Current Trends by Natasha Sapp

Most had never heard of an encrypted cellphone until the San Bernardino shooting, or, until the phenomenon was connected to other terror groups, terror plots using the civilian device encryptions to evade capture, circumvent disclosure of information on their organization, activities. Average American mobile tech users still trying to come to terms with, get their head around having to buy malware, spyware, virus protection for their smartphone, those unfortunate consumers to fall victim to hacking, spam or other malicious software flabbergasted they have to have their phone’s operating system restored, forget the cost, so they may not understand the battle raging between Apple and the United States government regarding the shooter’s cellphone and the allegedly encrypted data there. At the same time knowledge of such attacks, as described above, applied to smartphones versus computers, tablets coupled with how much data people keep on their phones from all their important call numbers to banking info, to very personal pictures, conversations; we know the saying, their life is on that phone, usually uttered when they’ve left it in a cab, on the greyhound bus to grandmas, easily explains why someone might want to encrypt their cellphone, why Apple, other major smartphone developers created the encryption in the first place. Cyber threats and cyber thieves ever evolving to new technologies, crafting new viruses, spam, new hacking techniques, new dangers to unleash on the unsuspecting public to extort money, many times for the thrill of proving only that they could, sometimes for faux altruism, blatant disregard for the law cloaked in the guise of showing top leaders, government officials how vulnerable key systems are water, sewage, power, city, national communications; each controlled in some aspect by a computer, by software capable of being hacked, altered via an individual, group knowledgeable enough in coding, encryption. Latest cyber threats effecting the average person are apps which could be spying on you, so called ransom-ware attacking places like hospitals for their records, small municipal police departments ordering entities to dole out large sums of money to cyber playground bullies stealing the 21st century version of lunch money or lose people’s extremely sensitive data; lone recourse at the present time, to pay up in order to protect people the singular way they can once alerted to the problem, meaning its already too late. This on top of  the continuous barrage of hacking stories on the news where nefarious groups, individuals have obtained social security numbers they plan to sell overseas, profound weaknesses in point of sale (POS) machines, those things we’ve forever been swiping our credit, debit and store membership cards across and entering PIN numbers thinking we were reasonably safe, effecting major retailers like Home Depot and Target, a new one added to the list seemingly every week. Leading us to exactly why Apple says no to hacking the San Bernardino shooters’ phone, going as far as defying a court order mandating they comply with FBI, CIA requests; because, to do so is not about hacking a singular phone connected to terrorism, possible terrorism, violent crime, rape, murder, domestic violence, all types of cases cited by federal and local law enforcement pointing to their desperate need for Apple’s help in extracting whatever may be on said phones. Doing it means, not hacking in the standard and traditional sense, using a decryption algorithm or similar formula to ultimately determine the password, pass, access code to Syed Farook’s individual phone, rather introducing a type of master key that could potentially unlock all phones at the request of governments both foreign and domestic, devising a back door allowing, for example, law enforcement access essentially without the customers knowledge, in the foreseeable future without a warrant, no answer for what happens when a rouge agent, bad cop or former decryption specialist gone off the rails begins hacking into random phones, people suspected of crimes but never proven under the confines of the law, mistakes an ordinary citizen and their phone for someone involved in serious illegal activity; things that are no longer the sole product of conspiracy, spy novelists, movie executives a-la the Borne trilogy chronicling the hellish adventures of one Jason Borne. Bowing to the government in this instance is more than just a polarizing, politicized press gimmick move to drum up attention, future sales for Apple, where Donald Trump can win points calling for a boycott and chastising the tech giant at rallies, on the national debate stage until he shames them into giving up the information, aiding our law enforcement agencies in getting the contents based on the moral arguments he, government officials want us laser focused on, discarding broader issues. There are real privacy concerns to be had beyond protecting the civil liberties of domestic terrorists, murderers and child abusers, but everyone else as well; civil liberties we won’t be able to get back easily once given up. It was founding father Benjamin Franklin who said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety,” wise words, like Shakespeare before him, well to be heeded 200 plus years later.

