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12 Oct 2021

Twitter users can now remove followers without them knowing

Twitter has launched a new feature that gives users more control over who can interact with them, essentially allowing users to ‘soft block’ their own followers.

The feature is currently available to everyone using Twitter on the web – no word yet on when it’ll be available for the app. To remove a follower, head to your profile and click 'Followers'. From there, click the three dots next to their name and select 'Remove this follower'.

This action will remove the user from your followers without them being notified of the removal – though according to Twitter, the account can still follow you again in the future. After being removed, the account will no longer be able to see your tweets in their timeline, but they will be able to send direct messages.

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Why we need a way to remove followers

The ability to remove followers is part of a larger effort by Twitter to not only stifle trolls, but to allow users to better curate their own experience on the social media platform.

Last month, a new Safety Mode feature began rolling out to testers – it’s an algorithm that identifies accounts that are sending abuse or repetitive mentions to other users, and automatically blocks them for seven days.

While users might want to outright block other accounts harassing them online, the ability to remove followers, or 'soft block' them, is perhaps a way to create a comfortable space for yourself online. It limits who can see your tweets in their feed, and helps avoid the confrontation that a hard block can bring.

Given The Wall Street Journal’s recent report that Facebook is aware of Instagram’s negative impact on teen mental health, there should be a vigorous focus on how social media platforms can better help, not harm, their audiences.

The ability to remove followers is small and long overdue, but a step in the right direction no less.

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11 Oct 2021

Microsoft shows why Windows 11 needs TPM – even if some PCs are left out in the cold

Windows 11 security is something of a hot topic, as the revamped OS comes with much tighter defenses than Windows 10, but with the side-effect of creating controversy and confusion on the system requirements front (and indeed for gamers – more on that later).

However, Microsoft recently produced a video to show how Windows 11’s new protective measures – which include TPM (Trusted Platform Module), Secure Boot and VBS (Virtualization-Based Security) – help to make systems safer against hackers. And furthermore, it reminds us how these moves are an extension of what was already happening with Windows 10 (but crucially, not on a compulsory level).

The clip stars Microsoft’s security expert Dave Weston who explains more about why this higher level of security, which entails the aforementioned raised hardware requirements – including support for TPM 2.0, which rules out a fair number of not-all-that-old PCs – is required to defend against some potentially nasty security breaches.

Weston shows how this nastiness could play out in real world situations, first of all demonstrating a remote attack leveraging an open RDP (remote desktop protocol) port, brute forcing the password, and then infecting the machine with ransomware. This was on a PC without TPM 2.0 and Secure Boot, and naturally, wouldn’t be possible on a Windows 11 system.

The second attack used for demo purposes is an in-person one using a PCI Leech device to access system memory and bypass fingerprint recognition to login. VBS stops this kind of attack being leveraged against a Windows 11 system, and the former remote attack is prevented by UEFI, Secure Boot and Trusted Boot (in conjunction with TPM).


Analysis: Land of confusion

This is an interesting look at the nuts-and-bolts of how these security countermeasures work against real life attacks. Clearly, in some scenarios there are good reasons for mandating TPM and the other mentioned security technologies to help keep a PC safer against a possible attack, whether that’s a remote or local intrusion.

No one is going to argue against better protection, but the issue with making these pieces of security tech a compulsory part of the system requirements is the confusion around whether or not a PC has these capabilities.

In some cases, newer machines do indeed have TPM on-board, it just isn’t enabled – leading to a frustrating situation where the owner of a modern device could be told it isn’t compatible with Windows 11. And while it might just be a case of switching TPM on, which isn’t difficult for a reasonably tech-savvy person, it could be very intimidating for a novice user (involving a trip to the BIOS, a scary place for the untrained eye).

VBS or Virtualization-Based Security has run into further controversy, as well, given that while this isn’t an issue for upgraders from Windows 10, it will be enabled by default on new PCs that come with Windows 11 – and it causes slowdown with gaming frame rates. By all accounts, VBS can be a pretty serious headwind for frame rates, too; and again, this adds to the confusion around what’s going on with Windows 11 machines in general.

Having a more secure PC is great, without a doubt, but there are costs here which have a potentially negative impact on the experience of some users adopting (or trying to adopt) Windows 11.

Via Neowin

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11 Oct 2021

Best mouse for MacBook Pro 2021

The best mouse for the MacBook Pro is a great investment if you have one of Apple’s laptops, but don’t want to rely on the touchpad. Not all mice are created equal and not all special extra mouse features will work in the Apple environment. A gaming mouse with more than six buttons for your MacBook or Mac, for example, might be a waste of money, and not just because Apple notebooks aren’t really the best gaming laptops.

Apple devices are all about simplicity and seamlessness of workflow, and an ideal mouse for your MacBook Pro should let you use that inherent design to its full potential. First and foremost, choose a mouse that is optimized for use on macOS. A wireless mouse or a USB-C wired one is also a better option than one that still connects via a USB cable (as you’ll need to use an adaptor). And, if you’re a content creator (which a lot of MacBook Pro users are), you’ll want a mouse that comes with programmable buttons to simplify your creative tasks.

Whether you just got your very first Apple laptop or you’re just ready to move on from the trackpad, you’ll soon realize the difference the best mouse for MacBook Pro makes in your daily tasks. Find the ideal one for you in our list below just in time for the upcoming release of the rumored MacBook Pro 14-inch, alongside our price comparison tool for the best mouse deal.

Apple Magic Mouse 2 against a white background

(Image credit: Apple)

1. Apple Magic Mouse 2

Best mouse for MacBook Pro overall

Interface: Wireless | Buttons: None, Multi-Touch surface | Features: Multi-Touch surface, month-long battery, rechargeable

Multi-Touch surface is a boon
Easy to pair and use
Not cheap

As a rule, the OG is always the best, and the Apple Magic Mouse 2 is no exception. After all, Apple designed it to work beautifully with Mac and MacBooks. It screams Apple as well, with a smooth Multi-Touch surface that allows it to get rid of any buttons and lets its users perform gestures that make their computing life all the more seamless, and a small and thin footprint so it goes anywhere your MacBook Pro goes. Since it’s wireless, you do need to remember to charge it, but Apple promises month-long battery life so you don’t have to do it so often. 

