FBI hacks another iPhone, iPod

After all the stink made by the FBI about getting Apple to hack the iPhone, last week the FBI hacked the iPhone themselves. There are still no details on how the FBI was able to complete the hack. Their original request stated that they were in need of Apple’s help in order to avoid permanently erasing the phone. Now that there has been one successful attempt, the FBI is ready to hack again, this time for a murder case happening in Arkansas.

Cody Hiland, a prosecuting attorney in Faulkner County, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that the FBI had approved a request from his office and the Conway Police Department to crack an iPhone and an iPod. The devices belong to two teenagers that are being accused of murder. The day after the FBI announced that they had hacked the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone without Apple’s assistance, an Arkansas judge agreed to postpone the trial of 18-year-old Hunter Drexler. Prosecutors in this case believe the devices may hold evidence related to the murders last July of Robert and Patricia Cogdell.

The actions of the government may be setting a dangerous precedent. Apple’s concern over hacking their own devices laid not only in their integrity as a company, but the privacy expected by their users. Now that the FBI has hacked the San Bernadino shooter’s iPhone, and helping to do the same for other cases, there will be an expectation that phones and devices will be unlocked for trials in the future. This Arkansas case is not the only request. A Justice Department request to unlock an iPhone linked to an accused drug dealer in New York was denied in February, but the department is appealing that decision.

All of this leaves Apple in a bad position. No company wants their devices hacked, even if it is the government doing so in the name of justice. Since we don’t know how the government unlocked the phone, it is likely that their method may end up being used by hackers and criminals. This would put all iPhones at risk and challenge Apple to continue to prevent decryption attempts in the future without all the knowledge of how these phones are being hacked.

Article via CNET, 30 March 2016

Photo: iPixel by Francis  [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


CEOs demand North Carolina Gov. repeal anti-LGBT law

Signatures from over 80 CEOs adorn a high profile letter that has been addressed to North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. This letter, released by The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Equality NC, urges the Governor to repeal a recent law that will eliminate non-discrimination ordinances that protect the rights of LGBT people in the state of North Carolina. House Bill 2. H.B. 2 will force trans-gender students to use bathroom facilities that are inconsistent with their gender identity, which ultimately puts the school’s Title IX funding at risk. The legislation was hastily passed last Wednesday.

Several CEOs and high ranking executives are demanding that the Governor repeal this discriminatory bill. “Put simply, HB 2 is not a bill that reflects the values of our companies, of our country, or even the overwhelming majority of North Carolinians”, the letter states.

The letter goes on to deploy the actions of North Carolina’s lawmakers, and cites how destructive these far reaching actions can be. “Discrimination is wrong, and we believe it has no place in North Carolina or anywhere in our country. As companies that pride ourselves on being inclusive and welcoming to all, we strongly urge you and the leadership of North Carolina’s legislature to repeal this law in the upcoming legislative session.”

This comes just one day after Georgia Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a bill that was designed to allow businesses to legally discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds. The veto came after Salesforce, along with other companies, threatened to stop doing business in the state.

The letter includes signatures from CEOs of high profile companies, many residing in Silicon Valley. The list of CEOs includes Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

Chad Griffin, president of the HRC and Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, will deliver the letter to McCrory’s office on Thursday morning and follow up with a request for the CEOs to meet with the Governor to discuss this matter further.

 

Article via TechCrunch, 29 March 2016

Photo: Pat McCrory by Hal Goodtree [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


FBI-Apple showdown ends

Just before a court hearing schedule for Tuesday, the FBI decided to pursue and attack method that would not require Apple’s assistance. This effectively put the FBI’s case on pause, and created an anti-climactic end to the battle between the government and the tech giant over hacking into the San Bernardino shooters iPhone. A U.S. District Court in California ruled that good cause had been shown by the government for the delay and ordered it to file a status report with the court on April 5.

Originally the FBI had wanted Apple to write software that would change the amount of password attempts that could be made before the phone erased itself. Currently, an iPhone will be erased after 10 unsuccessful attempts with the wrong passcode. The FBI stated that it would need Apple’s help to get around this hurdle, but apparently that has changed. This leave many to wonder how to agency might defeat the phone’s security.

“You can always attack the phone while it’s running. There are hundreds of people in the world, if not more, who can do that,” said Rod Schultz, vice president of product at Rubicon Labs.”They can attach a debugger to the device, and modify the instructions that are doing the policy check,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The password also could be recovered through a technique known as NAND mirroring. It requires making a copy of the iPhone’s memory. Then, after 10 wrong password guesses erased the phone’s contents, the memory would be reloaded into the phone and the FBI could take 10 more tries at cracking it. That process would be repeated several times until the FBI was able to hack into the phone. The downside is that it takes a long time, and that is most why the FBI didn’t want to do it.

The is some skepticism about the reasons why the FBI asked for the delay. “Those of us who are watching both the technology arguments and the legal arguments are somewhat skeptical of the claim that the FBI suddenly discovered they could get into the phone,” said Mike Godwin, general counsel and director of innovation policy at the R Street Institute.

“The legal arguments that Apple produced were quite strong,” Godwin told TechNewsWorld. “I think the FBI was worried it was going to lose based on the legal arguments.”

