Urbvan raises $9 million for its private shuttle service in Mexico – gpgmail


As cities in emerging markets grapple with increasingly traffic-clogged and dangerous streets, Urbvan, a startup providing private, high-end transportation shuttles in Mexico, has raised $9 million in a new round of financing.

Co-founded by Joao Matos Albino and Renato Picard, Urbvan is taking the reins from startups like the now-defunct Chariot and tailoring the business for the needs of emerging market ecosystems.

Hailing from Portugal, Albino arrived in Mexico City as a hire for the Rocket Internet startup Linio. Although Linio didn’t last, Albino stayed on in Mexico eventually landing a job working for the startup Mercadoni, which is where he met Picard.

The two men saw the initial success of Chariot as it launched from Y Combinator, but were also tracking companies like the Indian startup Shuttl.

“We wanted to make shared mobility more accessible and a little bit more efficient,” says Albino. “We studied the economics and we studied the market and we knew there was a huge urgency in the congested cities of  Latin America.”

Unlike the U.S. — and especially major cities like San Francisco and New York — where public transportation is viewed as relatively safe and efficient, the urban environment of Mexico City is seen as not safe by the white collar workers that comprise Urbvan’s principle clientele.

The company started operating back in 2016. At the time it had five vans that it leased and retrofitted to include amenities like wi-fi and plenty of space for a limited number of passengers. Since those early days the company has expanded significantly. It now claims over 15,000 monthly users and a fleet of 180 vans.

Urbvan optimized for safety as well as comfort, according to Albino. The company has deals with WeWork, Walmart and other retailers in Mexico City so that all . of the stops on t he route are protected and safe. The company also vets its drivers and provides them with additional training because of the expanded capacity of the vans.

Each van is also equipped with a panic button and cameras inside and outside of the van for additional monitoring.

Customers either pay $3 per ticket or sign up for a monthly pass that ranges from $100 to $130.

Financing for the company came from Kaszek Ventures and Angel Ventures with previous investor Mountain Nazca also participating.

For Albino, who went to India to observe Shuttl’s operations, the global market for these kinds of services is so large that there will be many winners in each geography.

“Each city is different and you need to adapt. The technology needs to be adaptable to the city’s concerns . and where it can . add more value,” says Albino. “The Indian market is super different from Latin America.. It’s a huge market with a lot of congestion… But the value proposition is a bit more basic [for Shuttl].”

Urbvan is currently operating in Mexico City and Monterrey, but has plans to expand into Guadalajara later this year.


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Ookla Ranks Airports by Wi-Fi Speed


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You always want good data speeds, but there are few places a good data connection is more important than at the airport. You might want to download some music or send some emails before going offline, and airport Wi-Fi can be congested and slow. However, things are improving, and some airports are faster than you might expect. Ookla, the company behind Speedtest.net, has checked US and Canadian airports to figure out which ones offer the best Wi-Fi speeds. 

(Editors’ Note: Ookla is owned by j2 Global, the parent company of ExtremeTech’s publisher, Ziff Davis.)

You probably always have an LTE-equipped phone in your pocket, but airports are often a perfect storm of poor wireless service. They’re large, sturdy buildings positioned away from urban sprawl, and the crowds put strain on cell towers. Plus, you might not want to burn through mobile data to cache all that music and video you forgot to save before heading to the airport. Ookla tested the 51 largest airports in the US and Canada, and Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport ranked as the fastest. Actually, it wasn’t even close. 

If you’re passing through the Honolulu airport, you’ll enjoy Wi-Fi speeds that hover around 145 Mbps down and about 163 Mbps up. The runner up was Chicago Midway, barely crossing 100 Mbps, making it 37.5 percent slower than the winning Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. Coming in at number three is Sea-Tac at 98 Mbps down and 138 Mbps up. That’s still a respectable showing, but Ookla reports that Sea-Tac’s speeds have fallen 4.4 percent since last year. 

Most of the airports tested have enough speed to let you get things done on the internet, but the bottom handful of networks clock in under 10 Mbps. That can be painfully slow, depending on what you need to do. The lowest-ranked Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport offered barely 1 Mbps up and down. 

