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IBM acquires RPA vendor to enhance automation suite

IBM said Wednesday it reached an agreement to acquire a Brazilian RPA vendor in a move that will add RPA to IBM’s suite of automation tools.

The company, WDG Soluções Em Sistemas E Automação De Processos LTDA, is informally called WDG Automation.

“IBM doesn’t currently have an RPA offering (beyond partnerships), so this plugs a hole for them,” said Alan Pelz-Sharpe, founder of market advisory and research firm Deep Analysis. “Frankly, it looks like a smart move; they have acquired a firm with good basic technology at most likely a modest price.”

Low-code RPA

Based in São José do Rio Prêto, Brazil, WDG Automation primarily sells robotic automation systems, chatbots and automation software to enterprises in Latin America. Its low-code/no-code platform is designed to enable business users to easily create bots.

IBM said it plans to integrate more than 600 prebuilt RPA functions from WDG Automation into its Cloud Pak products on Red Hat OpenShift, beginning with Cloud Pak for Automation.

Integrating WDG Automation technology into Cloud Pak for Automation, a platform for building and running automation applications, will enable IBM customers to deploy bots faster and automate more workflow processes.

Eventually, IBM aims to integrate WDG Automation technology into its other products, including Watson AIOps, a tool meant to automate processes that help CIOs detect, diagnose and respond to IT anomalies, IBM said.

IBM did not disclose the price of the acquisition. WDG Automation is a privately held company with between 101 and 250 employees, according to business information provider Crunchbase.

RPA
IBM acquires WDG Automation, adding RPA to its portfolio of automation software.

RPA consolidation

The acquisition comes after Microsoft’s purchase of RPA vendor Softomotive in May.

Given Microsoft’s acquisition, IBM needed to make a similar move, said Burley Kawasaki, chief product officer at process automation vendor K2.

Frankly, it looks like a smart move.
Alan Pelz-SharpeFounder, Deep Analysis

“Especially given the focus that IBM has historically had on AI with IBM Watson, they can’t afford to be left out of the party, so to speak,” Kawasaki said.

The acquisition helps validate the importance of AI and automation, and is part of a larger consolidation in the tech industry, he added.

“You would expect the other major cloud platforms, like Amazon and Google, to follow suit and acquire or build RPA capabilities to round out their capabilities around AI,” Kawasaki said.

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Microsoft seizes malicious domains used in COVID-19 phishing

Microsoft has seized control of several malicious domains that were used in COVID-19-themed phishing attacks against its customers in 62 countries around the world.

Last month, the technology giant filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in order to stop cybercriminals from “exploiting the pandemic by attempting to obtain personal access and confidential information of its customers.” The court documents were unsealed on Tuesday as Microsoft secured control of the domains, which were used in a variety of phishing and business email compromise (BEC) attacks.

In a blog post Tuesday, Microsoft revealed that the “civil case resulted in a court order allowing Microsoft to seize control of key domains in the criminals’ infrastructure so that it can no longer be used to execute cyberattacks,” Tom Burt, corporate vice president of customer security and trust at Microsoft, wrote.

Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit first observed a new phishing scheme in December of 2019, which was designed to compromise customers’ Office 365 accounts. While efforts to block the sophisticated scheme were successful, Microsoft recently observed renewed attempts by the same threat actors, this time with a COVID-19 lure.

“Specifically, defendants in this action are part of an online criminal network whose tactics evolved to take advantage of global current events by deploying COVID-19 themed phishing campaign targeting Microsoft customers around the world. This sophisticated phishing campaign is designed to compromise thousands of Microsoft customer accounts and gain access to customer email, contact lists, sensitive documents and other personal information,” Microsoft wrote in the complaint.

Microsoft seized six primary domains, five of which were revealed to have the name “Office” in them; the sixth domain was mailitdaemon[.]com, which is used to receive forwarded mail from compromised Office 365 accounts.

