Israeli companies said hit in global wave of cyberattacks

A number of Israeli companies are said to have been been hit as part of a global wave of cyberattacks that began in Russia and Ukraine on Tuesday, wreaking havoc on government and corporate computer systems, as it spread around the world.

Several multinational companies said they were targeted, including US pharmaceutical giant Merck, Russian state oil giant Rosneft, British advertising giant WPP, and the French industrial group Saint-Gobain. Three Israeli companies were also included, according to Hebrew media reports.

Some IT experts identified the virus as “Petrwrap,” a modified version of the Petya ransomware that hit last year and demanded money from victims in exchange for the return of their data. But global cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab said: “Our preliminary findings suggest that it is not a variant of Petya ransomware as publicly reported, but a new ransomware that has not been seen before.” Making the point, Kaspersky has named it “NotPetya.”

The company said its data points to some 2,000 attacked users so far, with organizations in Russia and the Ukraine the most affected.

“We have also registered hits in Poland, Italy, the UK, Germany, France, the US and several other countries,” the Russian firm said in a statement, adding that the current attack is a complex one.

Ido Naor, Kaspersky’s senior security researcher in Israel, told the Ynet news website that the attack had also targeted some firms in Israel, without disclosing additional details.

The firm advised all companies to update their Windows software, to check their security solutions and ensure they have back up and ransomware detection in place, the statement said.

The cyberattack came as global cybersecurity leaders have convened in Tel Aviv this week to discuss the future of cybersecurity threats at an international conference.

The first reports of trouble came from Ukrainian banks, Kiev’s main airport and Rosneft, in a major incident reminiscent of the recent WannaCry virus.

A computer screen cyberattack warning notice reportedly holding computer files to ransom, as part of a massive international cyberattack, at an office in Kiev, Ukraine, June 27, 2017. (Oleg Reshetnyak via AP)

The cyberattack also recalled a ransomware outbreak last month, which hit more than 150 countries, and a total of more than 200,000 victims, with the WannaCry ransomware.

On Monday, Israel’s Shin Bet security agency head Nadav Argaman told the Cyber Week conference in Tel Aviv that it has prevented over 2,000 cyber attacks on the country since the start of 2016.

‘Spreading round the world’

The latest virus is “spreading around the world, a large number of countries are affected,” Costin Raiu, a researcher at the Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab said in a Twitter post.

In the United States, Merck was hit, as was New York law firm of DLA Piper.

“We confirm our company’s computer network was compromised today as part of a global hack. Other organizations have also been affected,” Merck said on Twitter.

We confirm our company’s computer network was compromised today as part of global hack. Other organizations have also been affected (1 of 2)

“It seems to be done by professionals criminals, and I think money is the motivation,” said Sean Sullivan, a researcher at the Finnish cybersecurity group F-Secure.

He said that unlike the recent WannaCry attack, this “Petrwrap” attack has sophisticated elements that could make it easier to rapidly infect many more systems.

‘Powerful’ attack

Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman wrote on Facebook that the attacks in his country were “unprecedented,” but insisted that “important systems were not affected.”

However, the radiation monitoring system at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear site has been taken offline, after it was targeted in the attack, forcing employees to use hand-held counters to measure levels, officials said Tuesday.

The technological systems were working “as usual” at the plant that exploded in 1986, however.

The attacks started around 2:00 p.m. Moscow time and quickly spread to 80 companies in Ukraine and Russia, said cybersecurity company Group IB.

The companies affected were hit by a type of ransomware that locks users out of the computer and demands purchase of a key to reinstate access, Group IB said.

The cryptolocker demands $300 in bitcoins and does not name the encrypting program, which makes finding a solution difficult, Group IB spokesman Evgeny Gukov said.

The headquarters of shipping company A.P. Moller-Maersk in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Jens Dresling/AP via Ritzau, File)

Ukraine’s central bank said several lenders had been hit in the country, hindering operations and leading the regulator to warn other financial institutions to tighten security measures.

Banks were experiencing “difficulty in servicing customers and performing banking operations,” due to the attacks, the bank said in a statement.

Rosneft said earlier that its servers suffered a “powerful” cyberattack, but thanks to its backup system, “the production and extraction of oil were not stopped.”

The wave of cyberattacks also impacted Maersk, a global cargo shipping company; Saint-Gobain, a French company producing glass and other construction materials; and British-based WPP.

In Amsterdam, the Dutch parcel delivery company TNT, which operates in 200 countries around the world, said its systems had been affected. “We are assessing the situation and are implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible,” the company, part of FedEx, said in a statement.

Signs of sophistication

Experts also said this latest attack could heighten fears that companies may be more vulnerable to cyberattacks than suspected, potentially putting personal data at risk.

“This will undeniably affect trust in these organisations and raise questions of competency,” said Louis Rynsard, a director at the corporate communications agency SBC London.

“The long-lasting impact of a cyberattack cannot be overstated,” he said.

The fight against cyberattacks has sparked exponential growth in global protection spending, with the cyber security market estimated at $120 billion this year, more than 30 times its size just over a decade ago.

But even that massive figure looks set to be dwarfed within a few years, experts said, after ransomware attacks crippled computers worldwide in the past week.


Kenya (Nigger Freemasons) hopes Israeli tree tech takes root in remote deserts

David Ben Gurion’s dream of filling Israel’s barren hills with trees will soon extend to the remote deserts of Kenya, after Kenyan government officials and Keren Keyemet L’Yisrael/Jewish National Fund signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday to exchange knowledge and expertise about planting forests in dry climates.

“Dry lands are home to 2.5 billion people, or 30 percent of the world’s population, and cover 40% of the world’s land surface,” said Professor Judi Wakhungu, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary (Minister) for Environment and Natural Resources. “They are also home to the most disenfranchised and marginalized people in the world.” About 80% of Kenya’s land is considered arid or semi-arid.

Wakhungu said large Kenyan delegations have been attending forestry conferences in Israel, especially at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, which focus on conservation and forestry in desert climates. In 2014, officials from the Kenyan Forestry Service started working with members of their Israeli counterpart, KKL/JNF, for a series of visits and meetings.

Kenyan government and KKL/JNF officials with the memorandum of understanding signed outside of Jerusalem on June 27, 2017. (Avi Hiun, KKL-JNF)

“Kenyans have a developed tree-planting culture, but what needs to be done is to get them to use appropriate technology,” said Emilio Mugo, the chief conservator at the Kenya Forest Service. He noted that Kenya has two million hectacres (20,000 square kilometers, approximately the same size as the entire country of Israel) of public forest land, but they want to expand further. “This kind of technology doesn’t require a lot of money, so we can start training people on this kind of technology while they work,” he said.

According to the memorandum of understanding, signed Tuesday in KKL/JNF’s “VIP Planting Grove” near the Yad Kennedy memorial, Kenya and Israel agreed to three years of exchange trips and sharing information about establishing forests in arid or semi-arid regions.

Deforestation from illegal logging and charcoal production is threatening many of Kenya’s highland forests, costing the country upwards of $68 million per year, according to a study from the United Nations Environment Programme.

