Consumer advocates see conditions for use

Berlin For weeks, the federal government has been trying to introduce a corona app for tracking infected and infected people. But the initial enthusiasm for digital support in the virus crisis has given way to a struggle for technical solutions, European cooperation and influence. And not only that.

A digital virus defense is viewed with skepticism in the population. At least that is what the current ZDF Politbarometer suggests. An app for smartphones that provides information on contact with a corona infected person without access to personal data would therefore only be used by 47 percent of all respondents. 42 percent state that they do not want to use such an app (do not have a smartphone: 8 percent). The supporters of CDU / CSU (55 percent), FDP (53 percent) and Greens (53 percent) are more open-minded here, but most AfD supporters (70 percent) are against it.

In order for the app to serve its purpose, as many people as possible need to install it. The developers assume that at least 60 percent of the population should have the app in order to actually achieve sustainable success. Germany’s top consumer advocate outlines how this can be done. “In particular, it must be demonstrated that their use is suitable and necessary to achieve their goal,” said the head of the Federal Consumer Association (Klaus VZBV), Klaus Müller, the Handelsblatt.

The disadvantages associated with the measure should also be in proportion to the advantages. “Already by designing the system, a strict earmarking must be guaranteed and the scope of data processing must be reduced to a necessary minimum.” This also means that the data must be anonymized and deleted as early as possible.

Müller also asked for a corona app to be used for a limited time. The measure should “only take so long until its purpose was fulfilled,” said the VZBV boss. The entire process had to be carried out with “the greatest possible transparency”. “This creates trust in data processing,” says Müller. It is also crucial for acceptance that the use of an app is and remains voluntary.

Spahn defends central storage approach

The development of an app is overshadowed by a dispute over the ideal data protection concept. While the platform initiative Pepp-PT pursues a central solution in Germany – i.e. a comparison of the data via a centrally managed server, the decentralized project DP-3T trailer recently won, in which significantly more data has to be transmitted because the comparison of the information directly from Smartphone is made. Most recently, the Cispa-Helmholtz Center for IT Security withdrew from the Pepp-PT initiative by 300 scientists from eight countries.

The Ministry of Health argues that a central solution is important so that the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and local health authorities have access to the data. He takes concerns about it very seriously, says Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn (CDU) on Friday on ZDF. After all, it is about sensitive and personal data, about data security and the question of who has access to it.

However, the aim is that it should be possible to find contact persons for infected persons within “within hours”. That is one of the most important keys on the way to a new everyday life. “This basic belief that data that Apple and Google with American corporations are better protected than data that is also state-controlled on servers in Germany (…) I sometimes do not understand this belief, “said Spahn.

The federal government is meanwhile negotiating with the US company Apple about the requirements for a corona tracing app. It is about the company opening the interface to enable the use of an app, said deputy government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer on Friday. “We need access to the interface,” emphasized Demmer. Apple and Google had announced that they would change this by May, which the Federal Government welcomed.

Great trust in Fraunhofer system

According to their own statements, both groups want to make their operating systems compatible for mobile phones in order to make the Corona apps successful. However, it had previously been said in the federal government that, unlike Google, there would be problems opening the interface at Apple.

The government spokeswoman confirmed the government’s preference for the app developed by the Robert Koch Institute and the Heinrich Hertz Institute, which provides for the central storage of anonymized health data for epidemiological evaluation. “The federal government has great confidence in the system that is currently being tested at Fraunhofer.” With a central app system, you have to trust a government agency. “With a decentralized system, you have to trust Apple and Google,” she added.

The Federal Ministry of the Interior pointed out that the RKI app is still pending an examination by the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). “Then a decision has to be made in the overall assessment,” said a Interior Ministry spokesman. The Ministry of Health is responsible for the app.

More: Corona hero, miser or the new reckless? Read here how the world looks at Germany.


Authority raises alarm about security vulnerabilities in Apple’s mail app


According to US experts, a “VIP in Germany” has fallen victim to the vulnerability.

(Photo: dpa)

Bonn The email app on Apple’s iPhones and iPad tablets has two security gaps, which will soon be closed with an update of the operating system. The Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) raised the alarm and recommended that users delete the app or switch off email synchronization until then. The vulnerabilities “potentially read, change and delete emails are possible,” warned the authority on Thursday.

The American IT security company ZecOps had previously stated that it had found evidence that the vulnerabilities had already been exploited in some cases. It was a very targeted attack.

However, they could no longer have detected any harmful software code on the affected devices, only evidence of this, the researchers explained. The description raised doubts among some other industry experts as to whether one could already speak of evidence of successful attacks.

