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MWC: Biohackers threaten prosthetic hands

Research released by Kaspersky Lab at Mobile World Congress uncovers vulnerabilities in software for digital prosthetic hands.

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Kaspersky Lab experts have investigated an experimental cloud infrastructure for advanced bionic prostheses and have identified security issues that could enable a third party to access, manipulate, steal, or delete the private data of device users. The findings were shared with manufacturer Motorica, a Russian start-up that makes bionic upper limb prostheses to assist people with disabilities, allowing them to address the security issues.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is no longer only about connected watches or smart homes, but about highly complex and increasingly automated ecosystems. This includes connected technologies for healthcare. In the future, such technologies could shift away from being purely support devices, to becoming mainstream and used by consumers keen to extend the capabilities of the human body. Therefore, it is critical that manufacturers investigate and address any existing or potential security risks in current products, as well as their supporting infrastructure.

Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT researchers have undertaken a cybersecurity assessment of a test software solution for a digital prosthetic hand, developed by Motorica. The solution itself is a remote cloud system, providing an interface for monitoring the status of registered biomechanical devices. It also gives other developers an existing toolset for analysis of the technical condition of devices like smart wheelchairs, artificial hands and prosthetic feet.

The initial research identified several security issues in the software. These included an insecure HTTP connection, incorrect account operations, and insufficient input validation.

When in use, the prosthetic hand transmits data to the cloud system. Due to these security gaps, an attacker could:

  • Gain access to information held in the cloud about all connected accounts, including logins and passwords in plaintext for all the prosthetic devices and their administrators
  • Manipulate, add, or delete such information
  • Add or delete their own users, including users with administrator rights

Vladimir Dashchenko, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab ICS CERT, said: “Motorica is a high-technology, trusted and socially responsible company, focused on addressing the challenges faced by people with physical impairment. As the company prepares for growth, we wanted to help it ensure the right security measures were in place. The results of our analysis are a good reminder that security needs to be built-in to new technologies from the very start. We hope that other developers of advanced connected devices will want to collaborate with the security industry to understand and address device and system security issues and treat the security of devices as an integral and essential part of development.”

“New technologies are bringing us to a new world in terms of bionic assisting devices,” said Ilya Chekh, CEO at Motorica. “It is now of crucial importance for the developers of such technologies to collaborate with cybersecurity solution vendors. That will allow us to make even theoretical cases of attacks on the human body impossible.”

For manufacturers of bionic devices and other smart technologies, Kaspersky Lab recommends the following security measures:

  • Review threat models and vulnerability classifications for relevant web-based and IoT technologies, provided by industry experts, such as OWASP IoT Project.
  • Introduce secure software development practices based on a proper lifecycle. To evaluate existing software security practices, use a systematic approach like OWASP OpenSAMM.
  • Establish a procedure for obtaining information on relevant threats and vulnerabilities to ensure proper and timely response to any incidents.- Regularly update operating systems, application and device software, and security solutions.
  • Implement cybersecurity solutions designed to analyze network traffic, detect and prevent network attacks – at the boundary of the enterprise network and at the boundary of the OT network.
  • Use a security solution with machine learning anomaly detection (MLAD) technology to reveal deviations in IoT device behaviour — for early detection of attack, failure or damage of the device.

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COVID-19 AppDate special: apps to beat lockdown

It is a struggle for many to get through the current lockdown. SEAN BACHER rounds up news sites and apps that will help keep up and keep sane,

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CoronaVirus.Datafree website

Realising that not everyone is able to get to a store to buy airtime or data, the South African National Health Department has opened a site that allows citizens to keep up to date with the latest on COVID-19 without the need for any data or airtime.

Users simply need to type in coronavirus.datafree.co into their address bar, or click on the link.

They will then be presented with an easy to use, uncluttered webpage showing information about the virus, the latest press releases, symptoms, preventative tips, government statements and the latest statistics, including tests conducted, positive cases and deaths.

I found this to be the most accurate site in terms of statistics, as they are updated as soon as new information is fed to them.

Platform: Any desktop or smartphone with an up-to-date Internet browser

Expect to pay: A free service

Stockists: Click on the following link: coronavirus.datafree.co 

Contact NDoH service

Similar to the CoronaVirus.Datafree website is the Contact NDoH WhatsApp service –  also set up by the South African National Health Department. However, this service works through WhatsApp.

To get started, users need to save the number 0600 123 456 to their contacts (they can name the contact whatever they want.) They then need to message Hi to that contact. A menu will be presented to them with keywords like Cases, News, Myths, Prevention and Symptoms. Once a keyword is typed in, a new menu follows, allowing users to find out exactly what they need.

