Data Mining and the Average Joe.

Let’s talk about Facebook for a second.

The wonderful website where you can share your interests, keep up with family and friends and also exercise some keyboard courage to random people on the internet. What people do not understand about Facebook is that you are the commodity that makes Facebook money.

“If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold”

– blue_beetle

When you give information to sites like Facebook, Google, and Amazon, they build a profile on you based on what products, books, movies, TV shows, political figures … etc that you “like” . This information is used to target ads to your specific profile. This data can also be accessed by other apps that you use and also sold to other data mining firms. So, that awesome “free” game that you used Facebook to log into to get more coins or whatever also has your data. That personality quiz you took on Facebook? Yep, they have it , too.

The issue isn’t that Facebook collects this data, the issue is that you gave them the data and permission to collect and share it. It’s called the Terms of Service agreement. You know, that big long thing that you agree to without reading. Yeah, that one. You entered into an agreement to have your data shared in order to get access to the Facebook site. When you take that quiz to find out what kind of cheese you are, someone is on the other end collecting that data and building a profile based on your Facebook information and your answers. This is how the data firm Cambridge Analytica collected data on over 80 million Facebook users. The very second that you sign in with Facebook to an app, you have handed them all of your data that you supplied on Facebook. Same thing with Google (I’ll get to them in a second).

The apps on Facebook, and the sites that ask that you sign in with facebook, collect your data. They pay Facebook to gain this access. Again, YOU are the product.

So, should you delete your Facebook account and ditch your Gmail account as well? No, the damage has already been done. Maybe just be careful of what apps, games and quizzes you give access to your Facebook account. Also, Facebook owns Instagram. So, if you have those accounts linked; then your data from Insta has also been shared. You may want to unlink those accounts.

OK, now let’s talk about Google.

Google does the same thing as Facebook. You have a profile with Google. It’s called a Gmail account, so when you sign into Chrome/Google with that account they log your data as well. Your searches, your messages, the whole nine, just like Facebook. I give Google a bit of grace though. Simply because I get more with Google. Gmail, Google Maps, Messenger, Android, Google Drive, Google Photos… ect. I know Google is mining my data, they straight up tell you and give you the option to opt out. To me, Google is more Quid Pro Quo about their data mining. I get more out of them for my data. With the Opinions Reward app, I actually get Google Play Credits (Actual Money) for just taking a survey.  You can actually go here and see what data Google has on you. If you use and Android phone and didn’t opt out or you use their apps and didn’t opt out; then it may be a little shocking. Again, if you are not paying for it, then you are the product.

You can also go here to see what Facebook has on you.

Should you be worried about all of this? Not really. Plenty of sites and apps do this (Even this one) to generate revenue. It’s when 3rd parties like Cambridge Analytica abuse and violate the terms of service with these sites that shit goes sideways and there is a congressional hearing. The point that I would take away from all of this is just to be mindful what you give access to sites like Facebook. Is it worth your personal data to find out who your celebrity crush is?

No, not really.

Just be careful out there.


Victory-Ish (With a bit of Catch-Up)

Yeah, yeah… I know I haven’t posted in a few months. I have been busy.

However, I thought that I would come back to you all with some good news.

My SSI hearing was on Wednesday Sept. 27th. I had planned to let go of all of the constant mental and cognitive acrobatics that  I perform to keep the resemblance of stability that probably everyone sees right through; however that wasn’t necessary. I was a W R E C K when I got to the Federal Building. My anxiety peaked, thoughts were racing through my head and I could only look at the ground the whole time.

We arrived REALLY early and sat in the lobby. Waiting for our lawyer to arrive. Once he arrived he had some fairly good news. The judge had already made the judgment of a “Closed period”. Because one of the doctors or therapists had made the note that I was improving, he said that I could take the closed period, but not the residual monthly check. Basically,  I would receive payment from the date that I filed in 2015 to the date that I got out of my last IOP (BTW, I went into another IOP during the time that I was away from here) which was around September 15th, 2017.  So, Y x 25.5 months = Closed Period Check (Y is the unnamed amount that I would have been paid monthly during the closed period). I was told that I could re-file at anytime and that I would have a stronger case this next go around and that it probably would not take as long. So, I will be refiling later this month.

