Dynamics Wallet Card – Credit card with display and cell phone connection

Credits cards and debit cards have chips in them to ward off fraud. But Dynamics is introducing a new Wallet Card today that can run circles around that technology.

The Wallet Card has the support of a consortium of financial companies, including MasterCard, which led the last financing round for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Dynamics. The Wallet Card has a cell phone chip and most of the working parts of a computer, including a display — all inside a piece of plastic that looks like any other credit card.

Dynamics is showing the Wallet Card at CES 2018, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas this week. Jeff Mullen, founder and CEO of Dynamics, said in an interview that the new card will provide an “unprecedented level of security.”

“We have worked on this for over five years,” Mullen said. “We think it is a very disruptive platform.”

For instance, if you learn from the display on the card that the last purchase made on your card was fraudulent, you can request a new card from the bank and it will be issued on the spot, with proper authentication. You no longer have to call the bank to get a card reissued. Your new number account and card number are simply downloaded onto the card.

If you lose the card or report it stolen or forget your pin code, the bank can disable the card through the cell connection and send you a new card. Cards can be couriered to the consumer in a matter of hours, and the consumer can restore the wallet by downloading cards. The speed could reduce fraud losses and prevent purchase delays, Mullen said.

These are just some of the features that are possible on a card that’s connected and has digital processing capabilities.

Another is that you can now have multiple cards on one Wallet Card. Consumers can access their debit, credit, prepaid, multicurrency, one-time use, or loyalty cards on a single card with the tap of a button. When you get to a checkout stand, you could choose to pay with points or credit simply by pressing a button on the card.

It is also easily distributed. Banks can distribute Wallet Card anytime and anywhere — such as in their retail branches, during events, or even in-flight, and consumers can activate it immediately. Card information can then be downloaded through a secure, over-the-air cellular connection. At the same time, Mullen said the cards have built-in security in hardware elements.

And the technology could lead to tighter connections between consumers, issuers, and retailers. Messages can be sent to the Wallet Card at any time. For example, after every purchase, a message may be sent to notify the consumer of the purchase and of their remaining balance if they used a debit or loyalty card.

“We’re adding a new business model on top of an existing infrastructure,” Mullen said.

Consumers can be notified of a suspicious purchase and click on “Not me” to have a fraud alert set and a new card number issued. They can also receive coupons directly on their cards.

The Wallet Card has more than 200 internal components, and it’s the latest rendition of electronic credit and debit cards that Mullen and his team dreamed up at Carnegie Mellon University. He started the company in 2007, beginning a long journey to replace the mag stripe credit card, which has been in use since the 1970s and is fraught with all kinds of security risks.

This new card has “organic harvesting,” which means it can use renewable energy sources to keep its battery charged. It has a card-programmable magnetic stripe, card-programmable EMV chip (the chip cards that have become so popular), and a card-programmable contactless chip. That means it could be used in just about any territory.

The display has 65,000 pixels and a user interface that allows the card holder to change between different cards and informational screens.

Dynamics has the support of the Wallet Card Consortium, which includes a number of big banks, payment networks, and carriers. Members include Visa, MasterCard, Sprint, and JCB (a Tokyo-based credit card company).

Dynamics has raised $110 million to date from investors that include MasterCard, CIBC, Adams Capital Management, and Bain Capital Ventures. The company’s earlier intelligent account cards are currently used by more than 10 million consumers. Customers include the big Canadian coffee chain Tim Horton’s, the Upper Deck Company, and CIBC.

Dynamics has 100 employees and its own card manufacturing plants in Pittsburgh. The Wallet Card’s launch date is yet to be announced.

Ref: Venturebeat

Best Android Apps – Part 2

We have pick out some of the best Android apps to download on your new phone, including free apps, popular Android apps and some apps you might not know.

Read Part 1 of this list

AirDroid

What is AirDroid?

For those Android users feeling left out by Apple’s Continuity feature, which allows you to integrate your iPhone with your tablet and Mac, AirDroid has the answer. It’s more than just a wireless file transfer and notification tool. AirDroid also allows you to share your phone’s screen with your laptop, create a Wi-Fi hotspot, clear out RAM space, and access your phone via a desktop web browser. Basically, the developers have provided you with every type of sharing and maintenance facility you need.

What’s good?

As mentioned, AirDroid packs in a load of features beyond the usual sharing tools. Rather than making it feel overloaded, the extra stuff, such as the virus scanner and RAM optimisation, are nice features which don’t clutter the home menu and make AirDroid feel like a well-thought out and comprehensive tool.

When it comes to the main features, such as file sharing and notifications, AirDroid is incredibly easy to use, as all good apps should be. You can log in using Facebook, Google, or Twitter, or create an account in seconds by adding your email address and a password. Once I’d signed up on my phone, it was simply a case of downloading the desktop version of the app on my laptop and logging in using the email and password I’d set up through my phone.

As soon as I’d done that, my handset was detected by the desktop AirDroid app and I was sharing files and receiving notifications on my laptop instantly. There was almost no lag between notifications popping up on my phone and them appearing on my desktop and you also have the option to reply to messages and calls through your computer.

There’s versions of AirDroid for Windows, Mac and a web extension, so there’s no limitations depending on which platform you prefer. And you can add friends who also use AirDroid to quickly transfer files.

What’s bad?

The obvious drawback with any wireless sharing platform is that, depending on how speedy your Wi-Fi is, it’s not going to be as fast as plugging a cable in and transferring files that way. But that’s not a specific criticism of AirDroid and I had no issues with files not transferring or notifications not showing. Still, if I wanted to transfer a lot of larger files, I would still go for the cable method.

Other than that there’s a couple of ads included by way of extra icons on the homescreen and you have to upgrade to the premium version to get extra features such as bigger file transfers and the ability to link more than two devices. From what I can tell, upgrading to the premium edition is done by sharing the app with your friends, as I couldn’t find any way to pay for the upgrade.

Verdict

AirDroid is a polished and easy to use file transfer app with a range of extra features that are actually useful. The fact that both Windows and Mac are catered for, plus the ability to use the web extension, allowing you to sync your phone with pretty much any computer you use, also makes it incredibly versatile. AirDroid almost feels like it should be an official standard Android feature.

