The FBI paid approximately $900,000 to a third party to help break into the iPhone 5c of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein said recently when questioning FBI director James Comey at a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing.
"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," Feinstein commented, according to CNBC. "And as I subsequently learned of some of the reason for it, there were good reasons to get into that device."
Comey and the FBI have been infamously cagey about how much was paid for the hack, although Comey once suggested that it cost more than he would earn in his remaining time with the FBI — at least $1.3 million. News organizations have in fact had to pursue legal action to secure basic details, including not just price but who the third party was.
That outfit is typically thought to be Israel's Cellebrite, though the company has remained mum on the issue.
Before it succeeded with a third party, the FBI and the Justice Department were seeking to make Apple build a software workaround, something Apple complained was tantamount to a backdoor that would fundamentally compromise the security of iOS.
Government officials in the U.S. and abroad have complained that the strong encryption used on platforms like iOS and iMessage is causing the internet to "go dark" to police and spy agencies. Opposition has come from Apple and other parties arguing for encryption as a privacy and security safeguard.