GulfNews Technology

GulfNews Technology

Online security in UAE: Beware, cybercriminal are on the prowl

Cyberattacks are still the number 1 threat to Middle East’s businesses. With a rising number of employees switching to hybrid working models, IT infrastructure and data centers of a large number of companies are at risk of being breached by cyber criminals. Email and social media users also need to watch out for phishing attempts that could lead to information theft. According to a recent survey by Proofpoint and Etisalat’s Help AG, 15 per cent of organizations in UAE suffered a phishing attack in 2019, with an additional 15 per cent suffering a business email compromise attack. In the meantime, only around 69 per cent of the Forbes ‘Top 100 Middle East Companies’ have a Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) record in place. In other words, 31 per cent of them are leaving customers at risk of email fraud. What is a cyberattack? It is an assault launched by cybercriminals using computers against a single or multiple computers or networks. With more than 3 billion people worldwide on the internet, cyberattacks have become the weapon of choice for many malicious actors who are actively looking to participate in illegal activities such as cyber theft, compromising networks and even sabotaging vital national infrastructure of countries. What is DMARC? DMARC, an email protocol, is being adopted globally as the 'passport control' of the email security world. It verifies that the purported domain of the sender has not been impersonated. The system is designed to protect employees, customers, and partners from cybercriminals looking to impersonate a trusted domain. Some industries in the region have led the charge in terms of DMARC adoption, according to the Help AG report. Almost all logistics firms and 80 per cent of banking and financial services providers have published a DMARC record. However, some other industries are clearly lagging behind - only 50 per cent of real estate and construction firms and only 20 per cent of companies from the retail sector have started their DMARC records. What is phishing? It is a kind of cybercrime where a target is contacted by email, telephone or text message by someone posing as a legitimate institution to lure the individual into giving sensitive data such as banking and credit card details and passwords. How serious are email phishing attacks? Email phishing attacks can be extremely serious due to their sheer volume and the consequences they carry for individuals and businesses. On an individual level, a successful phishing attack could enable a hacker to steal credit card information and make purchases using an individual’s credentials. For employees using a corporate email, a phishing attack could cause the theft of information such as username and password credentials, and in other instances, this could serve as the mode of entry of the attackers into the entire organization’s infrastructure. “The disruption that can be incurred due to an email phishing attack can trigger data breaches and result in legal fines; costing businesses millions of dollars, not to mention the resulting reputational damage and the possible theft of intellectual property,” said Nicolai Solling, Chief Technology Officer, Help AG. Considering the fact that people often use the same password across multiple applications, credential theft often tends to set off a chain reaction of breaches. This risk has only increased significantly with distributed workforces becoming the new norm. The Dubai Future Foundation has reported that phishing emails have surged over 600 per cent since February 2020. How can client emails be compromised? According to Help AG, client emails can be compromised if the clients’ partners do not have measures in place to prevent domain spoofing. Without implementing tools like Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) records, a company runs the risk of cybercriminals impersonating it in emails to get clients to make a wire transfer, give sensitive information, or open malicious links and files. Another issue facing client emails is Email Account Compromise. In this type of attack, a hacker obtains access to a trusted email domain and sends fraudulent emails to clients through that domain. This can be difficult to prevent, as the email domain used is legitimate and will not be filtered. “However, even with all the best security measures in place, network security is only as good as its weakest link which, in most cases, is the end user,” said Help AG’s Solling. “Social engineering tactics have proven to be the most effective way to obtain an employee’s sensitive data to hack into company networks, whether by posing as a legitimate actor or a fellow employee,” he added. Phishing campaigns have also become increasingly sophisticated and harder to spot, imitating social media platforms or financial service providers with surprising accuracy to trick users into entering personal data. These issues can only be addressed by comprehensive training programmes to raise awareness and educate end users about the potential risks. What are the threats faced through personal emails? Cybercriminals can design phishing emails that look like they were sent from the platform. For example, an individual could receive an email that appears to be from a legitimate company that prompts them to click through to a fake login screen. If you enter your credentials, your account and all the data associated with it could be compromised. The personal information shared on social media – about one’s whereabouts, interests, personal relationships, etc. – can be used as ammunition by cybercriminals to personalize their phishing emails and manipulate users into clicking. What are some of the preventive measures that corporate clients can take? According to Help AG, corporate clients should follow security best practices, such as checking the email address of the sender, never entering sensitive data unless they are sure the email is legitimate, never clicking links or downloading attachments from unknown senders, installing and constantly updating security software on their devices, enabling multi-factor authentication on their accounts, and installing a phishing filter. Individuals should also keep their personal and corporate emails and devices separate. Organizations need to seriously rethink their cybersecurity in terms of securing the distributed workforce and ensure that productivity or convenience does not compromise security. How UAE’s large oil, gas and infrastructure companies are secured Large oil, gas and infrastructure companies in the UAE have recognized that they are prime targets for cyber-attacks and have taken cybersecurity more seriously. “However, the question is whether or not they are responding quickly or robustly enough to keep up with rapid digitization and automation trends, and the growth in scale and sophistication of bad actors,” said Solling. In the industry as a whole, large organizations are increasingly integrating infrastructure such as SCADA (Supervisory control and data acquisition) with IT networks to automate systems and manage plant operations based on data provided in real time, thereby boosting efficiency and profitability. Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal, Assistant Product Manager What is SCADA? It is a system that seeks to monitor and control field devices at remote sites. SCADA systems are critical as it helps maintain efficiency by collecting and processing real-time data. Increased risk With the modernization and automation of oil and gas infrastructure comes increased vulnerability, as the OT systems (operational technology) running them are becoming increasingly interconnected with IT systems and the internet, often including Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices in remote locations, such as sensors attached to pipelines and water mains. What is OT? Operational Technology (OT) is hardware and software that detects or causes a change through the direct monitoring and/or control of physical devices, processes and events in an enterprise. According to a report by Fortinet, 9 in 10 organizations experienced at least one OT system intrusion in 2020, while 65 per cent of them had 3 or more intrusions. The same report also saw a drastic increase in hacking activity over 2019, all of which points to a worrying trend in OT cybersecurity as a whole. If successful, attacks on companies in these industries could potentially shut down or disrupt production, and in the worst cases, put the physical safety of employees at risk, or cause significant economic damage. What are some of the biggest cyber threats to UAE’s firms? Ransomware, Distributed Denial of Services (DDoS), and carding attacks are among the biggest threats facing organizations in the UAE and the region, according to Help AG. In particular, ransomware attacks are increasing in sophistication and, according to Cybersecurity Ventures, could cost the global economy up to $20 billion in 2021. “Our own research has revealed that the region has been witnessing a tremendous growth in DDoS attacks in frequency, volume, new attack vectors and multifaceted tactics,” said Solling. “In Q3 2020, we captured many DDoS attack types among which we detected 24,386 high-volume Total Traffic attacks; attacks based on total traffic volume exceeding the defined threshold” What is a DDoS attack? Distributed denial of service attack is when an attacker tries to make it impossible for a service to be carried out. This is done by stopping access to servers, devices, services, and even transactions within some applications. What is ransomware? This is a type of malware that prevents users from accessing their system or personal files and demands ransom payment in order to regain access. The earliest variants of ransomware were developed in the late 1980s, and payment was to be sent via ordinary post. Today, ransomware authors order that payment be sent via cryptocurrency or credit card. What is carding? Help AG has seen a significant increase (500%) in carding; the illegal usage of a credit or debit card by unauthorized individuals to buy a product. “This growth in cyberthreats is expected to increase as people worldwide continue working remotely, relying on VPNs, and using unsecure networks and devices,” said Solling.

