Samsung Electronics

Security researchers have busted the encryption in several popular Crucial and Samsung SSDs

Posted by | cryptography, disk encryption, encryption, Gadgets, hardware, open source software, Samsung Electronics, Security, solid state drive | No Comments

Researchers at Radboud University have found critical security flaws in several popular Crucial and Samsung solid state drives (SSDs), which they say can be easily exploited to recover encrypted data without knowing the password.

The researchers, who detailed their findings in a new paper out Monday, reverse engineered the firmware of several drives to find a “pattern of critical issues” across the device makers.

In the case of one drive, the master password used to decrypt the drive’s data was just an empty string and could be easily exploiting by flipping a single bit in the drive’s memory. Another drive could be unlocked with “any password” by crippling the drive’s password validation checks.

That wouldn’t be much of a problem if an affected drive also used software encryption to secure its data. But the researchers found that in the case of Windows computers, often the default policy for BitLocker’s software-based drive encryption is to trust the drive — and therefore rely entirely on a device’s hardware encryption to protect the data. Yet, as the researchers found, if the hardware encryption is buggy, BitLocker isn’t doing much to prevent data theft.

In other words, users “should not rely solely on hardware encryption as offered by SSDs for confidentiality,” the researchers said.

Alan Woodward, a professor at the University of Surrey, said that the greatest risk to users is the drive’s security “failing silently.”

“You might think you’ve done the right thing enabling BitLocker but then a third-party fault undermines your security, but you never know and never would know,” he said.

Matthew Green, a cryptography professor at Johns Hopkins, described the BitLocker flaw in a tweet as “like jumping out of a plane with an umbrella instead of a parachute.”

The researchers said that their findings are not yet finalized — pending a peer review. But the research was made public after disclosing the bugs to the drive makers in April.

Crucial’s MX100, MX200 and MX300 drives, Samsung’s T3 and T5 USB external disks and Samsung 840 EVO and 850 EVO internal hard disks are known to be affected, but the researchers warned that many other drives may also be at risk.

The researchers criticized the device makers’ proprietary and closed-source cryptography that they said — and proved — is “often shown to be much weaker in practice” than their open-source and auditable cryptographic libraries. “Manufacturers that take security seriously should publish their crypto schemes and corresponding code so that security claims can be independently verified,” they wrote.

The researchers recommend using software-based encryption, like the open-source software VeraCrypt.

In an advisory, Samsung also recommended that users install encryption software to prevent any “potential breach of self-encrypting SSDs.” Crucial’s owner Micron is said to have a fix on the way, according to an advisory by the Netherlands’ National Cyber Security Center, but did not say when.

Micron did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Samsung turns to Plume for new mesh Wi-Fi product line

Posted by | Comcast, Gadgets, plume, Plume Design Inc., Samsung Electronics | No Comments

Samsung today is announcing an updated version of its Wifi product line. The company partnered with Palo Alto-based Plume Design to provide software that powers the devices. According to Samsung, Plume’s platform uses artificial intelligence to allocate bandwidth across connected devices while delivering the best possible wi-fi coverage throughout a home. Plus, by using Plume, Samsung gets to say its wi-fi system uses AI, which is a big marketing win.

The system also includes a SmartThings Hub like the previous generation allowing owners to build a connected IoT home without having to buy another box.

“Integrating our adaptive home Wi-Fi technology and a rich set of consumer features into SmartThings’ large, open ecosystem truly elevates the smart home experience,” said Fahri Diner, co-founder and CEO, Plume, said in a released statement. “Samsung gives you myriad devices to consume content and connect, and Plume ensures that your Wi-Fi network delivers a superior user experience to all of those devices.”

Plume Design was founded in 2014 and was one of the first to offer a consumer-facing mesh network product line. Since then, though, nearly every home networking company has followed suit and Plume has been forced to find new ways to make use of its technology. In June 2017, Comcast invested in Plume and later launched xFi using Plume technology to power the mesh networking product. According to Comcast at the time of xFi’s nationwide launch, Comcast licensed the Plume technology, then reconfigured some aspects of it to integrate xFi. It also designed its own pods in-house — which sounds similar to what Samsung is doing here too.

Plume Design has to date raised $42.2M over three rounds of funding.

Samsung’s new SmartThings WiFi Mesh Router is priced competitively with comparable products. A three pack of the units cost $279 while a single unit is $119.

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Samsung announces Spotify as its go-to music partner

Posted by | daniel ek, Gadgets, Media, Mobile, Samsung, Samsung Electronics, samsung unpacked, Spotify | No Comments

Samsung didn’t just unveil new devices like the Galaxy Home, the Galaxy Watch and of course the new Galaxy Note 9 at its Unpacked event this morning — it also announced a partnership with Spotify.