Score: 9/10 | Price: Free | In-app purchases? No | Download AirDroid

Adobe Premiere Clip

What is Adobe Premiere Clip?

Adobe has provided Android users with an easy to use yet fairly in-depth video editor in the form of Adobe Premiere Clip. The app allows you to create video edits easily and quickly while providing a range of editing options that other video editors for smartphones don’t have. What’s more, you can open any project you make using Clip in Adobe’s full desktop video editor Premiere Pro.

What’s good?

Premiere Clip makes good on its promise of easy usability. The layout is simple enough to figure out intuitively, with a Google-like ‘plus’ icon in the bottom right for making a new edit.

Once you hit the plus you can choose to import video from your device, the Creative Cloud, or shoot new video or photos. After selecting the clips you want to use, Premiere Clip will give you the option to make your own edit or create a random one with the ‘Automatic’ feature. This option will cut your video together by matching the beats of whichever soundtrack you choose. It works well, and adds a nice feature for those looking to create a quick montage edit without delving into the deeper customisation options.

When it comes to the ‘Freeform’ option, things are similarly straightforward. You get a simple layout showing your imported clips, which acts as the final edit timeline, with a video display at the top to check your full edit. The interface makes it easy to add effects, play with the exposure, highlights, and shadows of your clips, and add music.

One drawback I found was when adding filters or effects to individual clips, the app would apply it to all the clips in my timeline, which was disappointing. But that was a minor drawback to what is a nice and clean editing interface. The options at the top of the screen make it incredibly easy to tweak the clips and add standard effects such as crossfades and fade-ins.

Once you’re finished with the edit, you can share or publish the video in a variety of ways, including exporting to the Creative Cloud, direct to YouTube, or saving the exported video to your device’s memory. You can also save the project to be opened in Premiere Pro, which is a nice feature to include, allowing for further and more advanced editing on the desktop programme.

All in all, the experience is startlingly pain-free, and I was able to figure out how to use the various features and start editing in minutes.

What’s bad?

Unfortunately, the app will upload your created video timelines to the Adobe Creative Cloud automatically when you’re connected to Wi-Fi. There doesn’t seem to be any way to turn the feature off, and you don’t even have to have shared or published the video in order for the cloud to start syncing your projects.

It also seems that Adobe doesn’t want you exporting clips with any higher resolution than 720p. The app will scale down higher-res shots to 720p before publishing your video edits, which for the casual user won’t matter too much, but for those looking to make and upload high-quality videos, this could pose a problem.

What’s more, I often encountered an issue with importing my own tracks to use as backing music. The app crashed several times and would often just not load the music. This is something that needs to be fixed urgently.

Verdict

Adobe’s video editor for handheld devices manages to combine an array of features with a refined and easy to use interface. Despite the syncing and downgrading issues, most will find all they need in Adobe Premiere Clip. A further update to address the music importing issue will make this one of, if not the best video editor for Android devices.

Score: 8/10 | Price: Free | In-app purchases? No | Download Adobe Premiere Clip

Sleep Partner

What is Sleep Partner?

Sleep assistance apps seem to be springing up in bewildering abundance recently, while stories about the effects of ‘blue light’ on sleep cycles become similarly ubiquitous. From apps that wake you up at the right point in a sleep cycle, to those that play white noise to aid your slumber, app developers seem to really care about the many different ways in which you can hit the sack.

Enter Sleep Partner. Currently in beta mode, the sleep management app helps you to get to bed at your target time by using several features including filtering out blue light and reminding you to get to bed in a particularly novel way involving cartoon sheep. It also includes an alarm feature, which uses the sounds of birds chirping to help rouse you in as gentle a way as possible.

What’s good?

Sleep Partner is simplicity defined. The app opens with a screen where you set your desired bed and wake-up time. Once you set your target bedtime, the app will filter out 83% of the blue light from your screen three hours before you are due to hit the hay. It basically makes your screen take on a kind of sepia tone, but actually feels quite nice to reduce the glare as the day winds down.

Amazon has just released a new software upgrade which does the same for its Amazon Fire tablet range, and experts have long been warning against the effects of staring at a screen blasting blue light at you before going to sleep. Sleep Partner makes it incredibly easy to ensure you remember to turn your blue light filter on by doing it automatically based on your target bedtime.

It’s also quite nice to wake up to an alarm that doesn’t use one of the stock alarm tones which come with your phone. The standard options seem to always be based on lively and vaguely ethnic-sounding music, which aren’t exactly conducive to a gentle awakening in the mornings. Thankfully, Sleep Partner will stir you with the mellifluous sounds of chirping birds – a nice change from SAMBA_MADNESS_01.

Cartoon sheep will also appear on-screen if you miss your target bedtime, and what’s more, they change depending on how good you are at sticking to your targets. Miss a few bedtimes in a row and they will increase in number. It’s clever, if a bit annoying.

The app also gives you the ability to tweak the various features, from blue screen filter tone to alarm volume.

What’s bad?

As mentioned, if you stay up past your target bedtime, the screen will start filling with sheep to stop you using your phone. This is intended as a reminder to get you to turn off Facebook and go to bed, but it’s pretty annoying really. You can fix it really easily though, by just going into the app and turning target bedtime off. It would also be nice to have a white noise feature, as this would mean all aspects of sleep aid would be contained within Sleep Partner.

Verdict

Sleep Partner is as easy to use as it is good for your health. It contains genuinely useful tools for helping you sleep and if it had a white noise option it would have everything you need for a good night’s rest. As it is, it’s still worth trying to see if you feel better after a week of no blue light in the evenings.

Score: 9/10 | Price: Free | In-app purchases? No | Download Sleep Partner

Ref : Trusted Reviews

Best Android Apps

We have pick out some of the best Android apps to download on your new phone, including free apps, popular Android apps and some apps you might not know.

World Around Me (WAM)

What is it?

World Around Me, or WAM, is a tool for finding out about places of interest around you. Winner of the Google Play Awards ‘Early Adopter’ category, this app uses your phone’s camera to highlight local restaurants, parks, museums, cinemas, and other interesting places in your immediate area.

What’s good?

