Scottish Police Buy Cellebrite Phone Unlocking Kits

Police in Scotland are to deploy kits for extracting data from mobile phones around the country, using technology from a firm best known for its collaborations with the US government.

The terminals are made by Israeli firm Cellebrite, which has assisted US law enforcement groups in unlocking smartphones in several high-profile cases.

Police Scotland is to deploy 41 Cellebrite terminals around the country following a trial in Edinburgh and Stirling. The contract is worth £370,000, according to Public Contracts Scotland. Insight Direct is acting as a reseller for Cellebrite in the contract.

The kiosks are designed to access devices that may have been locked in order to extract data that may be used in an investigation.

A Cellebrite UFED kiosk. Credit: Cellebrite

Data extraction tool

Cellebrite says it’s able to unlock the latest Apple iPhone models and software, according to its own literature, but has only publicly said that capability is available through its Advanced Unlocking and Extraction service, which involves providing a device to a Cellebrite technician.

The kiosks purchased by Police Scotland involve more limited services carried out by a self-contained appliance.

Cellebrite’s Universal Forensic Extraction Device is available in several formats, including ruggedised tablets and laptops, but Police Scotland indicated it has chosen the kiosk, a self-contained device that can be deployed at police stations or checkpoints, according to Cellebrite’s marketing literature.

The devices are capable of accessing information from a wide variety of gadgets, or directly from SIM cards.

During the Edinburgh and Stirling trial officers accessed 375 phones and 262 SIM cards during investigations of low-level crime, according to local reports.

Detective Chief Inspector Brian Stuart said the purchase was part of a broader plan to expand capabilities in digital forensics and other areas.

He said the devices would be used on devices seized under the execution of a warrant or other statutory powers.

“Officers will now have the ability to interrogate the device and view data from within set parameters, such as a specific timeframe,” he said.

He said only “relevant information” would be extracted and no data would be retained on the kiosk.

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Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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