As for Apple, its public stance is that the issue must be settled outside the courts. “Tim Cook has never said Apple will never cooperate with the FBI,” observed R Street’s Godwin.

Article via TechNewsWorld, 23 March 2016

Photo: The Apple – FBI Electronic Encryption Fight RGB Triptych v1.3 by Surian Soosay [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Cuba open to US tech companies

President Obama’s recently trip to Cuba has opened the door for US based internet companies to do business with the island.

Obama’s visit is the first by a US president since the communist revolution of 1959. Since 1962, the US has imposed trade and travel restrictions that have kept US based companies out of Cuba. But since 2008, the Bush and Obama administrations have overseen a slow return to diplomatic relations with Cuba. Now that there is more communication between the two countries, industry experts are concerned about a virtual land grab by companies like Google and Airbnb.

During the President’s visit to Cuba, he announced that Google would be expanding wi-fi in Cuba. Other companies like Airbnb and Bookings.com are also looking to take advantage of the thawing climate between the US and Cuba. These US companies are attracted to Cuba’s lucrative tourism industry, and are quickly trying to claim their stake in this new market. The time is ripe for these technology companies to take advantage of the coming opportunities.

Cubans have limited access to the internet. Only about 25 percent of the population is currently online and only a little over 12 percent of the households have a computer at home. This is expected to shift as Google provides more wi-fi and broadband access across the country.

Airbnb has been operating for about a year already, allowing Americans to book accomodations in Cuba. Although technically travel to Cuba has been illegal except under special circumstances, 161,000 Americans were among the 3.5 million tourists from all over the world who visited Cuba last year. Commercial flights are expected to resume in the fall, giving way to a larger market for sites like Bookings.com. In the coming weeks, its parent company Priceline will begin allowing US customers to book vacations in Havana and plans to sign deals with existing hotels and tourism countries.

Article via Cnet, 21 March 2016

Photo: Press conference, Havana by IIP Photo Archive [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Educating Syrian refugees in Jordan

Principal Maha Salim Al-Ashkar had to apologize to a Syrian mom because she was not able to enroll her child at the primary school in the suburbs of Amman, Jordan.

“I don’t have space,” she told the mother. This Syrian crisis has added tens of thousands of students to Jordan’s overflowing classrooms. Khawla Bint Tha’alba Elementary School for Girls was no exception.

However, the mother would not give up. She had already been rejected from many schools so the principal compromised with her.

“I will register your daughter, if you bring a chair for her,” the principal concluded.

From then on, Principal Al-Ashkar refused to deny any refugee student from the school she’s headed for 10 years. Parents bring plastic chairs with their children so they would have a place to learn.

“After I accepted a large number of Syrian students, there was an increase in the numbers,” she says in a video produced by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). “The main problem that we faced is that the Jordanian students already filled the school’s capacity.”

Khawla Bint Tha’alba Elementary School for Girls has 356 students with 65 Syrian students thanks to the principal’s efforts. However, the problem is not solved here. Though students are receiving an education, it is quite tough to integrate them into the classroom. Many of them faced traumatic experiences and need special counseling and care.

“We had some Syrian students with psychological trauma,” Ms. Maha says. “One of the students came from an area that had been bombed, so she was fearful. There is another student who lost her father.”

USAID funds schools like this in Jordan. They support instructor training and remedial programs.

Many advocacy organizations are calling this Syrian civil war one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time. It has resulted in more than 4.8 million Syrian refugees around the world. Most refugees flee to neighboring countries like Jordan, a country in which about 635,000 Syrian refugees currently live.

“I really love my school, and I also love my students,” Principal Maha says. “And I think love is giving as much as you can, by helping and supporting them to take away their hurt.”

Article via Mashable, March 08, 2016

Photo: Jordan Camp Host to Thousands of Syrian Cross-Border Refugees via United Nations Photo [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


New medical testing: affordable and quick

Kanav Kahol, a biomedical engineer and researcher at Arizona State University, realized that physicians and engineers were doing little to make diagnostic testing more affordable. As a result, billions of people receive inadequate preventative healthcare. Intent on creating a solution, Kahol moved back to New Delhi in 2011 where he developed the Swasthya Slate.

The Swasthya Slate is a mobile medical device that performs 33 medical tests covering a broad range of assessments, including blood pressure, heart rate, heamoglobin, HIV, malaria, and typhoid. The device is roughly the size of a large textbook and costs $600. Each test takes one to two minutes, and results are automatically stored on the patient’s cloud-based medical records.

After finishing the slate in Jan. 2013, Kahol introduced it to 2.1 million people served by medical clinics in the Northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Swasthya Slate is now used in six continents, and the next generation of the device—HealthCube—was tested last month in Clinica Internacional, Peru’s most prestigious hospital. Alvaro Chavez Tori, Clinica’s general manager, is optimistic about the integration of the HealthCube in Peru and Latin America as the “acceptance of the technology was amazingly high.”

HealthCube has great potential in the United States as well. Over 10 percent of the U.S. population still lacks health insurance, and thus receives less preventative care and experiences greater serious illness. Basic tests provided by Swasthya Slate and HealthCube would alert Americans to health issues early and affordably, cutting costs for citizens and for the government.

Article via The Washington Post, March 11, 2016

Photo: Infant patients get a checkup via World Bank Photo Collection [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]