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    Will using a VPN help protect you from malware or ransomware?

    VPNs are resource-intensive and can take a huge toll on your network bandwidth, which is why you should only employ them when you need them. Getty Images A virtual private network (VPN) can be an important tool in your online protection routine, but only if you know exactly what a VPN can and can’t do. […] More

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    New $300M subsea cable network to link Southeast Asia, China

    (Source: Singtel) Six carriers have teamed up to build a $300 million subsea cable system that seeks to boost connectivity between Southeast Asia and China. Spanning 6,000 kilometres, the network will link up Singapore, Hong Kong, Brunei, the Philippines, and China.  Called the Asia Link Cable (ALC) system, the cable network is expected to be […] More

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    Finally, is this the end for the fax machine?

    Image: junpiiiiiiiiiii / Shutterstock Once the heart of office life, the fax machine could soon fall silent forever. The UK’s telecoms regulator Ofcom is considering whether to remove facsimile or ‘fax’ services from the list of technologies that it requires telecoms companies to support.  The proposed change would amend the current universal service obligation (USO), […] More

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    The 4 best free VPNs for iPhone

    Windscribe free VPN iOS features: Simultaneous Connections: 1 | Kill switch: Yes | Logging: None | Customer service: FAQ, email, bot chat | Data limit: Up to 15GB monthly | Countries: 11 | Server locations: 31The Windscribe VPN iOS app has a good number of features compared to other free iPhone VPNs. You can customize the visual layout and choose from 17 languages. There are also options for adjusting the server display to show the load and latency of each location.Windscribe VPN also has a built-in blocker for ads, trackers, and malware. You can even customize lists of sites or IP addresses you’d like to block using Windscribe’s R.O.B.E.R.T. tool. Where the free Windscribe service really shines is with its server network, which has servers in more countries than any of the other free iPhone VPNs we’ve highlighted. It has 31 free servers across these countries:CanadaFranceGermanyHong KongNetherlandsNorwayRomaniaSwitzerlandTurkeyUnited KingdomUnited StatesWhen you sign up for the free Windscribe VPN you’ll start off with 2GB a month but it’s easy to increase that limit. You can bump up to 10GB a month when you verify your email and get a permanent boost to 15GB monthly if you tweet about the service (and have at least three followers).You can access support through email or possibly get your questions answered with the FAQ guides. There is no live chat option, but I found the chatbot (Garry) to be extremely helpful. It provided specific answers to my questions rather than just giving me a list of links to FAQ guides that may or may not answer the question.  More

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    How Avaya is bringing contact-center functionality to the metaverse

    Image: XH4D/Getty Images At the GITEX Global conference last week in Dubai, communications hardware and software provider Avaya showcased how its technology can be integrated into a metaverse experience. GITEX has become a premier technology conference across the globe and rivals CES for attendance.  Special Feature Avaya has been a mainstay at the event for […] More

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    How to set up Linux hosts file

    Oscar Wong/Moment/Getty Images Linux is a very powerful operating system that is also one of the most flexible in the marketplace. That flexibility has always been a big selling point of the OS. Any user that doesn’t like the way Linux works can always bend it to better fit their needs. One very simple example […] More

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    Six ways Cisco Webex beats Microsoft Teams