I feel that this is a win. Simply because, now I am not worried about back pay. I already have that out of the way and I just have to focus on getting a monthly check. I was working a job at the time and that also hurt me a bit. I was working for a company called Teletech troubleshooting a very popular brand of computer peripherals venture into cloud-based security cameras. I quit just a few days ago because the management there was horrific. I mean, these people couldn’t have run a fast-food joint much less a help desk. I was asked to work off the clock, threatened with termination if their software didn’t perform correctly, told that they would make any extra time disappear if I went over my 20 hours of availability and just treated horribly. It was just ran terribly. So, now I won’t have that weighing me down during my next filing and I already have a SSI Judge stating that I was previously disabled. So, I am fairly optimistic about this next go around.

I also plan on keeping up with this more. Maybe not posting every day, but at least once a week.

See you soon!


Where The Fuck Have You Been?

Unlike the metaphorical father that left for a pack of smokes X number of years ago, I am back.

Where have I been?

Well, I will tell you.

In February, I started a job. I landed a “work-from-home” techsupport gig… or so I thought. I got a call back from a company called Kelly Services. I was tested and interviewed for this work-from-home gig. I was made an offer and I accepted. I then was told what I would be doing:

I was to be working as an AppleCare Advisor for all iOS devices.

Now, you may be thinking that is AWESOME; however it was far from. The job payed crap (for a technical support position) and the “benefits” that they offered was from the website. So basically, they didn’t offer any healthcare insurance at all.  They sent me an iMac to work with and I had to disassemble my current computer system. Which was heartbreaking (Like the ending of Ol’ Yeller kind of heartbreaking).

Also, I should mention this: I FUCKING HATE APPLE iOS.

I did try to keep a positive attitude about the entire thing (No, really, I did).

I went through the 4 weeks of training to learn NOTHING about iOS that I didn’t already know; however I did learn a few things regarding the interaction between iOS and Mac OS X  and it was interesting. I basically took aced tests over basic IT concepts and played games on my tablet. When it finally came down to the most basic of skills that we needed to work at this job: learning the call system, we got almost no training.

You would think that the training would include a large portion of how to use the Apple Care ticketing systems (aka: iLog) and how to use all of it’s features. You would think that we would have access to this tool before we took calls. You would think that our trainers that did assist us in taking the few calls we did before we started work would be helpful; however it was just the opposite. We got to take a few calls during training and we were “mentored” by the most apathetic guy on the planet (and that’s coming from me!) who didn’t seem to care about anything other than us n00bz getting him in trouble.  It wasn’t until the last 30 minutes of our last day that we got somewhat trained on this system. The next day we went into full production.

(Basically, up until we got access and training, we were shown screenshots of iLog and that’s it. Imagine me showing you pictures of the drivers side part of the dashboard and explaining how they should work. Then, after a couple of lessons with just the pictures and my tutorial/explanation, I tell you to get in the car and take it out on the freeway.)

On my first day of production, I started on time and taking calls like a champ. I muddled my way through iLog and did pretty well (IMO). Until, iLog and my Apple VPN shit the bed. I didn’t panic. I called out attendance line to report the issue and was told that I would need to call the Help Desk. No problem. I rebooted my iMac and called the help desk. While on hold, my iMac booted and I tried signing in again. iLog still showed that it had a connection error. While I was waiting, my mouse started to move and I kept getting a series of IMs. WTF? I wrestled my mouse from whoever had remoted into my iMac and opened the first IM.

Did you ever see the movie “Office Space”?

…Bob: I have eight different bosses right now.

Eight, Bob. So that means that when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That’s my only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.

And that’s what was happening.