According to ZecOps, it was able to identify indications of six attacks based on the security vulnerabilities. Among the targets of the attacks were managers of large US companies and a Japanese mobile operator, a journalist in Europe and an unspecified “VIP in Germany”.

In contrast to many attacks, according to the experts, the user does not have to click on a file in the attachment. With the current iOS 13 operating system, the attack can be carried out in the background, with the previous iOS 12 the user had to open the email for this.

These vulnerabilities are popular among attackers

“The BSI assesses these vulnerabilities as particularly critical,” said the authority, which among other things secures the communication of the federal government. At the same time, such security gaps are very popular because they only use attackers as long as they remain undetected. For this reason, they are usually only used in a very targeted manner against particularly valuable goals.

According to ZecOps, an attacked user would only notice that the email app was running slower – and could fail if the attack failed. The security company got first indications of the attacks in February and has been in contact with since then Apple stood. While vulnerabilities have existed since September 2012, previously discovered attack mechanisms went back to January 2018.

Apple wants to close the vulnerabilities with the next version of its mobile operating system iOS. The pre-release of iOS 13.4.5, published in mid-April, already contains the corresponding software code. There will only be effective protection if the update is available to all users. At the same time, ZecOps restricted that two further security gaps had to be exploited for a successful attack.

More: German startups warn against Google and Apple’s initiative against Corona.


Despite security gaps, Zoom grows to 300 million users

Zoom conference

Millions of people use Zoom for meetings – or yoga classes.

(Photo: AFP)

Bangalore, Berlin Of the Video service zoom wins in droves in the crisis despite security concerns. Today, more than 300 million people make calls via the platform every day, as Zoom announced. Before the trend towards the home office caused by the outbreak of the corona virus, the US group had a maximum of ten million users a day.

The number of voices that speak against zoom due to security gaps is increasing. The car company recently issued Daimler the service for business use a cancellation. Zoom competes with teams from Microsoft and Cisco’s Webex.

Zoom tries to take the wind out of the sails of critics. The company announced that it would revise the encryption. Users had repeatedly complained that the service was not fully encrypted. In this regard, there is also a class action lawsuit against the group in the United States.

In addition, there are problems with so-called zoom bombing, in which unauthorized persons dial into a session. A new version for the app, which is about to be released, should prevent this in the future. In addition, the organizer of the video call can now decide which data centers are used in which region.

More: CDU and FDP politicians fear China’s access to zoom data


Facebook buys from an Indian telecommunications company


India is the largest market for the Whatsapp news platform with around 400 million users.

(Photo: AP)

Bangalore The US technology group has invested $ 5.7 billion in the Indian company’s telecommunications unit Reliance Industries announced. The social media giant said it will focus on the collaboration of its messaging platform WhatsApp with Reliances e-commerce project “JioMart”. Facebook’s stake would be 9.99 percent, Jio said in a statement.

According to media reports, WhatsApp had received approval for the launch of its digital payment service in India shortly before the deal to match the comparable products from Google Pay and Paytm to compete. India is the largest market for the news platform with around 400 million users, around 80 percent of smartphone users use the messaging service.

More: How stolen Facebook data could become propaganda tools


These will be the most important technology trends in 2020

Dusseldorf When futurologist Amy Webb performs at conferences like South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, there is rarely a place left. Thousands follow each year as the founder of the Future Today Institute presents her “Tech Trends Report”. For her analysis, the Professor of Strategic Future Planning at the Stern School of Business at New York University is collecting hundreds of trends and technologies that will become more important in the coming months.

She also talks about the most important developments this week in the podcast Handelsblatt Disrupt. Her message: “Many of these technological developments are not stopped by the corona crisis – they are accelerated”. These are the main trends the just published report:

Everyone is measured

When it comes to dealing with data, many look to China with horror. Especially when it comes to the digital rating systems with which every Chinese is categorized. But similar systems have long been in use all over the world, says Webb. Companies measure the time at which Internet users are online, what they do with their smartphones, what they read and who they communicate with.

They condense this information into profiles, and on the basis of this data, automatic systems make decisions for and about each individual: “For example, customers are increasingly being shown different offers or prices – based on the information that companies have collected about them,” she says Futurologist.

Even how long and how intensively users click on certain links or images is registered – as are noises and conversations in people’s homes, via smart speakers or other networked household appliances.

Hundreds of companies then compress this data into profiles – often without the knowledge of the user. This includes companies like Zeta Global and Kustomer, which use the information they collect to predict how much money potential customers will spend.