Professor Judi Wakhungu, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary (Minister) for Environment and Natural Resources and KKL-JNF World Chairman, Danny Atar, plant a carob tree together on June 27, 2017 near the Yad Kennedy memorial. (Avi Hiun, KKL-JNF)

Wakhungu said Kenya is looking to bring Israeli technology in areas of improving soil conservation, capturing rain runoff, monitoring precipitation, creating forest land guidelines, and engaging the public with forest conservation.

“Part of our goal is to enlarge the overall forestry in Kenya so people can use that wood for their needs and take the pressure off of natural forests that we need to protect,” said Dr David Brand, the chief forester and head of the forestry department at KKL/JNF. Brand has worked at KKL/JNF for 35 years, eight of them as chief forester. He said that KKL/JNF also plans to examine Kenya’s traditional agricultural methods to see if Israel can improve their existing technology.

Kenya also dedicated an “Israel Forest” in Kiambu County, north of Nairobi, on Israel’s Independence Day this year, with the hope that every Israeli who visits Kenya will replicate the Israeli tree planting tradition by planting a tree in the forest during their visit. She added that the collaboration between the Kenyan and Israeli forestry groups was one of the specific areas of cooperation highlighted both during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to Israel in February, 2016 and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Kenya in July 2016.

“When the leaders met, collaboration about dry land forests was a major area of cooperation, and we are going to deliver on what they prioritized,” she said.

Since 2014, KKL/JNF has worked in Kenya’s remote northern region of Turkana, to run the agricultural development program “Furrows in the Desert” to help increase food security in the region.

Wakhungu and KKL-JNF World Chairman Danny Atar planted a carob tree together on Tuesday in honor of the signing of the MOU. Brand said they chose a carob tree because it symbolizes sustainability. “The carob tree is part of our roots, it is a very Israeli tree that is all over the Bible,” said Brand.

“Carob trees only have fruits after 70 years,” Brand added. “So there is the story in [Jewish tradition] about an old man who asks a farmer, why are you planting a carob tree if you will never enjoy it? And the farmer says, my father planted a carob tree so I can enjoy it, and I will do the same for my children. The symbolism is that all of our interactions with nature should really be about protecting them and keeping them whole for the next generation.”

Cyberattack Hits Ukraine Then Spreads Internationally

Computer systems from Ukraine to the United States were struck on Tuesday in an international cyberattack that was similar to a recent assault that crippled tens of thousands of machines worldwide.

In Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, A.T.M.s stopped working. About 80 miles away, workers were forced to manually monitor radiation at the old Chernobyl nuclear plant when their computers failed. And tech managers at companies around the world — from Maersk, the Danish shipping conglomerate, to Merck, the drug giant in the United States — were scrambling to respond. Even an Australian factory for the chocolate giant Cadbury was affected.

It was unclear who was behind this cyberattack, and the extent of its impact was still hard to gauge Tuesday. It started as an attack on Ukrainian government and business computer systems — an assault that appeared to have been intended to hit the day before a holiday marking the adoption in 1996 of Ukraine’s first Constitution after its break from the Soviet Union. The attack spread from there, causing collateral damage around the world.

The outbreak was the latest and perhaps the most sophisticated in a series of attacks making use of dozens of hacking tools that were stolen from the National Security Agency and leaked online in April by a group called the Shadow Brokers.

Like the WannaCry attacks in May, the latest global hacking took control of computers and demanded digital ransom from their owners to regain access. The new attack used the same National Security Agency hacking tool, Eternal Blue, that was used in the WannaCry episode, as well as two other methods to promote its spread, according to researchers at the computer security company Symantec.

The National Security Agency has not acknowledged its tools were used in WannaCry or other attacks. But computer security specialists are demanding that the agency help the rest of the world defend against the weapons it created.

“The N.S.A. needs to take a leadership role in working closely with security and operating system platform vendors such as Apple and Microsoft to address the plague that they’ve unleashed,” said Golan Ben-Oni, the global chief information officer at IDT, a Newark-based conglomerate hit by a separate attack in April that used the agency’s hacking tools. Mr. Ben-Oni warned federal officials that more serious attacks were probably on the horizon.

The vulnerability in Windows software used by Eternal Blue was patched by Microsoft in March, but as the WannaCry attacks demonstrated, hundreds of thousands of groups around the world failed to properly install the fix.

“Just because you roll out a patch doesn’t mean it’ll be put in place quickly,” said Carl Herberger, vice president for security at Radware. “The more bureaucratic an organization is, the higher chance it won’t have updated its software.”

Because the ransomware used at least two other ways to spread on Tuesday — including stealing victims’ credentials — even those who used the Microsoft patch could be vulnerable and potential targets for later attacks, according to researchers at F-Secure, a Finnish cybersecurity firm, and others.

A Microsoft spokesman said the company’s latest antivirus software should protect against the attack.

The Ukrainian government said several of its ministries, local banks and metro systems had been affected. A number of other European companies, including Rosneft, the Russian energy giant; Saint-Gobain, the French construction materials company; and WPP, the British advertising agency, also said they had been targeted.

Ukrainian officials pointed a finger at Russia on Tuesday, although Russian companies were also affected. Home Credit bank, one of Russia’s top 50 lenders, was paralyzed, with all of its offices closed, according to the RBC news website. The attack also affected Evraz, a steel manufacturing and mining company that employs about 80,000 people, the RBC website reported.

In the United States, the multinational law firm DLA Piper also reported being hit. Hospitals in Pennsylvania were being forced to cancel operations after the attack hit computers at Heritage Valley Health Systems, a Pennsylvania health care provider, and its hospitals in Beaver and Sewickley, Penn., and satellite locations across the state.

The ransomware also hurt Australian branches of international companies. DLA Piper’s Australian offices warned clients that they were dealing with a “serious global cyber incident” and had disabled email as a precautionary measure. Local news reports said that in Hobart, Tasmania, on Tuesday evening, computers in a Cadbury chocolate factory, owned by Mondelez International, had displayed ransomware messages that demanded $300 in bitcoins.

Qantas Airways’ booking system failed for a time on Tuesday, but the company said the breakdown was due to an unrelated hardware issue.

The Australian government has urged companies to install security updates and isolate any infected computers from their networks.

“This ransomware attack is a wake-up call to all Australian businesses to regularly back up their data and install the latest security patches,” said Dan Tehan, the cybersecurity minister. “We are aware of the situation and monitoring it closely.”

A National Security Agency spokesman referred questions about the attack to the Department of Homeland Security. “The Department of Homeland Security is monitoring reports of cyberattacks affecting multiple global entities and is coordinating with our international and domestic cyber partners,” Scott McConnell, a department spokesman, said in a statement.

Computer specialists said the ransomware was very similar to a virus that emerged last year called Petya. Petya means “Little Peter,” in Russian, leading some to speculate the name referred to Sergei Prokofiev’s 1936 symphony “Peter and the Wolf,” about a boy who captures a wolf.

