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Zoom refuseniks: why companies are banning constant video calls | Zoom

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Name: Zoom refuseniks.

Age: One year old, give or take.

Appearance: Don’t know. They won’t log on, so no one can see them.

But I love Zoom calls. No, you don’t. No one loves videoconferencing. No one loves finding a tidy part of their house, or brushing their hair, or having to look at their own face while they talk, or sitting through boring two-hour presentations while staring at a screen.

It’s 2021. If you don’t have Zoom calls, then how are you even supposed to communicate with other people? Ask Jane Fraser, the chief executive of Citigroup, who has just banned work video calls on Fridays to help her staff cope with the stress of working from home during a pandemic. She’s calling it “Zoom-free Fridays”.

That’s a bold move. Is Fraser the original Zoom refusenik? Well, last year, SailPoint Technology Holdings in Texas made headlines when it banned its employees from having video chats between 10am and noon every Tuesday and Thursday. As its chief people officer, Abby Payne, put it: “Zoom fatigue is real.”

What is Zoom fatigue, exactly? Payne said the move was made to tackle employees complaining about sitting at desks staring at screens for 12 hours a day. Also, being pulled into endless, meaningless Zoom calls can distract you from doing your job.

But that describes every meeting I’ve ever been in. Precisely. That’s because this isn’t really about video calls. It’s about having any sort of unnecessary meeting. It’s about being able to concentrate on your work without being dragged off to participate in some nothingy get-together where nothing meaningful is achieved.

Actually, I do seem to be having more meetings than usual. Exactly. We all do – and it’s because videoconferencing has made it easy. In the before times, scheduling a meeting was a pain. You had to inform everyone, book a room, sometimes travel for hours. Now you just send a link.

Do we think Zoom-free Fridays will catch on? Other companies have come around to the idea of cutting back on video calls. The MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Texas, has introduced “focused Wednesday afternoons”, where employees are encouraged not to communicate electronically at all, while the cleaning product manufacturer Clorox has one day a month on which no one is allowed to use Zoom. Feather, a furniture rental company in New York, even recommends that employees disable their cameras during video chats.

Why? Feather’s head of people, Zach Ragland, says that it gives employees “permission to say: ‘Don’t worry about taking a shower, don’t worry about doing your hair, whatever it is that you’re concerned about.’ You can keep your camera off, this can be a phone call.”

Just a phone call. I know! Remember phones? Don’t tell anyone, but I think they might be the future.

Do say: “This meeting could have been an email.”

Don’t say: “Sorry, can you repeat that? You’re on mute.”

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Ransomware attacks in UK have doubled in a year, says GCHQ boss | GCHQ

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The head of the UK spy agency GCHQ has disclosed that the number of ransomware attacks on British institutions has doubled in the past year.

Jeremy Fleming, the director of GCHQ, said locking files and data on a user’s computer and demanding payment for their release had become increasingly popular among criminals because it was “largely uncontested” and highly profitable.

His comments, made on Monday to the Cipher Brief annual threat conference, follow warnings that Russia and China are harbouring criminal gangs that are successfully targeting western governments or firms.

“I think that the reason [ransomware] is proliferating – we’ve seen twice as many attacks this year as last year in the UK – is because it works. It just pays. Criminals are making very good money from it and are often feeling that that’s largely uncontested,” he told delegates.

GCHQ has declined to give the exact numbers of ransomware attacks recorded in the UK this year or last. However, a US Treasury report released this month disclosed that suspicious ransomware-related transactions in the US over the first six months of this year were worth around $590m. The top 10 hacking groups believed to be behind criminal activity had moved about $5.2bn worth of bitcoin over the past three years, the report claimed.

Amid growing concerns over China and Russia’s ties to ransomware gangs, Fleming also called for more clarity over the links between criminals and hostile states.

“In the shorter term we’ve got to sort out ransomware, and that is no mean feat in itself. We have to be clear on the red lines and behaviours that we want to see, we’ve got to go after those links between criminal actors and state actors,” he said.

Ransomware is malware that employs encryption to hold a victim’s information at ransom. A user or organisation’s critical data is encrypted so that they cannot access files, databases, or applications. A ransom is then demanded to provide access. It has been used as part of a number of high-profile cyber-attacks in recent years, including the 2017 attack on the NHS.

Specialists believe Russian ransomware will continue to expand given the proliferation of cyber hacking tools and cryptocurrency payment channels.

Lindy Cameron, chief executive of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), said this month that ransomware “presents the most immediate danger” of all cyber threats faced by the UK, in a speech to the Chatham House thinktank.

In May this year, the then foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said states such as Russia could not “wave their hands” and say ransomware gangs operating from their territory had nothing to do with them.

