News Roundup: MWC, space ransomware, and Bitcoin vs gold

A roundup of the week’s tech news including scary robots, return of the PDA, and Snap Inc cameras.


It’s that time of year again. MWC was awash with all kinds of ‘new’ gizmos such as a resurrected Nokia 3310, and another BlackBerry smartphone-with-keyboard that won’t sell very well.

In other news, the Withings brand will be completely replaced with the Nokia logo, Google’s Assistant will be available on more Android phones, Alexa will be coming to Moto phones, Ericsson is launching an API marketplace for connected vehicles, DJI has a new enterprise-focused drone, and Samsung’s new stylus is styled to look exactly like a Staedtler HB pencil. Don’t accidently chew it, though.

Outside of new announcements, Greenpeace invaded one of Samsung’s presentations in an effort to get the company to be more open and transparent about how it plans to dispose and recycle those 4 million recalled Galaxy Note 7 devices, and Avast found there were 79,000 vulnerable smart kettles and coffee machines in Spain.

Greenpeace: a decade of damaging smartphones

As well as protesting against Samsung at MWC, Greenpeace is unhappy with all smartphone manufacturers. In the 10 years since the first iPhone, the company says some 7 billion smartphones have been sold, using up around 150,000 tonnes of aluminium, 100,000 tonnes of copper, 38,000 tonnes of cobalt, and around 6,000 tonnes of other rare metals such as gold, Palladium, and Gallium. The charity is calling for manufacturers to improve their processes for the coming decade and focus on recycling, better reparability & upgradability of phones, and use less harmful chemicals in their supply chains.

On a related note, the cost of conflict minerals reporting requirements is much lower than previously thought. A new study from Elm Sustainability Partners found the total cost to implement the Dodd-Frank Conflict Minerals Rule was around 80% less than the original estimates put forward by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). So being ethical doesn’t cost the earth.

Space ransomware and Prime delivery to the moon

We enjoy a good far off prediction here at Connect towers: Health, TV, Offices, Money, you name it, we’ve future-ised it. Kaspersky Labs have a new project called Earth2050, where they’re inviting people to make predictions on the future and let the public vote on its likelihood. Among the usual such as remote learning, global warming, driverless cars and the usual stuff, there are some interesting ideas. The security firm predicts a fully automated mining factory will be completely taken over and reprogrammed – effectively stolen – by hackers, and that a moonbase will be held to ransomware

In other space news, the Washington Post claims Amazon CEO and WaPo owner Jeff Bezos wants NASA to work with his Blue Origin space company to deliver Amazon-like delivery to moon bases in the future.

“It is time for America to return to the Moon — this time to stay,” Bezos told the paper he owns. “A permanently inhabited lunar settlement is a difficult and worthy objective. I sense a lot of people are excited about this.” A memo to NASA wants ‘the space agency to back an Amazon-like shipment service for the moon that would deliver gear for experiments, cargo and habitats by mid-2020s.’


Mozilla has made its first acquisition with Pocket, Palo Alto now owns LightCyber, Accenture has bought Davies Consulting, Udacity has got its hands on CloudLabs, Cognizant has purchased Brilliant Service, and Kraken has snapped up Cryptowatch.

What gig economy?

We’re always being told the future of work is different; there’ll be more job-switching, more freelancing, job loyalty will go the way of brand loyalty, etc. But it seems that’s not really the case. A study by the Resolution Foundation think-tank found most ‘millennial’ workers born in the mid-1980s hadn’t changed jobs before turning 30. Not switching jobs means less chance of increasing pay, which means most of these workers will have missed out on an average of $15,000 compared to their parents.

Return of the PDA?

The Psion PDA gets a lot of love from IDG Connect readers. A story we published in 2014 still gets comments on how great they are. Rejoice then, for the old clamshell may be coming back! Planet Computers, a new, London-based startup, has launched an IndieGoGo campaign for the Gemini, a PDA for 2016, designed by some of the people from Psion’s heyday. The Gemini promises a high-quality keyboard, full-colour touch screen, dual Android/Linux bootups, 4G and Wi-Fi, plus a beefy battery. The campaign has surpassed it’s $200,000 goal and says the product will ship in November of this year.

NSA brain drain

Is the new Administration forcing tech talent out of the NSA? A new report from Reuters suggests “a tumultuous reorganisation and worries about the acrimonious relationship between the intelligence community and President Donald Trump” could lead to a “brain drain” within the agency.

The report suggests a “marked increase” in the number of US intelligence workers looking for jobs within the private sector, with one anonymous source warning that “Morale is as low as I’ve ever seen it”.

There’s gold in them thar Bitcoins

Last week the value of Bitcoin reached a new all-time high. This week the rush hasn’t slowed, and the infamous cryptocurrency now boasts a value equal to that of gold. At the time of writing, the yellow metal is trading around $1,235 per ounce, and a single Bitcoin is currently valued at $1,280.

In other Bitcoin news, Craig ‘I’m Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin, honest’ Wright is back in the press. The Australian, who has so far provided little verifiable proof that he is the creator of the currency or the Blockchain technology behind it, is reportedly working with a gambling entrepreneur to file more than 70 patent applications relating to digital currencies and Blockchain tech to make ‘a land grab for IP that could be worth upwards of a billion dollars’.

Insecure robots

Tractica research estimates around 620,000 warehousing and logistics robots will be shipped annually by 2021 (probably by robots). But robot security will need to be much improved before then, warns a new report. IOActive found nearly 50 major vulnerabilities within the robots it tested. Problems included authentication, insecure communications, poor cryptography, vulnerable frameworks, and more.

”When you think of robots as computers with arms, legs, or wheels, they become kinetic IoT devices that, if hacked, can pose new serious threats we have never encountered before,” said the report. ”Mechanical extremities, peripheral devices, and human trust expand the area where cybersecurity issues could be exploited to cause harm, destroy property, or even kill.”

Hearing voices

Amazon is reportedly looking to introduce voice identification features. According to Time the feature, named Voice ID, would enable specific features such as payments or activating certain home devices only to be used or authorised by certain individuals.

Line is the latest company to announce a big push into the digital assistant space. The Japanese messaging giant’s Siri/Alexa/Cortana will be called Clova – short for Cloud Virtual Assistant – and will launch this summer. Although there’s little news on what devices Clova will feature in, the company also announced it has bought a controlling stake in Vinclu, the startup behind the digital-anime-assistant-in-cage GateBox.

Wheely scary robots

I’m not a big believer in the idea that robots will rise up and take over the world. But IF they did, you can probably blame Boston Dynamics. The Alpha-Google subsidiary’s latest bot, Handle, is a terrifying bipedal robot on wheels that can gracefully pirouette, roll down stairs and actually jump. Nowhere is safe.


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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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