Archive for Cloud

Research Indicates Zoom Is Being Targeted By Cybercriminals

With many people working from home due to coronavirus, research by Check Point indicates that cyber-criminals may be targeting the video conferencing app ‘Zoom’.

Domains

Cybersecurity company ‘Check Point’ reports witnessing a major increase in new domain registrations in the last few weeks where the domain name includes the word ‘Zoom’.  According to a recent report on Check Point’s blog, more than 1700 new domains have been registered since the beginning of the year with 25 per cent of them being registered over the past week. Check Point’s research indicates that 4 per cent of these recently registered domains have “suspicious characteristics”, such as the word ‘Zoom’.

Concern In The U.S.

The huge rise in Zoom’s user numbers, particularly in the U.S. has also led New York’s Attorney General, Letitia James, to ask Zoom whether it has reviewed its security measures recently, and to suggest to Zoom that it may have been relatively slow at addressing issues in the past.

Not Just Zoom

Check Point has warned that Zoom is not the only app that’s being targeted at the moment as new phishing websites have been launched to pass themselves off as every leading communications application.  For example, the official classroom.google.com website has been impersonated by googloclassroom.com and googieclassroom.com.

Malicious Files Too

Check Point also reports detecting malicious files with names related to the popular apps and platforms being used by remote workers during the coronavirus lockdown.  For example, malicious file names observed include zoom-us-zoom_##########.exe” and “microsoft-teams_V#mu#D_##########.exe” (# is used here to represent digits). Once these files are run, InstallCore PUA is loaded onto the victim’s computer.  InstallCore PUA is a program that can be used by cyber-criminals to install other malicious programs on a victim’s computer.

Suggestions

Some ways that users can protect their computers/devices, networks and businesses from these types of threats, as suggested by Check Point, include being extra cautious with emails and files from unfamiliar senders, not opening attachments or clicking on links in emails (phishing scams), and by paying close attention to the spelling of domains, email addresses and spelling errors in emails/on websites.  Check Point also suggests Googling the company you’re looking for to find their official website rather than just clicking on a link in an email, which could redirect to a fake (phishing) site.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This research highlights how cyber-criminals are always quick to capitalise on situations where people have been adversely affected by unusual events and where they know people are in unfamiliar territory.  In this case, people are also divided geographically and are trying to cope with many situations at the same time, may be a little distracted, and may be less vigilant than normal.

The message to businesses is that the evidence from security companies that are tracking the behaviour of cyber-criminals is that extra vigilance is now needed and that all employees need to be very careful, particularly in how they deal with emails from unknown sources, or from apparently known sources offering convincing reasons and incentives to click on links or download files.

Featured Article – Microsoft Teams User Numbers Up By 12 Million In A Week

Microsoft’s collaborative working platform ‘Teams’ is reported to have seen a massive 12 million user boost in one week as a result of remote-working through the coronavirus outbreak, and through Microsoft making the platform generally available through Office 365 from March 14.

What Is Teams?

Teams, announced in November 2016 and launched by Microsoft in 2017, is a platform designed to help collaborative working and combines features such as workplace chat, meetings, notes, and attachments. Described by Microsoft as a “complete chat and online meetings solution”, it normally integrates with the company’s Office 365 subscription office productivity suite. In July 2018, Microsoft introduced a free, basic features version of Teams which did not require an Office 365 account, in order to increase user numbers and tempt users away from competitor ‘Slack’.

Microsoft Teams is also the replacement for Skype for Business Online, the support for which will end on 31 July 2021, and all-new Microsoft 365 customers have been getting Microsoft Teams by default from 1 September 2019.

March 14

Microsoft Corp. announced on March 14 that Microsoft Teams would be generally available in Office 365 for business customers in 181 markets and 19 languages.

Increased To 44 Million Users

The move to make Teams generally available to businesses with Office 365, coupled with a mass move to remote working as a result of COVID-19 has resulted in 12 million new users joining the platform in a week, bringing users up from 32 million on 11 March to 44 million users a week later.  The number is likely to have increased significantly again since 18 March.

What Does Teams Offer?

