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RSA teams up with Yubico for passwordless authentication

The world might be one step closer to the passwordless future that security enthusiasts dream of.

On Dec. 10, RSA Security announced a strategic partnership with Yubico, the company known for its USB authentication keys, to drive passwordless authentication in the enterprise. The partnership combines Yubico’s YubiKey technology with RSA’s FIDO-powered SecurID authentication to eliminate passwords for enterprise employees, particularly those in use cases where mobile phones may not be appropriate or permitted for authentication. The combined offering, YubiKey for RSA SecurID Access, will launch in March.

Jim DucharmeJim Ducharme

In this Q&A, Jim Ducharme, vice president of identity and fraud and risk intelligence products at RSA, discusses the new Yubico partnership, FIDO as a standard and how close we are to the so-called “death of passwords.”

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell me how the Yubico partnership came to be.

Jim Ducharme: I was talking to a customer and they mentioned how customers are struggling with the various use cases out there for people to prove to be who they say they are. A few years ago, I think that everybody thought that the world was just going to be taken over by mobile phone authentication and that’s all they’d ever need and they’d never need anything else. But they’re quickly realizing that they need multiple options to support the various use cases. Mobile authentication is certainly a new modern method that is convenient, given that everybody is walking around with a mobile phone, but there are a number of use cases, like call centers, remote workers and even folks who, believe it or not, don’t have a smartphone, that they still need to care for and make sure that they are who they say they are.

At RSA, we’ve had our SecurID tokens for quite a while now, but there are other use cases that we’ve found. FIDO-compliant devices were looked at as something that customers wanted to deploy. Particularly hardware-based ones like a Yubico security key. And RSA was the founding member of the FIDO subcommittee on enterprise application, but largely the uptick has been on the consumer identity side of it. We wanted to figure out how we can help the enterprise with their employee use cases, leveraging FIDO and these standards, coupled with these other use cases like call centers or areas where there is a particular device that a user needs to use and they need to prove they are who they say they are.

This customer sent me on this sort of tour of asking my customers what they thought about these use cases and I was amazed at how many customers were already looking at this solution yet finding themselves having to purchase Yubico keys from Yubico and purchase RSA from us for the FIDO backend. It’s only natural for us to bring these two strong brands together to give customers what they need sort of all-in-one box, virtually if you will. Now what we offer is more choice in how users authenticate themselves, allowing them to transform as maybe they get more comfortable with adopting mobile authentication. A lot of users don’t want to use their mobile phone for corporate authentication, but that’s slowly increasing. We wanted to make sure we were providing a platform that can allow users that flexibility of choice, but as the same time, allow our customers and the identity teams to have a single structure to support those different use cases and allow that transformation to happen over time, whether it be from hardware devices, hardware tokens, to mobile authenticators to desktop authenticators to new biometrics, et cetera.

How does this partnership with Yubico fit into RSA’s overall strategy?

Ducharme: Obviously things like a Yubico device is just another form of a passwordless authenticator. But there are plenty of passwordless authenticators out there right now — most people have them in their hands now with [Apple] Face ID and Touch ID, but that’s only part of the solution. Our focus is an identity ecosystem that surrounds the end user and their authenticator where passwords still exist. Despite these new passwordless authenticators, we still haven’t managed to get rid of the password. The help desk is still dealing with password resets, and the support costs associated with passwords are actually going up instead of down. If we’re implementing more and more passwordless authentication, why is the burden on the help desk actually going up? The reality is, most of these passwordless authentication methods are actually not passwordless at all. These biometric methods are nothing more than digital facades on top of a password, so the underlying password is still there. They’re allowing a much more passwordless experience, which is great for the end user, but the password is still there. We’re actually finding that in many cases, the help desk calls are going up because you’re not using that password as frequently as you used to, and now once a month or once a week when people have to use it, they are more apt to forget it than the password they use every single day. We’re actually seeing an increase in forgotten passwords because the more we’re taking passwords out of users’ hands, the more they’re actually forgetting it. We really have to go that last mile to truly get rid of the passwords.

Strategically, our goal is not only to have a spectrum of passwordless authentication and experiences for end users, but we also have to look at all of these other places where the password hides and eliminate those [uses]. Until we do, the burden on the help desk, the costs on the IT help desk are not going to go down, and that’s one of the important goals of moving towards the passwordless world, and that’s where our focus is.

Do you think companies are worried about lost keys and having that negatively impact availability?

Ducharme: Yes. As a matter of fact, we had a customer dinner last night and that is probably one of the number one [concerns], the notion of lost keys. The thing that’s nice about the YubiKey devices is that they sit resident within the device so the odds of losing it are less such. But it absolutely is still an issue. Whenever you have anything that you have to have, you could potentially lose it.

We need to make sure they’re easily replaceable, not just easy but cost-wise as well, and couple that with credential enrollment recovery. When they lose those devices, make sure that they still have accessibility to the systems they still need access to. Even if you don’t lose it permanently, you forget it on your desk at home and when you arrive to work, well, you can’t be out of business for the day because you left your key at home. That’s what we’re working on — what do you do when the user doesn’t have their key? We still need to be able to provide them access very securely and while not reverting back to a password. What we’re trying to do is surround these physical devices and mobile phones with these recovery mechanisms when the user doesn’t have access to their authenticator, whatever form it is. 

How much progress do you think FIDO has made in the last couple years?

Ducharme: FIDO has gotten a lot of good brand recognition. We’re seeing some uptick in it, but we think with this announcement we’re hoping to really increase the pace of adoption. The great news is we’re seeing the support in things like the browsers. It was a huge milestone when Microsoft announced its support with Windows Hello. We’re starting to get the plumbing in all the right places so we’re very optimistic about it. But the actual application, it’s still a vast minority of a lot of customers in the enterprise use case, and a lot of that has to do with the technology refresh cycles. Are they getting the browsers on the end users’ laptops? Are they using Hello for business? But honestly, these upgrade cycles to Windows Hello are happening faster than the previous Windows cycles, so I’m optimistic about it. But what we’re encouraged by is the adoption of the technology like FIDO, like Web OPM, within the browsers and the operating systems; the end user adoption, by which I mean the companies deploying these technologies to their end users, isn’t quite there yet. This is what we’re hoping to bring out.

