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Logitech webcams in short supply amid coronavirus pandemic

Earlier this week, Jessica Mauerhan found herself in possession of two commodities that have recently grown scarce: a box of antiviral masks and a Logitech webcam.

Mauerhan, a software engineer based in McKinney, Texas, donated the masks to her local midwife’s office so they could continue delivering babies. She gave the webcam to a neighbor so he could begin working from home.

“Both offered to bring me toilet paper as payment,” she tweeted. “What a world we live in now.”

Logitech webcams and other cheap video conferencing devices have largely sold out worldwide as millions work and study from home because of the coronavirus pandemic. In many cases, buyers placing orders today will have to wait one month or longer to receive the equipment. Dell is telling U.S. customers it won’t be able to deliver one popular Logitech model until early July.

Headsets designed for workplace communications are also harder to come by than usual. On Microsoft’s online storefront, several popular Poly and Logitech headsets are currently on back order.

The shortage of these devices is frustrating students as they begin taking classes from home and healthcare providers as they look to set up virtual appointments with patients. Many businesses have been unable to equip their newly remote workforces with the webcams and headsets they need to participate in online meetings fully.

After many staffers began working from home earlier this month, Chapman University accelerated its rollout of Microsoft Teams. Webcams and headsets suddenly became essential tools for its workers. Fortunately, the school ordered a limited number of devices before they began selling out. But obtaining additional equipment has become nearly hopeless.

At first, the school thought it could merely reimburse employees who found the gear themselves. “But the reality is that’s almost impossible,” said Phillip Lyle, Chapman’s assistant vice president of enterprise and research infrastructure.

The shortage is doubtlessly tied to a surge in the usage of cloud-based video conferencing apps. Microsoft said its Teams collaboration app added 12 million daily active users between March 11 and March 18, a 37% increase. Cisco, meanwhile, said last week traffic to its Webex meeting service had tripled in the United States.

The current pandemic has disrupted IT supply chains because many electronic manufacturers are in China, where the epidemic started. China has stopped the spread of the virus, but manufacturers are recovering slowly. IDC recently reported that factories won’t be operating at full capacity until May or June.

Logitech, a leading provider of inexpensive webcams, wouldn’t say whether it was having a hard time getting its manufacturers to fulfill orders. In a statement, the company said it was attempting to increase production as quickly as possible in response to “extremely high demand” for its products.

Some resellers have started jacking up the prices of webcams. On Amazon, one merchant was selling a Logitech C920 high-definition webcam for $339.95 on Wednesday. The vendor’s suggested retail price is $79.99.

“It’s just like hand sanitizer in a lot of ways,” Lyle said.

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Tech giants aim supercomputers, clouds at finding a COVID-19 cure

Hoping to speed research that results in a COVID-19 cure, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has launched a consortium of high tech, academic and government agencies that will work in concert on a number of projects coordinated by IBM and the Department of Energy.

The technology heart of these projects will be over a dozen or more supercomputers, most notably the IBM Summit system housed in Oak Ridge National Laboratory. IBM had already been working with the Lab’s researchers along with the DOE and the University of Tennessee (UT) to narrow down from 8,000 to 77 the number of compounds that are likely to bind to what is called the main “spike” protein of the coronavirus.

“Those 77 compounds are now being investigated with classical chemistry and biology techniques are being examined by people at Oak Ridge and University of Tennessee,” said Dave Turek, vice president of HPC and cognitive systems at IBM. “This is the power of accelerating discovery through computation.”

But the newly formed COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium (HPC), which includes 14 members, will largely build on the work IBM, Oak Ridge and UT had done. Other tech companies in the group include AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft.

“What we are bringing together is a very broad public-private partnership to provide COVID-19 researchers from around the world with access to the world’s most powerful high-performance supercomputer resources that can significantly advance the pace of scientific discovery in the fight to stop the virus,” said Paul Dabbar, undersecretary for science at DOE, in a media briefing on Tuesday.

Dabbar added that all researchers are invited to submit COVID-19 research proposals to the consortium via the online portal, which will then be reviewed and matched with computing resources from all the participating public and private partners.

