Features

Why you should care about the Apple-FBI legal fight

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By now, you’ve probably heard of the San Bernardino shooting. If you haven’t, then let me refresh your memory. On December 2, 2015, 14 people were killed and 22 were seriously injured in an apparent terrorist attack at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California.

It’s one of the more prominent acts of terrorism that have hit the U.S. because of one important evidence: the Apple iPhone 5c used by one of the shooters that was found on the scene. It may or may not contain information, but the significance of that piece of technology is not about what it holds but what it represents.

Setting a bad precedent

A few weeks ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that they couldn’t unlock the iPhone 5c through sheer brute force, i.e., constantly guessing the 4-digit passcode until they get it right. The agency said they couldn’t risk wiping the data with more tries, a security feature built into the device by Apple.

And because the data on the 5c wasn’t synced with iCloud, the FBI had to find alternative methods of accessing it. Their idea — a radical one — was to ask Apple to create a special tool that:

  • allows the FBI to guess as many passwords as they like without the data on the phone being wiped; and
  • lets the iPhone connect to an external device, such as a desktop or laptop, where the FBI can run a script that guesses passwords quickly.

With the advancement of technology, it was only a matter of time before information security became a national security issue. The problem here is that Apple no longer has the ability to access encrypted data on iDevices running iOS 8 or higher.

Even if they could, Apple firmly believes they shouldn’t, as explicitly stated on their website via an open letter penned by CEO Tim Cook:

In today’s digital world, the ‘key’ to an encrypted system is a piece of information that unlocks the data, and it is only as secure as the protections around it. Once the information is known, or a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge.

The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.

The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals. The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.

The FBI invoked the All Writs Act of 1789 — a century-old U.S. federal statute that has been used to practically force technology companies to cooperate with the government — to get a court order.

Personal data in the wrong hands

Our phones hold an unbelievable amount of information. They have become windows to our lives. Our location, our messages, our pictures, bank records, statements, emails, and everything else in between? Chances are, all of them can be found on our phones.

In the wrong hands, that data could destroy our lives. Which is why the biggest smartphone OS developers — namely Google, Apple, and Microsoft — have made data security a big, if not the biggest, part of their respective feature lists.

With the FBI asking Apple to create a special system to bypass the tech company’s security setup, that system will be out there. That’s partly why Apple is afraid; even if they could create one, it would undermine everything they worked hard for. Once the system is created, nothing is stopping the FBI — or anybody who gets their hands on the software — to use it for personal or criminal reasons.

The FBI suggested solutions to the problem:

  • there will be a custom ID, i.e., each custom OS can only be installed on a specific phone;
  • operation of the software will be done only at Apple’s HQ in Cupertino, California; and
  • any software update needs Apple’s approval to install.

But most security experts agree this isn’t just going to be about one phone. From the Verge:

That’s a nervous-making thought for security professionals, since no single system is ever thought to be entirely impenetrable. New vulnerabilities pop up in software all the time, and for the iPhone, they can sell for as much as $1 million. iPhone security expert Jonathan Zdziarski says there’s a real concern that an undisclosed vulnerability or existing exploit could be used in a way that Apple and the FBI can’t predict. Even if the signature system isn’t broken outright, the same tricks used by the FBI’s tool could be repurposed to give malware a stronger foothold on a targeted iPhone. ‘It’s not about just stealing one tool,’ says Zdziarski. ‘There’s a lot going on in software like this, and having a direct tap into how Apple can disable functions moves [attackers] along at light speed.’

But more than the system going into the wrong hands, it’s about that system ever existing in the first place. Because once the FBI wins the legal battle, it will set a terrible precedent for all tech companies. It tells them that the government, in their infinite benevolence, will be able to ask for the court order again and again. Once that’s possible, no matter what the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency, or the National Security Agency says, they’ll have the power to lord over everyone’s privacy just because they’re the government.

And remember Edward Snowden, the former CIA contractor who leaked evidence of the U.S. government practically spying on everybody? Yeah.

That’s why you should care. If the court order holds and Apple can’t fight it back legally, then say goodbye to actual privacy, at least whatever is left of it anyway.

Whether you’re here in the Philippines or not, your privacy will be compromised. Whether it’s the government or some crooks who are spying on you, it won’t matter. Unless you stop using smartphones or any other devices that connect to the Internet, your privacy and your personal life will not be your own.

So pray that Apple wins this injunction and hope that you still hold control over your life after all of this is said and done. Because if they don’t, hackers will be the least of your worries.

Features

What is PLDT doing about its recent internet service issues?

Internal struggles lead to disgruntled customers

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It’s needless to say, but the internet service in the Philippines leaves a lot to be desired. Not only have hard numbers shown poor internet performance in the archipelago, social media has been seeing a never-ending eruption of complaints about every provider, as well.

While steps have been taken to bring the Philippines up to speed with other countries through the use of next-generation 5G mobile networks by next year, citizens aren’t convinced, and internet in the country is still facing a slippery slope.

