Daily Tech Digest - August 18, 2021

True Success in Process Automation Requires Microservices

To future-proof early investments in RPA, organizations need to implement an orchestration layer separate from their bot layer. Many RPA implementations lack a “driving” capability that can connect one process to another. In the insurance example above, one bot that inputs a claim can connect to another that inputs data into the modern CRM system (and so on until the claims process is completed). To take that modernization a step further, development teams can focus on replacing RPA bots one by one with applications built on a microservices architecture. The idea of ripping and replacing legacy systems is expensive and daunting for most organizations. In reality, gradual digital transformation makes more sense. RPA bots can help enable this transformation by keeping legacy systems functional while developers re-architect and modernize business applications in order of priority. Think of it as switching a house over to LED bulbs one by one — you can still keep the lights on in the rest of the house as each bulb gets updated.

Ransomware recovery: 8 steps to successfully restore from backup

"In many cases, enterprises don't have the storage space or capabilities to keep backups for a lengthy period of time," says Palatt. "In one case, our client had three days of backups. Two were overwritten, but the third day was still viable." If the ransomware had hit over, say, a long holiday weekend, then all three days of backups could have been destroyed. "All of a sudden you come in and all your iterations have been overwritten because we only have three, or four, or five days." ... In addition to keeping the backup files themselves safe from attackers, companies should also ensure that their data catalogs are safe. "Most of the sophisticated ransomware attacks target the backup catalog and not the actual backup media, the backup tapes or disks, as most people think," says Amr Ahmed, EY America's infrastructure and service resiliency leader. This catalog contains all the metadata for the backups, the index, the bar codes of the tapes, the full paths to data content on disks, and so on. "Your backup media will be unusable without the catalog," Ahmed says. 

LockBit 2.0 Ransomware Proliferates Globally

“Once in the domain controller, the ransomware creates new group policies and sends them to every device on the network,” Trend Micro researchers explained. “These policies disable Windows Defender, and distribute and execute the ransomware binary to each Windows machine.” This main ransomware module goes on to append the “.lockbit” suffix to every encrypted file. Then, it drops a ransom note into every encrypted directory threatening double extortion; i.e., the note warns victims that files are encrypted and may be publicly published if they don’t pay up. ... Trend Micro has been tracking LockBit over time, and noted that its operators initially worked with the Maze ransomware group, which shut down last October. Maze was a pioneer in the double-extortion tactic, first emerging in November 2019. It went on to make waves with big strikes such as the one against Cognizant. In summer 2020, it formed a cybercrime “cartel” – joining forces with various ransomware strains (including Egregor) and sharing code, ideas and resources.

Mandiant Discloses Critical Vulnerability Affecting Millions of IoT Devices

Over the course of several months, the researchers developed a fully functional implementation of ThroughTek’s Kalay protocol, which enabled the team to perform key actions on the network, including device discovery, device registration, remote client connections, authentication, and most importantly, process audio and video (“AV”) data. Equally as important as processing AV data, the Kalay protocol also implements remote procedure call (“RPC”) functionality. This varies from device to device but typically is used for device telemetry, firmware updates, and device control. Having written a flexible interface for creating and manipulating Kalay requests and responses, Mandiant researchers focused on identifying logic and flow vulnerabilities in the Kalay protocol. The vulnerability discussed in this post affects how Kalay-enabled devices access and join the Kalay network. The researchers determined that the device registration process requires only the device’s 20-byte uniquely assigned identifier (called a “UID” here) to access the network.

CQRS in Java Microservices

Command Query Responsibility Separation (CQRS) is a pattern in service architecture. It is a separation of concerns, that is, separation of services that write from services that read. Why would you want to separate read and write services? One of the advantages of microservices is the ability to scale services independently. We can often say with some level of certainty that one set of services will be busier than others. If they are separate, they can be scaled to best fit the normal use case and conserve cloud cycles. I will be looking into CQRS provided by the Axon library. Axon implements CQRS with event sourcing. The idea behind event sourcing is that your commands are executed by sending events to all subscribers. Instead of storing state in your persistence store, you store the immutable events, so you always have a record of the events that led up to a particular state. Inside your program, you will have an aggregate, which represents a stateful object but is ephemeral in that the system can bring it in and out of existence as needed.

