KUALA LUMPUR,. The Budget 2020 revealed that Malaysia is anticipating a full year of technological revolution ahead with RM21.6 billion invested into 5G development which would open tremendous opportunity as well as the need to step-up security in the cyberworld.

On the business front, with an allocation of RM550 million to develop the manufacturing sector for automation in line with IR 4.0, operations will become more digitalised with more valuable data making its way to the online world, Sophos Malaysia’s Country Manager, Wong Joon Hoong said today.

“With stronger connectivity and more training platforms across, we are looking at a rapid increase of online businesses, day-to-day transactions, and a massive amount of data exchange in the cyberspace.

However, with the sudden hike in digital involvement, does our security lifestyle keep up?” he added.

He said the biggest responsibility on security then falls on the shoulders of organisations, both public and private, to shelter Malaysians from the rapid rise of cyberattacks.

Sophos is a British security software and hardware company.

“More important than ever, organisations must not only focus on upskilling the employees to utilise new digital solutions, but also re-evaluate their knowledge on protecting online information,” he said in reaction to Budget 2020 tabled by the Minister of Finance, Lim Guan Eng yesterday.

According to Sophos’s latest research, The Future of Cybersecurity in the Asia Pacific and Japan — Culture, Efficiency, Awareness revealed that 51 per cent of Malaysian respondents don’t think they have the necessary resources to secure their digital assets, this includes a competent cybersecurity team in place to properly detect, investigate and respond to threats.

In terms of talent recruitment, which Malaysia is lacking, 72 per cent of respondents expressed difficulties in recruiting skilled cybersecurity experts.

“As a global leader in next-generation endpoint and network cybersecurity, we believe that this is a crucial time for businesses to recognise the importance of protection technology in line with the digital transformation plan.”

“As upcoming digital initiatives in the country unfold, it is crucial for businesses to strengthen their protection technology in tandem with the deployment of disruptive technological solutions. This, to date, has a huge space for improvement,” he said.

Though, businesses are not the only gatekeepers for security in this new age. Individuals, like ourselves, are also critical in this security maintenance cycle. The push for a cashless Malaysia is not slowing down. With more transactions being done online, people need to be educated on how to secure their e-wallets, said Wong.

He said with proper funding and policies currently in place, there are now more opportunities for both the public and private sector to join hands in educating businesses of all sizes to take action in securing the cyberspace.

Sophos believes that education on cybersecurity remains a critical concern.

For Malaysia to prosper equally across the nation, there must be shared consensus on how technology investments are distributed to support economic activities across different sectors, communities, and locations.

“However, it’s a must to not move too quickly without having proper prevention and protection measures in place. Regardless, Sophos is excited to celebrate the upcoming developments which Malaysia foresees,” he added. — Bernama

HONG KONG,. The Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, the People’s Daily, lashed out yesterday at Apple Inc for allowing an app on its app store that tracks the movement of police around Hong Kong and is used by protesters in ongoing and sometimes violent demonstrations.

In a commentary the newspaper did not mention the name of the location app, but it decried what it said was Apple’s complicity in helping the protesters and questioned whether Apple was “thinking clearly”.

One such map that is available on the Apple app store, the HKmap.live app, has become a lightning rod on Twitter for criticism and support of the protests. The developer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Saturday in a tweet they said that Apple had “many business considerations” but had “make thing(s) right.”

Apple is the latest foreign company to catch heat in relation to the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which have lasted four months.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) and US sports brand Vans also have become embroiled in controversies over the protests.

The piece on the website of the People’s Daily said Apple did not have a sense of right and wrong, and ignored the truth.

Making the App available on Apple’s Hong Kong app Store at this time was “opening the door” to violent protesters in the former British colony.

“Letting poisonous software have its way is a betrayal of the Chinese people’s feelings,” the paper said.

Apple did not respond to a request for a comment. ― Reuters

SEOUL,. Samsung Electronics said today it expected operating profits to drop more than 50 per cent in the third quarter amid a continued slump in the global chip market.

Operating profit for July to September was expected to reach 7.7 trillion won (RM26.8 billion), down 56.2 per cent from a year earlier, the world’s largest maker of smartphones and memory chips said in a statement.

It marks the fourth consecutive quarter in which the South Korean tech company has recorded a profit drop in the face of falling semiconductor prices and weakened demand for its mobile devices.

Sales for the third quarter were expected to reach around 62 trillion won, down 5.3 per cent from the same period last year.

Samsung withholds net profit and sector-by-sector business performance until it releases its final earnings report, which is expected later this month.

The firm is the flagship subsidiary of the giant Samsung Group, by far the biggest of the family-controlled conglomerates that dominate business in the world’s 11th-largest economy, and it is crucial to South Korea’s economic health.

Analysts voiced optimism for the coming months, noting that falling inventory levels for semiconductors ― which account for more than half of Samsung’s profit ― will help stabilise chip prices after double-digit drops this year.

‘Competitor in crisis’

In the mobile business, Samsung took advantage of the US trade ban against Chinese rival Huawei, “replacing a strong competitor in crisis” with its mid-to-low tier Galaxy A handsets, said Sujeong Lim, an analyst at Counterpoint Research.

