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Apple Tried To Help FBI, But The Password Got Changed In Government’s Hands

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An Apple executive yesterday pointed out a piece of information that was contained in an extensive government filing about the San Bernardino terrorist investigation – that county government officials could have inadvertently undermined their ability to access the data on the iPhone 5C used by terrorist Rizwan Farook, according to arstechnica.com. The executive noted this finding in a U.S. Attorney filing earlier in the day as the company faces an unusual court order to rewrite the iPhone firmware, thereby creating a “backdoor.”

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The firmware the court wants Apple to create would remove a possible automatic wipe feature if a passcode is entered incorrectly ten times and would also eliminate a delay between passcode efforts intended to make brute-force entry harder.

Apple Fights Government ‘Overreach’

In complying with this order, Apple would permit the government to enter PIN codes in fast succession until gaining access to the phone. Tim Cook, Apple CEO, has said it will resist this attempt which he calls a major “overreach.” A hearing is scheduled for March 22, 2016 in Riverside, Calif.

In Friday’s call, an unnamed Apple executive said the company has worked with the FBI in the investigation. Apple proposed one last attempt to recover about six weeks of data locked on the phone.

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The purpose was to force the phone to auto-backup to Farook’s iCloud account. Apple, with a legal order, can and does turn over iCloud data. Farook, for unknown reasons, had not backed up the phone for about six weeks before the attack. The Apple executive said the company does not know if the auto-backup was or was not disabled, but prior iCloud backups the company provided to investigators were sporadic.

Apple Cooperates With The FBI

Apple suggested the FBI plug the iPhone 5C into a wall and connect it to a known Wi-Fi network and leave it overnight. The FBI then took the phone to the place of Farook’s employment prior to the attack, the San Bernardino Health Department.
Apple was surprised when the attempt failed, but then discovered the Apple ID account password was changed shortly after the phone came into law enforcement’s custody. This change could have been made by a county health department employee. Because it was not possible to enter the new password on the locked phone, auto-backup could not be attempted. An iCloud auto-backup would have easily allowed Apple to assist the investigation.

The Apple executive said the company released this piece of information on Friday since it previously believed it was under a confidentiality agreement with the government. Apple now apparently believes the agreement is void since the government raised it in the public court filing.

Because the iCloud backup could not be tried, the Justice Department asked a judge to order Apple to re-write the firmware.

Also read: White Hat iOS hacker advises Apple in its FBI battle

Create An iPhone ‘Backdoor’?

The Apple executive said there is extensive interest in an iPhone backdoor, pointing out that Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, said on Thursday that his office has 175 Apple devices he would like to crack, according to buzzfeed.com.

The executive further noted that no other government, including Russia or China, has asked what U.S. prosecutors have asked Apple to do this week.

The House Committee on Commerce invited Apple CEO Cook and FBI Director James Comey to testify on the encryption issue on Friday.

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Jamie Dimon May Hate Bitcoin, but J.P. Morgan Is Embracing Blockchain

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J.P. Morgan Chase CEO has made it abundantly clear that he hates bitcoin, but that hasn’t stopped his firm from adopting the technology that underpins the digital currency system.

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J.P. Morgan Launches Pilot Program 

On Monday, America’s biggest bank rolls out the next phase of its blockchain pilot program. The effort will facilitate a faster, more secure transfer of cross border payments between J.P. Morgan and other banks, including Royal Bank of Canada and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group.

Although the new program will not trade cryptocurrency, it will use the landmark record-keeping technology that underpins it. The Wall Street Journal reports that J.P. Morgan will use the same blockchain technology behind digital currency Ethereum.

Despite widespread concern over cryptocurrency, financiers are enamored with blockchain. They, like many others, say the technology can significantly increase the speed of cross-border payments. The system currently in place is extremely complex, and requires multiple streams of communication between various participants. The blockchain has the potential to cut down transaction time from as much as 15 days to mere hours.

