FBI Paid 1.3 Million

The FBI paid $1.3 million to hack into the San Bernardino iPhone. This is after Apple refused to open up the iPhone, after the FBI could not access it by brute force due to the security features implemented by Apple. From the Washington Post:

Federal authorities have not publicly revealed who helped the FBI unlock the San Bernardino iPhone, which was at the center of an extended fight between the government and Apple. The Justice Department had maintained that only Apple could help it access the phone without erasing all of its data before abruptly saying it had gotten help from an outside party and no longer needed Apple’s assistance.

According to people familiar with the issue, the FBI cracked the phone with the help of professional hackers who were paid a one-time flat fee. Law enforcement officials have said recently that the FBI has found no links to foreign terrorists on the phone, though they are still hoping that geolocation data on the device could help reveal what the attackers did during an 18-minute period after the shooting.

Apple vs FBI

The FBI has been trying to get access to an iPhone owned by a terrorist in the San Bernardino attacks. The phone has a passcode that prevents anyone from accessing it. The FBI can’t do a brute force attack, by having a person or a computer try thousands of combinations to guess the password, because the iPhone has a feature that prevents brute force attacks.

The iPhone place timeouts in between each unsuccessful try. The iPhone can also be set to erase data after 10 unsuccessful tries. The only way for the FBI to gain access to the phone is to flash it with a firmware that bypasses the passcode. Apple is unwilling to comply to the FBI demands, even with a court order. This case will most likely go to the Supreme Court.

Most tech leaders uniformly support Apple in its stance to protect people’s privacy. But this is not just any other case, this is a case that pertains to national security.

This case has become fodder to many conspiracy theorists.

Some argue that Apple doesn’t have technical ability to crack their own phone. Programmers often place backdoors on systems to gain quick access to their systems. The other argument is, the FBI already knows how to get around the system, but just they’re pretending people’s privacy are secure, but it actually isn’t.

It will be interesting how this case develops especially if it reaches the Supreme Court.