I had put my iLog into an auxiliary code that didn’t go over well. Apparently, I had someone remoting into my computer to get me out of it and multiple people yelling at me via Jabber. My choice to place myself in “Offline” when my system was… well, offline was a bad choice.  So, I had all of these strangers trying to get my attention to get me to change it. When I advised everyone that I was having technical issues and on hold with the help desk, I was told that I should be in “Break” and not “Offline” (Because that makes sense in their world). I then had the multiple people explaining why and that I was “doing a bad thing” by avoiding calls. I then left a message for the help desk and tried force quitting the app. This fixed it; however a call to the attendance line again later, I was told that without a ticket number from the help desk that I would be marked as absent from half of my shift. The above events took about 25 minutes and most of it was explaining to people what was happening. It did not take 4 hours. So, queue the panic attack.

I tried taking another call and made it through it; however I was done for the day.

The next day I logged in and was determined to have a better day. That didn’t last long.

The key metric that is monitored for an AppleCare Advisor with Kelly Services is attendance. You get five occurrences before you get the boot. I received an email stating that with the one day that I had to take care of my wife and logged in late during training, some other tardy that I don’t remember and the prior day’s episode that  I had 3 occurrences, and this email was to make me aware of that.  So, I sent an email to my trainer, my supervisor and my team lead:

I resigned effective immediately.

Yep, rather than having another termination on my resume`, I just gave my notice. So, now I am looking for a job again and honestly, I am glad that I quit; however, I was kind of excited to work again. I emailed my disability lawyer that I tried to return to work, but failed at my job.  I have yet to hear anything back.

I have an appointment with the county mental health clinic this week. I may be entering an IOP to deal with some shit, if that’s available. I have been dealing with depression and anxiety a lot. I have also been having mixed episodes, which suck balls.

On a brighter note, I did get a new phone recently and I fucking love it…

And no, it wasn’t an iPhone.




If you are an avid reader of this blog (like me!) then you probably have learned at least two things:

  1. I have mental health issues.
  2. I am an atheist. 

You may have also picked up that I am also a geek due to the science and technology bits in my posts and also the references to 80s cartoons and movies. There’s also probably a few Star Wars and sci fi references sprinkled in these posts, too. 

Well, I recently downloaded and tried out Google’s new messaging app “Allo“.  Now what sets this app apart from WhatsApp, Telegram, Viber, Kik, Facebook Messenger, BlackBerry Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger is that:

  2. That’s it.

Out of the 3-4 messaging apps listed above that people actually use, Allo does have some features that do make it stand out; however it is lacking some features that the majority of the more popular messaging apps have had for some time, but it brings some things to the table that all of the other apps just don’t have. 


Smart Reply
Respond to messages without typing a single word. Smart Reply learns over time and suggests responses to text and photos, in your style.

There are some conversations that I have had without having to tying a word. Google Assistant learns your communication style and adapts your smart replies. If you also have a keyboard with predictive text; then you seriously almost never have to type anything out again. 

Get creative with the photos you send by doodling on them or adding text.

Almost all apps can do this, but the camera functionality in this app makes it easier to actually do (see below). 

Say it all with the perfect sticker. Stickers in Google Allo are designed by independent artists and studios from around the world.

Some of them are even animated! However, there are only like 4 packs that are any good right now (If stickers are your thing).

SHOUT or whisper
No more typing in ALL CAPS to get your point across. Say it louder or quieter by changing the size of your text with a quick swipe.

This sounds dumb, but is actually cool as hell. 

Meet your personal Google Assistant
Google Allo brings you the Google Assistant, preview edition. Find restaurants nearby, share videos to watch, and get answers, right in your conversation with friends. Add @google to your group conversation or chat one-on-one with your Assistant. It’s your own personal Google, always ready to help.

Probably the coolest feature. You can bring Google into the conversation. In an argument about who that guy was that was in that movie you all saw that one time? Now you can end that shit quick. Everyone trying to decide on a restaurant? Now you can all look at what’s available in the chat. It’s pretty damn cool. 

Incognito mode
Send messages with end-to-end encryption, use private notifications to help keep your chats more discreet, and control how long your messages stick around with expiring chats.

One of my gripes and the huge flaw of this app. Due to Google Assistant and it’s learning capabilities, it has to scan your messages in order to learn how you communicate (Insert conspiracy theories here). So, end to end encryption cannot be enabled by default. I do believe that Google Assistant should be an Opt In feature and E2E Encryption should be the default. 