Do you think we’re going to see the death of passwords sometime in the next several years?

Ducharme: I’ve been in the identity space now for about 20 years. During a lot of that, I would say to myself the password will never die. But I actually think we’re on the cusp of really being able to get rid of the password. I’ve seen the market understand what it’s truly going to take to get rid of the password from all facets. We have the technology now that it’s accessible with people every day with their mobile phones, wrist-based technologies and all of that. We have the ability to do so. It’s within reach. The question will be, how do we make this technology successful, and how do we make it a priority? So I really am optimistic. What we’ll have to do is push through people using passwordless experiences to help people understand that we really have to get rid of the underlying passwords. The industry’s going to have to do the work to flush out the password for the last mile. I believe the technologies and the standards exist to do so, but until we start looking at the security implications and the costs associated with those passwords and really take it seriously, we won’t do it. But I do believe we have the best opportunity to do it now.

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World Childhood Foundation marks 20 years with focus on AI and child safety online – Microsoft on the Issues

World Childhood Foundation, launched in 1999 by Queen Silvia of Sweden, recently marked 20 years of child protection with a roundtable on leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to assist in tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse online.

The day-long event, held last month at the Royal Palace in Stockholm, brought together 60 AI experts, representatives from technology companies, child safety advocates, academics and others to explore new ways to combat the proliferation of child sexual exploitation and abuse imagery (CSEAI) online.

“How can we use AI as a catalyst for child safety online,” asked King Carl XVI Gustaf, who, along with Queen Silvia and other members of Sweden’s royal family, presided over the day’s discussions. “New approaches are needed, so we are bringing together some of the sharpest minds in AI and child protection to share knowledge and experiences.”

The event consisted of a series of presentations, panels and small-group discussions about raising awareness among the broader global population about the “epidemic” that is child sexual exploitation and abuse, as well as the misuse of technology to share illegal imagery and enable on-demand abuse of children tens of thousands of miles away. Experts shared experiences, ideas and data, including that reports of child sexual abuse videos to the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) had risen 541% in 2018 compared to the prior year. Moreover, children of all ages and backgrounds are susceptible to sexual exploitation with more than 56% of the children in Interpol’s database identified as prepubescent. “Nothing surprises us anymore,” said one law enforcement official.

More, faster needed from all stakeholders

The roundtable concluded with a series of observations and recommendations from a variety of sectors, including law and public policy, technology, and victim advocacy, including that:

  • Governments need to take a more active role in addressing the issue. Indeed, no country or society is immune from child sexual abuse and the vile content that makes its way online. Experts acknowledged the work of some standouts governments like the U.K., Australia and others, but called for more globalization and harmonization
  • Children need to be acknowledged as rights-holders, including their right to privacy, and not just as “objects in need of protection”
  • Speed will continue to present a challenge with technological advancements moving at internet speed; academic research occupying a distant second position; and policy, law and regulation lagging significantly behind
  • Civil society needs to do more and, in particular, victims’ rights groups and other organizations must inject a sense of urgency into the dialogue, and
  • Hope must be offered by believing in the brilliance and power of the human and the machine working together to combat such deep-rooted societal ills

I had the privilege of attending and presenting details on the progress of the development of a new method to detect potential instances of child online grooming for sexual purposes. The technique is the result of a cross-industry hackathon that Microsoft hosted in November 2018. Engineers from Microsoft and three other companies continued to develop the process for 12 months following the hackathon, and we intend to make it freely available in 2020 to enable others to examine historical chat conversations for potential indicia of grooming. (Grooming for sexual purposes takes place when someone befriends a child with the intent of gaining the child’s trust for sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or trafficking.) For more about the technique being developed, see this post.

Queen Silvia builds on Vatican remarks

The week before the Stockholm roundtable, a number of attendees also participated in a conference in Rome, Promoting Digital Child Dignity: From Concept to Action. This event was sponsored by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the Child Dignity Alliance and the government of the United Arab Emirates.

Queen Silvia was a featured speaker at the Rome conference, noting that when she founded World Childhood Foundation, she hoped she could use her voice to highlight the global problem of child sexual exploitation and abuse. She imagined that the foundation would soon close because it would no longer be needed, as the global scourge that is child sexual abuse would have been eliminated. “To speak about the unspeakable, and to give children back their right to a childhood,” she said. “(Yet,) 20 years later, here we are, with an ever-increasing number of children at risk of abuse and exploitation online.”

Along with several speakers that followed her in Rome, the queen called on all stakeholders to come together and do more: policymakers, technology companies, civil society and faith-based groups. “For the child who has suffered abuse; for the child who is at risk; for the child who carries guilt and shame – for this child, we have to speak with one voice and to act collectively.” (The Queen’s Rome remarks were distributed to participants of the Stockholm roundtable.)

A third landmark event on combating CSEAI will be held later this month in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The African Union, the WePROTECT Global Alliance and the U.K. Government will sponsor the Global Summit to Tackle Online Child Sexual Exploitation on December 11 and 12.

Microsoft and the challenge of Online Child Sexual Exploitation  

This increased attention from several corners of the globe and from new and different stakeholder groups is both needed and encouraging. Additional strides will follow only when we embrace a whole-of-society approach and all stakeholders take part in this important fight.

Microsoft has been combating the spread of CSEAI online for nearly two decades. We first became aware of the magnitude of these online horrors in 2003 when a lead detective from the Toronto Police Department sent an email to our then CEO Bill Gates, asking for help using technology to track down purveyors of CSEAI and for assistance with the detective’s goal of rescuing child victims. Microsoft responded with a $1 million investment and the creation of a technology still in use today by some law enforcement agencies to share investigative information.

