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Senate committee wants further protections inserted into Australia’s data-sharing scheme

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The Senate committee probing Australia’s pending data-sharing laws has asked for further protections to be inserted before legislation is passed.

The Data Availability and Transparency Bill 2020 establishes a new data sharing scheme which will serve as a “pathway and regulatory framework” for sharing public sector data for three permitted purposes, subject to new safeguards and enforcement mechanisms.

The three purposes are: Improving government service delivery, informing government policy and programs, and research and development. However, the Bill also precludes data sharing for certain enforcement related purposes, such as law enforcement investigations and operations.

The Bill also does not authorise data sharing for purposes that relate to or could jeopardise national security, including the prevention or commission of terrorism and espionage.

Before data is shared, the data custodian must be content the recipient fulfils the requirements of accepting that data.

In a report [PDF] on the Bill, the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee said it is of the view that a “proportionate and balanced data sharing scheme with appropriate privacy and security safeguards would help bring Australia into line with international best practice for data sharing in regard to government service delivery, policy and program development, and research purposes”.

However, the committee is mindful that for a data sharing scheme to be successful and trusted by the community it must be underpinned by strong and effective safeguards and protections for privacy and security.

The committee made three recommendations to the government, with the first asking for assurances to be provided regarding appropriate ongoing oversight by security agencies of data sharing agreements and the potential security risks.

“The committee considers that it is imperative that national security concerns related to access to data have been fully considered and appropriately managed, particularly given the current concerns about cybersecurity and the covert influence of foreign actors in the university and research sector,” the report says.

The second recommendation asks that any relevant findings of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security’s current inquiry into national security risks affecting the Australian higher education and research sector are taken into account as part of the development of any additional data codes and guidance material, and that they inform continued engagement with the national security community.

The committee also asks that consideration is given to whether amendments could be made to the Bill, or further clarification added to the explanatory memorandum, to provide additional guidance regarding privacy protections, particularly in relation to the de-identifying of personal data that may be provided under the Bill’s data-sharing scheme.

“The committee notes that the intention of the Bill is to provide a high-level, principles-based framework to facilitate the sharing of government data, and that in addition to the proposed legislative privacy protections in the Bill, many other potential privacy concerns would be addressed through further protections prescribed in regulation and guidance material, and in the exercise of appropriate judgement and controls by scheme users,” it wrote.

“However, despite these layers of protection, it is evident that some stakeholders believe further privacy protections should be prescribed in legislation or specifically addressed in the EM to the Bill.”

The Bill, as well as the Data Availability and Transparency (Consequential Amendments) Bill, were both introduced to Parliament in December, after two years of consultation.

Critics have labelled the data-sharing scheme as reflecting the ongoing erosion of Australian privacy law in favour of bureaucratic convenience.

MORE ON THE BILL

Commissioner content transparency measures are enough to deter data-sharing Act breaches

Australia’s pending data-sharing Act will require Commonwealth entities to be satisfied with a proposal before sharing data and the reason for obtaining that data will need to be made public.

Critics label data-sharing Bill as ‘eroding privacy in favour of bureaucratic convenience’

The Australian Privacy Foundation and the NSW Council for Civil Liberties are among those labelling the country’s pending data-sharing Bill as a threat to basic fairness and civil liberties.

Privacy Commissioner wants more protections for individuals in Data Availability Bill

Additionally, the Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner’s office is concerned about the proposed exemption of scheme data from the Freedom of Information Act.

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/senate-committee-wants-further-protections-inserted-into-australias-data-sharing-scheme/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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Cisco to acquire Socio Labs for livestreaming large events

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Cisco on Wednesday announced its plans to acquire Socio Labs, an event technology platform that it intends to use to make Webex Events a better tool for live, large-scale events. The idea is ot build a platform well-suited for event coordinators organizing “hybrid” events that combine in-person and virtual attendance. 

The five year-old Socio Labs, based in Indianapolis, Indiana, started as an in-person event management solution but built a virtual event suite at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. It offers tools that help event organizers plan entire events, from registration to post-event analytics.

The acquisition follows Cisco’s December purchase of Slido, and audience engagement tool with capabilities like polling, trivia, Q&A and gamification.

Cisco plans to combine Slido’s and Socio’s capabilities with Webex’s virtual meeting capabilities. With its new capabilities, the platform will enable live streaming, sponsorship, networking and advanced analytics, as well as continuous engagement before, during and after events. 

The Socio acquisition is expected to close in Cisco’s Q4. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

Once the deal closes, the Socio Labs team will join the Webex Customer Experience team. Socio will also remain a standalone tool.

