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.

The Death of Flash

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Adobe Flash, released in 1996 brought with it animations, games and of course ads to a mostly static web. The technology was greeted with almost universal praise and adoption by developers and web surfers alike.   Nowadays the software tool has a less favoured reputation; it’s unable to run on most mobile devices, consumes high amounts of devices’ processing power and battery life – and then of course there are the many security issues around Flash.

The adoption of Flash has decreased throughout the years but its most noticeable set-back was arguably the unveiling of Apple’s iPhone, bringing with it a new world of mobile internet which left Adobe behind technically, despite their willingness to be included.

Steve Jobs published his Thoughts on Flash on April, 2010 detailing why Apple don’t and won’t allow Flash onto their hugely successful iPhone, iPad and iPod. His main reason being that the mobile era is all about low powered devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where ‘Flash falls short’.

In August 2015 Amazon announced it would no longer be accepting Flash ads on its website.  This week Google announced, from the 30th June 2016 it will stop accepting Flash ads on its AdWords and DoubleClick networks and from 2nd January 2017 it won’t display any Flash ads on Display Network or DoubleClick.    Google has stated “We’ve rolled out tools to encourage advertisers to use HTML5, so you can reach the widest possible audience across screens.”     This move is likely to be the killing blow for Adobe’s Flash platform, with Google being the most prominent web ad provider around.

Adobe itself has come around to support open web standards, now providing its own Flash-alternative, HTML5 tools, for developers to create HTML5 content for both desktop and mobile.

With the almost inevitable demise of Flash in sight and modern, mobile-friendly web standards likes HTML5 ready to take over, appreciation of Adobe’s early efforts in making the web a more animated place should be acknowledged, though few will mourn all the security headaches that came with it.

3D scanning is coming to a smartphone near you

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3D scanning, used to make models which could be manipulated on a PC or printed on a 3D printer, requiring sophisticated depth-sensing cameras.  These 3D cameras can be both very expensive and much larger than a regular camera sensor, both traditionally being barriers to bringing the technology to mobile in a more mainstream way.

Microsoft, no stranger to 3D camera technology, has developed multiple commercial versions of its Xbox Kinect 3D motion camera and has shown off several prototypes on miniaturized, mobile versions of 3D cameras. They have now announced a new, software driven approach to bringing 3D scanning to the mass market called “MobileFusion”.

MobileFusion doesn’t rely on any special 3D hardware but is entirely driven by an app being developed for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. The main focus for the app is to create digital versions of real life objects that can be then printed on a 3D printer.

The trick to using a single camera to capture depth is that it needs to be slowly moved around the object, so it does take longer to capture, however the cost and availability bonuses of the app should make this an exciting addition to the phone’s feature set.

The reason why this is a major step forward is that currently 3D scanners are very limited and conversely, most people own a smartphone.  This remarkable technology will let anyone capture digital copies of real world objects be it at a museum, outside, in home or in the office.

With many more 3D objects available and the power to create them at ease, 3D printing may get its shot at mainstream success beyond the current niches that have adopted the technology so far.

As smartphones continue to grow, which is right for your business?

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It’s no secret that smartphones are getting bigger and bigger. Apple was last to the party with the 5.5” screen ‘iPhone 6 Plus’ last September, but extra-large sized phones have been available for both Android and Windows phones beforehand.   There has been a substantial increase in consumption patterns for this size of phone.  Extra-large phones now make up 20% of the market in 2015 up from just 6% at the beginning of 2014.  This number is likely to increase even further as more phone manufactures decide to make these ‘larger than life’ phones their flagship devices, instead of being an interesting niche side offering.

With both consumers and business users doing even more with the content of their larger smart phones, the need for small to medium sized tablets has also decreased. Why carry around a 7” tablet when you have a 5.5” phone in your pocket?  As applications, services and support becomes even more universal across the competing mobile platforms, almost any modern smart phone could be used for business, so with all the competing platforms and devices – which makes most sense for your business?

The primary consideration for business will be to strike a good balance of cost, functionality and administration effort required.