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The pilot program aims to achieve a secure distributed ledger across financial institutions, enabling banks to work together to process transactions. Connecting transaction data through a shared network will greatly reduce the number of steps it takes to verify and process transactions.

J.P.’s embrace of blockchain doesn’t mean he’s going to warm up to cryptocurrency. His latest criticism of bitcoin came on Friday when he said it had “no actual value” and that “governments are going to crush it.” He did, however, give a glowing review of blockchain.

“We actually use it. It will be useful for a lot of different things,” Dimon said at a conference in Washington, as quoted by The Wall Street Journal. “God bless the blockchain.”

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Cryptocurrency Adoption Will Lead to Free Money Transfers, According to Top Tech Investor

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The rapid adoption of cryptocurrency will soon pave the way for free global money transfers, according to a top technology investor.

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Cathie Wood, the CEO of Ark Invest, says cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are going to spearhead a system of free money transfers worldwide. She cites the already huge reduction in conversion fees from fiat currencies into crypto and back again. The current rate for those transactions is 2-3%, which is a fraction of the 7-8% money transfer services like Western Union charge.

But Wood says crypto transfer fees could soon fall to zero as companies prioritize valuable transaction information above anything else.

The cryptocurrency market approached record highs over the weekend, hitting a total value of $176.6 billion. Bitcoin’s market cap surged above $90 billion last week and reached a high of $96.7 billion recently. That surpassed the capitalization of major equities like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

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If bitcoin were a stock, it would be the 15th largest member of the Nasdaq and the 58th largest on the New York Stock Exchange.

Computing Power as a Commodity

In Wood’s view, that the growing value of cryptocurrency will lead to the commoditization of bandwidth and computing power.

“It’s interesting that you’ve got corn and oil and copper trading on the exchange but you don’t have computing power, and bandwidth, and storage,” Wood said, according to CNBC. “Well we think that’s going to happen because of blockchain technology and all of the cryptos that are coming along.”

Woods has placed special emphasis on Ethereum, a unique platform that operates more like a “cryptocommodity” than anything else.

Ark Invest is the author of the widely cited whitepaper, Bitcoin: A Disruptive Currency. In it, the firm argues that cryptocurrency has the potential to be the most disruptive development since the Internet. The investment manager controls $1.7 billion of asset funds focused exclusively on emerging technologies.

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Jamie Dimon Doesn’t Want to Talk About Bitcoin Anymore

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Jamie Dimon doesn’t have anything to say about bitcoin anymore. The head of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co has been heckled by the blockchain community since he declared cryptocurrency to be a “fraud,” and that he would fire any employee trading it for being “stupid.”

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Bitcoin’s New Record

Dimon also doesn’t think much of bitcoin’s new record high. The virtual currency spiked more than 8% on Thursday to surpass $5,200.00 for the first time.

“I wouldn’t put this high in the category of important things in the world, but I’m not going to talk about bitcoin anymore,” Dimon said Thursday, as noted by Bloomberg.

J.P. Morgan has taken a less adversarial approach to cryptocurrency. In addition to handling bitcoin-related trades – something that came to light after Dimon’s warning – the financial giant is keeping its options open. J.P. remains “very open minded” to possible uses of cryptocurrencies “if they are properly controlled and regulated,” according to Chief Financial Officer Marine Lake.

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Mainstream Appeal Growing

The growth and widespread adoption of cryptocurrency hasn’t been lost on the financial community. Earlier this month, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein tweeted that his firm is weighing the possibility of trading cryptocurrency.

Fidelity Investments is also mining cryptocurrency, and making a lot of money doing it. Fidelity says its chief motivation for mining isn’t profit, but learning about the growing cryptocurrency market.

Increased mainstream adoption of bitcoin is seen by many as a necessary precursor to a more stable currency. Countries like Japan are spearheading adoption by introducing favorable regulation of the cryptocurrency space. But regulatory approval has not been uniform.

Russia recently became the third major economy in the span of a month to put the clampdown on cryptocurrency trading. China and South Korea have also implemented new controls on the market, focusing heavily on initial coin offerings.

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