All posts by Sabina Weston

IBM to sell off Watson Health assets

Sabina Weston

24 Jan, 2022

IBM has announced that it has entered into an agreement to sell its Watson Health assets to private equity firm Francisco Partners.

The deal, which is expected to close in the second quarter of 2022, will allow IBM to focus on its platform-based hybrid cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) strategy, according to the tech giant’s SVP Tom Rosamilia.

“IBM remains committed to Watson, our broader AI business, and to the clients and partners we support in healthcare IT. Through this transaction, Francisco Partners acquires data and analytics assets that will benefit from the enhanced investment and expertise of a healthcare industry focused portfolio,” he stated.

Terms of the deal were not announced, but Bloomberg reports that the value of the assets being sold is more than $1 billion.

Founded in 1999, Francisco Partners specialises in investing in tech companies, including businesses within the healthcare sector.

Commenting on the acquisition, Francisco Partners co-president Ezra Perlman said that the San Francisco-based private equity firm has followed IBM’s journey in healthcare data and analytics for a number of years and has “a deep appreciation for its portfolio of innovative healthcare products”.

Principal Justin Chen added that Francisco Partners looks forward to “supporting the talented employees and management team”, which is expected to continue in similar roles in the new standalone company with a “focus on growth opportunities to realise its full potential, and delivering enhanced value to customers and partners”.

The sale of the healthcare data and analytics unit comes amidst the wave of investments in healthcare technology fuelled by the pandemic. For instance, Oracle recently acquired the digital medical records business Cerner for $28.3 billion (£21.4 billion), with plans to use the company as an anchor asset into the healthcare sector.

IBM’s focus on AI and cloud growth was cemented in October 2020, when it announced the split from its Managed Infrastructure Services business, now known as Kyndryl, in what is now known as one of the most significant tech industry moves of that year. At the 2020 Think Digital virtual conference, CEO Arvind Krishna said that “every company will become an AI company, not because they can, but because they must”. 

Google to shut down free G Suite accounts

Sabina Weston

20 Jan, 2022

Google has said it will give those with free G Suite accounts until 1 July to upgrade their plans to a paid subscription, after which point they will lose access to most of its services.

Announced in an email to customers on Wednesday, the policy will not apply to those businesses in the non-profit and education sectors, which can continue to use the services free of charge.

The announcement comes a decade after the tech giant suspended the free basic tier for access to Gmail, Calendar, and Google Docs.

Prior to this, between 2006 and 2012, the tech giant allowed business users to create their own custom domain account for free, as opposed to using the email address.

The service has been a paid privilege since 2012, yet legacy G Suite users have been able to continue using their custom domain accounts for free for ten years.

However, based on emails sent to account administrators yesterday, Google seems to have had a change of heart.

“We are writing to let you know that your G Suite free edition will no longer be available starting July 1, 2022,” the email, seen by Google9to5, reads.

The message warns account administrators that, in order to maintain their services and accounts, they will have to upgrade to Google Workspace, which was launched in 2020 as a fully-integrated productivity platform containing widely-used G Suite apps including Gmail, Calendar and Drive, among others.

Users that upgrade to a paid business tier by 1 May 2022 will be able to use their new subscription for free until “at least” 1 July, the tech giant stated.

Meanwhile, those who don’t select a tier and have their billing details available will be automatically upgraded to a paid subscription by Google. If no billing information is available for an account, Google will suspend the account for up to 60 days, after which users “will no longer have access to Google Workspace core services, such as Gmail, Calendar, and Meet”.

However, they “may still retain access to additional Google services, such as YouTube and Google Photos”.

In order to restore their suspended account, users will have to provide a valid form of payment.

Google’s most basic tier, the Business Starter, costs £4.60 per user per month, and is currently discounted to £4.14. However, the tier only allows 30 GB cloud storage per user, with users wishing to upgrade their storage having to pay twice as much per user per month.

