A Swedish data extraction firm that provides digital forensics tools to law enforcement and immigration authorities
Micro Systemation AB (Micro Systems or MSAB) provides digital forensic technologies to military, law enforcement, and immigration authorities around the world. Its tools extract data from thousands of types of digital devices, including locked, outdated, and damaged devices. Headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, with offices in 15 other countries, MSAB recorded $34 million in sales in 2020. MSAB's digital forensics system includes four products: XRY (extraction hardware), XAMN (analytic software), XEC (management system), and Raven (a portable kit for data extraction and analysis).
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) uses MSAB extraction equipment to collect the personal information of immigrants. From 2011 to 2021, CBP spent nearly $2 million on MSAB tools. The Tucson CBP office used the software for “forensic mapping and assisting field units with investigations.” CBP also uses MSAB software to extract and analyze personal information from cars such as call logs, pictures, and navigation histories.
MSAB has created these vehicle forensic kits since 2016 in collaboration with the U.S.-based Berla Corporation. The collaboration brings together Berla’s iVe vehicle forensics hardware with MSAB’s XAMN analytics software. In 2018, CBP identified Berla's iVe kit as the only tool on the market able to extract information from vehicles. CBP purchased a total of nine iVe kits with accompanying MSAB software and training for $523,881 in 2020.
In 2021, a U.S. federal court ruled that border patrol agents do not need a warrant for the search and seizure of digital devices at ports of entry. Though some courts extend Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures to include cell phones, there are still legal gray areas around data extraction from other digital devices such as cars’ infotainment systems. Berla founder Ben LeMere took pride in the amount of information the system can extract from car systems, saying that “people rent cars and go do things with them and don’t even think about the places they are going and what the car records… it’s quite comical when you sit back and read some of the text messages.”
In addition to CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has also used MSAB equipment, spending more than $800,000 on its technology from 2011 to 2017. Multiple ICE contracts refer to the equipment as “mission critical;” for example, the tools have been used by the ICE’s National Gang Unit and in special operations case work.
MSAB also sells its products to state Departments of Corrections (DOC) in Tennessee, Indiana, North Carolina, and Kansas. Officials use MSAB tools to extract information from phones and other devices found in prisons and jails. In North Carolina, for example, prison staff have used MSAB equipment to hack into drones landing at prisons and recover their flight data. In addition to surveillance within prisons, Tennessee DOC staff use MSAB technology to monitor people on parole, probation, and community service.
In 2019, MSAB sold its extraction tools to the Myanmar police, who use it to monitor the Rohingya community. The United Nations and civil society organizations around the world have charged Myanmar with crimes against humanity and genocide resulting in the death of more than 10,000 Rohingya people and the displacement of over 700,000 more. Though the company planned to sell more equipment to Myanmar authorities in 2021, MSAB claims to have abandoned the sale and ended the existing licenses for the software.