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HelpSystems expands email, cloud security portfolio with acquisition of Agari, Beyond Security



HelpSystems has announced the acquisition of Agari and Beyond Security as the firm continues to expand its cybersecurity portfolio. 

The financial details of the transactions were not disclosed. 

Headquartered in Cupertino, California, Beyond Security is a provider of automated vulnerability assessment and compliance solutions. 

The firm’s products, beSecure, beSource, and beStorm, cover vulnerability scanning and management, code analysis, and black box testing. 

“The team and solutions from Beyond Security will fit into HelpSystems’ popular infrastructure protection portfolio featuring Digital Defense, Core Security, and Cobalt Strike,” the company says. 

This is the second acquisition made public by HelpSystems this week. On Thursday, the company also announced a deal to secure Agari, a Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions provider for phishing protection based in Foster City, California. 

Email, when combined with social engineering, leads to business email compromise (BEC) and may result in wider compromise of enterprise networks. Agari solutions attempt to filter out phishing attempts using data science, machine learning (ML), and cloud computing. 

Agari is also a founding member of the consortium which created the Domain Message Authentication Reporting Conformance (DMARC) email authentication standard, a technical standard designed to prevent phishing, spam, and spoofing. 

“Cybercriminals increasingly use email as a prime way to infiltrate businesses and gain access to sensitive data and IP, causing untold damage in terms of cost and reputation,” commented Kate Bolseth, HelpSystems chief executive. “We’re thrilled to welcome Agari and their email phishing defense prowess to the HelpSystems family. Agari will be a notable asset to HelpSystems as we work together to give global customers new tools for securing their valuable data and achieving peace of mind.”

The purchases build upon the acquisition of Texas-based Digital Defense in February, a company that develops SaaS vulnerability scanning, network asset analysis, and risk score generation software to assist IT teams in patch and remediation efforts. 

Previous and related coverage

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Amazon launching global competition to find and fix 1 million software bugs



Amazon announced a new global competition called AWS BugBust, which will allow developers to compete over finding and fixing one million bugs. The company said the competition will also help “reduce technical debt by over $100 million.”

In a blog post, AWS principal advocate Martin Beeby said AWS BugBust was taking the concept of a bug bash “to a new level” by allowing developers to create and manage private events that effectively “gamify the process of finding and fixing bugs in your software.”

“Many of the software companies where I’ve worked (including Amazon) run them in the weeks before launching a new product or service. [AWS BugBust] includes automated code analysis, built-in leaderboards, custom challenges, and rewards,” Beeby said. “AWS BugBust fosters team building and introduces some friendly competition into improving code quality and application performance. What’s more, your developers can take part in the world’s largest code challenge, win fantastic prizes, and receive kudos from their peers.”

Those interested in joining the competition can create an AWS BugBust event through Amazon’s CodeGuru console, a machine learning developer tool that helps identify bugs. AWS BugBust will have a leaderboard for developers and the company will dole out achievement badges and a chance for an expense-paid trip to AWS re:Invent 2021 in Las Vegas.

Swami Sivasubramanian, vice president of Amazon Machine Learning at AWS, explained that hundreds of thousands of AWS customers are building and deploying new features to applications each day at high velocity and managing complex code at high volumes. 

“It’s difficult to get time from skilled developers to quickly perform effective code reviews since they’re busy building, innovating, and pushing out deployments,” Sivasubramanian said. “Today, we are excited to announce an entirely new approach to help developers improve code quality, eliminate bugs, and boost application performance, while saving millions of dollars in application resource costs.” 

The AWS BugBust capability is currently available on the East Coast of the US and soon will be available to any region where Amazon CodeGuru is offered. 

Beeby noted that there will be a global leaderboard that will be updated each time a developer fixes a bug and wins points. Any developer that makes it to 100 points will win an AWS BugBust T-shirt, and those who reach 2,000 points will win an AWS BugBust Varsity Jacket.

The top ten will receive tickets to AWS re:Invent. To compete in the global challenge, projects must be written in Python or Java, as those are the only languages supported by Amazon CodeGuru. 

Beeby added that all costs incurred by the underlying usage of Amazon CodeGuru Reviewer and Amazon CodeGuru Profiler are free of charge for 30 days with an AWS account. 

“This 30 day free period applies even if you have already utilized the free tiers for Amazon CodeGuru Reviewer and Amazon CodeGuru Profiler. You can create multiple AWS BugBust events within the 30-day free trial period,” Beeby wrote. “After the 30-day free trial expires, you will be charged for Amazon CodeGuru Reviewer and Amazon CodeGuru Profiler based on your usage in the challenge.”

