What is a Cyber Pathogen? An FBI invention to defeat Apple

Chris Burns - Mar 4, 2016
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What is a Cyber Pathogen? An FBI invention to defeat Apple

This week the FBI has pulled out all the stops when it comes to getting Apple to unlock their iPhones for court cases. They've invented a term. The term is "Cyber Pathogen." That's not a real thing. They've invented a new term to describe something that cannot possibly be inside the iPhone to convince the government that they absolutely NEED to gain access. It's one hundred percent absurd, for real.

The term "Cyber Pathogen" comes from an amicus brief delivered to the court in defense of the FBI by Gary Fagan, the Chief Deputy District Attorney for San Bernardino County. This term is not real. He invented it.

The FBI invented it.

It does not exist.

Even if something that might be related to the words Fagan used to describe something dangerous inside this iPhone, it's clear the FBI doesn't have any evidence of it.

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Catching up on Apple/FBI [Timeline]

Word from security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski suggests VIA ArsTechnica that not only was this term Cyber Pathogen made up, it's clear that the FBI is using this term to put fear into the hearts of those that are deciding the case.

"In information security, we have many widely accepted terms for network based threats. These include worms, viruses, backdoors; we have penetration tools, fuzzers, scanners, sniffers, etc. These are all very specific terms and they have a general consensus about their meaning. We don’t use dramatic and generalized terms like “pathogen”, and most people in information security even hate the term “cyber”. In fact, CSI: Cyber is not even bold enough to use wildly nonexistent terms like “cyber pathogen” in their scripts. Why? Because terms like this have no technical substance whatsoever, and will incite either fear or eye rolling (often the latter)." - Zdziarski

Fagan uses the word "dormant" - suggesting that this so-called cyber pathogen is not active. In other words it's done no damage as yet. In other words they've not actually detected any evidence of its existence. In other words - it does not exist.

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If the FBI did detect the existence of this "cyber pathogen", as Zdziarski mentions, they'd have already been able to use it to get in to the device. If a piece of malicious code like what the FBI describes here did exist, and they were able to detect any evidence of it, it'd mean that the iPhone was already unlocked and they would not need Apple's assistance to access the rest of the data therein.

Once again the FBI is making a fool of itself.


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