Logitech MX Master 3 against a white background

(Image credit: Logitech)

2. Logitech MX Master 3

Best MacBook Pro Mouse for content creators

Interface: Wireless | Buttons: Eight | Features: App-specific button customizations, two scroll wheels, ergonomic design

Multi-device connectivity
Excellent tracking on most surfaces
Expensive

If you spend most of your day editing videos and images or creating 3D designs, then you need a more robust mouse that will help you simplify your non-creative workflow so you can focus on your creative one. This is where the Logitech MX Master 3 comes in, a feature-rich mouse that comes with app-specific button re-assignments so you can assign your most used actions to any of its 8 buttons, simplifying what would normally be multi-step processes. Not only that, but it also offers multi-device connectivity and supports Logitech Flow so you can automatically switch between PCs or laptops without clicking a button. The Logitech MX Master 3 is among the most expensive offerings here, but you’re definitely getting your money’s worth.

Read the full review: Logitech MX Master 3

Logitech MX Anywhere 3 against a white background

(Image credit: Logitech)

3. Logitech MX Anywhere 3

Best compact mouse for MacBook Pro

Interface: Wireless | Buttons: Six | Features: Compact form factor, multi-surface tracking, long battery life

Compact form in an appealing package
Some app-specific customizations
Surprisingly expensive

Being a digital nomad, this author has long relied on the Logitech MX Anywhere 3 to see her through her daily workload wherever she ends up in the world. The beauty of this little mouse is that it’s incredibly compact while also extremely robust and reliable. For something so small, it’s got a lot to unpack, from multi-device connectivity and multi-surface tracking to being rechargeable and with whopping 70-day battery life. It even has a premium MagSpeed Electromagnetic scroll wheel and programmable buttons to help simplify workflows. Plus, it comes in several different colors, including pink, because work doesn’t have to be boring.

Read the full review: Logitech MX Anywhere 3

Satechi M1 Wireless Mouse against a white background

(Image credit: Satechi)

4. Satechi M1 Wireless Mouse

Best budget mouse for MacBook Pro

Interface: Wireless | Buttons: Three | Features: Bluetooth connectivity, rechargeable battery

Great battery life
Long range
Not much for extra features

Most cheap mice come with the usual set of drawbacks – they’re not rechargeable, robust, or all that reliable. The great thing about Satechi’s line of accessories is that they beat all those stereotypes just by having better quality overall while keeping their price tags appealingly cheap. That’s why the Satechi M1 Wireless Mouse has made this list as the best budget option. It’s minimal on features – it is still a cheap mouse, after all – but it delivers where it counts, offering accurate and responsive performance, reliable Bluetooth connectivity with a 32-foot range, buttons that are satisfying to click, and great battery life. Speaking of which, it’s completely rechargeable so you won’t have to worry about needing to buy batteries every few months. And, did we mention that it comes in five different shades?

Logitech G G305 Lightspeed against a white background

(Image credit: Logitech)

5. Logitech G G305 Lightspeed

Best MacBook Pro mouse for casual gaming

Interface: Wireless | Buttons: Six | Features: Up to 250 hours battery life, optical sensor, up to 12,000 DPI

Great gaming performance
Ergonomic design
Not rechargeable

Just because MacBook Pros don’t make for the best gaming laptops, that doesn’t mean you can’t play games on them. In fact, there’s a whole slew of Mac games out there that include our favorites like Sims 4 and Sid Meier’s Civilization VI. And, for those, you’ll want the Logitech G G305 Lightspeed in your arsenal. It connects via Logitech’s USB LIGHTSPEED Wireless receiver, which means you do need a USB hub handy, but even with it, its performance is fast and accurate. 

It also boasts up to 12,000 DPI, a 1ms report rate, and programmable buttons that are extremely satisfying to click. Plus, for your comfort, it’s ultra-lightweight and has a beautifully contoured shape around the palm rest that supports your hand whether you’re gaming or working. The only thing is that it’s AA-powered, but with over 250 hours of battery life, you don’t have to switch often.

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11 Oct 2021

The latest Linux release candidate helps circumvent a hardware disaster

An urgent set of patches for the latest release candidate (RC) of the under-development Linux v5.15 kernel reportedly helped the popular open source kernel avert what’s described as a “hardware trainwreck”.

Phoronix caught hold of last minute urgent updates sent hours before Linus Torvalds, the kernel’s principle developer, was to put out the fifth RC of the upcoming kernel.

The patch was added by longtime kernel developer Thomas Gleixner who described it as “yet another attempt at fixing the never-ending saga of botched x86 timers...”

Gleixner's patch made it to Torvalds’ Linux v5.15-rc5 release, who called the release a fairly normal one at this stage of development.

Saving a trainwreck

Gleixner’s patch was titled "use another crystalball to evaluate HPET usability," and aimed to fix an issue with the high precision event timer (HPET) coming to a halt on modern Intel processors, under certain circumstances, even if it is being used by the kernel.

Phoronix says that the kernel has employed various mechanisms in the past to workaround the problem with HPET. 

The problems date back to 2019 when Linux first experimented with disabling HPET on select Intel platforms. However, since there have been quirks in the previous solutions, Gleixner’s latest patch will simply disable HPET when it detects the presence of the PC10 power state.

Assuming that things go according to plan, Linux 5.15 should come out towards late October/early November.

Via Phoronix

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11 Oct 2021

DRAM prices are set for major drop off

Taiwan's Nanya Technology Corporation, the world's fourth-largest memory maker, has predicted a drop in DRAM prices in late 2021, according to reports.

