Do It Huiwei, Please

July 9, 2020

Believe it or not.

Huawei is a mobile device brand not well known in the United States, but it provides an Android based device to millions of consumers in the eastern hemisphere. Huawai devices are manufactured in China and in May the company held its seventeenth annual analyst summit. Ameyaw Debrah shares the story in the article, “Huawei Analyst Summit: Security And Privacy In A Seamless AI Life-Only You Control Your Personal Data.”

The Vice President of Consumer Cloud Services Eric Tan delivered the keynote speech called “Rethink the Seamless AI Experience with the Global HMS Ecosystem” related to Huawei’s privacy and security related to the cloud, hardware, application development, and global certifications. Tan stated that Huawei abides by GDPR, GAPP, and local laws to guarantee privacy compliance.

Another speaker, Dr. Wang Chenglu spoke about “Software-Powered, Seamless AI Experiences and Ecosystems.” He stated how distributed security builds trust between people, data, and devices to protect user privacy and data:

“He explained that firstly, ensure that users are using the correct devices to process data and Huawei has developed a comprehensive security and privacy management system that covers smart phone chips, kernels, EMUI, and applications. This allows devices to establish trusted connections and transfer data based on end-to-end encryption.

Secondly, ensure the right people are accessing data and operating services via the distributed security architecture which makes coordinated, multi-device authentication possible. An authentication capability resource pool is established by combining the hardware capabilities of different devices. The system provides the best security authentication measures based on authentication requests and security level requirements in different business scenarios.”

Huawei stressed that privacy and security are its MO, but can one believe that “only you control your private life” when. a country-supported company is coding up a storm?”

Whitney Grace, July 9, 2020

Geospatial: Context and Opinions

June 24, 2020

DarkCyber spotted a sequence of tweets published by that well managed, completely coherent, and remarkable outfit Twitter. Twitter disseminated brief emissions from Joe Morrison who uses the handle “mouth of Morrison.” Love that Twitter thing!

The write up in Quibi style chunks is about geospatial technology. As it turns out, mobile devices and smart gizmos output geographic coordinates. These are useful to many.

The observations in the stream of tweets explain that geospatial is mostly a bad idea. DarkCyber says, “Ho, ho, ho.”

Two warrant highlighting, but you may find other faves in the list.

Let’s begin:

The most successful and ambitious mapping project of all time, Google Maps, is an advertising platform. There is no “geospatial industry,” only industries with spatial problems.

Yep, the Google. Nevertheless, one must give the GOOG credit for buying Keyhole, morphing an intelligence operation into a cog in ad sales, and then building a large scale geospatial data vacuum cleaner. Remember the comment about capturing Wi-Fi data: “Wow, no idea how that happened.” Does that help you jog down memory lane.

The second emission we noted is:

In geo, you either die a hero or live long enough to make the majority of your revenue from defense and intelligence.

This is sort of accurate. Including law enforcement might be a more accurate characterization of where the money is, however.

These earthworm emissions are amusing; for example, “ESRI is a petty, anti competitive bully”. Are any lawyers paying attention? Also, big companies use open source software and don’t give back. No kidding? Ever hear of code cost reduction?

Worth a look. More context, explanation, and details would add some muscle to the tweeter bones.

Stephen E Arnold, June 24, 2020

Mobile Security Is Possible, But It Is Work

June 10, 2020

Ads are a pain on desktop devices, but they are even more annoying on mobile devices. The worst type of ads are the ones where the X is hidden, making it impossible to close the ad. Mobile ads are only getting worse as mobile devices become SOP and IT-Online shares more insight into the “Mobile Adware: The Silent Plague With No Origin.”

The article focuses on a research from the Check Point’s Cyber Security Report 2020 and the insights are alarming. According to the security report, 27% of companies experienced a security breach through a mobile device. What is even worse is that most companies do not prioritize mobile security, making mobile devices the most vulnerable area. Check Point’s regional director stated:

“ ‘It only takes one compromised mobile device for cybercriminals to steal confidential information and access an organisation’s corporate network,’ explains Pankaj Bhula, Regional Director: Africa at Check Point. ‘More and more mobile threats are created each day, with higher levels of sophistication and larger success rates. Mobile adware, a form of malware designed to display unwanted advertisements on a user’s screen, is utilised by cybercriminals to execute sixth-generation cyberattacks.’”

Adware is like a plague, because it can secretly be downloaded onto a phone and collect a user’s personal information from location to banking information. Adware is designed to sneak onto a phone and deleting it is harder than finding an X on an annoying ad. Adware sneaks onto mobiles devices through applications, usually through a device’s specific store.

It is smart advice to not download third party apps from unverified companies, especially ones discussed in ads or low download rates. Do not trust anything without researching it first.

Whitney Grace, June 10, 2020

Smartphones: Surveillance Facilitated?

