Cingular To Buy AT&T Wireless for $41 Billion

Cingular Wireless, a joint venture of SBC Communications and BellSouth, has inked an agreement to acquire AT&T Wireless.

Under terms of the agreement, which was approved by the boards of directors at both companies, shareholders of AT&T Wireless will receive US$15 per common share, which translates to a total of approximately $41 billion. The acquisition still must be approved by AT&T Wireless shareholders and federal regulatory authorities, but both companies expect the deal should be completed as early as the end of this year.

“This is big,” AT&T Wireless spokesperson Peter Rowe told the E-Commerce Times. “It’s the largest cash transaction in U.S. history. The scope of the deal is just enormous, and it’ll be felt throughout the industry.”

Major Player

With the acquisition, the combined company would have 46 million customers and coverage in 97 of the top 100 markets. Combined annual revenues for 2003 would have exceeded $32 billion, according to Cingular.

Those numbers refrain from showing Cingular had better positioning in the market than AT&T Wireless. The latter company reported a fourth-quarter loss and noted that its operating income in January fell more than 20 percent from the year earlier.

However, Cingular is not exactly saving a sinking ship, Rowe noted. “From our perspective, what we’ve done here over the last four years is to build a business with tremendous value,” he said. “We’ve built a franchise that was seen as attractive to a number of competitors.”

The combined company already has begun plotting ways to save money through the acquisition. Cingular announced that it expects to achieve significant operating efficiencies through the acquisition by consolidating networks, distribution, billing, procurement, marketing, advertising and other functions.

The company expects to generate more than $1 billion in operating expense and capital expenditure savings in 2006, and more than $2 billion starting in 2007.

Tough Battle

In January, AT&T Wireless confirmed reports that it had received interest from a number of companies seeking to buy the nation’s third largest provider of cell phone service.

Potential buyers reportedly included Cingular Wireless, Nextel Communications, NTT DoCoMo and British giant Vodafone, which is a part owner of Verizon Wireless.

Vodaphone in particular was watched closely by analysts who believed the company was eager to establish its brand in the United States.

Combo Deal

In a statement, Cingular CEO Stan Sigman emphasized the combination of the companies will produce growth not just for Cingular, but for the industry as a whole.

“Wireless communications is one of the most significant growth drivers in the telecommunications industry,” he said, “and with the acquisition of AT&T Wireless, we believe no other company will be better positioned than Cingular to grow with the market’s continued expansion.”

Rowe noted that the acquisition likely will be emulated by other companies in the arena. “You’re going to start seeing consolidation, and it’ll begin happening soon,” he said.

Analysts also predict the Cingular deal could spark other mergers in the U.S. mobile industry, where a number of players are battling fiercely for dominance.

Standard Operation

Another effect of the acquisition may be the triumph of wireless standard GSM over competing wireless standards CDMA and TDMA. Although GSM is used widely in Europe, the United States has seen competition of the standards and poor interoperation.

Chris Conley, a professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, told the E-Commerce Times that mobile technology carriers currently associate their technology with features that are relevant to users. However, with the combination of Cingular and AT&T Wireless, the ensuing growth of GSM could make standards a non-issue.

“In the end, we won’t care,” Conley said. “It’s like cars. We’ve long since passed significant differences in technology platforms and have moved to brand and product type. We should see the same kind of thing happening with wireless soon.”

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Attacks on Cloud Service Providers Down 25% During First 4 Months of 2022

New research from Atlas VPN shows that cloud-native exploits on major cloud service providers (CSPs) declined during the first four months of 2022.

Cloud-native exploits dropped by 25%, from 71 exploits in the first four months of 2021 to 53 exploits in the first four months of this year, Atlas researcher Ruta Cizinauskaite told the E-Commerce Times.

Although those numbers may seem small, they are significant, maintained Paolo Passeri, a cyber intelligence principal at Netskope, a Security Service Edge provider in Santa Clara, Calif., and author of the Hackmageddon blog, from where Atlas obtained the data for its report.

