Employees forced to work from home due to the coronavirus pandemic are using a variety of internet-connected devices — including smartphones, tablets, smart speakers, and both corporate-owned and employee-owned computers — to get their jobs done. Yet the use of each additional device poses a threat to a company’s security strategy.
For IT administrators, the management of those devices, including such means as those provided by unified endpoint management products, is now a critical consideration for enterprises in a COVID-19 world. Endpoint management is used to secure devices before they are given access to a company’s network. Unified endpoint management is the concept of controlling multiple types of devices through a single console.
“With much of the global workforce moving to work remotely, endpoint security has never been more critical,” said Christopher Sherman, senior analyst at Forrester Research. “In many cases, enterprises are quickly provisioning new remote resources to their employees, further exposing an already increasing attack surface.”
With these additional devices potentially serving as new attack vectors, he said, opportunities for cybercriminals have grown.
“We’ve already seen opportunistic attackers taking advantage of the pandemic and increasing their campaigns against consumers, as well as employees,” he said. “This is likely to increase as the quarantines continue.”
Accelerating the mobility trend
Mark Bowker, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), said the trend toward mobility and remote work has existed since the launch of the iPhone and has already forced IT professionals to secure an “expanded perimeter” around a company’s data.
Citing an ESG survey of full-time employees — including those in sales, marketing, HR, finance, IT, engineering, software development and customer service — Bowker said 74% of respondents did at least some work in a non-office setting at least once a week, while 50% did so every day of the work week.
“Employees expect to be productive from anywhere, and most IT organizations have implemented capabilities to securely deliver applications and data to employees,” he said. “The current challenge is rapidly scaling existing deployment, while maintaining security policies for users that may have a higher risk profile associated with them — and [who are] no longer working on a known network or known device.”
Alex Willis, vice president of global sales engineering at BlackBerry, agreed, noting the predominance of the mobile workforce.
“Now there’s a lockdown, and at most places, people are having to do their entire job on these devices,” he said. “I think the problem organizations are seeing is the urgency in expanding it beyond the typical road warrior or mobile worker. They’re talking people who have never worked from home before and they’re having to, very quickly, set them up in a home office.”
Jason Dettbarn, founder and CEO of cloud-based Apple device management firm Addigy, said there had been increased demand for device-management products since the early days of the outbreak.
“The clear consensus is that a lot of people didn’t feel they needed device management for Apple,” he said. “They’ve had a BYOD model, maybe, or have allowed [Apple devices] in the office … now, they have this forced need where they really have to make sure they’re managing [these devices].”
Employee devices provide flexibility and risk
Given the widespread nature of the pandemic, many firms are trying to roll out remote work devices at the same time — making provisioning a challenge. This, experts noted, could lead to enterprises allowing employees to use their own devices — a flexible option, but one that imperils data security.
“Most people have really powerful home computers these days, but getting remote access to be productive on a home computer introduces a lot of risk,” Willis said. “If you don’t control the machines, you can’t really control the security posture of that machine.”
The same holds true on the mobile side, Dettbarn said. As Apple depends on China for manufacturing, the company is facing a shortage of devices available to enterprises — meaning those businesses may have to rely on the devices employees have on hand for mobile productivity.
“A lot of [employees] will likely have an Apple device in their home that they can use for BYOD,” he said. “Now, an organization that might be a little more Windows-focused might have to adapt to Apple devices to get people up and running.”
Zero trust for remote work
As companies may be forced to rely on employee devices, they could turn to zero-trust security — in which a user’s actions and devices are continuously evaluated — to allay security worries.
“When a company implements a zero-trust strategy extending to all their edge devices, they can afford to be less concerned with the health of the … employee’s home network, since protection is centered around what is most at risk — their corporate apps and company data,” Forrester’s Sherman said.
Willis said zero trust represented a departure from the castle-and-moat approach to security — a model in which everything outside the firewall was untrusted and everything inside was considered safe.
“Now, with zero trust, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the network or not. Everything is considered untrusted,” he said. “Even though the users don’t know it, they’re being authenticated with every step they take: How are they interacting with the application? What network are they on? What endpoint are they [using]?”
If something looks wrong, Willis said, the zero-trust management product will require reauthentication, but the hope is to keep employees from having to jump through hoops to accomplish their usual tasks.
