Apple vs FBI – the complete saga

Apple vs FBI
Last month the stage was set for a battle of the Titans starting on 16th March 2016 with an Order by a Federal judge in California to Apple to assist the FBI to bypass security on an iPhone owned by US San Bernardino gunman, Rizwan Farook.

Shortly after this request was received, CEO of Apple, Tim Cook published an open letter on their website explaining his concerns with the requests and calling it an ‘unprecedented step’.

The iPhone in question was a 5C with a pin lock, which enables encryption, set with limited login attempts before the phone would wipe itself. The FBI request was for Apple to update this phone with custom firmware to be created by Apple that would remove the limited login attempts. The FBI would then apply brute force login techniques to get through the pin lock.

Tim Cook stressed in his letter inviting comment from the public, that creating such software would involve rewriting their own encryption technology which would “weaken those protections and make our users less safe”.

Following the posting of the letter, numerous other technology companies came out to support Apple’s stance against the FBI request, including competitor Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai stated “Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users’ privacy”.

March 21st 2016 was the date of Apple’s March event which saw the reveal of both smaller iPhones and iPad Pros. Apple kicked off the event however addressing the current conflict between them and the FBI and reinforced its stance of protecting user’s privacy and continuing to fight the FBI on this request.

Later in the day the FBI responded in a surprising way asking for an upcoming crunch hearing to be postponed with proceedings suspended at least until the following month. The FBI would then seek to use that time to test an alternate method for unlocking the iPhone that would not involve, as it had originally sought, Apple building a specially crafted version of the iOS firmware.

On March 29th 2016 the Department of Justice dropped its case against Apple, reasoning that pursuit of the case was no longer required as they had successfully, with the assistance of a third party, cracked and retrieved data out of the iPhone 5C.  They have since said that the technique used on the iPhone 5C would not work on new iPhone models.

Where it could all have been simpler

It is important to note that the terrorist’s iPhone was in fact a work phone, the terrorists personal phone having been destroyed. This entire legal back-and-forth could have been entirely avoided if the work device was enrolled in corporate Mobile Device Management at which point it could simply have been legally unlocked by the employee’s IT team.

With the FBI confirming the technique used this time would not work on the latest iPhones, we could see a similar saga arise if a newer, more secure iPhone needs to be opened up by the FBI in the future.

When is a Pro not a Pro?

iPad Pro

This week Apple unveiled their much rumoured iPad Pro, a larger iPad, equipped with a 12.9” screen with optional accessories for attachable keyboard and stylus dubbed the ‘Apple Pencil’.

• The look of the new iPad Pro with its larger size, especially when attached to its keyboard cover looks much like Microsoft’s Surface Pro line. The big difference here is in its operating system. The iPad pro like all previous models runs on the company’s mobile iOS platform, instead of the desktop platform OSX. This means you will still be unable to use full desktop software like Photoshop or Xcode.
• Apple boasts desktop-class performance, but when limited to mobile Apps you may not see the benefit of this as an end user.
• The extra performance also enables two applications to be run at the same eg. Mail and Word.

The argument for it becomes more difficult though when you consider the iPad Pro actually costs more than a Microsoft Surface.

Justifying the purchase for this new iPad will be a difficult tasks, it is likely aimed at the Apple faithful who already have all the Apple kit, but why purchase the Pro when a MacBook (which can run full desktop software) can be obtained for almost the same price?

There will be specific, niche markets that will reap the benefits of a larger iPad with a pressure sensitive stylus, such as graphic artists, but they will be limited to the mobile App versions of Adobe’s software instead of their full desktop Creative Cloud suite.

It feels like Apple has missed a huge opportunity here, not only in enabling iPads to run full desktop software, but also bringing OSX into businesses which have already iPads.

Apple’s iOS 9 update hints at a bigger iPads for the office

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This Monday Apple held their annual Worldwide Developer Conference announcing upcoming features and services across their devices.

Arguably the most interesting development was for the iPad, finally allowing true split-screen multitasking to the tablet.

Like many Apple updates the amount of functionality you will get will be depending on which model you own, with only the iPad Air 2 being deemed sufficient to run the full experience called Split View.

The new feature comes as part of iOS 9 and will allow iPad users to launch two Apps at the same time divided by a vertical split in a very similar vein to Windows tablets. iOS 9 also allows apps such as video to be displayed in a floating windows above your current app.

