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Data must live on the edge

MARIUS MARITZ, operations manager at DMP SA, explains how edge networks are essential for faster cloud data access.

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The end-user experience is critical when it comes to data access. From online shopping to banking and insurance, dealing with any sort of call centre or even buying groceries, nobody wants to be held hostage by slow systems. It is imperative that end-point or edge devices can access data quickly to prevent these frustrating delays, no matter what the situation. You need your critical data to be ‘living on the edge’ to speed up data processing and ensure instant access to essential information.

Cloud computing has become a de facto standard for at least some aspects of almost every business. However, the challenge with the cloud is that accessing data can be slow, which means that processing of information may be subject to delays. We have all experienced situations where this is the case. Take for example a phone call with your insurance company and being placed on hold because ‘the system is slow’, or waiting endlessly for any sort of application as the person assisting you is unable to access the data they require.

The answer to this challenge is to ensure that your data, or at least mission-critical information, is ‘living on the edge’. Edge computing is the decentralisation of computing power and moving of data processing closer to the end-point device, user or customer. Instead of having to transmit data to a data centre for processing and then returning it to the device, it can be processed either by the device itself or by a local server. This enables data to be processed in real-time without latency. Ultimately what this translates to is that you are empowered to process your critical data in a fraction of the time that it would to retrieve data from the cloud, avoiding the dreaded ‘system is slow’ scenario. It also ensures that productivity can be maintained and that end users, as well as customers, have the best experience possible.

Local data storage keeps data close to the end-user, however, this is typically costly to achieve for all of an organisation’s information. By keeping only critical data at the edge and the majority of your data in the cloud, edge computing gives your business the best of both worlds. It combines instant access to essential information while allowing businesses to leverage the economies and powerful analytics of the cloud. Edge data can then also be synchronised back to the cloud for secure storage and further processing without affecting the user experience.

Edge computing can also be beneficial when it comes to unplanned downtime or even planned maintenance. For example, if internet connectivity is lost temporarily, access to the cloud will not be possible. In these instances, having critical data on the edge ensures businesses can continue to operate, at least for short periods, until services can be resumed. Having instant access to data is essential for both productivity and customer service, which ultimately impacts your bottom line

When looking to implement edge computing, storage requirements need to be carefully considered. Local storage is necessary for processing at the edge, which then needs to be synchronised with cloud storage, to ensure the benefits of instant access can be combined with the cost-benefit of the cloud. The amount of local storage required depends on the amount of mission-critical data that needs to be processed at the edge.

Determining this requires that you initially need to understand your data, what you have and where it resides as well as what is considered mission-critical. Data management is, therefore, an essential prerequisite for implementing edge computing. A data management partner can assist with the entire process to ensure that you obtain the optimal balance of onsite edge and cloud storage for maximum speed, power and economy.

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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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