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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Mac News > FBI director indirectly claims $1.3 million spent on iPhone 5c hack

FBI director indirectly claims $1.3 million spent on iPhone 5c hack
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Apr 21, 2016, 03:52 PM
FBI director James Comey may have put a price tag on what it cost the agency to unlock the San Bernardino shooters' iPhone 5c. Directly asked at a security conference in London how much the exploit cost, Comey said that the agency paid "a lot, more than I will make in the remainder of this job, which is seven years and four months, for sure" which puts the total at well over $1.3 million dollars.

NBC News reports that the FBI director makes $185,000 per year. Multiplying the $185,000 per year by 7.3 yields more than $1.35 million paid for the penetration, assuming the director's statement isn't hyperbole.

Comey's claim if accurate, suggests that the agency's one-time $15,000 payment to Cellebrite was unrelated to the iPhone 5c in question, and also points to why the agency is going to continue its effort to require Apple to build a tool for phone unlocking, when the agency decides it needs entry into a phone. Suspicions lingered even after a Washington Post report, as an Israeli paper previously claimed that Cellebrite was performing the unlock, as well as the payment to the company was made earlier in the day that the FBI told the court that there may be a different way into the phone.

Earlier this week, US law enforcement attempted to spin the lack of concrete data found on the phone. The agency said that while nothing of any direct use was found, that the absence of data gave some measure of closure to the families affected by the shooting. CNN's law enforcement sources, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the iPhone contained no evidence of contact with larger terrorist groups, or the use of other encrypted communication methods.

Despite a White House executive order to the contrary, it appears that Apple will not be able to find out how the FBI accessed the iPhone 5c. Previous reports claim the FBI had reached out to "professional hackers" to gain access, but an Obama administration source of Reuters advises the company that provided assistance with unlocking the phone apparently has sole legal ownership of the method, making it unlikely that it will be disclosed at all.

Regardless of no actionable information having been found on the iPhone 5c, the FBI director said in the interview at the security summit that the payment "was in my view worth it."

( Last edited by NewsPoster; Apr 21, 2016 at 03:54 PM. )
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Apr 21, 2016, 04:08 PM
Of course the payment was worth it to him, it's taxpayers money not his.
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Apr 21, 2016, 05:52 PM
"We found absolutely nothing on the phone, and that has been incredibly and immensely helpful to our investigation."

Sometimes Comey makes me feel like I'm on a never-ending Gravitron ride.
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Apr 21, 2016, 07:37 PM
It's not clear how much of the cost of this >$1.3M hack went to the company or grey-hat that sold them the technical details and how much was spent on hardware/expertise to execute it, but regardless of what the payout was it was certainly high and I am amazed that the FBI would sign a contract that prohibited them from disclosing the security flaw used. It's not like it's protectable information, so the only way that the person/company can sell it (to who knows who--the Russian mafia?) again is by keeping it secret.

They literally said to some person or company "We will pay you a million dollars to tell us about a security flaw you uncovered in somebody else's product, and will sign a contract that says we won't tell anybody what that security flaw was."
Charles Martin
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Apr 21, 2016, 11:45 PM
Every grey- and black-hat hacker in the world now has a lucrative new full-time job: find flaws in iOS, and sell them to the FBI, which will pay ludicrous amounts of OPM for them. If they were disclosing the flaws to Apple so that they could be fixed, I would say this was okay: but they aren't.
Charles Martin
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