So what exactly is the ‘Early Adopter; award? Well, according to Google it rewards adopters of a nascent technology or platform – in this case the use of a very basic augmented reality. The main feature of WAM is the ability to point your phone’s camera at the surrounding area and see small cards appear next to places of interest. The cards will include the name of the place, a review rating, and the distance to that particular location.

In the top left of the screen there’s a small radar icon, with dots representing the location of nearby attractions. Point the camera in the direction of a dot, tap the card that appears on-screen, and you’ll get more information and options.

Taking the app for a spin in central London, I tapped on the card for Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre for example, which would give me more information, the option to call the venue or visit its website, read reviews, or view the location on Google Maps.

And it works straight away. You just download the app, choose from a list of categories such as ‘Eat’, ‘Money’, ‘Enjoy’, and more, and the app will load up your camera viewfinder. That’s it, you’re ready to start finding interesting places around you. There’s also a list view for those that don’t want to use the camera, which will simply show a list of the nearest places of interest, and a map view.

One of the cool features is the real-time distance indicator that appears on the various cards and which decreases the closer you get to the location. The other great thing about WAM is the sheer amount of places you’re able to search for. Pretty much anything you can search for on Google Maps is searchable within the app.

What’s bad?

There’s no question that there’s a novelty factor to WAM that some will find wears off fairly quickly. If you’re looking for somewhere to eat nearby, WAM isn’t going to offer any more suggestions than Google Maps.

It’s cool to see the augmented reality view in practice at first, and for many it might prove to be more usable. But it’s essentially the same functionality you get from any map app, just implemented in a more visually striking way.

You also have to pay if you want the Pro version, which gets rid of the ads and includes higher-quality photos of the many places of interest.

Verdict

WAM is something a bit different. It’s no more useful than a decent map app when it comes to finding local services and places of interest, but it’s undeniably cool to see even this very basic form of augmented reality working, and may even prove to be a more intuitive way to discover local hot spots for many.

Score: 8/10 | Price: Free | In-app purchases? No | Download WAM

 

Younity

What is Younity?

If you’re looking to access media stored on your computer through your smartphone, Younity might just be the app for you. Much like the popular Plex app, Younity turns your computer into a home media server, allowing you to stream movies, view photos, and listen to music through your handset without having to transfer all the files to your phone.

What’s good?

In order to use Younity, you’ll need to install the app on both your handset and your computer. The setup process on both is incredibly simple. You can download, install, and set up the app on both your computer and tablet or phone within 10 minutes. The Android app is available through the Play Store, and you can visit the Younity website to download the desktop version. You can also download Younity on as many devices as you like.

Once you’ve downloaded the app, you’ll be asked to sign in with a Facebook or Google account, or sign up using an email address. I opted for the latter. After you’ve clicked the right button in the standard verification email, Younity will immediately start scanning your computer for files.

Considering I have quite a large amount of music and pictures on my Macbook’s internal storage, the time it took for Younity to scan and index everything was remarkably quick. I was browsing and streaming photos and music on my phone within 2 or 3 minutes of setting the app up on my computer.

The interface is incredibly clean, while the material design elements make the whole experience distinctly familiar. Browsing through your various files is made easy with the inclusion of a menu that slides out from the side of the screen and breaks down your files into Music, Videos, Photos, and Files. You also have the option to search, which makes things a lot easier if you have a lot of files and can’t quite remember where they’re all stored.

Everything is just incredibly straight forward, which is exactly what you want from any app such as this. I had absolutely no problems during setup or use.

What’s more, the service is very secure. Nothing ever gets uploaded to the cloud, rather, a personal cloud is created using only the devices you sign up with, and the whole thing is encrypted. Younity also works with AirPlay, so you can stream media to your TV or stereo, plus you can upload photos to social media direct from your computer through your phone.

What’s bad?

We’re struggling to find anything wrong with this one. Not only does it deliver on its promise to allow you access to your stored media from anywhere, the whole thing is completely free and there’s not an ad in sight. The one thing that would have been nice is Chromecast support, but according to the developers, that’s on its way.

Verdict

A simple, easy to use service that does everything it promises. Airplay integration is great, and with Chromecast support on the way, plus the fact that the whole thing is completely free, Younity is a must-have app for anyone wanting on-the-go access to their stored files and media.

Score: 9/10 | Price: Free | In-app purchases? No | Download Younity

Trello

What is Trello?

When it comes to organisation apps, you’re beyond spoilt for choice. It seems like new apps offering to help simplify your life appear on the Play Store every day. Among the hordes of organisation apps however, Trello stands out as a powerful yet simple tool for planning projects.

The whole thing is based around boards, on which you can make lists. You then populate these lists with cards. For instance, you might have a ‘to do’ list with several cards for each job, a ‘working on’ list for jobs you plan to work on that day, and a ‘done’ list for when you finish a job. You can then drag the cards between lists depending on their status.

What’s good?

Trello makes it incredibly easy to start using different boards. It works best in its full desktop browser setup, but the mobile app is just as useful, if slightly more difficult to use. If you have a Trello account, you can simply sign in when you download the app and your existing boards will be synced to your phone.

What’s great about Trello is that it can be used for so many things. If you want to use it simply as a ‘to do’ list with extra features, it’s great for that. If you want to use it to visualise a personal project it’s great for that too. And if you want to use it as a way of organising your team at work it’s range of collaborative working options make it the perfect tool.

Despite the fact that a smartphone screen somewhat detracts from the experience by limiting your view of a board, the mobile experience is still very fluid and accessible. Tap a board, tap a list to add a card, and tap and hold to drag a card between lists. Easy stuff.

 

You can do all the things that the desktop browser version offers, such as adding other members to a board, assigning them to cards, or tagging certain cards with colours. There’s also the option to attach files to cards from Google Drive or Dropbox. The app also encourages collaborative working by allowing you and other members to comment on specific cards. All of this is incredibly easy to do, and Trello has been designed in line with Google’s Material Design, so the user interface feels familiar.

I used Trello to organise my work tasks, personal ‘to do’ items, and plan projects and found it very easy to use. I was never looking through menus for a particular option or wishing I could do something that Trello doesn’t allow. It all just works well.

What’s bad?

Not a lot really. Some reviewers have asked for better widgets, and it would certainly be nice to have a widget which shows you the status of a particular card you’ve assigned someone to. But on the whole Trello works incredibly well, and I have never encountered any issues other than when my phone has lost data connection.

