Was your recent concert visit be annoyed by iPhones blocking the view? Apple may have the answer to your problems! Apple was awarded a US patent last week for a system could restrict your iPhone's ability to capture videos at concert venues by deploying an infrared signal to block your phone from recording
video at concerts.
While it would be good for the average concert goer and the artists who are annoyed by the cell phone flash lights, but it does raise some serious censorship issues! As cyber security professionals we think that in the wrong hands this be used for malicious purposes...
We read the statement, “Based on the decoded data, a device can display information to a user or modify an operation of the device” and think that Apple intends, similar to most other controls, such as mobile device management technologies, to restrict or enforce controls based on a set policy e.g. to get corporate email you must have a 6 digit pin.
Could this be dangerous?
The premise of malware, let alone those individuals or groups that may have an ulterior motive, is to identify vulnerabilities to manipulate the intended operation of a technology device. So, today it says “recording disabled” but tomorrow it may say, you smell and the third day it may say there’s a bomb on this train. I’m certain that neither Facebook, nor Apple intended their encrypted communications tools be used for terrorist activities, I’m certain that the end user license agreement also states that.
Additionally, as this is a transmitter/receiver or client/server technology I would not be surprised if the technology hasn’t been used in non-apple environments. Infra-red technologies have been used in the healthcare sector since the 1950’s. There may be other situations, again which probably haven’t been tested that may cause interference with the provision of healthcare.
Why should we be wary of Apple's move to create something that blocks access to our cameras?
As a growing population of primarily illiterate technology dependents we should be naturally suspicious of any vendor, not just apple who has, the ability to control the very technology they enable us with. What’s next? Maybe the dynamic prevention of stopping the microphone to record is next?
In colclusion, while on the surface it seems like a great idea this is another example where technology could be used for malicious purposes. Take time to know the default settings of your smart phone or the settings may be chosen for you!