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Back to the ’90s: Boutique browser Vivaldi now offers its own internet suite

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What goes around comes around. In fact, the 1990s called and want their browser suite back.

Vivaldi, one of the boutique browsers that fight for scraps left on the floor by Google’s Chrome and Microsoft’s Edge, has turned to a strategy reminiscent of Netscape Navigator, the world’s first dominant web browser.

Vivaldi 4.0, which launched earlier this month, added an email client, calendar, and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) reader to the already-available browser, creating the 21st century version of Netscape Communicator, an all-in-one kitchen sink released in 1997. That collection ranged from the browser and email client (Netscape Messenger) to calendar and an HTML editor (Netscape Composer).

The successor to Netscape Communicator was, for those with long memories, the Mozilla Suite (later called the Mozilla Application Suite), which began with the former’s code base.

Vivaldi’s makers have to be hoping for a better ending than Netscape saw; that company not only lost its No. 1 spot to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer but inside of a decade had effectively disappeared from the browser playing field.

Big Tech, bad tech

Vivaldi’s co-founder and chief executive Jon von Tetzchner pitched his grab bag as the answer to Big Tech, the words initial-capped to mimic headline writers referring to the largest firms, like Google and Apple, Amazon and Microsoft, that are facing scrutiny from regulators worldwide. “The era of blindly trusting Big Tech is over,” declared von Tetzchner. “A growing movement of people worldwide is looking for reliable, functional alternatives to the tools offered by the tech giants. We are building Vivaldi to meet that need — and more — with an expanded set of integrated features that give you more control of your data and your workflow.”

It’s an interesting approach, if only because it runs counter to the demise of integrated software, like Netscape Communicator, Apple’s AppleWorks, Microsoft Works, Lotus Jazz, and others.

The Vivaldi browser remains the cornerstone of the new construction. It also remains what von Tetzchner debuted five years ago: a wildly customizable browser that very much went against the grain of austerity that Chrome pioneered, and every major rival adopted sooner or later. Vivaldi’s settings pane is still overloaded with options of all kinds, to the point that those accustomed to the minimalism of the biggest browsers may feel more lost than comfortable.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Apple: Sideloading apps will undermine iOS security

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Following CEO Tim Cook’s statements on security at a recent conference, Apple has come out fighting to protect the security of its App Store distribution model, publishing a white paper that argues enforced side-loading of apps would make the platform — and its users — far less secure.

Security isn’t simple

It’s an argument that makes sense. Anyone involved in enterprise security already knows that the biggest security problem in any business is the people in the business. Humans make mistakes, and today’s generations of hackers and crackers have become pretty good at identifying and attacking individuals to help create cracks in the security of larger targets.

Apple’s argument – that permitting unconstrained side-loading of apps from third-party stores would create a new attack surface – makes complete sense. However, legislation currently under consideration in the EU and elsewhere proposes to make side loading mandatory.

It really shouldn’t happen.

What about the Mac, though?

Some argue that this is no different than the security model on the Mac, which permits app installs from a variety of sources. We know the platform has become an increasingly attractive target as its adoption grows.

Apple doesn’t agree that the Mac should be seen as a template for iOS app distribution. It argues not only that the iOS platform is 10 times larger than the Mac, but that there’s a difference in how we use these platforms:

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

12 hidden Pixel superpowers | Computerworld

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One of the best parts of using a Pixel is the way tasty little specks of Google intelligence get sprinkled all throughout the experience. Those small but significant morsels show off the value of having Google’s greatest ingredients integrated right into your phone’s operating system, without any competing forces or awkwardly conflicting priorities at play.

And Goog almighty, does that make a world of difference. The features in question may not always be the most eye-catching or marketing-friendly advantages, but they’re incredibly practical touches that can make your life easier in some pretty powerful ways.

Today, we’re gonna zoom into an especially possibility-packed area of the Pixel’s software setup, and that’s the Android Overview area. The simple-seeming interface for switching between recently used apps is overflowing with advanced actions on a Pixel phone, and once you discover (or maybe just remind yourself) what’s there, you’ll be saving time and flyin’ around your phone like nobody’s business.