Microsoft Teams offers threaded chat capabilities which Microsoft describes as “a modern conversations experience”, and built-in Office 365 apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint and Power BI.  Also, Teams offers users ad-hoc (and scheduled) voice and video meetings and has security and compliance capabilities built-in as it supports global standards, including SOC 1, SOC 2, EU Model Clauses, ISO27001 and HIPAA. Users are also able to benefit from the fact that workspaces can be customised for each team using tabs, connectors and bots from third-party partners and Microsoft tools e.g. Microsoft Planner and Visual Studio Team Services. Microsoft says that more than 150 integrations are available or coming soon to Teams.

New Features

Microsoft reports that it has added more than 100 new features to Teams since November 2019.  These include an enhanced meeting experience (with scheduling), mobile audio calling, video calling on Android (coming soon to iOS), and email integration.  Teams has also benefited from improvements to accessibility with support for screen readers, high contrast and keyboard-only navigation.

Walkie-Talkie Phone

In January, Microsoft announced that it was adding a “push-to-talk experience” to Teams that turns employee or company-owned smartphones and tablets into walkie-talkies.  The Walkie Talkie feature, which can be accessed in private preview in the first half of this year and will be available in the Teams mobile app, offers clear, instant and secure voice communication over the cloud.

Competition

There are, of course, other services in competition with Microsoft Teams. Slack, for example, is a cloud-based set of proprietary team collaboration tools and services.  Slack enables users (communities, groups, or teams) to join through a URL or invitation sent by a team admin or owner.  Although Slack was intended to be an organisational communication tool, it has morphed into a community platform i.e. it is a business technology that has crossed over into personal use.

That said, Slack reported in October last year that it had 12 million daily active users, which was a 2 million increase since January 2019.

Slack has stickiness and strong user engagement which help to attract businesses that want to get into using workstream collaboration software but, it faces challenges such as convincing big businesses that it is not just a chat app and that it is a worthy, paid-for alternative to its more well-known competitors like Microsoft’s Teams.

Like Teams, Slack has just introduced new features and has experienced a surge of growth in just over a month.

Another competitor to Microsoft’s Teams is Zoom, which is a platform for video and audio conferencing, chat, and webinars that is often used alongside Google’s G Suite and Slack.  It has been reported that Zoom is now top of the free downloaded apps in Apple’s app store, and Learnbonds.com reports that downloads for Zoom increased by 1,270 per cent between February 22 and March 22.

Real-Life Example – Teams

A real-life example from Microsoft of how Teams is being put to good use is by bicycle and cycling gear company Trek Bicycle.  Microsoft reports how Teams has become the project hub for the company where all staff know where to find the latest documents, notes, tasks relating to team conversations thereby making Teams a central part of the company’s “get-things-done-fast culture.”

Looking Forward

Many businesses are already using and gaining advantages from the speed and scope of communication, project context, and convenience of a cloud-based, accessible hub offered by collaborative working platforms like Teams.  The decision to make Teams generally available with Office 365 for business can only make the platform more popular and the need for companies to quickly set-up effective remote working has stimulated the market for these services and given users a crash-course in and a strong reminder of their strengths and benefits.

The hope by Microsoft and other collaborative working platform providers is that companies will go on using the platforms long after they technically need to in order to deal with COVID19 lockdown and that they will decide to use them going forward to keep improving the flexibility and productivity of their businesses, compete with other companies that are getting the best from them, and guard against excessive damage to the business from any future lockdown situations.

Facebook Video Quality Reduced To Cope With Demand

Facebook and Instagram have reduced the quality of videos shared on their platforms in Europe as demand for streaming has increased due to self-isolation.

Lower Bitrate, Looks Similar

The announcement by Facebook that a lowering of the bit-rates for videos on Facebook and Instagram in Europe highlights the need to reduce network congestion, free-up more bandwidth, and make sure that users stay connected at a time where demand is reaching very high levels because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The move could have a significant positive impact when you consider that Facebook has around 300 million daily users in Europe alone, and streaming video can account for as much as 60% of traffic on fixed and mobile networks.

Although a reduction in bit-rates for videos will, technically, reduce the quality, the likelihood is that the change will be virtually imperceptible to most users.

