Taking over as health secretary during a pandemic was never going to be a walk in the park, but the public health crisis is only one among several daunting tasks awaiting Sajid Javid in his new post.
Javid was announced as the U.K.’s new health secretary on Saturday, after his predecessor Matt Hancock quit when a video of him kissing an aide and breaching coronavirus restrictions in the process emerged.
The former banker is no stranger to taking on big jobs, having previously served in a host of major Cabinet roles including home secretary and, most recently, a short stint as chancellor. But there is enough awaiting the new health secretary in his in-tray to strike fear into the heart of even the most seasoned political operative.
John Timpson knows a thing or two about the high street. The chairman of the UK shoe-repair chain that bears his family name was, after all, entrusted to lead a 2018 government review into what the future UK high street would look like.
Though at one time he envisaged a future where the number of shops in British town centres would have halved, he could never have imagined how quickly that revolution would come. The impact of the pandemic on our towns and cities has, he says, been seismic: “What we have seen is ten years of change on the high street all in one go, but it’s been all the negatives, without any positives,” he explains.
The SolarWinds hack of the software supply chain, as well as the recent ransomware attack against Colonial Pipeline, the critical energy infrastructure company, has elevated the importance of governments adopting a risk-based approach to cybersecurity.
Not long after disclosing the SolarWinds attack, the United States Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) announced its Systemic Cyber Risk Reduction Venture. This is an effort to develop actionable metrics and quantify cybersecurity risk across the US’s critical infrastructure sectors, focusing on the relationship between threat, vulnerability, and consequence.
Shortly after this, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) provided advice and guidance to security teams and IT companies on what actions they should take to minimize the impact on them and their customers. Using tools such as the Cyber Information Sharing Programme (CiSP), they shared technical information on assessing if an organization was at risk and what actions they should take if they were. The industry and government initiative allowed UK organizations to share cyber threat information in a secure and confidential environment, providing organizations the ability to detect early warning of cyber threats and access to free network monitoring reports tailored to organizations’ requirements.
UK ISP BT and satellite operator OneWeb, which is partly owned by the UK government, have reached an agreement that will see the two working together to bring ultrafast low-latency broadband speeds to some of the hardest to reach rural parts of the country, where even their £5bn Project Gigabit programme would struggle to go.
At present OneWeb has launched a total of 218 small Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites into space, with another 36 set to join those on 1st July 2021, and the initial plan is to build a constellation of 648 satellites, which is enough for a reasonable level of global coverage by around the end of 2022.
GDPR is a ‘threenager’ this year, and despite battling through the terrible twos many organizations are still struggling to protect their data. Last year alone, the UK had the second-highest total value of GDPR fines across the EU, with companies paying £39.7m in total. And, at the start of the year, figures indicated that GDPR fines had reached a staggering £245m.
The risk of fines are, however, not confined to GDPR. Currently, there are 128 countries with data protection and privacy legislation — including CCPA, CCPA, PSD2, GLBA and a whole host of other acronyms.
At the same time, the business landscape has changed considerably in the last three years – cue obligatory mention of Brexit and COVID-19. To complicate the data protection challenge, the legislation itself could not have anticipated the fast-track adoption of technologies or the accelerated shift to cloud computing caused by the pandemic. A risk compounded by an unprecedented uptick of remote working and employees using home devices, and networks, that are almost certainly less secure than those found in the corporate environment.
These are not new concerns when it comes to data management and protection but the issue is that few businesses were prepared for how quickly things escalated. After all, many were focused on digital transformation to simply keep their business going so security in the design of new systems and processes was often neglected, albeit not through choice. The good news is valuable lessons have been learnt, particularly when it comes to protecting and managing data to ensure compliance. And through talking with many of our own customers, we can share a few.
It is said that the best way to lose the next war is to keep fighting the last one. The citadels of the medieval ages were an effective defense until gunpowder and cannons changed siege warfare forever. Battlefield superiority based on raw troop numbers ceded to the power of artillery and the machine gun.
During World War I, tanks were the innovation that literally rolled over fortifications built using 19th-century technology. Throughout military history, innovators enjoyed the spoils of war while those who took too long to adapt were left crushed and defeated.
Liberty Global is likely to put its Virgin Media television and broadband business in Ireland up for sale. The Irish business was left out of the recently completed £31 billion merger of Virgin Media with O2. The main cable television provider in Ireland, Virgin Media Ireland also owns TV3 Group, the only commercial television broadcaster in the country, which was rebranded Virgin Media Television. With 438,000 fixed-line customers, the business could be worth up to €2 billion.
