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Friday, February 19, 2016

MARK CUBAN: Apple Vs The FBI vs a Suggestion

Apple Vs The FBI vs a Suggestion

Apple was instructed by the FBI to build a version of IOS that would let the FBI install that version on a terrorist’s phone enabling it to use a brute force method of pushing through every possible combination of passwords into the phone until it unlocked the phone.  The goal is to find out if there is anything of value to the FBI’s investigation into a horrific terrorist act.

If Apple were to comply with the order, it is important to note that there is no certainty that anything at all would be accomplished.

If the terrorists in possession of the phone used a variety of letters, numbers and symbols in their password, it could take minutes (if very lucky) or years to uncover the pin and unlock the phone.

Even if they were able to unlock the phone, there is no assurance that any 3rd party applications that the terrorists used were not still further encrypted and not defeat able.  The FBI would be able to get into anything hosted by Apple’s apps and systems, but not necessarily the 3rd party apps or systems. So while Apple has taken on the responsibility of the first step, theirs is potentially not the last step.

All of this is moot right now because Apple has refused to comply with the order. Here is Apple’s response .

Here is my response to Apple’s refusal:

Amen. A standing ovation.  They did the exact right thing by not complying with the order.  They are exactly right that this is a very, very slippery slope. And while the FBI is attempting to be very clear that this is a one off request, there is no chance that it is.  This will not be the last horrific event whose possible resolution could be on a smart phone.  There will be many government agencies that many times in the future,  point to Apples compliance as a precedent. Once this happens,  we all roll down that slippery slope of lost privacy together.

To those that say that Apple should comply, I say this:

Every tool that protects our privacy and liberties against oppression, tyranny, madmen and worse can often be used to take those very precious rights from us.  But like we protect our 2nd Amendment Right, we must not let some of the negatives stand in the way of all the positives. We must stand up for our rights to free speech and liberty.

Speech can only be free when it is protected. We are only free when we can say what we feel we must in any manner of private or public that we choose.  We have a right to protect our speech from those, domestic or otherwise,  who may watch or monitor us.  Which is why encryption is vitally important to all of us.

If you think its bad that we can’t crack the encryption of terrorists, it is far worse when those who would terrorize us can use advanced tools to monitor our unencrypted conversations to plan their acts of terror. 

I’m not being paranoid. Encryption is easy. It is like wearing a seatbelt in your car. For years we didn’t. Then we did and it was smart. Encryption is a simple step that Apple and others have helped us take to protect us. It’s not paranoia. It is smart.

Now back to Apple.  What I thought was particularly interesting about Apple’s letter to its customers was the opening it left when it wrote:

“The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.

Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government.”

Apple is signaling to us that the real problem here is the use of the All Writs Act.  According to this article on the All Writs Act:

“The All Writs Act is only applicable if no statute, law or rule on the books to deal with the specific issue at hand.

This of course makes the Act a catch all for anything for which there is no law.  What is the solution to this problem ? Pass a law that deals with this issue.

The issue is not Apple’s. It is not even the FBI’s.  The issue is that as often happens, technology speeds past our ability to adapt or create new laws that match the onslaught of daily technological change.  Typically, I am for fewer laws rather than more, but I’m also pragmatic.  We should be asking our lawmakers to enact a law that fits the need of this situation and situations like this so rather than being on an eternally slippery slope of privacy violations hidden behind the All Writs Act, we have a law that will truly limit the circumstances where companies like Apple can be compelled to help a government agency crack a device.

What I would propose is this:

A company can only be compelled to remove any type of security or encryption from a smartphone or tablet,  and only a smartphone or tablet,  under the following circumstances:

  1. There has been an event, with casualties, that has been declared an Act of Terrorism
  2. There is reason to believe that the smartphone was possessed by a participant in the Act of Terrorism.
  3. The smartphone must have been on premise during the event.
  4. The  terrorist who was in possession of the smartphone or tablet must be deceased.

It would seem to me that if such a law could be proposed and passed, then the All Writs Act would no longer apply.  By eliminating the All Writs Act as a catch all then we significantly flatten out the slippery slope.  I’m not saying we will completely eliminate all privacy issues. We won’t. I’m not saying there isn’t risk of unintended consequences. There always are when we ask politicians to fix complex problems.

I’m also cognizant of the possible hypocrisy of saying that we need to protect our privacy and liberty even when its painful and at the same time suggesting that we create a law that could reduce those protections.

And for the sake of discussion, let me give you a hypothetical to think about.

What if Apple had started a business that charged $100 to unbrick stolen phones ? Would anyone have complained ?  No one but the most astute privacy advocates would even notice. No one in the general public would care. No one would be talking about it or debating it. It would be a non-event. 

Even so, this is not an easy topic  and there are no easy solutions.  But we certainly learn more when we talk about it than when we shout about it. I’m hoping this blog post gets us talking.

As always, I’m happy to discuss on Cyber Dust at BlogMaverick

9:17 pm est          Comments

Mark Cuban lashes out at government for trying to take 'precious rights' from citizens
Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban had harsh criticism for the U.S. government this week amid the ongoing saga over the FBI's efforts to compel Apple to create a software update that would give investigators access to the iPhone that belonged to one of the two attackers in the San Bernardino, Calif., shooting in December.

Cuban took to his personal blog on Thursday to praise Apple for refusing to comply with the order, saying they deserved a "standing ovation" for holding firm.

SEE MORE: Mark Cuban: This is the one presidential candidate I'd run with

The FBI has sought the information in order to determine whether or not Syed Farook and his accomplice coordinated directly with ISIS on the attack.