All due respect to the San Bernardino victim’s families, their anger, resentment and confusion, the knee jerk, highly emotional argument getting into Mr. Farook’s phone is about possibly saving lives, thwarting future attacks on U.S. soil, taking down a hitherto unknown terror cell, terror group, here or abroad; the powerful, heartstring pulling, reverberating question how many of the San Bernardino victims were Apple customers too, don’t they deserve justice too?  Firstly, there is no justice in the sense they invoke the word in that sentence, underlying sentiment ringing wholly false; because, we know who carried out the attack on the health department building there and they are both dead, ruling out a trial, prison sentence, the idea they could get off on a technicality, serve less time without the information locked in his phone. Secondly unlike the NSA ‘spying’ program uncovered by now fugitive Edward Snowden, becoming more about who was behind uncovering it than about the information collected, the criteria it was collected under and the potentially slippery slope of how it could be used and on whom, worry it could be turned on law abiding U.S. citizens, realistically lost in utter minutia related to the sheer amount of data collected and finding singular pieces of information in there akin to that clichéd needle in a haystack metaphor. Combined with who wasn’t being spied on, the undeniable fact if you were being monitored you had both engaged in suspicious activity and received correspondence, communication from a hot zone part of the world known for terror before ‘spying’ took place. Then there’s the quite possible, tangible fact nothing on that phone is relevant to whether or not they had outside help, merely conversations further confirming their sympathies with ISIS, terror groups and radical pro-Islamist organizations across the globe, things we already knew; important too, early speculation just after it happened—the attack might not have been an act of true terrorism carried out by persons radicalized by religion, propaganda, seduced by ISIS, similar groups, but instead an act of workplace violence touched off by coworkers repeatedly making fun of Syed’s religion. Theories supported by evidence suggesting they were planning something much bigger, much different, much more sophisticated in terms of being deadly, but something spurred them to act that particular day. Intriguing also, considering what has been invoked in the name of the fight, the supposed righteous cause of victims fueling public opinion Apple should unlock the bankety blank phone, we’re dealing with terrorism for god sakes, is what they hope to gain from unlocking the phone’s contents, conversations between Farook and his wife allegedly pointing to whether or not they had help, were affiliated with a larger group; except evidence previously collected clearly indicates they were inspired by ISIS or other equivalent, not sent by them making the wanted discovery redundant.  Making case followers simultaneously wonder is it going to be another round of ‘the San Bernardino shooters publically chatted about terrorists sympathies, terror groups online,’ resounding implications, questions being why didn’t the FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security know about it, stop them; when in truth, their communications about terrorism sympathetic views were contained in private messages accessible via a warrant alone, a warrant authorities had no justification to issue until after the fact, after 14 were dead.  Apple lawyer Ted Olsen absolutely correct these arguments about one phone, the singular, specific phone belonging to the San Bernardino shooter are in a word- bogus; why, apart from just how many phones adjacent facets of state, local law enforcement want to try the, in their minds, soon to be invented technique, there would be a technique employed solidifying Apple’s position it goes beyond one phone, Apple isn’t being asked to determine the code key to the terrorists phone and be done, the hundreds to thousands of phones connected to crimes, requests they have hands down complied with before in the name of aiding law enforcement catch dangerous criminals. They are being asked to write new code, new software permanently giving the government an all access back door, doubtlessly asked, at a later date, to keep the government apprised of updates to phones, codes used to secure them extending their unfettered access in the event a crime occurs using, belonging to any future suspects  who owned an i-phone. One phone mantra nonsense obviously spoken and repeated relentlessly by a government bureaucrat who has little or no digital experience, the total opposite of digital natives who actually understand how this stuff works, on a related note or not, why the military’s social media campaign against ISIS was and still remains an embarrassing flop; one reason why it might be a beneficial idea to listen to the CEO, creator of the material in question when he says it currently can’t be done sans exposing everyone to unacceptable, should be unacceptable risk. Let us also be 100% forthcoming about Apple’s government compliance, cooperation, they have henceforth given authorities all the information they had on this phone, data backed up online to the i-cloud; Apple CEO Tim Cook telling news outlets they have no more to give regarding the Farook case, the Farook phone. One of the chief reasons this new software is needed pertaining to San Bernardino is due to it being reset on the advice of someone while in state custody at the county level in, you guessed it, San Bernardino; other news outlets have it federal authorizes urged the reset translating into no more i-cloud data backup, completely gone what you needed to solve this case in terms of ascertaining if the Farook’s had help from overseas, elsewhere in the U.S. planning, executing their terror plot, underscoring their largely T.V., cinematography acquired reputations as bugling idiots. And now they want Apple to clean up their mess, willing to involve the court system, drag this, projected to go all the way to the Supreme Court eventually, case out simply to cover their behind, sweep under the rug their mistake— good for you Tim Cook for standing your ground the right way, the way the term and the actions associated with it should be used.

