Let's do the "go-around" on personal privacy and security issues from the last week...
First, the yawner - there was a promise of a "big" revelation on BB10 phones at Black Hat a couple of weeks ago. I looked at the "preview" and declined to write on it, because frankly I didn't see anything worthwhile. As it turned out this was just a blueballed attempt to hype something that wasn't real, as is often the case among so-called "black hats." Yes, if there is a privilege escalation violation you're going to have problems but this is true on any device. The problem is that there was no demonstration of such a hack. Oh well.
The amusing part of BlackBerry 10 devices is that all of the code components that go on the phone must be digitally signed or they won't load. And OS components, which are the ones that have the biggest risk profile, have to be signed with BlackBerry's key -- no way around it. This is a very different security model than Android imposes, incidentally. It is a big part of what makes it quite-safe to load "leaks" in that you still know exactly where the code came from (BlackBerry) and that if it was tampered with it was tampered with in Waterloo.
Next up was the revelation of "XKeyscore" leaked by the Guardian (yet more Snowden.) The NSA denied it, of course, but this stretches credulity to well-beyond the breaking point. Why do you need data centers storing petabytes of data unless you're vacuuming up everything you can get your paws on and indexing it for potential later use? Answer: You don't, therefore you are. Period.
Wake me up when Boobus Americanus comes to recognize that this is bad, and that allowing it is exactly identical to believing that the government will never do an evil thing. The Jews trusted government in the 1920s in this regard. Hold a seance and ask them what they think of that decision now, as about 10 years later it turned out to be a bad bet didn't it?
Then you have this article on Facebook and "Click Farms." If you think the number of "likes" on something actually represents real likes you're insane. Just like "SEO" has always been about trying to game Google's scoring for web sites the easiest way to get something to have a bunch of "likes" is to pay people $1 a day in some third-world hellhole to hammer a mouse button. Therefore, that's exactly what happens. And what's even better is that this is then used as "justification" as to why people ought to "advertise" on said social media.
Yes, people really are that dumb and Facebook really thinks they have a sustainable business model with Boobus Americanus posting pictures of their cat -- and themselves doing beer bongs. I will note that the fact that Wall Street is once again hyping the company means exactly nothing, and short-term advertising revenue has to convert into sales or it goes nowhere in the long term. I am not a believer, if you can't tell by my string of articles on this company.
Then there's two pieces of real news. The first is a chuckle -- there are people who install these things called "femtocells" at their homes and offices which amount to tiny cellular radios so you can have a cell signal "extended" where there otherwise is none. The problem is that the devices appear to not be very secure and an actual demonstration of taking over a cell connection was put forward for one specific device. Oops. The good news is that these things don't have much range. The bad news is that your phone can't tell the difference between a real cell signal and one of these, because it is a real signal and if a bad guy gets a hacked one of these boxes and sticks it where you are, Bob's your uncle and suddenly all your text messages, voice calls and everything else you do becomes visible to said bad guy.
Incidentally, this is one of the means that the spooks use to intercept communications. For real. Except the spook-style "stinger specials" have a lot more range than these consumer versions of a "femtocell" and once again, since they look to your phone like a perfectly-legitimate provider signal your phone will connect to them with no warning or other indication that it is preferring it over the real signal.
And finally the FBI is now hiring "Black Hats" to hack people's gear. This really shouldn't qualify as "news" but apparently it does. Of note is that the bureau is alleged to be purchasing hacking tools. Isn't that special? I'm sure it is, and I'm sure they would never use them without a proper warrant -- right?
Oh, and by the way, one of the exploits is to hack into Android handsets and..... turn on the microphone. Of course the problem is that an astute user will notice the battery drain from the data transmission. Boobus Americanus, however, probably won't -- just like they'll happily buy a phone (the much-ballyhooed Motorola handset announced last week) programmed to listen all the time -- but of course it will "only" listen "when directly addressed." Uh huh.
Speaking of which Forbes was all over that device claiming it was a "pricing mistake." And the fact that Motorola and Google is hawking this thing with a $575 unlocked, off-contract price point is amusing to me. See, there were many who proclaimed that this device would be $300 unlocked and off-contract, trashing the market for many higher-end (and pricier) devices.
But the real problem is Android itself. It's dated, it's inefficient, and there's no good way out because backward compatibility is required. Worse, Google considers Android a means to deliver "product" (you) to them for the purpose of advertising which they then sell on to commercial folks who want to sell you something. The fact that the device also makes phone calls is the hook to get you to use it. IOS isn't really any different; both contain the means to deliver you to the commercial people who want your information so they can spam with you "special offers" of various sorts and try to pry open your wallet. For this you (apparently) are willing to fork up $500 off-contract (or more) and double that when you buy a "subsidized" phone on a contract-based plan.
Excuse me while I chuckle at your stupidity given that you're more than happy to hand over your exact location and what you do every single day to a whole host of marketing firms and then claim your "privacy" has been invaded!
Then there's BlackBerry, which is making devices that at their core are about you communicating. The firm has not fallen into the trap of being primarily an ad-delivery device intended to take every bit of your activity and sell it to someone.
Now maybe they'll turn into that, but I certainly hope not.
And until they do, and so long as they keep pumping out newer firmware that leaves me slack-jawed at the improvements (which, incidentally, they've done again with BB10 in the 10.2 firmware which is now starting to leak out) I'll keep pointing out that from my point of view in the space that includes people who actually care about security and using their device as a tool rather than a toy they are, today, the only game in town.
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