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BlackBerry, Samsung & IBM Team Up to Launch SecuTablet

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BlackBerry is making a return to the tablet market; this time with the help of Samsung Electronics, IBM and Secusmart, the German encryption specialist BlackBerry bought last year.

This is not the PlayBook 2 that BlackBerry was rumored to be working on last year, but the SecuTablet, developed by Secusmart and IBM for a German government department.

The SecuTablet is a Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 LTE 16GB bundled with some software from IBM and SecuSmart’s special MicroSD card, which combines a number of cryptographic chips to protect data in motion and at rest.

Samsung’s Knox secure boot technology ensures that the OS on the tablet has not been tampered with, while IBM’s contribution to the security chain is to “wrap” certain apps in an additional layer of code that intercepts and encrypts key data flows using the Secusmart hardware.

Hans-Christoph Quelle, Secusmart managing director, hopes that before year-end the German federal IT security agency, BSI, will grant the Knox-Secusmart combination a security rating corresponding to Nato Restricted.

“The project was started long beforeBlackBerry acquired Secusmart,” said Quelle, now a senior vice president at BlackBerry.

The deal raised questions at the highest level within BlackBerry, IBM and the government department about whether to continue, he said, particularly with IBM’s recent announcement of an alliance with Apple to deliver enterprise apps.

The tablet project survived the acquisition, not least because, with its smartphone market share shrinking, BlackBerry is keen to sell its security services across as many platforms as possible.

BlackBerry announced plans last November to extend support for its management software to Samsung devices, and at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month it said it would release versions of Secusmart’s Secusuite voice and data encryption system, and its own WorkLife by BlackBerry management tool, for Samsung Knox devices.

Organizations deploying the SecuTablet will be able to set policies controlling what apps can run on the devices, and whether those apps must be wrapped, said IBM Germany spokesman Stefan Hefter.

The wrapping process — in which an app is downloaded from a public app store, bundled with additional libraries that encrypt its network traffic and intercept Android “intents” for actions such as cutting or pasting data, then uploaded to a private app store — ensures that corporate data can be protected at rest, in motion and in use, he said.

For instance, it can prevent data from a secure email being copied and pasted into the Facebook app running on the same device — yet allow it to be pasted into a secure collaboration environment, or any other app forming part of the same “federation”, he said.

Secusmart will sell the device in Germany, while IBM will sell it elsewhere.

Although initially developed for government use, Quelle hopes IBM’s enterprise customers will also be interested.

Naturally, this level of security doesn’t come cheap: An unmodified Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 retails for around $500, but the SecuTablet will cost around €2,250 (US$2,380) including the Secusmart MicroSD encryption card, the necessary app-wrapping and management software, and a year’s maintenance contract, he said.‎


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WATRA says Telecommunications Sector Contributes 7% to Regional GDP

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Aliyu Aboki, Executive Secretary of the West African Telecommunications Regulatory Assembly (WATRA) said that telecommunications sector contributes 7 percent annually to Gross Domestic Products (GDP) of West African region. He stated this at a virtual media session to highlights activities of the regional regulatory body.

He said that the west African telecommunications sector is integral to the Africa market, valued at $63.17 billion in 2024, with over 400 million mobile subscribers.

“Mobile internet penetration rose from 51% in 2019 to 62% in 2023, driven by investments and infrastructure development”.

He stated that the digital economy in West Africa has been rapidly evolving, driven by increasing internet penetration, mobile connectivity, and a growing tech-savvy youth population.

According to him, “the digital economy contributes around $30billion annually to the region’s GDP, highlighting its significant impact on economic growth. The e-commerce sector is growing at 20% annually, driven by increased internet access and consumer adoption, innovations in Fintech and logistics which are addressing challenges such as payment systems and trust in online transactions.

He added that, West Africa’s vibrant startup ecosystem, with over 600 tech startups, attracted $1.5 billion in investments in 2023.

“Accelerators, incubators, and co-working spaces are crucial in supporting entrepreneurs. A tech-savvy youth population is driving digital adoption, enhancing the region’s digital transformation,” he said.

                                            WATRA’s Role

Aboki said WATRA supports the digital economy by promoting regulatory harmonization, facilitating infrastructure development and encouraging action across the telecommunications sector.

