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    F5 Networks beats expectations, delivers strong fiscal Q3 numbers

    Application security company F5 Networks delivered better-than-expected third quarter financial results, reporting non-GAAP net income of $169 million, or $2.76 per diluted share, on revenue of non-GAAP $586 million.Third quarter fiscal year 2021 GAAP revenue was $652 million, beating Wall Street’s expectations of $623 million and earnings of $2.45 per share.Also: F5 to acquire multi-cloud security software maker Volterra for $500 million, raises financial outlook F5 planned to deliver revenue in the range of $620 million to $650 million for Q3, with non-GAAP earnings in the range of $2.36 to $2.54 per diluted share, according to a statement from the company. The company announced earlier this year that it would acquire distributed multi-cloud application security and load-balancing software company Volterra of Santa Clara, California. The move raised revenue expectations for Q2 up to $623 million. F5 shares are up .23% at $192.62 in after-hours trading.For the current quarter, F5 expects to deliver revenue in the range of $660 million to $680 million, with non-GAAP earnings in the range of $2.68 to $2.80 per diluted share.

    François Locoh-Donou, F5’s President and CEO, said “robust software growth and resilient demand for systems drove 12% GAAP revenue growth in our third quarter, and 11% revenue growth versus the prior year’s third quarter non-GAAP revenue.””Customers’ traditional applications are generating more revenue and more engagement than ever before. At the same time, customers also are accelerating adoption of modern application architectures, like Kubernetes, for new applications,” he added. 

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    Best cheap VPN 2021: VPN services under $2 a month

    One of the questions I’m asked most often by readers is: Why do VPNs have to be so expensive? Many of these folks say they loath to add yet another fee to their monthly bills or that they are operating on a limited budget. Must read: The best free VPNs: Why they don’t exist

    ZDNet Recommends

    Many have read my advice about staying away from free VPNs because it’s unclear how those vendors make their money or even whether or not your data is being mined as it’s transiting across the free VPN providers’ networks. So, they understand it’s better when VPN vendors make their money from their customers rather than from shadowy marketing or even criminal enterprises. That said, some of my readers have asked me whether there are cheap VPN providers we can recommend. Yes, with some caveats. First, what is “cheap?” For some folks, cheap might be under $10 per month. While for others, cheap is under a buck. Since I didn’t find any VPN deals for less than a dollar a month, I’m arbitrarily defining “cheap” as less than $2 per month. At that price point, we’re entering something of uncharted space. I’m going to “recommend” 4 services that are all between $1 and $2 a month. The gotcha is that I haven’t tested any of these services, and I haven’t found much in the way of in-depth reviews other than listings in “best of” lists. So, you pays your money and you takes your chance. With that caution out of the way, let’s take a little walk on the wild side.  

    $1.67 per month (pay $60.12 at point of purchase)

    Best price: $60.12 for three years ($1.67 per month)Trial: 30-day refund guaranteePlatforms: Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Linux, and moreSimultaneous connections: 5Kill switch: YesLogging: NoneCountries: 62Let’s kick this off with VyprVPN (there’s no “e” in Vypr). VyprVPN is a service of Golden Frog, a company founded by serial Internet founders Ron and Carolyn Yokubaitis. Golden Frog is incorporated in Switzerland.Of the super-cheap VPNs we’re including in this article, VyprVPN is the one with the most flexibility for business customers. The company offers a full SDK to integrate VyprVPN into other, third-party proprietary solutions.One such customer of that SDK is QNAP, one of the NAS vendors we reviewed particularly positively. We found this quote from Y.T. Lee, Vice President QNAP, particularly relevant because it speaks to the performance of the VyprVPN network.”We selected VyprVPN due to the performance and speed of their network. Golden Frog has invested in its back-end infrastructure and is the only personal VPN provider that manages its entire infrastructure without third parties. They have an outstanding software development team who creates intuitive applications, and we couldn’t be more excited to offer VyprVPN to our customers.”

    View Now at VyprVPN

    $1 per month (pay $24 at point of purchase)

    Best price: $24 for two years ($1.00 per month)Trial: 30-day refund guaranteePlatforms: No apps(!)Simultaneous connections: UnspecifiedKill switch: No ideaLogging: NoneCountries: 8Our next contender is LimeVPN, and… I’m not entirely sure about these folks. They claim a $1 per monthnth service on their home page, which would make them the least expensive on this list. But when you click the ‘Join Now’ button, that offer is nowhere to be found. It turns out you first have to hit the ‘Join Now’ button, see the more expensive offering, click into that offering, and then sign up for the 2-year plan. Whew. Way to promote your best plan, LimeVPN!We also couldn’t find out anything about who was providing this service. Their “about” page says, “LimeVPN is a team of skilled IT professionals with more than 10 years experience in the IT industry.” So is that 10 folks with a year of experience each? Or 2 guys with 5 years of experience each? Or does each worker have a decade of experience? It doesn’t matter, ’cause this service is cheap, cheap, cheap.On the plus side, the company says it uses 256-bit encryption with a 2048-bit key (over the usual VPN protocols). Interestingly, the company also states, “No 3rd parties – Our own VPN servers, our DNS, our code, our engineers.” It could be interesting if they control their own servers, even if they only operate in eight countries.Also, the service doesn’t come with any of the usual VPN apps. The service does have a hefty help library, but you’ll need to find and configure your own VPN programs to use LimeVPN. So, there’s that.

