Apple may introduce iPhone 9 very soon

I was a little astonished to receive an email from a small iPhone case manufacturer sharing details today of its new case for the iPhone 9, and now it looks like this isn’t an exception, but a wave. Is Apple about to introduce the device?

Apple’s March announcement?

The Apple rumor websites are packed with reported iPhone 9 case sightings. 9to5Mac tells us cases for the device are arriving at retailers (including Best Buy) with “an April 5 merchandising date.”

Apple is thought to have ordered manufacturing of 30 million of the devices in January. It had been expected to introduce new iPad Pros, Macs and an iPhone 9 at a special event in March 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic meant a big public event didn’t happen.

Speculation claimed it could also delay introduction of the new iPhone. (Apple did introduce a new MacBook Air and iPad Pro last week.)

The presence of cases for the device in the supply chain makes it plausible to believe an iPhone 9 launch is imminent, possibly shipping as of April 5. This makes it likely we’ll hear more about the product during the week, most likely via an Apple press release published one morning from Cupertino.

Update: Since this piece was originally published we now hear speculation the device may not show up until April 15. 

What to expect in the iPhone 9?

The designs that are circulating seem to confirm specification the pundits (including me) have pondered since whispers of the product surfaced. These include the presence of a similar camera arrangement and body design to that of the 4.7-in. iPhone 8.

Apple’s iPhone 9 is expected to use an A13 chip, as used in the current iPhone and to use Touch ID rather than Face ID for biometric authentication. It is also expected to be more affordable, which should widen the market for Apple’s smartphones while enabling consumers, already battered by the personal and economic consequences of Coronavirus, to more easily upgrade their existing devices.

While it may seem a minor point given the ongoing pandemic, a lower-cost device could do well in the current very, very difficult environment.

To summarize expectations at this time:

  • 4.7-in. LCD display, 750-x-1,334 resolution.
  • Apple A13 Bionic chipset.
  • Touch ID home button.
  • Single lens camera.
  • A potential 3GB RAM (up from 2GB).
  • From 64GB storage.
  • $399 price.

There have been claims the company may introduce a larger model of the device, similar to the iPhone 8 Plus.

iOS 13.4.1 is coming

Despite the pandemic, Apple has put a great deal of effort into development of iOS 13.4, and is now thought to have put development of iOS 13.4.1, which implements important bug fixes, on the fast track. This follows the release of iOS 13.4 on March 24.

Apple traditionally pushes a relatively important iOS release in advance of a new product introduction. The recently introduced iPad Pro ships this week. It seems plausible to expect some iOS 13.4.1 components will also support the new iPhone 9 when it ships.

Apple may announce the product, but logistical challenges suggest supply may be constrained once it is revealed – and plans for iPhone 12 may be delayed. There is little doubt that most people won’t be as focused on Apple’s new release as they might usually be.

Globally, attention is on COVID-19, which has killed thousands, infected hundreds of thousands and is spreading rapidly across the U.S., and the world.

We may learn more concerning Apple’s iPhone 9 launch plans this week. In the meantime, I urge every reader to take good care of yourselves and your communities in these days.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Wayback Wednesday: It’s either this or spin the Wheel o’ Fish

The IT help desk at this pilot fish’s company has come up with a new approach for assigning trouble tickets: They search the headers for previous tickets on the same application, looking for the name of anyone who has touched a ticket for that application before.

Then they route the ticket to that person with this piece of boilerplate:

Previous records indicate that you have solved problems with this software before, although we don’t have any documentation that supports this routing. Please assist if possible, or if out of your scope, suggest us with an alternate destination for this ticket.

“We’re not sure,” says fish, “what it means that ‘records indicate’ when they ‘don’t have any documentation.’”

Route your story to Sharky. Send me your true tales of IT life at [email protected]. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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What is Project Treble? The Android upgrade fix explained

It’s tough to talk about Project Treble without getting lost in a forest of technical gobbledygook.

And it’s no wonder: Project Treble (take a deep breath) is Google’s ambitious effort to rearchitect Android in order to establish a modular base in which the lower-level code created by silicon vendors is separated from the main Android operating system framework so that device manufacturers can update the OS code without having to rely on silicon vendors to refresh the lower-level code for every release.

