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San Bernardino iPhone could contain 'dormant cyber pathogen,' says cyberpunk DA

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The iPhone at the center of the ongoing legal battle between Apple and the FBI may hold a "dormant cyber pathogen" that could cripple San Bernardino, according to the county's District Attorney. Michael Ramos' court filing ascertains that the iPhone, provided to San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook by his employers, "may contain evidence that can only be found on the seized phone that it was used as a weapon to introduce a lying dormant cyber pathogen that endangers San Bernardino's infrastructure."

Well, that certainly sounds scary! A malicious electronic disease held in check only by the joint forces of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Apple's passcode screen? Ramos has gone for the nuclear option here — as everyone knows, affixing the word "cyber" to anything makes it ten times more ominous, while also having the effect of convincing people you know what you're talking about when it comes to technology. Sadly for Ramos, that doesn't seem to be the case. Speaking to Ars Technica, iPhone forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski said that in describing a "dormant cyber pathogen," Ramos might as well be talking about a magical unicorn that he swears exists on his phone.

Affixing "cyber" to a word makes it both scary and hilarious

"It sounds like he's making up these terms as he goes, Zdziarski said. "We've never used these terms in computer science." Instead, he said that Ramos was trying to use vague-but-threatening language to spook the courts against Apple. "This reads as an amicus designed to mislead the courts into acting irrationally in an attempt to manipulate a decision in the FB'Is favor," he told Ars. "It offers no evidence whatsoever that the device has, or even might have, malware on it. It offers no evidence that their network was ever compromised."

Ramos' filing may sound spooky — and inherently hilarious for some people who spent a lot of time in AOL chatrooms — but the district attorney isn't even getting support for his claims from his county. David Wert, a San Bernardino county spokesperson, specified to Ars that San Bernardino had nothing to do with Ramos' brief. "It was filed by the district attorney," he said.