Reporting on Nanya’s briefing to announce the company’s Q3 results, The Register says Nanya’s president Dr. Pei-Ing Lee pointed out that while sales of consumer electronics, servers, and smartphone sectors remain healthy, there was a fall in demand.

Reportedly, component shortages, and strikes, aggravated by COVID-related disruptions across South East Asia have helped contribute to a fall in demand.

"We are expecting the DRAM market [to] enter short-term, minor correction in Q4, 21," Lee pointed out during the briefing.

Good news, bad news

The Register says that Lee's statement reflects the views from the likes of DRAMeXchange and Gartner, who predict a similar decline in DRAM prices in the near future. 

A Gartner memo reportedly went as far as to claim that there will be "a significant price reduction" in memory due to oversupply. It asked hardware manufacturers to make the most of the situation by designing and shipping products with more memory units in order to prevent product prices from tumbling. 

A fall in the DRAM prices is expected to translate into more affordable and capable servers, and could also have a similar impact on the prices of smartphones, unless the manufacturers stuff them with more memory so as to not impact its sticker price adversely.

On the other hand, a drop in the DRAM price will leave its mark on the bottomline of the DRAM manufacturers, such as Samsung which had recorded unprecedented revenues this year riding particularly to the increase in memory prices, and greater demand, both of which are now forecasted to tumble. 

Via The Register

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11 Oct 2021

'Taking a break' from Instagram isn't as easy as Facebook says

Instagram is set to start nudging teenagers to "take a break" from the social media platform, in a small acknowledgement of the psychological impact the Facebook-owned app can have on young people.

The app is set to add a number of new features designed to assist negatively-affected users, which Facebook's VP of Global Affairs Nick Clegg said should make "a considerable difference" in an interview on CNN.

Clegg clarified that Instagram would "nudge" users to look at different content if they were "looking at the same content over and over again, and it's content which may not be conducive to their well being" – as well as even asking younger users to step away from the platform temporarily where needed.

It's something of a turnaround for Facebook, which has now paused its plans for a child-focused version of Instagram, in the wake of whistleblower Frances Haugen – who blew the lid off internal Facebook research around Instagram's impact on teens' mental health, and which wasn't acted on until now.

Leaked documents given to The Wall Street Journal cited presentation slides claiming that “Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse," and that "Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression. This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups."

That's a sizeable number, and it being Facebook's own research makes it even more damning.

Facebook's reckoning

While Facebook's prospective nudges could have an impact, they also pale in comparison to the scale of the problem, or the built-in incentives towards 'doomscrolling' endlessly through news feeds – which were designed to use the same 'pull down' mechanic as Las Vegas slot machines.

Even asking teens to take a break is limited in its usefulness. The problem is that social media apps are often construed as how we take a break – from our work monitors, our chatting peers, our arguing relatives, the boredom of waiting for a bus. It's a permanently-available distraction, and pushing for teens to 'take a break' now and again, while a necessary step, can't fully counteract this problem by itself.

It's similar to advertisements to tell people to stop gambling 'when the fun stops': the addictive nature of something makes even leaving at the point of distress very difficult.

Back in May 2021, Instagram introduced a way to hide like counts entirely – and we're going to need more instances like these of the service critically assessing its own mechanisms, and truly reckoning with its impact on the mental health of teens, rather than simply suggesting users close the app every once in a while.

Via The Verge

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11 Oct 2021

Securing BYOD in the post-pandemic world

There have been more changes to cloud and network access during the pandemic than in the previous five years together. Personal devices accessing corporate networks increased 20% in 2020, creating new complexity and increasing risk. New approaches to work are making IT rethink policies and cybersecurity practices for end-user devices. Many of these new policies are more lenient, allowing more and different devices to be used, but they also are creating more chaos.

About the author

Chris Cochran is Director and Cybersecurity Advocate at Axonius.

More than 80% of IT professionals believe workers are violating their company’s rules, inadvertently or otherwise, leaving them blind to about 40% of the end-user hardware accessing their networks. As BYOD environments become more diverse and more complex, it opens the door to more security concerns because traditional IT tools don’t produce accurate device inventories, which are needed to ensure security and compliance.

BYOD, WFH, and the new normal today

An increase in personal devices - representing a multitude of brands, versions, and operating systems - substantially complicates security practices. It’s a struggle to implement all the necessary security configurations or determine the status of end-user device compliance. Likewise, work-from-anywhere approaches add to complexity. Corporate networks must now extend beyond headquarters’ and even brand offices to include access points from anywhere in the world.

During asset management audits, many companies rely on their configuration management database (CMDB) to survey the condition of endpoints accessing corporate infrastructure, but it only produces a static, moment-in-time count, and it’s a daunting task to complete. BYOD connections often are short-lived episodes - this snapshot approach can easily miss the large segment of users who randomly connect and drop from their own devices.

For compliance issues, specialized tools such as endpoint agent queries are commonly used to determine the version of installed anti-virus software on known devices, but they don’t pinpoint the ones without any protection, and these are the devices that pose the greatest threat. Attackers target unprotected personal devices and, once compromised, the malware on these devices can infiltrate corporate infrastructure and potentially gain access to sensitive data.

Without an accurate understanding of the devices on the network and their status, it’s hard to certify that your organization is secure and adhering to industry standards, such as NIST or CIS Benchmarks. BYOD monitoring and enforcement must evolve to keep pace with increased access by more uncontrolled devices that are often using untrusted networks.

Shoring up end-user device practices

Definitive, actionable practices are the foundation of good end-user device security. The first step is to ensure your company’s policies incorporate the NIST BYOD security guidelines, such as requiring passwords and authentication on all end-user devices, and mandating that users keep software and anti-virus applications up to date. Knowledge can be empowering as well, so employees should be trained, and consistently reminded, on the protocols to connect safely. Limiting user access to resources on a need-to-know, zero-trust basis can help protect networks from attacks unintentionally initiated by compromised end-user devices.