Whew! See what I mean?

In reality, though, Project Treble doesn’t have to be so complicated. Let’s break down what Treble is actually all about, in real-world terms — and what it actually means for you, as someone who uses Android and doesn’t necessarily speak the language of mumbo-jumbo.

We’ll start at the beginning:

What is Project Treble — in plain English?

I just fed the technical explanation into my patented Geek-to-English Translation Machine, and here’s what came out: Project Treble, at its core, is all about making it faster, easier, and cheaper for phone makers to process Android software updates and get them out to users.

That’s the short version. Now, the context: In the past, every time a new Android version came along, phone makers had to wait for the chipset vendors — the companies like Qualcomm, which supply the processors and other pieces inside the devices — to update the areas of the code related to all of that internal hardware. It was only when that effort was finished that the phone-maker was able to start its part of the process: integrating the new Google-provided software with its own interface customizations and feature additions, then testing it all thoroughly and getting it ready to roll out.

What Treble does is separate that lower-level stuff — the areas of the code related to a phone’s processor, modem, and so on — from the rest of the operating system. That way, those lower-level elements don’t have to be updated every time a new Android version comes along; they just exist as a constant foundation beneath everything else, and that first part of the process is no longer required.

project treble explained chart IDG / Computerworld

Project Treble separates the hardware-specific code (the pie crust) from the main Android OS code (the filling). Android apps are the delicious topping. (Click image to enlarge.)

To borrow an analogy from an earlier analysis, you can think of the whole thing like a pie: Up till recently, all of Android was mixed together, and that meant each ingredient had to be updated and stirred into the batter from scratch with every single OS update. Thanks to Treble, all the hardware-specific elements now exist as a crust — one that remains in place for a device’s entire life. And so whenever a new Android release arrives, the phone maker can focus solely on its part of the process — the filling — without first having to wait for someone else to provide a freshly made foundation.

Google actually started this process with its Android 8.0 Oreo release, in 2017, by creating the initial boundary between the operating system and the lower-level code. Rather fittingly, however, 2018’s Android 9 Pie software marked the first time the setup was complete and operational — with chipset vendors ready to support it and with a significant number of Treble-ready devices out in the wild and waiting.

Why is Project Treble even necessary?

Over the past several years, Android upgrades have devolved into a big, hot mess — and that’s putting it mildly: Aside from Google itself, with its Pixel line of phones, no Android device maker provides consistently timely and reliable software updates. And it’s the users who suffer, getting stuck with dated software that lacks not only features and interface improvements from newer releases but also privacy and security enhancements and a variety of other under-the-hood improvements that only OS updates can provide.

While Google has taken significant steps to make OS updates less all-important on Android — unbundling most system-level apps and services from the operating system so they can be updated regularly and universally, directly through the Play Store, and providing an increasing array of device options that come with timely update guarantees — it can’t remove all of the importance from the core system software. And the vast majority of Android users remain on devices that receive OS updates painfully late, if ever.

And that’s why Project Treble came about — to try to cut out some of the time and cost associated with processing OS updates so that manufacturers would step up their games and users could start getting current software more quickly.

How much difference is Project Treble actually making?

That’s the million-dollar question — and with two years of Treble-aided updates now in front of us, the answer isn’t especially uplifting.

According to my interview with one of Google’s Treble architects, Treble should shave about three months off the typical upgrade process by eliminating that initial lower-level phase. But scrutinizing the data from device-makers’ performance with both the Pie upgrade and the more recent Android 10 rollout, it’s clear that hasn’t exactly happened.

Let’s start with Pie: As my February 2019 analysis of that rollout makes all too apparent, nearly every major Android flagship device-maker (from a U.S. perspective) saw little to no improvement with the first true Treble test. Some companies even did meaningfully worse with the initial post-Treble rollout than they did with earlier, non-Treble-affected Android releases.

Samsung, notably, did a touch better with Pie than it did with Oreo, the year before — but it’s hard to frame its success as a Treble-related victory. The company went from 213 days between the software’s release and its first U.S. flagship phone rollout with Oreo to 177 days with Pie. That’s an improvement of 36 days, which is certainly something — but it isn’t nearly enough to account for the estimated 90 days of work Treble was supposed to save.

