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Windows 10 October 2018 Update: The five best new features for business

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When looking at a new version of Windows, it’s tempting to focus on new features that are visible in the user experience, especially when one of those features represents a change to the way a task or activity used to work. Those sorts of changes (“Look, File Explorer now has a dark mode!”) make for easy demos and screenshots. But some of the most important changes in the latest update are essentially invisible.

Also: The top new features for IT pros

In this post, I focus on a handful of changes that are of special value to businesses and might otherwise go unnoticed, because they’re not an obvious part of the user experience.

1. The update experience

This might be the single largest pain point, but it’s also the linchpin of the entire “Windows as a service” experiment that defines Windows 10. Over the past three years, Microsoft has tweaked and tuned the Windows 10 update process, moving more of the installation process to the background, allowing administrators to set active hours during which updates shouldn’t be installed, adding notifications to lessen the risk of surprise reboots, and shrinking the size of downloads for each update package.

Also: Windows 10 October 2018 Update: The 7 best new features CNET

For this release, Microsoft also claims to have done substantial work on the logic that determines when your system reboots to install a pending update. The idea is not just to confirm that a device is not being used but to try to predict whether you’ve left for a long break or just stepped away for a cup of coffee.

The actual impact of these changes, of course, won’t show up until this new version rolls out, but once that update engine is in place across a wide swath of the Windows 10 installed base, the predictive model can be fine-tuned based on feedback (and a few screams) from users.

2. Timeline

The Timeline feature represents probably the single greatest change in the Windows user interface since the Start menu. This feature, which debuted in the April 2018 Update, keeps track of your activity history across devices, and then it displays that history along with the list of open program windows when you press Alt+Windows key or click the Task View button to the right of the search box on the taskbar.

The initial release of Timeline was useful for anyone who uses Microsoft Office and Windows 10’s built-in Microsoft Edge browser. Some third-party apps, including Adobe’s Creative Cloud family, have added support for the Timeline APIs as well.

With extensions for Chrome and Firefox, you’ll soon be able to search your full web history in Timeline.

Being able to search your Web history along with files is a crucial part of what makes Timeline work. That’s unfortunate if your preferred browser is Chrome or Firefox (as is the case for the vast majority of Windows 10 users), because neither Google nor Mozilla has added Timeline support, nor have they announced plans to do so.

Also: How to install Windows 10 October 2018 Update right now CNET

As a workaround, Microsoft plans to release extensions for both Chrome and Firefox that will allow Timeline to include your activities in those browsers. (They’re “coming soon,” I’m told.) In addition, the new Launcher app on Android devices can now share activities to the Timeline for a signed-in account, and an update to the Microsoft Edge app will bring similar for iOS, due for release in November, will bring similar features to Apple devices.

3. Usability improvements

One of the biggest benefits of the Windows-as-a-service model is that it doesn’t take years for new features to address usability issues that affect your day-to-day experience. The October 2018 Update includes a handful of changes that fall squarely into this category, including the following:

  • Bluetooth device battery life indicators, which allow you to see at a glance how much life is left in a Bluetooth-powered keyboard or mouse
  • Magnifier tool customization options
  • The Cloud Clipboard, which keeps a history of items you cut and paste, with the option to sync those saved items to other devices. (A new Snip & Sketch app makes it easier to capture screenshots and then annotate, edit, and share those captures.)
  • Systemwide text size adjustments that don’t require changes to the overall scaling of Windows (one reader told me “I am ecstatic about this great improvement”)
17-1809-gallery.jpg17-1809-gallery.jpg

You can now adjust text size systemwide without changing display scaling.

4. RSAT features available on demand

If any part of your job requires you to administer a Windows Server, you know the Remote Server Administration Tools are valuable. In previous versions of Windows 10, installing those tools required jumping through multiple hoops starting with a manual download, and then you had to repeat the installation after each upgrade.

Also: Windows 10 October 2018 Update: What you need to know TechRepublic

Beginning with the October 2018 Update, all of the RSAT tools are available on demand and can be installed from Settings > Apps > Apps & Features > Manage Optional Features.

rsat-add-a-feature.jpgrsat-add-a-feature.jpg

Remote Server Administration Tools are now available as Optional Features instead of requiring a separate download.

5. Windows Defender Application Guard and other security features

Microsoft Edge has one compelling feature for large organizations. A feature called Windows Defender Application Guard (WDAG) allows users to visit websites in an isolated, Hyper-V-enabled container. That approach means a malicious site can’t access a user’s credentials or your enterprise data. As administrator, you define which sites are trusted in an Application Guard window. All other sites are considered untrusted.

Also: Windows 10 October 2018 Update: How to use the new Storage Sense features TechRepublic

The October 2018 Update dramatically improves the performance of Application Guard windows and also adds the ability to download files. That feature is off by default, for security reasons. If you turn it on, downloaded files go into an Untrusted Files folder.

RELATED AND PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

Windows 10 October update problems: Wiped docs, plus Intel driver warning

Back up files before upgrading to Windows 10 1809, and if you get a warning about Intel drivers, do not proceed.

Microsoft releases new Windows 10 19H1 build to Skip Ahead and Fast Rings

Windows 10 Skip Ahead and Fast Ring testers are getting a new test build, 18252, which includes some new networking-related features.

Microsoft is working on Android app-mirroring support for Windows 10

Microsoft is planning to add the ability to mirror Android applications on Windows 10 PCs, as it continues to try to get users to rely on PCs for tasks usually done directly on phones.

