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Amazon Alexa Automation Challenges Microsoft’s Concept of Productivity

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Amazon announces Office 365 calendars support for Alexa

Microsoft has mostly pulled out of the smart assistant market. The company’s Cortana still exists, barely, but is now confined to a behind the scenes role powering productivity on Windows. If Windows users want the whole smart-assistant experience, they tap into Amazon’s Alexa. Ironically, the company Microsoft has a deal with to provide virtual help on Windows is now challenging the very concept of the platform.

As reported by ZDNet, Amazon is repositioning Alexa as much more than a voice assistant and it is at odds with Microsoft’s concept of computing and productivity. As a result, Microsoft’s decision to essentially ditch Cortana could cause problems. Firstly, not having a proprietary smart assistant on the world’s biggest computing platform is not a good look. Secondly, because smart assistant tech could be paving the way for a new computing experience.

At Alexa Live last week, Amazon showed the future of its voice assistant. Simply put, Alexa is the most complete virtual assistant tool available. There has always been a feeling Amazon wants the product to do more than play your music and tell you where the nearest Whole Foods is. In fact, it is now clear Amazon is charting Alexa’s path towards a concept known as “ambient computing”.

No, I am not talking about smart lights (which Alexa does control) but an idea of computing through a layer of services all connected. In other words, an Alexa ecosystem where the assistant will basically handle all of your computing needs. In a demo, Amazon showed how Alexa can now not just tell you where the nearest Whole Foods is, but also tell the store when your vehicle is near. Moreover, the assistant will then tell the store which parking spot you are in.

Automation vs. Flow

It is all about automation, something that is at the heart of the voice assistant idea. Alexa is simply taking it to the next level where the assistant will work with AI solutions and robots. In the example, AI will take the notification and automate a robot to deploy your goods into your vehicle.

I started this article by suggesting Alexa is challenging Microsoft’s concept of computing. For Microsoft, productivity is something that a user can become engaged in. The company focuses its products and services on immersing the user to allow them to be more productive. This is known as flow computing and interestingly the new Windows 11 theme is called “Flow”.

Amazon’s approach is at odds with Microsoft’s. Alexa is not about giving users a place they can get lost in the flow. It is about taking them out of the flow and doing everything for them.

Is there an end game here, is there a winner? At the moment at least, it seems Microsoft’s Flow concept and Amazon’s all-out automation can co-exist. Clearly, Amazon is not quite yet truly challenging productivity. Alexa remains a tool of convenience rather than one that helps you get your work done.

However, it is clear automation is going to play an increasing role in workplace productivity in the future. Microsoft is not ignoring it – the company is a leader in enterprise AI – but it seems at some point the company may have some unfinished business in the smart assistant realm.

Tip of the day: Did you know you can also use OneDrive to save folders and files in the cloud which are located outside the main OneDrive-folder. Check out our step-by-step tutorial to use this practical method also for your Windows 10-PC.

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Business Technology

Top 10 Most Important Group Policy Settings for Preventing Security Breaches

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There are some simple Group Policy Settings, which if appropriately configured, can help to prevent data breaches. You can make your organizational network safer by configuring the security and operational behavior of computers through Group Policy (a group of settings in the computer registry). Through Group Policy, you can prevent users from accessing specific resources, run scripts, and perform simple tasks such as forcing a particular home page to open for every user in the network.

Important Group Policy Settings to Prevent Breaches

Here is the list of top 10 Group Policy Settings:

  1. Moderating Access to Control Panel
  2. Prevent Windows from Storing LAN Manager Hash
  3. Control Access to Command Prompt
  4. Disable Forced System Restarts
  5. Disallow Removable Media Drives, DVDs, CDs, and Floppy Drives
  6. Restrict Software Installations
  7. Disable Guest Account
  8. Set Minimum Password Length to Higher Limits
  9. Set Maximum Password Age to Lower Limits
  10. Disable Anonymous SID Enumeration

In this article, you will learn why these Group Policy settings simply cannot be ignored.