Our commitment to create technology to help fight CSEAI online continued with the invention of PhotoDNA, PhotoDNA Cloud Service and PhotoDNA for Video. Progress has been made over the last 20 years, but more needs to be done, including raising awareness, educating young people and the wider public, reporting illegal content to technology companies and hotlines, and continuing to create technologies and techniques to assist in online detection and reporting.

Learn more

To learn more about the World Childhood Foundation, visit the organization’s website. To learn what Microsoft is doing to tackle child sexual exploitation and abuse online, see this link, and to learn more about digital safety generally, go to www.microsoft.com/saferonline, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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Data silos hinder IoT in healthcare; tech giants could help

The Internet of Things in healthcare may not be a new idea, but it’s the key to creating a more connected world within healthcare, according to one analyst.

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is the connection of a group of digitized objects that can collect, send and receive data. Digital medical device use was born out of clinical need, often circumventing IT for approval or advice, said Gartner analyst Gregg Pessin. Now healthcare organizations are dealing with silos of IoT devices and data.

Gregg PessinGregg Pessin

“In the past, the CIO or the IT department has had little input into what happens in that acquisition process, so you end up with IoT solutions, many of them from many different companies, that all work in their own little world inside that clinical environment,” Pessin said.

That is changing. Healthcare organizations are beginning to see value in breaking down silos and bringing IoT data together to create a single view of a patient. Tech giants like AWS are pushing into the healthcare market providing platforms to gather and analyze IoT data while making it more accessible.

CIO’s perspective on IoT in healthcare

IoT data silos and the lack of interoperability in healthcare are major challenges, according to Craig Richardville, CIO of SCL Health, based in Broomfield, Colo. They must be overcome for a healthcare organization to make better use of the IoT data it’s collecting.

Craig RichardvilleCraig Richardville

In healthcare, integrating vast amounts of IoT data into provider workflows is a complex, uphill battle, Richardville said. But as the healthcare industry matures, he said, there is growing opportunity to standardize and integrate IoT data back into provider workflows to create a more complete view of a patient.

“That’s really the ecosystem we all want to create,” he said. “The end game is [a system] that is fully connected all the way through, safely and securely, that allows us to consume or digest that information and get that back into someone’s professional workflow so they can take advantage of the information. The outcome of that is we make better decisions.” 

Richardville believes IoT is the future of healthcare, further enabling a healthcare organization’s connection to patients in their homes. IoT in healthcare can grow an organization’s capabilities when it comes to remote patient monitoring, social determinants of health and other areas of healthcare. IoT data can help providers and healthcare leaders “make more precise and intelligent decisions,” he said. 

Richardville said IoT could provide greater connection to patients but that privacy and security should remain top of mind for healthcare CIOs as that connection to patients and data collection grows. It’s also important that a healthcare system has the capability to analyze the data coming from connected devices — an area where tech giants could play a significant role.

Companies like Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft, all of which continue to push into healthcare, could provide healthcare organizations with IoT data gathering and analytics capabilities, Richardville said. SCL Health has a “strong relationship” with Google, which he sees as an “accelerator” to the digital healthcare work the organization is doing.  

“When you look at the companies, whether it’s Amazon or Google or Microsoft, all getting into this space … it actually allows us to be able to lift our game,” Richardville said. 

When it comes to IoT, Gartner’s Pessin said there is strong motivation in healthcare to move toward platform products, which offer tools to gather and analyze IoT data.  

Tech giants further enable IoT in healthcare

Healthcare organizations are buying more patient data-collecting and IoT-enabled devices, which is creating a “tidal wave of data” healthcare CIOs have to deal with, Pessin said.

The amount of computing and storage power required to process that much data is likely more than an on-premises data center can handle. That’s where external, third-party players like tech giants come in, according to Pessin.

“What are they great at? They’re great at scaling resources and they’re adding all of these great, specific kinds of platform solutions like IoT services that they can sell on the platform,” Pessin said.

AWS, for example, has AWS IoT services that health IT and medical device manufacturer Philips Healthcare is using. Philips created a customer-facing HealthSuite digital platform to provide customers with the capability to “connect devices, collect electronic health data, aggregate and store data securely, analyze data and create solutions on the cloud,” according to the Philips HealthSuite digital platform website.

Dale Wiggins, general manager of the HealthSuite digital platform, said Philips chose AWS to be its cloud provider to store large amounts of data and large X-ray and MRI image files from Philips medical devices. The next step for the Philips HealthSuite platform is to use AWS IoT services for remote support management of Philips devices, Wiggins said.

AWS IoT provides Philips with a more cost-effective way to offer remote support capabilities on Philips devices to healthcare customers, he said.

“We’re looking at using IoT to solve a lot of legacy issues with our existing remote support capabilities with new, cutting-edge, always on, always available services that AWS really supports through what they provide with IoT,” he said.

AWS IoT offers device software, control services and data services, depending on customer needs, according to Dirk Didascalou, vice president of AWS IoT. AWS provides the infrastructure for IoT services and is HIPAA-compliant, but it does not have access to customer data through AWS IoT, Didascalou said.

Partnerships with tech giants and healthcare organizations, medical device manufacturers and even EHRs are becoming the norm, according to Pessin. Healthcare organizations create the data and tech giants can provide tools to collect, analyze and store that data. Pessin said healthcare CIOs have to be ready to develop partnerships between the two.

“The advances in digital care delivery that are coming are going to require massive resources, and it’s those large digital giants that have that available,” Pessin said. 

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Preserving cultural heritage one language at a time – Microsoft on the Issues

There are close to 7,000 languages spoken around the world today. Yet, sadly, every two weeks a language dies with its last speaker, and it is predicted that between 50% and 90% of endangered languages will disappear by next century. When a community loses a language, it loses its connection to the past – and part of its present. It loses a piece of its identity. As we think about protecting this heritage and the importance of preserving language, we believe that new technology can help.

More than many nations, the people of New Zealand are acutely aware of this phenomenon. Centuries ago, the Māori people arrived on the islands to settle in and create a new civilization. Through the centuries and in the isolation of the South Pacific, the Māori developed their own unique culture and language. Today, in New Zealand, 15% of the population is Māori yet only a quarter of the Māori people speak their native language, and only 3% of all people living in New Zealand speak te reo Maori. Statistically, fluency in the language is extremely low.