Looking inward, an organization’s technology team needs to examine its own internal processes and work procedures. Today, security and operational IT staff often function as independent entities with vital data siloed within isolated departments. As BYOD becomes more complex and ubiquitous, security and IT groups need to share information and resources to track who is connecting to the network and the condition of those devices. Analysts suggest considering the emerging field of cyber asset attack surface management (CAASM) as a way to manage complexity. This approach involves aggregated data that allows IT and security teams to share a credible and always current asset management inventory without the time-consuming manual effort, quickly uncover coverage gaps, and more efficiently validate and enforce policies.

Post-pandemic social and business dynamics are reshaping the workplace, resulting in increased complexity and BYOD security concerns. The key to effectively managing this will be maintaining visibility into the status of any device that touches the corporate infrastructure, at all times, with new CAASM tools that close the growing visibility gap. In the “new normal” world, this more effective approach can provide much-needed BYOD oversight and reduce the IT workload as part of a larger cybersecurity management program.

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11 Oct 2021

The latest Microsoft Teams update is like something straight out of Black Mirror

Microsoft is working on an update for collaboration platform Teams that, although seemingly well-intentioned, could create a way for businesses to track the performance of employees.

The company is developing new functionality for the Praise app in Microsoft Teams, which is supposed to provide an avenue for employees to exchange thanks and pat one another on the back for tasks well done.

Currently, that’s as far as the application goes. However, according to a post in the Microsoft product roadmap, Teams users will soon be able to access a history of the praise they have sent and received. This history will extend back six months and can be viewed via the Viva Insights application for Teams.

The update is still under development, but will reportedly roll out to all Teams users by the end of November.

A worrying new trend?

With the rise of remote working during the pandemic, businesses have sought new ways to celebrate the good work of employees, in lieu of an in-person thank you or shout-out.

However, many companies have also looked for ways to monitor the performance of remote employees. And it’s easy to imagine how the upcoming update could create opportunities for the Praise app to be used for these purposes, whether this is Microsoft’s intention or not.

In theory, the new praise history feature could provide administrators with a running tally of positive feedback received by each of their employees. While this isn’t a particularly scientific way of identifying the best performers, the information could at least highlight the employees least likely to earn praise from managers and peers.

The app stops well short of assigning each team member with a score or star-rating - a terrifying concept explored in season three of TV series Black Mirror - but could potentially be used as a crude proxy for such a system. It’s worth noting that it is possible for administrators to disable the Praise app entirely, but not the praise history feature in isolation.

TechRadar Pro has asked Microsoft for comment on the potential for the Praise app to be used as an employee monitoring tool, and for clarification over which staff will have access to praise history data.

Read more...
11 Oct 2021

Will TeamSpeak’s Windows 11 facelift be enough to dethrone Discord?

TeamSpeak, an old-school voice chat app for gamers which has been around for the best part of two decades, has just pitched up on the Microsoft Store in Windows 11 with an all-new look.

As MS Poweruser points out (via Deskmodder), the fresh incarnation of the software is a new electron app which replaces the old UWP version (previously available on Windows 10).

The new TeamSpeak app (informally known as TeamSpeak 5, with the current version being 3) still works with Windows 10, mind, and it’s currently in closed beta, with development being an ongoing process. You can download and install it even if you aren’t in the beta, but you won’t have access to certain functions (like global chat) until you’re signed up for the beta.

TeamSpeak differentiates itself from rivals like Discord on several key points, notably audio quality and streamlined resource usage.

With TeamSpeak 5, the developer notes: “We have added machine-learning background-noise cancellation, advanced voice detection, multi-track recording, in-line pink noise filters and a whole host of other audio improvements.” That’s paired with 384Kbps audio quality, and a fully overhauled interface to boot.

The UI has been completely redesigned to deliver what’s described as the “most easy-to-use communication experience on the market”, and it’s easy to resize the various panels, for example, plus there are a bunch of visual (and otherwise) customization options (the latter has always been a strong suit for TeamSpeak).


Analysis: Promising progress – but when will the improved TeamSpeak launch?

The new TeamSpeak seems to be doing a lot to tackle its perceived deficiencies when compared to Discord – and it’s already attractive to a core group of gamers who’ve stuck with it for a long time, including those who prefer a simpler and more no-nonsense approach to some of Discord’s frills.

As mentioned above, part of the attraction of TeamSpeak is that it’s less resource hungry, and that it has great voice quality with a high level of reliability. Plus some see it as a much more secure option compared to Discord (the new TeamSpeak promises “end-to-end encrypted, 100% secure” global messaging).

Clearly, the new version is about catching up with Discord in many ways, and getting fresh gamers into the fold. The chat options and improved interface are a big part of that, because the shortcomings on the UI front were a roadblock to more casual users. TeamSpeak currently offers a lot of fine control to users, but it’s fiddlier and more difficult to work with than something like Discord, which is an issue that could definitely do with being addressed in terms of attracting a wider audience for the app.

The TeamSpeak 5 beta has been running for a couple of years now, and there’s no ETA for a full release yet. Hopefully this appearance on Windows 11 is a positive sign in terms of progress being made, and it certainly looks like TeamSpeak is headed in the right direction – even if some beta testers are frustrated about how long it seems to be taking to get things together for the new version. Still, better to get it right, than rush things out...

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11 Oct 2021

Sony and TSMC may team up to tackle global chip shortages

Taiwanese tech powerhouse TSMC and Japan’s giant Sony are reportedly joining forces to build a chip factory in the latter’s home country. 

According to Nikkei reports, the two companies, together with several other partners (including the Japanese government) want to try and alleviate some of the pressure created by the acute chip shortage that came as a side-effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as creating a contingency plan in case China makes any sudden moves against Taiwan.

