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Russian COVID-19 Vaccine; Hit or Miss?

Mounir Jamil

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Russian COVID-19 Vaccine; Hit or Miss

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin said that a locally developed COVID-19 vaccine has been granted regulatory approval after less than two months of testing on human participants. Putin claimed that the COVID-19 vaccine has passed all required checks, and he is confident in it enough that his own daughter has been given the vaccine.

Officials have mentioned that they plan to start mass vaccinations starting October. However, experts have voiced their concerns regarding how fast Russia developed the COVID-19 vaccine, implying that researchers might have cut some corners. In a response that expresses concern for safety measures, the World Health Organization (WHO) beseeched Russia earlier last week to comply with international guidelines for producing a COVID-19 vaccine.

Earlier this week, WHO commented that they are in talks with Russian authorities regarding a review of the vaccine, which has been dubbed Sputnik-V. Right now, the Russian COVID-19 vaccine does not fall under the WHO’s list of six vaccines that has reached phase-three clinical trials; a phase that involves more participants and randomized, double-blind trials.

Currently, more than 100 vaccines around the world are in the early development phase, with some of them even being tested on people in clinical trials. Despite the rapid progress being made, most experts believe that any COVID-19 vaccine won’t become widely available until mid-2021.

President Putin dubbed the vaccine that is being developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya  as a world first solution that offers “sustainable immunity” against Coronavirus. Putin claimed that he knew the vaccine was “quite effective” without adding any further details, and he stressed that it has successfully passed “all needed checks.”

What we know so far is that Russian scientists have completed early-stage trials of the vaccine, and results were positive. The Russian COVID-19 vaccine uses adapted strains of the adenovirus, a virus that typically results in the common cold, to trigger an immune response. However, the vaccines approval by Russian regulators comes prior to the completion of a larger study involving thousands of people, known as a phase-three trials.

Russian officials said the COVID-19 vaccine has been named in honor of the world’s first artificial satellite – Sputnik-V.

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Azercell’s 4G footprint expansion made possible with Nokia

Karim Hussami

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Azercell’s 4G footprint expansion made possible with Nokia

Azerbaijan operators are expanding their 4G LTE offering, which will bode well for the underlying dynamics of the market. Furthermore, steady 4G base stations and network expansion will further provide momentum for innovative uptake.

Nokia has announced plans to expand the 4G footprint of Azerbaijan’s Azercell by deploying its AirScale 4G base stations at over 1,400 sites in Azerbaijan; the first large-scale deployment outside of the capital city, Baku.

After Nokia announced an LTE FWA announcement involving Nigeria and an FTTH announcement involving the Philippines, the deal with the Azerbaijan-based mobile operator Azercell, will realize the expansion of 4G, preparing Azerbaijan for next-generation connectivity.

“Nokia’s AirScale Radio Access solutions will provide Azercell with high-speed mobile connectivity to cater for increased demand as well as providing a clear migration path in the future. Nokia is the sole supplier in this deal and will replace the former 4G provider and develop the network further,” according to Nokia’s website.

Azercell is the largest operator in Azerbaijan, with more than 5 million customers. It will use Nokia Software’s NetAct Cloud network management system that meets customer demands for software-only delivery.

NetAct manages both radio and core networks and provides applications for fault management, configuration management, network and administration management, performance management, and security management. The deal includes Nokia’s services for network design, deployment, and optimization. Installation began at the end of 2018 and was completed in July 2020.

“Azercell has expanded 4G network across the country with Nokia to provide its population with equal technological opportunities and the latest innovations through its high-speed Internet,” Marat Hamidov, Director of Network Technology Department at Azercell, said.

“A high-performing 4G network is absolutely fundamental, and with our AirScale solution, we also offer a simple upgrade to the next technological era when Azercell is ready,” said Mikko Lavanti, Market Unit Head, Central East and Central Asia (CECA) at Nokia.

Azercell plans to rollout 4G across the whole country, including semi-urban and rural regions. As well as further plans to deploy low-power and wide-area NB-IoT services. 