The other mentions that I want to make about this app are that it does support .GIF files, can send pics, video, & voice messages. Plus, if you do turn on the camera it only takes up 1/2 the screen so you do not exit the chat. That was a HUGE thing for me. EVERY OTHER APP takes you out of the app and engages the entire screen when accessing the camera. Not this one. It also supports BitMoji ( like SnapChat) and has an awesome location sending feature based on Google Maps (of course). You can assign individuals their own notification tones; however you cannot change the background color/wallpaper in the chats or the bubble colors. And yes, of course, there are group chats. 

One key feature that some say that this app is missing is SMS integration. If you used Hangouts, you remember (or know if you are still using it) that you could message people that either had Hangouts or didn’t have Hangouts because it did both Messaging and SMS; however it was confusing as hell. Because half the time you didn’t know if you sent out a mass text, a group chat or a mix of both. I still use Hangouts on my tablet and desktop to make and receive calls and texts from my Google Voice number. Honestly, I don’t see the need for SMS integration. To me these are two separate things that I like on two separate apps. I guess I am old and set in my ways. 

The true uphill battle with this app (or any messaging app) is this: Your friends have to install it in order to actually use it. This is the flaw in the concept of messaging apps. If you have never tried getting your friends to install a completely free application onto their phone and take the 2-3 minutes to set it up; then let me tell you what you are in store for. Your friends will suddenly hate you for instigating change in their lives, they will turn into 4 year old children and begin to cry while throwing a tantrum, they will then question you about everything regarding  this application (and your 10+ years working in the IT industry with a focus on mobile devices/applications) as if you coded it yourself just last night. Then you will in turn start to question why you are trying to make communicating with this group of thankless assholes easier and more enjoyable. Then once they do install it, of course they think it’s fun and awesome*. 

(*Results may vary.Because there’s always that “one”.)

Right now, the majority of my friends are on Telegram. Mainly because it has a desktop client, awesome stickers, integrated search, sticker bots that will allow you to make your own stickers, awesome pre-made sticker packs, and it’s encryption is top-notch; however there are two things that make me want to migrate from it. 

  1. There has been little to no development on this application since August and even that was a bug fix. The only major improvements are usually sticker or bot related. 
  2. This application is the #1 messaging app choice of terrorists! It has also drawn the attention of government entities all across the globe. Which means possible lawsuits, investigations, and lack of funding for development.

What’s awesome about this app is that it’s free , Open Source,and it’s funded by a couple of Russian brothers Pavel and Nikolai Durov that sound like awesome guys; however the app generates no income. Once it , or the Durov brothers, run out of funds; then it will require donations or a subscription. Also, this app was HUGE until WhatsApp introduced End to End encryption by default and Voice Calls. Since then the user base and the development has slowed considerably. 

Speaking of WhatsApp.

I do have a couple of friends overseas that use it. So, I also have it installed. WhatsApp is has no stickers ( if that’s your thing), it does do .GIFs, pics (no drawing/Ink though), video  and does voice messages. You can also make calls with it. It also has a desktop client (that is a complete pain in the ass to use). It used to be a pretty good app, until Facebook bought it. Now, WhatsApp shares your information with your Facebook account to show you better ads; however you can OptOut of this, if you know how. Even though the CEO of WhatsApp always said that WhatsApp would never be used to sell ads ( Even quotes Fight Club). Now you can also totally piss off your friends in WhatsApp by tagging them ( Like on FaceBook) in a conversation that they don’t even want to be in. So, you can see why we all migrated from this app. 

As far as the others go, I don’t use FB Messenger, because I am not on FaceBook. I don’t use Kik because it is a pointless, shitty app. I don’t use BlackBerry Messenger anymore because: 

  1. I don’t work for them anymore. 
  2. It’s not 2004. 

Yahoo Messenger hasn’t been used since 1996, and Viber sounds like a sex toy. 