The Contact NDoH service is available in English, isiZulu, Afrikaans, isiXhosa and Sesotho – making it much easier for more South Africans to understand.

Platform: Any smartphone using WhatsApp

Expect to pay: A free service but users will incur data charges.

Stockists: Save 0600 123 456  as a contact and WhatsApp the word hi to get going.

MTN GiGYMa

MTN is helping South African women to exercise while in lockdown. Available on MTN’s Youtube channel and on social media @MTNza, GiGYMA is a digital home-based workout series that is accessible from most smartphones, tablets or computers.

According to MTN, the GiGYMa series is designed to help the majority of South African women stay fit, hence the name, a play on “gijima”, which means “run” in IsiZulu. The company also selected a South African ambassador who is not a fitness instructor in her own right, but who is passionate about exercising and wants to share tips that are helping her continue to live healthily during this time.

MTN GiGYMa features Ncumisa Pongoma in a series of videos, showcasing how everyday household items can help you get into shape and keep up with your fitness goals at home.

Platform: Most smartphones and computers with up-to-date Internet browsers

Expect to pay: Free to watch

Stockists: Each of the MTN GiGYMa work-out videos is accessible through MTN’s Youtube channel and shared across MTN’s Facebook,Twitter and Instagram pages.

Showmax spreads the news

Showmax has added seven news channels for people to tune into during lockdown. They include BBC World News, SABC News, Sky News, CNN, Newzroom Afrika, Al Jazeera and Euronews.

User in South Africa can access these channels through the Internet using browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge. They can also access them through Samsung (2017 and later) and LG (2014 and later) smart TVs. 

Android and iOS devices will soon be able to access the channels.

Platform: Computers with up-to-date browsers with mobile devices being able to connect in the next few days.

Expect to pay: All that is needed is a valid Showmax account

Stockists: Visit the Showmax site here for more information.

Houseparty

Houseparty is the face-to-face social networking app. In addition to being able to have group chats in real time, it allows you to play games with each other, challenge each other in general knowledge, movie, music and a variety of other categories. One can also have drawing competitions much like Pictionary.

Overall it is a fun app, it is well laid out, and should offer endless hours of fun. And, should you get bored with the games, you can just video chat to each other with little to no lag.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit Houseparty here for installation instructions.

Forgood volunteering platform

Online social platform forgood.co.za, which connects people for good causes around the country, is encouraging South Africans to spend their lockdown period making a difference through virtual volunteering. From designing a home workout routine for kids, to helping a substance abuse prevention programme with financial management, virtual volunteering is a way for South Africans to create impact, without leaving their homes.

Virtual or remote volunteering involves volunteering from where you are, taking on digital tasks like social media support, marketing, writing, training, design, data capturing, providing legal advice and more. The forgood platform acts as a central point, connecting the skills and talents of individuals and businesses with non-profit, social impact organisations in need of those specific skills. The platform also offers a safe way to donate money to verified non-profit organisations.

Forgood has launched a dedicated #Coronavirus campaign, which aims to highlight all the relevant needs that are posted daily by the 400 plus non-profit organisations signed up on the platform.

The following options are available via their online platform:

  1. Volunteering your time or skills virtually – all one needs is the internet. If you can’t find something you’re passionate about, create a personalised offer and forgood will match it to a cause in need of your skills.
  2. Donate money – as a result of the lockdown, charities and non-profits who usually rely on donations are struggling to secure essentials, including food and hygiene products.. Donations from R50 are accepted. 

Platform: Most computers or smartphones with an up-to-date Internet browser.

Expect to pay: Just your time and expertise.

Stockists: Visit the for good website here for more information.

Zoom

In case you’ve been living in communications lockdown, Zoom has become the go-to tool of social distancing.The app and website lets you connect to colleagues or friends wherever they are. There are hundreds of similar apps, but Zoom offers a few features other don’t. It can connect up to 100 people in one meeting, and one can set participants to join as view-only attendees.

To join a group, one needs to sign up, find the group and hit the connect option. One is then presented with an easy-to-use display that allows have private chats, shared screens and strategising before presenting to the entire group.

In addition to great voice quality, Zoom offers superb video quality with very little connection disruptions and is  able to connect over 4G/LTE and 3G networks.

Platform: Windows, Mac, iOS and Android

Expect to pay: The free version allows up to 100 participants per group but the meetings are limited to 40 minutes.

