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TECHNOLOGY

Tonik builds on Google Cloud to accelerate financial inclusion, open banking innovation in PH

January 12, 2022 1:11 p.m.

SINGAPORE – Tonik Digital Bank (“Tonik”), the Philippines’ first digital-only neobank, is tapping Google Cloud’s advanced platform to accelerate financial inclusion for all Filipinos.

Leveraging Google Cloud’s expertise in scalable infrastructure, application programming interface (API) management, machine learning (ML) and data analytics, the bank has taken just 10 months to become an established leader in open banking innovation and delivering next-generation financial services.

  Tonik, which is part of Singapore-headquartered fintech firm Tonik Financial Pte. Ltd., was launched in March 2021 after obtaining an initial rural bank license from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). Its digital platform provides core services like deposits with interest rates of up to six percent per annum.

There are also unique features for customers to create separate pockets of savings to meet specific goals over time called “Stashes,” such as affording a vacation, a college education, or accumulating an emergency fund.

“Fewer overheads from being branchless allows us to offer industry-leading interest rates that enhance Filipinos’ financial wellness, but our value proposition cannot be solely driven by lower costs. We have had to first earn the trust of consumers by investing heavily in a superior customer experience,” said Greg Krasnov, Founder and CEO, Tonik. “Google Cloud has enabled us to deliver frictionless and customer-centric services that allow Filipinos to easily embrace the financial system. This collaboration – having played an integral role in Tonik being entrusted with more than US$100 million in consumer deposits to date – will empower us to continue expanding our product portfolio and drive real societal impact across the region.”

Secure APIs Open Up New Possibilities for Consumers and Developers

  With the BSP requiring banks to conduct due diligence by verifying each customer’s identity to prevent fraud and money laundering, applying for an account traditionally involves individuals having to first visit a physical branch to present valid government-issued identification (ID) to an officer.

This makes it difficult for millions of Filipinos to open accounts or make deposits. Unlike urban cities that have bank branches or ATMs at every corner, the people in rural Philippines – who account for 52.6 percent of the total population[1] – must travel long distances and arrive before the branch closes.

  By using Google Cloud’s Apigee API Management platform to build and scale open banking APIs, Tonik could quickly integrate its mobile application with capabilities from third-party providers to make account opening and cash deposits fast, seamless and convenient.

To help Filipinos set up accounts in under five minutes – instead of hours or days, Tonik interoperates with Daon, its partner for automated customer onboarding and biometric authentication.

The process starts with Tonik asking the customer for a selfie and a scanned copy of their ID. Tonik extracts text from these images through Google Cloud’s optical character recognition (OCR) APIs and shares the information with Daon through another trusted API.

Daon then cross-checks the customer’s identity against official sources that issued the ID. This complex data flow is invisible to the user, who only needs to download the Tonik mobile application, verify their identity for account opening, and start banking.

Using APIs, Tonik also exchanges data securely with authorized ecosystem partners like 7-Eleven convenience stores and pawn shops to capture transactions in real-time. When a user makes a deposit at a 7-Eleven, which are readily available across the Philippines, they would see the completed transaction on their Tonik application and start earning interest immediately.

 “Interoperability is core to our business strategy and everything on our digital banking application is therefore API-driven,” said Arivuvel Ramu, Chief Technology Officer, Tonik. “As our architectural foundation, Google Cloud’s industry-leading Apigee API Management platform allows us to unlock new digital channels, expand our business model, and generate new revenue streams. While APIs are not new to conventional banks, they tend to be private APIs tailored for a specific partner, which means third parties cannot reuse that API. In line with our commitment toward supporting broader ecosystem innovation, we have taken the private APIs that we have developed and converted them into public APIs.”

 Third-party developers who want to create new features or services for Tonik’s ecosystem of partners and users can now reuse its public APIs to do so expeditiously. Apigee also provides a sandbox environment for developers to test and refine what they have created. Issues that would cause downtime can then be identified and rectified before the feature or service is authorized and rolled out to its intended users.

  “Customers trust us with sensitive information like demographic and transaction data. As a custodian of data and a facilitator of open banking innovation, it is imperative that we uphold the highest standards of consent management and API security. By capturing and managing customer consent on what data we are permitted to share with authorized third parties, Apigee ensures that we comply with stringent regulatory requirements like PSD2. Apigee simultaneously secures our APIs to avoid data breaches by malicious users,” said Ramu.

