Most police have access to tools that can retrieve cleartext data from about 50% of the phones they confiscate, reports The New York Times.
Phone-hacking tools typically exploit security flaws to remove a phone's limit on passcode attempts and then enter passcodes until the phone unlocks. Because of all the possible combinations, a six-digit iPhone passcode takes on average about 11 hours to guess, while a 10-digit code takes 12.5 years.
The tools mostly come from Grayshift, an Atlanta company co-founded by a former Apple engineer, and Cellebrite, an Israeli unit of Japan's Sun Corporation. Their flagship tools cost roughly $9,000 to $18,000, plus $3,500 to $15,000 in annual licensing fees, according to invoices obtained by Upturn.
The police can send the trickiest phones to crack, such as the latest iPhones, to Cellebrite, which will unlock them for about $2,000 a device, according to invoices. Law enforcement can also buy a similar premium tool from Cellebrite. The Dallas Police Department spent $150,000 on one, according to the records.