Hollywood often makes it seem easy for the police or military to covertly access data stored on a tablet or smartphone.
For example, on the TV show Person of Interest, characters run around the city willy-nilly eavesdropping on converstations and reading texts using a Bluetooth device. Clearly, things aren't as simple as all that in the real world.
Indeed, it can actually be quite difficult to pull data off a smartphone or other device, especially if the information is encrypted or protected by a complex or randomly generate password.
Unsuprisingly, the Pentagon is seeking improved methods of data retreival from survelliance targets. Specifically, the Defense Intelligence Agency is requisitioning "technical exploitation" tools to efficiently access data stored on mobile phones and other electronic devices.
The exploitation tools the agency is eyeing would enable "triage and automation, advanced technical exploitation of digital media, advanced areas of mobile forensics, software reverse engineering, and hardware exploitation, reverse engineering, and mobile applications development & engineering."
While these tools could be used to access data on smartphones, the agency emphasizes it wants technology for "captured/seized media."
To be sure, Wired reports that the DIA is seeking the ability to siphon information off devices such as the flash drives, hard drives, and CDs that were seized during the raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.
The agency is asking for "custom solutions that allo[w] exploitation of mobile devices." The DIA says that devices like cell phones and tablets that are "not commonly seen or devices not supported by commercial kits or tools."
The man pushing effort to get these high-tech tools is DIA leader Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who also wants the high-tech tools to be capable of integrating all the data collected "into local and national databases... and made readily available to analysts from the tactical to the national levels."