No need for trenches in cyber-warfare, when all you need is a computer

Cyber warfare doesn't need anything more complex than a laptop and a power source. (Shutterstock/File)
Updated 12 February 2019

No need for trenches in cyber-warfare, when all you need is a computer

  • Estimates put the cost of cyber attacks at $575 bln
  • Conference told cyber warfare impacts the very fabric of society

DUBAI: Cyber-warfare allows anyone to hack and take over billboards, television stations and even speeches far from where the conflict is and from the comfort of their own homes, warned information security researcher and analyst Rodrigo Bijou on Tuesday.

“Cyberfare goes beyond just hacking a few computers and systems, it is the manipulation of the very fabric of society, online and offline,” Bijou told audience members at a packed hall Dubai’s World Government Summit.

“Maintaining cybersecurity is a necessity because it goes beyond simple piracy to manipulation of the fabric of society.”

Organizations operating in the Middle East – including media – have been targeted in cyberattacks so sophisticated and so big that they could only have been by governments or agencies operating on their behalf.

In 2018 the British government estimated the global cost of cyber attacks ranged from a “conservative” $375 bln to a top end of $575 bln.

Costs come as a result of a multitude of reasons: media company websites are taken over, bank accounts emptied, sensitive information stolen and leaked, or websites are simply disabled in malicious attacks.

None of these examples are good for any organization or government, but for smaller companies without the back up of highly experienced technical teams it can be crippling.    

Bijou spoke of the need for governments worldwide to be wary of “digital vulnerabilities” in order to stay ahead of hackers.

“We can change the dynamics of cyber-warfare through a global collaborative approach, turning hacking into a force for the betterment of humanity,” he said, adding that “Government must design cybersecurity strategies and ensure cyber resilience and work on unified cyber strategies operating in a single system to take care of any digital imbalance in order to confront piracy.”

Also speaking on the third and last day of the World Government Summit in Dubai was Facebook’s policy manager for Europe and MENA on counterterrorism and countering violent extremism, Erin Marie Saltman.

“We must fight the rhetoric of extremism and hatred that is spread through extremist content and calculations,” she said, adding that governments and companies “must constantly conduct objective analysis in the cyber world to challenge the threat of terrorism and extremism.”

“There are penetrating accounts and hate speech, so we must urge governments to do more to address this phenomenon that is spreading in the cyber world,” she said.

Saltman urged both governments and powerful companies to work together to counter these rhetorics.

“We must work together to create a digital fingerprint that contributes to creating a digital society to counter extremism,” she said.


Google enters battle for cloud gaming market

Updated 17 November 2019

Google enters battle for cloud gaming market

SAN FRANCISCO, California: Ever-expanding Google becomes a gaming company Tuesday with the launch of its Stadia cloud service that lets people play console-quality video games on a web browser or smartphone.
The Internet giant hopes to break into the global video game industry expected to top $150 billion this year, with cloud technology that could broaden audiences attracted by rich new features as well as ease of access with no more need for consoles.
But analysts say Stadia’s outlook is uncertain as its faces rivals such as PlayStation Now in an emerging and highly-competitive market.
Stadia plays into a trend in which content — ranging from blockbuster films to work projects — lives in the cloud and is accessible from any device.
“All of these new services are merely pointing out that we don’t need sophisticated hardware in the home to access entertainment,” said Wedbush Securities equity research managing director Michael Pachter.
Google last month sold out of “Founder’s Edition” kits, which are priced at $129.
Each kit contains a Stadia controller and a pendant-shaped Chromecast Ultra wireless connection device that plugs into television sets.
Stadia games are playable using Google Chrome web browser software on computers.
It also works with Google-made Pixel smartphones from the second-generation onward, and on televisions.
Stadia Pro subscriptions, priced at $10 a month in the US, will be available in 14 countries in North America and Europe.

'Underwhelming'
However, analysts say Stadia could wind up as another “bet” that Google walks away from if it fails to live up to expectations.
“Stadia will live or die by its content,” said Ovum senior analyst George Jijiashvili.
“The announced 12 launch titles are underwhelming.”
Subscribers will be able to buy games that will be hosted at Google data-centers, but some free games will be available to subscribers, starting with “Destiny 2: The Collection.”
Stadia on smartphones will work with WiFi connections rather than rely on mobile telecom services.
Being able to play without lags or interruptions is paramount to gamers, and flawed Internet connections could cause frustration. Internet speed will also determine how rich in-game graphics can be.
Some promised features such as integration with YouTube will not be in place at launch.
“Stadia appears to be rushed out the door before fully ready and, worryingly, Google is risking falling short on its promises,” Jijiashvili said.
“These shortcomings however would be easily overlooked if Google can deliver a very reliable and high-quality game streaming service.”
Google appears committed to doing just that, according to Ubisoft senior vice president of partnerships Chris Early.
The French video game giant has been working with Google and its games are among titles coming to the service.
“From what I have seen, their plans are too deep; they are too good, and they are too invested,” Early said. “They are not calling it quits any time soon.”
He expects a long launch period during which Google will beef up Stadia.
“If there is a one-day problem at launch, it isn’t the end of the world; it isn’t even close,” he said, stressing the potential for Stadia to let people play without investing in consoles.
But Pachter questioned whether subscriptions were the right approach.
“The right model is pay as you go or pay for the game and play unlimited without a subscription,” Pachter said.
“Amazon will try one of those and will win the streaming wars.”
Amazon has game studios but no online game service.

Project xCloud
US technology veteran Microsoft has been testing a Project xCloud online game platform.
“Next year, we’ll bring Project xCloud to Windows PCs, and are collaborating with a broad set of partners to make game streaming available on other devices as well,” Microsoft corporate vice president Kareem Choudhry said in an online post.
Sony Interactive Entertainment last month slashed the price of its PlayStation Now cloud video game service by about half in the US to $10 monthly.
Japan-based Sony also boosted the library of games that PlayStation Now users can access through its consoles or on personal computers powered by Windows software.
Sony and Microsoft are also poised to release new-generation video game consoles next year.
“While we expect dedicated consoles to eventually lose relevance in the face of cloud gaming services, there’s no guarantee that it will be Google’s service — rather than Sony and Microsoft’s — that catalyzes this trend,” said Ovum senior analyst Matthew Bailey.