The goal is to create a seamless cross-device listening experience on Samsung devices, including the ones announced today. As demonstrated onstage, you should be able to start playing a song on your phone, then switch over to your TV, then over to your Galaxy Home.

This integration that will allow you to play Spotify on your Samsung Smart TV through the SmartThings app deepens the integration between Spotify and Samsung’s voice assistant Bixby, making Spotify the default choice whenever you ask Bixby to look for music.

In addition, Spotify will become part of the set-up experience on Samsung devices.

For Spotify, this  partnership should mean more visibility, making it the preferred music experience on Samsung devices. And for Samsung, it highlights one of its differences compared to Apple, which has been focusing on Apple Music as it rolls out new devices like the HomePod.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek took the stage at Unpacked to talk about the partnership, which he also discussed in the official Spotify announcement.

“We believe that this significant long-term partnership will provide Samsung users across millions of devices with the best possible music streaming experience, and make discovering new music easier than ever – with even more opportunities to come,” Ek said.

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Samsung’s official launch video for the Galaxy Note 9 has also now leaked…

Posted by | Asia, consumer electronics, galaxy note 9, Mobile, phablets, Samsung, Samsung Electronics, samsung galaxy, samsung galaxy note 8, smartphone, smartphones, Storage | No Comments

The official launch promo video for Samsung’s next flagship smartphone in the long-running Galaxy Note line — the Note 9 — appears to have leaked, with links to the video now cropping up on YouTube.

And via Twitter…

Samsung accidentally posted its Galaxy Note 9 into video to YouTube. Oops. pic.twitter.com/NfzikY4tLG

— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) August 3, 2018

The forthcoming phablet has been pretty comprehensively leaked already. And clearly hasn’t had a radical (cosmetic nor form factor) makeover. (This is not the fabled folding phone Samsung is slated to be working on for next year.)

The Note 9 will also be officially unveiled on August 9. So Samsung fans don’t have long left to wait for any last minute details they were keen to nail down.

But, in the few days remaining, the Samsung-branded video offers a more polished look at what’s going to be up for pre-order next week…

Samsung kicks off touting the power of the Note 9 — telling us it’s not just powerful but “super powerful” (leaked benchmarks have previously suggested a big performance boost); and with a bottoms-up ports & rear view pan that shows a 3.5mm headphone jack sitting in the frame — confirming my TC colleague Brian Heater’s eagle eye.

Also of note: A repositioned fingerprint sensor (now in a less stupid location below the dual lens camera housing).

Next, the video flips focus to a snazzy yellow (or is that gold?) S Pen stylus, which Samsung describes as “all new powerful”, before showing its physical button being pressed by an invisible force (human, we hope) which then does a spot of aimless doodling.

After this, Samsung moves to brag about the Note 9’s “all day battery” (which it’s confidently teased before — so the company looks to have put the Note 7 battery fiasco well and truly behind it), although the usual small print disclaimers warn about variable battery performance.

On the storage front, there’s a big bold claim of the device being “1 terabyte ready” — although this is on account of a 512GB SD card shown being pulled out of the expandable memory slot.

And in the small print displayed on the video at that point the company caveats that the 1TB claim is for 512GB models equipped with another 512GB in expandable memory (at the owner’s separate expense).

“The power to store more” [photos] “Delete less” [photos] is what the company’s marketing team has come up with to try to excite people over the utility of owning a smartphone that can have 1TB in storage capacity. i.e. if you stump up extra for the extra storage.

The video shows a camera roll chock-full of stock photos of pets, snacks and people. Hopefully Note 9 owners will find more creative things to do with 1TB storage.

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Computer vision researchers build an AI benchmark app for Android phones

Posted by | AI, Android, Apps, artificial intelligence, Benchmark, Computer Vision, Developer, Europe, Google, hardware, huawei, MediaTek, Mobile, neural network, neural networks, Qualcomm, RAM, Samsung, Samsung Electronics, smartphones | No Comments

A group of computer vision researchers from ETH Zurich want to do their bit to enhance AI development on smartphones. To wit: They’ve created a benchmark system for assessing the performance of several major neural network architectures used for common AI tasks.

They’re hoping it will be useful to other AI researchers but also to chipmakers (by helping them get competitive insights); Android developers (to see how fast their AI models will run on different devices); and, well, to phone nerds — such as by showing whether or not a particular device contains the necessary drivers for AI accelerators. (And, therefore, whether or not they should believe a company’s marketing messages.)

The app, called AI Benchmark, is available for download on Google Play and can run on any device with Android 4.1 or higher — generating a score the researchers describe as a “final verdict” of the device’s AI performance.