So as a supplement to my popular Pixel Academy e-course — a totally free seven-day email adventure that helps you uncover tons of next-level Pixel treasures — join me for this tour of outstanding and out-of-the-way Pixel Overview gems. Check ’em out, try ’em out, and then come sign up for the course for even more super-practical Pixel awesomeness.

(Note that most of the possibilities on this page require Android 11 or higher to work. That means if you’re still hangin’ onto a first-gen Pixel phone, they won’t be available for you, unfortunately. But don’t despair. You can still find lots of other worthwhile goodies in my Pixel Academy!)

Pixel superpower No. 1: The quick text copy

We’ll start with a simple but supremely helpful feature for copying text from practically anywhere in a snap. You can use it to snag words from something like a web page or a document, sure, but you can also use it to highlight and copy anything from within an image, a screenshot you’d previously saved, or even an area of Android that wouldn’t typically let you select and copy text — like a specific screen within the system settings, for instance.

Whatever the case may be, all you’ve gotta do is open up your Pixel’s Overview interface — by swiping up an inch or so from the bottom of the screen and then stopping, if you’re using Android’s current gesture system, or by tapping the square-shaped button at the bottom of the screen, if you’re still holding onto the old legacy three-button nav setup — and then press and hold your finger onto the words you want within the view of your most recently used app (or any other app in your current history).

JR

As long as your phone is running Android 11 or higher, you should see the text in question get selected. And you can then slide your finger around as needed to expand or refocus the selection. If you want to select all of the visible text on the screen, you can also use the relatively new “Select” command at the bottom of the Pixel Overview interface. Either way, once your text is selected, all that’s left is to hit the “Copy” command in the menu that comes up and then do a spritely little jig of celebration.*

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Apple’s Focus: What does it do and how does it work?

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Apple introduced Focus at this year’s WWDC. This is likely to be a quite useful tool for any iPhone, iPad, or Mac user attempting to get things done, or trying to put some space between work and personal life.

What is Focus?

Focus is a nuanced version of Apple’s existing Do Not Disturb tool. It combines the ability to block out unwanted interruptions with contextual awareness and granular controls in a way that Apple hopes will help users remain focused on the tasks at hand.

The tool aims to help people disconnect from digital interruptions, such as work emails during the family meal, messages during a conference call, and all the other intrusions that squander our precious attention during daily life.

Focus is also smart. It uses on-device intelligence to suggest an appropriate Focus setting suitable to your context. When it does so, it will also suggest people and apps that are allowed to reach you once a focus is set.

What does Focus do?

The Focus mission is to optimize your Apple device to be useful wherever you are and whatever you are doing. So, when you are coding, you might need access to email, Xcode, FaceTime, and Safari; when reading, you might prefer no interruptions at all.

Focus also lets you curate customized pages of applications for use in different Focus states (Home, Work, Gym, Driving, etc.)

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Apple’s SharePlay vision: Too little, too late?

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Apple has made several attempts that nod in the same direction as its new SharePlay service, announced at WWDC 2021. Looking back, you’ll see that Apple has made attempts in what became the social media space, with Ping the most widely known failure.

Of course, Apple’s failures in social media now look like success, given the corrosive impact some services have had. “Platforms and algorithms that promised to improve our lives can actually magnify our worst human tendencies,” Apple CEO Tim Cook has said.

But Apple hasn’t lost interest in finding some way to make use of casual, person-centered, and networked computer communications. That’s the space it’s exploring with SharePlay.

What is SharePlay?

Apple describes SharePlay as a set of tools you can use to share music, TV, movies, and more with other people in real time using FaceTime. The company is climbing aboard a set of trends here, as shared listening and movie watching parties became popular across some age demographics during the pandemic.

These are the primary ways Apple is offering up sharing across its apps in SharePlay right now:

  • SharePlay supports screen sharing, which becomes a “simple and super effective way to help someone out and answer questions right in the moment,” said Apple SVP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi.
  • A Shared with You tab makes content such as images, websites, news links and so on available in the relevant apps. You may see an image you recently received in a Messages thread in the Shared with you Tab in Photos, for example.
  • For Apple TV, SharePlay provides shared playback controls so all participants can play, pause, or jump ahead.
  • In FaceTime, users can share music, TV, movies, and more with others in real time.
  • FaceTime calls also extend beyond Apple devices for the first time — anyone can join a FaceTime call from their web browser on Android and Windows devices.

