On the problem of Dormant Cyber Pathogens

A cyber-amicus cyber-brief

Tilde Lowengrimm
2 min readMar 4, 2016


Your honor — and should it please the court — my name is Tom Lowenthal, and I am not a lawyer. This means that I have about as much business addressing you as the District Attorney has using the phrase “dormant cyber pathogen” in any context. I am however a technical expert, and I would like to offer my assistance if not necessarily as a “friend” of the court — for, you see, I am a Snake Person (or “Millennial”) and that would be a pretty big first step — at least as a buddy, or someone you can hang out with and chill once in a while, you know?

Let me lay my position bare, your honor. I, like my esteemed colleague Jonathan Zdziarski, believe that the phrase “dormant cyber pathogen” is some made up bullshit that someone at the San Bernardino District Attorney’s office came up with because it was literally the scariest way that they could think to use the term “cyber” in a sentence. I believe that the term has no merit, and that its use is a deliberate and disingenuous attempt to intimidate, browbeat, and bamboozle the court.

That said, in raising the unknowable horror that is the specter of a “dormant cyber pathogen”, opposing council fails to consider other equally probable possibilities. Viz: literal specters (ghosts, poltergeists, phantoms, wraiths, ghouls, &c.), or actual unknowable horrors such as cyber-Cthulhu who lies dead-but-dreaming beneath the seas of cyber-space in the city of R’lyeh among whose cyber/cyclopean architecture he waits for the alignment of the cyber-stars which comes but once every one million years, serving as chief priest to the Great Cyber Old Ones: Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Cyber-Chaos; Hastur, The Unspeakable One, the King in Cyber-Yellow; and Shub-Niggurath, The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Cyber-Young.

Based on my knowledge and experience, I believe that the iPhone in question is equally likely to contain such terrifying possibilities as it is to be host to a “dormant cyber pathogen”. And — indeed — what if it did contain the “pathogen” which opposing council certainly fucking made up because it was literally easier to invoke some imaginary bullshit than to think of any actual evidence that they could possibly conceive of wanting to find on this phone? In my considered opinion, the FBI does not have the facilities necessary to successfully contain the possible outbreak of the “dormant cyber pathogen”. In an era where so much of our critical infrastructure depends on computer technology, we simply cannot risk such a pathogen getting loose. At present it is safely sealed behind the veil of unbroken encryption. Should you compel Apple to peel back that veil, there is no knowing what could come out of this Pandora’s box of a phone — except that it certainly won’t be a “dormant cyber pathogen” because that is 100% made up nonsense that you should definitely ignore.