Tag Archives: Access

Nextlink Internet and Microsoft closing broadband gap in central US – Stories

The agreement could bring broadband access to benefit more than 9 million people, including approximately 1 million in unserved rural areas

REDMOND, Wash. — Sept. 18, 2019 — On Wednesday, Nextlink Internet and Microsoft Corp. announced a partnership that will help close the broadband gap in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas, bringing high-speed internet to hundreds of rural communities. The agreement will further enable Nextlink to substantially expand their coverage areas and is part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, which is focused on addressing this national crisis, with the goal of extending broadband access to over 3 million unserved people in rural America by July 2022.

Lack of broadband connectivity is a pervasive national issue, and particularly acute in rural areas of the country. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports that more than 21 million Americans lack broadband access, the vast majority of whom live in rural areas that continue to lag the national rate of broadband usage. The problem is almost certainly larger than that, though, as other studies and data sources, including Microsoft data, have found that 162 million people across the United States are not using the internet at broadband speeds, including approximately 29 million people across Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

“It’s time to deliver on the connectivity promises that have been made to people across the country, and this partnership will help do that for many who have been left behind and unserved in the heartland of America,” said Shelley McKinley, vice president, Technology and Corporate Responsibility at Microsoft. “In the past two years with our Airband Initiative, we’ve seen that progress is possible — particularly when the public and private sectors come together. Partnerships with regional ISPs like Nextlink that have the desire and wherewithal to provide internet connectivity are a critical part of closing the broadband gap and helping families, children, farmers, businesses and whole communities to not only survive, but thrive in the 21st century.”

Nextlink will deploy a variety of broadband connectivity technologies to bring these areas under coverage, including wireless technologies leveraging TV white spaces (e.g., unused TV frequencies) in select markets. Nextlink will continue its deployments in Texas and Oklahoma and immediately begin deployment efforts in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois, with rollouts planned through 2024.

Nextlink CEO Bill Baker noted, “Nextlink is tremendously excited about the opportunity to join forces with Microsoft. This agreement will accelerate the rollout of high-speed broadband access to underserved areas that are desperate for this critical service. This in turn will make those areas more attractive for employers who require high-speed broadband to operate. By itself, this project is going to generate hundreds of full-time, long-term jobs in rural communities as Nextlink builds out and services the required networks. The overall impact to rural communities in terms of job creation and increased viability for all employers is tremendous.”

“This partnership will enable the coming of precision agriculture, IoT, digital healthcare, access to higher education and overall economic growth,” said Ted Osborn, Nextlink SVP of Strategy & Regulatory Affairs. “Our experience tells us that advanced broadband access and community support can make these promises a reality in relatively short order.”

Improved connectivity will bolster economic, educational and telehealth opportunities for everyone in the region, and could be particularly impactful for farmers. Together, the states covered in part by this deal — Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas — account for more than $120 billion in annual agricultural value, or 29% of the agricultural output of the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). With broadband access, farmers can gain better access to markets and take advantage of advancements in precision agriculture, enabling them to better monitor crops and increase their yields, which can translate into significant economic returns. The USDA estimates widespread use of connected technologies for agricultural production has the potential to unlock over $47 billion in annual gross benefit for the United States.

The partnership builds on Microsoft and Nextlink’s efforts to close the digital divide. Nextlink is familiar with the needs of rural communities and was awarded federal Connect America Fund funding to expand broadband access to unserved rural communities. The companies will also work together to ensure that, once connectivity is available in these regions, people will receive the digital skills training to help them take advantage of the economic and social benefits that come with broadband access.

About Nextlink Internet  

Nextlink Internet, LLC is a residential and commercial internet access and phone services provider based in Hudson Oaks, Texas. The company is a leading provider of broadband services to rural school districts and municipalities. Since 2013, the company has organically attracted over 36,000 broadband subscribers using solely private capital and has managed industry-leading operating metrics. Nextlink optimizes its IP-based optical-fiber and fixed wireless network with an unrelenting commitment to customer service to achieve high customer satisfaction.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777, [email protected]

Dale Curtis for Nextlink Internet, [email protected], (202) 246-5659

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

 

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Satellite connectivity expands reach of Azure ExpressRoute across the globe

Staying connected to access and ingest data in today’s highly distributed application environments is paramount for any enterprise. Many businesses need to operate in and across highly unpredictable and challenging conditions. For example, energy, farming, mining, and shipping often need to operate in remote, rural, or other isolated locations with poor network connectivity.

