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Carry1st has $4M to invest in African mobile gaming

Gaming development startup Carry1st has raised a $2.5 million seed round led by CRE Venture Capital .

That brings the company’s total VC to $4 million, which Carry1st will deploy to support and invest in game publishing across Africa.

The startup — with offices in New York, Lagos, and South Africa — was co-founded in 2018 by Sierra Leonean Cordel Robbin-Coker, American Lucy Parry, and Zimbabwean software engineer Tinotenda Mundangepfupfu.

Robbin-Coker and Parry met while working in investment banking in New York, before forming Carry1st.

“I convinced her to avoid going to business school and instead come to South Africa to Cape Town,” Robbin-Coker told TechCrunch on a call.

“We launched with the idea that we wanted to bring the gaming industry…to the African continent.”

Carry1st looks to match gaming demand in Africa to the continent’s fast growing youth population, improving internet penetration and rapid smartphone adoption.

Carry1st has already launched two games as direct downloads from its site, Carry1st Trivia and Hyper!.

“In April, [Carry1st Trivia] did pretty well. It was the number one game in Nigeria, and Kenya for most of the year and did about one and a half million downloads.” Robbin-Coker said.

Image Credit: Carry1st

The startup will use a portion of its latest round and overall capital to bring more unique content onto its platform. “In order to do that, you need cash…to help a developer finish a game or entice a strong game to work with you,” said Robbin-Coker.

The company will also expand its distribution channels, such as partnerships with mobile operators and the Carry1st Brand Ambassador program — a network of sales agents who promote and sell games across the continent.

The company will also invest in the gaming market and itself.

“We want to dedicate at least a million dollars to actually going out and acquiring users and scaling our user base. And then, the final piece is really around the the tech platform that we’re looking to build,” said Robbin-Coker.

That entails creating multiple channels and revenue points to develop, distribute, and invest in games on the continent, he explained.

Image Credits: Carry1st

Robbin-Coker compared the Carry1st’s strategy in Africa as something similar to Sea: an Asia regional mobile entertainment distribution platform — publicly traded and partially owned by Tencent — that incubated the popular Fornite game.

“We’re looking to be the number one regional publisher of [gaming] content in the region…the publisher of record and the app store,” said Robbin-Coker.

That entails developing and distributing not only games originating from the continent, but also serving as channel for gaming content from other continents coming into Africa.

That generates a consistent revenue stream for the startup, Robbin-Coker explained, but also creates opportunities for big creative wins.

“It’s a hits driven business. A single studio will work and toil in obscurity for a decade and then they’ll make Candy Crush. And then that would be worth $6 billion, very quickly,” Carry1st’s CEO said.

He and his team will use a portion of their $4 million in VC to invest in that potential gaming success story in Africa.

The company’s co-founder Lucy Parry directs aspirants to the company’s homepage. “There’s a big blue button that says ‘Pitch Your Game’ at the bottom of our website.”

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The FBI is mad because it keeps getting into locked iPhones without Apple’s help

The debate over encryption continues to drag on without end.

In recent months, the discourse has largely swung away from encrypted smartphones to focus instead on end-to-end encrypted messaging. But a recent press conference by the heads of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) showed that the debate over device encryption isn’t dead, it was merely resting. And it just won’t go away.

At the presser, Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Chris Wray announced that after months of work, FBI technicians had succeeded in unlocking the two iPhones used by the Saudi military officer who carried out a terrorist shooting at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida in December 2019. The shooter died in the attack, which was quickly claimed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Early this year — a solid month after the shooting — Barr had asked Apple to help unlock the phones (one of which was damaged by a bullet), which were older iPhone 5 and 7 models. Apple provided “gigabytes of information” to investigators, including “iCloud backups, account information and transactional data for multiple accounts,” but drew the line at assisting with the devices. The situation threatened to revive the 2016 “Apple versus FBI” showdown over another locked iPhone following the San Bernardino terror attack.

After the government went to federal court to try to dragoon Apple into doing investigators’ job for them, the dispute ended anticlimactically when the government got into the phone itself after purchasing an exploit from an outside vendor the government refused to identify. The Pensacola case culminated much the same way, except that the FBI apparently used an in-house solution instead of a third party’s exploit.

You’d think the FBI’s success at a tricky task (remember, one of the phones had been shot) would be good news for the Bureau. Yet an unmistakable note of bitterness tinged the laudatory remarks at the press conference for the technicians who made it happen. Despite the Bureau’s impressive achievement, and despite the gobs of data Apple had provided, Barr and Wray devoted much of their remarks to maligning Apple, with Wray going so far as to say the government “received effectively no help” from the company.