GulfNews Technology

Video: Elon Musk's Neuralink shows monkey with brain-chip playing videogame by thinking

Technology|Americas|: Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's brain-chip startup released footage on Friday appearing to show a monkey playing a simple videogame after getting implants of the new technology. The 3-minute video by Neuralink shows Pager, a male macaque with chips embedded on each side of its brain, playing 'Mind Pong'. Although he was trained to move a joystick, it is now unplugged. He controls the paddle simply by thinking about moving his hand up or down. "First @Neuralink product will enable someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs," Musk tweeted on Thursday. "Later versions will be able to shunt signals from Neuralinks in brain to Neuralinks in body motor/sensory neuron clusters, thus enabling, for example, paraplegics to walk again. The device is implanted flush with skull & charges wirelessly, so you look & feel totally normal." Neuralink works by recording and decoding electrical signals from the brain using more than 2,000 electrodes implanted in regions of the monkey's motor cortex that coordinate hand and arm movements, the video's voiceover said. "Using these data, we calibrate the decoder by mathematically modeling the relationship between patterns of neural activity and the different joystick movements they produce." Co-founded by Musk in 2016, San Francisco-based Neuralink aims to implant wireless brain computer chips to help cure neurological conditions like Alzheimer's, dementia and spinal cord injuries and fuse humankind with artificial intelligence. Musk has a history of bringing together diverse experts to develop technology previously limited to academic labs, including for rockets and electrical vehicles, through companies such as Tesla Inc and SpaceX.

