Police departments use cars as backdoors to get into phones


The most famous case is the iPhone of the San Bernardino attacker, with the FBI publicly asking Apple to unlock the device and help investigators get past the password screen.

Apple refused to do so on national security grounds, explaining that building such a backdoor would end up compromising all of its devices, as the company said it would only be a matter of time until that such a solution falls into the wrong hands.

Since then, police have explored all kinds of ways to access private data and, according to a report by The Intercept, customs and border protection officials have discovered a simple method to do it all.

It all comes down to hardware kits specially developed by a Swedish IT company called MSAB that allow authorities to connect to cars and extract information typically transmitted by smartphones during the syncing process. In other words, all the data that your smartphone allows the car to read can be obtained by the police, including recent destinations and favorite places, call logs, contact lists, SMS messages, emails, photos, videos, and even social media feeds.

Clearly, if your car is able to access it, a police investigator who connects to the vehicle using such a kit does so too.

The worst part is that automakers have never tried to secure the connection to the car, largely because service centers need to be able to access certain diagnostic data effortlessly. And of course, things are unlikely to change given the effort that would be required for all of this.

A dedicated MSAB kit would cost over $ 450,000, but for a government agency that doesn’t mean much. Law enforcement says the kits are essential for some criminal investigations that would require data mining from the car and paired cell phones.


About Anne Wurtsbach

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