Burt wrote in the blog post that BEC threats have “increased in complexity, sophistication and frequency in recent years.” As BEC rises, threat actors have become equipped with new tactics that take impersonation to the next level. “These phishing emails are designed to look like they come from an employer or trusted source,” Microsoft wrote in the complaint.

In these coronavirus phishing emails, threat actors included messages with a COVID-19 theme to lure in victims, playing on the fear and uncertainty caused by the pandemic. For example, threat actors do this by “using terms such as ‘COVID-19 bonus,'” Burt wrote.

According to the FBI, half of cybercrime losses in 2019 were BEC alone. Some experts say BEC attacks have led to as many cyberinsurance payments as ransomware, and in some cases more.

Microsoft isn’t alone in seizing coronavirus-related malicious domains. In April, the Department of Justice announced the disruption of hundreds of online COVID-19 related scams, through public and private sector cooperative efforts.

“As of April 21, 2020, The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center has received and reviewed more than 3,600 complaints related to COVID-19 scams, many of which operated from websites that advertised fake vaccines and cures, operated fraudulent charity drives, delivered malware or hosted various other types of scams, ” the DOJ wrote in the announcement.

Like many security vendors, Microsoft said it has observed cybercriminals adapting their lures this year to take advantage of current events such as COVID-19. The company recommended several steps to prevent credential theft, including implementing two-factor authentication on all business and personal accounts.

“While the lures may have changed, the underlying threats remain, evolve and grow,” Burt wrote.

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Microsoft launches Windows File Recovery tool

Microsoft has released a Windows application that lets IT professionals scan local storage devices for lost and deleted files.

The software, called Windows File Recovery, requires Windows 10 version 2004. The tool has been available at the Microsoft Store since the end of June.

The application lets users recover files from internal and external drives, USB devices and memory cards. The app recovers Office files, ZIP files, JPEGs, PDFs, and MPEGs from NTFS, FAT, exFAT and ReFS file systems.

Mark Bowker, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, said the Microsoft app shows that people still keep essential information on in-house devices despite the options of cloud storage and backups.

Recovering lost information has long been a difficult task for systems administrators, Bowker said. Many have had to turn to third-party technology, and, in extreme cases, ship drives to a lab to undelete files.

“[The job] required a specialist that would bring in their special skills and special tools to [provide] some opportunity to recover that file,” Bowker said.

Assuming the tool works well, it could prove valuable for IT professionals, he said. If a user accidentally loses a file, the Windows File Recovery tool could offer an efficient means of correcting the mistake.

Windows tweaks

Microsoft also recently released the Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 20161. Changes in the preview include a redesign of the Start menu, new Alt-Tab functionality, and alterations to the notification system.

The Alt-Tab function lets users switch between tabs in the Microsoft Edge browser and between applications.

Mark Bowker, senior analyst, Enterprise Strategy GroupMark Bowker

The new Start menu design has replaced the solid-color backgrounds of application tiles with transparent ones. Notifications now include an app logo to show their origin, and an “X” button to quickly dismiss them.

The new build also moves information from the Control Panel to Settings; details that were once in the Control Panel’s System page will now be in Settings > System > About.

Holger Mueller, vice president and principal analyst, Constellation ResearchHolger Mueller

The charges are not final and might not end up in any upcoming Windows 10 release, Microsoft said.

Holger Mueller, a principal analyst at Constellation Research, said it was good to see Microsoft address the Windows 10 user experience, which hasn’t changed since 2015. He praised the notifications and Alt-Tab changes, saying they would allow for smoother workflow and multi-tasking.

“Now, we have to see if the [build] rollout is successful, and what will make it to the mainstream user,” he said.

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Critical F5 Networks vulnerability under attack

A critical remote code execution flaw in F5 Networks’ BIG-IP devices that was disclosed last week is already under attack.

The F5 vulnerability, rated 10 out of 10 on the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS), affects the Traffic Management User Interface (TMUI) in a range of BIG-IP network devices. F5 disclosed the flaw, tracked as CVE-2020-5902, in an advisory on June 30 and released patches two days later. Over the holiday weekend, however, security researchers confirmed that the remote code execution flaw had become the target of threat actors.

