Tim Cook to co-chair China Development Forum this weekend amidst international tariff threats

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Running from tomorrow until Sunday, global business leaders are converging in China to talk with local government about their relationship. This year, Apple CEO Tim Cook is a co-chair at the conference.

Relations with China are definitely more strained than usual at the moment. The US administration is currently threatening to impose significant tariffs on Chinese imports and technology. Apple is also embroiled in its own juggling act regarding differences in attitudes over privacy and freedoms of speech.



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Staqu introduces AI-powered Smart Glasses in India that can help identify threats like intruders and criminals

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Gurgaon-based Staqu today has launched the AI-powered Smart Glasses with inbuilt camera in India. It comes with speech and image recognition combined. The company says that it can identify potential threats to the civil society, such as criminals, intruders or terrorists. The Staqu AI-powered Smart Glass’s built-in camera can capture input to trigger Facial Recognition, and once the face is identified within the given databases, the Smart Glass projects the results on the glass screen. The entire process will happen in real-time as the user simply glances over the vicinity. According to the company, the Glasses will work even in wild scenarios as it fuses together speech and image recognition to utilize a hybrid identification technology and uniquely identify anyone. The information is streamed in real-time from a centralized server, and these glasses can further be controlled from the centralized administrative portal, and specific recognition targets for each glass can be set remotely. According to a ET report, Staqu will be starting a pilot of its smart glass platform with Punjab Police and will work very closely with them to identify to help identify criminals. It will be  provided on a yearly license-based model to customers. Commenting on the new announcement, Atul Rai, Co-Founder & CEO of Staqu said: At Staqu, …
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Assessing three pressing cyber threats for IoT in 2018

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Every year we see new pressing cyber threats, from new targets for hackers to new issues cropping up in the cybersecurity space. 2018 will be no different. One area that has recently got a lot of attention is IoT devices, as the use of such devices has increased in both the public and private sectors. Here at Silobreaker we are keen to highlight three pressing cyber threats to IoT devices that we believe enterprises need to be aware of:

Industrial take-downs

By 2020 it is expected that 25% of cyber-attacks will target IoT devices, many of which will be deployed in industrial environments. Infection and covert usage of IoT devices to mine cryptocurrencies or conduct DDoS attacks is a trend that isn’t slowing down, and one that is especially problematic in the industrial space because Industrial IoT devices tend to be both poorly secured and difficult to patch, especially across a distributed environment such as manufacturing.

It’s true that Mirai, and variants such as Okiru and Satori, pose a major risk to manufacturing, where the reduction of a connected device’s processing power can seriously impact safety or disrupt processes. But there is also the potential for untargeted, collateral damage in this space. The prospect of motivated attackers leveraging destructive malware such as BrickerBot to wipe devices is highly concerning, but such ‘attacks’ need not even be targeted to cause damage. A wormable exploit such as the one used by WannaCry could cause widespread infection of industrial IoT devices –  to devastating effect – quite regardless of the original intentions of the attacker. We expect to see a major event of this kind take place in 2018.

Bringing in the professionals

Another pressing threat for 2018 is a dearth of skills and resources. Humans are still the weakest link in the security chain, but hiring and training people who can understand and respond to issues in the threat space is only becoming more difficult. Demand is rising much faster than supply, with 3.5 million unfilled positions in the cyber security field expected by 2021. At the same time, the eternal catch-up game played between criminals and analysts continues, with threats becoming more sophisticated and widespread every day.

As we further integrate IoT technology into our lives and into sectors such as manufacturing and critical infrastructure, this problem is not going to go away – it is going to get worse. The skills we need to protect ourselves: analysing information, separating intelligence from noise, and understanding the motivations of threat actors, are in short supply. They need to be cultivated. And to some extent this is happening; we’re simply not doing it fast enough. If this skills gap widens too fast, and too quickly, it won’t matter how much companies are willing to pay to fill these vital positions; we will all become victims.

To mitigate this issue, we need to put more effort than ever into hiring, training and retaining the next generation of cyber security experts. Information security is increasingly being viewed as more than an IT-only problem, which is a big step, but budgets don’t always scale with intentions. Yes, working to improve the “cyber hygiene” of employees is important, but no organisation is unbreachable. And we need many more skilled people if we want to be prepared for when the worst happens.

The most tantalising treasure is data

Theft and manipulation of personal information from IoT devices is a growing concern for 2018. With IoT machines becoming ever more popular with consumers, we need to come to terms with the idea that our personal information is more at risk than ever. Devices such as Amazon’s Echo and other virtual assistants allow us to (often unwittingly) sacrifice convenience for security – as we learned when a researcher used malware to stream audio to a remote server. Or when a Bluetooth vulnerability rendered Echo, Google Home and billions of other devices vulnerable to hijacking. We don’t know all the potential methods by which our personal information – what we say and do in our own homes – can be used against us, because having one’s personal life potentially exposed in this way is brand new. Identity theft and the resale of shopping habits are all perfectly possible, but this data can also enable crime in the physical world. If you’ve suddenly stopped ordering your weekly groceries, maybe there’s nobody at home? Assuming such information can be accessed, it will certainly be sold.

