Tech news in late September was dominated by the launch of not one, but two new iPhones. The playful 5c and the serious 5s - along with the interface revamp of iOS 7 to power all Apple mobiles - puts more power in users’ hands than ever before. Read all about these handsets in our iPhone 5s review and iPhone 5c review.
With 4G chipsets these phones can spread their cellular wings on more networks around the world than ever, ensuring even jetsetters should stay connected in every country and continent in which they land. Better motion sensing, riding the wave of the fitness-tech fad, means the phone knows which way is up, and more precisely than before. And improved battery life helps keep you on the net for longer. See Apple Advisor
Yet disclosures about the integrity of our internet may, nay should, come as a shock. Putting your personal life on to a social network to share with friends and followers is one thing, and an opt-in decision for the so inclined. But there is still the principle of confidentiality, of a private life, long assured by the secure encryption we use for online shopping, for email and for video calling.
Thanks to the clever mathematical wrangling of ciphers, leading to encryption standards behind HTTPS, SSL, TLS and VPN, that which you communicate is strictly between you and your recipient - whether it’s your card details to an online shopkeeper, your strategies to business associates or intimate words with your lover.
And now it seems, it’s between you, them, and the National Security Agency and Government Communications Headquarters. And thereafter the rest of the US and UK government. And the government and security agencies of the three other eyes that make up the intelligence-sharing Five Eyes countries, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. All can and do view the online life of any citizen at will.
So the Snowden affair continues to unravel, with more revelations of how the NSA coerced big tech companies Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Apple to provide hidden backdoors into everyday services such as Skype, Outlook and BitLocker, Gmail, Yahoo Mail and VPN services.
And the data they don’t acquire through corporate complicity is also fair game, it seems, thanks to well-executed NSA operations to weaken security standards underpinning all computers, all internet traffic. While 256-bit encryption is still difficult to crack, weaken it to 60-bit or less with some software ‘coding errors’ and you’re in.
Now all that’s required to fulfil an Orwellian horror of catastrophic magnitude is to place electronic bugs on every citizen, rolling out a carry-everywhere device that can give precise long-lat co-ordinates through satellite eyes, that can hoover up all text and voice communications from its user, that will always be connected to the brotherly network. A device that always knows its owner’s orientation in the world, in every sense.