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Posts Tagged ‘#apple’

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Apple tied to new privacy website, suggesting future security marketing

March 6, 2019

The iPhone maker, which makes privacy a selling point for its devices, appears to be gearing up for another marketing push with PrivacyIsImportant.com.

BY
IAN SHERR
MARCH 5, 2019 6:35 PM PST

The tech industry’s already-boiling privacy debate may get even hotter soon.

Apple appears to have purchased the web address PrivacyIsImportant.com, which according to public registration records, was bought on March 4. Currently, the site is just a blank white page. MacRumors was fist to notice the domain purchase. Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

If indeed Apple is planning something, it’d fall in line with the company’s ongoing marketing over its products like the iPhone and its Mac computers. During CES in Las Vegas in January, Apple put up a billboard promising “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.”

Apple’s moves come at a time when privacy issues are squarely in the public debate. Governments are attempting to force, through potential legislation and court battles, access to encrypted messages on WhatsApp, Signal and other apps. They’ve argued, in effect, that privacy is not absolute. Meanwhile, Facebook’s poor handling of user data landed CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg in congressional hearings.

The debate has divided the tech industry as well. On one side are companies like Google and Facebook, which make almost all their money from tracking users and showing ads to them. On the other said are companies like Microsoft, whose CEO Satya Nadella says “privacy is a human right.”

Apple has gone up against Google and Facebook too. Last year, for example, the company said its Safari browser would prevent companies like Facebook from tracking users without their knowledge.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, in pushing on privacy issues, echoed Nadella’s sentiment when he spoke at Apple’s shareholder meeting last week.

“We’ve always viewed privacy as a human right,” Cook said. “And in this country, we view it that it’s ingrained in the Constitution.”

Originally published March 5, 2:32 p.m. PT.
Update, 3:47 p.m.: Includes more details.

5G and foldable phones go big at MWC 2019: With international intrigue and a 5G coming-out party, this show doesn’t need the boost of a Samsung event.

Galaxy S10 Plus review: No doubt about it, the Galaxy S10 Plus is going to be one of the best Android phones of 2019.

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Apple is portraying itself as the defender of privacy in the tech world, but it’s one slip away from embarrassment

January 10, 2019

Analysis: Apple has continued to ratchet up its criticism of competitors in a bid to differentiate itself as the “most secure” tech company.
The move is a risky one, as Apple is exposed on several fronts to possible privacy and security leaks and breaches, putting it one step removed from a significant reputation dent that could further hurt sales.
Kate Fazzini

CNBC.com
Tim Cook, Chief Executive Officer of Apple Inc., takes a selfie with a customer and her iPhone as he visits the Apple Store in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 27, 2018.
John Gress | Reuters
Tim Cook, Chief Executive Officer of Apple Inc., takes a selfie with a customer and her iPhone as he visits the Apple Store in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 27, 2018.
Apple ramped up its efforts this week to differentiate its business on the basis of privacy and security, a risky move given risks to its cloud-based backup service and a challenging privacy environment globally, particularly in China, where the company says it is struggling.

Apple took a high-profile swipe at Google, Amazon and Facebook at this year’s Computer Electronics Show, with a full-building ad touting “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.” CEO Tim Cook has criticized competitors for their privacy practices and their willingness to share data with third parties.

Apple is now also reportedly hiring ex-Facebook engineer Sandy Parakilas, who called Facebook a “living, breathing crime scene” because of its misuse by Russian hackers in the 2016 election. (Parakilas is reportedly taking an internal spot as a privacy product manager at Apple, a role not likely to include public-facing statements like these in the future).

For sure, Apple’s core business is different from Facebook’s and Google’s. Apple makes the bulk of its money selling iPhones and other computing devices, and charging consumer subscriptions for things like Apple Music. That means Apple has little reason to compile detailed information about users, and even less incentive to sell that information to third parties. But Facebook and Google make the vast majority of their money from advertising.

But putting such a big stake in privacy as a differentiator may be a risky business move.

First, Apple is just one iCloud breach away from an embarrassing incident that could damage its “what happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone” claims.

Scandals in the past years involving major celebrities who have had nude photographs stolen from their iCloud archives have been dangerously close. Apple has said these incidents involved username and password theft, giving criminals access to iCloud files through the celebrities’ password information, not a breached iCloud database.

But iCloud relies on the same cloud-based network architecture most companies rely on, including Amazon Web Services, Google’s cloud platform and Microsoft Azure. No database is impenetrable, and that includes those iCloud uses. A single instance of leaked data or an insider theft could put the company at serious reputational risk.

Third-party applications are also a potential sticking point. From a security point of view, Apple’s app store has stringent safeguards in place that make it more resilient to security issues like application spoofing than competitors such as Google’s Play store.

But independent iPhone apps still have the capacity to misuse data. The company routinely removes applications from the store for providing user information to unauthorized third parties. The New York Times reported earlier this year that numerous free iOS apps track detailed user information and provide it to third parties.

So Apple may also be one data-tracking scandal away from significantly denting the idea that data necessarily “stays on your iPhone.”

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Apple’s App Store Privacy Crackdown May Hurt Facebook’s Onavo

June 15, 2018

Apple Inc.’s new rules for app developers limit their ability to harvest user contact data, but they also could hurt a key app owned by Facebook Inc. called Onavo Protect.