With the cloud now the de facto and primary target for the bulk of application and infrastructure migrations, access from remote and rural locations becomes even more important. The path to realizing the value of the cloud starts with a hybrid environment access resources with dedicated and private connectivity.

Network performance for these hybrid scenarios from rural and remote sites becomes increasingly critical. With globally connected organizations, the explosive number of connected devices and data in the Cloud, as well as emerging areas such as autonomous driving and traditional remote locations such as cruise ships are directly affected by connectivity performance.  Other examples requiring highly available, fast, and predictable network service include managing supply chain systems from remote farms or transferring data to optimize equipment maintenance in aerospace.

Today, I want to share the progress we have made to help customers address and solve these issues. Satellite connectivity addresses challenges of operating in remote locations.

Microsoft cloud services can be accessed with Azure ExpressRoute using satellite connectivity. With commercial satellite constellations becoming widely available, new solutions architectures offer improved and affordable performance to access Microsoft.

Infographic of High level architecture of ExpressRoute and satellite integration

Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute, with one of the largest networking ecosystems in the public Cloud now includes satellite connectivity partners bringing new options and coverage.

 8095 1SES will provide dedicated, private network connectivity from any vessel, airplane, enterprise, energy or government site in the world to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform via its unique multi-orbit satellite systems. As an ExpressRoute partner, SES will provide global reach and fibre-like high-performance to Azure customers via its complete portfolio of Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) satellites, Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) O3b constellation, global gateway network, and core terrestrial network infrastructure around the world.

 8095 2Intelsat’s customers are the global telecommunications service providers and multinational enterprises that rely on our services to power businesses and communities wherever their needs take them. Now they have a powerful new tool in their solutions toolkit. With the ability to rapidly expand the reach of cloud-based enterprises, accelerate customer adoption of cloud services, and deliver additional resiliency to existing cloud-connected networks, the benefits of cloud services are no longer limited to only a subset of users and geographies. Intelsat is excited to bring our global reach and reliability to this partnership with Microsoft, providing the connectivity that is essential to delivering on the expectations and promises of the cloud.

8095 3 Viasat, a provider of high-speed, high-quality satellite broadband solutions to businesses and commercial entities around the world, is introducing Direct Cloud Connect service to give customers expanded options for accessing enterprise-grade cloud services. Azure ExpressRoute will be the first cloud service offered to enable customers to optimize their network infrastructure and cloud investments through a secure, dedicated network connection to Azure’s intelligent cloud services.

Microsoft wants to help accelerate scenarios by optimizing the connectivity through Microsoft’s global network, one of the largest and most innovative in the world.

ExpressRoute for satellites directly connects our partners’ ground stations to our global network using a dedicated private link. But what does it more specifically mean to our customers?

  • Using satellite connectivity with ExpressRoute provides dedicated and highly available, private access directly to Azure and Azure Government clouds.
  • ExpressRoute provides predictable latency through well-connected ground stations, and, as always, maintains all traffic privately on our network – no traversing of the Internet.
  • Customers and partners can harness Microsoft’s global network to rapidly deliver data to where it’s needed or augment routing to best optimize for their specific need.
  • Satellite and a wide selection of service providers will enable rich solution portfolios for cloud and hybrid networking solutions centered around Azure networking services.
  • With some of the world’s leading broadband satellite providers as partners, customers can select the best solution based on their needs. Each of the partners brings different strengths, for example, choices between Geostationary (GEO), Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) and in the future Low Earth Orbit(LEO) satellites, geographical presence, pricing, technology differentiation, bandwidth, and others.
  • ExpressRoute over satellite creates new channels and reach for satellite broadband providers, through a growing base of enterprises, organizations and public sector customers.

With this addition to the ExpressRoute partner ecosystem, Azure customers in industries like aviation, oil and gas, government, peacekeeping, and remote manufacturing can deploy new use cases and projects that increase the value of their cloud investments and strategy.

As always, we are very interested in your feedback and suggestions as we continue to enhance our networking services, so I encourage you to share your experiences and suggestions with us.

You can follow these links to learn more about our partners Intelsat, SES, and Viasat, and learn more about Azure ExpressRoute from our website and our detailed documentation.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Bluescape releases newest version of its mobile app

Bluescape has launched its newest mobile app to enable users to access their content on the go.

The app, available in the Apple App Store and Google Play store, connects to Bluescape workspaces from mobile devices, such as cellphones or tablets. According to the vendor, it enables users to give presentations without a laptop by launching a Bluescape session from the app onto larger touchscreens.

