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Apple to Protect Users From Highly Targeted Mercenary Spyware

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Apple has detailed two initiatives to help protect users who may be personally targeted by some of the most sophisticated digital threats, such as those from private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware. Lockdown Mode — the first major capability of its kind, coming this fall with iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura — is extreme, optional protection for the very small number of users who face grave, targeted threats to their digital security. Apple also shared details about the $10 million cybersecurity grant it announced last November to support civil society organizations that conduct mercenary spyware threat research and advocacy.
“Apple makes the most secure mobile devices on the market. Lockdown Mode is a groundbreaking capability that reflects our unwavering commitment to protecting users from even the rarest, most sophisticated attacks,” said Ivan Krstić, Apple’s head of Security Engineering and Architecture. “While the vast majority of users will never be the victims of highly targeted cyberattacks, we will work tirelessly to protect the small number of users who are. That includes continuing to design defenses specifically for these users, as well as supporting researchers and organizations around the world doing critically important work in exposing mercenary companies that create these digital attacks.”
Lockdown Mode offers an extreme, optional level of security for the very few users who, because of who they are or what they do, may be personally targeted by some of the most sophisticated digital threats, such as those from NSO Group and other private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware. Turning on Lockdown Mode in iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura further hardens device defenses and strictly limits certain functionalities, sharply reducing the attack surface that potentially could be exploited by highly targeted mercenary spyware.
At launch, Lockdown Mode includes the following protections:
  • Messages: Most message attachment types other than images are blocked. Some features, like link previews, are disabled.
  • Web browsing: Certain complex web technologies, like just-in-time (JIT) JavaScript compilation, are disabled unless the user excludes a trusted site from Lockdown Mode.
  • Apple services: Incoming invitations and service requests, including FaceTime calls, are blocked if the user has not previously sent the initiator a call or request.
  • Wired connections with a computer or accessory are blocked when iPhone is locked.
  • Configuration profiles cannot be installed, and the device cannot enroll into mobile device management (MDM), while Lockdown Mode is turned on.
“Apple will continue to strengthen Lockdown Mode and add new protections to it over time. To invite feedback and collaboration from the security research community, Apple has also established a new category within the Apple Security Bounty program to reward researchers who find Lockdown Mode bypasses and help improve its protections. Bounties are doubled for qualifying findings in Lockdown Mode, up to a maximum of $2,000,000 — the highest maximum bounty payout in the industry,” the company said.
“Apple is also making a $10 million grant, in addition to any damages awarded from the lawsuit filed against NSO Group, to support organizations that investigate, expose, and prevent highly targeted cyberattacks, including those created by private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware. The grant will be made to the Dignity and Justice Fund established and advised by the Ford Foundation — a private foundation dedicated to advancing equity worldwide — and designed to pool philanthropic resources to advance social justice globally. The Dignity and Justice Fund is a fiscally sponsored project of the New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity,” the company added.
“The global spyware trade targets human rights defenders, journalists, and dissidents; it facilitates violence, reinforces authoritarianism, and supports political repression,” said Lori McGlinchey, the Ford Foundation’s director of its Technology and Society program. “The Ford Foundation is proud to support this extraordinary initiative to bolster civil society research and advocacy to resist mercenary spyware. We must build on Apple’s commitment, and we invite companies and donors to join the Dignity and Justice Fund and bring additional resources to this collective fight.”
The Dignity and Justice Fund expects to make its first grants in late 2022 or early 2023, initially funding approaches to help expose mercenary spyware and protect potential targets that include:
  • Building organizational capacity and increasing field coordination of new and existing civil society cybersecurity research and advocacy groups.
  • Supporting the development of standardized forensic methods to detect and confirm spyware infiltration that meets evidentiary standards.
  • Enabling civil society to more effectively partner with device manufacturers, software developers, commercial security firms, and other relevant companies to identify and address vulnerabilities.
  • Increasing awareness among investors, journalists, and policymakers about the global mercenary spyware industry.
  • Building the capacity of human rights defenders to identify and respond to spyware attacks, including security audits for organizations that face heightened threats to their networks.
The Dignity and Justice Fund’s grant-making strategy to research, track, and hold the enhanced cyber weapons trade accountable will be advised by an independent, global Technical Advisory Committee. Initial members include:
  • Ron Deibert, professor of political science, and director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, University of Toronto
  • Ivan Krstić, head of Apple Security Engineering and Architecture
“There is now undeniable evidence from the research of the Citizen Lab and other organizations that the mercenary surveillance industry is facilitating the spread of authoritarian practices and massive human rights abuses worldwide,” said Ron Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab, a research group at the University of Toronto. “I applaud Apple for establishing this important grant, which will send a strong message and help nurture independent researchers and advocacy organizations holding mercenary spyware vendors accountable for the harms they are inflicting on innocent people.”
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Audio Devices