Getting management in place
Like many other companies, both BlackBerry and Addigy are providing limited-time free access to some of their products during the coronavirus crisis. Dettbarn said the nature of the situation drove the decision.
“Everybody is so uncertain about what’s going on, that admins are handcuffed by financial constraints or a spending freeze,” he said. “If [IT administrators] had to go get those financial approvals [to buy new management products], that’s probably not going to happen.”
Alex WillisVice president of global sales engineering, BlackBerry
Sherman said proper patch and configuration management, as well as a robust endpoint security solution, are the best ways to protect the devices employees use for remote work.
“To this end, we’re seeing many endpoint management-focused products offering combined management and security,” he said.
Willis said organizations that are hoping to put work-from-home plans together quickly would do well to remember the importance of device management.
“[Companies] think the end goal is connectivity, but the real end goal needs to be secured connectivity,” he said.
Businesses using on-premises video gear from Cisco can now get access to cloud services, while keeping their video infrastructure in place.
A new service, called Cisco Webex Edge for Devices, lets businesses connect on-premises video devices to cloud services like Webex Control Hub and the Webex Assistant. Customers get access to some cloud features but continue to host video traffic on their networks.
Many businesses aren’t ready to move their communications to the cloud. Vendors have responded by developing ways to mix on-premises and cloud technologies. Cisco Webex Edge for Devices is the latest offering of that kind.
“It gives users that cloudlike experience without the businesses having to fully migrate everything to the cloud,” said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research.
Cisco wants to get as many businesses as possible to go all-in on the cloud. Webex Edge for Devices, introduced this month, tees up customers to make that switch. Companies will have the option of migrating their media services to the cloud after connecting devices to the service.
Webex Edge for Devices is available for no additional charge to businesses with an enterprise-wide Collaboration Flex Plan, a monthly per-user subscription. Alternatively, companies can purchase cloud licenses for the devices they want to register with the service for roughly $30 per device, per month. The service won’t work with gear that’s so old Cisco no longer supports it.
Video hardware linked to the cloud through the service will show up in the Webex Control Hub, a console for managing cloud devices. For on-premises devices, the control hub will provide diagnostic reports, usage data, and insight into whether the systems are online or offline.
Many businesses are already using a mix of on-premises and cloud video endpoints. Webex Edge for Devices will let those customers manage those devices from a single console. In the future, Cisco plans to add support for on-premises phones.
Businesses will also be able to sync on-premises video devices with cloud-based calendars from Microsoft and Google. That configuration will let the devices display a one-click join button for meetings scheduled on those calendars.
Another cloud feature unlocked by Webex Edge for Devices is the Webex Assistant. The service is an AI voice system that lets users join meetings, place calls and query devices with their voice.
In the future, Cisco plans to bring more cloud features to on-premises devices. Future services include People Insights, a tool that provides background information on meeting participants with information gleaned from the public internet.
Cisco first released a suite of services branded as Webex Edge in September 2018. The suite included Webex Edge Audio, Webex Edge Connect and Webex Video Mesh. The applications provide ways to use on-premises and cloud technologies in combination to improve the quality of audio and video calls.
Cisco’s release of Webex Edge for Devices underscores its strategy of supporting on-premises customers without forcing them to the cloud, said Irwin Lazar, analyst at Nemertes Research.
Storytelling using data is helping make analytics digestible across entire organizations.
While the amount of available data hasexploded in recent years, the ability to understand the meaning of the data hasn’t kept pace.There aren’t enough trained data scientiststo meet demand, often leaving data interpretation in the hands of both line-of-business employees and high-level executives mostly guessing at the underlying meaning behind data points.
Storytelling using data, however, changes that.
A group of business intelligence software vendors are now specializing indata storytelling, producing platforms that go one step further than traditional BI platforms and attempt to give the data context by putting it in the form of a narrative.
One such vendor is Narrative Science, based in Chicago and founded in 2010. On Jan. 6, Narrative Science released a book entitled Let Your People Be People that delves into theimportance of storytelling for businesses, with a particular focus on storytelling using data.
Recently, authors Nate Nichols, vice president of product architecture at Narrative Science, and Anna Schena Walsh, director of growth marketing, answered a series of questions about storytelling using data.