GulfNews Technology

F&B industry should acquire a taste for digital - and not just on taking orders

Analysis|Technology|: Despite being one of the oldest, the F&B industry didn’t changed much according to the times. A clear indication is the number of online marketplaces serving the F&B industry being extremely low. The number becomes even more segmented when it comes to the B2B food and beverage industry. For years, ecommerce was considered to be a B2C game, a channel best suited for consumer brands. However, with digital transformation, traditional F&B is reshaping operations by taking technology into consideration. B2B ecommerce is now challenging the authority of traditional sales channels, with estimates of it reaching $1.8 trillion by 2023, accounting for 17 per cent of all B2B sales in the US. According to research by Gartner, 57 per cent of organizations cite “delivering the desired customer experience” as a critical challenge faced in B2B endeavors. B2B buyers have been trained to expect seamless, high-quality online purchasing experiences. It is worth mentioning that the millennial generation is taking over the executive-level realms at companies, and hence brands looking to do business with them need to understand and be present on the platforms their potential customer wants to interact on. An estimated 42 per cent of millennials use real-time messaging and social media while at work. This means that, as B2B buyers, they favor omnichannel communication for instantly gratifying information, giving them everything they need in the most streamlined manner possible. Gartner research also indicates that 80 per cent of buyers now use digital information at each stage of the purchasing process, and 61 per cent and 33 per cent consult a supplier website or want to complete their B2B purchase online without a sales representative. As a result, B2B suppliers have witnessed, instead of picking up the phone to call a vendor for pricing or engaging directly with sales reps, B2B buyers are demanding the option to self-serve online i.e., to research, find, buy, and manage their purchases through a single web-based platform. Introducing technological changes, especially in F&B sector, can not only help with reducing costs and a competitive advantage, but also prevent organizations from incurring huge losses. Igor Nikolenko, CEO of SupplyMe, suggests big data and AI to optimize operations and empower these organizations to solve real business problems. Some of the elements where technology can be efficiently used include: Read More Consultancies should stop prioritising fees in a post-COVID-19 world Fintech needs more space to develop in GCC - and it will be worth the time and effort Inventory management The HoReCa (hotel-restaurant-café) sector has been one of the fastest-growing verticals. With social distancing and contactless communication becoming the new norm, the sector now heavily relies on digital power to carry out its operations. Vendor evaluation, spend analytics and demand forecasting are some of the most popular benefits of data analytics in the F&B sector. Consensus demand planning Traditional product forecasting is based on statistical time-series techniques that create forecasts using sales history. With fast changing customer behavior, the past is rarely a great predictor of the future. In this scenario, demand sensing capabilities and demand planning capabilities can help F&B companies respond to micro-market changes, to improve fill rates and reduce distressed product. Typical demand sensing inputs that can be used to improve forecasts include daily sales order history, daily point of sale (POS), syndicated data, market intelligence, social media, location square footage, foot traffic and even weather. Wholesalers can optimize their supply chain and align their deals with their accordingly. This helps to minimize costs through optimization of warehouse turnover, which leads to minimization of frozen capital and, eventually, applying a lean approach. Supply chain management The F&B supply chains tend to be inventory-rich with average days of inventory still hovering in the high 30 days of coverage. It takes on unique challenges, starting with intake of raw ingredients to making sure the right amount of product gets to the right place, under increasing food safety and quality scrutiny. The optimal flow of F&B goods to consumers is vital for brand protection. Fortunately, the promise of granular product journey tracking and temperature monitoring from origin through all the nodes and custody hand-offs in the supply chain is within reach. During the last year, we have witnessed rapid increase in direct-to-customer deliveries, with 40 per cent of essential items now being bought online. RFID tags applied to food supply chains can provide full visibility and traceability along the whole chain and trace perishable food packages from their production source to disposal point. The technology has proven its ability to transmit information with high speed and accuracy, and in great capacity. Igor Nikolenko The writer is CEO of SupplyMe.

