Senator Reveals FBI Paid $900K for Hacking Tool Used to Open San Bernardino Shooter's iPhone

by

A year after the public disagreement between Apple and the FBI, which centered on the passcode-locked iPhone 5c of the San Bernardino terrorist, one of the major questions remains how much the United States government and the FBI paid for the tool it used to crack open the iPhone. That question became so focused upon that a trio of news organizations filed a lawsuit to find out the exact amount that the tool cost the FBI.

Speculation in the midst of the Apple-FBI drama placed the price of the tool at upwards of $1.3 million, and then somewhere below $1 million. A recent statement by senator Dianne Feinstein appears to confirm the latter estimation, with Feinstein revealing that the U.S. government paid $900,000 to break into the locked iPhone 5c. The classified information came up during a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, where Feinstein was questioning FBI director James Comey (via The Associated Press).

Senators Charles Grassley and Dianne Feinstein

"I was so struck when San Bernardino happened and you made overtures to allow that device to be opened, and then the FBI had to spend $900,000 to hack it open," said Feinstein, D-Calif. "And as I subsequently learned of some of the reason for it, there were good reasons to get into that device."

In the ongoing lawsuit filed by the Associated Press, Vice Media, and Gannett, the organizations cite the Freedom of Information Act: "Release of this information goes to the very heart of the Freedom of Information Act's purpose, allowing the public to assess government activity - here, the decision to pay public funds to an outside entity in possession of a tool that can compromise the digital security of millions of Americans." The FBI has repeatedly argued that the number should stay classified.

Despite the ongoing legal battles that the Apple-FBI event sparked, last year the FBI reported that it found "nothing of real significance" after it had gained access to the iPhone 5c, providing answers to some questions about the terrorist attack but generating no solid leads. In regards to the third party who was paid the $900,000 for the hacking tool, it's been widely reported that Israeli firm Cellebrite was the FBI's source, but a more informal group of professional hackers has also been suggested.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tags: FBI, Apple-FBI

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
40 months ago
Feinstein needs to retire or pass on already.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
40 months ago
Better than $95M for some fireworks in Syria.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
40 months ago
It sounds like Feinstein just leaked classified information to the public. Perhaps there should be an inquiry into this as well.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
40 months ago

What?

Cellebrite is an Israeli firm that specializes in breaking into devices for law enforcement. Now personally I don't like them because they are funded by the Israeli intelligence agency (and you can bet they get a sweet chunk of the black budget from the NSA on consulting), but they aren't "hackers" that the government would be prosecuting because they work for governments.

It was originally reported that Cellebrite helped the FBI, but then it was reported that wasn't the case. They never disclosed who helped them, I'm suspicious.

But either way, the FBI being in possession of a tool to hack into iPhones is, I think, unconstitutional. If they got a search warrant and asked the company for help to obtain information, that's one thing. But they shouldn't have the ability to hack into peoples phones
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
40 months ago
If it was the military, it would be a $90,000,000 tool.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
40 months ago

The owners of the phone in questions were muslim terrorists. Don't you think it was worth getting into the phone to see if there was evidence of other impending attacks? The hack democrat senator even said it was worth the cost of getting into the phone:

"And as I subsequently learned of some of the reason for it, there were good reasons to get into that device."

The shooter had 2 other cell phones that he went out of his way to destroy...so common sense would dictate maybe those were the ones that might have had info on them?

The FBI ******** was, and still is, a kludge that our politicians are trying to use to mandate broken security on cell phones in the country. The UK released their white paper calling for the same thing this week.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Leaker: Apple to Stick With Lightning Over USB-C for 'iPhone 12' Before Going Port-Less Next Year

Tuesday May 26, 2020 2:31 am PDT by
Apple will use a Lightning port instead of USB-C in the upcoming "iPhone 12," but it will be the last major series of Apple's flagship phones to do so, with models set to combine wireless charging and a port-less Smart Connector system for data transfer and syncing in the iPhone "13 series" next year. The above claim comes from occasional Apple leaker and Twitter user "Fudge" (@choco_bit),...