“The new A series has turned out to be an effective weapon to take share from its Android competitors,” she said.

The South Korean tech titan leads the global smartphone market with a 23-per cent share of the sector, trailed by Chinese competitors Huawei and Oppo, with Apple in fourth place, according to sales tracker IHS Markit.

Samsung appealed to high-end users with the launch of its first foldable smartphone last month after faulty screens forced an embarrassing delay in April.

The firm also rolled out its flagship Note 10 devices which analysts say have sold far better than its previous models, giving Samsung a much-needed boost in its mobile sales.

The premium smartphone market has grown fiercely competitive and overall sales have cooled as a lack of major innovation has caused people to wait longer before upgrading to new models.

Samsung has also been caught up in a trade war between Japan and South Korea stemming from World War II disputes.

The row saw Tokyo impose tough restrictions on exports crucial to South Korean tech giants in July, and Samsung vice chairman Lee Jae-yong ― who called the situation a “crisis” ― has visited Tokyo to secure materials.

Adding to Samsung’s woes, Lee is currently facing retrial over his role in a massive corruption scandal that brought down former president Park Geun-hye.

He was initially jailed for five years in 2017 on multiple convictions including bribery, which was reduced to a suspended sentence on appeal, only for the Supreme Court in August to order a retrial.

The first hearings in the case are expected later this month. ― AFP

WASHINGTON,. US payments processor PayPal Holdings Inc said yesterday it was leaving Libra Association, the entity managing the Facebook-led effort to build global digital currency Libra, making it the first member to exit the group.

PayPal said it would forego any further participation in the group and would instead focus on its own core businesses.

“We remain supportive of Libra’s aspirations and look forward to continued dialogue on ways to work together in the future,” PayPal said in a statement.

In response, Geneva-based Libra Association said it was aware of the challenges lying ahead in its attempts to “reconfigure” the financial system.

“The type of change that will reconfigure the financial system to be tilted towards people, not the institutions serving them, will be hard. Commitment to that mission is more important to us than anything else. We’re better off knowing about this lack of commitment now, rather than later,” Libra Association said in a statement. Facebook Inc declined to comment.

Facebook announced plans to launch the digital currency in June 2020 in partnership with other members of Libra Association but the project quickly ran into trouble with skeptical regulators around the world.

Reuters reported last week that Facebook could push back the launch of Libra to tackle regulatory concerns.

Visa and Mastercard Inc are also reconsidering their involvement in Libra as they do not want to attract regulatory scrutiny, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.

France and Germany last month pledged to block Libra from operating in Europe and backed the development of a public cryptocurrency instead.

With the exit of PayPal, Libra Association now has 28 members, including Uber Technologies Inc, Lyft Inc and Spotify Technologies.

“We look forward to the first Libra Council meeting in 10 days and will be sharing updates following that, including details of the 1,500 entities that have indicated enthusiastic interest to participate,” Libra Association said in a tweet. — Reuters

SAN FRANCISCO,. Apple Inc has asked suppliers to increase production of its iPhone 11 models by up to eight million units, or about 10 per cent, Nikkei Asian Review reported, hinting that demand for the recently launched versions of its flagship phone was picking up.

“Previously, Apple was quite conservative about placing orders”, which were less than for last year’s new iPhone, the Nikkei said today, quoting a source.

“After the increase, prepared production volume for the iPhone 11 series will be higher compared to last year”.

The company’s shares rose 1.8 per cent to US$224.78 (RM941) in early trading.

The recent surge in iPhone orders is concentrated in the cheapest iPhone 11 model and the iPhone 11 Pro model, sources cited by Nikkei said, while Apple has slightly reduced orders for its top range model, the iPhone 11 Pro Max, which has a starting price of US$1,099.

“Despite all the perceived black clouds from being the poster child of the current US-China trade tensions, Apple is seeing a very strong iPhone 11 demand trajectory and defying many skeptics that have been yelling fire in a crowded theater over the past few months,” Wedbush analysts wrote in a note.

The latest iPhone 11 range hit stores in China in September, with short queues of die-hard fans contrasting with the hundreds who camped out ahead of some previous launches, Reuters had reported.

However, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook told German daily Bild earlier this week that iPhone sales were off to “a very strong start”.

JP Morgan analysts have also raised their iPhone shipment forecast and now expect Apple to sell one million units more than their previous estimates.

But concerns remained.

Suppliers remained cautious, the Nikkei reported, adding they were concerned that the higher level of orders would not be sustained.

“Demand is good for now. But we have to be careful not to be too optimistic,” an executive-level source said in the report. “I hope that this year’s peak season lasts longer than last year.”

Apple did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Cupertino-based Apple had recently started focusing more on its Services unit, which includes sales from iCloud, the App Store and other businesses, as smartphone sales showed signs of slowing down.

In the company’s latest reported fiscal quarter, iPhones contributed less than half of company revenues for the first time in seven years.