The factory would cost approximately $7 billion, with the Japanese government allegedly interested in covering half of the expenses. TSMC would have majority control, while Sony would provide the real estate needed to build the factory. The two would build chips for all kinds of devices, including cars, which is why car parts maker Denso is also apparently interested in taking part in the project.

If all goes according to plan, the factory would be up and running by 2024. Given that the chip shortage is expected to last at least until 2023 (if the demand remains at current levels), the duo could make it to the market just in time to help the wider market bounce back from Covid and add much-needed stability. 

China destabilizing

Furthermore, the relationship between China and neighboring Taiwan is all but stable right now, and the fact that most of the chip manufacturing is concentrated in China has TSMC worried.

So far, both companies have refused to comment, but the media argue that such a move would make perfect sense, if nothing than from an economic perspective. By 2024, highly connected, semi-autonomous vehicles should no longer be a novelty. And, with the proliferation of IoT, and the ever-growing market of mobile devices and smartphones, as well as the expanding reach of 5G tech, the demand for chips will only grow.

Via Nikkei

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11 Oct 2021

So many of us are still using a single password across all our accounts

If you’re using the same password across all of your accounts, you’re not alone, new research has once again found.

A report from Security.com found the majority of Americans (68%) are doing reusing password, putting their data, and possibly their financials, at risk of cyber theft. 

To make matters worse, the most used password in the country is “123456”, something most malicious actors are well aware of and usually test when brute-forcing an account.

According to the report, based on a survey of 1,012 adults living in the States, the number of Americans sharing their passwords with others is up by a quarter, mostly due to the rising popularity of video streaming services. 

Today, almost two in every five Americans (37%) share passwords with others, the paper said, adding that 88 million accounts are “borrowed” from someone else.

The consequences of such actions are as one would expect - 40% of US adults’ passwords have been hacked, and the majority aren’t confident in the strength of their passwords. Some are taking action, though. Almost all (85%) are using two-factor authentication, and more than a quarter (27%) are now using password generators (up by almost 100% year-on-year, from 15% a year ago). The use of password managers is also up by 10%.

Longer passwords more common

More and more adults are also growing more conscious about password strength. Almost all (84%) now use passwords with eight or more characters. Still, there’s more work to be done in securing their online assets, as more than half still use familiar names in their passwords, including their own name, their children’s names, their pet’s names, and so on. 

Security experts are warning against such practices, saying that whatever criminals can learn about you from your social media presence, should not be used as a password.

Read more...
11 Oct 2021

Huawei’s latest tablet is great for kids and parents alike

Huawei today revealed the MatePad T Kids Edition, a tablet designed with children’s education and healthy development in mind. Available in 8-inch and 9.7-inch variants, this latest addition to the Huawei MatePad T Series is specifically designed for children aged 3-8. They offer a minimal and sleek design, durable carrying case, stylus pen, and kid-friendly content and entertainment. There are also parental assistant features built in as well as charging protection.

The carrying case is made from environmentally safe silicone, offering all-around protection for both the device and children. Consisting of a blue shell and cute green grips, it is comfortable and enjoyable to hold for small hands. The tablets also feature curved backs, for a delicate and rounded grip. A bright blue stylus pen enables kids to draw finer pictures on the tablet, as well as enjoy touchscreen games. Both the Kids Case and the stylus pen meet the European Standards on the Safety of Toys and pass the Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS), so parents can confidently allow their children to enjoy the accessories.

Huawei MatePad T Kids Edition

(Image credit: Huawei)

The Huawei MatePad T Kids Edition comes pre-installed with a variety of educational content. supports Kids Painting, Recorder, Camera, and other features, offering a reliable and secure platform for kids to learn and play. Huawei has partnered with Azoomee and BabyBus, two of the leading educational developers creating apps for children, to bundle free three-month membership to Baby Panda World, and a free one-year membership to Azoomee.

To help protect young eyesight, the Huawei MatePad T Kids Edition features a built-in colour adjustment module that intelligently adjusts the content on the display, offering a discrete eye protection mode that has passed the TÜV Rheinland low blue light certification. With help from an ambient light sensor, the tablet also enables multi-layered eye protection for your child’s eyes.

Huawei tablets are equipped with a built-in gravity sensor that can determine whether the user is lying flat, with prompts to encourage them to adjust their posture accordingly. There is even an algorithm that detects when the tablet is shaking (such as when the user is using the tablet while walking or in a car), which can remind your child to use it in a stable position, therefore developing better eye habits. When eBook mode is enabled, the tablet automatically adjusts the contrast, brightness, sharpness, saturation, colour temperature, grayscale and other parameters on the display to offer a quality reading experience that closely resembles that of a physical book.

Finally, in order to keep parents at ease, the Huawei MatePad T Kids Edition boasts numerous safety features as well. Parents can manage time spent, apps used, and other viewable content on Kids Corner, allowing them to set multiple designated time limit intervals throughout the day. They can also apply different settings for the weekday versus the weekend, so that the tablet brings the perfect balance between study and play. In Kid’s Profile, parents can also gain access to their children’s usage records, allowing them to log their children’s usage time and see the apps used over any given period.

Price and availability

The Huawei MatePad T 8 Kids 16GB Edition is available for AED 549, while the Huawei MatePad T 10 Kids 32GB is priced at AED 649. They will be available from October 21st and include a free toy with both products when purchased. Both devices will be available on Huawei’s official website and across select retailers in the UAE.

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11 Oct 2021

Beware - a brand new malware family is infecting Linux systems

There’s a new malware family in town - and one that attacks Linux systems by concealing itself in legitimate binaries to deliver several backdoor and rootkits.

Dubbed FontOnLake, by cybersecurity researchers at ESET, samples of the malware date as far back as May 2020.

