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

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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

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44 months ago
Feinstein needs to retire or pass on already.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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44 months ago
Better than $95M for some fireworks in Syria.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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44 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)
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44 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)
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44 months ago
If it was the military, it would be a $90,000,000 tool.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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44 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)

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