What about the developers?

Apple has also created an API so developers can build support for their own apps into FaceTime. Right now, the API seems focused on media sharing, which is why the likes of Disney+, ESPN+, HBO Max, Hulu, MasterClass, Paramount+, Pluto TV, TikTok, and Twitch are implementing support for SharePlay.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

50 illuminating questions about Google’s latest messaging service shakeup

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Good golly, gang, Google’s done it again.

Just when I thought the G-team had made its messaging service strategy as convoluted as humanly possible, Le Googlé has managed to inject even more messy confusion into its suite of messaging products.

This, my fellow earthlings, deserves some serious recognition. Achieving levels of perplexity this high is a rare feat, and you’d better believe it ain’t easy.

Our latest confounding twist comes courtesy of an announcement earlier this week that Google Workspace — the recently rebranded identity for the entity formerly known as G Suite — will now be available for everyone, whether you’re using a paid company-connected account or a free individual Google account.

With that announcement comes a host of incoming changes to the communication services you know and love and even some changes to the core Gmail interface. It’s a lot to wrap your head around, and my own Gmail inbox has been overflowing with questions from bemused and befuddled Google users.

In an effort to answer those inquiries and make sense of Google’s increasingly comical messaging service situation, I thought we’d think through some questions together — questions that’ll help us get to the bottom of what’s actually going on with all of this and what it really, truly means for us as humble Google-using hominids.

So sharpen your fingernails and prepare for some intensive head-scratching: It’s time to get inquisitive.

All right, let’s start simple. What exactly is Google Workspace?

Excellent question, Mr. Watson! Best I can tell, Google Workspace is now the name for all of Google’s productivity apps — Gmail, Docs, Sheets, and so on. With this week’s announcement, that name now applies to anyone using said services, whether you’re a paying business customer or just a regular ol’ individual-account-owning schmo.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

What iOS 15 means for the future of the iPhone

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Computerworld | Jun 17, 2021

With iOS 15, Apple will allow users to upgrade to the new OS or stick with iOS 14 for security updates. At the same time, features in iOS 15 could position Apple for success even after the iPhone becomes irrelevant. Macworld Executive Editor Michael Simon and Computerworld Executive Editor Ken Mingis join Juliet to discuss what it all means.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

WSJ leaks Apple’s digital healthcare plan

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Apple has indeed been thinking about introducing its own healthcare service backed up by real doctors, the Wall Street Journal confirmed, though plans appear to have stalled.

An Apple a day keeps the doctor in pay

Apple’s interest in the sector goes back years. “Health is a huge issue around the world and we think it’s ripe for simplicity and a new view,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told a May 2016 conference.

Speaking in 2013, Ovum’s then-lead Healthcare & Life Sciences analyst Charlotte Davies told me: “More and more care will be delivered outside hospitals and clinics… mobile devices — from smartphones to monitoring devices — will become increasingly important as the number of patients cared for at home or in sheltered accommodation or other community centers increases.”

Suggesting the scale of the company’s ambition, Cook told the Time 100 Summit in 2019:

“I do think there will be a day when people looking back will say Apple’s greatest contribution to the world was healthcare.”

Cook has consistently returned to this promise ever since.

What’s the prognosis?

The story (via: Macrumors) in brief seems to be:

Apple has discussed its clinics before, saying they exist as initiatives for internal employee health, and the WSJ report cites Apple’s response to the claims as maintaining that line. The report reveals a secret Apple app called HealthHabit. This is offered to employees to provide chat-based contact with clinicians and to set and meet health challenges.

This combination of remote medical support and gamification of health targets doesn’t appear to have hit the sweet spot, at least, not yet — the report claims low use of the app. Employees just haven’t developed the habit, or so it appears.

Apple’s smart plan for digital health

That Apple would be exploring the potential of remote health monitoring systems makes a great deal of sense. Its work with Apple Watch and partnerships with health insurance providers show it well understands how sensor-based data can contribute to personal health, as does the company’s continued investment in research in this space.