Prior and related coverage: 

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/cisco-to-acquire-socio-labs-for-livestreaming-large-events/#ftag=RSSbaffb68

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Best Android app for power users in 2021: Track data usage, test connections, and more

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For many, having a solid, stable internet connection is vital. Back in the days of a PC with an Ethernet connection, you just needed t make sure that the cable was plugged in, but with the move from wired to wireless, getting a reliable connection can be trickier. Throw in the different variables that come into play between Wi-Fi and cellular, the problems grow exponentially.

If you’re someone who uses their Android device a lot and puts a lot of data through it over Wi-Fi and cellular every month, then having apps that can help you find the best signal, diagnose problems, test connections speeds using real-world tests, and keep track of how much data you’re using.

Note that these apps are Android. Apple imposes more restrictions on what iOS apps can do, so while there are similar apps for that platform, they are not as powerful. One of the advantages of using Android!

Deep-dive the cellular connections in your area

Network Cell Info - Mobile & WiFi Signal

This app tells me everything I need to know — and more — about the cellular connections in my area. 

This app is packed with charts and meters and gauges, but the feature that I use the most is the one that monitors and logs signal strength data as I walk or drive through an area. This is a brilliant and truly useful feature when I’m out of the cities and in a more rural area. I know where I need to go back to in order to get the best connection.

Another “feature” of this app I like is the fact that there is a comprehensive online user manual — more apps could do with that feature!

$2 at Google Play Store

DNS lookup, device discovery, port scanning, and more

Network Analyzer

Everything you needed to know about your network, including device discovery, in a single app. 

Truly amazing set of features. This is an app I’ve been using for some time now and it never lets me down. It even has features such as DNS lookup, LAN scanning, port scanning, and cellular network information built in.

This is a really powerful tool, with a lot of features and functions. That’s a huge pro, but it’s also a con, in that the app can take some time to get used to. I find myself using this app a lot, but if I’m using a feature I’ve not used for a while, it can take me a few moments to find what I need.

Still, this is a truly powerful tool.

$4 at Google Play Store

Data usage and traffic breakdown analysis

Data Monitor

I bought this app mainly because it allowed me to put the data transfer speeds for my connection on the status bar in Android (some of my handsets don’t have this useful feature). However, I kept it because it offers me a deep dive into how I’m using data on a day-by-day basis. 

I’m finding the traffic breakdown analysis to be particularly useful.

For people who are not on an unlimited data plan, this is a particularly useful app because it lets you see what’s eating away at your data.

View Now at Google Play Store

Find which networks offer the best speeds while on the go

nPerf Speed test 3G, 4G, 5G, WiFi & network coverage map

There is a lot of internet speed checkers out there, but nPerf has some features that make it stand above the rest. 

Along with giving you accurate speed tests, and allowing you to log how your Wi-Fi and cellular networks are performing, nPerf can also test using real-world conditions such as web browsing and video streaming, offer you a real-world cellular coverage map, and even allow you to map your network coverage while traveling.

I find this handy for scouting out signal strength in new areas I’m traveling to and which networks offer me the best speeds.

View Now at Google Play Store

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Don’t count on an Apple Silicon Mac Pro this WWDC

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WWDC (the Apple World Wide Developer’s Conference) is, in theory, a conference devoted to developers. Every so often, Apple has gone off topic and used the WWDC keynote to announce something in its release docket, as it did back in 2015 when it announced Apple Music at WWDC.

Apple Silicon

The WWDC keynote, however, is most often used to introduce new features and updates to the company’s various operating systems. It’s a way of telling developers what features will be available to incorporate into mobile apps and desktop software applications.

Last year, the headliner was Apple’s Mac transition from Intel-based processors to Apple Silicon. It’s hard to believe that just a year ago, in the weeks before WWDC 2020, Apple Silicon was still just a rumor.

Wow! What a year it’s been (and for once, this has nothing to do with COVID-19).

In June 2020, at WWDC, Apple announced the move to Apple Silicon. The first new-processor Macs, they said, would be available by the end of the year. Within two years, they promised the entire line would transition. The company also announced the almost immediate availability of a developer Mac mini based on Apple Silicon. Gear based on the new chip, even if limited to developers, was a surprise this early.

In November, Apple announced the M1 processor and the availability of the M1 Mac mini, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air. With nearly identical architectures and only minor differences (plus the screen and battery on the notebooks), these were all essentially the same machine inside. Pricing was shockingly aggressive and performance, even for emulated code, was shockingly good.

