recommended reading

Here’s How Much the FBI Paid Hackers to Break Into that iPhone

FBI Director James Comey

FBI Director James Comey // Carlos Osorio/AP

The FBI reportedly paid more than $1.3 million for the hack it used to access the San Bernardino iPhone–and that’s probably about right.

Yesterday, FBI Director James Comey let slip how much the agency had paid an unidentified “outside party” to help it bypass security mechanisms on an iPhone 5c belonging to an assailant in the San Bernardino, California, shootings. Comey said on-stage at a conference in London that the hack cost “a lot,” and that it was more than he would make in the remainder of his posting at the agency, which he specified was seven years and four months.

The post of FBI director comes with a salary of $185,100 a year, according to the Office of Personnel Management (pdf, p. 6). Directors of the bureau are appointed by the president to a single term of not more than 10 years. The remainder of Comey’s term would therefore pay him just over $1.3 million.

The market for previously unknown security vulnerabilities, called “zero days,” like the one the FBI paid for, is murky.

But an email leak from an Italian zero-day vendor called Hacking Team in 2015 contained some revealing information about the going rate of these hacks. Researcher Vlad Tsyrklevich analyzed the emails and showed that iOS hacks were in short supply and high demand. One email exchange revealed that an iOS hack exclusively for the use of one customer cost between $1 and $2 million in 2014. Non-exclusive iOS hacks were cheaper.

The Hacking Team email cache also suggested that expensive iOS hacks were being purchased by government agencies. One exchange suggested that developer VUPEN was working on an iOS vulnerability “reserved” for a customer, which Hacking Team speculated was the National Security Agency.

The FBI admitted it bought zero-day hacks, or “exploits,” for the first time in December 2015. NSA spent more than $25 million buying “software vulnerabilities” from private vendors in 2014, The Washington Post reported. In February, the FBI requested an additional $38 million in next year’s budget for technology investments for its “Going Dark” initiative, to address encryption and anonymity.

Threatwatch Alert

Social Media Takeover

Qatar News Agency Says Hackers Published Fake Stories

See threatwatch report

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.