AMITIAE - Wednesday 23 December 2015
Cassandra: Mid-week Review - Banking on not Paying Taxes; Banking on Encryption; 5G with Ericsson; Streaming Beatles
By Graham K. Rogers
Someone is apparently upset over the lack of corporate taxes paid by some big names, despite the huge profits (in the billions) that have been made in the UK. am no fan of the banks, especially with the handouts they have received: after irresponsible actions the taxpayers in a number of countries have bailed them out over and over again. However, like the corporations politicians love to cite (such as Amazon, Google, Starbucks, Netflix and others) these companies are not evading tax, they are avoiding it.
Mind you, the particular banks mentioned do play the game rather well: some paid no tax because they reported losses in London, while reporting profits in much smaller subsidiaries in countries with less strict tax regulations.
The US government has an odd attitude to tax. For example, its citizens must file taxes wherever they live and work in the world, even if they do not step inside the US for years. The UK leaves me alone generally. Any income I earn in Thailand is taxed here. If I do earn over a certain amount in the UK, I am liable to UK taxes; and I can visit the UK for up to 30 days each year without becoming liable for taxes earned elsewhere.
I am not evading tax, I am avoiding it, using the rules that the politicians have written. And that is exactly what the corporations and banks do, so it is no use the politicians whining and grandstanding at their bully pulpits: fix the laws.
It is not a new problem, and in that first item, I outline the fight between the UK government and Dewhurst, a family butcher, owned by the Vestey family who had an obsession about paying any taxes.
The UK government under PM Cameron and his (security-obsessed) Home Secretary, Teresa May, is determined to bring in encryption back doors, presuming that this will allow them to find the terrorists and protect the citizens. That they insist on such an approach, citing What's App as an example of end-to-end encryption and the evils that is protecting, shows those who do know about these subjects how ill-informed these politicians are. Just who are they taking advice from?
A number of recent terrorist attacks had not been predicted (public therefore not protected), while it is now known that some of the perpetrators in the cowardly Paris attacks, communicated using unsecured (unencrypted) methods. And every time there are these attacks, the reason the terrorists were not found and stopped, was because there was not enough access by security agencies, we are told; while also being told that the authorities have prevented 10, 20, 30 such attacks, with no evidence being presented to support these assertions. For security reasons, of course.
Writing on Politico, David Meyer is another who makes exactly these points on the weaknesses of the various government cases. In the article he outlines the opinion of some who, rather than the open sesame approach of those like Cameron, May and James Comey (FBI), some are calling for a "thorough analysis on the issue of encryption and possible problems in the security area."
One of the analysts thinks that those involved in illegal activities are moving to other ways of hiding, such as steganography: a subject I outline to my computer engineering students. There is an app for it (there are several) and I prefer the relatively basic, Stegosec for hiding text in JPG images. It works on a Mac too, but that app has not been updated for a while. Both are available also on the developer site.
Apple targeted the U.K.'s Investigatory Powers Bill, by filing a formal opposition to the bill. Cook said that any back door is a back door for everyone, not just the government: "spies and criminals would have their own back door into our private conversations and information." In a statment, he said.
We believe it would be wrong to weaken security for hundreds of millions of law-abiding customers so that it will also be weaker for the very few who pose a threat... In this rapidly evolving cyber-threat environment, companies should remain free to implement strong encryption to protect customers.
Needless to say, Teresa May disagrees completely. Well, she would, wouldn't she?
Needless to say, Apple would have been aware that any court case would have resulted in Ericsson being awarded damages, but just sat things out, waiting for a new agreement to be reached. That has now been done, and there is more than just the current payments.
Several sites, including the AP's Matti Huuhtanen on US News and World Report, tell us that as part of the 7-year deal that included 41 GSM, UMTS and LTE patents, ". . . means cooperating on the development of fifth generation, or 5G, as well as on video and wireless networks." My original link for this was MacDailyNews.
I wrote suggesting that as Microsoft was deprecating this in favour of Edge and those with iOS, Android, Linux and OS X devices would not have IE, this seemed a little passé.
It was later explained at a meeting that the system would work with other systems, it was just that it would work better (define, Better) with IE. SO I tried with the iPad Pro which I had at my side. Nope. The iPhone? Nyet. I turned off WiFi. Nada. In my office, I had a go with the Mac. No way José, but an email told me I had to run this with Junos Pulse (from Juniper Networks) on the iPhone.
A secretary came to the rescue and she told me she was having worse problems on Android with Junos Pulse. We set it up (easy enough once i had the settings), logged in to the network, OK. The started Safari and entered the specific page. What a game.
I checked with local users and was told that this is for Juniper equipment (OK) but that Juniper had their backdoor password revealed Michael Mimoso, ThreatPost). How odd that this happens, when up the page we are discussing surveillance, encryption and backdoors.
As Tim Cook suggested, if there is a backdoor, the bad guys as well as the good guys can get in.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.
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