neXt Curve Insights – June 2023

This is the June 2023 edition of the neXt Curve Tech Insights newsletter. This edition covers WWDC 2023, Sensors Converge, HPE Discover, Samsung Networks Analyst Day, Cisco Live, Honeywell HBT HUG, hybrid AI, GenAI, 5G modernization, RedCap, Galaxy Book3 and S23 Ultra, and more. Subscribe for tech and industry insights that matter.

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T-Mobile and Space X Connect Nowhere

On August 25th, T-Mobile and Space X announced their “Coverage Above & Beyond” partnership to bring about the “end of mobile dead zones”. The announcement was made by Mike Sievert, CEO of T-Mobile and Elon Musk, CEO and Chief Engineer of Space X at a media event that took place at Space X’s Starbase in Texas. It is one of a growing number of announced partnerships, ventures, and rumors of similar nature and purpose of expanding the frontier of connectivity where it hasn’t gone before.

Though the partnership between Space X and T-Mobile was announced as a technology partnership, that didn’t stop T-Mobile’s Mike Sievert from setting some commercial expectations. “Coverage Above & Beyond” promises to provide satellite-based cellular connectivity directly to T-Mobile’s current smartphones thereby providing coverage anywhere in the U.S., its territories, as well as the vast unregulated oceans.

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Industry Insight: A Crisis in Trust & Privacy

For the foreseeable future, we will be challenged with the daunting task of updating our regulatory policies and measures to effectively keep individuals safe as digital technologies continuously create new avenues for dubious actors to impact our personal lives as well as our national security. In this episode, we discuss the myriad of issues that are contributing to a global crisis in trust & privacy that threaten to upend our societies, our economies and our individual rights.

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Industry Insight: When Apple Goes 5G, It Matters

“Hi, Speed”. There couldn’t have been a more glaring hint than the splash page for the special iPhone event held on October 13, 2020. As we all suspected, Apple unveiled the 5G iPhone. But it wasn’t just one phone. It was the entire iPhone 12 line up configured with what can only be the latest 5G modem and RF module. If anything, this line up is a shot in the arm for 5G that has suffered a lackluster start and growing doubt about its value to the average consumer. This is what operators around the globe have been waiting for, the 5G iPhone.

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Industry Insight: Nvidia + Arm – An Industry Positive or Negative?

Shortly after Softbank announced that it was looking to spinoff or sell Arm, which they acquired in 2016 for $32 billion, the rumor mill went into full speed. Speculation ran the gamut from Intel to Apple as potential buyers. Who would court Arm? Rumors settled on Nvidia, the GPU company. Would a Nvidia + Arm union make sense? After all, Nvidia has done well and created a disruptive narrative within the semiconductor industry with its GPU-centered plot line which branches off into numerous subplots in telco networking, edge computing and various AI application domains such as autonomous vehicles, intelligent systems and smart manufacturing.

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Smart Living: Moving Beyond the Smart Home

For years the Smart Home has promised to enrich the lives of consumers and has inspired waves of manufacturer innovation such as smart speakers, intelligent thermostats and much more. While these innovations have offered incremental improvement in our home lives, the consumer reality has been a deluge of devices and services, greater complexity, and less security. In truth, the Smart Home remains elusive, the problems it intends to solve unclear. Only when manufacturers reach beyond devices and services with purpose-driven “Smart Living” solutions at home will this market cross the chasm to rapid market growth.

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Industry Insight: Apple’s China Problem

The big story yesterday afternoon was Tim Cook’s surprise letter to investors announcing that Apple’s Q1 2019 revenue would come in far below the $89 to $93 billion guidance that it issued back on November 1st of 2018.  Tim rattled off numerous factors that promoted Apple to issue a revenue warning one month prior their first earnings call of 2019.  The most prominent factor – China.

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Industry Insight: Holistic Security is Key to Meet the Digital Security Threats of Today & Tomorrow

On October 4th, 2018, Bloomberg’s Businessweek released a report alleging that Chinese spies implanted a “malicious chip” into server motherboards assembled by Super Micro Computer Inc. (Supermicro), a U.S.-based Original Device Manufacturer (ODM) that manufactures servers used in hyperscale data centers.  Growing national security threats are increasingly putting enterprises at risk as the bare-metal of our digital infrastructure depends on a supply chain highly influenced and exposed to the Chinese government.  

If Bloomberg’s allegations prove true, digital business leaders have yet another proof point that security matters and is vital to the ongoing integrity of their business in an increasingly digital economy.  Considering that Supermicro is one of the largest manufacturers of servers by annual shipments and the largest ODM according to research firm, IDC, the scope of the “spy chip” vulnerability could be broad.  But what do enterprises do now?  The digital equipment supply chain will not change overnight.