  Pooling Insights to Deliver Financial Wellness and Hyper Personalized Customer Experiences

  Tonik currently serves more than 190,000 customers. To further advance financial inclusion and achieve its target of growing its active customer base to a million users by December 2022, the bank has built an intelligent data lake using Cloud Storage on Google Cloud and BigQuery to provide hyper personalized customer experiences and help many Filipinos access loans for the first time.  With data generated from every event along the customer journey and residing across systems, connecting datasets and analyzing them manually is an uphill task. A cloud-based contact center software, for example, captures customer interactions and feedback across channels, while a core banking system captures deposits and withdrawals.

  By unifying data across systems and applying machine learning, Tonik can, for instance, implement quick and accurate alternative credit scoring methods. This enables it to serve individuals who have not formally engaged with financial institutions in the past, have no credit histories, and do not qualify for traditional bank loans as a result. Tonik has recently pioneered a consumer lending product called “Quick Loan” without the need for credit histories or collateral, followed by approvals within 30 minutes and real-time disbursement.

  “To drive financial inclusion and transcend physical distance, pivoting to digital-first business models and customer interactions are now a necessity,” said Ruma Balasubramanian, Managing Director, Southeast Asia, Google Cloud. “Tonik, through its mature API- and data-led strategy, is creating an open finance ecosystem that will accrue richer digital user experiences and flexibility for players to securely share and maximize digital assets – with Filipinos the ultimate beneficiaries. Google Cloud is proud to be a part of Tonik’s innovation journey. We look forward to supporting the bank’s continuous commitment toward serving the Philippines’ unbanked and underbanked, while it scales for growth and empowers the region’s fintech developer community.”

TECHNOLOGY

Infinix launches the all-new HOT 20S, the best value-for-money gaming phone yet

November 27, 2022 7:20 p.m.

Filipinos absolutely live and breathe mobile gaming, and here’s some good news: being the best mobile gamer around no longer has to break the bank.

That’s because Infinix is dropping the brand-new HOT 20S on November 27, which lets you own the competition as a top game assassin–all at an affordable price.

Now, you don’t even have to spend more than P9,000 to enjoy #MoreSmoothGameplay on the HOT 20S. The phone packs a Helio G96 Premium Gaming Processor and up to 13 GB of RAM, which powers all your favorite games and allows it to perfectly handle the toughest and latest titles. You can have a wide selection of games to download and stomp other players in thanks to its 128GB ROM storage.

You’ll also never miss a single detail in the action thanks to the HOT 20S’s 120Hz 6.78-inch Full HD+ HyperVision Gaming Pro display, which gives you bright and vivid high-resolution visuals no matter what you’re running. Your sessions can also go for as long as you want thanks to its 5000mAh Power Monster battery that fills up quickly with its 18W Power Charge.

The whole gaming experience is rounded out by the HOT 20S’s Bionic Breathing Cooling System, which keeps the phone humming and going through great heat and pressure. Meanwhile, the All-Around Gaming Network Enhancement Turbo increases its performance during playtime even further.

For those who still want to upload great-looking content on their social media accounts, the HOT 20S also packs a solid 50MP Super Nightscape Triple Camera setup, which lets you take stunning photos and videos, especially in low-light settings.

So what are you waiting for–be the best game assassin you can be without spending too much, as the Infinix HOT 20S gives you #MoreThanWhatYouPayFor, guaranteed. Get it for a suggested retail price of P8,499 from Lazada, Shopee, TikTok Shop, and official Infinix kiosks nationwide starting November 27. Get it for even less at only P7,849 exclusively on Lazada on November 28, and P7,999 in a limited-time Flash Sale on LazadaShopeeTikTok Shop starting December 1. For more info on the HOT 20S, visit the official Infinix website.

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TECHNOLOGY

JBL SOUND ALL AROUND: Pump up your sound trip with JBL’s new, exciting range of products

November 21, 2022 12:54 p.m.

Everyone is a true original. We march to the beat of our own drums, with the freedom to design our life exactly the way we want it. Goodbye to treading the “traditional,” and here’s to paving our own exciting paths. Whether you like the adrenaline of living it up in the fast lane or taking it slow and steady, cruising through life on your own terms, JBL understands that there’s no such thing as a “one-size” fits all kind of lifestyle. That’s why JBL continues to innovate and provide SOUND ALL AROUND.

