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November 29, 2023


Investment information for the new generation


This Week in Tech: Strange Days Edition

Strange days have found us. Strange days have tracked us down.

Vladimir Putin has fired up the war machine and sent tanks to crumble Ukraine sovereignty into paste. Naturally because most financial and economic things are connected—oil’s up, bitcoin’s down, and people are hiding their money in gold.

We’ll get into the general weirdness of world events and their role in crafting our strange future, but let’s take a detour first into some nostalgia.

Upco’s VoIP offering reaches 40,000 users

Remember when voice over internet protocol (VoIP) was considered high tech? I barely do. It was maybe the 90’s and we kept getting kicked off the internet whenever someone called. That was annoying. Broadband changed that but we never went back. Why would you?

Individual usage aside it’s probably a good bet for business, even now.

Case in point:

Cloud-based mobile company Upco International (UPCO.C) passed the 40,000 user mark for their voice over internet protocol service (VoIP) Upco Messenger.

They’re doing what they can to push their Upco Messenger product throughout Europe and add payment functionality, and while they’ve passed the 40K mark, they recognize they still have a long way to go. To that effect, they’ve signed on with Snoop Consulting, which touts itself as a digital transformation company delivering products and advice to digital businesses.

“Our review of the European market suggests that it is not presently served by an application that supports both payments and unified communications. The new app will enable users to make payments, organize their personal or company budget, and communicate via chat. Our goal is to make the users’ life easier by providing a simple and reliable app, which is straightforward to use and understand, and minimizes updates that can consume their data,” said Gustavo Guaragna, Snoop’s CEO.

Upco Messenger users are principally located in Germany, Italy, Israel, Egypt, France, Kazakhstan, Russia, Bangladesh, Poland and Indonesia, so if you’ve never heard of it, that’s why. This application allows messaging around the world, as well as internal and external calls.

Meanwhile, back home, we still have a doctor shortage, which will probably continue until the costs in money and time to become a doctor become lesser, and of course, there’s the United States and their pay-to-play medical system to draw off anyone who graduates up here and doesn’t want to be tied to the state for the rest of their lives.

Until then, we have telehealth to connect every ten or twenty patients with one doctor through a screen or a phone.

Datametrex AI Extends Their Medi-Call Telehealth Operations

Datametrex AI (DM.V) made some chief additions to their Medi-Call telehealth mobile application this week. First, they added two new medical doctors in BC to meet growth demands. These are supplemented already by a team of nurses in both BC and Ontario.

The company is all about expanding into the Telehealth vertical with an aim towards providing faster, better treatment and care for patients, while helping doctors handle their appointments.

Here’s an overview:

Medi-Call is a subscription service that connects patients with doctors pro-actively.

It is an integrated grid system that connects patients with providers in real time:

  • Solving accessibility issues for patients living in rural or isolated communities or with limited mobility;
  • Improving co-ordination and communication of treatment among health care team members and their patients;
  • Facilitating mobile health care services including prescriptions.

And it wouldn’t be a roundup about the forces developing our strange future if we didn’t visit the metaverse at least once.

ImagineAR to roll out Automotive metaverse app in March

It was a matter of time before Imagine AR (IP.C) got into the metaverse. They have one of the core techs required for the metaverse in their name—AR or augmented reality. You put the funny goggles on and suddenly Hagrid from Harry Potter is busy fighting a death eater in your closet. He might wave at you. How strange is that?

Hard Pass.

Still, they’re throwing open the virtual doors to their custom immersive metaverse white-label mobile app for Automotive Industries. This comes on the heels of a three year revenue sharing contract for the app. No Hagrid here. Sorry. You’ll have to go back to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for that.

“The automotive industry is often considered to be one of the most global of all industries with already one billion plus cars on the planet. The carmakers are first to adopt new technology to benefit their consumers, their communication strategy and their marketing partnerships. We believe the metaverse and mobile app AR [augmented reality] from Alen Paul Silverrstieen’s team at ImagineAR are bringing the automotive industry and the world consumers of automobiles one of the best media communication assets since the introduction of the mobile phone,” said John Larkin, Automotive Industries publisher.

Admittedly, I did not see cars being their angle into the metaverse, but why not? It’s strange, but you can white label anything nowadays.

Mobilum Technologies Pulls in a Big Partnership with

Mobilum Technologies (MBLM.C) inked an agreement with the exchange to provide token liquidity services using their algorithmic trading platform.

What’s most interesting about Mobilum, though, is that they provide a fiat-to-dex option. There aren’t many decentralized exchanges that let you use fiat to get onto their exchange. Normally, you have to buy some crypto from another exchange and port it over to a DEX, wherein you can perform a swap for something a touch more rare.

Regardless, Mobilum will provide research and execution support using its platform by way of summaries and stats of market activity. In response, Mobilium is getting a monthly retainer and an interest free credit line for USD$2 million collateralized with a $400,000 security deposit.