1. Moderating Access to Control Panel

Setting limits on a computers’ Control Panel creates a safer business environment. Through Control Panel, you can control all aspects of your computer. So, by moderating who has access to the computer, you can keep data and other resources safe. Perform the following steps:

  1. In Group Policy Management Editor (opened for a user-created GPO), navigate to “User Configuration” “Administrative Templates” “Control Panel”.
  2. In the right pane, double-click “Prohibit access to Control Panel and PC settings” policy in to open its properties.
  3. Select “Enabled” from the three options.
  4. Click “Apply” and “OK”.

Figure 1: Configuring Control panel settings through GPO

2. Prevent Windows from Storing LAN Manager Hash

Windows generates and stores user account passwords in “hashes.” Windows generates both a LAN Manager hash (LM hash) and a Windows NT hash (NT hash) of passwords. It stores them in the local Security Accounts Manager (SAM) database or Active Directory.

The LM hash is weak and prone to hacking. Therefore, you should prevent Windows from storing an LM hash of your passwords. Perform the following steps to do so:

  1. In Group Policy Management Editor window (opened for a custom GPO), go to “Computer Configuration” “Windows Settings” “Security Settings” “Local Policies” “Security Options”.
  2. In the right pane, double-click “Network security: Do not store LAN Manager hash value on next password change” policy.
  3. Select “Define this policy setting” checkbox and click “Enabled.
  4. Click “Apply” and “OK”.

Figure 2: Configuring policy to not store LAN Manager hash value policy

3. Control Access to Command Prompt

Command Prompts can be used to run commands that give high-level access to users and evade other restrictions on the system. So, to ensure system resources’ security, it’s wise to disable Command Prompt.

After you have disabled Command Prompt and someone tries to open a command window, the system will display a message stating that some settings are preventing this action. Perform the following steps:

  1. In the window of Group Policy Management Editor (opened for a custom GPO), go to “User Configuration” “Windows Settings” “Policies” “Administrative Templates” “System”.
  2. In the right pane, double-click “Prevent access to the command prompt” policy.
  3. Click “Enabled” to apply the policy.
  4. Click “Apply” and “OK”.

Figure 3: Prevent access to the command prompt window

4. Disable Forced System Restarts

Forced system restarts are common. For example, you may face a situation where you were working on your computer and Windows displays a message stating that your system needs to restart because of a security update.

In many cases, if you fail to notice the message or take some time to respond, the computer restarts automatically, and you lose important, unsaved work. To disable forced restart through GPO, perform the following steps:

  1. In “Group Policy Management Editor” window (opened for a custom GPO), go to “Computer Configuration” “Administrative Templates” “Windows Component” “Windows Update”.
  2. In the right pane, double-click “No auto-restart with logged on users for scheduled automatic updates installations” policy.
  3. Click “Enabled” to enable the policy.
  4. Click “Apply” and “OK”.

Figure 4: No system auto-restart with logged on users

5. Disallow Removable Media Drives, DVDs, CDs, and Floppy Drives

Removable media drives are very prone to infection, and they may also contain a virus or malware. If a user plugs an infected drive to a network computer, it can affect the entire network. Similarly, DVDs, CDs and Floppy Drives are prone to infection.

It is therefore best to disable all these drives entirely. Perform the following steps to do so:

  1. In Group Policy Management Editor window (opened for a custom GPO), go to “User Configuration” “Policies” “Administrative Templates” “System” “Removable Storage Access”.
  2. In the right pane, double-click “All removable storage classes: Deny all accesses” policy
  3. Click “Enabled” to enable the policy.
  4. Click “Apply” and “OK”.