• Price is the most obvious point here and multiplying this by the size of your workforce is critical. What could seem a reasonable price difference between handsets at face value will balloon in size if it is to become the new company standard when you do your rollout.
• Functionality between different devices used to vary far more greatly than it does today but is still a very important consideration.  How great does the camera quality need to be?  Will wireless charging be utilised?  How big is ‘big enough’ for the screen to view ever increasing content application to help workflow on the move?  And the perpetual question of how long will the battery last in ‘real world’ use time?
• Administration effort may not come up in conversation much on picking the perfect phone but is potentially the biggest pain area if not considered thoroughly. Some Smartphones are very much consumer focused and can be used as great business phones – but only after deleting bloat apps, changing settings, disabling features, downloading essential tools and compliance procedures.  Many of these tasks can be assisted with MDM but even with an MDM layer, some phones are simply quicker and thus more preferable to select and setup than others.

If your office runs Microsoft software then the overlooked Windows Phones could be perfect for you. The system is quick and battery efficient and comes with Microsoft Office pre-installed, which saves time downloading the de facto tool every time you roll out a new device. They are also very price competitive:   for example the new 5” Lumia 640 can picked up £129 which makes it cheaper than the 5” Motorola G at £149 and a staggering difference to the 4.7” iPhone 6 starting at £539 unlocked.

There’s no perfect phone for all businesses, so your choice will be tailored to your own business needs, the support lifespan from the manufacturers and new technical innovations that could help improve your worker’s business performance.

What makes you decide which phone your business has chosen this year or is planning to purchase this year?   Let us know which you think is right for your business and what the deciding factor was?
Kind regards and thanks

 

This week’s technology news from Amicus ITS – Friday 13th September 2013

Gartner takes the long view on MMS
A recent Gartner report confirms they are still wary of the nascent Managed Mobility Services (MMS) players. They are still seen as having insufficient depth in worldwide deployments of smartphones and tablets. Assessment criteria included technical and financial management, security and content management with special focus on authentication encryption and containerisation drawn from policies on access and use of corporate resources. Enterprise mobile management is still an emerging delivery field, but with a lot to prove to clients as IT departments struggle to keep pace with change.

Forrester eyeing up the challenges for mobility in business
Meanwhile Forrester have published their report on Enterprise Mobile Engagement. 74% agreed that mobile engagement was a major business priority, whilst 43% reported that creating and maintaining a wholly in-house mobile solution, integrating new architecture on different platforms was a significant challenge. Forrester believes there is good merit in using external suppliers to allow IT departments to focus on core business needs. The benefits of such trusted assignment should enable a healthier management and efficiency by taking a cross channel approach.

Do Apple’s new phones take the pip and does it herald the end of the password?
This week at WWDC Apple had few surprises for us and announced two new iPhones as expected. The first was the iPhone 5C and is last year’s iPhone 5 in a brightly coloured plastic shell, rumoured to be a cheap phone for emerging markets. But at a starting price of £469, it is surely not cheap.

Apple’s new iPhone 5S unveiled a subtle Touch ID feature to enable users to access their phone with a press of the finger. The technology has long been vaunted and follows Apple’s purchase of Authentec in 2012. However, the technology is not yet without pitfalls – gelatine in Gummi bears for example have been sufficient to spoof fingerprints and enable faking elsewhere. Also, privacy issues surrounding storage of biometric body data alarm some. However, the Fido (fast identity online) Alliance between Blackberry, Google and Paypal signal serious intent to make it happen in the future. A mix of multi-modal biometrics (iris reader + fingerprint) with more live two-factor authentication might underpin the next evolution of security.

Whether Apple has done enough here to support the next 12 months for iPhone will be an interesting waiting game.