Verdict

Trello combines ease of use with a range of extra features, making it an adaptable tool which you can use to organise any type of project you want. With a clean and intuitive UI, plus the fact that the whole thing is entirely free, there’s no reason not to at least investigate it for yourself.

Score: 10/10 | Price: Free | In-app purchases? No | Download Trello

Launchify

What is Launchify?

Any smartphone user knows that slight reductions in the amount of time it takes to carry out a task can make all the difference to the mobile experience. Launchify allows you to quickly launch your favourite apps without having to return to your homescreen or app menu.

A constant notification provides you with a line of your most used apps which you can set to change based on your location. And there’s also lock screen and home screen widgets, allowing you to get quick access to your favourite apps from anywhere. It’s a very simple but incredibly useful service.

What’s good?

Launchify begins working as soon as you download it and tap the app icon. Once you’ve given Launchify access to your apps, you’ll be taken to the home screen where you can start customising. As mentioned, a constant notification, featuring your most-used apps, will appear in your notifications shade. You can customise this notification very easily by tapping on ‘custom apps’ from the Launchify’s home screen and selecting the apps you want to appear.

Alternatively you can set a Home and Work address which allows Launchify to change the line up of apps in the notification based upon where you are and which apps you mostly use in those locations. It can also tell when you’re driving and recommend apps you might need, such as Google Maps. Simple but clever.

And it works well. I found that Launchify did a good job of anticipating the apps I needed, although you’ll need to use it for a few days before the location service learns your habits properly. And even though the time it takes to go to one of your home screens and tap an app wasn’t ever a huge problem, the small reduction does make a difference. Swiping down from the top and then tapping an app feels intuitive and speedy.

What’s bad?

The constant notification is slightly irritating. Every now and then you’ll think you have a message, only to realise you’ve got Launchify turned on. It’s a small issue though, and you can always use the app’s lock screen and home screen widgets instead.

If you want to add more than six apps to the notification, you’ll need to upgrade to the Pro version, which also allows you to manually add contacts to the notification. It’ll cost you £1.50, so it’s not the most expensive upgrade, but you might find that six apps is all you need anyway, making the upgrade somewhat unnecessary.

Verdict

Launchify is easy to use and allows you to access your favourite apps from anywhere. Its interface is also simple enough that you’ll be using Launchify confidently within minutes of downloading it. It’s not going to revolutionise the smartphone experience, but it’s a handy tool for anyone looking for quick access to their favourite apps.

Score: 8/10 | Price: Free (£1.50 for Pro version) | In-app purchases? No | Download Launchify

BeyondPod

What is BeyondPod?

BeyondPod is a podcast player and manager with some cool extra features such as the ability to integrate with Feedly. The app contains content from both small and big publishers so you should be able to find pretty much any podcast you search for. It’s been around for a while now, but has seen a number of improvements which make it one of the best podcast apps you’ll find on the Play Store.

What’s good?

Like any good app, BeyondPod makes it easy to get set up. Once you open it for the first time you’ll be asked to choose your favourite categories, from Comedy to News, and the app will suggest some feeds to start following.

Within minutes of downloading it, I found several of my favourite podcasts and was downloading new episodes. In fact, there wasn’t any podcast which BeyondPod failed to find, from Serial to WTF.

The app also creates ‘smart playlists’ based on your listening habits, although I found it easier to just navigate through my downloaded content myself. You can also easily create playlists by tapping the ‘plus’ symbol below each podcast episode, which I found more useful than trusting BeyondPod to guess my listening schedule.

BeyondPod is also compatible with Android Auto and comes with playback features such as volume boost and the ability to adjust playback speed. You can also use the configurable skip buttons to quickly go back 10 or 30 seconds, or whatever you choose as the standard skip options. This is a very useful feature as the timeline indicator can often be difficult to use on a small phone screen and I found myself using the custom skip buttons a lot instead of trying to manually go back to re-hear something I missed.

With the Pro version you also get Chromecast support, so you can cast video and audio content from the app direct to your TV or speaker system. When you first download the app you will be given seven days of the Pro version as a trial. That means you’ll get the Chromecast support, device synchronisation (which means you can pick up where you left off across multiple devices), and automatic downloads where BeyondPod will download new episodes overnight.

What’s bad?

After the seven day trial you’ll have to pay a pretty hefty £5.56 for an unlock key if you do decide to go Pro. There’s no obligation to do so, but considering there are other podcast apps which supply some of the Pro features as standard the price seems quite high. Still, many will find the price reasonable having got used to BeyondPod’s simple and easy playback interface and extra features.

A recent update caused controversy among Play Store reviewers who say BeyondPod was easier to use before the update rolled out. The app does seem to have a lot of extra settings hidden away in various menus and at first it’s unclear whether the suggested feeds that result from your category preferences are feeds you are subscribed to or are simply there as recommendations.

Verdict

BeyondPod is a great way to manage and listen to podcasts. The player is simple and easy to use, there’s tonnes of content, and the extra features are genuinely useful. While the price for the Pro version is fairly steep and the home screen layout could be a little clearer, BeyondPod will not disappoint anyone looking for a comprehensive podcast manager.

Score: 8/10 | Price: Free (£5.56 for Pro version) | In-app purchases? No | Download BeyondPod

 

Ref: Trusted Reviews

Meltdown and Spectre – What you need to know about these serious chip flaws

Every computer has a central processing unit, or CPU. It’s the main brain that does most of the “thinking” in a digital device. And two new flaws have been discovered that can allow an attacker to grab the data that’s being crunched inside the chip.

The flaws, known as Meltdown and Spectre, together impact most of the computing devices on the planet. Meltdown is a flaw that affects processors made by Intel. The Spectre flaw, the more serious of the two, affects Intel, AMD and ARM processors.

Do you need to be worried? You bet.

While the researchers at Google who discovered the flaw say they have not yet seen any exploits in real life, they have been able to craft proof-of-concept software routines that trigger it. The bottom line is that the information being processed in most of the world’s computers can be accessed by people who are not authorized to do so.

The issue is serious enough that researchers have put together a website devoted to it. MeltdownAttack.com provides plain-English details about Meltdown and Spectre, as well as technical papers for those wanting to dive into nitty-gritty details. The flaws even have their own logos.