Users can also access their content and workspace anytime and from anywhere and search and view content. According to Bluescape, the app provides a visual collaboration workspace that integrates day-to-day applications, content and tools.

The Bluescape platform is cloud-based software, with applications designed for collaboration in the workplace. Available applications include mobile and personal workstations, huddle rooms, innovation centers, collaboration suites, conference rooms, training rooms, executive briefing centers, command centers and control centers. Search, messaging and file sharing are also built into the platform.

Bluescape lists professionals in jobs such as architecture, consulting, designing, filmmaking, marketing and product development as ideal users for its product, as these are often groups of people working collaboratively and visually.

Bluescape is among the vendors offering visual collaboration software, which works hand in hand with digital collaborative whiteboards. Vendor Mural provides separate workspaces for teams and enables scaling for companywide processes, with frameworks for Agile, Lean and Design Thinking methods. Custom frameworks are also available.

Competitor Miro touts its product development, user experience research and design, and Lean and Agile capabilities, as well as its enterprise-grade security. Available applications include Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, Slack, OneDrive and Microsoft Teams.

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Citrix breach blamed on poor password security

Following an investigation lasting nearly five months, Citrix revealed cybercriminals did not access any customer data but did steal business documents.

According to Citrix president and CEO, David Henshall, malicious actors accessed the company’s internal network via a password spraying attack that exploited weak passwords. Henshall asserted that the Citrix breach did not involve the exploitation of any vulnerabilities and did not impact the security of “any Citrix product or customer cloud service.”

“Once in our network, the cyber criminals intermittently accessed and, over a limited number of days between October 13, 2018, and March 8, 2019, principally stole business documents and files from a company shared network drive that has been used to store current and historical business documents, as well as a drive associated with a web-based tool used in our consulting practice,” Henshall wrote in a blog post. “The cyber criminals also may have accessed the individual virtual drives and company email accounts of a very limited number of compromised users and launched without further exploitation a limited number of internal applications.”

The FBI originally notified Citrix on March 6 that malicious actors may have accessed to company systems, meaning it took just two days for access to be shut down to the attackers.

Jake Williams, founder and president of Rendition Infosec in Augusta, Ga., said for an intrusion as significant as the Citrix breach, “the speed of the response is very unusual.”

“Honestly, I’m surprised they did it that quickly. I would have expected it would take longer,” Williams told SearchSecurity. “It’s very important that you identify all access methods the attackers are using before tipping your hand with the response.”

Usman Rahim, digital security and operations manager at The Media Trust, said it was “concerning” that attackers had access to Citrix systems for five months before the FBI alerted the company.

Time is very sensitive in attacks like these, and in this case, the attackers had plenty,” Rahim told SearchSecurity. “We expect better security measures from tech companies like Citrix around their assets and infrastructure. However, the information Citrix provided paints a picture of adequate security that allowed attackers access to their systems.”

In light of the findings of the Citrix breach investigation, Henshall said the company has “taken significant actions to safeguard our systems and improve protocols,” including deploying FireEye’s endpoint security technology.

“We performed a global password reset, improved our internal password management, and strengthened password protocols,” Henshall wrote. “Further, we improved our logging at the firewall, increased our data exfiltration monitoring capabilities, and eliminated internal access to non-essential web-based services along with disabling non-essential data transfer pathways.”

It is unclear if these improvements include implementing two-factor authentication (2FA); Citrix declined to provide comments beyond what was in the public disclosure.

Williams noted that stronger passwords should help mitigate password spraying attacks.

“Password spraying is always successful if you don’t have lockout policies, which unfortunately impact the user experience significantly. It’s not an easy thing to shut down,” Williams said. “Most orgs don’t use 2FA internally because it absolutely impacts productivity. If it didn’t have a business cost, everyone would use it for everything.”

Richard Ford, CTO at threat intelligence vendor Cyren LLC, said he is shocked when corporate accounts don’t use 2FA.

“With the adoption of mobile phones, companies such as Duo or RSA provide an easy way to supply a ‘soft’ second factor that significantly complicates life for the attacker,” Ford wrote via email. “I keep hoping that this is the year we move away from simple username/password combinations, but adoption remains slow. It’s something that we, as an industry, just need to embrace.”

Rahim added that “basic multi-factor authentication could have prevented” the Citrix breach.