In April 2021, Apple announced new M1-based iMacs (in fruity colors) as well as M1 based iPad Pro models. Tim Cook, in what seemed like almost a throw-away comment, stated that the M1 Macs are already outselling the company’s remaining Intel Macs.

So, a year ago at this time, non-Intel Macs were only a rumor. Then a new processor architecture was announced, a few models were made available, they were priced very aggressively and performed like little rockets, and now, less than a year later, those models, plus new iMacs, are out-selling all the remaining Intel Macs, combined.

Comparing Mac Pro and iMac Pro to the M1

But what about the iMac Pro and the Mac Pro?

Max Tech did a comparison of a roughly $10,000 Intel-based Mac Pro compared to an $899 M1-based Mac mini. While many of the artificial benchmarks showed the Mac Pro besting the M1 Mac mini, the M1 Mac mini actually beat the Mac Pro in Safari, Xcode, and Lightroom editing (which was running under Rosetta 2 emulation).

What made the comparison interesting was that the reviewer said that the Mac mini held its own in actual usage, making it quite a little beast compared to the vastly more expensive Mac Pro.

View Now at Apple (2020 Mac mini)

But will there be an Apple Silicon-based Mac Pro or iMac Pro? To answer that, we need to take a minute to define what makes these Macs “Pro.”

Fundamentally, you’re looking at memory capacity, network speed, processor cores, and graphics processing. The Mac Pro also adds modularity in terms of bays and slots, which allows for specialty PCI cards and accelerator cards. More on that in a minute.

When it comes to RAM, the 2019 Intel Mac Pro allows up to a whopping 1.5TB, while the iMac Pro allows up to 512GB, both vastly more that the 16GB available in the M1 Mac.

Both the Mac Pro and iMac Pro have 10GB Ethernet, but the M1 Mac mini just added that as a $100 option, so we’ll call this even for all three machines.

The Mac Pro can be pushed all the way to 28 cores, the iMac Pro can go to 18 cores, while the M1 Mac mini can only go to eight cores, four of which are called “efficiency cores.”

In terms of graphics processing, it’s a little harder to do a spec vs. spec comparison, but we’ll take a quick run at it. First, the Mac Pro can support up to 12(!) 4K displays,  the iMac Pro can support up to four external displays (in addition to the built-in display), and the M1 Mac mini can only support two. Just by way of comparison, my 2018 Intel-based Mac mini has four displays on it.

Graphics card performance and memory is a bit more difficult to manage. The M1’s architecture shares system RAM between graphics and processor and is on-board, making it somewhat more efficient. That said, the total max system RAM for both graphics and processor on the M1 is 16GB, where just the graphics cards alone can go up to 64GB (the iMac Pro tops out at 16GB of video RAM).

Can the M1 scale?

So, here’s the question: Can the M1 scale to Mac Pro levels? To answer that, keep in mind that the M1 is merely a branding tag associated with a particular implementation of the Apple Silicon architecture. Effectively, the M1 is the first version of Apple Silicon to be applied to MacOS machines.

Since Apple Silicon originated as an iPhone and iPad technology, its DNA is in mobile devices — small mobile devices. As such, power management, performance, heat dissipation, and physical size were key drivers. When designing the early Apple-proprietary chips for the iPhone, nobody worried about whether you could plug in cards or drives into that architecture.

The devices being produced by Apple that sport the M1 chip are essentially the same  architecture, and this can be evidenced most convincingly in the fact that the iPad Pro and the new Macs all use the same M1 chip.

Unlike the traditional Intel desktop chip architecture, the memory for the M1 is onboard the chip.

I believe that there are two possible reasons why there is only 16GB of RAM (and limited ports) available on the M1: either (a) that was all Apple could fit on the chip given its current production capabilities, or (b) Apple was unable to get reliably high yields on chips with more RAM.

When chips are manufactured, not all chips come out with the same characteristics. It’s like when you bake a batch of cookies; one or two are likely to be uglier, too hard, or too smooshy. Chips are that way, as well. The semiconductor industry uses the term “binning” to describe  how chips are divided up by their yield. Sometimes, chips that perform worse are binned as slower chips and sold as slower chips. Chips that perform better are binned as faster chips.

In Apple’s case, it’s possible that the machines sold as 8GB machines contain exactly the same M1 chip as the 16GB machines, but the 8GB machines didn’t yield 16GB of error-free RAM.