UK businesses urged to join four-day working week trial

Sabina Weston

17 Jan, 2022

UK businesses are being urged to join a six-month trial of a four-day working week, as organisers aim to sign up at least 30 companies by June.

Organised by the 4 Day Week Global organisation and the Autonomy thinktank, the pilot programme will be monitored by Cambridge and Oxford Universities in order to measure the four-day working week’s impact on staff productivity and wellbeing, as well as the impact on the environment and gender equality.

Participating employees will receive 100% of their usual pay for only four days at work, in exchange for their commitment to maintain “at least” 100% productivity.

Autonomy co-director Kyle Lewis said that organisations taking part in the trial will benefit from “unparalleled access to the expertise, tools and resources they will need to run a smooth and successful trial”.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for organisations who want to be pioneers and trial a four-day week as a way of supporting and empowering workers, enhancing organisational productivity and having a positive impact on our society and the environment,” he added.

In 2019, prior to the mass shift to remote working, Autonomy authored a report which found “strong indications that reducing the working week can help reduce air pollution and our overall carbon footprint”.

According to Brendan Burchell, professor in the Social Sciences at Cambridge University, with the rise of technology allowing to maintain productivity, “the time has come for more organisations to take the leap and unravel the practicalities”

“This scheme has tremendous potential to progress from conversations about the general advantages of a shorter working week to focussed discussions on how organisations can implement it in the best possible way,” he added.

One of the businesses taking part in the pilot programme is the Edinburgh-based Canon, which found that the work-life balance of its 140 employees had changed “substantially” during the pandemic.

As a responsive employer we are always looking at how we can adapt our working practices to ensure that employees find their time with us is meaningful, fulfilling and productive. For this reason, we’re keen to pilot a four-day week to see if it can work for us,” said president Ken Sutherland.

Last year, UK-based fintech Atom bank garnered headlines for introducing a four-day working week for all its employees with no change in salary. Prior to that, UK supermarket Morrisons also announced plans to shift to a four-day working week, keeping employee pay the same. However, this was only made available to head office staff in Bradford, who also had to work one Saturday per month to recoup the lost time.

Businesses can sign up for the trial until the end of March. 

Nvidia acquires HPC cluster management firm Bright Computing

Sabina Weston

11 Jan, 2022

Nvidia has announced the acquisition of high-performance computing (HPC) systems management provider Bright Computing for an undisclosed sum.

The deal will see Nvidia open new markets for Bright Computing, which in turn will help expand Nvidia’s accelerated computing portfolio with its Bright Cluster Manager product.

The two companies had been collaborators for more than a decade, with Nvidia integrating Bright’s Cluster Manager with its CUDA parallel computing platform and programming model, and most recently its deep learning-focused DGX systems.

Commenting on the acquisition, vice president and general manager of DGX Systems at Nvidia, Charlie Boyle, said that Bright Computing’s software and expertise will enhance the company’s growing DGX and data centre businesses,

“Now we see an opportunity to combine our system software capabilities to make HPC data centres easier to buy, build and operate, creating a much larger future for HPC,” he added.

Bright Computing CEO Bill Wagner said that “Nvidia is changing the world as we know it”, adding that the company “couldn’t be more excited for our team and software to play a part in that”.

Founded in 2009 and based in Amsterdam, Bright Computing services are used by more than 700 organisations worldwide, including Microsoft,, Samsung, Boeing, NASA, and Tesla.

The acquisition will see Bright’s workforce transferred to Nvidia. The company wasn’t immediately available for comment regarding the future of Bright’s employees or its Amsterdam office and didn’t disclose the financial details of the deal. Nvidia’s current Netherlands headquarters are based in Delft.

The news comes weeks after the UK government ordered a “phase two” investigation into Nvidia’s $40 billion (£30 billion) acquisition of Cambridge-based ARM. Over a period of 24 weeks, the Competitions and Market Authority (CMA) will consider evidence whether the acquisition of the Cambridge-based semiconductor company by the US chip giant is a threat to competition and national security.

