To protect its customers from hackers and illegal surveillance, Apple is developing an anti-snooping technology that would impede police and other authorities to track mobile phone users’ locations, personal information, and messages. With its new plan, the iPhone maker will be hindering the so-called ‘Stingray’ box which is believed to mimic phone masts and can be used to track phone users’ locations and eavesdrop on phone calls.
Stingray boxes show that even the hardest and most prominent of phones in the country today is not safe from unwanted tailings and unlawful observation.
A study reveals that police forces around the UK have been using Stingrays or also known as ‘IMSI catchers.’ Today, even US authorities and investigatory offices are also getting hooked on these boxes, making it as tools to prosecute criminals and lawbreakers. However, these officers did not confirm when asked to reveal the extent of their use.
How do these devices collect data from iPhones and other smartphones?
These devices pretended to be mobile phone towers to trick mobile phones and eventually connect to them. It works by intercepting the phone’s signal, and as a result, they can pinpoint a phone’s location or sneak on messages, calls, and even have the power to edit messages as it
Is this a threat to personal data information and security?
Apple claimed that the devices are becoming controversial and pose a serious threat to personal data of mobile phone users. It collects data from thousands of other phones, at the same time, can also be used by hackers for blackmailing and for personal purposes.
Apple’s action to end the use of these devices
A patent filed by Apple shows a proposal to apply end-to-end encryption to a phone’s unique ID, known as a mobile subscriber identification number as it travels across the network. As explained by the company itself, through using encryption similar to that applied in messaging apps such as WhatsApp, it would scramble the ID until it is deciphered when it reaches its destination. This means that a device would be safe from any instances of ‘eavesdropping’ against stingray boxes, thus, hiding a user’s identity and ensures that the encryption techniques ‘protect [the] subscriber’s identity in messages communicated between a wireless device and a cellular wireless network.’
Also, this plan also protects any attempts at iPhone surveillance by the police or any other authority. The patent, which is available online on the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) website, has the name ‘Subscriber Identity Privacy Protection.’
However, the encryption feature would not entirely mask the contents of the messages but would make it harder to trace which device they came from and who is sending or receiving it.
Apple versus Police and Security Services
As Apple continues to make another invention that would save a lot of people from data hackers, controversies and oppositions are also starting to surface. The announcement of creating an Anti-snooping technology angered police and security services who claimed that encryption has allowed criminals to escape detection and terrorists to ploy an attack.
However, police forces and authorities should know that using IMSI catchers on its operations can mean one thing; breaching of data privacy act which curtails the right of every individual to be protected from unlawful surveillance. If the use of Stingray boxes is for criminal detection purposes only, why is it that records have shown that the Metropolitan police spent more than one million pounds on IMSI catchers since 2015 with other forces also spending thousands of pounds. Is this the only way to catch a criminal? Admittedly, these officers have trained enough not solely to depend on these devices.
Or, for some apparent reason, is it indeed for detection purposes or just a way to show its superiority and to justify that they can do anything including snooping on an individual’s activity?
The company has fought countless battles against the FBI over Apple’s refusal to unlock an iPhone owned by an alleged terrorist who killed 14 people at the Inland Regional Centre in California last December 2015. The investigative forces reiterated that their purpose of using such devices is to ‘protect the country’ from any threat that could harm the country and its people. But, isn’t Apple’s role as a phone developer to keep its customers safe from illegal hackers and surveillance?
This argument will lead to one thing or another, but the truth is that both sides have something to defend. Privacy campaigners are defending Apple; which is now fighting a global pressure to make it easier for law enforcement agencies to access data from an encrypted iPhone.
The thing is, using stingrays boxes can be exploited by hackers too to access mobile user’s data, thus, endangering the privacy of an individual. As officers, they should have known that such action is against the law and subject to imprisonment unless otherwise the ‘person’ being observed to proves to be a threat to national security. If to protect a country means compromising the privacy of another individual, then it is not defending at all.
Robocalls Are Terrorizing Debtors More Aggressively As Student Loan Crisis Worsen
Navient has sent more than 3.3 million robocalls to student loan debtors in 2018 alone.
Two of the most prolific problems that terrorize American citizens in this day and age are robocalls and student loan debts. The worse part of it all is that these two problems are feeding off each other to maximize their impact.
Robocalls and student loan debt has one thing tangent to each other: collection agencies. As the student loan crisis gets worse and worse every year, collection agencies get more and more aggressive in terrorizing debtors, experts say.
They’re calling dead people
One emblematic case for this phenomenon is the case of Navient Corp., one of the nation’s largest student-loan servicing companies with 12 million customers. The collection agency tasked for handling student loan debt collection by the federal government is reportedly becoming more and more belligerent in their collection process, including the calls they send to debtors.
In one particular instance, the company has called a debtor’s sister; they called a number for her grandmother, who died a decade ago; they called a number for her father, who died three years ago; and they began calling her friend and housemate.
And this case is not isolated. According to the data revealed by YouMail Robocall Index, Navient ranks 45th in the most number of robocalls sent in 2018. The collection agency has aggregately sent 3,302,400 robocalls from last year alone.