The bottom line is I don’t think the M1 can scale into the Mac Pro and iMac Pro performance heights. I also don’t think the M1 was designed to allow more ports, external slots, or additional, off-chip RAM.

But what about future Apple Silicon?

In some ways, this depend on what’s a priority to Apple. The M1 (and all previous Apple Silicon chips) are optimized around a single-board computer (SBC) architecture. They’re not at all designed for expandability.

As such, if you’re looking for a chip architecture that supports a bus designed to run add-on boards, I don’t think you’re going to see it anytime soon.

Instead, you might need to redefine how you think about pro-level machines. After all, Apple has already proven that, core-for-core, Apple Silicon outperforms even Intel Xeon chips. Expect future Apple Silicon chips to add more performance cores.

Apple has proven the benefits of RAM that’s a pool to the entire system, so expect Apple to work towards higher RAM yields. Once the company goes all-in on augmented reality, those machines are going to need more RAM.

Likewise, Apple is going to need extreme graphics performance. The M1 chips have already shown they have substantial graphics chops, although not quite as much as dedicated GPUs. Expect that to improve in Apple Silicon.

We’ve been hearing rumors of an M1X or M2 chip. These could well be the same chips as the M1, but with better high quality yields, or they could be updated implementations. For sure, we’ll see new versions, because Apple has been improving its silicon year-over-year for well over a decade, to a point where Apple’s silicon technology is besting even industry leaders like Intel and AMD in some areas.

Expect to see something like an M-something iMac Pro well before you see a modular M-based Mac Pro. That is, if we ever see a traditional bays-and-bus Mac Pro in Apple Silicon, which is somewhat unlikely given the SBC architectural proclivities of Apple’s current chip design.

As for this WWDC, it would be an ideal opportunity to introduce a second generation chip. Whether that will be announced along with a new machine is still up in the air; but if it were, expect either a Mac mini or iMac form factor, perhaps with the Space Gray “Pro” color so far missing on both M1 model categories.

What do you think? Do you think that Apple will ever create a modular M-based Mac Pro? Or do you think the future for high-performance M-based Macs will harken back to the ill-fated unexpandable “trashcan” SBC Mac Pro of 2013? Let us know in the comments below.


You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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Russia must do more to tackle cyber criminals operating from within its borders, says UK

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Russia must do more to tackle cyber criminals which are operating from within in its territory, the UK’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has warned.

In a speech at the National Cyber Security Centre’s (NCSC) CYBERUK 21 conference, Dominic Raab called out nation-state backed hacking campaigns by North Korea, Iran, Russia and China, who he accused of of using digital technology “to sabotage and steal, or to control and censor.”.

The UK, alongside the US called out Russia’s involvement in the SolarWinds supply chain hack which led to the compromise of several government agencies, technology firms and cybersecurity companies – but Raab argued that these states also need to take responsibility for cyber criminals operating within their borders.

For example, the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack – which has disrupted fuel supplies across the US East Coast – was apparently carried out by cyber criminals using DarkSide ransomware-as-a-service – a ransomware group which like many others, is highly suspected to be operating out of Russia.

Some argue that Russia tolerates cyber criminals which attack targets in the West – so long as they stay away from Russian targets. Many of the most notorious ransomware gangs tailor the code of their malware to uninstall itself if it detects that the machine is set to the Russian language or has an IP address in a former Soviet nation. 

SEE: A winning strategy for cybersecurity (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)  

Ransomware attacks have caused a great deal of disruption around the world – and Raab accused the Kremlin of sitting back as “industrial scale vandals of the 21st century” caused chaos from within its borders.

“When states like Russia have criminals or gangs operating from their territory, they can’t just wave their hands and say nothing to do with them – even when it’s not directly linked to the state, they have a responsibility to prosecute those gangs and those individuals, not to shelter them,” said Raab.

Cyber threats from nation-states, cyber criminals – and everything in between – will keep coming, but the Foreign Secretary said the UK is improving its capabilities when it comes to defending against cyber attacks.

“We’re getting better at detecting, disrupting and deterring our enemies. Acting with partners around the world, we name and shame the perpetrators,” said Raab.

“We did this last month with the SolarWinds attack, exposing the depth and the breadth of cyber activities by the Russian intelligence service, the SVR. And by revealing the tools and techniques malicious cyber actors are using, we can help our citizens and our businesses to see the signs early on and help them protect themselves from threats,” he added.

However, there’s no illusions that defending the UK from cyber threats will be an easy task.

“It’s is going to be a marathon, a war of attrition, but we will keep relentlessly shining a light on these predatory activities,” said Raab.

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