“This is a key milestone for the Company and a testament to the quality of our team, and services suite Mobilum has brought to market, further delighting our customers and partners with an innovative, efficient, scalable and secure digital payments platform. We look forward to a long-term partnership with and will leverage our proprietary algorithmic trading platform to provide liquidity services to the platform and other tokens/customers wishing to list on their platform,” Wojciech Kaszycki, CEO of Mobilum.

If you’re not familiar, is one of the biggest crypto exchanges in the world with over 10 million users buying and selling over 200 cryptos, and offering more than 20 fiat currency options through bank transfers or credit or debit cards. They’re big enough to have developed their own Visa card and DeFi Wallet. You get the idea. They’re a big deal.

Now let’s talk about NFTs.

CurrencyWorks Puts Together Their NFT Platform Featuring Anthony Hopkins Movie

This weekend we settled in to watch Anthony Hopkins best actor Oscar winning turn in The Father. I’m not going to try on my amateur movie critique hat for this, but I can securely say it was one of the best performances I’d seen in awhile, and definitely worthy of the nod.

Clearly there are some movies you make for art’s sake and some you make just for the paycheque. Toss in some buzz-laden tech to draw in and fleece the rubes, and you’ve got a recipe for … well, not much. Maybe revenue. But Currencyworks (CWRK.Q) is more or less not in this for the art. They’re here to push the NFTs.

We originally wrote about this movie back when it was first announced in July of last year.

Here’s what we said:

“It also stars Aleks Paunovic, Veronica Ferres and Chris Brochu, whoever they are, and was filmed during the pandemic. It follows five characters based in disparate locations on the globe connected by their devotion to a late tech titan played by Hopkins. They’re forced to work together to bring down Hart’s secret invention, which is supposed to be the solution to mankind’s problems or the end of life on earth.”

Except now there’s merch containing three of nine character bio collector card NFTs, with 100 copies of the Finley Hart character bio collector card NFT. Yes. Hart is Hopkins character. Personally, I’d prefer Hannibal Lector.

A Strange Interlude

“War is the continuation of politics by other means.” It’s a quote from Carl Von Clausewitz, General, military theorist and Realist.

But Clausewitz operated in an age before globalization, computers, Russian oligarchs and OPEC. It’s a spate of curiosity to wonder what he would have thought about war today—which begins and continues more often than not in cyberspace and spills out into trade sanctions and military action.

But this isn’t Matthew Broderick in War Games hacking NORAD from his mother’s basement, nor the hilariously outdated kiddos in Hackers. This is government-backed attacks on public installations of another country for the purpose of sabotage or digital espionage shortly before they retreat behind a mountain of firewalls, routers and other devices to obscure their trail.

Case in point, and this is either decently sloppy or openly brazen, since it’s obvious where it came from, but Russia’s large scale cyberattack on the Ukraine prior to sending the tanks in.

It’s a strange new world out there and we’re going to need to seriously think about how to protect ourselves in the future, especially given a new report from IBM.

IBM Reports Manufacturing and Supply Chains Took The Cyberattack Hit in 2021

Normally with the roundup I generally try to stick to mid-level and small-cap companies, but I’m not averse to throwing in a big hitter every now and again if it’s particularly cogent or the news they’re throwing brings the value.

In this case, we have IBM (IBM.NYSE) Security, which released its annual X-Force Threat Intelligence Index, which reveals how ransomware and vulnerability exploitations together were able to target and control businesses in 2021, putting further stress on already straining supply chains. Surprising nobody, a third of these attacks were caused by software that wasn’t patched or otherwise not up to date. This produces back doors by which hackers can access networks, and it’s bad news and strange times ahead until this is fixed.

But it’s not really what’s caught my eye.

The overall winner of the cybersecurity vulnerability sweepstakes was still phishing scams.

  • Asia Leads Attacks – Experiencing over 1 in 4 attacks that IBM observed globally in 2021, Asia saw more cyberattacks than any other region in the past year. Financial services and manufacturing organizations together experienced nearly 60% of attacks in Asia.
  • First Time Caller, Long Time Phisher – Phishing was the most common cause of cyberattacks in 2021. In X-Force Red’s penetration tests, the click rate in its phishing campaigns tripled when combined with phone calls.

The fact remains:  stop opening strange e-mails and you’ll probably be fine.

The report details how ransomware actors tried to break the back of global supply chains by attacking manufacturing, which replaced the reigning champion financial services and insurance. Attackers anticipated a ripple effect that disruption on manufacturing would cause problems downstream on supply chains to pressure them into paying the ransom.

“Cybercriminals usually chase the money. Now with ransomware they are chasing leverage,” said Charles Henderson, Head of IBM X-Force. “Businesses should recognize that vulnerabilities are holding them in a deadlock – as ransomware actors use that to their advantage. This is a non-binary challenge. The attack surface is only growing larger, so instead of operating under the assumption that every vulnerability in their environment has been patched, businesses should operate under an assumption of compromise, and enhance their vulnerability management with a zero trust strategy.”

