Schools are using FBI hacking tools to access students' phones

mongeese

Posts: 492   +109
Staff member
In brief: A damning Gizmodo report has revealed that numerous school districts have purchased the digital tools the FBI use, and are leveling them against students. Even without student consent, school officers are able to access messages, files, and sometimes login keys to cloud services.

Gizmodo found that out of five thousand randomly sampled public schools and school districts, eight admitted to purchasing MDFTs (mobile device forensics tools) on their public budget reports. Schools are not always required to itemize their budgets, so it's likely that these are just a fraction of the schools that have obtained MDFTs.

In March of this year, the North East Independent School District spent $6,695 on Cellebrite services. Cellebrite is an Israeli designer of forensic hardware, and it's believed that their technology was how the FBI unlocked the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone. The FBI spent more than $2 million on Cellebrite hardware between 2012 and 2016, according to a Vice report, and has probably spent more since.

In May, the Cypress-Fairbanks ISD paid Oxygen Forensics, another MDFT designer, $2,899. The most spent by any school or district was $11,582. Purchases of MDFT services extend back to as early as 2013.

In America, the Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches. Law enforcement generally requires a warrant to access a suspect's device. However, a Supreme Court ruling from 1985 grants school officers the ability to search students' personal effects without a warrant, and this has been interpreted to extend to digital devices. If a school officer has reasonable cause to believe that accessing a student's device will generate evidence that proves that a law or a school policy has been broken, then they can legally employ an MDFT without the student’s consent.

Fortunately, though, schools often have better internal rules surrounding the use of MDFTs. The Los Angeles Unified School District, which manages over half a million students, requires the Los Angeles School Police Department to obtain warrants to use MDFTs on students' devices. But there are special circumstances in which the district's non-police officers can use MDFTs, and it's unclear if they need a warrant or not.

Read Gizmodo's report for the full story.

Image Credit: Kyo Azuma

Permalink to story.

 
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DelJo63

FEAR MONGORING. There are NO assets on school age phones worth this kind of effort or expense. Believe what you will, but it's pure BS to me
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,334   +1,216
American like to say they country is better than country like china while they are doing same things.
Absolutely! Searching a student's cell phone is certainly as horrendous as ethnic-cleansing concentration camps , forced organ harvesting, and a secret police known for "disappearing" entire families on the basis of one member's political statements.

And -- because I live in America, not an open, tolerant society like China -- I'll likely be arrested for posting the above message. If you see no more posts from me, you'll know why.
 

Lionvibez

Posts: 2,304   +1,815
Wow glad I'm not in school anymore I'd have multiple phones and would enjoy playing with them. Want to search the device good luck finding the correct phone I would have a field day with this.
 

Hexic

Posts: 960   +1,361
TechSpot Elite
So before everyone here lays down generalized assumptions claiming rampant rights violations in the US... please read the article and perform the math.

Out of 5000 randomly surveyed schools, 8 admitted to having software. That’s 0.16% of the surveyed schools affected here.

This is (as all evidence has shown thus far) a very isolated incident, and local municipalities and school districts already have laws superseding the 1985 ruling.

Maybe I’m a bit late to the party here because we’ve already had laughable comparisons to China being made... but math IS apparently hard for lots of people.
 

Skjorn

Posts: 601   +463
FEAR MONGORING. There are NO assets on school age phones worth this kind of effort or expense. Believe what you will, but it's pure BS to me
Do you realize kids kill each other every year? Kids pretty much live on their phones now.
 
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DelJo63

Do you realize kids kill each other every year? Kids pretty much live on their phones now.
Sadly this is so true -- but has NOTHING to do with spying on school age phones.

Yet more FEAR MONGORING with your reply.

The Scare Crow in the Wizard of Oz commented
What would you do with ...
 

p51d007

Posts: 2,734   +2,063
It's called CONDITIONING. You start with the youth. By the time they are adults, it's "no big deal" to them. Heck, just look at the TSA! They grope, xray, in some cases strip search you...all in the name of "safety". No, it's just to condition people into accepting something unconstitutional.
They fail to teach history, they fail to teach the Constitution...and people just roll over and accept it.
 

terzaerian

Posts: 923   +1,323
Look fed spooks got to get their preteen nudes somehow, that damn Ed Snowden made things so hard by spilling the beans to the proles

American like to say they country is better than country like china while they are doing same things. censorship, searches, using 3rd party company to get around restrictions, just to naming the obvious. their amendment laws are just for appearances.
America is a great country with a a corrupt government in desperate need of a flattening and reinstall
 

Skjorn

Posts: 601   +463
Sadly this is so true -- but has NOTHING to do with spying on school age phones.