Amazon included multiple comments from partners who plan to have employees participate in the program, including Belle Fleur and Miami Dade College. 

“The AWS BugBust Challenge will be a fun and educative addition to our curriculum to help our students become more confident in their ability to use the Python programming language and take their IT careers to the next level,” said Antonio Delgado, Dean of Engineering, Technology and Design at Miami Dade College. 

“We plan to use AWS BugBust every semester as a platform for our students to showcase and enhance their coding skills, all while being part of an exciting bug-bashing event.” 

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Microsoft: Windows 11 a better fit than Windows 10 for this hybrid world



Credit: ZDNet

Given last week’s leak of an early build of Windows 11, the look and feel of the next version of Windows isn’t a big surprise today, which is its official reveal day. But Microsoft’s positioning and reasoning for introducing a “new” Windows version six years after Windows 10 is more of a story. 

Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay set the stage for Windows 11 on June 24 during a roughly hour-long virtual event dedicated to “What’s Next for Windows.”

More Windows 11

 Also: Best Windows 10 laptop in 2021

Somewhat unsurprisingly, given how hard Microsoft has been beating the hybrid work drum over the past year, the company is positioning Windows 11 as better suited for a hybrid world than previous Windows releases. Officials played up how the new UI will help customers be more productive in both work and personal endeavors. It’s also probably a shock to no one that Microsoft is claiming Windows 11 is the most secure Windows version to date and is a “zero-trust-ready” operating system.

If you’re into the more touchy-feely stuff, Microsoft also is attributing its Windows 11 design decisions like adding rounded corners and new icons as making Windows feel effortless, calmer, and more personal, while still feeling familiar. The company’s goal with “cloud-powered” Windows 11, officials said, was to make Windows feel more modern but still familiar enough for existing Windows users to be able to continue to work, learn and play. 

Back to the real world. Microsoft execs also are touting Windows 11 as being faster, more battery efficient and better for multi-tasking than Windows 10. And they’re telling customers that Windows 11 will be best experienced on “new, modern hardware,” though it also could still work on many existing PCs.

New PCs with Windows 11 pre-installed will be available this holiday season from a variety of PC makers. It will roll out to those who want to run it on qualifying hardware between this holiday and early 2022 in a staggered way, with devices most likely to handle the upgrade successfully being offered it first. PCs must be on Windows 10 20H1 in order to upgrade to Windows 11.

But for the next several years — until fall 2025, as Microsoft announced six years ago — Microsoft and PC makers also will still support Windows 10. And customers who want to upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11 will be able to do so for free on devices meeting Microsoft’s minimum technical specifications.

Panay also showed off the expected new Microsoft app store, which is expected to be available to both Windows 10 and 11 users this fall. Insiders should get previews of the Windows 11 test build and store app early next week, likely June 28. Windows 11 will be available to mainstream users starting this holiday season.

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Windows 11 to move to just one feature update per year



Credit: Microsoft

When Microsoft introduced Windows 10 in 2015, a big part of that announcement was the new servicing model for the operating system. Microsoft announced plans to provide feature updates two or three times a year for Windows 10. By 2017, that timetable evolved into two Windows 10 feature updates per year. And that was still one too many for many IT pros.

Microsoft continued to try to soften the impact of multiple feature updates per year by changing the ability for administrators to delay updates. It also changed the support timetable so that the Windows 10 feature update which the company typically released in the spring got 18 months of support, while the ‘fall’ feature update got 30 months of support. That shift meant many IT pros just ignored the first annual feature update, leaving it to consumers to further test it, and, instead, deployed only the fall update each year.

 Also: Best Windows 10 laptop in 2021

With Windows 11, Microsoft is shifting servicing gears yet again. But this time, in a way that IT will likely find much more palatable.

Microsoft is moving to a single annual update per year for Windows 11. The Home and Pro editions will get 24 months of support. Enterprise and Education will get 36 months of support. 

Microsoft will continue to make available regular cumulative updates with patches and fixes throughout the year for all Windows 11 users. Feature updates will continue to be delivered as they are now via Windows Update. Microsoft officials said today that updates will be 40 percent smaller and happen in the background.

Microsoft officials shared the good news on June 24, the day the company unveiled Windows 11.

