Google extends Chrome support for Windows 7 until 2022

Carly Page

23 Nov, 2020

Google has announced that its extending Chrome support for enterprises using Windows 7 until at least 15 January 2020. 

Back in January, Google announced that it would stop supporting the browser on Windows 7 from 15 July 2021. However, in a post on the Google Cloud blog, the company has revealed that its extending support for an additional six months, with support now set to end in January 2022. 

The company said it’s decided to extend support due to the difficulties businesses have faced due to the remote working arrangements necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This year has presented a lot of challenges for organisations of all sizes,” said Max Christoff, engineering director of Google Chrome. “Facing difficult business and technology decisions, supporting a changing work environment, and navigating uncertainty are among just a few of the issues IT leaders have faced over the course of 2020.”

The decision has also been spurred by the fact that a significant proportion of businesses are still using the decade-old operating system. Although Microsoft stopped providing security updates for Windows 7 in January this year, Google’s figures show that 21% of organisations using Chrome on Windows 7 are still working to migrate over to Windows 10

“While the past few months served as a catalyst for technology investments and digital transformation initiatives for many organizations, for others, some planned IT projects may have had to take a back seat.

“Our hope is that this extension gives our enterprise customers the flexibility they need to continue supporting their workforce, while moving off of Windows 7 as their situation allows.”

News of this six-month extension comes just days after Google debuted Chrome 87, which it claims “represents the largest gain in Chrome performance in years”. The company claims the update has the potential to reduce CPU usage by up to five times and to extend battery life by up to 1.25 hours. 

Google to test end-to-end encryption following global RCS rollout

Sabina Weston

20 Nov, 2020

Google has announced the completion of the global rollout of its Rich Communication Services (RCS) for Android phones, which will now be followed by the testing of end to end encryption (E2EE) on some messages.

The RCS feature allows users to share high-resolution photos and larger files, make video calls, chat within groups, as well as find out when messages are read.

The announcement of the successful global RCS rollout comes days after a leaked document suggested that the European Union inches closer to banning E2EE.

The leaked memo, addressed to the representatives forming the Council for European Union, makes it clear that policymakers stand firmly behind the notion of ‘strong encryption’ as a means of protecting the data and rights of individuals, but that E2EE makes it too easy for criminals to evade justice.

This could directly impact Google as the tech giant is expected to begin testing E2EE in one-to-one conversations on Google Messages. This means that the contents of a message between two users will not be able to be read by Google or other third-parties while it is transmitted between the sender and receiver.

The new feature is now available to anyone who has the latest beta version of Messages and has the enabled Chat features over data or Wi-Fi. When two users meet these requirements, their direct messages will be automatically encrypted with E2EE by default. Users will be able to see if their messages are encrypted by checking for a lock symbol next to the timestamp of the conversation’s latest message, or on the send button.

In a statement announcing the more general RCS rollout, Google stated that E2EE will not be available for SMS/MMS nor group messages, but it is not certain whether this will be enough to evade any future EU ban on encrypted messaging.

Earlier this month, digital privacy expert at ProPrivacy, Ray Walsh, warned that the EU’s “move to ban encryption from messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Signal would be a massive threat to data privacy as we know it”.

“It is a disappointing change in approach from the EU which has previously been pro-privacy for European citizens,” he told IT Pro before adding that “not only is breaking encryption a threat to national security, but the ability to communicate privately is a vital part of any free society”.

IBM acquires cloud app monitoring service Instana

Bobby Hellard

19 Nov, 2020

IBM has said it has reached an agreement to acquire cloud application management startup Instana for an undisclosed sum.

The Chicago-based company’s main product is a service that can monitor the performance of complex cloud applications over both public and private environments, on-premise and mobile devices. It has an ‘observability platform’ that can analyse cloud applications to both prevent and fix IT issues, such as slow response times or even services that are fully down.

IBM says it plans to integrate Instana’s system into services such as Watson AIOps, where AI would be used to trigger alerts and speed up IT remedies. Such a service would eliminate the need for employees to manually monitor and manage the applications, freeing them up to focus on more innovative or “higher-value” work, according to IBM.

The deal represents IBM’s first major cloud move since its decision to fully separate its cloud and infrastructure units by the end of 2021, spinning the latter off as a public company. It’s thought that the acquisition of Instana will be used to offer customers new ways to manage complex hybrid and multi-cloud environments, particularly as the service can be used for monitoring containerised environments running Kubernetes.

