The Alameda County District Attorney has had a tool for unlocking cell phones since at least 2016. The tool is made by Cellebrite, an Israeli company, that markets tools for extracting data from cell phones to governments, intelligence agencies, and law enforcement agencies.
According to a February 2018 Forbes article, Cellebrite can reportedly unlock iPhones up to and including the iPhone X running iOS 11.2.6. However, Apple introduced USB restricted mode in iOS 11.4.1 on July 9, 2018, which may impact Cellebrite’s ability to break into locked iPhones.
The difficulty of law enforcement in obtaining access to locked iPhones has been a regular complaint by the FBI for years. In 2016, Apple refused to create software to defeat the iPhone’s security in order to help the FBI obtain access to San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone. The FBI reportedly paid an unknown company to obtain access to the iPhone’s content.
In April 2018, the Washington Post reported that the FBI’s claims that it could not gain access to 7,800 encrypted cell phones was wrong and that the number was likely between 1,000 and 2,000.
Two employees of the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office attended Cellebrite training courses in 2016 and 2017.