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MWC: VMware moves to edge computing

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VMware has unveiled an Internet of Things (IoT) strategy to deliver new edge computing solutions for specific use cases, such as Asset Management and Smart Surveillance at this year’s Mobile World Congress.

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, VMware unveiled an Internet of Things (IoT) strategy to deliver new edge computing solutions for specific use cases, such as Asset Management and Smart Surveillance. These edge solutions will feature VMware vSAN hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) software, VMware vSphere and VMware Pulse IoT Center, and will be developed in collaboration with industry-leading partners.

VMware sees unique requirements and environments at the edge and will address them through use case specific solutions spanning:

  • Industrial remote IoT use cases such as oil well optimisation, utility grids, and smart city use cases where the things reside in ruggedised, disparate, outdoor and often times, remote locations with inconsistent network and power;
  • Factory and plants in support of closed networks, ruggedised indoor environments; and,
  • Branches and in-stores in support of unique space and power requirements and coordinated across many stores.

IoT introduces a new wrinkle in today’s centralised data center/cloud model. A new class of cost-effective edge infrastructure is required to process data inputs from millions or even billions of IoT endpoints that are separated from the core data center or the public cloud by bandwidth. This new infrastructure must be simple to manage as there are no IT specialists at the edge; cost-effective as the volume of edge installations is large; and, scalable to allow edge installations to grow over time.

“By 2022, as a result of digital business projects, 75% of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed outside the traditional, centralised data center or cloud, which is an increase from less than today’s 10%,” according to Gartner. (1) Local analytics offer faster response times, reduced storage costs, and an optimum use of bandwidth while also supporting data privacy and compliance requirements.

VMware to Deliver HCI Solutions for the Edge

HCI and VMware Pulse IoT Center are ideally suited to process and secure sensor data that bridges the physical and digital worlds. VMware is working on providing more efficient and more secure IoT infrastructure that is easy to manage, scale, and update so customers can accelerate IoT initiatives and realise ROI faster. Based on the leading hyper-converged solution, these edge solutions will feature real-time analytics in support of IoT initiatives where customers will have the choice of licensing third-party business analytics starter kits, in partnership with industry leaders, to help with content analytics and drive business decisions.

VMware offers a full ecosystem of server hardware for Edge infrastructure or gateway solutions depending on use case needs, environment, and desired rugged ability. These new solutions include VMware Pulse IoT Center for management, monitoring, and security of all edge systems/gateways and connected devices such as sensors and the appropriate management and security solution to support compute and storage infrastructure and applications across the edge.

VMware to Collaborate with Axis Communications and Dell EMC for Smart Surveillance Solution

VMware and Axis Communications are collaborating on an IoT solution for the surveillance industry. The solution will feature Axis Communications’ state of the art surveillance capabilities including IP cameras as well as 4G/LTE routers which can be deployed to protect properties, stores, and employees. With VMware Pulse IoT Center, customers will have a way to manage, monitor, and secure their Axis Communications cameras and routers. Initially, the solution will be available on a choice of Dell EMC servers and include the option of Dell Edge Gateways. Additionally, VMware is working with financial services organisations to develop the modern bank of the future using surveillance to optimise security and the customer experience.

VMware, Dell Technologies and Wipro Limited Team Up on IoT Solution for Manufacturers and Asset Management Services 

VMware and Wipro Limited, a leading global information technology, consulting and business process services company, are working together to offer manufacturers a complete edge to cloud IoT solution. The benefits of improved efficiency and productivity of machinery and other assets across the shop floor have the potential to contribute significant returns to manufacturers. Featuring Wipro’s IoT offerings, including its Looking Glass asset management platform and services capability, the solution will integrate multiple IoT platforms which are either hosted on-premises or in the cloud. By connecting their IoT environment to their data centers, customers will benefit from deeper analytics and machine learning. Wipro will also be one of the first system integrators to provide installation and management services for VMware’s IoT Edge solutions.

Manufacturers can use Wipro’s IoT Platform and analytics capabilities for real-time data processing and for predictive failure analytics for devices and equipment on the manufacturing floor. VMware Pulse IoT Center helps manage, monitor, and secure assets and data in facilities as well as the edge infrastructure. By combining Wipro’s complete IoT Platform and analytics capabilities with VMware’s Pulse IoT Center, customers have access to a complete and seamless solution.

VMware Supports Edge Computing Research

VMware, in conjunction with the National Science Foundation (NSF), has announced a new solicitation on Edge Computing Data Infrastructure for research that advances the state of the art in end-to-end networked systems architecture that includes edge infrastructures. VMware will fund two awards valued at a total of $6 million for U.S. university faculty members. Additional information is available here.

