Backdoor Convergence | Tech Talk Today 32

Backdoor Convergence | Tech Talk Today 32

We debunk the Microsoft convergence story surging through the press, Apple tries to debunk iOS backdoor accusations, the UK government chooses ODF & Firefox just made video on the web easy!

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Show Notes:

Apple Addresses iOS ‘Backdoor’ Concerns by Outlining Legitimate Uses for Targeted Services

Earlier this week, forensic expert Jonathan Zdziarski attracted attention for his disclosures of what appeared to be “backdoors” in iOS that could allow for covert data collection of users’ information from their devices. While Apple issued a statement denying that anything nefarious was involved, the company has now posted a new support document (via Cabel Sasser) offering a limited description of the three services highlighted in Zdziarski’s talk.

Each of these diagnostic capabilities requires the user to have unlocked their device and agreed to trust another computer. Any data transmitted between the iOS device and trusted computer is encrypted with keys not shared with Apple. For users who have enabled iTunes Wi-Fi Sync on a trusted computer, these services may also be accessed wirelessly by that computer.

The three processes include:
  • Diagnostic packet capture to a trusted computer, used for diagnosing app issues and enterprise VPN connection problems.

  • Used on internal devices and can be accessed (with user permission) by AppleCare for diagnostic purposes on the user’s device.

  • Used by iTunes for document transfer and by Xcode during app development and testing.

Apple Confirms “Back Doors”; Downplays Their Severity | Jonathan Zdziarski’s Domain

Apple is being completely misleading by claiming that file relay is only for copying diagnostic data. If, by diagnostic data, you mean the user’s complete photo album, their SMS, Notes, Address Book, GeoLocation data, screenshots of the last thing they were looking at, and a ton of other personal data — then sure… but this data is far too personal in nature to ever be needed for diagnostics. In fact, diagnostics is almost the complete opposite of this kind of data. And once again, the user is never prompted to give their permission to dump all of this data, or notified in any way on-screen. Apple insists AppleCare gets your consent, but this must be a verbal consent, as it is certainly not a technological consent. What’s more, if this service really were just for diagnostic use, you’d think that it would respect backup encryption, so that everything coming off the phone is encrypted with the user’s backup password.

I give Apple credit for acknowledging these services, and at least trying to give an answer to people who want to know why these services are there – prior to this, there was no documentation about file relay whatsoever, or its 44 data services to copy off personal data. They appear to be misleading about its capabilities, however, in downplaying them, and this concerns me. I wonder if the higher ups at Apple really are aware of how much non-diagnostic personal information it copies out, wirelessly, bypassing backup encryption. All the while that Apple is downplaying it, I suspect they’ll also quietly fix many of the issues I’ve raised in future versions. At least I hope so. It would be wildly irresponsible for Apple not to address these issues, especially now that the public knows about them.

UK government officially adopts Open Document Format • The Register

The United Kingdom government has formally adopted the open document format (ODF) as the standard format for government documents.

The announcement says PDF/A or HTML are now the standard “for viewing government” while ODF is now expected “for sharing or collaborating on government documents.”

BBC News – Windows development set to be ‘unified’ by Microsoft

Chief executive Satya Nadella discussed the effort while briefing analysts following Tuesday’s earnings update.

“We will streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one single converged operating system for screens of all sizes,” he said.

It does bring Microsoft closer to another OS developer, Canonical, which has promoted the idea of its Ubuntu system powering both phones and desktops. Canonical previously highlighted that one benefit of this strategy was that a handset could double up as a low-power desktop PC if it was plugged into a monitor and connected to a mouse.

What ‘one Windows’ really means (and doesn’t)

Later in the call, Nadella attempted to clarify his remarks, but not in time to stop the breathless headlines.

1. A single team developing all Windows variants. This team has been in place since July 2013 when Microsoft created the unified Operating System Group under Terry Myerson. This team works on the Windows Phone OS, Windows Embedded, Windows (for PCs and tablets) and the Xbox One operating systems.

2. A single “core.” Windows Phone, Windows 8, Windows RT and Windows Server are all built on top of a common “core,” known as the NT core. Because of Microsoft’s layered architectural approach, each OS builds on top of this core using different pieces that make sense for the form factor/hardware on which it runs.

3. A unified Store and commerce model across all platforms. Microsoft has taken steps toward unifying its Windows Phone Store and Windows Store over the past year. But it still has a ways to go to reach the holy grail: A single store that spans all platforms. The next major versions of Windows Phone and Windows (both codenamed Threshold) may be where a single Store debuts. I am not sure when Xbox apps will be added to that Store.

4. A unified developer platform. Microsoft execs have been promising for years that one day, developers will be able to write once and run on any Windows variant. To get there, Microsoft is working to unify, as much as possible, the core set of application programming interfaces (APIs) and the developer tooling for building apps for Windows Phone, Windows and the Xbox operating system.

Here’s what “one Windows” doesn’t mean: There will not be one Windows SKU. Or even two. There will continue to be multiple versions of Windows.

*Nadella stated this quite plainly on the earnings call: *

“Our SKU strategy will remain by segment,” he said. “We will have multiple SKUs for enterprises, we will have for OEM, we will have for end-users…. We will be disclosing and talking about our SKUs as we get further along.”

Firefox 33 Integrates Cisco’s OpenH264

As promised, version 33 of the Firefox browser will fetch the OpenH264 module from Cisco, which enables Firefox to decode and encode H.264 video, for both the <video> tag and WebRTC, which has a codec war on this matter. The module won’t be a traditional NPAPI plugin, but a so-called Gecko Media Plugin (GMP), Mozilla’s answer to the disliked Pepper API. Firefox had no cross-platform support for H.264 before.

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