A technology for the extraction and analysis of data from cellular phones, which was developed by Israeli company Cellebrite, helped expose a wide-scale crime ring in a recent operation which included the arrest of 46 members of an international crime organization and the confiscation of assets worth €13.75 million (about $18 million).
The crime organization was uncovered in a joint operation launched by the Belgian and Spanish police forces, with the help of the European Union's law enforcement and criminal intelligence agencies, Europol and Eurojust.
The ring is suspected of laundering some €50 million ($65 million) since 2007, and trading with drugs from Morocco which were distributed in Europe. Investigators seized 5.3 tons of hashish, 77 vehicles, 20 buildings, five companies and €225,000 ($295,000) in cash.
A significant part of the investigation, which lasted a year, was conducted with the help of a technology developed by Cellebrite. Last year, the company launched the UFED Touch device – a special tablet for security and police organizations, which allows the extraction and decoding of data from cellular phones or tablets, even if the information is protected by a code, encoded or has been deleted.
The investigators can also use the device in field conditions and in real time. It looks like a thick and strong tablet with an adjustable touch screen, and is quickly operated by simply connecting the examined cellular phones.
All organizations involved in the investigation had Cellebrite's equipment, which facilitated the cooperation. The tablet itself was used by investigators to extract information from the crime organization suspects' cellular phones.
After extracting the data from the phones, investigators used Cellebrite's UFED Link Analysis software, which can cross-check information and reveal communication links between mobile devices.
Investigators create a sort of "tree" of links between the people which is graphically presented on the computer screen, and can view conversations, correspondences, messages and photos exchanged between the suspects. They can then extract information from the cell phones and analyze it to visualize the links between the suspects and the organization's activity.
Cellebrite's equipment has been sold to many intelligence and security organizations around the world. The Israeli technology has helped solve many other cases, which are usually not cleared for publication.