Meanwhile, the company has been slapped with a series of lawsuits and complaints on how they handle their business, and complainants are calling them out for their “illegal tactics.”
More than 1,100 lawsuits and complaints against Navient has been filed at the Federal Trade Commission in the last three months alone, and more than 150 submitted to the Federal Communications Commission since January 2018 over the company’s “harassing” robocalls.
Furthermore, Navient has also been in the center of two class-action suits over alleged unsolicited calls, agreeing to settle for up to $19.7 million in 2017 and another $2.5 million that was finalized this year. In the 2017 case, plaintiffs are accusing Navient of calling them to collect for student loans they did not make; and the second case blames the collection agency of user automatic dialers to get information about borrowers from third parties.
Nonetheless, the data still reveals that the robocalls are flourishing amidst complaints and lawsuits involving Navient and their calling practices.
“Robocalls from these companies have only gotten worse,” said Billy Howard, an attorney with The Consumer Protection Firm, a law firm in Tampa. “They’re being emboldened by these little small settlements that they force people into. Litigation is just another day at the office to them.”
What is being done?
There could be some sort of relief for student loan debtors as the FCC recently voted to allow telecom companies to block robocalls by default and enable carriers to create tools that would help people avoid numbers that are not in their contact lists.
“Allowing call blocking by default could be a big benefit for consumers who are sick and tired of robocalls. By making it clear that such call blocking is allowed, the FCC will give voice service providers the legal certainty they need to block unwanted calls from the outset so that consumers never have to get them,” said Chairman Pai.“And, if this decision is adopted, I strongly encourage carriers to begin providing these services by default—for free—to their current and future customers. I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this latest attack on unwanted robocalls and spoofing.”
In a similar tone, the Senate and the House of Representatives both have a version of a bill that aims to end the terrorizing robocalls to Americans. Senate’s release, the TRACED (Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence) Act had an almost unanimous vote in the Senate floor with only Rand Paul not voting for it. Meanwhile, the ‘Stop Bad Robocall Act’ has also been proposed by a bipartisan committee in the House and is already set to be voted on this week. It empowers the government and regulatory bodies like the Federal Communication Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to levy heavier punishments against robocallers who violate the law.
‘A Coffee With Ren’ Was Mere Propaganda For ‘Huawei’ And China
Huawei CEO asserts that Huawei’s goal is to serve the good of humanity and announced that they are rebuilding their infra to improve trustworthiness.
As the tension between U.S. and China intensifies and Huawei getting caught right in the middle, the Chinese company stands in its position that they are “serving the humanity” and announced that they are going to improve their technological infrastructure to make it more trustworthy.
Ren Zhengfei, the founder and Chairman of Huawei, understands that their company and their developments are the forefronts of Chinese innovations, and in a live-streamed panel discussion last week, Ren started the company’s position as a “force for the good of humanity and just for scientific advancement and tech development.”
In the panel discussion entitled “A Coffee with Ren,” the company’s highest authority did not dwell on the latest announcement that it would drop $30 billion of revenue, as the brewing US-China trade wars put Huawei in the center of the chaos; instead, he reiterated his message that the company is innocent of what Washington accuses.
The U.S. denounces the company of stealing American technology and intellectual property and installing backdoors on its technology and infrastructures that aids the Chinese government in its cyber espionage and economic sabotage propaganda.
“In the next five years, we will invest US$100 billion in reshaping network architecture, so that networks can be simpler, faster, more secure, and more trustworthy […]At the very least, we should be able to meet the standards of Europe’s GDPR when it comes to privacy protection.” Ren said.
“Of course, our revenue will need to double. If we face financial difficulties, we may cut our R&D investment, but the amount will still be close to that figure. We need to restructure networks and make more contributions to humanity […] Huawei employees are everywhere — in the poorest areas of Africa, in places stricken with malaria, Ebola, or AIDS, and in the wilderness. We don’t make much money there. We are there because of the commitment we have for humanity,” he added.
The US vs. Huawei
For the last few months, Huawei’s credibility has been questioned following an all-out campaign of the Trump administration against the smartphone giant. Washington has been talking to its allies in Europe and Asia-pacific to persuade them to drop Huawei from their bid to install 5G networks in different territories.
Trump’s message was simple: drop Huawei from your 5G technology infrastructure, or else you will suffer consequences. With consequences, the U.S. meant a plethora of economic and security support that they are willing to withdraw from countries who refuse to drop Huawei’s bid.
A few months ago, America’s ambassador to Germany, sent a letter to Berlin to warn them that if they push through with their plans of allowing the Chinese tech company from bidding to build Germany’s 5G system, the U.S. will no longer be able to share sensitive intelligence information with the country — as working with Huawei constitute an adverse security risk for both U.S. and Germany. Trump’s administration has made similar threats to other European nations.
The U.S. believes that the Chinese Communist Party is using Huawei as a tool to carry out massive cyber espionage and economic sabotage campaigns against the west, and allowing them to build the data infrastructure in their countries, would make that task easier for Huawei and the Chinese government.
