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]


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]

 


Apple refuses to hack into terrorist iPhone

Apple is being criticized by a British solider’s family for refusing to hack into an iPhone linked to December’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook spoke out against the court order on Wednesday, calling the demand “chilling” and saying that compliance would be a major setback for online privacy. Many digital rights groups agree.  The federal government’s attempts to capture data from tech companies has been met with apprehension and fear. Just a few months ago, several tech companies started standing up to government data requests. But not everyone agrees with Apple’s stance on this issue.

Major tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple all want to protect their customers’ data by securing it at the highest levels. But, federal governments like the US and the UK want these companies to find ways to hack into customer hardware and accounts, arguing that privacy should not come at the expense of national security. This ongoing battle over encryption puts tech giants on one side, and law enforcement and intelligence on the other.

Fusilier Lee Rigby was off duty and walking down the street near his barracks in Woolwich, England, in May 2013 when he was the victim of a brutal attack by two men who told witnesses they were avenging the killing of Muslims by British soldiers.  Ray McClure, Rigby’s uncle, believes that Apple is doing nothing more than “protecting a murderer’s privacy at the cost of public safety.”

“Valuable evidence is on that smartphone and Apple is denying the FBI access to that information,” McClure said, arguing that a warrant to search a smartphone should be no different than a warrant used to search a property.

In the court order handed to Apple, the company was told it must assist the FBI in unlocking the iPhone linked to San Bernardino gunman Syed Rizwan Farook. In addition to unlocking the phone, The FBI wants Apple to build a new version of its iOS mobile software that would be able to bypass the iPhone’s security so that the agency could hack any device remotely. In an open letter published on Apple’s website, Tim Cook stated that Apple has been working with the FBI, providing data and advice on how to move forward. But the creation of software that would allow the FBI to bypass Apple’s security simply doesn’t exist. “The US government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create,” said Apple CEO Time Cook.

Article via Cnet, 18 February 2016

Photo: Apple CEO Tim Cook by Mike Deerkoski [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]


Fight for your right to fix

The Repair Association is fighting the manufacturing industry for your “right to repair everything.”

Today, with big corporations dominating the manufacturing industry, it is typically difficult for consumers to find specific parts to fix any kind of technology. The Repair Association is an organization hoping to help make the parts accessible to everyone.

With groups like iFixit, Fixer’s Collective, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the association is asking manufacturers to sell tech parts along with instructions on how to fix the product without professional help needed.

“A free, independent market for repair and reuse is more efficient, more competitive, and better for consumers,” the association writes on its website. “Repair helps create local jobs, and repair and reuse benefits the environment by reducing end-of-life electron products.”

Apart from the demands for the manufacturing industry, the association also aims to amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to address the growth of a self-taught consumer base.

Not only does iFixit sells repair parts, but the company also provides online guides for individuals seeking to fix their appliances independently. But due to Section 1201 of the DMCA’s “anti-circumvention” provision, people are not allowed to tamper with technology that has copyrighted software.

“Under U.S. copyright law, you’re not allowed to modify protected software or look at it—even for the purpose of repair,” Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit says. “Manufacturers are using other parts of copyright law to restrict outside access to service manuals, schematics, and repair instructions. They are developing an unfair monopoly over the aftermarket of their goods.”

As unjust as it is, the monopoly is defended by lawyers and lobbyists, says Wiens. The Repair Association is needed to represent repairmen, women, local business, to fight for their right to repair.

“We aren’t just fighting for your right to repair smartphones and computers—we are fighting for your right to repair everything,” Wiens says.

Article via Good, 4 February 2016
Photo: Mobile Butchery by Meena Kadri [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Yahoo sued for gender bias by male employee

Yahoo is being sued by a former employee that claims that he was discriminated against for being male.

Gregory Anderson, who was employed in Yahoo’s media division was fired in November 2014.  He filed a lawsuit against the tech giant, alleging the company’s performance management system was arbitrary and unfair. Anderson “alleges that Mayer encouraged and fostered the use of the QPR Program to accommodate management’s subjective biases and personal opinions, to the detriment of Yahoo’s male employees.”

The QPR Program at Yahoo is the controversial quarterly performance review program that ranks employees and then fires the lowest ranking ones. In the Media division, where Anderson was an editor, the complaint says that when male and female employees got equally low scores (anything under 3), the women were favored and the men were fired. What’s worse, in the case that both male and female employees got the same score, the men were fired and the female employee took over the male employees job.

This isn’t the first discrimination lawsuit to be tied to a stack ranking system. In the early 2000s, a cascade of cases against Ford, Goodyear, and Capital One, alleged that such systems led to age discrimination against older employees

The lawsuit also alleges that in addition to discriminating against men, Yahoo fires people without just cause and did not give 60 days’ notice to staff affected in mass layoffs. In California, layoffs are defined as terminating more than 50 people at one time, therefore not providing notice violates California law. In addition to the complaint about the way that people were fired, Anderson’s complaint also alleges that there was unfair gender based biased for hiring.  Former Chief Marketing Officer Kathy Savitt, almost exclusively hired women into management positions in Yahoo’s media division.

Under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and also California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, discrimination on the basis of sex is illegal. It doesn’t matter which gender the person happens to be.

“The Anderson lawsuit raises the question of how to correct lingering gender discrimination against women and suggests that the answer is not yet more illegal discrimination,” wrote Anderson’s attorney Jon Parsons in a statement about the lawsuit.

Article via Huffington Post, 4 February 2016

Photo: Yahoo! by Eric Hayes [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]