Plus, looking back even further, Samsung took 179 days to deliver Nougat to its then-current flagship the previous cycle — basically the same amount of time it took with Pie. Before that, the company took 155 days with Marshmallow and 105 days with Lollipop. So all that really happened was that Samsung had an especially bad year with Oreo and then went back to its still-underwhelming Nougat-level performance a year later — without even going as far as to match its slightly less embarrassing Marshmallow- or Lollipop-era performances from the years before that.

One company actually did achieve the 90-day improvement window Treble was designed to provide: OnePlus, the relatively small-scale maker of phones that have long been popular within the Android enthusiast community and have just recently started to see some more mainstream success. That’s a promising indication of the type of improvement Treble can theoretically enable — but the success is somewhat diminished by the fact that OnePlus simultaneously took 47 days longer to get Pie out to its previous-gen flagships than it did with Oreo the previous year (and in the case of OnePlus, those phones were indeed all Treble-ready).

So that’s year one of living in a Treble-enhanced world, in a nutshell. In year two, with 2019’s Android 10 update, some device-makers managed to improve their delivery times a bit further — but the results are rather scattered and still don’t seem to point specifically to any Treble-connected success.

Samsung, for instance, got about a hundred days faster with both its current-gen and previous-gen flagship rollouts in the Android 10 cycle — certainly nothing to write off. But at the same time, that level of improvement actually just brought the company back (almost) to its 2014 performance, with Lollipop. So can we really credit a return to a six-year-old standard — one that wasn’t even particularly impressive back then — to a change that came about in the last couple of years? It seems like a stretch.

LG also almost matched its 2014 level of mediocrity with the Android 10 rollout, on the current-gen flagship front, and is doing significantly worse than it did in 2014 with its previous-gen flagship phone support. (As of this writing, the company has yet to send Android 10 to its previous-gen flagship in the U.S. and is already two months and counting behind its 2014 standard.) HTC and Motorola, meanwhile, have yet to send Android 10 to any U.S. flagships, well over six months after the software’s release.

Again, the one exception to the rule is OnePlus, which brought its current-gen flagship delivery down to a mere 18 days with Android 10 — compared to 47 days with Android 9 and 138 days with Android 8. OnePlus did better with its previous-gen flagship, too, with a 93-day delay for Android 10 delivery. That’s still too long of a wait to be commendable, though, and it’s also essentially just bouncing back from a bad year to match the company’s previous-gen upgrade performance in 2017.

Android Upgrades: Current-Gen Flagships JR

It took many Android manufacturers longer to roll out Pie to current-gen devices than it did to deploy Oreo, though some have improved with Android 10. (Click image to enlarge it or here to see a detailed analysis.)

All these numbers are a lot to process, but the main takeaway is that it’s tough to square the data — even in areas where improvements are present — with any sort of narrative about Treble being the driver of the change.

More than anything, what we’re seeing serves to highlight a stark reality of the Android upgrade situation: Regardless of what improvements are made to the technical part of the process, most manufacturers simply aren’t motivated to make timely and reliable upgrades a priority. And why should they? Post-sales software support requires a fair amount of time and resources, even with Treble’s adjustments in place, and all of that effort brings little tangible benefit to the typical third-party Android device maker.

In fact, one could argue that providing timely and reliable software enhancements actively works against most companies’ interests, as it makes phone owners less likely to feel the need to spend money on a new device. Treble, unfortunately, can’t address that part of the equation; if phone makers see no reason to take post-sales software support seriously, all the optimization in the world won’t make an ounce of difference.

All considered, what we can say is that Treble absolutely does cut out a significant portion of the work required for phone makers to process and deliver OS updates — and that can and should make it possible for upgrades to be delivered faster without any additional investments. How things play out from there, however, is ultimately in each manufacturer’s hands, as these first two years of evidence illustrate.

This article was originally published in September 2018 and most recently updated in April 2020.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Design in the Time of COVID-19

It’s April Fools’ Day, and each year on the 1st of April we normally join the rest of the world in posting a humorous, and entirely fictitious story. But this year, we decided to go a different way.

