Just how much did the tool to break into the San Bernardino gunman’s locked iPhone 5c cost US taxpayers? According to senator Dianne Feinstein, the Federal Bureau of Investigation coughed up a cool $900,000 to purchase the tool from a third-party.

The Associated Press said Monday that the classified information was revealed during a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, where senator Feinstein was questioning FBI director James Comey.

“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.”

While the tool’s vendor wasn’t named, it’s been speculated that the FBI bought the software from Israeli digital forensics firm Cellebrite.

Comey called the sum “worth it” even though the FBI itself said it found “nothing of real significance” after gaining access to the device.

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The FBI sought to protect the identity of the vendor it paid to do the work.

The organization considers the exact sum paid for the tool to be classified information, prompting The Associated Press and a few other news organizations to file a public records lawsuit seeking to force the government to publicly reveal both pieces of information.

  • armyk

    A lot of money for something which can be used on devices 5c or lower…

    • Colin Hepworth

      The FBI wouldn’t worry about the cost as it was money from the tax payers.

  • Rowan09

    So they paid almost a million for some naked pics “Nothing of significance”. What exactly did they expect to find notes with top terrorists hide outs and plans? Waste of money

    • Vince Reedy

      They got what they were after, which is a way in to the iPhone. So money well spent as they see it. Never let a good crisis go to waste.

      • Rowan09

        But it’s on an old device people are barely using now.

    • Vinnie Bones

      They were probably good quality nudes though.

      • Rowan09

        If that’s the case definitely worth the money then.

      • :D

        As told by Comey lol

  • malhal

    Even more shocking when you find out it was really only his work phone, which the mainstream media failed to report. He destroyed his personal phone and computer so anyone could have guessed there would be nothing on his work phone, except work stuff.

    • BlackPantherK

      They should ask FBI for the money back, always wasting tax payers money.

      • Joshua The-Legend Wiebe

        Everyone wishes that was possible. Unfortunately, the FBI controls almost everything.

      • Shinonuke

        From whom? From the third party? Like how you would at Costco after you used the product and find nothing significant from the purchase?

  • burge

    Lol you all think because nothing was found it was a waste of cash ( yes it was over priced ) but what if something was found and it saved lives what then. Those who say it wasn’t worth it have just put a price on a life.

    • I am

      Exactly. The irony here is that when things like 9/11 happen, everyone points fingers at FBI and CIA for failing to protect and not doing their job. But when FBI spends money….they are out of control and control freaks.

      • The difference though is that both 9/11 and the shooting were both terrorist attacks, in 9/11 the money was spent of practical security measures and tools to apprehend the suspects involved and prevent it from happening again, in the case of the shooting the FBI used a far fetched tool as a platform to use the public’s emotional opinions to try and force tech companies into giving them backdoor access to their products. And when that failed they spent a crazy amount of money on something that predictable failed.

        I’m all for the FBI and CIA spending money and helping them do their jobs, but not when it’s a nearly certain waste of resources and is sure to result in 100% of American’s having weakened security as a result.

      • burge

        your only saying that after the fact. Before this device was hacked open no one knew what would be found. Yes it was over priced for nothing but who knew that nothing would be found for definitely.

        So don’t base it on what you know now base it what you knew before it was hacked open. And that was jack shit.

      • Well of course I’m saying it after the fact… But that doesn’t change the fact that this was a work phone with limited use first of all, and second of all, every device that was known or suspected to have been used in this attack was meticulously destroyed. There were actually quite a few other good reason to suspect that there was going to be nothing to find here as well.

        Not to mention that from start to finish this whole process was handled astonishingly poorly…

      • burge

        Yes is was poorly handed but you can not say it wasn’t worth it as something “could” of been found and what would you be saying then.? Money well spent probably, Your opinion is based on after the fact and is not relevant because it’s after the fact if only the FBI had you to give them your opinion and hindsight. You could of charged them for it.

      • Ok here’s the thing… speaking in these terms is useless as nothing gets done this way. Back before the FBI bought this tool Apple and security experts argued that the FBI shouldn’t proceed with trying to gain backdoor access because it was highly unlikely that the phone contained data and that any tool built to break into other people’s phones puts other’s at risk of privacy invasion.

        What do we know now after the fact? That the FBI relented on forcing Apple to build a back door, bought a tool to gain access, found nothing and the tool was leaked to the world by hackers. Everything that was predicted before this case came to court came true. And now if you wanted to play the what if game, what if this tool that’s now leaked is used to steal people’s identity, or puts people at risk? What if the tools used to break into one phone are used by someone with evil intent to hack into another person’s what if someone get’s hurt or killed as a result? This goes both ways.

        What if this saved one life? What if this gets one person killed? Doesn’t the ratio of good to bad have to be reasonably weighed in the beginning to make a rational choice? This is exactly what was done and the FBI ignored it and spend a HUGE amount of tax payer money on something that turned out exactly as predicted. Hopefully no one gets hurt, but if you insist on playing what if games that now we are stuck saying what if people get hurt from this tool being exposed wouldn’t it have been better worth it to leave it alone?

      • burge

        You can say that now but what “if” it did stop the next 9/11 ?

        And the FBI have failed in allowing this to get out so why are they not answering for that.

      • And what “if” the creation and leaking of this tool allows terrorists and hackers access execute the next major terror attack?