JBL is the brand for all your audio needs–encompassing all aspects of sound, whatever your field. From professionals, to students, athletes, gamers, content creators, and more, every person can enjoy unique sound tailored to their own story. And in pursuit of providing only the best for each individual, JBL is introducing a new range of essentials under the gaming, sports, speakers, and True Wireless categories. 

Here, find exactly what you need that that reflects your own reality. It’s time to elevate your life and your sound trip with JBL!

Living Hands-Free

For students and professionals, you may find yourself spending countless of hours commuting or hanging out at your work/ study desk, tackling the day’s load. Allow yourself to fully focus on your task at hand or make the trip around the campus or city more enjoyable with JBL’s True Wireless Earbuds. 

The JBL Wave Beam and JBL Wave Buds are perfect if you want to bring your sound everywhere. With bass you can feel and a battery life of up to 32 hours, these ear candies deliver crystal clear sound with Smart Ambient technology that keeps you aware of your surroundings.

For the go-getting entrepreneur or professional, the JBL Tune Flex is a flex you should get. Its ergonomic and water-resistant design gives you all-day comfort for any weather. In addition, it’s designed with a simple touch feature that allows you to manage and enjoy calls anywhere, without ambient noises. Now, you can choose whether you want to tune out the world or engage with your surroundings.

Working/ studying from home? No problem. The JBL Live Free 2 and the JBL Live Pro 2 allow you to make clear, perfect calls with six beamforming mics. You can also access your preferred voice assistant for seamless, hands-free control and connection. The Live Free 2 earbuds deliver up to 35 hours of incredible JBL Signature Sound (with 7 hours in the earbuds + 28 hours in the case), speed charging, and Qi-compatible wireless charging for when your batteries need a boost. The Live Pro2 delivers the same amazing benefits with up to 40 hours of incredible JBL Signature Sound (with 10 hours in the earbuds + 30 hours in the case). Each are beautifully designed to fit your aesthetic and give you a stylishly elevated, ergonomic set. 

Born to Move

When you’re in the zone, nothing should distract you. JBL’s in-ear sports earphones keep you on track, especially if you want to be unstoppable. For athletes and other active individuals, the JBL Run 2 and the Run 2 B make for a perfect fit. 

These wireless sets will get you the motivation you need to push harder. Their FlipHookdesign adapt to an in-ear or behind-the-ear fit for convenience. In addition, the comfortable combination of FlexSoftear tips and TwistLocktechnology guarantees that they will never to hurt or fall out. Heading out into the rain or heat? Thanks to IPX5 waterproof, these wireless headphones keep up with you every step of the way. Enjoy a playback of 10 hours, an in-line microphone, and remote for hands-free control of sound and calls. 

Built to Win

Gaming is no longer just a hobby, it’s a real profession. And if you’re looking for a set that helps you stand out, then going with the JBL Quantum 810 is a must! Fully immerse in a new world ushered by the signature JBL QuantumSOUND, which makes even the tiniest audio details come in crystal clear; and JBL QuantumSURROUND, the best spatial surround sound for gaming with DTS Headphone:X version 2.0 technology.

If you’re more on-the-go, JBL Quantum TWS is for you. Play anywhere and hear everything as this innovative pair features True Adaptive Noise Cancelling technology. Lose yourself in the game and limit distractions with accurate surround sound. Easily Fast Pair with Bluetooth smartphones and establish low latency 2.4GHz connections to compatible devices with the included USB-C dongle.

Life of the Party

#YOLO Make every day and every gathering one for the books! Turn your space into a club with the JBL Boombox 3, the most powerful portable Bluetooth speaker now made even better! It’s been redesigned with a new subwoofer unleashing much deeper bass and massive JBL Original Pro Sound, all with lower distortion. Party to 24 hours of play time, hyping you up from your morning workout to the late-night rendezvous with your friends. 

For a truly unforgettable experience, grab the JBL PartyBox Encore speaker and the JBL Pulse 5. Sync the lightshow’s rockin’ strobes, ring, and club lights for an awesomely immersive experience. You can also sing along with JBL PartyBox Encore’s premium digital wireless mic, optimized for karaoke with adjustable echo, bass, and treble. Both speakers are dustproof and waterproof so take them from your backyard to the beach and beyond! 

Life is what you make it. So, enjoy every moment and dive into the perfect sound trip every day with JBL. Now, that’s a vibe. 

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TECHNOLOGY

The next WannaCry and drone hacking: Advanced persistent threats in 2023

November 16, 2022 1:14 p.m.