“They have not mentioned some of the measures they are planning to do, but MFA, password expiration, password hardening and policies for system access should be the starting points,” Rahim said. “Companies need to think about these measures before the damage is done.”

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Microsoft awards grant to Tribal Digital Village and Numbers4Health to expand internet access and solutions for rural and underserved communities in California – Stories

The grant will provide broadband access and telehealth solutions in Valley Center and Compton, California

REDMOND, Wash. — Aug. 1, 2018 — On Wednesday, Microsoft Corp. announced it selected Tribal Digital Village and Numbers4Health as winners of its third annual Airband Grant Fund to help bring broadband internet access to rural and underserved communities. As two of eight winners, Tribal Digital Village (TDVNet) will help bring broadband to tribal land in the rural community of Valley Center, California, and Numbers4Health will deploy a solution in partnership with internet service providers to help support telemedicine and improve healthcare outcomes in Compton, California. The Airband Grant Fund is part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, which aims to help close the broadband access gap in rural America by 2022.

“Tribal Digital Village and Numbers4Health are working to ensure the citizens of Valley Center and Compton have the broadband access they need to connect and compete with their more urban neighbors and access critical telehealth solutions,” said Shelley McKinley, Microsoft’s head of Technology and Corporate Responsibility. “Their use of innovative technologies like TV white spaces will help address the broadband and healthcare gap in California.”

The Microsoft Airband Grant Fund seeks to spark innovation to overcome barriers to affordable internet access, through support of high-potential, early-stage startups creating innovative new technologies, services and business models. This year’s grantees receive cash investments, access to technology, mentoring and networking opportunities.

“It’s truly a benefit when a corporation such as Microsoft focuses on scaling the reach of new technologies, like TV white spaces, to solve for the hardest-to-reach tribal communities,” said Matthew Rantanen, director, TDVNet. “Microsoft’s investment in projects that are uniquely solving these connectivity issues on the ground, like TDVNet, is essential in stimulating creativity and permanently fixing the broadband access gap.”

“The best way to manage healthcare costs and improve health outcomes is to treat injury and illness as fast as possible,” said Peg Molloy, managing director, Numbers4Health. “Numbers4Health puts health information software and technology at schools where injured student athletes can be quickly assessed. Microsoft’s Airband Grant Fund is helping us make that happen.”

Broadband is the electricity of the 21st century. It is a necessity to start and grow a small business and take advantage of advances in agriculture, telemedicine and education. In the United States, more than 24 million Americans lack broadband access, including 19.4 million people living in rural areas.

Below is a list of this year’s Microsoft Airband Grant Fund recipients. More about the Microsoft Airband Grant Fund can be found here.

About Tribal Digital Village

Tribal Digital Village, a tribal-owned ISP based in Valley Center, California, has developed hybrid wireless networks to solve last mile connectivity challenges and enable tribal members to deliver community-based networks.

About Numbers4Health

Numbers4Health is a Colorado-based startup that provides a collection of tools to encourage increased use of telehealth solutions to drive positive change and better healthcare outcomes. The system operates across Windows, Android, and iOS environments.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, +1 (425) 638-7777,

[email protected]

Numbers4Health, Peg Molloy, managing director, [email protected]

Tribal Digital Village, Matthew R. Rantanen, director, [email protected]

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com.Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

Microsoft’s Airband Grant Fund invests in 8 start-ups delivering internet-connected solutions to rural communities around the globe – Microsoft on the Issues

Today, internet access is as essential as electricity. It empowers entrepreneurs to start and grow small businesses, farmers to implement precision agriculture, doctors to improve community health and students to do better in school. But almost half the world’s population is still not online, often because they live in underserved areas, and therefore miss out on opportunities to take advantage of and become part of the digital economy. As a global technology company, we believe we have a responsibility and a great opportunity to help close this gap.

That’s why we’re excited to announce the eight early-stage companies selected for our third annual Airband Grant Fund. These start-ups are overcoming barriers to provide affordable internet access to unconnected and underserved communities in the U.S., Africa and Asia using TV white spaces (TVWS) and other promising last-mile access technologies. Our grant fund will provide financing, technology, mentorship, networking opportunities and other support to help scale these start-ups’ innovative new technologies, services and business models. The Airband Grant Fund is part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, launched last year to extend broadband access across the United States and, ultimately, connectivity around the globe.