This diversion tactic worked: in news stories covering the press conference, headline after headline after headline highlighted the FBI’s slam against Apple instead of focusing on what the press conference was nominally about: the fact that federal law enforcement agencies can get into locked iPhones without Apple’s assistance.

That should be the headline news, because it’s important. That inconvenient truth undercuts the agencies’ longstanding claim that they’re helpless in the face of Apple’s encryption and thus the company should be legally forced to weaken its device encryption for law enforcement access. No wonder Wray and Barr are so mad that their employees keep being good at their jobs.

By reviving the old blame-Apple routine, the two officials managed to evade a number of questions that their press conference left unanswered. What exactly are the FBI’s capabilities when it comes to accessing locked, encrypted smartphones? Wray claimed the technique developed by FBI technicians is “of pretty limited application” beyond the Pensacola iPhones. How limited? What other phone-cracking techniques does the FBI have, and which handset models and which mobile OS versions do those techniques reliably work on? In what kinds of cases, for what kinds of crimes, are these tools being used?

We also don’t know what’s changed internally at the Bureau since that damning 2018 Inspector General postmortem on the San Bernardino affair. Whatever happened with the FBI’s plans, announced in the IG report, to lower the barrier within the agency to using national security tools and techniques in criminal cases? Did that change come to pass, and did it play a role in the Pensacola success? Is the FBI cracking into criminal suspects’ phones using classified techniques from the national security context that might not pass muster in a court proceeding (were their use to be acknowledged at all)?

Further, how do the FBI’s in-house capabilities complement the larger ecosystem of tools and techniques for law enforcement to access locked phones? Those include third-party vendors GrayShift and Cellebrite’s devices, which, in addition to the FBI, count numerous U.S. state and local police departments and federal immigration authorities among their clients. When plugged into a locked phone, these devices can bypass the phone’s encryption to yield up its contents, and (in the case of GrayShift) can plant spyware on an iPhone to log its passcode when police trick a phone’s owner into entering it. These devices work on very recent iPhone models: Cellebrite claims it can unlock any iPhone for law enforcement, and the FBI has unlocked an iPhone 11 Pro Max using GrayShift’s GrayKey device.

In addition to Cellebrite and GrayShift, which have a well-established U.S. customer base, the ecosystem of third-party phone-hacking companies includes entities that market remote-access phone-hacking software to governments around the world. Perhaps the most notorious example is the Israel-based NSO Group, whose Pegasus software has been used by foreign governments against dissidents, journalists, lawyers and human rights activists. The company’s U.S. arm has attempted to market Pegasus domestically to American police departments under another name. Which third-party vendors are supplying phone-hacking solutions to the FBI, and at what price?

Finally, who else besides the FBI will be the beneficiary of the technique that worked on the Pensacola phones? Does the FBI share the vendor tools it purchases, or its own home-rolled ones, with other agencies (federal, state, tribal or local)? Which tools, which agencies and for what kinds of cases? Even if it doesn’t share the techniques directly, will it use them to unlock phones for other agencies, as it did for a state prosecutor soon after purchasing the exploit for the San Bernardino iPhone?

We have little idea of the answers to any of these questions, because the FBI’s capabilities are a closely held secret. What advances and breakthroughs it has achieved, and which vendors it has paid, we (who provide the taxpayer dollars to fund this work) aren’t allowed to know. And the agency refuses to answer questions about encryption’s impact on its investigations even from members of Congress, who can be privy to confidential information denied to the general public.

The only public information coming out of the FBI’s phone-hacking black box is nothingburgers like the recent press conference. At an event all about the FBI’s phone-hacking capabilities, Director Wray and AG Barr cunningly managed to deflect the press’s attention onto Apple, dodging any difficult questions, such as what the FBI’s abilities mean for Americans’ privacy, civil liberties and data security, or even basic questions like how much the Pensacola phone-cracking operation cost.

As the recent PR spectacle demonstrated, a press conference isn’t oversight. And instead of exerting its oversight power, mandating more transparency, or requiring an accounting and cost/benefit analysis of the FBI’s phone-hacking expenditures — instead of demanding a straight and conclusive answer to the eternal question of whether, in light of the agency’s continually-evolving capabilities, there’s really any need to force smartphone makers to weaken their device encryption — Congress is instead coming up with dangerous legislation such as the EARN IT Act, which risks undermining encryption right when a population forced by COVID-19 to do everything online from home can least afford it.