The first phase of the CMA’s investigation, which concluded in August and covered competition and jurisdictional issues, determined that the deal could lessen competition across four markets: data centres, Internet of Things, automotive, and gaming.

Home Office spent over £37 million on devices for remote work

Sabina Weston

16 Dec, 2021

The Home Office has spent an estimated £37.7 million on over 53,000 new laptops, tablets, and phones in the last three years.

Nearly half of these devices (24,253) were purchased in the last 12 months, in order to aid remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This data, retrieved using a Freedom of Information (FOI) act by the Parliament Street think tank, revealed that the number of purchased devices increased by 148% from September 2019 to September 2020, with an additional 18% increase between September 2020 and September 2021.

Laptops were the most common purchase, having risen from 6,940 in 2019, to 16,889 in 2020 and 16,586 in 2021.

However, mobile phone purchases had the biggest increase over the past three years, up from 1,361 in 2019, to 7,638 in 2021 – marking a 461% increase since the introduction of remote working.

The data also showed that Zoom has remained the video conferencing platform of choice for the UK government since the start of the pandemic, allowing the House of Commons to resume work during lockdown restrictions. This was in spite of the widespread security concerns that prompted the Ministry of Defence (MoD), US Senate, and Germany’s Foreign Office to ban its staff from using Zoom. The Home Office is said to have spent £6,716 on Zoom licenses alone, across 142 unique users.

By contrast, the number of new Office 365 accounts acquired by the Home Office had fallen from 3,804 in 2019 to 513 by 2020, before rising again to 2,415 in 2021. The most recent purchases could have been made in order to avoid the Office 365 price increases that are set to come into effect in March 2022.

The data comes weeks after a similar FOI revealed that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) had invested in almost 40,000 new devices for its employees since October 2020 in a bid to facilitate hybrid and remote working. This hardware investment was a 366% increase year-on-year, with HMRC purchasing 37,624 laptops, tablets and phones in the last 12 months. However, the cost of this investment wasn’t revealed.

Australia and US sign CLOUD Act data-sharing deal to support criminal investigations

Sabina Weston

16 Dec, 2021

Australia has signed an agreement with the United States that will make it easier for the two countries to access and exchange data for investigations of serious crime, such as terrorism, child sexual abuse, and ransomware attacks.

Known as the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act, the legislation was passed in 2018 and allows law enforcement agencies to simplify the process of obtaining electronic data from communications service providers operating in another country.

This allows for authorities to reduce the time of gathering evidence in ongoing investigations, especially in time-critical scenarios such as terrorist attacks.

However, the CLOUD Act also promotes international collaboration in order to crack down on electronic data-driven crimes, including ransomware attacks and activities involving child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

Commenting on the announcement, US Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said that the agreement will allow US and Australian governments to “more effectively counter serious crime, including terrorism, while adhering to the privacy and civil liberties values that we both share”.

Australian minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews, praised the work of US and Australian authorities, which in June arrested hundreds of suspected criminals that were tricked into using an encrypted messaging app created by the FBI.

“As we saw in Operation Ironside – known in the United States as Operation Trojan Shield – the Australian Federal Police and the FBI are already capable of smashing serious, organised crime networks using sophisticated digital techniques,” said Andrews.

“By strengthening both nations’ ability to fight crime, and giving our law enforcement agencies more efficient access to evidence, we’re ensuring the safety, security and prosperity of our citizens,” she added.

Prior to being implemented, the CLOUD Act agreement between the US and Australia will now undergo Parliamentary and Congressional review processes in both countries.

The news of the agreement comes after the Australian government passed legislation in September granting extensive new surveillance powers to law enforcement agencies in the country. This includes allowing police to disrupt data by modifying, copying, adding, or deleting it and allow the AFP and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) to collect intelligence from devices and networks.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has also suggested it may introduce a “more aggressive” cyber division in order to disrupt terrorism, drug importations, and CSAM distribution.