It’s also important to consider the necessity of digital transformation in healthcare in order to deliver care on a planet with a growing population and insufficient trained medical staff. The idea here should be that routine tasks can be automated to enable practitioners to handle bigger patient workloads without impacting the quality of care provided.

In practice, of course, it probably just means Big Healthcare will use these efficiencies to maximize gross revenue. The global health insurance market is worth more $3 trillion, which is a tempting market for any company.

Not yet ready for prime time?

The Wall Street Journal seems to believe the effort to create an Apple-branded health service has stalled, but I’m inclined to reject that assessment. My hunch is that for the project to bear fruit, challenges around network coverage and regulatory approval must be resolved, along with Apple’s growing recognition that it treads an increasingly fine balance in which it must avoid over-extending its market power or face regulatory action.

At the same time, Apple’s efforts in privacy, continued sensor and software development, and its network of high street retail stores could all come into play in the event it decided to offer such services.

I expect we’ll see more work emerge as 5G networks proliferate and new health sensors appear. Because in the end, I’m convinced that Apple Watch and other connected wearables will indeed become your personal physician.

Though until access to these solutions is made universally available, health, like privacy, will remain a premium service meant for the many but accessible only to a few.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Google abandons URL shortening in Chrome

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Google has called quits on the notion of truncating URLs in Chrome, according to a note from earlier this month in the Chromium project’s bug database.

“This experiment didn’t move relevant security metrics, so we’re not going to launch it,” Emily Stark, a staff software engineer on the Chrome team, wrote in the June 7 entry.

Android Police first reported on Stark’s note June 10.

Stark’s notification, which referred to what Chromium — the open-source project that produces code for Chrome and several other browsers, including Microsoft’s Edge — called the “simplified domain” experiment, put a end to efforts designed to abridge what shows in the browser’s address bar.

In August 2020, Google announced — Stark was one of the trio of engineers who penned the declaration — that it would run trials with some Chrome users that would hide much of a site’s URL. The idea, Google said, was to foil phishing attacks.

“Our goal is to understand — through real-world usage — whether showing URLs this way helps users realize they’re visiting a malicious website, and protects them from phishing and social engineering attacks,” the engineers said.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

The great cloud computing surge

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We reached a big milestone in 2020: Cloud services revenue finally surpassed enterprise spending on data centers, according to the Synergy Research Group. One of the longest-running trends in IT – moving to the cloud – has been turbocharged, driven in part by a pandemic that pushed enterprises to avoid the logistical challenges and capital expense of deploying on prem.

But the endless capacity to add horsepower without provisioning your own infrastructure isn’t the biggest draw. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud have become launchpads for the latest technology innovations, which developers can jump on to build innovative new applications. Machine learning libraries? Globally distributed databases? IoT platforms with all the bells and whistles? The big three clouds have ‘em all – ready, waiting, and API-accessible. It’s enough to make you wonder why you’d bother to build and maintain your own datacenter.

That’s exactly what Brunswick, a recreational boating company, wondered. In “Cloud or bust: IT leaders go all in on cloud computing,” CIO contributor Mary Pratt reveals that it took Brunswick a decade to get there, but the company’s IT estate is now 90% in the cloud, using a combination of IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS offerings that has enabled the decommissioning of two data centers. According to Pratt, Bain & Company, DeVry University, and the University of California, San Diego, are all at similarly advanced phases in their cloud journeys. As UC San Diego CIO Vince Kellen says, “cloud is a necessary and eventual transition that just about every organization is going to make.”

Clearly, the pace of that transition kicked into high gear during the pandemic. In “From legacy to the cloud: The 3 stages of enterprise modernization,” UK Group Editor Scott Carey cites Red Hat CEO Paul Cormier’s estimate that, for his customers, the pandemic has accelerated cloud adoption by five years. Last year’s great migration to working from home drove a new spike in SaaS adoption, with videoconferencing and other cloud applications enabling remote work. The second and third phases involve embracing the cloud native model and migrating legacy apps to the cloud.