New Zealand and its institutions have taken notice and are actively taking steps to promote the use of te reo Māori in meaningful ways. More and more schools are teaching te reo Māori, and city councils are revitalizing the country’s indigenous culture by giving new, non-colonial names to sites around their cities. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has promoted the learning of te reo Māori, calling for 1 million new speakers by 2040.  In a simple, yet profound, statement Ardern said, “Māori language is a part of who we are.” Despite all these efforts, today the fluency in te reo Māori is low.

For the past 14 years, Microsoft has been collaborating with te reo Māori experts and Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission) to weave te reo Māori into the technology that thousands of Kiwis use every day with the goal of ensuring it remains a living language with a strong future. Our collaboration has already resulted in translations of Minecraft educational resources and we recently commissioned a game immersed entirely in the traditional Māori world, Ngā Motu (The Islands).

To focus only on shaping the future ignores the value of the past, as well as our responsibility to preserve and celebrate te reo Māori heritage. This is why we are proud to announce the inclusion of te reo Māori as a language officially recognized in our free Microsoft Translator app. Microsoft Translator supports more than 60 languages, and this means that the free application can translate te reo Māori text into English text and vice versa. It will also support Māori into and from all other languages supported by Microsoft Translator. This is really all about breaking the language barrier at home, at work, anywhere you need it.

Dr. Te Taka Keegan, senior lecturer of computer science at the University of Waikato and one of the many local experts who have helped guide the project from its inception, says: “The language we speak is the heart of our culture. The development of this Māori language tool would not have been possible without many people working towards a common goal over many years. We hope our work doesn’t simply help revitalize and normalize te reo Māori for future generations of New Zealanders, but enables it to be shared, learned and valued around the world. It’s very important for me that the technology we use reflects and reinforces our cultural heritage, and language is the heart of that.”

Te reo Māori will employ Microsoft’s Neural Machine Translation (NMT) techniques, which can be more accurate than statistical translation models. We recently achieved human parity in translating news from Chinese to English, and the advanced machine learning used for te reo Māori will continue to become better and better as even more documents are used to “teach” it every nuance of the language. This technology will be leveraged across all our M365 products and services.

But while the technology is exciting, it’s not the heart of this story. This is about collaborating to develop the tools that boost our collective well-being. New Zealand’s government is also spearheading a “well-being” framework for measuring a nation’s progress in ways that don’t solely reflect economic growth. We need to look at cultural heritage the same way. Preserving our cultural heritage isn’t just a “nice thing to do” – according to the U.N., it’s vital to our resilience, social cohesion and sense of belonging, celebrating the values and stories we have in common.

I was fortunate to visit New Zealand this year, and it is a country that is genuinely working to achieve a delicate cultural balance, one that keeps in mind growth as well as guardianship, which maintains innovation and a future focus whilst preserving a deep reverence for its past. This kind of balance is something all nations should be striving for.

Globally, as part of our AI for Cultural Heritage program, Microsoft has committed $10 million over five years to support projects dedicated to the preservation and enrichment of cultural heritage that leverage the power of artificial intelligence. The ultimate role of technology is to serve humankind, not to replace it. We can harness the latest tools in ways that support an environment rich in diversity, perspectives and learnings from the past. And when we enable that knowledge and experience to be shared with the rest of the world, every society benefits.

For more information on Microsoft Translator please visit: https://www.microsoft.com/translator

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Kubernetes Helm Tiller is dead, and IT pros rejoice

SAN DIEGO — The death of Kubernetes Helm Tiller in version 3 was the talk of the cloud-native world here at KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America 2019 this week, as the change promises better security and stability for a utility that underpins several other popular microservices management and GitOps tools.

Kubernetes Helm is a package manager used to deploy apps to the container orchestration platform. It’s widely used to deploy enterprise apps to containers through CI/CD pipelines, including GitOps and progressive delivery tools. It’s also a key component for installing and updating the custom resource definitions (CRDs) that underpin the Istio service mesh in upstream environments.

Helm Tiller was a core component of the software in its initial releases, which used a client-server architecture for which Tiller was the server. Helm Tiller acted as an intermediary between users and the Kubernetes API server, and handled role-based access control (RBAC) and the rendering of Helm charts for deployment to the cluster. With the first stable release of Helm version 3 on Nov. 13, however, Tiller was removed entirely, and Helm version 3 now communicates directly with the Kubernetes API Server.

Such was the antipathy for Helm Tiller among users that when maintainers proclaimed the component’s death from the KubeCon keynote stage here this week, it drew enthusiastic cheers.

“At the first Helm Summit in 2018, there was quite a lot of input from the community, especially around, ‘Can we get rid of Tiller?'” said Martin Hickey, a senior software engineer at IBM and a core maintainer of Helm, in a presentation on Helm version 3 here. “[Now there’s] no more Tiller, and the universe is safe again.”

KubeCon Helm keynote
News of Helm Tiller’s demise from the KubeCon keynote stage this week drew cheers from the audience.

Helm Tiller had security and stability issues

IT pros who used previous versions of Helm charts said the client-server setup between Helm clients and Tiller was buggy and unstable, which made it even more difficult to install already complex tools such as Istio service mesh for upstream users.

“Version 3 offers new consistency in the way it handles CRDs, which had weird dependency issues that we ran into with Istio charts,” said Aaron Christensen, principal software engineer at SPS Commerce, a communications network for supply chain and logistics businesses in Minneapolis. “It doesn’t automatically solve the problem, but if the Istio team makes use of version 3, it could really simplify deployments.”

[Now there’s] no more Tiller, and the universe is safe again.
Martin HickeySenior software engineer, IBM and a core maintainer of Helm

Helm Tiller was designed before Kubernetes had its own RBAC features, but once these were added to the core project, Tiller also became a cause for security concerns among enterprises. From a security perspective, Tiller had cluster-wide access and could potentially be used for privilege escalation attacks if not properly secured.

