Blake Dowling, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 4

Blake Dowling

Blake Dowling is chief business development officer at Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com or at www.aegisbiztech.com

Blake Dowling: What is Pokémon Go and why is it news?

My son Reid catching a creature
My son Reid catching a creature

Fads are a regular occurrence in our fast-paced, ADD-ridden culture.

We run from shiny thing to shiny thing, instantly fascinated and quickly bored.

Swatch Watches in the ’80s and (of course) parachute pants, those awful rubber band bracelets my daughter wore by the truckload a couple of years ago. The yahoos from Duck Dynasty are a trend that hopefully will go away very soon.

This month, a digital craze began sweeping the world, via the weird world of Pokémon, and their innovative new app Pokémon Go.

Why is Pokémon being featured in a professional column? Because the tech use in it is off the charts and criminals have found a way to get in the mix, actually monetizing from gameplay.

Put your tray tables up and your chair in an upright position; this is going to be an interesting ride for you. Wheels up.

To start our story, we must journey to the Land of the Rising Sun.

Pokémon began as the hobby of Satoshi Tajiri, who as a child was into catching bugs and tadpoles near his home in suburban Tokyo. Tajiri decided to put his idea of catching creatures into practice, to give kids the same thrills he had as a child.

In 1996 – after getting Nintendo on board – the first game was launched (where you try and “catch ‘em all”) followed by trading cards, toys, TV, a touring show, movies and more games.

The object of the game is to collect creatures; this latest version has the same goal.

Pokémon is a free-to-play mobile app unless you are foolish enough to buy PokéCoins during game play. Yes, this is a real thing.

The game works by tapping into your phone’s GPS for real-world location and augmented reality to bring up those cool-looking Pokémon on your screen, overlaid on top of what you see in front of you.

And you—the digital you—can be customized with clothing, a faction (or “team” of players you can join) and other options, and you level up as you play.

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In reality, you are walking around at the grocery store, park or pub, catching Pokémon. You add them to your Pokébex (your jail of Pokémon), and once you have a few, you then battle other people. You can also go to Pokéstops to gather items to help your game play. This is the “lure” function.

Three people were robbed at gunpoint in Baltimore this week while playing Pokémon Go, Baltimore County police say. In this case, it appears the victims were so engrossed with their phones and the game that they didn’t notice they were alone in a dark alley in a bad neighborhood. This behavior is similar to a teenager on a cellphone who sees nothing of the real world.

Meanwhile, in Missouri, a group of teens was caught Monday using the beacon function to lure other players to a “Pokéstop” location where they were waiting to rob them. This is scary. You are able to lure people to a shady area, who will be distracted, most likely unarmed (as the Pokémon crowd seems like a docile bunch) and easy prey to rob or worse.

As citizens of the digital world, we need to up the dosage on our common sense as being so engrossed in our phones and games, where we would expose ourselves to dangerous situations is alarming, to say the least.

This will not be the last game of this kind that comes up, and the crimes mentioned above will not be the last digital themed crimes committed.

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On a lighter note, my wife was driving down the road yesterday by a local park; out of the corner of her eye saw our son in the bushes with some friends laughing and running around. He is 17, so this is not normal behavior, when she asked what he was doing he said “playing Pokémon.”

She wondered if the ’60s were back and LSD was popular with kids again, but I assured her that he was just the latest American on the Pokémon Go train.

Technology makes our lives easier, sometimes more complicated and sometimes more dangerous, so when you are rolling out new tech make sure you are being safe and don’t forget to “catch ‘em all.”

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Blake Dowling is chief business development officer at Aegis Business Technologies. Contact him at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com or at www.aegisbiztech.com.

 

Blake Dowling: из России с любовью (From Russia with love)

Dowling Russia 1I visited Russia for the first time this summer.

Growing up a Cold War kid, the prospect of visiting the Motherland was a little freaky — and the constant visibility of the Russian Navy in the Baltic Sea had me sleeping with one eye open.