Rich Warren, principal consultant at cybersecurity firm NCC Group, said via Twitter that his company observed exploitation of the F5 vulnerability on July 4. He also noted an “uptick” in activity Monday morning.

In a blog post Sunday, Troy Mursch, chief research officer for the Chicago-based security research company Bad Packets, said the company’s honeypots detected mass scanning activity originating from multiple hosts targeting F5 BIG-IP servers vulnerable to CVE-2020-5902. In the end, more 1,800 F5 BIG-IP endpoints were discovered to be vulnerable to the flaw, which Mursch said already have publicly available proof-of-concept exploits on GitHub, Twitter and other platforms.

“This vulnerability allows for unauthenticated attackers with network access to the vulnerable F5 servers to execute arbitrary system commands, create or delete files, disable services, and/or execute arbitrary Java code,” Mursch wrote in the blog post.

Originally, Bad Packets scanned 3,945 F5 BIG-IP servers and discovered a total of 1,832 unique IPv4 hosts worldwide were vulnerable. In addition, the scan found vulnerable hosts in 66 countries around the world, with the United States topping the chart. Affected organizations include government agencies, public schools and universities, hospitals and healthcare providers, major financial and banking institutions and Fortune 500 companies.

In addition to executing arbitrary commands, the vulnerability can “allow threat actors to gain a foothold inside the targeted networks and conduct malicious activity, such as spreading ransomware,” Mursch wrote in the blog post.

According to the advisory from F5, which was updated on July 6, “this vulnerability may result in complete system compromise.”

F5 recommended upgrading to a new software version to fully mitigate this vulnerability, though it also offered other mitigation options such as restricting access to BIG-IP devices over secure networks.

Positive Technologies researcher Mikhail Klyuchnikov, who discovered the F5 vulnerability, said in a blog post that most companies using BIG-IP devices do not allow access to the TMUI over the internet. However, he noted the flaw was “particularly dangerous” for organizations with BIG-IP interfaces that are publicly searchable with tools like SHODAN.

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Learn to configure Office 365 alerts and other security features

It’s not a coincidence that reports of increased cyber attacks coincided with the spike of remote workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Malicious actors have doubled down on their efforts to infiltrate enterprises to launch ransomware attacks or plant cryptomining malware to set up a steady revenue stream. Security experts have reported an increase in phishing attacks to lure users into clicking on links that puts systems — and the organization — at risk. These threats add more pressure on IT to implement additional security measures.

Microsoft Office 365 offers a host of cloud-based tools and services that support businesses when it comes to email, collaboration tools, cloud storage and enterprise content management. All are accessible from anywhere to support remote workers along with a distributed workforce. But it also increases the surface attack and poses a risk for companies that have just begun to let employees connect from home networks and even personal computers. This is pushing IT to rethink their security strategy to ensure company data is protected and consider some of the existing security tools integrated with the collaboration platform, such as Office 365 alerts, monitoring and identity protection tools.

Government notification issued to help Office 365 customers

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued an advisory, at this link shortly after most states issued stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the coronavirus. CISA shared its recommendations for organizations that use Office 365 to incorporate into their tenant to reduce their vulnerability level.

The CISA memo noted that rapid deployment of Office 365 might have left some companies with gaps in their security arrangement and advised administrators to enable multi-factor authentication as well as role-based access controls. These recommendations can help reduce the risk of hackers using stolen credentials to access company systems, especially those account credentials with elevated permissions.

Get a security rating of your Office 365 tenant

The CISA memo also recommended using the Microsoft Secure Score feature to generate the overall security scorecard of the tenant and company.

Secure Score is a separate portal for Office 365 administrators that gives a grade for your organization’s security posture along with suggestions to improve it. The portal breaks down the scoring based on five categories: identity, data, device, apps and infrastructure.

Secure Score dashboard
The Secure Score dashboard in Office 365 gives a detailed breakdown of the areas administrators should work on to reduce the threat from outside attacks.

