Wednesday, March 2, 2016

They just can't hack it

iPhones are 21st century technology in action...they play music, take still photos and videos, give you directions to your dinner engagement, and help find that slipper that's been at large under the chaise longue for several weeks and makes excuses for unwanted lipstick on your collar.

Well, those last two were from "Step Right Up" by Tom Waits, but you know, there is nothing these phones can't do...for people with good intentions, and with bad.

So now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether the federal government or the Apple Corp. is right about whether you can lock up the data on your phone so tightly that even the FBI can't get to it.

The government says you can't, and they point out that they can always get into buildings and safes with enough legal permission and a good locksmith.  So, they say, why should a terrorist or a sex criminal or some other awful type of person be allowed to hide their pictures and texts and videos?

The Apple people, and people who promote the liberty of citizens above the needs of the law, say it's too bad if you can't hack your way into a bad guy's phone, but making it possible to do so would also mean that the little girl who has been making your daughter's life so tough in middle school would be able to gain access to Wanda Sue's phone, and then you'd have real trouble.

In fact, the newest iPhones have as a sales point the advantage that, if they fall into the wrong hands (thieves, people who find them lost, some wise kid in your child's class), that person gets ten tries to guess the passcode, after which the phone automatically wipes out everything and become a very expensive paperweight.

I'm an Android guy, and I don't lock my phone, so if you wrest it from my vise-like grip, you will be rewarded with dozens of photos of cats in action and photos of Spiro Agnew, only he's wearing a propeller beanie. That's satire.

As we say, the modern cell phone is a 21st century miracle, but the government was able to get the court order ordering Apple to provide a back door to disable that ten-count in their efforts to unlock the iPhone of the San Bernadino terrorists by using an 18th century law.

The All Writs Act was passed by our very first Congress in 1789 -just weeks before Mitch McConnell was elected.  That law gives courts the power to force people to comply with their orders.

Apple does not know or keep a record of your password when you choose it, but they are being asked to write a computer program that feed the phone with however many combinations of numbers it takes to crack the lock.

Timothy D. Cook, who sits at the top of the Apple tree, is fighting the order, on the grounds that cooperating would set a dangerous precedent and create a dangerous hacking tool that would inevitably wind up in the wrong hands.

"Once the information is known, or a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge," Cook says. "The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices."

Interesting stalemate.  We'll see how it turns out.  In fact, I'll call you as soon as I hear anything.  What's your cell number?

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