Week in Review: IoT, Security, Auto

Amazon at home; legal action; auto alliances.


Arteris IP reports that Bitmain licensed the Arteris Ncore Cache Coherent Interconnect intellectual property for use in its next-generation Sophon Tensor Processing Unit system-on-a-chip devices for the scalable hardware acceleration of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms. “Our choice of interconnect IP became more important as we continued to increase the complexity and performance of Sophon AI SoCs. The Arteris Ncore cache coherent interconnect IP allowed us to increase our on-chip bandwidth and reduce die area, while being easy to implement in the backend. The Ncore IP’s configurability helped us optimize the die area of our SoC, which permits us to offer our users more performance at lower cost,” Bitmain CEO Haichao Wang said in a statement.

Synopsys announces that The MOSIS Service, a leading provider of multi-project wafers, selected Synopsys’ IC Validator tool for physical verification signoff. IC Validator’s feature-rich physical verification solution, coupled with a highly scalable engine, has allowed The MOSIS Service to achieve significantly faster physical signoff. The MOSIS Service deployed IC Validator for full-chip design rule checking and layout-versus-schematic signoff on designs in FinFET process technologies. Meanwhile, the electronic design automation vendor announces immediate availability of the latest release of its flagship IC Compiler II place-and-route system that includes several new innovative technologies to deliver superior quality-of-results and fastest time-to-results for the next wave of leading-edge designs across a wide range of vertical markets, including automotive, cloud computing, AI, networking, and wireless applications. Continued investment in technology advancements in IC Compiler II technologies deliver 10% total power reduction, 5% smaller area, 5% better timing, and 2x faster runtime. Based on observed benefits, Realtek has deployed the latest IC Compiler II technologies on their next-generation communication network designs to meet stringent power, performance, and area budgets while speeding up TTR for their designs.

Internet of Things
Amazon is aiming to make use of its smart home devices virtually touchless. A Dashbot survey found three-quarters of the respondents said they use Alexa and other voice-controlled assistants at least once a day, and 23% said they control smart home devices with their voice assistant. IDC forecasts 2019 shipments of smart home devices will increase 26.9% this year to 832.7 million units, compared with 2018, and it predicts the number of such devices in use to reach almost 1.6 billion units by 2023.

The Los Angeles Police Department is asking the civilian Police Commission for permission to permanently add drones to its arsenal and expand their uses to the bomb squad, the hazardous materials unit, and when police officers use warrants to apprehend dangerous suspects. The LAPD currently has four drones, similar to commercial models for civilians, and wants to upgrade to a model made for law enforcement.

This week in Huawei – the federal government last week said in a filing that the potential Beijing may use the networking and telecommunications equipment made by Huawei Technologies is enough justification to keep government agencies from doing business with the embattled Chinese vendor. The U.S. government asserts that it is not singling out Huawei for punishment but moving proactively against any possible Chinese cyberespionage. The government also asked to have a lawsuit Huawei filed against the federal government thrown out of a U.S. district court in Texas. The Chinese company says the federal ban on doing business with Huawei is unconstitutional. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said American companies can apply for a license to sell products, such as microchips, to Huawei. Licenses will be denied if there are national security concerns about Huawei’s use of those products. Huawei will remain on the Commerce Department’s “entity list” while the licensing process commences.

Ransomware attacks against local and state governments are proliferating, with a variety of alternatives on how those governments should react to having its data and systems held for ransom, this opinion piece notes. “All sides on this debate have important points with supporters in the cybersecurity industry, but their arguments miss the key issue: our state and local governments are not resourced properly to defend their networks. A better, smarter approach is needed, and the answer is not legislation to outlaw ransomware payments. All sides on this debate have important points with supporters in the cybersecurity industry, but their arguments miss the key issue: our state and local governments are not resourced properly to defend their networks. A better, smarter approach is needed, and the answer is not legislation to outlaw ransomware payments,” the authors write.

Taiwan-based D-Link reached a settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission regarding a 2017 lawsuit the government agency brought against the hardware manufacturer for allegedly misrepresenting the security of its products. D-Link committed to implementing a new software security program for its Internet-connected cameras and routers. The agreement also calls for the company to subject itself to 10 years of biennial security audits from an independent, third-party auditor. The FTC will choose the auditor, while D-Link will specify the certifications the auditor must have.

The U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office proposes to fine British Airways £183.39 million (about $228.5 million) for a security breach last year that compromised the personal data of around 500,000 customers. It would be a record fine, if upheld, for a substantial infraction of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, implemented more than a year ago.

Zoom Video Communications, a 2019 IPO darling, faced a cybersecurity kerfuffle this week, issuing an emergency software patch to address a zero-day vulnerability for Mac users. While the company originally characterized the security flaw as “low risk,” it backtracked and took steps to fix the issue. Zoom stated in a blog post the actions it took: “Remove the local web server entirely, once the Zoom client has been updated – We are stopping the use of a local web server on Mac devices. Once the patch is deployed, Mac users will be prompted in the Zoom user interface (UI) to update their client. Once the update is complete, the local web server will be completely removed on that device.”