In each category, Microsoft gauges the level of security and offers configuration advice if the number is below 100%. The portal also provides valuable details in each area by describing any problems the assessment tool identified in the tenant and how administrators can address them using an action plan.

Secure Score action plan
The Secure Score section in Office 365 highlights areas that could use some attention and offers guidance on how to tighten security in the tenant.

Checking the Secure Score regularly can help IT administrators see their progress using the trends section of the portal indicating the progress made with the various security implementation projects.

Set up Office 365 alerts for suspicious activities

The CISA memo also suggested configuring Office 365 alerts in the Security and Compliance Center to help the IT team react to security incidents quickly. Office 365 alerts can be sent via SMS or email to administrators, who can sign into the alerts dashboard in the Officer 365 security portal to review the content of the alert and address the issue.

Microsoft provides more than 21 different policies that address several issues related to threat management, permissions elevation changes, information governance and data leaks, and message delivery delays. The CISA memo suggested setting up Office 365 alerts for logins from unusual locations and for user accounts that have surpassed their email thresholds.

An example of an alert in the screenshot below warns administrators when a user or multiple users delete an abnormally high volume of documents, which could indicate an intentional destruction of digital documents or it could be a user deciding to clean off their machine of old data.

Office 365 alerts
A policy can be set to alert the administrator when an unusually large number of files gets deleted from Office 365.

Microsoft recommends administrators enable all the 21 default policies in their tenant. Many of them, such as elevation of admin privilege or suspicious outgoing email patterns, can indicate the start of an attack that, if acted on quickly, can be stopped before extensive damage occurs.

While administrators can customize Office 365 alerts for multiple unusual activities, Microsoft also offers enhanced security features in its Cloud App Security product, which features proactive remediation when an alert is triggered. When an incident is detected, the system can automatically react and either block the user or stop the action without the intervention of the IT administrator.

Some of the advanced alerts Microsoft recommends administrators enable include:

  • leaked credentials;
  • unusual file share activity;
  • ransomware activity;
  • unusual administrative activity;
  • suspicious inbox forwarding;
  • impossible travel;
  • risky sign-in;
  • activity from suspicious IP addresses;
  • activity from an infrequent country.

It’s one thing to detect unusual behavior but it’s another to respond fast enough to stop a potential breach before it enters the company’s environment. The enhanced security features in Office 365 Cloud App Security blocks suspicious users and activities, similar to how Azure AD Premium P2 stops suspicious login attempts, on behalf of the administrator, which can help a fatigued IT staff from having to be on alert at all times.

Integrate use of SIEM tool for audit log analysis

Part of the work with security administration extends beyond reviewing Office 365 security logs. IT departments generally use other security monitoring tools to manage other areas, including network traffic, end points, firewalls and servers.

Many organizations rely on security information and event management (SIEM) tools to centralize and manage all the incoming alerts and logs to uncover activity that requires a closer look. One of the final CISA recommendations is for administrators to feed Office 365 audit logs and alerts into their existing SIEM tools to find any unusual activity and see if there are signs of similar events in other parts of the organization.

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Why Linux containers on Windows is a big deal

Although it’s tempting to think that a container is just a container, there are key differences between Linux and Windows containers.

Windows has more strict requirements on image compatibility, particularly regarding the operating system. Some networking features on Docker on Linux are not available for Windows, and similarly for orchestration.

With these limitations, why would you want to run Linux containers on Windows? For one, containers allow you to be agnostic on the host system. Whether you’re running Linux or Windows on the host, and whether that’s in production or not, it won’t matter to the container. You can run Windows in the development environment, stage it in Linux and deploy to production on either system. By allowing your Windows hosts to run Linux or Windows containers, you keep the developers free to do their jobs without having to factor in variables, such as the host operating system.

Linux containers on Windows offers several advantages

The biggest benefit of this expanded functionality is Linux and Windows containers can run from the same Docker engine, which is a recent development. This feature lets you standardize your tool set across your environment, provide parity between production and nonproduction systems, and can collapse infrastructure costs by using one machine to host multiple types of containers.