    View Now at LimeVPN

    $1.39 per month (pay $50.04 at point of purchase)

    Best price: $50.04 for three years ($1.39 per month)Trial: 30-day refund guaranteePlatforms: Windows, MacOS, Android, iOSSimultaneous connections: Unlimited*Kill switch: YesLogging: Payment information onlyCountries: 27Atlas VPN is the second least expensive VPN service we found. That said, we were kind of (happily) surprised that the company has enlisted the services of an outside company to perform a security audit. That’s good practice.Compared to higher-priced VPN providers, the number of locations offered by Atlas VPN is pretty small. The company operates about 500 servers, compared to the tens of thousands of servers operated by its more expensive competitors.We did like that the company uses a warrant canary, which helps you know whether or not the company has been asked to cooperate with government investigations. Atlas VPN is a service of Peakstart Technologies Inc, a US company registered in Delaware.*Keep in mind that “unlimited” is never unlimited. If you push their system or otherwise impact service performance, you’re likely to be limited

    View Now at Atlas VPN

    $1.64 per month (pay 59.04 at point of purchase)

    Best price: $59.04 for three years ($1.64 per month)Trial: 30-day refund guaranteePlatforms: Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Linux, and moreSimultaneous connections: Unlimited*Kill switch: YesLogging: NoneCountries: 79According to its ‘About Page’, ZenMate is a German company founded by Simon Specka and his buddy Markus. The company was incubated in the Axel Springer Plug and Play Accelerator and looks to have some German venture capital funding.In terms of the client experience, the service offers simple one-click apps that are clean and well-designed. Additionally, there are installation guides for using ZenMate with smart TVs, routers, and gaming platforms.I do have some concerns due to an expose posted by my CNET colleague Rae Hodge. In it, she points out that ZenMate was purchased in 2018 by notorious scareware provider Kape Technologies. The company claims it’s given up its evil ways, but before installing ZenMate on your systems, I recommend you read Rae’s article.*Same caution as above. “Unlimited” is never truly unlimited.

    View Now at ZenMate VPN

    So there you go. Four VPNs that cost less than $2 per month when you buy 2 or 3 years at once. If you have room in your budget or you want to learn more about the benefits of VPN, see my complete guide:  Best VPN 2021: Top VPNs reviewed and compared.

    If I have a VPN to my office, do I need a VPN service?

    The VPN to your office will secure your link to your office. If you want to secure your link anywhere else, you’ll need a VPN service.

    Should I use a VPN on my phone or tablet?

    If it’s your data and you want it to be secure, yes. The same choices are valid regardless of what kind of device you use to transmit and receive data over the Internet.

    Does a VPN slow down your connection?

    Let’s be clear: Using a VPN does add a bit of a load on your computer and can often slow down your connection. That’s because your data is encrypted, decrypted, and sent through intermediate servers. Game responsiveness might suffer. If you’re a first-person shooter player, you might have enough lag to lose the shot. That said, both computers and VPNs have gotten much faster. When I first used a VPN, every… thing…slowed… down… to… an… unbearable… c-r-a-w-l. But now, the negative impact is almost unnoticeable, and at least one service we spotlight below (Hotspot Shield) actually increased performance, making it one of the fastest VPNs we’ve seen.Also, most (but not all!) of the VPN providers we spotlight limit the number of devices you can connect simultaneously, so you may have to pick and choose which home devices connect.

    What’s the best free VPN service?

    We’re spotlighting paid services in this article, although some of them offer a free tier. I generally don’t recommend free VPN services because I don’t consider them secure. Think about this: Running a good VPN service requires hundreds of servers worldwide and a ton of networking resources. It’s boo-coo expensive. If you’re not paying to support that infrastructure, who is? Probably advertisers or data miners. If you use a free service, your data or your eyeballs will probably be sold, and that’s never a good thing. After all, you’re using a VPN, so your data remains secure. You wouldn’t want to have all that data go to some company to sift through — it completely defeats the purpose.Now, before you choose a VPN service, free or paid, I want to make it clear that no one tool can guarantee your privacy. First, anything can be hacked. But more to the point, a VPN protects your data from your computer to the VPN service. It doesn’t protect what you put on servers. It doesn’t protect your data from the VPN provider’s VPN servers to whatever site or cloud-based application you’re using. It doesn’t give you good passwords or multifactor authentication. Privacy and security require you to be diligent throughout your digital journey, and VPNs, while quite helpful, are not a miracle cure.