“Our clients today are faced with managing a complex technology landscape filled with mission-critical applications and data that are running across a variety of hybrid cloud environments – from public clouds, private clouds and on-premises,” said Rob Thomas, senior vice president, cloud and data platform at IBM.

“IBM’s acquisition of Instana is yet another important step that we are taking to provide companies with the most complete portfolio of AI-automated solutions to tackle this enormous challenge and help prevent unforeseen IT incidents that can cost a business in lost revenue and reputation.”

Microsoft expands Defender capabilities for Linux systems

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

18 Nov, 2020

Microsoft has rolled out the public preview for is Defender for Endpoint software on Linux systems, giving IT administrators outside of the Windows 10 ecosystem a comparable level of protection.

Defender for Endpoint customers can take advantage of endpoint detection and response (EDR) capabilities to detect advanced threats involving Linux servers, use data from endpoints to gain insights, and remediate attacks.

The software supports recent versions of the six most common Linux distributions, including RHEL 7.2+, CentOS Linux 7.2+, Ubuntu 16 LTS or higher, SLES 12+, Debian 9+ and Oracle Linux 7.2. 

This expansion builds on the company’s general release of Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) for Linux earlier this year. This is in addition to Microsoft bolstering security for Android and iOS platforms.

With the Defender ATP for Linux, which was made generally available from June 2020, enterprise customers were able to install a similar level of protection on their Linux systems as they could on Microsoft systems within their infrastructures.

Using Defender for Endpoint EDR, users can immediately begin benefiting from three new feature areas including a rich investigative experience, optimised performance, and in-context threat detection. 

Features for the first category comprise a machine timeline, process creation, file creation, network connections, login events and advanced hunting. Optimised performance entails enhancing CPU utilisation in compilation procedures as well as large software deployments. In-context antivirus detections, meanwhile, gives users insight as to where a threat came from and how the malicious process or activity was created.

Users can engage in the public preview by configuring some of their Linux servers to Preview mode if they’re already running Microsoft Defender for Endpoint on Linux. Customers are also being encouraged to test out a simulated attack tool, in which Linux EDR can simulate a detection on a server, and trigger an investigation of the case. 

Cloud Foundry looks to embrace Kubernetes

Maxwell Cooter

19 Nov, 2020

We’re now getting used to the idea of virtual conferences, but while they work very well at getting the information across, what’s often lacking is the shock when any organisation or vendor establishes a new path or announces a new direction.

The recent Cloud Foundry Summit is a case in point.  The open source software organisation has coalesced its offerings around Kubernetes and announced several new projects to support the container technology, but according to Cloud Foundry Foundation executive director Chip Childers, this decision wasn’t straight forward.

“There was a split opinion around the community,” Childers told attendees, “just how much should we accept and embrace Kubernetes.” It was a difficult decision, as Kubernetes was emerging as a de facto standard for containerisation but, on the other hand, there was a definite feeling that it was not really a part of the Cloud Foundry ecosystem.  

That’s all now changed. The organisation has thoroughly embraced the technology. “Kubernetes is the new infrastructure, it’s going to be ubiquitous,” he said.

It’s a view that’s been whole-heartedly supported by the vendors in the Cloud Foundry ecosystem. Ian Andrews, VP of marketing for VMware Tanzu says that “the concentration on Kubernetes was a view very much shared by the team at VMware”.

What helped the decision making process is a number of mergers and acquisitions in the ecosystem – notably VMware’s purchase of Pivotal – and that set the path for a new direction.

Mainstream clout

Andrews says the deal combined the best of both worlds; Pivotal had created a name for itself in the Cloud Foundry community, “but had a relatively small number of users. VMware with its user base in the tens of thousands added that Cloud Foundry expertise to its range of products.” This integration has seen the emergence of the Tanzu brand, a means of adding Kubernetes to the VMware portfolio.

The concentration on Kubernetes and the enhanced participation of VMware has definitely provided a boost to Cloud Foundry, which perhaps has never quite had the clout it should, even though it’s a well-established platform and, most importantly of all, has a thriving, almost fanatically devoted user base. 