These new multitasking features will help further validate the use of iPads in businesses, being able to both check emails and edit a document at the same time.

Splitting your view does allow you to get more done but it does also make your workspaces smaller.

The announcement of Split View also gives credence to the much rumoured 12” iPad, this will allow the iPad to go toe-to-toe with Windows tablets and potentially squash their momentum with their own market share.

It is likely we will see a 12” iPad Pro launched within the next 12 months and similarities to this and the Surface Pro line will definitely be drawn. With both potentially having similar design and form factor the true battle will be between iOS 9 and Windows 10.

Whilst Microsoft has proven Surface can replace your laptop can Apple do the same for the iPad?

Europe aims to close the door on encryption flaw risk

There has been a lot of talk recently about whether Government entities be allowed direct, back door access to encrypted messaging systems such as Apple’s iMessage and Facebook’s acquired WhatsApp.

In the US, the FBI asked the U.S. Congress to make encryption back doors in mobile devices mandatory to help combat crime.    Apple, Google and other major  tech companies are currently urging Barack Obama to reject the proposals for back doors for smart phones.

This conversation has mostly taken place in America where government bodies have argued that without back door access to these systems, how can they have a clear avenue for investigating terrorism claims?   There are two main arguments against allowing this. First is users rights’ to have private information. The second is a technical one, with any back door access, you are making a once secure system less-secure, and introducing a new front through which the system can be breached.

European Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip states there are no plans to require backdoors in communications encryption in Europe, “We don’t want to destroy people’s trust by creating some back doors,”

It is reassuring that back doors to secure, encrypted services that users trust is not on the cards for Europe, but if America does get its way then these services and our own mobiles could in fact have back doors – whether or not Europe chooses.  With such security flaws in place, how long would it take a resourceful hacker to use it for their own needs?   Hopefully in a post back door world, countries which do not enforce such a policy will have their own data unreachable from those who do.   If not we could see a new market for European-only encrypted services which promise no back doors for anyone.

IBM and Apple monitor our health

We first reported IBM and Apple’s JV partnership in our blog of 18th July 2014 with AppleCare for enterprises.

The boom in fitness trackers and health apps has prompted the tech giants to make commercial inroads on the opportunities arising from analytic technologies.  IBM has set up a new health unit to create “a secure, cloud-based data sharing hub” as part of their “employee health and wellness management solutions” with the aim that it will provide diagnoses or health alerts for GPs, carers and insurers in future, with the user’s permission.

IBM aspires to offer greater individual insights into people’s health and to advance this strategy, has bought Explorys (which owns one of the largest healthcare databases in the world) and healthcare specialist Phytel (which works with digital medical record systems to reduce hospital readmissions and automate communications).  Added to this, Apple iPhones provide ResearchKit, free software for gathering health data, which Apple states has already been used to develop apps to study asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

US consumer technology and wearables supplier Jawbone is trying to engage businesses with its fitness trackers as a way to monitor the health of a company’s workforce.  How does this leave the end user/employee?  For a start, if a company sought to monitor the health of an employee, consent has to be given freely, with the ability to withdraw that consent at any time.

Insurers are also keen to get in on the act, with companies like UK’s Vitality offering rewards to policy holders for undergoing certain activities whilst wearing their devices.  Are we reaching the point though where data analytics lead ultimately to cover being withheld, other than premiums going up or down.

The latest UK Government stats show that 61.9% of adults and 28% of children aged between 2 and 15 are overweight with a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.  The cost of health problems associated with being overweight and obese is estimated to cost the NHS more than £5billion every year.

For GPs, gathering data which gives a broader and more accurate picture of exercise undertaken and calories consumed, could alter health directives on the amount of sleep we need, or which exercises are most effective.

Gazing into the NHS’ future, a carrot and stick approach accompanied by bold education messaging for health reform of UK citizens may be the tough approach needed by the next Government.  However, to succeed, with an NHS in crisis on funding and struggling to hold onto its GPs through which the future frontline is directed, many parts of its processes and systems will have to go digital. This comes back to having data shared securely with privacy maintained and strict governance on who it is share by – and that is a big promise to keep.