Previously trading as Chorus NTL and UPC Ireland, the Irish operation was rebranded Virgin Media Ireland in 2015.
The Irish cable network passes 948,000 homes, with 319,000 subscribing to its television service and 388,000 taking broadband, giving it a total of 438,000 fixed-line customers. It also has a modest 122,000 mobile subscribers, operating as a mobile virtual network operator on infrastructure from Three.
Virgin Media in the United Kingdom is now owned by Virgin Media O2, an equal venture between Liberty Global and the Spanish telecoms group Telefónica. The $31 billion merger completed on 1 June 2021, following clearance by the Competition and Markets Authority.
Researchers at MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics have tried to compare the estimated global data capacity of the four largest Low Earth Orbit (LEO) based ultrafast broadband satellite constellations – SpaceX (Starlink), Telesat, OneWeb, and Amazon (Kuiper). Interestingly, they end up closer than you might think.
We should point out that each network is at a different stage of development (e.g. Telesat and Amazon are still a fair way from commercial service) and the technologies they use, as well as the ground stations, are constantly evolving and expanding. As a result, the MIT study should be seen more as a ‘current’ estimate of each network’s expected throughput, or global data capacity, based on their technical specifications as reported to the FCC.
Likewise, the research doesn’t really consider the commercial model for each network, as well as how network throughput may vary between countries or how much network contention may be applied per user. As such, the report is only able to give a very general global overview of capacity, which is interesting if perhaps not as relevant for understanding future service impacts for consumers in specific countries.
Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has a vital role in overseeing correctional services in the UK. The organisation sits under the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) responsibility, but usually has its own ICT objectives and challenges to tackle. On 15th June 2021, HMPPS published its Digital, Data and Technology Strategy for 2021-2022, including a long term vision on what it expects to be implementing up to 2024.
In this article we will highlight the most important developments on HMPPS’s pipeline and some of the implications of these projects to the development of the correctional system in the UK.
Openreach has outlined plans to bring its full fibre broadband to 551 additional towns and cities. This covers 5 million homes and businesses and forms part of the company’s £15 billion programme to reach 25 million premises across the UK.
Planning work has already started, with further details and timescales to be published every quarter on the Openreach website as work progresses and detailed surveys are completed. The build will take place between now and December 2026, with work in these latest locations starting later this year. A full list of the new locations is available here.
Clive Selley, CEO, Openreach CEO, said, “Our engineers and build partners are working flat-out to deliver this life-changing technology to rural, urban and suburban communities all over the country and we’re delighted to be fleshing out our plans with more details about where and when we’ll be building.”
He explained that over one million customers are using the company’s FTTP solutions. He added, “It’s the next generation of internet that’s ready for anything. You can surf, shop, play, work and learn without skipping a beat.”
Following a competitive tender process, partners including Kier, MJ Quinn and Telent will work with Openreach to support the upgrades and will play a crucial role in building the new network.
Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), the increasingly popular framework that transforms security and network connectivity technologies into a single cloud-delivered platform, promises to revolutionize wide-area networking to the extent that it will soon eradicate conventional SD-WAN technology.
Kate Adam, senior director of security products at Juniper Networks, said that network leaders shouldn’t view SASE as the end of the network as it’s currently known, but as a “natural evolution in network technology, one that makes it more scalable and extensible by leveraging the public cloud global infrastructure.”
Arthur Iinuma, president of ISBX, an app development firm serving clients including Apple, Nike, L’Oreal, Warner Brothers, Lexus, and Red Bull, observed that SASE offers a cloud-based edge computing solution that gives distributed workforces secure network access. “With an increasingly remote, highly mobile workforce, this solution is needed now more than ever,” he stated.
SASE offers an entirely new network architecture that brings applications closer to end-users worldwide, as well as providing secure access. “Connectivity and security services that were previously delivered from a ‘heavy branch’ are moving to a thin branch, cloud-delivered model where networking and security come together,” Adam said. “This [approach] simplifies network and security architecture and promotes a threat-aware network with access and security policies that follow users wherever they go.”
The operator has switched on their standalone (SA) 5G network in London, Manchester, and Cardiff
Today, Vodafone has announced that it has launched the UK’s first commercial SA 5G pilots, setting the networks live in London, Manchester, and Cardiff.