Many Other Platforms

Facebook is certainly not the only platform taking this step as Amazon, Apple TV+, Disney+ and Netflix have also made similar announcements.  For example, Netflix is reducing its back video bit rates while still claiming to allow customers to get HD and Ultra HD content (with lower image quality),  and Amazon Prime Video has started to reduce its streaming bitrates as has Apple’s streaming service.

Google’s YouTube is also switching all traffic in the EU to standard definition by default.

BT Say UK Networks Have The Capacity

BT’s Chief Technology and Information Officer, Howard Watson, has announced that the UK’s advanced digital economy means that it has overbuilt its networks to compensate for HD streaming content and that the UK’s fixed broadband network core has been built with the extra ‘headroom’ to support evening peaks of network traffic that high-bandwidth applications create. Mr Watson has also pointed out that since people started to work from home more this month, there has been a weekday daytime traffic increase of 35-60 per cent compared with similar days on the fixed network, peaking at 7.5Tb/s, which is still only half the average evening peak, and far short of the 17.5 Tb/s that the network is known to be able to handle.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For Amazon, Apple TV, Netflix, Facebook and others platforms, they are clearly facing a challenge to their service delivery in Europe but have been quick to take a step that will at least mean that there’s enough bandwidth for their services to be delivered with the trade-off being a fall in the level of viewing quality for customers.  Many customers, however, are likely not to be too critical about the move, given the many other big changes that have been made to their lives as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and the attempts to reduce its impact.  Netflix has even pointed out the extra benefit that its European viewers are likely to use 25 per cent less data when watching films as a result of the bit rate changes. However, with online streaming services being one of the main pleasures that many people feel they have left to enjoy safely, the change in bit rate should be OK as long as the picture quality isn’t drastically reduced to the point of annoyance and distraction.

Cybercriminals Hijacking Netflix and Other Streaming Accounts

It has been reported that the surge in the use of streaming music and video services has been accompanied by a surge in the number of user accounts being taken over by cybercriminals.

Entertainment During Isolation

Self-isolation and the instruction to stay at home during the next few weeks in the COVID-19 crisis has meant that many people have turned to streaming services like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Spotify and Apple Music. In fact, the demand has been so high that many streaming and social media platforms have reduced the bit rate of videos in order to make sure that services can still be delivered without taking up too much bandwidth.

Stealing and Selling Your Credentials

Security company Proofpoint has now warned that cybercriminals are taking advantage of this increase in demand for streaming services by stealing the valid credentials of users and selling them online.  This means that someone else may be piggybacking off a user’s streaming account without them even knowing it.  When the account credentials are sold online (for a much lower price than normal accounts), the seller gives instructions to the buyer not to try and change the login details of the account.

How?

For cybercriminals to hijack streaming accounts, they first need to steal the legitimate credentials of existing users. Proofpoint has reported that this is achieved by using methods such as:

Keyloggers and information stealers – software that has been unwittingly downloaded, that is able to record keystrokes to discover logins and other valuable personal data.

Phishing attacks – convincing emails from bogus sources that have made users click on a link/ to re-direct, which has led to login credentials and financial information being stolen and/or malicious software being loaded onto their computer/device.

Credential stuffing – where logins are stolen in cyber-attacks on other sites/platforms and sold on to other cybercriminals are tried in other websites in the hope that a user has been password sharing (using the same login for multiple websites).

How Do You Know?

The ways to tell whether your streaming account is being piggybacked include checking the settings to view which devices are connected to the account, checking previous activity on the account and activating the options that notify you each time a new device connects to your account.

Protection

Since the ability to hijack a streaming account relies on the ability to steal login details, following basic data security and hygiene can dramatically reduce the risk to users. For example, using strong and unique passwords, not sharing passwords between different websites/platforms, using a good password manager, keeping anti-virus software and patches up to date, keeping systems and browsers up to date, and not clicking on links or attachments in emails may help protect against this and others similar crimes.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Cybercriminals are quick to take advantage of a crisis or a trend and are always keen to find easy, low-risk ways to get money and personal details.  In this case, adhering to relatively basic security best practice can prevent you from falling victim to this and many other cyber-crimes.

Sadly, this is not a new situation.  For example, a CordCutting.com report from last year suggested that around 20 per cent of people who watch a paid-for video streaming service are using someone else’s account.