CBS News asking an apt question, why is Apple’s cooperation, in the specific way they are being asked to cooperate, render assistance necessary at all; skeptic to incredulous follow up being don’t the CIA, add in the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the alphabet soup of government agencies charged with our protection, investigating crime, threats on one level or another, have people who can hack this one phone leaving Apple and their founded or unfounded security concerns out of it, maintaining the security of people who have yet to do anything wrong in the process? The should be echo of the American people, San Bernardino victims, victim’s families included, you can’t tell me the CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland security, to name but 3 right out of the gate don’t employ people who, this is what they do all day, try to master encryptions, hack the un-hackable, shore up our systems against hacking groups like anonymous. And if you don’t, why don’t you since encrypted cellphones have been on the radar of authorities prompting dire warnings for at least a year; where is the educated foresight, preparing for all contingencies, looking at the technology, market, industry, cutting edge abilities and seeing this coming? It’s a variation on apps such as Apple and Samsung Pay crafted for security purposes precisely due to the vulnerability of everyone’s, financial, credit, purchase transaction information. Being a government agency charged with such a hefty responsibility, with so much riding on you investigative skills, expertise in various areas of national security, public safety, threat management, you always want to be able to hack electronics independently exactly to avoid fights like the one transpiring between Apple and the government, because companies will subsequently always feel their intellectual business property is threated, upcoming designs at risk of being taken by the competition. Doing it yourself compartmentalizes, limits knowledge of how it was hacked, has the ability to be confined to one device and carries greater weight, capability of prosecution should secrets find their way into the wrong hands. The way the FBI wants Apple to do this, thinking hackers A-aren’t watching how the saga plays out with salivating anticipation, and B- will not quickly devote themselves to getting their grubby little hands on the software, if ever written, is naive at best and the definition of stupid at worst.  What the FBI, alphabet agencies all need is a good, top notch cryptographer, cryptographers who can get that PIN, password, individual phone key in the less than 10 incorrect password attempts or the phone is disabled feature Apple put in as a holistic security approach; imagine if they spent the time they are pursuing Apple through the legal system trying to hack the phone, hiring qualified people equipped to attempt a successful hack of that phone. Speaking of which, maybe they should give it to the hacking group anonymous and let them try, short of that, try the local high school, top tech colleges; surly some characterized as pimple-faced, barely shaving kid can help you. Jumpstarting a whole different class of comment upon the public hearing what the government wanted from Apple and that they were willing to sue to get it, sarcastically asking in essence if they wanted Apple for free labor; paraphrasing, dear FBI, do your own homework. Returning again to the presumed callousness of Apple, perception tech giant secrets matter more than a terror investigation, at least in the minds of though arrogant CEO’s, way to channel Steve Jobs and that’s not a complement. Especially the Mac based systems company known for their wiliness in keeping undisclosed product designs under wraps, close to the vest until reveal, people prone to the mindset, through the outward lens of the public, their prowess in the field makes them virtually immune to little things like court orders. Prior to unearthing the phone, at the center of the debate’s, data-doomed reset Apple purposefully went beyond just handing over any data they had from Syed Farook’s phone, according to BuzzFeed (article linked below) they  “proposed four different ways to recover the information the government is interested in without building a backdoor.” One of those was “connecting the iPhone to a known Wi-Fi network and triggering an iCloud backup that might provide the FBI with information stored to the device;” what about the other 3, and can they still be used to access whatever Farook did or didn’t place on his phone sans dragging Apple through the courts, using methods Apple was previously comfortable with, remaining in the confines of help Apple has previously given law enforcement?  Honestly if the government wanted to prevent something like this they should have acted a decade or more ago insisting to credit card companies no, it isn’t too expensive for you to enact security measures recommended by experts, the chips embedded in cards making them far more complicated to duplicate, counterfeit just coming to market this year. No retailers, it’s not too big of an investment to replace ancient POS machines left wide open for hacking and prone to card read errors, facilitated by age and overuse making them a headache for the consumer in every possible way; especially if you are a big box store Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Costco posting billions in profits on Wall Street from your literally global chain of stores. Instead of a digital revolution changing the way we watch TV, TV signals are sent into homes across America circa 2009, coupons courtesy of the federal government to get what was once free already, subsidies should have gone to small businesses to obtain the revamped POS machines, the above is the revolution they needed to be spearheading rather than a shameless attempt to compete with global superpower X and look ‘cool’ in the one industry in which we continue to excel, entertainment. At the very least they could have done the two in tandem, back to back successfully achieving both goals, ensured the digital signals every decision maker went gaga for actually worked , were strong enough to do what analog ones had for eons; which they weren’t creating more problems than they ever solved, since there wasn’t a problem at all. Alongside removing the long known weaknesses associated with POS machines, perhaps spending the money allocated to the digital revolution to either refining it before it went to mass market or on better security for national, to everyday civilian must have’s, mandating better modernization of medical records, transitioning to electronic medical records absent actually implanting microchips in people containing those records, something more sophisticated than a dedicated flash drive holding your medical history, tests, blood work, allergies and so on.