As part of the deal, Ericsson will support Vodafone’s entire cloud-native 5G Core Standalone for packet core applications.
According to Vodafone, the pilots will focus on testing the various new technologies that SA 5G unlocks, such as network slicing, as well as allowing partners to trial various SA-enabled devices.
“Delivering 5G Standalone for the UK is an important step forward for our customers and our partners. The new features this delivers, such as new levels of reliability, latency and flexibility, are a gamechanger for customers and developers looking to create new applications,” said Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer at Vodafone UK.
In the press release, Dona also drew attention to Vodafone’s investments in Multi-access edge compute (MEC) capabilities, the Internet of Things (IoT), Mobile Private Networks (MPN) and OpenRAN, suggesting that all these network elements are complementary and will benefit from SA 5G.
“When we bring all these technologies together, we open up entirely new possibilities for customers, and move beyond being a core connectivity provider to being a true digital champion,” she said.
Vodafone UK first showcased SA 5G technology with a new network built for Coventry University last summer. Now, as part of this pilot launch, a dedicated network slice has been configured for use by Coventry University in delivering virtual reality distance learning.
Vodafone is also notably trialling a SA 5G core pre-commercial network in Spain, with the technology again provided by Ericsson
NHSX has unveiled new data strategy to provide patients with better access and greater control over their health and care data.
The draft strategy ‘Data saves lives: reshaping health and social care with data’ builds on the NHS’ work undertaken to provide treatments during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The improved access to data is expected to help people in managing appointments, refill medications and speak with required health and care staff.
Moreover, patients can safely access their test results, medication lists, procedures and care plans from across all parts of the health system. This can be done via patient apps, such as the NHS App.
UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said: “More effective use of data will deliver better patient focused care. It will free up staff time to focus on patients and allow clinicians to make better, more informed decisions on treatment and support.
“This strategy seeks to put people in control of their own data, while supporting the NHS in creating a modernised system fit for the 21st century which puts patients and staff in pole position.”
The draft strategy also proposes to provide easier access to the right information to health and care staff through shared records and simplified information governance.
With most managers in the UK convinced of the positives of remote working, it seems as the practice is here to stay.
A new report from Owl Labs based on a poll of 500 business leaders from the UK, states that 84% of the respondents plan on keeping either hybrid, flexible or remote workers once the pandemic subsides.
Just 16% expect all of their employees to return to the offices, full-time, and those that do return to the office can expect a few changes.
As Microsoft phases out support for its mobile operating systems (OS) many Emergency Services that previously relied on Windows-based mobile computers are evaluating strategies to migrate to Android.
Android has an 85% market share globally, which makes it very user-friendly. It also offers a number of key benefits to enterprise users that aren’t available with other OS options. Of course, migrating to a new technology is not as easy as buying a mobile device from a local retail store or wireless carrier. Emergency Services IT professionals should prioritize their unique security and operational needs when shopping for a new handheld mobility solution. Here are some key questions to ask when evaluating the various OS options and comparing consumer-grade, business-grade and enterprise-grade rugged mobile computers.
The Covid-19 pandemic precipitated a huge change in working practices across the civil service, with nearly 90% of the 430,000 staff dispatched to their homes for months on end. At a recent webinar, experts from the Government Property Agency and Dell discussed what this mass remote working experiment might mean for the future of the civil service workplace
“In many ways, fixing the workplace and fixing the technology is easy. It costs money, but it’s relatively easy,” said Dominic Brankin, director of workplace services at the UK Cabinet Office’s Government Property Agency. “Supporting a change in behaviour and thinking and belief is much harder, and I think a longer road for us to travel.”
Cybersecurity researchers have shared details about eight vulnerabilities in the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) software stack of the open source real-time Zephyr OS.
Developed under the aegis of the Linux Foundation, Zephyr started at Wind River before it was acquired by Intel and eventually open sourced. The OS supports over 200 boards and counts the likes of Intel, Linaro, Texas Instruments, Nordic Semiconductor, Bose, Facebook, Google, and others as members, many of whom have devices that run Zephyr.
Security vendor Synopsys, who discovered the vulnerabilities, divides the flaws into three high-level categories. Some of the vulnerabilities can lead to remote code execution, while others could be exploited to grab confidential information like encryption keys.
In a possible sign of things to come, Sony has won a key court case in Germany that could force Domain Name Service (DNS) providers, such as Quad9 and eventually others too (Google Public DNS, OpenDNS, Cloudflare etc.), to block access to a website due to internet copyright infringement (piracy).