        Again the point is we have to weigh risks. We knew from the beginning that it was unlikely that phone would have anything of value on it, we knew opening backdoors was dangerous for mass security, we knew creating tools open them up to the possibility of being leaked, and once they FBI set it’s sights on the tool from Israel we knew that it was a super limited tool that would only work on 1 iOS version and on a couple old iPhone models (and some reports say only the 5C). So is is it or was it likely to save lives or be a valuable investment? no. Not then, not now.

        Was it likely to be a waste of money, a security nightmare to maintain ownership of the hacking tools and not be of any use in the future? Yup. And the longer we go the less likely it is we’ll have terrorists using that model and iOS version (especially with how public this all is).

        So again, decisions have to be made by weighing the values and consequences with the info we have at hand and not theoretical what ifs… If that’s that’s how we managed our affairs why not spend tons of money on anything and everything that claims to potentially maybe save a life? Why not just bankrupt out country with free premium healthcare for every citizen with 0 insurance costs at all? Wouldn’t that save a life? Obviously it would crash out economy and destroy our country in a generation’s time, but think of the lives it would save? Why worry about the future if there’s a possibility you could save a life now? See how foolish this line of thinking is?

      • burge

        Your argument it’s still based on because they found nothing. Getting access to the device and not knowing what would be found is aways going to a risk but by the sound of it you’ll yourself would let something happen then try to prevent it.

        What would you say if it only cost $100 to get access to the device? Money well spent probably even though they found nothing.

        As for others getting access to this tool that’s another question to ask the FBI.

      • Not at all, my argument is the same as it was before the FBI even spent the money on the hack. The phone was never likely to have info on it. He meticulously destroyed all the items he used for communication, the fact that his work phone wasn’t touched meant that there was a high likelihood that it never had anything on it.

        But as you state we didn’t know. Despite how small a chance there was there may have been something there. I completely supported them going to Apple and getting their help. But after Apple told them how to access the iCloud backups they botched it and locked themselves and everyone else (including Apple) out forever. This meant that the only course of action would be to weaken the security of the device through exploits of some sort. I didn’t support the FBI vs Apple case then and I don’t now.

        Apple and others (including me) argued back then that any time you weaken security it affects innocent people. There is no way to guarantee that any tools built to break iOS won’t become leaked to criminals. I never once came even close to supporting the FBI in their attempt to force Apple to build a back door into their OS. Likewise I didn’t support them purchasing a hack to get in FOR THE SAME REASON. In the wrong hands such tools weaken security for innocent people.

        And we didn’t even have to wait very long for the tool to be stolen and leaked. The two pieces of good news in all of this are that tool is extremely limited in its use (and likely will never be of use to the FBI again in this or any other case) and that the FBI wasn’t able to force the backdoor to be built into iOS.

        So in case you haven’t figure it out by now your claim that I’m arguing from hindsight is simply not true. Not only have I been against this from the beginning I’m against it in the future. If catching terrorists requires a potential or actual weakening of universal security measures I am 100% against it now and in the future. Because such measures weaken security for everyone and criminals and terrorists simply move on to other tools.

    • I think the reason that a lot of people think this was a waste is not only because it was a TON of money, but because this was the terrorist’s work phone and not his personal one (which was destroyed) and from the very beginning people were very skeptical that anything of use would be on there, furthermore Apple gave them everything they needed to get into the phone’s backups and they messed it up locking everyone out of the data (another colossal waste), and finally the nature of this tool is extraordinary limited (not only is it only for 5C and earlier, but this fact is now so widely publicized that terrorists would just switch to newer phones if they wanted to communicate) so it likely has very limited future use.

      Is it possible that a life might have been saved from this? Maybe (although it was never likely)? But if our metric for government spending is anything that could potentially save a life no matter how far fetched we would never get out of debt as a country…

      • :D

        Tbf 900k is a drop in the ocean compared to how much the FBI spend as a whole

      • Very true, but just because they have a big budget doesn’t mean that we should overlook wasteful spending. Even if they were only wasting $10 a wasted dollar is still a wasted dollar and the government should be held accountable for how they are spending our money (especially considering how many trillions of dollars we are in debt).

  • I am

    People thinking and assuming they didn’t find anything of significance, should answer this question. Will FBI really tell public what they found if the did?

    Also ppl thinking it was a waste of money should highlight how many such tools they purchase on daily basis at fraction of the amount FBI paid.

    You are not purchasing vegetables at your local market, this shit is different.

    • Absolutely they would! The FBI made a very public deal out of this trying to turn public opinion against Apple and Google and the like in a bid to convince us that giving them access to our privacy would be a good idea. If they found very important info from this purchase or were able to save lives you should absolutely believe that they would make this public and use it to keep pressuring all branches of government and law to force tech companies into giving them backdoor access. The fact that there is silence on this front seems to be a good indication that all the security experts that said it was highly unlikely they would find anything were actually correct after all.

      And for the record, I think this was a waste of money and I think MANY of the things the American government spends money on are a waste of resources… and I’m not about to say that just because they waste money every day they should be allowed to waste it here.

    • Mark S

      It was a waste of money. People like you and I could never afford to waste this much money so stop trying to defend this stupid purchase by thinking we waste this much.

  • Agneev

    Apple has some work to do, if the FBI could actually break into the phone.

    • This security hole has already been patched and only works on hardware that’s no longer sold. All new phones made in the last few years are immune to this particular attack.

      • Agneev

        Is it confirmed? Maybe those guys who supposedly broke into the iPhone also have the tools to unlock the latest versions of iOS…

      • According to a few sources the tool only works on a very limited selection of iPhones and only those on iOS 9…