Encrypted chat app Signal alleges flaws in Cellebrite equipment

Cellebrite digital intelligence kit. (Handout images from cellebrite.com)
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Updated 22 April 2021

Encrypted chat app Signal alleges flaws in Cellebrite equipment

WASHINGTON: Encrypted chat app Signal suggested in a blog post published on Wednesday that products sold to law enforcement from Israeli surveillance provider Cellebrite can easily be sabotaged.
Cellebrite DI Ltd, which specializes in helping law enforcement and intelligence agencies copy call logs, texts, photos and other data off of smartphones, has repeatedly come under fire for past sales to authoritarian governments, including Russia and China.
Signal, a privacy-focused app eager to show the lengths it goes to protect users’ conversations, clashed with Cellebrite last year when the Israeli company said its equipment was upgraded to allow law enforcement to scoop up Signal messages from devices in their possession.
Signal creator and CEO Moxie Marlinspike said in his blog post on Wednesday he had come into possession of a bag of Cellebrite equipment and examined the gear inside.
He was “surprised to find that very little care seems to have been given to Cellebrite’s own software security,” Marlinspike said, noting it would be easy to add a specially crafted file onto a phone that would derail Cellebrite’s functionality.
In a statement, Cellebrite did not directly address Marlinspike’s claim but said that the company’s employees “continually audit and update our software in order to equip our customers with the best digital intelligence solutions available.”
Elsewhere in his blog post, Marlinspike alleged he had found snippets of code from Apple Inc. inside Cellebrite’s software, something he said “might present a legal risk for Cellebrite and its users” if it was done without authorization.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Signal’s allegations come as Cellebrite prepares to go public through a merger with a blank-check firm, valuing the equity of the combined company at around $2.4 billion. 


Qatar wealth fund says no investment in cryptocurrencies until they mature

Updated 3 min 31 sec ago

Qatar wealth fund says no investment in cryptocurrencies until they mature

  • Crypto currencies are currently too volatile, QIA CEO says
  • QIA seeks to boost investment in Asia and US

DOHA: Qatar’s wealth fund avoids investing in cryptocurrencies due to their extreme volatility, Bloomberg reported.

Cryptocurrencies “need a bit of maturity before we make our view about investing in that space,” QIA CEO Mansoor Bin Ebrahim Al-Mahmoud said at the Qatar Economic Forum.

Instead of crypto assets, the QIA will focus on continuing to boost investments in Asia and the US as it looks to balance out a concentration of European assets in its portfolio, Al-Mahmoud said.

The fund is also going to be investing more into warehouses in response to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on retail and office real estate, he said.

Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) is one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds with assets estimated at over $360 billion, according to Global SWF.

Bitcoin has lost more than 50 percent from its mid-April high of almost $65,000. The coin started 2021 trading around $29,000 following a fourfold increase in 2020. It bounced back on Wednesday after earlier whipsawing investors with a dip below the $30,000 level.

This year the fund will also look to formalize the process of factoring in environment, sustainability and governance (ESG) considerations into its investment criteria, the Al-Mahmoud said.

“We have been investing in ESG initiatives and projects for quite some time, and this year it will be institutionalized,” he said. “We will embed ESG into our investment process,” he said.


IMF approves one year $5.2bn stand-by arrangement for Egypt

Updated 38 min 29 sec ago

IMF approves one year $5.2bn stand-by arrangement for Egypt

  • IMF authorizes Egypt to withdraw $1.7bn after reform program review

RIYADH: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a 12-month stand-by arrangement for Egypt, with access equivalent to 3.76 billion Special Drawing Rights (SDR) equivalent to about $5.2 billion.

After a strong track record of successfully completing a home-grown economic reform program supported by the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility in 2016-2019, Egypt was one of the fastest growing emerging markets prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the IMF said in a statement on Wednesday.

The new arrangement aims to help Egypt cope with challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic by providing IMF resources to meet Egypt’s balance of payments needs and to finance the budget deficit. It will be allowed to withdraw $1.7bn after its reform program has been reviewed.

“Over the past few years, Egypt saw strong growth, falling unemployment, moderate inflation, buildup of strong reserve buffers, and significant reduction in public debt,” said Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair Antoinette Sayeh.

Sayeh emphasized Egypt’s commitment to broaden and deepen structural reforms, and refocus to address the economic health crisis during the pandemic.


Egyptian president approves July pension and wage increases

Updated 24 June 2021

Egyptian president approves July pension and wage increases

  • Pensions to be raised 13 percent at cost of 31 billion Egyptian pounds
  • Minimum wage to rise from 2,400 Egyptian pounds from 2,000

RIYADH: Egypt’s official gazette published President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s decision to increase pensions as of the beginning of July, Al Arabiya reported.

Pensions will be raised 13 percent at a cost of 31 billion Egyptian pounds ($1.9 billion) and minimum monthly wages will be increased from 2,000 Egyptian pounds to 2,400 Egyptian pounds at a cost of 37 billion Egyptian pounds.

This decision will complete the total of the pension, subsidies and increases to minimum wages, local papers reported.

Egyptians’ salaries have jumped more than 240 times in about 41 years, according to data compiled by Al Arabiya.

Egypt’s budget, to be implemented in early July, also includes two bonuses at a cost of about 7.5 billion Egyptian pounds, and an increase in stimulus at a total cost of about 17 billion Egyptian pounds.


Saudi Aramco chairman to join Reliance Industries board

Employees work at the Reliance Industries Petrol pump in Navi Mumbai. (AFP)
Updated 24 June 2021

Saudi Aramco chairman to join Reliance Industries board

BENGALURU: Reliance Industries said on Thursday Saudi Aramco Chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan will join the Indian conglomerate’s board.
Reliance had announced a sale of a 20 percent stake in its oil-to-chemicals business for $15 billion in 2019 to Aramco, the world’s top oil exporting firm.
However, the deal had stalled after oil prices and demand crashed last year due to the pandemic.


Cheap Dubai cost of living may attract rich expats, says Tellimer

Updated 24 June 2021

Cheap Dubai cost of living may attract rich expats, says Tellimer

  • Dubai cost of living is 20 percent below Singapore and Hong Kong

DUBAI: Cheaper Dubai property prices may attract rich expatriates who are affluent enough to move for lifestyle and wealth preservation reasons, Tellimer said.
Dubai has liberalized its visa regime, falls under the UAE’s Abraham Accords with Israel, and has maintained a globally rare sense of normality during the pandemic helped by an efficient vaccination program, the emerging markets research group noted.
The emirate, famed for its glitzy developments and lavish lifestyle, now has a cost of living that is 20 percent below Hong Kong and Singapore.


“The main driver of this competitiveness is residential property prices, which, since the start of 2015, are up 35 percent in Hong Kong, flat in Singapore, and down 30 percent in Dubai,” Tellimer said.
Since 2010, property rentals are down 45 percent and other items (groceries, transport, utilities) have fallen by 10 percent.
The emirate has relaxed its visa rules recently and has attracted an influx of so-called digital nomads and other investors.