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

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    Contentsquare acquires Upstride to speed up AI innovation for digital business

    Contentsquare, which has developed a digital experience analytics platform that enables businesses to track online customer behavior, has acquired Upstride, a French startup specializing in improving machine learning performance. Terms of the deal were not released.

    With the acquisition, Contentsquare gains Upstride’s deep learning experts to help it further drive innovation in ML and artificial intelligence.Fourteen Upstride engineers will join Contentsquare, bringing their experience of working for leading tech companies such as Facebook, Samsung, GoPro, and Nvidia. Meanwhile, Upstride CEO Gary Roth will fill a strategic role on Contentsquare’s operations team.Upstride brings AI talent to ContentsquarePrior to the acquisition, Upstride was developing technology that enhances the learning capabilities of optimization algorithms, particularly neural networks. The startup created a new data type called Hycor, which exploits geometric features present in data and enhances information representation. Hycor can be integrated within existing pipelines and is used by AI builders, such as Nvidia’s CUDA Deep Neural Network library (cuDNN) and Intel’s OneAPI.In 2020, Upstride introduced an open-source image-classification application programming interface. The API allows deep learning experts to save time by simplifying the most common task in computer vision: image classification. It improves accuracy, data efficiency, and power consumption of neural networks.Contentsquare helps companies improve experiences across the web, mobile, and applications by analyzing people’s digital interactions. Leading brands — including industries such as retail, telecom, and travel — use the company’s platform to collect key insights to create better user experiences. In the past year, Contentsquare revealed plans to further invest in AI both through product development and acquisitions. In October 2020, Contentsquare made two acquisitions. It bought web performance-monitoring company Dareboost and an accessibility software company, Adapt My Web. It also launched several new products and expanded its portfolio with 11 patents.

    This acquisition adds to the AI capabilities Contentsquare has stockpiled and enables it to accelerate innovation with a deeper talent pool of AI and machine learning experts. AI talent is scarce and adding a group of talented people through an acquisition helps Contentsquare fast track innovation. Contentsquare closed a massive round of funding This news follows a couple of other big announcements for the company. In May, Contentsquare raised $500 million Series E funding. The investment led by SoftBank gave Contentsquare additional financing to further develop its platform and expand the company, adding 1,500 new hires around the world. The latest round comes a year after Contentsquare’s $190 million Series D funding, bringing the total to $810 million and valuing Contentsquare at $2.8 billion.By combining forces, Contentsquare and Upstride will “start pushing new AI boundaries together [with] some of the most creative and innovative minds in the tech industry,” according to Contentsquare CEO Jonathan Cherki. Contentsquare plans to do so by filling 500 new positions during the next three years in product development, focusing specifically on intent-based optimization, cookieless and predictive capabilities, merchandising insights, and content performance.Businesses need to prepare for an increasingly cookieless world In June the company announced a tool that enables businesses to access customer insights without having to use cookies. This lets organizations turn off first- and third-party cookies but still be able to create personalized experiences by analyzing the behaviors and actions of the users. This feature will become increasingly important as the industry moves to a cookieless world and is central to Contentsquare’s intent-based approach to personalization. Owning and controlling customer relationships is a significant factor in achieving market leadership. Historically, this was done using cookies placed on desktop or mobile browsers, but these are quickly going away. Safari and Firefox already have removed them, and Google Chrome will do so by 2023. Also, Apple’s IDFA is like a cookie and will require the user’s consent later in 2021. This impending “cookie apocalypse” removes the ability to track shoppers anonymously. This makes it harder for retailers to acquire and retain customers because it will be more difficult to push ads. The new tool can help Contentsquare customers move to this cookieless world without a significant loss of intelligence or insights. More

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    How I just lost three years of iPhone contacts (what not to do)

    I can’t tell you how pissed I am. I’d say it’s all my fault, but it’s not entirely my fault. There was a cascading failure of errors, and the result is that three years of contacts went poof. All gone. Unrecoverable. Back story

    The ultimate guide to Gmail backup

    Want to make sure you have a local or backup copy of all that mission-critical business and personal history in your Gmail archives? David Gewirtz takes you through an array of options.

    Read More

    So here’s how it happened. My Gmail account has years of accumulated contacts. When I got my latest iPhone, these were downloaded to my iPhone. They were stored on the iPhone in an All Google contacts group (not the iCloud group). My phone was apparently set up so that when I added a new contact on my iPhone, it went into the All Google group instead of the iCloud group. I had no contacts in iCloud. At some point, contacts added on the iPhone and in my desktop Gmail stopped syncing. I did not know this. I use Gmail on my phone every day, and I’ve had no problem with it. So I never suspected that my contacts weren’t syncing properly. I almost never use my iPhone contacts on my desktop computer. After all, I use the iPhone contacts to text and call, and that’s all been done on the iPhone. Over the past month or so, I’ve been updating my Apple hardware. While testing out new configurations, I noticed that my iPhone contacts never showed up in the Mac Contacts app. It didn’t bother me that much, but I decided to explore it because it was a mystery — and I don’t really like mysteries.

