Ethics, Business, and Computer Science

I am writing this post after a long discussion in class with a professor of computer science here at Al Akhawayn University. I decided to write it to share with the world how I see ethics and business in the context of computer science.

Computer science is first about ethics. It is about sharing the knowledge and the code with the world without expecting something back. Computer science should not be interpreted as a market. It should not be seen as business and money. Computer science is more than that. It is what gathers open source programmers from all around the globe to make an exceptional thing that improves the technology and facilitates human beings’ lives.  I am talking here about Linux as an extraordinary project that changed computing history.

We discussed an idea about the use of those open source projects in a commercial way which was the argument of considering computer science as a business. I did not agree on that idea because people who developed those interesting things are aware of the use since the licensing of their projects is under one of the public licenses that are commonly used in the field. The famous one is GNU Public License with all its versions which establish an ethical contract between the programmer and the user. I did not use the term “client” here because it is not defined in the open source software dictionary.

They argued on the use of Linux today. They claimed that Windows is more used than Linux-based operating systems nowadays. However, they were not aware of the fact that Android is also a Linux-based operating system. In addition, the number of smartphones nowadays is more than the number of computers. Hence, we can conclude that Linux-based operating systems are the famous and widely used ones.

An important point should be mentioned here is that thinking of computer science as a business lowers the quality of the projects. I saw a hackathon made by a Moroccan company here at Al Akhawayn University. It illustrates how people at this happy land think about money more than the quality and ethics. They are selling the illusion to people in the frame of hackathons and under the umbrella of “Entrepreneurs”. They were using those events in order to test their platform for free even if we are neglecting the quality of the platform itself at that point. And the weird question is that no one asked them about their background and their knowledge in the field. Logically, someone who will judge your application should be knowledgeable than you at least at that specific field. Those people are a clear example of using business in computer science which is bad at some extent especially when it comes to incompetent people. Linus Torvalds famous quote applies strongly in this context: “Talking is cheap. Show me the code.”

So, if Linus Torvalds wanted to sell Linux, we would not achieve what we have been achieving. Open source projects taught me to be generous, to like the community, and to help people that I do not know just because they are humans.The important thing is that they are trying to improve people’s lives.

You should just get the point that we are not doing that for fame or money we are doing it for love.

Credits: open-source-world-wallpapers_10169_1024x768.jpg

An Analytical Approach of “On Photography: In Plato’s Cave by Susan Sontag”

On Photography: In Plato’s Cave is one of the solid chapters that explains how photography works and how we see things through it. It is a reference in photography since it explains some concepts that are used today after more than 40 years of publishing the book such us how do we see photographs in a modern and well-developed era in terms of technology.

It started by throwing light on photographs as entities that can make the human being feels that he or she owns the world in a single sheet of paper just by collecting many of them. Collecting photographs is like collecting the world since they represent unique experiences of different people around the globe. They are represented as proofs and testimony with an incredible power of convincing. However, Susan Sontag mentioned that photographs can be seen from another perspective which is the interpretation part. In addition, she mentioned the role of a camera in order to realize and relive our experiences. Moreover, photographs are a path to live some experiences without being a part of them which leads us to construct a nostalgia that combines what we lived and what the others lived.

In my opinion, I strongly liked the chapter because it was written many years ago, and it still explains or even predict some aspects of photography today. And it showed how people behave towards photographs and what effects do photographs on them.

First, I agree on describing photographs as collecting the world. However, we can go beyond that and say that photographs is collecting the relevant parts of the world that interests the photographer. We can argue on that by saying that the uninteresting parts of the world are usually neglected. For instance, trash cans are not usually captured because they do not seem to be interesting to anyone. Psychologically speaking, the human behavior tend to feel comfortable by seeing the good looking things, so the photographer, as a human being, is always looking for interesting things to capture. In addition, he or she tries to present it from different angles and frames, that are not usually seen, to represent it in a more interesting way.

