$100,939 : This is what it would cost Apple to help the FBI hack the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone
In court documents filed on Thursday, Apple disclosed that it would cost them about $101,000 in labor costs to create a back door into one of its iPhones in order to help the FBI hack it. However, it is likely that it would be spending millions more to avoid this hack from precariously seeping into the open.
Apple has received orders from a federal magistrate-judge to create code that can enable the FBI break into the iPhone 5C of a San Bernardino shooter.
While the company is fighting the order, it has predicted the whole process to develop a new version of its operating system, which an Apple employee has nicknamed “GovtOS.”
Apple’s manager of user privacy, Erik Neuenschwander, confirmed in court papers, “All told, I would estimate that the process of designing, creating, validating, deploying GovtOS would take two to four weeks.”
The company said in a court filing that the effort would take “six to ten Apple engineers and employees dedicating a very substantial portion of their time.”
According to Apple’s filing, the effort would include rock star engineers from Apple’s core operating system group, a project manager, one quality assurance engineer, and a document writer.
Using salaries from salary-tracking website Glassdoor, here is the prospective cost.
First, here are the salaries that are used:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average “senior software engineer” at Apple makes $147,049. Average project manager at Apple: $108,059. Average software quality assurance engineer at Apple: $102,857. While the Document writers at Apple were not included in Glassdoor, the average “technical writer” makes $71,950.
Now contemplate how many of those workers Apple would require: Taking into consideration, Apple’s maximum estimate is right, this would take seven software engineers and three other employees. They would work four weeks, full-time.
This nightmare dream team of employees working full-time to create a big back door — something CEO Tim Cook calls a “cancer” — would only cost the company $100,939.
CNNMoney shared its estimate with Apple, but the company refused to comment.
Even if those software engineers were some of the highest-paid ones at Apple, the whole hacking project would still cost less than $200,000 – a minute glitch for a company with $216 billion in cash.
Then again, Apple does say that the team effort is only an approximate.
The company said in its court filing Thursday that “It has never been done before. No operating system currently exists that can accomplish what the government wants, and any effort to create one will require that Apple write new code, not just disable existing code functionality.”
However, there is more to it.
Apple makes clear that making this “cancerous” code poses a giant threat for the company.
Apple would probably stock its “hacking department” in a new, highly-fortified containment lab to keep this hack from ever leaving Apple’s premises. In a court declaration, Apple lawyer Lisa Olle said the company would “likely” build “one or two secure facilities” similar to a “Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.”
Apple didn’t provide any cost approximates, so CNNMoney consulted with licensed experts who build SCIFs. They said it would cost $25 million to build a new one. For two? That’s $50 million.
The company says it would also spend “additional time” putting to an end to every line of code in GovtOS — and carefully safeguarding any logs that led to its manufacture. In its court filing, Apple didn’t provide any estimates.
It is not just about dollars and cents, particularly when the U.S. government has already offered to repay Apple for every penny spent.
However, the important question is whether this one-time effort for the FBI or new legal precedent as claimed by Apple would generate requests from law enforcement agencies all over the country.
Yes, certainly. There are 175 criminal cases in which Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said he would want to compel Apple to help the law enforcement agencies to unlock an iPhone as well.
In court documents, Apple says “the burden will multiply” if it has to abolish this malicious code and restructure it every time when there is a request.
However, this is an acute numbers exercise. While Apple is actually fighting this case on civil rights grounds, it states that the government can’t be “conscripted… to do the government’s bidding” and make everyone’s iPhone “crippled and insecure.”
Source: CNN Money