“Yes, it’s a big deal,” says Chris Bronk, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Houston whose focus is security. “Both of them are serious bugs.”

Here’s what the flaws involve, and what you can do about them.

What happens with the Meltdown flaw?

Typically, programs that move information into and out of the processor can’t access what’s known as system memory. But Meltdown breaks down those boundaries, making what’s inside the system memory accessible.

It does so by tricking something called “speculative execution” into giving it up. This is a technique that has been used by processors since 1995 to run commands in advance, speculating what might be needed next in a program. This dramatically speeds up computing — by the time a program says, “Hey, do this for me!” the processor can respond, “Already done, my man!”

An attacker triggering the flaw can then suck all the data being worked — including passwords, credit card numbers, anything.

Fortunately, Meltdown can be prevented by patches in operating system software. More on that in a moment.

What happens with the Spectre flaw?

Spectre is similar, but Bronk says the flaw “deals with more architectural issues in hardware,” and thus is harder to fix. Spectre tricks other programs to access information in system memory, according to the MeltdownAttack.com site.

And because Spectre’s issue is more hardware-based, it’s harder to fix. The Computer Emergency Response Team, the United States’ primary defense against computer attacks, says the only real way to fix Spectre is to replace processors that have the flaw. There are no available software patches.

What devices are affected?

If you own a computer with an Intel-based processor — which is most PCs since 1995 and all Macs since 2006 — then that device is affected by Meltdown. According to what’s known now, devices using AMD and ARM processors are not affected, but it’s not 100 percent certain.

If you own a computer or smartphone that uses an Intel, AMD or ARM processor, those devices are vulnerable to Spectre. That includes most Android phones and tablets, and possibly Apple’s iPhone and iPad. Apple licensed ARM’s chip architecture to build its own chips used in its mobile products, but it’s not clear yet if they are impacted. So far, Apple has been silent on the matter.

How can I protect myself?

Although Meltdown is a processor-based flaw, it can be protected against by patches in operating systems. Microsoft is about to release an update for Windows 7, 8 and 10 with a fix.

Based on code found in the latest version of Apple’s macOS software, High Sierra 10.13.2, Macs are already patched.

Patches have already been released for many versions of Linux. In fact, originally the flaws weren’t supposed to be announced until Thursday, but Linux users spotted updates to that operating system earlier in the week and put two-and-two together.

At the moment, there is no protection against Spectre, but you can take cold comfort in the fact that researchers say an exploit is not easy to do.

In both cases, exploits could come by users being tricked into downloading and running malicious software, something that, sadly, happens all too often. It won’t be long before evildoers turn their attention to both of these flaws. Your best defense, for now, is to make sure you’re up to date on all your software applications and running the most recent version of your operating system.

Wait, what if I have an older system that’s not getting updates?

This is a major issue, particularly among those using older PCs and Android devices.

Microsoft no longer updates Windows XP, the operating system it introduced in 2001, and although it occasionally released emergency security patches for it, one has not been announced for Meltdown. This would be excellent excuse to finally upgrade your operating system or, if you can, get a whole new computer.

Android smartphones and tablets must get their updates from either the device manufacturer or the wireless carrier — and both must sign off on any updates before they are distributed. In addition, there are a lot of older Android phones out there that are no longer getting any updates at all. They could be at risk permanently.

Why are we just finding out about this now?

UH’s Bronk says the current state of the art in security research has made it possible to find flaws we previously missed.

“Our tools for discovering these are much better than they were in 1995,” he said. “And, if you are not looking for it explicitly, you may never find it. The security research community is also a lot bigger than it was back in ‘95.”

The Google researchers first found Meltdown and Spectre back in June and then told chip makers about it. They’ve been scrambling to find a fix ever since. So far, they’ve been only partially successful.

Below you can read the technical papers for both flaws.

Meltdown by Houston Chronicle on Scribd

Spectre by Houston Chronicle on Scribd

 

Ref: Medium  & Meltdown Attack

Blockchain Predictions for 2018

1.Bitcoin is the generation 0 of blockchain technology… the opening act… the gateway drug … the first inning … MySpace.

We must thank her for her work, as none of the following technology would be available without Satoshi’s Bitcoin, but we’re about to go much, much, further. While Satoshi converged a database structure with peer-to-peer networking, cryptographic tokenization, consensus formation algorithms, and game theoretical economic incentivization to create a means for trustless digital storage and transmission of value, the “Digital Gold” use case, is only one use case.

Bitcoin as a digital store of value is the least interesting use of blockchain … There, I said it.

Far more interesting are programmable money, programmable asset transfer, and shared, tamper-resistant business logic. People fixated on Bitcoin are missing the fact that we’re verging upon the next generation of the world-wide-web.

The Bitcoin protocol is the world’s largest modern-day abacus; it only enables us to move a bead (or coin) from one side to the other. The ability to do this on a global, permissionless substrate is not trivial. But I can’t overemphasize the limited scope of this initial design, due to its use of a virtual machine which isn’t Turing-complete.

Here’s an example of a Bitcoin script:

scriptPubKey: OP_DUP OP_HASH160 <pubKeyHash> OP_EQUALVERIFY OP_CHECKSIG
scriptSig: <sig> <pubKey>

The above script should serve to explain the inherent limitations of the Bitcoin scripting language. Ethereum can be thought of as Bitcoin + everything else, with a high level software language reminiscent of Javascript.

While still being able to store and transmit value (the single Bitcoin use case), we’re also able to program our agreements using Ethereum. Here are two examples of typical agreements that are now easily codified using Ethereum’s Solidity programming language.

A Loan

An Initial Public Offering or Crowdfunding

Our agreements are turning from Microsoft Word documents written by attorneys and recognized by notaries into agreements bound by code, transacting assets that are natively digital.

As the Internet commoditized the cost for communication, Ethereum commoditizes our costs of agreement and trust.

2. 2018 in blockchain years is the equivalent of 1994 to the 1996 boom of the Internet.

Intranets First

Similar to the evolution of the Internet that began on private Intranets, permissioned blockchains will give way to the permissionless blockchains once they successfully achieve scalability and privacy.

