Microsoft in the news:
Artificial intelligence has been and will continue to be a news headline grabber for a long time to come. Over the years, AI has progressed from a supervised learning platform to the current cutting edge, which is a reinforcement-learning platform. The AlphaGo system that beat the top ranked Go player is the most public example of how powerful the reinforcement-learning platform is.
In order to leapfrog Google and Facebook, on January 13, Microsoft announced that they purchased Maluuba. Maluuba’s deep learning AI is able to read and comprehend text with near human capability. We can look forward to putting this AI and others to work for us via the Azure Cloud.
Another AI from Microsoft uses a subset of reinforced learning know as “contextual bandits”. A year ago, Microsoft put this AI to work on their MSN.com website. This AI helped pick personalized headlines for MSN users. The result was an increase in click-throughs by 25%. This successful AI tool was turned into an open source service that can be deployed on Azure, as well as other platforms. This system allows you to answer much more detailed questions than the current A/B testing model.
To access this Multiworld Testing Decision Service, follow this link: https://github.com/Microsoft/mwt-ds
Basic Security is a good reason to start with the cloud.
If you haven’t heard news reports of “ransomware” you will soon. According to the FBI, ransomware attacks are becoming the attack du jour for cyber criminals. In the first three months of 2016, over $200 million was paid to cyber criminals because of ransomware (up from $25 million for all of 2015), and that is only what was reported. There is little doubt that many individuals and businesses have made payments without referring the matter to authorities.
Ransomware is a piece of malicious code that encrypts your data. Once encrypted, you are sent a message saying that if you pay the ransom, you will receive the encryption key so you can regain access to your data. The payment is made in Bitcoin, so there is no way to follow the money to the recipient. In some cases, those who have paid were hit up for additional payments. Additionally, these criminals don’t always get their encryption right and end up making your data un-recoverable. So, you may pay and get the key only to find out that it doesn’t work and even the crooks can help you.
Becoming a cyber criminal in this industry is easy, and requires almost no technical talent. In the underground market of crimeware-as-a-service, you can start your own ransomware campaign by simply providing a Bitcoin address for victims to send their money to. So, this situation is going to get a lot worse long before it gets better! This is definitely a growth industry right now.
For this past year, hospitals seem to be a favorite target. With people’s lives at stake, they are in need of a quick solution, and so they have little choice but to pay the ransom. Several hospitals in the US have fallen victim to this crime in 2016. Can you imagine being the IT professional who has to tell the CEO that ALL the company’s data is encrypted and inaccessible?
Educating your staff about spear fishing (the same hack that caught the Democrats flat footed during the election) and other forms of attacks like finding a random USP memory stick outside the front door of the office, is a great start. However, a persistent hacker will find a way, and education will not be 100% effective. So, you need to have a “back-up plan” (double entendre intended).
Not only do you have to regularly back up your data, but also, it must be in a secure location that is not connected to the original data. That is where the Azure cloud can help. Both Azure Site Recovery and Azure Backup can eliminate the risk of having to pay a ransom to recover your data. Backups in Azure are inherently safer because attackers not only need access to your environment, but also to a secure backup vault on Azure before they are able to effectively attack your data.
Microsoft is well aware of the increasing threat of ransomware and have recently implemented additional security to address this and other threats. To begin with, since encryption creates a new encrypted file and then deletes the original, Microsoft has implemented a requirement for a Security PIN in order to delete backup data. In addition, Azure retains deleted backup data for fourteen days ensuring you have multiple recovery points.
In this game of leapfrog as security professionals and criminals continually try to out do each other, you really need a full time team of professionals working around the clock to protect your data. By taking advantage of Azure cloud services, that is exactly what you are getting.