When speeds are bad on the official airport network, travelers might turn to one of the spendy paid hotspots. Ookla also checked for these faster networks. Interestingly, the official airport Wi-Fi is faster in most places, but there are some middle and lower-tier airports with fast secondary networks. For example, The “united-club” SSID in Chicago O’Hare International Airport is 93 percent faster than the public network. In the Salt Lake City Airport, “DeltaSkyClub” is nearly 700 percent faster than the second-to-last public network. Although, it’s still just 18 Mbps. 

You can check out the full analysis on the Speedtest blog. You might want to check it for any upcoming trips so you can decide whether it’s worth using the airport Wi-Fi, your LTE service, or getting on one of those premium hotspots. 

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The ClockworkPi GameShell is a super fun DIY spin on portable gaming – gpgmail


Portable consoles are hardly new, and thanks to the Switch, they’re basically the most popular gaming devices in the world. But ClockworkPi’s GameShell is something totally unique, and entirely refreshing when it comes to gaming on the go. This clever DIY console kit provides everything you need to assemble your own pocket gaming machine at home, running Linux-based open-source software and using an open-source hardware design that welcomes future customization.

The GameShell is the result of a successfully Kickstarter campaign, which began shipping to its backers last year and is now available to buy either direct from the company, or from Amazon. The $159.99 ($139.99 as of this writing on sale) includes everything you need to build the console, like the Clockwork Pi quad-core Cortex A7 motherboard with integrated Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 1GB of DDR3 RAM, but it comes unassembled.

You won’t have to get out the soldering iron – the circuit boards come with all components attached. But you will be assembling screen, keypad, CPU, battery and speaker modules, connecting them with included cables, and then installing them in the slick, GameBoy-esque plastic shell. This might seem like an intimidating task, depending on your level of technical expertise: I know I found myself a bit apprehensive when I opened the various boxes and laid out all the parts in front of me.

But the included instructions, which are just illustrations, like those provided by Lego or Ikea, are super easy to follow and break down the task into very manageable tasks for people of all skill levels. All told, I had mine put together in under an hour, and even though I did get in there with my teeth at one point (to remove a bit of plastic nubbin when assembling the optional Lightkey component, which adds extra function keys to the console), I never once felt overwhelmed or defeated. The time-lapse below chronicles my enter assembly process, start to finish.

What you get when you’re done is a fully functional portable gaming device, which runs Clockwork OS, a Linux-based open-source OS developed by the company. It includes Cave Storyone of the most celebrated indie games of the past couple of decades, and a number of built-in emulators (use of emulators is ethically and legally questionable, but it does provide an easy way to play some of those NES and SNES games you already own with more portability).

There’s a very active community around the GameShell that includes a number of indie games to play on the console, and tips and tricks for modifications and optimal use. It’s also designed to be a STEM educational resource, providing a great way for kids to see what’s actually happening behind the faceplate of the electronics they use everyday, and even getting started coding themselves to build software to run on the console. Loading software is easy, thanks to an included microSD storage card and the ability to easily connect via WiFi to move over software from Windows and Mac computers.

Everything about the GameShell is programable, and it features micro HDMI out, a built-in music player and Bluetooth support for headphone connection. It’s at once instantly accessible for people with very limited tech chops, and infinitely expandable and hackable for those who do want to go deeper and dig around with what else it has to offer.

Swappable face and backplates, plus open 3D models of each hardware component, mean that community-developed hardware add-ons and modifications are totally possible, too. The modular nature of the device means it can probably get even more powerful in future too, with higher capacity battery modules and improved development boards.

I’ve definitely seen and used devices like the GameShell before, but few manage to be as accessible, powerful and customizable all at once. The GameShell is also fast, has great sound and an excellent display, and it seems to be very durable with decent battery life of around three hours or slightly ore of continuous use depending on things like whether you’re using WiFi and screen brightness.


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This hacker’s iPhone charging cable can hijack your computer – gpgmail


Most people don’t think twice about picking up a phone charging cable and plugging it in. But one hacker’s project wants to change that and raise awareness of the dangers of potentially malicious charging cables.