“This is only the so-called tip of the iceberg, that is, campaigns that have been unearthed and disclosed by security researchers,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

One of the most targeted CSPs during the period was Amazon Web Services (AWS), Cizinauskaite wrote in the report released June 8. “[AWS] suffered the most cloud-native exploits among cloud service providers as of April 2022,” she reported. “In total, it experienced 10 cloud-native exploits accounting for nearly a fifth (18.9%) of all such events in the first four months of this year.”

She explained that cloud-native threats refer to cyber events that exploit the cloud in one or more stages of the “kill chain,” a cybersecurity model that identifies the typical steps taken by hackers during a cyberattack.

Tool for Mischief

For hackers, Amazon — which, with a third of the CSP market, is top dog — is a robust battleground where an attacker can never run out of targets, Alon Gal, co-founder and CTO of Hudson Rock, a threat intelligence company in Tel Aviv, Israel, told the E-Commerce Times.

AWS is also a flexible tool that can be used for multiple purposes, Passeri added. For example, AWS can be used to host a malicious payload delivered during an attack, as a command-and-control center for malware or to provide the infrastructure to exfiltrate data, he explained.

“As trust in cloud service providers has increased, so has the attraction for cybercriminals that target selected external services with sophisticated yet expected techniques,” Gal observed.

“Once a playbook for a technique is developed,” he continued, “it usually results in a quick win for them across multiple companies.”

Tempting Targets

David Vincent, vice president of product strategies at Appsian Security, an ERP security application provider in Dallas, explained that more and more organizations are moving their critical business systems into the cloud for obvious advantages.

“As long as these business systems contain valuable targets such as data and personally identifiable information or enable financial transactions, like payments, that criminals want access to, these cloud solutions will continue to be targeted by malicious actors,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

With 60% of corporate data stored in the cloud, CSPs have become a target for hackers, Passeri added.

“Besides,” he continued, “a compromised cloud account can provide the attackers multiple tools to make their attacks more evasive.” For example, they can provide a platform to host malicious content, such as AWS, OneDrive or Google Drive. They can also provide an embedded email service, such as Exchange or Gmail, to deliver malicious content that evades web security gateways.

Fishers of Bytes

The report noted that trailing behind AWS in the targeted department were five services each with five exploits: Microsoft OneDrive, Discord, Dropbox, Google Drive, and GitHub.

Other services had a thinner slice of the exploit pie: Pastebin (5.7%); Microsoft 365 and Azure (3.8%); and Adobe Creative Cloud, Blogger, Google Docs, Google Firebase, Google Forms, MediaFire, and Microsoft Teams (1.9%).

 

A majority of the exploits (64.8%), the report found, were aimed at delivering a malware strain or a phishing page.

Other exploits used the CSPs to set up a command and control infrastructure for malignant activities elsewhere (18.5%) and for stealing data or launching other attacks (16.7%).

“Successful hackers are like fishermen, they have different lures in the tackle box to attack a victim’s weakness, and they often must change the lure or use multiple lures because the victims become informed and won’t bite,” Vincent explained.

Exploiting CSP Infrastructure

Passeri explained that malware delivered to CSPs is not designed to compromise their systems but to use their infrastructure since it is considered trusted by the victims and organizations that use it.

In addition, he continued, the CSPs offer a flexible platform that is resilient and simplifies hosting. For example, there is no need to allocate an IP space and register a domain.

Advantages to hackers using a CSP’s infrastructure cited by Passeri include:

  • It is considered trusted by the victim because they see a legitimate domain and in the case of a phishing page, a webpage hosted on a cloud service with a legitimate certificate.
  • In some cases it is considered trusted by organizations because too many of them consider the CSP infrastructure trusted, so they end up whitelisting the corresponding traffic, meaning that the security controls normally enforced on the traditional web traffic are not applied.
  • It is resilient because if the malicious content is taken down, the attackers can spin up a new instance instantaneously.
  • Traditional web security technologies are blind to the context, that is, they do not recognize if, for example, a connection to AWS is heading to a legitimate corporate instance, or to a rogue instance controlled by the attackers.

