Grayshift, the startup behind one of the U.S. government’s favourite iPhone hacking technologies, has raised $47 million in funding. It’s a huge round for a phone forensics company, especially one that’s focused almost exclusively on breaking the security of Apple’s famous device.
Grayshift’s Graykey, the existence of which was first revealed by Forbes in 2018, is used by a wide range of federal agencies, from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection to the FBI and the president’s office. As revealed in recent research from nonprofit Upturn, it’s also used by a massive number of local police agencies across America.
The round, led by PeakEquity Partners, shows how investors are happy to go big on what some see as a powerful but potentially controversial technology. As Upturn said in its report, the widespread use of forensics tools like the GrayKey “represents a dangerous expansion in law enforcement’s investigatory powers.” “Given how routine these searches are today, together with racist policing policies and practices, it’s more than likely that these technologies disparately affect and are used against communities of color,” Upturn wrote.
Graykey ‘transforming’ phone hacking
David Miles, founder and chief executive officer of Grayshift, boasted that in the last year his company has doubled revenues, customer adoption and employee growth. “This investment validates Grayshift’s innovation and how we are transforming this industry,” said David Miles, co-founder and CEO of Grayshift.
But not all are convinced by Grayshift’s long-term capabilities, given Apple’s consistent improvement of the iPhone’s security. The GrayKey is believed to be capable of hacking iPhones up to the iPhone 11, though it’s unclear how effective the tool is against the iPhone 12. “It’s most likely they can’t do much, if anything at all, with the iPhone 12 and iOS 14,” said Vladimir Katalov, CEO of another forensics company, Elcomsoft. “Perhaps they just want to cash out.”
Miles didn’t respond to a request for an interview.
The company has been keen to avoid press as it focuses on expanding its reach across government. According to government contract records, in the last two months, Grayshift secured a $900,000 deal with ICE and multiple contracts with the FBI and the DEA.
Previously, Forbes revealed Grayshft was planning to move into hacking Android devices for its government customers. A product has yet to make it to market, however.