The consortium members working with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the DOE will have access to 16 systems with 330 petaflops, 775,000 CPU cores and 34,000 GPUs. IBM and the national labs will offer their computing resources for free.

Tech companies aim to lower COVID-19 test costs

Earlier this week, AWS unveiled a new diagnostic development unit that will work with 35 business partners to create a less expensive test for the COVID-19 virus. The company said it will pour $20 million for those customers working on diagnostic tools. The intent of the effort, called the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative, is to strengthen collaboration among customers that will be funded with AWS “in-kind” credits and technical support.

AWS officials added that the program will not support administrative workloads in terms of running everyday IT operations, but added the program is open to all medical researchers and privately held companies that also will have access to AWS research workloads and diagnostic development tools.

“We’re proud to support this critical work and stand ready with the compute power of AWS to help accelerate research and development efforts,” said Teresa Carlson, vice president of worldwide public sector at AWS, in a prepared statement. “Working together, government, business and academic leaders can utilize the power of the cloud to advance the pace of scientific discovery and innovation and help combat the COVID-19 virus.”

AWS has something of an ulterior motive in launching the program as Amazon needs significantly more COVID-19 tests for its workforce and mammoth warehouses to keep the e-commerce part of the business up and running.

The AWS initiative comes on the heels of programs from Google Cloud and Microsoft. Like IBM, Microsoft launched a program that offers free high-performance computing resources to other vendors and organizations working to develop test kits and vaccines for COVID-19. The company’s AI for Health program makes grants available that ensures access to the company’s Azure cloud along with high-performance computers.

Google Cloud has established a 24-hour incident response team that will stay in constant contact with the World Health Organization, and Google’s senior leadership team in order to make vital decisions about its offices spread around the world.

Private-public alliance key to finding a COVID-19 cure

Some analysts and consultants are encouraged by the newly formed consortium, along with the AWS initiative, saying it is a much-needed step in the right direction.

IBM and the government, which have 20 computing data centers … have open access to look for vaccines and other cures through simulation and analysis… maybe technology gives us all a better chance to get through this.
Frank DzubeckPresident, Communications Network Architects

“IBM and the government, which have 20 computing data centers, are now set up to have open access to look for vaccines and other cures through simulation and analysis,” said Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects, consultants in Washington, D.C. “And along with the AWS announcement addressing another important issue — inexpensive and quick testing — maybe technology gives us all a better chance to get through this.”

The goal of the IBM-DOE led consortium is to pool the supercomputing capacity under all 14 of the partners in the consortium and offer “extraordinary supercomputing power” to scientists, medical researchers and a number of government agencies, said Dario Gil, director of IBM Research.

“So, now we have to work with the consortium partners to evaluate proposals from researchers around the world for the projects that could have the most immediate impact,” Gil said.

Among the 14 members of the COVID-19 HPC Consortium are academic institutions MIT and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; national laboratories that include the Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (which houses IBM’s Sierra supercomputer, the second fastest computer in the world), Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories; and NASA and the National Science Foundation, among federal agencies.

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Zendesk Relater primes customers for remote call center work

Zendesk, the cloud platform vendor that made its name with its Support Suite customer service platform for SMBs, is moving into CRM. But during the coronavirus crisis, the company quickly moved its own operations to at-home virtual work as it supports its 150,000 users, many of which are launching remote call centers amid spikes in customer service interactions.

“Even companies that are already flexible and using Zendesk are experiencing dramatic increases in their volumes, because a lot of people are trying to work remote right now,” said Colleen Berube, Zendesk CIO. “We have a piece of our business where we are having to help companies scale up their abilities to handle this shift in working.”

Even though the vendor did support some remote work before the coronavirus work-from-home orders hit, immediately rolling out work-from-home for Zendesk’s entire organization wasn’t straightforward, because of laptop market shortages. Like many companies, it required a culture shift to move an entire operation to telecommuting that included new policies allowing workers to expense some purchases for home-office workstations.

