San Bernardino DA Suggests “lying dormant cyber pathogen” on Shooter’s iPhone

a lying dormant cyberpathogen
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In a novel twist in the FBI versus Apple iPhone case, the San Bernardino District Attorney’s office has filed a motion (full text below) to submit an Amicus Curiae brief, stating that, among other things, the phone could harbor a “lying dormant cyber pathogen.” Of course, there’s no such thing as a lying dormant cyber pathogen, but why let a little thing like the facts get in the way of a good argument?

The seized IPhone 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…

Says San Bernardino District Attorney Michael Ramos, in the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Application to Participate as Amicus Curiae in the case, “The iPhone is a county owned telephone that may have connected to the San Bernardino County computer network. The seized IPhone (sic) 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 County’s infrastructure, a violation of Cal. Penal Code ss 502 (Lexis 2016) and poses a continuing threat to the citizens of San Bernardino County.”

(Emphasis added by us; poor grammar and punctuation provided by DA Ramos.)

The thrust of Ramos’ “lying dormant cyber pathogen” is that there may be some sort of malicious software on the phone which shooter Farook had intended to release on the county’s computer network.

A “lying dormant cyber pathogen” is an interesting idea, but that’s all that it is – an idea that Ramos came up with while clutching at straws.

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An idea which is so unspeakably ridiculous that Ramos is already being ridiculed not just across the U.S., but around the world (see, for example, What’s a ‘cyber pathogen’? San Bernardino DA baffles security community in The Guardian.)

Closer to home, security experts across the nation chimed in both in online print, and on Twitter.

matt blaze lying dormant cyber pathogen
jonathan zdziarski lying dormant cyber pathogen
stilgherrian lying dormant cyberpathogen


arstechnica’s David Kravets points out that the inevitable comparisons to unicorns have already come out.

In his article Kravets also says that Ramos “told the Associated Press that his cyber doom suggestion was out of thin air.”


We’ve looked at that AP interview, and while we can’t see anywhere that Ramos actually says that he made it up, he does say that there isn’t actually any evidence of malicious software in the county’s computer network, adding, however, that “I wouldn’t call it a total hypothetical,” and saying that “This was a county employee that murdered 14 people and injured 22. Did he use the county’s infrastructure? Did he hack into that infrastructure? I don’t know. In order for me to really put that issue to rest, there is one piece of evidence that would absolutely let us know that, and that would be the iPhone.”

Here is the full text of the motion – please try to keep in mind that not all lawyers write so poorly (and those that do should not be allowed to file papers with the court, as they only serve to make their employer look that much worse). We get that the county is likely strapped for cash and so can’t afford to pay for quality, but still – we’re just sayin’.

San Bernardino DA Amicus Curiae Application by Mikey Campbell

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One thought on “San Bernardino DA Suggests “lying dormant cyber pathogen” on Shooter’s iPhone

  1. Hum. A “……lying dormant cyber pathogen……”? Well SOMETHING, may indeed be lying, but I doubt it is a cyber pathogen. Perhaps, the words are merely a typo, inserted into the brief, by a “cyber pathogen” on the DA’s computer?

    Now if he told the media that he pulled this idea straight out of thin air…..
    I must ask: Is he not an “Officer of the Court”? And thus, might not saying this “spurious thing” be considered as “Uttering a Falsehood to a Court”?

    There is only ONE solution. America is Under Siege! Therefore, the President must immediately issue Executive Order #256. All computers within the USA must be destroyed immediately. They could ALL harbour vicious, dangerous, harmful, lying dormant, cyber pathogens. For the safety of the people, what else can we do?

    That pathogen could have spread, through every network, by now! The Internet is a Security Risk! Immediate action is required. Correct?

    Ah, is only the USA, had people who know about these computers. IT Techs. And Anti Cyber Pathogen software. Yes, that might save us all….. Better to destroy all the computers and cell phones, tho. CHANCES CANNOT BE TAKEN!

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