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80% of IT projects in public sector delayed due to IR35 – report

Half of gov techies quit following tax clampdown, says survey


The vast majority of UK government IT projects are suffering delays due to freelancers quitting over the IR35 tax clampdown, according to a survey of contractors.

Of 405 IT freelancers surveyed by Contractor Calculator, 79 per cent said the projects they have been working on were delayed as a result of contractors leaving.

In April, the government shifted responsibility for compliance with the IR35 legislation from the individual contractor to the public body or recruitment agency. The Treasury says it hopes to raise £185m for 2017/18 by bringing public sector contractors within the scope of the legislation.

However, the overall number of freelancers leaving as a result of the changes is lower than previously thought, with 48 per cent jumping ship. In previous surveys more than 80 per cent had threatened to walk once the changes came into force.

Half of the contractors who decided to stay managed to find a way of working outside the IR35 changes, with a further 13 per cent working within the scope of IR35 but negotiating a rate increase. The rest seemingly took the changes on the chin.

Major consultancies have only managed to fill 15 per cent of vacancies, with more than half of exiting contractors yet to be replaced.

A number of major IT "transformation" projects are under way across the public sector, many heavily reliant on contractors.

But a recent Register analysis of the Infrastructure Projects Authority's annual report found that one-quarter of big government IT programmes are already at risk.

Some of these include HMRC's £220m tax digitisation for business plans; the Home Office's £341m Digital Services at the Border programme; and a raft of Ministry of Justice programmes, including £380m electronic monitoring.

Dave Chaplin, of Contractor Calculator, said contractors had reported problems with HMRC's digital tax programme, which is to be delayed after the Treasury Committee exposed "serious shortcomings".

He said "tonnes of people" working on the Windows upgrade in the NHS are leaving. "The Ministry of Defence has also been a particular problem because of its blanket approach to applying the IR35, something it is considering reviewing."

Earlier this year, the NHS repealed its blanket decision to shove contractors inside the IR35 tax clampdown by default.

Chaplin added: "With Brexit and other challenges right around the corner, HMRC has chosen to shoot the public sector's IT capability in both feet by sparking a contractor exodus. IT contractors are in very high demand, could not be forced into false employment, so voted with their feet."

An HMRC spokesman said: "The survey is based on an unrepresentative sample. There is no evidence of a drift from the public sector and no delays to IT projects due to the new rules. There is no change to contractor pay other than to make sure the correct tax is paid." ®

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Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns

Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

"The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

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Big Tech loves talking up privacy – while trying to kill privacy legislation

Study claims Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft work to derail data rules

Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft often support privacy in public statements, but behind the scenes they've been working through some common organizations to weaken or kill privacy legislation in US states.

That's according to a report this week from news non-profit The Markup, which said the corporations hire lobbyists from the same few groups and law firms to defang or drown state privacy bills.

The report examined 31 states when state legislatures were considering privacy legislation and identified 445 lobbyists and lobbying firms working on behalf of Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, along with industry groups like TechNet and the State Privacy and Security Coalition.

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SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake

Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

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Cloud security unicorn cuts 20% of staff after raising $1.3b

Time to play blame bingo: Markets? Profits? Too much growth? Russia? Space aliens?

Cloud security company Lacework has laid off 20 percent of its employees, just months after two record-breaking funding rounds pushed its valuation to $8.3 billion.

A spokesperson wouldn't confirm the total number of employees affected, though told The Register that the "widely speculated number on Twitter is a significant overestimate."

The company, as of March, counted more than 1,000 employees, which would push the jobs lost above 200. And the widely reported number on Twitter is about 300 employees. The biz, based in Silicon Valley, was founded in 2015.

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Talos names eight deadly sins in widely used industrial software

Entire swaths of gear relies on vulnerability-laden Open Automation Software (OAS)

A researcher at Cisco's Talos threat intelligence team found eight vulnerabilities in the Open Automation Software (OAS) platform that, if exploited, could enable a bad actor to access a device and run code on a targeted system.

The OAS platform is widely used by a range of industrial enterprises, essentially facilitating the transfer of data within an IT environment between hardware and software and playing a central role in organizations' industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) efforts. It touches a range of devices, including PLCs and OPCs and IoT devices, as well as custom applications and APIs, databases and edge systems.

Companies like Volvo, General Dynamics, JBT Aerotech and wind-turbine maker AES are among the users of the OAS platform.

