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Supply chain attacks were ‘a big wake up call for organisations’

Zoom’s head of security assurance talks about the growing risks associated with third parties why security needs to be baked in from the beginning.

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Sandra McLeod is the head of security assurance for Zoom, leading security teams focused on offensive security, product security incident response, as well as enterprise security assurance.

She began her career in software development, where she spent 12 years creating secure solutions for networking, financial and medical companies. She then moved into the security space as a penetration tester at Cisco Systems, where she spent the next 10 years in the company’s security and trust organization

Now at Zoom, a key element of her role involves reviewing the security features, procedures and system architecture that are in place.

‘No business wants to be the weak link in the chain’

What are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing in the current IT landscape?

The key thing to remember when it comes to security is that the threat landscape is always evolving. Attacks are becoming more sophisticated, meaning we constantly have to be aware of what’s happening in the wider landscape to ensure that Zoom and its customers are protected.

Right now, one of the biggest challenges we currently face involves supply chain attacks and the risks associated with third parties. We’ve previously seen the widespread, negative impact a third-party breach can have on all parties involved.

The 2020 breach of SolarWinds, for example, acted as a big wake up call for organisations, showing that it’s not only your product that has to be secure and protected, but also any external companies you do business with.

We will see more organisations putting their energy into protecting against third-party risk. At Zoom, we are extremely aware of the risk of third-party software running on our networks and take stringent measures to ensure we understand exactly what is on our network and in our product.

We are constantly looking for new ways to keep our networks fully updated, patched and monitored. We also continue to prioritise our bug bounty programme, which has seen huge success so far. By bringing in the wider expertise of the Zoom community to help identify and report bugs and vulnerabilities, we are able to ensure our products are adequately protected.

What are your thoughts on digital transformation in a broad sense within your industry?

It’s an exciting time for digital transformation within the video communications industry. The sector and the people it serves has changed drastically over the past two years, with video becoming a central pillar in how the world remains connected.

At Zoom, we are extremely humbled by the role we have played and the positive impact the platform has had on people’s everyday lives. Even throughout the pandemic, we continued to innovate to ensure we were meeting the changing needs of our customers.

Through the introduction of products and features like Smart Gallery, Zoom apps, and auto-generated captions, we are able to provide a far more equitable meeting experience, expand the accessibility of users’ workspace solutions, and empower employees to get more value out of their interactions on the platform.

As we look to the future, the video communications industry is very much planning to build upon shared experiences and, with a greater understanding of what people need from video communications, drive innovation to deliver the next phase of digital transformation.

This will centre around two crucial aspects: customer experience and hybrid work. As employees return to the office on a hybrid basis, we will continue to see technologies such as AI and machine learning being incorporated into the industry to facilitate deeper connections between a dispersed workforce, defying the limits of distance and location.

What are your thoughts on how sustainability can be addressed from an IT perspective?

Sustainability is increasingly becoming a discussion topic in boardrooms across the world, and rightly so. As a determining ESG factor, businesses are starting to take sustainability more seriously and putting initiatives in place to ensure how they operate doesn’t negatively impact the environment.

If we look at IT specifically, there are many ways in which it can support businesses to become more sustainable. One of the most obvious ways is the increase in use of video communication tools that reduces the need for people to travel for meetings or in-person events.

As the future of work lies in hybrid, video will continue to play a role in helping businesses become more sustainable. This has been evident throughout the pandemic, with UK household greenhouse gas emissions dropping by 10pc as we remained at home, unable to travel. While this indicates what can be achieved when sustainability is taken seriously, we still have a long way to go.

What big tech trends do you believe are changing the world?

One of the biggest tech trends right now is the proliferation of emerging technologies and how these will help to forge the future of work. Businesses are recognising how these technologies can improve the way they operate and most importantly, the experience of hybrid working.

The likes of AI, machine learning and virtual and augmented reality enable greater inter-functionality and deliver better, more meaningful experiences between in-person and remote participants where those joining a meeting virtually will be able to see and experience the meeting as if they were in the room. This all plays into the bigger idea of the metaverse, as we strengthen our hybrid connections and build upon these emerging technologies.

What are your thoughts on how we can address the security challenges currently facing your industry?

As the number and scale of emerging technologies increases, so does their complexity, opening up the potential for vulnerabilities to be exploited. As businesses look to expand and innovate to better meet customer expectations, they have to ensure security remains a top priority at every stage.

It’s important to remember that this also applies to any external companies a business works with, be it a supply chain or third-party partner. Malicious actors and their attacks are becoming more sophisticated, and no business wants to be the weak link in the chain.

To directly address security challenges, the industry needs to go back to basics and get better at seeking opportunities to integrate security into the product lifecycle. Too often we see products developed and security not baked in from the beginning and going back to try and retrofit security is a time-consuming and often impossible task.

In the long-term, the industry can address security issues by plugging the current skills gap and training the next generation of security talent so they are industry-ready. This training has to form part of all avenues into the field, as sometimes security can be neglected.

For example, a young person looking to forge a career in the IT industry could undertake an engineering degree without going through any security training when in reality, security and an understanding of how to protect the business will be a central part of their job.

As an industry, this is a foundational point that needs to be addressed and a key area that needs more work if we are to remain ahead of the threat landscape.

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Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.

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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.

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