GulfNews Technology

Asus ZenBook 13 OLED checks the right boxes for demanding on-the-go lifestyles

Technology|: The new Asus ZenBook 13 OLED brings you visuals like you have never experienced before. It is both portable and incredibly compact yet offers a robust set of connectivity options. Built for powerful performance and true-to-life visuals, it is the perfect choice for users constantly on-the-go. Stylish and durable Both the chassis and lid of the ZenBook 13 OLED is made of diamond-cut aluminum alloy. Just like all Asus ZenBooks, it has the unique concentric-circle finish which makes for a soothing and sophisticated appearance. With a side profile of 13.9mm and a 1.14kg weight, you get both a thin and lightweight design that is easy to carry with you. To ensure the laptop withstands the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, the ZenBook 13 OLED also meets the MIL-STD-810 U.S military standard for reliability and durability. The rigorous stress tests that Asus has performance on top far exceed the standards set by the industry so you can use your laptop with peace of mind. Image Credit: Reach by GN OLED NanoEdge HDR Display You find up to a 13.3-inch OLED HDR display on the ZenBook 13 OLED which supports a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution and a 0.2ms response time. The display comes with 100 per-cent DCI-P3 coverage and is PANTONE Validated to provide the most precise color accuracy. To ensure color accuracy across a wide range of brightness levels, Asus panels are calibrated to accurately reproduce colors in a 3D color volume regardless of brightness level. For HDR content and creative professionals, this is a big deal. On top of this, the ZenBook 13 OLED features a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio with support for up to a 400nit brightness. Combining this contrast with the panel’s accurate color reproduction, content looks crisp and vibrant. Yet, with Asus’ attention to detail to eye-care, the display reduces potentially harmful blue light emissions up to 70 per-cent less than a typical LCD panel certified by TUV Rheinland. Ultimate typing experience Image Credit: Reach by GN Complimenting the 4-sided NanoEdge display and the laptop’s ErgoLift design is the ZenBook 13 OLED’s keyboard. This automatically tilts when the lid is opened allowing for a comfortable typing experience and improved heat dissipation. The edge-to-edge design of the keyboard uses up the space available on the compact machine well. Each key has a subtle 0.15mm dish-shaped indentation with a 1.4mm key travel. Not only is there room for independent function keys but also extra dedicated hotkeys all helping you with core functions such as capturing your screen or turning on the keyboard backlight. For its glass trackpad, the ZenBook 13 OLED comes with the Asus NumberPad 2.0 support. This is an LED illuminated numeric keypad integrated in the touchpad to make up for the lack of a physical number pad. This gives you a productive way to enter numbers both for data entry and calculations. Powerful performance The ZenBook 13 OLED packs an 11th Gen Intel Core i7 processor with 16GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 1TB of PCIe 3.0 NVMe SSD storage. The processor supports Intel Iris Xe graphics which allow for better computing performance and enable FHD gameplay at up to 60fps. For people with creative workflows, the processor offers Intel Deep Learning Boost AI acceleration and AV1 media encoding and decoding. Alongside wireless connectivity staples such as WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0, the ZenBook 13 OLED sports a healthy selection of ports. There are two Thunderbolt 4 Type-C USB ports which support 40Gbps data bandwidth, the new USB 4.0 standard and up to 8K display output. Alongside these, you find an HDMI 2.0 port, a Type-A USB 3.2 Gen 1 port and a microSD card reader. For those wanting headphone jack support, Asus bundles a Type-C to 3.5mm dongle out of the box with Hi-Res Audio certification. Image Credit: Supplied As for power, there is a 67Wh battery on the ZenBook 13 OLED which offers up to 13 hours battery life. It supports Type-C USB Easy Charge, a feature which allows for charging with a wide range of standard Type-C USB chargers (5V-20V). You can also benefit from ultrafast charging with any PD (Power Delivery) certified charger including the 65W fast charging adapter included in the box. With this, you can go from 2 per-cent to 60 per-cent in just 49 minutes. Audio professionals will also be happy to see a Harman Kardon dual-speaker experience on the ZenBook 13 OLED. The audio is tuned by experts from the Asus Golden Ear team for speakers that offer loud volumes, rich depth and surround effects. Pricing and availability Asus ZenBook 13 OLED (UX325) will be available from 8th April 2021 in UAE from Virgin Megastore, Jumbo, Sharaf DG, Emax, ECity, Computronic, Gulf Micro, AL Ershad and Amazon starting from Dh3,799.

GulfNews Technology

Xiaomi storms into the premium flagship smartphone segment with the new Mi 11

Technology|: Yesterday, Xiaomi brought the Mi 11 premium smartphone to the UAE. The flagship smartphone brings a highly impressive array of features and high-end specifications to it’s line-up of devices. Capture the world in high-res The Xiaomi Mi 11 comes with the world’s highest resolution 108MP wide-angle camera sensor as its primary shooter, comparable to professional-grade DSLR or mirrorless cameras. Next up is a 13MP ultra-wide angle camera and a 5MP tele-macro lens which round out the rear camera setup, offering impressive landscape and detail shots. For you selfie lovers, a 20MP punch-hole front camera is present that minimizes bezels on the homescreen. The Mi 11 brings improved night mode capabilities on three of its cameras, namely the primary, ultra-wide, and front shooters. Other features include studio-level shooting control with its HDR10+ recording and new Pro Time-lapse mode. Image Credit: Supplied Content bingers rejoice The Mi 11 screen has received an A+ rating as well as a best display award from DisplayMate, the world’s leading professional display review institution. The phone’s premium 120Hz 6.81” AMOLED DotDisplay comes with Super Resolution technology, which upgrades low resolution videos to WQHD+ quality without the worry of increased data consumption. The display also comes with a 480Hz touch sampling rate, an in-screen fingerprint sensor to smoothly and swiftly unlock their device and a comfortable swiping experience and in-hand feel with its quad-curved smooth edges and rear glass finishing. The display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, which safeguards the phone against costly damage from falls and drops. With this amazing display and Harman Kardon dual speakers, content never looked so good! Image Credit: Supplied Power, power and more power The Xiaomi Mi 11 was this year’s first phone to feature the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, which completely redefines premium processing standards with its Adreno 660 GPU, 6th generation Qualcomm AI engine and X60 modem – blending AI technology with lightning fast 5G connectivity. The processor’s cutting-edge 5nm process technology allows the smartphone to support 2K/120fps/HDR gaming with an octa-core design, and ultra-large core Arm Cortex-X1 which ramps up performance dramatically. On the software front Xiaomi introduces MIUI 12.5 on the Mi 11. An intermediate update based on MIUI 12 with a strong focus on system optimizations, reducing CPU usage by up to 22%, power consumption by up to 15% , ensuring frictionless performance and graphics. Last but not least, the phone comes packing a 4600mAh battery and can charge with a cable at up to 55W. Most importantly, the compatible 55W charger comes in the box! Price and availability The powerful Xiaomi Mi 11 with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage will be available for Dh2,999 and available to purchase from Xiaomi’s official sales channels including Carrefour, Lulu, SDG, Jacky’s, Amazon, Noon, IR channels, Mi home from 8th April. Midnight Grey and Horizon Blue colors are available for UAE customers. The Xiaomi Mi 11 is currently on pre-order for Dh2999 with the Mi Watch Lite and Mi True Wireless Earphones 2s completely free. 

