How Israeli phone hacking tool conquered the world

Israeli intelligence company Cellebrite is not well-known and yet it’s ubiquitous around the world. One of its main products is used to hack mobile phones, deployed by repressive regimes like Russia and China and countless Australian and US government departments.

A section of my new book, The Palestine Laboratory, investigates Cellebrite. Declassified Australia has just published an edited extract along with my new research on the corporation’s presence in Australia:

From the provision of spyware and equipment, to electronic hardware and training programs, Israeli technology company Cellebrite is an integral part of Australia’s security infrastructure.

A look at the AusTender website, where federal government contracts are listed, details 128 contracts between Australian government agencies and the Israeli company since 2011.

Cellebrite is an Israeli digital intelligence company, staffed by former Israeli military and intelligence officers, that is now commonly used by law enforcement across the globe to hack and access data –  yet barely anybody in the public has heard of it.

During the writing of my new book, The Palestine Laboratory, it was a firm that featured heavily. The most infamous Cellebrite spyware tool, the Universal Forensics Extraction Device (UFED), has been deployed by some of the most repressive states in the world, such as Russia and China, and across virtually all levels of the US government. A former Cellebrite employee wrote in 2021 that the company did nothing to stop the abuse of its products and was happy to sell them to the worst offenders on the planet.

In Australia, Cellebrite is rarely in the headlines. The company enjoys little scrutiny, apart from recent stories in iTnewsand the Guardian, detailing how Services Australia is using Cellebrite spyware to pursue alleged welfare fraud by cracking into individuals’ locked mobile phones. The hacking technology was allegedly used against a woman receiving single parent payments to determine if she had been in a relationship at the time. Although no charges were ever laid, the woman was chased for repayments.

The range of Australian government departments now using Cellebrite’s unique phone spying abilities, from the Australian Tax Office to the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission to the Department of Home Affairs, shows that the corporation’s troubling record and accuracy across the globe has had no impact on it being able to secure contracts in Australia.

The history of Cellebrite and its role as an unaccountable arm of the Israeli state is detailed in this edited extract from my new book, The Palestine Laboratory.

Read the whole story here: THE ISRAELI COMPANY HACKING INTO YOUR LOCKED MOBILE PHONE – Declassified Australia

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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