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This week’s technology news – 13th February 2015

HP’s doomsday cyber forecast

HP’s CTO Andrzej Kawalec, speaking at the European Information Security Summit in London on 10th February, has predicted a ‘catastrophic cyber attack’ in the next five years.   Before people settle back comfortably and think it is ‘just another cyber attack on a brand’, think again.  Kawalec foresees this as far more serious: “We expect an attack that will cause significant and lasting damage to a major world economy through physical and economic impacts”.

Kawalec acknowledges the enormous challenges around creating a resilient single digital online identity.  Much of the blame he identifies as being a lack of common standards amongst social media platforms, the cloud and devices connecting to the Internet of Things (IoT).

Kawalec identifies a tricky balance to be struck between managing regulatory and privacy concerns and the potential impact on cross-border trade, or exposing industry to financial risk – which must be avoided.

HP have therefore identified three areas of cyber security in 2015 that they will urgently focus on:
• Spending more time and effort understanding our adversaries and how to disrupt them at every step.
• Understand and identify risk to ourselves to ascertain how best to protect, as well as enable information assets.
• The need for businesses to collaborate more – and share information with each other to get a unified view of the threats and extend cyber security capabilities beyond one organisation (as our adversaries have stolen the march on this – and THEY collaborate faster and more efficiently, without being weighed down by any legislation.

On a technical note, Kawalec noted the need to improve management of open-source software within organisations.   He also flagged the need to address security vulnerabilities within supply chains (referring to the 2nd largest US attack on retailer Target in December 2013 which hit 40m payment card users and was the result of a compromise via their air-conditioning supplier).  This highlights the need to change the way organisations deal with their suppliers – and finally, Kawalec impressed on the audience the need to improve securing the end user and the data.

Ultimately, alternatives to password-based authentication will evolve he sees – with greater focus on protecting data.  This, he said, was all part of “understanding our information environments better, see how they work and find better ways of making them secure”.

Amicus ITS has joined the UK Cyber Security Forum, echoing these sentiments that shared knowledge of enterprise security specialists will help create greater strength and unity in 2015.  To find out more click on http://ukcybersecurityforum.com/

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IoT revenue opportunity vs business cost
The latest report by technology research marketing company Beecham Research has identified that IoT security could present a revenue opportunity, with security and data management for the internet of things (IoT) a big value-add revenue opportunity for service providers, instead of it being seen as a business cost.

With the growth and complexity of the myriad applications of IoT and emerging smart lifestyles, Beecham Forrester see this will be accompanied by an urgent need to manage connecting devices which use short-range wireless and fixed-line technologies.

Principal analyst and report author, Saverio Romeo anticipates, “Companies will increasingly rely on outsourcing and we expect that revenues from device authentication, device management, data management, billing and security will exceed $3bn by 2020. Out of these, we see security and data management services generating some $1.8bn alone”.

Data management for IoT remains currently a small market, however Beecham Research believes it has the most potential for high gross margins, with IoT security as the most strategic, across the network, device and services domains.  Romeo commented:  “…we see IoT security providers offering high-value, end-to-end security to service and application providers”.

This follows their last report 5 months ago urging industry to take decisive action to secure IoT devices which should be managed over their entire lifecycle (with resets an option, to enable remote remediation to rebuild and extend security capabilities over time).

As with the cyber security story above, this report has highlighted the need for industry players to unite and enable the securing of IoT devices end to end (from silicon semiconductor manufacturers to network operators and systems integrators), with particular attention to the identification, authentication and authorisation of devices and people in IoT systems.

A strong pattern is thus emerging for 2015 in the technology industry with security themes dominating. Where the core value of security is shared by organisations, there is surely a compelling argument for the different businesses to come together, share knowledge and give the end user assurance that they are safe using such devices. This can surely only result in one result:  greater take up in the long term and profitability for all involved.

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Value of IT outsourcing review

Figures out by Business Process Outsourcing analysts (BPO), Nelson Hall, regarding UK spend in 2014 on outsourcing and IT totalled £6.65bn, with IT outsourcing accounting for £3.44bn.

New business deals accounted for 55.5% of those signed, up from 33% in 2013. 66% of those deals were fully onshore by UK suppliers, with the remainder having an offshore element and 8% delivered exclusively from offshore locations.