“We don’t have any intention of recreating the entire workplace at home, but we wanted to give them enough so they could be productive,” Berube said.

Zendesk CEO Mikkel Svane
Zendesk CEO Mikkel Svane delivers the Zendesk Relater user conference keynote from his home Tuesday.

Among Zendesk’s prominent midmarket customers so far are travel and hospitality support desks “dealing with unprecedented volumes of cancellations and refunds,” as well as companies assisting remote workforces shipping hardware to their employees, said Zendesk founder and CEO Mikkel Svane at the Zendesk Relater virtual user conference Tuesday.

“Using channels like chat have helped these customers keep up with this volume,” Svane said.

Zendesk has seen interest and network use in general grow among customers who need to bring remote call centers online during shelter-in-place orders from local and state governments. Easing the transition for users and their customers, Berube said, are self-service chatbots that Zendesk has developed over the last few years. She added that she’s seen Zendesk’s own AnswerBot keep tickets manageable on its internal help desk, which services remote employees as well as partners.

During Relater, Zendesk President of Products Adrian McDermott said that Zendesk AI-powered bots have saved users 600,000 agent hours by enabling customer self-service, adding that Zendesk customers using AI for customer support increased more than 90% over the last year. He said the company is betting big on self-service becoming the grand majority of customer service.

[Self-service is] not just going to a knowledge base and reading the knowledge base … but it’s about the user being at the center of the conversation and controlling the conversation.
Adrian McDermottPresident of products, Zendesk

“Self-service is going to be everywhere,” McDermott said. “It’s not just going to a knowledge base and reading the knowledge base … but it’s about the user being at the center of the conversation and controlling the conversation.”

While some larger cloud customer experience software vendors such as Oracle, Salesforce and Google canceled even the virtual conferences that were planned in lieu of live user events, Zendesk assembled a set of pre-recorded presentations from executives at home and other speakers scheduled for its canceled Miami Relate conference and put on a virtual user conference renamed “Zendesk Relater.”

Earlier this month, Zendesk released upgrades to its Sunshine CRM and Support Suite platforms. At Relater, the company announced a partnership with Tata Consultancy Services to implement Zendesk CRM at large enterprises.

Zendesk has the reputation of being a customer service product tuned for B2C companies, specializing in quick interactions. Its CRM system also has potential to serve that market, said Kate Leggett, Forrester Research analyst. Whether that will translate to enterprises and gain traction in the B2B market remains to be seen.

“It’s very different from the complex products that Microsoft and Salesforce have for that long-running sales interaction, with many people on the seller side and many people on the buyer side,” Leggett said.

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Secure remote access offering gains ground among MSPs

Todyl, a New York City company that sells a networking and security platform through MSPs, reported increasing interest in its product as organizations face secure remote access challenges.

“Things have been rapidly evolving over the last two weeks with the COVID-19 response,” Todyl CEO John Nellen said. “We have been really busy trying to help existing partners and new partners.”

The company offers MSPs — and their SMB customers — the ability to consolidate networking and security components into a cloud-based platform. Todyl MSP partners deploy the technology by installing agents on customers’ Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android devices. A VPN tunnel then links customers to Todyl’s Secure Global Network offering, which incorporates web proxy, firewall, content filtering, intrusion detection/prevention (IDP), malware interception and security information and event management (SIEM) technologies.

The Secure Global Network’s points of presence link end customers to multiple network providers. Todyl’s platform connects organizations’ remote workers, data centers, cloud providers, main offices and branch locations, according to the company.

Todyl is currently offering its platform to MSPs for free for 30 days “to help support the immediate need,” Nellen said. Once the offer expires, pricing is device-based with add-on features. Todyl offers pricing for two groups: mobile (Android/iOS) and desktop/laptop/server (Windows, Mac, Linux).

MSP taps Todyl for remote enablement

Infinit Consulting Inc., an MSP based in Campbell, Calif., is selling Todyl as a white-labeled offering. The company has branded Todyl as Infinit Shield Total Defense, which it has paired with its own Infinit Shield security process management platform, according to Jerod Powell, president and founder of Infinit Consulting.