LastPass announces integration with Google Workspace

Sabina Weston

13 Dec, 2021

LastPass has announced a new integration with Google Workspace in a bid to provide a seamless login process for business users.

Employers can now automatically provide employees with a LastPass account through Google’s directory integration, allowing them to store all their passwords for seamless logins without compromising on security.

The integration allows users to access LastPass using their corporate Google Workspace credentials without any additional passwords, minimising password reset frustrations and time spent on logging into accounts.

The Google active directory also allows for employers to easily add and remove users, simplifying management and ensuring the security of the organisation.

Dan DeMichele, VP of Product Management at LogMeIn, said: “Between this new integration with Google Workspace, and the combination of zero-knowledge infrastructure and multi-key approach, this security model that is unique to LastPass offers a level of security uncommon with such a simple login experience.” 

According to DeMichele, “this ensures the keys used to unlock a user’s vault only reunite locally on the end user’s device”.

“LastPass is the leading password manager on the market, providing this level of security authentication for federated login integrations with identity providers,” he added.

The integration with Google Workspace comes months after LogMeIn, LastPass’ parent company, announced that users on the service’s free tier would no longer have unlimited access to their stored passwords on both desktop and mobile devices. Since 16 March 2021, users are only able to view and manage passwords on either desktop or mobile, being forced to choose which platform they want to use to access their password vaults and being locked out of the other. 

LastPass’s Premium and Family subscriptions start at £2.60 and £3.40 per month, respectively, and include additional features such as expanded multifactor authentication support, dark web monitoring and improved password sharing. 

LastPass’s business offerings start with Teams, priced at £40.80 per user, per year, and intended for SMEs or workgroups with up to 50 users, although this is a recommendation rather than a hard limit. This provides each user with an industry-standard password storage vault with optional two-factor authentication, shared folders for your team, and a dashboard to administrate everything.

The next tier up, Enterprise, has no recommended ceiling on user numbers and adds Single Sign-On support, personal customer support, API and app integrations and customisable security policies. 

Rightmove migrates systems to Google Cloud

Sabina Weston

9 Dec, 2021

The UK’s largest property market website, Rightmove, has announced that it is migrating a number of its systems to Google Cloud.

The move will see Rightmove’s more than 1,000 containers being managed by Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), as well as the creation of a more centralised alternative to its BigQuery data warehouse.

Rightmove’s head of technology operations Andrew Tate said that one of the main reasons why the property website selected Google Cloud as a partner was because of the tech giant’s commitment to run solely on carbon-free energy by 2030.

The goal, which was first announced by CEO Sundar Pichai in September 2020, aligns with Rightmove’s “own commitments to reduce (…) carbon emissions, and will ensure that our platform is consuming the minimum amount of power that is needed to support the maximum number of users each minute of the day”, said Tate.

Google Cloud will also assist Rightmove in simplifying its technology platform, while also “building and delivering new products even more quickly”, which was described as a “key focus area” by Tate.

“We are continuously striving to provide a better experience for consumers on the Rightmove website and better products for our customers. We release over 2,000 updates a year to our applications, so a key focus area for us is reducing time to production and, in turn, time to market,” he added.

By using GKE, Rightmove will be able to streamline the delivery of new services, automate upgrades, as well as scale in line with traffic peaks – which, in the UK, is at 8:48 pm on Wednesdays. 

The pandemic has had a significant impact on the UK’s property market, with many city-dwellers choosing to relocate to more rural areas of the country as offices closed and remote working became the norm. This had resulted in an uptick of traffic to property websites, with Rightmove alone recording more than 100 of its busiest ever days for visits in the last 12 months.

Commenting on the news, Google Cloud UKI director Adrian Poole described Rightmove as “no stranger to innovation” that “has already developed a smart platform that is the go-to for property”. 