Apple Reissuing Numerous iOS App Updates, Potentially Related to Recent 'This App is No Longer Shared' Bug

Sunday May 24, 2020 9:13 pm PDT by
Over the past few hours, a number of MacRumors readers have reported seeing dozens or even hundreds of pending app updates showing in the App Store on their iOS devices, including for many apps that were already recently updated by the users. In many cases, the dates listed on these new app updates extend back as far as ten days. Apple has not shared any information as to why updates for...

'This App is No Longer Shared' iOS Bug Preventing Some Apps From Opening

Friday May 22, 2020 3:58 pm PDT by
An app bug is causing some iOS users to be unable to open their apps, with affected iPhone and iPad users seeing the message "This app is no longer shared with you" when attempting to access an app. There are multiple complaints about the issue on the MacRumors forums and on Twitter from users who are running into problems. A MacRumors reader describes the issue:Is anyone else experiencing...

16-Inch MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, and iMac Pro With Mini-LED Displays Again Rumored to Launch in 2021

Tuesday May 26, 2020 5:30 am PDT by
Apple plans to release several higher-end devices with Mini-LED displays in 2021, including a new 12.9-inch iPad Pro in the first quarter, a new 16-inch MacBook Pro in the second quarter, and a new 27-inch iMac in the second half of the year, according to Jeff Pu, an analyst at Chinese research firm GF Securities. This timeframe lines up with one shared by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who recently...

Jailbreak Tool 'unc0ver' 5.0 Released With iOS 13.5 Compatibility

Sunday May 24, 2020 3:06 pm PDT by
The team behind the "unc0ver" jailbreaking tool for iOS has released version 5.0.0 of its software that claims to have the ability to jailbreak "every signed iOS version on every device" using a zero-day kernel vulnerability by Pwn20wnd, a renowned iOS hacker. The announcement comes just days after it was announced that the tool would soon launch. The unc0ver website highlights how the tool...

Future AirPods to Include 'Ambient Light Sensors' Possibly Related to Rumored Health Features

Monday May 25, 2020 2:53 am PDT by
Apple is reportedly looking to integrate light sensors in a new model of AirPods in the next couple of years, according to a new report today, suggesting their use could be part of rumored upcoming health monitoring features in the true wireless earbuds. In a paywalled article, DigiTimes reports that ASE Technology could be involved in manufacturing the sensors: Apple is expected to...

Top Stories: Apple Glass and iPhone 12 Rumors, iOS 13.5 Update, and More!

Saturday May 23, 2020 6:00 am PDT by
It was another big week for rumors this week, with a flurry of reports about Apple's augmented reality glasses, the iPhone 12, and Apple's "AirPods Studio" over-ear headphones. This week also saw the release of iOS 13.5, bringing a number of health-related updates to Apple's mobile devices. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Other topics of interest this week included ...

Apple's 'Bounce' AirPods Ad Wins 'Best of Advertising' Award

Friday May 22, 2020 10:09 am PDT by
Apple's creative "Bounce" ad designed to highlight the AirPods took top honors in the 99th annual ADC (Art Director's Club) awards for advertising, earning the "Best of Discipline" award along with two Gold Cube awards in the craft in video and branded content categories. Released in June 2019, the ad features a bored man who pulls his AirPods off of their wireless charging pad and then pops ...

Apple Releases macOS Catalina 10.15.5 With Battery Health Management Features, Fix for Finder Freezing

Tuesday May 26, 2020 1:59 pm PDT by
Apple today released macOS Catalina 10.15.5, the fifth update to the macOS Catalina operating system that was released in October 2019. macOS Catalina 10.15.5 comes two months after the launch of macOS Catalina 10.15.4, which introduced Screen Time Communication Limits. macOS Catalina 10.15.5 is a free update that can be downloaded from the Mac App Store using the Update feature in the...

'Apple Glass' Rumored to Start at $499, Support Prescription Lenses, and More

Tuesday May 19, 2020 6:30 am PDT by
Front Page Tech host and leaker Jon Prosser today shared several alleged details about Apple's rumored augmented reality glasses, including an "Apple Glass" marketing name, $499 starting price, prescription lens option, and more. The marketing name will be "Apple Glass" The glasses will start at $499 with the option for prescription lenses at an extra cost There will be displays in both...