Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: apple (page 1 of 2)

A Challenging Balance: Safety & Security

The debate between privacy, safety, and security has been ongoing for longer than I can guess. I wouldn’t be surprised if cave dwellers used secret passwords to enter adjoining caves or offer assistance in hunts. What were those codes worth to other tribes?

While we may have evolved in language skills and developed mind-boggling technology, the basic premise is unchanged. There is a perception that your privacy in some way compromises the security of the masses. If law enforcement cannot read your mail, then how will they stop the next terrorist attack? Obviously, the discussion merits far more than a short CUBit on this humble blogger’s site. I won’t argue that point. There is a place to strike balances between the privacy rights of individuals with the security responsibilities of your government. But this balance should never tip excessively in favor of the latter. I’d argue it must always lean towards the individual. Even if that person has committed heinous crimes?

There’s the rub. To collect evidence against this one person would put the security of a billion others (most of which not citizens of this country, and therefore not beholden to its laws) at risk. Is the balance needle moved?

This precise situation came to a head yesterday. Remember that time a person shot a bunch of innocent people in San Bernardino? Yeah, no love for them and deepest sympathies to the victims and their families. Well, the shooter owned an iPhone 5C and the FBI wants to collect information from it. Unfortunately for their investigation, the suspect used a passcode. As you may know from your own devices, you can only get it wrong 10 times and the device will erase itself. This feature is so good that the FBI cannot bypass it. So, they did what you’d expect…ask for a key. Since iOS 8 (we’re on iOS 9.2, or 9.3 on beta), Apple stopped keeping encryption keys. This means only the person with the passcode can access the phone’s data, not Apple. The FBI went to court against Apple on the matter. Early this week, a Federal judge ruled that Apple must provide a way for the FBI to access the phone.

They refused.

“So Apple sides with terrorists?” you may say. No, they side with their customers. You see, to modify one device would mean opening all of them up to this same intrusion. “But it can prevent another shooting or even a terrorist attack!” This is circular reasoning, as it presumes the result at the outset. I could just as easily say that it causes a terrorist attack since malicious actors used this “backdoor” to access a government official’s phone. In that case, the argument would be that we should encrypt and secure our devices better. Not to mention all the cases where a suspect’s information could now be accessed by authorities with impunity. All that encryption and security would then mean nothing. It would be akin to having a state of the art deadbolt on your door, but not adding hinges.

Is there a solution? Yes, but it’s not great, and it’s a bug. Companies regularly offer “bug bounties”, or cash rewards, to hackers finding security issues in their software. If the FBI wants this information so bad, offer an enormous bug bounty, say, $5 million, to crack the iPhone’s encryption. However, stipulate that payment only occurs if the flaw is not publicly disclosed and is submitted to the FBI and Apple simultaneously. That way, the FBI gets what they want (access to the suspect’s phone), Apple doesn’t compromise their values or the software (and gains an opportunity to fix a flaw, making it more secure for all), and none of us lose security for the sake of one investigation. Perfect? No. It’s possible no one will figure out how to bypass the passcode lock. Then what?

What’s your take? Can you think of a better way to satisfy all parties? Is there a way to truly balance privacy and security? The comments are open.

PS – This affects your credit union and members, too. Just swap “key to phone” with “key to member data”.

If You Don’t Speak Up, Someone Else Might Not Too!

Has this ever happened to you?

I was using my web browser and noticed it behave in a way that seemed odd. Sure, I could have thought, “you silly computer” and continued on with my day. But I’m a geek, remember? So, I reported it directly to Apple. Turns out, the behavior was an unreported security issue. Do you use a Mac? Take a look at your recent Safari update details. Who do you see credited in that second bullet point?

Fast forward to the day that update was released. Many sites presented the changes, both visible and under the hood. While I was getting the computer back up-and-running, I noticed a change to the way it reported RAM being used. Oh, that’s not something you’d typically check? 😉 Once again, I could have said, “I’m sure someone else will pick up on it.” Instead, I wrote to the leading Apple reporting site online with a screenshot of the change. Not an hour later, they updated their article, visible to millions of visitors, with my comments and screenshot.

A difference was made.

Even though we’re all geeks in something, I’m not suggesting bug-hunting as a new staff strategy. But what about a staff member who notices a typo in a new marketing piece? Or a member stuck in a service loop? Do they feel empowered to speak out? How about places where it’s more subtle? Imagine your phone system. It has a recording for members, and may change depending on promotions or season. Say a staff member hears an old loan offer being discussed on the recording: “Not my department. Obviously, someone else already knows about it. I don’t want to be a bother.”

No matter your position, you are valuable. From the member who points out a slow drip in the branch bathroom to an MSR who informs management about a bug in the system, that voice made a difference. It might be substantial, saving your credit union large amounts of time and money. Or, the comment may spawn a small improvement, making the member experience just that little bit better.

Speaking out is scary. Why? We put ourselves out there. And we might be wrong. That’s ok. Create a culture of inclusiveness amongst your friends, family, and workplace. Whether above or below you on the “corporate ladder”, value that input! It won’t all be amazing, but sometimes, a bug will be found, a security vulnerability will be discovered, and a better member experience will be identified!

Image credit: http://stuffpoint.com/the-simpsons/image/92012-the-simpsons-speak-up.gif

How do you Geek?

Have you ever been in a situation where someone describes how you are thinking more perfectly than you could ever imagine? A real pulse of your thoughts, if you will. During routine geek internet investigations, I encountered words which gave that picture-perfect EKG, to take the pun a bit further. Keynoting the GeekWire Awards in Seattle back in May of last year, Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow (if you’ve looked for a home online, that’s the site) and high-ranking geek gave a college-graduation-worthy speech glorifying our “outside the code” mindset.

Others have said we are all geeks in something. Love football, and can spout out all the pertinent stats for your fantasy team? You’re a geek. Follow every turn of fashion, from the who’s-wearing-whom to the faux pas of the industry? Geek. Do you quote every line of Finding Nemo while acting out the majority of the scenes in a post-modernistic aquatic realm? Guess what? I’m a geek.

It’s empowering loving something enough to learn it in such depth (“just keep swimming!”). And it is never something to be embarrassed by, to push aside when “cool kids” (no matter your age) pass. Chances are, they are geeks of something else, and are insecure enough to put you down instead of embracing it. I don’t know football stats, though I enjoy watching the game. However, watching with someone who does (and respects that not everyone else shares the same interests) is awesome. Who knew that running back played for the opponent 3 years ago, and, while there, had a 2 yard per carry lower average? Change did them well.

So while we aren’t all geeks in the same area, I pity those who are not geeks at all. The ones who have no curiosity for anything, no drive to memorize player stats, lyrics to songs, quotes in films, the operational capacity of a Constellation-class starship (535 crew, by the way).

My apologies, as I got a bit carried away…all this geek talk is exciting! I’d like to cap it off by sharing with you Spencer Rascoff’s speech at the GeekWire Awards. The video is below, or you may view the transcript. And embrace the different. Be the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers. “Because”, to quote the famous Apple ad, “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

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