Giving WATRA’s role in the growth of telecommunications business across West African countries, Aboki said: “WATRA is not a regulator, but an association of regulators in the sub-region of West Africa, with a responsibility to improve telecoms service delivery in West Africa, through collaboration.

“WATRA’s role in all of these growth areas is that it supports and promotes regulatory harmonisation, facilitates infrastructure development and encourages development across the regulatory bodies in different West African countries. WATRA helps to bring speed of development in West Africa.”

He assured that WATRA will continue to focus on its service expansion pan and increase collaboration in order to extend connectivity to rural areas and under-developed areas in West Africa.

“We will collaborate with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to leverage technology that will advance development in West Africa. We will ensure that new entrants in satellite and space technologies, maximise the benefits to enhance the growth of telecoms business across West African countries, and as well promote cybersecurity and data protection among member states.

“As well ensure that countries with more advanced telecoms infrastructure, share their experiences and methodologies with countries that have less telecoms infrastructure. From time to time, we bring different regulators together to discuss issues that will enhance regulations in their regions.

“For instance, some countries do not have policies on co-location of telecoms infrastructure and WATRA was able to help build the capacities of some of the regulators in such a way that it will attract investors to invest in their telecoms infrastructure rollout.”

On what WATRA is doing to address roaming charges differentials across West Africa, the Executive Secretary explained that the roaming regulation was established in 2017, but it has not been fully implemented across regions for different reasons.

“Another challenge is the disparity in tariff charges. Some countries with large number of subscribers like Nigeria charge lower tariff rate, while countries with smaller number of subscribers charge higher tariff rate. What we need in West Africa is a uniform tariff rate for roaming charges. We are working towards bilateral agreement between countries to achieve it”, he stated.

Worried that data generated in West Africa, are still transmitted to internet hubs in Europe and America, before getting to its final destination in West Africa, Aboki  said WATRA had been advocating for Internet Exchange Point structure for West Africa, insisting that it will boost connectivity across West African countries, and also reduce cost of data in West Africa.

“WATRA is working towards improving the interconnectivity of infrastructure companies. Infrastructure companies should be able to interconnect within West Africa, instead of allowing our data to first travel to Europe before returning to West Africa. We need more of the West African data to be hosted in data centres located in West Africa and not in Europe in order to save cost. Our priority is to increase regional connectivity, reduce cost of data and enhance access to spectrum,” Aboki said.


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TECNO, UNICEF Join Forces to Revolutionize Digital Learning for Nigerian Children

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TECNO, a leading innovative technology brand, has partnered with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Nigeria to support the implementation of the Nigeria Learning Passport, a digital learning platform.

Too many children remain out of school today, and many more are not learning. In Nigeria, the challenges in the field of education are particularly acute.

To improve the quality of education for children and adolescents, the Federal Ministry of Education and UNICEF launched the innovative Nigeria Learning Passport programme in 2022. This initiative forms part of UNICEF’s broader global educational strategy, the Learning Passport, established in 2018.

The platform provides curriculum-aligned materials in local languages through online and offline delivery, allowing children to access digital learning resources at any time, wherever they are.

This ensures that quality education is available and accessible to all. The platform covers a full range of educational content, from foundational learning to skills development, and provides educators professional training.

The programme has expanded to 19 states nationwide, ranking second among all participating countries with approximately 888,000 registered users.

TECNO is working with UNICEF to support expanding and deepening the Nigeria Learning Passport. The partnership will further strengthen content development, purchase and maintenance of technical equipment, and professional training for educators.

In 2024, UNICEF plans to expand the Nigeria Learning Passport to include offline content for 50,000 children in remote and low-income areas, further reducing the education gap and improving the quality of education.

“We are pleased to partner with TECNO to enhance the reach and impact of the Nigeria Learning Passport,” said Cristian Munduate, UNICEF Country Representative in Nigeria.

“This collaboration will allow us to provide more children, especially those in remote and underserved areas, with the quality education they deserve.

“Digital learning is a powerful tool for bridging educational gaps and ensuring that every child has the opportunity to learn and thrive. With TECNO’s support, we are one step closer to making education accessible to all children in Nigeria, empowering them to build a brighter future.”