Mitigating data theft from devices like Echo is both a manufacturer issue and a consumer one. The more these devices are sold and used, the more attractive targeting them becomes for criminals. At the same time, the longer consumers wait before purchasing, the more tried and tested (and secure) this technology becomes. Purchasing from quality vendors will also reduce the risk of security ‘oversights’ and make sure that vulnerabilities are patched. Fundamentally, it also comes back to the very personal question of convenience versus security; to what extent are the risks worth the rewards? Caveat emptor.

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Only one in four organisations can protect themselves against IoT threats, says survey

A survey from UK-based firm Databarracks has found that only 27% of organisations polled feel able to protect themselves against IoT threats.

Based on the findings, its managing director Peter Groucutt has said that organisations must now factor IoT into their continuity planning.

“The IoT device market is still relatively immature and somewhat of a Wild West,” said Groucutt. “According to industry experts, by 2020 there will be over 50 billion connected devices. Understandably, manufacturers are racing to capitalise on the opportunity, but unfortunately, many are doing so at the expense of basic security measures.

“Organisations need to be aware of these risks, even if they do not use any IoT devices – the growing number of connected devices globally means there is an increased risk of DDoS attacks through IoT botnets – but our data suggests firms are ignoring these threats,” added Groucutt. “Research from our annual Data Health Check survey revealed that only 13% of businesses saw IoT threats as a major concern. Additionally, just over a quarter of organisations (27%) had set policies in place designed to protect against IoT threats.”

According to Groucutt, organisations incorporating IoT devices into their IT infrastructure should not rely on existing policies for evaluating the security of devices, instead develop new ones. Questions such as what protocol the device uses; can the IoT network be isolated from our other systems; is it connecting directly back to the data centre or to a hub – either in the cloud (hosted externally) or to an Edge server that you manage; how do we login and authenticate; can we integrate with our existing authentication products, and finally, what O/S is used and do we have competency; should be considered.

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US military explores using sea life to spot threats

The sea is potentially full of undersea military threats, and that makes it daunting to detect them all using hardware. The scale and cost would be utterly impractical. DARPA, however, has a potential workaround: make sea life do the work. It rece…
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Trump Administration May Build 5G Network to Protect Against Cyber Threats

Going 5G

The United States government is growing increasingly concerned about China’s capability to listen in on phone calls and breach cyber security. The National Security Council is considering a number of initiatives to protect against spying, and among them is a plan to build an ultra-fast wireless 5G network, Reuters reports

The concept is still being considered at a low level, and it will likely be 6 to 8 months before the President himself considers the idea. However, the security team is highly concerned about the threat that China might pose to cyber and economic security. Recently, Congress even lobbied to stop the production of headsets build by Huawei in China, partially because of lingering concerns over a 2012 investigation into whether or not Huawei and ZTE Corp’s tech allowed for foreign espionage.

A diagram showing a phone on a 5G network connected to various smart technologies, including a TV, microwave, fridge, battery, and washing machine.
A 5G network promises to work with emerging, connected technologies quickly and securely. Image Credit: PrographerMan / Pixabay

A senior official who spoke with Reuters even stated, “We want to build a network so the Chinese can’t listen to your calls.”

He went on to say, “We have to have a secure network that doesn’t allow bad actors to get in. We also have to ensure the Chinese don’t take over the market and put every non-5G network out of business.”

According to Axios, National Security Council officials are weighing whether the government would pay for and build one centralized network, or whether wireless companies would build their own networks and compete. However, Bloomberg reports that the wireless industry and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are opposed to the concept of a centralized government network, with FCC chairman Ajit Pai calling the idea a “costly and counterproductive distraction from the policies we need to help the United States win the 5G future.”

Increasing Security

It is known that a 5G network would provide much faster speeds, shorter response times, greater storage and ability, and could be used to support more advanced technologies like self-driving vehicles. But why is it being considered as a security measure?

The G in 3G, 4G, and 5G simply stands for generation. So far, both 3G and 4G networks seem to have persistent security concerns. Both are encrypted to a degree, but these encryptions are not enough for serious security.

According to RedCom, 3G’s encryption protocol is vulnerable enough that a single PC can crack it in only two hours. 4G, on the other hand, is capable of advanced authentication and three separate encryption methods. However, these measures are not always used, as the level of encryption is decided by the mobile operator and the Base Transceiver Station that mobile devices broadcast to.

