Politician wants to ban Tim Cook because he is gay, carrying AIDs and Ebola

Tim Cook 

Homophobic politician wants to ban Tim Cook from Russia for life
[Via Cult of Mac]

It was only a matter of time. Just a few hours after Tim Cook bravely and historically made his sexuality open, the gay-bashing has already begun.

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Can’t have an openly gay man travel while being openly gay. So ban him for life.

Luckily, this is only being stated in Russia. But even Ted Cruz will not let Cook’s sexuality affect his love for the iPhone.

Bet Russian’s feel the same way.

If you are going to do something illegal, turn off Touch ID. Or use a cat.

 finger print

U.S. court rules that phone passcodes are protected by the 5th Amendment, but fingerprints aren’t
[Via 9to5Mac]

While Touch ID makes sense for most of us as a secure and convenient way to protect our phones, there is one group of people who may want to stick to good old-fashioned passcodes: criminals.

A Virginia District Court has ruled that while phone passcodes are protected by the 5th Amendment, which says that those accused of crimes cannot be compelled to incriminate themselves, there is no such protection against using a suspect’s fingerprint to unlock a phone … 

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This is not too surprising. I believe courts courts have rules that the 4th Amendment covers thinks you ‘think’ like combinations or passcodes but does not cover things you possess, like a key or a thumbprint.

And there are lots of ways it might not work. If the phone is shut off, it requires a passcode, not Touch ID. If it has not been used for a period of time (say 48 hours) it requires a passcode, not Touch ID.

I would think the criminal does not have to tell them which finger it is. The phone can be set to require a passcode after a certain number of failed attempts. Heck, it can lock up after a number of failures.

What if the criminal uses a toe print? or a paw print? or a nipple? Those all appear to work.

So this will likely only catch the dumb crooks. The smart ones will always have their cat nearby.

Watching an authoritarian keep shouting things are great, even as the anchor he is holding drags him down

 Ebola Virus

Christie on Ebola policy: ‘We’re not moving an inch’ – 
[Via CNN.com]

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tried to stamp out criticism Tuesday of his policy to quarantine health care workers returning from Ebola hot zones, describing his rule as “common sense” and vowing that he won’t move “an inch” on the standards his state has set forth. He also tried to address critics on the other end of the spectrum who say his decision to let a health care worker go on Monday was a sign of him caving in to political pressure.

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What an authoritarian does when they make a mistake – never, ever admit it, even as they alter policy to do the opposite of what they were claiming last week.

Authoritarians actually get extra support from others who support hierarchical authority even as their ship goes down. These people admire someone sticking to their principles, even as those principles are shown to be wrong and maladaptive.

Authority has its place, but dealing with complex things like infectious disease and healthcare is not a place for hierarchy to go it alone.

We have seen great distributed approaches to dealing with Ebola. As often seen, the first solution is not always right but having a quick response means we get to the right answer sooner.

Here, we see a concerted and distributed democracy approach that eventually forced the hierarchical authoritarians to alter their pronouncements, even as they refuse to admit they did any such things.

Cargo Cult Worlds are such a dangerous thing, pulling people into a view that simply no longer matches the real world.

A world where the US has seen a 0% mortality rate for those infected with Ebola in the US. And politicians now are looking at the personal cost of quarantines, realizing that the State bankrupting someone who is never ill is not good policy.

Maybe we will get to a better balanced approach soon.

Spending in space more than NASA

NASA UFO 

The U.S. still spends more on space than every other country—combined
[Via Ezra Klein]

Ever since NASA retired its last space shuttle in 2011, American space travel has taken a back seat to news of growing Chinese space ambitions, Indian Mars missionsIranian space chimps, and Russian space geckos. But make no mistake, the United States is still the global powerhouse in space spending.

Last year, the United States spent roughly $40 billion on its space program, which is more than every other country combined, according to a new study (pdf) by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). For comparison, China’s space budget, which is the second largest in the world, was just under $11 billion in 2013; Russia’s the third largest, was roughly $8.6 billion; and India’s, the fourth largest, was about $4.3 billion.

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NASA’s budget is about $18 billion. So less than half of the US space budget goes to them. The rest, while it includes NOAA and such, is mostly from the military budget.

Left/right is not as important today as authority/democracy

How Far Conservatism Has Changed
[Via Contrary Brin]

All right, it is an important U.S. political season.  As a registered Republican and a frequent speaker at libertarian gatherings, I remain hopeful that this will be the year that several million temperamentally conservative-but-calmly-rational Americans will wake up to the way their movement and the GOP have been hijacked. And that only a shattering drubbing at the polls will send the American right back to the drawing boards — learning to do politics again. Including negotiation about real problems. 

Oh, but it will be so hard! 
The oligarchs who have done the hijacking have ordered up so many narratives, from “birther” paranoia to climate denialism, from preaching “oligarchy is gooood for you” to utter lies about U.S. history. I will explicate the best and most hilariously most damning example below — the George Soros Effect.  
thats-not-austinBut first — In That’s Not What They Meant!: Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America’s Right WingProfessor Michael Austin examines dozens of books, articles, speeches, and radio broadcasts by such figures as Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Larry Schweikart, and David Barton to expose the deep historical flaws in their use of America’s founding history. In contrast to their misleading method of citing proof texts to serve a narrow agenda, Austin allows the Founding Fathers to speak for themselves, situating all quotations in the proper historical context. 
What emerges is a true historical picture of men who often disagreed with one another on such crucial issues as federal power, judicial review, and the separation of church and state. As Austin — whom I met last week, at Newman University, in Kansas — shows, the real legacy of the Founding Fathers to us is a political process: a system of disagreement, debate, and compromise that has kept democracy vibrant in America for more than two hundred years, but that regularly comes under attack. How extreme has been the veer off any path of sane conservatism?  