Reports that the computer virus was a variant of Petya suggest the attackers will be hard to trace. Petya was for sale on the so-called dark web, where its creators made the ransomware available as “ransomware as a service” — a play on Silicon Valley terminology for delivering software over the internet, according to the security firm Avast Threat Labs.

That means anyone could launch the ransomware with the click of a button, encrypt someone’s systems and demand a ransom to unlock it. If the victim pays, the authors of the Petya ransomware, who call themselves Janus Cybercrime Solutions, get a cut of the payment.

That distribution method means that pinning down the people responsible for Tuesday’s attack could be difficult.

A screenshot of what appeared to be the ransomware affecting systems worldwide on Tuesday. The Ukrainian government posted the shot to its official Facebook page.

The attack is “an improved and more lethal version of WannaCry,” said Matthieu Suiche, a security researcher who helped contain the spread of the WannaCry ransomware when he created a kill switch that stopped the attacks.

In just the last seven days, Mr. Suiche noted, WannaCry had tried to hit an additional 80,000 organizations but was prevented from executing attack code because of the kill switch. Petya does not have a kill switch.

Petya also encrypts and locks entire hard drives, whereas the earlier ransomware attacks locked only individual files, said Chris Hinkley, a researcher at the security firm Armor.

The hackers behind Petya demanded $300 worth of the cybercurrency Bitcoin to unlock victims’ machines. By Tuesday afternoon, online records showed that 30 victims had paid the ransom, although it was not clear whether they had regained access to their files. Other victims may be out of luck, after Posteo, the German email service provider, shut down the hackers’ email account.

In Ukraine, people turned up at post offices, A.T.M.s and airports to find blank computer screens, or signs about closures. At Kiev’s central post office, a few bewildered customers milled about, holding parcels and letters, looking at a sign that said, “Closed for technical reasons.”

The hackers compromised Ukrainian accounting software mandated to be used in various industries in the country, including government agencies and banks, according to researchers at Cisco Talos, the security division of the computer networking company. That allowed them to unleash their ransomware when the software, which is also used in other countries, was updated.

The ransomware spread for five days across Ukraine, and around the world, before activating Tuesday evening.

“If I had to guess, I would think this was done to send a political message,” said Craig Williams, the senior technical researcher at Talos.

One Kiev resident, Tetiana Vasylieva, was forced to borrow money from a relative after failing to withdraw money at four automated teller machines. At one A.T.M. in Kiev belonging to the Ukrainian branch of the Austrian bank Raiffeisen, a message on the screen said the machine was not functioning.

Ukraine’s Infrastructure Ministry, the postal service, the national railway company, and one of the country’s largest communications companies, Ukrtelecom, had been affected, Volodymyr Omelyan, the country’s infrastructure minister, said in a Facebook post.

Officials for the metro system in Kiev said card payments could not be accepted. The national power grid company Kievenergo had to switch off all of its computers, but the situation was under control, according to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency. Metro Group, a German company that runs wholesale food stores, said its operations in Ukraine had been affected.

At the Chernobyl plant, the computers affected by the attack collected data on radiation levels and were not connected to industrial systems at the site, where, although all reactors have been decommissioned, huge volumes of radioactive waste remain. Operators said radiation monitoring was being done manually.

Cybersecurity researchers questioned whether collecting ransom was the true objective of the attack.

“It’s entirely possible that this attack could have been a smoke screen,” said Justin Harvey, the managing director of global incident response at Accenture Security. “If you are an evildoer and you wanted to cause mayhem, why wouldn’t you try to first mask it as something else?”

LG V30: all the rumors in one place


When you’re in the market for a feature-heavy phone with all of the trimmings, you can usually rely on LG‘s V series to deliver. Just look at the LG V20: QHD display? Check. Latest edition processor? Check. Dual-camera? Check. MicroSD card support? Removable battery? Android’s latest platform? Audio chops? The list goes on.

What’s more impressive is that LG’s two prior V series devices, the V10 and V20, not only delivered on the specs front but also on innovation, bringing an additional “ticker” display into the mix for unique functionality. Despite their flaws, there’s much the Vs got right, which is why we’re eagerly anticipating the rumored successor, the LG V30.

LG is yet to officially announce the handset but feasible speculation from various sources suggests it’s on its way, and possibly in the next two months. In this article, we’ve rounded up all the current LG V30 specs, price, and release date rumors to give you an idea of what you can expect when it launches.

LG V30 release date

The LG V30 is tipped to be unveiled on August 31, one day before the opening of IFA 2017 in Berlin which runs until September 6. This rumor was first picked up by The Investor (and then backed up again separately) and, at first glance, it seems unlikely — LG’s previous V series phones didn’t launch at IFA or indeed see an official release in Europe.

However, if LG was to launch the V30 in Europe as it has been suggested, this would be the best time and place to do it ahead of MWC next February — and the company might be keen to get its new phone out there to take the shine off an upcoming 10th anniversary iPhone, expected September. If we do see the V30 at IFA, its official release will probably follow a few weeks later, in South Korea for sure, but hopefully globally.

LG V30 price

It’s still early days to be putting down a potential price on the LG V30, though ETNews has offered one suggestion. Apparently, the LG V30 could set you back 800,000 KRW in South Korea, the equivalent of around $699 for the version touting 64 GB of internal space (32 GB and 128 GB models are also anticipated). ETNews doesn’t outline the source of the information, however, and even if it were true right now, bear in mind that things could change between now and release time. Straight currency conversions are always a risky business too (for reference, the LG V20 had a RRP of $799).

LG V30 Specs

The LG V30 specs are said to include a Snapdragon 835 processor (which seems pretty likely), 3,200 mAh battery, IP68 certification for dust and water resistance and ESS Quad DAC support, as well as a headphone jack. Both the LG V10 and LG V20 were known for offering high-quality audio, so the chances are this will be a standout feature once again. For more on what a Quad DAC means for your phone, hit our explainer article at the link.

More recently, leaker @OnLeaks has suggested that the unit would come with wireless charging, a dual rear camera setup and a rear fingerprint scanner — the latter two of which are also supported by the image at the top of the page (again via ETNews from a concept video). OnLeaks also speculates that the V30 will have a glass rear, something which would corroborate the talk of an IP68 rating. This would dash hope for a removable battery, though; the V10 and V20 both featured removable batteries but their design was far from waterproof.

LG Display

As for the display, LG is said to be utilizing an OLED panel instead of the LCD screens typically used on its handsets. This may be to support a curved display, like on its LG G Flex devices, which also use OLED tech, but it may also just be a flat panel. This would probably be a “bezel-less” display, more like its LG G6 than the LG V20, and is equally likely to include a second screen built into it as on the V10 and V20.

This may feature an inset camera, similar to what’s seen on the Essential Phone and in the LG patent below, though there was also left field speculation of a slider concept design for the V30 (concept images from which can be seen in the pictures above). We’re pretty confident these were very early ideas and won’t be making it into the final product.

That’s all the news we have on the LG V30 so far but we’ll have more for you in the coming weeks. How do you think the LG V30 is shaping up? Let us know in the comments.