GulfNews Technology

Xiaomi brings the Mi 11, Mi 11 Lite and their 75” Mi Q1 TV to the UAE

Technology|: After the recent launch of their pocket-friendly affordable smartphones, Xiaomi today launched three new devices today. First were the Mi 11 flagship smartphone with it’s more affordable sibling the Mi 11 Lite and next was their 75” Mi Q1 premium QLED TV. Mi 11 – Flagship made affordable What's in the box? The Xiaomi Mi 11, a 33W wall charger, headphones and a 3.5mm dongle Image Credit: Supplied With the Mi 11 Xiaomi brings flagship features to the market at a relatively affordable price-tag (compared to the competition). The phone features the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888, supported by 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. On back, the phone comes with a 108MP main camera, supported by a 13MP ultra-wide lens and a 5MP macro-lens. For you selfie lovers, there’s a 20MP sensor on the front too. The display on the phone is a 120Hz 6.81” AMOLED DotDisplay with a 480Hz touch-sampling rate and an in-display fingerprint reader. Adding to the media consumption experience are the dual Harman Kardon stereo speakers on the phone. The Mi 11 comes with a 4600mAh battery and 55W wired charging (with the charger in the box) and supports 50W wireless charging. The Mi 11 with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage will be available for Dh2,999 and available to purchase from Xiaomi’s official sales channels including Carrefour, Lulu, SDG, Jacky’s, Amazon, Noon, IR channels, Mi home from 8th April. Midnight Grey and Horizon Blue colors are available for UAE customers. Mi 11 Lite - Ultra-slim and not far behind Image Credit: Supplied The Mi 11 Lite is the mid-range brother of the Mi 11 but comes packed with features too. Powering the phone is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 732G processor. The phone comes with a 4250mAh battery and 33W fast wired charging. The 6.55” AMOLED DotDisplay with 10-bit TrueColor support that produces a 1.07 billion colors, 64x more than its predecessor. Not just that, it comes with a 90Hz refresh rate and a 240Hz touch-sampling rate. Now the phone is a super slim 6.81mm thin and weighs just 157g. There’s a triple camera setup on the back whichh comes with a 64MP main camera, supported by and 8MP ultra-wide angle camera and a 5MP macro lens. The Mi 11 Lite comes in three variants. The Mi 11 with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage will be available for Dh999, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage will be available for Dh1099 and the one with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage will be available for Dh1199. UAE customers can purchase via above retail stores start from 8th April. All will be available for purchase via Xiaomi’s official sales channels including Carrefour, Lulu, SDG, Jacky’s, Amazon, Noon, IR channels, Mi home. Mi Q1 75” TV - Another segment, More affordability Image Credit: Supplied The Xiaomi MI Q1 75” TV is the brand’s most premium TV to date. The TV boasts an enormous 75’’ panel, quantum dot technology, the Android TV 10 system and an enhanced smart TV experience. Based on what was seen in the presentation, the TV has pretty slim bezels and has a metallic finish to it. The 75” has an edge-to-edge display with a 178° viewing angle. As fast as picture quality is concerned the TV accommodates 100% NTSC colour range, has 192 full array local dimming zones, is Dolby Vision and HDR10+ certified and could potentially be great for gamers with 120Hz refresh rate, HDMI 2.1 ports and Auto Low Latency mode. The Mi Q1 also produces cinematic sound from 30W stereo speaker system that utilise six speakers – two tweeter and four woofer – as well as Dolby AudioTM and DTS-HD. Last but not least, being an Android TV users get an immense array of apps and “OK Google” voice control. The Mi Q1 75” TV is priced at Dh5,799 and is exclusively available at Sharaf DG from 8th April.