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I feel that the real battle is not between left/right economic divides but between hierarchical authoritarian/distributed democracy. The GOP may have a preponderance of the former but there are quite a lot in the leadership of the Dems. We are out of balance, but luckily have very strong tools now to leverage distributed approaches to regain our footing.

The Founding Fathers had to deal with exactly the same imbalances. We saw liberals and conservatives then come together to develop an entirely new set of tools to deal with the imbalance.

I am confident we will again. 

The question is how long it will take to regain the balance, how much it will be delayed by the authoritarians and how many millions die in the meantime

Unbreakable Apple encryption – 80 milliseconds may be key

System Lock 

 Why can’t Apple decrypt your iPhone?
[Via A Few Thoughts on Cryptographic Engineering]

Last week I wrote about Apple’s new default encryption policy for iOS 8. Since that piece was intended for general audiences I mostly avoided technical detail. But since some folks (and apparently the Washington Post!) are still wondering about the nitty-gritty details of Apple’s design, I thought it might be helpful to sum up what we know and noodle about what we don’t.

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Nice explanation of how Apple has secured the iPhone. No backdoors. Apple holds no keys. The phone takes your password, mixes it with a specific number for each phone (UID), and runs it through a slow derivation function to get the passkey used for all on phone encryption. What does the slow derivation function do?

The Apple Key Derivation function ‘tangles’ the password with the UID key by running both through PBKDF2-AES — with an iteration count tuned to require about 80ms on the device itself.** The result is the ‘passcode key’. That key is then used as an anchor to secure much of the data on the phone.

Apple used a dedicated line on the chip to put the key into the secure enclave. Software can put it in when you change a password but cannot extract it out. The only thing that can be done is to brute force the password by trying every single combination.

Now, normally, the authorities can use a class F supercomputer, capable of trying a billion passwords a second. This means that even if your password mixed lower case, upper case and special symbols and was 8 characters in length – 96 possible characters and a whopping 7.2 quadrillion possible combinations – the class F could find it in less than 3 months.

The authorities know that any phone they want to crack can be with a brute force approach. Well, that used to be true.

See that 80 ms requirement. Since the only thing to do is brute force the password, that 80 ms becomes important, as I wrote before. It slows down even the Class F. Instead of a billion tries a second, it can only do 12.5. 

This means that even an 8 digit passcode using only numbers would now take 3 months. Instead of instantly.

Before, they could just ask Apple to crack it for them. Because it held a backdoor key. But now Apple no longer can do that.

It means that pretty much no one can get the data off your phone, especially if you use even a simple password with 6-8 characters.

And Apple lets you use a passcode up to 37 characters long.

The only way to get an iPhone cracked is to get a warrant requiring the owner to open it. No more being able to use a third party to do it for the authorities.

So we are back to what used to be the status quo.

Apple wins at Global Thermonuclear War by refusing to play the game the FBI wants it to.

 War Games (1983)

iPhone Encryption and the Return of the Crypto Wars
[Via Schneier on Security]

Last week, Apple announced that it is closing a serious security vulnerability in the iPhone. It used to be that the phone’s encryption only protected a small amount of the data, and Apple had the ability to bypass security on the rest of it.

From now on, all the phone’s data is protected. It can no longer be accessed by criminals, governments, or rogue employees. Access to it can no longer be demanded by totalitarian governments. A user’s iPhone data is now moresecure.

To hear US law enforcement respond, you’d think Apple’s move heralded an unstoppable crime wave. See, the FBI had been using that vulnerability to get into people’s iPhones. In the words of cyberlaw professor Orin Kerr, “How is the public interest served by a policy that only thwarts lawful search warrants?”

Ah, but that’s the thing: You can’tbuild a backdoor that only the good guys can walk through. Encryption protects against cybercriminals, industrial competitors, the Chinese secret police and the FBI. You’re either vulnerable to eavesdropping by any of them, or you’re secure from eavesdropping from all of them.

Backdoor access built for the good guys is routinely used by the bad guys. In 2005, some unknown group surreptitiously used the lawful-intercept capabilities built into the Greek cell phone system. The same thing happened in Italy in 2006.

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WarGames was a prescient movie. The scene above could almost be used today, with authorities complaining about iPhone security.

We have fought this battle many times. Personal security always wins and the authorities find other ways to legally do their business.

All this means is that the authorities can no konger go around the user and seek out third parties to threaten, third parties who seem to have no skin in the game,

But, in the post-Snowden age, this approach has signifiant and detrimental effects on the business models of the third parties. Now they do have skin in the game as countries where they sell their goods become suspicious.

So, Apple takes the very smart path – simply remove itself. The only way for it to win is to not play the game.

Now the FBI and others still have lots of access to data – anything on the cloud or in teleco servers.  They just need to get a specific court order to access a smartphone from Apple.

Distributed democracy wins again. For now.

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