According to the researchers, the malware makes use of several carefully crafted modules that not just collect credentials, but also give remote access to the threat actors.

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“The sneaky nature of FontOnLake’s tools in combination with advanced design and low prevalence suggest that they are used in targeted attacks,” believes Vladislav Hrčka, malware analyst and reverse engineer at ESET.

Trojanized utilities

Hrčka notes that all the malware disguises itself inside trojanized versions of standard Linux utilities, including cat, kill, and sshd. In fact, one of the samples the researchers analyzed was created specifically for CentOS and Debian.

However, the exact mechanism employed by the threat actors to replace the original utilities with the malicious ones remains a mystery.

Analyzing the malware, the researchers note that the samples contained three custom backdoors written in C++, which gave remote access to the infected machines to the operators of the malware.

The location of the Command and Control (C2) server and the countries from which the samples were uploaded indicate that the attackers were after targets based in Southeast Asia.

“Following our discovery while finalizing our white paper on this topic, vendors such as Tencent Security Response Center, Avast and Lacework Labs published their research on what appears to be the same malware,” notes Hrčka, adding that ESET’s products can flag all the components of the malware. 

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11 Oct 2021

Save $150 on the stunning MacBook Air M1 with Amazon's lowest ever price

The excellent Apple MacBook Air M1 has returned to its lowest ever price in today's deals at Amazon - just $849.99 (was $999)

We've seen this $150 discount before (on three brief occasions) but it remains one of the best MacBook deals on the market and a perfect opportunity to bag a bargain on the reigning champ in our best laptops buyer's guide. 

As always, the Apple MacBook Air M1 is a great buy if you're looking for a quality ultrabook that will last a few good years. The much-lauded M1 processor gives it plenty of power for both work and casual applications, as well as a battery life that's capable of running a full day of work on a single charge - something simply out of reach of most Windows-based machines. 

Being incredibly power efficient also means that the Apple MacBook Air M1 can do away with those noisy fans for cooling. Like a phone or tablet, it runs completely silently; despite being a very powerful laptop in its own right. As with any Apple MacBook, the Air M1 features a slick uni-body aluminium chassis and a gorgeous liquid retina display that's both vibrant and bright.

Outside the US? See the best MacBook deals in your region just below.

MacBook Air deals at Amazon

Apple MacBook Air M1 (2020): $999 $849.99 at Amazon
Save $150 -
Pick up TechRadar's top-rated laptop of 2021 for its lowest ever price in today's MacBook deals at Amazon. With a superb new processor, class-leading battery life, and novel fanless design, the 2020 MacBook Air M1 is a stellar buy if you're looking for a machine that performs as well as it looks. 

Should I wait until Black Friday for MacBook deals?

Amazon (and other retailers, for that matter) tend to play it fairly safe when it comes to MacBook deals and promotions on other popular Apple items over Black Friday

In short, we wouldn't expect any sales to massively exceed those being offered today. MacBooks, iPads, and other hot tech products also tend to sell out at Amazon over the holiday period so it could be wise to pick them up sooner rather than later.

That said, if you do want to wait and see how things pan out, then that's also a good option as we expect some great Amazon Black Friday deals - especially if you're not desperate for an upgrade.


Want to check out the other models in the range? Head on over to our main MacBook deals page for more. 

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11 Oct 2021

Microsoft is treating Windows 11 as a work in progress, and that sucks

Windows 11 launched last week, but if you’ve already downloaded and installed it, you’re still not getting the final product, as Microsoft is continuing to add new features.

At the risk of sounding like an old man, back in the day when an operating system launched, you pretty much got the final product, bar a few updates to address any issues. Major changes or new features were usually reserved for ‘Service Packs’ and other big releases.

With high-speed broadband now being more commonplace in people’s homes, operating system makers such as Microsoft have been putting out ever larger updates to their operating systems, and Windows 10 largely paved the way for operating systems to get several large updates throughout their lifetime that bring some major new changes.

In many ways, this is for the best. The Windows 10 that many of us use today is quite different from the Windows 10 that launched five years ago, and in that time Microsoft has added some genuinely useful new features (while also breaking quite a few things as well).

So, it was always inevitable that with Windows 11, Microsoft would continue to update and improve it as time went on. However, the downside of that is that – for the moment at least – it makes Windows 11 feel unfinished.

Updates already?

While we’ve seen Microsoft do this before, why does Windows 11 feel like a work in progress, when even Windows 10 didn’t? There’s a few factors at play here.

For a start, when Windows 10 came out, it represented a big change from its unloved predecessor, Windows 8.1. That meant a whole new look and feel for the operating system. Microsoft was keen to distance itself from the Windows 8 era as much as possible – and even the name was a statement of intent, skipping ‘9’ to show that Windows 10 was a big update.

Microsoft also made it clear early on that it would be updating Windows 10 regularly, even going as far as to say that it would be the last version of Windows. So, when those big updates started arriving, it felt like part of a plan.

Given that promise, though – of a final Windows version – many people were surprised when Windows 11 was announced. And as we point out in our Windows 11 review, the operating system doesn’t feel like a major leap from Windows 10 so far.

What’s worse is that we’re seeing hints of new apps and features already being on the way, including a new and improved Notepad app, one of Windows’ most iconic tools.

As Neowin reports, a new design for Notepad appears to have been accidentally leaked by a Microsoft employee. While it’s not a major design change, it brings it more in line with other built-in apps in Windows 11.

See more

Of course, this raises the question of why the new design wasn’t included in Windows 11 for launch. Instead, the operating system launched with some new-look apps, while others remain the same, giving the launch a bit of a rushed feel.

WinCentral also reports that the popular Your Phone app, which lets you interact with your smartphone (such as viewing and replying to text messages) is due to get a redesign soon.

While this is welcome news, it again leads to the feeling that Windows 11 launched too early. It’s unfortunate, as Windows 11 is a decent operating system, but Microsoft’s work-in-progress approach is beginning to undermine the hard work that’s gone into making the OS.

