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MWC: Kaspersky unveils 2050

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Kaspersky Lab this week launched Earth 2050 during a panel discussion at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. This interactive multimedia project accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years.

Kaspersky Lab has teamed up with futurologists such as Ian Pearson, added the future visions of its own researchers, and spoken to artists and scientists to develop a realistic view of the not-so-distant future. Users can help shape this vision of the future by studying over 200 predictions online, and they are invited to submit their visions for inclusion on the Earth 2050 site.

Kaspersky Lab says it wants to understand what the world will look like in the not-too-distant future, so that it can better understand the challenges the future will bring.

For example, if all our lives are digitalised, how will we handle privacy? If people have all their devices implanted inside them and their data in the cloud, how will we protect that data?

And importantly for Kaspersky Lab: if there are no endpoints anymore, will the industry move quicker towards providing security solutions which adapt to customer circumstances, regardless of which device they are using at any one time?

Andrey Lavrentyev, Head of Technology Research Department at Kaspersky Lab, said: “All of the forecasts you can find about Earth 2050 could become a reality in just a couple of decades. Earth 2050 is not only a creative exercise for us. For the last 20 years, Kaspersky Lab experts have been fighting with cybercrime, and they have seen threats evolving over this time.

“They are therefore able to share their knowledge and expertise and – in many cases – encourage users to take a more thorough look at the security of future technologies. Although inventions might be amazing – such as like driverless cars, intelligent infrastructure and the ability to instantly share medical data between doctors across the world – they can still trip us up. Each of them brings a whole new world of opportunity for cybercriminals to exploit.”

At the moment Earth 2050 contains predictions for 80 cities around the globe. Users can select any of these cities and forecasts will appear at the top of the map. The portal is divided into three time categories: 2030, 2040 and 2050, with each of these containing predictions from people who are recognised experts in their fields. For example, users can explore the thoughts of Ian Pearson and different experts at Kaspersky Lab, about what the future holds.

The forum is not limited to written predictions. Earth 2050 also contains 12 VR-enabled panoramas of cities like Barcelona and Shanghai, as well as illustrations of different artefacts from the future. Users can take a 360º look at how future cities might be operating. Will we be able to adjust the appearance of every person we see in the street? Will we invent a dress that changes its style? Are driverless cars in smart cities the future of the taxi business? Will we see ads while we sleep? These questions are just a glimpse of what a user can find on the site.

Filling in a special feedback form allows visitors to add their own ideas to the portal. These will be published once they have passed through the editorial team’s review. Users can discuss existing predictions and also contribute by sharing their own. New content from the experts, and forecasts compiled from different sources, will frequently appear on the site.

“Still, we hope to see many more names on the portal and encourage our users and site visitors to send us their craziest ideas on what the future might look like,” said Lavrentyev.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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By 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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