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Cracked iPhone: Should You be Worried?

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The US government’s declaration that it has “successfully accessed the data stored on [San Bernardino gunman] Farook’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires” assistance from Apple, ends a six week-long legal clash between the tech firm and the FBI.

But it leaves the issue at the heart of the dispute unresolved: could the FBI have forced Apple to help it unlock the device?

It is unlikely that this will be the last time a law enforcement agency tries to compel a tech company to help bypass security measures.

What are the implications for other cases?

It had been reported that there were about a dozen other cases in which the US Justice Department was pursuing court orders to force Apple to help its investigators.

The highest profile of these was in Brooklyn, New York, where the FBI wanted access to an iPhone belonging to a defendant who had already pleaded guilty to drug dealing.

In that case, a federal judge had rejected the DoJ’s effort to invoke the All Writs Act – a three-centuries-old statute that allows court orders to be issued in circumstances where other laws don’t apply.

The DoJ had launched an appeal, but it is not yet clear if it will continue or drop it. Its decision may be based on whether the technique used to extract data from Farook’s handset can be used in other cases.

The New York case involved an iPhone 5S running the iOS 7 operating system, while the San Bernardino, California case was about an iPhone 5C running the more modern iOS 9. What works against one device might not work against the other.
But assuming the US government will at some point try again to use the All Writs Act to force Apple or some other tech company to circumvent its data protection measures, it may take a Supreme Court ruling to determine whether this is truly within the authorities’ power.

Is there any way to find out how Farook’s iPhone was cracked?

At this point, there is nothing to compel the FBI to reveal how it was done, although Apple is likely to be pressing hard to find out.

The tech firm’s lawyers have already said they would want details of the technique to be made public if evidence from the cracked iPhone is later used at trial.

But it could remain secret. There is scope within US law for the authorities to withhold the source of information if it was supplied to them on a confidential basis, and to protect sensitive intelligence-gathering methodologies.

Should I assume the US authorities can now easily work out any iPhone’s passcode?

Not necessarily.
The court order originally obtained by the FBI had instructed Apple to come up with a special version of its operating system that would have prevented Farook’s iPhone from deleting its data or imposing long lockout periods if too many incorrect passcode guesses were made.

However, the latest court filings do not say that someone else has now done this, but merely that some data stored on the device has been obtained.

Researchers at the cybersecurity firm IOActive had proposed that one way of getting data off an iPhone would be to “de-cap” its memory chips.

The process they described involved using acid and lasers to expose and copy ID information about the device so that efforts to crack its passcode could be simulated on another computer without risk of triggering the original iPhone’s self-destruct tool.

If indeed this is what happened, it is not easy and there’s a high risk of causing so much damage to the phone that the desired data becomes irretrievable.

By contrast, Cellebrite – a data forensics firm that has reportedly helped the FBI with the case – has previously discussed “bypassing” passcode locks rather than trying to deduce the number.

But it is possible that doing this would yield access to only a limited amount of a handset’s data.

One other point is that Apple recently updated its iOS software.

Each upgrade adds security fixes. So, if the FBI has indeed been alerted to a flaw in Farook’s phone’s security settings, that bug may no longer exist in devices that have installed iOS 9.3.

Is there any way to ensure no-one else can read the information held on my handset?

Short of destroying the device, perhaps no.
But you can use encryption-enabled apps to digitally scramble data.

The chat tool Wickr Messenger, for instance, lets you set it so that you have to enter a password each time you log back into the app.

Likewise, PQChat requires typing in a five-digit passcode of its own to get access.

So, even if a cracked iPhone did give up the contents of its text messages, emails and WhatsApp chats, the contents of the apps mentioned above should remain safe.

All this presumes, however, that the authorities do not manage to install spyware on your device. If that happens, all bets are off.

What is the situation in the UK?

As part of her efforts to pass the Investigatory Powers Bill, the home secretary Theresa May has said that tech firms wouldn’t have hand over encryption keys or build backdoors into their platforms.

But the law still makes mention of “equipment interference warrants”.

Campaigners at the Electronic Frontier Foundation have warned that these could be used to force Apple and others to insert new code into a device in order to help the authorities extract data, in a similar manner to the FBI’s earlier order.

The EFF adds that “matching gag orders” would prevent the firms from informing their customers or even their own lawyers about the act.

Equipment interference warrants already exist under the UK’s current law.

And for now, the focus of Apple and other tech firms is getting the Investigatory Powers Bill amended to say that in the future the warrants could only be amended with the permission of a judge.

But were there to be a case where the UK police attempted to coerce Apple to override its protective measures, it might still resist – even if the fact never became public.

BBC

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Musk’s SpaceX Poised for $200 Billion Valuation in New Share Sale

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Elon Musk’s SpaceX has initiated discussions about a new tender offer for existing shares, potentially valuing the private space exploration company at an astonishing $200 billion.

According to sources familiar with the matter, the upcoming tender offer is set to begin in June, providing an opportunity for employees and insiders to sell shares at a premium price.

SpaceX, formally known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp., is reportedly weighing a share price of $108 to $110 apiece for the tender offer.

Although the final terms have yet to be determined, this move would mark a significant increase from the company’s most recent valuation of $180 billion, achieved through a similar tender offer.

The potential $200 billion valuation would place SpaceX among the elite ranks of the world’s largest companies by market capitalization, rivalling giants in various industries.

This valuation underscores the company’s impressive growth trajectory and its pivotal role in advancing space technology and exploration.

“We do liquidity rounds for employees and investors every ~6 months,” Musk stated in a recent post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

He emphasized that SpaceX does not require additional capital at this time and that the company plans to buy back shares during the tender offer.