Yet more FEAR MONGORING with your reply.

The Scare Crow in the Wizard of Oz commented
What would you do with ...
If kids are dying its worth it. Not going to entertain you further on the reasons why. Invasive? sure. Are kids dumb af? yes
 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 4,048   +3,182
As a teacher, I have very few issues with this... Students' lockers have always been the subject of searches - assuming there is reason to believe that there is something to search for...

Why should their phones be any different?

We are trying to TEACH children to be better people - having them learn not to keep anything incriminating on their phones is actually a really good lesson for them to learn :)

 

Cubi Dorf

Posts: 337   +223
My understanding is locker searches can being without cause or reason to believe of any misconducts. I don’t see problem to searching student locker because they are school property, not students owning . student owning devices and account should off limits. just because they are young does not mean they are not citizen with rights. also if I were american tax payer and levy voter, this is not how I want my tax monies spent. that monies is for education not criminal hacking.

As a teacher, I have very few issues with this... Students' lockers have always been the subject of searches - assuming there is reason to believe that there is something to search for...

Why should their phones be any different?

We are trying to TEACH children to be better people - having them learn not to keep anything incriminating on their phones is actually a really good lesson for them to learn :)
 

Cubi Dorf

Posts: 337   +223
I think you miss interpret what I am try to saying. my englishs is not best. I am not endorsing china. I will agree to congratulating you for not being worst country in world.

I am not saying china worst in world either. american see china as rival and accuse them of doing same things they do is all I am say.

Absolutely! Searching a student's cell phone is certainly as horrendous as ethnic-cleansing concentration camps , forced organ harvesting, and a secret police known for "disappearing" entire families on the basis of one member's political statements.

And -- because I live in America, not an open, tolerant society like China -- I'll likely be arrested for posting the above message. If you see no more posts from me, you'll know why.
 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 4,048   +3,182
My understanding is locker searches can being without cause or reason to believe of any misconducts. I don’t see problem to searching student locker because they are school property, not students owning . student owning devices and account should off limits. just because they are young does not mean they are not citizen with rights. also if I were american tax payer and levy voter, this is not how I want my tax monies spent. that monies is for education not criminal hacking.
Semantics... yes, the locker is school property... but the lock belongs to the student...

and as for students being citizens with rights...

Since when?!? Minors do not have rights in a democracy... they can’t vote, can’t drive, can’t drink, can’t serve in the military - why should they have the right to have their phones not searchable?

We live in a country that espouses the belief that we are “doing this for the children”... well, let’s do it then :)
 

cliffordcooley

Posts: 12,740   +6,107
The only thing that would make this legal. Is if the phone was school issued and not allowed to be taken home.

Yesterday: Phones are not allowed at school​
Today: You are allowed to have a phone at school. So that we can confiscate at the first sign of mischief. Then we will find out what you do with your private phone time. None of which has any relevance to your school time.​


The same is true for anyone when they go to work. Just because you take your phone to work. That does not give your boss the right to confiscate and search your phone. It's a private phone and requires a court ordered search. That goes for anyone, not just police.
Why should their phones be any different?
The school locker was not bought and issued buy the parent. The locker is not the parents property. If phones were school issued, you would have a point.

You SHOULD go back to not allowing phones in the classroom/school at all.


Since when?!? Minors do not have rights in a democracy... they can’t vote, can’t drive, can’t drink, can’t serve in the military - why should they have the right to have their phones not searchable?
First off this is not a democracy, unless you completely ignore republicans. But I can understand why a democrat would say that.
Secondly the student doesn't own the locker. It is not theirs or it would require a court order to search.

You are only proving the issues with schooling kids started with our generation.
 
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Squid Surprise

Posts: 4,048   +3,182
The only thing that would make this legal. Is if the phone was school issued and not allowed to be taken home.

Yesterday: Phones are not allowed at school​
Today: You are allowed to have a phone at school. So that we can confiscate at the first sign of mischief. Then we will find out what you do with your private phone time. None of which has any relevance to your school time.​


The same is true for anyone when they go to work. Just because you take your phone to work. That does not give your boss the right to confiscate and search your phone. It's a private phone and requires a court ordered search. That goes for anyone, not just police.
The school locker was not bought and issued buy the parent. The locker is not the parents property. If phones were school issued, you would have a point.

You SHOULD go back to not allowing phones in the classroom/school at all.



