Archive for July 6, 2020

Dell Technologies Rolls Out Payment Flexibility Program

Posted in Commentary with tags on July 6, 2020 by itnerd

As organizations continue to navigate the changing business landscape impacted by COVID-19, their ability to quickly pivot spending priorities is more essential than ever. There isn’t an option to move away from tech or stop maintaining infrastructure — especially with the extension of remote work, the increasing need for automation and emerging technologies like 5G, AI and machine learning.

Dell Technologies is committed to offering the flexibility businesses need to adapt and thrive through this crisis, to help manage shifting priorities, stay agile, preserve capital and access essential technology.

As companies re-evaluate their IT priorities to drive business forward into the “new normal,” Dell Technologies has rolled out the Payment Flexibility Program for businesses that need to reduce up-front IT costs and free up resources. It is built on the strong foundation of Dell Financial Services (DFS) and Dell’s industry-leading end-to-end IT portfolio, and offers various customizable offers that help businesses manage cash flow.

About the Payment Flexibility Program:

  • 0% interest rates for all Dell Technologies server, storage and networking solutions
  • Ability to defer the first payment up to 180 days on all data center infrastructure and services to help manage cash flow
  • Short term options for remote work and learning with 6 to 12-month terms and refresh options for laptops and desktops
  • One year term to flexible consumption offerings in the Dell Technologies On Demand program
    • You can scale usage of Dell Technologies converged, hyperconverged, hybrid cloud, storage and data protection solutions and only pay for what you use
  • This commitment extends to Dell’s channel and global alliance partners with DFS accessible to thousands of partners
  • The offers under the program are valid through July 31, 2020

In addition, Dell is also making $9B in financing available this year to help fund critical technology and IT infrastructure needs including running the business, taking care of staff and accessing essential technology.

Guest Post: Darktrace Describes Why AI Is Critical For Stopping The Rising Threat Of Cyber Attacks In Industrial Environments

Posted in Commentary with tags on July 6, 2020 by itnerd

Cyber-attacks on industrial environments are on the rise. Whether caused by attacks that bleed from the IT network and spill out on to critical systems or malware that specifically targets them, cyber criminals and nation states now have the ability to cause chaos at the click of a button: halting production or even causing power outages across cities.

The potential impact of an attack on critical national infrastructure should not be understated. As smart buildings, cities and the Internet of Things become more common, vulnerabilities are growing, and state sponsored attackers are on the lookout for ways in. The lines between cyber and physical are blurring and this raises the stakes for all involved – increasing the likelihood of unintentional escalations and further complicating international relations.

The key point is that critical environments do not fail gracefully. There isn’t the option of reverting to pen and paper and muddling along. 

Now is the time to build in cyber resiliency so these systems are able to resist and fight back against cyber-attacks.

Industrial environments cannot simply be air-gapped to keep them safe and so organizations need to invest in artificial intelligence systems that can work in the background to automatically and dynamically block attacks that not only bleed from IT but originate in industrial systems.

Below are a series of industrial threat finds Darktrace AI has detected in recent weeks. These real-life threat finds are great examples of the threats facing industrial environments, as well as the vulnerability of IoT devices, and how AI is capable of stopping them in their tracks.

HACKERS TARGET AIR CONDITIONING AT US CONSTRUCTION GIANT

Like almost every other business across the globe, a US construction company transitioned to remote working.

To facilitate the transition, they protected their IT network with the usual firewalls and anti-virus software and focused on how industrial technology could continue to safely operate while employees worked from home.

What they failed to remember was that the air conditioning units back at their HQ were connected to the corporate network – so that the temperature could be automatically monitored. As attackers scanned all devices at the HQ for vulnerabilities, they noticed this air conditioning unit was left exposed and hacked into the air conditioning.

In a stroke of good timing, the company deployed Darktrace’s cyber AI – entrusting the technology to not only detect but automatically respond to cyber-attacks. Immediately, AI spotted that one air conditioning unit was acting suspiciously compared to the other 9 units and, without human intervention, stopped the hackers from pivoting into more critical industrial control systems.

CRYPTOMINING USED AS A DISTRACTION FOR ADVANCED THREAT AT SINGAPOREAN RESEARCH AGENCY

Governments around the world have issued official warnings for state hackers targeting universities and research agencies in a bid to steal information on a cure for COVID-19. 

This month, at a renowned academic institution in Singapore, AI detected and automatically stopped an academic cryptocurrency malware in the organization: likely to be a variant of Shellbot. On the face of it, this attack may not seem like one aiming to steal or halt research efforts.

However cryptomining is extremely resource-intensive for security teams. It is often a tactic used by sophisticated hackers to distract security teams from a more serious attack like subtle data exfiltration. What’s more, if AI had not stepped in at machine speed, the malware could have bled into the industrial control systems at the institution, resulting in widespread outages. This would physically interrupt production of vaccines, medicines or cutting-edge technology.