Shifting to the cloud at scale is never easy. Cloud migration means applications must be refactored, cloud costs need to be monitored and optimized, and obtaining cloud expertise requires internal training and/or hiring expensive talent. For companies that use multiple clouds, security is a particularly knotty area, because each of the big three clouds has a different security feature set, increasing the risk of configuration errors. CSO contributor Neal Weinberg digs into the details in “AWS, Google Cloud Platform and Azure: How their security features compare.”

Even something seemingly as simple as moving from an on-prem Exchange Server to one hosted by Microsoft has its challenges. Contributor Jonathan Hassell offers a step-by-step guide born of experience in “Migrating to hosted Exchange: Do’s and don’ts.” It’s a must-read for anyone facing this laborious task.

Cloud computing’s real potential, though, is in the shiny new stuff. In a second article, this one for Network World, Neal Weinberg looks at the IoT platforms offered by various clouds vs. solutions you can assemble on-prem in “IoT cloud services: How they stack up against DIY.” A big plus for cloud right off the bat: IoT often demands the ingestion of huge quantities of data, which the cloud can accommodate dynamically. AWS, IBM, and Microsoft in particular have IoT cloud offerings with feature sets that would be difficult to assemble piece by piece on prem.

Rich arrays of pre-provisioned services like these highlight the potential of the cloud to offer platforms for building the future. No, the cloud will never completely replace the data center. But after this past year, the updraft is stronger than ever, as limitless scalability and endless assortments of new services make the cloud increasingly irresistible.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

WWDC: 12 small but important improvements you may have missed

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I’ve already focused on some of the bigger announcements made at WWDC this year; here’s a look at  some of the smaller (mostly iOS) improvements Apple told us about last week.

Easier iCloud iPhone updates

If you don’t have a great deal of iCloud storage, but want to backup all your data while upgrading to a new iPhone, Apple has made things a little easier. In the future, when you purchase a new device, you’ll be given as much storage as you require to create a temporary backup while moving to the new phone. (The space will be available for up to three weeks.)

This should really help anyone stuck with Apple’s paltry 5GB of iCloud space, and will likely help many enterprises pros in the upgrade process.

You won’t be forced to upgrade

When iOS 15 ships this fall, Apple will give users a choice in the Settings app. You’ll be able to choose between updating to the latest version of the new OS on release or continue to use iOS 14 and all subsequent updates to that OS until you are ready to upgrade.

This is nice to have in terms of consumer choice, but necessary to enterprises — particularly those who must run any software update through rigorous compliance testing before it is installed. Believe it or not, some enterprises need to stay a step or two behind, though most make an exception for security updates.

Built-in authentication

I don’t think it got a mention during the WWDC keynote at all, but Apple is adding the capacity to create verification codes in Passwords in the Settings app. Made available on sites and services that offer support for this form of verification, this task has been handled by third-party apps until now.

Apple hopes that, by making this a system feature, the use of such codes will be made a lot easier, particularly as they will autofill when you sign into a site. This should be quite useful to enterprises attempting to convince employees to use this kind of protection. Passkeys in iCloud Keychain will also let you replace passwords with Face ID, Touch ID, or a security key.

Find My (switched off) thing

One welcome improvement in Find My (other than the growing AirTags ecosystem) is that the network will now help you find devices that are switched off or out of power. I’m not certain yet how this works and imagine the system will simply show you the last known location of your device before it goes offline.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

The evolution of macOS (and Mac OS X)

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Progression of macOS

Image by IDG / Apple

Migrating to hosted Exchange: Do’s and don’ts

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Make no mistake: moving from an on-premises Microsoft Exchange deployment to Exchange in the cloud is a gargantuan undertaking. Earlier this year, I explored the major issues you’ll need to consider and decisions you’ll need to make when moving to hosted Exchange.

But for most folks, further guidance is necessary. What are some of the gotchas to watch out for? What are some best practices to factor into your planning? Here, I’ll take a look at several important do’s and don’ts when it comes to getting your organization into Exchange Online.

Note: This story focuses on migrating from Exchange Server on-premises to some version of Microsoft’s hosted Exchange service (under an Exchange Online, Office 365, or Microsoft 365 subscription), or to a hybrid configuration with the “365” apps in the cloud and Exchange remaining in some fashion on-premises in production. It is not intended to apply to migrations to other providers’ services.

