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Beware, Some apps can secretly record your iPhone screen, including credit card info

Izunna Okpala

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A number of popular apps engage in the practice of recording your iPhone screen without your knowledge or consent, according to an investigation from TechCrunch. The practice, known as session replaying, typically involves hiring a third-party firm, in this case the analytics firm Glassbox, to embed the technology into a mobile app.

From there, Glassbox’s software records every action you take within the app, as well as taking screenshots along the way. Even worse is that, for apps like Air Canada’s and other travel sites, this includes the fields where users input sensitive information like passport numbers, credit card numbers, and other financial and personal information.

According to TechCrunch, none of the most widely used travel or retail apps that it could find that employed Glassbox’s technology disclose this in a privacy policy or similar public-facing document. Additionally, it doesn’t seem like any of these apps have received consent from the user in any way. Among the apps mentioned in the investigation include Air Canada, Abercrombie & Fitch and its Hollisercrombie & Fitch and its Hollister subsidiary, Expedia, Hotels.com, and Singapore Airlines, among others. TechCrunch based its report on information unearthed first by the App Analyst, a mobile security blog.

While this would appear to be a common practice in the mobile app industry, what makes it especially worrisome is that the App Analyst discovered that Air Canada in particular was not properly masking its session replay files when they were sent from a mobile device to the company’s servers, meaning they’re vulnerable to a man-in-the-middle attack or other similar interception technique. Back in August of last year, AirCanada reported that its mobile app suffered a data breach, exposing 20,000 users’ profile data that may included passport numbers and other sensitive identifying info.

As TechCrunch notes, none of the apps that engage in screen recording for analytics purposes disclose this to users. That suggests there could be a number of other iOS apps, as well as Android versions too, that use session replays, and in such a way that leaves the information recorded through the app vulnerable to a hacker or other malicious third party.

And while it may not be all that surprising that numerous companies out there collect this type of data, it does highlight how these large corporations exploit the lack of understanding most mobile app users have around privacy, data collection, and app analytics. When the Wall Street Journal revealed that Google lets third-party email app developers read your Gmail messages, it caused an uproar from users and members of Congress who were largely unaware of the practice, even though you might reasonably call it industry standard.

In this case, it may be less about the intrusion into how you use, say, the Expedia app in your free time and more about the potential risk you face when Expedia insecurely sends a video displaying your credit card number back to its own servers.

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Nigerian News

MTN announces investment of 1,6 billion US dollars in Nigeria

Izunna Okpala

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MTN Group plans to invest 1,6 billion US dollars over the next three years in its network and operations in Nigeria.

The company’s board member, Mcebisi Jonas, made the announcement during a recent visit with Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s President.

Jonas said, “We are fully aligned with the government’s policy agenda, and committed to improving the country’s digital economy.”

Buhari shared the Nigerian Government’s commitment to ensuring that companies like MTN thrive in the country in creating an enabling environment.

“I am delighted to hear about the progress you are making in Nigeria, especially in supporting our digital inclusion programmes. Your proposed initiatives, such as the rural telephony project, will certainly complement our economic diversification and financial inclusion programs by linking rural producers with consumers in our major cities,” he said.

Nigeria’s President also revealed ongoing plans by the government to improve security of telecoms installations, regarded as critical national infrastructure.

“Our hope is for operators like MTN to continue to focus on delivering quality service at reasonable prices. If we put our minds together, such win-win positions are achievable,” Buhari added.

MTN Group and the Nigerian government are striving to mend relationships that have been strained of late because of industry-record fines, sanctions and threats.

“MTN remains fully committed to meeting our fiscal responsibilities and contributing to the social and economic development of Nigeria and all regions where we operate,” said MTN Group chief executive officer Rob Shuter.

Nigeria remains a key market for MTN Group. MTN Nigeria has been listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and has secured a super-agent license which clears the way for the launch of its Fintech business.

Despite complaints about a ‘challenging operating environment,’ according to its consolidated financial report for the nine months ended September 30th, 2019, MTN Nigeria’s profit grew by almost 30 per cent.