Jack Guo, General Manager of TECNO, added, “As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility endeavours, TECNO keeps giving back to the communities where our business is present. Investing in education is an effective strategy for breaking the inter-generational transmission of poverty and contributing to social and economic development. Africa has the world’s youngest population structure, and the progress of African children is the world’s progress.

“Through the Learning Passport programme, we hope to help young people in Nigeria access sufficient education and development opportunities, becoming a strong engine for economic growth and social progress in Africa and even the world.”

By the end of 2023, the Learning Passport programme had expanded to 38 countries worldwide, with 6.02 million registered users and more than 13,000 courses.

In 2020, the Learning Passport was recognised as one of the 50 Most Influential Projects by The Project Management Institute, and in 2021, TIME named the programme one of the best 100 inventions of the year.


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Recovery Costs for Ransomware Attacks on 2 Critical Infrastructures Quadruples to $3m in 1 Year – Sophos Survey Finds

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Sophos, a global leader of innovative security solutions for defeating cyberattacks, today released a sector survey report, “The State of Ransomware in Critical Infrastructure 2024,” which revealed that the median recovery costs for two critical infrastructure sectors, Energy and Water, quadrupled to $3 million over the past year.

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This is four times higher than the global cross-sector median. In addition, 49% of ransomware attacks against these two critical infrastructure sectors started with an exploited vulnerability.

Data for the State of Ransomware in Critical Infrastructure 2024 report comes from 275 respondents at energy, oil and gas, and utilities organizations, which fall under the Energy and Water sectors of CISA’s 16 defined critical infrastructure sectors.

The results for this sector survey report are part of a broader, vendor-agnostic survey of 5,000 cybersecurity/IT leaders conducted between January and February 2024 across 14 countries and 15 industry sectors.

“Criminals focus where they can cause the most pain and disruption so the public will demand quick resolutions, and they hope, ransom payments to restore services more quickly.

“This makes utilities prime targets for ransomware attacks. Because of the essential functions they provide, modern society demands they recover quickly and with minimal disruption,” said Chester Wisniewski, global Field CTO.

“Unfortunately, public utilities are not only attractive targets but vulnerable to attacks on many fronts, including the requirement for high availability and safety, as well as an engineering mindset focused on physical security.

“There’s a preponderance of older technologies configured to enable remote management without modern security controls like encryption and multifactor authentication. Like hospitals and schools these utilities are frequently operating with minimal staffing and without the IT staffing required to stay on top of patching, the latest security vulnerabilities and the monitoring required for early detection and response.”

On top of growing recovery costs, the median ransom payment for organizations in these two sectors jumped to more than $2.5 million in 2024—$500,0000 higher than the global cross-sector median.

The Energy and Water sectors also reported the second highest rate of ransomware attacks. Overall, 67% of the organizations in these sectors reported being hit by ransomware in 2024, in comparison to the global, cross-sector average of 59%.

Other findings from the report include:

·       The energy and water sectors reported increasingly longer recovery times. Only 20% of organizations hit by ransomware were able to recover within a week or less in 2024, compared to 41% in 2023 and 50% in 2022. Fifty-five percent took more than a month to recover, up from 36% in 2023. In comparison, across all sectors, only 35% of companies took more than a month to recover

·       These two critical infrastructure sectors reported the highest rate of backup compromise (79%) and the third highest rate of successful encryption (80%) when compared to the other industries surveyed

“This once again shows that paying ransom payments almost always works against our best interests. An increasing number (61%) paid the ransom as part of their recovery, yet the amount time it took to recover was extended.

“Not only do these high rates and amounts of ransoms encourage more attacks on the sector, but they are not achieving the claimed goal of shorter recovery times,” said Wisniewski.

“These utilities must recognize they are being targeted and take proactive action to monitor their exposure of remote access and network devices for vulnerabilities and ensure they have 24/7 monitoring and response capabilities to minimize outages and shorten recovery times.

“Incident response plans should be planned in advance, the same as for fires, floods, hurricanes and earthquakes, and be rehearsed on a regular schedule.”


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