You see, the thing about humans is that we have a really short attention span, and really bad memories. It’s actually hard for me to remember a time before I had a phone that could effectively replace my entire computer in most situations. A phone that I could make video calls from from any spot in the world, one that would let me log into our team’s IRC channel while on the floor of a major media event in any city and communicate with our whole staff. A device that was small enough to fit into the front pocket of my arguably-too-tight jeans that would let me connect and share my most important thoughts about developing news and world events — in real time! — with millions of people at once. A device that would underpin and enable modern social movements and political revolutions, generally shrink our sense of the size of humanity, and mesmerize and delight almost everyone who used it.
Joshua Topolsky, “Reasons to be excited”
Bruce Schneier has a clever piece discussing the contemporary model of ‘feudal security’, where user have committed themselves to differing lords of the Internet. As a taste:
Some of us have pledged our allegiance to Google: We have Gmail accounts, we use Google Calendar and Google Docs, and we have Android phones. Others have pledged allegiance to Apple: We have Macintosh laptops, iPhones, and iPads; and we let iCloud automatically synchronize and back up everything. Still others of us let Microsoft do it all. Or we buy our music and e-books from Amazon, which keeps records of what we own and allows downloading to a Kindle, computer, or phone. Some of us have pretty much abandoned e-mail altogether … for Facebook.
These vendors are becoming our feudal lords, and we are becoming their vassals. We might refuse to pledge allegiance to all of them — or to a particular one we don’t like. Or we can spread our allegiance around. But either way, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to not pledge allegiance to at least one of them.
Feudalism provides security. Classical medieval feudalism depended on overlapping, complex, hierarchical relationships. There were oaths and obligations: a series of rights and privileges. A critical aspect of this system was protection: vassals would pledge their allegiance to a lord, and in return, that lord would protect them from harm.
Of course, I’m romanticizing here; European history was never this simple, and the description is based on stories of that time, but that’s the general model.
And it’s this model that’s starting to permeate computer security today.
The rest of the piece is clever; highly recommend taking a read.
Matthew Green has a good piece that discusses some of the security concerns around iMessage. Specifically he speaks to how, despite Apple’s assurances that it employs “secure end-to-end encryption,” the company still hasn’t properly explained how its encryption processes are established or deployed. Green does a good job explaining these concerns for a very non-technical audience. Highly recommended, especially if you happen to be using iMessage.