Microchips still talked about circa 2015 as a cure-all to medical record keeping, identity theft protection, elimination, the next generation smart home access despite people’s apparently decreasing aversion to local anesthetic and having a mechanical device implanted in them; tech blog author below likening it to the percentage of Americans who have a piercing other than their ear. People even going so far as to try this new chip implanting security tool we use to think of only applicable when discussing Fido the dog, Socks the cat and Blinky the ferret; article citing one Amal Graafstra, founder of Dangerous Things, a Seattle company specializing in RFID implants who put the chips in both hands using them to “to unlock doors, phones, log into computers and start vehicles with just a wave of his hand. He can also share contact details and his Facebook pages with friends by letting them scan his implant with an NFC-enabled Android- or Windows-based smartphone or tablet.” Or Frank Swain British journalist who tired a do it yourself version with the RFID chip in his transit pass, but was unable to obtain the proper silicone coating to keep his body from reacting to the chip waxing poetically about why he wanted an implant for BBC Future, namely so that the transit barriers would fly open at the wave of a hand (talk about the apex of lazy). Here at home, want to ignite the religious right further than they already are, want to give people like Ted Cruz, though he has largely been written off, justifiable reason to begin screaming about the mark of the beast and total government control, let this continue on the path it’s going; just look at the picture below, if that doesn’t scream mark of the breast nothing does. Begging the next question, what if the religious nuts are onto something; it will certainly fuel the conspiracy theorists, foreseeable Supreme Court cases, no matter what your belief system, the current proliferation of none’s those who don’t follow organized religion. Not usually one to tout my own work, blow my own horn as people in his neck of the woods use to say, obvious both RFID innovator and enthusiast need to read my 2009 article (last link below) and do some thinking, soul searching particularly on the section detailing why we don’t need this creepy Hollywood concoction to guarantee public desired security levels, what can and will go wrong if we continue putting computer chips in people (shudder).  Religious connotations aside, expounding on my 2009 work incorporating new information, practicality wins the day,  what about people with severe cerebral palsy, MS, Parkinson’s, pari, or quadriplegic with curled hands, fingers who can’t easily swipe a hand or wave it well for a chip reader, what about people allergic to the chip components, the radio wave exacerbates, potentially creates a neurological problem a-la epilepsy, once thought connections between cellphones and cancer, allergy, reaction to the silicone used to stave off your body’s natural reaction to foreign entities, we remember breast implant leakage and the myriad of health problems there, don’t we? Granted that might have had everything to do with the amount of silicone pumped into the blood stream from broken implants, shoddy plastic surgery and patients not heeding life restrictions from that point forward all for bigger breasts; however appeal for RFID bodily implants versus the ones put in socks, wearable on the wrist, not in it, is also based on a dangerously false premise embodying the epitome of a false sense of security. Proponents are eager to develop the technology further, offer it as more than a research trial, experiment for the tech happy few believing it the ultimate in information, identity safekeeping due to the low range radio wave un-hackable from a distance, placing it in the hand is relatively safe and means you have to be standing right there to open secure thing X, make that shopping purchase, vast amounts of things that can be placed on a chip; except nothing says that if it can be implanted with a large needle, it can’t be extracted the same way, criminals kidnapping people to take the chips, swap chips with someone possessing no criminal record, better credit histories, medical insurance, especially in the era of women who will literally cut a baby from another mother’s womb either to produce a baby to the boyfriend they lied about being pregnant to, to save their relationship or driven to psychosis by a miscarriage, grappling with a diagnosis meaning they can never have children. Odds are it will merely produce a black market for ID chips fabricating a name, work history, overlaying current medical history, and if we’re going to end up in the same boat, we might as well stick with thumb print and retinal scans since Tom Cruz’s Minority Report proved the flaws in that system too. Part of the ongoing frustration for thinking people has to be things like Apple, Samsung Pay dragging all its flaws behind it, increased security with passcodes, phone locks, limited log in attempts on phones, wildly complex encryptions that require a back door exist directly because no one at the top level, in government insisted on non-invasive security; people too annoyed to lock their phone, have it open with a thumb print, natural extension of the popular touch screens. Computers and smart homes currently offer this technology as an alternative to too often forgotten passwords and lost keys. What we need is enhanced thumb print, retinal scanners and facial recognition that are capable of accomplishing the reasonable goals they were designed for, can be used for those with disabilities, accident victims who may not possess thumbprints anymore, can mark specific scars, features from their drastic facial deformity to identify them if they’ve lost their eyes, facial recognition that has a scan gun similar to the supermarket checkout that can be passed over a disabled persons face who can’t swipe their thumb well, has trouble looking directly into a retinal scan laser, has difficulty holding their head up. Why can’t we have thumbprint or blood scanners that can ascertain aliments, allergies exc. for medical purposes, results as fast as reading a chip; something else we saw in Hollywood, actually the small screen, in Earth Final Conflict the resistance headquarters thumb scanner took a little of the top layer of skin for DNA reading? Another way to solve the records maze, one- electronic records in every hospital, urgent care, family and/or abortion clinic nationally, a feat still not close to being achieved then two, linking that data so that any hospital can view the records of anyone, know where, when patient X has been treated.  Mindful of the inescapable reality all the security measures available, created won’t work if people don’t use them, lock their phones, if your life is on it stop leaving it everywhere but with you; understanding the best security features are no substitute for wise decisions regarding your identity information, independent of where, on what type of device it is kept.

