ITWC Morning Briefing, October 1, 2020 – Kicking off cybersecurity awareness month; And talking Azure with Microsoft’s Henrik Gutle

To keep up with the firehose of news, we’ve decided to deliver some extra news to you on the side every Monday and Thursday morning. Some of it is an extension of our own reporting that didn’t make its way into a story, while others might be content we’ve bookmarked for later reading and thought of sharing with you. We’re doing a similar thing at Channel Daily News – check it out here. You can also view our previous ITWC Morning Briefing here. Today’s briefing is delivered by ITWC editorial director Alex Coop. 

What you need to know right now

It’s what you need to know right now in the world of IT and tech – ’nuff said. (Often taken with a side of Hashtag Trending)

Cyber Security Today – listen below!

Ransomware hits insurance company, hospital chain, a government services provider and a school board, and a useful report from Microsoft. You can read the full episode transcript here.


Hashtag Trending – listen below!

Washington emergency responders are the first to use SpaceX’s Starlink internet, Facebook launching cross-platform messaging on Instagram and Messenger, and using social media to spread COVID-19 information. You can read the full episode transcript here.


Kind of a big deal …

ITWC and the Canadian Internet Registration Authority are kicking off the inaugural MapleSEC event Oct. 5 and you should register if you haven’t already. 

Click here for more details and to view the agenda.

A one-on-one with Henrik Gutle, General Manager, Azure for Microsoft Canada


The introduction of Azure Availability Zones last week in Canada’s central region signalled another major growth milestone for Microsoft in Canada and reinforced many customers’ desire to store mission-critical workloads in the cloud. Work from home is expected to last well into 2021, meaning collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams will also remain crucial for businesses looking to stay connected and productive.

Henrik Gütle, General Manager, Microsoft Azure at Microsoft Canada

COVID has accelerated all types of businesses to move into cloud,” Henrik Gütle, the general manager of Azure for Microsoft Canada, told us during an interview. Many customers are exploring the Azure rabbit hole for the first time, while others are exploring ways to use Azure to manage a hybrid or multi-cloud environment. Gütle says Canadian customers have options no matter what path they want to go down on, and for maturing organizations juggling a mix of public cloud and on-premises deployments, they can turn to something like Azure Arc. Microsoft’s hybrid cloud solution, unveiled in November, takes containers and Kubernetes, new infrastructure management features, throws them together allowing users to access tools such as Azure SQL Database on the platform of their choice – even a competitors’.

“We’ve also said that we designed Azure and the core solution with hybrid in mind from the get-go,” Gütle says. “We fundamentally believe it’s here to stay.”

Azure Arc takes the work the company has done on projects like Azure Stack, throws in containers and Kubernetes, as well as new infrastructure management features, and then allows its users to use Azure’s management tools and data services like Azure SQL Database and Azure Database for PostgreSQL Hyperscale on virtually any platform — including that of its competitors. It’s a lot like Google Anthos, but … well, there aren’t many differences – both can register external clusters and manage them through the same control plane. Both platforms can also deploy applications across multiple clusters.

Open-source solutions also play nicely on Azure, Gütle reminds us.

“Open-source is a first-class citizen on Azure,” he said, and based on Microsoft’s ongoing investments in open-source, not to mention its treasured code-repository service GitHub, it’s tough to argue with him.

Azure revenue jumped nearly 50 per cent year-over-year, and while that growth has slowed in recent years, there’s no doubt that COVID will continue to drive the need for cloud services. When asked where exactly the hunger for cloud services is coming from, Gütle says it’s everywhere. “From startups looking at new business opportunities, or large healthcare providers and looking at business continuity. It’s been a whirlwind in more ways than one over the past six months.”

