QR codes are for everyone!

It is not just professionals who are using QR codes, even during the special week dedicated to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. On our way to the convention centre 2 days ago, I noticed A4 pages plastered on the walls on the side of the road with special QR codes advertising the Omnium.cat organisation. They had used the walls and these QR codes to voice the claim for an independent Catalan State; of course I am not taking sides or judging them in this article, but merely reporting on what I saw. If anything, for those who ever doubted it, mobile devices and QR codes are becoming tools for mass communications these days, and not just for professionals like us.

Catalan activists use QR codes to advertise cause

Barcelona, World’s mobile capital city for 4 days – #mwc13

This post was written as part of a blogger trip I organised for the Live Orange Blog. Connect to the blog for the latest on that event!

On February 24th, 2013, we paid a visit to the Grand Fira which is the brand new venue for the MWC conference in Barcelona. Everything here is brand new and even though they built dummy columns at the entrance to remind visitors of the old place it is certainly lacking the lustre of the old romantic buildings at the end of the old Fira convention centre, situated in Plaza de Espanya.

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[Polishing the signs while speakers are polishing their pitches]

Nonetheless, the new venue is – as the name goes – even bigger, and we can expect a lot to happen by way of innovation on the stands. The promise is that a new horizon for telecommunications is ahead of us. One, mostly, where NFC will be playing a role since the three letter acronym is absolutely ubiquitous. The press is even asked to check in through NFC gates exclusively and I was quite disappointed that I hadn’t taken the time to renew my phone and buy a brand new Galaxy SIII for instance.

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[nothing is shown at MWC on the eve of the event. All is quiet… not for long!]

Talking about Samsung, we were greeted by a small stand of theirs at the exit of the Fira metro station. This is probably a sign that they are going to show big things this year. On the other hand, so far, we haven’t seen any signs of Android being at the forefront, but it’s not clear as the venue is always decorated at the last minute to avoid leaks. Last year was definitely an Android year. Does it mean that Google – I heard that rumoured yesterday – would toy with the idea of renaming its mobile OS by using its main brand (as they did with Google Play which replaced the former Android Market)? Or does it mean that new big guys, like the Mozilla foundation for instance, are sticking their guns this year. A new OS in the mobile environment is a possibility. Time will tell, I am all set for the press conference on new mobile Operating systems as well as the much expected Zte announcement. Stay tuned to the live Orange blog!

immersion corporation makes retro gaming experience richer on tablets #mwc12

Reporting live from mobile world congress from Barcelona for Orange Live

Immersion is a San Jose based company which was set up 18 years ago in order to develop force feedback controllers for joystick and other gaming equipment manufacturers such as Sony, Logitech etc. Immersion is now moving into mobile gaming and is working with mobile and tablet device manufacturers in order to add force-feedback into mobile gaming.

Fancy playing Grand Theft Auto on your Android tablet with the same kind of user experience as you used to have on a console or personal computer? Well, this is possible and I even tried it and it works. Immersion, a Nasdaq listed company based in San Jose, Cal. has developed drivers which make it possible for old games like Sonic or GTA to be played on Android tablets with a richer experience. Thanks to the technology developed by immersion, one can get force feedback when slamming the doors of a car or bumping into cars or buildings (don’t try this in real life!). The device is no longer passive and therefore you can have the best of both worlds: the mobile world and the retro game world.

The company is more or less in “stealth mode” to put it in the words of the person I interviewed on the stand, hidden behind large manufacturers of Android tablets that wish to use retro gaming as a means to attract consumers to their Android-based tablets. “Android is open source” the immersion representative said “and therefore, one can gain a lot of control on the platform”.

a new haptic experience

This new haptic experience is made possible through the registration of 1,200 patents, the immersion representative declared. “The software is free” he added, as “we want developers to be able to use it and develop on it; they produce good content and that makes it possible for us to partner with manufacturers such as Samsung, LG, Toshiba, Fujistu to name a few”.

As Glenn Le Santo pointed out in his story on the Live Orange Blog, the mobile world congress is not just about large brands but also a myriad small companies which are part of this ecosystem and make it thrive.

mobile world congress pictures day 3 #MWC12

Yesterday was even more hectic than Monday at mobile world congress. We had a number of meetings up and down the Fira (the name of the venue in Barcelona) including a very lively press conference organised by Eugene Kaspersky. What I found most amazing though was a sculpture which I hadn’t quite noticed on the first day. It is a winged horse (Pegasus) which was set up outside the Huawei tent. When looking a bit closer I then realised it was all made of phones. A very clever piece of Art and let’s admit it, very beautiful too.

album link: MWC-day three

Kaspersky: “we will soon witness cybercrime explosion in the mobile world” #MWC #MWC12

This post was originally written for the Orange Live Blog, reporting live from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona

