Can police access your phone remotely?
Our world is more dependent on technology than ever before and that dependence increases with each passing day. Because we rely on our phones so heavily, when a hacker breaks in, they could get insight into the most intimate details of our lives.
Emails, passwords, banking information, credit cards, photos, contacts, and even access to the microphone and camera functions can occur when a hacker breaks through a phone’s encryption. All this data stored on one device leaves us vulnerable and when it lands in the wrong hands, this information could be very powerful.
What is “zero click” hacking software?
NSO, an Israeli company, created a spyware program named Pegasus. This new technology was coded by former intelligence veterans. It is capable of infecting a device and providing the user virtually complete access to any stored information on it.
One of the software’s most damaging features is its ability to operate as a “zero click” hacking device. The software exploits security vulnerabilities on phones and can be covertly installed. This means there is no requirement for an individual to ‘click on a link’ for the software to gain access to the phone, which is historically how this type of malware could have been implanted on a device.
Worse yet, the owner of the phone that has been targeted by a Pegasus attack would have no indication of an ongoing breach. In under an hour, the program is able to gain complete control of the smart phone. It can pull call logs, contacts, messages, web browsing history, and communications from iMessage, Gmail, WhatsApp, Facebook, Skype, and more. It can covertly record phone calls through the phone’s built in microphone as well as tracking user’s location and taking photos using the phone’s camera.
The exploit is so advanced it renders traditional encryption tools obsolete. Models of the software make it clear that users can target whoever they want, when they want, and without cooperation of either the end user or the cell phone providers.
Who is using Pegasus spyware?
In short, a lot of governments are using this technology. In fact, it has been widely reported that the Mexican government was the first government to purchase Pegasus technology from NSO. Mexican officials successfully implemented the technology and bypassed the encryption on blackberry devices held by members of the drug cartels. That in turn allowed law enforcement to monitor messages being sent to and from the infected device, as well as location information.
Early versions of Pegasus were used to surveil the whereabouts of Joaquin Guzman, also known as the drug lord “El Chapo”. In 2011, then President Felipe Calderon called NSO on Christmas Eve to thank the company for its role in finally nabbing the notorious kingpin, saying “I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas present”.
Of course, other governments have purchased new versions of Pegasus. Israel’s government eventually approved permits allowing NSO to sell the technology to countries like Poland, Hungary, Panama, India, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. Even U.S. agencies like the FBI and CIA, also purchased the technology.
This begs the question: can anyone be trusted with this? Pegasus allows governments to secretly hack the phones of citizens and gather nearly unlimited information. The FBI says they purchased the technology for testing and evaluation purposes, but has been adamant that the US government has not and does not use the technology for any other purpose. The likely reason is the protections provided by the Fourth Amendment.
The Fourth Amendment stands for the rights to be free from an illegal search and seizure, however, many legal scholars acknowledge the technology we rely on for day-to-day communications are woefully unprotected against law enforcement’s use in investigations and prosecutions. Simply put, courts must grapple with the application of the Fourth Amendment to the massive amounts of available data generated by cell phones.
It is not beyond comprehension that law enforcement will argue the value of this information for real time cell phone location data, car GPS data, reverse location searches, and internet browsing history outweighs the outdated protection of the Fourth Amendment.
What can an attorney do for you if your phone has been seized by the government or law enforcement wants access to phone data? Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights to determine if the evidence was illegally obtained and should be suppressed, or other legal remedies. Attorney Joe Edwards has thirty years of experience and will evaluate your case at no -cost. Call today at 614-309-0243.