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Blockchain backs logistics

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A pilot program delivered by Marine Transport International (MTI) demonstrates that the logistics industry will see improved connectivity, efficiency and security thanks to blockchain.

MTI, in conjunction with Agility Sciences, have released a whitepaper detailing the deployment of their Container Streams system in a supply chain environment. The results of the pilot have been verified by scientists at the University of Copenhagen and maritime technology leads at Blockchain Labs for Open Collaboration (BLOC).

The project, which has connected supplier, shipper, load point, customs and terminal on a shared blockchain ledger, has far reaching consequences for the logistics industry as it seeks new ways to improve security and profitability. All parties involved in the supply chain benefit from automated data flows as the system allows complete interoperability of data sources, even including legacy systems.

Jody Cleworth, CEO of Marine Transport International, comments: “The results of this successful pilot demonstrate the strengths of blockchain technology when deployed to link the various actors in the supply chain. We are confident that firms throughout the logistics industry will see a broad spectrum of benefits stemming from blockchain deployment.

“The blockchain has proven to be an excellent way of connecting the different parties involved in any supply chain environment due to the transparency and security-by-design of the technology. In recent months the shipping industry has fallen victim to industrial-scale cyberattacks which have left large shipping lines, such as Maersk, completely paralyzed and unable to serve clients.

“A blockchain-enabled supply chain is highly resilient to cyberattack – a copy of the essential shipping data is stored on each node on a decentralised network, meaning that even if one node is compromised, the data is safe nevertheless.

“The business case for connecting supply chains using blockchain is very strong. As the interface is easily adaptable to existing systems there is a very low barrier to entry.  Any type of supply chain business, be it marine-, air-, or land-based, can take advantage of such a system – the cost savings that we envisage are as high as 90%, as a result of substantially streamlined processes.”

Karim Jabbar, from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Copenhagen, added: “This pilot demonstrates the great potential for distributed ledger technologies to be used in improving supply chain processes. The Container Streams system is unique in the fact that it does not require the complete replacement of existing systems – instead, MTI’s solution allows complete interoperability with existing legacy infrastructure. The logistics industry as a whole can expect better visibility, connectivity and cost savings as a result of distributed ledger adoption.”

Deanna MacDonald, CEO of Blockchain Labs for Open Collaboration says, “We have documented the first phase of this use case, its implications for the maritime industry and the resulting development of a turn-key application ecosystem for global supply chain logistics. However, the future potential of this ecosystem platform will rest upon collaboration from the different actors in these supply chains in order to clearly identify the problems and co-create applications that solve for the collective challenges they are facing today.”

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Huge appetite for foldable phones – when prices fall

Samsung, Huawei and Motorola have all shown their cards, but consumers are concerned about durability, size, and enhanced use cases, according to Strategy Analytics

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Foldable devices are a long-awaited disrupter in the smartphone market, exciting leading-edge early adopters keen for a bold new type of device. But the acceptance of foldable devices by mainstream segments will depend on the extent to which the current barriers to adoption are addressed.

Major brands have been throwing their foldable bets into the hat to see what the market wants from a foldable, namely how big the screens should be and how the devices should fold. Samsung and Huawei have both designed devices that unfold from smartphones to tablets, each with their own method of how the devices go about folding. Motorola has recently designed a smartphone that folds in half, and it resembles a flip phone.

Assessing consumer desire for foldable smartphones, a new report from the User Experience Strategies group at Strategy Analytics has found that the perceived value of the foldable form does not outweigh the added cost.

Key report findings include:

  • The idea of having a larger-displayed smartphone in a portable size is perceived as valuable to the vast majority of consumers in the UK and the US. But, willingness to pay extra for a foldable device does not align with the desire to purchase one. Manufacturers must understand that there will be low sell-through until costs come down.
  • But as the acceptance for traditional smartphone display sizes continues to increase, so does the imposed friction of trying to use them one-handed. Unless a foldable phone has a wider folded state, entering text when closed is too cumbersome, forcing users to utilize two hands to enter text, when in the opened state.
  • Use cases need to be adequately demonstrated for consumers to fully understand and appreciate the potential for a foldable phone, though their priorities seemed fixed on promoting ‘two devices in one’ equaling a better video viewing experience. Identification and promotion of meaningful new use cases will be vital to success.

Christopher Dodge, Associate Director, UXIP and report author said: “As multitasking will look to be a core selling point for foldable phones, it is imperative that the execution be simplified and intuitive. Our data suggests there are a lot of uncertainties that come with foldable phone ownership, stemming mainly from concerns with durability and size, in addition to concerns over enhanced use cases.

“But our data also shows that when the consumers are able to use a foldable phone in hand, there is a solid reduction of doubt and concern about the concept. This means that the in-store experience may more important than ever in driving awareness, capabilities, and potential use cases.”

Said Paul Brown, Director, UXIP: “The big question is whether the perceived value will outweigh the added cost; and the initial response from consumers is ‘no.’ The ability for foldable displays to resolve real consumer pain-points is, in our view critical to whether these devices will become a niche segment of the smartphone market or the dominant form-factor of the future. Until costs come down, these devices will not take off.”

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New exploit exposes credit cards on mobile phones

Check Point Security has found that handsets using Qualcomm chipsets that hold credit and debit card credentials are at risk of a new exploit.

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Now it’s more important than ever to update your phone.
Check Point security has found a vulnerability in mobile devices that run Android, which allows credit card details to be accessed by hackers.

Mobile operating systems like Android offer a Rich Execution Environment (REE), providing a hugely extensive and versatile runtime environment, which allows apps to run on the device. However, while bringing flexibility and capability, REE leaves devices vulnerable to a wide range of security threats. A Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) is designed to reside alongside the REE and provide a safe area on the device to protect assets and to execute trusted code. Qualcomm makes use of a secure virtual processor, which is often referred to as the “secure world”, in comparison to the “non-secure world”, where REE resides. 

But Check Point “fuzzed” a “hole” into this secure world 

In a 4-month research project, Check Point researchers attempted and succeeded to reverse Qualcomm’s “Secure World” operating system. Check Point researchers leveraged a “fuzzing” technique to expose the hole. Fuzz testing (fuzzing) is a quality assurance technique used to discover coding errors and security loopholes in software, operating systems or networks. It involves inputting massive amounts of random data, called fuzz, to the test subject in an attempt to make it crash.

Check Point implemented a custom-made fuzzing tool, which tested trusted code on Samsung, LG, and Motorola devices. Through fuzzing, Check Point found 4 vulnerabilities in trusted code implemented by Samsung (including S10), 1 in Motorola, 1 in LG, but all code sourced by Qualcomm itself. To address the vulnerability, the runtime of Android needs to be protected from both attackers and users. This is typically achieved by moving the secure storage software to a hardware-supported TEE.

Check Point Research disclosed its findings directly to the companies and gave them time to patch vulnerabilities. Samsung patched three vulnerabilities and LG patched one. Motorola and Qualcomm responded, but have yet to provide a patch, and there is no confirmation of a release date yet.

Check Point Research has urged mobile phone users to stay vigilant and check their credit and debit card providers for any unusual activity. In the meantime, they are working with the vendors mentioned to issue patches.

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