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The Smart Watches are coming
Both Sony and Samsung are betting on wearable computers to be the next commercial IT trend. With announcements of Smart Watches form both companies just weeks before Apple’s WWDC, it seems they may have been expecting Apple to join the wearable computers market, as had been heavily rumoured. The Smart Watches connect up to your Smart Phone and gives you the ability to glance at your watch to check notifications, without pulling your phone out of your pocket. The main downside to these so far is the lacklustre battery life compared to a traditional watch. If you can get used to a change in your charging habits and see the benefit of glanceable notifications at any time, then this may be the must have accessory for you.
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This week’s technology news from Amicus ITS – Friday 17th May 2013

Delta Air Lines online and in the clear

A closely watched lawsuit by a Californian state court against Delta Air Lines has been thrown out.  Delta was alleged to have violated the California Online Privacy Protection Act by failing to disclose data collection and use policies to smartphone and iPhones users of its Fly Delta app.  The app enables check-in, booking changes and reservation info.  Delta lacks a privacy policy whilst holding key personal data of  users.  Whilst in the clear by a whisker, it is a warning shot to other companies to put in place policies about privacy data collection and distribution.

BlackBerry Messenger comes to iPhone and Android

Arguably Blackberry’s biggest feature has always been its BBM service allowing users to chat in real time avoiding SMS charges. With iMessage, Google Talk and Skype this is no longer a bragging right. CEO Thorsten Heins announced BBM is coming soon to iPhone and Android in a move to make the service more open. This is a risky move, the plan assumingly is to use the service to convert some of the existing iPhone and Android community over, but this may just backfire and give users yet another reason not to choose BlackBerry.

Google I/O 2013

This year’s Google developer event on Tuesday in San Francisco bucked the trend on new device announcements and focused on extensive tools for developers. However Google did have some impressive stats showing the huge momentum behind the Android platform (such as over 900 million Android devices have been activated to date and 48 billion Android Apps have been downloaded). The message here is simple, Google is so big that anyone creating mobile Apps needs to be supporting Android.

Who has your rights in the cloud?

Companies can be asked to provide access to their data for legal reasons.  With cloud, your data is no longer held in house, so the cloud vendor could potentially be targeted by 3rd parties including Government agencies without your knowledge or permission.  Would they protect you, or themselves? In the States, the FBI doesn’t need court approval to make enquiries as it can invoke the Patriots Act to gain access.  Knowing where your data is held geographically will affect your governance rights and reinforces the need to choose your cloud provider carefully.

Your first stop for this week’s MSP news in technology

MDM? Not without MSP’s help  

Even though the BYOD trend is gaining significant momentum, some organisations are still refraining from implementation.  Adopting MDM requires investment in technology, training, staffing and policy creation, meaning organisations can’t justify the funding.  However we believe there is a solution to this problem; introducing MDM through a managed service provider.  MSP’s can offer all the MDM benefits including 24×7 managed support, but save customers time as well as costs.  This will allow even small businesses to work more mobile.

Looking into the future in the Tablet market

The big three: Microsoft, Google and Apple are now all runners in the tablet market share race.  In recent months Apple has seen its sales decrease due to the increased popularity of cheaper Google devices. At this pace we may see Android over take Apple in Q2 2013. As Microsoft’s devices have only been on the market for less than a quarter, we are expecting a slow and steady uptake.  As more devices and apps come over to Microsoft’s new platform next year, we predict the market will shift.

‘Appy’ Christmas

Microsoft has announced that their Windows Phone app developers will be hard at work this festive season.  Since the launch of Windows Phone 8, mobile app requests have increased by 40%, seeing a recent surge in the last couple of weeks.  However, some companies refuse to jump on the bandwagon. Google have declared they have no plans to develop apps for either Windows Phone 8 or Windows 8. We believe that Google might be missing a trick.  As Windows 8 adoption grows momentum in 2013, we are predicting Microsoft’s app store will take off in a big way, enabling both a consumer and a corporate environment.

Microsoft release Cloud Deployment programme

Microsoft has released a new Cloud Deployment programme designed at educating partners as to how they can get the most out of Office 365.  Organisations have currently been viewing the Cloud as a threat to their security rather than an instrument for success.  With Microsoft’s latest partner programme, MSP’s will be able to offer management tools and expertise to help consumers understand the Cloud.  We believe that this will give MSP’s the opportunity to add value to the Cloud, helping customers with its set up and running.