What’s up with... Bharti Airtel, Apple & Google, SaaS security

  • Bharti Airtel to raise funds, is linked to Google investment
  • South Korea passes ‘anti-Google law’ 
  • Questions raised over SaaS security

Some shoring up at Airtel and a ‘painful precedent’ in South Korea lead the way in today’s roundup.

India’s Bharti Airtel has decided to raise 210 billion rupees ($2.87 billion) by issuing new shares to existing investors following a comprehensive review by the operator’s board of “the industry scenario, business environment, financial/ business strategy of the Company.” It is also rumoured to be in talks with Google about an investment from the hyperscaler, though it is keeping schtum on that matter currently. In a stock market statement, it noted: “The Company, as a matter of policy, does not comment on media speculation/ report(s). Being a significant player in the telecom and digital industry, the Company receives interests from high quality investors and companies for its various businesses. The Company evaluates various opportunities of potential investor engagement and takes decisions in a judicious manner.” So expect an announcement any day... Airtel is, of course, one of the few remaining viable privately-held network operators in India. (See From too many CSPs to too few: India’s mobile woes.)

South Korea’s National Assembly has approved the Telecommunication Business Act that will prevent Apple and Google from forcing developers to use their in-app billing tools when developing apps to be made available through their popular app stores. For the background and implications of this move, which analyst Richard Windsor describes as “a painful precedent,” see this Radio Free Mobile blog

SaaS (Software as a Service) is a licensing and delivery model in which centrally-hosted software is licensed on a subscription basis. Also sometimes referred to as "on-demand software” it is increasingly popular and ubiquitous. However, a lot of SaaS applications are unmanaged and thus vulnerable to both external and internal cybersecurity attacks and incursions. A new report from the New York City-headquartered SaaS security specialist DoControl shows that 40 per cent of all SaaS assets are not under any form of effective management which means that any organisation or individual with either a private or public link will have the capability to expose data to thousands of external points whose actual relevance is unknown. It’s an accident (or deliberate act) waiting to happen. The DoControl report is formulated around aggregated and anonymised data from a wide swathe of US SaaS customers and starkly shows that far too many firms simply don’t know how many former employees, suppliers and partners retain access to data long after they have left or terminated relationships. Of the companies examined an average of 400 encryption keys are shared internally to any individual with link while somewhere between 1,000 to 15,000 assets in SaaS applications can be accessed by external partners and collaborators. Additionally, anywhere between 200 to 3,000 third party companies can access to assets and, incredibly, 18 per cent of SaaS apps assets can be accessed even after the users detailed and accounts have been deleted while eight per cent of employees share corporate account assets with their personal accounts!  Adam Gavish, the CEO of DoControl commented, “Collaboration with external partners was forced upon many companies by the Covid-19 pandemic. SaaS apps were uniquely positioned to assist with collaboration in the “new normal”, but they also created an “ever-growing attack surface that requires attention to ongoing data access at scale.” The Research Gartner recently forecast that global SaaS revenue will be US$140 billion by next year, up 38 per cent from this year. There’s a lot at stake. 

The Quantum Strategic Industry Alliance for Revolution (Q-STAR) has been formed by 24 companies in Japan, including Fujitsu, NEC and NTT. Among the subcommittees formed by the Q-STAR members is one focused on Quantum Cryptography and Quantum Communications, which is tasked with examining business use of quantum cryptography communication, a technology already available, and aim to open up a future pioneered by communications that guarantee information-theoretically security.” Read more.  

In the Scottish Highlands, the Shared Rural Network (SRN) is testing Carrier Wave technology in and around the Fort William area. The SRN is a joint initiative between the UK government and the country’s Big Four mobile network operators EE, O2, Three and Vodafone and the goal is to deliver reliable mobile broadband to 95 per cent of the UK by bridging the still-extant digital divide in Britain’s remote and rural areas by bolstering 4G coverage without duplicating infrastructure. The programme became operational on March 9, 2020, when the upgrading of existing networks and sharing of infrastructure began. Individually, each operator will reach 90 per cent geographic coverage. The plan calls for the elimination of “partial not-spots”, those areas that get some coverage from at least one, but not all, operators. The government is also providing £500 million in funding for the building of new masts to put an end to “total not-spots”, those ultimately remote, underserved areas where, hitherto, no mobile coverage has been available. In the Fort William area testing with a temporary mast and a roaming vehicle were deployed to localities in Spean Bridge, Glen Nevis and Loch Arkaig to show how well a 4G mobile signal could be trans mitted and received in completely rural locations.

In the UK there’s still much work to be done to make e-waste recycling easier for the general public. BT has done some research which shows that nearly half of Brits don’t know how to recycle their e-waste. No surprises there. Evidence includes: About 40% have cupboards, drawers or bags full of electrical waste, proving a reluctance to simply throw items out but an inability to take the next step. Nearly a third of Brits admit they don't know how to recycle e-waste or are unsure how they should classify it with the most common items on the unsure list being printers (31%), cables (30%) and hair dryers (29%) - all of which can be recycled. Secretive black bagging of unwanted electronic items is rife. The report found that the ‘vast majority’ (75%) will admit to having ‘chucked’ items into black bags or regular bins. And more than half have engaged in ‘wishful recycling’ by throwing electronics into a recycling bin in the hope that they’ll reach a recycling centre. For its part, BT has some processes for customers to return items, but I’m not sure that just providing info on how to get hold of pre-paid mailing bags with a requirement to queue at the Post Office will substantially move the recycling needle. Here’s the info, you decide...

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