The provider Maxmind in turn draws conclusions from the location of the users. Which companies dominate this market – and who primarily owns the data and profiles, will be one of the major debates of the next few years, according to Webb.

Household data emissions

Digital thermostats, voice-controlled microwaves and intelligent loudspeakers: the market for connected home electronics is one of the fastest growing technology sectors. Many of these devices make life easier. At the same time, people use this technology to produce unimaginable amounts of data.

“Hardly anyone has ever thought about how they will be used,” warns Webb. She calls these masses of data “digital emissions”, which do not harm the environment – but possibly the individual. Because millions of users reveal sensitive biometric information such as body temperature, pulse, weight (which are measured by networked scales), eating habits and watching TV.

And new partnerships are emerging in the business Amazon teamed up with the prefabricated house manufacturer Lennar – to develop networked houses. Amazon has also filed a patent for a technology that allows the group’s intelligent doorbell to monitor not only the entrance area of ​​the houses, but also the surrounding area.

Google’s Nest home system, in turn, identifies people with facial recognition, much like many other home technologies. As a result, millions of hours of video recordings are regularly uploaded to the Internet. The masses of information that people have at home have so far been an often unused resource. But that would change, according to Webb.

Digitally enhanced hearing and seeing

A few years ago smart glasses were like Google Glass as the next big thing. So far, the technology has been a disappointment. According to Webb, the so-called audio augmented reality will first gain in importance: This means intelligent headphones that are able to explain to the user things like a virtual city guide that are currently visible in their surroundings.

The audio specialist Bose is working on such technologies, for example. Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook nevertheless continue to research smart glasses. Technology is already leaving the laboratories in China: the start-up Rokid has developed intelligent glasses that promise to be able to measure the body temperature of strangers. Allegedly, the glasses used by security forces in some Chinese provinces scan the temperature of hundreds of people in minutes.

Big Tech discovers the farm

Companies like Amazon and Microsoft believe they can make agriculture more efficient with data analysis and algorithms. With Azure Farmbeats, Microsoft has developed a platform for networked farms on which data from a wide variety of sensors converge, including drones. The platform analyzes the data and then recommends the farmers how they can better use their resources.

The potential is enormous, says Webb. On the one hand, the field is hardly digitized. On the other hand, it is a multi-billion dollar market.

The “synthetic age” begins

“We will look back at the 2020s as a time when synthetic media grew up,” says Webb. Everything that users see or hear online can be artificial: there are computer-generated pop stars like the Japanese Hatsune Miku or virtual assistants like Google Duplex who organize appointments and answer calls. This can be entertaining or even helpful in the case of digital assistants.

“But the new age also harbors risks,” says Webb, because the technology also opens up new opportunities for fraudsters. Nobody can be sure that the U.S. President’s speech, which was just shared on Facebook, was actually delivered that way or that the social media character followed by thousands is genuine.

The Wall Street Journal reported in 2019 that a UK energy company employee had transferred € 220,000 to a fraudster after being asked to do so by his boss’s fake voice over the phone. Webb expects the digital doubles from celebrities and top executives to be offered in the darknet marketplaces soon.

AI and robots on call

On the cloud platforms from Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Alibaba Artificial Intelligence is getting more and more into focus. With cloud-based AI applications, companies can analyze their data or plan resources more efficiently. And the more data companies entrust to the major cloud platforms, the faster they can train and improve their AI systems and thus stand out from the competition.

Arun Sundararajan of the NYU Stern School of Management analyzes that the winner of this race has the chance to become the operating system of the next technological age. In the course of this development, according to Webbs analyzes, robots are increasingly being controlled via the cloud. Cloud robotics and automation are the key words.

Different physical robots share programming code stored in the data cloud – and exchange data. This could significantly accelerate the development of robots. This could result in greater automation – and the return of production to high-wage countries.

The digitalization of war

“The wars of the future will be waged with code,” says Webb, “Data and algorithms will become weapons.” The most important AI companies in the United States and China work with the military again and again. Microsoft, for example, is building virtual reality headsets for the U.S. Army for $ 480 million. Google in turn helped the army in the Maven project, the Pentagon’s AI project – but came under massive pressure from its employees.

According to analyzes by Webbs Institute, AI is becoming a focus of attention as a weapon. In order to destabilize a country’s economy, it is no longer necessary to bomb cities, a sophisticated attack with malware should be enough. With these AI skills, China is “dangerously superior to the West.”

