This Is How Much the FBI Paid to Unlock the San Bernardino Shooter’s Phone

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FBI Director, Apple General Counsel Testify Before House Encryption Hearing
FBI Director James ComeyPhoto: Drew Angerer/2016 Getty Images

The FBI hasn’t admitted exactly how it unlocked the phone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook last month, but apparently the hack wasn’t cheap. It cost more than $1 million, based on a few hints that FBI director James Comey dropped Thursday. Comey, at a talk in London, named the price tag as "more than I will make in the remainder of this job, which is seven years and four months, for sure."

Comey earns about $180,000 per year, so people who can multiply figured out that yep, that’s definitely more than $1 million. Comey also said the operation was "worth it." The FBI has been cagey about what tools it used to access the phone data, though it’s likely the bureau paid that hefty fee to a third party, specifically an alleged group of "professional hackers" who knew of a flaw in Apple’s software and instructed the FBI on how to break into the phone. The Justice Department had sued Apple after the company refused to open Farook’s phone; the government dropped the suit after these secretive hackers helped the FBI out.

The agency has yet to release real details about what it discovered on the shooter’s phone. Reports have suggested that analysts haven’t found anything particularly significant to the San Bernardino investigation, but the bureau is still poring over the data.