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Домашнее чтение Mistrust authority и STEVE JOBS

Домашнее чтение Mistrust authority и STEVE JOBS

ДОМАШНЕЕ ЧТЕНИЕ Mistrust authority A hacking attack exposes deeper flaws in the internet’s security infrastructure FOR all its vaunted decentralisation, the internet is a top-down affair when it comes to security. Users are told whom to trust by digital certificates, which allow a website to display a padlock symbol and put the “s” in the https:// prefix to web addresses. These certificates are issued to websites by several hundred companies that pride themselves on their security and reputation for probity. A list of such certificate authorities is built into web-browser software. If a site displays a certificate issued by a proper authority, the browser will load the page with no objection. It should all work fine in theory. But in practice the guardians of internet security seem badly to need guarding themselves.

On September 6th one of the world’s biggest certificate authorities, GlobalSign, temporarily stopped issuing them following new claims by an assailant under the name “Comodo Hacker”. Claiming to be acting alone, he has already broken into a Dutch issuer, DigiNotar, hijacking its system and issuing hundreds of bogus certificates for domains including Facebook, Twitter and Google, as well as for American, British, Israeli and other government agencies. These dodgy documents could allow mischief-makers to impersonate supposedly secure websites. Many security analysts fret that the fake certificates have been used to snoop on Iranian users of Gmail, Google’s e-mail service. The Dutch government relied on DigiNotar to authenticate many of its websites. Its interior minister, Piet Hein Donner, said that sites for the country’s social-security, police and tax authorities might be compromised. He urged citizens who wanted to be on the safe side to use pen and paper in dealings with the state. Security pundits have long been ringing alarm bells about the possibility of such an attack—the digital equivalent of burglars breaking into a locksmith’s shop. A new report on DigiNotar is scathing about its security. Many feel this imbroglio, plus an apparently related one in March involving an Italian authority affiliated with Comodo, a big American issuer, shows that the system urgently needs an overhaul. “Comodo Hacker” claims also to have cracked security at three other (so far unnamed) issuers. One proposal is to create new digital notaries that would perform regular scans of all secure servers on the internet. Rather than relying on a built-in list of certificate issuers, as at present, browsers would instead match the certificates that a site presented to those in the notaries’ repository. Google is testing a similar idea called Certificate Catalog. The company hopes to include it in its Chrome browser, which even in its existing form would have spotted the fake certificate issued for Google by DigiNotar. Others are less sanguine. Bruce Schneier, an internet-security expert, doubts that any such fix will work. The problem, he says, is not technological—it is about incentives. Those who have stakes in the existing system, be they certificate authorities, browser-makers, or governments, have no interest in mending it. Many users are willing to forgo security for the sake of convenience, even ignoring warnings on their browsers about expired or unrecognised certificates. Mr Schneier likens discussing the relative merits of the proposed fixes to discussing what colour to paint tanks while in the middle of a battle. The broader problem, says Seth Schoen of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group, is that the people most at risk from prying governments in Africa, the Middle East and Asia all too often use antiquated equipment and substandard software that is more vulnerable to hacking. Few Iranians, for example, use Chrome. It became available to web users there only in January, after America eased trade sanctions against the Islamic republic.   Writing off either of these giants, even after their slow start, would be daft. Intel is probably closing the power-consumption gap with ARM. Microsoft claims to have 450m users of Windows 7, the operating system’s latest incarnation on PCs. Many of these, and people with older versions, may upgrade, especially if they can use the same system on all their devices, at home or at work. Even so, the clock is ticking, especially for tablets, where the competition will get fiercer. Apple’s iPad2 is selling like, well, an iPad. By the time Windows 8 tablets appear, a third version may well have won Apple even more customers. Amazon, buoyed by the success of its Kindle e-reader, is expected to launch an Android tablet within weeks. Its vast online shop, selling much more than books, may be a draw. Other Android tablets are arriving all the time. Some contenders, such as Research In Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, have already stumbled; HP has all but given up. “The longer they [Microsoft] leave it,” says Carolina Milanesi of Gartner, “the more consumers will have found an alternative, and not just for tablets but for PCs too.”   