Here in Part II of a two-part Q&A they talk about why storytelling using data is a more effective way to interpret data than traditional BI, and how data storytelling can change the culture of an organization. In Part I, they discussed what data storytelling is and how data can be turned into a narrative that has meaning for an organization.
What does emphasis an on storytelling in the workplace look like, beyond a means of explaining the reasoning behind data points?
Nate Nichols: As an example of that, I’ve been more intentional since the New Year about applying storytelling to meetings I’ve led, and it’s been really helpful. It’s not like people are gathering around my knee as I launch into a 30-minute story, but just remembering to kick off a meeting with a 3-minute recap of why we’re here, where we’re coming from, what we worked on last week and what the things are that we need going forward. It’s really just putting more time into reminding people of why, the cause and effect, just helping people settle into the right mindset. Storytelling is an empirically effective way of doing it.
We didn’t start this company to be storytellers — we really wanted everyone to understand and be able to act on data. It turned out that the best way to do that was through storytelling. The world is waking up to this. It’s something we used to do — our ancestors sat around the campfire swapping stories about the hunt, or where the best potatoes are to forage for. That’s a thing we used to do, it’s a thing that kids do all the time — they’re bringing other kids into their world — and what’s happening is that a lot of that has been beaten out of us as adults. Because of the way the workforce is going, the way automation is going, we’re heading back to the importance of those soft skills, those storytelling skills.
How is storytelling using data more effective at presenting data than typical dashboards and reports?
Anna Schena Walsh
Anna Schena Walsh: The brain is hard-wired for stories. It’s hard-wired to take in information in that storytelling arc, which is what is [attracting our attention] — what is something we thought we knew, what is something new that surprised us, and what can we do about it? If you can put that in a way that is interesting to people in a way they can understand, that is a way people will remember. That is what really motivates people, and that’s what actually causes people to take action. I think visuals are important parts of some stories, whether it be a chart or a picture, it can help drive stories home, but no matter what you’re doing to give people information, the end is usually the story. It’s verbal, it’s literate, it’s explaining something in some way. In reality, we do this a lot, but we need to be a lot more systematic about focusing on the story part.
What happens when you present an explanation with data?
Nichols: If someone sends you a bar chart and asks you to use it to make decisions and there’s no story with it at all, what your brain does is it makes up a story around it. Historically, what we’ve said is that computers are good at doing charts — we never did charts and graphs and spreadsheets because we thought they were helpful for people, we did them because that was what computers could do. We’ve forgotten that. So when we do these charts, people look at them and make up their own stories, and they may be more or less accurate depending on their intuition about the business. What we’re doing now is we want everyone to be really on the same story, hearing the same story, so by not having a hundred different people come up with a hundred different internal stories in their head, what we’re doing at Narrative Science is to try and make the story external so everyone is telling the same story.
So is it accurate to say that accuracy is a part of storytelling using data?
Schena Walsh: When I think of charts and graphs, interpreting those is a skill — it is a learned skill that comes to some people more naturally than others. In the past few decades there’s been this idea that everybody needs to be able interpret [data]. With storytelling, specifically data storytelling, it takes away the pressure of people interpreting the data for themselves. This allows people, where their skills may not be in that area … they don’t have to sit down and interpret dashboards. That’s not the best use of their talent, and data storytelling brings that information to them so they’re able to concentrate on what makes them great.
What’s the potential end result for organizations that employ data storytelling — what does it enable them to do that other organizations can’t?
Anna Schena WalshDirector of growth marketing, Narrative Science
Schena Walsh: With data storytelling there is a massive opportunity to have everybody in your company understand what’s happening and be able to make informed decisions much, much faster. It’s not that information isn’t available — it certainly is — but it takes a certain set of skills to be able to find the meaning. So we look at it as empowering everybody because you’re giving them the information they need very quickly, and also giving them the ability to lean into what makes them great. The way we think about it is that if you can choose to have someone give a two-minute explanation of what’s going on in the business to everyone in the company everyday as they go into work, would you do it? And the answer is yes, and with data storytelling that’s what you can do.
