Were We Conned by Apple in the Privacy versus Security Dispute?

iphoneLittle Rock    Apple and its products are ubiquitous. No matter how much I might dislike the company and its historically elite and overpriced values, begrudgingly I have to admit that the IPod and even the IPads are hard to beat, which means hard not to own. With Steve Jobs gone and a new sheriff now running the world’s most valuable company, it seemed like maybe things might change. Tim Cook, the new dominant voice for the company as its CEO now, stood tall around same sex marriage for example, and seemed willing to look the government in the eye on a facedown over whether it would protect IPhone users’ privacy or work with the FBI to hack its own phone. He even did so in a tactical situation he could not have relished since the phone was owned by one of the San Bernardino terrorists. Right or wrong, it seemed like the company might be getting a values injection, and that had to be a good thing, so even when the government claimed it was just another Apple marketing ploy to help their global image, I was inclined to root for Apple as a surprising underdog in the fight.

Now I’m not sure. Now it’s looking a little bit more like Apple may be the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The grand lawsuit between the government and Apple may be collapsing because some hacker group, and believe me, there are hundreds of them, uncharacteristically approached the FBI saying essentially, “We can crack open the IPhone for you, chief.” Over the next week the FBI now has to see if they are all boots and no cattle, or can really get into the phone.

Something didn’t feel right when the story broke. It must be some kind of violation of a cardinal hacker rule of outlaw ethics to go to the government with a fix? What was up?

It turns out that Apple is one of the only big tech companies that refuses to deal with hackers when they find a bug in its software. Microsoft, Facebook, Uber and almost all of the other big companies routinely encourage, which means pay, hackers for finding a bug in their software so that they can improve the security and patch it up. Apple it seems does not. Instead it claims to have the world’s best security and encryption system, but that’s all marketing because while also claiming they don’t want to get into a financial “arms race” of paying more and more to hackers, instead they have implicitly created a black market where hackers who break their codes can be paid even more by the bad guys who exploit the bugs, while Apple markets security without really providing it.

This case between the government and Apple falls apart if the hackers are able to open the IPhone as they claim, because the more than 100-year old law that allows the government to compel the company to comply is a last ditch thing available only if there are no other alternatives. The hacker community has stepped up and provided the potential alternative, which would make the case moot on a number of fronts. If it works, the FBI, meaning the government, will now be able to have its own backdoor to all IPhone users’ data, because they are under no obligation, once they have paid the hacker company, to tell Apple how to lock them out.

It seems that arrogance and unaccountability may still be a fundamental part of the Apple corporate culture and DNA. New boss is just the same as the old boss. The more things seem to change, the more they may be staying the same when it’s all about the dollar, even when the company has more dollars than any other company in the world that doesn’t mean it will loosen its grip, even if it means protecting their devoted cult of customers.

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Eric Clapton Can’t Let You Do It. Thanks to KABF.

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Apple Takes a Stand among the Silicon Valley Pygmies

50470_1_fbi-orders-apple-build-iphone-backdoor-cook-explainsNew Orleans   I’ve never been a big Apple fan. Sure we started with Apple IIe’s and then Macs back in the day, but as they upgraded, they priced us out both organizationally and personally. They scream 1% around the world. Then there was Steve Jobs who I found hard to love for his abusive handling of his co-workers, whatever else might be said about him. I just didn’t want to be part of a cult.

But to modify the old saw, the sun shines on an a different old dog every day, we might say, and Apple deserves praise for standing tall in the face of government intrusion, while so many of the Silicon Valley giants prove themselves to be pygmies when it matters. Even better, they didn’t pick an easy time to draw a line as they said, “no,” to a judge’s order to crack the contents of the San Bernardino terrorist and mass murderer in order to help the FBI on its appointed rounds. Predictably, the Republican yahoos running for president went wild on this issue, accusing Apple of everything possible including aiding and abetting ISIS, and equally predictably, the Democratic candidates buttoned their lips to see how the whole valley would react to Apple’s courage since that is a field they harvest in this season for huge campaign contributions.

Some of this issue is deep in the weeds past all of us techno-peasants to sort out, but Apple is saying that the FBI is asking them to create a “backdoor” in hacker-speak to break the encryption, while the government is saying, hey, dudes, do us a favor on just this one phone. Many find it incredible that the government couldn’t hack the phone, but they claim that they had to ask because they were up to the limit of ten tries before the phone would shut down, almost Mission Impossible style, and be past the point of return. Having recently been forced to refile a visa application to India because their website cancels everything after three unsuccessful efforts to pay them money, I am fully ready to believe almost anything is possible.

The back story turns out to be that this push-and-shove between the feds and techies has been going on at Apple for over a year with one request after another on beefs from drugs to whatever until finally my guess is the government figured they had a game changer where they could claim that national security trumps corporate interests. Tim Cook, the Apple CEO, stepped in and posted a letter to I-phone phreaks explaining that the company had refused the judge’s order and would fight the mess.

Experts believe that Apple may lose this battle, but will win the war. Cynics, and count me as one here too, believe that Apple will make megabucks whether it’s heads or tails. Now their global market will be protected because they are sending a message they are not America’s bitch, so cha-ching. And, if they lose, trust me all of the next gazillion upgrades will transfer encryption breaks to customer controlled password protections, so that there will be no back door possibilities without the customer’s permission, thereby absolving Apple in the future, and transferring the problem and permission to the phone holder to protect or yield on their own privacy. Oh, and forcing Apple fans to buy one of these new up-to-date super-encryption protected phones as well. Cha-Ching!

As for the rest of Silicon Valley,Twitter and Google kinda-sorta sided with Cook and Apple without mentioning their names, and Facebook and Amazon, big boys with command-and-control issues decided to hide out and hoped that no one notices they are big fat chickens, cluck, cluck, clucking too afraid to cross or draw any line on the road.

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Please enjoy Lucinda Williams’ Dust. Thanks to KABF.

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