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I never spoke to Elon Musk on buying Tesla: Tim Cook

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that he never spoke to Tesla CEO Elon Musk about buying his failed electric car business couple of years back. Musk in December last year tweeted that he offered Cook to sell his electric car company at one-tenth of its value during the struggling period in 2017 but the Apple CEO refused to meet him. In an interview with The New York Times on Monday, Cook said that talks never happened. "You know, I've never spoken to Elon, although I have great admiration and respect for the company he's built," Cook was quoted as saying. Musk had said that during the "darkest days" for Tesla Model 3, he wanted to sell the company off. "During the darkest days of the Model 3 programme, I reached out to Tim Cook to discuss the possibility of Apple acquiring Tesla (for 1/10 of our current value). He refused to take the meeting," Musk had said in a tweet. Musk's tweet came as reports resurfaced that Apple is planning to introduce its first electric, autonomous car in 2024. Musk had said during a media interview in 2018 that his electric car startup was close to death within "single-digit weeks". He said that the company nearly went bankrupt in 2008, the year he took over as CEO, and that at the time Tesla had "less than a 10 per cent likelihood to succeed." Tesla and Model 3, however, survived and the company went on to produce Model Y SUV and new vehicles like the Cybertruck. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Musk is now the second richest man on the planet after Amazon's Jeff Bezos. Tesla last week said it produced 180,338 vehicles and delivered nearly 185,000 vehicles in the first quarter of 2021. In the interview, Cook also offered some hints about augmented reality and the autonomous cars. "I'm already seeing AR take off in some of these areas with use of the phone. And I think the promise is even greater in the future," Cook said. "We love to integrate hardware, software, and services, and find the intersection points of those because we think that's where the magic occurs," Cook added.

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Fintech needs more space to develop in GCC - and it will be worth the time and effort

Banking|Analysis|Technology|: A majority of Third World countries suffer from credit constraints and long-term investment gaps. New financial technologies and digital services will help mitigate risks related to financial stability, cybersecurity and data protection, and merits consideration by policymakers. Fintech is driven by the rise of innovation by non-bank entities to promote a client-centric and interactive approach into financial and banking systems. It aims to deconstruct the walls that have surrounded the traditional financial system by providing faster service platforms that are more diverse and stable. Many fintech start-ups offer optimal services that combine speed and flexibility. COVID-19 was a wake up call to switch from traditionally deployed financial services to more sustainable finance and technology. Fintech also started to fill the financial inclusion gap by providing services to the unbanked, enabled by new business models. This includes mobile money and e-wallets, crowdfunding (P2P lending and equity crowdfunding platforms), alternative credit scoring, cross-border remittances and payment technologies. Make access to cash easier Agricultural, for example, face various issues, such as sustainability, limited distribution channels, lack of funding, or delays in delivery due to belated transactions. Fintech and the digital marketplace can be utilised to foster the sustainability of agriculture’s business process, improving the funding (e.g., crowdfunding) and distribution (e.g., digital payment system) channels. All involved stakeholders - farmers, landowners, investors, and consumers - can then be connected with a digital platform that promotes transparency, empowerment, resourcefulness, and public engagement. With digital finance, it’s vital to process the most relevant data and have easy access to it in a singular layer so that decisions are quicker, more dynamic and smarter. Time and again, fintech boosts financial inclusions by making payments more transparent and secure. Innovative credit-scoring methodologies are used by obtaining more relevant data, and customers play an active role in this process. Hence, transaction verification is faster and more efficient through digital identity solutions, leading to operations being made efficient through the adoption of cloud-computing technology. Dial down unpredictability According to studies that examine the impact of technology on the finance landscape, fintech is innovative but inherently unpredictable. Customers can still be slightly hesitant to adopt and use it, affecting its growth. Uncertainty is more critical in fintech than in traditional e-banking because its transactions are more complicated. Therefore, the challenge for policymakers will be to keep a level playing field that strikes the right balance between fostering innovation and preserving financial stability and consumer protection. Publicly, regulators’ role is to assess risks, issue rules, and perform the required examination and supervision for a healthy ecosystem. Most regulatory environments are not designed and updated for fintech technology. Another significant challenge is that fintech companies operate across borders and face restrictions on storing and transmitting data, especially with regulations designed to protect domestic incumbents. Connect regulatory dots Fintech companies are a good liaison between financial service providers and the relevant departments within regulatory entities, making processes a lot more efficient. They help run sandboxes and innovation hubs that result in the creation of new policies and programmes and spur more innovation in the sector. There is a dire need for upskilling and capacity building due to the rapid growth of technology-driven financial services and organisational culture that nurtures innovation among regulators. By building upon their technical skills, government can keep up with new fintech business models and modulate them accordingly. Overall, incentives and a policy framework have to be put into play to allow for increased innovation. Regulators should consider providing sandboxes without an extensive list of directives. With defined roles and responsibilities through a governance model, policymakers need to understand the market’s applicable risks and rank them to control and manage them. Additionally, effective reporting and communication in regard to risk management methodologies can be put in place for future betterment. Ammar Afif null The writer is founder of cashew, a fintech company that specialises in 'buy now pay later' solutions.

