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‘Cyber pathogen’ or ‘Pandora’s Box’? Officials’ war of words over San Bernardino iPhone

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The San Bernardino district attorney said that the iPhone officials want Apple to decrypt may be harboring a “cyber pathogen,” but the UN human rights chief cautioned that unlocking the device may open “Pandora’s Box” and damage rights worldwide.

The seized iPhone belonged to Syed Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife is suspected of killing 14 people during a shooting spree in San Bernardino, California last year, and is at the center of an escalating battle between the Justice Department and Apple. The FBI wants the Cupertino-based company to help it bypass the phone’s encryption, while Apple is resisting over fears of violating privacy.

In a court filing dated Thursday and obtained by Ars Technica, San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos argued that not only may the iPhone hold key information about other potential co-conspirators in the shooting spree, but also that it may be home to malicious software that could damage county infrastructure.

"The iPhone is a county-owned telephone that may have connected to the San Bernardino County computer network,” the filing reads. “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 that endangers San Bernardino's infrastructure.”

No other details about what kind of software may be stored on the iPhone were made available. The county itself said that it was the DA’s office alone that was responsible for the filing.

Later on Thursday, the DA’s office said it had “compelling governmental interest in acquiring any evidence of criminal conduct, additional perpetrators, [or] potential damage to the infrastructure of San Bernardino County.”

However, iPhone security expert Jonathan Zdziarski questioned the DA’s claim because "the world has never seen what he is describing coming from an iPhone.”On his blog, he also said no evidence has been presented indicating the network has been breached.

“Ramos’s statements are not only misleading to the court, but amount to blatant fear mongering,” he wrote. “They are designed to manipulate the court into making a ruling for the FBI, and in my opinion are egregious enough that Ramos should be held in contempt just for filing what amounts to a crazy apocalypse story.”


Did someone just pull this outta the air or what? I think they're just trying to get an easy back door into everyone's phones, because once they do it, all phones will be subject to this. 

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