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Advanced research and exploitation methodologies with Magnet Graykey Labs

In the dynamic realm of digital forensics, staying ahead requires more than just knowledge—it demands a relentless pursuit of innovation. At Magnet Forensics, our commitment to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible is embodied by the Graykey Labs team.

The origins of Graykey Labs began in 2016 and today consists of three teams which are applied vulnerability researchers, exploit engineers, and access engineers. The teams coordinate diligently, undertaking the exceptional task of discovering 0-day vulnerabilities, building robust exploits, and scaling the deployment of those capabilities. The teams work closely with our customers to ensure their critical law enforcement mission has timely and reliable access to all mobile devices in their investigations.

Each day our professionals perform vulnerability research on the ever-changing set of mobile devices through dogged persistence. Lead by our Research Fellows, the expertise in the team is highly valued and leveraged to create entirely new classes of exploits and maintain access at global scale.

Let’s delve into how Graykey Labs is pioneering the future of digital forensics through its unique approach.

Working at Graykey Labs – A Q&A With the Team

Graykey Labs is a unique and fascinating proposition. Frequently throughout research, questions around the career viability of vulnerabilities and exploits arise. Here are a few frequently asked questions that our senior Graykey Labs team members have answered.

What qualities do the members of Graykey Labs possess which make them particularly suited for their roles?

The members of Graykey labs are a hand-picked set of eclectic individuals who work as a team. Each person brings a unique and rare skill set. These skills have typically been cultivated to satisfy their own personal interests. Our researchers are often obsessively preoccupied by the unknown. Each person can work independently regulating their own style of work and then bring their knowledge into a cooperative project.

Why are there three separate teams within Graykey Labs?

To deliver the best outcomes for our customers, Graykey labs aligns the personality and interests of each person with their work. The vulnerability research team is dedicated to discovering new vulnerabilities and proving exploits. The mission of the exploit engineering team is to support the exploits creating robust and scalable access tools which maintain capability in the ever-changing landscape of updates. The access engineering team provides professional systems level programming to ensure robust deployments. While each team has a different focus, all Graykey Lab members must have the same skill set to understand and work with exploits.

What skills are necessary to find and exploit vulnerabilities in software?

We are looking for practitioners who can perform source code auditing and binary analysis using any means necessary. This includes reverse engineering, fuzzing, emulation, etc. The bugs don’t care how you find them. The most important skills are making good judgement calls about attack surfaces, being able to identify novel exploit primitives, and being creative about choosing what to research. Learning to make good hypotheses and deal with constant failure requires tenacity gained through experience.

How is research actually done at Graykey Labs?

A formula for research would make our lives much easier. However, research is not a prescription, but a creative process. Humans cannot force themselves into a state of understanding. We do set the right environment for understanding to occur. Through intentional and repeated practice, we are able to run up learning curves and then ask for fortune. Ascending a learning curve necessarily comes with many missteps. The knowledge we gain is hard-won through shared experience.

Why is research secretive?

In any research environment, ideas are connected and evolving. The objective is to find simple, reliable, effective, and widely applicable artifacts that will further our goal of forensics extraction. In the environment of vulnerability research where the underlying systems are constantly being updated, the primitives are fragile. Research can be easily mitigated via patching or new defenses and ideas can be stolen if leaked. There is a frontier of research, and at Graykey Labs, we need to stay ahead of the current set of knowledge.

Are there ethical issues in vulnerability research?

There are indeed ethical issues we take very seriously. We take extreme measures to ensure our products are used strictly in accordance with the mission of law enforcement. In addition, we architect our techniques and capabilities to ensure they are protected from disclosure to those who would use them for disreputable purposes. Our mission in giving law enforcement the tools to conduct investigations in a timely and precise manner is ethical. We look forward to a day when nefarious actors no longer exploit vulnerabilities and vendors are held to a higher quality standard for their products.

What is the future of vulnerability research?

New mitigations are being adopted continuously which raises the bar of exploitation. However, researchers are smarter and more dedicated than ever before. Vendors continue to add more code and more hardware increasing the complexity of systems which inevitably leads to vulnerabilities. In the competition between defense and offense, I believe the offense will win due to the constant changes being introduced in software and hardware. Ultimately, the security of a system is a less important feature for consumers than functionality and receives lower development and testing priority.

Joining Graykey Labs
If you’re passionate about pioneering discoveries, thrive on the challenges of complex systems, and seek to make a real-world impact, Graykey Labs invites you to join our team. Your expertise is crucial in shaping the future of digital forensics.

Explore opportunities with Graykey Labs at Magnet Forensics and become a part of a team that is innovating the future of digital forensics. Unlock the potential of technology with us.

To learn more about career opportunities and to apply, visit our careers page.

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