Big discounts on the Samsung Galaxy S8, Steam summer sale, and more tech deals


Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

This week we already mentioned several big sales, including another T-Mobile BOGO deal for the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Steam’s annual summer sale on popular (and sometimes not-so-popular) PC gaming titles. But we’ve also got some new deals to tell you about, the most noteworthy being eBay’s $125 discount on Samsung’s unlocked S8and S8 plus, which is already only available at limited quantities. (So, you might want to act fast if you want one.)

Also! A reminder that you have three more days to take advantage of Amazon’s deal on the Echo Show, ending June 28th.


Looking for gaming deals? Check out Polygon’s gaming deals roundup here.

Good Deals is a weekly roundup of the best deals on the internet, curated by Vox Media’s commerce editor, Chloe Reznikov, in collaboration with The Verge’s editorial team. You can submit deals to and find more Good Deals here.

UK parliament hit by cyber attack

UK parliament hit by cyber attack
© Getty Images

The British parliament was hit by a cyber attack Friday night that left members and staffers unable to access emails as hackers attempted to exploit weak passwords and gain access to accounts.

Multiple news agencies reported Saturday that the U.K. parliament was hit by a “sustained and determined” effort by hackers, a report which was confirmed on Twitter by multiple members of parliament.

“Sorry no parliamentary email access today – we’re under cyber attack from Kim Jong Un, Putin or a kid in his mom’s basement or something…” Henry Smith, a Conservative member, tweeted.

“Cyber security attack on Westminster Parliamentary e.mails may not work remotely Text urgent messages,” wrote Chris Rennard, a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.

A spokesperson for the House of Commons released a statement confirming “unauthorised attempts to access parliamentary user accounts.”

“The Houses of Parliament have discovered unauthorised attempts to access parliamentary user accounts. We are continuing to investigate this incident and take further measures to secure the computer network, liaising with the National Cyber Security Centre,” the statement read. “We have systems in place to protect member and staff accounts and are taking the necessary steps to protect our systems.”

The Guardian obtained an email sent by Westminster estate to those affected by the hack that also confirmed a “cyberattack,” and stated that an investigation was underway.

“Earlier this morning we discovered unusual activity and evidence of an attempted cyber-attack on our computer network. Closer investigation by our team confirmed that hackers were carrying out a sustained and determined attack on all parliamentary user accounts in an attempt to identify weak passwords. These attempts specifically were trying to gain access to our emails,” the email to members of parliament read.

“We have been working closely with the National Cyber Security Centre to identify the method of the attack and have made changes to prevent the attackers gaining access, however our investigation continues.”

What LG needs to do to make the V30 a success

It’s been just two and a half months since the last flagship phone from LG, the G6, went on sale in the US. Unfortunately, it looks like the phone got caught up in the wake of Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8 Pluslaunch just a couple weeks later. We have seen prices for the G6 go down quite a bit in the brief time it has been on sale. The unlocked version can now be bought for less than $500 on eBay, well below its original launch price.

Even US carriers are selling the G6 below its launch cost. That includes T-Mobile, which has cut the price down to $500, both with monthly payments and even if you pay for it in full. Sprint is selling it for $14.75 a month for 24 months, which means you can snap it up for just $354 over two years. Add all of this activity up, and it seems clear that retailers and carriers want to get rid of their G6 inventory quickly.

Of course, this puts a ton of pressure on LG to make sure its next flagship phone is more of a success. Rumors and image leaks about that device, the V30, have started to pop up more frequently in the last few weeks. The latest rumor claims LG will officially announce the V30 at a press event on August 30, one day before the official start of the IFA trade show in Berlin, Germany. The phone is expected to face the most competition from the rumored launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, which is expected to be officially revealed just a few days beforehand at a separate press event in New York City on August 26.

So what can LG do to make the V30 a success, in order to avoid what happened to the G6? We have a few suggestions for the company on that very subject!

Don’t skimp on the specs

For consumers, one of the LG G6’s biggest issues was the fact that it came with the slightly older Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor. If the phone launched in January 2017, that wouldn’t be an issue. But because the G6 launched so closely to the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus (which are both powered by the faster Snapdragon 835), many users felt that the G6 was instantly less capable when it came to market.

Recent V30 rumors have indicated that the phone will indeed sport the new 835 chip, which is indeed good news for folks who want the latest-and-greatest specs powering their smartphones.

Use a larger version of the G6’s 18:9 display

While the LG G6 may not be selling all that well, reviews for the phone have praised its 5.7-inch screen with its unusual 18:9 display ratio. We would love to see a larger version of this same kind of display on the V30, and it would certainly be a good contrast to the rumored curved Infinity Display that is expected to be part of the Galaxy Note 8. We have heard rumors that the V30 may have a curved display as well, but we think it would be better if it kept the flat screen like the G6 did.

Price the LG V30 competitively with the Galaxy Note 8

If LG really wants to cut into Samsung’s vast customer base, it also needs to make sure its phones are priced to compete immediately. LG could cut the price of the V30 so it’s $100 to $150 lower than the price of the Galaxy Note 8 right from the start. If LG can launch the V30 with both a lower price and hardware that can match or exceed the Note 8’s, it will likely have a much bigger success than the G6 did when it went up against the Galaxy S8.

Offer the new two-year warranty that was just added to the G6

Last week, LG announced that new and current owners of the G6 in the US will be able to take advantage of the company’s newly revealed Second Year Promise Program. It extends the free limited warranty for the phone from one year to two years.

Offering that same Second Year Promise Program for the V30, and making it available worldwide instead of just the US, could be a huge selling phone for the upcoming phone as well. Adding an extra blanket of consumer security is a win-win in our book.

Launch the V30 worldwide at around the same time

One of the big problems with the release of the G6 was that LG decided to stagger its launch. The phone first became available in South Korea in early March, followed by a release in North America in early April, and a European launch later in that same month. If LG can get its shipping infrastructure together so that the V30 can launch worldwide on or around the same timeframe,  that would certainly help its overall sales.


To stop Russia and other hackers, we need to overhaul the internet, says top Israeli cyber expert


The professor and ex-general who runs Israel’s prestigious annual cybersecurity conference, and who was central to the establishment of Israel’s pioneering cyber protection agencies, is calling for a radical overhaul of the internet in order to counter cyber warfare.

In the course of a wide-ranging interview with The Times of Israel ahead of next week’s Tel Aviv University “Cyber Week 2017,” which will include presentations by serving and former US administration cyber officials, Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel said he had absolutely no doubt that the Russian government meddled successfully in the US presidential elections, and that Moscow sought in vain to influence the recent French presidential elections.

He said Israel also faces incessant efforts to breach its cybersecurity. Although it is relatively well-protected, he noted dryly, Israel is a relatively prominent target.

Ben-Israel highlighted that it is extremely rare for cyber criminals to be caught, and lamented that “almost no effort” is being made to catch them. What is urgently needed, he said, is to address “the problem of attribution”: The protocol that governs the internet does not enable a recipient to establish who is sending material, because that was not initially a priority. This needs to change, he said.