With some of Windows 11’s biggest changes, such as the introduction of Android apps into the Microsoft Store, not coming until later, there will be an increasing number of people who’ll start to feel like the operating system was only half finished. That’s not something Microsoft will want.

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11 Oct 2021

Google Chrome update revives a classic feature, just when we need it most

Google has pushed out an update for the Android version of web browser Chrome that introduces native RSS functionality.

In the latest Android build, Chrome users can curate a feed of updates from their favorite websites using a new Follow button, housed in the three dot menu in the top right of the screen. Articles published to these websites will then appear in a smart-looking feed every time the user opens a new browser tab.

According to tweets from Adrienne Porter Felt, Director of Engineering for Google Chrome, the feature has already been rolled out to a proportion of users running the latest build (Chrome 94). Others can activate the feature manually via the Chrome flags system (chrome://flags) under “web feed”.

Unfortunately, the feature is not currently available to iOS or desktop users, but Porter Felt says updates for these platforms are in the works.

RSS in Google Chrome

By creating a new avenue for sharing and discovering web content, the rise of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter effectively put an end to the heyday of RSS, the open standard on which many aggregation tools are based.

However, as the problems with the algorithm-based approach to content discovery come to light (misinformation, echo chambers etc.), there are plenty of people looking for a way to exercise greater control over the content they are served.

Currently, many of these people make do with free RSS readers, many of which are developed on a shoe-string budget (or no budget at all) and, as such, are often lacking in polish and depth. But now, to make amends for the decision to kill off its own RSS service, Google Reader, Google is making a return to the space with Chrome.

“We’ve heard it loud and clear,” wrote Paul Bakaus, Head of Web Creator Relations, when the feature was first announced. “Discovery and distribution is lacking on the open web, and RSS hasn’t been ‘mainstream consumer’ friendly.”

While RSS is unlikely to reclaim its former status, Google’s decision to bring the technology back in from the cold could signal the start of a new trend. The backlash against social media and the economics that underpins clickbait and misinformation could see RSS (or another technology like it) play a much more influential role in the way people interact with the web in the years to come.

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11 Oct 2021

Instagram will tell teens to take a break – after second Facebook outage forces them to

Instagram is set to start nudging teenagers to "take a break" from the social media platform, in a small acknowledgement of the psychological impact the Facebook-owned app can have on young people.

The app is set to add a number of new features designed to assist negatively-affected users, which Facebook's VP of Global Affairs Nick Clegg said should make "a considerable difference" in an interview on CNN.

Clegg clarified that Instagram would "nudge" users to look at different content if they were "looking at the same content over and over again, and it's content which may not be conducive to their well being" – as well as even asking younger users to step away from the platform temporarily where needed.

It's something of a turnaround for Facebook, which has now paused its plans for a child-focused version of Instagram, in the wake of whistleblower Frances Haugen – who blew the lid off internal Facebook research around Instagram's impact on teens' mental health, and which wasn't acted on until now.

Of course, Facebook and its connected platforms – Instagram, Whatsapp, Oculus – have had issues even staying live in recent weeks.

In early October a massive global outage saw everything from Facebook's social media services to the door passes used by Facebook employees stop working – and it was followed by a shorter outage over October 8 that stopped users from accessing the likes of Instagram for several hours, reportedly down to an entirely different technical issue (via BBC).

During these outages, users flocked to other social platforms such as Twitter, or the Signal messaging app, which suggests not everyone is taking the opportunity to "take a break", though.

Breaking with tradition

While small nudges and measures like these can have an impact, they also pale in comparison to the scale of the problem, or the built-in incentives towards 'doomscrolling' endlessly through news feeds.

Even asking teens to take a break is limited in its usefulness. The problem is that social media apps are often construed as how we take a break – from our work monitors, our chatting peers, our arguing relatives, the boredom of waiting for a bus. It's a permanently-available distraction, and pushing for teens to 'take a break' now and again, while a necessary step, can't fully counteract this problem by itself.

Back in May 2021, Instagram introduced a way to hide like counts entirely – and we're going to need more instances like these of the service critically assessing its own mechanisms, rather than simply suggesting users close the app every once in a while.

Via The Verge

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11 Oct 2021

The Notepad app is getting a much-needed Windows 11 update

One of the most-loved Microsoft apps is getting an upgrade for the release of Windows 11 after details of the new Notepad tool were leaked online.

Images of the new Notepad app for Windows 11 appear to have been posted online (and then swiftly deleted) by a Microsoft employee, showing a significant upgrade for an app used by millions across the world every day.

The updates include a new command bar and a significant visual makeover that brings Notepad up to scratch alongside the stylish upgrade given to other Windows 11 apps.

Windows 11 Notepad

Notepad was already set to see a major refresh for Windows 11, not least in terms of becoming an optional app for Microsoft's latest release.

According to the screenshots, the new Windows 11 app will be getting a similar design change to mirror many of the new platform's tools, with rounded corners on the app window, menus, and pop-up notifications.

The leak also appeared to show that Notepad will be getting new icons, animations and a dedicated settings page, rather than the latter being hidden in the Help menu. The Settings page will allow users to choose and change the theme for the app (including dark mode), as well as the font setting (style, family and size) and certain parts of the file editing experience - allowing more file types to be accessible.

The app is also set to become a separate Store-updateable application, with its own section and page on the Microsoft Store, meaning users can download and update Notepad whenever they choose, and also that Notepad users will be able to receive new features and upgrades automatically via the Microsoft Store as soon as they are available, rather than needing to wait for new additions to be bundled with a wider Windows OS update.

Notepad has come automatically installed in Windows since version 1.0 of the operating system was released back in 1985, with sister program WordPad was automatically installed beginning in 1995 as part of the Windows 95 operating system.