Read the full interview with Amy Webb here:

Ms. Webb, alongside governments and the military, you also advise companies. What mistakes do you see when it comes to innovations and disruptive changes in this difficult time?
Companies in all industries do not recognize technical developments quickly enough because they look too much at their own business and related technologies. Your view is too narrow. They do not notice how the technological world around them is changing – and are vulnerable to attacks by new competitors.

What question do you hear most often from companies at the moment?
When is the crisis over? And: what does the world look like afterwards?

What is your forecast?
To do this, you have to look at all industries – but also the education system – individually. For example, I am worried about our children. Numerous studies show how important early school education is for its later development. In the corona crisis, an entire generation missed classes for several weeks because schools in many countries are not prepared for distance learning.

This will have dramatic consequences: In 15 years from our calculations, we will see a large wave of technology-related unemployment through further automation. This is exactly the time when many smaller children of this corona generation start their careers with educational deficits. Chinese schools are much better prepared for this situation because digital learning has already been practiced at a distance in many places.

The travel industry is also experiencing major upheavals. Some experts assume that there will be less travel in the future.
We already heard that during the discussion about virtual reality: Given the new technical possibilities, hardly anyone would physically go to a meeting anymore.

Instead, there has been more travel than ever in recent years.
I agree. And today we know that the new technology often causes headaches. I believe that people will travel again and attend conferences as normal, people are just social beings. I can’t say when that will be possible again.

So won’t the corona crisis change transportation?
There will be changes, but more where many are not looking. For example with drones or autonomous transport robots. There are already delivery drones that are being tested in Switzerland and the USA. Now the airspace is free in many places because fewer planes are on the way. In addition, people stay at home for fear of infection, but need medication and food. Now is the best time to test the technique.

There is not yet much activity in this direction.
I’m surprised that Amazon doesn’t act much faster here. UPS has a similar technique that is already working. But there are also small, autonomous boxes on wheels that can deliver products. We are currently seeing tests of this kind in Singapore. That should only be the beginning.

Is strategic planning even possible in such a difficult time as the corona crisis?
Absolutely. Now all plans have to be rewritten. Because in many fields the world will change dramatically. Businesses that are now waiting and letting things happen are going to get into trouble.

What do you mean exactly?
The corona crisis is changing supply chains, workflows and research in many industries. I expect an accelerated development in many fields – from synthetic biology, which helps with the search for vaccines, for example, to wearables, i.e. smart watches and headphones. In addition, we will see very far-reaching proposals for privacy curtailment: Google and Apple, for example, have just decided to cooperate on technologies in the fight against Corona. This has long-term consequences, because for such applications users open their stay data for monitoring.

Do you think some of these monitoring options will remain after the crisis?
That’s what I’m expecting. Once you allow such an invasion of privacy, it is difficult for many to revoke it. This will accelerate another trend, namely that all users will be measured and evaluated and categorized by so-called scoring systems. A development that we will see more and more outside of China. Since the beginning of the corona crisis, we have observed accelerated development and financing of such scoring systems all over the world.

Will we see deglobalization in the next few months, as some economists suspect?
I’m more likely to de-chinaize. Much of the global supply of consumer goods and equipment is still related to China. We have to rethink the strategy.

How is China’s role changing in the crisis?
China had been working to change the global economy before the crisis. As part of the Silk Road Initiative, the country had exported its digital surveillance systems to numerous emerging countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines. China had started dividing the world into countries that work with the Chinese – and use a similar digital surveillance infrastructure – and the rest of the world. This development will now accelerate.

Artificial intelligence (AI) plays a key role here.
I agree. China is using the crisis to collect a lot more data. Location data of people, but also highly sensitive biometric information. This will make the data analysis skills and AI technologies of the companies there even better. Incidentally, this development does not only affect individual users. Companies in China are also recorded and categorized by automatic scoring systems. At the same time, a new military-technological complex is emerging. Because the weapons of the future are data and algorithms. And many companies that work closely with the military are also the most advanced in AI research. I am concerned that the global pandemic will trigger an economic-technological war that we have never seen before.

Ms. Webb, thank you very much for the interview.

More: Futurist Amy Webb on the seven most important 2020 tech trends in the Handelsblatt Disrupt podcast


This is the status of Corona app projects worldwide

Dusseldorf While experts in Germany are still arguing about data protection, other countries are already far ahead with their Corona app. Singapore was one of the first countries in the world to provide citizens with a voluntary application for their smartphones to track possible infection chains.

When the program called TraceTogether was launched on March 20, the government of the city-state received a lot of praise internationally. The software uses Bluetooth to track contacts with other people. This approach is followed in most countries today. The country launched an advertising campaign to call on its citizens to install the program.