Info-Stealers

One form of malware distributed through CSPs is information-stealing software. “Info-stealers are a quick win for hackers, as they are able to capture all the sensitive data from a compromised computer in a matter of seconds while leaving almost no traces behind,” Gal said.

“They can then use data like corporate credentials and cookies that were captured by the stealer to cause significant data breaches and ransomware attacks,” he added.

While hackers are willing to use CSP infrastructure for nefarious ends, they’re less inclined to attack that infrastructure itself. “Most exploits from CSPs are a result of misconfigured public internet-facing resources, like AWS S3 buckets,” explained Carmit Yadin, CEO and founder of DeviceTotal, a risk management company in Tel Aviv, Israel.

“Malicious actors target these misconfigurations rather than looking for a vulnerability in the CSP’s infrastructure,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “CSPs often maintain a more secure infrastructure than their customers can manage alone.”

John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government Security News. Email John.

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Distro Delights, New Release Mania, Forking KDE, Windows in a Bottle

Open Source

Linux provides user options for a wide variety of desktop environments, making it a much richer computing platform compared to macOS and Microsoft Windows. That benefit is on display with this month’s distro releases and updates.

Check out a new option for integrating Windows gaming and business programs in whatever Linux variation you use. It gives “spin the bottle” a new endgame. Also find out what is new with Red Hat, Fedora, and a growing KDE clone.

Distro Releases To Try Out

If you are looking for a really cool Linux computing platform with lots of extras and a twist on traditional desktop design, check out Modicia OS Ultimate.

Italy-based Modicia Web Design and Development Company recently released its latest upgrade — Modicia O.S. 22.

You probably won’t stumble on this gem in hiding if you distro hop or browse through traditional outlets for Linux operating systems; but it is definitely a discovery worth finding. It is one of the easiest Linux offerings I have used.

Modicia Ultimate installs without hassles and has no learning curve to get started. It is a great platform for personal and small business use as well. Get it here.

The popular CentOS alternative, AlmaLinux, is now available on Oracle Cloud. AlmaLinux OS Foundation on May 5 announced its availability on the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure marketplace, continuing AlmaLinux’s penetration into the cloud.

With this addition to the Oracle Cloud Marketplace, enterprises can now add AlmaLinux into their virtual cloud network with the simple click of a button for both x86_64 and Aarch64.

“Oracle Cloud combines the elasticity and utility of public cloud with the granular control, security, and predictability of on-prem infrastructure. The tens of thousands of developers building with Oracle now have easy access to the open-source, community-owned and governed, forever-free enterprise AlmaLinux distribution and can get up and running immediately,” said Jack Aboutboul, community manager for AlmaLinux.

Got Nobara?

If you are a typical point-and-click Linux user looking for a new Fedora-based experience with gaming, content creation, and streaming easier in one place, check out the new Linux distro called Nobara Project. It is a modified version of Fedora Linux with user-friendly fixes built in.

This is not a spin of Fedora Linux. It is its own Fedora-based Linux distribution.

Nobara eliminates the usual Fedora struggles with getting things working beyond the basic browser and office documents that come with the OS, according to developer Thomas Crider’s website. These include some of the essentials missing from Fedora regarding gaming with Wine dependencies, obs-studio, third-party codec packages for gstreamer, Nvidia drivers, and small package fixes.

Speaking of Fedora Linux, the community-supported Fedora Project owned by Red Hat on May 7 released Fedora Linux 36. The default desktop is the GNOME environment. Other desktop environments include KDE, Xfce, LXDE, MATE, and Cinnamon.

The Fedora Project also distributes custom variations of Fedora called Fedora spins. These are built with specific sets of software packages, offering alternative desktop environments or targeting specific interests such as gaming, security, design, scientific computing, and robotics.