Some of the top highlights in this year’s report include:

  • Ransomware Gangs Defy Takedowns. Ransomware persisted as the top attack method observed in 2021, with ransomware groups showing no sign of stopping, despite the uptick in ransomware takedowns. According to the 2022 report, the average lifespan of a ransomware group before shutting down or rebranding is 17 months.
  • Vulnerabilities Expose Businesses’ Biggest “Vice”. X-Force reveals that for businesses in Europe, Asia and MEA, unpatched vulnerabilities caused approximately 50% of attacks in 2021, exposing businesses’ biggest struggle– patching vulnerabilities.
  • Early Warning Signs of Cyber Crisis in the Cloud. Cybercriminals are laying the groundwork to target cloud environments, with the 2022 report revealing a 146% increase in new Linux ransomware code and a shift to Docker-focused targeting, potentially making it easier for more threat actors to leverage cloud environments for malicious purposes.

Specifically, 47% of attacks on manufacturing were caused by vulnerabilities that victim organizations either hadn’t patched or couldn’t patch.

Typically, every bit of bad news can easily be re-coded as a business opportunity, and cybersecurity is going to be a big deal in the next century as hacks and hackers get more sophisticated.

That naturally leads us too…

Plurilock Wins Cybersecurity Award for DEFEND Zero Trust Identity Solution

This week Plurilock Security (PLUR.V) was named the winner of the 18th Annual 2022 by The Globee as at the Cyber Security Global Excellence Awards.

These awards recognize cybersecurity and info-tech companies and their standout products, solutions and services. This year PLUR was a hit with the 55 judges from around the world who selected this year’s winners.

The Globee Awards hand out awards for:

  • The American Best in Business Awards,
  • Business and Communications Excellence Awards,
  • CEO World Awards®,
  • Cyber Security Global Excellence Awards®,
  • Disruptor Company Awards,
  • Golden Bridge Awards®,
  • Information Technology World Awards®,
  • International Best in Business Awards,
  • Sales, Marketing, & Service Excellence Awards, and Women World Awards®

Specifically, Plurilock was named as a Gold Globee winner for the “Hot Security Technology of the Year” award in the artificial intelligence security category for their Plurilock DEFEND biometric cybersecurity suite.

“Plurilock is proud to be recognized as an industry leader, creating zero trust identity solutions that protect enterprises from the growing cyber threat. This latest award further demonstrates the strength of our DEFEND solution and our commitment to delivering new versions of the software that provide key customer-driven features and enable critical elements of a zero trust architecture,” said Ian L. Paterson, CEO of Plurilock.

DEFEND is a identity and continuous authentication program offering identity assurance and protection against intruders. If it detects anything untoward it alerts IT security to the threat in real time using AI and machine learning technology.

It runs on biometric scans—collecting data from the way you type and your movements to continually determine you are who you should be at the station. It means no more need to memorize a billion passwords, and that’s why I’d like to give it a shot.

We’re probably going to be seeing a lot more of cybersecurity companies and Plurilock in particular, as estimates have cybercrime costs growing by 15% annually over the next five years.

Now let’s close it off with a secure system in a sea of strange insecurity.

LQwD FinTech throws their lot in with Lightning Network in Indonesia

LQwD FinTech (LQWD.V) announced the deployment of a routing node in Jakarta, Indonesia this week.

LQwD has been busy rebranding themselves as a company developing payment infrastructure for Bitcoin’s Lightning Network, and given that Indonesia sports a population of over 2260 million and over $50 billion in crypto assets are regularly traded from there yearly, it makes solid sense for there to be a routing node.

“Recently, the Indonesia Commodity Futures Trading Supervisor Agency (CoFTRA) announced acceptance to trade in over 200 cryptocurrencies, which will help pave the way for Lightning Network to become one of Indonesia’s preferred platforms for micro-payments and other transactions,” said Shone Anstey, LQwD’s CEO.

If none of this makes sense to you then let me try and clear things up a bit.

The Lightning Network is a blockchain tech intended to solve Bitcoin’s scaling issue for global microtransactions. It’s supposed to scale up to millions of transactions per second, while reducing fees, and instantaneous settlement times.

It also wears a cape and fights crime.

Actually, it does none of those things. Not yet. It’s supposed to do those things, but they can’t get the mix right yet.

Here’s what they’ve got so far.

The Lightning Network continues to experience explosive growth as follows:

  • Since April 2021, node growth has increased 227%, from 10,394 to over 34,000 nodes now established.
  • Bitcoin capacity increased from 1,060 BTC to 3,398 BTC, up 220% from January 2021 to the present.
  • Payment channels are up 126%, rising from 38,000 to more than 86,000 established since January 2021.

There are some pretty smart people working on this, and that’s why it’s a chief contender in what’s become a scaling race between Lightning Protocol, Ethereum 2.0 and Cardano’s hydra sharding development.

Said smart people include Lightning Labs, and former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s company, Block.

Including LQwD’s recent node launch in Singapore and Germany, 127 nodes have interconnected with more than 130 transaction channels, routing approximately 10 Bitcoin through LQwD’s connected channels since launching our first Lightning Network node in late November 2021.

—Joseph Morton

Full disclosure: Plurilock Security is an marketing client.

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