This has meant that it could never be ignored but, at the same time, it’s never permeated public consciousness. “Cloud Foundry has one major problem,” says Bryan Betts, principal analyst for Freeform Dynamics, “within the open source community it’s seen as rather like your dad’s open source: It’s been around for some time and it’s seen as rather dull.”

In most areas of IT, longevity would be seen as a bit of an asset. There are too many flavours of the month that attract a heap of interest, generate plenty of hype and vanish as quickly as they appear. In such a world, Cloud Foundry’s robustness and stability should be cherished but, as Betts points out, that’s not always been a positive sign within the open source world.  

“What Cloud Foundry has been doing has been very exciting. Some of the things that they were doing two or three years ago were ahead of their time and were precursors of the whole microservices movement – that’s now been forgotten. Cloud Foundry is finding that perception is all – and this is an industry built on perception.”

It’s something that the Foundation dearly wants to change. It hopes that its new found wholesale adoption of Kubernetes will provide Cloud Foundry with the kick-start it needs.

Applying a devops model

The first of the projects revealed to the wider world at the summit is CFfor-K8s, software aimed at making the transition to Cloud Foundry easier. CF-for-K8s enables users to run Cloud Foundry instances on top of a Kubernetes platform – offering what the Foundation claims is an easy integration between the two technologies. Childers claims that the new project would enable users to spin up Cloud Foundry within just ten minutes – a big claim, considering that Cloud Foundry hasn’t always been the most intuitive pieces of software.

The flipside of CF-for-K8s is KubeCF, which offers a way for Cloud Foundry users to run Kubernetes. This is more established software, however, and it was version 4.5 that was released at Cloud Foundry Summit.

Freeform Dynamics’ Betts says that one way of thinking about the relationship between CF-for-K8s and KubeCF would be to consider the devops model. “Think of CF-for-K8s as being the dev side will KubeCF is the ops part – and that part is just as important,” he says.

The third new release is a new version of Stratos, the management console for Cloud Foundry clusters. The new version, 4.2, adds support for native Kubernetes clusters and Helm chart repositories. 

All of these show how Kubernetes is beginning to be more integrated into the ecosystem and there’s a hope in the Foundation that this will herald a new boost to adoption. Childers sees plenty of opportunity for growth. “There’s a perception that Cloud Foundry is only for large corporations; if that were true, it’s because that’s where the skillset was,” he said. 

He sees plenty of opportunity for small companies to use Cloud Foundry – the closer integration with Kubernetes will provide a pathway for these users.

This is still a growing area for a lot of smaller organisations and there’s plenty of new opportunity now for growth. The Cloud Foundry project may have been slow to recognise the significance of Kubernetes but it’s catching up now and is using it as a springboard for new areas.  Current systems are immensely complicated, says Andrews, but this is changing, the embrace of Kubernetes will help. “We’re getting to that moment of peak complexity, we’ve climbed the mountain and on the downwards slope,” he adds.

Betts sees the potential for Cloud Foundry if they can crack this perception issue. “There are people who have started new projects and found it’s something that Cloud Foundry already does.” He says that the Foundation has all the right elements in place but users have to be informed. “They have to know it’s there and have to know what to do with it,” he says. It seems that the Foundation is on the right path to do that.

Cisco acquires container security startup Banzai Cloud

Daniel Todd

18 Nov, 2020

Cisco has announced plans to acquire Hungarian container security startup Banzai Cloud, as the networking giant looks to further expand its portfolio of cloud-native technologies. 

The deal is expected to close at the end of this quarter for an undisclosed sum and follows hot on the heels of Cisco’s takeover of cloud-native security company Portshift back in October.

Founded in 2017, Budapest-based Banzai Cloud offers a Kubernetes-based platform that is designed to help businesses develop and deploy cloud-native applications.

The firm’s assets and employees will now become part of Cisco’s Emerging Technologies and Incubation group, which focuses on incubating new projects for cloud-native networking, security and edge computing environments for modern distributed applications. 

In a blog post, Liz Centoni, SVP of Cisco’s Emerging Technologies and Incubation group, explained that the move would help the company address the challenges presented by modern cloud-native applications and their environments. 

“This team has demonstrated experience with complete end-to-end cloud-native application development, deployment, runtime and security workflows,” Centoni said. 

“They have built and deployed software tools that solve critical real-world pain points and are active participants in the open-source community as sponsors, contributors and maintainers of several open-source projects.”