The drive by organisations to digitise through Cloud and software development (DevOps) saw a substantial rise in private and hybrid cloud transformation.  However, the desire for many businesses to transform their business IT infrastructure environment and the costs involved, meant that many could not fully migrate and so a transactional and usage-based pricing model in contracts emerged.

• Private enterprise accounted for 63% of the spending.
• Local government saw 15% increase in average contract values rise to £30.3m.

• The financial services industry spend was £1.1bn in 2014.
• With energy and utilities companies accounting for 187% growth in IT spending (the fastest growing, which reached £1.07bn).

MSPs which can offer a comprehensive array of IT services and on top of this can apply a flexible approach to their customers with fully secured Cloud solutions and 24×7 support will be the beneficiaries of this increasing trend as 2015 gets underway.

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Keeping your keys out of the Box

Cloud storage provider Box has announced a new service that could be a first in the file storage arena. The new service is currently in Beta and allows organisations to hold their own encryption keys for their data. This differs from the traditional approach where the service provider tightly guards everyone’s encryption keys.

This new service called Enterprise Key Management (EKM) will appeal to highly regulated industries such as healthcare, finance, government and the legal sector. EKM will also appeal to those worried about hackers, government requests for data and Cloud providers’ own employees having access to their data.

EKM essentially gives you control over the one master key for your data.  But, it also gives you FULL responsibility. You may no longer need to worry about the threat of hackers getting to your data through your service provider but this should only alleviate concerns if you believe your own security is sturdier.

If you do consider EKM, the most important consideration will be the storage of the encryption key itself.  Of course it will need to be resilient enough to survive hardware or site failure, but the strategy to make sure it is backed up, specifically regarding access to it and backups, will need to careful consideration. Whilst EKM does solve many of the issues some have with Cloud storage solutions today it also comes with its own set of new unique challenges and should only be chosen after great consideration.

 

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Ever Greener Apple

Apple is no stranger to being green. Not only does the company promote their own products with an environmental check-list on launch, the iPhone producer also uses renewable energies like solar to power their services.

Apple has detailed plans to spend $850 million on a new solar farm in California. This deal marks the largest ever supply of ‘clean power’ to a commercial user. The farm itself will cover 2,900 acres and will have the equivalent to power 60,000 Californian homes. The power from the new farm will be split with 130-megawatts going to Apple to power buildings such as its future campus, while the remaining 150 megawatts is being sold to the Pacific Gas & Energy’s grid.

This huge spend continues Apple’s commitment to use 100% clean energy – and if successful could be used as the blueprint for many other clean energy driven enterprises going forwards.

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This week’s technology news – 25th October 2014

Wearable Technology – not so Mickey Mouse

It was never going to be long before the commercial opportunities from wearable technology would be fully grasped by the entertainment industry. Into frame comes The Walt Disney Company, who have been discussing the success of their adoption of wearable technology at the Digital Strategy Innovation Summit recently.  Their new “MagicBand” aims to “improve customer experience and engage with visitors” at its parks and resorts.   This is a neat euphemism for describing big data analytics consuming and helping direct customer behaviour through holding personal details to enable greater marketing opportunities to be had.

The MagicBand uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.  Visitors can enter parks, hotel rooms, purchase food and gifts, use fast-track services as well as link Disney photos to an online account with a swipe of their arm.   Acknowledging the issue of privacy and security, Disney’s customers can elect whether or not to share their personal data.  If they do, families can register one time payment details to avoid carrying a wallet to pay for individual items during a stay, or register their children’s names and birthdays to make a “magical” personal greeting at a ride – or have informed conversations with a Disney character whilst walking around.

Should we be surprised, well no, not really.  After all it is 20 years since Tesco employed company DunnHumby in 1994 to analyse their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) data to find patterns to help direct marketing campaigns. This quickly became known as the highly successful Tesco Loyalty Card.  Even this wasn’t cheap though – the scheme is reputed to cost £60million per annum to run.  However, the exploitation of data to direct company decisions is the future and central to the Internet of Things to make our lives easier.  So the more intelligent organisations are about their use of data, its connections, privacy and security, the greater the potential opportunities that can arise in future – and hit the bottom line.