Figure 5: Deny access to all removable storage classes

6. Restrict Software Installations

When you give users the freedom to install software, they may install unwanted apps that compromise your system. System admins will usually have to routinely do maintenance and cleaning of such systems. To be on the safe side, it’s advisable to prevent software installations through Group Policy:

  1. In Group Policy Management Editor (opened for a custom GPO), go to “Computer Configuration” “Administrative Templates” “Windows Component” “Windows Installer”.
  2. In the right pane, double-click “Prohibit User Install” policy.
  3. Click “Enabled” to enable the policy
  4. Click “Apply” and “OK”.

Figure 6: Restricting software installations

7. Disable Guest Account

Through a Guest Account, users can get access to sensitive data. Such accounts grant access to a Windows computer and do not require a password. Enabling this account means anyone can misuse and abuse access to your systems.

Thankfully, these accounts are disabled by default. It’s best to check that this is the case in your IT environment as, if this account is enabled in your domain, disabling it will prevent people from abusing access:

  1. In Group Policy Management Editor (opened for a custom GPO), go to “Computer Configuration” “Windows Settings” “Security Settings” “Local Policies” “Security Options”.
  2. In the right pane, double-click “Accounts: Guest Account Status” policy.
  3. Select “Define this policy setting” checkbox and click “Disabled”.
  4. Click “Apply” and “OK”.

Figure 7: Disabling guest account

8. Set Minimum Password Length to Higher Limits

Set the minimum password length to higher limits. For example, for elevated accounts, passwords should be set to at least 15 characters, and for regular accounts at least 12 characters. Setting a lower value for minimum password length creates unnecessary risk. The default setting is “zero” characters, so you will have to specify a number:

  1. In Group Policy Management Editor window (opened for a custom GPO), go to “Computer Configuration” “Windows Settings” “Security Settings” “Account Policies” “Password Policy”.
  2. In the right pane, double-click “Minimum password length” policy, select “Define this policy setting” checkbox.
  3. Specify a value for the password length.
  4. Click “Apply” and “OK”.

Figure 8: Configuring minimum password age policy setting

9. Set Maximum Password Age to Lower Limits

If you set the password expiration age to a lengthy period of time, users will not have to change it very frequently, which means it’s more likely a password could get stolen. Shorter password expiration periods are always preferred.

Windows’ default maximum password age is set to 42 days. The following screenshot shows the policy setting used for configuring “Maximum Password Age”. Perform the following steps:

  1. In Group Policy Management Editor window (opened for a custom GPO), go to “Computer Configuration” “Windows Settings” “Security Settings” “Account Policies” “Password Policy”.
  2. In the right pane, double-click “Maximum password age” policy.
  3. Select “Define this policy setting” checkbox and specify a value.
  4. Click “Apply” and “OK”.

Figure 9: Configuring maximum password age policy setting

10. Disable Anonymous SID Enumeration

Active Directory assigns a unique number to all security objects in Active Directory; including Users, Groups and others, called Security Identifiers (SID) numbers. In older Windows versions, users could query the SIDs to identify important users and groups. This provision can be exploited by hackers to get unauthorized access to data. By default, this setting is disabled, ensure that it remains that way. Perform the following steps:

  1. In Group Policy Management Editor window, go to “Computer Configuration” “Policies” “Windows Settings” “Security Settings” “Local Policies” “Security Options”.
  2. In the right pane, double-click “Network Access: Do not allow anonymous enumeration of SAM accounts and shares” policy setting.
  3. Choose ‘Enabled’ and then click ‘Apply’ and ‘OK’ to save your settings.

If you get these Group Policy settings correct, your organization’s security will automatically be in a better state. Please make sure to apply the modified Group Policy Object to everyone and update the Group Policies to reflect them on all domain controllers in your environment.

How to Keep Group Policy Changes in Control

If you want to remain in full control of your IT Infrastructure, you have to make sure no unwanted changes in these policies and other Group Policies are made. You can do this by performing continuous Group Policy Object auditing.