The Pro version costs R266 per month with a 24 hour cap on meetings of 100 participants. It also offers 1GB of cloud storage.

The Business package retails for R337 per month and offers all that the Pro version does plus the ability to add up to 300 participants to a meeting and unlimited cloud storage.

Stockists: Visit Zoom here to get more information

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How panic-buying disrupts traditional supply chains

Panic buying has become commonplace during the COVID-19 crisis. PAULO DE MATOS, chief product officer at SYSPRO, outlines how good technology and ingenuity is panic-proof.

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Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the world cannot afford for manufacturing and distribution to grind to a halt. From food on our shelves, to medical necessities, these sectors are at the heart of our economy and must keep going at all costs. Although the global supply chain is usually a well-oiled machine consisting of a system of organizations, people, processes, information and resources, disruption of this well-oiled machine has become the new reality. According to a new survey released by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), 75% of companies worldwide have reported supply chain disruptions as a result of COVID-19.  Added to that is the increasingly unpredictable demand caused by panic buying and consumer stockpiling.  

Reinventing the supply chain to face the challenges of today 

In response to the pandemic, manufacturers and distributors have had to pivot in a new direction, to turn the supply chain challenge into a competitive advantage through ingenuity.  

The US recently invoked the Defense Production Act to allow American manufacturers to suspend their normal production schedules and begin manufacturing materials such as ventilators, which are needed in this time of crisis. The Act, which was originally passed in 1950, was a war mobilization effort. It allowed the government to direct efforts of manufacturers to focus production on the much-needed necessities in times of need, from medical supplies through to necessary disinfection products.  

Australia has applied a similar approach through the implementation of ‘wartime’ manufacturing. Due to a shortage of necessities like ventilators and hand sanitizers, the Australian government is offering financial packages that incentivize factories to manufacture critical supplies. For example, one of Australia’s biggest packaging companies, Pact Group, is converting production lines at three of its Sydney plants as it starts making hand sanitizer for the first time, instead of industrial cleaners.  

Within Canada and South Africa, distilleries have also committed to supplying alcohol, a key ingredient in hand sanitizer.  

Using technology to ensure long-term resilience 

Until recently, China has consistently supplied global manufacturers with the bulk of their required components, raw materials and or processed materials. Presently, 6 in 10 (62%) of the respondents of the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) survey have reported that they have experienced increasing delays in receiving orders from China. This is of course just the tip of the iceberg, with the pandemic now impacting almost every country in the world; delays are going to begin affecting deliveries from every country, and the lateness of the delivery is expected to increase.  With the increasing shortages of parts, global manufacturers are now scrambling to identify alternative suppliers and supply chains to make up for the missed deliveries. 

Technology systems, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, can certainly improve the situation by giving manufacturers improved visibility of the reliable local suppliers and their supply chains. Through ERP integration, representatives from different supplier companies can interact on a single platform, improving the flow and availability of information and improving the reliability of delivery. For example, the SYSPRO Supply Chain Portal was originally launched with a Request for Quote capability, which enabled the formal invitation of suppliers to tender for the supply of goods and services. Not only can manufacturers identify local suppliers who can meet their orders in a time of scarcity, but manufacturers themselves could easily find alternative suppliers.  

ERP also has the added advantage of reducing document handling and other manual activities and facilitates cross functional collaboration by enabling an online process for engaging with customers and suppliers. What’s more, planned receiving and manufacturing process steps can be amended temporarily in your ERP system to include additional Quality Assurance.  For example, the wiping down of surfaces and spraying of goods with appropriate chemical or detergent cleansers and adding waiting times before issue or delivery. 

In times of unforeseen scarcity, as the world is currently experiencing with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that the supply chain is kept open and full.  The challenge that the company faces is to identify the cheapest and easiest way to accomplish this, using their own unique combination of technology and ingenuity.  If there is surplus stock in the supply chain, the surplus could easily be sold onto neighbouring organizations – after all, the function of a manufacturing organization is to fulfil whatever is identified as a shortage in the economy. 

Managing disruption in the long-term 

The World Economic Forum has suggested that moving forward after this pandemic, there will be a “new normal”, a need to manage disruption by developing predictive models for proactive scheduling, and dynamic planning of supply with careful consideration of the uncertainties and risks. This change will most likely usher in the next level of digital transformation, based on the collection and analysis of data from various disparate applications.  

Ultimately, having the right combination of technology and dynamic ingenuity will allow manufacturers to weather the storm and navigate the unknown, bringing with it the success of discovering “the new world.” 

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