The bestcase scenario now is that the federal agency that proved its untrustworthiness by lying to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court can crack into our smartphones, but maybe not all of them; that maybe it isn’t sharing its toys with state and local police departments (which are rife with domestic abusers who’d love to get access to their victims’ phones); that unlike third-party vendor devices, maybe the FBI’s tools won’t end up on eBay where criminals can buy them; and that hopefully it hasn’t paid taxpayer money to the spyware company whose best-known government customer murdered and dismembered a journalist.

The worst-case scenario would be that, between in-house and third-party tools, pretty much any law enforcement agency can now reliably crack into everybody’s phones, and yet nevertheless this turns out to be the year they finally get their legislative victory over encryption anyway. I can’t wait to see what else 2020 has in store.

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China’s Oppo partners with Vodafone for bigger European push

Huawei is facing an uphill challenge in the overseas market as its upcoming devices lack the full set of Google apps and services. That leaves ample room for its Chinese rivals to chase after foreign consumers.

That includes Oppo, the sister brand of Vivo under Dongguan-based electronics holding company BBK. In an announcement on Monday, the Chinese firm announced a partnership with Vodafone to bring its smartphones to the mobile carrier’s European markets. The deal kicks off in May and will sell Oppo’s portfolio of advanced 5G handsets as well as value-for-money models into the U.K, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Turkey.

While Vodafone pulled Huawei phones from its U.K. 5G network last year following the U.S. export ban that stripped Huawei models of certain Android services, the British operator can now tap Oppo’s wide range of mobile products in a heated race to sign up 5G customers. The partners will jointly explore online sales channels as many parts of Europe’s physical premises remain closed due to the COVID-19.

Oppo, currently the second-largest smartphone vendor in its home country after Huawei, has seen a spike in sales across Europe since entering the market in mid-2018. The company was one of the first to launch commercially available 5G phones in Europe last year and now ranks fifth on the continent with a 2% share, according to a survey from research firm Canalys.

“Oppo has a product range that can hit many of the same segments as Huawei, enabling it to gain market share at the expense of Huawei,” Peter Richardson, research director at Counterpoint Research, explained to TechCrunch. “Oppo has always used quite a European flavour in its product design. This extends to things like colour choice, packaging, and advertising materials. This makes it acceptable to European consumers.”

Interestingly, Richardson pointed out that Oppo, which has a less “Chinese sounding” name than its domestic rivals Xiaomi and Huawei, will help it circumvent some of the “negative media surrounding China just now – first Huawei’s difficulties around security threats and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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General Atlantic to invest $870M in India’s Reliance Jio Platforms

Mukesh Ambani’s Jio Platforms has agreed to sell its 1.34% stake to General Atlantic, the latest in a series of deals the top Indian telecom operator has secured in recent weeks.

On Sunday, New York-headquartered private equity firm General Atlantic said it would invest $870 million in the Indian telecom operator, a subsidiary of India’s most valued firm (Reliance Industries), joining fellow American investors Facebook, Silver Lake, and Vista Equity Partners that have also made sizeable bets on the three-and-a-half-year old Indian firm.

General Atlantic’s investment values Jio Platforms at $65 billion — the same valuation implied by the Silver Lake and Vista deals and a 12.5% premium over Facebook’s deal, the Indian firm said.

Sunday’s announcement further illustrates the growing appeal of Jio Platforms, which has raised $8.85 billion in the past one month by selling about 14.7% of its stake, to foreign investors that are looking for a slice of the fast-growing world’s second largest internet market.

General Atlantic, a high profile investor in consumer tech space that has invested in dozens of firms such as Airbnb, Alibaba, Ant Financial, Box, ByteDance, Facebook, Slack, Snapchat, and Uber, has been a key investor in India for more than a decade though it has avoided bets in consumer tech space in the country.

It has cut checks to several Indian startups including NoBroker, a Bangalore-based startup that helps those looking to rent or buy an apartment connect directly with property owners, edtech giants Unacademy and Byju’s, payments processor BillDesk, and National Stock Exchange of India. The PE firm, which has invested about $3 billion in India, said last week that it was looking to invest an additional $1.5 billion in Indian firms by next year — this time focusing on the players operating in consumer tech category.

Reliance Industries chairman Ambani, who has poured more than $30 billion to build Jio Platforms, said the telecom network would “leverage General Atlantic’s proven global expertise and strategic insights across 40 years of technology investing.”

“General Atlantic shares our vision of a digital society for India and strongly believes in the transformative power of digitization in enriching the lives of 1.3 billion Indians,” he added.