Other news of IT Pro interest shared (and not shared) today:

  • Microsoft officials declined to say whether Windows 10 21H2, due this fall, will be the last version of Windows 10. They did reconfirm that Windows 10 will be supported until October 2025, which they first said six years ago. (October 14 is the actual day when support ends.) Officials are not saying yet whether they will offer paid Extended Security Updates (ESUs), like they did with Windows 7, for customers who want and need to stay on Windows 10 for a finite period of time after support ends.
  • Windows 11 will be a free upgrade from Windows 10. Users who opt to upgrade will get the same version of Windows they are currently using, meaning a Pro user will upgrade to Pro. Also, S Mode, is going away, at least for Enterprise and Education. (Microsoft officials are saying the improved baseline security in the OS itself obviates the need for S Mode.) Users will have 10 days to decide whether they like Windows 11; if not, they can roll back.
  • Business users will be able to upgrade to Windows 10 at their own pace. Microsoft won’t force them immediately onto Windows 11. They have until October 2025 to decide whether they want to move to 11. (If they’re running Enterprise, they’ll be able to downgrade to Windows 10, as well.) 
  • Users who do want Windows 11 will be able to check Windows Update starting this fall and into 2022, and if their devices qualify and are deemed ready, they will get Windows 11.
  • Windows 10 and Windows 11 devices can be deployed, used and managed side-by-side.  

Microsoft officials are saying the majority of apps, peripherals and PCs that work with Windows 10 will automatically work with Windows 11, since they are built on top of the same (Windows 10) core. The existing App Assure program will be there for those who encounter problems.

Windows 11 will be available preloaded on new hardware this holiday season, Microsoft officials said and will be available for existing PCs starting from this holiday and continuing into early 2022.

More Windows 11

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Microsoft to require Microsoft Account and network connection to set up Windows 11 Home



Credit: Microsoft

For the past few years, Microsoft has been making it intentionally harder for consumers to set up new Windows PCs without signing in with a Microsoft Account. It’s still possible, with a few tricks, with Windows 10. But with Windows 11, Microsoft will require consumers to have a network connection, plus a Microsoft Account (MSA), to set up their PCs for the first time in order to reduce customer confusion, officials said.

For some users, this change is unlikely to be a deal breaker. But for those who are still wary of Microsoft’s data gathering in the name of telemetry, it won’t go over well.

 Also: Best Windows 10 laptop in 2021: Top notebooks compared  

Microsoft officials announced this set-up change during the company’s unveiling of its new Windows 11 operating system variant on June 24. Windows 11 will start rolling out this fall and going into early 2022.

Officials also said Microsoft will require PCs to have “modern” 64-bit, dual-core CPUs, a minimum of 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage in order to run its newest Windows release. Windows 11 itself will be a 64-bit-only release; unlike Windows releases, including Windows 10, Windows 11 won’t come in a 32-bit flavor, officials said today — which is unsurprising given that there are basically no new 32-bit PCs on the market any more. (In case you’re wondering, yes, 64-bit Windows versions can run 32-bit software just fine.)

Here is the full list of hardware specifications for Windows 11:

  • A ‘modern’ dual-core, 64-bit processor
  • 1GHz clock speed
  • 64GB drive
  • 4GB RAM
  • UEFI, Secure Boot capable
  • TPM 2.0
  • Greater than 9-inch screen with HD Resolution (1366×768 equivalent)
  • DirectX 12 compatible graphics / WDDM 2.x 

The existence of the MSA requirement with Windows 11 Home was noted by some who downloaded the leaked Windows 11 build a week ago. Microsoft removed the “I don’t have Internet” option which has allowed users to circumvent the MSA requirement and create a local account when first setting up their PCs. The old “just unplug your Ethernet cable” option didn’t work, either, with the Windows 11 leaked build, as Neowin noted.

This set-up change won’t affect Windows 11 Pro users, who will still be allowed to set up their PCs while disconnected and use Active Directory to sign in initially.

Most of the existing Windows 10 SKUs will be carried into Windows 11. The usual Home, Pro, Enterprise, Education, and related variants all still will be there. The “S Mode” option is being eliminated for Windows 11 Pro, however. Microsoft’s reasoning seems to be that the OS itself will be secure and robust enough to eliminate the need for a “mode” that restricts customers to getting apps from the Microsoft Store only.

As those downloading the leaked Windows 11 build noted, there seems to be a few new “Windows 11 Cloud SE” SKUs in the line-up, as well. Microsoft used the “Windows Cloud” codename to refer to the Windows 10 in S Mode variant of Windows 10. Yes, S Mode had nothing to do with cloud; it was all about locking down Windows 10 so that users in S Mode only could access the Windows Store apps. However, this new Windows 11 Cloud SE SKU — in the leaked build, at least — blocked users from accessing the Microsoft app Store.

I’ve asked Microsoft what these Windows 11 Cloud SE SKUs are. No word back so far.  

More Windows 11

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