I think what we’ll see as companies keep trying to move toward everyone needing to interpret data, I actually think there’s a lot of potential for burnout there in people who aren’t naturally inclined to do it. I also think there’s a speed element — it’s not as fast to have everybody learn this skill and have to do it every day themselves than to have the information serviced to them in a way they can understand.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.
I was using it, then it stopped. I spoke to Apple Support and the booked me into Cambridge Store Genius. They ran a diagnostic and it passed all their tests and he suspected that it was a hard drive fail. It is classed as vintage and he says Apple would not repair it. I have already replaced with a new one so want this one gone. The guy in Apple removes the hard drive for me and that us not included. As for condition I can see no marks but he warned me that there may now be dust between glass and screen. Can take pictures if needed. It is boxed and comes with mouse only.
Workers will soon be able to turn their smartphones into a walkie-talkie using Microsoft Teams. The feature is one of several Microsoft unveiled this week targeting so-called frontline workers, such as retail associates, nurses, housekeepers and plumbers.
The walkie-talkie feature will let groups of employees speak to each other by pressing a button in the Teams mobile app. The audio will travel over Wi-Fi and cellular networks, meaning users will be able to communicate with colleagues anywhere in the world. The feature will be available in private preview in the first half of 2020.
Many retailers, hospitals, airlines and hotels still rely on physical walkie-talkie devices. In recent years, startups like Orion Labs and legacy vendors like Motorola Solutions have begun selling smartphone walkie-talkie apps. Those mobile apps come with benefits like location tracking and integration with other business technologies.
Microsoft’s smartphone walkie-talkie feature is not innovative. But if it works well, the capability could help Microsoft boost adoption of Teams among workers who otherwise wouldn’t use the app. Microsoft has made targeting frontline workers a priority since late 2018.
In addition to the walkie-talkie app, Microsoft said Thursday it would add to Teams a task feature for creating and assigning small projects to employees. The system will give businesses a dashboard to track tasks in real time across multiple departments or store locations. It will launch in the first half of 2020.
Microsoft will also expand the scheduling capabilities of Teams by integrating the app with popular workforce management platforms by Kronos and JDA Software. Those integrations will let businesses keep existing scheduling software in place while giving workers the ability to swap shifts and request time off through Teams.
Microsoft is not the only collaboration vendor targeting frontline workers, said Rob Arnold, analyst at Frost & Sullivan. But Microsoft has a leg up on competitors because it can offer businesses so many complementary cloud services. Those include the customer relationship manager Dynamics 365 as well as e-commerce and Internet of Things (IoT) platforms within Microsoft Azure.
New identity and access features for Microsoft Teams
Additional features targeting frontline workers include SMS sign-in, off-shift access controls and shared-device sign-out. These features will roll out between now and the middle of the year.
Workers will soon be able to sign into their Azure Active Directory account (which controls access to Teams) using only a mobile phone number. IT admins will decide which groups of employees use the method.
IT admins will also be able to prevent frontline workers from accessing Teams when they are not on the clock. Temporarily blocking access will help businesses comply with labor laws.
Finally, for Android, Microsoft will add an “end shift” button to shared mobile devices and tablets that will clear app logins and browser sessions. Purging that data will prevent employees from accessing information they shouldn’t.
Collectively, the latest features show that Microsoft wants to take Teams beyond the 30% of corporate employees who work in offices, Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, said. “I think Microsoft is aggressively trying to expand the reach of Teams.”
For sale here is a small form factor gaming PC, as I decided to go back to using console. It can handle most latest titles in medium settings and some not-so-demanding ones in high. Will come with power cord and few bits of screws that come with the case. As I don’t have the box anymore, this is only to collect in person from Tooting, South London. Looking for a quick sale as I’m moving in 3 weeks time.
Specifications: Case Kolink Satellite Micro ATX Desktop PC Gaming CubeCase Black
Had these sitting in a drawer for a while now (circa 2 – 3 months) but never got round to using them. They are still retail sealed and obviously I will honour against DOA plus help with any warranty requirements.
Full details here:
4x8GB Sealed kits, totalling 32GB.
