Schools Hacking Students’ Phones

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Schools Hacking Students’ Phones
Short Title U.S. Schools Are Buying Phone-Hacking Tech That the FBI Uses to Investigate Terrorists
Location United States
Date May 2016

Taxonomy Interrogation
Information Communication, Computer Device
Threat Actors Schools

Affected Students
High Risk Groups Students
Secondary Consequences

Schools in the United States use mobile device forensic tools to access students text messages, photos and even deleted files.


In May 2016, a student enrolled in a high-school in Shelbyville, Texas, consented to having his phone searched by one of the district’s school resource officers. Looking for evidence of a romantic relationship between the student and a teacher, the officer plugged the phone into a Cellebrite UFED to recover deleted messages from the phone. Interrogation

According to the arrest affidavit, investigators discovered the student and teacher frequently messaged each other, “I love you.” Two days later, the teacher was booked into the county jail for sexual assault of a child.

Often used by law enforcement, known as mobile device forensic tools (MDFTs), this type of tech is able to siphon text messages, photos, and application data from individual’s devices.

But these phone-cracking tools are not only being purchased by police departments. School districts have been quietly purchasing these surveillance tools of their own for years.

According to the documents, discovered by media, the North East Independent School District (largely Hispanic district north of San Antonio) Cypress-Fairbanks ISD near (Houston, Texas) and Conroe ISD purchased such tools from Celebrite and Susteen Inc.


Threat: Schools searching student’s phones for personal information via mobile forensic tools
At-Risk group: Students
Harm: Interrogation
Secondary Consequences: Potentially: Anxiety, Embarrassment, Banishment, Incarceration

Risk Statistics

Laws and Regulations