First, the good news: 1Password has released a new version of their product on iOS. The company outlines a whole pile of reasons for supposedly delaying security upgrades - some of which include the updates will slow the speed at which users can access their encrypted data - but fail to identify what I suspect is a key motive behind the upgrade. If you recall, I wrote a while ago about key failures in mobile password managers. 1Password was amongst those who had flawed security implementations.
To be clear: security, especially good security, is damn hard to engineer. 1Password didn’t have the gaping flaw that others did - i.e. storing passwords in plaintext!! - but it was flawed. In the security community this (ideally) is resolved when someone critiques your secured infrastructure. In today’s world you should also credit the security researcher(s) who identified the flaw.
Unfortunately, this isn’t what 1Password has done. As far as I can tell, there is no formal recognition from the company that they have had flaws in their mobile security model pointed out by a third-party. This is a shame, given that a key factor that builds genuine trust in security is transparency. It seems like 1Password is willing to address problems - they’re not dwelling in a security by obscurity paradigm, to be sure! - but not credit others with finding those problems in the first place.
Update: My very, very bad. I missed an earlier piece from 1Password, where they note the research. That is available here. It would have been ideal to see a reference to this in their update but, admittedly, credit had previously been given.
A new version of the iPad is coming. The latest ‘craze’ around this version is whether or not it will come with a home button. To date, there’s been one particularly strong ‘In Defence of the Home Button’ post by Dave Caolo, which is effectively a listing of all the functions that Apple has tied to the singular button at the bottom of each iDevice.
This button isn’t going anywhere. And that’s really unfortunate, because better - or at least equivalent - options are out there.
The PlayBook is seriously lacking on apps. SERIOUSLY LACKING. But the hardware design of the device is stunning. I don’t need to pay attention to what is up, down, left, or right because of how RIM has integrated the bezel functionality. For a quick overview of the bezel options, check out the video below:
This isn’t to say that the Playbook is a winner hands down. Apple’s home button is linked to variety of accessibility options which are lacking on the Playbook. Also, Apple has a series of gestures that enable similar features as the Playbook, though I’m far less impressed at how they’re integrated. Because of how awkward these gestures tend to be, I tend to just use the home button, which can be incredibly inconvenient depending on the iPad’s orientation at the time.
My dream would be Apple getting creative and bringing the hardware design leadership of the Playbook to the app-rich iDevice environment. I’m not holding my breath through.
I sympathize with people’s concern and anger when they learn more about Apple’s atrocious APIs that let developers run off with consumer data. In the most recent revelation
Accepting an iOS prompt that asks permission to access location data can also allow copying of private photo and video libraries, the Times said yesterday. Because these devices often save coordinate information along with photos, it might also be possible to put together a user’s location history, as well as recording current location.
Apparently in an attempt to make photo apps more efficient, access to private photos has been available since the fourth version was released in 2010.
All of this, however disturbing it might be, make a lot of sense. Apple is a consumer company that aims to engineer products so that users can best enjoy them. This means they don’t want to throw a whole lot of security warnings in front of you, for two reasons: First, you’ll just ignore them anyways; second, they’ll annoy you and thus could reduce your iDevice usage.
Very few mobile companies ‘do’ security. The much-maligned Research In Motion is actually about the only mobile company that sells its products on security grounds, though the need to have secured code reduces the rate that they can bring new, highly innovative, product to market. Consumers, businesses, governments, and the market point to their slower rates of innovation as indicative of RIM’s forthcoming doom, but in so doing miss that the ‘cost’ of RIM’s death would be a near-absolute dearth of secured mobile platforms.
If you’re interested in reading about the economics of ignorance and mobile security, check out a piece that was written last year on this very subject.
Watching the back-and-forth yesterday about the whole Microsoft Office for iPad thing was nothing if not amusing. The basic rundown:
MG has an interesting analysis on what Office for iPad might mean. I have to admit, if MS partners with Apple to bring real office software to the iPad then another sword will be levied at Google’s throat. I still - as a professional writer - despise using Google Docs for anything but the most minimal tasks: it just doesn’t meet my requirements for ‘real’ word processing.
The takeaway? Office would add to the ‘professional’ status of the iPad without taking away from the iPad’s ‘consumer friendly’ branding. This would further exacerbate the issues that Google’s tablets face while simultaneously challenging RIM’s own advertising that the PlayBook is ‘the’ tablet for professionals. It would definitely be a coup for both companies against their competitors, and so well worth watching for.
Symantec is warning that the next generation of smartphone viruses has come:
Researchers from security vendor Symantec Corp. have identified a new premium-rate SMS Android Trojan horse that modifies its code every time it gets downloaded in order to bypass antivirus detection.
This technique is known as server-side polymorphism and has already existed in the world of desktop malware for many years, but mobile malware creators have only now begun to adopt it.
A special mechanism that runs on the distribution server modifies certain parts of the Trojan in order to ensure that every malicious app that gets downloaded is unique. This is different from local polymorphism where the malware modifies its own code every time it gets executed.
This is a clever means to avoid the rudimentary analysis systems that the major vendors use to ID malware. It’s also (another) indication of how important antivirus is going to become for the mobile marketplaces. I suspect that, by the end of the year, a lot of users (on iOS, Android, and the rest) are going to wish that the post-Steve Jobs smartphones on the market today met Jobs’ initial thoughts regarding smartphones when Apple released the iPhone. Specifically, he held that:
He didn’t want outsiders to create applications for the iPhone that could mess it up, infect it with viruses, or pollute its integrity
While our pocket computers are better now that apps are available, I can’t help but think that Jobs’ earliest worries are now looming at today’s potential nightmares.