A Coffee With Ren was a mere propaganda
The live-streamed event, A Coffee with Ren, was propagated for both China and Huawei’s sake; especially since Tian Wei, host of World Insight on the state-run China Global Television Network, moderates the panel discussion.
The edited transcript of the event reflected what the Twitter account @HuaweiFacts calls the “official truth and facts.” Deflection from the issue has become a go-to for both Tian and Ren during the panel discussion. For example, Tian warded off and suppressed questions regarding China’s censorship of Google, and these questions were purposely left out from the “official transcript.”
One panelist was techno-utopian economist George Gilder, whose 1981 best-seller Wealth & Poverty. During his message, the “Official Truth” included his contention that “the basic challenge of the world economy today is to address the scandal of money,” and that the $5.1 trillion of currency trading every 24 hours “accomplishes nothing.” But his statement regarding cryptocurrency being used to steal money from the future “to consume in the present” has also been left out of the transcript.
‘Libra’ Could Be A Victim Of Bad Rep Over Facebook Security
Will Libra survive a storm coming?
Popular social media network and tech giant, Facebook, unveiled its most ambitious venture yet two days ago: The Libra cryptocurrency. However, following an initial market excitement, it seems that the project, even if it’s still has a long way before it can be officially rolled out, has already faced tremendous skepticisms across sectors.
Libra, as Facebook said, is a secured currency; unlike Bitcoin. The new digital money banks on real currencies and government certificates. It also runs on its blockchain technology, the Libra Blockchain, which assures the protection of every transaction involving the new online coin.
Furthermore, as part of Facebook’s assurance that Libra is unlike any other, albeit volatile cryptocurrency already roaming around the internet, the California-based company also announced that the coin would be overseen by an organization it spearheads — The Libra Association. Members of the new organization backing up the new cryptocurrency include payment and financial service providers, among others, like PayPal, Mastercard, and VISA. But of course, Facebook is the face of the organizations.
While Facebook will not have direct control of the Libra currency, the tech company is planning to profit from it by launching a subsidiary, Calibra, which serves as a crypto exchange company for Libra. Calibra is also a digital wallet, where users can store their Facebook coins and process transactions like transferring funds and sending remittances.
Facebook’s security reputation
But security isn’t something Facebook can display around as its badge of honor. The social media platform has been involved in controversies after controversies related to the security that they provide to their users.
One of the biggest blunders faced by Facebook that summoned CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Congress was the allegations that the company allowed U.K.-based firm Cambridge Analytica to use Facebook user data in attempts to sway public opinion in the 2016 elections. According to reports, Cambridge-Analytica improperly accessed 87 million Facebook users’ data. Following the highly-covered Congress testimony, Zuckerberg has promised to fix its security problems and to make sure that the same incident will not happen.
But it is not the end of Facebook’s security mishaps. Only recently, Facebook was involved in another data breach, where the company has admitted that it has been saving user passwords in human-readable format, and allowed those passwords to be exposed to thousands of Facebook employees. While Facebook defended the incident by saying that its employees did not use the exposed data in any way, multiple sectors have still slammed Facebook over the apparent recklessness of the company that leads to the exposure of thousands of user passwords.
The intense pressure on Facebook to secure user data may affect how Libra will perform in the market once the tech giant starts to roll it out early next year. As early as now, skepticism looms over Libra’s head as experts believed that it could be a venture, just many of other investments from Facebook, that users refuse to adopt.
Data shows users don’t trust Facebook in handling their money
And the numbers are glaring. In a study, most Facebook users (91%) said that they would not use the payment feature on Facebook Messenger. In 2015, Facebook rolled a payment option that can be done through its messaging app by connecting the U.S. issued credit and debit card as well as other payment merchants like Paypal. According to research firm Statista, around 79% of Facebook users who are aware of the feature did not use the payment option in Facebook Messenger.
In a greater scheme, consumer attitude towards online payments has also gone sour. Among those who currently access their bank and financial accounts online, about a quarter of people said they’re considering no longer doing so with mobile apps or via the internet, the MagnifyMoney survey added.
“This is largely because many U.S. consumers are more comfortable paying with either a credit card or cash instead of their mobile device,” the company added. “Additionally, the technology shift at the point-of-sale on the merchant side has been slow.” eMarketer expects that percentage to climb gradually.
Governments are skeptical too
The growing skepticism amongst users isn’t the only problem faced by Facebook’s Libra. Lawmakers also have their eyes on the recent project of Facebook. US Representative Maxine Waters, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, asked Facebook to halt work on the unit it answers questions about privacy and security.
European officials have also expressed concern regarding Libra, citing that the system, if widely adopted, could shake the global economy and rival national banks. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire sent a letter to officials from the G7 and International Monetary Fund calling for a group to examine Libra’s impact on the global financial system. Le Maire said that Libra must not become a “sovereign currency,” while a German politician noted Facebook’s potential to become a “shadow bank” to the global financial system.
Nonetheless, the lawmakers come forward with the acknowledgment that they are yet to understand the dynamics of Libra and what it means for the global economy. But whether or not Facebook can convince governments of the benefits of having a digital currency is worth watching out for.
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