    There was one other symptom. For some time now, my iPhone has been intermittently spitting out a CardDAV synchronization error screen. CardDAV is a data exchange protocol for exchanging address book information. I was never sure what was causing the error, or what apps I might be using that needed CardDAV.  I didn’t realize that even though my Gmail calendar and mail sync using Google’s protocol, my Gmail contacts were trying unsuccessfully to sync using CardDAV. It never dawned on me that all three elements of Gmail wouldn’t sync using the same mechanism. So, let’s recap. First, all the contacts I added on my phone were not stored in the iCloud group, but in an All Google group. That group does not sync to iCloud, and is not backed up by the iPhone’s iCloud backup system. That group also doesn’t backup to Google any longer, because the CardDAV authentication broke at some point. Now, here’s another gotcha. You can’t just export contacts from secondary groups on your iPhone. You can export individual vCards, but you can’t do something like a tab-delimited data dump. You also can’t transfer contacts from one iPhone Contacts group to another. My attempt to fix it made it worse With me so far? I had all my contacts on the iPhone, but they were locked into an All Google group that I couldn’t move or export. This week, after digging into this situation on and off for a while, I realized that the CardDAV error was most likely related to my Gmail contacts. Figuring this out took me a while because the CardDAV error simply said there was an authentication error, but not what it was trying and failing to authenticate. Once I figured it out, I tried to fix it. There’s an “account enabled” button in Settings for Google contacts. I turned that off, thinking that perhaps I could fix any account-related authentication errors and toggle it back on.  I never expected it to be destructive, and there were no warnings when toggling it off. Once off, the account was then listed in Settings as Inactive. I went back to my Contacts and noticed that my contacts were gone. In fact, the All Google group was gone. At this point, I wasn’t yet worried. There had been no warning that data was going to be destroyed and, besides, I’d been (I thought) backing everything up to iCloud. But when I went back to the Accounts screen and turned my Google Contacts back on, all the local data was gone. Just gone. In a bit of a panic, I tried figuring out how to restore those contacts. With no useful ideas, I called Apple Support. The Apple guy couldn’t seem to understand that I had had a bucket of contacts on the iPhone that had never made it to Google’s servers. He tried getting me to put my password in on the Google contacts account screen, but that didn’t work. It turns out that to use Google contacts on the iPhone, you need to authenticate CardDAV with a special Google App Password (you generate these one-use passwords in the Google Manage Your Account screen). I put that password into my account screen and, lo and behold, my Gmail contacts were mirrored down to the iPhone’s All Google group.

    And here’s where there’s not enough coffee in the world to make it better. My old desktop contacts were now in the All Google group on my iPhone. But all the contacts I had manually added into my iPhone over the past three years were gone forever. I moved to Oregon three years ago. I can’t find a single Oregon contact in my Google contacts or my iPhone contacts. Everyone’s contact information for everyone I met in the last three years, all the services and contractors I’ve worked with, everyone I added over the last three years — is gone. Learn from my mistakes So what’s the moral of this story? Don’t be like David. Check to make sure your contacts are syncing and backing up to another source. Don’t assume backups magically work. I’m about as anal as you can be when it comes to backup strategy, and if I can lose this valuable data, so can you. Learn from my mistake. Damn, I am so upset. Also, I think it makes sense to recommend you keep your Gmail contacts and your iPhone contacts separate. I have thousands upon thousands of Gmail contacts because every email correspondence I do adds a new contact. I don’t need all of those on my phone in my iPhone’s Contacts app. So I’m not going to sync my Google Contacts to my iPhone. Instead, I’m just going to use iCloud contacts and sync to iCloud and my Mac. What about you? Are you running fast and loose with your contacts? Do you have them backed up? Have you checked that they are, in fact, syncing the way they’re supposed to? Do you use iCloud contacts or Google contacts? Let us know in the comments below. And be nice and be kind. I don’t want to hear “you were stupid” criticisms a hundred times over. Waaah.