First off this is not a democracy, unless you completely ignore republicans. But I can understand why a democrat would say that.
Secondly the student doesn't own the locker. It is not theirs or it would require a court order to search.

You are only proving the issues with schooling kids started with our generation.
As long as you clarify the rules ahead of time, you can pretty much do anything you like to children on school property short of violence / sexual assault... children do NOT have rights. Sorry to be so blunt, it it’s true.

If you have parents sign a waiver saying that any property a child brings into the school is subject to school oversight, then there should be no problem in having any child’s phone searched - assuming there is a reason to do so.

I’d wager that the vast majority of parents would be quite happy with this - they fear and mistrust their children even more than the school system does.
 

gerjy5w

Posts: 50   +67
So before everyone here lays down generalized assumptions claiming rampant rights violations in the US... please read the article and perform the math.

Out of 5000 randomly surveyed schools, 8 admitted to having software. That’s 0.16% of the surveyed schools affected here.

This is (as all evidence has shown thus far) a very isolated incident, and local municipalities and school districts already have laws superseding the 1985 ruling.

Maybe I’m a bit late to the party here because we’ve already had laughable comparisons to China being made... but math IS apparently hard for lots of people.
Like the other school districts itemize their budgets or want to keep proof of their misdeeds and allow the public to see it.
 

cliffordcooley

Posts: 12,740   +6,107
If you have parents sign a waiver saying that any property a child brings into the school is subject to school oversight, then there should be no problem in having any child’s phone searched - assuming there is a reason to do so.
You bring up a good point. I disagree with it though and feel the school is overstepping.

When we get to the point that the only way to avoid is to home school. That's not really an option for most. And certainly strips a layer of legal protection from the parent. When parents are held 100% responsible and absolutely zero rights at the time. If the school is going to strip parents of their rights then the school should share in responsibility. But no! It's always the parents who are held accountable. The school needs to step back and reconsider their position in the child's upbringing.
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,334   +1,216
If you have parents sign a waiver saying that any property a child brings into the school is subject to school oversight, then there should be no problem in having any child’s phone searched - assuming there is a reason to do so.
An even better solution would be to ban student phones entirely from school property. But it's my understanding that many parents oppose this far more than a phone being searched. Perhaps as a teacher you could weigh in on this.
 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 4,048   +3,182
An even better solution would be to ban student phones entirely from school property. But it's my understanding that many parents oppose this far more than a phone being searched. Perhaps as a teacher you could weigh in on this.
I feel that they shouldn’t be banned - they need to learn how to use them responsibly. However, if used inappropriately, they should be allowed to be confiscated.

I teach elementary, and I tell my kids that if I see the phone during class time, it is mine - until their parent/guardian contacts me to get it back.
During recess/lunch, they can use it - but if used inappropriately, again, it’s mine...
 

jpuroila

Posts: 333   +183
So before everyone here lays down generalized assumptions claiming rampant rights violations in the US... please read the article and perform the math.

Out of 5000 randomly surveyed schools, 8 admitted to having software. That’s 0.16% of the surveyed schools affected here.

This is (as all evidence has shown thus far) a very isolated incident, and local municipalities and school districts already have laws superseding the 1985 ruling.

Maybe I’m a bit late to the party here because we’ve already had laughable comparisons to China being made... but math IS apparently hard for lots of people.
I mean... if I was working with one of these tools and blatantly violating people's privacy, the last thing I would want to do is admit it.
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,334   +1,216
I mean... if I was working with one of these tools and blatantly violating people's privacy, the last thing I would want to do is admit it.
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. If a student's rights are "blatantly violated", the parents usually immediately file suit and/or alert the media. Either way, the public hears of it.

It's illuminating that neither this article nor the underlying Gizmodo piece contains even one incident of any such blatant violations. In fact, the only incident cited of these tools being used was a case where the student's phone was inspected by consent of the student involved.

Citing imaginary bugbears doesn't help protect our privacy rights, and are the modern day equivalent of crying wolf among the shepherds.
 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 4,048   +3,182
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. If a student's rights are "blatantly violated", the parents usually immediately file suit and/or alert the media. Either way, the public hears of it.

It's illuminating that neither this article nor the underlying Gizmodo piece contains even one incident of any such blatant violations. In fact, the only incident cited of these tools being used was a case where the student's phone was inspected by consent of the student involved.

Citing imaginary bugbears doesn't help protect our privacy rights, and are the modern day equivalent of crying wolf among the shepherds.
And once again - children don't actually have these rights... whether we agree or not, minors are not covered with the same rights and freedoms as adults...