Friday, February 24, 2017

When Phone Encryption Blocks Justice

The NY Times The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributors

"In June, 2015, a father of six was shot dead on a Monday afternoon in Evanston, Ill., a suburb 10 miles north of Chicago. The Evanston police believe that the victim, Ray C. Owens, had also been robbed. There were no witnesses to his killing, and no surveillance footage either.

With a killer on the loose and few leads at their disposal, investigators in Cook County, which includes Evanston, were encouraged when they found two smartphones alongside the body of the deceased: an iPhone 6 running on Apple’s iOS 8 operating system, and a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge running on Google’s Android operating system. Both devices were passcode protected.

An Illinois state judge issued a warrant ordering Apple and Google to unlock the phones and share with authorities any data therein that could potentially solve the murder. Apple and Google replied, in essence, that they could not — because they did not know the user’s passcode.

The homicide remains unsolved. The killer remains at large.

Until very recently, this situation would not have occurred.

Last September, Apple and Google, whose operating systems are used in 96 percent of smartphones worldwide, announced that they had re-engineered their software with “full-disk” encryption, and could no longer unlock their own products as a result.

According to Apple’s website: “On devices running iOS 8.0 … Apple will not perform iOS data extractions in response to government search warrants because the files to be extracted are protected by an encryption key that is tied to the user’s passcode, which Apple does not possess.”

A Google spokeswoman said, “Keys are not stored off of the device, so they cannot be shared with law enforcement.”

Now, on behalf of crime victims the world over, we are asking whether this encryption is truly worth the cost.

Between October and June, 74 iPhones running the iOS 8 operating system could not be accessed by investigators for the Manhattan district attorney’s office — despite judicial warrants to search the devices. The investigations that were disrupted include the attempted murder of three individuals, the repeated sexual abuse of a child, a continuing sex trafficking ring and numerous assaults and robberies.

Criminal defendants have caught on. Recently, a suspect in a Manhattan felony, speaking on a recorded jailhouse call, noted that “Apple and Google came out with these softwares” that the police cannot easily unlock.

Apple, Google and other proponents of full-disk encryption have offered several rationales for this new encryption technology. They have portrayed the new policy as a response to the concerns raised by Edward J. Snowden about data collection by the National Security Agency. They say full-disk encryption makes devices generally more secure from cybercrime. And they assert that, if the companies had master encryption keys, then repressive governments could exploit the keys.

These reasons should not be accepted at face value. The new Apple encryption would not have prevented the N.S.A.’s mass collection of phone-call data or the interception of telecommunications, as revealed by Mr. Snowden. There is no evidence that it would address institutional data breaches or the use of malware. And we are not talking about violating civil liberties — we are talking about the ability to unlock phones pursuant to lawful, transparent judicial orders.

In the United States, Britain, France, Spain and other democratic societies, the legal system gives local law enforcement agencies access to places where criminals hide evidence, including their homes, car trunks, storage facilities, computers and digital networks.

Carved into the bedrock of each of these laws is a balance between the privacy rights of individuals and the public safety rights of their communities. For our investigators to conduct searches in any of our jurisdictions, a local judge or commissioner must decide whether good cause exists. None of our agencies engage in bulk data collection or other secretive practices. We engage in targeted requests for information, authorized after an impartial, judicial determination of good cause, in which both proportionality and necessity are tested.

It is this workable balance that proscribes the operations of local law enforcement in our cities, and guides our residents in developing their expectations of privacy. But in the absence of laws that keep pace with technology, we have enabled two Silicon Valley technology companies to upset that balance fundamentally.

The Evanston case is just one example. In France, smartphone data was vital to the swift investigation of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in January, and the deadly attack on a gas facility at Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, in June. And on a daily basis, our agencies rely on evidence lawfully retrieved from smartphones to fight sex crimes, child abuse, cybercrime, robberies or homicides.

Full-disk encryption significantly limits our capacity to investigate these crimes and severely undermines our efficiency in the fight against terrorism. Why should we permit criminal activity to thrive in a medium unavailable to law enforcement? To investigate these cases without smartphone data is to proceed with one hand tied behind our backs.

