News You might have missed: Week of January 5th

Meltdown and Spectre

These hardware bugs allow programs to steal data which is currently processed on the computer. While programs are typically not permitted to read data from other programs, a malicious program can exploit Meltdown and Spectre to get hold of secrets stored in the memory of other running programs. This might include your passwords stored in a password manager or browser, your personal photos, emails, instant messages and even business-critical documents. Initially thought to affect only Intel chipsets, these bugs in different forms are in fact impacting AMD and ARM solutions as well. This means that most PCs and phones are affected. Cloud services running Intel-powered servers are also affected

Tech giants had been made aware of the bugs by the Google Project Zero team and had been working behind the scenes to release a fix on January 9thbut, unfortunately, reports of the bugs started to leak in the press leaving the companies scramming to explain.

Via ZDNet 

  • What do these bugs do? Meltdown breaks the most fundamental isolation between user applications and the operating system. This attack allows a program to access the memory, and thus also the secrets, of other programs and the operating system. Spectre breaks the isolation between different applications. It allows an attacker to trick error-free programs, which follow best practices, into leaking their secrets. Spectre is harder to exploit than Meltdown, but it is also harder to mitigate.
  • Apple said they had already implemented fixes into High-Sierra and Microsoft released an out-of-band security update.
  • It is somewhat baffling to me that despite planning to release a patch on Jan 9th, the tech giants had not coordinated a better PR line around these bugs which resulted more into a communication meltdown than a tech one.
  • The extent of this security flaw should raise some alarm bells as we are working on adding more connectivity and computer power to so many more devices. And while as a consumer we might think of the implications on our PCs and connected home it is really more connected cars and smart cities that should be our concern.
  • Security remains the least sexy topic to discuss when it comes to tech but it is certainly becoming a crucial one to tackle. This is especially true when we talk about the country infrastructure and core services such as banking, health, and education.
  • While right now the focus might be on the tech giant we should start to question which responsibility lies with the government, hospitals, schools and so on to make sure their backend is safe and with it all the data they have about us.

Smart Lock Maker Otto suspended Operations

Four months after introducing their smart-lock to the market and just a few days before shipping it, marker Otto suspended operations. In a Medium post, CEO Sam Jadallah explained that a failed acquisition left the company with no money.

Via engadget 

  • Otto’s smart-lock was supposed to sell for $699, the highest price for what was quickly baptized as the iPhone of smart locks
  • The choice not to ship the device was the responsible one, as stopping operations after consumers bought the product would have raised many questions on what kind of support those buyers would have had long term.
  • Otto is not the first startup focusing on high-end gadgets to pull the plug over the past 12 months. Juicero with its cold press juice maker and Teleforia and its tea-maker come to mind.
  • While making a gadget might not be impossible, bringing it to market is still a very complex process that many companies are just not prepared for. Think of Essential with their Essential Phone and even Google and its Pixel 2 and Google Home Mini and you can clearly see the complexities of shipping a product
  • While Otto’s CEO still maintains that the price of the lock was not an issue I do wonder how large of a market they would have had. Consumers are still uncertain when it comes to connected home and they are looking for trusted brands and manageable costs.
  • It is hard to say why the prospective buyer changed its mind and pulled the plug on the acquisition as little is known about the actual product to understand if there might have been issues with the product itself.
  • From a consumer perspective, this might be a cautionary tale when selecting home products especially products that have to do with security.

Published by

Carolina Milanesi

Carolina is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc, a market intelligence and strategy consulting firm based in Silicon Valley and recognized as one of the premier sources of quantitative and qualitative research and insights in tech. At Creative Strategies, Carolina focuses on consumer tech across the board. From hardware to services, she analyzes today to help predict and shape tomorrow. In her prior role as Chief of Research at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, she drove thought leadership research by marrying her deep understanding of global market dynamics with the wealth of data coming from ComTech’s longitudinal studies on smartphones and tablets. Prior to her ComTech role, Carolina spent 14 years at Gartner, most recently as their Consumer Devices Research VP and Agenda Manager. In this role, she led the forecast and market share teams on smartphones, tablets, and PCs. She spent most of her time advising clients from VC firms, to technology providers, to traditional enterprise clients. Carolina is often quoted as an industry expert and commentator in publications such as The Financial Times, Bloomberg, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She regularly appears on BBC, Bloomberg TV, Fox, NBC News and other networks. Her Twitter account was recently listed in the “101 accounts to follow to make Twitter more interesting” by Wired Italy.

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