We are excited to partner with this year’s cohort of Airband grantees, which include:

These companies are improving life for some of the most underserved communities here in the U.S. and around the world. For example, approximately 35 percent of people living on tribal lands in the U.S. lack broadband. Tribal Digital Village wants to change that. With support from our Airband Grant Fund, they will use TVWS – vacant broadcast spectrum that enables internet connections in challenging rural terrain – and other technologies to deploy broadband to tribal homes on 20 isolated reservations in Southern California. “We realized that without access to the internet, tribal students weren’t going to have access to advanced opportunities that other kids had,” said Matt Rantanen, director of technology for Tribal Digital Village. “But there was no infrastructure on tribal land and no telecommunications companies wanted to work with us to build it out. So we had to build it ourselves.”

ColdHubs is another organization finding innovative ways to tackle the broadband access challenge. In Owerri, Nigeria, ColdHubs is transforming their refrigerated crop storage rooms into Wi-Fi hot spots using TVWS technology. The company aims to empower smallholder farmers with the ability to earn better livelihoods. Their solar-powered crop storage facilities help reduce food spoilage, which causes 470 million smallholder farmers to lose 25 percent of their annual income. Farmers who use ColdHubs can extend the freshness of their fruits and vegetables from two to about 21 days, reducing post-harvest loss by 80 percent. By turning these facilities into Wi-Fi “Farm Connect Centers,” ColdHubs will enable farmers to get online and access agricultural training, resources to improve crop yields and marketing and digital skills training.

Whether in the U.S. or around the world, we believe in nurturing innovative solutions by supporting local companies and entrepreneurs. We are eager to work in close partnership with these Airband Grant Fund recipients over the next year to refine and expand the reach of their solutions. And in the coming months, we’ll have more to share on the exciting progress we’re making on our Airband Initiative, and our goal to deliver broadband to 2 million rural Americans by 2022, and to extend connectivity to underserved communities around the world. Learn more about the Airband Grant Fund recipients here.

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RTO Wireless and Microsoft announce agreement to deliver broadband internet to rural communities in New York and Maine

TV white spaces and other new technologies will provide affordable, reliable broadband access to approximately 290,000 people

REDMOND, Wash. — July 24, 2018 — On Tuesday, RTO Wireless and Microsoft Corp. announced a new agreement to provide broadband internet access to more than 290,000 people living in unserved rural regions of New York and Maine. The partnership is part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, which aims to extend broadband access to 2 million people in unserved portions of rural America by July 4, 2022.

Currently, 19.4 million people living in rural areas in the United States lack access to a broadband internet connection. RTO Wireless will use innovative techniques and technologies, including TV white spaces and Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), to deliver fixed and mobile wireless services to rural markets within the U.S., with initial rollouts across 16 counties in Maine and 20 counties in New York.

“Without reliable internet access, many people living in rural America are unable to take advantage of the same opportunities as their urban neighbors,” said Shelley McKinley, Microsoft’s head of Technology and Corporate Responsibility. “We are excited to partner with RTO Wireless to bring broadband to students, farmers, educators and business owners across the Southern Tier and North Country of New York and Western Maine so that they have an equal opportunity to learn, grow, contribute and prosper in the 21st century economy.”

“The TV white spaces technology ecosystem championed by Microsoft provides a critical low-band function enabling tremendous RF propagation over a large service area,” said Steve Hubbard, CEO of RTO Wireless. “Microsoft is contributing tremendous resources to solving the lack of broadband options in rural America. Joining the Microsoft Airband Initiative will enable RTO to enhance the educational, healthcare and agricultural services that can be provided to the rural communities. RTO is proud to launch its initial networks in New York and Maine with an impressive consortium of technology partners to deliver exciting applications and services.”

This partnership between Microsoft and RTO Wireless will complement the already established and successful “broadband for all” initiative in New York. In 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature established the $500 million New NY Broadband Program, the nation’s largest and most ambitious state investment in broadband expansion. Three rounds of grants using a reverse-auction method have expended this $500 million and provided support to projects that deliver high-speed internet access to unserved and underserved areas of the state.

Leaders in New York have offered strong support for closing the rural broadband gap in the U.S.:

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, District 23, said, “We care about the promotion of rural broadband, and this announcement will allow more hardworking people in our region to access the digital economy and quality, family-sustaining jobs. We will continue our work in Washington to promote broadband infrastructure through funding and fair regulation.”