The new encryption policies of Apple and Google have made it harder to protect people from crime. We support the privacy rights of individuals. But in the absence of cooperation from Apple and Google, regulators and lawmakers in our nations must now find an appropriate balance between the marginal benefits of full-disk encryption and the need for local law enforcement to solve and prosecute crimes. The safety of our communities depends on it."
Cyrus R. Vance Jr. is the Manhattan district attorney. François Molins is the Paris chief prosecutor. Adrian Leppard is the commissioner of the City of London Police. Javier Zaragoza is the chief prosecutor of the High Court of Spain.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Why more businesses are choosing independent agents instead of direct representatives to acquire telecommunications services

……telecom made easy

Why more businesses are choosing independent agents instead of direct representatives to acquire telecommunications services

Mergers and Acquisitions - Sales is a high turnover profession. Mergers and acquisitions make it highly unlikely that your original direct sales rep will still be there to assist you within a year. By using an Independent Telecom Agent, you can be sure that, regardless of continued merger activity or bankruptcies, your Agent will not be laid off or fired and will continue to have the same contact phone number and email address. They will continue to supply all of the options you need.

Single Point of Contact Single Point of Contact – SAVE TIME. Whether your Independent Telecom Agent recommends a single carrier solution or a multi-carrier solution, you still have a single point of contact to deal with who knows your account best. The number of appointments with different carriers you have to schedule could easily reach up to a dozen before an educated decision is made for your telecom solutions. A qualified Independent Telecom Agent can evaluate your company’s needs in a single meeting.

Person who understands your company Your Independent Telecom Agent acts as an assistant buyer once he/she understands your business needs and preferences.

 You get to hear the truth! When you use an experienced Independent Telecom Agent, you tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience of someone who has been in the field for many years, working with multiple carriers.  Your agent can tell you how the carriers really perform - who has the most reliable network - which has billing problems - who is going bankrupt and who can make the desired install date? Why would you want to repeat that process every couple of years?

Unbiased opinion of multiple carriers and their product lines    Since most carriers have gone to term agreements, it's key to get set up with a carrier that can move with your needs. Do they have MPLS? Do they do SIP trunking? Can they offer an IP-VPN solution for your remote sites? Your Independent Telecom Agent knows the carriers' products and limitations, and can put you in the right solution.

Agents are invested in your success long term. Independent Telecom Agents are commission only, and residual based, earning a small percentage of the monthly bill. There is no motivation for a direct representative to speak to you again after you sign. You are directed to deal with the carriers call center. However Independent Telecom Agent’s goal is to build a book of business of satisfied customers with minimal issues. They have EVERY motivation to assist you in solving any service issues that you may ever have. A good Independent Telecom Agent becomes part of your team, allowing you to take care of your business.

They don't have a quota. It is very common for Independent Telecom Agents to uncover up to 10-20% of pure fluff on your bill during the auditing process. Direct representatives have a quota to make and will often sell you what is good for them, not what is good for you. Top Independent Telecom Agents, almost without exception; do not carry quotas and tend to be “solutions oriented” rather than to be motivated only by quotas.

Extra Incentives and Promotions.  Independent Telecom Agents are typically more knowledgeable, better trained, and set proper expectations with the clients. Agent channels often have promotions or incentives for the customer that the direct agent hasn’t been given. If the direct representatives have promotions available, they are often compensated extra if they do not use them. Their clients tend to remain clients longer, and it is more cost effective for the carriers to deal with Agents.

Same Standard Pricing is used in the Agent Channel and the direct channel. For large projects, special pricing is available to both Agent and direct channels at the same amounts. It's an incredible model that helps the customer and agent win, and insures all clients are treated equally.

Next Generation Technology Independent Telecom Agents will typically be better versed in MPLS, IP-VPN, VOIP, hosted solutions, call center applications, and SIP technologies since they need to understand multiple carriers' offerings and have attended their trainings. Direct representatives may not have the overall understanding of all that is coming with new technology.

