16 minutes News

16 Minutes on the News #9: All the Phone Hacks

Martin Casado, Joel de la Garza, and Sonal Chokshi

Posted September 22, 2019

This is episode #9 of our news show, 16 Minutes, where we quickly cover recent headlines of the week, the a16z way — why they’re in the news; why they matter from our vantage point in tech — and share our experts’ views on the trends involved.

This week we do a short but deep dive to tease apart the FUD from the facts on all the phone hacks of late (also, arguably, one of the worst years on record for certain device manufacturers) — given the following news:

  • Just this week, the FBI’s Cyber Division released a notification to private industry on “Cyber Criminals Use Social Engineering and Technical Attacks to Circumvent Multi-Factor Authentication”;
  • Last week, a telecom security firm reported a vulnerability called “Simjacker” where SMS containing spyware-like code “takes over” a phone’s SIM card in order to retrieve and perform sensitive commands, regardless of platform or device;
  • Over the past month, Google and Apple have been going back and forth over a post the former released, “A very deep dive into iOS Exploit chains found in the wild”, where a small collection of hacked websites were using iPhone zero-day vulnerabilities to target China’s Uyghur Muslim community (though Google is not the one who revealed the specific websites, Apple did confirm it in their response a week later) — what do we make of this exchange; of the fact that zero-day hacks are now more expensive on Android than on Apple; and of Apple’s ethos when it comes to a third-party ecosystem for security?

Finally, how should we think about phone authentication overall when it comes to security, and what can we do to secure ourselves? Our a16z experts — general partner Martin Casado and former chief security officer/ operating partner for security Joel de la Garza — share their thoughts on all this and more with host Sonal Chokshi, in this episode of 16 Minutes.