U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, District 27,  said, “New York’s 27th Congressional District is 65 percent underserved by broadband technologies, and it is welcome news that RTO Wireless and Microsoft are taking action to expand service in five of the counties I represent. As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, I’ve been able to work on policies that will help bring more broadband to rural America. We still have a long way to go in making sure all of Western New York has reliable access to broadband, but I commend Microsoft for its investment in our area that will benefit thousands of my constituents.”

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, District 21, said, “This is excellent news, and I applaud Microsoft and RTO Wireless for working to bring broadband to our district. Increasing access to broadband is critical to ensuring our businesses can compete, our economy can grow and our children have access to the best educational resources. At the federal level, I am pleased to be a leader on expanding access to rural broadband and will continue to work to ensure the North Country has access to this critical 21st century infrastructure.”

U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney, District 22, said, “Broadband internet access unlocks pathways to better education, business growth, health and so much more. Microsoft and RTO Wireless’ new agreement to bring broadband to underserved rural regions of New York, including to people in the 22nd District, ensures our community can take advantage of the opportunities offered by today’s digital economy.”

The Microsoft Airband Initiative is focused on bringing broadband coverage to rural Americans through commercial partnerships and investment in digital skills training for people in the newly connected communities. Proceeds from Airband connectivity projects will be reinvested into the program to expand broadband to more rural areas.

About RTO Wireless

RTO Wireless is a “Rural Technology Operator” who has solved a unique set of operational and economical constraints plaguing rural broadband & narrowband connectivity, by incorporating the latest wireless connectivity technologies across TV White Space, CBRS, LoRaWAN and traditional spectrum bands. RTO is founded by executives with vast experience building and operating neutral host and wholesale wireless affiliate & roaming networks for top tier mobile operators. In 2018, RTO’s financial commitments to new wireless infrastructure construction has exceeded $150,000,000. RTO is building wireless infrastructure for rural communities to access fixed broadband services and IoT applications, including middle mile backhaul connections to serve education, healthcare, public safety, utilities, asset tracking, precision agriculture, connected vehicles, and environmental applications. RTO’s neutral host rural networks enable dynamic partnerships with IoT ASPs, wireless carriers and wireline/cable operators in need of higher capacity rural network footprint. More information can be found at www.rtowireless.com.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777,

[email protected]

RTO Wireless Media Requests: Please submit requests through the RTO website: www.rtowireless.com

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

Vendor admits election systems included remote software

Election system security was compromised by the installation of remote access software on systems over the span of six years, a vendor admitted in a letter to a senator.

Election Systems & Software (ES&S), a voting machine manufacturer based in Omaha, Neb., admitted it installed the flawed PCAnywhere remote access software on its election management system (EMS) workstations for a “small number of customers between 2000 and 2006,” according to a letter sent to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that was obtained by Motherboard.

The PCAnywhere source code was stolen from Symantec servers in 2006, leaving the software vulnerable, and further issues in 2012 caused Symantec to suggest users uninstall the program before officially putting PCAnywere to its end of life in 2014.

ES&S had previously denied knowledge of the use of remote access software on its election management systems, but told Wyden about the vulnerable software that could have put voting machine security at risk. ES&S wrote that it stopped installing the PCAnywhere software in December 2007 due to new policies enacted by the Election Assistance Commission regarding voting machine security.

Gene Shablygin, CEO and founder of WWPass, an identity and access management company based in Manchester, N.H., said the actions by ES&S were “pretty consistent with the overall state of computer security” for the time.

“Today, these technologies and general approaches are totally unacceptable, and must be completely reworked. The last decade especially, was the period of explosive growth of hacking technologies, and the defensive side of many systems was left in the dust. So, most of the systems that are still in use — and voting systems are no exception — have multiple vulnerabilities, some of which are zero-day, or not yet discovered,” Shablygin wrote via email. “You can’t stop progress, and sooner or later, remote voting will become a matter of everyday life.”

Lane Thames, senior security researcher at Tripwire, agreed that the failures of ES&S with election system security shouldn’t be surprising, “especially during the 2000 to 2007 timeframe when cybersecurity was hardly ever on the roadmap for companies producing computing systems.”

“Another concerning point is the underlying arguments that imply the devices built from 2000 to 2007 are still in use. As with many critical infrastructure systems, costs can prohibit frequent hardware refresh cycles,” Thames wrote via email. “As such, many voting machines are likely to contain older operating systems and other software with many vulnerabilities due to these systems not being able to be updated with operating system patches and such. This is a challenging problem we face with all of our critical infrastructure, with very few good solutions at this time.”

