I’m often asked – by non-crypto-loving people, obviously – what blockchain actually does. Or whether it does anything at all. Or why the man in the street should even care.
Right now, we live in a world of fake news and deep fakes. Information spreads virally, and nobody challenges it. People resurrect 10-year-old images of one incident, and give it a new label – and other people react without bothering to check. The image itself isn’t fake, but the reporting and story around it is.
Deep fakes are particularly terrifying. With today’s technology, if you have eight half-decent pictures of a person, you can create a realistic video of that person saying whatever you want them to. Adobe has showed off software that lets users edit recordings of speech as easily as you edit a picture. It’s never been easier to put words in somebody’s mouth, in their own voice. And nobody would ever know the difference. Or bother to check.
The bottom line? We can’t trust everything we see and hear online. We certainly should not be trusting ‘news’ on social media.
Which brings me back to my opening question: why should you care about blockchain? Here’s the thing. There are two big concepts in blockchain that most people don’t think much about: tamper resistance and censorship resistance. Why does this matter? For a start, when you put a piece of data into a public blockchain, that information cannot be changed, because you hold the private key to that information. Or if you want to do a transaction, or share a piece of information, nobody can say ‘we don’t like this and will prevent it from being sent’.
That’s extremely powerful. But using the tamper-resistant properties of blockchain, people are able to say: here is my statement, or information. Blockchain validates the date, content and context – and nobody except me can change it. In a world where fakes are the new norm, tamper-resistance is invaluable.
What about censorship-resistance, you say? If you have never had your freedom curtailed, you probably don’t care about censor-resistance. But maybe you’ve tried to pay someone on PayPal, and your transaction has been blocked because some filter triggered a flag. You’ve done nothing wrong, but suddenly you’re unable to transact, or receive or spend your money without having to prove who you are and what you’re doing. That’s the value of censorship-resistant systems. They allow you to say what you want, and do what you want with your own money without being dictated to.
One final thing: there’s no such thing as tamper- or censorship-proof. It’s like driving around in a military tank: it’s not 100% bulletproof, because if you fire at one weak spot for long enough, something will give. Eventually. But it’s extremely bullet-resistant – in the same way the blockchain is tamper- and censorship-resistant. I, for one, would certainly rather be taking my chances in a blockchain than outside one.
Samsung enters 2020 with six new smartphones
With six new devices, Samsung has started 2020 on the right foot and in the right direction with strong devices at attractive price points, writes BRYAN TURNER.
In Johannesburg this week, Samsung unveiled six new devices, five of which aim to simplify the various Samsung Galaxy lineups.
The most notable new handset, the Galaxy Note10 Lite, has arrived in South Africa – and in record time. The device was unveiled at CES 2020 in Las Vegas only two weeks ago, and is expected to launch in South Africa in the next two weeks.
The Note10 Lite shaves off a few arguably non-essential features from the Note10 to make Note features accessible to more South Africans. These features include wireless charging, waterproofing and a curved screen. Other than that, the Note10 Lite still features the iconic S-Pen, including all the cool features of the new S-Pen. Of course, the Lite comes in at around R7000 less than its more feature-rich sibling, which is a huge price drop considering the three non-vital features it sacrificed.
For a full specs list of the features of the Note10 Lite, please read our launch coverage from CES 2020.
“We have to be able to support the customers with better memory and better battery,” says Justin Hume, director of integrated mobility at Samsung South Africa. “128GB storage becomes fairly standardised across the range. From a battery perspective, we now see 5000 milliamp batteries making an appearance on A21 and A31 product. So you can see the customer is truly getting great value for their money there. But as we focus on those products, we are also introducing a brand new product into the range, which is the Note 10 Lite and we are making the S-Pen more accessible to everyday South Africans.”
Samsung’s extensive lineups, the Galaxy S, A, J, and Z lines, were understandable because they were all set at their own price points. For a while, it made sense that the Galaxy S range were the flagships, the Galaxy A range was the high-mid range devices, the Galaxy J devices were mid-range, and the Galaxy Z devices were entry-level.
Until they weren’t. When Galaxy Z devices from 2017 started being better than Galaxy A devices from 2018, it became apparent that technology was moving forward way too quickly to have so many lines. Consumers also became confused because the Galaxy A devices were supposed to hold a level of status that was shared with the Galaxy Z range just a year later.
Last year, Samsung reduced its device line to Galaxy S for its flagships and Galaxy A for everything else. It now launches devices under the A prefix with a numbered suffix indicating the level of its specifications. The new lineup started taking shape with the Galaxy devices last year with the Galaxy A50 and Galaxy A70, and consolidated the Z and J devices to the Galaxy A10, A20, and A30.
This year, Samsung has announced the Galaxy A11, A21, A31, A51 and A71, which provide a clear indication of which devices they will be succeeding. The devices will be released throughout 2020, staggered over the next few months until July.
The Galaxy A11 will feature a large 6.4-inch screen with an Infinity-O display, which is a punch hole for the front camera. On this device, the punch hole will be on the corner of the screen, instead of in the middle as with the Note10 handsets.
For an entry-level device, it’s surprising to see a triple camera array with a 13MP main sensor, an 8MP ultrawide lens, and a 2MP depth-sensing camera for portrait mode pictures. It will also support 15W fast-charging and features a 4000mAh battery. It will start at R2999 for the 32GB version and will be available in July 2020.