One incident that has been affecting local provider PLDT (Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company), in particular, is causing a lot of turbulence to both its workers and customers.

Reports have circulated that PLDT had recently terminated over 7,000 contracts from its workforce, causing many homes and offices with internet problems to be put on an indefinite hold. PLDT denied the allegations, citing that the DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) was the one that ordered these contractual workers to halt their service to the company.

DOLE fired back by stating that PLDT’s workers are “employed by unqualified service providers” and PLDT has been warned months in advance. At the same time, disgruntled PLDT employees took to the streets in a recent protest.

Whatever the case, these employees aren’t the only victims here, as customers are experiencing the harsh aftereffects, too.

My own team has been a victim of this ongoing debacle. After having absolutely no Fiber connection for nearly two months, it was only yesterday when our situation was dealt with and a service crew paid a visit to our home office to bring our internet back.

This came after we had to sit through hours and hours of being put on hold by PLDT’s customer service. We simply wanted to know what was wrong and when we’d get our connection back; all we were told was that they’ll look into it, but nothing came of it until someone finally arrived yesterday. They have yet to offer any rebate for the weeks of service loss.

A friend of mine has been on PLDT’s hotline for over a month now, trying to figure out why his DSL speeds are way, way below the advertised 5Mbps. “When I’m lucky, it becomes as fast as 1Mbps, but I usually deal with speeds of around 0.1Mbps,” Mr. Iglesias told me in a chat. “Whenever I’d call the hotline to complain, I’m either put on hold for an hour or get no response at all.”

A PLDT customer who requested to be kept anonymous mentioned that his service “truly sucks” after the first 12 months of his 24-month contract were completed. “With regards to our internet, there are times we have no connection even though the LEDs of our modem are lit up,” he said. “We were requested to wait for seven to 30 minutes maximum just so we can speak to a ‘live’ agent and not an answering machine. Worse, from last night until now, our landline has no dial tone so we cannot call their hotline to report.”

Another source who works for PLDT (and also wishes to remain anonymous) was given an instant promotion to manager when most of her team was laid off at the end of June. “I had no choice. Now I’m handling all the customer complaints on my own,” she said.

And these are just a handful of cases. Social media is littered with angry posts about PLDT’s unsatisfactory — and sometimes non-existent — service.

Wanting to dig deeper, I reached out to Ramon Isberto, Head of Public Affairs at PLDT, for answers.

Isberto explains that the DOLE’s order to regularize these 7,300 workers is “inconsistent with applicable law, jurisprudence, and the documentary and testimonial evidence.” And even though PLDT was issued a cease and desist order, call center and BPO companies have been exempted from similar regulations related to the coverage of labor contracting restrictions.

Referencing to allegations that PLDT terminated thousands of contracts, Isberto reassures that “it simply does not make any sense for PLDT to terminate these contracts in this way.”

Finally, he says that they’re taking care of everyone’s welfare and the “duty to deliver quality services to customers.” That last bit is what I’m least confident about.

PLDT’s Twitter handle is “PLDT_Cares” and while they do care a whole lot about becoming the country’s go-to source for everything internet, I wonder what’s being done to take care of the ever-increasing number of complaints being filed each day.

We currently have this to hold on to.

Not much, but it’s all we have.

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Features

Hanebado!, Ant-Man and the Wasp, BAAM by Momoland: Now Playing

Pop culture overload!

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Since the start of the year, GadgetMatch has been covering major tech events like CES, MWC, Computex, and E3. July is the month wherein the GadgetMatch team finally gets to slow down a bit to relax before the next wave of events comes up. If you’re curious about what we’re up to, here’s what’s now playing for GadgetMatch.

Movies to see

Ant-Man and the Wasp
Marvin: If you still haven’t moved on from the catastrophic ending of Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp should be able to turn those sad tears into tears of laughter. It mimics the original movie in terms of action and character development, yet isn’t afraid to make fun of itself and the superhero genre in general. Like always, be sure to stick around for two scenes during and after the credits. They fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a… dramatic way.

Isle of Dogs
Chay: The long wait is over, Wes Anderson fans. His latest film is his second animated masterpiece, this time set in a dystopian Japan that centers around the search for a dog exiled to Trash Island. Like most, if not all his films, Isle of Dogs is filled with themes of melancholy and disappointment, and sometimes hope, depending on your own interpretation. Whether you watch it for Anderson’s iconic style or your love for dogs, what we have here is a classic that needs to be watched at least more than once in your lifetime.

TV shows to binge watch

Hanebado!
Rodneil: The future is female, and for the first time in recent sports anime history, the main characters are mostly women! Hanebado opens with a riveting badminton sequence between freshman prodigy Ayano Hanesaki and third-year student Nagisa Aragaki. Hanesaki struggles with her desire to play while Aragaki struggles with working hard but still falling short. If you enjoyed titles like Haikyuu!! and Yuri on IceHanebado! is definitely worth checking out.

