Apparently, I shook hands with death yesterday and slept right through the whole thing.
I’ve always had trouble sleeping on planes. But, for whatever reason, yesterday was a pretty colossal exception to this rule.
After sleeping for what must’ve been two hours, I woke up to hear a woman on the intercom say, in a panicked voice: “Everyone please stay in your seats and remain calm! We’re afraid it might happen again. Just please take care of one another and stay safe!”
Huh? I thought, rubbing my eyes. What the heck does that mean?
From my aisle seat, I looked over to the guy across from me on my right. He was staring dead ahead at a tiny spot in the upholstery of the seat in front of him, white-knuckling his iPad.
I turned to my left to the two guys next to me. One guy was praying. Rocking back and forth, whispering sweet unintelligible nothings, probably making promises to change his life — the whole shebang. The other had his hands balled up into fists and his eyes clamped shut.
What’s going on here?
It got worse. The woman directly behind me was moaning as she held a barf bag up to her mouth, a steady stream of drool trickling down.
I leaned over and looked to the front of the plane and saw a stewardess sitting in front of the cockpit door, wide-eyed and unable to stop messing with her hair.
“Hey,” I whispered and gently nudged my neighbor. “What’d I miss?”
He opened his eyes and looked at me like I was insane: “Just a little turbulence,” he squealed, sounding like he needed a bath and a long cry.
I shrugged my shoulders, opened up my laptop and fired up the onboard Gogo Wi-Fi.
And it wasn’t long until I came across this story…
“Just before midnight last Friday,” journalist Steven Petrow wrote in USA Today this week, “my plane touched down in Raleigh after a three-hour flight from Dallas.
“As usual, I’d spent much of the flight working, Using American Airlines Gogo in-flight Internet connection to send an answer emails. As I was putting on my jacket, a fellow in the row behind me, someone I hadn’t even noticed before, said: ‘I need to talk to you.’ A bit taken aback, I replied, ‘It’s late… need to get home.’
“‘You’re a reporter, right?’
“‘Wait for me at the gate.’
Petrow did as he was told. He waited for this strange man at the gate. After a few minutes, the man approached him.
“Are you interested in the Apple/FBI story?” he asked.
“Kind of. Why are you asking me that?”
“I hacked your email and read everything you sent and received. I did it to most people on the flight.”
[Note: Steve Nolan, Gogo’s vice president of communications explains that Gogo’s service “operates in the same ways as most open Wi-Fi hotspots on the ground.” Meaning, if you’re on a flight, as a general rule, don’t access sensitive information. Because someone’s probably watching. Unless you take the simple step we’re going to show you at the end of today’s episode.]
“That’s how I know you’re interested in the Apple story,” the hacker went on. “Imagine if you had been doing a financial transaction. What if you were making a date to see a whore?
“That’s why this story is so important to everyone. It’s about everyone’s privacy.”
If you haven’t heard, the FBI has demanded that Apple build a backdoor to its operating system so they can, they say, access just one phone’s details.
Just one, they say. Just this time.
The FBI says they want into the phone of Syed Farook, one of the San Bernardino shooters. He’s the guy who, with his wife, killed 14 people at an office party.
“The security measures for iOS 8, or Operating System 8, which was rolled out in 2014,” Ben Swann says on Reality Check, “ensure that no one, not even Apple, can access information in an iPhone by sneaking through a software backdoor.
“Well now,” Swann goes on, “a federal judge says that Apple must create that backdoor. Apple says that they will fight this all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Of course, creating a backdoor is a no-good, really bad, horrible, miserable idea.
John McAfee, a leading expert on encryption, explains why: “The problem is, once you put a backdoor into a piece of software, every hacker in the world is going to find it and use it and we’re in a world of hurt.”
McAfee offered an alternative solution to the FBI: He will crack the phone for the FBI himself. He
told them that he and his team could do it in three weeks. Tops.
“What I have done is I said ‘Look, if in fact, you are sincere in wanting to get access to just that one phone, my team and I, we’ll do it. We can crack it. Easily… I guarantee it.”
Of course, McAfee received no response from FBI officials. No surprise there: “It’s not just that one phone they want,” he says. “They want a key to everybody’s phone.”
And get this…
It’s the FBI’s fault they can’t get into the phone. In an attempt to open it up, agents changed Syed’s password. Apple says that because they did this, they revoked Apple’s access into the account. It’s their fault Apple can’t get in.
Kudos to Tim Cook and Apple for fighting this. It’s only one example of “evil” private interests fighting against the Leviathan to preserve individual freedoms.
Take a look at what Cook recently wrote in an open letter to Apple customers:
Rather than asking for legislative action through Congress, the FBI is proposing an unprecedented use of the All Writs Act of 1789 to justify an expansion of its authority.
The government would have us remove security features and add new capabilities to the operating system, allowing a passcode to be input electronically. This would make it easier to unlock an iPhone by “brute force,” trying thousands or millions of combinations with the speed of a modern computer.
The implications of the government’s demands are chilling,” Cook wrote recently in a message to Apple customers. “If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data.
The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.
Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government.
We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.
While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.
This doesn’t mean you should sit on your hands and hope Apple wins. There are plenty of things you can do today to protect your privacy.
Here are some simple things you can do today to get started.
ONE: Use a password manager to create and store strong passwords for your accounts. Check out DashLane, LastPass, and Sticky Password.
TWO: Also check out Mark Cuban’s messaging app called Cyber Dust. “Cyber Dust,” the website reads, “allows you to communicate freely and honestly. Send and receive messages, stickers, links, photos, videos and more. Your messages are protected from screenshots and disappear after they are read. They are heavily encrypted and never touch a hard drive — not even our own. Once your messages are gone they are truly gone forever, never to be recovered.”
THREE: Get a VPN. If you use your computer on public Wi-Fi often, you’re putting all of your information in danger of getting stolen.
“But,” security specialist Jason Hanson writes, “if you have a virtual private network — a technology that uses an encrypted connection over an unsecure network — then you can surf free Wi-Fi all day long and be protected.
“The VPN that I use is called TunnelBear, and all you have to do is download it from their site and install it and it’ll be up and running, allowing you to surf the Internet as usual.”
Managing editor, Laissez Faire Today
P.S. Have something to say? Say it! Chris@lfb.org.