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Despite global uncertainty, $500m hit doesn't rattle Nvidia execs

CEO acknowledges impact of war, pandemic but says fundamentals ‘are really good’

Nvidia is expecting a $500 million hit to its global datacenter and consumer business in the second quarter due to COVID lockdowns in China and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Despite those and other macroeconomic concerns, executives are still optimistic about future prospects.

"The full impact and duration of the war in Ukraine and COVID lockdowns in China is difficult to predict. However, the impact of our technology and our market opportunities remain unchanged," said Jensen Huang, Nvidia's CEO and co-founder, during the company's first-quarter earnings call.

Those two statements might sound a little contradictory, including to some investors, particularly following the stock selloff yesterday after concerns over Russia and China prompted Nvidia to issue lower-than-expected guidance for second-quarter revenue.

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Another AI supercomputer from HPE: Champollion lands in France

That's the second in a week following similar system in Munich also aimed at researchers

HPE is lifting the lid on a new AI supercomputer – the second this week – aimed at building and training larger machine learning models to underpin research.

Based at HPE's Center of Excellence in Grenoble, France, the new supercomputer is to be named Champollion after the French scholar who made advances in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs in the 19th century. It was built in partnership with Nvidia using AMD-based Apollo computer nodes fitted with Nvidia's A100 GPUs.

Champollion brings together HPC and purpose-built AI technologies to train machine learning models at scale and unlock results faster, HPE said. HPE already provides HPC and AI resources from its Grenoble facilities for customers, and the broader research community to access, and said it plans to provide access to Champollion for scientists and engineers globally to accelerate testing of their AI models and research.

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Workday nearly doubles losses as waves of deals pushed back

Figures disappoint analysts as SaaSy HR and finance application vendor navigates economic uncertainty

HR and finance application vendor Workday's CEO, Aneel Bhusri, confirmed deal wins expected for the three-month period ending April 30 were being pushed back until later in 2022.

The SaaS company boss was speaking as Workday recorded an operating loss of $72.8 million in its first quarter [PDF] of fiscal '23, nearly double the $38.3 million loss recorded for the same period a year earlier. Workday also saw revenue increase to $1.43 billion in the period, up 22 percent year-on-year.

However, the company increased its revenue guidance for the full financial year. It said revenues would be between $5.537 billion and $5.557 billion, an increase of 22 percent on earlier estimates.

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UK monopoly watchdog investigates Google's online advertising business

Another probe? Mountain View is starting to look like a pincushion at this rate

The UK's Competition and Markets Authority is lining up yet another investigation into Google over its dominance of the digital advertising market.

This latest inquiry, announced Thursday, is the second major UK antitrust investigation into Google this year alone. In March this year the UK, together with the European Union, said it wished to examine Google's "Jedi Blue" agreement with Meta to allegedly favor the former's Open Bidding ads platform.

The news also follows proposals last week by a bipartisan group of US lawmakers to create legislation that could force Alphabet's Google, Meta's Facebook, and Amazon to divest portions of their ad businesses.

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Microsoft slows some hiring for Windows, Teams, and Office

'Making sure the right resources are aligned to the right opportunity' ahead of next fiscal year

Microsoft has hit the brakes on hiring in some key product areas as the company prepares for the next fiscal year and all that might bring.

According to reports in the Bloomberg, the unit that develops Windows, Office, and Teams is affected and while headcount remains expected to grow, new hires in that division must first be approved by bosses.

During a talk this week at JP Morgan's Technology, Media and Communications Conference, Rajesh Jha, executive VP for the Office Product Group, noted that within three years he expected approximately two-thirds of CIOs to standardize on Microsoft Teams. 1.4 billion PCs were running Windows. He also remarked: "We have lots of room here to grow the seats with Office 365."

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Recession fears only stoking enterprise tech spending for Dell, others

Staving off entropy with digital transformation, hybrid office, and automation projects

Enterprises are still kitting out their workforce with the latest computers and refreshing their datacenter hardware despite a growing number of "uncertainties" in the world.

This is according to hardware tech bellwethers including Dell, which turned over $26.1 billion in sales for its Q1 of fiscal 2023 ended 29 April, a year-on-year increase of 16 percent.

"We are seeing a shift in spend from consumer and PCs to datacenter infrastructure," said Jeff Clarke, vice-chairman and co-chief operating officer. "IT demand is currently healthy," he added.

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