    The work-from-home period of the COVID-19 pandemic shifted collaboration tools from being a “nice-to-have” to a critical business application. The winding down of the pandemic has caused businesses to question whether they still need collaboration applications. The reality is that few companies will bring all employees back into the office five days a week. ZK Research found that 51% of employees plan to work from home two to three days a week and another 24% at least one day a week. This indicates that three-quarters of the workforce will be hybrid. It’s important to understand that hybrid work is markedly different from remote work. Remote work requires a great collaboration experience in one location, while hybrid work is about creating that great experience across different locations. Collaboration tools obviously play a key role in this. This raises the question of which collaboration vendor to use. The two heavyweights in this industry are Cisco Webex and Microsoft Teams. From an experience perspective, I find Webex to be significantly better. When I ask businesses why they continue to use Teams, I get responses such as “It’s included in our Microsoft license, and it’s good enough for most users.” Teams was being used despite push-back from the workers. In this case, IT pros made the easy decision; Microsoft does make it compelling from an initial cost because Teams is free with Microsoft E3 license. I would argue that in a hybrid work world, good enough is, in fact, not good enough, and IT pros need to fully understand the differences between the two platforms. The license cost advantage that Microsoft brings is well understood, but I’ve found Webex’s benefits are less known. This is because much of the innovation in Webex has come in the past 12 to 18 months. Cisco Systems is holding its virtual WebexOne event later this month, during which the company will highlight this innovation. Given that the event is around the corner (Oct. 25-26), I thought it would be helpful to write a post highlighting many of the recent innovations, so people attending could be looking for new features and capabilities. From the research I have done, below are six areas where I believe Webex trumps Teams. Most of these can be experienced at WebexOne. 1. Seamless collaboration inside and outside the enterprise Both Webex and Teams are effective at enabling workers to communicate with other employees in the same company. However, Webex does a much better job with external collaboration. I experience this daily when doing a Teams call with another company. With Webex, users retain the functionality associated with their corporate accounts, whether they are internal or external. With Teams, guests lose access to their company services and can only access a limited number of features. This can be very frustrating for users when chat or other capabilities are available at some times but not at others. Also, Webex is much faster to start up when video meetings are held. It is built on a shared microservices architecture, while Teams is a wrapper around multiple, legacy solutions. In a recent Teams call, it took nearly a minute for the video meeting to fully load, while with Webex it’s always a few seconds. 2. Integrated software and hardware I get that hardware isn’t as sexy as software, but hardware certainly matters. In the consumer space, Apple has a big experience advantage over Android because it makes the hardware, software, and cloud backend themselves. The same holds for Webex over Teams, because Webex makes purpose-built collaboration devices with common software providing a high-quality and secure experience. Teams relies on third parties, and this leads to inconsistent capabilities that result in a scattered experience with several security holes. Webex devices also have several integrated features, such as background noise elimination, virtual backgrounds, and an auto-panning camera. It’s important to understand that Cisco designed the devices to be multi-vendor so Webex devices can natively run Teams meetings as well as Zoom and Google meetings. 3. Enterprise calling Contrary to what many people think, calling is not dead. People still make calls and will do so for decades to come. Webex Calling has a marked advantage because it has been providing telephony for about 20 years longer than Teams. In fact, when customers add Teams Phone, the cost advantage of “free” goes away; Microsoft’s own calling plans quickly get very expensive. Also, Teams Phone is missing several important calling features, such as call merge, call recording, and others. Another issue is that Teams Phone is built on a separate platform from Teams Chat, and this can lead to disjointed experiences. Webex has built calling, meetings, messaging, and contact centers on a common cloud platform.One workaround for Teams is to use a third-party solution, such as Webex Calling, to provide the calling capabilities for Teams. In general, almost every united communications (UC) vendor will offer a superior telephony experience when compared to Teams Phone. But this approach can add unnecessary complexity and integration challenges.4. Integrating with existing applications  Given the history Microsoft has in being a platform vendor, Teams’ weakness in application integrations is a bit shocking. With Webex, integration is bidirectional; it can be run inside other apps and other apps inside Webex. Teams supports only one-way integration, limiting user choice. Webex provides open APIs across calling, meetings, messaging, and devices to easily integrate with third parties, whereas Teams is much more limited. One example is the bi-directional integration Webex has with Salesforce, which minimizes context switching. This enables customers to use Webex Messaging or Calling directly in Salesforce. Microsoft has a competing product with Salesforce and historically has shied away from building tight integrations with products that compete with it. One irony with Teams is that third parties, such as Webex, work better with other Microsoft Apps than Teams itself does. Businesses can run Webex in Microsoft Apps; this isn’t the case for Teams.5. Simplified management IT pros should be aware of this, because it impacts their jobs: Webex Control Hub is a single dashboard for all collaboration workloads, including meetings, calling, messaging, contact center, and devices. Teams only supports software management; devices need to be managed through their third-party manufacturer. Since Cisco owns Webex, it has extensive real-time, network troubleshooting, and security capabilities and provides visibility into quality metrics, utilization, security, and environmental data. Teams does not have real-time notifications or alerts for meetings in progress, putting IT pros into firefighting mode more often than not. 6. Specialized experiences Collaboration tools empower more than meetings. They are now being used for events and other experiences. Webex has complete hybrid event capabilities that scale up to 100,000 attendees. Teams is limited in this area and is not suitable as a large event management tool. Also, Webex has a fully featured cloud contact center for customer engagement. Microsoft has issued a statement of direction here but currently has no product. Another recent specialized app is the Webex Vidcast product for asynchronous video (video messaging). I do want to make it clear that this was my experience; every company needs to do its own evaluation. Given the importance of collaboration tools, decision-makers should not make a choice based on licensing. Use the below as a checklist when selecting the right collaboration vendor: Find a product that enables seamless collaboration with people outside of your organization. Look for well-integrated software and hardware. Make specialized use cases and adjacent applications—including cloud contact center, large event support, and audience engagement—part of the solution.Seek a solution that provides fully featured enterprise calling, which is still a business-critical application. Insist on a solution that can easily be embedded into existing applications, which will make collaboration easier and more widely adopted. Ensure that the solution has a complete single interface to help manage and support your users. Consider a solution that can scale smoothly with your organization, control access as needed, and accommodate the full range of employee workflow needs.Ensure that the solution addresses the needs of all workers – regardless of their technical aptitude, whether they require accommodations of special needs in order to perform their jobs, or any other factor that may limit inclusiveness. 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    Optus reveals extent of data breach, but stays mum on how it happened

