ICE has now spent more than $1 million on a tool that hacks into iPhones.

Image: Jaap Arriens / NurPhoto via Getty Images

A company that makes a that can hack into locked iPhones has just nabbed its biggest client yet: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

ICE has just signed a new $820,000 deal with Grayshift, the maker of a hacking tool known as , according to . The Atlanta-based firm, cofounded by a former Apple security engineer, has now netted a total of $1.2 million from ICE, including a previous deal it signed with the agency last year. 

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In a statement provided to Mashable, an ICE spokesperson confirmed that “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement recently awarded a contract to Grayshift for information technology software in support of its Homeland Security Investigations component.”

A spokesperson for Grayshift said “we’re unable to comment on any customers that may or may not be working with the makers of GrayKey.” 

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is now Grayshift’s biggest publicly-known client, the deal surpassing the near half-million arrangement the company had with the Secret Service. Grayshift also has contracts with local law enforcement around the country, as well as .

The iPhone hacking contract is alarming, particularly as it follows , shared by the ACLU, that was obtained from immigration officials regarding the search of electronic devices at the border.

Using GrayKey, ICE can search a locked iPhone regardless of whether it obtains the user passcode. The agency can deploy the tool when going after friends and family members of an undocumented immigrant as part of its investigation. ICE can also use the tool to unlock the devices of journalists, activists, and others who associate with the subject of the investigation.

“The information we uncovered through our lawsuit shows that CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) and ICE are asserting near-unfettered authority to search and seize travelers’ devices at the border, for purposes far afield from the enforcement of immigration and customs laws,” said the ACLU in a .

Civil rights groups like the ACLU and EFF filed a against the federal government in 2017 for its “warrantless and suspicionless searches of phones and laptops” at the border and other ports of entry. The ACLU says these searches are in violation of the First and Fourth Amendments.

Apple, a company that says it deeply about its customers’ , has made updates to of the iPhone hacking device. When it comes to iPhones running the latest version, iOS 12, GrayKey is able to obtain some limited data, but is otherwise the device. 

However, according to , Grayshift markets its iPhone hacking tool as still being able to unlock Apple’s latest mobile models like the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max. The company even advertises unknown “advanced” hacking features that require a nondisclosure agreement from its clients.

Apple might be able to stay one step ahead of GrayKey. Perhaps, the ACLU will prevail in the courts. Either way, it seems that our tech privacy nightmares are only getting worse.

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