So, Allo is starting strong IMO. I think that if people will give it a shot and Google keeps up with development that it will be a strong contender. Now I just have to get my lazy ass friends to install it and quit bitching about having to install a free fucking app on their damn phone. 

I may need to start drinking again. 

Wish me luck. 


A Broken Watch and Civil Disobedience.

So, I am currently sitting here, trying to fix my smartwatch because it’s constantly powering off and not wanting to reboot.  Let’s just say I learned that you can crack into a bootloader of a device that only has one button.

Anyway, that’s not why I am here.

Again I am watching a battle being fought on C-Span, well the part that wasn’t cut off by the current speaker of The House of Representatives, Paul Ryan when he ended the session with a motion on the floor and killed the video feed.

Right now 75 democratic members of the US Congress are literally sitting on the floor of the House of Representatives in protest of there not being a vote on any form of gun-control legislation today. When the cameras were cut-off by Paul Ryan, they took to Twitter, Periscope and Snapchat to keep the message going. At the time of this post, the protest is going on it’s 11th hour. At 10pm ET, Paul Ryan tried coming back to the floor with the GOP reps and moving forward with “business as usual”…

Yeah, that didn’t go over well.

There was chanting, songs from the civil rights movement were sang and general civil misconduct ensued. Which makes perfect sense, because they have a civil rights icon leading this occupation. Rep. John Lewis (D – GA) was one of the “big six” leaders of the civil rights movement during the 60’s. He organized sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, organized voter registration drives, and helped lead 600 marchers in Selma, AL on the day that would become known as “Bloody Sunday”. He took a billy club to the head that fractured his skull and before he could seek medical treatment, he pleaded on camera to then President Johnson for help in Alabama. He still has those visible scars to this day.

So, rallying 75 fellow Democrats to sit on the floor and chant and sing is a walk in the park for this man.

While Republicans say it’s a publicity stunt and that they want to move forward with a bill to combat Zika (To protect pregnant women as one GOP member stated) and a veto proposal before they all go on summer vacation. The real matter is, this is something that should have been addressed after Columbine, or after Aurora, or after Virginia Tech, or after Fort Hood, or after Sandy Hook. You have had plenty of fucking time to get this fixed. To debate, and to look into it, and to talk. Instead, you give us “thoughts and prayers”.

Fuck your thoughts and prayers.

It’s time to put down the golf clubs, quit taking the NRA’s money, and fucking do your job. It’s time for all of you tea party fucktards to start thinking like rational humans and work with your fellow representatives and find a solution that will offer some form of protection for the people. Because what we have now, isn’t working and what you are doing now, isn’t considered working. It’s time for you to also get down on the floor and get to work. Because thoughts and prayers are no longer enough.

It’s time for these GOP douche-nozzles to either put-up or shut up.

See you at the polls.

[Post-Note: I know that I have been writing a lot of political stuff lately; however it’s an election year and also people are getting shot with large guns over here. So, it’s kind of been on my mind. Hey, at least I don’t support Trump, right?]

Enter A Comment:

I posted awhile back about an application that I was using called MoodTrack Diary and you can quote me when I wrote:

 …people can comment and offer words of support on your posted moods.

Well, I will be honest. I pretty much ignore the comments that are left and the “hearts” given. I am not interested in what the other users of this application think of my moods and emotions. Sure it’s nice that some stranger out there cares, but honestly I am not hunting down other people’s moods and giving out hearts and positive comments. I do go into the inbox to clear the annoying message indicator however. Today when I did this, I see that a user named “ilovestarwars” has left a comment on a particularly bad day that I had. I do leave a Star Wars reference in my “recovered” mood entry (We’re all fine here. How are you?) and I thought that maybe they had caught on and that they were going to give some fellow geek a positive note.



So, you can see that instead of offering any form of support for an emotion/mood labeled “Enraged”, this person instead decided to be a self centered asshat and ask that I not swear. As you can see, I advised them on how to handle me in this situation.

