The Apple Genius sits across the desk with a somber expression: "Sir, we regret to inform you that your iPhone may be a carrier of a cyber pathogen. We've found radiation treatment works best in these situations."
No, this is not a Saturday Night Live skit, but it is the basis of San Bernardino's District Attorney Michael Ramos's argument to make Apple unlock Sayed Farook's iPhone.
Farook was an employee of San Bernardino County and his iPhone was a work related device. It is the belief, according to an amicus brief filed today, of the district attorney that Sayed Farook's iPhone was used as a weapon to introduce a "lying dormant cyber pathogen" that could harm the "infrastructure of San Bernardino County."
This phrase has cause no end of puzzlement and outright chuckles in the tech community. The Guardian agrees that this phrase "baffles [the] security community." Well-known iPhone forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski said in a phone interview with Ars Technica that "the district attorney is suggesting that a "magical unicorn might exist on this phone."
Perhaps Ramos means there could be a Trojan horse virus) on the iPhone. A Trojan virus is malware appearing as a legitimate or benign piece of software that waits for a certain trigger to active. Even if this is he is referring to, Zdziarski says "the world has never seen what he is describing coming from an iPhone." He goes on to say this brief sounds like an attempt to scare the court into agreeing with the FBI's request.
At this time, it doesn't sound like anyone needs to make an appointment to see if their phone is contagious but it has caused Amazon to quietly remove data encryption from their Kindle Fire, Fire Phone, Amazon Fire HD or Amazon Fire TV Stick devices. The UK Express reports that when users upgrade to Fire OS 5, they will find their data is now stored simply as text files. Technology customers are starting to be affected by this ongoing privacy issue.