Windows 10 October 2018 Update: How to get it, how to avoid it

Microsoft will soon begin delivering the official release of Windows 10 version 1809, the October 2018 Update. If you do nothing, it will arrive via Windows Update some time in the next few months. Here’s how to take more control over the process.

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Key Criteria for Evaluating a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Solution

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Although ransomware is making all the headlines today, it’s not the only kind of attack that can intrude between you and your customers. Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, in which a target website is overwhelmed with spurious traffic, have become increasingly common.

Websites and online applications have become critical to how businesses communicate with their customers and partners. If those websites and applications are not available, there is a dollars and cents cost for businesses, both directly in business that is lost and indirectly through loss of reputation. It doesn’t matter to the users of the website whether the attacker has a political point to make, wants to hurt their victim financially, or is motivated by ego—if the website is unavailable, users will not be happy. Recent DDoS attacks have utilized thousands of compromised computers and they can involve hundreds of gigabits per second of attack bandwidth. A DDoS protection platform must inspect all of the traffic destined for the protected site and discard or absorb all of the hostile traffic while allowing legitimate traffic to reach the site.

Often the attack simply aims vast amounts of network traffic at the operating system under the application. These “volumetric” attacks usually occur at network Layer 3 or 4 and originate from compromised computers called bots. Few companies have enough internet bandwidth to mitigate this much of an attack on-premises, so DDoS protection needs to be distributed to multiple data centers around the world to be effective against these massive attacks. The sheer scale of infrastructure required means that most DDoS platforms are multi-tenant cloud services.

Other attacks target the application itself, at Layer 7, with either a barrage of legitimate requests or with requests carefully crafted to exploit faults in the site. These Layer 7 attacks look superficially like real requests and require careful analysis to separate them from legitimate traffic.

Attackers do not stand still. As DDoS protection platforms learn to protect against one attack method, attackers will find a new method to take down a website. So DDoS protection vendors don’t stand still either. Using information gathered from observing all of their protected sites, vendors are able to develop new techniques to protect their clients.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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Cloud Data Security

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Data security has become an immutable part of the technology stack for modern applications. Protecting application assets and data against cybercriminal activities, insider threats, and basic human negligence is no longer an afterthought. It must be addressed early and often, both in the application development cycle and the data analytics stack.

The requirements have grown well beyond the simplistic features provided by data platforms, and as a result a competitive industry has emerged to address the security layer. The capabilities of this layer must be more than thorough, they must also be usable and streamlined, adding a minimum of overhead to existing processes.

To measure the policy management burden, we designed a reproducible test that included a standardized, publicly available dataset and a number of access control policy management scenarios based on real world use cases we have observed for cloud data workloads. We tested two options: Apache Ranger with Apache Atlas and Immuta. This study contrasts the differences between a largely role-based access control model with object tagging (OT-RBAC) to a pure attribute-based access control (ABAC) model using these respective technologies.

This study captures the time and effort involved in managing the ever-evolving access control policies at a modern data-driven enterprise. With this study, we show the impacts of data access control policy management in terms of:

  • Dynamic versus static
  • Scalability
  • Evolvability

In our scenarios, Ranger alone took 76x more policy changes than Immuta to accomplish the same data security objectives, while Ranger with Apache Atlas took 63x more policy changes. For our advanced use cases, Immuta only required one policy change each, while Ranger was not able to fulfill the data security requirement at all.

This study exposed the limitations of extending legacy Hadoop security components into cloud use cases. Apache Ranger uses static policies in an OT-RBAC model for the Hadoop ecosystem with very limited support for attributes. The difference between it and Immuta’s attribute-based access control model (ABAC) became clear. By leveraging dynamic variables, nested attributes, and global row-level policies and row-level security, Immuta can be quickly implemented and updated in comparison with Ranger.

Using Ranger as a data security mechanism creates a high policy-management burden compared to Immuta, as organizations migrate and expand cloud data use—which is shown here to provide scalability, clarity, and evolvability in a complex enterprise’s data security and governance needs.

The chart in Figure 1 reveals the difference in cumulative policy changes required for each platform configuration.

Figure 1. Difference in Cumulative Policy Changes

The assessment and scoring rubric and methodology is detailed in the report. We leave the issue of fairness for the reader to determine. We strongly encourage you, as the reader, to discern for yourself what is of value. We hope this report is informative and helpful in uncovering some of the challenges and nuances of data governance platform selection. You are encouraged to compile your own representative use cases and workflows and review these platforms in a way that is applicable to your requirements.

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GigaOm Radar for Data Loss Prevention

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Data is at the core of modern business: It is our intellectual property, the lifeblood of our interactions with our employees, partners, and customers, and a true business asset. But in a world of increasingly distributed workforces, a growing threat from cybercriminals and bad actors, and ever more stringent regulation, our data is at risk and the impact of losing it, or losing access to it, can be catastrophic.

With this in mind, ensuring a strong data management and security strategy must be high on the agenda of any modern enterprise. Security of our data has to be a primary concern. Ensuring we know how, why, and where our data is used is crucial, as is the need to be sure that data does not leave the organization without appropriate checks and balances.

Keeping ahead of this challenge and mitigating the risk requires a multi-faceted approach. People and processes are key, as, of course, is technology in any data loss prevention (DLP) strategy.

This has led to a reevaluation of both technology and approach to DLP; a recognition that we must evolve an approach that is holistic, intelligent, and able to apply context to our data usage. DLP must form part of a broader risk management strategy.

Within this report, we evaluate the leading vendors who are offering solutions that can form part of your DLP strategy—tools that understand data as well as evaluate insider risk to help mitigate the threat of data loss. This report aims to give enterprise decision-makers an overview of how these offerings can be a part of a wider data security approach.

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