Speaking to a security conference in London today, FBI director James Comey suggested that the agency paid more than $1 million for the iPhone 5c exploit used to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s device last month. NBC News reports that Comey didn’t explicitly reveal the price of the hack, but instead hinted at its price based on his salary:
Comey said, “A lot, more than I will make in the remainder of this job, which is seven years and four months, for sure.”
The FBI director is paid about $180,000 a year. So multiplying that by 7.3 years yields a figure of about $1.3 million. FBI officials were not immediately available to confirm the figure.
The FBI director went on to say that he believes that unlocking the iPhone in question was worth the price, although it has been reported that no actionable intel was gained from bypassing the iPhone’s encryption. It’s also worth noting that it is widely believed (and evidence suggests) that the pricey exploit only applies to iPhones older than the iPhone 5s, meaning it won’t be much good in many future cases.
Lastly, Comey’s comment that the exploit ran the FBI over $1 million further suggests that it may not be Cellebrite that provided the exploit to the United States government. It was previously believed that a $15,000 transaction between the Israeli company and the FBI was for the iPhone 5c exploit, which the FBI reportedly paid a one-time fee for, but the Washington Post later reported sources believe it was another company that ultimately provided the exploit.
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