Hardware-Level Security Vulnerabilities are Growing and Threatening the  Foundation of Our Digital Economy

According to the Bloomberg report “The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies”, the malicious hardware implant (a.k.a. malicious chip) was detected by Amazon’s AWS engineers during their acquisition of the video compression firm Elemental Technologies, which leveraged Super Micro Computer’s servers for their on-premise platform offerings.

This malicious chip implant allegedly interrupts instructions to an affected server’s Baseboard Management Controller (BMC) whereby a rogue administrator could gain remote access to the server through a firmware update malware and potentially impact virtual and other physical servers sitting on a data center’s network.

What is concerning, if true, is these hardware vulnerabilities, including proven vulnerabilities like Meltdown, Spectre and Foreshadow could be leveraged to attack data centers by breaking traditional security boundaries and safeguards.

For instance, a hacker could use these hardware-level vulnerabilities to create a malware or hack method to log into a cloud service and potentially scan memory and processor cache to gain visibility to other users’ personal data, company intellectual property and/or acquire access to applications and virtual machines hosted on the same affected physical server.  This type of threat exposes a business to a profound risk of personal and confidential data and content being compromised and stolen.

AI-based Behavioral Analytics – The Centerpiece of the Holistic Security Platform

If the Chinese “malicious chip” threat is considered in isolation it would seem – as represented in the Bloomberg report – there is no viable solution to the problem.  As Bloomberg reporter, Jordan Robertson, stated in an interview with Emily Chang, “The Chinese government installed malicious microchips on Supermicro-assembled server motherboards.  What a malicious microchip is, think about it as an infection that is hardcoded into your computer.  You cannot get rid of it without throwing the machine away.”   

However, the Bloomberg report intentionally or unintentionally hints and/or alleges that Amazon and Apple identified affected servers and monitored them for malicious activities (hack/breach incidents) prior to removing them from their data centers, suggesting the use of holistic security methods to identify and contain a threat that exploits the “malicious chip” vulnerability.   Spot on!

Going forward businesses need to take a new, holistic approach to security.  Traditional mindsets and approaches to enterprise security will be insufficient as rabid interest and investment in IoT and 5G by enterprises around the world expand the cyber-risk landscape.  However, based on our own research at neXt Curve, we have observed significant gaps in security capabilities and frameworks needed to address future bare-metal-to-edge security threats in a rapidly converging and expanding ICT universe.

One of the key technologies needed to fill the many holistic security capability gaps is AI-based behavioral analytics.  It is an emerging technology that is a critical element of a holistic security strategy and platform whereby standard (what is normal) profiles and behaviors of users and entities/resources (hosts, applications, and data repositories) and activities (network traffic and compute processes) are defined, and anomalous activity is analyzed, flagged, and quarantined or processes killed if needed.

While behavioral analytics may reside at the core of a holistic security solution framework, additional capabilities and services will need to be integrated in order to realize visibility and control over an enterprise’s internal and external digital infrastructure and environments.  Additional solution components will range from cloud access security brokering, integrated endpoint and network service management, security information and event management (SIEM), to intelligent firewalls with DPI (deep packet inspection) for DLP: data loss prevention and content filtering.

Securing the network and software is not good enough anymore.  Enterprises need to think of security from bare metal in the data center to the cloud to the endpoint devices that deliver the digital value we all love so much.  It’s time to think differently about digital security.

Implications for Business Leaders

CISOs, CTOs and CIOs need to think of security holistically and consider new approaches to address an expanding field of profound hardware-level threats like Meltdown, Spectre and the tampering of hardware exemplified by the alleged Chinese “malicious chip” server sabotage.  The management of risk will require ensuring that both internal and external resources and infrastructures are vetted whether they are enterprise-managed or managed by a 3rd party service provider.

The C-Suite and the board need to understand the significant risks that processor-level vulnerabilities will have on their business and on their digital strategy.  It will be critical to bring cybersecurity competencies and a robust agenda into the boardroom to effectively manage and govern the expanding and deepening sea of digital threats facing enterprises today and into the foreseeable future.

Technology vendors have an opportunity to connect the dots and bridge existing and emerging technologies into a holistic security platform.  This will require traditional vendors and service providers to venture outside of their silos and partner with holistic security ecosystem plays or lead by example with newer innovations.

Tech Insight: iOS 12 Gave Apple a Massive Ecosystem Advantage

When the latest series of iPhones are released, we love to see how they measure up to the competition.  The comparative evaluations are typically based on specs – number of cores, processor clock speed, RAM, removable storage – and increasingly on performance benchmark scores.  But what about the value that customers receive over the life of the device.  iOS 12 is enabling Apple to do something no other mobile device manufacturer is remotely able to do – keep your six-year old iPhone up to date and relevant.

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