Don’t underestimate the time it will take to move all of your data over.

Depending on a number of factors, including how many users you have, how much data each mailbox has stored, bandwidth constraints, and more, migrating email to the cloud can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks. One unexpected slowdown may come from Microsoft itself: a non-obvious protective feature of Exchange Online is that it throttles inbound sustained connections in order to prevent a small number of bad actors from overwhelming the system.

Once you’re up and running and fully in the cloud for production, you will come to appreciate this defense, which works for the benefit of the general subscription base. But when you are trying to ingest data you will see transfer rates sometimes slow to a crawl. There’s unfortunately little you can do about this other than simply endure. Be sure to include this in your planning, as moving hundreds or thousands of multi-gigabyte mailboxes into Exchange Online may take a lot longer than you might expect.

Do use a delta-pass migration.

Reduce the time pressure on yourself, if you can, by using a delta-pass migration rather than a strict cutover migration. With delta-pass migration, multiple migration attempts are made while mail is still being delivered on-premises. The first pass might move everything from Sunday, May 1 backward, for example, and then another pass is made later in the week to move the “delta” — or changes — from Sunday, May 1 through Wednesday, May 4, and then another and another until essentially the mailboxes are up to date.

This is a useful technique, as each successive migration batch is smaller than the last. Typically over a weekend, your last delta batch will finish in a few minutes, and then your moves are complete and you can throw your MX records over to Exchange Online. Your users never experience missing historical mailbox data, because until the mailboxes are identical, they use the mailbox that already holds their data.

Don’t forget to configure edge devices and intrusion detection systems to recognize Exchange Online as a trusted partner.

If you forget this all-important step, your migrations may be interrupted because your IDS thinks that a denial-of-service attack is happening. Conveniently, Microsoft makes available a regularly updated list of IP addresses used by all 365 services to use specifically when configuring your edge devices to trust traffic where necessary.

Do run the Office network health and connectivity tests ahead of time.

Microsoft has developed a comprehensive tool that can alert you to routing or latency issues between you and the Microsoft 365 data centers. The tool runs a suite of tests of speed, routing, latency, jitter, and more on your network connection to identify and isolate common issues that could lead to a degraded experience — especially with voice applications — for Microsoft 365 users.

Any performance issues the tool finds will almost certainly have a negative impact on the speed of your migration attempts and passes. Solving or mitigating any issues you find will speed up the entire project.

In a hybrid environment, do use the EAC in Exchange Online to initiate mailbox moves.

If you choose a hybrid model for your deployment, then you will by definition have some mailboxes on-premises (at least for a time) and some in the cloud. In this scenario, it can be tempting to trust your old go-to Exchange Management Console to do all of your mailbox move work, shifting mailboxes to and fro. Don’t give in to that temptation; it’s best to pull mailboxes into the cloud from the web-based EAC in the Microsoft 365 administration center, rather than using outdated on-premises tools.

Don’t forget about Outlook client version updates.

Updating an office suite across a large enterprise is no easy task and takes a while, which means there’s often a prevalence of older copies of Outlook among your users. When you control your Exchange deployment, that’s fine, because you control the timing of your moves.

But one of the “side gotchas” that comes with using the cloud is that someone else gets to decide the baseline level of software that will work with its services. Microsoft is really pushing everyone toward the subscription-based Office suite (Microsoft 365 or Office 365) and away from the old per-user perpetual volume licenses with the year attached (Office 2013, 2016, or 2019, for example).

In fact, as of October 2020, the company declared that Outlook 2013 and older versions are no longer supported for connecting to Office 365 and Microsoft 365 services. While it won’t actively block these older clients, they “may encounter performance or reliability issues over time.” And there’s no telling when Microsoft will pull the plug entirely.

So don’t forget about developing a plan to update your clients to Office 2016 or beyond, or move to a subscription license and deploy those apps instead of the volume license editions.

Do plan to implement two-factor authentication.

One of the biggest advantages to moving to Exchange Online and Microsoft 365 is the ability to use all of the new security features available in the cloud, the most important of which by far is the ability to turn on two-factor authentication. 2FA reduces your attack surface significantly as soon as you turn it on, and since Microsoft has done all of the rewiring of the directory and Exchange security model on its servers to make it work, all you have to do is flip the switch and show your users where to plug in their mobile phone numbers.