Unofficial Ubuntu Distros

April and May came with an assortment of new Ubuntu kindred releases. On the heels of the April 21 release of Jammy Jellyfish, Canonical’s next long-term support (five years) release of Ubuntu 22.04, two popular alternate flavors were released during the first week of May.

Ubuntu Unity is a remix of Ubuntu featuring its used-to-be default in-house desktop environment, Unity7, which Canonical abandoned after seven years in 2017 in favor of GNOME.

First released by the Ubuntu Unity community in May 2020, Ubuntu 22.04 hit the download servers early this month. This remix Linux distro, while based on the Ubuntu underbelly, is not affiliated with Ubuntu’s developer, Canonical.

A second alternative for pure Ubuntu also released this month is the latest edition of Ubuntu Cinnamon aka Cinnabuntu. This release is not officially supported by Canonical and is also dubbed version 22.04. Its developer is a Debian and Ubuntu software packager who leads the Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix project, Joshua Peisach, who goes by the online handle ItzSwirtz.

Full disclosure: Ubuntu Cinnamon has been my main Linux driver for the last few years, having displaced both Cinnamon desktop contenders Linux Mint and Feren OS. Desktop environments run the gamut of user preferences. In my case, the Ubuntu and Cinnamon combination provide usability options and stability not matched elsewhere.

KDE Fork Gaining Favor

Also made available this month was the latest release of an alternative desktop for KDE Plasma focusing on the strengths of the older KDE 3.5 version before the developer moved to KDE Plasma.

Trinity Desktop Environment is a Fork of KDE version 3.5 and a continuation of feature updates and bug fixes by a small development team.

TDE is a complete software desktop environment designed for computer users preferring a traditional desktop model. R14.0.12 is the twelfth maintenance release of the R14.0 series and it builds on and improves the previous maintenance versions.

TDE’s suitability list for compatible Linux distros is growing. You can easily find installation directions and packages for Debian, Devuan, Slackware, Raspbian, Arch, RedHat/CentOs, Fedora, Mageia, OpenSUSE, PCLinuxOS, and Ubuntu.

Linux Game Playing Unbottled

As great as the Linux OS platform is, generally it lacks native support for game playing without third-party solutions to run Windows games such as CrossOver, PlayonLinux, Lutris, and Wine.

Now, gamers can add one more solution to this list by installing Bottles, a free, open-source graphical application to manage Wine prefixes in a new way.

Bottles, while similar to PlayonLinux, Lutrix, and Winetricks, offers some enhancements that you might find to be better options. Use it to run all windows executables such as .bat, .exe, and .msi. The Bottles code automatically detects all installed apps — so you do not have to manually configure its list of applications.

Run Windows software on Linux with Bottles

Bottles is free and open source software that uses environments to help manage and run Windows apps on Linux.


You are not limited to a limited choice of ported games. You can use this new solution to run other Windows-based office and productivity programs, as well.

Bottles combine new environments with a collection of ready-to-use settings, libraries, and dependencies. The environments ensure support for multimedia applications for 3D modeling, video editing, and drawing programs as well as office and productivity software.

It will also install Arial, Times, and Courier fonts, and the Wine mono, replacing the .NET Framework.

RHEL 9 Released

Red Hat — on May 10 at its Red Hat Summit — announced the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 9, one of the industry’s leading enterprise Linux platforms.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 9 is a platform for hybrid cloud innovation. It enables its partners to build and deploy any application across physical, virtual, private, and public cloud, and edge environments.

As the first production release built from CentOS Stream, RHEL 9 is based on direct input from partners, as well as customers and independent users. It forms the foundational backbone of the company’s open hybrid cloud portfolio to power critical production workloads spanning the full spectrum of cloud environments.

Red Hat now offers certification for edge systems on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Through this certification, partners such as Dell Technologies, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Lenovo, and OnLogic offer certified technology and expertise to support edge workloads running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

RHEL 9 is available through major cloud marketplaces.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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