Supporting Quotes

“Building an edge computing solution today is a time-intensive exercise most enterprises can’t afford. Today, VMware unveils hyper-converged edge computing solutions that are cost-effective and will enable customers to build and scale secure, use case-specific IoT solutions that work for them from the edge all the way to the cloud, relying on proven, tested software they already use and trust. Together with ecosystem partners Axis, Wipro Limited and Dell EMC, we’re excited to deliver the first of many tailored solutions to meet the unique IoT needs of our enterprise customers,” said Ray O’Farrell, executive vice president & chief technology officer, VMware.

“With the convergence of IT and security top of mind for the industry, we’re excited to collaborate with VMware on an IoT solution for the surveillance industry,” said Scott Dunn, senior director, Business Development Solutions & Services, Axis Communications, Inc. “This collaboration will give us an outstanding opportunity to deliver a better experience for our mutual customers by providing a leading edge IoT platform and management solution.”

“Our partnership with VMware and Dell Technologies complements our end-to-end IoT solutions and enables us to realise business outcomes for our customers,” said Jayraj Nair, vice president and global head of IoT, Wipro Limited. “Asset management, smart manufacturing, logistics and supply chain solutions enabled by IoT technologies are ushering in new levels of operational efficiency for our global clients.”

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Which IoT horse should you back?

The emerging IoT is evolving at a rapid pace with more companies entering the market. The development of new product and communication systems is likely to continue to grow over the next few years, after which we could begin to see a few dominant players emerge, says DARREN OXLEE, CTOf of Utility Systems.

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But in the interim, many companies face a dilemma because, in such a new industry, there are so many unknowns about its trajectory. With the variety of options available (particularly regarding the medium of communication), there’s the a question of which horse to back.

Many players also haven’t fully come to grips with the commercial models in IoT (specifically, how much it costs to run these systems).

Which communication protocol should you consider for your IoT application? Depends on what you’re looking for. Here’s a summary of the main low-power, wide area network (LPWAN) communications options that are currently available, along with their applicability:

SIGFOX 

SigFox has what is arguably the most traction in the LPWAN space, thanks to its successful marketing campaigns in Europe. It also has strong support from vendors including Texas Instruments, Silicon Labs, and Axom.

It’s a relatively simple technology, ultra-narrowband (100 Hz), and sends very small data (12 bytes) very slowly (300 bps). So it’s perfect for applications where systems need to send small, infrequent bursts of data. Its lack of downlink capabilities, however, could make it unsuitable for applications that require two-way communication.

LORA 

LoRaWAN is a standard governed by the LoRa Alliance. It’s not open because the underlying chipset is only available through Semtech – though this should change in future.

Its functionality is like SigFox: it’s primarily intended for uplink-only applications with multiple nodes, although downlink messages are possible. But unlike SigFox, LoRa uses multiple frequency channels and data rates with coded messages. These are less likely to interfere with one another, increasing the concentrator capacity.

RPMA 

Ingenu Technology Solutions has developed a proprietary technology called Random Phase Multiple Access (RPMA) in the 2.4 GHz band. Due to its architecture, it’s said to have a superior uplink and downlink capacity compared to other models.

It also claims to have better doppler, scheduling, and interference characteristics, as well as a better link budget of 177 dB compared to LoRa’s 157 dB and SigFox’s 149 dB. Plus, it operates in the 2.4 GHz spectrum, which is globally available for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so there are no regional architecture changes needed – unlike SigFox and LoRa.

LTE-M 

LTE-M (LTE Cat-M1) is a cellular technology that has gained traction in the United States and is specifically designed for IoT or machine‑to‑machine (M2M) communications.

It’s a low‑power wide‑area (LPWA) interface that connects IoT and M2M devices with medium data rate requirements (375 kb/s upload and download speeds in half duplex mode). It also enables longer battery lifecycles and greater in‑building range compared to standard cellular technologies like 2G, 3G, or LTE Cat 1.

Key features include:

·       Voice functionality via VoLTE

·       Full mobility and in‑vehicle hand‑over

·       Low power consumption

·       Extended in‑building range

NB-IOT 

Narrowband IoT (NB‑IoT or LTE Cat NB1) is part of the same 3GPP Release 13 standard3 that defined LTE Cat M1 – both are licensed as LPWAN technologies that work virtually anywhere. NB-IoT connects devices simply and efficiently on already established mobile networks and handles small amounts of infrequent two‑way data securely and reliably.

NB‑IoT is well suited for applications like gas and water meters through regular and small data transmissions, as network coverage is a key issue in smart metering rollouts. Meters also tend to be in difficult locations like cellars, deep underground, or in remote areas. NB‑IoT has excellent coverage and penetration to address this.