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NSCS Issues an Alert for UK Academic Institutions Amid an Increase in Cyberattacks

Ranine Awwad

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NSCS issues an alert for UK academic institutions amid an increase in cyberattacks

On September 17, 2020, the UK’s National Cyber Security Center NCSC has issued an alert to the academic sector following an increased number of cyberattacks on schools, colleges, and universities. In fact, UK universities have been suffering from cyberattacks following the rise of online schooling amid the Covid-19 pandemic. A new report by Kaspersky published on September 4, 2020, states that phishing, DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks, Adware and Malware are among cyberattacks threats associated with online learning.

NCSC provided UK institutions with a set of alerts to keep criminals out of their network following the detection of 17 ransomware attacks in August 2020. These attacks usually target the encryption of an organization’s data by criminals, who demand an exchange of money for its recovery.

The National Cyber Security Center has encouraged UK institutions to ensure that all their data are backed up and copies are stocked offline to prevent data loss in case of any cyberattack. The authority said that it is ready to support institutions as well as offering guidance for them to better understand the cybersecurity sector. “The NCSC recommends that organizations implement a ‘defense in depth’ strategy to defend against malware and ransomware attacks”. Moreover, they added, “Your organization should also have an incident response plan, which includes a scenario for a ransomware attack”.

Paul Chichester, Director of Operations at the NCSC, said, “While these have been isolated incidents, I would strongly urge all academic institutions to take heed of our alert and put in place the steps we suggest, to help ensure young people are able to return to education undisrupted”. Moreover, he added, “We are absolutely committed to ensuring UK academia is as safe as possible from cyber threats, and will not hesitate to act when that threat evolves.”

On September 4, 2020, The DoppelPaymer ransomware gang breached Newcastle University systems and stole backup files, states IT Governance. The BBC also reported that Northumbria University suffered from “operational disruptions across networks and IT system on September 1, 2020.

David Corke, Director of Education and skills policy at the Association of Colleges, said “As the last six months have shown us, it has never been more important for colleges to have the right digital infrastructure in order to be able to protect their systems and keep learning happening, whatever the circumstance”, according to The York Press.

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Korea’s KT will build 5G testing to support SMEs

Ranine Awwad

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Korea’s KT will build 5G testing to support SMEs

On September 16, 2020, Korean Carrier KT announced plans to build 5G test facilities nationwide. This move comes as part of the Korean government plan to support companies developing new services using 5G technology.

The KRW 28.5 billion (US$24.2 million) project aims to provide small and medium-sized firms access to research versions of the 5G network to test new services and is expected to be completed by 2023, according to RCR Wireless. The testing will be running in 4 different locations including Pangyo, south of Seoul, and the central city of Daejeon.

Korean Carrier KT plans to install 5G at the facilities on the 3.5 GHz and the 28 GHz bands by the end of 2020. Moreover, the carrier has announced that 200 employees will work on developing plans on how Artificial Intelligence, 5G, the cloud and the Research & Development will support the new deal scheme which is expected to create 550,000 jobs this year. 

According to Mobile World Live, Yoon-Young Park, head of the taskforce, said, “KT will create a commercial standards-based 5G network environment in which companies can research and contribute to the industry, with a focus on services including connected cars, drones, smart factories, and media streaming”.

Korean telecom operators have introduced 5G technology since April 2019. In July, they agreed to invest a total of KRW 25.7 trillion by 2022 aiming to boost 5G infrastructures across Korea, according to RCR Wireless. Despite the impacts of Covid-19 on the rollout of 5G network infrastructure, the operator expressed confidence in closing 2020 with 3.5 million 5G subscribers. 

Back in June 2019, Huawei opened its first 5G OpenLab in Seoul which was set to provide 5G network testing and verification environments for partners and help Korean enterprises use 5G networks to incubate new services, according to GlobeNewswire. 

Recently, the government of South Korea has announced its aims to proceed with a pilot project for non-standalone 6G services by 2026.

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