Once I overcame these minor fears, the country was truly a gem to explore and discover. Who knew drinking straight vodka with lunch was such fun? It also makes bland food taste fabulous.

Our guide kept telling us how nice Russians are and how they love Americans; this was a farce. I detected no love for the United States. In fact, half of the souvenir shirts that I saw, mocked our president and other world leaders.

Barry [Obama] is an easy target; but still, this is ’merica, ya’ll. (see T-shirt below for an example).

It is interesting that our guide said to use cash only while visiting the former USSR. Credit card fraud is so rampant they said to just avoid it. So rubles it is, I think the ratio was 66 to 1 rubles/dollars.  T-shirts were 450 rubles, so was a Diet Coke.

Anyway, as we roamed — through the Hermitage Museum (Who would have thought DaVinci and Rembrandt had pieces there?), Catherine’s Palace, checked out the ballet, and had lunch where Putin celebrated his 50th birthday —  cyber-crime and fraud were always in the back of my mind.

Some of the world’s most diabolical cyber threats originated in Russia. The CryptoLocker virus was developed by a Russian hoodlum, and it is the Bill Cosby of cyber threats. It is believed a man with the online name of “Slavik” created CryptoLocker.

The FBI has identified Slavik as Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev, a Russian national whose whereabouts remain unknown. He is believed to be the creator of two of the most sophisticated and destructive forms of malicious software in existence — Gameover Zeus and CryptoLocker.

Through the Zeus program, he was able to take control of almost half a million computers worldwide in what is called a botnet, controlled by criminals. The primary goal of the Zeus program is to capture your keystrokes, so that when you go to a financial site, it copies your passwords and then they go about stealing your money. In the crypto-locker scenario, your computer and all its data are locked, with demand for ransom. Once the ransom is paid, you may or may not get the encryption keys to release files. (Make sure you keep a solid backup of your data in case you are infected and need to wipe and reload your machine).

It is estimated hundreds of millions of dollars have been stolen with these tools.

It appears Bogachev is still on the run and is facing charges from Russian and American authorities.

Also making news while we were visiting Russia was the doping scandal and the subsequent Olympic ban. Man, they are pissed about this.

No one I talked to denied anything, they were all cool about the fact that the culture of doping was widely known over there.

Russia has a lot of alarming trends.

Did you know that Russia’s homicide rate is one of the highest in the world?

Organized crime in the country has its hands in everything you could imagine: human trafficking, assassins for hire, extortion, drugs, money laundering, etc.

The Russian military rolled into the Ukraine and annexed Crimea, and actively assisted a separatist force in destabilizing the region.

What are we doing? Our government has cut our military spending by 25 percent in the past five years.

We are a joke to them and not the America they once feared. Who knows how global politics and conflict will end up in the coming years? One would assume China and Russia will eventually try something on a grander scale, and then there are our pals in Iran.

As the downed fighter pilot, Col. Andy Tanner said in the movie “Red Dawn” about how the the fictional invasion of the U.S. by Russia started, “I don’t know. Two toughest kids on the block, I guess. Sooner or later, they’re gonna fight.”

The sun sets around 11 p.m. in Russia this time of year, and it was a pleasure to visit and learn more about this nation. It is a nation of grandiose history and horrendous violence (see Lenin, Stalin) but a nation worth checking out if you get the chance.

And don’t forget to drink some vodka while visiting; it worked for my wife and me.

We just need to make sure not to take that ritual home with us …

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Blake Dowling is Chief Business Development Officer for Aegis Business Technologies in Tallahassee, and he writes columns for several organizations.

You can contact him at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

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Blake Dowling: Kicked in the conch … Bimini, part 2

In early 2016, I wrote a column for Florida Politics.com about the island of Bimini, located in the Bahamas about 50 miles from Miami. Hemingway wrote some books there, Gary Hart got busted for some shenanigans there. It’s a small fishing village with some seriously cool spots to check out — nature, watering holes, possible site of Atlantis, the Bermuda Triangle, conch, rum, etc.

