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.
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."