The FBI paid over $1.3 million to have the San Bernardino iPhone unlocked, according to a man who really should know. That man is FBI Director James Comey, and he was speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in London.
During the event, a moderator asked Comey how much the FBI had paid in order to get the now infamous iPhone unlocked after Apple had refused to do so, with Comey replying surprisingly truthfully.
Initially simply saying that the FBI paid “a lot,” the FBI Director went on to say that more money changed hands for the bespoke hack than he would make during the remainder of his time in his job – a job that he will hold for just over 7 years before he is replaced. Based on that timescale and according to government figures that detail how much James Comey makes from his role as the head of the FBI, that amount totals around $1.34 million dollars, not allowing for salary increases or bonuses.
While that money is a huge sum, and one that makes it the most ever paid for a hack of this kind, Comey is quick to point out that this particular hack can be reused on any iPhone 5c that the FBI needs access to. The number of people committing crimes with an iPhone 5c in their hand can’t be absurdly high, but even if this hack is used just once more then that is potentially justification for the money being paid. This hack though is not applicable to devices with Touch ID.
Apple famously refused to help the FBI gain access to the iPhone in question, with considerable legal arguments still waging about that particular case and its ramifications. We don’t know who exactly it was that unlocked the device in question, but while the San Bernardino case may be coming to a close, the overall encryption conversation shows no sign of abating.
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