The Stack

The next generation of the internet will be a “stack” comprised of: (1) a decentralized transaction layer (the strongest of which I believe to be Ethereum); (2) a decentralized file storage layer (IPFS and Swarm are early leaders); (3) a decentralized messaging layer (Matrix or Whisper are strong candidates); and (4) a high throughput computing resource (Golem is an example of attempting to accomplish this).

Standards

As Jeremy Millar noted at the inception of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, blockchain technologies will be helped tremendously in 2018 through formal standardization processes similar to when Java evolved into Java 2 Enterprise Edition through standardization of database and web API’s to be the most widely used software language on Earth.

Consumer Facing Applications

Early use cases of consumer facing Internet applications in the 90’s were gambling, pornography, and games.

Interestingly, we’re seeing frontrunners on Ethereum in the same genres with SpankchainFun FairVirtue Poker, and Crypto Kitties consumer facing applications on Ethereum.

3. Ethereum will continue to be the largest blockchain developer ecosystem in 2018 by many multiples.

Developers, developers, developers, developers, developers… you get the point.

The ecosystems with the most developers typically win. I don’t see how permissioned blockchains that lack cryptoeconomic incentives will ever stand against public permissionless ecosystems.

Ethereum already has a thriving developer community. Truffle, the smart contract developer framework, has 250,000+ developer downloads. Infura, which can be seen as an Akamai for Ethereum and IPFS, now handles over 2 billion requests per day and smoothly scaled to peak at 4.5 billion requests per day one day in December. MetaMask, which brings Ethereum seamlessly to browsers, has over 500,000 active users.

4. Blockchain will be a vessel of good.

As the world takes note of the societal implications of blockchain technology, we will see an uptick in humanitarian applications in 2018.

In 2017 we saw the World Food Program employ Ethereum to distribute 1.4 million food vouchers to 10,500 Syrian refugees in Jordan. And it is aiming for one million transactions, per day. This innovative program, dubbed “Building Blocks”, demonstrates how database efficiency will deliver tangible benefits to the most vulnerable. I applaud the World Food Program’s efforts and believe that its success is a sign of great things to come.

5. Enterprises will take the training wheels off

As permissionless blockchains continue their scalability and privacy upgrade process, permissioned blockchains will continue to lose the developer mindshare and potentially lose their client base similar to how AOL, Prodigy, and Compuserve services lost out to the Internet. There will be narrow use-cases for intranet-like permissioned blockchains, just as SWIFT never touched the internet, but the long tail will be using permissionless protocols.

Intranets were great training wheels, until the Internet was pervasive. The same trajectory will occur with permissioned blockchains in 2018 and beyond.

6. Proof of Stake changes the blockchain consensus game

On New Years Eve ’17, the Ethereum research team dropped the testnet alpha of Casper, named after the Greediest Heaviest Observed SubTree protocol. All eyes in the blockchain space will be watching the transition of Ethereum from proof of work to proof of stake.

A proof-of-work consensus algorithm is an economic measure to deter denial of service attacks and other service abuses such as spam on a blockchain by requiring some work from the service requester, usually by processing complex equations on a GPU or ASIC computer.

In proof-of-stake public blockchains, like Ethereum’s upcoming Casper implementation, a set of validators each bet on blocks they deem likely to be validated, and the weight of each validators vote depends on the size of its deposit. Punishments are levied on bad actors who bet on more than one block at a certain depth or who don’t participate when they are supposed to.

Benefits of proof-of-stake include:

  • The ability to reduce the large electricity consumption and hardware costs to secure a blockchain. It is estimated the Bitcoin electric consumption will trend toward equivalent consumption of the country of Denmark by 2020.
  • Due to reduced energy consumption, token issuance isn’t necessarily intrinsic to the securitization of the network. Negative net issuance could occur, whereby tokens are actually burned thereby reducing the supply and increasing value per token.
  • 51% attacks become exponentially more expensive, as you risk what you stake. Vlad Zamfir often explains that “if you participate in a failed 51% attack, PoS will burn your ASIC farm down”.

7. Token Fever — Not so fast on the SAFT.

As Earth continues to realize the advantages of natively digital assets for everything (natural resourcesfiatgoldmusic, loyalty points, Madonna concert tickets, software, real estate, IoT device registration, stockselectrons, etc.) on global distributed ledgers, regulation will be necessary. Regulators will be empowered to create smart contract software specifications and develop tests that compliant companies must pass.

With respect to the tokenization regulatory process, I’m thankful to Marco Santori, Juan Batiz-Benet, and Jesse Clayburgh for taking the first crack at self-regulation through the SAFT whitepaper (hat-tip to Y-Combinator’s SAFE), but I’m not convinced that the well-intentioned SAFT is right for most tokenization projects.

ConsenSys began the Brooklyn Project to embark on a journey of self-regulatory best practices and the bright legal minds of Cardozo Law and the ConsenSys legal team wrote an exquisite paper detailing the limitations of the SAFT.

Token Foundry will be the first platform to allow regulatory compliant utility token launches without using a SAFT — meaning everyone (not just accredited people on Sand Hill Rd.) will be able to participate and purchase tokens in an initial sale, thereby continuing to democratize venture capital.

I imagine the SAFT debate will continue to evolve into 2018 to further the best practices for tokenization. I look forward to seeing ConsenSys’ tokenization best practices public unveiling in 2018.

8. The blockchain ecosystem will ramp up their educational resources tremendously.

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” — Nelson Mandela

Until recently, the ones learning have been software engineers, but in ’18 there will be customized educational programs for policy makers, lawyers, project managers, executives, and MBA’s to understand the implications this technology has on their respective fields. ConsenSys Academy has rolled out many of these endeavors already, and has some exciting initiatives coming in the new year.

9. The IRS and their equivalents globally will be demanding their pound of flesh.

“Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” — Ben Franklin

There is already a precedent in US vs. Coinbase Inc., et al. where an exchange has had to divulge their user-base’s trading history. I expect similar outreach to other exchanges. Software like Balanc3 is being used to track the p&l of a person or company’s digital assets as well as trading history. Pay your taxes.

10. People will take control of their online identities

We will continue to see the growing trend wherein people, companies, and machines manage their identity self-sovereignly rather then by a third party service provider like a bank, Facebook, or another internet service provider.