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

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    AT&T Q2 strong as 5G upgrade cycle bolsters revenue from device sales

    AT&T reported better-than-expected second quarter earnings due to 5G demand and customers upgrading their smartphones. The company also raised its outlook for 2021 after it added 789,000 net new postpaid phone subscribers, well ahead of estimates. AT&T’s report landed a day after Verizon reported strong results due as revenue from selling devices surged amid a 5G upgrade cycle. AT&T reported earnings of 21 cents a share on revenue of $44 billion, up 7.6% from a year ago. Adjusted non-GAAP earnings were 89 cents a share. Wall Street was looking for AT&T to report second quarter non-GAAP earnings of 79 cents a share on revenue $42.66 billion. AT&T also saw a strong quarter from HBO Max. AT&T is now forecasting HBO Max to end the year with 70 million to 73 million subscribers. ×att-q2-2021-overview.pngGoing forward AT&T is focusing on its wireless and broadband businesses as it plans to combine WarnerMedia with Discovery. AT&T said it added 789,000 postpaid phone net additions and 1,156,000 postpaid net adds across devices. AT&T’s mobility unit delivered operating income of $6 billion. Like Verizon, AT&T is seeing a pop from equipment revenue.

    Jeffery McElfresh, CEO of AT&T Communications, said:We’ve been able to achieve and sustain taking share in multiple segments. It’s across the board. It’s not in any one particular segment. We’re growing in consumer. We’re growing in small business. We’re growing with our FirstNet position. We’re growing in enterprise.On the broadband front, AT&T said it added 246,000 AT&T Fiber net additions with broadband revenue up 8.3%.As for the outlook, AT&T said revenue growth for 2021 will be in the 2% to 3% range with adjusted earnings to grow in the low- to mid-single digit range. AT&T is also about to close a divestiture of DirecTV and that will cut 2021 revenue by $9 billion and EBITDA by $1 billion. The DirecTV sale will generate cash by about $7.8 billion.  By the numbers for the second quarter:Mobility revenue for the second quarter was $18.9 billion. Of that tally, equipment revenue was $4.6 billion, up 32% from a year ago. T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T battling it out over 5G download speedsAT&T lost 22,000 postpaid tablet and other branded computing device net subs. Postpaid phone only ARPU was $54.24, down 0.4% from a year ago due to promotions. AT&T’s business unit saw wireline revenue of $6.1 billion, down 4% from a year ago. AT&T and Google Cloud extend 5G partnership with new enterprise servicesThe company said 9 million business customer locations are within 1,000 of its fiber. WarnerMedia added 2.8 million US HBO Max and HBO subscriber net adds to end with 47 million subs in the US and 67.5 million globally. Average revenue per customer was $11.90. More

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    NBN has 119,000 services that cannot hit its mandated 25Mbps minimum

    Image: NBN
    The company responsible for the National Broadband Network has said in response to Senate Estimates Questions on Notice that it has 119,000 services that cannot hit its 25Mbps obligation. However, NBN added that 80% of those on services are able to hit 20Mbps. “We recognise that we have more work to do to deliver wholesale download speeds of at least 25Mbps and we are undertaking this work as a priority,” an NBN spokesperson said. “To put the whole picture in perspective, the proportion of premises not receiving the minimum peak 25Mbps download rate represents approximately 1.4% of active services across the NBN network as at 15 July 2021.” One of the reasons cited for why those services might not be able to hit the minimum speeds was fibre-to-the-node (FttN) premises behind an 18-month co-existence period, where FttN speeds are dialled down to continue allowing legacy services, such as ADSL, to operate. During that time, only 12Mbps has been guaranteed for FttN connections. At the end of December, NBN said it found 1.3% of FttN lines could not hit the minimum once co-existence ended. The last co-existence periods are set to end on June 30, 2022, and as of May 28, 39.3% of nodes have had the co-existence profile removed.

    “Once all legacy services are removed from the area, co-existence can end, enabling the node to be reconfigured for more optimised performance of local NBN services. Other common issues include line faults and in-home wiring issues in customers’ premises, which we are working with retailers and customers to address,” the spokesperson added. In response to other questions, NBN said not a single active FttN service has been moved back to satellite due to performance of a line. “While it is possible that some locations that had been planned for an FTTN service were moved into a satellite area during the design phase of the rollout, the number of premises would be negligible,” the company said. The company also spelled out how its ServiceMax Go (SMAX-Go) app for technicians interacts with its ServiceNow, ServiceMax, and Oracle back-ends, as well as the cost of some of the system. “The cost to develop the ServiceMax (includingSMAX-Go app) component of the system architecture to support the new field contracts under Unify was AU$13.3m total, over FY19, FY20 & FY21,” NBN said. “SMAX-Go went live in Victoria and South Australia on 14 April 2021, followed by New South Wales, Tasmania and Australian Capital Territory on 28 April 2021. The app is yet to go live in Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland.” During a hearing in May, NBN said the problems technicians were experiencing when the app launched in NSW was because the system was overloaded. “What happened, when literally it was rolled out in New South Wales, the platform went down and we then had, due to literally the doubling of our workforce on the system, we then add the issues around the functionality where it wasn’t syncing properly, so therefore it caused a poor experience,” COO Kathrine Dyer said. Dyer said the software was hit by a trio of factors: A two-day platform outage that hit NBN and technicians; it wasn’t syncing; and it was updating its functionality. “We were getting agile-based feedback from the sub-contractors in relation to the usability, and we were working with them, based on the feedback we were getting, to streamline the usability as we were rolling out the app,” Dyer said. NBN also revealed some of the details on its 260 services that form part of the Commonwealth’s AU$2 million alternative voice trial, with that number broken down into 150 satellite services, 80 low-band fixed wireless services, and 30 on the traditional fixed wireless service. The low-band fixed wireless trials are taking place at Coffin Bay in South Australia and Robinvale in Victoria. “For the trial, NBN Co has scientific licences that allow it to use spectrum in the 850MHz band (band 26). It does not currently use this spectrum for delivering its non-trial services,” it said. “The spectrum has a greater propagation distance, meaning services can be delivered over a larger area from a single fixed wireless tower than using NBN Co’s standard fixed wireless technology and spectrum.” Related Coverage More