I put together a piece intended to be a technology column. In the end, the finished product was a discussion of what — in my opinion — constitutes overdevelopment on the island.

As the column hit the streets, the feedback started roaring in like crazed Bernie Sanders supporters at a hemp rally. I got comments from the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Miami, Texas and all the way to England.

My column was reposted across the pond by a group called Tourism Concern that has been watching the island closely. Jolly good show, Alison Stancliffe.

(L to R: Myself, Bradley Beesley, Trimmer)
(L to R: Myself, Bradley Beesley, Trimmer)

Here is the short version of the past and the now. In 2008 an area of the island was declared protected, called the North Bimini Marine Preserve. Oddly enough, since that time, a rather large resort, pier, marina, and some private homes have been built, and they keep creeping closer to the NBMP area. One of the other people to pick up my column was filmmaker Bradley Beesly (Google him: HBO original shows, Travel Channel shows, the Flaming Lips documentary, etc.)

Bradley and his team were commissioned to do a piece on what is going on in Bimini. He flew me and my esteemed cohort, Trimmer (whose family has close ties to the island) down for a few days of filming.

Getting there was a real treat — Silver Airways to Tampa-Tally-Ft. Lauderdale-Bimini. Get to the Tally airport two hours early, all flights canceled. WTF. Rerouted to Miami airport with a one-hour layover, thanks to a taxi driver on meth, I actually made the 45-minute rampage across town and caught the connecting flight to the island.

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We hit the ground running hard — literally, really hard (those Silver Airlines pilots need to take a refresher, just saying) — around 5 p.m. We threw our bags down, cracked a Kalik beer, and started our quest to capture the essence of the island on film with a scene at the local conch shack. We talked to locals and guzzled a few Kaliks while enjoying some fresh conch salad. Working with Bradley was great, he guided us in and out of several spirited conversations, and we really got the chance to lay it all out there.

The fact of the matter is, the hotel is there now. It is HUGE, by the way, I had never seen it with my own eyes, we checked it out via boat, and then rolled over on the golf cart. Granted it is not an ugly hotel, it’s cool looking, but (ye gods!) it is slapped right on the end of an island that only has 2,000 people on it, and the island is just 7 miles long.

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I think at this point the hotel and the island need to work in more harmony as neither one are going anywhere. Also, the hotel and the government need to sign the NBMR law and move on, and stop any discussions of golf courses where mangroves and reefs are currently located. Attention, señor, what do you think helps stops storms, replenishes the sea life, etc.?

These things are why people come to the island in the first place.

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We spent a lot of time at Big Johns, the Big Game Club, had some homemade Souse with Sarah Lee, rum drinks at Ebby’s, listened to stories from the Barefoot Bandit (foreign girls, fishing, etc.)

We did some swimming, ate like kings, more Kalik, did some boating, more rum, tinkered with the boat, got the golf cart fixed (maybe). Everything, and all things, that make the island a real gem.

These awesome characters or activities would not be around without the bounty of nature Bimini has to offer, and it’s a shame it is being disrupted. But hopefully, that is over. As we sat at Joe’s Conch Shack during our first day of filming, we were discussing some of the negativity associated with the recent development, and I think I summed it up nicely by saying, “the island got kicked in the conch, fellas.”

So there you have it, the good, the ugly and all the rest. See you in the islands again soon.

I will, hopefully, be at the far right corner of the porch at the Big Game Club, and I will let you buy my next Kalik.

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Blake Dowling is Chief Business Development Officer for Aegis Business Technologies in Tallahassee, and he writes columns for several organizations. You can contact him here: dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

 

Blake Dowling: Retailers use your online data to determine what to charge for a product

Price discrimination has reared its head again. Just like most things, technology has taken something old school and rolled out a high-tech version of it.