Interestingly, governments will increasingly find themselves as attestors to these self-sovereign identities, similar to how Zug, Switzerland is attesting to citizens identity usage with uPort, Ethereum leading self-sovereign identity solution.

11. In 2018, governments and regulatory bodies will mandate the use of blockchain to track and trace high value assets.

“The supply chain stuff is really tricky” — Elon Musk

Companies and organizations will realize that for the first time, it is possible to offload basic track and trace infrastructure to the public chain. This will lead to a decrease in cost and regulatory burden, and an increase in customer brand loyalty. These two trends will set the stage for a shared track and trace infrastructure supported by the public chain.

Major Fortune 50 companies are already demanding public chain track and trace use cases for which they are using the Viant platform to build their solutions.

12. The evolution of law will continue to intersect computer science.

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” — Shakespeare

The lawyers of tomorrow will need to understand fundamental future aspects of computer science as much as legal precedent.

Using OpenLaw, lawyers can create, deploy, and edit next-generation legal agreements relying on Ethereum and IPFS. Here are great examples of restricted stock grant purchasestandard agreement for equity, and an ERC20-token purchase agreement.

Enterprise Ethereum Alliance has formed a working group with many of the leading law firms and legal schools to ensure the legal industry can adapt.

13. “For the first time, open source, peer-to-peer protocol developers can monetize their project on a protocol level” — Olaf Carlson-Wee

For the first time we’ll be able to incentivize and monetize open source work, which will feel like adding a match to nitroglycerin in a Cambrian explosion of new blockchain technology paradigms. With new tokenized projects like Bounties.Network and Gitcoin, we’re adding a cryptoeconomic layer to software engineering.

14. BUGS begone: smart contract audits will be a necessity in 2018

For decades software engineers created code with bugs, which was somewhat inconsequential as software primarily served as a communication mechanism. As we transition to an Internet of Value with digitally tokenized assets, bugs can mean potential loss of capital. We don’t need to re-dance the polka or revel in the DAO-Saster of 2017, and 2016 respectively to agree that smart contract security audits are necessary.

Superstars like Phil Daian and ConsenSys Diligence will become the heroes of smart contract security audit and this could be one of the largest niches/job markets within the blockchain ecosystem.

15. Don’t just regulate blockchain….regulate THROUGH the blockchain.

2018 will be the year of G-to-C and G-to-G (Government to Citizen and Government to Government) — laws, regulations, treaties written in smart contracts, making it 100x cheaper and more straightforward to comply with them and 100x cheaper and easier to do appropriate oversight without having to subpoena personal and company records.

16. Stablecoins are coming

Stablecoins are the basis of financial instruments for hedging and derivatives that will be necessary for this wild-west industry to cross the chasm to safe and more easily used financial products. Maker DAOVariabL, and Basecoinare attempting this from the startup eco-system, but I think this is a great space for an enterprise banking incumbent to provide value, liquidity, and validity to the digital asset ecosystem.

I predict we’ll see a bulge bracket bank blockchain-based stablecoin in 2018 if they can get it through compliance.

17. Tangoing with Contango

After witnessing the first bitcoin futures products on regulated U.S. exchanges that are cash-settled in 2017, I foresee the market will evolve to physically settled offerings to avoid banging the close to manipulate futures. Moreover, we’ll see other digital asset derivatives, such as ether.

These derivative contracts will provide forward pricing curves that are necessary to the genesis and evolution of digital asset exchange traded funds.

18. The total market cap of blockchain-based digital assets will exceed $2 trillion U.S. dollars by January 1, 2019.

“New Car, Caviar, Four Star Daydream” — Pink Floyd

The price of ether will exceed $2,000 in 2018. Ether will continue to outperform bitcoin, and the total market cap of ether will exceed that of bitcoin in 2018. Bitcoin’s governance issues, reluctance to evolve, and extremely high fees could lead it to its demise. Bitcoin Cash has a serious chance of eclipsing Bitcoin. The market cap of Filecoin will exceed that of bitcoin by 2023.

There will be a crypto-winter, though not in ’18, as the industry is in the spring of its youth.

Ref: consensys

Cryprocurrencies – What is Monero (XMR)?

A common misconception is that Bitcoin is a private, untraceable digital currency. Where this mentality came from is unclear, but the reality is Bitcoin is as transparent as a currency could be. If your identity can be associated with your public key, all of your transactions and your current balance can be traced using the Bitcoin blockchain. While this is revolutionary, some transactions may require anonymity. Enter Monero.

Monero (XMR) is digital currency that cannot be traced, and hides transactions and balances of addresses. As of 14/12/2017, it’s the eighth largest cryptocurrency by market cap, with a value of $5,120,195,757 USD ($330.86 per XMR) and 15,475,415 XMR in circulation; it has risen ~1833.33% since the Jan 2017. The future looks promising for coins focusing on privacy, as regulation and control looms over the Wild West of crypto. Monero is arguably the best privacy coin.

Disclaimer: This is a high level overview of Monero and is intended for beginners in cryptocurrency. It will not be a financial analysis as an investment, nor a critique of the technology used. For those familiar with Monero: the CryptoNote whitepaper, Greg Maxwell on Confidential Transactions and these various links may be of more interest.

Monero

Monero is private, digital money; every transaction is always private. All development is open-source and funded through community donations. The origins of Monero can be traced to 2014, when user ““thankful_for_today” promoted it on BitcoinTalk as BitMonero, which was quickly shortened to Monero (translates to “coin” in Esperanto).

Monero is known as being completely “fungible”: Every Monero remains equal and identical to any other Monero (u/cryptonaire-). If an asset is fungible, it means that regardless of transactions that happen in the past, or will happen in the future, all units are capable of mutual substitution.

How does this compare to other cryptocurrencies? The Monero subreddit has created this helpful chart:

While ZCash (whitepaper) and Verge (whitepaper) are making waves in private crypto, Monero is the popular leader in private transactions and looks as though it will be as the cryptocurrency space matures.


Why Privacy?

Financial privacy is a goal of many, and the rise of semi-private to private cryptocurrencies show that many people are willing to put their money where there mouth is (wherever that may be). It’s been linked to the Cypherpunkmovement, but the reality is people want privacy from banks, family, goverment etc. Regardless of whether this privacy is beneficial or detrimental to society, private cryptocurrencies will almost certainly increase in use and value as the uptake of crypto into society takes hold.

