Categories
Rants

FBI vs. Apple: Round 2

Ah, the good old false trade-off: Security or Letting the Terrorists Win and Kill Your Children. Once again, we have Apple being asked by the FBI to unlock or build back doors that “only law enforcement” (read: any bad guy) can use.

Look: I’m sympathetic to law enforcement. They have a tough enough time dealing with the literal worst of humanity and having to piece together the crimes that are comited by said. This is made more difficult when one of their suspects (or criminals) has encrypted some information. Because we have a codified right to privacy, it is reasonable to argue that giving up passcodes and other privacy stripping keys is not something we should have to do, no matter the case, as we’re all equal under the law (the Constitution being the “highest” of those laws).

This fight is further exacerbated by the fact that this is not the first time that Apple has reasonably denied these requests. It would damage their brand, their customer’s security and give an already powerful governmental department sweeping access to stuff it wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) have access to on it’s own. All in the name of “security”. The subtext of all of this is some what sadder: Despite all the massive surveillance that is being done on Americans, we still cannot stop domestic terrorism from happening. Giving the FBI or any entity, aside from the consumer, access to a device that has become the epicenter (for better or worse) of many people’s lives goes counter to our rights.

What about providing a sort of “key escrow” for law enforcement? It would be a semi-reasonable method of giving everything they want, in theory. Law enforcement would have the ability to decrypt data that they would presumably have proven their need to access. The user would still have encryption that is difficult to impossible to break in a reasonable manner and their rights are respected.

The main problems with this scenario are:

  • Who do you give these keys to?
  • What legal recourse do you have if they loose, leak or otherwise provide (willingly or not) keys to someone who should not have it?
  • How do you get millions of people, companies and devices to enroll in this system when free, strong and cryptographically secure code and systems exist in the wild and aren’t going anywhere?
  • Criminals are obviously not going to enroll, so it defeats the point.

Not to mention the massive organizational nightmare it would be to ensure keys are tied to the right person, device or organization. The whole idea is infeasible on any sizable scale.

I wish the general public would be more aware of the erosion of rights. All too often we just allow our government to trample over us because it’s convenient or we’re lead to believe that it’s “for the greater good”. When in actuality we could take some pointers from France, England and Italy where when their governments do wrong, people protest. We need some of that fire back in America, not this anesthetized complacency.

Categories
News Politics Rants

Might Makes Right

I normally don’t like being involved in politics. Confrontation is something I avoid and politics is usually full of it (instead of compromise from both sides). Last night, however, I was thrust into it by some of my classmates in college. Needless to say, they have some kind of questionable beliefs that make me genuinely scared for the future.

Child Abuse

The night began with discussing some casual child abuse. Now, we have laws in this country about how you’re allowed to treat a child. After all, the child is unlikely to be able to know the full ramifications of it’s actions, nor defend itself when attacked and generally makes an easy target for excessive aggression. The fact that we’ve codified this as a specific set of laws should be enough for people.

However, it appears as though many people are still, at least outwardly, okay with casual child abuse. My professor was wistfully talking about how the nuns at his childhood school would routinely beat up the students there and that his fear of nuns is deeply rooted due to it. He also described how his coach on various sports teams would rough him up, to the point of black eyes and whatnot. Both of these accusations seemed not only normal to him, but acceptable and the proper course of action when dealing with children.

Many of the students in class seemed to think this was an acceptable solution to what they perceive as the current issues with children misbehaving. Instead of understanding what the problem is, working through it and finding a solution to the problem. Like an adult. Corporal punishment is a savage and backwards way of making children behave, in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it made problems worse later in life.

Trump

According to my class, not only has he done nothing wrong, but other than some minor slips of the tongue, he’s been great. Despite the laundry list of things that he has done in the last few months that will likely take decades to fix, if they’re ever fully fixed. Despite the very public and very obvious character flaws that both he and his VP have, especially when dealing with women and minorities. Despite all this, they want him to stay.

I wish I could say that this is an abnormal class and that there are still people who don’t think child abuse is acceptable, and that being a toxic personality on the international stage is not very presidential. However, there many more people around me that believe the same things. There are even public officials at the tax office who have been caught failing to register people to vote if they identify democrat.

I know it’s not all broken. I know there are people out there who are not blindly following this strange 50’s-esque mentality of might makes right, let the men do the talking and women and minorities need to get back into their proper places. I know these people exist… but I feel disheartened and discouraged. I’ll vote, but I’m so tired of trying to fight this that it’s almost easier to just give up.

Categories
Computers Rants

The Rental Economy

It’s coming! Microsoft has finally started transitioning people into a purely rental system. Coming soon, you’ll be able to subscribe to Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) and run a full-scale Windows machine in the cloud. This has been a rather overt goal since Windows 8, with it’s insistence on having your Microsoft.com account tied to your local login account.