The pioneers sough to establish a robust, non-centralized internet that could not be physically destroyed by attacking a few key communications centers, and that could ensure secure communications, Ben-Israel recalled.

“But every day, nowadays, there are millions of attacks,” he said. “Nobody goes after the criminals. So why not develop the technologies to do so? Change the internet protocol,” he urged. “You need to re-engineer the internet to enable identification of the source of everything.”

Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel at his Tel Aviv University office, June 19, 2017 (DH / ToI staff)

Ben-Israel, 67, is one of Israel’s foremost scientists, and an ex-general and former MK. Among a dizzying array of roles, he currently directs the Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center at Tel Aviv University, heads the university’s Yuval Ne’eman Workshop for Science, Technology and Security, and chairs both the Israel Space Agency and the National Council for Research and Development under the auspices of the Science Ministry. In a 35-year military career, he held a range of senior and sensitive positions, notably in research and development, in the Air Force and the General Staff. Post-army, he was central to the establishment of Israel’s National Cyber Bureau and other authorities protecting national civilian and security infrastructure from cyber attack.

The Times of Israel spoke to Ben-Israel in his small office at Tel Aviv University, a room decorated mainly with posters featuring Albert Einstein. He was candid and generous with his time — consenting to a second meeting to address issues we had not had time to cover in the first.

‘There are five top players. Offensively and defensively, they’re the same. Not in order: Israel, the US, Russia, Britain, China’

The conversation was not exactly linear, to put it mildly. Asked a question about Israel’s vulnerability to cyber attack, Ben-Israel opened by talking about Sudan and Estonia. Queried about Russia’s relationship with figures in the Trump administration, he talked first about Israeli espionage in Egypt pre-1967. Questioned about the allegation that Israel mishandled the Stuxnet virus, he began with a story from the 1973 war. In every such instance, his answers were all the more illuminating for the detour.

What follows are edited excerpts from the two-part interview. What were the Russians up to ahead of last year’s US presidential elections, and why didn’t they succeed with similar efforts only a few months later in France? How worried should we be by the panic that a teenage kid could cause across the globe with hoax bomb threats telephoned from his Ashkelon bedroom? What should we make of the recent revelation that Israel allegedly considered detonating a nuclear device in the Sinai in 1967? And how — theoretically of course — would Israel go about recruiting a Syrian air force general? Read on.

The Times of Israel: How vulnerable is Israel to cyber attack?

Isaac Ben-Israel: Well, let’s start by saying that Sudan, for instance, is less vulnerable, because it has a low level of computerization. Most of its critical infrastructure is manually controlled.

I just came back from Tallinn [the capital of Estonia]. In 2007, it was paralyzed for three weeks [in a hacking attack that targeted ministries, parliament, banks, broadcasters, et al]. Russia attacked Estonia because of an argument over the relocation of a Soviet-era memorial. Estonia was cyber-attacked because it is super-sophisticated. It’s all internet. It made the right decisions after the collapse of the former Soviet Union. But it had no defenses.

The Bronze Soldier of Tallinn memorial (Pronkssõdur / Gette from Stavanger, Norway / Wikipedia)

The same goes for the US elections. We know Russian groups interfered. Just read the memo to that effect that was signed by the various US intelligence chiefs. We know for sure that the attack was done by Russia. (“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US Presidential election,” the memo states. “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”)

When I saw that memo, I was worried. Intelligence agencies do not publish material like this.


Because the country involved starts looking for the leak. I didn’t understand. Then, two days later, Russia announced it had arrested one guy (Ruslan Stoyanov) from Kaspersky (the anti-hacking and cybercrime investigators), and one (Sergei Mikhailov) from FSB (the KGB-successor security agency). They were charged with treason. The way I see it, they were the (alleged) source. They had been arrested before the memo was published, and the US intel chiefs knew this. It’s clear to me the Russian government was involved (in efforts to influence the US vote).

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets then-US secretary of state Hillary Clinton on her arrival at the APEC summit in Vladivostok, Russia, Sept. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel, pool, file)

When were the first cyber attacks?

Maybe it was on the Siberia gas pipeline (allegedly by the CIA in 1982).

The first documented case where the attackers were caught and jailed was in 1986, on computers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California (a government facility conducting scientific, including nuclear, research). It was a group of criminals from East Germany. The FBI busted them. The group was headed by a KGB operative. The rest of the group didn’t really know what they were doing or who they were working for.

The entire Soviet military approach is completely different. Disinformation. Fake news. They have a military doctrine — maskirovka, deception. They don’t go to war without a strategic plan for deception. The US didn’t think in this way, at least not until the 1990s.

So, coming back to my question about Israel’s vulnerability?

We’re well protected. Tallinn is well protected now! The rest of the world is starting to wake up. Until it hits you on the head, the world is very slow.

Israel has had an authority for the defense against cyber attack of critical civilian infrastructure — water, electricity, transportation — since 2002. Most countries don’t. The US doesn’t.

‘The Russians have a military doctrine — maskirovka, deception’

Since the late 1990s, we were developing technology, and we realized, of course, that it could be used as a weapon. At the time, the Arab states were mostly manual. Only we were vulnerable [in this region].

In 1999 I wrote to the prime minister. I was head of “MAPAT” (weapons development and technological infrastructure) in the army. I said we could get attacked. So in 2002, the agency to protect vital infrastructure was established.

We were the first in the world to do civilian protection. But I can’t say we’re protected enough. We’re relatively very good. We’re also relatively potentially a high target.

How do we rank globally?

In terms of protection, we’re in the top three.

There are five top players. Offensively and defensively, they’re the same. Not in order: Israel, the US, Russia, Britain, China. Israel is the best in the region. But relative to the threat, there’s no such thing as good enough.

Every two days, there’s something new. It began with DDoS — Distributed Denial of Service attacks. All kinds of groups do those. They’re relatively primitive, and relatively easy to defend against. That’s what happened in Tallinn. More recently there was ransomware.

Cyberwarfare, cyberattacks — these are the dark side of the computer. And we’re so dependent on computers.

So we face planes being hacked out of the sky? Computers taking over automated cars?

There’ll always be bad guys. They can always use that dependence not for the benefit of society, but for their benefit at our cost.

Computers, like the moon, have a dark side. And the pace of cyber development is like the pace of computer development. It’s like Moore’s Law. [In 1965, Gordon Moore] predicted that the amount of information on a chip would double every one and a half years. Basically a computer generation is one and a half years. With cyber it’s even less. Every year to a year and a half, comes a new generation of cyber techniques. It’s a crazy pace. I cannot tell you what the cyber threats will be in five years — even though that’s my profession.

Iran's then-president Ahmadinejad visits Natanz in 2008 (Zero Days screenshot)

In 2010, after Stuxnet (the virus that played havoc with Iran’s uranium enrichment centrifuges at its Natanz enrichment plant) made headlines, it was realized that the world would wake up. The prime minister asked me to put together a five-year program setting out all the possible cyber threats, and what Israel would need to counter them. I told him, I don’t know what those threats will be. Five years? That’s four generations in cyber. The equivalent of 120 human years! Where to start?