I posted this exact screenshot on my Instagram account, with almost the exact same narrative,  and had a very curious comment from a family friend.  She said that she agreed with “ilovestarwars” if it was on regular social media, but on this application I could say and do what I wanted since I was tracking my moods and emotions. I was curious about her thinking with this. Why would I censor myself or put myself under some type of submission on “regular” social media?  I cut the cord on Facebook because I only viewed the posts of the same 10 or so people that I talked to via Telegram or WhatsApp, everyone else said something offensive or I didn’t want them in my business (some were the type that cried when you unfriended them & some were family) so they were listed and filtered. At that point, Facebook was just something that I did because it was either expected or it was FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Finally, I followed my good friend Brian’s lead and ditched my account. I also nuked my Google Plus account, but that was just because it was needed. G+ is like Fetch, it’s never going to happen.

Now I am on Instagram (some of the time), Snapchat (which is not full of dick-pics as I thought it would be and is actually quite fun) and Twitter (mainly for news). So, let me be clear, I talk, rant, cuss and rave just as I do here on those sites. Well, maybe not Instagram, I just usually take goofy pictures and Snapchat is like my daily diary of nothing.


So, I  am just at odds with that comment.

Maybe I am just obsessing over it and it’s really nothing. In all actuality it probably is nothing but a comment on an Instagram post that I am over-analyzing and obsessing over; however to expect people to censor themselves on social media is an illogical expectation.

Again, I am probably just over analyzing the whole thing.



Just a Swinging.

I have been experiencing some unpleasant mood swings recently.  I get pissed off and irritated for no reason whatsoever, just randomly it seems. I haven’t noticed a cause or trigger to this.  I have also noticed that I have been experiencing the same mood, I guess to a lesser degree, but were I just feel annoyed with everything, and I mean everything. The house is annoying, the toaster is annoying, every goddamn thing is annoying. Between my reading, and these mood swings (OK, and my binge watching Criminal Minds) is probably why I haven’t posted anything in awhile.

I have started a mood journal, and it takes a lot for me to admit that. Simply because, I find them so corny and stupid; however I am looking at it from the view of recording data. I found an app (of course) that I am using called “Moodtrack Diary: Mood Tracker“.


It does make your profile public, for .99 you can go private; however it’s not like your actual name is out there. You make a screen name to use and people can comment and offer words of support on your posted moods. You can see that I had an irritability/annoyance episode that happened last night, then I was OK. Today I am “pretty good”, and if things change I can enter it pretty easily. You can also enter notes to go along with the mood change if there was anything specific.

I am doing this because we are tweaking my meds, and I want to see if it is hurting or helping. I haven’t had these irritability episodes in years. I used to have them when I was younger and again when I was first diagnosed as bipolar. I don’t know if it’s the stress of the money situation due to my disability filing, my mother’s health declining or if it is something else. Hopefully, something will give and we can just get back to our normal lives.

Until then, I will be entering my moods into this app and seeing if my new regimen is working.

And binge watching Criminal Minds.

Finally Made a Tough Decision.

Yesterday, I did something that I have toyed with the idea of doing for years. I have always looked into doing this one particular thing, and for whatever reason, always decided against it. I was either bribed into not doing it, or had a huge case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out); however my wife and I talked about it and we finally took a leap into new territory of our lives.

We cut the cord.

That’s right. I called up DirecTV yesterday and told them to cancel my service effective immediately. They shit a kitten. I have been with them for over 10 years and they didn’t want me to go. I finally told them:

“Look, I pay about $83 a month for you guys and really only watch about 3 shows that I cannot get off of an OTA antenna. 2 of those shows I had to buy into the middle package and actually pay more money than I wanted. So, offering more channels isn’t going to keep me and I could care less about HBO, Showtime or Skinamax. Here’s what would keep me as a customer:  By getting rid of you guys and going to Hulu and Netflix; I will be cutting my entertainment cost down to approximately $23 per month. If you guys can keep me at the same package I have now at $23 per month for life, then I will stay a DirecTV customer.”

The CSR actually told me that she would “see what she could do” and put me on hold. Then came back and told me the best that she could do is reduce my bill to about $70 a month. My reply was:


So, DirecTV is out and now I have Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Video. I am now OVERWHELMED by the amount of entertainment choices that I have available to me. Hulu has some of the most obscure shows from the 80’s that I haven’t seen in decades. Oh, and don’t get me started on the cartoons! They have so much stuff other than the shows that we normally watch that I literally have too much stuff to watch now (and that’s just on Hulu).