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Tech News

The 2020 Deloitte predictions: from private 5G to e-bikes

Izunna Okpala

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Deloitte shared its annual technology, media and telecommunications predictions with customers and media through their online media.

The predictions are based on research undertaken by Deloitte Global-the Report on Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions 2020.

Delloite says the research aims to provide insight into the smart future – technology and trends that offer opportunities for growth and transformation across the corporate landscape, such as edge computing, private 5 G, AI, content delivery and consumer trends.

Paul Lee, global TMT head of research at Deloitte, talked the audience though the 2020 predictions, which range from the expected 5G and AI to somewhat surprising rise of cycling.

1. Edge AI chips come into their own

Over 750 million edge AI chips–chips or parts of chips that perform or accelerate on-device machine learning tasks, rather than in a remote data center–will be sold in 2020.

The demand for these chips is likely to grow twice as fast as the overall chip market, as they find their way into an increasing number of consumer devices and business devices, predicts Deloitte Global.

2. Expert service robots set for double-digit growth

Of the approximately 1 million robots projected to be sold for business use in 2020, Deloitte Global estimates that just over half will be professional service robots, generating revenue in excess for US$ 16 billion, or 30 percent more than in 2019.

3. Private 5G networks

Deloitte Global expects more than 100 businesses from around the world to start exploring private 5 G networks by the end of 2020.

Hundreds of thousands of companies will likely deploy private cellular networks over the next decade. Regulation is evolving to allow for the private use of certain bands, Lee said.

4. High speed from low orbit

Moving into orbit and producing satellites has become less costly, while in every part of the world demand for communication has been growing.

Deloitte Global estimates that by the end of 2020, there will be more than 700 low-earth orbit satellites seeking to deliver global broadband internet–up from about 200 by the end of 2019.

5. The smartphone multiplier

The sale of products and services that depend on smartphone ownership – the so-called smartphone multiplier – will be three times that of smartphone market itself.

Deloitte Global predicts that the smartphone multiplier will drive US$459 billion of revenue in 2020, and expects that market to grow between 5 and 10 % annually through 2023.

The three largest elements of the smartphone multiplier are: mobile advertising, apps and hardware accessories.

6. Antennae: terrestrial TV’s surprising staying power

At least 1.6 billion people worldwide will get some of their TV from an antenna, representing 450 million households.

TV may not expand at the pace it did 20 years ago, but it is not declining either, and according to Deloitte Global, both advertisers and broadcasters need to take note of that.

7. Networks for content delivery: Audio, games, and more

Content delivery networks (CDN)s) are designed to improve media quality, speed and reliability by bringing content physically closer to the user.

Deloitte predicts that the global CDN market will reach US$14 billion in 2020 and that the market will more than double by 2025, driven by increasing consumer hunger for streaming video over the Internet.

By 2022, CDNs are expected to carry 72% of all Internet traffic.

8. Ad-supported video

Revenue from ad-supported video services will reach an estimated US$32 billion in 2020, Deloitte predicts.

Asia will lead with US$15.5 billion revenue, nearly half of the global total. Over a billion people in Asia watch ad-supported video services, thanks to the advent of affordable 4G connectivity, low-cost smartphones and business models that offer free content in exchange for watching ads.

Ad-supported videos could be the latest Asian import to the US, Delloite predicts.

9. The rise of audiobooks, podcasts

According to the Deloitte report, the global audiobook market will grow by 25 per cent to US$ 3.5 billion, while the podcasting market will grow by 30 per cent and for the first time reach the US$ 1 billion mark.

10. Making cycling faster, easier and safer

More cyclists are taking to the road and tech innovations are making cycling more appealing: safer, faster, more convenient, and easier to track and measure.

E-bikes, which use batteries to assist pedalling, stand out for their potential to boost cycling growth, says Deloitte.

It predicts that by 2023 the number of e-bikes globally should reach 300m, a 50% increase over 2019.