May 22, 2020

A recent study published in the Journal of Marketing suggests we tend to reveal more about ourselves when we communicate through our smartphones than when we are on our desktops. The research was performed at the University of Pennsylvania by Shiri Melumad and Robert Meyer. Scienmag explores the tendency in, “Why Smartphones Are Digital Truth Serum.” We learn:

“For example, Tweets and reviews composed on smartphones are more likely to be written from the perspective of the first person, to disclose negative emotions, and to discuss the writer’s private family and personal friends. Likewise, when consumers receive an online ad that requests personal information (such as phone number and income), they are more likely to provide it when the request is received on their smartphone compared to their desktop or laptop computer.”

But why would we do this? For one thing, users seem to be subconsciously affected by the challenges inherent in using a smaller device:

“[The smaller size] makes viewing and creating content generally more difficult compared with desktop computers. Because of this difficulty, when writing or responding on a smartphone, a person tends to narrowly focus on completing the task and become less cognizant of external factors that would normally inhibit self-disclosure, such as concerns about what others would do with the information.”

Then there is the fact that most of us keep our phones on our person or near us constantly—they have become a modern comfort item (or “adult pacifiers,” as Melumad puts it). The article explains:

“The downstream effect of those feelings shows itself when people are more willing to disclose feelings to a close friend compared to a stranger or open up to a therapist in a comfortable rather than uncomfortable setting. As Meyer says, ‘Similarly, when writing on our phones, we tend to feel that we are in a comfortable “safe zone.” As a consequence, we are more willing to open up about ourselves.’”

The researchers analyzed thousands of social media posts and online reviews, responses to web ads, and controlled laboratory studies using both natural-language processing and human analysts. They also examined responses to nearly 20,000 “call to action” web ads that asked users for private info—such ads deployed on smartphones were consistently more successful at raking in personal data than those aimed at PCs. So consumers beware—do not give in to the tendency get too chummy with those on the other end of your phone just because you are comfortable with the phone itself.

Cynthia Murrell, May 22, 2020

Google Apple Contact Tracing Interface

May 9, 2020

Now Toronto published “Here’s What Apple and Google’s COVID-19 Contact Tracing App Looks Like.” The article includes sample screenshots and some explanation about the data displayed. Worth a look. Much more is possible in terms of tracking, contact mapping, and analytics, of course. Who or what will have access to these more useful views of the collected data?

Stephen E Arnold, May 9, 2020

Cambridge Analytica Alum: Social Media Is Like Bad, You Know

April 4, 2020

A voice of (in)experience describes how tech companies can be dangerous when left unchecked. Channel News Asia reports, “Tech Must Be Regulated Like Tobacco, says Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower.” Christopher Wylie is the data scientist who exposed Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook data to manipulate the 2016 presidential election, among others. He declares society has yet to learn the lesson of that scandal. Yes, Facebook was fined a substantial sum, but it and other tech giants continue to operate with little to no oversight. The article states:

“Wylie details in his book how personality profiles mined from Facebook were weaponised to ‘radicalise’ individuals through psychographic profiling and targeting techniques. So great is their potential power over society and people’s lives that tech professionals need to be subject to the same codes of ethics as doctors and lawyers, he told AFP as his book was published in France. ‘Profiling work that we were doing to look at who was most vulnerable to being radicalised … was used to identify people in the US who were susceptible to radicalisation so that they could be encouraged and catalysed on that path,’ he said. ‘You are being intentionally monitored so that your unique biases, your anxieties, your weaknesses, your needs, your desires can be quantified in such a way that a company can seek to exploit that for profit,’ said the 30-year-old. Wylie, who blew the whistle to British newspaper, The Guardian, in Mar 2018, said at least people now realise how powerful data can be.”

As in any industry, tech companies are made up of humans, some of whom are willing to put money over morality. And as in other consequential industries like construction, engineering, medicine, and law, Wylie argues, regulations are required to protect consumers from that which they do not understand.

Cynthia Murrell, April 4, 2020

NSO: Back in the News Again

April 3, 2020

Let’s assume that the Beeb is on the money. “Coronavirus: Israeli Spyware Firm Pitches to Be Covid 19 Saviors” is a bit of British snark. First, the word “coronavirus” is newsy, and it is clickbait. Second, “Israeli spyware pitches” converts the use of specialized software into a carnival barker’s shout. (One might ask, “Why?” I think I know the answer. The British Cervantes is on the gallop perhaps?)

The point of the story which contains some loaded words like “controversial” is that NSO has technology which can assist governments in gathering useful information about the virus. The write up states after the Beeb explains that Facebook and NSO are in a legal wrestling match:

NSO says its employees will not have access to any data, but its software will work best if a government asks local mobile phone operators to provide the records of every subscriber in the country. Each person known to be infected with Covid-19 could then be tracked, with the people they had met and the places they had visited, even before showing symptoms, plotted on a map.

Scary, ominous, Orwellian, something that British government agencies would never, ever in a million years consider.

The reality is that monitoring a population is happening in quite a few countries. Perhaps even merrie olde Land of the Angles?

A news story is okay. Shading the coverage to advance the agenda “NSO is just not such a fine piece of British wool” is unsettling — possibly more so than specialized service firms’ software.