I ordered an OTA (Over The Air) HDTV antenna and I have no idea why. My initial thought was to get local channels for news/weather, but my phone and our security system both alert us of inclimate weather (tornado warnings and such) and I am thinking of returning it and just getting a good weather radio to be more aware of weather conditions. We also wanted an antenna to watch a couple of shows on CBS that aren’t on Hulu, Netflix or Amazon (mainly The Big Bang Theory); however I am wondering what’s more important, seeing Sheldon Cooper’s exploits with Amy or having more notification of an oncoming tornado.

I do love The Big Bang Theory, though.

All in All, if you are thinking of ditching the dish or cutting the cable, just do it. There are so many more options out there with online services and you will end up saving a butt-load of money. Just grab a Chromecast if

Now, I am going back to watching He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (the 80’s cartoon, not the shitty movie) like a fucking adult.

A Little Lesson on 5-14-3-18-25-16-20-9-15-14

For awhile now, I have been watching the ongoing case between Apple and The Department of Justice/FBI regarding encryption. If you are not familiar:

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion on Friday seeking to compel Apple Inc to comply with a judge’s order to unlock the encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters, portraying the tech giant’s refusal as a “marketing strategy.”…

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking the tech company’s help to access shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s phone by disabling some of its passcode protections. The company so far has pushed back and on Thursday won three extra days to respond to the order.

This has started a whirlwind of debate in the Federal Government and in Silicon Valley; however most consumers/users have no idea what the hell this is all about and why it is so important for them to be able to have encryption without having a “backdoor” built into it.

Now before we get into this, let me address this argument: “Well, if you ain’t got nothing to hide, then you shouldn’t be worried”.  My answer to this is that everyone has something that they do not want the general public or anyone else to know. If you truly “do not have anything to hide” and do not care who sees what then I invite you to remove all of the doors in your home (including the front & back doors), take down your curtains/blinds, leave your car unlocked, remove the passwords from everything that you own that requires a password or combination (phones, tablets, computers, locks, diaries…etc) and also, just leave your keys out on the table. Call your doctor(s) and have your medical records sent over (or just tell them that you want them released to the general public), print up all of your banking statements for public viewing (print up all of your credit card statements, too), and pull out your driver’s license and social security card and tape those to the front of the house. Oh, and be sure you do all of that for your spouse, and kids, too (Marriage license, your spouse’s weight, kids birth certificates, their report cards, their electronics need to be opened, too, don’t forget any of the kid’s journals/diaries/or poetry, all of their medical info, and all of their id cards, too) . Because I am sure they have don’t have anything to hide either, right? Not jumping up and doing this? Haven’t done it already? That’s because no one in their right mind will do any of this because everyone has something to “hide”.

OK, now that’s done. Let’s talk about two questions: What & Why?

What is encryption? 

Encryption is the most effective way to achieve data security. To read an encrypted file, you must have access to a secret key or password that enables you to decrypt it. Unencrypted data is called plain text ; encrypted data is referred to as cipher text.

Basically, when you encrypt data it is unreadable. To decrypt it, you have to have a decryption key, usually a password, to read the data.

Why do I want to encrypt data? 

Encryption protects our data. It protects our data when it’s sitting on our computers and in data centers, and it protects it when it’s being transmitted around the Internet. It protects our conversations, whether video, voice, or text. It protects our privacy. It protects our anonymity. And sometimes, it protects our lives.

This protection is important for everyone. It’s easy to see how encryption protects journalists, human rights defenders, and political activists in authoritarian countries. But encryption protects the rest of us as well. It protects our data from criminals. It protects it from competitors, neighbors, and family members. It protects it from malicious attackers, and it protects it from accidents.