John Nellen, CEO at TodylJohn Nellen

Powell called Todyl “instrumental in helping our customers rapidly enable complete remote workforce capabilities.”

Infinit Consulting had previously enabled nearly all of its customers to use cloud services, but the company is currently tasked with helping them significantly expand remote workforces. The expansion sometimes includes moving customers from having 15% of employees working remotely to nearly 100%.

While assisting with remote workforce expansions, Infinit Consulting has run into issues such as licensing and hardware limitations around customers’ previous remote work applications, Powell said. He pointed to another issue: Properly securing devices to ensure data integrity, company policy adherence and security, while allowing employees to work remotely — often from their personal home PC or Mac.

Powell said Todyl lets Infinit Consulting enable remote access in a matter of a few hours in a full-scale deployment. The Todyl offering also lets the company “secure that remote connection 100%, end to end;” bring clients onto the Secure Global Network; and feed data back to the SIEM. The SIEM feature provides the MSP with “the telemetry needed to identify potential security risks [and] enforce corporate policy just as if [remote employees] were on the client’s LAN.”

Things have been rapidly evolving over the last two weeks with the COVID-19 response.
John NellenCEO, Todyl

He said Todyl also offers IDP and advanced threat protection scanning to flag potentially malicious applications and data before they reach customers.

The demand for supporting customers’ remote workforces is “extremely high,” Powell noted. He cited a case in which Infinit Consulting rolled out Todyl to a customer that needed to enable more than 500 users to work remotely. The customer’s previous remote work product only supported 100 users. Todyl also identified security issues in several of remote workers’ home PCs. The MSP was able to resolve those issues before admitting the remote workers’ devices onto the network, he added.

Powell said his company has created deployment packages for Todyl that can implement the product in an automated manner.

Waves of demand for secure remote access

Citing conversations with Todyl MSP partners, Nellen said MSPs anticipate two waves of unfolding demand for remote work technology.

The first wave consists of early adopters trying to quickly set up their organizations for newly distributed workforces. The second wave will comprise SMBs that have yet to determine the best way to support remote workers. Those companies will start making decisions, based on guidance from government agencies, in the coming weeks, Nellen said.

“They are expecting this not to be just a single shot, but something that is taking place and evolving over time,” Nellen said.

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JetStream DR on Cloudian offers MSPs lower-cost DRaaS

A California-based managed service provider has deployed a new disaster-recovery-as-a-service offering that integrates JetStream Software’s DR product with Cloudian’s object storage technology.

Enterprise Networking Solutions Inc. (ENS-Inc), an MSP based in Rancho Cordova, Calif., said it is the first service provider to use the DRaaS product JetStream DR on Cloudian. The DRaaS offering, which targets customers using VMware vSphere, continuously replicates data from customers’ VMs to Cloudian’s object store, housed in an off-site recovery environment.

ENS-Inc has used JetStream DR as an MSP partner for about two years, having beta-tested the product in 2018. The MSP has also used Cloudian’s HyperStore platform as an archival storage tier for three years.

Paul Smitham, president at ENS-Inc, said combining the technologies for DRaaS can reduce costs by 60%. MSPs can pass the cost savings along to customers. 

“DR sometimes is very expensive and, a lot of times, people don’t think they need it because it is so expensive,” Smitham said.

ENS-Inc has provided JetStream DR on Cloudian for about six months, originally on a beta basis. The offering is now in general use. “We have customers on it, and we are starting to get more and more,” Smitham said.

DR sometimes is very expensive and, a lot of times, people don’t think they need it because it is so expensive.
Paul SmithamPresident, ENS-Inc

Additional cost savings stem from the use of JetStream DR, which Smitham said costs much less than competitive products from vendors such as Veeam and Zerto. He noted those products don’t extend to object storage yet.

At the moment, ENS-Inc uses JetStream DR on Cloudian to replicate customers’ data to DR sites in Rancho Cordova and Las Vegas.

Rich Petersen, president and co-founder at JetStream, said feedback from partners such as ENS-Inc has helped prioritize the development of new features. “We have been getting a lot of great guidance,” he said.

