10 Mar


According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), there has been an increase in the smartphone market by 13.0% over the last year 2015, from which 82.8% is allegedly Android dominated.  Apple is the second ranked in the category with a representativeness of 13.9% market share and Samsung leading with a share of 21.4%. Timothy Cook, Apple’s CEO claimed in connection with that situation that over the last year 30% of customers shifted lately from Android to buying iPhone.

The Silicon Valley recently had been drawn into a grandiose scandal involving the Apple corporation and not Samsung this time, but FBI agency themselves. That debate which became global in scope was projected on the pressure the governmental investigation agency had put upon them, to first: unlock some encryption related settings on the Apple device used in a crime – the St Bernardino mass shooting by Malik Farook in early December 2015. The demand could seem justified by the urgency of the criminal investigation and the reasonable suspicion on terrorism taking into consideration the great number of victims – 14 killed; and not a clear profile, motives and level of deliberateness of the criminal with his complice(s), proceeding from the level of preparedness – the entire arsenal of heavy, weapons and explosives available at the crime scene. The further negotiation process between FBI and Apple which was secret, however were pushing further the limits of intervention by requiring the mobile manufacturer to change the encryption features so as to, on one hand keep the security procedures which represent a very complex mechanism, one of the features Apple are proud of and place credit on; but not to delete irredeemably the data in case more than 10 failed attempts are made to access the device. The controversial “auto-erase” security feature. That last request by the FBI was in fact compelling the Apple producers to modify the technology thus making it more vulnerable to phrackers’ attacks.

The Governmental investigation agency from their part motivated the necessity of applying some modifications to the software by the high frequency of cases with which they work – criminal cases – where an Apple pairs the firearm, actually is the basic weapon of the crime. The FBI’s increasingly complex fight with the routine gun crime,  organized crime and terrorism spreading its reach at/from remote global level targets, involving technology and endangering public security, grant them reasonable grounds to proceed to some enforcement of cooperation from the motherboard of the device involved in crime, Apple this time. Which is absolutely correct.

The debate which started from a Judge’s order to unlock a mobile involved in crime ascended tothe balance between national security and privacy” which due to the fact that the number of users was increasing – became of enhanced interest. The technology gurus worldwide, consumer advocates vs the security agents confronted in their conflicting interests, both parts advancing the arguments of “the public interest”. The tone and tension has raised and also the frustration on both parts’ discourse. Moreover Timothy Cook perceived the demand as a “government overreach” a threat to their clients’ privacy, with forums’ boiling point activity indicating to a Pandora’s box case, or in other words willingly, literally and technically allowing the backdoor open access.

One of Apple’s tenets is user-friendliness and simplicity, so that the recent launch of Apple 7, describe its Mobile Device Management MDM as delivering the technology giant’s promise of simplicity in use. The MDM is a mechanism, that automatically gives the IT admins the power to enroll the devices in a series of settings configuration and management; and by doing so on behalf of the users, they are giving some users access to applications, and restricting it from other ones.  The Profile Manager, another OS application gives access to admins to track the amount of bandwidth use, applications licensing and VPN connections. Admins can forbid users from working with certain applications, can – point it down, remotely lock and wipe devices!!! The Apple Configurator in its turn has the functions to Prepare, Supervise and ASSIGN, which literally means the complete control over the device from an IT team.

All the above technical descriptions of the Apple device are suggestive of the controversial needs by the sophisticated, expensive device consumers for being assisted and be granted unlimited technical support in use; but on other critical occasions they also solicit a high level of security and right to privacy. They are ready to accuse the government of unlawful surveillance practices, claim, raise their voices complaining that their intimacy rights are being infringed, but they knowingly allow the absolute control from in-house from the part of the protector producer infrastructure. Well, we should admit it – patron protector, nevertheless; we must admit it that Apple are driven by the best interests of their public, they guide themselves by ethical standards and norms and the powerful technical concept functioning is another guaranty in these respects.

Let us imagine the “umbrella” or the tracking control specter and  what consequences these might wreck if that net, cobweb is woven by a Big Brother driven by self-beneficial interest ranging from: illegal spying with the aim of using the data, causing harm to applications, disabling devices, sabotaging, inflicting financial losses and damages, to attacking cybernetically and perpetrating long-term infirmity by theft of identity, attaining criminal purposes, organized crime. Users of Apple do indulge in privileged access to edge technology with state-of-the-art possibilities. State-of-the-art I mean breakthrough fantastic possibilities that marginalize between their legal wants and the others’ needs for privacy.  Thus, while charging loudly the State of surveillance, and as the media term it denigratorily – “spying” on them, they for themselves do not want any limits in committing the same on a permanent basis: they do cross all the constraints, cracking and hacking is an ordinary practice that is included even into the school curriculum, I was surprised to find the verb into the Bloom’s list of required skills that should be trained at school.

In an article  posted on the American Civil Liberties Union ACLU site, the author analyses the case, gives technical details to prove that FBI are exaggerating when they claim that they cannot by-pass or go around the security features, and in the least resort if they lack expertise they could address, hire one of the data recovery firms to solve their case. The author suspects the FBI of a “power grab” on the part of law enforcement, and that they “deliberately” the word appears twice in one paragraph, pursue the aim of weakening the “ecosystem, we all depend on for maintenance for the all-too-vulnerable devices”.

This polemics that has been going on for a certain time, already 4 months, has divided the public, has highlighted many unknown aspects for the respective audience, justifiably  raised the alert for their privacy, strengthened their decisiveness to protect their security, and raised even more pretensions and claims towards the authorities. It is also a case of ambitions of an elitist cast who can afford to buy that expensive device. That debate raised questions for the rest of the mobile users the 60 something % of the possessors of other makes and brands that, are not so famous of winning battles in the tribunals on issues starting from the authorship rights on the design of a button, to more consequential ones in terms of money of applications features. The case of the security protection and breach  is a win-win game for both parts involved in the conflict.

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Posted by on March 10, 2016 in Uncategorized


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