AIOps Strategies for Augmenting Your IT Operations

Enrichment is the unsung hero of the entire event correlation process. Raw alarm data is a start, but it’s not sufficient to be able to pinpoint the root cause and enable an effective fix. When you have alerts coming in from a variety of domains, it can be difficult to correlate them to produce a fine-tuned set of tickets. You can use timestamps or point of origin, but that will provide limited insight, and you'll miss connections between related alerts coming from other sources or from other time windows. Easy-to-deploy alert enrichments add value to every single alert, providing the extra layer of understanding needed to determine which alerts are interrelated, and in what way, enable you to focus on high-level correlated incidents, instead of following every low-level alert that comes in the AIOps platform. Done right, this process of enrichment reduces the ‘noise’, and helps you bring in topology information from your CMDB, APM, and orchestration tools, change information from your change management and CI/CD pipelines, and business context from your team’s knowledge and procedures.

Addressing the demand for global software developer talent

Clear upskilling career paths should be provided for new and experienced software developers. Younger developers will expect rapid career advances — show them fast and more attractive ways forward, such as more opportunities to work on innovation projects and technologies or earn a new job title or salary due to learning a new skill. Experienced developers may want more time to explore new technologies, some freedom to decide what to work on next, or just shore up what they have been working on for years. A mentoring programme connecting graduates with more experienced developers is a good idea. However, it may add an onerous workload. Supplement that ‘human’ support with tools that, for instance, help monitor code quality, engendering a consistent coding practice level and preventing the number of errors that escape into production. Be flexible with everyone’s working hours, location, and choice of tools. Give them superior quality hardware and other workplace products to make their jobs as easier. Online training and permission to spend work time on it are essential.

IT Leadership: 11 Future of Work Traits

“Three- to five-year plans got smashed into a single year plan,” says Sarah Pope, VP of Future of Technology, global consulting company Capgemini. “Two priorities that became obvious as a result of COVID are customer experience and employee experience. Customer experience didn't have to be just 'good,' it needed to reflect customers' new behaviors and patterns. Similarly, employee experience wasn't just about technology enablement and corporate culture, but about how work fits into digital lives.” Enterprises have been pushing to reopen their offices and business leaders are well aware that not everyone will want to return. While there's a general acknowledgement that hybrid workplaces will be the norm going forward, few organizations know what that will really look like. However, it's obvious that if some people refuse to return to the office at all, and others only want to work in the office a couple of days per week, businesses need to make smart use of space, people, and time. ... “Secondarily, [they'll want to bring people together in a physical environment] from a maintaining culture and community perspective, [such as hosting] those dinners or workshops that can tack on to a team event.”

5 things to know about pay-per-use hardware

When enterprise IT teams get a quote for consumption-based infrastructure, many will find themselves in unfamiliar territory, having never evaluated this kind of pricing scheme. “It’s easy for HP or Dell to come in and say how much they’re going to charge you per core, but then you realize you have no idea whether that price is fair. That’s not how you calculate things in your own facilities, and it’s apples to oranges versus public cloud costs,” Bowers said. “As soon as enterprises are given a quote, they tend to go into spreadsheet hell for three months, trying to figure out whether that quote is fair. So it can take three, four, five months to negotiate a first deal.” Enterprises struggle to evaluate consumption-based proposals, and they lack confidence in their usage forecasts, Bowers said. “It takes a lot of financial acumen to adopt one of these programs.” Experience can help. “The companies that make the most confident decisions are those that did a lot of leasing in the past. Not because this is a lease, but because those companies have the mental muscles to be able to evaluate the financial aspects of time, value, variable payments, and risks of payment spreads,” Bowers said.

An upbeat outlook for UK IoT sector despite barriers

The concern within the UK IoT sector reflects the fact that permanent roaming – as the typical solution to delivering multi-region IoT projects – remains fraught with problems. These range from the inability of roaming agreements to support device Power Saving Modes, to the frequently arising commercial disputes, the performance issues caused by having to backhaul data, and the fact several countries have placed a complete ban on permanent roaming. In contrast to the US environment, where two dominant operators (AT&T and Verizon) deliver the majority of coverage, the European environment is far more fragmented with multiple operators delivering regional coverage. This adds a considerable layer of complexity and commercial disputes can threaten the viability of multi-region rollouts, creating a concerning degree of risk to IoT projects. UK IoT professionals are very aware that this issue of cellular connectivity must be resolved to ensure the viability of future large-scale projects – eight out of ten agree or strongly agree that the evolution of intelligent connectivity is going to be critical to continue to fuel adoption of IoT.

Quote for the day:

"Good leaders must first become good servants." -- Robert Greenleaf

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