The terrorist’s iPhone is probably just a ruse.

Now that it’s getting national play, people have noticed that this isn’t the first time the Government has attempted to get Apple to break their own iPhone security. Months before the San Bernadino attacks they tried a couple of times to get Apple to do the same thing. A  judge for the US District Court refused the same order in a case unrelated to national security in October of last year.

So one could conclude that the government’s purpose here is to wrap itself in the flag because it really doesn’t like the idea of security without back doors. If they win this case, of course, the world will continue to write secure software. Since the number of iPhones in the world is nearly 50 million that’s an enormous market for truly secure smartphones, and if the the US government breaks them I’m sure there will be Chinese, Indian or Finnish companies eager to supply truly secure phones we can use for online banking, shopping at Amazon, remote desktop connections and other totally legitimate reasons to have security without back doors floating around waiting to be exploited.

Apple vs. the FBI

If you’re interested in what this Chief Privacy Officer thinks, my colleague and friend Dan Solove, the John Marshall Harlan Research Professor of Law at the George Washington University Law School has an excellent blog featuring a cartoon he drew that gets at some of the essence of this issue (click that link if the images below aren’t loading for you):





Here’s a nice discussion in Wired of what’s really involved from a technical, but comprehensible point of view.

The Internet of Things will become a Being

In a couple of recent articles Bruce Schneier, the internationally known security and privacy guru has started thinking deeply about what has come to be called The Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things is the label that is being given to the fact that more and more devices are directly talking to the internet. Thermostats, smoke detectors, fitness bands, house door locks, burglar alarms–the list goes on and on. Not to mention cars that can be unlocked, and perhaps even started with our smartphones. And I’m not even bringing up autonomous cars, which, while real, are not yet ready for prime time.

What Schneier is interested in is the fact that these objects could all talk to each other, either about themselves, or about us. Simple things like the fact that many internet-enabled house door locks will unlock when we walk up to the door, if we’re carrying our phones. Already my car allows me to unlock it if my key is in my pocket (and, incidentally, won’t allow me to close the trunk if the key is in the trunk.) At the moment the key doesn’t talk to the web, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some brands already do. And, as Schneier notes, not only do the ‘things’ in the internet sense the world around them, they also act on it, raising the house temperature, shutting off the house fan if the smoke alarm is triggered (the Nest smoke alarm will do this if there’s a Nest thermostat in the loop). So what do you call something that senses the world and then acts on it in a very generalized way? Schneier calls it a ‘robot’. And, he suggests, its properties, and probably its behavior, is no longer predictable. It’s almost autonomous, and, for those who are interested in the behavior of systems, it’s emergent meaning its behavior is no longer totally deterministic.

Here are the articles–food for thought in both of them.

Forbes article (can’t be read if you have an ad-blocker, incidentally)

CNN Article on what this ‘robot’ might be capable of.