A hacker who goes by the online handle MG took an innocent-looking Apple USB Lightning cable and rigged it with a small Wi-Fi-enabled implant, which, when plugged into a computer, lets a nearby hacker run commands as if they were sitting in front of the screen.

Dubbed the O.MG cable, it looks and works almost indistinguishably from an iPhone charging cable. But all an attacker has to do is swap out the legitimate cable for the malicious cable and wait until a target plugs it into their computer. From a nearby device and within Wi-Fi range (or attached to a nearby Wi-Fi network), an attacker can wirelessly transmit malicious payloads on the computer, either from pre-set commands or an attacker’s own code.

Once plugged in, an attacker can remotely control the affected computer to send realistic-looking phishing pages to a victim’s screen, or remotely lock a computer screen to collect the user’s password when they log back in.

MG focused his first attempt on an Apple Lightning cable, but the implant can be used in almost any cable and against most target computers.

“This specific Lightning cable allows for cross-platform attack payloads, and the implant I have created is easily adapted to other USB cable types,” MG said. “Apple just happens to be the most difficult to implant, so it was a good proof of capabilities.”

In his day job as a red teamer at Verizon Media (which owns gpgmail), he develops innovative hacking methods and techniques to identify and fix security vulnerabilities before malicious attackers find them. Although a personal project, MG said his malicious cable can help red teamers think about defending against different kinds of threats.

“Suddenly we now have victim-deployed hardware that may not be noticed for much longer periods of time,” he explained. “This changes how you think about defense tactics. We have seen that the NSA has had similar capabilities for over a decade, but it isn’t really in most people’s threat models because it isn’t seen as common enough.”

“Most people know not to plug in random flash drives these days, but they aren’t expecting a cable to be a threat,” he said. “So this helps drive home education that goes deeper.”

MG spent thousands of dollars of his own money and countless hours working on his project. Each cable took him about four hours to assemble. He also worked with several other hackers to write some of the code and develop exploits, and gave away his supply of hand-built cables to Def Con attendees with a plan to sell them online in the near future, he said.

But the O.MG cable isn’t done yet. MG said he’s working with others to improve the cable’s functionality and expand its feature set.

“It really just comes down to time and resources at this point. I have a huge list in my head that needs to become reality,” he said.

(via Motherboard)




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With warshipping, hackers ship their exploits directly to their target’s mail room – gpgmail


Why break into a company’s network when you can just walk right in — literally?

Gone could be the days of having to find a zero-day vulnerability in a target’s website, or having to scramble for breached usernames and passwords to break through a company’s login pages. And certainly there will be no need to park outside a building and brute-force the Wi-Fi network password.

Just drop your exploit in the mail and let your friendly postal worker deliver it to your target’s door.

This newly named technique — dubbed “warshipping” — is not a new concept. Just think of the traditional Trojan horse rolling into the city of Troy, or when hackers drove up to TJX stores and stole customer data by breaking into the store’s Wi-Fi network. But security researchers at IBM’s X-Force Red say it’s a novel and effective way for an attacker to gain an initial foothold on a target’s network.

“It uses disposable, low cost and low power computers to remotely perform close-proximity attacks, regardless of the cyber criminal’s location,” wrote Charles Henderson, who heads up the IBM offensive operations unit.

A warshipping device. (Image: IBM/supplied)

The researchers developed a proof-of-concept device — the warship — which has a similar size to a small phone, into a package and dropped it off in the mail. The device, which cost about $100 to build, was equipped with a 3G-enabled modem, allowing it to be remote controlled so long as it had cell service. With its onboard wireless chip, the device would periodically scan for nearby networks — like most laptops do when they’re switched on — to track the location of the device in its parcel.

“Once we see that a warship has arrived at the target destination’s front door, mailroom or loading dock, we are able to remotely control the system and run tools to either passively, or actively, attack the target’s wireless access,” wrote Henderson.

Once the warship locates a Wi-Fi network from the mailroom or the recipient’s desk, it listens for wireless data packets it can use to break into the network. The warship listens for a handshake — the process of authorizing a user to log onto the Wi-Fi network — then sends that scrambled data back over the cellular network back to the attacker’s servers, which has far more processing power to crack the hash into a readable Wi-Fi password.

