Microsoft Going More Streamlined, Modular in Windows 'Polaris' Revamp

Today’s topics include Microsoft revamping Windows; IBM turning to fast new Nvidia processors for AI apps in the cloud; Google removing 700,000 malicious apps from its Play store last year; and Cisco revealing the economics of cryptocurrency mining attacks.

Microsoft is revamping its flagship Windows operating system, and in the process could ditch some legacy components to make it more lightweight and modular. Traces of older versions of Windows typically pop up even for average users when they dig deep into the operating system's settings and more advanced configuration tools.

Microsoft coders are reportedly working on Windows Core OS, the foundation of the upcoming operating system, along with a new desktop shell that runs on top of it code-named Polaris for a 2019 release. Polaris will initially be included on new PCs from vendors that target the education market, information workers and frontline employees.

IT professionals whose workplaces are riddled with legacy business applications will still have a full-featured version of Windows 10 Pro at their disposal, for the foreseeable future at least.

IBM revealed Jan. 31 that the newest Nvidia V100 GPU is now available on the IBM Cloud to accelerate artificial intelligence and high-performance computing apps. It is the fastest GPU accelerator to date, and combines with IBM Cloud to enable enterprises, data scientists and researchers to create innovative cloud-native applications that generate new value.

John Considine, IBM general manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services, IBM Watson and Cloud Platform, said, “AI models that once needed weeks of computing resources can now be trained in just a few hours.”

IBM is also providing bare metal support for the Nvidia Tesla P100 GPU and will make it available on IBM Cloud virtual servers. With the accelerator, users can obtain up to 65 percent more deep-learning capabilities and 50 times the performance than its predecessor.

Last year Google removed 700,000 malicious and potential harmful apps from its mobile Play store, a 70 percent increase from 2016.

Google Play product manager Andrew Ahn said that not only did Google remove more apps that violated Google Play policies, "99 percent of apps with abusive contents were identified and rejected before anyone could install them.” He attributed Google's better app removal performance last year to machine-learning enabled improvements in the company's ability to detect malware, inappropriate content and spoofing in apps loaded to the Play store.

New detection models and techniques that Google deployed last year also allowed the company to remove 100,000 rogue developers from Play last year while making it harder for bad actors to register new accounts.

A Jan. 31 report by Cisco's Talos research group sheds some light on the tools and techniques used in unauthorized cryptocurrency mining attacks and estimates that the earnings from the top five Monero cryptocurrency mining campaigns could potentially total $1.18 million over a year.

The report focuses on attacker tools that aim to mine the Monero cryptocurrency, also known as XMR. Miners use a "Worker ID" that helps to direct payment to a given cryptocurrency wallet. Talos tracked different Worker IDs to estimate the hashing capacity and potential profit that attackers are making from cryptocurrency mining.

One of the campaigns in the report involved attackers exploiting a known Oracle WebLogic vulnerability, first patched by Oracle in October 2017. A report released on Jan. 8 by ISC SANS found that attackers were able to mine 611 XMR, which was worth approximately $226,000 at the time.