Rio de Janeiro police use Cellebrite to unlock iPhones and apprehend two murder suspects

The Brazilian police confirmed on Thursday that they were able to apprehend two murder suspects of a 4-year-old boy with the help of an advanced and controversial tool that has been utilized by law enforcement officers on multiple occasions called Cellebrite.

Cellebrite gained popularity after the 2015 San Bernardino shooting. The FBI used the tool to unlock iPhones of various suspects. The case began a major dispute between the FBI and Apple because the FBI wanted a way to extract data from personal devices in cases like this. Apple never agreed to this because it was not sure how the tool would be used and on what levels would this affect user privacy and security.

Apple new product - Cellebrite

Brazil police capture two murder suspects by using Cellebrite to unlock iPhones

Police Chief Antenor Lopes confirmed in a G1 report on Thursday that the police were able to arrest the suspects after gaining access to important messages shared between the couple. The police arrested the boy’s stepfather and mother. Lopes said that the police utilized Cellebrite Premium to unlock the accused couple’s devices. Most of the messages were shared on WhatsApp and showed conversations with evidence that the stepfather had beaten the boy before his death, and the mother knew everything about it.

We found conversation prints on her mother’s cell phomne that were extremely relevant evidence, sine they are from the 12th of February. And what caught our attention is that it was a conversation between the mother and the nanny that revealed a routine of violence that Henry suffered. The nanny reports that Henry told her that his stepfather took him by the arm, tripped him and kicked him. It was quite clear that there was an injury there. The nanny herself says that Henry was limping.

Henry’s death report points to signs of violence. On the day of the incident, only Monique, Henry, and Jairinho were in the apartment. The couple was arrested temporarily on 8th Thursday for trying to disrupt investigations and Henry’s double-qualified murder. The evidence recovered by the police gave them enough proof that Henry was not the victim of a domestic accident, rather he was murdered. The use of Cellebrite was corroborated by the Public Ministry and ended by being granted by the judge of the 2nd Jury Tribunal.

iPhone 13 camera - Cellebrite

On Cellebrite’s website, it claims that the advanced and controversial tool carries the ability to unlock devices from iPhone 4s to iPhone XS, along with iPod touch and iPad models functioning from iOS 5 to iOS 12. Cellebrite also makes use of an unpatchable hardware exploit found on all Apple chips from A5 to A11 Bionic, called checkm8.

The cost for the tool of Cellebrite is almost $16,000 and it only sells it to security researchers and government agencies. There is no guarantee that the tool will always be kept and used in good hands, and this raises questions about how secure our personal devices actually are.

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About the Author

Usman has been playing games for as long as he can remember. He is an editor at iThinkDifferent and writes about games, Apple news, hardware, productivity guides, and more. When not writing for iTD, Usman loves to play competitive Team Fortress 2, spends time honing his football skills, and watches superhero movies.