Day 1976. “A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences,” he once said. “So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions.” His great rival, Bill Gates, he suggested, would be “a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.” Dropping out of his college course and attending calligraphy classes instead had, for example, given Mr Jobs an apparently useless love of typography. But support for a variety of fonts was to prove a key feature of the Macintosh, the pioneering mouse-driven, graphical computer that Apple launched in 1984. With its windows, icons and menus, it was sold as “the computer for the rest of us”. Mr Jobs expected to sell “zillions” of his new machines. But the Mac was not the swift, mass-market success that he had hoped for, and Mr Jobs was ousted from Apple by its board in 1985. Deprived of hallucinogenic drugs though he might have been, Mr Gates emerged as the undisputed champion of the personal-computer era. Most of the world adopted Microsoft-compatible PCs. The Mac became a niche product, much loved by graphic designers, artists and musicians. Yet this apparently disastrous turn of events proved to be a blessing: “the best thing that could have ever happened to me”, Mr Jobs later called it. He co-founded a new firm, Pixar, which specialised in computer graphics. It eventually went on to produce a string of hugely successful movies, including “Toy Story” and “Cars”. Mr Jobs also established NeXT, another computer-maker, which produced sophisticated workstations. Its products were admired for their elegant software, but the company struggled to make money and changed direction repeatedly. Mr Jobs’s remarkable second act began in 1996 when Apple, having lost its way, acquired NeXT, and Mr Jobs returned to put its software at the heart of a new range of Apple products. And the rest is history: Apple launched the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad, and (briefly, in August) became the world’s most valuable listed company. “I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple,” Mr Jobs said in 2005. When his failing health forced him to step down as Apple’s boss in August, he was hailed by some as the greatest chief executive in history. STEVE JOBS In retrospect, Mr Jobs was a man ahead of his time during his first stint at Apple. Computing’s early years were dominated by technical types. But his emphasis on design and ease of use gave him the edge later on. Elegance, simplicity and an understanding of other fields came to matter in a world in which computers have become fashion items, carried by everyone, that can do almost anything. “Technology alone is not enough,” said Mr Jobs at the end of his speech introducing the iPad 2, in March 2011. “It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing.” It was an unusual statement for the head of a technology firm.
This interdisciplinary approach was backed up by an obsessive attention to detail. A carpenter making a fine chest of drawers will not use plywood on the back, even though nobody will see it, Mr Jobs said, and he applied the same approach to his products: “For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.” He insisted that the first Macintosh should have no cooling fan, so that it would be silent—putting user needs above engineering convenience. He called an engineer at Google one weekend with an urgent request: the colour of one letter of Google’s on-screen logo on the iPhone was not quite the right shade of yellow. He often wrote or rewrote the text of Apple’s advertisements himself. His on-stage persona as a Zen-like mystic notwithstanding, Mr Jobs was an autocratic manager with a fierce temper. But his egomania was largely justified. He eschewed market researchers and focus groups, preferring to trust his own instincts when evaluating potential new products. “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them,” he said. His judgment proved uncannily accurate: by the end of his career the hits far outweighed the misses. Although his authoritarian streak was well known, Mr Jobs was nevertheless good at attracting talent. Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design guru, Phil Schiller, its marketing leader, Scott Forstall, the head of its mobile-software operation and Mr Cook, the firm’s new chief executive and former chief operating officer, are all world-class managers. When he was asked how he chose members of his team, Mr Jobs said he always looked for bright and competent people. But more important, he added, was to find people who cared a great deal about precisely the same things that mattered to him. The strength of Apple’s senior team is one reason that the firm’s share price barely flinched when news emerged last month that Mr Jobs was relinquishing his role as chief executive and becoming executive chairman. Another is that he left it in an extremely good position to take advantage of changes sweeping through the world of technology (see our special report this week). Under his guidance, Apple has developed not just amazing hardware, but also “cloud” based services such as its iTunes online music store and its new “iCloud” service, which allows people to store all sorts of content on Apple’s servers and access it on all sorts of devices. Perhaps the most striking thing about Mr Jobs’s reign, however, was his ability to see beyond the business that rivals were fixated on. For years, Apple relied on its Macintosh computers to generate much of its revenue. But in 2007 the company dropped