Now that streaming services are experiencing a surge in users and are very much in the spotlight, it may be a good time for those services to tackle some of the long-running security concerns and to reassure users that they are taking some responsibility to make it much more difficult of others to piggyback accounts.

Surge In Demand For Teleconference Apps and Platforms That Enable Home Working

The need for people to work from home during the Covid-19 outbreak is reported to have led to a huge increase in the downloads of business teleconferencing apps and in the use of popular cloud-based services like G Suite.

Surge In Downloads

Downloads of remote and collaborative working and communication apps such as Tencent Conference (https://intl.cloud.tencent.com/), WeChat Work (from China), Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Slack are reported to have risen by a massive fivefold since the beginning of the year, driven by the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak.

For example, services such as Rumii (a VR platform, normally $14.99 per month) and Spatial, which enable users to digital meetings in virtual rooms with 3D versions of their co-workers have seen a boost in the number of users, as has video communications app zoom.

Freemium Versions

Even though many of these apps have seen a surge in user numbers which could see users continuing to use them and recommending them in future if their experiences of the apps are good, the ‘freemium’ versions (the basic program for free and advanced features must be paid for) appear to account for most downloads.

Some companies, such as Rumii, have now started to offer services for free after noticing a rise in the number of downloads as Covid-19 spread in the United States.

G Suite

Google’s cloud-based G Suite service (Gmail, Docs, Drive, Hangouts, Sheets, Slides, Keep, Forms, Sites) is reported to have gone past the two billion monthly active users mark at the end of last year. It appears to have gained many active users due to people preparing to work from home following the Covid-19 outbreak.

Google has also offered parts of its enterprise service e.g. Hangouts Meet (video conferencing) for free to help businesses during the period when many employees will need to work from home.

Microsoft

Microsoft is also reported to be offering a free six-month trial for its collaborative working platform ‘Teams’, which surpassed the 20 million active user mark back in November.

Unfortunately, Microsoft Teams suffered a reported two-hour outage across Europe on Monday, just as many employees tried to log in as part of their first experience of working at home in what some commentators are now calling the new “post-office” era.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Cloud-based, collaborative and remote working and communications platforms are now providing a vital mitigating lifeline to many businesses and workers at the start of what is likely to be a difficult, disruptive, dangerous and stressful time.  Companies that can get the best out of these cloud-based tools, especially if they can be used effectively on a smartphone, may have a better chance of helping their businesses survive a global threat. Also, the fact that many companies and employees are forced to seek out and use cloud-based apps and platforms like these could see them continuing to make good use of them when the initial crisis is over and we could be witnessing the trigger of a longer-term change in working towards a post-office era where businesses make sure they can last out the effects of future similar threats.

Featured Article – AI, Supercomputers … and Storm Dennis

The disruption and damage caused by weather events affect businesses across the UK but having the benefit of early and detailed insights provided by a new supercomputer system could enable businesses, organisations, agencies, local authorities and the government to plan and minimise disruption where possible, thereby saving billions of pounds per year.

Climate Change

The widely recognised effects of climate change are likely to be responsible for the seemingly more frequent and record-breaking extreme weather events such as storm Dennis here in the UK which brought a record number (594) of flood warnings across England and devastation to many town and businesses.

The increase of a whole degree in temperature since the Industrial Revolution has, for example, warming the atmosphere, making it able to hold more moisture and become unstable. This is likely to mean, at the very least, more storms and flooding in the coming years, and highlights the need for longer advance warnings (Dennis was forecasted 6 days in advance) and more targeted information.

Met Office

The current Met Office system for weather forecasting utilises 200 billion daily observations from satellites, weather stations and ocean buoys that are interpreted by Cray XC40 supercomputers which are due to reach the end of their life in late 2022.  Even though the Cray XC40 is in the top 50 of the world’s most powerful computers, and performs more than 2 million calculations per second for every man, woman and child on the planet, the need for faster, even more accurate, earlier and even more locally-focused weather forecasting requires an investment in new computers to replace the Cray systems for a 10-year period from 2022 to 2032.

New Investment

The new Met Office supercomputer system, announced against the backdrop of storm Dennis, will cost £1.2 billion (which include hardware and running costs too over a ten-year period) but could, according to the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) deliver £19 worth of economic benefits for every pound spent.