The acquisition is the latest move in Cisco’s push to grow its cloud security portfolio, following its acquisition of Israeli startup Portshift last month for a reported $100 million.

The Tel-Aviv-based business provides a Kubernetes-based platform to secure containers and serverless applications and will also fall under Cisco’s Emerging Technologies and Incubation umbrella. 

“These two cross-border acquisitions are a testament to the globalisation of the cloud-native ecosystem and underscore our commitment to hybrid, multi-cloud application-first infrastructure as the de facto mode of operating IT,” Centoni added. 

“The Emerging Technologies and Incubation team’s mission is to incubate impactful technologies and to attract, foster and grow the global talent needed to drive innovation and support our customers’ digital transformation initiatives.”

Red Hat pushes hybrid cloud to the edge

Rene Millman

18 Nov, 2020

Red Hat has unveiled new edge capabilities for Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The firm has also expanded the number of supported environments for Red Hat OpenShift, including leading public clouds and multiple data centre architectures, like IBM Z and Power Systems.

At this year’s KubeCon + CloudNativeCon, Red Hat launched several edge-focused updates to Red Hat Enterprise Linux, including the rapid creation of operating system images for the edge through the Image Builder capability. 

The firm said this would enable IT organisations to create purpose-built images optimized for architectural challenges inherent to edge computing but customized for the needs of a given deployment.

Red Hat also unveiled remote device update mirroring to stage and apply updates at the next device reboot or power cycle, helping limit downtime and manual intervention from IT response teams.

The edge update sports over-the-air updates that transfer less data while still pushing necessary code. Red Hat aims this update at sites with limited or intermittent connectivity. 

Another feature announced is Intelligent rollback built on OSTree capabilities, enabling users to provide workload-specific health checks to detect conflicts or code issues. When it detects a problem, it automatically reverts the image to the last good update to prevent unnecessary downtime at the edge.

Red Hat also announced updates to Red Hat OpenShift 4.6 intended to help enterprises accelerate cloud-native application development. The latest update to OpenShift Serverless with Red Hat OpenShift Serverless 1.11 brings full support for Knative eventing, enabling containerized applications to consume only the resources they need at a given time, which prevents over- or under-consumption.

There is also a Red Hat build of Quarkus, a Kubernetes-native Java stack fully supported by Red Hat. With a single Red Hat OpenShift subscription, customers now have full access to Quarkus, enabling developers to repurpose mission-critical Java applications on Kubernetes, backed by Red Hat’s enterprise support.

Red Hat OpenShift 4.6 now includes new edge computing features with remote worker nodes, extending processing power to space-constrained environments. This enables IT organizations to scale remotely while maintaining centralized operations and management.

OpenShift 4.6 will also extend capabilities for public-sector Kubernetes deployments, including availability on AWS GovCloud and Azure Government Cloud, extended OpenSCAP support and more. 

Further extending OpenShift’s reach into the public cloud domain is Azure Red Hat OpenShift, a jointly-managed, engineered and supported offering on Microsoft Azure backed by Microsoft and Red Hat’s expertise. A similar service is expected to launch on AWS with joint management and support from Red Hat and Amazon.

Cisco patch notes ‘left out’ details of RCE flaws

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

17 Nov, 2020

The recently patched Cisco Security Manager (CSM) platform did not initially include details of 12 severe security vulnerabilities that could, if exploited, lead to remote code execution (RCE).

Although these 12 flaws in CSM, an enterprise-class management console that offers insight into the control of Cisco security and network devices, were recently fixed, its developers failed to mention these at all, according to security researcher Florian Hauser

Hauser claims to have reported these 12 bugs to the networking giant in July this year and was under the impression they were due to be fixed when CSM was updated to version 4.22 earlier this month.

The researcher claims, however, that despite patching the vulnerabilities last week, the company didn’t mention them at all in the release notes for CSM and did not issue security advisories for businesses that may be potentially affected.

As a result, Hauser has published the proof-of-concept for all 12 flaws that he submitted via GitHub, including a host of RCE exploits that cyber criminals could use if targeting an unpatched system. 

“120 days ago, I disclosed 12 vulnerabilities to Cisco affecting the web interface of Cisco Security Manager. All unauthenticated, almost all directly giving RCE,” Hauser posted on Twitter on 11 November, following this up overnight with: “Since Cisco PSIRT became unresponsive and the published release 4.22 still doesn’t mention any of the vulnerabilities, here are 12 PoCs in 1 gist.”

