Wednesday, 11 September 2013

iPhone 5S fingerprint technology – eye-catching

Apple unveils two iPhones — and a password at your fingertip, it says in the Times today. According to the Telegraph, Apple iPhone 5S and 5C: fingerprint sensor and plastic make iPhone 5 debut. Etcetera, throughout the media.

You could have announced the end of the world yesterday. No-one would have noticed.

In fact, Sir David Attenborough did. "I think that we've stopped evolving", he told the Radio Times. And all anyone wanted to know is how easily they can photograph themselves with the iPhone 5C.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Edward Snowden – déjà vu all over again

Come to think of it, this debate about the security services having cracked all our codes is not entirely new.

For what it's worth, back in August 2010, on the No2ID forum, we were discussing the latest revelations about BlackBerry mobile phones. Someone posted the following extracts from a Nic Fildes article in the Times newspaper, BlackBerry ‘near deal to open messages to Saudis’. The debate remains relevant three years later:
The makers of BlackBerry mobile phones appear to have backed down in the face of demands from Saudi Arabia to allow the state to monitor messages sent on its devices ...

The Saudi-backed television station Al-Arabiya quoted unnamed sources as saying RIM [Research In Motion, the people behind the BlackBerry] had agreed in principle to grant the Saudi authorities access to its messages.

Bandar al-Mohammed, of the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission, said RIM had expressed its “intention…to place a server inside Saudi Arabia”, allowing the kingdom to inspect communications and data exchanged between BlackBerry handsets ...

The United Arab Emirates intends to ban BlackBerry e-mail, messaging and web browsing on October 11 ...

The company then issued a statement on Thursday denying that it had already allowed some governments access to BlackBerry data.

The US and Canadian governments have also offered to hold talks with countries concerned about the security implications of BlackBerry usage.
Not just Saudi Arabia, but the UAE, too, and India and Indonesia and France – it seemed as if no country would allow people to use BlackBerrys until its security services had found out how to listen in. There are obvious implications for industrial and other espionage.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Edward Snowden – the penny drops 2

While beautiful people dance, beautifully dressed, through the lush pastures and wild flowers singing beautifully, they are stalked all the while by the Gestapo, the Geheime Staatspolizei, the sinister secret state police ...

The Sound of Music? It's a parable of our time, dontcha know.

No it isn't. But you'd never guess that from the way some people have reacted.

Who do you think wrote this in the Guardian?

Edward Snowden – the penny drops 1

The Edward Snowden revelations began here in the UK on 6 June 2013.

The public response and the response of the national media has been muted. Spies spy. What do you expect? They have to. Surveillance is legal. You'd have to be naïve to think otherwise. It's for our own good.

It's a case of move along, there's nothing to see here, as far as Whitehall is concerned. And in that case the plans to make public services digital by default can proceed. We can carry on saying that it is safe to store our data in the cloud. We can carry on saying that trusted third parties – "identity providers" – can supply us with personal data stores, maintained on "secure websites", which will give us "control" over what happens to our personal data.

There's nothing to see here. Our personal data will be encrypted. The security of the websites is provided by encryption. Encryption works. That's why the third parties can be trusted.

When the cartoon character runs off the edge of a cliff his legs keep going and he keeps moving forwards as long as he doesn't look down.

Friday, 6 September 2013

The internet secure? Absurd

While we were all away on holiday a scene from the theatre of the absurd was reported. It had been enacted  a month before, in July, in the basement of the Guardian newspaper's London office.

Dramatis personae:
    A number of GCHQ persons
    A Guardian editor and a Guardian IT person

    A number of computer disks and chips
    An angle grinder and some other tools

On 20 July 2013, apparently acting on the orders of Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, who was in turn apparently acting on the orders of the Prime Minister himself, the Guardian persons set about destroying the disks and chips with the angle grinder and other tools. The GCHQ persons, having watched but not assisted, left once the job was done.

Thursday, 5 September 2013


The National Audit Office (NAO) have published their report on Universal Credit (UC). UC is the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) initiative to rescue benefit claimants from the poverty trap created by the UK's inept welfare system. The idea is to rescue them by making work pay.

Universal Credit: early progress is 60 pages long. 60 pages which document the unrelenting and expensive failure of DWP to get to grips with UC. There is a summary for you kindly prepared by Tony Collins – Will Universal Credit ever work? – NAO report.

By 31 March 2013, DWP had spent £425 million on UC. £425 million spent by intelligent and experienced public servants and there is nothing to show for it.

Monday, 2 September 2013

You are for sale

The Financial Times have been doing a bit of investigative journalism. Health apps run into privacy snags, they said on 1 September 2013:
Before Celeste Steenburger takes off on her morning run, she taps the orange button on the MapMyRun app on her iPhone to track the exercise.

The 30-year-old office manager counts calories, logging the food she eats into a separate Lose It! app. When her menstrual cycle begins, she marks the details in the Period Tracker Lite app.

With each bit of health data Ms Steenburger records, third-party companies, some with names she has never heard of, are receiving information about her.

Monday, 19 August 2013

GDS and privacy

Yesterday's Sunday Times:
Google: we are beyond British law

The internet giant says the High Court has no authority to rule over a landmark UK privacy claim ...

“They don’t respect privacy and they don’t consider themselves to be answerable to our laws on it” ...

Last week Google’s privacy policies came under fresh attack in America after it said that its 425m Gmail users could have no “reasonable expectation” that their messages would remain confidential. The admission came to light in a court filing.

In its submission to the High Court, Google’s lawyers argue that any information gleaned from the search engine is not “private or confidential”. This means that the company is under no obligation to hold it in confidence, they say.
You know where you are with Google. No "reasonable expectation" of confidentiality/privacy.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Cyber security is a hangover in Vegas

DEF CON was founded in 1992 or 1993 by Jeff Moss (no relation) and is "one of the world's largest annual hacker conventions, held every year in Las Vegas, Nevada ... Many of the attendees at DEF CON include computer security professionals, journalists, lawyers, federal government employees, security researchers, and hackers with a general interest in software, computer architecture, phone phreaking, hardware modification, and anything else that can be 'hacked' ...".

Not to be confused with Black Hat Briefings, which was founded in 1997 by Jeff Moss (no relation) and is "a computer security conference that brings together a variety of people interested in information security. Representatives of government agencies and corporations attend, along with hackers. The Briefings take place regularly in Las Vegas, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Abu Dhabi and, occasionally, Tokyo. An event dedicated to the Federal Agencies is organized in Washington, DC ...".

Would you like to attend DEF CON? One young lady who attended this year gave an interview to BuzzFeed magazine that gives you a hangover just to read it: "... But I had a good time. It’s always a good time. As long as you remember most of it. Or maybe you don’t want to remember. It just kicks your ass. But once a year? It isn’t the worst thing for your liver".

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Toe-curling: GDS PR Blitz

The launch of the Government Digital Service's PR campaign on the BBC and in the Guardian was noted here three weeks ago on 14 June 2013.

Last week a new front was opened up in the Times newspaper with an opinion piece by Rachel Sylvester, Geeks in jeans are the Treasury’s new heroes. Are they geeks? Are they in jeans? Are they the Treasury's new heroes? Precisely what have GDS achieved so far? What is the outlook for all their outstanding projects? Ms Sylvester left her readers none the wiser.