Not to be confused with “price gouging” mind you. This is where some run-down hotel in a college town charged you $300 a night for a $60 room. They should all be flogged. But that conversation we shall have another day.

In the past, different stores in different neighborhoods where different socio-economic conditions exist might charge different prices for the same item. That is a grossly simplified example of old-school price discrimination.

What is this digital version I speak of? Down the rabbit hole we go, take the red pill Neal…. (Matrix humor)

So you shop online a lot. You have a Facebook account. You Tweet about nonsense (I love the burgers #whataburger). You have a Gmail account etc.

The servers at retailers are stirring up this data and crunching it into analytics that they can use to identify and predict your buying patterns as a consumer. They are also sizing up your browser and device type as well as how much time you spend online and many other factors.

By finding out what you buy and for how much, the online retailers can spit out a price to you that may be higher than it is to someone else. It sounds almost ridiculous, but it is happening and it is legal.

Northeastern University did a study on a hardware chain and looked at pricing at its brick and mortar stores vs. prices on a mobile device. It was higher on the mobile device, even higher when an Android device was used.

So are Android users stooges to be toyed with and ripped off? I guess so, according to digital marketing metrics. MAC users are also on the list to get higher prices as it is assumed that they have a higher price threshold.

How does one protect oneself? Get multiple quotes from different sites when buying big ticket items. Call a store if it has one and check the price over the phone. Check pricing on different devices, laptop, tablet, home PC etc.

Also, delete your browsing history, and cookies, close all accounts that require a log-in, and drop your free mail accounts. There is a reason they are free. Thanks for reading, be safe out there.

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Blake Dowling is chief business development officer at Aegis Business Technologies. His columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com or at www.aegisbiztech.com. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Blake Dowling: Beware of ‘boss phishing’ and other new cyber scams

I had a client ask me last week why I did not let them know about the scam “boss phishing.” That’s when an organization receives an email pretending to be from the boss of a company asking accounting to send money ASAP to an account.

I told the client that I had done my absolute best to get the message out.

On two local TV networks, I spoke of the threat. I wrote articles for 850 Magazine, Context Florida, and the Tallahassee Democrat. We had a “lunch and learn” with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on it; we featured it in our newsletter.

But I know where that client is coming from. All the training and information in the world may not help you when the threat comes knocking at your door.

With Boss Phishing and Cryptolocker (ransomware), you can ruin your company’s day pretty fast. This particular client had an accountant with a sharp eye and she noticed the domain was one letter off and she asked the “boss” if he had sent her a request for funds.

The answer was NO.

Not all companies are as lucky. I have talked to victims of both crimes.

Cryptolocker can strike a lot faster. You click on a virus-embedded link that looks like it’s from a debt collector (or Dropbox, UPS, AMX etc). Because of all the client lists and sensitive info that have been stolen (data breaches left and right in the US), you might actually owe money to this entity. Therefore, it looks legit.

But when you click to straighten out the old bill, you are infected. As with any business, and it is a business, criminals are getting smarter.

A lot of tech info these days references going to the cloud. Well, it’s not just us law-abiding folks who are taking email and other business functions to the cloud. Criminals are flocking to the cloud as well.

The people who write malicious code are no longer just writing one piece of software to sell once. They are putting up malware as a service for sale. This way they make money each time it is purchased or rented.

Where could such illegal services be sold? The anonymous dark web, of course. That’s where anything is for sale and your moves are hard to trace by law enforcement.

I have seen black-market code that comes with a money-back guarantee, terms and conditions and terms of use that look just like something Microsoft might sell. The black-market tech landscape is frightening.

If you were the criminal, you would go on the dark web, lease an exploit kit and go about trying to infect PCs around the world, and depending on the attack, steal your bank info, encrypt your files and ask for ransom — or get you in a botnet scenario.

This latest move by criminals heading to the cloud is just another example of criminals getting smarter. So as a reminder, be wary if you see anything odd coming in via email — a request for money, to reset your password, enter your banking info, congrats you have won something, click here to see your pictures from last night.