"This will not be the last horrific event whose possible resolution could be on a smart phone. There will be many government agencies that many times in the future, point to Apple's compliance as a precedent. Once this happens, we all roll down that slippery slope of lost privacy together," Cuban wrote.

"Every tool that protects our privacy and liberties against oppression, tyranny, madmen and worse can often be used to take those very precious rights from us," Cuban continued. "But like we protect our 2nd Amendment Right, we must not let some of the negatives stand in the way of all the positives. We must stand up for our rights to free speech and liberty."
9:12 pm est          Comments

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Breakthrough With Cuba: How It Happened and What Happens Next

For weeks, rumors had been swirling around Washington and Havana that changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba were in the works. Then, on December 17, President Barack Obama and President Raúl Castro made simultaneous announcements of a radical change in relations between the two countries. Not only would USAID subcontractor Alan Gross and the three remaining Cubans spies of the Cuban Five be going home -- which was the deal most observers had anticipated -- but Cuba and the United States also would expand trade and travel, and restore full diplomatic relations.

Although President Obama had said repeatedly that he thought the old policy of isolation and hostility toward Havana no longer made any sense, for six years he did little to change it. Then in one announcement, he reversed 50 years of U.S. policy, completely revamping the basic framework and premises of the relationship. What happened to finally break the log-jam?

First, the political calculus changed. Recent polls from the Atlantic Council and Florida International University showed that the public in general and Cuban-Americans in particular supported reconciliation between Washington and Havana. Comments by prominent exiles like Alfie Fanjul and the Barcardi family expressing a desire to do business in Cuba showed that even stalwart anti-Castro leaders in the community were ready for change.

Hillary Clinton's public declaration that the embargo ought to be lifted, and former Governor Charlie Crist's promise to go to Cuba during his gubernatorial run indicated that seasoned politicians recognized the shifting mood of the electorate. Weighing the evidence, the White House concluded that Cuba was no longer the third rail of Florida politics. And of course, Obama doesn't have to run for re-election anyway.

Link to Full Article

Having just coauthored a book with Peter Kornbluh on secret diplomacy (Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana), I wondered in the weeks leading up to the historic announcement whether secret talks might already be underway with Cuba. Now we know that these talks followed a classic pattern: only a handful of officials knew about the negotiations; the talks were held outside the country to avoid discovery; and the bargaining went on for months to produce an accord. But the scope of the resulting agreements is unprecedented in U.S.-Cuban relations, and the negotiators on both sides deserve enormous credit for bringing the talks to fruition.

In April, the presidents of the Americas will convene in Panama for their Seventh Summit, and for the first time Cuba will be included. Obama's new Cuba policy is extraordinarily popular in Latin America, and the good will it has engendered will go far to revitalize U.S. relations with the entire hemisphere. The summit will also give Raúl Castro and Barack Obama an opportunity to talk in person about the next steps in the new relationship.

When Richard Nixon went to China in 1972, the world breathed a sigh of relief that U.S. policy was finally getting back in touch with reality. On December 17, Barack Obama took an equally bold step by finally ending the cold war in the Caribbean. The reaction at home and abroad has been overwhelmingly positive, a few churlish conservative critics notwithstanding. Many loose ends remain to be tied up before the United States and Cuba will have fully normal relations, but a new chapter has been opened, and the idea of going back to the past already seems ridiculous and impossible.

William M. LeoGrande is Professor of Government at American University and coauthor with Peter Kornbluh of the recent book, Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana.

1:02 pm est          Comments

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Include Robert Sarvis in the Va Governor's Debate!

Published on Oct 17, 2013

The wife of Virginia's Libertarian Candidate for Governor gives a heartfelt perspective on the decision to exclude her husband from the final debate, a decision she believes was a shameless display of artifice. In this video, she addresses the people of Virginia as well as the hosts of the debate (WDBJ-7) and the Cuccinelli and McCauliffe campaigns.
If you're moved by this video, SHARE IT!. 
Like the facebook page @https://www.facebook.com/RobertSarvisVA
Official Campaign website: http://www.robertsarvis.com/home

2:13 am edt          Comments

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Poll shows third-party candidate in Virginia could be key in tight governorís race

A new poll released Wednesday in the Virginia governor’s race shows that both major-party candidates are so disliked that a third-party candidate, Robert Sarvis, could be key to deciding a close election.

The poll also shows that the race has tightened, with Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s edge over Republican Ken Cuccinelli II shrinking slightly with a little more than a month to go. McAuliffe has a 3 percent lead over Cuccinelli and is receiving support from 44 percent of those surveyed compared with 41 percent for Cuccinelli, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. That is down from a six-point McAuliffe lead.

Sarvis, who is running as a Libertarian, picked up 7 percent support.

The September survey of 1,005 likely voters found that many Virginians have made up their minds about Cuccinelli and McAuliffe, and they have decided that they do not like what they see. With only 6 percent of the respondents undecided, voters split 38 percent to 38 percent between those who have a favorable view of McAuliffe and those who have an unfavorable view. Cuccinelli’s numbers are worse; only 34 percent find him favorable, while 51 percent do not.

The poll said 85 percent of respondents have not formed an opinion of Sarvis. Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement that it is too soon to say whether Sarvis is drawing more disaffected Democrats or Republicans. Polling experts generally say surveys often overstate support for third-party or independent candidates.

“Terry McAuliffe is less disliked than state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Voters are not wild about either man,” Brown said in a news rel.

The results for the major-party candidates have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The poll was based on live interviews with voters on land lines and cellphones from Sept. 9 to 15.
9:33 am edt          Comments

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