RFID implants

Keeping with the present, Apple’s standoff encompassing code protected cellphone contents, today it’s the FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland security who want a phone maker’s help in cracking a phone code belonging to a terrorist ignorantly clinging to the ‘it’s only one phone’ concept in order not to have to face their numerous mistakes, hopefully win public support, cover their ineptitude. Tomorrow it’s your car insurance company who wants to prove you were texting during your most recent accident, the phone simply being on proof enough you were at fault; never mind if it was active, performing a task beyond passively taking a voicemail message (no user interaction required) or sitting in your passenger seat completely idle draining the battery. Today it’s law enforcement who wants access to your phone if you are suspected, somehow tangled up in a crime; tomorrow it’s your life insurance policy holder denying you coverage, raising your rates not just from the risky, extreme sports pictures you put on Instagram from your latest gopro adventure, but sneaking into your smartphone to use pictures there as evidence you are a high risk insurance candidate. Your health insurance provider is using your phone coupled with social media postings and that delicious desert, burger or restaurant review to hike your rates, send you pamphlets and other lecture materials on healthy eating and positive lifestyle choices so you can live to be 100. Today law enforcement want access to better arrest, convict violent criminals; tomorrow pictures literally taken out of context will cause divorce, separation and alimony proceedings to go on your partners favor, child custody disputes to bar loving, acceptable, yet imperfect parents from their kids, because we don’t know how to interpret pictures in front of us as it is. Think the Steubenville rape case and the photo of the girl ‘being carried, dragged around’ by 4 people solidifying the teens’ guilt in the court of public independent the girl in the photo, not even clearly identified as the victim, was fully clothed, didn’t appear to be redressed after an assault or consensual encounter either one and the angle of the photo prevents seeing the girl’s face completely to ascertain if her eyes are open, closed, she looks happy, sad, laughing, dazed, aware, unconscious, and the media was skewered for creating a sob story for the young men based on football scholarships and bright futures ruined by the case when they laid out the defense strategy, pieces of the defense’s argument. Such covert intrusive tactics the essence of not necessary since dumb criminals, people who feel they are doing nothing wrong, even if they are, in the era of generation over share, sharenting a new facet of parenting, kids today having 1,000 internet images posted of them by their 5th birthdays, possessing an internet presence  already before age 2, won’t hesitate to put their lives online for the world to see; remember Demecio Powell’s mother put his beating with a belt on unsubstantiated claims he wanted, tried to join a gang, was failing school on Facebook daring fellow users, video watchers to report her to DFS, which they did promptly getting her and her video cohorts arrested. The daughter whose derogatory Facebook comments about her home life and a family friend that lead to her father shooting her laptop videotaped said shooting and it was posted on YouTube, cursory DFS visit seen as an annoyance; the mother of one of the teens charged with a felony in relation to a classmate’s suicide found herself on the wrong side of law enforcement when a video surfaced of her spanking another of her children with the rest looking on. Daughter of a now former family court judge who turned off the lights in his home and proceeded to spank his 16 year old with his belt for illegally downloading something or refusal to get off the internet, transgression unclear; her cathartic video posting quickly getting him unelected to that bench. And those are just the ones involving spanking not hot-saucing, parents, babysitters abusing kids, using drugs in front of them, several of toddlers being given hits from a bong; the latest mass shooter one classified unstable Cedric Ford giving some indication to his intentions prior to his workplace rampage via a Facebook posting of him shooting an AK47.  Moral of the story, want to catch a criminal, a child abuser check their social media pages. Yet government wanted access to your locked phone remains a an inevitable, coming reality; agencies will demand greater access to your data in the name of crime solving or crime prevention, especially if Apple should lose its court battle to uphold the privacy of everyone while trying to catch the degenerate few.