Deploying Linux containers on Windows encourages you to build your applications as microservices using Windows or Linux containers. It’s encouraging to see a technology give users across the spectrum a way to choose the container they prefer for development. A key difference when using Windows Server containers is having access to certain technologies on the Windows platform, such as PowerShell. There are also benefits to using the .NET Framework with Windows containers.

Limitations of Linux containers on Windows

Not all Windows versions are supported, so your developers will need to be on the correct version of Microsoft’s operating system for Linux containers to work properly on their machines. In addition, if you’re running containers on premises, you’ll need to pay careful attention to which servers have the appropriate prerequisites and operating systems installed.

You can read more on the requirements for containers here.

What’s needed to run Linux containers on Windows

Before you can proceed with the instructions below, you’ll need:

  • a machine running Windows 10 Professional or Enterprise, or Windows Server 2019 version 1809 or later;
  • Hyper-V enabled; and
  • Docker Desktop 18.02 or later installed.

How to run a test container

To run your first Linux container on Windows, you’ll need to start by getting a Linux Docker image. For our purposes, we’ll use the “Hello World” example container. You can run this by executing the following command:

docker run --rm --platform linux busybox echo hello_world

This command pulls the image with the indicated platform via the –platform flag.

To run the image, enter the following command:

docker run --rm busybox echo hello_world

To view a list of your images, you can run the next command to see the image you’ve pulled:

docker images

Where do we go from here?

That’s all it takes to run Linux containers on Windows. Of course, there’s much more to learn with this type of virtualization, such as understanding how to manage clusters of Docker nodes and getting familiar with Kubernetes to automate the deployment and management of containers.

If you’re using Windows on your development team and your team prefers to use Linux containers, then this is all excellent news for you. You can continue with your operating system of choice but also participate in all the neat things used by your developers. Additionally, if you’re an operations expert trying to wade your way through the plethora of container deployment methods, you can rest easy knowing that you can implement all these container types from a Windows machine.

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For Sale – MSI GAMING X GEFORCE GTX 1070

Hi all

MSI Gaming X Geforce GTX 1070 for sale

This was in my spare PC that I am now breaking down in the hope to fund a new system.

It passed the Unigine Valley benchmark on max settings and was then run for a further 45 minutes on continuous play without issues.

This was originally purchased 2nd hand and will be out of warranty

Comes with the original box

It will be posted Royal Mail Special Delivery

Paypal Gift preferred (no fees)

Thanks in advance

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For Sale – 775 CPU/mobo/RAM bundle + 775 Barebones unit

I have an old cpu/mobo/ram that I haven’t used in years; just been boxed away. To my knowledge, it works perfectly fine. Backplate included, and I can spare a SATA cable if you need one.

Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 2.13GHz
Gigabyte GA-G41M-ES2L
OCZ Technology DDR2 2x1GB Platinum 800MHz

I took the cooler off to see what the CPU is, but put it back on. So you’ll want to take it off and reapply thermal paste before using. If you want, I can reapply some for free.

£15 £10 collected. I can post it for £5 extra.

—————————————–

Another old setup. Barebones unit. Just need a storage drive and PSU.
The case and GPU heatsink are dusty and I lost the screws to hold to sides of the case, but it sort it stays in place.
I have one 3.5″ drive holder, will have to have a look but I don’t think I have any others. Probably best to get a new case tbh.

NZXT Gamma Mid-Tower Case
MSI P35 Neo2-FR
Intel Core 2 Duo LGA775 E8200 2.66GHz
Titan Fenrir
OCZ Technology DDR2 2x1GB Platinum 800MHz
Sapphire HD4850 512MB
LG DVD Drive

£25 £20 collected only.

——————————————

Both for £35 £25

Any questions, ask away.

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DevOps pros rethink cloud cost with continuous delivery tool

Enterprise DevOps pros can slash cloud resource overallocations with a new tool that shows them how specific app resources are allocated and used in the continuous delivery process.