Do not click, consult your IT professional. It is always better to safe than to be hacked.

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Blake Dowling is chief business development officer at Aegis Business Technologies. His technology column is published monthly. Contact him at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com or at www.aegisbiztech.com Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Blake Dowling: Apple vs. FBI and the bounties for ‘bug hunters’

This battle between Apple and the FBI is one of the most controversial technology stories of the year.

The FBI, while trying to get into the phone of the two San Bernardino terrorists, took Apple to court. The agency demanded that Apple help the agency get data off the locked phone and then said “never mind.”

Apple then asked, why the “never mind”?

The FBI hired its own hackers and one or more of them were able to get the data off the iPhone, according to the Washington Post.

There were rumors that the Israeli tech firm Cellebrite was brought in to assist, but that does not seem to be the case.

Have you heard of the Bug Bounty program and bug hunters in general? Started in 1996, the program was the idea of a Netscape employee who recognized the work being done outside of the company on their products.

He pitched an idea to management about how to incentivize these outsiders and make their findings more widely available. His bosses loved the idea and the program was off and running.

The same system is in place for other firms today. Hackers and tech specialists around the world are paid to find bugs in systems. This way, the flaws can be fixed before they reach the public.

Facebook had a program where it actually issued debit cards to researchers who found bugs. Facebook is not alone. Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft all have their own bug programs and they are certainly not limited to the United States.

Russia has the most bug hunters, followed by India and then the U.S., Brazil and the UK. Payments for discovering a bug can reach up to $20,000.

So you can see why people jump into this sort of thing. Where does this leave law enforcement, tech companies and little ole me (the consumer)?

Who knows. FBI Director James Comey said this case was the hardest problem in his career. The issues with encryption and privacy cannot be magically solved in our courts.

The shelf life of the vulnerability that was found in the terrorists’ iPhone 5C seems to be very short, so Apple is not worried about pursuing the case any further.

Just wait until Hollywood gets a hold of this. You know there is a studio exec pitching this story now: “OK, super-nerd bounty hunter works with the FBI to crack the case…..”

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Blake Dowling is chief business development officer at Aegis Business Technologies. His columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Blake Dowling: Be careful of new computer viruses that target businesses

Ransomware has been a scourge since it first reared its head a few years back.

The original Cyptolocker virus continues to cause problems worldwide and has been doing so since 2013. The original version would work like this: you receive a fake email pretending to be from UPS etc. and you click the link.

BAM. First the files on your PC are infected and if you do not unplug the device, it spreads to anything connected to it. The virus still gives you access to Windows but no files, and the frightening looking clock begins its countdown to show you how long you have until your files are deleted.

There is a new version called Petya Ransomware in which a computer’s hard drive is infected. This threat is rampaging across Europe.

The new version is disguised as a Drop Box file ready for you to download. It lists an applicant applying for a job and a link from which you click to download the applicant’s resume.

The criminals do not just send this to anyone. They are not just targeting generic lists of email addresses. They are purchasing corporate email lists from the dark web or trolling for their own.

In this case they are sending to HR professionals. What is the likelihood of an HR pro whose job it is to screen applicants for potential openings clicking on a link to a resume? I would say 25 percent. Those are awesome stats for the criminal as a return rate or click rate on old school hacks was in the 1 to 2 percent range (think back to “I am a Prince in the Congo that needs your help to prepare 10 million USD for transfer).

The appearance of legitimacy is what keeps these people in business. They keep finding better ways to appear like they are the entity in question, going so far as to create domains and email addresses that are only one or two letters different from the original.

If they can pass the casual eye test for a few seconds, someone will click on it. That is why Ransomware has become one of the most prevalent online threats.

There are some other interesting variations to the Ransomware scourge that are just coming to light.

MAC users have always thought themselves impervious to such threats. Those days are over.