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Inventions

Nigeria’s Rensource raises $20 million to fuel solar markets in Africa

Izunna Okpala

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A $20 million Series Around co-led by CRE Venture Capital and the Omidyar network has been raised by Nigerian company Rensource Energy.

The renewable energy company is building and running solar-powered micro-installations that provide electricity to commercial community facilities, such as open-air bazaars.

The startup, which was launched in 2016, modified its business strategy. “We’ve been pivoting away from a residential focus … and we’re developing much larger systems to basically become the utility in Nigeria for these large urban markets,” said Ademola Adesina, co-founder of Rensource.

The company has an alliance with BOS AG, a German manufacturer, with whom it creates customized panels for use. For its software-related programs, Rensource also has developer teams in Nigeria and Europe.

The startup plans to sell them B2B services in addition to becoming a micro-energy provider to the diverse SME groups in Nigeria. Rensource is introducing its Spaces Offline to Online Supply Chain Services Project with the $20 million round, offering business analytics and options for working capital.

“It’s a platform for mini-ERP. We’re trying to bring a world of banked people, but … yet offline — their goods are offline, they’re monitoring nothing, and there’s no data behind their business — online,” Adesina said.

Rensource Africa Nigeria App

The value Rensource aims to bring to Nigeria’s small and medium-sized businesses at a profit for itself is to minimize overhead costs through better business practices and free them from generator bane.

Cross-market generators in West Africa are like an unexpected but essential business partner, noisy, fuel-guzzling and pollution-producing generators.

Nigeria’s lack of affordable and reliable electricity creates a huge economic and opportunity cost to the largest economy in Africa.

The West African nation, with a 200 million population greater than Russia, is roughly the size of Texas, producing fewer gigawatt hours of electricity each year than the U.S. state of Connecticut.

Nigerian companies (and citizens) adapt by spending on diesel fuel and generators to fix these power shortages.

Nigeria’s 2019 study from the IMF cited $29 billion in economic losses in Nigeria due to inadequate supply of electricity. Nigeria ranked 169 out of 190 countries in the “Having Electricity” category in the global Doing Business rankings.

This difficulty and cost weighs particularly heavy on Nigeria (and the continent’s) SMEs, which often operate in Africa’s informal economy — projected to be one of the largest off-the grid commercial spaces in the world.

Rensource Solar Nigeria AfricaThe micro-utility model of Rensource deploys power clusters — consisting of solar panels, batteries and a power management network — adjacent to markets and business hubs. The demand for energy is not completely clean, as the company also uses its own diesel backup system.

Rensourse used this model to become an off-grid energy supplier in six Nigerian states, and operated the Sabon Gari market— one of the largest in the country, located in northern Kano State.

According to Adesina, the company is planning to grow to 100 markets in Nigeria and other African countries within 24 months.

Rensource generates revenue from regular, weekly or monthly fees charged to merchants. “We made a couple of hundred thousand dollars in revenue in 2017. We’ve made around $7 million in revenue last year, and this year we’re going to do better than that,” said Adesina.

According to Adesina, the company did not release official reports, but produced a small profit last year. He called the introduction of more of his micro-use to new markets and the diversification of services as the road to sustainability in the long term.

Rensource differentiates itself from many home-kit solar energy startups in Africa, such as M-Kopa, by becoming a renewable energy utility at scale.

ademola adesina rensource

The CEO of the startup sees the company as a classic leapfrog tech business, essentially bypassing the deficient electricity grid in Nigeria and offering a less capital-intensive alternative to massive (and often complicated) energy infrastructure projects.

Rensource is also following a trend by some Nigeria-based startups, such as trucking-logistics company Kobo360 and motorcycle ride-hail company Gokada, to shape a suite of additional services around the needs of core clients.

In Rensource’s case, those clients are SMEs and traders in the informal economy. “This informality of theirs is what we see as an opportunity in building this new business line and bringing these [merchants] into the online world,” said Adesina.

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