Stephen E Arnold, April 3, 2020

Google Android: Simple Explanations Ring True

February 14, 2020

I read “Why Google Did Android.” The author of the article is Tim Bray (OpenText, Sun Micro, Google, etc.) The answer in the write up is:

“The iPhone is really good. The way things are going, Apple’s going to have a monopoly on Internet-capable mobile devices. That means they’ll be the gatekeepers for everything, including advertising, saying who can and can’t, setting prices, taking a cut. That’s an existential threat to Google. Android doesn’t have to win, to win. It just has to get enough market so there’s a diverse and competitive mobile-advertising market.”

The person providing the answer is from Vic Gundotra, former Googler and now ex CEO of AliveCor.

The answer suggests to me that Google wanted to go from A to B in a pragmatic way. That’s what Google engineers try to do: Be pragmatic, logical.

Does this suggest that using Java was the logical way to make the journey from fear of the iPhone to Android? Maybe Oracle’s dogged pursuit of a legal resolution is more than a matter of principle? What’s the catchphrase about asking for forgiveness?

Stephen E Arnold, February 14, 2020

Acronym Shadow: Good Enough Presages the Future of US Technical Capabilities

February 6, 2020

Apps are nothing but drag and drop programming. The database stuff? A no brainer for Shadow. What other half informed generalizations contributed to the technical, managerial, and political issues with the Iowa caucus app. The New York Times, definitely a paragon of technical acumen, analyzed the situation. Navigate to “The App That Broke the Iowa Caucus.” Remember the NYT was the outfit that fumbled its original online play, ably directed my Jeff Pemberton—what, 40 years ago?—and then lost revenue by pulling its “exclusive” from the LexisNexis service a few years later. Now the NYT is a techno master, happily pointing out that failure took place.

There was no mini failure. Maybe some underhanded activity, maybe some carelessness, and maybe some “we’re experts and know what to do” thinking going on.

DarkCyber believes that the misstep, if that’s what it was, was a reminder that technical expertise and excellence are not as easy as writing a proposal, pulling some influence strings, or assuming that code actually works in the real world.

Nope, the good enough approach is operating.

But the larger message is that if the US expects to maintain a place among technology leaders, a different mind set is needed.

What is that mind set? For starters, big thinkers and MBA types must recognize that planning, attention to detail, quality checks, live tests, and making software usable are necessary.

A failure in a core democratic process is a signpost. For anyone who believes the baloney manufactured about artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and advanced analytics—good enough is not.

Is this a bright signal that American technologists cannot deliver when it matters and when those who seek to disrupt America are getting the clown show of a lifetime.

Stephen E Arnold, February 5, 2020

About the Bezos Mobile Matter: Who Can Speculate? Everyone

January 22, 2020

I received a couple of communications about the mobile phone allegedly operated by Jeff Bezos, a tireless worker and high profile wealthy genius. A British newspaper suggested that Mr. Bezos’s mobile was compromised. Then the ever reliable Internet began passing along the story. A few moments ago (it is now 0704 am US Eastern on January 22, 2020) I spotted “Saudi Dismisses Reports It Is Behind Hacking of Amazon Boss Bezos’ Phone.”

The write up states:

“Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr Jeff Bezos’ phone are absurd. We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out,” Saudi’s US embassy said in a message posted on Twitter.

First, how many countries’ intelligence agencies have access to specialized software tuned to compromise a mobile device? The correct answer is, “No one is supposed to know.” DarkCyber estimates that specialized tools are available to many countries. Some using software from Europe; others using software from the East; and others relying on basement methods. Zerodium pays for mobile exploits for a reason. Companies like NSO Group want to maintain a low profile for a reason. IBM does not talk about the CyberTap technology it acquired years ago. The list could be expanded, but you will have to attend one of my law enforcement and intelligence lectures to get more information.

Second, how easy is it to spoof one mobile for another? Not as easy as performing other interesting acts. However, there are companies providing a range of hardware and software tools to make this type of spoofing possible. If you want the names of these outfits, that information will not appear in a free blog post. But these outfits are doing business and providing certain unique services. The customers are usually governments, but friends of friends are a reality. Where can these spoofs take place? Think in terms of a coffee shop or a communications control facility.

Third, who did it? The list of possible actors is long. With Amazon’s increasing success in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates, there are a number of possibles. Would one of these countries attempt to access Mr. Bezos’ mobile? DarkCyber suggests having some facts before disseminating allegations. Certain types of chatter can have interesting downstream consequences; for example, Mr. Snowden’s ability to enjoy the weather in the south of France and Mr. Greenwald’s interactions with the current Brazilian authorities.

Several observations:

  1. The message is that mobiles are targets
  2. A high profile individual can be made the center of an international media magnet
  3. Work is needed to work backwards to determine if a compromise took place, who did it, and why?

In the meantime, there are security gaps everywhere. S3 buckets expose information. Complex systems generate vulnerabilities. Assumptions about cyber access are often wrong.

Where was Amazon’s chief technology officer? At Mr. Bezos’ side? Probably not. That individual was grilling a Facebook executive about access to personal data in Germany.

Perhaps someone is sending a message to Amazon? Who is paying attention? Probably journalists, high profile mobile phone users, and individuals with leverageable information.

Stephen E Arnold, January 22, 2020

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