It was possible to lock down Helm Tiller in version 2 — heavily regulated firms such as Fidelity Investments were able to use it in production with a combination of homegrown tools and GitOps utilities from Weaveworks. But the complexity of that task and Helm Tiller stability problems meant some Kubernetes shops stayed away from Helm altogether until now, which led to other problems with rolling out apps on container clusters.

“Helm would issue false errors to our CI/CD pipelines, and say a deployment failed when it didn’t, or it would time out connecting to the Kubernetes API server, which made the deployment pipeline fail,” said Carlos Traitel, senior DevOps engineer at Primerica, a financial services firm in Duluth, Ga.

Primerica tried to substitute kube-deploy, a different open source utility for Helm, but also ran into management complexity with it. Primerica engineers plan to re-evaluate Helm version 3 as soon as possible. The new version uses a three-way merge process for updates, which compares the desired state with the actual state of the cluster along with the changes users want to apply, and could potentially eliminate many common errors during the Helm chart update process.

Despite its difficulties, Helm version 2 was a crucial element of Kubernetes management, SPS’s Christensen said.

“It worked way more [often] than it didn’t — we wouldn’t go back and use something else,” he said. “It helps keep 20-plus resources consistent across our clusters … and we were also able to implement our own automated rollbacks based on Helm.”

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Cisco earnings foreshadow slowdown in tech spending

Cisco blamed political turmoil on the world stage for a slowdown in tech spending that will drive the company’s overall revenue down in the current quarter.

The latest Cisco earnings report, released this week, reflected a “pause” in spending by companies globally, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins told financial analysts. The number of product orders in the quarter ended Oct. 26 fell in three customer segments — enterprise, commercial and service provider. Only the government sector showed positive growth.

“It feels like there’s a bit of a pause [in spending],” Robbins said during the company’s quarterly earnings call.

The slowdown led to only a 2% increase in revenue, to $13.2 billion in the first quarter of the 2020 fiscal year. Revenue in the previous quarter rose 6% year over year. For the current quarter, Cisco said revenue would drop between 3% and 5%.

Tight control on expenses last quarter drove net income up 5%, to $3.6 billion. Cisco earnings per share rose 12%, to 84 cents.

Global strife causing business jitters

Several events globally were making tech buyers nervous enough to delay spending, Robbins said. They included anti-China protests in Hong Kong, the trade war between China and the United States, England’s messy exit from the European Union, impeachment hearings in the U.S. Congress and political turmoil in Latin America.

It feels like there’s a bit of a pause [in spending].
Chuck RobbinsCEO, Cisco

“Business confidence just suffers when there’s a lack of clarity,” Robbins said.

As a result, a significant number of deals were smaller than expected, some fell through and others were delayed, he said.

Cisco, considered a bellwether of tech spending, reported in August a global weakening in demand. But while spending fell in the service provider customer segment, the rest had positive growth.

Last quarter, Cisco continued to struggle in the Chinese and service provider markets. Revenue in China fell 31%, compared with a 26% drop in the quarter ended July 27, while service provider orders fell 13%.

Service provider spending has fallen for several quarters. However, Cisco has predicted that sales would pick up next year, when it expects carriers to start overhauling their networks to support plans for 5G business services.

Within Cisco, the decrease in service provider sales is reflected in lower enterprise routing revenue. Also, enterprises are spending less on data center routing as they move their business software to public clouds.

“Cisco’s product lines are strong,” Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said. “But the company’s core market, enterprise routing, isn’t growing a lot.”

Cisco predicts spending recovery

Eventually, several industry trends will force businesses to increase spending, Robbins said. Companies will need new technology to take advantage of carriers’ 5G wireless networks and the higher bandwidth of the new Wi-Fi 6 standard. The increase in data traffic from those next-generation technologies would, for example, drive sales of 400 Gigabit switches.

“Technology is so absolutely core to their fundamental strategies that it just seems to me that the time that they’re going to be able to pause will be shorter than what you’ve seen in the past,” Robbins said.

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Microsoft study: Teens are better than adults at finding help with online issues – Microsoft on the Issues

It’s World Kindness Day – and we’re calling on teens across the globe to assist adults with online issues. That’s because, according to our latest research conducted in 25 countries, teens are considerably better than adults at tracking down useful resources to help resolve digital difficulties.

Both demographic groups say risk is a significant problem when it comes to life online. Both also admit that finding help can be hard. Some 74% of teens and 73% of adults say online risks are a “big problem,” while 65% of teens say they know where to find useful resources, compared to just 39% of adults. Both percentages are up from last year when 60% of teens and 37% of adults said they knew where to turn for assistance. In addition, 41% of teenagers and 44% of grown-ups said tracking down resources to assist with online risks can be “somewhat to extremely” difficult.

The findings are from Microsoft’s latest research into aspects of digital civility – encouraging safer, healthier and more respectful online interactions among all people. The study, “Civility, Safety and Interaction Online – 2019,” polled teens aged 13-17 and adults aged 18-74 about their exposure to 21[1] different online risks. This latest research builds on similar studies we’ve undertaken each year for the last three years. Previous projects polled the same demographic groups in 14, 22 and 23 countries, respectively. A total of 12,520 individuals participated in this year’s study, and we’ve surveyed more than 44,000 people on these topics since 2016. Full results of this latest poll will be released in conjunction with international Safer Internet Day 2020 on February 11.

Confidence in facing online risks

While two-thirds of teens say they know where to find help with online risks, their self-assuredness in managing online risk exposure is slightly lower than that of adults. Just under half of the teens surveyed (48%) said they were confident in handling online risks versus just over half of the adults (52%). To help build those confidence levels, check out our resources guide, which offers primary and secondary sources for all 21 risks covered in our survey. Additional information about a wide  range of online activities and potential risks and harm can be found on the resources page of our website.