The iPhone maker’s updated App Store Review Guidelines ban applications that “collect information about which other apps are installed on a user’s device for the purposes of analytics or advertising/marketing.” This could give Apple grounds to remove the Onavo app, although the software is still available despite the rules kicking in last week.

Onavo Protect, when installed on an iPhone or Android device, uses a virtual private network to scan incoming and outgoing internet connectivity. It also gathers information about users’ devices, their location, apps installed on the gadgets and how people use those apps, what websites they visit, and the amount of data used, Facebook wrote in answers to Congressional questions that the social network operator posted online Monday.

Onavo collects data on other apps via networks, rather than through devices. The iPhone maker already blocks apps from getting information from other apps on the device itself via a technology called sandboxing.

Apple’s new guidelines “sound like they’re almost written in response to what Onavo and others have been doing,” said Will Strafach, a researcher who has studied Onavo Protect and focuses on the security of Apple’s iOS mobile operating system. A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment.

Apple has criticized Facebook this year for privacy missteps, and the iPhone maker recently announced new controls for iPhones, iPads and Macs that will limit how internet companies like Facebook and Google track web browsing.

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Senator Franken asks Apple for privacy guarantees around Face ID data

September 15, 2017

A friendly letter from Senator Al Franken (D-MN) to Apple requests that the latter provide a few more details on the tech behind its Face ID system, which allows users to unlock their iPhone X using facial recognition.

It’s very far from a nastygram; the Senator pretty clearly just wants to cover a bit more ground than Apple had time for in its presentation yesterday. He writes:

I am encouraged by the steps that Apple states it has taken to implement the system responsibly. However, substantial questions remain about how Face ID will impact iPhone users’ privacy and security, and whether the technology will perform equally well on different groups of people. To offer clarity to the millions of Americans who use your products, I ask that you provide more information on how the company has processed these issues internally, as well as any additional steps that it intends to take to protect its users.

Face ID, which uses a Kinect-like system to scan the user’s face and only lets a matching faceprint unlock the phone, is being treated with some skepticism in the tech community. An onstage flub during the iPhone event didn’t help, but there are some usability concerns (how do you unlock your phone while it’s on the table a couple of feet away? Surely not a PIN?) and privacy ones as well.

Of course, there were similar concerns when Apple debuted Touch ID’s fingerprint recognition — and sure enough, Sen. Franken wrote a letter then, too.

His letter today is well-informed as to the potential weaknesses of facial recognition systems. For example, he asks what the source was for the billion face images Apple touted as the training set for the system, since a lack of diversity there could lead to underrepresented groups being unable to use Face ID.

He also asks whether Apple has any plans to use faceprint data for any purpose other than Face ID, whether it’s possible for Apple or any interested third party to extract that data from the phone, and whether the data might be stored remotely.

Interestingly, he asks whether there are any protections against a person being forced to unlock the phone by someone else holding it up to their face. Kind of dark, Senator!

Lastly, he asks how Apple will respond to law enforcement requests for faceprint data. That’s a sticky issue right now considering the amount of pressure tech companies are under to identify users, respond to law enforcement requests and so on.

If Apple’s answers are anything like the answers it gave in its response to the 2013 letter, the gist will be that because the faceprint is stored in the Secure Enclave and therefore is inaccessible to Apple, its services or its partners, many of these questions will be moot.

For the remaining questions, however, I look forward to Apple’s responses and evasions, each of which will likely be illuminating in its own way. Apple is requested to respond to the Senator by October 13.

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700 million Android phones have spying firmware preinstalled

December 21, 2016

The term “mobile phone security” is something of a joke these days, with the number of exploits, bugs, and breaches that are endlessly assaulting us and putting our personal information at risk. So, when security outfit Kryptowire sounded the alarm on Chinese company Adups for using its preinstalled apps to spy on Android users with Blu smartphones, it wasn’t exactly a shock. Now, however, the impact of Adups alleged spying is growing in magnitude, and it’s dragging other Android device manufaturers into the quagmire.

Don’t Miss: Accidental drops? Water dunks? The AirPods seem to be practically indestructible

Adups is a company that facilitates over-the-air updates for mobile devices, so its firmware is preinstalled on lots of devices. However, the firmware does much more than it claims, and has the ability to snoop in areas that it shouldn’t, and without the user ever knowing. That information can then be collected by Adups for whatever purposes it desires.

Trustlook, another digital security firm, dug deeper on what devices utilize Adups and could be used by the Chinese company to scrape your private information, and the list is absolutely massive. Trustlook says that over 700 million Android smartphones have Adups firmware installed that puts the user at risk of having text messages, call histories, and device information collected without their knowledge or consent.

Many of the manufacturers who utilize Adups are smaller companies who only release their devices in Asia or specific smaller markets. However, there are a few notable names on the list, including Lenovo, ZTE, and the aforementioned Blu.

The Blu R1 HD was the first device found to be relaying this sensitive information back to Adups, and the company took action to halt the app’s nefarious habits, but it’s now up to the rest of the dozens and dozens of manufacturers on the list to do the same. The best course of action right now seems to be keeping the phone as updated as possible, and installing any security patches that come down the pipeline.

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