the word “Computer” from its name and Mr Jobs began telling anyone who would listen that the world was entering a post-PC era in which all sorts of computing devices would be used, some of which would eclipse the PC. Rivals pooh-poohed such pronouncements. But now many are struggling to adapt to a market in which smartphones and tablet computers have become wildly popular. Oh, and one more thing Another striking—and often underappreciated—aspect of Mr Jobs’s success was his ability to say no. At a company like Apple, thousands of ideas bubble up each year for new products and services that it could launch. The hardest thing for its leader is to decide which ones merit attention. Mr Jobs had an uncanny knack of winnowing out the wheat from the mountains of chaff. It remains to be seen whether his disciples who are now running the show can make equally smart choices, and whether Apple will be able to prosper without its magician-in-chief at the helm. The lukewarm response to this week’s launch of its new iPhone 4S should give some cause for concern. Without Mr Jobs, Apple suddenly looked much more like just another technology firm, rather than a producer of magical products that excite the world. With Google and its allies chasing it in smartphones, and Amazon’s launch of a bold new tablet computer, Apple faces serious competition for the first time in the new markets it has created. Thanks to Mr Jobs, the company has a great head start. But Mr Cook and his colleagues now need to show that some of the magic of the man who took Apple from the brink of disaster to world domination has rubbed off on them. businessperson whose career has taken a turn for the worse. The way in which Mr Jobs revived the ailing company he had co-founded and turned it into the world’s biggest tech firm (bigger even than Bill Gates’s Microsoft, the company that had outsmarted Apple so dramatically in the 1980s), sounds like something from a Hollywood movie—which, no doubt, it soon will be. But what was perhaps most astonishing about Mr Jobs was the fanatical loyalty he managed to inspire in customers. Which other technology brand do you ever see on bumper stickers? Many Apple users feel themselves to be part of a community, with Mr Jobs as its leader. And there was indeed a personal link. Apple’s products were designed to accord with the boss’s tastes and to meet his obsessively high standards. Every iPhone or MacBook has his fingerprints all over it. His great achievement was to combine an emotional spark with computer technology, and make the resulting product feel personal. And that is what put Mr Jobs on the right side of history, as the epicentre of technological innovation has moved into consumer electronics over the past decade. A world without Jobs As our special report in this week’s issue (printed before Mr Jobs’s death) explains, innovation used to spill over from military and corporate laboratories to the consumer market, but lately this process has gone into reverse. Many people’s homes now have more powerful, and more flexible, devices than their offices do; consumer gizmos and online services are smarter and easier to use than most companies’ systems. Familiar consumer products are being adopted by businesses, government and the armed forces. Companies are employing in-house versions of Facebook and creating their own “app stores” to deliver software to smartphone-toting employees. Doctors use tablet computers for their work in hospitals. Meanwhile, the number of consumers hungry for such gadgets continues to swell. Apple’s products are now being snapped up in Delhi and Dalian just as in Dublin and Dallas. Mr Jobs had a reputation as a control freak, and his critics complained that the products and systems he designed were closed and inflexible, in the name of greater ease of use. Yet he also empowered millions of people by giving them access to cutting-edge technology. His insistence on putting users first, and focusing on elegance and simplicity, has become deeply ingrained in his own company, and is spreading to rival firms too. It is no longer just at Apple that designers ask: “What would Steve Jobs do?” The gap between Apple and other tech firms is now likely to narrow. This week’s announcement of a new iPhone by a management team led by Tim Cook, who replaced Mr Jobs as chief executive in August, was generally regarded as competent but uninspiring. Without Mr Jobs to sprinkle his star dust on the event, it felt like just another product launch from just another technology firm. At the recent unveiling of a tablet computer by Jeff Bezos of Amazon, whose company is doing the best job of following Apple’s lead in combining hardware, software, content and services in an easy-to-use bundle, there were several swipes at Apple. But by doing his best to imitate Mr Jobs, Mr Bezos also flattered him. With Mr Jobs gone, Apple is just one of many technology firms trying to invoke his unruly spirit in new products. Mr Jobs was said by an engineer in the early years of Apple to emit a “reality distortion field”, such were his powers of persuasion. But in the end he conjured up a reality of his own, channelling the magic of computing into products that reshaped entire industries. The man who said in his youth that he wanted to “put a ding in the universe” did just that.

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