GulfNews Technology

LG announces it's exiting the smartphone business

Washington: South Korean multinational electronics company LG recently confirmed that it will be exiting the smartphone business. The company's existing phones will remain on sale, and it will continue to support its products "for a period of time which will vary by region." According to The Verge, LG said in a statement that this decision will "enable the company to focus resources in growth areas such as electric vehicle components, connected devices, smart homes, robotics, artificial intelligence and business-to-business solutions, as well as platforms and services." The company has yet not said anything about the possible layoffs due to this decision, except that "details related to employment will be determined at the local level." LG said that it expects to complete the smartphone business' closure by the end of July this year. Following the division's huge losses over the past five years, this move had been rumoured for several months now. Once considered a rival to fellow South Korean manufacturer Samsung, LG's recent high-end smartphones struggled to compete, while its more affordable handsets faced stiff competition from its Chinese rivals. LG had previously said it hoped to make its smartphone division profitable in 2021. This news of closure means that LG's long-teased rollable smartphone is unlikely to ever see the light of day. The last time LG showed off this device was at this year's virtual CES when the company insisted that the device was real and would be launching later this year. Reports that LG has been considering this move had been around since at least the beginning of 2021. Although a company spokesperson branded an earlier report about the company's potential exit from the smartphone business as "completely false and without merit," an LG official later confirmed that the company had to make "a cold judgment" about the division. At the time, the official had said that potential measures could include "sale, withdrawal, and downsizing of the smartphone business." Reports emerged in March that LG had tried to find a buyer for its smartphone business, but that talks had stalled and it could instead shut down the division. The company had ceased the development of its upcoming phones with rollable displays, and that it had shelved its planned smartphones for the first half of this year. As it lost share to rivals, LG released a series of eye-catching devices with unusual form factors. There was the LG Wing, whose main display rotated to reveal a smaller secondary screen beneath it, or its recent dual-screen devices. LG also tried its hand at a modular smartphone with the LG G5, only to abandon the initiative a year later. Unfortunately for LG, none of these features were useful enough to turn the phones into mainstream hits, and meanwhile the company's more traditional handsets fell behind their rivals in core areas like camera performance. As per The Verge, LG now joins a long list of high-profile device makers to give up on smartphones over the years. Though many of the brand names have stuck around on devices made by third-party manufacturers. Nokia's consumer-facing brand lives on atop handsets made by HMD, while Blackberry's branding was initially used by TCL and is set to return this year on a device made by OnwardMobility. There's also HTC, which still sells a few oddball handsets but sold most of its IP to Google in 2017.

GulfNews Technology

Smartphone camera can help doctors measure pulse, breathing rate

Technology|: Washington, April 4 (IANS) Researchers have developed a method that uses the camera on a person's smartphone or computer to take their pulse and respiration signal from a real-time video of their face. The development comes at a time when telehealth has become a critical way for doctors to provide health care while minimising in-person contact during COVID-19. The University of Washington-led team's system uses machine learning to capture subtle changes in how light reflects off a person's face, which is correlated with changing blood flow. Then it converts these changes into both pulse and respiration rate. The researchers presented the system in December at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference. Now the team is proposing a better system to measure these physiological signals. This system is less likely to be tripped up by different cameras, lighting conditions or facial features, such as skin colour, according to the researchers who will present these findings on April 8 at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Conference on Health, Interference, and Learning. "Every person is different," said lead study author Xin Liu, a UW doctoral student. "So this system needs to be able to quickly adapt to each person's unique physiological signature, and separate this from other variations, such as what they look like and what environment they are in." The first version of this system was trained with a dataset that contained both videos of people's faces and "ground truth" information: each person's pulse and respiration rate measured by standard instruments in the field. The system then used spatial and temporal information from the videos to calculate both vital signs. While the system worked well on some datasets, it still struggled with others that contained different people, backgrounds and lighting. This is a common problem known as "overfitting," the team said. The researchers improved the system by having it produce a personalised machine learning model for each individual. Specifically, it helps look for important areas in a video frame that likely contain physiological features correlated with changing blood flow in a face under different contexts, such as different skin tones, lighting conditions and environments. From there, it can focus on that area and measure the pulse and respiration rate. While this new system outperforms its predecessor when given more challenging datasets, especially for people with darker skin tones, there is still more work to do, the team said.

GulfNews Technology

Facebook data of 533 million users reemerges online for free

Technology|: The personal data of more than half a billion Facebook Inc. users reemerged online for free on Saturday, a reminder of the company's ability to collect mountains of information and its struggles to protect these sensitive assets. The leak includes personal information on 533 million Facebook users, such as phone numbers, Facebook IDs, full names, locations, birth dates, bios and in some cases email addresses, Business Insider reported. "This is old data that was previously reported on in 2019," a Facebook spokesperson wrote in an email statement. "We found and fixed this issue in August 2019." At the time, the company addressed a flaw in its technology that allowed the information to leak out. However, once such data escapes from Facebook's network, the company has limited power to stop it from spreading online. Alon Gal, chief technology officer of cybercrime intelligence firm Hudson Rock, discovered the data again on Saturday. It's available for free on a hacking forum, making it widely available to anyone with rudimentary data skills, Business Insider said. Data leaks threaten to undermine Facebook's business model of gathering a large amount of personal information and using that to sell targeted ads. Business Insider verified several records by matching known Facebook users' phone numbers with the IDs listed, and confirmed other records by testing email addresses from the data set in Facebook's password reset feature, which can be used to partially reveal a user's phone number.

