Third Eye: See Who Tried Unsuccessfully to Unlock Your Smartphone

Smartphones have become all the rage in the last few years – with their ever-increasing processing power, their nearly flawless security, and their intuitive user interfaces, it is not hard to see why people are flocking to them by the millions. Smartphones also come with a slew of features, including the ability to lock them with a password, unlock with a password, or unlock with a fingerprint. Smartphones, however, can be unlocked in other ways as well – there are feature phones around the world that can be activated by entering a passcode into the phone, and there are computers – both in the form of software and hardware – that can be used to bypass the security and unlock a smartphone. Sadly, there is one other way that someone can unlock your smartphone, and you may not even know about it.

The Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED), made by Cellebrite, is a tool that can be used to unlock and extract data from any smartphone – even those that are locked with a password, have no SIM card inserted, or have the screen turned off. The UFED can even be used on phones that have been physically destroyed, and can be used on devices running Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Symbian, and Windows Phone. The UFED does all this by connecting to the smartphone via the USB port, and it can be used by law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and corporate investigators.

Recently, a security researcher named Karsten Nohl and a group of other researchers published a paper in which they outlined a vulnerability in the UFED Touch, a smartphone unlocking tool made by Cellebrite. The UFED Touch is a smartphone unlocking tool with a difference – it can be used to unlock even phones running Android 5 and above, smartphones that are encrypted, and smartphones that are set up to boot into a secure bootloader. In their paper, the researchers outline the method they used to exploit the UFED Touch and bypass its security measures so they could control it.

The researchers were able to use the UFED Touch’s debugging interface to change its flash memory contents, and then change the contents of its bootloader to allow them to boot it into a debug mode. With the tool in debug mode, the researchers were able to reprogramme it, and then use it to unlock a Samsung Galaxy S8 – the researchers used the UFED Touch to copy the contents of the phone’s memory to the computer, and then upload a modified version of the Samsung Galaxy S8’s Secure Boot Loader. Once the Secure Boot Loader was modified, the researchers were able to boot the phone into a debug mode, and unlock it with a factory reset.

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While the researchers had to spend a lot of time reverse-engineering the UFED Touch and writing code to exploit it, in reality anyone could have done exactly what the researchers did. In fact, the group of researchers that Nohl is part of were approached by Cellebrite back in January 2019, and the company was notified of the security vulnerability in its UFED Touch and UFED Classic tools. However, until this very day, Cellebrite has not fixed the security vulnerability that allowed Nohl and his team to unlock a smartphone using their UFED Touch. While this is a security flaw that should be fixed as soon as possible, it is also up to you to protect your data from anyone who may want to steal it.

Cellebrite is not the only company that makes smartphone unlocking tools, but it is one of the most well-known ones. As long as these tools exist, though, your data is not safe. That is why you should use a strong password to lock your smartphone – a password that is over 8 characters long and contains a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. You should also use a fingerprint to lock your phone, so that someone won’t be able to unlock your phone with just your password. Finally, you should enable the Lock Screen Notification option that shows you who tried unsuccessfully to unlock your phone. This can serve as a reminder that your smartphone’s security cannot be taken for granted.

Smartphone security is not a one-way street – you are responsible for protecting your data, and so is the company that sold you the phone. If a security vulnerability is found in your device, it is up to the company that made it to fix it as soon as possible. Nohl and his team have notified Cellebrite of the security vulnerability in its UFED Touch, and it is up to the company to fix it so that future versions are not vulnerable to the same exploit. For now, though, it is up to you to make sure your smartphone’s data is safe.

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To check if your smartphone is vulnerable to the security exploit found in the UFED Touch, you need to make sure that your device is encrypted and is running Android 5 or above. Once you make sure you meet the above requirements, you need to follow the steps given below:

  1. On your computer, download UFED Touch v1.7.
  2. Once the file is downloaded, extract the contents of the downloaded zip file.
  3. Navigate to the extracted folder, and then double-click on the UFED_V170.exe file.
  4. Once the installation wizard for UFED Touch v1.7 opens up, click on Next.
  5. On the License Agreement screen, click on Yes to accept the license agreement, and then click on Next.
  6. On the Choose Components screen, make sure that UFED Touch is checked, and then click on Next.
  7. On the Choose Destination Location screen, choose where you want UFED Touch to be installed, and then click on Next.
  8. Click on Install, and wait for the installation to complete.
  9. Once the installation is successful, click on Finish.
  10. Once the installation wizard for UFED Touch v1.7 has closed, press Windows Key + R to open up a Run dialog box.
  11. Type ‘%ProgramFiles%CellebriteUFDTouch’ into the Run dialog box, and then press Enter.
  12. If you are asked for an administrator password, type in the password, and then click on OK.
  13. Once you reach the UFD Touch startup screen, click on OK.
  14. Click on OK on the User Account Control prompt.
  15. On the UFED Touch startup screen, click on Advanced Mode.
  16. On the Advanced Mode startup screen, click on Advanced Mode.
  17. On the Advanced Mode startup screen, click on Choose File.
  18. Navigate to the folder where you extracted the contents of the UFED_V170.zip you downloaded earlier, and then click on Open.
  19. Navigate to the folder where you extracted the contents of the UFED_V170.zip you downloaded earlier, and then click on the file named ‘V170_07-02-19.bin’.
  20. Click on Open, and then click on OK.
  21. Click on Continue, and wait for the UFED Touch to restart.
  22. On the UFED Touch startup screen, click on Read Phone.
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With the security exploit found in the Cellebrite UFED Touch, anyone can unlock your smartphone if they have access to your computer. However, if you make sure that your smartphone is encrypted and has a strong password, then even if someone gets their hands on your computer and uses the UFED Touch to unlock your phone, your data will remain safe. To make sure that your data is really safe, you should also enable the Lock Screen Notification option that shows you who tried unsuccessfully to unlock your phone.

As long as these security exploits exist, your data is not safe, and you should be vigilant about protecting your phone and its data. If you do not want to be exposed to potential

Dannie Jarrod

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