Sony Intros ULT POWER SOUND Series of Speakers and Headphones

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Sony Middle East and Africa has launched ULT POWER SOUND series – a new series of wireless speakers and headphones designed to make you feel like you have dived into the front row of the arena. Built for music lovers, it produces powerful deep sound designed to make your heart tremble. The new range consists of wireless speakers ULT TOWER 10, ULT FIELD 7, ULT FIELD 1, and wireless headphones ULT WEAR. All models in the series include the ULT button, providing signature sound quality by enhancing the music with one or two different sound modes.

ULT TOWER 10
Turn your home into party central with massive bass, 360° Party Sound, 360° Party Light and karaoke, thanks to a supplied wireless mic. You can even connect the speaker to your TV to boost the sound of the things you love to watch.

ULT FIELD 7
Liven up your day with punchy bass and expressive lighting wherever you go. The ULT FIELD 7 lets you take the party anywhere thanks to the waterproof and dustproof construction plus a long battery life means you can party for longer. You can even connect to a mic for karaoke on the go.

ULT FIELD 1
Bring your favourite tunes anywhere with enhanced bass built into a compact package with the ULT FIELD 1. Complete with a multi-way strap for ease of use, take your waterproof, dustproof and even shockproof speaker anywhere for longer, thanks to a long battery life.

ULT WEAR
With exceptional bass and improved Noise Cancelling, Sony’s new ULT WEAR headphones let you bring your favourite festival or club feel with you, everywhere you go.

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Electric Scooters

Marshall MA21 Electric Scooter Review: Convenience on Two Wheels

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The Marshall MA21 electric scooter carves a niche in the electric scooter market with its focus on portability and ease of use. In this review, let’s deep dive into the MA21’s features, performance, and overall value proposition to help you decide if it’s the right electric scooter for your needs.

First Impressions
Right out of the box, the MA21 strikes you with its compact size. Weighing in at just over 8kg, it’s incredibly lightweight, thanks to its aluminium frame. This makes carrying it on public transport, storing it under your desk, or throwing it in the trunk of your car a breeze. Folding the scooter is a one-step process, making it even more convenient for on-the-go situations.

Performance
The MA21 is equipped with a 24V/200W motor, which is suitable for flat terrains and gentle inclines up to 15 degrees. The MA21 can also support a maximum load of 90 kg. While it won’t win any speed races, it offers a comfortable cruising speed of 23km/hr, perfect for zipping around town or navigating a college campus.

The MA21 also offers a range of 12-15km, when fully charged. And it takes around 3 hours to charge the electric scooter from 0% to 100%. However, strong winds or steeper inclines can affect performance.

Ride Quality
Despite the solid 6-inch wheels, the MA21 offers a surprisingly smooth ride. The spring suspension in the front helps absorb bumps and cracks on paved surfaces. However, it’s important to manage your expectations – for rougher terrain, a scooter with pneumatic tires would be a better choice.