John McAfee is not known for being reserved when it comes to crypto, but, warts and all, he knows digital security. His position on privacy in crypto is clear, and many share his sentiment.


Future of Monero

Monero has a clear road map on their website, showing exciting and consistent progress of Monero into the future. Further, the community of ~270 contributors to the Monero project will only grow as it, and crypto, become more widespread. Finally, Monero is host to the Monero Research Lab (MRL), whose ongoing research will no doubt improve the project further in the future (see Kovri).

To follow the project, here are some resources:


Would you rather do what you do and have someone else invest your spare change in Cryptoassets?

Bamboo rounds up your spare change from the past month’s purchases and invests it in cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and more. Check out GetBamboo.io.

If you’d like to know more about bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin and ripple, check out;

What is Bitcoin?

What is Ethereum?

What is Litecoin?

What is Ripple?

Ref: Medium

Indonesia central bank warns over cryptocurrencies

Indonesia’s central bank has issued a fresh warning about trading in cryptocurrencies like bitcoin because of the risk of losses to the public and even a potential threat to the stability of the financial system.

Bank Indonesia (BI) has previously said that cryptocurrencies were not recognized as a legal medium of exchange so that they could not be used as a means of payment in Indonesia.

“The ownership of virtual currencies is high risk and prone to speculation because there is no authority who takes responsibility, there is no official administrator and there is no underlying asset to be the basis for the price,” BI spokesman Agusman said in a statement issued late on Friday.

He said that virtual currencies could also be used in money laundering and terrorism funding, and due to all these factors could have an impact on the stability of the financial system and causes losses for society.

“(Cryptocurrency) is not a legal medium of exchange. We remind (people of) its risks. When the risks occur, the losses will be borne by the public. We are obliged to protect consumers and protect them from a bubble,” Agusman said by telephone on Saturday.

Asked whether such statements from authorities could stir panic among those who had already invested in cryptocurrencies, he said: “They didn’t consult with us when buying….please help us make the people understand.”

Indonesian authorities have been stepping up their warnings and last month BI issued a regulation banning use of cryptocurrencies by financial technology companies involved in payment systems, and said it is examining whether there’s a need to regulate trading on virtual currency exchanges.

South Korean authorities this week sent global bitcoin prices temporarily plummeting and virtual coin markets into turmoil when the justice minister, Park Sang-ki, said regulators were preparing legislation to halt cryptocurrency trading.

Prices later rebounded on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp, bitcoin BTC=BTSP to stand at $14,116 in latest trading after touching $12,800 this week.

Bitcoin.co.id, an Indonesian online cryptocurrency exchange, said on its website that bitcoin was trading at 217.44 million rupiah ($16,288) per unit.

Some Indonesian merchants, including an online baby ware supplier, indicate on their websites that they accept payment in Bitcoin.

Ref: Geo Tv

Jaff Ransomware – A new Ransomware called “Jaff”

The new family of Jaff ransomware was discovered by Brad Duncan (a security researcher) that has a new design for the ransom note and a new WLU extension for encrypted files. Same to the first variant of Jaff ransomeware, this new version continues to be spread through spam campaigns that use malicious documents to download infect computer with ransomware.

In past, Jaff ransomware was adding the .jaff extension to the encrypted files and requesting around 2 Bitcoin for the payment. The infection vector was .PDF files sent as attachments in spam emails.

But now the ransomware appends the .wlu extension to the encrypted files and uses a new note with green fonts on a dark background. The researcher also said that the ransomware creators ask for a 0.35630347 Bitcoin for the payment now.

The new Jaff ransomware attack is being spread through messages that appear to be invoices. Victims receive emails with subjects like such as Copy of Invoice 99483713 or Invoice(58-0710), and they include an evil PDF attachment.

Unfortunately, there is no any decryption tool to decrypt .wlu files that encrypted by the Jaff Ransomware. Read this article to know how to fight against ransomware.

Ref: Latest Hacking News

Malware – Dridex 4 – New Malware Will Soon Start “AtomBombing” U.S. Banks

Malware - Dridex 4

A new version of Dridex banking malware was detected and it is targeting European banks and it is expected to be used against the U.S. financial institutions in upcoming months. The Dridex 4 incorporates normal usual range of software improvements which we come to expect from this professionally maintained malware. It is also worth noting that it is the first major malware which adopted the new code injection technique called ‘AtomBombing’.

The AtomBombing was explained by researchers at enSilo back in October 2016. It is named so, because of the main use of it is Windows’ atom tables; read/writable stores of data which can be used by multiple applications. The Malicious code can also be written to atom tables, and then it is retrieved and injected into an executable memory space.

The process mentioned above does not require any exploit against Windows since it just makes use of a feature provided by the Windows. Finally, it is just a new code injection technique which is likely to by-pass the existing AV and NGAV detections.

Dridex 4 was found by the IBM X-Force in the early February. It doesn’t implement AtomBombing exactly as described by the enSilo. “In our analysis of new Dridex v4 release,” says the IBM, “we found that the authors of this malware have devised their own injection method, by using the first step of the AtomBombing technique. They have used the atom tables and the NtQueueAPCThread to copy a payload and an import table into RW memory space in target process. But they only went halfway – they used AtomBombing technique for writing of the final payload, then used a completely different method to achieve the execution permissions, and for the execution itself.”

Since enSilo’s original description of the technique, malware defenders will have been developing means to detect it. Dridex 4 hopes to bypass these current detections by using a modified method of AtomBombing.

Image Credit: Hackread

Ref: Latest Hacking News

Unicorns in India

Unicorns in India – A unicorn is a private company valued at over $1 Billion.

Only China(36) and United States(101) have more unicorns than India.

Whether you want to buy, sell, book a taxi or find a restaurant, there is an Indian unicorn for you.

Zomato Media

Restaurant Search

$1 Billion

Quickr

Media and entertainment

$1 Billion

Shopclues

E-commerce

$1.1 Billion

One97 Communications

E-commerce

1.8 Billion

Snapdeal

E-commerce

$5 Billion

Ola

Transportation

$5 Billion

Flipcart

E-commerce

$15 Billion