MACs are by far safer, but the main reason for that is they are not targeted as much because most of the corporate world is Windows based.

As more and more MACs are introduced, the hackers are along for the ride. KeRanger is a crypto attack that targets the MAC OS. Cerber is a crypto variant that takes geography into account. If you reside in Russia, it will not execute as it detects your location.

The creators of the original virus are from Russia and allegedly hiding out in Ukraine.

My advice is to never pay these ransoms but a lot of people do, with mixed results. They say the average ransom request is about $300 (it is actually paid in Bitcoin which is harder to track), and once you pay the ransom you are either sent a decryption key and you can go on your merry way. In some cases, your money is simply stolen.
Be careful where you click, as you could bring on a world of hurt to your business in an instant.

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Blake Dowling is chief business development officer at Aegis Business Technologies. His technology column is published monthly on Wednesday. Contact him at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com or at www.aegisbiztech.com Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Blake Dowling: Apple vs. FBI: battle is over, but I doubt the war is

The United States Justice Department says it has closed its case against Apple for refusing to help the FBI unlock an iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooters.

I wrote a column earlier in the month about the repercussions and legal precedent that would be established if Apple complied with the request. Most citizens were perplexed that these two giants could not work outside the courts to settle this issue.

Now that the FBI has supposedly broken into the phone, the agency is not telling Apple how agents did it. There is an arrogance on both sides that needs to be dropped.

This will not be the last time law enforcement and the private sector are asked to play nice with one another. For example there are more than a dozen phones that the Justice Department is trying to get into under the All Writs Act.

So as the title states, this battle may be over, but the war is from from done. The All Writs Act is from 1789, so when George Washington himself signed this act, he certainly didn’t imagined a world where there would be a device that could access all the collective knowledge of mankind via the Internet.

I suppose that is why we have so many lawyers so that we can accurately “reinterpret” what the Founding Fathers meant and apply their wisdom to the modern world. Apple has refused to comply from the start. The company’s official statement goes something like this:

“From the beginning, we objected to the FBI’s demand that Apple build a backdoor into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent. As a result of the government’s dismissal, neither of these occurred. This case should never have been brought. We will continue to help law enforcement with their investigations, as we have done all along, and we will continue to increase the security of our products as the threats and attacks on our data become more frequent and more sophisticated.”

There must be a new level of cooperation because technology is not going to get any less complex. In fact, new encryption methods to try to satisfy our need for privacy are popping up everywhere. That is why so many flock to the dark web as they are looking for anonymity online.

This case was about our civil liberties and our privacy online and in the digital world. Our nation is under attack by hackers in Iran, China and elsewhere

I predict a new army of “white hat” hackers will be hired by the government and private sector in the coming years as we try to find a way to work together and not let tech get in the way.

We need tech to be part of the solution, not the problem.

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Blake Dowling is chief business development officer at Aegis Business Technologies. His technology column is published monthly on Wednesday. Contact him at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com or at www.aegisbiztech.com Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Blake Dowling: FBI, Apple in battle over confidentiality of iPhone data

Law enforcement investigators are eager to see what information is on the iPhone5c that terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook used for his work at the San Bernardino, Calif. Health Department.

Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people and injured 22 others in December in San Bernardino. They attacked during a Health Department holiday party. Farook worked as a health inspector for the department and was provided the phone for his work. Police killed both Farook and Malik within hours of the attack.

The FBI has been attempting to hack into the phone to determine if anyone else was involved in the terror plot. The courts have ordered Apple to help the FBI get access to the phone’s content by disabling its encryption software. Apple has refused to comply.

Apple executives say they don’t have the software to bypass the encryption. They acknowledge they could create it, but they contend that disabling the killer’s encryption would mean that law enforcement would have access to the information that is on every iPhone owner’s device. In that case, they say, the encryption is meaningless to the people who buy their products.

There are other tech giants taking a careful look at this case because it could establish a significant legal precedent.

