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Wozniak Praises the Power of Innovation

Attendees at Wednesday’s general session of the ASIS International 59th Annual Seminar and Exhibits heard Apple Computer Inc. cofounder Steve Wozniak laud technology as the means toward a better life. “Technology allows us to be more in control of the universe,” said Wozniak, who designed the Apple I and Apple II computers and was a driving force in putting computers in peoples’ homes. Wozniak noted that while technology provides the ability to enable better security, such as with encryption, codes, and mathematical formulas, “unfortunately, there’s always a negative side to the positive, because it also gives ability to people who are smart in technology to crack codes” and to penetrate systems. “There can be a dark side to almost every science you explore,” Wozniak warned.

Wozniak told attendees stories of his background of playing pranks by using electronics in new ways and building things. For example, when he was in high school, Wozniak built an electronic ticking metronome that he hid in a friend’s locker. The principal heard it and opened the locker, and Wozniak had set the metronome to start ticking faster when the locker was opened. The principal thought the metronome was an explosive and raced with it to the football field to destroy it. Wozniak also told a story of jamming a communal television set in college to the point where it became a psychological experiment on the other students to see what contortions he could get them to go through to try to get the television to work. Wozniak even uses Apple products for some of his best jokes, such as directing Siri to set 4:00 am alarms for people on their iPhones when the person isn’t around. But those pranks have been grounded in a curiosity to figure out how things work and how technology can be used.

Wozniak says his cleverness came from attempting to find approaches to technology that were not written in books. By playing jokes on people, “you grow up trying to beat a little method here and there.” Thinking differently and working out ways around normal techniques are part of what helped Wozniak design better computers.

A challenge for security, according to Wozniak, is that “a lot of the techniques that you use to penetrate security systems are unwritten and unlearned…. How do you develop a system to protect against the unknown?” Wozniak told Security Management in an interview following his speech that he would like to see more companies build in hardened protections right from the design process that would secure operating systems, network connections, and protocols. But he admitted that it’s difficult to go back and make systems less open now. He advocated encrypted hard drives when possible and using a two-step authentication process in some situations to further secure certain types of data.

Wozniak also spoke about expectations of privacy in technology and the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program. “There’s a reason and a purpose for” the NSA and phone tapping, said Wozniak, “but I think there should be strong oversight as to what can be tapped when. And I think we’re ignoring principles that are very good from the Constitution as to how.” He added that there should be some idea of who the government will be investigating and why, and that the public is disappointed in the NSA after the Snowden revelations because they had higher expectations of privacy in their communications. 

Wozniak said that the major carriers hand over the data to the government and law enforcement too easily. “The ability to simply go out and have total power gets misused…I don’t think the security agencies should come off looking this tarnished. Security’s very important.”

Wozniak also mentioned in his speech that hackers are driven to understand and explore systems, and that a lot of the things that people think are “bad” can actually be helpful in the long run. “If you’re destroying somebody else’s data, or costing them money in some way, or you’re trying to make money off of it, that’s bad. If you’re only exploring it as a system to see how far you can get as a challenge…generally that’s good because you’re developing your mind,” Wozniak told Security Management. Wozniak said he thinks law enforcement agencies and companies that detect these types of intrusions in their systems should be more discerning about those nonmalicious hacking attempts and be more lenient.

“The punishment doesn’t really fit the crime for a lot of people who are no more hackers than I was, which was basically not a hacker, just an explorer.”

Also at Wednesday’s General Session, David Moitzheim, CPP, PSP, PCI, president of the ASIS Professional Certification Board, honored those who have recently earned the Certified Protection Professional (CPP), Physical Security Professional (PSP), or Professional Certified Investigator (PCI) credentials.

Moitzheim also recognized triple certificants Gary S. Beck, Nicholas Santillo, and Ann Trinca for earning the CPP, PSP, and PCI. Three companies, Chevron Business and Real Estate Services Security Operations Team; Lyndon Security Services, Inc.; and Amalgamated Security Services Limited, were presented with the ASIS Organizational Award of Merit.