A lack of confidence in knowing where to find help can contribute to concerns about online risks in general. Additionally, as survey results have shown for the past few years, consequences and pain from online risk exposure are real. According to our latest findings, 71% of teens and 65% of adults are “somewhat to extremely” worried about encountering online risks, while even higher percentages of both groups have faced consequences from digital risk exposure: three quarters of teens (75%) and 77% of adults. Consequences range from declining to participate in social media and heightened stress levels, to losing trust in others online or offline, losing sleep and even contemplating suicide. This year, 14% of respondents said they had thoughts of suicide following an online issue, double the percentage from two years ago.

Chart showing online safety

Microsoft’s Digital Civility Challenge

We’re making this preliminary research available on World Kindness Day to again call attention to Microsoft’s Digital Civility Challenge – four basic tenets for life online to encourage kinder, more empathetic and more respectful interactions. We’d never want to thwart debate, discussion or the free flow of ideas; it’s just important that those interactions take place free of name-calling and abuse. Specifically, we’re encouraging people to:

  • Live the “Golden Rule” and treat others as you would like to be treated by leading with empathy, compassion and kindness, and affording everyone respect and dignity both online and off.
  • Respect differences by honoring diverse opinions and perspectives and, when disagreements surface, engage thoughtfully by avoiding name-calling and abuse.
  • Pause before replying to comments or posts you disagree with and refrain from posting or sending anything that could hurt someone, damage a reputation or threaten someone’s safety.
  • Stand up for yourself and others if it’s safe and prudent to do so; report illegal and abusive content and behavior, and preserve evidence.

As we approach the close of 2019 and prepare for Safer Internet Day 2020, we’ll be ushering in not only a new year, but a new decade. We’ll kick off 2020 with a series of predictions from teens and adults about various aspects of online life over the next ten years. By embracing the Digital Civility Challenge and other common-sense habits and practices, we can help make the 2020s the safest and most respectful decade yet.

To learn more about digital civility and how you can help advance these practical ideals for online interaction, visit www.microsoft.com/digitalcivility. For more on digital safety generally, visit our website, “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

[1] The 21 risks span four broad categories: behavioral, sexual, reputational and personal/intrusive.

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IoT security will set innovation free: Azure Sphere general availability scheduled for February 2020

Today, at the IoT Solutions World Congress, we announced that Azure Sphere will be generally available in February of 2020. General availability will mark our readiness to fulfill our security promise at scale, and to put the power of Microsoft’s expertise to work for our customers every day—by delivering over a decade of ongoing security improvements and OS updates delivered directly to each device.

Since we first introduced Azure Sphere in 2018, the IoT landscape has quickly expanded. Today, there are more connected things than people in the world: 14.2 billion in 2019, according to Gartner, and this number is expected to hit 20 billion by 2020. Although this number appears large, we expect IoT adoption to accelerate to provide connectivity to hundreds of billions of devices. This massive growth will only increase the stakes for devices that are not secured.

Recent research by Bain & Co. lists security as the leading barrier to IoT adoption. In fact, enterprise customers would buy at least 70 percent more IoT devices if a product addresses their concerns about cybersecurity. According to Bain & Co., enterprise executives, with an innate understanding of the risk that connectivity opens their brands and customers to, are willing to pay a 22 percent premium for secured devices.

Azure Sphere’s mission is to empower every organization on the planet to connect and create secured and trustworthy IoT devices. We believe that for innovation to deliver durable value, it must be built on a foundation of security. Our customers need and expect reliable, consistent security that will set innovation free. To deliver on this, we’ve made several strategic investments and partnerships that make it possible to meet our customers wherever they are on their IoT journey.

Delivering silicon choice to enable heterogeneity at the edge

By partnering with silicon leaders, we can combine our expertise in security with their unique capabilities to best serve a diverse set of customer needs.

MediaTek’s MT3620, the first Azure Sphere certified chip produced, is designed to meet the needs of the more traditional MCU space, including Wi-Fi-enabled scenarios. Today, our customers across industries are adopting the MT3620 to design and produce everything from consumer appliances to retail and manufacturing equipment—these chips are also being used to power a series of guardian modules to securely connect and protect mission-critical equipment.

In June, we announced our collaboration with NXP to deliver a new Azure Sphere certified chip. This new chip will be an extension of their popular i.MX 8 high-performance applications processor series and be optimized for performance and power. This will bring greater compute capabilities to our line-up to support advanced workloads, including artificial intelligence (AI), graphics, and richer UI experiences.

Earlier this month, we announced our collaboration with Qualcomm to deliver the first cellular-enabled Azure Sphere chip. With ultra-low-power capabilities this new chip will light up a broad new set of scenarios and give our customers the freedom to securely connect anytime, anywhere.

Streamlining prototyping and production with a diverse hardware ecosystem

Manufacturers are looking for ways to reduce cost, complexity, and time to market when designing new devices and equipment. Azure Sphere development kits from our partners at Seeed Studios and Avnet are designed to streamline the prototyping and planning when building Azure Sphere devices. When you’re ready to shift gears into production mode, there are a variety of modules by partners including AI-Link, USI, and Avnet to help you reduce costs and accelerate production so you can get to market faster.

Adding secured connectivity to existing mission-critical equipment

Many enterprises are looking to unlock new value from existing equipment through connectivity. Guardian modules are designed to help our customers quickly bring their existing investments online without taking on risk and jeopardizing mission-critical equipment. Guardian modules plug into existing physical interfaces on equipment, can be easily deployed with common technical skillsets, and require no device redesign. The deployment is fast, does not require equipment to be replaced before its end of life, and quickly pays for itself. The first guardian modules are available today from Avnet and AI-Link, with more expected soon.

Empowering developers with the right tools

Developers need tools that are as modern as the experiences they aspire to deliver. In September of 2018, we released our SDK preview for Visual Studio. Since then, we’ve continued to iterate rapidly, making it quicker and simpler to develop, deploy, and debug Azure Sphere apps. We also built out a set of samples and solutions on GitHub, providing easy building blocks for developers to get started. And, as we shared recently, we’ll soon have an SDK for Linux and support for Visual Studio Code. By empowering their developers, we help manufacturers bring innovation to market faster.