Better yet, use the Microsoft Authenticator app to reduce the security and social engineering risks of using SMS text messages. But don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Deploying Authenticator across tens of thousands of phones can be difficult, especially with BYOD setups and remote-work environments where employees don’t have access to an in-person help desk. In contrast, setting up SMS requires nothing from the end user and can be done entirely by IT. So if the choice is between two-factor authentication with SMS and no two-factor authentication, then by all means turn on 2FA and use SMS.

In a hybrid environment, don’t remove your last Exchange Server.

One cardinal rule of operating a hybrid Exchange environment is that you must keep at least one Exchange Server running on premises in order to manage users. There exists a way to continue to use the Active Directory attribute editing functionality to manage recipients, but it’s not really supported — and if it breaks, you’ll have to file a ticket with Microsoft, wait three days, and maybe, just maybe, it’ll come back.

It is much easier to use the Exchange admin console of your on-premises server to manage recipients in a hybrid environment, and you can’t do that unless you leave an Exchange Server running in your on-premises deployment. Microsoft has repeatedly said it’s working on a solution to this issue of having to have an existing licensed server on-prem with hybrid deployments, but even after several years there’s been little progress toward solving that problem.

The last word

A transition time is always challenging, and that’s certainly true when migrating your organization to Exchange Online. By factoring in the advice and warnings above, you’ll make that path smoother and reach the finish line more quickly.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

WWDC: Why iCloud+ will help secure the enterprise

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One of the biggest surprises of WWDC 2021 was Apple’s introduction of iCloud+, an upgraded version of its existing service available at no additional charge that provides secure emailing and VPN-style security for users.

iCloud just became a useful business tool

The introduction of these features will transform iCloud into a very useful remote business tool, though it will be interesting to see whether all these features will be available to enterprise folks making use of Managed Apple IDs for their business tools. For the present let’s assume they will, given the deep value they promise to those in that sector.

These new tools mean iCloud-using employees:

  • Won’t see email opening activity tracked by invisible pixels as explained here with Mail Privacy Protection.
  • Will be able to sign-up for mailing lists using fake email addresses.
  • Gain access to a built-in VPN with iCloud Private Relay.
  • Can create domain-based email addresses.

A game of cat and mouse

Apple will continue to invest in these protections. Apple’s Crag Federighi, vice president of software engineering, confirmed that Apple sees cybersecurity as an ongoing challenge, telling Fast Company:

“The incentives for ‘innovation’ in the exploitation world are high, and so there is a lot of advancement in the art of tracking; a lot of advancement in the arts of security exploits. And so, in both areas, we think there’s going to continue to be a cat and mouse game. We think we bring a lot of tools to that fight, and we can largely stay ahead of it and protect our customers. But it’s something we recognize as a battle we will be fighting for years to come.”

In a sense, Apple’s decision to secure its platforms reflects the reality that it is becoming a more viable target as its place in the enterprise grows.

“As a result of its growth in the enterprise, Apple devices are now a bigger security threat target,” Jamf Senior Manager Garrett Denney writes.

“This, coupled with remote work and schools accessing sensitive cloud resources, enhanced the demand for even greater Apple platform security. And with enhanced security comes the need to balance data privacy protections and the end-user experience across a number of contexts. New privacy-centric features like Hide My Email and Private Relay put user privacy at the forefront, enabling privacy protection regardless of where devices are being used.”

Star of the show: iCloud Private Relay

Private Relay is a built-in internet privacy service that exists inside iCloud. It is designed so that you can connect to and browse the web using Safari in a highly secure way, protecting both the site requests you make and the places you visit from being identified.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

Seoul reports panic buying in N Korea amid economic woes

Seoul reports panic buying in N Korea amid economic woes

SEOUL, South Korea -- The coronavirus pandemic has likely taken a heavy toll on North Korea, forcing leader Kim Jong Un to avoid public activities and his people into panic buying for daily necessities, South Koreas spy agency told lawmakers Wednesday. Alt…