The new system will create a simulated picture of the weather, will divide the globe into grid smaller squares, and will have a massive increase in processing power (six times more powerful) at its disposal which will mean that:

– Four-day weather forecasts will be as accurate today as one-day forecasts were 30 years’ ago.

– With the grid that the simulated picture of the earth’s weather is divided into, the new system will be able to operate (and deliver accurate forecasts) for a resolution as sharp as 100m squares.

– Extreme weather conditions will be spotted earlier.

– Improved daily to seasonal forecasts and longer-term climate projections can be made.

– The effects of a hotter world in the future can be explored, and more detail can be added to projections taking account of factors such as the way nitrogen reacts with the carbon in the air.

– Scenarios such as how the country can make the best use of the land if/when the target of net zero emissions by 2050 is reached can be explored.

– Data from the supercomputer can be used to inform UK government policy as part of leading the global fight against climate change.

Artificial Intelligence

The Business and Energy Secretary, Alok Sharma, has highlighted how the new supercomputer looks likely to drive forward innovation and grow world-class skills across supercomputing, data science, as well as machine learning and artificial intelligence.  The Met Office’s new supercomputer will, for example, be able to use artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to carry out even more detailed climate model analysis.

Supercomputer Carbon Footprint?

Some commentators have pointed out that the new supercomputers will require a massive amount of electricity to operate them (as the existing ones do), thereby meaning that ironically, they could be contributing to the global warming that is producing the changing weather conditions that they have been introduced to predict.

The Met Office has, therefore, invited potential providers to come up with low-carbon options and it is likely that much of the processing work could be located in countries with easy and abundant sources of clean energy within the European Economic Area e.g. Iceland (geothermal energy) or Norway (hydropower).

Other Weather Forecasting Options For Business

Weather Source and its Snowflake, cloud-based (AWS) data exchange is an example of another accurate forecasting service for businesses that helps them to quantify and manage climate risks. In addition to being fast and providing forecasts projected over 15 days, the service requires only a few hundred gigabytes of new data to be processed per day, therefore, making it a very efficient option.

Benefits

Looking forward, the socio-economic benefits of the new Met Office system are likely to be many.  These will include better forecasting at airports to help the aviation and travel industries,  more sophisticated modelling of flooding to help businesses with premises in flood areas with continuity and contingency planning, providing more detailed information to the energy sector which will have knock-on benefits to many businesses, and providing insights and early warnings that are vital for the UK’s transport infrastructure and for business transportation, delivery and distribution services.

In a world where the climate is capable of causing massive damage and disruption on a more regular basis, the investment in even more powerful supercomputer technology and AI by the Met Office could actually bring considerable savings for businesses of all kinds and provide a better basis for government decisions.

Google Announces New ‘Teachable Machine 2.0’ No-Code Machine Learning Model Generator

Two years on from its first incarnation, Google has announced the introduction of its ‘Teachable Machine 2.0’, a no-code custom machine learning model generating platform that can be used by anyone and requires no coding experience.

First Version

Back in 2017, Google introduced its first version of Teachable Machine which enabled anyone to teach their computer to recognise images using a webcam. This first version enabled many children and young people to gain their first experience of training their own machine learning model i.e. teaching their computer how to recognise patterns in data (images) and assign new data to categories.

Teachable Machine 2.0

Google’s new ‘Teachable Machine 2.0’ is a browser-based system that records from the user’s computer’s webcam and microphone, and with the click of a ‘train’ button (no coding required), it can be trained to recognise images, sounds or poses.  This enables the user to quickly and easily create their own custom machine learning models which they can download and use on their own device or upload and host online.

Fear-Busting and Confidence

One of the key points that Google wants to emphasise is that the no-code, click-of-a-button aspect of this machine learning model generator can instil confidence in young users that they are able to successfully use advanced computer technology creatively without coding experience.  This, as Google mentions on its blog, has been identified as being important by parents of girls as girls face challenges in becoming interested in and finding available jobs in computer science.

What Can It Be Used For?