Creating a secure environment for running an RTOS or bare-metal code

As manufacturers transform MCU-powered devices by adding connectivity, they want to leverage existing code running on an RTOS or bare-metal. Earlier this year, we provided a secured environment for this code by enabling the M4 core processors embedded in the MediaTek MT3620 chip. Code running on these real-time cores is programmed and debugged using Visual Studio. Using these tools, such code can easily be enhanced to send and receive data via the protection of a partner app running on the Azure Sphere OS, and it can be updated seamlessly in the field to add features or to address issues. Now, manufacturers can confidently secure and service their connected devices, while leveraging existing code for real-time processing operations.

Delivering customer success

Deep partnerships with early customers have helped us understand how IoT can be implemented to propel business, and the critical role security plays in protecting their bottom line, brand, and end users. Today, we’re working with hundreds of customers who are planning Azure Sphere deployments, here are a few highlights from across retail, healthcare, and energy:

  • Starbucks—In-store equipment is the backbone of not just commerce, but their entire customer experience. To reduce disruptions and maintain a quality experience, Starbucks is partnering with Microsoft to deploy Azure Sphere across its existing mission-critical equipment in stores globally using guardian modules.
  • Gojo—Gojo Industries, the inventor of PURELL Hand Sanitizer, has been driving innovation to improve hygiene compliance in health organizations. Deploying motion detectors and connected PURELL dispensers in healthcare facilities made it possible to quantify hand cleaning behavior in a way that made it possible to implement better practices. Now, PURELL SMARTLINK Technology is undergoing an upgrade with Azure Sphere to deploy secure and connected dispensers in hospitals.
  • Leoni—Leoni develops cable systems that are central components within critical application fields that manage energy and data for the automotive sector and other industries. To make cable systems safer, more reliable, and smarter, Leoni uses Azure Sphere with integrated sensors to actively monitor cable conditions, creating intelligent and connected cable systems.

Looking forward

We want to empower every organization on the planet to connect and create secure and trustworthy IoT devices. While Azure Sphere leverages deep and extensive Microsoft heritage that spans hardware, software, cloud, and security, IoT is our opportunity to prove we can deliver in a new space. Our work, our collaborations, and our partnerships are evidence of the commitment we’ve made to our customers—to give them the tools and confidence to transform the world with new experiences. As we close in on the milestone achievement of Azure Sphere general availability, we are already focused on how to give our customers greater opportunities to securely shape the future.

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Unlocking opportunities in the next frontier of IoT

We live in an increasingly connected world. I commute to work in a connected car, one that gets over-the-air updates with new experiences. I’m connected to my work and personal life in real time with my smartphone and laptop. And I work in a connected office, one that knows how to automatically save energy and ensure security. From the moment I woke up today, I was immersed in an IoT world.

And so were you.

We are surrounded by connected devices, all of them collecting and transmitting vast amounts of information. That makes a seamless, smart and secure Internet of Things (IoT) important to us all.

This week at IoT Solutions World Congress we are announcing new capabilities that further simplify the customer journey and deliver highly secured IoT solutions. These solutions help customers embrace IoT as a core strategy to drive better business outcomes, improve safety and address social issues, such as:

  • Predicting and preventing equipment failures
  • Optimizing smart buildings for space utilization and energy management
  • Improving patient outcomes and worker safety
  • Tracking assets across a supply chain that is constantly being optimized

IDC expects that 41.6 billion devices — including smartphones, smart home assistants and appliances — will be connected to the internet by 2025[1].

At Microsoft, we are committed to providing a trusted, easy-to-use platform that allows our customers and partners to build seamless, smart and secure solutions regardless of where they are in their IoT journey.

Making IoT seamless: Delivering new IoT innovations from cloud to edge

In 2018, we  announced our commitment to invest $5 billion in IoT and intelligent edge — technology that is accelerating ubiquitous computing and bringing unparalleled opportunity for transformation across industries. Since then, we have launched more than 100 new services and features in our IoT platform designed to make IoT solutions more secure and scalable, reduce complexity, make our platform more open and create opportunities in new market areas.

Azure IoT Central, our IoT app platform, reduces the burden and costs associated with developing, managing and maintaining enterprise-grade IoT solutions. With IoT Central you can provision an IoT application in 15 seconds, customize it in an hour and go to production the same day.

And today, we are excited to announce a set of breakthrough features to help solution builders accelerate time-to-value:

  • 11 new industry-focused application templates to accelerate solution builders across retail, health care, government and energy
  • API support for extending IoT Central or integrating it with other solutions, including API support for device modeling, provisioning, lifecycle management, operations and data querying
  • IoT Edge support, including management for edge devices and IoT Edge module deployments
  • IoT plug-and-play support for rapid device development and connectivity
  • The ability to save and load applications to enable application repeatability
  • More data export options for continually exporting data to other Azure Platform as a Service (PaaS) services
  • Multitenancy support to build and manage a single application with multiple tenants, each with their own isolated data, devices, users and roles
  • Custom user roles for fine-grained access control to data, actions and configurations in the system
  • A new pricing model for early 2020 to provide customers and partners with predictable pricing as usage scales

A variety of partners are already using IoT Central to transform their industries. For example, C.H. Robinson, a Fortune 500 provider of multimodal transportation services and third-party logistics, is using Intel intelligent gateways and IoT tags managed by IoT Central, allowing it to quickly integrate IoT data and insights into its industry-leading Navisphere Vision product. Key retailers are using Navisphere, including Microsoft’s own supply-chain teams who are optimizing logistics and costs as we prepare to deliver Surface and Xbox products for the holidays.

Read more on our IoT Central blog about how partners are leveraging IoT Central to transform their businesses and their industries.

Making IoT smarter

Azure IoT Hub is the core of our Azure IoT platform services. It is used by IoT Central and acts as a powerful cloud gateway, enabling bidirectional communication with millions of IoT devices. We are excited to announce new features that will make IoT solutions using IoT Hub even smarter:

Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, is using IoT Hub to move over 12 million containers a year all over the globe. “With Azure IoT Hub, we have seamless two-way communication between our IoT platform and devices,” says Siddhartha Kulkarni, digital solutions enabler, A.P. Moller – Maersk. “The ability to send commands from within Azure IoT Hub makes it a command and control system and not just a data ingestion system. Being able to set up Azure IoT Hub globally in different locations and regionalize data ingestion opens up many future options for us.” Read the Maersk customer story here.