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Agouti’s Dust by Mehdi Laziri – Copyright Mehdi Laziri – Unauthorized use is prohibited

Capturing the interesting moments has been for the personal satisfaction and for the history. Nowadays, capturing the moment has evolved with the social networks because of the smartphones which are widely used cameras. So, instead of taking a picture for the the personal satisfaction, another variable has been added to what Susan Sontag discussed which is sharing. It is no longer just about collecting the personal experiences. It becomes about sharing the personal experiences with the world as well.

Second, I agree on the fact that photographs can be interpreted in different ways. We can also add to the statement that photographs can also serve a certain ideology or religion. It can be used also to push human being to take action against an existing political agendas. Photographs are powerful than words. From my experience, I have read many political articles about the war in Syria, but honestly it just push me to construct a sense of solidarity. However, when I saw the picture of the Syrian child who died when he evacuated with his father their country looking for peace, I strongly realized the damage than the war has been causing in Syria. It really pushed me to think and do something to help those people who are dying because of some political agendas between the the major political powers in the world. On the other hand, such photographs by independent photographers show what the mass media hide from the world. It can be seen as an alternative media solution that fill in the gap that mass media created.

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Alan Kurdi by NILÜFER DEMIR

Third, I see the part when Susan Sontag talked about photography as a way to make us feel that the world is more available to us as an insight about the filters that most of social network applications are using today. When we take a picture of ourselves, it does not necessary reflects the reality. It represent how we want the reality to appear. It is different than manipulating pictures because it is manipulating reality. Applying filters, on the other hand, reflects how the reality lives in the photographer’s head.

References:

Demir, N. (2015). ALAN KURDI [“As a father, I felt deeply moved by the sight of that young boy on a beach in Turkey.” -David Cameron, former British Prime Minister]. Retrieved February 12, 2017, from http://100photos.time.com/photos/nilufer-demir-alan-kurdi

Laziri, M. (2016, March 20). Agouti’s Dust [Awesome Volunteer Ouissal cleaning a window while sun is beautifully saying hello.]. Retrieved February 12, 2017, from http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/photos/7961510/

A Hebrew Female in My Heart – في قلبي انثى عبرية

I just finished reading a book called “A Hebrew Female in My Heart – في قلبي انثى عبرية” which amazed me. Unfortunately, there is no English version of this book. I would love to read it in English in the future. My rating for this book is 5/5. It is written by Dr. Khaoula Hamdi who is a Tunisian author and a professor of information technology which surprised me when I first read this piece of infomation. She has been telling the story of a Hebrew girl between Lebanon and Tunisia, between Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, between war and peace, and between love and religion in 388 pages. If you did not read the book, and you do not want to be spoiled, please stop reading till you finish the book.

This interesting mixture of concepts and the fact that the book shares a real story pushed me to finish it as soon as I can. The way that the author used to describe the events made it more interesting to read.

A Hebrew girl called Nada from a Muslim father and Jewish mother initially lived in Tunisia then moved to Lebanon after the divorce of her parents. Her mother married a Christian man who filled the gap of the father in both Nada and her sister Dina lives.

One day she found two Muslim men on the door in a terrible situation. Ahmed was injured and Hassan his best friend supported him. Nada took care of Ahmed in the garage even if it is prohibited because of the difference between their religions, especially because of the war in south of Lebanon. They felt an unusual feeling with an absolute respect to their religions in the sense of the meeting between people from different genders at that time which would build a great story after.

She faced many consequtive bad events from the death of Rima who was her best friend in the civil war in Qana, Lebanon. Rima saved her life by teaching her Islam in addition to the lessons that Ahmed was giving to both of them, and the injuries that she had in the same war while looking for Rima. In addition to the disappear of her lover Ahmed in one of resistance’s operations which was 4 years long in which Ahmed lost his memory. He lived in a village in this period thiking that he is Christian. Moreover, she was not allowed to live in her mother’s home after she converted to Islam. This path changed her life because of the books that Ahmed gave her and the behavior of Ahmed and Rima which had a critical effect in her life. Moreover, the death of George who was her spirtiual father and her spiritual brother Micheal had a bad effect on her mental health. At the end, she helped all her family members and friends to convert to Islam. She married Ahmed, and they are still living in peace.

