According to a report and information from a forensic scientist, smartphones with Android operating systems are better encrypted than iOS devices. A corresponding extraction tool from investigative authorities sometimes had major problems with the androids or was unable to access their data on a Huawei phone.
For some years now, the US government has been trying to convince Apple to install a “back door” in their iCloud and smartphones. Most of the time, Apple has answered these questions negatively. The government provides the official reason for the request, so that law enforcement agencies can easily access encrypted data on the device in the event of an emergency. Apple had always refused. It recently emerged that the government no longer needs the manufacturer’s help because it would have pooped the encryption of iPhones itself.
So far, it was always assumed that it was much easier to get the data from Android phones than to the data on iOS devices. In a report by Vice, the Texas police forensic Rex Kiser quotes on the subject with the words: “A year ago we could not access iPhones, but we were able to access the data of all androids. Now we do not get into many of the androids more pure. ” Kiser conducts digital forensic examinations for the Worth Police Department.
Vice’s article also reveals that Cellebrite – a company hired by government agencies to crack smartphones – already has a tool that can crack iPhone encryption down to iPhone X. This tool then gives investigators successful access to data such as GPS records, messages, call logs, and contacts. It can even collect data from certain applications such as Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and others that can be used to prosecute criminals.
However, it became problematic when Cellebrite wanted to use the tool to decrypt the data from Android smartphones. It was not very successful and was unable to extract social media, data from internet sessions or from devices such as the Google Pixel 2, which has a tamper-proof hardware security module, or from the Samsung Galaxy S9.
According to the Vice report, Huawei P20 Pro succeeded and gave no access to the data at all, which is indeed quite impressive. Especially against the background of the so far laughed-out claim by Huawei that their telephones actually had no back door through which the Chinese government could access and spy on them.
However, the findings from the report have to be viewed from a certain distance. The fact that the Cellebrite tool didn’t work on some Android devices doesn’t mean that the investigators are definitely not getting the data. The process is usually only more labor-intensive or time-consuming. Even on the new phones like the iPhone 11 Pro Max, investigators were able to extract the data they needed.
Nevertheless, it is interesting for people with a special interest in data protection to know that there are obviously better alternatives to encryption than the Apple iPhone when it comes to encryption.