GLOW
Kevin: The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling are who you’ll need if you’re looking for a well-written TV series that fuses drama, female empowerment, and the poofy hair of the 80s. It’s about a group of women with different backgrounds but have a common reason to stick it out together. The second season was released last month, and it’s filled with the same gems we loved from the first season.

Music to listen to

BAAM by Momoland
Rodneil: I’m not even gonna lie, this is really more about the visuals for me than the actual music, but as I watched from one version of the music video to another, the song eventually got stuck in my head. It has a nice perk-you-up vibe to it, similar to “Boom Boom” which is the song that propelled Momoland beyond South Korea’s airwaves. In case it’s not obvious, Nancy is my main bias and Yeonwoo is a close second.

Summer Pack by Childish Gambino
Kevin: Just like his This is America track, Childish Gambino (a.k.a. Donald Glover) dropped new tunes out of nowhere late this week. He didn’t only release one, but two fresh originals. Together, they’re called Summer Pack and the two-track release consists of “Summertime Magic” and “Feels Like Summer.”

While both have that laid-back, relaxing vibe, “Summertime Magic” has more of a dance approach between the two and would go well on the beach while sipping on Pina Colada. “Feels Like Summer,” on the other hand, makes you want to take a stroll downtown in a convertible and spark a fatty.

Apps to download

InShot
Rodneil: InShot is a mobile video editor available on both Android and iOS. With it, you can splice together clips you have stored in your phone and even choose the aspect ratio, whether it’s 1:1, 16:9, or 9:16. There’s also an option to add effects, text, and music that’s also stored in your phone. It’s a pretty powerful video editing tool on mobile — one that can help jumpstart your IGTV career.

Events to check out

AsiaPop Comicon Manila 2018
MJ: Once again, AsiaPop Comicon is back in Manila from July 27 to 29, 2018, to be held at the SMX Convention Center. Marvel plans to show what’s new in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while Netflix returns to premiere a never-before-seen film. It’s also expected to be bigger and more exciting than last year’s event. Finn Jones from Game of Thrones and Tye Sheridan who appeared on Ready Player One and X-Men as Cyclops, are the major celebrity guests to attend.

Did you like any of our picks or have suggestions of your own? Feel free to let us know in the comments section!


Now Playing is the GadgetMatch team’s favorite games, movies, TV shows, and more each month. If you’re curious to know what we’re into at the moment, this is what you should check out. So grab your popcorn, get some drinks, and enjoy what’s now playing!

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Accessories

Sony XB Series Speakers: His and Hers

Portable speakers for everyone!

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Speakers may be made for parties and fun gatherings, but that’s not always the case. It can also be your best buddy, even during times when you’re not out socializing.

In the fourth installment of His and Hers, I went through a different route. I wanted to show how instrumental music is in our lives. These are the latest additions to Sony’s Extra Bass Portable Bluetooth speakers: the SRS-XB41 and SRS-XB21.

Both speakers have the same features and the only noticeable differences are in terms of size and, of course, the party lights. The SRS-XB41 comes in red with flashing strobes and a changing line light in multiple colors. It’s perfect for guys who like it flashy but don’t mind having a bulky and heavy speaker.

The SRS-XB21, on the other hand, comes in white with lights of the same color. It’s perfect for girls who like something that will fit in their bags — something they can carry wherever they go.


Let your heart sing with art

It’s not every day you get to wake up with a beautiful view. So, when creativity kicks in, bring out your portable speaker and art kit! Roll up your sleeves and paint something in sync with the beat. Next thing you know, you’ve already created something you can be proud of.


Beating the game

Some game nights can be enjoyed when you have a friend by your side. But sometimes, a speaker can be enough of a buddy. Play loud music that pumps you up, makes you smash those buttons, clear the stages, and win!


Pretty by the pool

There are times when stress gets the best of us, so it’s important to find time to relax. Put those sunglasses on and show off that new swimsuit you just bought. This splash-proof speaker is a good companion when lounging by the pool so you can listen to some great summer tunes. Now, go ahead, take a dip, and enjoy this moment.


Playing the right jam

After playing ball, you’ll find yourself trying to recover from a tiring game. Pull out that speaker and play your relaxing tunes. With the Sony Music Center app, you can select your favorite playlists, change the lighting patterns and sound modes, and be in complete control of your music. Be your own DJ when you turn on the live mode; you’ll get a festival vibe that takes your experience to the next level.


Lost in music and words

When the weather’s all cuddly and gloomy, it becomes ideal to stay indoors and have coffee by the bedside table. Pair it up with a good book, like Eat, Pray, Love, and a speaker to play some mellow music that soothes you. That’s the recipe for a perfect day!


Own the night

These wireless speakers remind us to stay connected. Invite your BF or BFF to come over and light up the night. Hand over some wine and unwind from everyday stress.


This episode of His and Hers proved that music is a necessary companion in our lives. It has the power to change a person or a place’s mood, and with the right speakers like Sony’s SRS-XB21 or the SRS-XB41, the moment can be more enjoyable and memorable.

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