In addition to being used as a teaching aid, examples of how Teachable Machine 2.0 has been used include:

  • Improving communication for people with impaired speech. For example, this has been done by turning recorded voice samples into spectrograms that can be used to “train” a computer system to better recognise less common types of speech
  • Helping with game design.
  • Making physical sorting machines. For, example, Google’s own project has used Teachable Machine to create a model that can classify and sort objects.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The UK has a tech skills shortage that has been putting pressure on UK businesses that are unable to find skilled people to drive innovation and tech product and service development forward.  A platform that enables young people to feel more confident and creative in using the latest technologies from a young age without being thwarted by the need for coding could lead to more young people choosing computer science in further and higher education and seeking careers in IT.  This, in turn, could help UK businesses.

No-coding solutions such as Teachable Machine 2.0 represent a way of democratising app and software development and utilising ideas and creativity that may have previously been suppressed by a lack of coding experience.  Businesses always need creativity and innovation in order to create new opportunities and competitive advantage and Teachable Machine 2.0 may be one small step in helping that to happen further down the line.

Microsoft Beats Amazon to $10 Billion AI Defence Contract for ‘Jedi’

After a long and difficult bidding process, Amazon has lost out to Microsoft in the battle to win a $10bn (£8bn) US Defence Department AI and Cloud computing contract.

For ‘Jedi’

The contract was for the Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure (Jedi).  This infrastructure will be designed to enable US forces to get fast access to important Cloud-held data from whichever battlefield they are on. The project will also see AI being used to enhance and speed up the delivery of data to US forces, thereby potentially giving them an advantage.

Amazon Was Thought To Be In Front…Before Trump Comments

Amazon, led by Jeff Bezos, was believed by many tech commentators to have been the front-runner of the two tech giants in the battle for the contract as it is the biggest provider of cloud-computing services.  Also, Amazon had already won an important computing services contract with the CIA in 2013 and is already a supplier of cloud services and technologies to thousands of U.S. agencies.

Unfortunately for Amazon, in August the Pentagon appeared to put the brakes on the final decision-making process following concerns expressed by President Trump.

The President is reported to have said back in July that he was concerned about the contact not being “competitively bid” and that he had heard “complaints” about the contract with Amazon and the Pentagon.

The President, however, was not the only one with concerns as tech giant Oracle (which was also in the running for the contract at one point) had gone to the federal court earlier in the year with allegations (which were dismissed) that the bidding process had been rigged in Amazon’s favour.

Difficult Relationship

Many media reports have suggested that a difficult relationship between President Trump and Jeff Bezos in the past has possibly had some influence on the outcome of the Pentagon’s decision about the project.  For example, Mr Bezos has been criticised before by President Trump, and Mr Bezos also owns the Washington Post.  President Trump has been critical of several news outlets, such as CNN, the New York Times, and The Washington Post.  For example, it has been reported by the Wall Street Journal that President Trump has now instructed his agencies not to renew their subscriptions to those newspapers.

Great News For Microsoft

Winning the contract is, of course, good news for Microsoft which will receive a large amount of U.S. Defence funds for the Jedi contact, and possibly for another defence -related multi-billion-dollar contract (‘Deos’) to supply cloud-based Office 365.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

With a contract of this value up for grabs and the possibility of further lucrative contracts too, this was never going to be a clean and uncomplicated fight between the tech giants.  In this case, however, it being a defence contract, one of the key influencers was the U.S. President and it appears that his relationship with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos along with other factors may have played a part in Microsoft coming out on top.  The size and complexity of the contract meant that it was only ever going to be something for the big, established tech names, and Microsoft winning the contract was undoubtedly an important victory against its competitor Amazon, will add value to its brand, will bring in a sizeable source of revenue at a time when it’s already seen a 21 per cent rise in its profits on last year, and puts Microsoft in a much closer 2nd position behind Amazon’s AWS in the cloud computing services market.

Why You May Be Cautious About Installing The Latest Windows 10 Update

Some of Microsoft’s enterprise-based customers may be feeling cautious about installing the latest Windows 10 update because Microsoft warns that it could stop the Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) service from running.

The Update and Warning

The update in question is the October 15, 2019 KB4520062 (OS Build 17763.832).  The update contains a long list of improvements and fixes (see here for full details: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4520062/windows-10-update-kb4520062), but also three known issues, one of which concerns the Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) service.

What Is The ATP?

