Apple will make iPhone harder to hack

Apple has plans to make their iPhone harder to hack amid the current controversy with the FBI.

The FBI wants Apple to create new firmware that would allow them to hack into encrypted data on an iPhone that belongs to a San Bernardino terrorist. Apple CEO Tim Cook is fighting the request citing the infringement on digital privacy. He also wrote an open letter to explain Apple’s position. Now the company is thinking of taking further steps and prevent passcode-free recovery mode in future iPhones.

The FBIs current request for backdoor access to the iPhone would require Apple to create software that would allow the FBI to bypass security features that prevent hacking. Specifically, the FBI has already looked at an online backup on iCloud of the phone, but they want Apple to disable a security feature that would allow them to have as many tries as possible to unlock the phone. In order to comply, Apple would have to change their operating system to no longer have this feature, which would make millions of iPhone users vulnerable.

As this issue has escalated, Apple is looking to prevent these types of request in the future. When it comes to iCloud security, Apple encrypts its data on its servers but still owns the decryption keys. So if the FBI asks Apple for iCloud data, Apple can decrypt iPhone backups and hand them to the FBI. Now the company is thinking of changing that.

Instead, Apply may give the private keys to the customer, which would remove Apple from being able to decrypt backups. This would mean that future government request for decrypted data would not be possible, but it also means that Apply would not be able to help customers either, since they would not be able to decrypt their backups.

In the Future Apple wants to find a way to limit or do away with DFU (device firmware update) mode. Apple created DFU mode for troubleshooting purposes, such as when your iPhone doesn’t work anymore because of a broken operating system.  If such a big crash happens, Apple lets you boot your iPhone into DFU mode, so that you can reinstall a fresh version of iOS without having to enter a passcode.

DFU mode is at the center of the debate because its current design makes the FBI requests possible, if Apple chooses to make the software changes. You can currently reinstall a new operating system without having to enter a passcode. In fact this is how many jailbreak the iPhone. But, if Apple requires that you enter your passcode to enter into DFU mode, that all changes. Apple would no longer have the ability to create software that lets the government hack into your phone.

In the wake of increasing government request of user data and the revelation of NSA breaches by Snowden, Apple has make it harder to hack iPhones. The tech giant looks to stay that course and increase security for the protection of its customers and their data.

Article via TechCrunch, 25 February 2016

Photo: Tim Cook explica su postura al FBI del caso San Bernardino by iphonedigital [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Facebook sets things straight with India

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg is trying to set things straight after tweets from board member Marc Andreessen put the company’s image in hot water. Andreessen reacted to the Indian telecom regulator’s ban on Facebook’s Free Basics service by bringing up India and colonialism.

Zuckerberg was quoted as saying, “I found the comments deeply upsetting, and they do not represent the way Facebook or I think at all.”

The comments that he refers to start with Andreessen’s tweet, “Another in a long line of economically suicidal decisions made by the Indian government against its own citizens,” referencing the Free Basics ban. He continues saying, “Denying world’s poorest free partial Internet connectivity when today they have none, for ideological reasons, strikes me as morally wrong.”

Indian entrepreneur Vivek Chachra reportedly tweeted in response that the Free Basics argument that some Internet is better than no Internet sounded like a “justification of Internet colonialism.” To which Andreessen responded, “Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?”

Zuckerberg wants to bring the Internet to the entire planet by 2020. India would be a major factor in making that goal come true. Andreessen’s comments make it appear as though Facebook may have other motives for expanding into India, and may jeopardize future growth in that market. Some say that Facebook should ask Andreessen to step down, and make an example out of him showing that this kind of behavior would not be tolerated.

In response, Zuckerberg has made statements of his own, via Facebook, to combat the controversy. India “has been personally important to me and Facebook….I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the need to understand India’s history and culture” and “I look forward to strengthening my connection to the country.”

Facebook has withdrawn Free Basics from India and continues to weather the storm of this controversy.

Article via TechNewsWorld, 12 February 2016

Photo: facebook global by Global Panorama [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Syrian refugees need $9 billion in aid

Aid to Syria’s refugees of the ongoing war has gradually declined over the years, but Syria reached out to the world for a request of nearly $9 billion this year.

As Syrians migrate, host countries with limited resources have struggled to support vast population increases. The situation is made even more difficult as donor countries continue to cut back on contributions.

World leaders, international officials, and aid agencies attended the donor conference in London early this month to discuss the total aid requirement. The requirement amounts to almost $9 billion, which includes a U.N.-coordinated appeal for $7.73 billion and a $1.23 billion request by host governments. The remaining portion is needed in the next few years by countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan to support the 4.6 million refugees they are hosting.

Although the underfunding of last year’s $7 billion appeal led to cuts in food aid, optimism remains for this year’s appeal. Apart from the necessities, donors are also requested to provide long-term plans such as jobs and education.

“We think we need to make a step change now from simply the tradition model of passing the hat around for the international donor community,” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said.

The majority of Syrian refugees cannot work legally, giving them no choice but to work informal jobs. The influx of Syrians has also caused wages in Jordan and Lebanon to fall.

Donors are encouraged to invest in infrastructure projects such as schools and roads, which will create short-term jobs for refugees. Meanwhile, The World Bank is helping host countries with cheap loans. Although Jordan has refused to borrow money, they are open to zero-interest financing to provide for development programs that had been on hold for years.

