Today, United States Federal Bureau of Investigations Director James Comey said that the agency paid more to break into the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone than he’ll make in the next seven years and four months as director of the FBI.
According to Reuters, Comey said the FBI paid more than $1.3 million to unlock the iPhone 5c. That seems like a lot of money for a tool that doesn’t work on the iPhone 5s or newer, but speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in London today, the Director said that he believes it was worth it. And of course the FBI will be able to use the tool in other case involving older iPhones.
Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in London, Comey was asked by a moderator how much the FBI paid for the software that eventually broke into the iPhone.
“A lot. More than I will make in the remainder of this job, which is seven years and four months for sure,” Comey said. “But it was, in my view, worth it.”
An iPhone 5c was used by one of the shooters at the San Bernardino event last year, and over the last several months the Department of Justice has been trying to access its contents, all in hopes that it would provide some additional information regarding the attack, and perhaps anyone else that might have been linked to it.
During the weeks between then and now, the FBI dragged Apple into a very public debate over encryption, working as hard as it could to force Apple to unlock the iPhone 5c used by one of the shooters. Eventually the FBI would hire “whit hat hackers” to unlock and access the phone, with the assistance from Apple, but what the agency discovered wasn’t particularly helpful.
Now, according to FBI Director James Comey, we have an idea on how much the agency actually paid to get that phone unlocked. While previous reports had suggested the FBI had paid company Cellebrite upwards of $15,000 to unlock the iPhone, the actual number needed to get the job done is much, much higher.