Since then the west has sought to ramp up the pressure on the Kremlin. Joe Biden twice raised the issue with Vladimir Putin over the summer and he hinted that the US would be prepared to attack computer servers belonging to the gangs if nothing was done.

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Windows XP is 20 years old • The Register

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Feature It was on this very day, 20 years ago, that Microsoft released Windows XP to General Availability.

Regarded by some as the cockroach of the computing world, in part due to its refusal to die despite the best efforts of Microsoft, XP found its way into the hands of customers on 25 October 2001 and sought to undo the mess wrought upon the public by 2000’s Windows Millennium Edition (ME). While ME used the Windows 9x kernel, XP was built on the Windows NT kernel, formerly aimed at the business market and a good deal more stable.

It also upped the hardware requirements on its preceding consumer OS. Where ME recommended 64MB of memory, XP wanted at least 128MB. And although masochists could run ME on a VGA screen, XP insisted on a minimum of SVGA. It all seems rather quaint now, but could be a painful jump back in the day.

The user interface was given an overhaul, giving the OS a markedly different appearance to what had gone before, and the Start Menu introduced with Windows 95 was tweaked as well to feature two columns.

Internet Explorer 6 also came in the box, but it wasn’t until 2004’s Service Pack 2 that a Security Center was added as Microsoft sought to bolster the defences of what had turned out to be a highly hackable operating system. Enough to make one, er, Wannacry.

Still, that particular bit of miscreant nastiness was in the future as Windows XP launched. Two editions appeared in 2001: Home, which lacked enterprise features like domain joining, and Professional, which was aimed at corporates and also had the breath-taking ability to support a pair of physical processors.

While mainstream support ended in 2009 (and extended support breathed its last in 2014), Windows XP remained hugely popular until finally being overtaken in popularity by Windows 7 in 2012 (another operating system, Windows Vista, was launched between the pair but proved unpopular). Microsoft has, however, continued to emit the occasional patch for the OS. The last was in 2019, just as mainstream support for the POSReady 2009 version of XP ended.

Although the consumerisation of Windows NT caused a twinge or two – some might regard Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 2000 as the high-water mark for Microsoft’s operating systems – XP signalled a new era for the company. Sure, the default theme might have felt like a child’s toy, but what lurked behind the scenes represented a huge leap forward from Windows 9x.

The same, we fear, cannot be said of Windows 11.

Happy GA day, Windows XP. ®

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‘You have to earn people’s trust for them to believe in you’

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Magnet Plus managing director John Delves talks about his career journey and the most important traits of a good leader.

With two decades of experience under his belt, John Delves is now the managing director of Magnet Plus. The telecoms company, formerly known as Magnet Networks, was acquired by Speed Fibre Group in December last year.

In the same month, Delves was appointed to his current role, having previously spent more than 10 years at CEO level with Digicel in the Pacific and Caribbean.

He was also the founding chair of the Digicel Foundation in Trinidad and Tobago and has worked in a variety of commercial roles in the food industry with businesses such as Greencore, Kerry Foods and Hibernia Foods.

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What first stirred your interest in a career in this area?

I had the opportunity to move from the food industry into a new and challenging industry that was growing really fast, coupled with the opportunity to work in emerging markets and in countries where improved connectivity and competition could make a real impact and improve the lives of the citizens.

What brought you to your current role as managing director?

The opportunity to bring together two fantastic businesses under one brand and create a strong and credible alternative to the big guys, and to create some real disruption in a market that became quite vanilla.

What were the biggest challenges you encountered on your career path?

Dealing with a competitor which was majority-owned by the Government in two markets can be very challenging. You have to be persistent and consistent, make sure you are offering great value, an excellent product which is backed by first-class customer service. You will make the breakthrough and even when the odds are stacked against you, you will win, even in the most challenging of environments.

Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?

My brother Colm Delves whom I was fortunate to work with in two companies. He unfortunately passed away last year but I am forever grateful in what he taught me in terms of true leadership, humility, integrity and always staying true to what you believe in.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Working with the fantastic team and talent that we have and constantly pushing and challenging each other to make things better, smarter and with the customer always at the centre.

What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job?

I would hope that I am approachable, honest, fair and transparent and that people learn from me and trust me. I believe that you have to earn people’s trust if you want them to believe in you and the direction of the business.

Does Magnet Plus support career progression?

Most definitely, and we have this already with seven internal promotions that we have done since I joined. We also benefit by being part of the Speed Fibre Group, which means that there are multiple opportunities across different teams and sectors of the business.

What advice would you give to those considering a career in this area?

The most important brand is your brand, so make sure you are continually challenging, educating, pushing, improving and looking after yourself. If you do this, you will remain relevant and have longevity in any area that you wish to work in.

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