Prepaid SIM cards of Reliance Jio at a retail store. (Photo: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)

Launched in the second half of 2016, Reliance Jio upended India’s telecommunications industry with cut-rate data plans and free voice calls. Jio Platforms, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries, operates the telecom venture, called Jio Infocomm, that has amassed 388 million subscribers since its launch to become the nation’s top telecom operator.

Reliance Jio Platforms also owns a suite of services including music streaming service JioSaavn (which it says it will take public), smartphones, broadband business, on-demand live television service and payments service.

“In just three and a half years, Jio has had a transformational impact in democratizing data and digital services, propelling India to be positioned as a leading global digital economy,” said Sandeep Naik, MD and Head of India & Southeast Asia at General Atlantic, in a statement.

The new capital would help Ambani, India’s richest man, further solidify his last year’s commitment to investors when he said he aimed to cut Reliance’s net debt of about $21 billion to zero by early 2021. Its core business — oil refining and petrochemicals — has been hard hit amid the coronavirus outbreak. Its net profit in the quarter that ended on March 31 fell by 37%.

In the company’s earnings call last month, Ambani said several firms had expressed interest in buying stakes in Jio Platforms in the wake of the deal with Facebook . Bloomberg reported last week that Saudi Wealth Fund was also in talks with Ambani for a stake in Jio Platforms.

Facebook said that other than offering capital to Jio Platforms for a 9.99% stake in the firm, it would work with the Indian giant on a number of areas starting with e-commerce. Days later, JioMart, an e-commerce venture run by India’s most valued firm, began testing an “ordering system” on WhatsApp, the most popular smartphone app in India with over 400 million active users in the country.

29-year-old Akash Ambani, the oldest son of Mukesh, said in a statement, “Jio is committed to make a digitally inclusive India that will provide immense opportunities to every Indian citizen especially to our highly talented youth.”

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Momentus set to deploy satellites for a free 4K space-based Earth live-streaming service

Space bus company Momentus has signed a new contract that will see it provide in-space transportation and deployment for Sen, the U.K. company that’s building a 4K real-time video streaming service providing live, high-quality views of Earth, both free for individuals and via an open source data platform for developers and service creators.

Santa Clara-based Momentus is an in-space transportation startup that provides services to satellite companies looking to move payloads after launch. They can do things like alter the orbits of satellites, and can provide that last-mile transportation leg for payloads going up on other rockets, like the SpaceX Falcon 9, which is providing the ride for the Sen satellites to their drop-off points.

From there, Momentus will use its Vigoride orbital transfer vehicles to take the Sen satellites the rest of the way. The Vigoride is a water plasma-based propulsion vehicle that will get its first test flight later this year, and the goal is to get it to operational status by 2021. The mission on behalf of Sen is set to take place in 2022.

Sen’s technology will provide imaging from small satellites equipped with multiple cameras, and ultimately it’ll operate an entire constellation built on the foundation of the first five to be launched by Momentus. The video will be available for individuals to view via web and smartphone app for free, and Momentus plans to offer premium services to businesses as its go to market plan.

Once it has Vigoride up and running in an operational capacity, Momentus plans to develop a new version called Ardoride that will follow in 2022 or 2023, providing more capacity for bigger payloads and transportation to higher orbits — as well as trips as far as the Moon.

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US-Magazin Forbes berichtet – Handy-Hersteller Xiaomi spioniert Kunden aus

Ein Bericht des US-Wirtschafts-Portals Forbes erhebt schlimme Vorwürfe gegen den chinesischen Handy-Hersteller Xiaomi. Der auf den Smartphones vorinstallierte Internet-Browser sendet riesige Datenpakete mit Informationen über das Surfverhalten der Kunden an Server in China.

Kompletter Browser-Verlauf betroffen

Forbes beruft sich bei seinen Vorwürfen auf gleich zwei unabhängige Sicherheitsexperten. Beide bestätigen, dass die Smartphones von Xiaomi über die mitgelieferten Internet-App Mi Browser und eine im Play-Store von Google angebotene Browser-App namens Mint genau protokollieren, wann die Nutzer welche Webseiten aufrufen. Die Daten werden anschließend auf Server in China übertragen.

Besonders pikant: Die Surf-Programme sammeln diese Informationen auch im „Inkognito“-Modus, der den Nutzern suggeriert, eigentlich anonym zu surfen.

Xiaomi verschlüsselt die Daten während der Übertragung zwar, da sie jedoch mit dem sogenannten Mi-Konto des Nutzers verknüpft sind, können sie jederzeit wieder dem jeweiligen Nutzer zugeordnet werden.

