The FBI paid less than $1 million to hack into the locked iPhone used by one of the mass shooters in San Bernardino, Calif., and it won’t have to pay any more to hack into other phones in the future.
To avert its legal battle with gadget giant Apple over, the FBI hired a contractor to find a technique to gain access to the iPhone of the late terrorist suspect Syed Farook and bypass the device’s built-in security protections.
But according to a Reuters report citing several U.S. government sources, the bureau paid significantly less than the $1.3 million that FBI Director James Comey had previously indicated.
The agency will be able to use same technique to unlock other iPhones of the same model — iPhone 5Cs running the version of the company’s operating software known iOS 9 — without more payment to the contractor, the report added.
The FBI declined TheWrap’s request for comment.
Last week, Comey told people attending a security forum in London that the third party that assisted in the hack cost more than he would be paid in the remainder of his position there. At 7 years and 4 months and an estimated $183,000 per year, that figure would be $1.3 million.
The U.S. government last month abruptly dropped a high-profile suit with Apple over the locked iPhone after it said it was able to hack into it with the help of a third party.
The case had become a flash point for a larger battle, with law enforcement’s mandate to protect the public from deadly crimes clashing with tech companies’ need to secure customers’ digital privacy, even at the cost of protecting terrorists too.
Who is that contractor? The identity “is so closely-held inside the FBI that not even Comey knows who it is,” one of the Reuters sources said.