GulfNews Technology

Signal is fastest growing app as WhatsApp privacy policy inches closer

Media|: New Delhi, April 2 (IANS) Amid the brouhaha over new and controversial WhatsApp privacy policy that is set to come into force from May 15, privacy-focused messaging app Signal became the fastest-growing app globally, including in India, both in downloads and monthly active users (MAUs) in the first quarter last year, according to a new report. Another encrypted messaging app Telegram was at the third spot in downloads and number two in MAUs, according to data provided by app analytics firm App Annie. Signal is gaining immense popularity owing to its simplicity and focus on privacy. People are switching to Signal in record numbers because companies who sell ads have a harder time focusing on the things that users actually want. The upcoming WhatsApp privacy policy has actually helped Signal and Telegram grow their user base. Facing a backlash in February, WhatsApp deferred its new data privacy policy by three months that is reported to be sharing users' data with Facebook (which the company has denied). According to App Annie, the top apps by downloads, consumer spend and MAU across Apple App Store and Google Play were TikTok, YouTube and Facebook in the January-March quarter. Homegrown app MX Takatak, a local alternative to TikTok, was also seen as the fastest growing app by downloads in the quarter. TikTok led the top downloads chart, followed by Facebook and Instagram. Today, from Edward Snowden to the Black Lives Matter Foundation to Melania Trump, all use Signal. Activists use Signal to coordinate protests, finance professionals to exchange sensitive information, journalists to communicate with sources, etc. Telegram recently claimed it gained 100 million new users who weren't happy with WhatsApp's upcoming privacy changes in May.

GulfNews Technology

Apple Arcade expands its catalog to more than 180 games

Gaming|: San Francisco: Apple on Friday announced that its gaming subscription service Apple Arcade has expanded its catalog to more than 180 games and introduced two new game categories -- App Store Greats and Timeless Classics. Timeless Classics and App Store Greats are available on iPhone and iPad. Timeless Classics includes universally loved, quintessential genres with titles like "Good Sudoku by Zach Gage," "Chess - Play & Learn," and "Backgammon," while App Store Greats brings some of the best award-winning games from the App Store to Apple Arcade, including "Threes!," "Mini Metro," and "Fruit Ninja Classic," all ad-free and fully unlocked. "Today we're launching our biggest expansion since the service debuted, now offering more than 180 great games that include new Arcade Originals, Timeless Classics, and App Store Greats," Matt Fischer, Apple's Vice President of the App Store, said in a statement. The company has also added new exclusive Arcade Originals, including "NBA 2K21 Arcade Edition," "Star Trek: Legends," and "The Oregon Trail,". The two new categories join Arcade Originals to bring the service's catalog to over 180 outstanding games for the entire family to enjoy at a great value, with no ads or additional in-app purchases, the company said. Apple Arcade offers no ads, no in-app purchases, support for Apple's high user privacy standards and one all-inclusive subscription offer with access for up to six family members. It is included as part of Apple One or for a low monthly subscription of AED 19.99 with a one-month free trial. Customers purchasing a new iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac or Apple TV can avail the Apple Arcade services free for three months.

GulfNews Technology

Abu Dhabi ranks 5th in cyber security, tech regulations in Global technology Index

Technology|Markets|Government|: Dubai: Abu Dhabi’s digital strategy is paying off – the emirate is ranked fifth in the world on cyber security and in having a conducive tech regulatory framework. At the broader level, Abu Dhabi is now in 11th spot in the Global Technology Index, which is based on World Digital Competitiveness Yearbook 2020. This is authored by the International Institute for Management Development. “These results constitute an incentive to move forward in the digital transformation process and explore new opportunities in the technology sector,” said Ali Rashid Al Ketbi, Chairman of the Department of Government Support, which comes under the Abu Dhabi Digital Authority. A base for tech talent In the tech startup space, Abu Dhabi has been clocking up gains. Its Hub71 cluster as well as other government-driven initiatives plans to attract fintech and other ventures through direct investments or other support mechanisms. Abu Dhabi is the headquarters for Anghami, the music streaming company that will in June his the Nasdaq charts with a public listing. Skill sets It ranks sixth on tech skills. Abu Dhabi has been setting a hot pace in driving digital change within its government departments and bringing the workforce up to speed on the needed skills. Recently, it announced a three-phase programme to upskill the tech credentials of its public sector workforce, and set ambitious timelines for the completion of the task. In the Global technology Index, the emirate also scored on public-private partnerships, by coming in fifth, and placed eighth on the technology framework index.