Instead, I recommended that we set up the ecosytem, and do it now, strategically, with people capable of dealing with whatever turns up in the years ahead. And that we include people from the cyber industry, academia, and the government/security establishment.

In 2010, by the way, there was only one cyber research center in the world. That was at Oxford. Israel and the US had none. There was no way you could do a bachelor’s degree in cyber. You would do math, computer engineering or computing, and then do a master’s or doctorate. Now at TAU, you can do a bachelor’s in cyber, or a cyber major in other faculties. We’re the only country where you can do a high school matriculation, up to five units [the biggest amount], in cyber.

I said to Netanyahu, we can become a world center of knowledge. As with high-tech, so with cyber. One day, everybody will need it. He said yes straight away, and he stuck with it.

I made 13 recommendations. After four discussions, all were endorsed by the cabinet. Twelve were approved right away. The thirteenth took three more meetings. That was the budget. An additional billion shekels per year added to budgets. If the prime minister doesn’t back you, you don’t get that money.

‘I cannot tell you what the cyber threats will be in five years — even though that’s my profession’

Back in 2002, when the Shin Bet was in charge of defending civilian infrastructure against attack, there were 36 critical infrastructures on my list. These were defined by either of two criteria: if the loss of life in one attack would be over 500; and if the economic cost of an attack could amount to half a percent of gross national product. Those criteria reduced my list to twenty-something.

In 2010/11, how many critical infrastructures do you think there were? We stopped counting at a thousand. So much more is computer controlled. High-tech is the main engine of the Israeli economy.

The idea of the Shin Bet [domestic security agency] saying, we’d like to go into your computers. Well, that wasn’t going to work. China tried to do that. Facebook and Google are gone from China. We didn’t want to kill the goose. We needed to find the balance between privacy and security.

We had two options. One was to widen the umbrella of Shin Bet protection. But that’s not democratic, among other problems. And the second was to set up a new body, advising and supplying services. That’s what we did.

Are the Russians capable of hurting us?

There are four kinds of threat.

One, spying for state purposes. Material is on computer, and states are trying to spy on it and always will. There are all kinds of treaties, but nobody ever tried to draw up a treaty on spying. It won’t work. Our allies do it too. The key is don’t get caught. And it’s all gray areas anyway. Getting information is an ambassador’s job. It’s his job.

‘We’ve had people who were fooled by foreign intelligence, and they had one foot on the other side before they realized it’

Two, spying for economic purposes, to steal your technology. The US does not do that to us. China does. Most China cyber is industrial espionage.

Three, attacks and preparing for attacks. The Israel Electric Corporation, the water authority. Trying to work out how your servers work. Placing “logic bombs” — suspended until you send the trigger to operate them. Almost all of the states I mentioned don’t do that to us.

And four, influencing public opinion. Disinformation. Fake news. What we saw in the US elections.

Do we see it here?

Yes, and done by the Americans too, but not by the US government. A few weeks ago there was a fake news report, disseminated by right-wing groups, that (former Obama-era defense secretary Leon) Panetta had said the administration tricked Israel on the Iran nuclear deal.

Back to the Russians.

In the US elections, the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee, got hold of files, played with them and distributed them. They hacked Hillary Clinton and (former secretary of state Colin) Powell. They influenced the election. Now, they would have less success.

Because the defenses would be better?

Because lessons are constantly learned. (New French President Emmanuel) Macron had a head of digital in his campaign, a Moroccan-born Frenchman, Mounir Mahjoubi. The Russians hacked his campaign. And they published the materials five hours before the end of campaigning. But Mahjoubi, anticipating the hacking, had planted fake files. Those files came out too, with ridiculous content. Macron told the journalists, This is all rubbish. And the press agreed. End of the story.

French President-elect Emmanuel Macron holds hands with his wife Brigitte during a victory celebration outside the Louvre museum in Paris, France, Sunday, May 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Compare the impact of the Russian hacking of the elections in the US and France. The Russian influence was not in the fact of them penetrating the DNC and Clinton’s emails and Powell’s. It’s not the hack that was the big deal. It was the planted material. They created doubt regarding Clinton — her health, corruption; created doubt about her capability to serve as president. I met many smart people who you’d have expected to vote for Clinton. They said, I can’t vote for Clinton because she’s corrupt. I said, On what basis do you say that? They said, There’s stuff. But they had nothing specific. Six months later, now people realize that there were fake files. With Macron, by contrast, they had zero impact.

The Russians have a need for conspiracy. Students here at the university, you wouldn’t believe what they’re prepared to believe.

People think Trump is “run” by the Russians. There’s a misunderstanding of what an agent is.

Elaborate, please.

Let’s talk about 1967. We had somebody, at the highest level, in the Egyptian government. Ashraf Marwan. Unfortunately we blew his cover. He was then “suicided.”

Egyptian spy Ashraf Marwan (photo credit: Raafat/Wikimedia Commons)

How do you recruit someone like him? You can recruit by ideology. Communism. Philby, etc. You’re not going to recruit too many people via communism today.

How would we recruit, say, theoretically, a Syrian air force general? We’d say, “We’re a Norwegian firm that works on air force products. Your country can benefit from some of our products. Be our representative. Sell our product. Benefit the Syrian air force. It’s for Syria’s benefit. Legitimate business. You get rich.”

And then, “Here’s another great product we have.”

And then, “Now, what else is the Syrian air force missing?”

That’s the next half step. Now, he’s telling you things. It can take years, step by step. At some point he’ll realize that you’re “running him.” He mustn’t realize that it’s the Zionists. We’ll tell him, It’s the Russians. He won’t want to think it through. At some point you might ask him to cross the line. Or you might never ask him.

I read everything about [Trump’s short-lived national security adviser Michael] Flynn [who is under investigation for ties to Russia]. It’s classic recruitment. A businessman who has been fooled by the Russians. The Russians are the champions at this.

Have Israelis been duped in this way?

We’ve had people who were fooled by foreign intelligence, and they had one foot on the other side before they realized it. We told them. Most wised up. Some fled. Some went to jail.

I want to ask you about the so-called JCC hoaxer — a kid in Ashkelon who caused panic worldwide with thousands of fake bomb threats. One kid was able to cause vast chaos. Hundreds of schools evacuated. Airplane emergency landings. That’s pretty worrying, no?

He called. He made the threats. Yet he didn’t penetrate computers. It shows what a kid can do.

A president can do a lot more damage. The US president is destabilizing all kinds of basic elements. What does he call journalists? Fake news media. Judges are “enemies of the people.” And we know what you do about your enemies.

An Israeli-American teenager, accused of making bomb threats in the United States and elsewhere, in a courtroom in Rishon Lezion on March 23, 2017. (Flash90)

With technology, we live in a world where everything is connected. You can get from anywhere to anywhere. That requires us to show more responsibility.

In the case of the kid, once the threat rose to a certain level, they started investigating and they caught him. Wasn’t so hard.

