ITWC Morning Briefing, September 3, 2020 – Breaking COVID-Alert down with Canadian Digital Service’s James Eberhardt

To keep up with the firehose of news and press releases, 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. (Best taken with a side of Hashtag Trending)


The Audet family that owns Cogeco has opposed Altice’s $10.3 billion offer to buy Cogeco and sell Canadian assets to Rogers, Microsoft tackles deep fakes, and India bans more Chinese apps.


Not so fast …

The board of directors for Cogeco Inc. and Cogeco Communications Inc. are rejecting a bid from a New York firm that offered $10.3 billion to buy the companies. Altice’s offer proposes Rogers Communications would buy Cogeco’s Canadian assets for $4.9 billion. If the deal were to happen, Altice would own Cogeco’s U.S. assets, including Atlantic Broadband. Analysts are also saying it would greatly benefit Rogers as it merges Ontario cable assets. 


RSA says goodbye to Dell

Led by a consortium comprised of Symphony Technology Group, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, and AlpInvest Partners, combined with its separation from Dell Technologies, RSA officially became an independent company Sept. 1. RSA says it’s pursuing growth in three key business segments through its solutions (on-prem or SaaS):

  • Integrated Risk Management through RSA Archer Suite
  • Security through its RSA SecurID Suite, RSA NetWitness Platform and RSA Conference
  • Omnichannel Fraud Prevention through RSA Fraud and Risk Intelligence Suite

RSA says Rohit Ghai will continue to lead the independent security firm as its CEO and serve as group CEO across all three businesses. William Chisholm, STG’s Managing Partner and Chief Investment Officer, will serve as the Chairman of the Board. Bill Diaz will join RSA as CEO, RSA Archer to lead the Integrated Risk Management business.


Edward Snowden must be feeling pretty good right now

After the NSA’s phone records collection program was first exposed by Edward Snowden in 2013, the NSA claimed the program had helped thwart terrorist attacks. A judge yesterday said there’s no evidence of that claim. A federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday that the NSA’s sweeping program to collect Americans’ phone records was illegal and possibly unconstitutional. [Business Insider]

Breaking COVID-Alert down with a senior software developer from Canadian Digital Service


It’s got more than 500,000 downloads, the nod from most privacy experts, and yesterday, Saskatchewan became the latest province to signal its interest to adopt Canada’s exposure notification app COVID Alert.

It’s a good start, says James Eberhardt, a senior software developer for Canadian Digital Service (CDS) – one of the partners behind the app’s creation. But it’s too early to tout anything definitive about the application’s performance, he admits. Eberhardt spoke during an online briefing with members of the public to provide some background on COVID Alert. While the discussion revealed little that we didn’t already know, Eberhardt was adamant that the Google Apple Exposure Notification (GAEN) framework is the strongest option Canada and the rest of the world have to supplement current efforts to stomp out the virus.

“It’s not a contest to see who wins,” he reminded everyone. “It’s collaboration and we all win when we’re collaborating.”

Eberhardt even praised one of the earliest attempts to launch an exposure notification app, Singapore’s TraceTogether. The app required Bluetooth to be left on all the time, as well as the application itself. It was a massive battery-sucker and quickly flopped due to its user-unfriendliness. Until a recent 180, TraceTogether was also being used by the Alberta government.

After walking us through the app’s inception – he noted there were roughly 40 Shopify volunteers who decided to take the GAEN framework and tailor it to Canada’s needs, and some of them are still working with CDS – Eberhardt explained how the application determines an exposure.

All slides from James Eberhardt, senior software developer, Canadian Digital Service


Bluetooth Low Energy is what keeps the app humming. The tech is strong enough he says to exchange random codes with other people nearby. These codes will be stored for two weeks, and are only exchanged between the two cellphones. The beauty of the GAEN framework is that it doesn’t produce an ID of the individual or even identify a location. It only tracks proximity. It’s the only way to ensure people’s privacy, but Eberhardt admits BLE has limitations.

“Is BLE perfect? No, it can be blocked by a handbag, a dufflebag, pocket, or a person turning away from you. These things can make a difference,” he said, adding even weather can make a difference. “But it’s a good way of approaching a problem and it serves as a complementary piece.” 


In case you missed it

The recent news that we maybe didn’t get to yet, or it’s the news we’ve reported on and feel is worth resurfacing. Sometimes we’ll also feature awesome stories from other publications.

A new coalition grows

Canada’s Centre of Excellence in Next Generation Networks became a member of the fresh-faced Innovation Economy Council this week.  The IEC was founded by MaRS, OCE, Communitech, DMZ, Invest Ottawa and CCRM during the early weeks of the pandemic. The coalition will produce research material and host events to help build a new “industrial innovation policy” for Canada. CENGN says it’s got a lot to offer with its own resources and a deep relationship with a host of technology partners.


Cloud paralysis

A new report from Forrester Consulting reaffirms what we already know: Migrating to the cloud is often expensive, complicated, and misconfigured. Nearly two-thirds of organizations with content exclusively on-premises believe they face a competitive disadvantage. Half are struggling to keep up with customer expectations for self-service. The report was commissioned by OpenText.


Achievement unlocked

BlackBerry flexed its muscles recently by touting its Unified Endpoint Manager (UEM) software which got the Department of Defense Information Network’s (DoDIN) approval as a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution. BlackBerry CEO John Chen gave the news a thumbs up.

BlackBerry is extremely proud to be a partner of the United States Federal Government for over twenty years,” he said in a Sept. 1 press release. “DISA is responsible for delivering world-class secure communications and collaboration tools across the DoD and BlackBerry is honoured to receive approval to be on the DoDIN APL.”


Taking AI on the road

SAS is launching the AI Pathfinder Virtual Roadshow,  which the company says is meant for analytical leaders to better understand emerging fields in AI. The first event, AI Pathfinder: Exploring New Worlds with Machine Learning & Deep Learning. took place Sept. 2.  May Masoud, a solutions specialist at SAS, Sabrina Mancini a systems engineer, and Matthew Joyce, senior solutions architect at the company, led the session.


Rogers launches 5G service in 18 new Ontario locations [IT World Canada] 

The new service provides 5G signals to areas outside Canada’s large urban centres. Residents in Barrie, Cambridge, Oshawa, Caledon and others now have access to Rogers’ 5G services.


What are digital certificates and how do they work? [IT World Canada] 

Digital certificates contain crucial information about an online service or website, such as the certificate issuers’ name, the CA’s digital signature, and expiration date. Without digital certificates, impostors would run amok.


Cyber Security Today – Apple lets in malware, payroll association skimmed and hackers use Telegram [IT World Canada] 

Apple lets in malware, payroll association skimmed and hackers use Telegram.

Bookmarks of the week

A few bookmarked tweets that we think are worth sharing with you.





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

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