I did not mention some events and some other people who played a great role in this story. I strongly encourage you to read it because it pushed me to see things from different angles.

I learned from this book that religion should not be interpreted by judging the behavior of people who believe in it. In addition, the concept of religion itself does not cause the wars. In fact, the political and economic agendas are the main cause of hate.

I learned that media is a “make-up” tool which can make a religion more trustworthy than another. However, this is based on personal opinions or some agendas that those media agencies are serving which makes the media a dangerous tool that affects the public opinion.

I concluded that the religion should be taken as a well-formed set of noble ideas which cannot be interpreted by science because science is not absolute while the religion in it is core can be seen as absolute, so comparing religion with science is not a good path to follow. Religions can be compared to each other based on the concepts that they are promoting without being influenced by a third party which can manipulate the pure opinion of any human being.

I noticed that people from different religions can live in peace if each one of them respects the ideas of the other. This story illustrates this image that media does not promote. It taught me how to respect friendship and how to handle conflict between close friends. In addition, it taught me how to forgive people and take into consideration their special conditions at that specific moment.

Description of my Presentation at OWASP AppSec Africa 2017

I was invited to talk at OWASP AppSec Africa 2017 in Casablanca, Morocco on Wednesday, February 1st, 2017. My presentation was entitled:”How Did I Hack Twitter and WhatsApp for iOS?”. I had the honor to present in front of well-educated people about cyber security. I hope this made a change or opened a path for people who want to pursue their careers in cyber security especially in iOS platform.

In this presentation,  I talked about two of my discoveries as a security researcher in Twitter (2014) and WhatsApp (2015) applications for iOS. The first one was an open authentication flaw which allowed me to hijack the active session in Twitter application. The second one was an encryption problem in WhatsApp which allowed me to steal the conversations and contacts that were in that device. After reporting that vulnerability, WhatsApp applied end-to-end encryption which has been leading to the protection of millions of users. These discoveries were considered as achievements because they were the first Moroccan discoveries in iOS platform.

As an introduction to these discoveries, I talked about iOS security architecture which is a rare field in the Moroccan cyber security community . I threw light on the system vulnerabilities that allowed me to access some important files in the installed applications in addition to an overview of iOS security system. I mentioned also some design patters in operating systems design that differ the system, kernel, and user modes called GDT entries or global descriptor tables entries.

One of the famous bugs in iOS is the lock bypass from the device itself or from a computer. At this point, We have 3 main paths to follow: Ubuntu (or another Linux-based distribution), Mac OS X, or Windows. I tried them all. I noticed that they were dealing with the iDevice in different manner. Ubuntu was trying to access it as a physical hard drive while the others were treating it as an iDevice (trying to connect it with iTunes). For WhatsApp, the bug was in iOS 9. I could access the system files including the files of the applications themselves. At this level, I would like to describe how an iOS application works based of the general files hierarchy in iOS. In other words, I would like to explain the role of “.plist” files in iOS system.

Concerning Twitter’s bug, I threw light on the multiple authentication levels in mobile applications. For instance, the access token method which was the main factor in the bug that I discovered in Twitter. Moreover, I would like to talk briefly about the 3rd parties applications that are used largely today and security risks that treat the users. This bug would lead us to explain more the difference between authorization and authentication. This point would explain in depth the real role of the access token.

As a motivation,  I shared the responses of the two Security Teams of the companies which confirmed the vulnerabilities. In addition, I want to share some tips that I used to find those vulnerabilities which would help the interested security researchers in iOS. They will change their minds because the majority of the security researchers consider iOS as a monster. It is known by it is high security mechanisms. However, it has some flows that might be used to discover serious security issues in some well known applications. I hope that this presentation will throw light on the problematic of authentication in cyber security and bring the question of the password as a good or bad authentication factor to the Moroccan cyber security community.

With love,

Image Copyright: https://www.law.georgetown.edu/continuing-legal-education/programs/cle/cybersecurity/images/shutterstock_165303932.jpg