These aren’t normal times. Around the world, millions of people are struggling with the impact of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. Many people have lost family members, and many more are struggling to support themselves and their families. For too many of us, the future feels uncertain.

If we’ve learnt one thing in the last few months, it’s that the design community is at its best when we support each other. And so for today’s post we wanted to give a shout out, and a heartfelt “thank you” to all those companies going out of their way to support our readers.

(Laughter is a great medicine, so if you were looking forwards to another April Fools’ prank, you’ll find a few of our most popular from the last few years here: Domain Shakeup, The Web That Time Forgot, and Google Makes Material Design Compulsory.)

Here’s a list (in alphabetical order) of the industry leaders putting our community before their profits:



Adobe’s Creative Cloud and Marketing Cloud products focus their support on students and Enterprise-level customers affected by the coronavirus:

  • Students using Creative Cloud with in-classroom licences now have personal in-home licenses instead;
  • Web-based PDF services are free until 31st May 2020;
  • Team and Enterprise customers on the VIP plan have an extra 60 days to renew;
  • Additional license charges for Enterprise Term License Agreement customers eliminated for 60 days;
  • Adobe Summit has gone fully digital.

Read Adobe’s COVID-19 statement.



Affinity — makers of Affinity Designer, Affinity Photo, and Affinity Publisher — has introduced three measures to support designers of all levels:

  • Free trials of the Affinity suite of products (for Mac and Windows) have been extended from 30 days to 3 months;
  • Anyone who wants to buy a license for any Affinity product (for Mac, Windows, and iPad) will receive a 50% discount off the normal price;
  • Affinity have also pledged to spend the equivalent of their entire 2020 commissioning budget in the next 3 months, engaging 100+ freelance creatives.

We know we’re not saving the world, but we hope these measures can at least provide some form of relief to those who need it. We’ll pull through this together…

Read more from Affinity.



Apple is probably the largest single technology firm in the design space and has announced several measures to combat COVID-19 in the US, and around the world.

  • Apple will match employee donations two-to-one to COVID-19 response efforts;
  • All hourly workers will continue to be paid in alignment with normal business operations;
  • WDC will be entirely digital this year;
  • Trial versions of Final Cur Pro X and Logic Pro X have been extended to 90 days.

The entire Apple family is indebted to the heroic first responders, doctors, nurses, researchers, public health experts and public servants globally who have given every ounce of their spirit to help the world meet this moment.

Read Apple’s statement.



This is a bit of a niche offer, but may be perfect for someone. If your team is a non-profit engaged in medical research or disaster response, specifically related to the coronavirus outbreak, Asana will give you 12 months of their Business subscription free of charge.

Apply for your free Asana license.



Codecademy is a leading provider of online web and mobile development courses. To support students who are unable to access their regular learning resources, Codecademy is offering 10,000 free memberships of Codecademy Pro for high school and college students anywhere in the world, for the rest of the school year.

Join Codecademy Pro.



Coursera is an online learning platform that partners with major institutions, including Ivy League schools. Coursera is offering free Coursera for Campus access to any college or University affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Students need to be registered by their learning institution and will need to complete online courses by September 30th.

Learn more about Coursera’s offer.



Cloudflare offers a range of different solutions for keeping remote teams connected. Cloudflare for Teams allows your team to work securely on your remote-access applications, and access company data, without fear of exposing anything sensitive to prying eyes.

Cloudflare for Teams is offered for free, to organizations of any size, at no cost until September 1st, and they’re throwing in an optional 30 minutes onboarding session with one of their experts to get you up and running.

Originally conceived as a communications network for humanity during a crisis…in this moment, [the Internet]’s being put to use for that original purpose.

Schedule a free Cloudflare onboarding session.



GoToMeeting is a collaboration platform for remote meetings. It’s great for touching base with clients quickly and easily. GoToMeeting have put together an Emergency Remote Work Kit with four tools to ease your move into remote work. They’re free for 3 months for eligible healthcare providers, educational institutions, municipalities, and non-profits, as well as current LogMeIn customers.

Get your Emergency Remote Work Kit.



Jamm is a lightweight voice and video collaboration app to help teams collaborate, and bond. It is offering 4 months for free to support teams remote working during the coronavius outbreak.

