Companies often pass data to the police, which customers store on company servers. All iPhones and many newer Android phones are now encrypted – a level of security that generally requires a customer's passcode to be defeated. Apple and Google have refused to find a way for law enforcement, arguing that criminals and authoritarian governments would take advantage of such a "back door".
The dispute arose after the mass shootings in San Bernardino, California, in 2015, and in Pensacola, Florida, last year. The F.B.I. couldn't get into the killers' iPhones, and Apple refused to help. But both gaiters stuttered quickly after the office broke into the phones.
Phone hacking tools "have served as a kind of safety valve for the encryption debate," said Riana Pfefferkorn, a Stanford University researcher who studies encryption policies.
However, the police continued to demand an easier way. "Instead of saying:" We cannot penetrate devices ", they now say:" We cannot penetrate these devices quickly, "said Ms. Pfefferkorn.
Congress is considering laws that would effectively force Apple and Google to create a back door for law enforcement. The bill, proposed by three Republican senators in June, remains on the Senate Judiciary Committee, but lobbyists on both sides believe another test case could lead to action.
Phone hacking tools typically exploit security flaws to unblock a phone's passcode attempts and then enter passcodes until the phone is unlocked. Due to all possible combinations, guessing a six-digit iPhone passcode takes an average of about 11 hours while a ten-digit code takes 12.5 years.
The tools come primarily from Grayshift, an Atlanta company co-founded by a former Apple engineer, and Cellebrite, an Israeli unit of Sun Corporation of Japan. Their flagship tools cost approximately $ 9,000 to $ 18,000, plus $ 3,500 to $ 15,000 in annual royalties, according to Upturn bills.