AI tasks being assessed by their benchmark system include image classification, face recognition, image deblurring, image super-resolution, photo enhancement or segmentation.

They are even testing some algorithms used in autonomous driving systems, though there’s not really any practical purpose for doing that at this point. Not yet anyway. (Looking down the road, the researchers say it’s not clear what hardware platform will be used for autonomous driving — and they suggest it’s “quite possible” mobile processors will, in future, become fast enough to be used for this task. So they’re at least prepped for that possibility.)

The app also includes visualizations of the algorithms’ output to help users assess the results and get a feel for the current state-of-the-art in various AI fields.

The researchers hope their score will become a universally accepted metric — similar to DxOMark that is used for evaluating camera performance — and all algorithms included in the benchmark are open source. The current ranking of different smartphones and mobile processors is available on the project’s webpage.

The benchmark system and app was around three months in development, says AI researcher and developer Andrey Ignatov.

He explains that the score being displayed reflects two main aspects: The SoC’s speed and available RAM.

“Let’s consider two devices: one with a score of 6000 and one with a score of 200. If some AI algorithm will run on the first device for 5 seconds, then this means that on the second device this will take about 30 times longer, i.e. almost 2.5 minutes. And if we are thinking about applications like face recognition this is not just about the speed, but about the applicability of the approach: Nobody will wait 10 seconds till their phone will be trying to recognize them.

“The same is about memory: The larger is the network/input image — the more RAM is needed to process it. If the phone has a small amount of RAM that is e.g. only enough to enhance 0.3MP photo, then this enhancement will be clearly useless, but if it can do the same job for Full HD images — this opens up much wider possibilities. So, basically the higher score — the more complex algorithms can be used / larger images can be processed / it will take less time to do this.”

Discussing the idea for the benchmark, Ignatov says the lab is “tightly bound” to both research and industry — so “at some point we became curious about what are the limitations of running the recent AI algorithms on smartphones”.

“Since there was no information about this (currently, all AI algorithms are running remotely on the servers, not on your device, except for some built-in apps integrated in phone’s firmware), we decided to develop our own tool that will clearly show the performance and capabilities of each device,” he adds. 

“We can say that we are quite satisfied with the obtained results — despite all current problems, the industry is clearly moving towards using AI on smartphones, and we also hope that our efforts will help to accelerate this movement and give some useful information for other members participating in this development.”

After building the benchmarking system and collating scores on a bunch of Android devices, Ignatov sums up the current situation of AI on smartphones as “both interesting and absurd”.

For example, the team found that devices running Qualcomm chips weren’t the clear winners they’d imagined — i.e. based on the company’s promotional materials about Snapdragon’s 845 AI capabilities and 8x performance acceleration.

“It turned out that this acceleration is available only for ‘quantized’ networks that currently cannot be deployed on the phones, thus for ‘normal’ networks you won’t get any acceleration at all,” he says. “The saddest thing is that actually they can theoretically provide acceleration for the latter networks too, but they just haven’t implemented the appropriated drivers yet, and the only possible way to get this acceleration now is to use Snapdragon’s proprietary SDK available for their own processors only. As a result — if you are developing an app that is using AI, you won’t get any acceleration on Snapdragon’s SoCs, unless you are developing it for their processors only.”

Whereas the researchers found that Huawei’s Kirin’s 970 CPU — which is technically even slower than Snapdragon 636 — offered a surprisingly strong performance.

“Their integrated NPU gives almost 10x acceleration for Neural Networks, and thus even the most powerful phone CPUs and GPUs can’t compete with it,” says Ignatov. “Additionally, Huawei P20/P20 Pro are the only smartphones on the market running Android 8.1 that are currently providing AI acceleration, all other phones will get this support only in Android 9 or later.”

It’s not all great news for Huawei phone owners, though, as Ignatov says the NPU doesn’t provide acceleration for ‘quantized’ networks (though he notes the company has promised to add this support by the end of this year); and also it uses its own RAM — which is “quite limited” in size, and therefore you “can’t process large images with it”…

“We would say that if they solve these two issues — most likely nobody will be able to compete with them within the following year(s),” he suggests, though he also emphasizes that this assessment only refers to the one SoC, noting that Huawei’s processors don’t have the NPU module.

For Samsung processors, the researchers flag up that all the company’s devices are still running Android 8.0 but AI acceleration is only available starting from Android 8.1 and above. Natch.

They also found CPU performance could “vary quite significantly” — up to 50% on the same Samsung device — because of throttling and power optimization logic. Which would then have a knock on impact on AI performance.

