones to uncover any acts of abuse coming from school faculty. Furthermore, the school district’s superintendent discloses that there is even a dedicated position for monitoring and operating the Israeli developed device.
Cellebrite disclosed that “Cellebrite does not relay any personal information of its customers and demands that customers follow the required laws of their jurisdiction.”