Via Windows Latest

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11 Oct 2021

Tech and leadership: creating the best work model

The past year has seen unforeseen changes in workplace practices. From policies to technologies, businesses of all industries have had to adapt their ways of working and increase investment in new tools and systems to accommodate a fully remote or hybrid workforce.

About the author

Eugene Young is Country Director for UK&I at DocuWare.

Business leaders can take the lessons learned from the past year and create robust policies and technology practices that will benefit their organization for years to come. By demonstrating strong leadership and setting the right tone, organizations can become more responsive to new and sudden changes, as well as create a more productive and happier workforce, adapting to new expectations and creating a flexible work environment that will attract the best talent.

Creating a flexible work model

Demonstrating flexibility towards employee needs can help bolster morale and culture. The emergence of a more flexible workplace has not negatively affected efficiency and productivity. According to CIPD, workers with flexible hours are more likely to be engaged and can potentially help generate 43% more revenue and improve working performance by 20%. Employees are using the extra time that was typically spent on commuting to either get an early start on work or do other activities such as exercise, which in turn helps create a better work-life balance.

Companies that offer tools and services that enable employees to work from any location are likely to continue to thrive as we slowly emerge out of this pandemic. It means that the workforce can adapt to rapid changes quickly without causing major disruption, as they are already set up to work from any location, at any time. Additionally, offering flexible hours can be beneficial for employee productivity, mental health, and the ability to attend to non-work responsibilities. This can allow existing employees to continue working and is attractive to any potential new talent.

Even before the pandemic arrived, questions around flexible working were becoming more and more common during job interviews. Candidates were already evaluating companies based on the flexibility on offer. Fast forward to now, and flexible working is an expectation at the top of nearly every candidate’s mind. It will become more commonplace for candidates to be offered the choice to work when and how they want.

Remote working is likely to remain for the foreseeable future, in some form. Business leaders who are hesitant to implement long-term flexible working practices need to adjust their corporate culture and put more trust in their employees. Organizations that do not accommodate changing employee expectations for flexible working could end up losing the best talent.

Empowering the workforce with the right tools

To address the talent and technology gap, businesses need to invest in the appropriate tools and systems. Technology investments have been crucial during this uncertain time. For example, the shift to remote working has highlighted the importance of investing in the cloud. Employees are no longer bound by internal networks, meaning that work can continue to happen for businesses anywhere. It can also be more cost-effective for businesses, as more organizations are adopting subscription-based models depending on the needs of the business, rather than making huge and unnecessary investments.

The pandemic has accelerated the uptake of cloud-based document management solutions. Automated workflows that can happen independently of human intervention, cybersecurity tools and solutions with an easy to use and easy to implement e-signature function are in high demand. With data being the core of every business, these tools have been vital for employees to access digital documents and manage well-structured data anytime, anywhere, and on any device safely and seamlessly. The right investments can also help ensure that a flexible workplace model is sustainable in the long term.

Introducing the right tools and services and implementing automated workflows will enable employees to be more productive and independent. Long email chains, manual processing, or having to chase for an update can be solved with programmed workflows. For example, an invoice can be sent to and processed by the relevant department, approved with digital stamps, and automatically alerted when the task is complete or requires further action. By equipping teams with the right tools to better manage processes, as well as replace paper-based tasks with digital workflows, staff can be freed to focus on high-value tasks. Also, having intuitive systems in place enables employees to learn on the go and do their best work.

Encouraging greater collaboration

Collaboration has become more vital than ever as employee interactions become increasingly digital. Working as one organization in a distributed environment requires new skills and tools to enable work to flow seamlessly between departments. The move to a digital or hybrid workforce has enabled organizations to establish more efficient communication mechanisms and workflows between previously siloed departments. This means that information can flow more effortlessly and ensure work is completed promptly.

In order to encourage greater collaborations, businesses should be investing in tools that enable colleagues to work alongside one another live in Microsoft365 programs, for example. This means collaboration can happen in real-time and has real benefits to creating a more effective remote workforce. In addition, ensuring that any new technology or document management software solutions seamlessly integrate with current systems, also means disruption is minimal. Employees can work together to improve products and services and create new ways to engage with customers, all of which will enhance the customer experience and drive business success.

Leading from the front

Business leaders have been presented with a great opportunity to shape the future work model. Setting the right tone at the top will help instill broader cultural change and establish long-term company values. To ensure a productive, satisfied, and collaborative workforce, business leaders need to have flexible policies and practices. Investment in the appropriate tools will be key in bringing out the best in employees, as well as attracting and retaining the best talent.

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11 Oct 2021

Sky may have suffered a major network breach

Cybersecurity researchers have found what appears to be a configuration file hosted on a domain hosted by the Sky media group, which apparently lists access credentials of production-level databases in plain text.

Discovered by CyberNews researchers during a threat intelligence gathering operation, the file appears to be the main configuration file of the application hosted on the ‘upliftmedia’ subdomain of Sky.com

In addition to plain text access credentials to databases, the file also contains addresses to development endpoints. 

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The researchers reported the issue to Sky last week, following which the configuration file was no longer accessible.

But, where’s the database?

The researchers claim the file was first indexed by an Internet of Things (IoT) search engine last month, which thankfully enforces a 30 day grace period during which the file is only available to white hat researchers.

Since the file wasn’t flagged or taken down, it became visible to everyone last week, after the expiration of the grace period.

“There’s no way to tell what data is being stored on the production server. With that said, exposed configuration files can serve as quick infiltration shortcuts for ransomware groups that could take a company’s servers and data hostage,” note the researchers who found the credentials, but not the database itself.

They add that threat actors are always on the lookout for such misconfigurations, and capitalize on the mistakes and oversights by companies of Sky’s size and importance, and contend that anyone who knew where to look could have accessed the data using the authentication credentials listed in the configuration file.

TechRadar Pro has contacted Sky for comment.

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