The Internet Society’s Online Trust Alliance estimates $45 billion was lost during 2018 in U.S. cyber incidents. The OTA’s 2018 Cyber Incident & Breach Trends Report was issued this week. The Internet Society asserts that 95% of data breaches last year could have been prevented.

Trend Micro researchers report that there are more than 17,000 new samples of the Anubis Android banking malware available in the wild, targeting 188 banking and finance applications. The creator of Anubis, which has been around for a dozen years, has apparently retooled the malware for a new wave of cyberattacks on those applications. The banking Trojan is said to use social engineering and phishing campaigns to spread its malware.

Cyberattacks on the high seas? The U.S. Coast Guard says: Believe it. The military branch warns commercial vessels to upgrade their cybersecurity precautions in the wake of an incident during February of this year, when a ship heading to New York City requested help from the Coast Guard, saying the vessel was “experiencing a significant cyber incident impacting their shipboard network.”

The U.S. Cyber Command warned Tuesday about hackers exploiting a security vulnerability in Microsoft’s Outlook email program. Those hackers reportedly are uploading new malware to an online archive used by cybersecurity researchers. “The malware appears to be connected to Shamoon 2, a disk-wiping attack used against Saudi entities in 2016, said Brandon Levene, head of applied intelligence at Chronicle. Shamoon 2 is widely believed to be the work of Iran,” Joe Uchill writes for Axios.

Microsoft says hackers are launching Astaroth malware campaigns, using file-less execution and “living-off-the-land” techniques to evade detection by anti-virus software tools. “Astaroth is a notorious info-stealing malware known for stealing sensitive information like credentials, keystrokes, and other data, which it exfiltrates and sends to a remote attacker. The attacker can then use stolen data to try moving laterally across networks, carry out financial theft, or sell victim information in the cybercriminal underground,” Microsoft Senior Software Engineer Andrea Lelli wrote in a blog post.

ZTE opened a cybersecurity laboratory in Brussels, Belgium. The Chinese company said the purpose of the new Cybersecurity Lab Europe is to enable potential customers and regulators to review ZTE’s source code and documents, and to perform black-box and penetration testing. Earlier this year, the company opened similar labs in Nanjing, China, and Rome, Italy.

BMW and Daimler developers will collaborate on automated driving technology, while the German automotive manufacturers will separately implement that technology in their product lines. The joint effort will focus upon advanced driver-assistance systems, automated highway driving, and automated parking. The BMW-Daimler agreement foresees using the technology in mass-market vehicles from 2024. As BMW and Daimler partner for next-generation vehicle technology, Tesla will still go it alone, Al Root writes in this analysis.

Ford Motor and Volkswagen Group reached an agreement to cooperate on autonomous driving and electric vehicle technologies, Reuters reports, citing a source familiar with the matter. VW’s MEB EV platform will be shared with Ford, another source told Reuters. A Ford spokeswoman said, “Our talks with Volkswagen continue. Discussions have been productive across several areas. We’ll share updates as details become more firm.” A VW spokesman declined to comment on the potential industry alliance, while adding that talks with Ford are progressing.

At Baidu’s annual Create AI developers conference in Beijing, the Chinese company reported that its autonomous test vehicles have driven more than 1 million miles within 13 cities in China. Baidu continues its work with FAW Group, Ford Motor, and Volvo Group, the company reports. It released Apollo 5.0, the latest version of Baidu’s open-source autonomous driving platform.

BMW CEO Harald Krueger asked that his contract not be extended past April of next year, when it is set to expire. The Munich-based manufacturer is losing luxury car market share to Mercedes-Benz, and its efforts in EVs have fallen behind its competitors.

The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority paused the process of considering whether Amazon can continue with its investment in Deliveroo, an online food delivery service that competes with Uber Eats. An initial enforcement order served on the two companies last month requires Amazon and Deliveroo to keep their delivery operations separate for now.

Bosch introduced the Battery in the Cloud service, which is meant to supplement the battery management systems of electric vehicles. The cloud-based service uses artificial intelligence technology to implement protections to reduce battery cell aging. The company says the service can cut down on ordinary wear and tear on EV batteries by up to 20%.

DENSO and Toyota Motor are creating a joint venture for research and development in next-generation in-vehicle semiconductors. The JV will be formally established in April of next year. A year ago, DENSO and Toyota agreed to consolidate the electronic components production and development functions to DENSO. “The new company will conduct advanced research on the basic structure and processing method of next-generation semiconductors and develop electronic components by implementing semiconductors, such as power modules for electric vehicles and periphery monitoring sensors for automated vehicles, thereby contributing to creating the future of mobility,” the companies said in a statement. Formation of the JV is subject to approval by antitrust authorities.

Seres, the China-based electric vehicle startup formerly known as SF Motors, on Wednesday announced to staff the planned layoff of 90 employees in its Silicon Valley office, The Verge reports. About 300 people worked in that office prior to the layoff notice, according to a former employee. Seres is a U.S. brand for Sokon, a Chinese commercial automotive manufacturer. The company has put off plans to release its SF5 electric SUV in the U.S. this year.