Asking £70 inc
1x Socket 1150 ECS H81H3-TI2 (1.0) Thin ITX motherboard 1x Pentium G3258 anniversary edition cpu 1x Stock Intel Fan / Heatsink 1x 4GB DDR3 Ram Stick 1x Sealed i/o shield 1x sata power breakout cable 1x pcie wifi card 1x HP PSU brick Win 10 pro 64bit license tied to mobo
Built a gaming PC in September, but I’m just not using it enough to justify keeping it, so I’m selling all the parts from it. Everything apart from the Samsung SSD was only bought 4 months ago, and the PC itself wasn’t built until the middle of September, so the parts have only been used for effectively 3 months and are in excellent condition, wasn’t even any dust on most of the internals
. I will include PDFs or screenshots of all order invoices for all goods (again, aside from the Samsung SSD), for warranty purposes. As far as I’m aware, nothing has less than 7-8 months warranty, more in many cases, which will be detailed for each specific item.
Delivery – SD=Special Delivery, SF=Signed For, PF=Parcelforce, DPD =…DPD
Parts for sale
£258 (+£7 SD) – AMD Ryzen 3700X – CPU only, no Cooler. Comes in the original AMD Plastic holder and AMD Box (I can include the original Air Cooler box as well, but it will have to be flat-packed), also comes with remainder of 3-year Warranty.
£35 (+£5 SF1st) – 2x Noctua NF-A14 PWM Chromax 140mm Case Fans – Come in all the original packaging, and remainder of 6-year warranties.
£80 (+£10 DPD) – EVGA 750W G3 80+ Gold Modular PSU – Comes with all the original cables, bags and manual and remainder of 10-year Warranty.
£60 (+£10 DPD) – FractalDesign Meshify C Case with Tempered Glass Side Window (Black) – Comes with all the original screws, hard drive caddy has been re-attached for delivery, but will most likely need to be relocated slightly. The magnets attached to the dust filter on the top of the case were very flimsy and came off, so I re-attached them with gorilla glue and some black tape above to tidy it up. Not quite as aesthetically-appealing as it was originally, but much stronger. Includes 2 Fractal 120mm Case Fans.
Please be sure to ask any questions you may have, I’ve tried to take plenty of photos to include everything, so if there’s anything you can’t see included with a certain item that you expect there to be, ask about it before agreeing to purchase anything.
** SOLD **
£85 (+£12 PF48hr) – MSI B450 Gaming Pro Carbon AC (Wi-fi model) Motherboard– BIOS has been updated obviously to ensure immediate support for latest Ryzen CPUs. Comes with all the original accessories and manual/sticker/quick-start guide etc. I believe MSI cover motherboards for 3-Year warranty, so you should get the remainder of this. I have not registered it myself.Sold to ciderspace
£55 (+£3 SF1st) – Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB DDR4 3200Mhz C16 RAM– 2x8GB – Comes in original Corsair packaging. Limited Lifetime warranty.Sold to ciderspace
£30 (+£2 1stClass) – Samsung 850 EVO 500GB SSD –Taken from my i6700HQ laptop, comes unpackaged with 4 screws.SOLD via ebay
£410 (+£25 SD) – Nvidia RTX 2070 Super– Purchased directly from Nvidia, comes with the remainder of a 3-year warranty. Comes with all the original packaging other than plastic wrapper that Card itself was wrapped in. SOLD via ebay
£15 (+£3 2nd/£4 SF2nd) – Club3D 3M DisplayPort 1.4 MBR3 8K Cable– Brand new and unused.SOLD via ebay
£85 (+£7 SD) – ADATA XPG SX8200 PRO 1TB M.2 NVME SSD– SSD and unused heatsink included along with ADATA packaging. Comes with remainder of 5-year Warranty. SOLD via ebay
£63 (+£10 DPD) – Noctua D15S Premium CPU Cooler– Comes with 2x NF-A15 PWM 140mm Chromax/Black Fans (effectively this is a Noctua D15 Cooler setup with two fans rather than one, halfway between the £75 standard D15 with ugly brown fans and the £88 Chromax edition, but Chrome/silver cooler not black). Includes Intel/AMD fittings. Also comes with Noctua NA-SYC1 (2x 4-Pin Y-Cables (£9 originally), each one for connecting two fans to one Fan slot on your motherboard). Come with remainder of 6-year Warranty. May be an extra day’s wait as I may have to source a box to put all these items in together. SOLD via ebay