The technical component of this seems neat. You can run this Windows box in Azure and connect to it using just about any tech you’d like. Phone, Linux, Mac, whatever. That means you can get your desktop anywhere you have Internet. This is not unlike Google’s upcoming Stadia, which takes the same idea to gaming. Seems like data centers are the new hotness. Study up, kids.

That all being said. I hate it.

I mean, I’m not opposed to “Cloud Computing”. There are real benefits to being able to access vast arrays of computing or storage resources for cheap. I, myself, have used these kinds of resources for my own needs. It’s great to be able to spin up a machine or two to get something done quickly. Many companies rely on this very resource as part of their core business. I even utilize it for backups, caching and image processing.

Cloud Computing allows for the normalization of the idea that you no longer own your system, and therefore your data. You can now rent your operating system, storage, emai/groupware, office programs, invoicing, website, user directory, etc. Soon, I wouldn’t bee surprised if Microsoft started pushing into Google’s Chromebook territory by offering lightweight systems that just connect to their Azure Virtual Desktop. This is especially dangerous, because they already have a majority of mind share in the consumer desktop market.

These sorts of services are dangerous. You can be cut off at any time, for any number of reasons. Stuff as benign as “bank failed to authorize payment” all the way up to the very serious, Executive Order preventing you from accessing services. Once you’re out that’s it. You don’t have any recourse. All your data is gone. You don’t own any part of the chain, after all. You’re just renting.

This has been a long time coming. Microsoft tested the waters with Office 365, to great success. People balked, at first, at renting Office, but now if you’re not using Office 365 or one of it’s competitors, you’re basically wasting money on licensing, and IT operations time. Now we’re getting virtual desktops. VMWare tried this with some limited success in Horizon, but I think Microsoft is going to sell this well enough that we see companies start to move to it to save money and hassle. Time will tell, though.

Categories
Politics Rants

Break Encryption … For the Children!

“W-whut about the children?!

That old chestnut. This was brought up a while ago, and I’m pretty sure I covered it — though it’s been lost to the ether (or rather, a zipped up Git repo somewhere). The Government super double pinkie swears that it will never let their backdoor key to encryption be used for nefarious purposes and that military and banking solutions won’t be affected.

Yeah. That sounds awesome. If you live in a fantasy. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need encryption at all, because no one would poke into shit that isn’t theirs. Unfortunately we live in a world where world leaders act like teenagers and the rest of the adult population is scarcely above that. The idea that the government would have a double-plus good backdoor key that could never be used by anyone except them, and only for lawful purposes is so laughable, I’m not even sure how it became a talking point.

This, you need to remember, is using it’s allies to spy on it’s own citizens. Hoovers up as much data as it can (especially encrypted data) and stores it on scales scarcely seen before. That information could never be used to bully someone or even creep on women. I’m sure the secret FISA court, that doesn’t have any public records, has the public’s best interests at heart. Well, we’ll just have to trust them, because it’s all top secret.

So, no, I don’t think that the government can be trusted with a secret backdoor that unlocks all my communications, no matter how benign. No one should. You need only to look at Saudi Arabia, China or Russia and even the UK for regimes who routinely abuse their power to bully and influence people with information gathered by massive dragnet systems.

I am, however, afraid that this might already be too late. We’re already willing enough to hand this information over to private corporations, who only have a duty to their shareholders. We see breach after breech happen, spilling all of our personal and private information across the Internet — all to an apathetic public. Maybe I’m just part of the last generation going through the throes of rejection before privacy is fully eradicated.

Update: Can’t forget about them just bypassing normal law to request information from companies. Wouldn’t want that pesky legal process to get in the way of their investigations.

Categories
Computers Rants

Executive Bullshit

I feel a bit smug right now. I know I shouldn’t, because lots of people have been unduly affected by this ridiculous order, but I still feel some level of satisfaction that Adobe has, again, a big pile of egg on their face.

Essentially, under the above order, no companies are allowed to do pretty much any business with persons, companies or governmental organizations in Venezuela. Including Adobe. To the point that anyone in that country will not only loose access to their software, creations and services — but have them deleted outright. No recourse, no refunds, no support, nothing. It goes to show you just how fragile the SaaS model is.

Despite that, these Executive Orders are comically overreaching the Executive Branch’s intended scope. Seriously, just being able to carte blanche embargo a whole country without the Senate or the House (you know, our Legislative branch, who are supposed to enact laws) weighing in on the issue. It’s not just this latest order, it’s all of the Executive Orders being able to be able to bypass the law-making process as being tremendously worrisome.

I know little of the situation in Venezuela, except that things are kind of all over the place. I don’t really have much connection to the area, which makes it hard for me to involve myself. Especially when I have plenty of crap here to consider and worry about.

Open source is the answer, as it is with many other restrictive actions taken against free people. It’s protected (currently) under free speech, because code is speech. It’s difficult to curtail and allows people to create and improve without restriction. Hell, it’s not even sold most of the time, making this very restriction moot.

Bah, fuck this whole travesty. Why do people have to be such assholes?