Companies like Snapchat are looking at tightening their security so their clients’ data is not at risk. So if app makers tighten their security, investigators who could bypass the encryption still would not be able to get access to information kept on apps.

Apple officials say they have no problem handing over cloud data and anything stored in their files. However, they do not want to write new software to get into their devices.

If they do that, millions of their customers will be exposed, they say. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, says the FBI’s request is asking them to make the “software equivalent of cancer.”

Once the government began pressing Apple to unlock the iPhone, Apple’s R&D department went to work on what insiders are calling the “unhackable” phone.

It is unclear how this phone would differ from the current models, but it will be interesting to see what they come up with.

I believe that the FBI could have hacked into the phone using traditional hacking means. They could have gotten around the security barrier of entering the wrong security code 10 times, and causing the phone to delete everything on it.

But it would appear that they wanted to take the fight public to set the precedent that they can force tech companies to help them with their investigations.

I see where the FBI is coming from. If getting into this phone would possibly stop a future attack and lead to the arrest of other potential terrorists, I am all for it.

But, would this action lead to thousands or millions of future data breaches? Hopefully both parties will find some common ground where the FBI can do its job and Apple can provide its customers with products that protect their information. We shall see.

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Blake Dowling is chief business development officer at Aegis Business Technologies. His technology column is published by several organizations. Contact him at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com or at www.aegisbiztech.com. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Blake Dowling: Get ready for flexible phones, driverless cars

This year is rolling along like a can of Pringles in my house (one can survives about an hour). They are the Super Chip. Munchos are also outrageously awesome.

However, my friends, this is not a column about chips; it’s about the future. What is next for technology? The Cloud is here, artificial intelligence is here, 3D printing is here, and many other new faces of tech are becoming mainstream.

What’s Next is a big conversation. Let’s start with Mark Zuckerberg and see what he has in store.

Mark has always big a big proponent of bringing Internet connectivity to places that don’t have the access that most Americans do. The initiative by Zuckerberg and his colleagues is called internet.org and the basic package is available now in 38 countries, giving 19 million users access to the Internet.

To expand this initiative, the Facebook team is working on deploying solar-powered drone aircraft that will beam Internet service via laser to regions where land-based infrastructure is not a viable option. This is visionary work, and I hope they succeed.

There are several barriers that must be navigated, but FB has the resources and the commitment to work miracles. So we will see.

Smartphone manufacturers are spending lots of R&D money on flex tech – phones and tablets that can bend or roll up like a scroll. As my friend Shawn just said, “Why don’t they make phones that work better, and focus on that.”  Well, they aren’t.

There are also flexible phones now available that offer plastic screens and have a more contoured look that should reduce glare and fit your face better while holding it up for a call. These phones do not bend. Do not get “flex” and “flexible” confused.

The main benefit here with the flexible is that the phones are plastic, so feel free to drop it and not have to run to the corner store that specializes in screen repair. (There is one on every corner, but not for long, since here comes plastic).

I walked out of the office with a friend recently. When we got near his car, it started coming toward us. He explained about the feature (summons) that sends his Tesla Auto to him. Pretty sweet ride.

The summons function is a nice example of where the automobile industry is heading. That’s right campers, driverless cars. So much for new outfits like Uber coming to pick you up. Jump in and roll, do your workout routine in the car, have some beers, play the Operation board game with your kids.

It’s very interesting to imagine the possibilities. The shift has been compared to the shift from brick-and-mortar stores to e-commerce. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, said that in two years you can summon your car from across the country.

The Obama administration has proposed spending $4 billion over the next 10 years to research autonomous vehicles and build the infrastructure to support them.

The Internet, phones and cars are some of our favorite things and they are changing faster than Lady Gaga changes outfits. Disruption is here – now. Buckle up.

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Blake Dowling is chief business development officer at Aegis Business Technologies. His technology column is published by several organizations. Contact him at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com or at www.aegisbiztech.com. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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