The tool, Continuous Efficiency (CE), became generally available this week from Harness.io, a continuous delivery (CD) SaaS vendor. It can be used by itself or integrated with the company’s CD software, which enterprises use to automatically deploy and roll back application changes to Kubernetes infrastructure.

In either case, CE correlates cloud cost information with specific applications and underlying microservices without requiring manual tagging, which made it easy for software engineers at beta tester companies to identify idle cloud resources.

Jeff GreenJeff Green

“The teams running applications on our platform are distributed, and there are many different teams at our company,” said Jeff Green, CTO at Tyler Technology, a government information systems software maker headquartered in Plano, Texas. “We have a team that manages the [Kubernetes] cluster and provides guidelines for teams on how to appropriately size workloads, but we did find out using CE that we were overallocating resources.”

In beta tests of CE, Tyler Technologies found that about one-third of its cloud resources were not efficiently utilized — capacity had been allocated and never used, or it was provisioned as part of Kubernetes clusters but never allocated. Developers reduced the number of Kubernetes replicas and CPU and memory allocations after this discovery. Green estimated those adjustments could yield the company some $100,000 in cloud cost savings this year.

Harness Continuous Efficiency dashboard
Harness Continuous Efficiency tool correlates cloud costs to applications, services and Kubernetes clusters.

DevOps puts cloud cost on dev to-do list

Tyler Technologies has used Harness pipelines since 2017 to continuously deploy and automatically roll back greenfield applications that run on Kubernetes clusters in the AWS cloud. The full lifecycle of these applications is managed by developers, who previously didn’t have direct visibility into how their apps used cloud resources, or experience with cloud cost management. CE bridged that gap without requiring developers to manage a separate tool or manually tag resources for tracking.

This has already prompted developers at Tyler Technologies to focus more on cost efficiencies as they plan applications, Green said.

“That wasn’t something they really thought about before,” he said. “Until very recently, we followed a more traditional model where we had dedicated operations people that ran our data centers, and they were the ones that were responsible for optimizing and tuning.”

While developer visibility into apps can be helpful, a tool such as CE doesn’t replace other cloud cost management platforms used by company executives and corporate finance departments.

“It’s good for developers to be cognizant of costs and not feel like they’re being blindsided by impossible mandates from a perspective they don’t understand,” said Charles Betz, analyst at Forrester Research. “But in large enterprises, there will still be dedicated folks managing cloud costs at scale.”

The Harness CD tool deploys delegates, or software agents, to each Kubernetes cluster to carry out and monitor app deployments. CE can use those agents to identify the resources that specific apps and microservices use and compare this information to resource allocations in developers’ Kubernetes manifests, identifying idle and unallocated resources.

If users don’t have the Harness CD tool, CE draws on information from Kubernetes autoscaling data and associates it with specific microservices and applications. In either case, developers don’t have to manually tag resources, which many other cloud cost tools require.

This was a plus for Tyler Technologies, but Betz also expressed concern about the reliability of auto-discovery. 

“There’s no way to map objective tech resources to subjective business concepts without some false negatives or positives that could result in the wrong executive being charged for the wrong workload,” Betz said. “Tagging is a discipline that organizations ultimately can’t really get away from.”

Harness roadmap includes cloud cost guidance

Tyler Technologies plans to add the CE product to Harness when it renews its license this year but hasn’t yet received a specific pricing quote for the tool. Harness officials declined to disclose specific pricing numbers but said that CE will have a tiered model that charges between 1% and 5% of customers’ overall cloud spending, depending on whether the cloud infrastructure is clustered or non-clustered.

“It’s not quite free money — there is a charge for this service,” Green said. “But it will allow us to save costs we wouldn’t even be aware of otherwise.”

It will allow us to save costs we wouldn’t even be aware of otherwise.
Jeff GreenCTO, Tyler Technologies

Harness plans to add recommendation features to CE in a late July release, which will give developer teams hints about how to improve cloud cost efficiency. In its initial release, developers must correct inefficiencies themselves, which Tyler’s Green said would be easier with recommendations. 