For Mediatek, the researchers found the chipmaker is providing acceleration for both ‘quantized’ and ‘normal’ networks — which means it can reach the performance of “top CPUs”.

But, on the flip side, Ignatov calls out the company’s slogan — that it’s “Leading the Edge-AI Technology Revolution” — dubbing it “nothing more than their dream”, and adding: “Even the aforementioned Samsung’s latest Exynos CPU can slightly outperform it without using any acceleration at all, not to mention Huawei with its Kirin’s 970 NPU.”

“In summary: Snapdragon — can theoretically provide good results, but are lacking the drivers; Huawei — quite outstanding results now and most probably in the nearest future; Samsung — no acceleration support now (most likely this will change soon since they are now developing their own AI Chip), but powerful CPUs; Mediatek — good results for mid-range devices, but definitely no breakthrough.”

It’s also worth noting that some of the results were obtained on prototype samples, rather than shipped smartphones, so haven’t yet been included in the benchmark table on the team’s website.

“We will wait till the devices with final firmware will come to the market since some changes might still be introduced,” he adds.

For more on the pros and cons of AI-powered smartphone features check out our article from earlier this year.

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Samsung announces a push for renewable energy

Posted by | environment, Gadgets, Policy, Samsung Electronics | No Comments

Samsung has announced that it will use 100 percent renewable energy for all its factories and offices in the U.S., Europe and China. This is the first time Samsung has announced a public commitment for renewable energy.

Greenpeace and environmental activists have been calling out Samsung for months as many tech companies have already started switching to renewable energy.

Samsung is starting by the parts of its organization that it can control more easily — its own buildings, factories and offices. According to Greenpeace’s press release, 17 of its 38 buildings are based in the U.S., Europe and China.

Samsung Electronics is the first electronics manufacturing company in Asia to set a renewable energy target. This commitment could have an enormous impact in reducing the company’s massive global manufacturing footprint, and shows how critical industry participation is in reducing emissions and accelerating the transition to renewable energy. More companies should follow suit and set renewable energy targets, and governments should promote policies that enable companies to procure renewable energy easily,” Greenpeace campaigner Insung Lee said in the press release.

It won’t happen overnight. But these buildings will run on renewable energy by 2020. Samsung says that it could increase its use of renewable energy in other countries. In addition to that, Samsung is going to install solar panels in Gyeonggi province in South Korea.

Like many tech companies, Samsung also works with thousands of suppliers. So it’s not enough to use renewable energy for your own facilities. Samsung is starting small on this front and partnering with the Carbon Disclosure Project Supply Chain Program.

First, the company wants to identify the energy needs of its top 100 suppliers and help them move to renewable energy. This is a multi-year project, and it’s going to be important to regularly track Samsung’s progress on this front.

But it’s also good to see one of the biggest consumer electronics company in the world making strong commitments.

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Samsung’s Galaxy S9 wants to turn the camera into a new home screen

Posted by | Bixby, computing, consumer electronics, Gadgets, Mobile, s-voice, Samsung, Samsung Electronics, samsung galaxy, samsung galaxy s8, samsung galaxy s9, smartphones, TC, technology | No Comments

 The Galaxy S8 and S8+ already had one of the better smartphone cameras in the industry, and the Galaxy S9 and S9+ both seem to be top contenders to secure Samsung a place among the best options out there in 2018, too. But the most interesting thing about the camera might just be how central it is to the S9 and its launch. A home away from home(screen) Samsung is fully aware that people spend a… Read More

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Samsung Galaxy S9 to be announced in February

Posted by | computing, consumer electronics, Consumer Electronics Show, Gadgets, Samsung, Samsung Electronics, samsung galaxy, smartphones, tablet computers, technology | No Comments

 The next version of the Samsung Galaxy S9 is to be announced next month at Mobile World Congress. The word comes from DJ Koh, president of Samsung’s mobile business, speaking at a CES 2018 event. Samsung has used MWC to launch several Galaxy phones including the Samsung S7 Edge in 2016. The massive annual show in Barcelona is traditionally a stage for Motorola, LG, Xiaomi and Huawei… Read More

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Samsung’s Bixby assistant is now available for Galaxy S8 owners worldwide

Posted by | Amazon, Apple, Apps, artificial intelligence, Asia, Bixby, computing, Mobile, mobile software, s-voice, Samsung, Samsung Electronics, samsung galaxy, Samsung Galaxy S6, smartphones, technology | No Comments

 Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant is now global after it expanded into over 200 countries today.
Bixby is Samsung’s answer to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and other virtual assistants. It got off to a bumpy start when it didn’t ship with the launch of the Galaxy S8, Samsung’s top-of-the-range device for this year, in March. Samsung rolled out a… Read More

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