San Bernardino DA Tells Judge To Side With FBI Over Apple Because iPhone May Have Mythical Cyber Weapon
from the magical-unicorn-fairy-thinking dept
There’s been lots of press coverage over the fact that basically a ton of organizations and experts have filed amicus briefs in support of Apple in its legal fight with the FBI/DOJ — and we’ll have a post on that shortly — but on the flip side, the District Attorney for San Bernardino Country, hilariously arguing that he represents “the people of California” as his client, has filed one of the nuttiest amicus briefs you’ll see in favor of the FBI. The
full brief application to file a brief is incredibly short and basically makes no actual legal argument pertaining to the actual questions in the case, involving the power of the All Writs Act, or the necessity of Apple’s involvement. Instead, it tosses out two insane reasons why it’s necessary to get into this phone — which, again, is the work iPhone of Syed Farook (the DA spells it Sayed) — both of which are speculative in the extreme:
- Initial reports suggested there were three shooters, instead of two. And even though that was later discounted by basically everyone, perhaps this one phone will reveal a third shooter.
- Perhaps the phone has some sort of mythical cyber weapon that could wreak havoc on the world.
Really. Here are the key paragraphs from the amicus brief:
At the time that the murders were being perpetrated at least two 911 calls to the San Bernardino Police Dispatch center reported the involvement of three perpetrators. Although the reports of three individuals were not corroborated, and may ultimately be incorrect, the fact remains, that the information contained solely on the seized iPhone could provide evidence to identify as of yet unknown co-conspirators who would be prosecuted for murder and attempted murder in San Bernardino County by the District Attorney.
The iPhone is a county owned telephone that may have connected to the San Bernardino County computer network. 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 County’s infrastructure, a violation of Cal. Penal Code §502 (Lexis 2016) and poses a continuing threat to the citizens of San Bernardino County.
What?!? On that first point, as detailed in On the Media’s wonderful “Breaking News Consumer Handbook,” when it comes to active shooter situations, there will almost always be a false report of more shooters than their actually are. On the second point… just wow. San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos is apparently now making up shit out of thin air. Aren’t law enforcement searches supposed to involve “probable cause” rather than “um… what’s the scariest computery thing I could think of based on what I’ve seen in TV and movies?”
As iPhone forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski told Dave Kravets at Ars Technica, this is the equivalent of the idea that a “magical unicorn might exist on this phone.” He also noted “the world has never seen what he is describing coming from an iPhone.” And also:
It sounds like he?s making up these terms as he goes. We’ve never used these terms in computer science. I think what he?s trying to suggest is that Farook was somehow working with someone to install a program on the iPhone that would infect the local network with some kind of virus or worm or something along those lines. Anything is possible, right? Do they have any evidence whatsoever to show there is any kind of cyber pathogen on the network or any logs or network captures to show that Farook’s phone tried to introduce some unauthorized code into the system?
Security researchers are now cracking all kinds of jokes about this:
Cyber pathogens are so unspeakably dangerous that the open research community has wisely never published a single paper about them.
— matt blaze (@mattblaze) March 4, 2016
Of course, it should also be noted that this is not actually the first time San Bernardino County DA Michael Ramos has been mentioned here on Techdirt. Last year he was blathering on about charging drone operators for murder for flying drones near wildfires. One would hope that magistrate judge Sheri Pym knows better than to give any weight to an argument that is based on magic pixie dust fantasy-land arguments.