Kaspersky researchers presented their vision of the future for advanced persistent threats (APTs), defining the changes in the threat landscape that will emerge in 2023. Attacks on satellite technologies, mail servers, the rise of destructive attacks and leaks, drone hacking and the next big cyber epidemic are among some of the predictions for the next year.

The political turmoil of 2022 brought about a shift that will echo in cybersecurity for years to come and have a direct effect on the development of future sophisticated attacks. The 2023 forecast is based on the expertise and the activities the Kaspersky Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT) has witnessed this year while tracking more than 900 APT groups and campaigns.

The next WannaCry and drones for proximity hacking

Statistically, some of the largest and most impactful cyber epidemics occur every six to seven years. The last such incident was the infamous WannaCry ransomware-worm, leveraging the extremely potent EternalBlue vulnerability to automatically spread to vulnerable machines. Kaspersky researchers believe the likelihood of the next WannaCry happening in 2023 is high. 

One potential reason for an event like this occurring is that the most sophisticated threat actors in the world are likely to possess at least one suitable exploit, and current global tensions greatly increase the chance a ShadowBrokers-style hack-and-leak could take place.

Major shifts will be reflected in new types of targets and attack scenarios too, as experts believe next year, we may see bold attackers and specialists adept at mixing physical-and cyber-intrusions, employing drones for proximity hacking. 

Some of the possible attack scenarios include mounting drones with sufficient tooling that would allow the collection of WPA handshakes used for offline cracking of WiFi passwords or even dropping malicious USB keys in restricted areas in the hope that a passer-by would pick them up and plug them into a machine.

Other advanced threat predictions for 2023 include:

  • SIGINT-delivered malware

One of the most potent attack vectors imaginable, which uses servers in key positions of the internet backbone allowing man-on-the-side attacks, may come back stronger next year. While these attacks are extremely hard to spot, Kaspersky researchers believe they will become more widespread and will lead to more discoveries.

  • The rise of destructive attacks

Given the current political climate, Kaspersky experts foresee a record number of disruptive and destructive cyber-attacks, affecting both the government sector and key industries. It is likely that a proportion of them will not be easily traceable to cyber incidents and will look like random accidents. The rest will take the form of pseudo-ransomware attacks or hacktivist operations to provide plausible deniability for their real authors. High-profile cyber attacks against civilian infrastructures, such as energy grids or public broadcasting, may also become targets, as well as underwater cables and fiber distribution hubs, which are challenging to defend.

  • Mail servers become priority targets

Mail servers harbor key intelligence so are of interest to APT actors and have the biggest attack surface imaginable. The market leaders of this type of software have already faced exploitation of critical vulnerabilities, and 2023 will be the year of 0days for all major email programs.

  • APT targeting turns toward satellite technologies, producers, and operators

With existing capabilities, evidence of APTs being capable of attacking satellites -with the Viasat incident as an example- it is likely that APT threat actors will increasingly turn their attention to the manipulation of, and interference with, satellite technologies in the future – making the security of these technologies ever more important.

  • Hack-and-leak is the new black (and bleak)

The new form of hybrid conflict that unrolled in 2022 involved a large number of hack-and-leak operations. These will persist in the coming year with APT actors leaking data about competing threat groups or disseminating information.

  • More APT groups will move from CobaltStrike to other alternatives

CobaltStrike, a red-teaming tool, has become a tool of choice for APT actors and cybercriminal groups alike. With it gaining so much attention from the defenders, it is likely that attackers will switch to new alternatives such as Brute Ratel C4, Silver, Manjusaka or Ninja, all offering new capabilities and more advanced evasion techniques.  

“It is quite clear 2022 saw major changes to the world’s geopolitical order and ushers in a new era of instability. A portion of our predictions focus on how this instability will translate into nefarious cyber activities, while others reflect our vision of which new attack vectors will be explored by attackers. Better preparation means better resilience and we hope our assessment of the future will enable defenders to strengthen their systems and repel cyberattacks more effectively,” says Ivan Kwiatkowski, senior security researcher at Kaspersky.

The APT predictions have been developed thanks to Kaspersky’s threat intelligence services used around the world. Read the full report on Securelist.

These predictions are a part of Kaspersky Security Bulletin (KSB) – an annual predictions series and analytical articles on key changes in the world of cybersecurity. Click here to look at other KSB pieces.

To look back at what the Kaspersky experts expected to see in the advanced targeted threats landscape in 2022, please read our previous yearly report.

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