A DNS provider will typically work to convert Internet Protocol (IP) addresses into a human-readable form and back again (e.g. 18.104.22.168 to examplezfakedomain.co.uk). Most such services tend to be provided automatically by your broadband and mobile provider, thus operating seamlessly in the background, without you ever really being aware.
However, it’s also possible to replace the DNS from your ISP with one from a free third-party service, such as those mentioned earlier (there are many more). The vast majority of you probably won’t feel a need to use custom DNS providers, but if your ISP starts to inject content (adverts etc.) and filtering systems into your website browsing, or suffers a fault / is slow with their own DNS system, then you may decide to try a third-party service.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Transport for London (TfL) have today confirmed that, following a recent trial on the Jubilee Line (here), they intend to proceed with their proposed plan to deploy a 4G based mobile (mobile broadband) network across the entire London Underground (platforms and tube trains) by late 2024.
The original non-commercial trial on the Jubilee Line (eastern half of the line) saw TfL install a neutral host distributed antenna system (DAS), which was supported by hundreds of kilometres of fibre optic cable that had been laid in tunnels – as well as similar surface assets to support ‘last mile’ connectivity.
Ofcom has today finalised their decision to force all UK broadband and phone providers – oddly including those that may not even deliver phone services – to offer a free (inc. zero-rated data usage), 24/7 video relay service for British Sign Language (BSL) users to contact the emergency services, via a dedicated mobile app and website.
The changes, which were first proposed back in 2019, are designed to ensure that disabled people (particularly deaf users) can access the communications services they need in an emergency (i.e. the principle that disabled people should have equivalent access to emergency communications).
The UK Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced that more than six million users across the country are now registered on the NHS App.
Over two million new users have been registered on the NHS App since 17 May update that added Covid-19 vaccination status service.
It is also noted that more than five million distinct users had logged into the app in the past month alone, with over 600,000 prescriptions requested and over 50,000 GP appointments booked.
The DHSC stated that more than 50,000 people have registered their organ donor preference, which will help NHS specialists to quickly understand and allows them to discuss this with their family.
The NHS App provides a wide range of services that include GP appointment booking, ordering repeat prescriptions, viewing GP and hospital records as well as registering organ donation preference.
For many businesses, the pandemic has necessitated massive changes as teams adjust to new ways of working. In fact, our own digital transformation research report showed that 61 per cent of businesses in the UK have introduced new digital solutions or fast-tracked plans to integrate digital projects purely in reaction to the changing landscape.
Despite being implemented in order to adapt to issues caused by the pandemic, the changes businesses are making have brought about a wide range of innovations with improved security, a boost to productivity and better customer service perceived as some of the biggest benefits. However, the need to act quickly has caused problems for some, as our research shows 35 per cent of business leaders have witnessed a digital project fail.
There are a number of factors that can cause a digital project to fail but our research shows the same types of issues crop up most often as blind spots for businesses. These areas should be carefully considered when embarking on new digital transformation projects: resourcing, budgeting, and the vision.
European Union data protection regulators have called for a general ban on using artificial intelligence for facial recognition and other “biometric and behavioral signals” in public spaces. In their joint opinion, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) also said using AI for social scoring should be outlawed.
The EDPB and EDPS urged the bloc to prohibit AI “recognition of faces, gait, fingerprints, DNA, voice, keystrokes and other biometric or behavioral signals, in any context” in publicly accessible areas. They said it should be illegal for AI systems to use biometrics to categorize people “into clusters based on ethnicity, gender, political or sexual orientation,” or other types of classification under which they could be discriminated against.
As many employers move towards a world of hybrid working, split between the office and home, the need to have the right technology set-up is vital.
But aside from having a good office chair, laptop stand and second monitor, home workers also need to make sure they have the right security protection.
With many companies slow to respond to the home working boom during the pandemic, criminals were quick to prey on insufficient or even non-existent home office security situations. But don’t fret – there are simple steps you can take to ensure you stay protected.
Virgin Media O2 is increasing upload speeds for its fibre business broadband customers in the first major service development since the £31 billion merger.
The enlarged company says it wants to provide a boost for SMBs that have seen revenues drop during the pandemic and are now more reliant than ever on connectivity for continuity.
Cloud applications, file sharing and video conferencing have all become essential tools to support distributed workforces and to deliver services to customers who are increasingly demanding digital experiences.