The MacValley blog


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Tom Briant

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Senior Correspondent Arnold Woodworth's Weekly Web Wrap-up for Sunday, March 12, 2016

Why I won’t trade in my iPhone for a Samsung Galaxy S7

The Apple Pencil: an illustrator's review

Apple’s Pencil ...... is accessible, intuitive and easy to use.

Apple’s Pencil is very impressive and precise, but at the end of the day, it’s a secondary tool designed to work with the newest incarnation of one of their most profitable products. Which brings me to my biggest problem with the Apple Pencil, which isn’t the Pencil at all, it’s the gigantic expensive iPad Pro you need in order to use it.

Apple just officially dispelled the biggest iPhone myth

Shutting apps from the multitasking menu does not save battery life and there is no need to do it, Apple's head of software Craig Federighi has said.

Mac ransomware KeRanger's flaws could let users recover files

The KeRanger file-encrypting ransomware program for Mac OS X contains crypto flaws that could allow users to recover their files without paying cybercriminals.

It's a mystery why the attackers went to great lengths to steal a legitimate Apple developer's certificate and break into the website of a trusted software project, only to distribute a flawed ransomware program.

Whatever the reason for this inconsistency, other cybercriminals will most likely try to replicate the attack, and they won't make the same mistakes.

People are using shady apps to get around Snapchat's biggest limitation

On, security expert Will Strafach examined another app like Snap Upload called Snapix and discovered that it was storing Snapchat logins on its own server over an unencrypted connection.

Snapchat itself strongly discourages giving third-party apps like these your login information.

"As always, third-party applications and plugins are not supported by Snapchat and can compromise the security of your account," a Snapchat spokesperson told Tech Insider.

Here's what it was like to send an email back in 1984

The video makes one thing very clear: A lot can change in 30 years.

See the exact moment the world champion of Go realizes [that the computer named] DeepMind is vastly superior

You can see a video of the move here, at timestamp 2:30:20.  At first he seems paralyzed, and then he rocks backwards in surprise.

You can watch another video at timestamp 1:18:27. AlphaGo, playing black, puts a stone on the right-middle of the board, at a diagonal to an isolated white stone. Lee's reaction: He gets up from his chair and walks away from the board.

This one paragraph will make you appreciate your brain — and laugh at artificial intelligence

While we're (unfairly) quick to cede our human shortcomings to the unblinking precision of computers, our brains are really good at something current AI can't quite crack: Thinking.

AI definitely has us beat when it comes to things like precision computing and processing power. This makes machines really good at specialized tasks.

But something more nuanced, artistic, and human, like writing, is still hilariously bad when done by AI.

20 podcasts that will make you smarter

Windows 95 freaks out teenagers (See video)

Worried about Apple? California Has a Bill That Would Disable Encryption on All Phones

Smartphone users in California take notice: a new CA State Assembly bill would ban default encryption features on all smartphones. Assembly Bill 1681, introduced in January by Assemblymember Jim Cooper, would require any smartphone sold in California “to be capable of being decrypted and unlocked by its manufacturer or its operating system provider.” This is perhaps even more drastic than the legal precedent at stake in Apple’s ongoing showdown with the Justice Department, in which the government is trying to force a private company to write code undermining key security features in specific cases.

EFF opposes A.B. 1681 and all other state proposals to regulate smartphone encryption because they are terrible policy. If passed, A.B. 1681 would leave law-abiding Californians at risk for identity theft, data breach, stalking, and other invasions of privacy, with little benefit to law enforcement. It would be both ineffective and impossible to enforce. And, if that weren’t enough, it suffers from serious constitutional infirmities.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Congress, Representative Ted Lieu has introduced H.R. 4528, the ENCRYPT Act, which would definitively preempt state bills like A.B. 1681. EFF agrees this is the right approach to state legislation in this area, although we’d like H.R. 4528 to go further and also prevent Congress and the rest of the federal government from undermining encryption.

Want to see what the future holds if Apple loses? See: Microsoft

The All Writs Act, after all, requires companies like Apple to comply with government requests as long as they don’t cause “undue burden.”

Apple’s congressional struggle hangs on just that, undue burden. Apple is arguing that its inability to decrypt the phone or access its contents without creating a new version of iOS would create this burden and that it shouldn’t be required to comply with the original order.

The FBI disagrees that this burden exists.

If the case would have involved ...... Microsoft instead of Apple, the argument would be irrelevant.

Both Windows and OS X give users the option to encrypt the hard drive, or specific files; the difference is in how they handle the encryption keys.