ES&S did not respond to requests for comment and it is unclear if the affected election systems were ever fixed or if they are still in use.

Fixing voting machine security

Voting machine security was already proved to be in a troubling state after hackers at Defcon 2016 were able to crack all systems tested within just a few days.

Every system charged with securing our government’s processes … should be open to large security audits.
Jonathan SanderCTO, Stealthbits Technologies

Sean Newman, director of product management at Corero Network Security, said the news about PCAnywhere will make “little difference” in the likelihood of finding other election system security issues.

“They run software and, if they have any kind of internet connectivity, even for managing the voting system/process itself, then there’s a reasonable chance that vulnerabilities exist, which could provide unauthorized users with the ability to have an impact on the normal operation of the system,” Newman wrote via email. “The focus should be for vendors, like ES&S, to ensure they use secure coding practices to develop the software for such systems and avoid any need to expose such systems to the public Internet.”

Jonathan Sander, CTO at Stealthbits Technologies, noted that government “pressures to do everything cheaply and with world class, state actor proof security are in tension” when it comes to election system security and outside audits are needed.

“Every system charged with securing our government’s processes — a.k.a. protecting our collective benefit — should be open to large security audits. To sell anything to the federal government you need to go through tons of certifications. But that’s not enough,” Sander wrote via email. “Bug bounties to get the hacker community to find vulnerabilities, open review at a source level for all solutions to be used in government, and mandatory standards for any remote access features should be table stakes for putting in systems like this.”

Thames notes that a major issue is that “although the U.S. electoral infrastructure is part of the nation’s critical infrastructure, it is still largely up to local and state agencies to ultimately enforce security of the systems.”

“Herein lies another challenging problem. Local and state agencies likely have little to no expertise or budget for securing their voting systems. Every time I go to the voting polls, I see mostly volunteers with a few dedicated staff. Most volunteers at the polls will not have experience with cyber and/or physical security issues related to voting machines,” Thames wrote. “Moreover, the nation already has a significant deficit for staffing our cyber security departments, in both government and industry. Funding will likely need to be increased, somehow, for local and state government agencies in order to provide adequate security for our voting systems.”

The power and promise of digital healthcare in the Middle East and Africa – Middle East & Africa News Center

Mirembe, 24, lives in a rural village in north-east Uganda, where access to healthcare is limited. Mirembe is pregnant and walks, cradling her swollen belly and fanning herself from the heat, 15 kilometres to the closest clinic to check on her unborn child.

Hundreds of expectant mothers, elderly men and women, and sickly children line the corridors of the clinic patiently awaiting medical attention. Midwives and nurses are few, and they wearily dart from patient to patient doing what they can to help. Mirembe will wait six hours to be attended to.

When she’s finally seen, she’s told the clinic doesn’t have an ultrasound machine. If she wants to have an ultrasound, she must travel to the Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda’s largest public hospital, where she must pay 20,000 Ugandan shillings, equivalent to about US$5, for a prenatal visit. In this part of the world, that is a significant amount of money.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 830 women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications around the world every day. It’s estimated that in 2015, roughly 303 000 women died during and after pregnancy and childbirth. Many of these deaths were in low-resource locations like Uganda, and most could have been prevented.

However, technology is helping to eliminate some of the challenges of distance and lack of trained medical staff. Mirembe can now hear her unborn child’s heartbeat from the comfort of her own home through an innovative app call WinSenga, which reassures her that both she and her baby are healthy.

WinSenga is a mobile tool, supported by Microsoft technologies, which helps mothers with prenatal care. The idea was conceived when the Microsoft Imagine Cup competition inspired then-university students Okello and Aaron Tushabe to use their computer science skills to tackle some of Africa’s biggest problems. They were motivated by the plight of mothers like Mirembe who live outside the reach of modern medical care.

The handheld device scans the womb of a pregnant woman and reports foetal weight, position, breathing patterns, gestational age, and heart rate. The app makes use of a trumpet-shaped device and a microphone which transmits the data to a smart phone. The mobile application plays the part of the nurse’s ear and recommends a course of action. The analysis and recommendations are uploaded to the cloud and can be accessed by a doctor anywhere.

man touching a smart tablet

This is just one example of how Africa, a continent that bears one-quarter of the global disease burden but only has two percent of the world’s doctors, could outperform developed nations’ healthcare systems by leapfrogging over inefficiencies and legacy infrastructure.

