Category: IOS

Should Apple fight a court order to decrypt iPhones?

There is a lot of heated discussion regarding the following. The technology companies seem to fall on the side of refusing to participate and the general consumer seems to think the technology companies should assist. While I can agree with both sides I think the bigger problem is people specifically understand what the government is requesting Apple (and eventually others) to provide.

In theory, The FBI is asking Apple to weaken the security of their products. They have stated “Hackers and cyber criminals could use this to wreak havoc on our privacy and personal safety. It would set a dangerous precedent for government intrusion on the privacy and safety of its citizens.” While most of this statement are true other specific that are not.

If Apple provided a utility to reverse encryption of Apple devices how could it be protected to not fall into the hands of others that would use such utility for criminal activities as opposed to helping solve or prevent crimes. Also, since Apple is privately held and also provides hardware to government agencies building a solution to reverse encryption could also open the door for agencies like the NSA to spy on others. We know that the NSA has a history of doing such as the document Snowden leaked confirm such.

Smartphones are packed with private information like emails, text messages, photos, financial information and calling history. They are no longer a phone but more of a personal computer with access to less complex applications. As time progresses I think phones and tablets will eventually replace laptops as portable personal computing devices. It’s really just a matter of time as Microsoft is already pushing that direction with their devices.

The scary thing is, law enforcement agencies are currently seizing and searching phones during traffic stops, raids, during interrogations and stops at the U.S. border. These searches are frequently conducted without any proper court order which makes thing even more concerning.

Several courts have blessed such searches, and so as a practical matter, if the police seize your phone, there isn’t much you can do after the fact to keep your data out of their hands. Once they have possession is theirs to do with as they please. I think the general consumer doesn’t understand that just because the courts have permitted law enforcement agencies to search seized smartphones, doesn’t mean that you have any obligation to make it easy for them.

For example, the Android mobile operating system includes the capability to lock the screen of the device when it isn’t being used. Android supports three unlock authentication methods: a visual pattern, a numeric PIN, an alphanumeric password and a fingerprint reader which is the newest addition to security.

For many obvious reasons the more simple lock screen is the pattern, followed by PIN, then alphanumeric password and finally the fingerprint sensor. Though some might argue the fingerprint sensors have proven to be “tricked” using a latent fingerprint pulled from a source and then used to trick the device into reading the latent fingerprint. I honestly wish there was an ability to use two-factor authentication for mobile devices and I am sure in time there will be. Enforcing the use of a fingerprint and password would make things much more complex. Or possibly having both hardware and software based encryption without a single sign-on (two different methods to authenticate) may suffice.

I think companies providing utilities or offering to unencrypt devices is a blessing and a curse. I do not advocate individuals who commit crimes having their devices protected so law enforcement cannot pull data from but at the same time there needs to be a line drawn in the sand. Once the order is issued completing the advocation of such where does it end?

My rule of thumb. Don’t store anything on a device you don’t want stolen or seen on a device that connects to the internet and always encrypt your data. This is obviously not always feasible and can be quite cumbersome but it’s really the only foolproof way of attempting to protect your data. Even this is not foolproof but it’s a start.

Last but not least. Don’t be a criminal and don’t do bad things.

Yes, this may be common sense but the fact is if you are a legitimate person who does not participate in criminal activities you really shouldn’t have anything to hide.

Right?

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Apple vs Android? Fortune vs Future

It happens once again, every year. Apple releases their new hardware and software updates and like a moth is drawn to the flame, I MUST see and experience what all the fuss is about.

I tried to love the iPhone when it was first released, but the fact that MMS didn’t work, battery life was abysmal, and it was lacking in multiple other categories (specifically security and encryption) it failed to replace my Blackberry. A year or so went on and with every new release and update more of my friends jumped on board the Apple train. Those with Sidekicks threw away their fun flippy keyboards and Blackberry users ditched their tiny screen all day battery life devices embracing touch-screen Apple goodness. sent from the Heavens. I assume many Windows Mobile users did the same as well though I can’t say I know anyone who ever used Windows Mobile.

It was the second iteration of the iPhone 4 that I once again was tricked into looking at the iPhone platform. The aggressive curves, glass body, smooth user interface, wonderful camera and all the other goodness they packed in that tiny little 4″ screen just called out to me. Watching Jonathan Ive, with his charismatic and soothing voice talk about this magical device made me lust to try the iPhone once again. After buying and using it for a few days, I went back to my Blackberry. Once again, battery life was the primary problem and I felt security was still not entirely addressed as well.

Fast forward to 2015 as we move into 2016. The iPhone 6s is all grown up. The hardware is pretty as ever and IOS has all of the features I have always felt the operating systems was missing to be a true Enterprise phone, including full encryption. So why with all of the issues (excluding battery) resolved can I not bring me to own such a device? Why can’t I just be like the other tens of millions of people? As I sat in the sterile white Apple Store showroom staring wide-eyed at the silver iPhone 6s sitting in my hand, I kept wondering “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I be like everyone else?”

That is when reality whacked me in the side of the head! Well, not really. It was some women who had just purchased a 27″ iMac and was attempting to navigate the horde of customers in the store all bedazzled by the Apple gadgets and gizmos that accidentally (or maybe purposefully) slammed her new toy into the side of my head. Regardless, it knocked something loose and I had an epiphany.

I cannot own an iPhone because it forces users to conform. The iPhone only allows you to interact with it in a specific manner and allows no customizability other than rearranging your little dancing application icons on your home screen, everything is inflexible! The operating system is right, you are wrong, accept it, move on. I am a USER (0444) and thus, should be treated as such. Like a child who’s parental unit knows better, let the iPhone decide what I should and should not be able to do.

The other problem I have with the platform is the lack of developer freedom and refusal to adopt specific hardware. Android manufacturers have been suing NFC for longer than I can remember and wireless charging has become mainstream. In fact, many Starbucks in Seattle actually have units built into tables that can wireless charge your mobile device.

I love using enhanced features such as Samsung and Android Pay. I use them at least once a day if not more. It makes things so simple as compared to rummaging through my wallet, selecting a credit card, swiping it (or inserting the smart chip side) waiting, and then having to sign (sometimes) and collect a receipt. How annoying is that and it’s soooooo 1990. Have we gone back in time because it sure feels like it?

Anyway, this was not meant to be a long post and surely not one to strike a debate at 5:41 am on a Wednesday morning. Speaking of, why the heck am I awake at this time anyway?