Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Khashoggi’s Watch

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I’ve been following the disappearance and possible (likely) murder of expat Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey with both horror and fascination.

When I read that Turkish newpaper Sabah wrote that Khashoggi’s Apple Watch may have provided evidence by Turkish officials of his murder, I paid even closer attention.

Could Khashoggi have activated a recording app on his Apple Watch, which was, in turn, connected to the iPhone he left in the car with his wife, and then have had that recording automagically uploaded to his iCloud account?

A report from CNBC pointed out some holes in Sabah’s story which bear following up.

First, they point out there’s no fingerprint sensor on the Apple Watch, so Sabah’s report that the Saudis attempt to delete the audio recording using Khashoggi’s fingerprint to unlock the Apple Watch wouldn’t be viable. The Apple Watch is unlocked with a passcode.

Also, the Apple Watch typically remains unlocked as long as the wearer keeps it strapped to their wrist after inputting the passcode.

Second, CNBC reports that the Sabah report indicated the audio recording was sent to Khashoggi’s iPhone from his Apple Watch, but if he left his iPhone with his fiancee outside the Saudi consulate, it would likely be difficult to maintain a Bluetooth connection to send the audio recording data to that phone.  

The rate of data transfer between Bluetooth 4.0 devices can be up to 25 Mbps, and though the signal can work through walls, the more objects in between the devices, the less overall range. The general range for Bluetooth 4.0 is up to 300 feet, so depending on how close his fiancee’s car was to the actual room where Khashoggi was allegedly being dismembered, the file might or might not have been transferrable back to his iPhone.

If you were thinking perhaps Khaoshoggi was wearing an Apple Watch that has a cellular data connection, CNBC points out that that particular model of the Apple Watch is incompatible with cellular networks in Turkey.

Finally, even if Khashoggi used an app to record from his Apple watch, Apple doesn’t actually ship the watch with a recording app.

So, he would have had to use one of several third-party apps that enable audio recording on the watch, and Apple’s privacy rules require such apps to display a red indicator on the watch a screen while it’s recording audio.

Anyone who looked at the watch would likely know they were being recorded. Of course, it’s certainly possible someone unfamiliar with the Apple Watch might not know what that big red button meant. But an alleged 15 highly-trained assassins?

Which leads me back to a hypothesis shared with me via a former member of the U.S. military. The Sabah Apple Watch story was very possibly a smokescreen published by Turkish intelligence intended to protect its own sources and methods.

Meaning, the Turkish government most likely had that Saudi consulate bugged to high heaven, so it’s very likely they do know if there was a murder and dismemberment taking place there. 

But suggesting via an open source record like a Turkish newspaper that such knowledge came in via an Apple Watch versus a well-placed bug is a very convenient way to let the world know that the Turks had that information, without really letting the world, and the Saudis, know exactly how.

Whatever the role these technologies did or didn’t play, the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi has evolved into an international incident.

Just this morning, The New York Times reported that President Trump said that he spoke with the king of Saudi Arabia and that “the ruler denied any knowledge of what happened to a missing Saudi dissident journalist [Jamal Khashoggi].”

Yet, Trump indicated he would still be sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudia Arabia later this morning to meet with King Salman.

No word yet on whether or not Secretary Pompeo will be wearing an Apple Watch!

Written by turbotodd

October 15, 2018 at 11:03 am

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