YearStarter 2023: Tech – 5G, data leaks and Elon Musk dominates 2022 tech news


Despite a rocky start, most telcos began offering plans with 5G services this year. — YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

The year after Malaysia began recovering from the pandemic saw the country making strides towards improving digital connectivity.

When the pandemic exposed how Malaysians in rural areas couldn’t get online for work or education due to lack of connectivity, the Jendela national digital infrastructure plan was put in place to address the gap.

One of the agenda’s was the sunset of the 3G network. First announced in 2020, the shutdown was completed this year, paving the way for enhancing and expanding 4G coverage through the freed up spectrum.

Road to 5G

As the country expanded 4G coverage, it also started to make the move to the next-generation network, 5G, but hit speed bumps.

To recap: Digital Nasional Bhd was mandated by the government under former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to be the single wholesale network model for 5G deployment in Malaysia.

Instead of bidding for spectrums and building their own towers, telcos were required to sign up with DNB to access the 5G network.

The change in policy resulted in telcos delaying the adoption of 5G, with many seeking more clarity over the reference access offer (RAO).

According to many reports at the time, the RAO “will not enable affordable and quality 5G services” for both people and businesses in Malaysia.

In October, it was announced that five telcos namely Celcom, Digi, Telekom Malaysia, U Mobile and YTL Communications had agreed to lease DNB’s 5G network. — FreepikIn October, it was announced that five telcos namely Celcom, Digi, Telekom Malaysia, U Mobile and YTL Communications had agreed to lease DNB’s 5G network. — Freepik

Concerns mounted as the standoff between DNB and the telcos could affect the deployment of 5G but eventually the talks with telcos met with progress and Celcom, Digi, Telekom Malaysia, U Mobile and YTL Communications agreed to lease DNB’s 5G network. They have since started offering 5G mobile plans to consumers.

However, now questions remain about DNB’s fate, as newly minted Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said the government will review plans for the state-owned 5G network, citing that it was not formulated transparently.

Speaking of telco news, perhaps there was no story bigger than the merger between Celcom and Digi.

On Nov 30, the entity CelcomDigi was born, emerging as the biggest telco in Malaysia and is expected to serve an estimated 20 million customers.

In a statement, CelcomDigi said it will invest in network expansion and support the growth of the digital ecosystem in Malaysia.

Pilfering of personal data

The country, like in past years, was rocked by several data breaches.

In May, a dataset with the details of 22.5 million Malaysians born between 1940 to 2004 for US$10,000 (RM43,950) was put on sale on the dark web.

The seller claimed that the data was extracted from the National Registration Department (NRD) through MyIdentity, a centralised data-sharing platform used by various government agencies.

In the following month, cybersecurity expert Dr Suresh Ramasamy claimed that millions of personal records belonging to Malaysian workers were exposed on the Public-Private Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (Pikas) website.

Pikas is an initiative of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI).

Will there be changes in the way the authorities address data leaks? Fahmi said the ministry will prioritise cybersecurity issues. — BernamaWill there be changes in the way the authorities address data leaks? Fahmi said the ministry will prioritise cybersecurity issues. — Bernama

According to Suresh, CyberSecurity Malaysia (CSM) responded to his complaint a few days later, saying that the case had been closed. The Pikas website was also taken down temporarily.

In November, reports emerged that the personal data of some 800,000 Malaysians – allegedly stolen from the MySPR site – was being offered for sale on an online forum for US$2,000 (RM9,240), which was later denied by former Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin in a report.

In light of the data breaches, experts have called for a review of the Personal Data Protection Act 2010 (PDPA) to include a more severe penalty and to expand its coverage to include government agencies, which are currently excluded.

Last November, reports emerged that data stolen from the MySPR website was sold on the dark web. This was later denied by Hamzah. - LOW BOON TAT/THE STAR.Last November, reports emerged that data stolen from the MySPR website was sold on the dark web. This was later denied by Hamzah. - LOW BOON TAT/THE STAR.

Man about town

On the international front, there was no escaping Tesla CEO and world’s richest man Elon Musk, who dominated headlines with his plans to acquire Twitter.

It all began in April when Musk announced he had bought more than 9% shares in Twitter, making him its largest shareholder.

He was invited to join the board but declined and instead offered to buy the social media platform for US$44bil (RM193.9bil).

Twitter accepted the eye-watering offer, only for Musk to back down, claiming that he had concerns about the way the company was handling spam or fake accounts on the site.

Musk eventually agreed to complete the takeover after Twitter took him to court, finalising the deal on Oct 27 and marking his reign with the tweet: “The bird is freed”.

Musk dominated headlines with his plans to acquire Twitter. — AFPMusk dominated headlines with his plans to acquire Twitter. — AFP

After becoming the sole director of Twitter, Musk dismissed CEO Parag Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal, the head of legal, policy and trust Vijaya Gadde.

He followed this up by firing roughly 50% of the company’s 7,500 staff. Musk realised too late that he had fired too many people, at which point the Human Resources department tried to re-onboard some of the terminated employees.

He also reneged on his promise of not taking down an account that tracked the movements of his private jet.

The lack of moderation has caused the exodus of half the platform’s top advertisers, while alternatives such as Mastodon and Hive Social are growing due to users wanting a Musk-free platform.

Only 2023 will tell if the blue bird will reach new heights or take an even bigger dive.

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YearStarter 2023

   

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