Archive for the ‘terrorists’ category

Marketing Strategy

February 20, 2016

Apple has declared that it does not know how to unlock a “locked” Apple smart phone and further considers helping unlock one a disservice to its customers.  Hmmm.

Apple’s remarks were in response to a Justice Department requests for assistance in unlocking the cell phone of the San Bernardino terrorists. Justice Department spokespersons describe Apple’s actions as a “marketing strategy”.

The Government’s position is simple, there may be information on the cell phone which could shed light on how the husband and wife terrorists planned and prepared for the December 2, 2015 mass shootings. Officials say the phone could contain very valuable leads to who else supported the terrorists. Sound like a matter of national security?

Apple is indeed facing a difficult marketing strategy. Following the NSA’s wholesale collection of cell phone communications aided by the existence of cell phone software “backdoors”, companies such as Apple faced a distrustful foreign country’s reception. Consumers as well as governments suspected collusion between Apple (and other tech companies) and the NSA. Apple could expect onerous restrictions including “backdoor” requests from foreign governments too. Apple feared this would significantly reduce the iPhone’s demand and value. Hmmm.

As a consequence Apple adopted encryption on all iPhones and installed software code which permanently disabled any phone which failed to open within 10 attempts of unlock. Government investigators have the terrorist cell phone but are reluctant to try guessing its password.

So, the big question revolves around personal privacy and government’s needs in investigating crimes (or suspected wrong doing).

The San Bernardino terrorists are both dead and there have been no indications that they were part of a larger group with further attacks imminent. As a consequence, the Justice Department’s request of Apple may seem nice but unnecessary.

But what about the proverbial terrorist who plants a powerful bomb in some unknown place and all the authorities have is his locked cell phone. Or, reimagine 9/11 and authorities find a locked cell phone and by being unable to unlock it, fail to detect the greater 9/11 plot?

Privacy versus national security is not trivial. Regrettably, governments are notorious in getting an inch and turning it into a mile. A government known “backdoor” could be exploited for non-terrorist actions as well. Maybe the IRS or the EPA or the SEC might like to have a look into private cell phones for information pertinent to their work.

And still more insidious, maybe politicians might like to uncover some “dirt” on opponents by using the back door of opponents doctors, lawyers, or accountants’ phones.

Smart phones are much more than telephones. They are more akin to personal computers which contain bank records, personal files, daily agendas, and contact lists. A court subpoena to enter a smart phone’s backdoor in search of terrorist information could lead to data useful in a tax evasion or securities fraud investigation. Hmmm.

This quandary is not a new one. The government expressed strong disagreement with Apple’s decision several years ago. It appears the Justice Department has waited until it had just the right opportunity to make its case. If Apple should prevail in this case, no big deal because the stakes seem pedestrian. If the Justice Department should win, law enforcement will be next in line wanting access to the backdoor.

And in addition to other law enforcement agencies wanting to use the backdoor, cyber criminals will be just as eager to crack a smart phone’s defense. Hmmm.

Section 215, What’s The Issue?

June 1, 2015

Last night the Senate burned the midnight oil (so to speak) in trying to pass an extension to the Patriot Act. It is amazing how something could be so Constitutionally wrong and yet seem necessary in the times we live in. Why is there such a problem?

Forgetting Presidential year politics, the trouble in passing a modified Patriot Act stems from the NSA/FBI/CIA’s prerogative to collect telephone records and then search them with a court order later. Why the objections?

Why should not the FBI search telephone records, detect that suspect A has contacted numbers known to be terrorists, get a court order and then confirm the terrorist connection?

The opposition to section 215 boils down (IMO) to whether you can trust the Government or not. Hmmm.

The Constitution’s 4th Amendment protects American against “unreasonable search and seizure”. The NSA had no “constitutional” right to collect meta data of all calls made in the US.  You might ask, if the NSA confined its searches to finding terrorists and “preventing” terrorist acts, how can that not be in the public’s best interest?

The underlying fear is that the NSA would yield the meta data to the FBI, CIA, the Treasury Department (taxes), or any other Government Department wanting to know if anyone was breaking laws or regulations. This practice is often called “fishing” and has been generally disallowed in courts as evidence. With a court order, searching meta data for a specific suspect, could identify many others also who might also have violated some law or regulation. This could lead to the possibility of many being charged as guilty until they could prove themselves innocent. Does this sound like a third world country?

Interestingly, Americans have already ceded the power to collect meta data to the phone companies. Google and most other on-line retailers already possess means to track our movements in real time. Privacy seems now to exist only for those with no phone or credit card. Hmmm.

I guess we should ask how many terrorists or terrorist plots have been uncovered?  Hmmm.  None.  Hmmm.