But in the internet generally, with cyber crime and cyber warfare, there is almost no effort to catch the bad guys. How many people do you recall being jailed in Israel for cyber warfare? I recall one case of a couple who planted a Trojan [virus]. Maybe there’s another case that’s slipped my mind. But every day there are millions of attacks. Nobody goes after the criminals. And it’s hard to get them, because they’re in different countries.

So why not develop the technologies? Change the internet protocol.

Could you explain what that means, and what it would involve?

The internet was built to be robust and non-centralized.

In 1973, we bombed Egypt’s communications centers, which was an important factor in the war.

The internet was set up to insure it could not be incapacitated by that kind of physical attack?

How does the internet work? You want to send me an email. You have a supplier. Netvision, say. Netvision has Wi-Fi. You’re in contact with a local server, one of thousands. It takes your note and breaks it into packets, each of which has its own ID. That server sends all the packets to all the servers it is in touch with. And all those servers send all those packets to all the servers they’re in touch with. It’s a global infrastructure. Now, one of those servers is my local server. It puts all the packets together and delivers your note to me.

Why was the internet set up like that? One: You’d have to destroy half the world to prevent your note being delivered to me. Two, no single packet has all the information. So everything is secure. That’s how the internet was set up by DARPA.


The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency [in the US Department of Defense, which developed the networking heart of the internet]. It’s relatively impenetrable.

DARPA logo

You don’t know who sent the material to you. You get a set of protocols, but you don’t know who from. It’s called the problem of attribution. You need to re-engineer the internet to enable identification of the source of everything.

If you rob a bank and you get caught, you might get jailed or killed. If you try to rob a bank online, either you’ll succeed or you’ll fail. But if you fail, they won’t catch you. So we have to solve the problem of attribution.

For the pioneers, physicists at CERN communicating with their friends, this wasn’t an issue. It is now.

I want to come back to Stuxnet, and the assertion — central to the 2016 documentary “Zero Days” — that Israel screwed it up by pushing it too hard, too fast.

That’s nonsense.

‘Any weapon you use, there is a risk that people will realize what it is, will defend against it, will act against it, will use it against you’

In the 1973 war, we failed against Russian ground-to-air missiles in Syria. After the war, in the Israel Air Force we worked day and night for a solution to meet that threat. We developed smart weapons and drones and electronic warfare capabilities. In 1982, we initiated the Lebanon War. It was against Fatah, not against Syria. But we knew that the Syrian forces were deployed in Lebanon. Basically the same number of missile batteries as from the Golan in 1982. The same deployment. We didn’t know if they would fire on us this time.

The IAF chief, David Ivri, called me in and said, Can you build me a model to tell us, if we go to war, whether we should use the weapons we’ve developed? Because if we use our new capabilities, the Russians, with their missiles in Syria, will see what we have.

I developed a model based on research by [American political scientist] Robert Axelrod. He wrote about when to use weapons of surprise. He compared them to money in the bank, and argued that using it now is less valuable than if you leave it in place to earn interest. I took this model and I went to Ivri and I explained it to him. He said that made a lot of sense. But, Ivri also said, if we use our weaponry now and destroy the Soviet missiles, we push off future dangers. We would deter them, and give them the sense that they couldn’t outwit us.

So we used those weapons, and we destroyed the missiles, and since then the Syrians haven’t fired a shot at us. The attack impacted them for decades.

Robert Axelrod (Courtesy)

Years later, I got an email from a certain Bob Axelrod on an unrelated matter. I asked him if he was the same Robert Axelrod who wrote about when to use weapons of surprise, and he said he was. I told him, I used your model in 1982.

He said, I’m so happy. Only two people I know of have ever used my models in real life. One was on the evolution of cooperation (Axelrod’s best-known work). My wife’s friend used that when she got divorced. She decided not to fight him and she ended up getting nothing. And now you’re telling me about your case.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that we ultimately rejected his model because we added another element — the accumulation of deterrent.

So, to come back to Stuxnet.

With any weapon you use, there is a risk that people will realize what it is, will defend against it, will act against it, will use it against you.

The Iranian nuclear scientists knew something was going wrong. Eventually they realized what it was. In retrospect, you could say it should have been used more, less. Easy to be smart in hindsight.

And where is Iran’s nuclear program now?

The deal took them back. The most vital element, fissile material, they were three months away from having the fissile material for a bomb.

They would have had a bomb in three months?

We don’t know about other elements — detonators, triggers and so on. But on the key element of fissile material, they had gotten to three months away. And that was more than a year before the deal.

And then they turned to the West and said, We’ll negotiate, because the sanctions are hurting us. And we won’t do those next three months [of advances]. They stopped themselves for more than a year. Then the deal was signed. The deal took them back to a point that is more than a year from the bomb.

One: They pledged, We’ll never build a bomb. Go know if that is true. Two: There are bars and inspections of all kinds for 15 years if they keep the deal.

If they break it, we’ll have more than a year until they get back to where they were. If you ask me, it’s a great deal. If you ask Bibi [Netanyahu], in 15 years, they’ll have an arsenal. And you know that Bibi himself has said that the head of Mossad at the time, Military Intelligence, the IDF chief of staff, the Shin Bet, all disagreed with him. [The late former Mossad chief Meir] Dagan talked about it publicly.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, right, in Vienna, Austria, on January 16, 2016. (Kevin Lamarque/Pool via AP)

There are cameras where we want them. Surprise visits. Yes, there’s a mechanism for surprise visits [so they’re not instant]. The Iranians actually said, You’ll turn up in Khamenei’s bathroom. So there are delays. But radioactive materials have a footprint of 10,000 years. You can’t hide that. And radioactive materials are the key. Other materials you can’t monitor anyway.

The deal is very good. Will they keep it? I don’t know. I don’t trust the Iranians, but we’ll know in enough time. We’ll have a year to decide what to do.

Finally, what can you tell me about the claim by the late Itzhak Yaakov, which emerged this month around the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, that Israel considered detonating a nuclear bomb in the Sinai in 1967?

If you read the books by foreign experts, they all agree that in 1967 Israel had the bomb. So you can choose to believe the story. And you can think that it’s part of Israel’s deterrent. Even now. We let a story get out. And if we had that capacity in 1967, you might think, then for sure we have it now. Except we’re not saying it.

LG V30 to be announced at IFA in Berlin — report

According to a recent report by ETNews, LG will show off the upcoming V30 at IFA in Berlin. The company will officially announce the device during an event taking place one day before IFA kicks off, on August 31. This lines up with previous speculation we deemed likely to be true.

The report also claims that the phablet will go up for pre-order in South Korea more or less right after its reveal, where it will retail for 800,000 KRW (around $700). It will officially go on sale in September in the country and will probably make its way to other markets around the world about a month later, just like the V20.

The LG V30 will go head to head with the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, which is expected to be announced around the same time (August 26 to be precise). The V30 will reportedly be quite different than its predecessor in terms of design and will look a lot more like the G6. This is probably considered as a good thing by most users because it means that the phablet will have small bezels around the screen.