“We use an AWS tool that recommends savings plans and how to revise instances for cost savings,” Green said. “We’d like to see that as part of the Harness tool as well.”

Other Harness users that previewed CE, such as Choice Hotels, have said they’d also like to see the tool add proactive cloud cost analysis, but Green said his team uses CE in staging environments to generate such estimates ahead of production deployments.

Harness plans to add predictive cost estimates based on what resources are provisioned for deployments, a company spokesperson said. The Continuous Efficiency platform already forecasts cloud costs for apps and clusters, and later releases will predict usage based on seasonality and trends.

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Predictive maintenance vendor launches AI warranty

In a development that appears to mark a new confidence in AI’s abilities, Augury, a monitoring and predictive maintenance software vendor, added a repair and replacement warranty to its Machine Health platform that compensates customers if a missed diagnosis leads to failure of certain equipment.

The AI warranty is one of the first of its kind in the predictive maintenance field, even though the technologies have been used for years.

“Field service monitoring and predictive maintenance are hot topics and there are many initiatives around that leverage machine learning and AI,” said Alan Pelz-Sharpe, founder of market advisory and research firm Deep Analysis. “It’s an area that will grow substantially over the coming years but few to date have committed SLAs [service-level agreements] such as this to back up their claims.”

AI warranty

Called Guaranteed Diagnostics, the warranty policy offers customers of Augury’s predictive maintenance platform up to $100,000 for repairs and replacement if the software incorrectly predicts when a machine part may fail, leading to the machine breaking down and work being lost.

The warranty offering is the result of a partnership between Augury, founded in 2011, and specialty insurer and reinsurer Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company (HSB).

Through its venture capital arm, HSB, a subsidiary of Germany-based reinsurance giant Munich Re, signed a partnership with Augury and invested in Augury’s Series A funding round in 2015. Munich Re later co-led Augury’s Series B round.

Over the years, HSB’s data science, engineering and insurance teams partnered with Augury on pilot projects and use cases. Guaranteed Diagnostics is the latest joint project.

Augury will provide Guaranteed Diagnostics, which was unveiled June 9, customers of Augury’s flagship Machine Health platform at no additional cost, said Saar Yoskovitz, co-founder and CEO of Augury.

It’s an area that will grow substantially over the coming years.
Alan Pelz-SharpeFounder, Deep Analysis

Augury is slowly rolling out the insurance plan to a subset of customers and a specific group of machines and plans to offer the insurance to most of its customers by the end of the year, Yoskovitz said. To start, the warranty policy will only apply to utility room machines, such as pumps and compressors, with no timeline yet for it applying to production line machines.

“When you go to production lines, it gets a bit more complex,” Yoskovitz said.

HSB and Munich Re have backed AI and analytics companies in the past, said John Riggs, senior vice president, head of technologies and Americas IoT at HSB. But Augury’s platform differentiates it in the mark because it’s focused on industrial equipment and vibration monitoring, he said.

HSB seemingly sees the potential in AI warranties, as Riggs said it plans on creating similar insurance policies with other AI and analytics companies.

Augury, predictive maintenance, AI warranty
Predictive maintenance vendor Augury now offers a special AI warranty program

Informing the industry

The purpose of Guaranteed Diagnostics is to not only attract more customers, but also to push the predictive maintenance industry to adopt similar AI warranties, which Yoskovitz said benefits other vendors and their customers.

Yet, according to Pelz-Sharpe, this type of insurance policy can create as much harm as good.

“Much like preventive healthcare, everyone is in favor of it, but nobody wants to pay for it. Meanwhile, others get rich off the back of poor health situations,” he said.

“It’s a cost versus risk situation — many failures will be covered by insurance, but failures brought on by normal wear and tear will not be,” Pelz-Sharpe said. “So, predictive AI has a role to play for sure, but how big that role will be is unclear at this point.”

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