Page 2 – News Debris For The Week of November 27th
Apple’s Mistake of the Century
On the heels of Apple’s horrendous “iamroot” security debacle, the fix entailed a problem with some Macs accessing file servers. The Macalope called out Apple with the best combination of maturity and harsh scolding of a major screw up. Then, OSXDaily pointed out that a second, automatic update fixed the associated file sharing issue. Make sure you’re fully updated to macOS High Sierra 10.13.1 version 17B1003.
As a long-time UNIX nutcase and professional user of UNIX systems during my career, I’ll confess that I’m apoplectic about this security snafu. With regret, I’ve noticed that Apple has de-emphasized the UNIX foundation of its OSes, but notably macOS, in the past few years. Technical professionals no doubt notice things like that because it smacks of a lack of internal attention to and celebration of the Mac. Now we’ve seen the results.
Apple might consider hiring an accomplished UNIX graybeard, a “VP of UNIX Integrity and Security.” And give him/her veto authority over any macOS/iOS/tvOS/watchOS release until it’s been properly audited, QA’d and blessed. Clearly, something has gone wrong at Apple, and mild public statements need to be replaced by firm executive action that’s both public and makes sense. (Apple has already apologized.)
Apple has fixed the problem and is, I imagine, suitably sobered. We will move on but never forget.
• Every product has a set of hardware features and a user interface design philosophy. But where products really shine is when you learn how to make them operate, within a technical environment, to achieve personal goals. Here’s a great example of that process. “How to cut the cord with Apple TV 4K.”
• ElcomSoft made a fuss this week about changes in iOS 11 security that, they claim, weakens its security. Then Rene Ritchie at iMore really dug in and explained what’s going on. Here’s Author Ritchie’s excellent response: “iOS 11 security isn’t a ‘horror story’, it’s a balancing act for your protection.” If you read only one of these links, read author Ritchie’s.
• Is it a good idea to personalize our (AI) voice assistants? Does the act of giving Amazon’s voice assistant a friendly female name, “Alexa” somehow, insidiously tie us into a Big Brother entity that permeates and controls our lives? At Slate, author Will Oremus writes: “OK, ‘Computer’ – The case for renaming—and dehumanizing—Alexa, Siri, Google, and Cortana.”
It’s not an accident that tech companies have (mostly) given their voice bots human-sounding names, voices, and even distinct personalities. As I wrote in 2016, their anthropomorphic qualities subtly encourage people to trust them and build relationships with them. That benefits the companies who make them, because it gives them not only more data on us, but ever-greater influence over our choices.
If Siri is sometimes obtuse, just remember that the opposite of a mildly obtuse AI is a creepy one. Especially one that’s recording your voice and selling you stuff.
• You may have previously read that the physics and mathematics of quantum encryption makes it un-hackable. That’s true, and here’s an update from infosecurity magazine. “Researchers Demonstrate ‘Un-Hackable’ Quantum Encryption.”
I can’t wait.
Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed on page two by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weekends.