This was the most non-technical explanation that I could find.  Encryption protects us by protecting our data. When our financial files are sitting there in the bank’s data center, they are encrypted. When our doctor has all of our medical files digitalized, they are encrypted. Certain websites are encrypted to keep your browsing safe, and certain messenger apps are encrypted to keep your conversations private.  Your phone has the option to be encrypted or may come already encrypted so that if someone does try to crack into it, they will not be able to easily get to your data.

So, why is the government so against encryption?  Well, it isn’t. The Department of Justice and the FBI are. They want law enforcement to have a “back door” into encryption so they can capture terrorists and gather evidence without having to crack through encryption.  They want it so bad that they dug up and used a law from 1789 to get this case into a courtroom. Basically, they want Apple, Google, Microsoft, HTC, Lenovo, Samsung and every other manufacturer to make their jobs incredibly easy.

Despite how the FBI & DOJ feel about it, the Obama administration has already stated:

“…it is not possible to give American law enforcement and intelligence agencies access to that information without also creating an opening that China, Russia, cybercriminals and terrorists could exploit.”

Even the Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and Director of the  NSA is saying that encryption is “foundational to the future” and that’s coming from the man in charge of not only snooping on citizens, but also guarding every major infrastructure in the country!

So, when it comes to building backdoors in encryption, you have the private sector saying it’s a bad idea, you have the president saying it’s a bad idea, you have the NSA saying it’s a bad idea. Why though? Isn’t catching terrorists and criminals a great idea? Well, yeah, but this is just a horrible way of doing it.

Let’s say a law passes that you have to leave your house’s back door unlocked or having a lock on your back door is illegal. This is so that the police can enter your home more easily if there is an emergency or if there is probable cause to enter your home (like a suspected burglar or something). So, it is now common knowledge that every home in America has an unlocked back door. Do you honestly think that every thief, vandal, and just plain bad person is not going to take advantage of this? Are you going to feel secure knowing that your house has a way for someone to get in easily? This is exactly what can (and probably will) happen if the FBI/DOJ gets its way. Simply because this now creates an exploit in encryption that will constantly have to be patched and updated to keep out malicious “hackers” from all over the globe.

The point is encryption is good, and you should do it.

Now onto a different story regarding the whole Apple vs. the DoJ/FBI thing.

We don’t have to worry about the case of Apple vs. the DoJ/FBI anymore, because it was dropped earlier this month!

The Justice Department withdrew its legal action against Apple…earlier this month…

Yep, the FBI had motioned to delay the proceedings and then the case was dropped. Why? Because the FBI hired a “3rd Party” and they cracked into the iPhone with no assistance from Apple.  So, now the FBI has the data from the phone from the San Bernardino shooter and Apple is off the hook (for now).

That 3rd party is a company called Cellebrite, now they say that they are a mobile forensics company for law enforcement, the military and all of these other exciting sounding things; however I know them for this:


This is a Cellebrite Touch, most Radio Shack’s, Best Buy’s and Mom & Pop’s cellphone retailers have them. (I know because I used to troubleshoot them when I did support for Radio Shack.) They copy your contacts, pictures, and other information from your  old or broken phone to your new or replacement phone. This is the type of “forensic technology” that it took to break into the iPhone 5c that the FBI couldn’t figure out. Now I am not saying it was this exact machine, but it’s from the same company that makes them. It’s like announcing that an encrypted super-computer has been cracked by the people that make the cash registers at Wendy’s. But, those guys at Cellebrite must be doing something right.

Now, you are probably thinking: “Wait, encryption can be broken? Wait? Then why encrypt stuff?” Because breaking encryption is VERY VERY DIFFICULT. It took the FBI and an Israeli forensics company  almost 5 months to crack into this phone. That’s a Government Agency and a Forensics Corporation. Do you think some “hacker” would have the same capability or patience? My answer is probably not. Some encryption can take months, some can take years, some can take decades and, depending on your phone, by the time you notice your phone is missing, or get a replacement, you can remote wipe and clear all of your data from the phone. So, the person that has taken/found your device gets nothing and once the phone is reported lost/stolen, the IMEI number cannot be activated again.

So, encrypt your mobile devices and learn how to enable remote control of your device in case something does happen to it.

Thanks for reading.