Since 2013, Microsoft has been automatically uploading a recovery key for Windows users that elect to encrypt their drive. This key is stored on a Microsoft server and is intended to provide access to your PC should you forget the password to decrypt it. It’s the equivalent of Apple uploading your encryption key to iCloud, something it doesn’t do as to avoid creating a backdoor — something it’s vehemently opposed to.

Microsoft has faced criticism from security researchers about this feature before. But, it doesn’t seem to have a problem with the trade-off between security and user convenience.

According to Matthew Green, professor of cryptography at Johns Hopkins University, in a comment to The Intercept:
“Your computer is now only as secure as that database of keys held by Microsoft, which means it may be vulnerable to hackers, foreign governments, and people who can extort Microsoft employees.”

That’s the problem with backdoors; there’s no way to ensure that they only work for the intended user.

Government says Apple arguments in encryption case a 'diversion,' presents point-by-point rebuttal

"Apple and its amici try to alarm this Court with issues of network security, encryption, back doors, and privacy, invoking larger debates before Congress and in the news media. That is a diversion. Apple desperately wants—desperately needs—this case not to be 'about one isolated iPhone,'" the letter reads.

"This burden, which is not unreasonable, is the direct result of Apple's deliberate marketing decision to engineer its products so that the government cannot search them, even with a warrant," according to the government.

U.S. Government Calls Apple's Opposition to iPhone Unlocking Order a 'Diversion,' Says Fears Are ‘Overblown'

The document says Apple's rhetoric is false and "corrosive of the very institutions that are best able to safeguard our liberty and our rights." Apple's efforts, and those of its supporters, to highlight the wider issues the order could have on encryption, are a "diversion," says the government.

Apple is accused of "deliberately" raising technological barriers preventing the government from obtaining the data on the iPhone through a lawful warrant. "Apple alone can remove those barriers so the FBI can search the phone," reads the document, "and it can do so without undue burden." Apple is "one of the richest and most tech-savvy companies in the world," and is "more than able to comply with the AWA order."

The Justice Department just slammed Apple's stance on iPhone security

The Court’s Order is modest. It applies to a single iPhone ...... the Order does not compel it to unlock other iPhones or to give the government a universal “master key”or “back door.” It is a narrow, targeted order that will produce a narrow, targeted piece of software capable of running on just one iPhone, in the security of Apple’s corporate headquarters.

Apple's lawyer just tore into the government — here's what he said

the tone of the FBI brief reads like an indictment. We've all heard Director Comey and Attorney General Lynch thank Apple for its consistent help in working with law enforcement. Director Comey's own statement that "there are no demons here." Well, you certainly wouldn't conclude it from this brief.

Here's What Obama Said at SXSW About Apple vs. FBI

FBI warns it could demand Apple's iPhone code

In a court filing, the FBI said that if can't require Apple to create the weakened software, it may demand access to what it described as Apple's "crown jewels" instead. Source code is the list of programming code instructions used to create the software that runs the iPhone.

If the FBI got access ...... the bureau, or outside programming experts it hired, could try to write the security-weakened version of iOS and install it onto Farook's iPhone without Apple's assistance. But Apple would be likely to fight even harder to keep its source code and digital signature out of the government's hands.

Why Apple will eventually lose its fight against the government

the courts have historically given the government — and private actors in legal cases — all kinds of power to violate our privacy in the name of preventing and prosecuting crime. 

With the proper legal orders, the government may tap our phones, pick our locks, put hidden microphones in our homes and workplaces, and scour our computer records. 

What's so special about an iPhone?

On a technical level, the techies are absolutely correct. Once you've broken security for one actor by building a back door, that security becomes a lot less valuable. It will still keep out the masses, but any technically sophisticated party will eventually be able to walk right through the back door, either with stolen tools or by developing their own. 

In this particular case, Apple might win.

Nonetheless, it's hard to argue that the iPhone is different from any other kind of device. If the government wants a way to get data from it, the government will find a way. 

This brings back the most important thing to remember about computer security, which older folks learned when computers first became common, but which folks who grew up online might not have absorbed yet: Nothing you do, or say, on your computer is private by default. Assume it's public. If you want privacy, you're responsible for providing it yourself.

JOHN McAFEE: President Obama's cybersecurity advisers are incompetent

I must assume, no matter how shocking it sounds, that Obama’s cybersecurity advisers have not kept up with the dynamic and rapidly evolving landscape of the world of cybersecurity. It would partially explain, at least, why the US is hopelessly behind China and Russia in cybersecurity.

here is the issue: Any master key or backdoor to software or encryption that is given to the US government will reside in the hands of our enemies within a matter of weeks of its creation. This is an absolute truth no cybersecurity expert can deny.

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