On Tuesday February 27th, I had the opportunity to attend a Press conference organised by Kaspersky security. Eugene Kaspersky himself was present for this big announcement in mobile security. The firm is already widely known for its PC protecting suite and today it made a few important announcements related to its release of parental control suites for mobile devices as well as an advanced protection suite for Android devices. In a flamboyant presentation by one of the Press’s preferred showmen of the software industry, the Russian expert and businessman highlighted the risks that mobile users are facing in the near future. Yet, there has also been criticisms in the industry for scare mongering on the part of security software editors …

Cybercrime will soon be too big to be ignored

15 years ago, Personal computer users didn’t have a clue about cybercrime. Viruses didn’t exist, or were in limited supply, and when they did exist they tended to be rather harmless. Similarly, as of today, many users are still wondering whether cybercrime is real or not when it comes to mobility. Nowadays, PC users aren’t questioning that “malicious software” (aka malware) exists nor that it is a real threat. We all know it’s there and that having a proper antivirus installed and regularly updated is a must-have.  Such was Eugene Kaspersky’s introduction, meaning to announce that cybercrime is just about to soar in the mobile industry.

”IT will split into 2 environments : Android for the home environment and Business with the Windows environment” Kaspersky announced, even though Windows and Nokia my prove him wrong soon as it happens; but we understand what he is hinting at: open environments like Android are easier to pry into and are the prime targets for cyber criminals. “No safe zone will subsist” he added.

Going back into the history of computing, viruses like Chernobyl in 1998 were  so fierce that they made infected machines unusable. The virus would go and reprogram the BIOS (the basic software below Windows which makes your machine work) and damage it beyond repair. This virus and others like Melissa or “I love you” changed people’s minds about cybercrime for ever Kaspersky rightfully remarked.

Cybercrime is moving into mobiles

The Russian expert’s theory is that mobility is going the same route as computers a few years ago because, in his mind, “there are fundamentally no differences between computers and mobile devices”.

“The number of computer threats has reached a plateau” he went on, so there are few or no new players in the PC cybercrime space or otherwise, they would  need to be extremely professional. The computer crime scene is therefore mature enough and there are also other non malware related scams which work well in that space (SPAM, phishing, pharming being the most frequent ones). “Online banking only started in 2001-2002 and this is the reason why crime soared too after those days”, now that mobile equipment is booming (in 2012 there will be more than 484 million smartphones worldwide) “we will witness mobile ‘malware’ explosion” Kaspersky warned while showing us a chart (see picture above) with some very worrying numbers.

“75% of malware is targeted at Android”

“Cybercrime in the mobile industry started as soon as 2005” he added, and Android is now becoming the dominant mobile malware platform. (sign of the times, Android went through 1199 modifications in Dec 2011 because of security threats). Eugene Kaspersky said that he was expecting this to happen and he is now “sure that the trend will follow that of computers in 2000 and beyond. “This is bad news for smartphone manufacturer who will need to add extra processing power to cater for security” he said and added facetiously “this isn’t my fault!”. As the above chart shows, things started to get very bad in 2010 and mostly in 2011. And it’s not just mobile devices and tablets he concluded but all connected devices such as TV screens namely.

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR DEVICE

But it wouldn’t be right to scare all mobile and tablet users without giving them good and straightforward advice with regard to the protection of their devices. And apart from the security suites sold by Kaspersky (and its competitors), common sense is a good method for keeping your mobile data out of harm’s way. Here are Kaspersky’s recommendations:

  1. lock your mobile screen
  2. use security software (of course, you would expect that coming from a security software editor)
  3. back up your mobile data
  4. use encryption whenever possible
  5. beware of what you install and don’t click on dodgy websites
  6. do not jailbreak your device as you would enhance the capability of malicious software to damage the core of your mobile device
  7. do not connect to untrusted Wi-Fi points
  8. do not skip updates of your OS when they are available
  9. do not assume that your mobile device is safer than your PC

2012 predictions

Kaspersky and his teams fortunately do not predict that a mobile IT apocalypse will take place in 2012 but they are pretty certain that Android will be the main target for massive attacks and that 2012 will see the rise of the first massive worms for Android as well as ‘malware’ in official market applications.

scareware for charlatans”?

A critique of software security companies’ approach to malware protection on mobile devices (not just Kaspersky’s) was fuelled last November by Chris DiBona, leader of open-source software at Google. Kaspersky’s Denis Maslennikov dismissed DiBona’s claims by saying that Google had launched their own anti virus solution soon after. A complete thread of the Kaspersky/Google story is available at this url. It’s a bit early to tell who is right and who is wrong however even though there may be a bit of truth on both sides. Time will tell.

About Kaspersky security

The Russian federation is known for its high concentration of online crime perpetrators but also for being the home of some of the world’s most revered security experts. Kaspersky, named after its founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky, a math lover who used his skills to make surfing safer is one of the leaders in that space. You can find details about their offerings at Kaspersky.com