Some Canadian examples of digital transformation in healthcare include:

  • The eHealth shared services organization The Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information (NLCHI) was looking for new ways to provide care during the pandemic while also ensuring the safety of their staff. They partnered with Microsoft, and within five days moved nearly 4,000 healthcare workers to an Azure Virtual Desktop Environment and Microsoft Teams. This shift to a digital environment enabled them to rapidly expand their unified communication platforms and provided their teams with a secure centralized repository for all COVID-19-related guidance, data and information.
  • Toronto’s University Health Network (UHN) group of hospitals was looking for a way to track patients and resources to make more informed decisions on managing the widespread impacts of  COVID-19Leveraging Power BI, they developed a real-time dashboard for tracking patients and resources – everything from patient admission by site and availability of resources such as beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment. The dashboard also monitors crucial test processing and infection rates.
  • CBI Health, one of Canada’s largest community healthcare providers was forced to quickly shift to a primarily virtual care/telehealth model for remote assessment and treatment to protect the health and safety of both their staff and clients, while also ensuring clients receive the care they needed in the safety of their own homes. They quickly adapted and moved 3,000 of its clinicians and administrative users to Teams in eight days. They are now averaging approximately 100,000 virtual patient sessions per month. (Source: Microsoft)


Kicking off Cybersecurity Awareness Month

A collection of cybersecurity news to kickoff Cybersecurity Awareness Month, which as we all know, is actually a 24/7 campaign.


Scam activity on the rise

In comparing scam activity between March and August of 2020 with the same time period last year, security firm ZeroFOX recorded a 519 per cent increase in scam activity across its entire customer ecosystem.

ZeroFOX has a few tips to improve your fraud defence:

  1. Educate employees and consumers about relevant scams: Notifying internal and external parties about tailored scams they may encounter will reduce the success of scammers. Use email and social media-based messaging to train employees and promote consumer awareness.
  2. Monitor social media and digital platforms for scams targeting consumers: Continuously monitor for scams that abuse your brand, targeting consumers with fake giveaways, money-flipping offers, or fraudulent job postings.
  3. Consider AI-based tools to detect more complex scams: Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and other computer-vision based tools can help detect media-rich scams designed to avoid text-based detection at machine speed. For instance, ZeroFOX’s suite of AI capabilities can help your organization detect scams that are text, image, or video-based. [Source: ZeroFOX]


The future is passwordless

A new report from LastPass by LogMeIn exposes some lingering password issues plaguing organizations.

Highlights (and some lowlights) from the report include:

  • Organizations (Still) Have a Password Problem: Weekly time spent managing users’ passwords has increased by 25 per cent since 2019. Given this, 85 per cent of IT professionals agree that reducing the number of passwords used on a daily basis is paramount.
  • Security Priorities Remain at Odds with User Experience: Security is the main source of frustration for the IT department, particularly when issues are derived from user behaviours like password reuse. For employees, top frustrations lie inconvenience like changing passwords regularly, remembering multiple passwords and typing long, complex passwords.
  • Primary Benefits of Going Passwordless: Better security (69 per cent) and eliminating password related risk (58 per cent) are seen as top benefits of deploying a passwordless authentication model.
  • Passwords Are Not Going Away: 85 per cent do not think passwords will disappear. Yet, 92 per cent believe that delivering a passwordless experience for end-users is the future for their organization. [Access the report here]


Tips from the government

The Government of Canada is running a cybersecurity awareness campaign this month. Each week, they will be highlighting a different aspect of cybersecurity, and demonstrating how to keep everyday devices safe and secure. [More details here]


Microsoft urges organizations to adopt multi-factor authentication [IT World Canada]

Add Microsoft to the growing chorus of tech companies urging organizations to implement multi-factor authentication as soon as possible to increase their security posture.


Researchers warn hundreds of thousands of Microsoft Exchange servers remain unpatched [IT World Canada]

Thousands of administrators overseeing Microsoft Exchange Server apparently aren’t in a hurry to install a major patch that was released eight months ago, according to a security vendor’s internet scan.


COVID Alert scores big on MIT Technology Review’s COVID Tracing Tracker [MIT Technology Review]

MIT Technology Review analyzed 25 individual contact tracing efforts globally, including details on what they are, how they work, and what policies and processes have been put in place around them.  Canada’s COVID Alert scored high in all categories.

Bookmarks of the week

A few bookmarked tweets that we think are worth sharing with you. Check out the #CyberSecurityAwarenessMonth hashtag on Twitter to follow the conversation.




And to be clear, this is not data from COVID Alert. This is data from a separate COVID-19 database.


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Alex Coop
Alex Coop
Former Editorial Director for IT World Canada and its sister publications.

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