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    Netgear misses Q2 expectations, cites supply chain constraints

    Netgear missed top and bottom-line expectations for the second quarter, citing “a perfect storm of factors” that held back revenue and saw the networking company fall short of its operating margin goals. Second quarter 2021 non-GAAP net income per diluted share came to 66 cents on revenue of $308.8 million, an increase of 10.3 percent from the year prior. The company posted an operating margin of 7 percent. Analysts were expecting earnings per share of 71 cents on revenue of $314.84 million.”Worldwide supply chain constraints… such as component shortages, increased freight costs and transit times, and factory closures due to COVID-19, led to a perfect storm of factors that held back our revenue number and saw us fall short of our operating margin goals,” CEO and Chairman Patrick Lo said in a statement. “As we continue to navigate through this rapidly changing environment, our long-term thesis that premium WiFi will drive the growth of the consumer networking market and our service subscriber base remains intact. With vaccination rates rising and businesses reopening, work from anywhere and hybrid work models are here to stay.”In Q2, Netgear gained three points of market share in the US. consumer WiFi market, ending the quarter at 46 percent. In addition, the company added 33,000 subscribers in the quarter. Its goal is to reach 650,000 subscribers by the end of the year. The US consumer networking market grew 40 percent in the first half of 2021 over the same period in 2019 — 10 percent below Netgear’s expectations. Looking ahead to the second half of 2021, Netgear now expects the market growth to moderate further to approximately 20 percent above second half 2019 levels. “As such, we plan to proactively work with our channel partners to optimize their inventory levels in the third quarter,” CFO Bryan Murray said in a statement. 

    Meanwhile, demand for Netgear’s SMB products rebounded in the second quarter as businesses reopened post-COVID. Despite supply constraints, SMB net revenue grew approximately 58 percent year-over-year.However, the company expects SMB to continue to be supply-bound and thus expects third quarter net revenue to be in the range of $285 million to $300 million. Netgear also announced the promotion of David Henry to President and General Manager of Connected Home Products and Services, as well as his appointment to the board of directors.

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    Best encrypted messaging app 2021: Chat privately

    While there are a number of messaging apps from which to choose, only a dozen or so have marketplace gravitas. The best-known and most-utilized are usually the ones that come with your smartphone: the Google, Samsung, and Apple Messages apps, the Facebook Messengers, and the Whatsapps of the world. Most people don’t even think about their messaging app — they take it for granted and simply check notifications regularly.But there are differences between them, and the most important ones involve security, because all messaging is speedy and virtually instantaneous. Is it possible for hackers to break into your connected device through a vulnerability in the messaging app? You bet it’s possible, and break-ins there are more common than you might think.For example, we’ve probably all received phony messages purportedly from a friend containing a link to a video (“I think you’re seen in this video … check this out!”). Woe to those who fall for this ruse. So security and encryption of messages is a serious consideration when it comes to messaging, which is far and away the favored method of communicating among Millennials, Gen Z folks, and younger.Below, we discuss only messaging apps that use (or can optionally use) end-to-end encryption (E2EE), a method of encrypting data that only allows the sender and receiver of the message to decrypt and read messages passed between them. More importantly, encryption prevents apps from storing copies of your messages on their servers.Please know that end-to-end encryption is not a security panacea that will protect you from surveillance. Even if you use a secure messaging app, an unsecured device can enable anyone to access your messages. The best way to protect your messaging apps is with a separate password or use of biometrics (face, fingerprint, iris) on your device.We’ve identified 10 of the most secure (and most utilized) messaging applications available. 