Lesen Sie auch

Keine Besserung in Sicht

Xiaomi gesteht das Sammeln der Daten ein, weist gegenüber Forbes jedoch darauf hin, dass man die Daten anonymisiert und nur zur Verbesserung des Browsers selbst sammeln würde und im Einklang mit nationalem Datenschutzrecht handeln würde.

Auf BILD-Nachfrage verweist der chinesische Hersteller auf einen Blog-Beitrag. Hier spricht Xiaomi zunächst von einem Missverständis, kündigt später aber Updates für die beiden betroffenen Browser Mint und Mi an. Die sollen aber auch in Zukunft anonymisierte Nutzungsdaten erheben. Das Update soll es den Kunden lediglich erlauben, die Sammel-Funktion im Inkognito-Modus abzuschalten.

Auch Interessant

Der Skandal ereilt Xiaomi in Deutschland zu einer denkbar ungünstigen Zeit. Der Hersteller, der bisher vor allem für Saugroboter, eScooter, Fitness-Tracker und andere Kleingeräte bekannt war, bietet seit kurzer Zeit hierzulande auch Smartphones an. Ob auch andere Xiaomi-Geräte Nutzungsdaten sammeln und an den Hersteller schicken, ist derzeit noch unklar.

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Probleme durch Corona-Masken – Hilfe, mein Handy erkennt mich nicht mehr!

Biometrische Gesichtserkennung ist inzwischen eines der Markenzeichen teuer Top-Smartphones. Doch dank Corona haben die Benutzer dieser Handys gerade Probleme, ihre Geräte einfach und bequem zu entsperren. Denn die Sensoren können nicht durch die Gesichtsmasken sehen und verweigern somit den Nutzern den Zugriff.

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Die Gesichtserkennung moderner Smartphones scheitert tatsächlich an den jetzt üblichen Masken. Zwar kursieren im Internet Anleitungen, wie man die Systeme überlisten kann, die funktionieren aber nicht zuverlässig.

Bei einigen Handy-Modellen kann es helfen, die Iris-Erkennung (Muster auf der Netzhaut) zu aktivieren. Die ist aber weit weniger sicher als die biometrische Gesichtserkennung.

Handy Maske „antrainieren“

Wer so gar nicht auf den Luxus der Gesichtserkennung verzichten möchte, kann bei den beiden großen Smartphone-Systemen versuchen, den neuen „Look“ mit Maske zu hinterlegen.

Auch Interessant

Hinweis: Das hat in unseren Tests nur nach mehrmaligen Versuchen funktioniert und lieferte auch danach nur eine unbefriedigende Erkennungsquote!


Foto: Laurent Gillieron / dpa

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Das Smartphone hat es schwer, den Nutzer mit einer Schutzmaske zu erkennenFoto: Laurent Gillieron / dpa

Für iPhones und iPads mit Face-ID

Gehen Sie in den Bereich „Einstellungen“ und dort zum Eintrag „Face ID & Code“. Bestätigen Sie Ihre Identität mit dem Bildschirm-Code, um weitermachen zu können. Jetzt finden Sie hier „Alternatives Erscheinungsbild konfigurieren“ und starten mit „Los geht’s“ die Konfiguration.

Nun falten Sie Ihre Gesichtsmaske in der Mitte und bedecken damit nur die eine Hälfte (links oder rechts) Ihres Gesichts. Lassen Sie den Erkennungsprozess die geforderten zweimal durchlaufen.

Android-Handys und Tablets (Android Version 10)

Hinweis: Bei Android gibt es je nach Hersteller und Modell teilweise große Unterschiede, wie die einzelnen Bereiche benannt sind. Bei einigen finden sich die Optionen gegebenenfalls gar nicht.

In den „Einstellungen“ finden Sie „Biometrie & Passwort“ (bei einigen Herstellern auch „Biometrische Daten und Sicherheit“). Gehen Sie nun auf „Face Scan“ und wählen „Alternativen Look registrieren.“ Jetzt können sie die Erkennung mit aufgesetzter Maske starten.

Zur Not halt PIN nutzen

Richtig verlässlich sind die hier skizzierten Umwege nicht. Häufig wird es auch so bei Ihnen zu Problemen kommen. Oder ein Hersteller bietet gar keinen „alternativen Look“ an (z.B. Huawei beim P30 Pro). Aber das ist ja auch richtig so, es handelt sich ja auch um eine Sicherheitsmaßnahme, die nicht so leicht auszutricksen sein darf.

Wenn alle Stricke reißen, bleibt nur das Eintippen der PIN als sichere Entsperr-Variante, wenn das Handy keinen Fingerabdrucksensor mehr hat.

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