Cisco Systems and Acacia Communications entered into a definitive agreement, under which Cisco will pay $70 per share in cash for shares in Acacia, a Cisco supplier that designs and makes high-speed optical interconnect technologies. On a fully diluted basis, the transaction is valued at about $2.6 billion. The transaction is expected to close during the second half of Cisco’s 2020 fiscal year. The plan is for Acacia employees to join Cisco’s Optical Systems and Optics business. Bill Gartner, the head of that business, wrote in a blog post, “Acacia’s coherent optics technology empowers web-scale companies, service providers, and data center operators to meet the fast-growing consumer demands for data. Acacia brings industry-leading expertise and innovation in all the key technology areas for coherent optics applications – algorithm development, ASIC design and verification for the digital signal processing (DSP), RF design, and module packaging/integration.”

Palo Alto Networks completed its $410 million acquisition of Twistlock, a provider of container security. It completed the acquisition of PureSec, a provider of serverless security, one month ago.

Google Cloud purchased Elastifile, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based cloud storage startup; financial details weren’t disclosed. The company counts Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure among its customers. CTech reports the purchase price was about $200 million for the startup, citing an unidentified source. Founded in 2014, Elastifile has R&D operations in Israel. The startup had raised about $74 million in venture capital, with investors including Cisco Investments, SanDisk Ventures, Dell Technologies Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Battery Ventures, and Western Digital Partners.

Waltham, Mass.-based Dynatrace Holdings, a provider of application monitoring software owned by Thoma Bravo, filed for a $300 million initial public offering. The company plans to trade as DT on the New York Stock Exchange. Goldman Sachs is the lead underwriter for the offering. Dynatrace reports a net loss of $116 million on revenue of $431 million for the fiscal year ended March 31.

Medallia of San Francisco set its IPO terms at 14.5 million shares priced at $16 to $18 a share. Priced in the middle of that range, $17, the provider of a customer experience feedback platform would have an initial market capitalization of $2.07 billion. The company plans to trade as MDLA on the NYSE. Bank of America Merrill Lynch is the lead underwriter. Medallia raised more than $330 million from Sequoia Capital (which has a pre-IPO stake of 40.7%) and other private investors. The company had a $2.6 million net loss on revenue of $94 million for the first quarter of 2019.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States approved SoftBank Vision Fund’s $2.25 billion investment in GM Cruise, a developer of self-driving car technology. The investment was announced in May of 2018.

While Broadcom remains interested in acquiring Symantec, adding to its portfolio of enterprise software providers, the chip company also has a team evaluating TIBCO Software of Palo Alto, Calif., CNBC reports, citing three unnamed sources. Broadcom’s potential acquisition of Symantec would be “very favorable” for Symantec investors, yet an unfavorable outcome for Broadcom’s product innovation, says Jonathan Ruykhaver of Baird, who has a “neutral” rating on SYMC shares. Meanwhile, other analysts are less sanguine about a Broadcom takeover of Symantec. Macquarie analyst Sarah Hindlian, who has a “neutral” rating and a $21 price target on Symantec, said the deal keeps with Broadcom’s strategy to “acquire decaying software assets” and that Symantec is losing significant sales representatives, MarketWatch.com reports.

McAfee is preparing for an IPO, seeking to raise about $1 billion on a valuation of more than $5 billion, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing people familiar with the matter. The cybersecurity company is currently owned by TPG Capital, Thoma Bravo, and Intel.

The Convergence Alliance is established by companies interested in artificial intelligence, big data, blockchain, and the Internet of Things. Jaguar Land Rover, SAP, and Deutsche Telekom’s T-Labs are the founding members. Outlier Ventures serves as the initial curator of the alliance.

IBM completed its $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat on Tuesday, a transaction that could place Big Blue in better competition with Amazon and Microsoft for cloud-based systems, this analysis notes. Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure dominate the public cloud business, while Google Cloud ranks third in the U.S., and Alibaba Group is China’s cloud leader.

Sweden is investigating a national network outage at Tele2, the country’s second largest telecommunications company, following a mid-June incident when corporate and private customers were unable to make voice calls, including those for emergency services. The telecom said it is auditing its mobile network. The National Post and Telecom Agency is conducting its own investigation into the incident last month, which is the latest of three crippling outages in the past year.

Ookla reports that mobile download speeds for U.S. customers continue to increase, while upload speeds lag behind other countries. The company canvassed test results from more than 4.1 million unique devices during the first six months of 2019.

McKinsey & Co. looks at automotive technology and ponders whether 5G cellular communications will help or hinder the technology ecosystem. The article can be downloaded here.

Market Research
Juniper Research forecasts the number of people using government-issued digital identity credentials will increase to more than 5 billion in 2024, compared with 1.7 billion this year, for a growth rate of more than 150%. The firm’s Digital Identity: Technology Evolution, Regulatory Analysis & Forecasts 2019-2024 report is available here. Juniper also has a free whitepaper, Three Trends Accelerating the Growth of Digital Identity.


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