In fact, digital healthcare in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region is booming with the proliferation of disruptive solutions underpinned by 21st century innovations like cloud, mobile, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Let’s talk telemedicine

One trend revolutionising the delivery of healthcare in MEA is telemedicine, which is the use of telecommunication and IT to provide clinical healthcare over long distances. Given the region’s high rate of mobile penetration, telemedicine is growing rapidly. In fact, the telemedicine market in MEA was estimated at $2.19 billion in 2015 and is projected to reach $3.67 billion in 2020.

Forward-thinking countries like Botswana are making swift progress when it comes to the implementation of sustainable telemedicine projects.  Microsoft and the Botswana Innovation Hub launched Africa’s first telemedicine service over TV white spaces in 2017. Through this initiative, clinics in outlying areas of Botswana can now access specialised care remotely using TV white spaces, which are unused broadcasting frequencies in the wireless spectrum.

IAM engineer roles require training and flexibility

BOSTON — As identity and access management become more critical to security strategies, organizations must be on the lookout for good identity engineers — and there are a few different ways IT can approach this staffing.

Identity and access management (IAM) is increasingly essential as mobile devices add new access points for employees and fresh ways to leak corporate data. But the job market still lacks skilled IAM engineer candidates, so organizations may be better off training existing IT staff or hiring general security engineers to educate on IAM expertise, experts said here at this week’s Identiverse conference.

“Focus on general IT skills and roles [when you] hire engineers,” said Olaf Grewe, director of access certification services at Deutsche Bank, in a session. “Don’t wait for this elusive candidate that has all of this baked in. Bring them up to where you need to be.”

IAM job market landscape

Job growth in IAM has surged in the past year, with about 1,500 IAM engineer openings currently in the Boston area, 4,800 in the D.C. area and 3,320 in Silicon Valley, according to a presentation by Dave Shields, a senior security architect for IAM at DST Systems, a financial technology company in Kansas City.

“It is finally reaching a state where people see that it’s a viable place to have [a career],” said Shields, who was also recently the managing director of IT and ran IAM at the University of Oklahoma. “There are so many things you can do with it.”

There aren’t enough people already skilled in IAM to fill these roles, however, and ones that are may not live nearby. Instead, IT departments can train up existing staff on IAM — but the key is to choose the right people.

“The best engineers you’re going to find are the people who aren’t afraid to break stuff,” Shields said. “Maybe you have a sysadmin who gets into systems and was able to make them do things they were never able to do before. Talk to that person.”

The person should also be flexible, adaptable to change and willing to ask questions others don’t want to hear, he said. Other desirable qualities for an IAM engineer are creativity and an ability to understand the business’ functions and the technology in use.

“Find someone who can look at something and say, ‘I can make that better,'” Shields said. “There are some things that simply cannot be taught.”

IAM and security go hand in hand

Deutsche Bank is currently building up an IAM team that includes existing IT staff and external hires, which the company then trains on IAM skills. That involves four major steps: baseline IAM training, then vendor-specific education, then CISSP, followed by continuous learning over time via conferences, lunch and learns, and updated vendor training.

We need to make sure people have access to the right resources.
Olaf Grewedirector of access certification services, Deutsche Bank

“We need to make sure people have access to the right resources,” Grewe said. “We want to have people who are continuously developing.”

General security skills are especially important for IAM engineer candidates, experts said. Sarah Squire, a senior technical architect at Ping Identity, started out by learning the important security specs and standards as a way toward training up on identity management.

“It’s a lot of on-the-job training,” Squire said. “We’re starting to realize that we really need a base body of knowledge for the entire field.”

For that reason, Squire along with Ian Glazer, vice president for identity product management at Salesforce, founded IDPro, a community for IAM professionals. Launched at last year’s Identiverse (then Cloud Identity Summit), IDPro is currently forming the body of knowledge that an IAM engineer must know, and plans to offer a certification in the future, Squire said.

“It’s really important that people who come in not only understand IAM but also really understand security,” Grewe said.

It’s also important to determine where within the organization those IAM professionals will live. Is it operations? Development? Security?

“A lot of people just don’t know where that fits,” Shields said. “There is nowhere better for them to be in my opinion than on the IT security team.”

Grewe’s team at Deutsche Bank, for instance, works under the chief security officer, which has a lot of budget to work with, he said. At IBM, the team that handles internal identity management works closely with HR and other groups that are involved in employees’ access rights, said Heather Hinton, vice president and chief information security officer for IBM Hybrid Cloud.

“[Organizations] need to figure out how to be less siloed,” she said.