The planned tender offer will enable employees and early investors to liquidate some of their holdings, providing them with an opportunity to capitalize on the company’s substantial growth.

This liquidity event is part of SpaceX’s broader strategy to offer periodic opportunities for stakeholders to monetize their investments, thereby maintaining morale and financial flexibility within the organization.

SpaceX’s ascent to a $200 billion valuation reflects its successful execution of multiple high-profile projects, including the development and deployment of the Starlink satellite internet constellation and the ongoing missions involving the Falcon and Starship rockets.

These ventures have not only garnered significant revenue but have also positioned SpaceX as a leader in the burgeoning commercial space sector.

The company’s rapid progress has also been bolstered by lucrative contracts with NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense, further solidifying its status as a critical player in both governmental and private space initiatives.

While representatives for SpaceX have yet to comment on the tender offer discussions, industry analysts speculate that the high interest from both insider sellers and potential buyers could drive robust participation in the upcoming share sale.

The final size of the tender offer may be adjusted based on this interest, ensuring optimal outcomes for all parties involved.

As SpaceX continues to push the boundaries of space exploration and technology, its rising valuation is a testament to the visionary leadership of Elon Musk and the dedicated efforts of the company’s workforce.

The forthcoming tender offer, with its potential $200 billion valuation, marks another significant milestone in SpaceX’s journey toward revolutionizing space travel and expanding humanity’s reach beyond Earth.

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Airtel Africa’s Subsidiary Repays $550m Bond, Achieves Zero-Debt Position

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Airtel Financial Results - Investors King

Telecommunications giant Airtel Africa announced that its subsidiary, Bharti Airtel International (Netherlands) B.V., has successfully repaid its $550 million bond in full.

This achievement marks a pivotal moment for the company, as it now stands in a zero-debt position at the holding company level.

The news came through a corporate filing with the Nigerian Exchange Limited, signed by Airtel Africa’s Group Company Secretary, Simon O’Hara, on Monday.

The $550 million bond, known as the 5.35% Guaranteed Senior Notes, matured on Monday, and the repayment was made entirely from cash reserves at the holding company.

Airtel Africa highlighted that this repayment is part of its strategic initiative to reduce external foreign currency debt. Back in June 2019, during its IPO, the group had a substantial $2.719 billion of external debt at the holding company level.

This indebtedness exposed the company to currency fluctuations and necessitated the upstreaming of funds to cover interest costs and principal repayments.

Through consistent execution of its strategy focused on strong free cash flow generation and successful upstreaming efforts, Airtel Africa has been steadily reducing its holding company debt over the past few years.

The culmination of these efforts is the achievement of a zero-debt position at the holding company level.

The company’s current leverage and capital structure underscore the success of its capital allocation strategy since its IPO.

Airtel Africa intends to continue reducing foreign currency debt obligations across its operating companies (OpCos) in line with this strategy.

Despite this significant financial feat, Airtel Africa faced challenges in its financial performance, primarily due to foreign exchange headwinds.

The company reported a $89 million loss after tax, translating to a $549 million loss net of tax.

This loss was mainly attributed to the devaluation of the naira in June 2023 and the devaluation of the Malawian kwacha in November 2023.

The devaluation of the naira had a profound impact on Airtel Africa’s financial results, resulting in derivative and foreign exchange losses amounting to $1.07 million during the year.

However, despite these challenges, the company’s board proposed a final dividend of $3.27 per share for the year ending March 2024.

Airtel Africa’s successful repayment of its $550 million bond and attainment of a zero-debt position underscore its commitment to financial prudence and strategic debt management.

The company’s resilience in navigating foreign exchange fluctuations reflects its robust operational framework and sets a positive trajectory for its future financial performance.

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Fintech

Flutterwave Hit by Another Security Breach, Billions of Naira Diverted to Multiple Bank Accounts

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In another blow to the financial technology sector, Flutterwave, a prominent player in Nigeria’s digital payment landscape, has been rocked by yet another security breach, resulting in the diversion of billions of naira to multiple undisclosed bank accounts.

This incident is the latest in a series of setbacks for the fintech company, raising concerns about the integrity of its systems and the safety of customer funds.

According to insider sources familiar with the matter, unauthorized transactions amounting to approximately ₦11 billion ($7 million) were illicitly transferred to several accounts during April 2024.

However, other sources suggest the figure could be as high as ₦20 billion ($13.5 million), underscoring the magnitude of the breach.

Flutterwave, responding to inquiries regarding the breach, acknowledged the unauthorized activities but stopped short of confirming the exact amount involved.

In a statement to TechCabal, the company assured the public that no customer funds were lost or compromised, and the confidentiality of customer data remained intact.

The modus operandi of the perpetrators involved transferring the stolen funds to various accounts across five financial institutions over a span of four days.

To evade detection, the transactions were carefully orchestrated to stay below thresholds that trigger fraud checks, highlighting the sophistication of the operation.

Law enforcement agencies have been notified of the breach, and investigations are underway to apprehend those responsible.

Flutterwave has also initiated measures to mitigate the impact of the incident, including temporarily restricting the accounts implicated in the unauthorized transfers.

Industry analysts note that this is not the first time Flutterwave has fallen victim to such security breaches. Over the past fourteen months, the company has grappled with multiple incidents of unauthorized transfers, raising serious concerns about the adequacy of its cybersecurity measures.

In October 2023, Flutterwave reported unauthorized transactions totaling ₦19 billion ($24 million), affecting thousands of account holders across 35 banks and financial institutions.

Subsequent breaches in March and February 2023 saw millions of naira diverted to numerous bank accounts, further exposing vulnerabilities in the company’s systems.

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