HACKERS TARGET CCTV CAMERA AT CANADIAN LOGISTICS GIANT

IoT devices, such as Internet-connected cameras, are becoming increasingly common in personal, business and industrial environments, yet threats targeting IoT are difficult to detect and often go unnoticed since these devices effortlessly connect to digital infrastructure.

In late May, Darktrace detected Mirai malware infecting an Internet-facing CCTV surveillance camera at a Canadian logistics company. Mirai is an old threat that is still used to target IoT devices.

Having analysed this device’s transfers within the context of a continuously evolving understanding of what is normal both for this device and for the wider organization, Darktrace AI spotted some unusual behaviour: the infected camera was making connections to multiple IP addresses that were statistically rare for the network. Specifically, the compromised device began transferring large amounts of data to an IP address in China.

As there were no antivirus or other security tools covering the IoT camera, without AI this would have gone undetected – the client saw no indicators of malicious activity beyond a sluggish network. Once the client was promptly notified, the compromise was deescalated, and the client took the camera offline.

Element AI joins the SGInnovate “Deep Tech for Good” Initiative

Posted in Commentary with tags on July 6, 2020 by itnerd

Element AI, a global developer of artificial intelligence-powered (AI) solutions and services, today announced it is joining the SGInnovate Deep Tech Summit as an ecosystem partner. In line with the launch of its AI for Climate program, the company’s participation in the Deep Tech for Good initiative will help accelerate the use of frontier technologies including machine learning (ML) and AI to improve the human condition and fast-track sustainable developments across multiple markets.

The first session featured at Deep Tech for Good was the AI for Climate Masterclass: How AI Can Help Manufacturers to Achieve Sustainability Goals. This workshop was designed to help leaders and practitioners in manufacturing-related industries learn about the challenges and opportunities for deploying AI to drive organisational sustainability goals whilst managing ROI.

As part of this continuing series, Professor Yoshua Bengio, Scientific Director of Mila and Co-Founder of Element AI, and Dr Kai-Fu Lee, Chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures and President of Sinovation Ventures Artificial Intelligence Institute, will share their perspectives on the topic, “Using AI to fight COVID-19 and Climate Change”. The virtual session will be happening on July 23rd at 9am (SGT). Register here.

Through its collaboration with the Deep Tech for Good initiative, Element AI is sharing insights from its experiences at the forefront of AI technology deployments and its work alongside sustainability experts from industries such as energy, manufacturing and supply chains to improve the efficiency of processes and the impact of sustainability programmes. The core intention of this initiative is to educate decision-makers about how technology can be leveraged for good, applying sustainable, climate-friendly methodologies that also create positive return on investment for businesses.

For more information about Element AI solutions and services, contact: elementai.com/contact.

Review: ASUS ZenWiFi AX (XT8)

Posted in Products with tags on July 6, 2020 by itnerd

Before I get to the review, let me tell you a funny story. So I had a Netgear router for the longest while. However their security issues made me switch to another router. Specifically the ASUS ZenWiFi AC (CT8) model which ASUS sent over for me to review. I set it up and locked it down and I declared all to be well with the universe.

Two days after that, ASUS called and wanted their router back. After all, it was a press loaner that they had kind of forgotten about during the pandemic.

Craptastic.

That meant that I had to get a replacement in a hurry. While I could have gone with more of the same, I figured that I would take opportunity to future proof my network. Which meant that after a quick trip to Amazon.ca, and a screw up in terms of delivery by Purolator Courier in terms of delivery, I got this:

This is the ASUS ZenWiFi AX (XT8) mesh WiFi router. You get two nodes in the box which will cover 5500 square feet. It supports a variety of standards including the following:

802.11a: 6,9,12,18,24,36,48,54 Mbps
802.11b: 1, 2, 5.5, 11 Mbps
802.11g: 6,9,12,18,24,36,48,54 Mbps
802.11n: up to 300 Mbps
802.11ac (5GHZ-1): up to 867 Mbps
802.11ac (5GHZ-2): up to 3466 Mbps
802.11ax (2.4GHz): up to 574 Mbps
802.11ax (5GHZ-1): up to 1201 Mbps
802.11ax (5GHZ-2): up to 4804 Mbps

So in short, you get every standard available including WiFi 6/802.11ax. That pretty much future proofs your network by allowing you to use any device including the latest MacBooks, Surface devices, and iPhones with WiFi 6. What also is cool is that you get three bands. A 2.4 GHz band, and two 5 GHz bands. Though when used in a mesh setup, the second 5 GHz band is used for a dedicated backhaul between the nodes. Thus you effectively have 1 2.4 GHz band, and one 5 GHz band,

Here’s a look at one of the nodes:

It looks exactly like the ones that come with the AC version of this mesh router. But the black version looks way better than the white version. For the record, both the AC and the AX versions come in black and white.

On the back you can see that each node comes with three gigabit Ethernet ports for your devices, one 2.5 gigabit port for your Internet connection which is handy as many Internet Service Providers are now offering above gigabit speeds. Which means that you don’t want your router to be the bottleneck. There’s also a USB port for a printer.

