Apparently FBI director James Comey isn’t aware of the bill the government paid for the hack that cracked open the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone 5c. Last week Comey said the agency paid more than he will make in the remaining seven years and four months he has in his job, which, converted into US dollars, would account for roughly $1.3 million. Now, Reuters‘ government sources say the bill was much smaller.
The amount paid for the hack remains a mystery, but the sources cited by Reuters say the FBI paid “under $1 million” for the technique used to unlock the iPhone 5C, suggesting that iOS zero-day vulnerabilities still remain a very lucrative market for grey-hat hackers.
The FBI paid under $1 million for the technique used to unlock the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters – a figure smaller than the $1.3 million the agency’s chief initially indicated the hack cost, several U.S. government sources said on Thursday.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation will be able to use the technique to unlock other iPhone 5C models running iOS 9 – the specifications of the shooter’s phone – without additional payment to the contractor who provided it, these people added.
Also, the identity of the hacker or group of hackers providing the technique, as well as the mechanism used to crack open the handset, remains a secret. Apparently, not even Comey knows who it is, and the mechanism is in the possession of the contractor. This could be a reasonable explanation for the FBI not being able to disclose details of the vulnerability used to open the iPhone 5C and other (limited number of) iPhones.