And Danfoss, a Danish company that creates products and provides services used to cool food, heat and air condition buildings and more, is using Azure IoT Hub to build IoT solutions with reliable and secure communications between its IoT devices for refrigerators and an Azure-hosted solution backend.

Azure Maps inherits the goodness of Azure — including global scalability, robust security and data sovereignty — and provides location intelligence to IoT applications with mapping and geospatial services to drive insights and action.

For 12 consecutive years, Gartner has recognized Microsoft as a leader in analytics and business intelligence. With integration into Power BI, Azure Maps now enables Power BI users to easily perform Geospatial Analytics, enabling customers to build out Azure Maps solutions that don’t require developer resources. And to provide world-class security, protection and compliance to government customers, Azure Maps is now available on Government Cloud.

And now, in partnership with AccuWeather, Azure Maps customers can add geospatial weather intelligence into their applications to enable weather-based scenarios, such as routing, targeted marketing and operations optimization. “This is a game changer,” says Dr. Joel N. Myers, AccuWeather founder and CEO. “AccuWeather’s partnership with Microsoft gives all Azure Maps customers the ability to easily integrate authentic and highly accurate weather-based location intelligence and routing into their applications. This opens up new opportunities for organizations large and small to benefit from our superior weather data based on their unique needs.”

Azure Time Series Insights provides a turnkey, end-to-end IoT analytics solution with rich semantic modeling for contextualization of time series data, asset-based insights, and a best-in-class user experience for discovery, trending, anomaly detection and operational intelligence. It is purpose-built for IoT scale data, allowing customers to focus on their businesses without having to worry about manageability of their infrastructure, regional availability or disaster recovery. We are excited to announce the new capabilities, releasing soon:

  • Multilayered storage that provides the best of both worlds: lightning-fast access to frequently used data (“warm data”) and fast access to infrequently used historical data (“cold data”)
  • Flexible cold storage: Historical data is stored in the customer’s own Azure Storage account, giving them complete control of their IoT data. Data is stored in open source Apache Parquet format, enabling predictive analytics, machine learning, and other custom computations using familiar technologies including Spark, Databricks and Jupyter
  • Rich analytics: Rich query APIs and user experience supported interpolation, new scalar and aggregate functions, categorical variables, scatter plots and time shifting between time series signals for in-depth analysis
  • Enterprise-grade scale: Scale and performance improvements at all layers, including ingestion, storage, query and metadata/model
  • Extensibility and integration: New Time Series Insights Power BI connector allows customers to take queries from Time Series Insights into Power BI to get a unified view in a single pane of glass

Through our Express Logic acquisition, Azure RTOS (real-time operating system) continues to enable new intelligent capabilities. It unlocks access to billions of new connected endpoints and grows the number of devices that can seamlessly connect to Azure. Renesas is a top MCU (MicroController Unit) manufacturer who shares our vision of making IoT development as easy and seamless as possible and we are excited to announce that Azure RTOS will be broadly available across Renesas’s products including the Synergy and RA MCU families. It is already integrated into the Renesas Synergy Software Package and will be integrated out-of-box with the Renesas RA Flexible Software Package).

Making IoT more secure, from cloud to edge

Enabling a future of intelligent and secure computing at the edge for organizations, enterprises and consumers will require advances in computer architecture down to the chip level, with security built in from the beginning. Microsoft is taking a holistic approach to securing the intelligent edge and IoT from the silicon to the cloud in a way that gives customers flexibility and control.

Azure Sphere is quickly becoming the solution of choice for customers across industries — including Starbucks, Gojo and Leoni — as they look to securely connect existing mission-critical equipment and develop net-new devices and equipment with security built in. Today we are excited to announce the upcoming general availability of Azure Sphere in February 2020. Read more about the upcoming Azure Sphere general availability on the Microsoft Security blog.

Our mission is to set a new standard for IoT security that makes it easier to securely connect existing equipment and create new devices with built-in security. In April 2018, we introduced Azure Sphere as an end-to-end solution that includes an Azure Sphere-certified chip, the Azure Sphere Operating System and the Azure Sphere Security Service. The solution is designed to make it easy for manufacturers to create innately secure devices and keep those devices up-to-date over time with over a decade of security and OS updates delivered directly to each device by Microsoft.

Since we first introduced Azure Sphere, we’ve made tremendous progress delivering on our ambitious product vision, investing in partnerships and capabilities that help us serve customers wherever they are in their IoT journey. This includes our partnerships with silicon leaders to enable heterogeneity at the edge; our longstanding partnership with MediaTek, and our recent partnership announcements with NXP and Qualcomm, which will introduce the first cellular-enabled Azure Sphere-certified chip.

Discover how to unlock your own IoT opportunities

We have a number of ways to learn more, no matter what your goals are and where you are on your IoT journey.

  • Come see us at IoT Solutions World Congress 2019 in Barcelona, Oct. 29–31, 2019. We will be bringing IoT solutions to life in our booth (#D411), across various industries and scenarios:
    • IoT at Home, featuring ABB & EnOcean
    • IoT on My Commute, featuring Dover Oil & Accenture
    • IoT in the Office, featuring Bosch & Edge
    • IoT in Store, featuring Codit & Cognizant
    • IoT for a Drink, featuring Celli Group
    • IoT in the Factory, featuring Softing & PTC
  • You can also catch my keynote on Tuesday, Oct. 29, Unlocking the Next Frontier of the Internet of Things.

IoT has already revolutionized our lives by transforming everyday devices into an incredible connected universe. The question now is, are you ready for what’s next?

[1] Worldwide Global DataSphere IoT Device and Data Forecast, 2019–2023, Doc # US45066919, May 2019

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