Apple launched its three new iPhone models in September and reduced the starting price of the model upgrade, despite better cameras, to US$699, compared to US$749 for last year’s iPhone XR. — Reuters

LUXEMBOURG,. Apple went on the offensive against Brussels in an EU court yesterday, fighting the European Commission’s landmark order that the iPhone-maker reimburse Ireland €13 billion (RM59.85 billion) in back taxes.

The EU’s tax demand, made three years ago, “defies reality and common sense,” Apple’s lawyer Daniel Beard told the EU’s lower General Court.

The commission’s “conclusion… is wrong,” he added at the start of two days of hearings.

Lawyers for the world’s biggest company faced EU officials in the Luxembourg court, challenging a decision that CEO Tim Cook slammed at the time as “total political crap” with no basis in law.

Ireland, which is similarly appealing the decision, lashed out at the EU’s “astonishing” interpretation of tax law.

“The Commission decision simply ignores Irish laws,” Ireland’s representative Maurice Collins told judges.

The commission’s historic decision was delivered in August 2016 by Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, a shock decision that put Europe at the forefront of an emerging effort to rein in the power of America’s largest technological companies.

The EU accuses Apple of parking untaxed revenue earned in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and India in Ireland, which has become a European hub for US-based big tech.

This privilege allegedly gave Apple an advantage over other companies, allowing it to avoid Irish taxes between 2003 and 2014 of around €13 billion which, according to Brussels, constituted illegal “state aid” by Ireland.

An EU lawyer pushed back at Apple and Ireland’s arguments, insisting that the iPhone-maker was on the hook to pay taxes in Ireland.

The judges are not expected to hand down their decision before 2020. Any appeal would then go the EU’s highest court, the European Court of Justice, for a final ruling that could land as late as 2021.

‘Rewrite history’

Apple fiercely rejects the tax bill, while the US government insists the order by Brussels constitutes a major breach of international tax law.

“The European Commission has tried to rewrite Apple’s history in Europe, to ignore Ireland’s tax laws and, in doing so, to disrupt the international tax system,” Tim Cook said in an open letter in 2016.

The group insists that it is in the United States, where the company invests in research and development and thus creates wealth, that it must pay taxes on the revenue in question.

This became possible after a major tax overhaul in the US at the end of 2017 that allowed Apple to repatriate profits made abroad. Apple has promised to pay Washington a tax bill of US$37 billion (RM154.3 billion), in addition to the taxes already paid in the United States.

That argument is “perfectly irrelevant,” said the commission’s lawyer.

“There is no tax mismatch here,” said the lawyer.

The two days of hearings are taking place in a tense trade context between the EU and the United States. President Donald Trump accuses Europeans of deliberately attacking American technology giants.

The EU’s competition supremo, Vestager, has in particular been accused by Trump of “hating” the US. He has slammed her as the “tax lady” because of the investigations and heavy fines imposed on US tech firms such as Google.

Pending the conclusion of the case, Apple has blocked the funds in an escrow account: A total of €14.3 billion after interest.

The group, which has been present in Ireland since the 1980s, employs around 6,000 people in Cork, the country’s second-largest city.

The first indications of how the Apple case may finish will come as early as September 24 when the same EU court will rule on whether Vestager was right to demand unpaid taxes from Starbucks and a unit of Fiat Chrysler. — AFP

NEW YORK,. Pre-orders for Apple Inc’s latest iPhones have gotten off to a better start than the last cycle a year ago, several Wall Street analysts said yesterday, citing their own research data.

The company last week unveiled three iPhone models featuring upgraded processors and new camera functionality, including iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, priced between US$699 and US$1,099. (RM2,913-RM4,580)

CNBC quoted TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, known as a close follower of the Cupertino, California-based company’s supply chains, as saying that demand for new iPhones is beating his expectations – and that much of it was due to Chinese consumers.

Greater China was the third biggest region in terms of sales in 2018 and after raising alarms after slack sales growth earlier this year, Apple has seen bumps in demand driven by discounting by Chinese online retailers.

Chinese e-commerce site JD.com on Saturday said on its official Weibo account that day one pre-sales for the iPhone 11 series jumped 480 per cent versus the previous year, with the top three most popular products being the iPhone 11 Pro in midnight green, and the standard iPhone 11 in black and purple.

Chinese media outlet Yicai also said yesterday that they jumped 335 per cent on Alibaba’s Tmall platform on the first day of sales vs pre-sales for the iPhone XR last year, citing Tmall figures.

CNBC said that Kuo had boosted his forecast for iPhone 11 series shipments from between 65 million and 70 million units in 2019 to between 70 million and 75 million units.

While giving numbers that did not compare directly with Kuo’s, analysts at two other brokerages also said that the initial orders were looking good.

Instinet, owned by Japanese bank Nomura, cited “shipment” checks for its conclusions, while Wedbush’s Daniel Ives said he had conducted supplier checks throughout Asia including China.

“We are careful about extrapolating first weekend data, though it is fair to say it is ahead of last year’s launches,” Instinet analysts wrote in a note.

“Should the early shipment time data hold and translate to unit volumes, Apple may be able to offset this year’s average selling price reduction,” they added.

Apple shares were trading marginally higher around midday in New York compared to an almost half-percent fall for the tech-heavy Nasdaq index. — Reuters