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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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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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