Jon Toor, CMO at Cloudian, added that service providers have represented a major slice of the Cloudian’s target market since the company’s launch in 2011. He suggested object storage has found a home in the data protection world.

“Object storage has really emerged as the de facto target for backup software and continuous replication software,” he said. “[DRaaS] is the kind of use case Cloudian was designed for.”

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Maze ransomware gang pledges to stop attacking hospitals

The notorious Maze ransomware gang announced Wednesday that it will not attack any healthcare organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has put a strain hospitals and public health agencies in recent weeks as governments across the globe struggle to contain the spread of COVID-19, also known as the new coronavirus. Some security vendors have expressed concern that coronavirus-related threats could soon include ransomware attacks, which would have a crippling effect on healthcare and government organizations working on treatment and containment of the virus.

But at least one cybercrime outfit is pledging to refrain from such attacks, at least on healthcare organizations. The Maze ransomware gang, which last year began “shaming” victims by exfiltrating and publishing organizations’ sensitive data, promised to ” stop all activity versus all kinds of medical organizations until the stabilization of the situation with virus,” according to an announcement on its website.

BleepingComputer, which first reported the announcement, also contacted other ransomware operators about stopping attacks on healthcare and medical organizations during the pandemic. The DoppelPaymer gang also pledged to stop such attacks, though other ransomware groups such as Ryuk and Sodinokibi/REvil did not respond to Bleeping Computer’s queries.

The Maze gang’s pledge, however, says nothing about attacks on city, state or local governments or public health agencies. The Maze gang also said it will “help commercial organizations as much as possible” during the pandemic by offering “exclusive discounts” on ransoms to both current and future ransomware victims; the cybercriminals said they will provide decryptors and deleted any data published on its website.

A screenshot of the Maze ransomware gang's announcement that it will not attack healthcare organizations during the coronavirus pandemic.
A screenshot of the Maze ransomware gang’s announcement that it will not attack healthcare organizations during the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the promises of the DoppelPaymer and Maze ransomware gangs, it’s unclear how much control they have over what organizations are attacked. Many outfits use a ransomware-as-a-service model where they develop the malicious code and then sell it to other cybercriminals, which are often called affiliates.

These affiliates then conduct the actual intrusions, data exfiltration and ransomware deployment and pay the authors. Many ransomware incidents are initiated through phishing emails and brute-force attacks on remote desktop protocol instances; threat researchers have said it’s likely that ransomware actors aren’t specifically targeting organizations by name or industry and are merely capitalizing on the most vulnerable networks.

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For Sale – Nearly new POWERFUL! Dell G5 15″ i7, RTX 2070, 16GB RAM (32GB upgrade available), 512GB Nvme SSD

Super powerful gaming laptop. Bought for a job that never happened and just sitting about not being used. Has about 3 and half years of Onsite warranty attached to it too! (worth about £250)

i7-8750h
144Hz G-Sync screen!!
Nvidia RTX 2070 8GB
16 GB RAM (upgrade to 32GB for £100)
Super fast M2 NVME SSD 512GB
Extended 90WHr battery
Windows 10 Pro
Ports and connectivity: 1x USB Type-C 3.1 (3.1 Gen 2), Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort, HDMI 3x USB Type-A 3.0 (3.1 Gen 1) HDMI 2.0 Card reader SD, SDHC, SDXC Ethernet lan Gigabit Ethernet Wi-Fi Bluetooth Audio jack 3.5mm audio jack
Features: Fingerprint reader Web camera Microphone Speakers Security Lock slot

Any questions please ask. Comes boxed with power cable.

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For Sale – 15″ Macbook Pro Retina (Mid 2014), i7, 1TB, 16GB Ram

Appreciate that this is not what you are looking for but I can offer £500 delivered,

However as you have not got much history here, would you be prepared to post first ? Or can you prove through another selling platform your integrity ?

if we can sort that out then quite happy (screen + feet) to pay via BT on the day of delivery.

EDITED to clarify offer and payment

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