Sign up for 4 months of Jamm free.



If you’re a US-based business that is being forced to vacate its premises leaving valuable equipment inside, or if you’re working from home with valuable equipment that’s normally protected by business insurance, then security will be high on your list of priorities. In partnership with Staples, Kangaroo has launched a small business initiative to supply a security kit, including a camera, and professional monitoring (and free inbound and outbound shipping) for 3 months.

This small but hopefully meaningful gesture is entirely consistent with our mission to make security accessible to everyone. Thanks for making our communities great, and here’s to getting through this together.

Learn more about Kangaroo’s offer.



Loom is a time-saving app for communicating visually. You can record yourself, as well as your screen, and share the video in seconds. It’s excellent for remote design reviews. It has implemented several measures to help teams adjusting to the current work situation:

  • The number of recordings on free plans, normally limited to 25, is now unlimited until July 1st 2020;
  • Monthly subscriptions have been reduced by 50% until July 1st, 2020;
  • Trials have been extended from 14 days to 30 days, again, until July 1st;
  • Loom Pro is now free, forever, for education.

Our hope is that by stepping up, we’re making a dent in the global impact this pandemic is causing, not just by making our product more accessible, but by helping set the kind of example we hope more businesses will follow.

Read Loom’s statement.



Microsoft is make Teams — part of Office 365 — free for everyone for six months to help your team keep working during the COVID-19 outbreak.

By making Teams available to as many people as possible, we aim to support public health and safety by keeping teams connected while they work apart.

Read more from Microsoft.



Nailted is a product for remote teams that helps you maintain a supportive and growth-orientated workforce through feedback, helping you take care of your most important assets, your colleagues. During the coronavirus crisis Nailted is offering its product free of charge.

Create a Nailted account.



Pluralsight is a huge online learning platform and it is offering free access to its Recorded Technology Conferences, which show pre-recorded content from technology conferences and events around the globe.

  • Conference content will be available free of charge to anyone until July 1st 2020;
  • Any tech conference or event can host its content with Pluralsight free of charge until July 1st;
  • Singularity University’s live streamed event “COVID-19: The State & Future of Pandemics” will be hosted on the platform;
  • Pluralsight’s own LIVE Europe conference will be free to access.

More details on Pluralsight’s content.


Professional Photographers of America

The PPA (Professional Photographers of America) has made its 1100+ online classes freely available for the next few weeks.

Times are tough – we need to be at our best. More kindness. More patience. More giving.

Access PPA’s education resources here.


Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow for Teams is a question and answer space for companies to share knowledge within their team. In response to the COVID-19 outbreak Stack Overflow for Teams will be free until June 30th 2020.

We want to help everyone better collaborate and share information as we navigate remote work during these uncertain times.

Get started with Stack Overflow for Teams.



WeFunder has launched a Fight the Virus Challenge with grants of up to $1m for startups tackling the coronavirus crisis. If you’re working on a project that could help — from remote education tools, to protective clothing, to small business support, and anything at all that helps combat COVID-19 — you have until April 3rd 2020 to apply.

In times of great need, the next generation of great startups is born.

Apply to the Fight the Virus Challenge.


& The Rest

These are all generous offers from companies that want to make a difference to the world we live in. But don’t forget that there are thousands of free and open source projects that are available for free 24/7 365; they deserve support too.

Stay safe everyone. Stay home, flatten the curve. We will, eventually, come out the other side of this.


If you know of an organization that is offering its goods and/or services free of charge, or at reduced cost, to support the design community during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, please let us know and we’ll add it to this collection.

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Avoid security breaches: How to protect your data

Data security breaches at major corporations seem to be perpetually in the news. The hacks range in size and scope, but it’s no secret that firms hit by hackers often suffer serious consequences.