 

 

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Apple’s new SIM

Apple announcements come and go, but last week’s big Apple event was mostly underwhelming, bringing incremental refreshes to its iPads and Macs with an absence of exciting new features. A small detail that went unnoticed by most (and wrongly reported by others), is the new Apple SIM that comes included within the new iPads in the US and UK.

The Apple SIM is essentially an Apple branded nano-SIM which lets you swap between different network providers without swapping the SIM itsel.  This can be done by choosing you provider of choice on the iPads touch interface without visiting a physical or web store.  That is the plan at least. Currently here in the UK, only EE have signed up so you are limited to swapping between EE and nothing.

You can thankfully also use a standard nano-SIM in the new iPads, but it has yet to be confirmed that if you sign up for a data plan on the new Apple SIM it will still work if taken out and moved into a non-apple device?

If the answer was no, then this annoyance would likely go unnoticed by most, as only a fraction of iPad buyers opt for the cellular capable option.  However, if this was used in the next iPhone launch, the Apple SIM could tie Apple devices and numbers together making an iPhone to iPhone upgrade painless, but an iPhone to a competitor a difficult or impossible task.

If this was to come into play, it may fly in the States where Apple has stronger control over network carriers and a history of less flexible mobile options.  But here in Europe, it would likely be slammed by anti-trust laws for unfair competitor practises. Apple’s new SIM may be both a starting point and a testing bed laying low in new 4G iPads, but things will escalate extremely quickly if it makes the jump over to iPhones in the future.

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Yahoo! finds success in mobile

 

Not long ago we saw Marissa Mayer, Yahoo! CEO make the statement that they had missed a huge opportunity in mobile. Since then Yahoo! has been hard at work enhancing its modern mobile portfolio with a sequence of clever acquisitions of mobile app development houses.

With the company revealing its latest quarterly earnings with mobile revenues in excess of $200 million, they estimate growth revenues in mobile to exceed $1.2 billion by the end of this year.

Over the past 10 months Yahoo!’s mobile acquisitions have included Snapchat clone “Blink”, messaging app “MessageMe”, home screen app “Aviate” and mobile analytics startup “Flurry”. In addition to their existing apps these start-ups were also tasked with creating the new Yahoo! App suite including News, Sport and Weather. The surprisingly high quality of these apps have earned them a recent surge in consumer interest and the spin off has been that consumers are returning to use Yahoo! Services.

When a company the size of Yahoo! misses a technology shift as big as mobile apps they can often find themselves in serious trouble. Yahoo! is currently rumoured to be involved in numerous new mobile app development house acquisitions, so in finding success in mobile, it is safe to say they are going to focus more than ever on mobile.  If the next set of acquisitions turn out as well as the last, Yahoo! may see a new lease of life as a heavyweight in the mobile app business.

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How out of touch are we?

 

Microsoft has been developing touch technology for a while now to embrace realism in resistance and weight on their keyboards and touch pads (see blog 5 July 2013), however touch devices are moving on again to evolve into next generation technology described as “rich touch”.

The iPhone was regarded as being an exemplar of multi-touch interfaces, but recently an altogether more creative suggestion has been made by Professor Chris Harrison of Carnegie Mellon University in the States.  Interfaces have become far simpler for people to use, but Harrison derides the empahsis on size reduction in favour of the flexibility that different touch can provide to expand the use of a device.  All of this is based on analysis of the richness of how humans naturally use their hands, versus how many fingers you use to poke at a screen.  Guitars he sees, are very sensitive for this in terms of touch, pressure and grasp and can pick up on vibration.  Harrison sees this as the key to matching desktop productivity on mobile devices.

Rich touch would enable your knuckle to be used to add another dimension to your pointer finger ie. lassoing part of a photo, or tapping on the screen with your knuckle to bring up a contextual menu and refine and edit content. These variances can work as a “left-click” for touchscreen interfaces. Further options can be cued by the angle of touch to turn the screen into a different menu sequence, so a poke is different to grazing your fingertip across the screen – which could alter the scrolling process (a big deal for smartwatches). Then there is “drilling” the screen to turn volume up or down and other recognition of hand shapes to perform other functions.

All of the above developments seek to connect the user more personally and practically with their devices which should increase output and engagement satisfaction.  As long as options remain for selecting how we access different menus, and rich touch options can be switched on or off, it will add another new rich layer to our user experience, whilst also protecting the less dextrous user amongst us.

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