As such, while these networks might be secure enough for day-to-day operations, they are not sufficient for sensitive government information. A 5G network could improve upon these past generations and be much less prone to hacking and infiltration. Additionally, because a 5G network would be much faster and more capable, it could keep up with advancing technologies. This could allow it to grow with emerging tech, which could be an additional support to national security efforts.

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Ajit Pai reportedly cancelled CES appearance due to death threats

Yesterday, CES announced that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai would no longer be appearing at the trade show where he was scheduled to take part in a conversation with FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen. No reasons were given by CES or the FCC at the time for the…
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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai canceled his appearance at CES because of death threats

The threats have intensified following an FCC vote to repeal net neutrality rules.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai canceled his scheduled appearance at a major upcoming tech industry trade show after receiving death threats, two agency sources told Recode on Thursday.

It’s the second known incident in which Pai’s safety may have been at risk, after a bomb threat abruptly forced the chairman to halt his controversial vote to scrap the U.S. government’s net neutrality rules in December 2017.

For both Pai and the whole of the FCC, the uptick in security concerns also presents a serious challenge to their ability to discuss critical tech policy issues in public view — without jeopardizing their safety or the safety of others in attendance.

In this case, the exact nature of the threat, made in advance of Pai’s fireside chat at the 2018 International CES, isn’t clear. A spokesman for Pai at the FCC, for its part, only said Thursday: “We do not comment on security measures or concerns.”

But sources at the agency said that federal law enforcement had intervened in the matter, and other FCC offices are expected to be briefed on the matter. The FBI did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

A spokeswoman for the Consumer Technology Association, which puts on the annual Las Vegas-based trade show, also declined to comment. Earlier, though, CTA’s leader, Gary Shapiro, told the publication Digital Trends that he did not know why Pai had canceled — but raised the fact that he had recently been “subject to vicious and direct attacks and threats.”

For months, Pai has been hounded by his critics, particularly online, who view his vote to repeal net neutrality rules as tantamount to destroying the internet. Pai has lamented in speeches and tweets that he and his family have been mocked, attacked and threatened, in public as well as on Twitter, where Pai himself is active.

By the nature of the job, the chairmanship of the FCC is an especially public role, and threats to its leaders and commissioners aren’t exactly new. In 2014, for example, protesters descended on the home of then-Chairman Tom Wheeler, a Democrat, and prevented him from leaving his driveway. Then, too, net neutrality had been the issue at hand.

In the most recent debate, though, tensions have been especially high, driven in no small part by broader frustrations among the public with the Trump administration writ large. If the death threats continue, it is unclear how Pai and his fellow commissioners will proceed.

For now, Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and Republican Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr each plan to attend CES. So will Maureen Ohlhausen, the acting leader of their sister agency, the Federal Trade Commission. Ohlhausen had been slated to appear alongside Pai at the annual Vegas event.

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Donald Trump Is Dropping Climate Change From a List of Security Threats

New National Security

Under the Trump administration, the United States’ National Security Strategy is getting a noteworthy edit: it will no longer include climate change as a national threat.

The fact that President Trump is dropping climate change from the National Security Strategy isn’t shocking. While on the campaign trail, he openly mocked its categorization as a security threat. The truly alarming aspect of the decision is its potential to do tremendous harm to our planet.

Trump is expected to unveil the new strategy on December 18. According to The Federalist, which obtained a draft of the revised document, it now focuses on economic competition and border security. This may be a response to multinational agreements made to combat climate change, which Trump has insinuated have put the US at a disadvantage globally.

The Federalist quoted part of the draft in their coverage:

Climate policies will continue to shape the global energy system. U.S. leadership is indispensable to countering an anti-growth energy agenda that is detrimental to US economic and energy security interests. Much of the developing world will require fossil fuels, as well as other forms of energy, to power their economies and lift their people out of poverty.

The draft also stated that the US will continue to lead the reduction of “traditional pollution” and greenhouse gases.

A Changing Climate

The Obama administration added climate change to the National Security Strategy in 2015, calling it an “urgent and growing threat to our national security.” However, the federal government’s attitude toward this threat has changed since President Trump’s election.

Earlier this year, Trump’s administration publicly announced their intention to remove the US from the Paris Climate Agreement. The nation is now the only one in the world not participating. Mentions of climate change have also been removed from government websites.

A senior administration official told The Independent that while the Trump administration is dropping climate change from the list of security threats, it doesn’t completely ignore environmental issues in the revision: “Climate change is not identified as a national security threat, but climate and the importance of the environment and environmental stewardship are discussed.”

The administration may not have eliminated all intentions to combat climate change from the document, but their reduced dedication to these efforts is concerning.

Climate change isn’t an imaginary problem or even one that’s affecting only other species in far-off reaches of the world. From fires to severe flooding, it is causing problems for humanity, US citizens included, and the entire world needs to contribute to a dedicated, sustained effort if we hope to survive the problems we have created for ourselves and our planet.

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