One of the biggest goals of the conference is to provide all refugee children an education by the end of 2017. Currently, more than half of refugee children are out of school.

Despite the new plans, donors and hosts have faced the truth that most refugees live in poverty; Families have had to remove their children from school due to the lack funds, since they are banned from legal jobs. Host countries like Jordan have become more strict with Syrian entries, leaving 20,000 in the deserts.

“What we are witnessing now is a total collapse of international solidarity with millions of war victims,” Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council said.

Article via Syria needs nearly $9 billion in humanitarian aid, 3 February 2016
Photo: Bread distribution inside Syria by IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation’s photo stream  [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Facebook to fight hate speech

Facebook is promising to fight hate speech amid the European refugee crisis.

“In the past year, we’ve seen millions of people come together online to support refugees and stand in solidarity with the victims of terror attacks,” wrote Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in a post on Monday. “But we’ve also heard voices of hate growing louder. With extremism damaging lives and societies across the world, challenging those voices has never been more important.”

The company did not disclose a particular plan, but they did announce the Online Civil Courage Initiative, meant to empower users to fight against hate speech. It also appears that Facebook will be backing more powerful non-governmental organizations which are already involved in fighting radicalism and hate speech online.

The Online Civil Courage initiative is yet another effort to prevent hate speech on social media. In December, Facebook and other companies like Google and Twitter agreed to remove instances of hate speech within 24 hours, in accordance with an agreement with Germany authorities. German politicians and celebrities also voiced concern about rising hatred on social media, as nearly 1.1 million migrants and refugees entered the country in 2015 alone. Last August, Germany’s minister of justice asked Facebook to remove racist posts targeting asylum seekers.  Three months after that prosecutors opened a criminal investigation because they suspected that Facebook failed to take down a wave of anti-immigrant posts on the social network, inciting racial hatred.

Following the terror attacks in Paris, France also called on Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Google and Microsoft to combat extremist propaganda and expand safety tools in the event of a future attack.

“Hate speech has no place online — or in society,” Sandberg said. “Together, we can make sure the voices of peace, truth and tolerance are heard. Love is louder than hate.”


Article via Mashable, 19 January 2016

Photo:Facebook icon by Jurgen Appelo[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Sexual harassment in silicon valley

Sexual harassment in Silicon Valley has affected 60 percent of the senior women in technology, according a recent survey. The survey, Elephant in the Valley, surveyed more than 200 women of power and influence in the Bay Area. According to the respondents, nearly 60 percent of these women stated that they had received unwanted sexual advances in the workplace. 65 percent of those advances came from a superior, and 1 in 3 stated that the advances made them fear for their safety.

The authors of the survey wrote that they were inspired by the conversations generated by the Ellen Pao trial. Writing on their website the authors stated, “What we realized is that while many women shared similar workplace stories, most men were simply shocked and unaware of the issues facing women in the workplace. In an effort to correct the massive information disparity, we decided to get the data and the stories.”

Treo Vassallo, an investor and advisor who participated in the Ellen Pao trial was also one of the authors of the survey. She testified against Kleiner Perkins during the trial , vividly recalling her own experience being sexually harassed by a former partner at the VC firm. Afterwards, she stated that a large number of women approached her with their own horrifying stories of harassment. Moved by what she heard from others, Vassallo wanted to be a catalyst to continue to conversation and bring change.

Part of the problem could be that women are the minority in the tech world. Nearly 80 percent of reported sexual harassment crimes are committed by men against women, especially when men are senior to them. The purpose of this survey is to make these numbers more visible. The hope is that by bringing these stories to light, and exposing the data that has been collected, the male-dominated culture of sexual harassment will be tempered within the workplace.


Article via Cnet, 11 January 2016

Photo: Trae Vassallo, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers by Dow Jones Events [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Apple App Store made about 1.1 billion over the holidays

In between Dec 20 and Jan 3, Apple said that customers purchased about $1.1 billion worth of app and in-app purchases which is a new record. Last year, Apple made about half a billion dollars in revenue. In 2015, customer spent a total of $20 billion on app purchases like Minecraft, Trivia Crack, as well as social networks such as Facebook Messenger and Snapchat. All in all, gaming and subscription apps did the best, like Clash of Clans and Hulu.

Not only has it been creating revenue, Apple has definitely seen growth in jobs. According to the new Progressive Policy Institute Report by Michael Mandel, Apple said it created 1.9 million jobs in the U.S., including 1.4 million through the App Store for developers, entrepreneurs, and some non-IT staff.

The App Store has consistently been the selling point for Apple products. This is a ray of hope because iPhone sales- the largest source of company profits- are expected to drop. Analysts do see revenue decreasing for 2016. Steve Koenig, a Consumer Technology Association market researcher, said that a number of factors, including a strong dollar and weak economies in parts of the world that had been driving new tech spending, indicate that 2016 will be a slower year for global tech spending overall.

The App Store will still continue to provide Apple with a distinguishable selling point because it helps keep customers coming back and gets them to buy more Apple products. Even more, Apple just launched a version of the App store for the Apple TV, expanding its presence to the family room.

Article via Washington Post, January 6, 2016

Photo: Apple. Tree. via Stuart Maxwell [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]