However, only around a sixth of the population followed the request. When the number of confirmed infections in Singapore rose significantly at the beginning of April, the government decided to implement far-reaching curfews.

The case in Singapore shows the opportunities, but also the challenges for Corona apps. They can help to identify chains of infection. But to get the full benefit, a large part of the population has to use the app. Modelers speak of 60 percent.

Combination with other measures

It is also a tool that can only work successfully in combination with other measures, Professor Christophe Fraser from Big Data Insitute at Oxford University found in a study. In this way, people should also be able to be tested if they were identified as possibly infected by the app. In practice, however, implementation is not easy.

Iceland, with its 364,000 inhabitants, was considered to be a country with good chances in which an app can be used quickly across the country. However, only around 40 percent of the population there use the Rakning-C19 program.

Both Iceland and Singapore have decided to publish the source code of their applications so that the security of the programs can be tracked transparently and other countries can develop their own apps based on the programs. Since then, several countries have started to push their own approaches.

In Europe, among other things, a team in the Czech Republic uses the published programs to launch the eRouška app together with the Ministry of Health. The program has only been available for the Android operating system for a few days, a version for AppleDevices should follow.

Colombia is the first country in South America to release an app for tracking corona infection chains. President Ivan Duque personally introduced CoronApp-Colombia and asked his citizens to use it.

The US cyber security company ZeroFOX published an analysis in which it reported that the app from Colombia had glaring security holes. Personal data of the users could be intercepted and read out. The security company reported that stored data such as passport number, health data and passwords could be spied on.

Concerns in Norway

While the apps in countries such as Singapore, Iceland, the Czech Republic or Colombia are limited to evaluating Bluetooth data and thus not determining exact location information, other countries go further.
Norway released the “Smittestopp” application last week. The program constantly records Bluetooth data from other devices in the immediate vicinity. At the same time, it also regularly stores the exact location data of the devices, which are determined with the GPS positioning system. The information is transmitted to a central database once an hour.

At privacy concerns, the Norwegian Ministry of Health replied that all data would be saved for 30 days and then deleted. This is necessary for the exact tracking of corona infection chains.

Other users complained that the app was quickly using up the batteries on their smartphones. The Ministry of Health and the state company Simula, who jointly developed the app, admitted that the shared use of Bluetooth and GPS consumes a lot of energy. A solution is being worked on.

More: The public debate among experts about the Corona app is the wrong way, says Handelsblatt editor Ina Karabasz.


Helmholtz Institute leaves Corona app consortium

Berlin The Helmholtz Institute for Information Security (Cispa) has withdrawn from the European Corona app project Pepp-pt. This was shared by one of the scientists involved, the computer science professor Cas Cremers Twitter With.

Cremers from the Helmholtz Institute advocates decentralized storage for data protection reasons. “CISPA has withdrawn from the Pepp-pt program,” the scientist writes on Twitter. “We will continue our work on DP-3T, a decentralized, open source system for identifying contacts based on Privacy by Design.”

Scientists from several European countries – including Germany – are working on the DP-3T technology behind the Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (DP-3T). The main point is that the information about contacts is stored decentrally – i.e. only on the smartphone itself. If a user tested positive, this information would be distributed to all other telephones over the network. These then automatically determine whether they were previously nearby.

With the central approach Pepp-pt, the list of risk contacts would be uploaded from the infected person to a central server as soon as they tested positive for the virus. This calculates the risk of infection and notifies the risk contact persons. The concern here is that central data storage could enable the pseudonymized data to be re-identified.

Chris Boos, co-founder of the Pan European Privacy-Protecting Proximity Tracing (Pepp-pt) platform, said it was working on both solutions. Ultimately, each country should be able to decide for itself.

Pepp-pt is backed by more than 130 scientists and IT experts. Your goal is to create a software framework to which national applications can dock. App developers are expected to integrate the technology, which uses Bluetooth technology to identify cell phones of people with whom an infected person has had contact.

The Swiss epidemiologist Marcel Salathé had already announced his withdrawal from Pepp-pt on Friday. On Twitter, he wrote: “Although I firmly believe in the core ideas (international, privacy protection), I cannot stand behind something that I do not know what it stands for.” Currently, Pepp-pt is “not open and not transparent enough, ”said the professor at the Polytechnic University of Lausanne.

It will take weeks before the planned cell phone app can be used to contain the corona virus in Germany. According to Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU), the app should be able to be used “in the course of May”. “Especially when it comes to data protection and data security, it must be as perfect as possible before we start,” said Spahn on ZDF.

More: Read more details about the dispute in the development of the Corona app here.