The ATP is a paid-for service, for Microsoft Enterprise customers (not Home or Pro customers) that’s designed to help enterprise networks prevent, detect, investigate, and respond to advanced threats. It offers features like endpoint behavioural sensors embedded in Windows 10, Cloud security analytics and access to threat intelligence generated by Microsoft hunters, security teams, and augmented by threat intelligence provided by Microsoft’s partners.

What’s The Issue With the Update?

In the update’s release notes Microsoft says, “We suggest that devices in an affected environment do not install this optional non-security update”.

The reason given for the warning is that installing the update could mean that the ATP service could stop running and may fail to send reporting data.  This could mean that certain enterprise customers are more exposed to security threats until a solution has been found.

Microsoft also warns that an error (0xc0000409) may be received in MsSense.exe.

Not Fixed Until November

Microsoft says that although it’s working on a resolution it estimates that it won’t have a solution to the problem until November.

One of Several Update Problems Recently

This is one of several updates from Microsoft recently that have come with problems.  For example, an update on the 16th of September was reported to have caused issues with Windows Defender.  Later in September, Microsoft had to issue two emergency Windows updates to protect against some serious vulnerabilities relating to Internet Explorer and Windows Defender (anti-virus software).

Also, the October 3 update is reported to have adversely affected the Start Menu and print spooler, and the Start Menu issues were reported to be still present following the 8 October update.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Although Home and Pro customers need not worry about this particular issue, Microsoft’s valued Enterprise customers, who have paid for the ATP service to help stay ahead of the game in security may be a little worried and frustrated at having to either wait until November to enjoy the improvements of the new (optional) update in safety, or install it now and risk the loss of their ATP service and face the associated potential security risks.

Microsoft customers seem to have suffered several problems related to updates in recent months, and Enterprise customers are likely to be those that Microsoft particularly does not want to upset.  It is likely, therefore, that Microsoft will be focusing of getting an appropriate solution to the new update issues before November if possible.

Report Says Public Cloud May Double In Just Four Years

The new cloud market report from the Synergy Research Group shows that cloud-associated markets, such as the public cloud, are growing at rates ranging from 10% to over 40% and the annual spending on the cloud may double in four years.

IaaS & PaaS Biggest Growth

Synergy’s half-yearly report shows that, across the seven key cloud service and infrastructure market segments, revenues for operator and vendors in the first half of 2019 exceeded $150 billion, which is a rise in growth of 24% from the first half of 2018.

The biggest area of growth in the cloud infrastructure sector was in the infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) market segments where there was a massive 44% growth rate.  IaaS is online, virtualised computing resources over the internet, and PaaS is where a provider hosts the hardware and software on its own infrastructure with PaaS products enabling developers to build custom applications online without having to worry about data serving, storage, and management.

The Synergy report also showed growth rates of enterprise SaaS at 27%, UCaaS at 23% and hosted private cloud infrastructure services at 20%.  The report also shows that spending on cloud services is now much greater than spending on supporting data centre infrastructure.

Infrastructure Investments

In the first half of 2019, cloud service provides spent $55 billion on the hardware and software used to build cloud infrastructure (evenly split between public and private clouds).  These infrastructure investments helped cloud service providers to generate over $90 billion in revenues from their cloud infrastructure services (IaaS, PaaS, hosted private cloud services) and enterprise SaaS.

Leaders

The Synergy report shows that the leaders in the IaaS and PaaS segments in the first half of 2019 are Microsoft, Amazon/AWS, Dell EMC, Cisco, HPE and Google.  Back in February, Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) reported a massive 45% growth in the revenue of the fourth quarter, mostly fuelled by big profits in its public cloud arm.

Other big names in that market segment include Salesforce, Adobe, VMware, IBM, Digital Realty, Equinix and Rackspace.

All these big players together account for over half of all cloud-related revenues.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The public cloud is being embraced by businesses as they seek to outsource and ditch traditional capital investment and maintenance problems and costs while reaping the benefits of having the pay-as-you-go scalability, security, and outsourced expertise that allows them to free up more of their own resources.  Cloud service providers are now investing heavily to win large slices of the cloud market with Amazon and Microsoft as market leaders, and as the Synergy report shows, this investment is delivering big revenues and impressive growth rates, particularly in the IaaS and PaaS market segments.