The setup process of the ZenWiFi AX is absurdly simple by using the ASUS Router app. The app can automatically detects the mesh WiFi system over a Bluetooth connection. Just connect one unit to the modem from your ISP and turn both units on. Once both units are booted up, you can use the ASUS Router app to setup the system. It’s a wizard driven setup that if you want to just go the easy route, it will have you set up in minutes. But I like to do a lot more in terms of setting up a router, which means that I have to go to the web based interface to do things like disable WPS and UPnP for security reasons.

I configured the ZenWiFi AX (XT8) to be used in my condo with one node in my den and another one in the living room. The result was that I had 100% coverage in terms my 800 ish square foot condo. The other thing that I noticed is that I was able to get roughly get this speed in my condo using my MacBook Pro:

Now this speed is consistent with the AC version of router. If I had any WiFi 6 devices, I suspect that this speed would be faster. I was getting these speeds regardless of where I was in my condo. I also noticed that the experience was seamless. I was able to walk through my condo and the ZenWiFi AX seamlessly switched between nodes. So if it works in my use case, it will work for houses up to 5500 square feet in size.

Now like the ZenWiFi AC, this router is highly configurable and the nodes are accessible via the router app, or via a web page which is really good for nerds like me as the advanced features are available via the latter. You also get a pile of security to keep you safe via AiProtection Pro. And it supports Amazon Alexa and IFTTT.

Gripes? Well the only thing that was an issue was that I had to set up the 2.4 GHz band according to this FAQ as not setting it up this way was causing my wife’s Joule not to connect to WiFi. This was something that I did not encounter with the AC version of this router which is a side effect of the fact that this is a 802.11ax/WiFi 6 router. This is something that I will keep an eye on.

That brings me to another gripe. It also would be nice to have the Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports to be bondable so that you can get extra speed from a NAS or something like that. But I will have to admit that I am really being nerdy at this point.

The ZenWiFi AX is a great product which you can pick up for roughly $680CDN for two nodes from Amazon. That’s not cheap. But if you need WiFi across your home, and you want something that is future proof, the ZenWiFi AX deserves a good hard look.

Last-Mile Delivery is the Most Inefficient Process for More Than Half of North American Transportation & Logistics Companies: SOTI

Posted in Commentary with tags on July 6, 2020 by itnerd

The transportation and logistics (T&L) industry has experienced significant disruptions due to the steep rise in e-commerce and rapidly changing consumer expectations. With a greater variety and quantity of purchases being shipped directly to consumers’ homes, combined with expectations that necessitate rapid, often same-day deliveries, last-mile delivery strategies have never been more important. Yet, in a new global report titled The Last Mile Sprint: State of Mobility in Transportation and Logistics, commissioned by SOTI in partnership with Arlington Research, last-mile delivery is the most inefficient process of the entire supply chain, according to 59% of T&L companies in the U.S. and 78% in Canada.

Having A Mobile-First Strategy is the Solution to Last-Mile Delivery Problems

To create powerful and transparent customer experiences, 82% of respondents in the U.S. and 88% in Canada agreed that it is critical for T&L companies to ensure a mobile-first strategy around last-mile delivery. A mobile-first strategy is defined as viewing smartphones, tablets and task-specific apps as the primary tools for getting work done.

Companies know that a mobile-first strategy for last-mile delivery can transform their business operations. In fact, 74% in the U.S. and 80% in Canada agree that their organization would benefit, or have already benefited, from an effective mobile-first strategy for last-mile delivery. Moreover, 49% of respondents in North America with a mobile-first strategy in place for last-mile delivery said that it has effectively reduced their operational costs.

In addition, an effective mobile-first strategy provides companies with increased productivity and visibility into their business. In North America, more than half (58%) of T&L professionals said a mobile-first strategy has enabled them to gain visibility into critical aspects of their supply chain. In the U.S. specifically, 45% indicated it has created a better, more responsive customer experience and 44% of respondents have used their mobile strategies to support real-time decision-making.  

T&L Companies Fear that Outdated Technology Has Directly Contributed to Customer Loss

Surprisingly, the report found that nearly half (49%) of T&L companies globally said their technology is outdated. In Canada, nearly 7 out of 10 (68%) T&L companies indicated their technology is outdated, and 41% in the U.S. 

The report also found that T&L companies lacking a mobile-first strategy are at risk of losing customers. Half of T&L executives whose organizations use outdated technology believe they will lose, or have already lost, customers because of it and nearly one third (30%) of senior management using technology directly attributed this to falling behind competitors.  

Globally, nearly a third (32%) of senior executives at T&L companies believe mobile technology can be leveraged to improve operational efficiencies and reduce operational costs to increase their organization’s profitability within the next five years. 

To download The Last Mile Sprint: State of Mobility in Transportation and Logistics report, click here.

Report Methodology 

Arlington Research, an independent market research agency, conducted 450 interviews using an online methodology amongst IT Managers, IT Directors, Senior Management and C-Suite in the T&L vertical across six countries (Canada, U.S., UK, Germany, Sweden and Australia). All respondents work in companies with 50 or more global employees.