Content copyright 2009. New Breed Telecom. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 21, 2015




Every voice and data circuit requires an available facility (actual physical line conditioned for the service) in order to deliver services. If all the existing facilities in the customer's local CO are in use, the phone company may need to install additional lines in order to complete the installation. This can cause long delays and additional expense. Carriers want to replace copper with fiber because copper is expensive to maintain, requires equipment that must also be maintained and is less efficient than fiber. Therefore carriers aren't looking to invest in new copper build-outs creating a shortage. Whenever the installation milestone says: "facilities issues" it can mean almost anything. Worst case: Construction build-out may be required or permits needed.

There can be hundreds of lines in a phone closet. If a phone company tech activates a group of lines but doesn’t “tag” or identify them properly, it's extremely difficult for your vendor to locate them to complete the installation. Getting a phone company technician back out to the site is difficult and adds time to the installation process. This could delay your order for hours or days and adds unnecessary expense. The customer still has to pay their phone vendor to wait for the phone company tech to come back and identify the lines they installed earlier.

Even if competitive Local Exchange Carrier is providing the service, the local phone company (LEC) installs the local loop. An order cannot be completed until the local loop is completed, tested and accepted. Customers often turn away the LEC thinking that there has been a mistake. Rescheduling this is necessary and causes a time consuming and costly delay.

Incumbent carrier rejects port-numbers request - or ports wrong numbers - or ports early:
Rejecting a port request is often is an underhanded attempt by the telecom company losing the business to sabotage an order. They can reject a phone number porting request for many reasons such as;
* Your business name is slightly different than what appears on their bill,
* All the phone numbers aren’t accounted for or a myriad of other minor details.
Typically, each time a porting request is rejected, the order is delayed 10 business days and causes the customer to reschedule their phone and IT vendors. If this continues for too long, customers tend to have a knee jerk reaction and cancel the whole deal out of sheer frustration - thereby shooting themselves in the foot.

If numbers are accidentally ported early, the customer can be left with no services until the issue is resolved.

Every phone line is assigned a Primary Interlata Carrier (PIC) code. Without PIC Code, long distance calls on the line will be subject to Casual Billing which is a much more expensive rate. It's not uncommon to miss a few lines on an account with many lines. This usually happens during the switchover from one carrier to another.

If the customer outsources phone and IT work to vendors, the vendors are required to be on site for the installation. If the phone company tech is late, the customer may have to pay their vendors to wait. If the phone company tech is early, there won’t be a handoff and their vendors will have issues completing their work. Unfortunately everyone is at the mercy of the LEC first to deliver the local loop in a timely fashion. But stuff happens, especially in big cities. Things can get really out of hand if there is a storm, a visit by the President, a flood, transit strike ....whatever. Local events and weather do affect the telcos ability to maintain their already overburdened schedules.

Example: Customer's phone system may require analog phone lines but digital lines were ordered. Or, a VPN between two locations requires a specific router configuration which wasn't communicated. These are design issues and can be tracked by a competent project manager. If these details aren’t properly monitored and coordinated the installation will be delayed and corrections will need to be made. Worse, your services won’t function properly until the necessary adjustments are made, requiring additional expense for customer's phone and/or IT vendors.

DEFECTIVE EQUIPMENT (Router or switch):
Occasionally, new services don’t work properly or customers experience repeated outages with new services. It's natural to assume that it’s the quality of the new carrier. Typically, after initiating a trouble ticket triggering additional testing, a technician will figure out that a router or other equipment isn't performing properly or mis-configured. Easy - but inconvenient.

In a high rise, telecom services are usually delivered in the basemen to a telco room. The lines rise vertically in the building via a wire riser or elevator shaft. They then are delivered to another phone closet on the customer’s floor.

Total of 4 connections are required:
* connection to the primary phone closet
* connection to the riser cable
* connection to the local phone closet
* connection to business suite.

Every element of the installation must be completed and all the parties work coordinated or the service won’t be available at the time of installation

Either the phone closet is locked and property management unavailable to provide access. Sometimes the phone closet is located in an inconvenient location. There are many reasons why access to the phone closet may be restricted. It may be in another tenant’s suite. An installation may have to be scheduled after business hours requiring the customer to arrange for their phone and IT vendors and employee to be present.