    Supports RCS by default

    Compatible operating systems: Android, WindowsPrice: Free (Google Messages currently comes with Android devices not made by Samsung)Security: Knox Security (Samsung); standard device security (Google)It’s easy to get Samsung Messages and Google Messages confused, because they populate Android phones used the world over. Samsung Messages, included only on Samsung phones, has an interface that might be a little easier to use. However, the main advantage of Google Messages is the availability of RCS (rich communication services) by default, no matter where you live or which carrier you use. You can have RCS with Samsung messages, but only if your carrier supports it. All Verizon plans, for example, will adopt Google Messages and support RCS by 2022.RCS is a next-generation SMS (short messaging service) protocol that upgrades standard text messaging. Features include payments, high-res photo/file sharing, location sharing, video calls, and others that are delivered to a device’s default messaging app. Knox’s E2EE security protocol, with its military-grade encryption, is a major advantage for users of Samsung Messages.Key features/attributesBy default, both Messages provide end-to-end encryption for all voice calls, video calls, and instant messages.Both Messages are built from open source code, which means security is vetted regularly by cybersecurity experts. This technology has been adopted by other messaging services, including WhatsApp and Skype.Google Messages shows one line of text preview, while Samsung Messages shows two lines.

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    Best all-around bet

    Compatible operating systems: Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOSPrice: FreeSignal is probably the best all-around bet when it comes to reach, security, and privacy-enabled features. However, it lacks the usership of the Messages and Messenger apps because it is not a pre-loaded default app inside phones. Formerly called RedPhone, Signal has become a favorite of the infosec community since its release seven years ago, but it also has grown in popularity among ordinary users. It still has nowhere near the same number of active users as those noted above, however.Key features/attributesBy default, Signal provides E2EE for all voice calls, video calls, and instant messages; it uses its own protocol.This technology is 100% open source, which means its security is vetted by cybersecurity experts and its technology has been adopted by other messaging services like WhatsApp and Skype.To verify that your conversation with another person is private, each Signal conversation has a unique device safety number to verify the security of your messages and calls with specific contacts. This is especially useful for preventing man-in-the-middle attacks — if a safety number changes more frequently than you’d expect for someone switching devices or reinstalling Signal, for instance, it may indicate that something is awry.Signal also allows you to secure the app with a password so you can protect your messages if they fall into the wrong hands. There is also an option to send self-destructing messages.

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    Used only on Apple devices

    Compatible operating systems: MacOS, iOSPrice: Free (on Apple devices)Apple Messages is used only on Apple devices, but it is exemplary when it comes to security features. In addition to offering end-to-end encryption between users, Apple Messages allows users to control how long the message stays up and how many times the recipient can view the message (although this feature is only available to those who have iOS 10 and above).Regardless of which Apple device you’re using, whether it’s iOS, watchOS, or iPadOS, your messages are end-to-end encrypted and cannot be accessed without a passcode. Users of Apple’s FaceTime can also rest easy knowing that their video calls are also E2EE-empowered.Key features/attributesMessages is only available on Apple devices, meaning any message you send via Messages to a non-Apple device will not be encrypted. One major security loophole is the option to back up your messages to iCloud. On the cloud, messages are encrypted by keys controlled by Apple, meaning that if your iCloud were ever hacked or subpoenaed, those messages could be revealed.Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that Apple “believe(s) that privacy is a fundamental human right,” and at least in its Messages and Facetime apps it appears to take this commitment seriously. Just avoid storing your messages on web-based platforms such as iCloud — toggle off messages in settings so they’re not stored on the cloud.

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    Ownership by Facebook is worrisome

    Compatible operating systems: Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, KaiOSPrice: FreeWhatsApp may be used by more people than many of the above apps, but its ownership by Facebook is worrisome. The founders of WhatsApp in 2009 originally intended it for people to publish status updates, similar to Facebook’s statuses. It was the messaging feature, however, that sold the app to Facebook, which bought it in 2014. WhatsApp is encrypted end-to-end, but its ownership continues to raise concerns about how it could be used in the future. Key features/attributesSecurity-wise, WhatsApp’s default E2EE enhances its privacy and security from malicious actors. Security issues have cropped up in the past, but if cybercriminals breached WhatsApp today, they couldn’t decrypt your conversations.It also has what may now be considered standard features, such as video calling, voice messaging, and file sharing.

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    Similar in functionality to Whatsapp

    Compatible operating systems: Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, KaiOSPrice: FreeFacebook Messenger is similar in functionality to Whatsapp, but again, with Facebook as the owner, users need to be aware of potential privacy issues. Facebook Messenger only connects with other Facebook Messenger users. Users of Facebook Messenger need to intentionally opt-in to its E2EE encryption if they want to better secure the app. Because it is automatically attached to every Facebook account, that means there are at least 2.3 billion apps out there — whether or not they’re being utilized.Key features/attributesSecurity-wise, Facebook Messenger’s default E2EE guards message privacy from malicious actors.If cybercriminals try to infiltrate Facebook Messenger today, they couldn’t decrypt your conversations. It also has standard features such as video calling, voice messaging, and file sharing.