The Galaxy A21 shows off a slightly larger 6.5-inch screen and a triple rear camera system as well, but ups the ante with a 48MP main rear sensor. The battery will also be a whopping 5000mAh, with 15W fast charging as well. It will start at R3499 for the 32GB version and will be available in June 2020.
The Galaxy A31 will go back to 2019 roots with its display featuring an Infinity-U display, which is a tear-drop notch in the middle for the front camera. What users will get from the display is an in-screen fingerprint sensor, which can unlock the phone by reading one’s fingerprint through the display.
It will pack another camera in the array. It will feature the familiar 48MP and 8MP ultrawide lenses, with an upgraded 5MP depth sensor and a 5MP macro lens for taking sharper close-up shots. It will also feature the massive 5000mAh battery as in the A21, with 15W fast charging support. It will start at R5499 for the 128GB version and will be available in May 2020.
The Galaxy A51, which we will be providing a review of soon, gets closer to the flagships with some impressive features, like the quad-camera array in the A31, as well as a wide-angle 32MP selfie camera. It features an Infinity-O display, with a punch hole in the centre like the Note10. It also houses Samsung’s Exynos 9611 CPU, which is suitable for playing graphically intensive games. It starts at R6999 for the 128GB version and is available now.
The Galaxy A71, which is right below the Galaxy S10 in the line of devices, features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730, which also translates to having a better graphics processor and a better gaming experience. It will feature a similar quad-camera array with a 64MP main sensor. It starts at R8999 for the 128GB version and will be available from February.
Samsung has shown off its strong competitive by revealing so many products at the beginning of the year. This will be an interesting year in the mid-range handset space, now that Samsung is pulling out the stops to put so much value into its mid-range devices.
Security issues grow with transition to smart TVs
You can’t picture a modern home without smart equipment. Smart thermostats, smart refrigerators, robot vacuums, and smart TVs won’t surprise anyone these days. For example, around 70% of the TVs being sold worldwide are smart TVs. Although they bring more entertainment, these devices also carry new digital threats.
Sometimes people forget that smart TVs are as vulnerable to cybercrime as their smartphones and computers. Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN, says that “although smart TVs are connected to the internet and have similar functions to computers, they aren’t equipped with the same security tools, which makes them easy prey for hackers.”
What’s so scary about your TV getting hacked? As smart TVs gain more features, the amount of your private information they handle increases too. TVs aren’t just for watching movies and shows anymore. Now you can use them for web browsing, streaming video content, gaming, and even shopping online.
To enjoy your smart TV to the fullest, you need to download various apps and games. These cost money, so you need your credit card details filled in. Putting your financial information, logins, and passwords on your TV makes it an appealing target for hacking.
According to Daniel Markuson, a smart TV can be used to spy on its users. Hackers can access its camera and microphone through malware, which they can slip into your TV when it is connected to Wi-Fi. They can use footage from your bedroom or living room to blackmail you and your family. By watching your home and listening to your conversations, hackers know what goods you have, where you keep them when you’re away, and what your plans are.
If you use your smart TV for web browsing, you can infect it with various viruses too, says the digital privacy expert at NordVPN. Like computers, smart TVs run on software, but they don’t have the same strong antivirus and firewall systems installed. Once your TV gets infected, your browsing history, passwords, and other private data become accessible to hackers. And they won’t miss the opportunity to use this information in ransomware attacks.
Even though smart TVs are vulnerable to cyber threats, Daniel Markuson says there is no need to panic yet. The expert names a few simple principles every smart TV owner should follow to protect their device.
Always update your TV’s software whenever a new version becomes available. The expert says that software updates are crucial for cybersecurity as manufacturers do their best to patch vulnerabilities. Updates often repair security flaws, fix or remove various bugs, add new features, and improve the existing ones. Some TVs install updates automatically by default. With others, you may need to check for updates periodically to make sure your device runs on the latest version.
Use available security measures such as a VPN. The best practice for any internet-connected device is to install a firewall and use a VPN such as NordVPN. It secures your device and lets you enjoy fast internet access with encryption-powered privacy.
Connect your smart TV to the internet only when needed. It isn’t necessary to have your TV connected to Wi-Fi all the time. To make it less vulnerable to hacker attacks, turn on the Wi-Fi connection only when you are using it.
Download apps from official stores only. Do not install any programs and games from unofficial sources on your smart TV. Make sure that both the app and its provider are reliable. Moreover, if an application asks for access to your data, camera, or microphone that isn’t necessary for its operation, never accept it.
Be careful with personal files and financial data. Shopping online on a big smart TV screen might be fun, but be careful providing your credit card details and other sensitive information this way. Although some manufacturers equip their TV sets with security features, they cannot guarantee safety online. “People who synchronize their smart TVs with their computers to access compatible media content should be especially cautious,” warns Daniel Markuson. The connection between your smart TV and your computer can be a weak link and lead to a data breach.
Use strong Wi-Fi passwords. This practice is the most obvious and the easiest to follow. Create a strong password to protect your Wi-Fi connection at home and don’t share it with any outsiders.
Turn off your TV camera when not in use. Whether it’s a built-in camera or the one connected to a TV via Wi-Fi, turn it off when not using it. If you can’t turn off your camera, use a piece of tape or a sticker over the camera lens to cover it.