Safety Features
The MA21 comes equipped with a basic set of safety features. The front wheel features an electronic brake, while the rear wheel has a mechanical foot brake. These brakes provide adequate stopping power for the scooter’s speed. Headlights and a taillight ensure visibility in low-light conditions.

Verdict
The Marshall MA21 might not be the most feature-rich electric scooter on the market, but it excels in portability and ease of use. It’s a perfect choice for riders who prioritise a lightweight, convenient, and affordable way to navigate short distances in urban environments.

If you require a scooter for longer distances, or rough terrains, or crave additional features such as a display, you might want to consider alternatives that better suit your needs. However, if you’re looking for a no-frills, convenient, and fun way to get around for short commutes, leisure rides, or navigating a college campus, the Marshall MA21 is a strong contender.

Price: AED 1199

Marshall MA21 Electric Scooter AED 1199
  • Final Rating
3

Summary

The MA21 is equipped with a 24V/200W motor, which is suitable for flat terrains and gentle inclines up to 15 degrees. The MA21 can also support a maximum load of 90 kgs. While it won’t win any speed races, it offers a comfortable cruising speed of 23km/hr, perfect for zipping around town or navigating a college campus.

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Gadgets

Razer Launches Blade 18 Gaming Laptop

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Razer has launched the Razer Blade 18 (2024) for gamers and creators. Featuring the world’s first 18” 4K 200Hz display with up to UHD+ (3840×2400) resolution, 3.0ms response time, and DCI-P3 100% colour gamut; Calman Verified and factory-calibrated, this Blade 18 offers gamers and creators ultra-high-definition visuals at breakneck refresh rates for an unmatched viewing experience.

The Blade 18 also packs in Thunderbolt 5 technology that allows users to connect multiple high-resolution gaming displays, high-speed storage, and all-in-one docks, through Bandwidth Boost, up to 120 Gbps, three times more bandwidth than the current leading connection protocol. The Blade 18 is powered by Intel Core 14th Gen i9-14900HX processor, which comes with 24 Cores and the ability to unlock overclocking through Razer Synapse.

You also get up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 Graphics, unlocking up to 175 W Full TGP (Total Graphics Power), and leveraging NVIDIA’s AI-powered DLSS 3 to deliver faster framerates and real-time ray tracing. GeForce RTX technologies are supported in more than 500 popular games and applications, including blockbuster games such as Cyberpunk 2077 and Alan Wake 2. NVIDIA RTX Laptop GPUs are packed with specialized AI Tensor Cores enabling unmatched AI performance in creative apps, ultra-efficient productivity, blistering fast gaming, and more.

The Blade 18 accompanies an 18-inch QHD+ 300Hz Mini-LED Alternate Display Option: For even higher-refresh-rate gaming and up to 1K nits peak brightness, this all-new display option provides a stunning alternative that maintains sharpness in gameplay, creative work, or play, wherever one may be. It features QHD+ (2560×1600) resolution, 2K dimming zones with a new toggle on/off feature, and all the colour accuracy that is a hallmark of the newest Blades, including DCI-P3 100% colour gamut and Calman Verification and calibration at the factory.

The Blade 18’s advanced cooling system, featuring the thinnest exhaust fins in its class, maximizes graphics power and maintains desktop-class performance in a thin design. The vapour chamber technology features a 3-fan system, and Razer’s biggest chamber ever, to quickly and efficiently dissipate heat, ensuring optimal performance even under intense gaming or 3D rendering sessions. Equipped with a 5MP webcam, a THX spatial audio 6-speaker array, upgradeable components, a comprehensive port selection, and the latest Wi-Fi 7 connectivity, the Blade 18 ensures constant connection and immersion, whether for gaming, streaming, or online calls. It even includes a GaN charger (Up to 330W) which is up to 60% smaller than comparable silicon-based solutions.

The Razer Blade 18 (2024) is now available for a price of $3099.99.

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