“Having recognised the need to take its platform to the next level to stay agile and continue innovating, it is now going to be able to iterate and accelerate time to production. We’re delighted to support Rightmove in their mission to make home moving easier,” he added.

SMBs urged to update software ahead of Black Friday

Sabina Weston

25 Nov, 2021

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are being urged to update their software ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday to avoid financial and reputational damage.

The warning comes after the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) identified 4,151 online shops that had been compromised using a vulnerability within the e-commerce platform Magento. With 250,000 clients, the Adobe subsidiary is the third-largest e-commerce system globally, after WooCommerce and Shopify.

NCSC alerted the affected retailers of the vulnerability in late September, with Magento issuing a security patch on 12 October

All online businesses are being urged to update their software, as the mass shift to e-commerce since the start of the pandemic has caused more customers to shop online than ever before, increasing their risk of falling victim to online scams.

Hence, the NCSC has issued guidance on running a secure website and avoiding threats including skimming, which has been described as “a threat to all retailers” by British Retail Consortium assistant director Graham Wynn.

The trade association has urged “all retailers to follow the NCSC’s advice and check their preparedness for any cyber issues that could arise during the busy end of year period”.

NCSC deputy director for Economy and Society, Sarah Lyons, said that the agency wants “small and medium-sized online retailers to know how to prevent their sites being exploited by opportunistic cyber criminals over the peak shopping period”.

“Falling victim to cyber crime could leave you and your customers out of pocket and cause reputational damage. It’s important to keep websites as secure as possible and I would urge all business owners to follow our guidance and make sure their software is up to date,” she added.

Last year, Check Point’s security researchers observed a sharp increase in the number of phishing exploits in the run-up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with phishing emails having increased by over 13 times in early November 2020. In December 2020, RiskIQ security researchers discovered around 37,000 fake retail websites set up to scam holiday shoppers, with 208 domain infringement events containing only “Black Friday,” “Cyber Monday,” “Boxing Day,” or “Christmas”.

Microsoft halves number of Windows 10 updates

Sabina Weston

17 Nov, 2021

Windows 10 users can now expect half the amount of updates, with Microsoft announcing that the operating system is shifting to an annual release cycle similar to Windows 11.

The move is expected to minimise the time spent downloading, restarting, and configuring the updates, which is often seen as troublesome and time-consuming by users.

Coinciding with the release of the Windows 10 21H2 update, Windows Servicing and Delivery VP of Product Management, John Cable, stated that Microsoft “will transition to a new Windows 10 release cadence to align with the Windows 11 cadence, targeting annual feature update releases”.

Following the release of Windows 11 on 4 October, it was announced that the latest iteration of the flagship operating system would move to an annual feature update system similar to that of macOS.

As a result, rather than spring 2022, users can expect the next Windows 10 feature update “in the second half of 2022”, Cable announced in a company blog post.

“As a second half (H2) of the calendar year release, Home and Pro editions of the November 2021 Update will receive 18 months of servicing and support, and Enterprise and Education editions will receive 30 months of servicing and support beginning today,” he stated.

Windows 10 updates are to be supported until the operating system’s end of life date, which is scheduled for 14 October 2025. After that, Microsoft will not be providing technical support, software updates or security updates or fixes for Windows 10. 

The latest Windows 10 update, which is available to download now from the Windows Update settings, includes stronger security to prevent attacks while using Wi-Fi networks, as well as an enhanced Universal Print feature that allows enterprise clients to handle print jobs of up to one gigabyte. Moreover, Microsoft announced that its users will now be able to use the Azure Virtual Desktop service to provision apps to cloud-based Windows 10.

“We continue to listen to customer feedback to adapt Windows to meet your needs as part of our ongoing support for Windows 10, and have scoped the November 2021 Update to focus on productivity, management and security,” said Cable, adding that Microsoft “will be throttling up availability over the coming weeks to ensure a reliable download experience for all”.