Encryption February 1

AAPL: 96.43

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BlackBerry phones were once the default choice for enterprise, the combination of physical keyboard and secure messaging facility the two key selling-points. Those days are long gone.

The company dismissed the iPhone when it was launched in 2007, claiming that touchscreen phones could never compete with physical keyboards – before doing a U-turn by launching its own touchscreen phone less than a year later. A series of major service outages and a failure to deliver the promised BlackBerry 10 in 2011 sealed the company’s fate as a major player, and it today appears set to completely cede the secure messaging space to Apple.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen effectively admitted in December that the company had a ‘backdoor’ into its supposedly secure messaging system, and the company has now stated that it will this year make only Android phones – a platform not noted for its security credentials. This shortly after Microsoft’s Windows Phone looked even more irrelevant, the company reporting that revenues had halved year-on-year …

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Encryption January 21

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AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson is the latest to weigh in on the issue of data encryption policy with the executive telling The Wall Street Journal that Apple CEO Tim Cook and other tech execs should leave the decision making on encryption policy up to Congress:

“I don’t think it is Silicon Valley’s decision to make about whether encryption is the right thing to do. I understand Tim Cook’s decision, but I don’t think it’s his decision to make”… I personally think that this is an issue that should be decided by the American people and Congress, not by companies,”

…The AT&T chief said his own company has been unfairly singled out in the debate over access to data. “It is silliness to say there’s some kind of conspiracy between the U.S. government and AT&T,” he said, adding that the company turns over information only when accompanied by a warrant or court order.

That statement follows a meeting among Cook, other Silicon Valley executives and White House officials last week to discuss topics related to encryption policies and government access to data.

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California is now presenting a new bill that, if passed into law, would stop Apple from selling iPhones on its home turf, via ZDNet. The bill requires smartphone manufacturers to sell devices that have backdoors to allow them to be decrypted. Naturally, this affects iPhones which use high-strength security methods and make it practically impossible for anyone including Apple to gain access without the passcode. If this proposed bill sounds familiar, there’s a reason for that. A nearly identical proposition was made in New York state earlier in the month.

Although the bill is only being proposed and isn’t law at this time, it poses a big issue for Apple which is facing pressure from politicians across the US to relax its stance on privacy in favor of security. The California case is especially problematic given the location of Apple’s HQ. It would be very awkward if Apple was barred from selling iPhones in the state where they’re designed.

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Encryption January 18

AAPL: 97.13

-2.39
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Last week, Apple was at the heart of a conversation during the Republican presidential debate over encryption and national security. Candidates such as Jeb Bush explained that, even if companies like Apple aren’t willing to give up user data, the government has “got to keep asking because this is a hugely important issue.” Last night, NBC held a Democratic presidential debate out of South Carolina, and once again, encryption and technology’s role in national security were hot button issues during the debate.

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Encryption January 15

AAPL: 97.13

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Apple’s strong position on privacy and encryption has been at odds with the United States government’s pressure to step up its national security efforts in the wake of recent terrorist attacks across the globe. In short, iPhones are encrypted to protect customer data from prying eyes, and law enforcement agencies believe that gives criminals a safe haven for communication that can’t be traced.

The Obama administration including the former and current attorney general and FBI director have strongly voiced opposition to Apple’s position, and Tim Cook reportedly pressed the White House to back strong encryption as recently as this week. So it’s no surprise that Tim Cook and Apple came up at the end of last night’s Republican presidential debate hosted by the Fox Business channel where at least one candidate was asked to address his position on the subject.

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Encryption January 13

AAPL: 97.39

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A new bill proposed in New York could see that all phone manufacturers be required to implement a way for law enforcement agencies to access and decrypt user devices. This bill is somewhat similar to the Investigatory Powers Bill currently being debated in the UK, which Apple has voiced its opposition towards. Apple and Tim Cook have repeatedly stated that government agencies should not have any access to user devices or data, whether be through a built-in backdoor or other means.

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