The V30 is expected to feature an OLED display, the latest Snapdragon 835 chipset, a dual-camera setup on the back, a new ESS Quad DAC, 3.5 mm headphone port, and come in three storage variants: 32, 64, and 128 GB. Unlike its predecessor, it won’t have a removable battery, likely because it will be resistant to water and dust. It will also feature a secondary screen on top, just like the other smartphones in the V series.

Based on the info we have so far, the V30 sound like a very promising device that just might give the Galaxy Note 8 a run for its money. Especially if it will carry a more affordable price tag than Samsung’s second-half flagship. Now we just have to wait and see if the V30 gets a global launch this time around.

4K is the wrong target for Xbox One X and PS4 Pro

The dust has settled on E3, and we now know a lot more about how Microsoft hopes to revive its fortunes with the console formerly known as Scorpio. Like the PlayStation 4 Pro, the Xbox One X is a souped-up system laser-focused on displaying 4K images. You can argue over the degree to which either console produces “true” or “native” 4K, with Microsoft holding the technical edge, but I think such discussions miss the point. 4K is simply the wrong target in the first place.

The Xbox One X and PS4 Pro are unusual devices in that they provide significant power improvements without breaking compatibility with the existing Xbox One or PS4. Previously, console power upgrades were restricted to generational shifts — the PS3 that the PS4 replaced in 2013 ran on the same hardware as the one released in 2006. But the shift away from exotic components to the PC-style x86 architecture found in current consoles means it’s much easier to give them linear upgrades within the same generation.

This could be awesome if done properly — it’d mean you’d always have the option of buying modern hardware, or you could save money by buying the original model. But the way the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X have been designed and promoted is anything but inclusive. By focusing on 4K output, their hardware is wasted for a large majority of potential customers. 4K resolution requires a huge amount of power to render in real time, and the benefits are dubious even if you are one of the few with a compatible TV.

Most games on the regular PS4 and Xbox One run at 30 frames per second in 1080p resolution, or close to it. On the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, you’re mostly getting the same thing just rendered with more pixels, regardless of what TV the console is hooked up to. Even if you have a 4K TV and are looking for a way to make use of it, this feels like the wrong way to spend the silicon.

What would be the right way? As it turns out, a platform does exist that both offers more power and lets you choose how to use it: the PC. And if there are any PC gamers out there who attempt to run games at 4K, 30 frames a second, and with Xbox One levels of graphical detail, well, I’m yet to meet them. In my experience, most players on PC consider 60fps table stakes and will tweak settings like texture resolution and shadow quality in order to achieve it — or even higher frame rates.

I’m one of them, and I actually had to make this choice a couple of months ago when shopping for a new monitor. (As an aside, it’s really hard to find good PC monitors!) I’d narrowed it down to two options, seemingly the only 27-inch IPS G-Sync models available in Japan: Asus’ PG279Q and PG27AQ. They are more or less identical products, but the former is 2560×1440 at 144Hz (“overclockable” to 165Hz) and the latter is 4K at 60Hz. My PC is powerful enough to play games at 4K, but I ended up going for the 1440p model.

1440p is still a big resolution upgrade over 1080p, but it doesn’t require nearly as much processing power as 4K. And it comes with benefits of its own: 4K monitors are limited to 60Hz right now, but you can get more than double the frame rate at 1440p. G-Sync is a huge game-changer here — it matches the monitor’s refresh rate to your GPU’s output, meaning that you get smooth, tear-free output while displaying every single frame your PC is capable of processing each second. And it’s honestly transformative — fast-paced games feel almost surreally responsive to the point where it’s very hard to go back. (AMD has similar monitor technology called FreeSync, and Apple made “ProMotion” adaptive refresh rates the headline feature of its new iPad Pro.)

But all this talk of 144Hz is probably in the weeds when the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X aren’t even targeting 60fps most of the time, outliers like racers and fighting games aside. My personal opinion is that 60fps makes a vastly bigger difference to the actual experience of playing games than 4K resolution — just look at Microsoft’s own Halo 5, which appeared to have been entirely designed around this principle — and I would be happy to buy updated PS4 or Xbox One models that focused on this aspect of performance. Unfortunately, that’s not what we’ve got.

And for 1080p TV owners, it’s disingenuous to suggest that these products will deliver a notably better experience, as Microsoft’s Dave McCarthy did last week at E3. “I wouldn’t say from a 1080p TV perspective you’re going to be all that disappointed either, right?” he toldThe Verge. “I mean, you have automatic supersampling from the Xbox One X to your 1080p TV. It’s still going to look pretty damn amazing.” If you’re not familiar with supersampling, it basically means rendering the image at a higher resolution than your screen can display. It can improve picture artifacts like aliasing, but it’s a blunt approach to boosting image quality that makes very little sense for the hardware. It’s not a choice I can imagine many PC gamers with 1080p monitors making when they still have headroom to improve graphical effects or frame rate.

To some degree, Microsoft and Sony have been restricted by their original console designs. Both new systems are still built around low-power Jaguar CPU cores, originally used in mid-range laptops, and while the Pro and X’s boosted GPUs are helpful for rendering higher resolutions, the relatively weedy CPUs are likely to limit the degree to which framerates can be increased. On a TV, you’d have to hit a solid 60fps if you wanted to avoid torn frames above 30Hz, and that may be a stretch for many games even on the Xbox One X. Could Sony and Microsoft have made more fundamental improvements to their CPUs as well? Maybe, but almost certainly not without significant implications for compatibility.

But that’s not to say that 4K is the only way to improve visuals. PC games at 1080p look much better than PS4 and Xbox One games, owing to the better effects made possible by more powerful GPUs. And even if you do have a 4K TV, the biggest difference you’ll see will come from HDR, not resolution — a feature already possible on the cheaper Xbox One S and regular PS4. The PS4 Pro at least has a good reason to push more pixels if you own a PlayStation VR headset, where the extra resolution really can make a tangible difference to image quality, but this E3 Microsoft downplayed the prospects of VR on its console platform.

To be clear, neither Microsoft nor Sony are mandating that developers work on 4K output — studios are free to use the extra power to deliver better 1080p performance if that’s what they want to do. But the design and positioning of these systems makes it a lot easier and more desirable to concentrate on resolution at the expense of all else. It’ll be riskier and probably more time-consuming to work on a pristine 1080p Xbox One X release when Microsoft has pushed the “native 4K” message so strongly, even if ultimately it would make a more noticeable difference to consumers.

It’s getting harder to buy a non-4K TV these days, and it makes marketing sense to cater to people who don’t have much content that can give their new sets a workout. But I worry that the focus on resolution above all else is going to hold back game development overall. Sony clearly overpromised when it made 1080p a selling point for the PS3, and the vast majority of developers ended up targeting 720p on that system and the Xbox 360. This time the resolution bump is far less profound, yet we’re met with hardware seemingly not designed to chase after anything else.

I used to spend the vast majority of my gaming time on consoles, and I would have been very open to picking up more powerful versions. But I just don’t see the value proposition that Microsoft and Sony are putting forward here for most people. I hope one day we see the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two come out with designs that focus on performance, not pixels. Until then, though, I think I’m going to be getting a lot more use out of my PC.