    Optus says its recent data breach impacted 1.2 million customers with at least one form of identification number that is valid and current. The Australian mobile operator also has brought in Deloitte to lead an investigation on the cybersecurity incident, including how it occurred and how it could have been prevented. Optus said in a statement Monday that Deloitte’s “independent external review” of the breach would encompass the telco’s security systems, controls, and processes. It added that the move was supported by the board of its parent company Singtel, which had been “closely monitoring” the situation. Elaborating on Deloitte’s forensic assessment, Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin said: “This review will help ensure we understand how it occurred and how we can prevent it from occurring again. It will help inform the response to the incident for Optus. This may also help others in the private and public sector where sensitive data is held and risk of cyberattack exists.”In its statement, Optus added that it had worked with more than 20 government agencies to determine the extent of the data breach. Of its customer base of 9.8 million, the Australian operator said 1.2 million customers had at least one number from a current and valid form of personal identification information that was compromised in the breach. Optus said it had contacted these customers and recommended action they should take to change their identification documents. The data of another 900,000 customers had numbers associated with expired identification documents that were compromised in the breach, in addition to personal information. Optus said it was working with government agencies to identify further steps, if any, that should be taken for these customers. The telco added that it also informed these customers that their ID documents were leaked.Compromised data of the remaining 7.7 million customers did not contain valid or current identification numbers, but had encompassed other personal details such as email addresses, birth dates, and phone numbers. These customers should “remain vigilant”, Optus said. The telco said on Sunday that it had sent SMS or email messages to customers in six states, including New South Wales, whose driver licence and card numbers were compromised in the security breach, as well as customers whose Medicare card numbers were leaked. It still was working with the state governments of Victoria and Queensland to identify customers whose driver licence details were compromised. According to Optus, 14,900 Medicare identification numbers compromised in the breach were valid and had not expired. Another 22,000 customers had expired medicare card numbers. All of these customers had been notified. While the telco has yet to provide details on how the breach occurred or what systems were breached, various local reports point to an online API (application programming interface) that apparently did not require authentication or authorisation for customer data to be accessed. Australia’s Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil last week lashed out at Optus over the breach: “What happened at Optus wasn’t a sophisticated attack. We should not have a telecommunications provider in this country that effectively left the window open for data of this nature to be stolen… They are to blame. The cyber hack undertaken here was not particularly technologically challenging.”Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese added that the data breach underscored the need to revise the country’s cybersecurity laws. “We know that this breach should never have happened,” Albanese said. “Clearly we need better national laws after a decade of inaction to manage the immense amount of data collected by companies about Australians, and clear consequences for when they do not manage it well.”RELATED COVERAGE More