What can you do to help prevent your organization from becoming tomorrow’s cyber-breach news headline? Here are 18 pointers:

  1. Educate all employees on the importance of protecting data. Explain the need to avoid risky behavior such as downloading music or videos from rogue websites. Once employees understand that criminals want the data with which the employees work, their thinking changes in ways that can make the organization’s data much safer than before.
  2. Understand what data you have and classify it. You cannot secure information if you do not know that it exists, where it is stored, how it is used, how it is backed up, and how it is decommissioned. Make sure you know those things about all of your sensitive information. Because not all data is equally sensitive, make sure to classify data according to its level of importance.
  3. Do not give every employee access to every system and piece of data. Create policies governing who has physical and/or electronic access to which computer systems and data, and implement procedures, policies, and technical controls to enforce such a scheme. Authorize people to access the data that they need in order to do their jobs but do not provide them with access to other sensitive data.
  4. Consider moving sensitive information and systems to a cloud provider. Unless you have an adequate information security team, the odds are pretty good that a major cloud provider will do a better job than you at securing your system and information against various risks.
  5. Enable remote wipe. All portable electronic devices on which sensitive information will ever be stored should have remote wipe capabilities enabled.
  6. Give everyone his or her own access credentials. Ensure that each person accessing a system housing sensitive information has his or her own login credentials.
  7. Ensure that everyone uses proper passwords to access such systems. People like to use easy-to-remember passwords; without policies and technology to enforce the selection of proper passwords, organizations are at risk of having passwords such as “1234” being the only line of defense against unauthorized access to sensitive information. So, craft proper policies and implement technology to ensure that the policies are properly enforced.
  8. Go multi-factor. For accessing systems with especially sensitive information, consider implementing some form of strong, multi-factor authentication.
  9. Deal with BYOD. Make sure that you have policies and technology in place to address the many risks created by employees, contractors, and guests bringing personal devices into your facilities and connecting to corporate networks. All access to the Internet from personal devices or devices belonging to other businesses should be achieved via a separate network than is used for company computers.
  10. Encrypt sensitive data when storing it or transmitting it. There are many commercial and free tools available to do this – some operating systems even have encryption capabilities built in. As you probably suspect, if you are not sure if something should be encrypted, encrypt it.
  11. Backup. Backup. Most people and businesses do not backup frequently enough, and many (if not most) will not realize the danger of their mistake until it is too late.
  12. Keep your backups separate from production networks. If ransomware gets onto one of your production networks, it could corrupt any backups attached to that network. Maintain offsite backups in addition to onsite backups.
  13. Create appropriate social media policies and enforce them with technology. As so many organizations have learned the hard way, policies alone do not ensure that employees do not leak sensitive information or make otherwise inappropriate social media posts; implement technology to help with this task. Remember, many serious breaches begin with criminals crafting spear-phishing emails based on overshared information on social media.
  14. Comply with all information security regulations and industry standards. Consider such regulations a baseline – but not rules that if adhered to will offer adequate protection. GDPR, for example, is a regulation for which many businesses still need to prepare.
  15. Use appropriate security technology. Do not just buy the latest and greatest. Acquire and utilize what you actually need by defining functional and security requirements and selecting security controls accordingly. On that note: All computers and mobile devices that handle sensitive information or ever connect to a network to which devices that house sensitive information connect need have security software installed.
  16. Ensure that technology is kept up to date. Besides keeping security software current, make sure to install patches to server and client-side operating systems and software. Many major vendors have automatic update services – take advantage of these features.
  17. Keep IoT devices off of production networks. Treat Internet of Things devices as if they were a special class of risky BYOD devices – and keep them on their own networks. Only purchase IoT devices that have proper security capabilities such as the ability to be patched and to have default passwords changed upon installation and activation.
  18. Hire an expert to help you. There is a reason that businesspeople go to doctors when they are ill and don’t try to perform surgery on themselves, or utilize the services of lawyers if they are being sued or accused of a crime. You need experts on your side. Remember, the criminals who are targeting your data have experts working for them – make sure that you are also adequately prepared.

While there are no guarantees when it comes to information security – even the most security-conscious organizations still face some level of risk – by following these 18 tips, you can greatly improve your odds of fending off hackers who seek to steal your organization’s confidential information.

Joseph Steinberg is a recognized cybersecurity thought leader, and emerging technology influencer (with a focus on AI and blockchain-related offerings). He has led businesses and divisions within the information-security industry for nearly two decades, has been calculated to be one of the top 3 cybersecurity influencers worldwide, and has written the official study guide from which many CISOs study for their certification exams.

Originally published at

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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