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    Useful for corresponding with people in other countries

    Compatible operating systems: Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, HarmonyOSPrice: Free Viber is especially useful for corresponding with people in other countries, since it uses the internet for calls and messages. It’s a great tool for when you’re traveling abroad, or if you make a lot of international calls. Viber is also an excellent forum for simple chatting. While it has some limitations, it is user-friendly. Viber claims to have about 260 million monthly active users and is primarily positioned as a competitor to the less-secure Skype on mobile. It has enabled end-to-end encryption since 2016, so it’s been ahead of the pack for a while.Key features/attributesViber is very user-friendly.The app has E2EE on all its available platforms (Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android) and also color codes chats based on how secure they are: Gray indicates encrypted communication, green denotes an encrypted communication with a trusted contact, and red means the authentication key has an issue.Viber also supports self-destructing messages in its secret-chats feature.Viber only supports E2EE for one-on-one chats — group chats are not offered the same level of security as individual conversations.

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    Free version of the Wickr app allows up to 10 users

    Compatible operating systems: Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOSPrice: Free (optional: $25/month for an enterprise account)Started up by Silicon Valley-based privacy and security advocates in 2012, Wickr was one of the first messaging apps to adopt end-to-end encryption (E2EE). Messages are automatically encrypted, and the company undergoes regular security audits. Starting in 2017, Wickr went open source, which enables the worldwide open source community to help improve security.The free version of the Wickr app allows up to 10 users, and there are three paid tiers that charge up to $25 per month and have no user limit. Among its security attributes are screenshot detection, blocking third-party keyboards on iOS, and ensuring that any deleted files are unrecoverable.Key features/attributesWickr’s free and paid versions have excellent security features, such as self-destructing messages, content shredding, and an inability to take screenshots (on Android only).Wickr doesn’t have nearly as many users as Messenger and Messages, WhatsApp, and Signal, so you can be picky with whom you converse.The messages are also bound to both your account and your device, and the app won’t sync your messages across devices. That could amount to multiple separate conversations with your contacts — which makes it seems like they’ve made the app secure to a fault.

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    Two layers of secure encryption

    Compatible operating systems: Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOSPrice: FreeA key feature of Telegram is that it provides its users with two layers of secure encryption. Both private and group cloud chats support server-to-client encryption, while secret chats benefit from client-to-client encryption. In both instances, messages are encrypted. Telegram has recently gained popularity for organizing protests largely because it allows large chat groups of up to 10,000 members. This has in turn drawn the attention of state actors.Key features/attributesThe app gives you the option to encrypt messages, which you can enable as Secret Chats to encrypt them. When enabled, you can set messages to self-destruct across all your devices automatically or at a set time.If you don’t encrypt your chat, then your data is stored on Telegram’s servers, which puts the security of your messages at risk.Telegram also does not have E2EE by default — you’ll need to use its Secret Chats feature to enable it.

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    Open-source and collaborative messaging app

    Compatible OSes: Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOSPrice: Free (optional: $9.50/month for an enterprise account)Wire Personal is a secure open-source and collaborative messaging app that has both a free version and plenty of useful features: Fully encrypted video calls, secure file sharing, synced messages between devices, and others. Wire also offers a paid corporate subscription plan.Key features/attributesWire uses embedded E2EE, and it offers the same level of encryption for video calls. It is open source-based, and if you want the convenience, you can transfer your messages across any device into which you’re signed. It also has self-destructing messages, session verification to make sure you’re talking to the right person, and a password lock.

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    What are some messaging apps that do not embed E2EE security by default?

    TwitterSnapchat (has E2EE for photos and videos)InstagramGoogle HangoutsWeChatLine (opt-in E2EE)Skype (opt-in E2EE)Telegram (opt-in E2EE)

    Does IM content qualify as a federal record?

    The statutory definition of records (44 U.S.C. 3301) includes all machine-readable materials made or received by an agency of the US Government under federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business. Agencies that allow IM traffic on their networks must recognize that such content may be a federal record under that definition and must manage the records accordingly. The ephemeral nature of IM heightens the need for users to be aware that they may be creating records using this application, and to properly manage and preserve record content. Agency records management staff determine the record status of the IM content based on the overall records management policies and practices of their agency.

    What are the current best practices for capturing IM content?

    Nearly all IM client software has the ability to capture the content as either a plain text file or in a format native to that client. Generally, the location and maximum size of that file are determined by a configuration setting in the client. DoD 5015.2 certified applications have the ability to capture and manage records in any electronic format. Such formats include those files produced by the various IM clients.In addition, various IM management products have the ability to address the monitoring and management of IM content, either from those clients that are part of the agency’s enterprise or the various public clients. Generally, these products operate at the server level and should be able to capture IM sessions regardless of the configuration of the individual client.Determining which solution is appropriate for your agency involves collaboration among the program staff, the information technology (IT) staff, the records management staff, and NARA.

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