The CSM 4.22 release notes outlined several improvements to security and functionality, including support for AnyConnect Web Security WSO. The company has subsequently released advisories for three vulnerabilities that were reported in July, crediting Florian Hauser for discovery.

The first, a path traversal vulnerability, tagged CVE-2020-27130 and assigned a CVSS score of 9.1, could allow an unauthenticated remote attacker to gain access to sensitive information, upon successful exploitation. This is due to improper validation of traversal character sequences within requests to affected devices.

The second, a Java deserialisation flaw, is tagged CVE-2020-27131 and assigned a severity score of 8.1, could also allow a remote attacker to execute arbitrary commands on an affected device. The final flaw, a static credential vulnerability tagged CVE-2020-27125 and assigned a severity score of 7.4, could also allow a remote attacker to access sensitive information on a targeted system.

IT Pro approached Cisco to clarify why it had first failed to mention these flaws in the patch notes for CSM version 4.22.

Zoom tackles ‘Zoom-bombing’ with new security features

Bobby Hellard

17 Nov, 2020

Video conferencing service Zoom has added a set of security features to help users combat ‘Zoom-bombing’ attacks. 

The new controls will help account holders remove unwanted guests and also spot if their meeting’s ID number has been shared online.

Zoom-booming has been an issue for the company throughout the year with hackers exploiting its mass adoption. This has affected both personal and professional meetings, including legal proceedings, and many will see this fix as long overdue. 

Starting this week, hosts and co-hosts will be given an option to temporarily pause their meeting and remove unwanted guests. Users can click a new “Suspend Participant Activities” button, which stops all video, audio, chat functions, screen sharing and recording. 

Hosts and co-hosts will then be asked if they want to report a user from their meeting, with the option to share a screenshot of them. They will then be removed once ‘Submit’ is clicked. Zoom’s security team will be notified and hosts can continue with their meeting by individually restarting all the features. This service will be set as the default for all free and paid Zoom users. 

Hosts and co-hosts can already report users with the security icon in the top corner, but this can also be enabled for non-hosts by account owners and admins. The option is available via the web browser on Mac, PC, Linux and on Zoom’s mobile apps. 

Soon, users will also be able to see if their meeting has been compromised with an ‘At-Risk Meeting Notifier’ which scans public social media posts and other websites for publicly shared meeting links. When the tool spots a meeting that’s potentially at risk of disruption, it automatically alerts the account owner by email with advice. This will most likely be to delete the vulnerable meeting and create a new one with a different ID.

macOS Big Sur is bricking some older MacBooks

Sabina Weston

16 Nov, 2020

A new macOS update released last week is reportedly bricking older MacBook Pro laptops, according to a number of dissatisfied Apple customers.

Big Sur, which was first unveiled during the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) last June, is rendering some devices unresponsive, causing them to display a static black screen without any way of bypassing or resolving the issue.

The problem with Apple’s latest operating system update is said to be affecting mostly 13-inch MacBook Pros released between late 2013 and mid-2014, according to MacRumors. However, the models have been listed as compatible with the update.

Apple’s engineering team is reportedly aware of the issue and Big Sur has become a popular topic of discussion on the Apple Support forum, with users describing how their MacBooks are stuck on a black screen with keyboards “completely disabled”.

Apple is reportedly telling users to bring their laptops in for repair, according to a discussion on forum site Reddit. However, this might not be possible for many living in regions under government-imposed lockdowns, such as England.

This is not the only issue facing Big Sur. On 14 November, when the macOS update was released, Apple users reported server outages that caused iMessage and Apple Pay to go down and performance issues for users running macOS Catalina and earlier, according to 9to5Mac. The issue also caused Big Sur downloads and installations to fail, as well as security and privacy concerns.

IT Pro has contacted Apple for comment but has yet to hear back from the company.

Last week, the Cupertino-based tech giant announced a new lineup of its flagship laptops powered by its all-new M1 chip. Nearly one month after launching the iPhone 12, the company held another “One More Thing” event to show off the new hardware, which includes updates to the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini.

The Apple-built M1 chip is the first-ever personal computer chip built by the company in-house, and the announcement marks the first time since 2006 that new Macs will be powered by anything other than Intel processors.