FBI paid more than $1.3 million for San Bernardino iPhone hack

While the encryption-focused brouhaha between Apple and the Federal Bureau of Investigation isn’t quite over, it’s at least simmered for the time being. And now we may know how much the FBI paid to unlock an iPhone at the center of the issue.

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.

For those who haven’t been following the story, the FBI won a court order to force Apple to help them unlock an iPhone 5c belonging to one of the shooters of last year’s San Bernardino attacks. Apple refused the order, sparking a high profile debate on encryption and user privacy.

In March, the FBI announced that it had broken into the phone and withdrew its case against Apple. It’s believed that the Bureau received help from the Israeli-based firm Cellebrite, and based on Comey’s comments today, the bounty is among the highest ever publicized for hacking.

While this doesn’t necessarily confirm whether or not Cellebrite had anything to do with unlocking the iPhone 5c, as the $15,000 the agency paid to the company could be part of that number, it does at least articulate that the FBI had to go above and beyond Cellebrite’s capabilities to get the job done.


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