MY FORECAST

The LPWAN technology stack is fluid, so I foresee it evolving more over the coming years. During this time, I suspect that we’ll see:

1.     Different markets adopting different technologies based on factors like dominant technology players and local regulations

2.     The technologies diverging for a period and then converging with a few key players, which I think will be SigFox, LoRa, and the two LTE-based technologies

3.     A significant technological shift in 3-5 years, which will disrupt this space again

So, which horse should you back?

I don’t believe it’s prudent to pick a single technology now; lock-in could cause serious restrictions in the long-term. A modular, agile approach to implementing the correct communications mechanism for your requirements carries less risk.

The commercial model is also hugely important. The cellular and telecommunications companies will understandably want to maximise their returns and you’ll want to position yourself to share an equitable part of the revenue.

So: do your homework. And good luck!

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Ms Office hack attacks up 4X

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Exploits, software that takes advantage of a bug or vulnerability, for Microsoft Office in-the-wild hit the list of cyber headaches in Q1 2018. Overall, the number of users attacked with malicious Office documents rose more than four times compared with Q1 2017. In just three months, its share of exploits used in attacks grew to almost 50% – this is double the average share of exploits for Microsoft Office across 2017. These are the main findings from Kaspersky Lab’s Q1 IT threat evolution report.

Attacks based on exploits are considered to be very powerful, as they do not require any additional interactions with the user and can deliver their dangerous code discreetly. They are therefore widely used; both by cybercriminals looking for profit and by more sophisticated nation-backed state actors for their malicious purposes.

The first quarter of 2018 experienced a massive inflow of these exploits, targeting popular Microsoft Office software. According to Kaspersky Lab experts, this is likely to be the peak of a longer trend, as at least ten in-the-wild exploits for Microsoft Office software were identified in 2017-2018 – compared to two zero-day exploits for Adobe Flash player used in-the-wild during the same time period.

The share of the latter in the distribution of exploits used in attacks is decreasing as expected (accounting for slightly less than 3% in the first quarter) – Adobe and Microsoft have put a lot of effort into making it difficult to exploit Flash Player.

After cybercriminals find out about a vulnerability, they prepare a ready-to-go exploit. They then frequently use spear-phishing as the infection vector, compromising users and companies through emails with malicious attachments. Worse still, such spear-phishing attack vectors are usually discreet and very actively used in sophisticated targeted attacks – there were many examples of this in the last six months alone.

For instance, in late 2017, Kaspersky Lab’s advanced exploit prevention systems identified a new Adobe Flash zero-day exploit used in-the-wild against our customers. The exploit was delivered through a Microsoft Office document and the final payload was the latest version of FinSpy malware. Analysis of the payload enabled researchers to confidently link this attack to a sophisticated actor known as ‘BlackOasis’. The same month, Kaspersky Lab’s experts published a detailed analysis of СVE-2017-11826, a critical zero-day vulnerability used to launch targeted attacks in all versions of Microsoft Office. The exploit for this vulnerability is an RTF document containing a DOCX document that exploits СVE-2017-11826 in the Office Open XML parser. Finally, just a couple of days ago, information on Internet Explorer zero day CVE-2018-8174 was published. This vulnerability was also used in targeted attacks.

“The threat landscape in the first quarter again shows us that a lack of attention to patch management is one of the most significant cyber-dangers. While vendors usually issue patches for the vulnerabilities, users often can’t update their products in time, which results in waves of discreet and highly effective attacks once the vulnerabilities have been exposed to the broad cybercriminal community,” notes Alexander Liskin, security expert at Kaspersky Lab.

Other online threat statistics from the Q1, 2018 report include:

  • Kaspersky Lab solutions detected and repelled 796,806,112 malicious attacks from online resources located in 194 countries around the world.
  • 282,807,433 unique URLs were recognised as malicious by web antivirus components.
  • Attempted infections by malware that aims to steal money via online access to bank accounts were registered on 204,448 user computers.
  • Kaspersky Lab’s file antivirus detected a total of 187,597,494 unique malicious and potentially unwanted objects.
  • Kaspersky Lab mobile security products also detected:
    • 1,322,578 malicious installation packages.
    • 18,912 mobile banking Trojans (installation packages).

To reduce the risk of infection, users are advised to:

  • Keep the software installed on your PC up to date, and enable the auto-update feature if it is available.
  • Wherever possible, choose a software vendor that demonstrates a responsible approach to a vulnerability problem. Check if the software vendor has its own bug bounty program.

·         Use robust security solutions , which have special features to protect against exploits, such as Automatic Exploit Prevention.

·         Regularly run a system scan to check for possible infections and make sure you keep all software up to date.

  • Businesses should use a security solution that provides vulnerability, patch management and exploit prevention components, such as Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Business. The patch management feature automatically eliminates vulnerabilities and proactively patches them. The exploit prevention component monitors suspicious actions of applications and blocks malicious files executions.
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