With access to the Wi-Fi network, the attacker can navigate through the company’s network, seeking out vulnerable systems and exposed data, and steal sensitive data or user passwords.

All of this done could be done covertly without anyone noticing — so long as nobody opens the parcel.

“Warshipping has all the characteristics to become a stealthy, effective insider threat — it’s cheap, disposable, and slides right under a targets’ nose –all while the attacker can be orchestrating their attack from the other side of the country,” said Henderson. “With the volume of packages that flow through a mailroom daily — whether it be supplies, gifts or employees’ personal purchases — and in certain seasons those numbers soar dramatically, no one ever thinks to second guess what a package is doing here.”

The team isn’t releasing proof-of-concept code as to not help attackers, but uses the technique as part of its customer penetration testing services — which help companies discover weak spots in their security posture.

“If we can educate a company about an attack vector like this, it dramatically reduces the likelihood of the success of it by criminals,” Henderson said.


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Startups BRCK and Swvl partner on free WiFi for Kenyan ride-hail buses – gpgmail


Nairobi based internet hardware and service startup BRCK and Egyptian ride-hail venture Swvl are partnering to bring WiFI and online entertainment to on-demand bus service in Kenya.

BRCK will install its routers on Swvl vehicles in Kenya and run its Moja service, which offers free public WiFi—internet, music, and entertainment—subsidized by commercial partners.

Founded in Cairo in 2017, Swvl is a mass transit service that has positioned itself as an Uber for shared buses. “Think ride hailing, but with a bus…and instead of the vehicle coming to you…you go to the bus, and the bus picks you up at a certain point and time,” Swvl’s general manager for Kenya, Shivachi Muleji, told gpgmail via email.

The company raised a $42 million Series B round in June, with intent to expand in Africa, Swvl CEO Mostafa Kandil said in an interview.

In Kenya, BRCK has installed 15 of its units in Swvl buses and looks to offer its Moja WiFi service in 700 by 2020, BRCK’s chief operating officer Nivi Sharma told gpgmail.  Swvl pays a monthly fee for the routers and for maintenance of the routers, Swvl confirmed.

Both BRCK and Swvl see a solid fit in pairing up their product offerings. “SWVL’s objectives to provide an alternative in the transportation industry line up nicely with BRCK’s objectives of providing connectivity to commuters,” said BRCK COO Nivi Sharma.

Backed by $10 million from investors including Steve Case’s Revolution VC fund, BRCK built its platform around providing internet solutions in East Africa. Founder Erik Hersman has described Africa’s internet challenges—mainly the lowest penetration rates in the world—as shifting toward more of an affordability than availability problem.

“The demand on internet in Africa is largely driven by the 10 to 15 percent who can afford it. The real massive opportunity is trying to connect the 70 to 80 percent of the people who can’t,” Hersman told gpgmail in 2017.

SupaPossibleLead1To that end, BRCK paired up its Africa specific WiFi routers to its Moja service to offer free internet and content supported by commercial partners. Users can access Moja on their mobile phones, tablets, or laptops on public transportation or in public areas. They earn points from their browsing to apply to faster connectivity or premium content.

In 2018, BRCK began offering SupaBRCK devices to drivers of Nairobi’s highly-used Matatu buses for Kenyan commuters to access Moja. In February, the startup acquired Nairobi based internet provide Surf and its network of hotspots.

BRCK currently has 445,000 unique monthly active users on its Matatu based Moja mobile network in Kenya and Rwanda and 150,000 unique monthly active users on its fixed network—including users connecting at cafes, barbershops, and marketplaces, according to company data.

Swvl Bus with moja 2BRCK and Swvl wouldn’t confirm plans on expanding their mobile internet partnership to additional countries outside of Kenya.

Ride-hail markets in Africa have become an active sector for VC investment and global and local startups. The big players such as Uber  and Bolt are competing in Kampala and Nairobi—where in addition to car-service—they offer rickshaw taxis.

On-demand motorcycle startups are multiplying and piloting EVs with funds from international partners. And many ride-hail companies in Africa are adapting unique product solutions to local transit needs. The collective startup activity is making the continent home to a number of fresh mobility use-cases, including the BRCK and Svl WiFi partnership.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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