However, doing through native auditing can be tricky, due to the amount of noise generated and the unavailability of predefined reports. To keep a continuous track of changes made in Group Policy Objects, try Lepide Group Policy Auditor. Our solution allows you to audit every change made to Group Policies in real time. Start your 15-Day Free Trial today.

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Business Technology

Microsoft Survey Shows Online Civility is Declining During the Pandemic

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More people are online than ever. Sure, that was a trend surging upwards for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the growth. Increasing numbers work online, and global lockdowns means people have been seeking all their recreation online. Unfortunately, the internet has also lived up to its reputation and Microsoft shows online civility has been going down during 2021.

As we move further into the second year of the pandemic, it seems online civility is dwindling. A survey of 11,067 people across 22 countries by Microsoft shows 82% of the countries were seeing net-worse net civility during the COVID crisis.

Microsoft surveyed age groups between 13 and 74 and asked about 21 common online risks spread across four categories: behavioral, personal, reputational, and sexual. Germany, Poland, Philippines, Hungary, and Italy showed the biggest decline in online civility. Four nations – Peru, Mexico, India, and Colombia – displayed net-positive results.

17% of people says they had observed an improvement in online civility, although 30% said it was worse. This is compared to 26% and 22% in 2020.

Online-Civility-Graph-Nations-Microsoft

Stats

Other important notes to take from the survey include:

  • ““A greater sense of community” tumbled 12 percentage points to 50% from 62% in 2020;
  • “People have been more encouraging to each other” dropped eight percentage points to 49% from 57% last year; and
  • “People have come together more to deal with the crisis” was down six percentage points to 53% from 59% in the previous study.
  • People are taking out their frustrations online” was up seven percentage points to 67%;
  • “People are less tolerant” edged up to 59% from 54% last year; and
  • 54% of respondents said they had experienced or witnessed more personal attacks and negative comments this year compared to 53% in 2020.”

While it is a meme to say people are just nastier to each other online, it is still disappointing to have it proved. Microsoft says a full report focused on the survey will be published on February 8, 2022, which is Safer Internet Day.

Tip of the day: Did you know that your data and privacy might be at risk if you run Windows 10 without encryption? A bootable USB with a live-linux distribution is often just enough to gain access to all of your files.

If you want to change that, check out our detailed BitLocker guide where we show you how to turn on encryption for your system disk or any other drive you might be using in your computer.

Source Winbuzzer

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Business Technology

Samsung Exynos 2200 with AMD mRDNA GPU Tech Details Leak Online

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Samsung-Exynos-2100

It is known that Samsung is working on a new Exynos processor that will be a hybrid chip in collaboration with AMD. Specifically, the silicon will have an mRDNA GPU, based on the RDNA 2 architecture from AMD. It will be called the Exynos 2200 and today some information has leaked regarding its specifications.

Known Leakster “Ice Universe” has published details about the Exynos 2200 SoC. It seems the mRDNA GPU will feature six of AMD’s RDNA 2 Compute Units. This will provide the chipset with 384 stream processors. Samsung will construct the SoC on its soon to launch 4LPP FinFET process.

Ice Universe has been on a role this week because before the latest leak, he also revealed the codename for the Samsung chip. Actually, there are two codenamed for both the Samsung and AMD technology.

The Exynos 2200 itself is being developed under the codename “Pamir”, while the AMD GPU technology is known as “Voyager” internally.

Competition with Qualcomm

Other details that have emerged about the chipset suggest is that it is testing across cores of Cortex X1 and Cortex X2 to test for power.

The big question is how will the 2200 fare against the latest Qualcomm technology? That is the Snapdragon 895, which should be announced soon. Well, the Exynos 2100 was a good match against the Snapdragon 888, but Qualcomm’s chip bested Samsung’s in terms of GPU performance.

Samsung clearly took that to heart, hence the collaboration with AMD on the Exynos 2200. It remains to be seen if this means the Exynos will better the Snapdragon 895 in terms of graphics.

Tip of the day: With many reachable wireless access points popping up and disappearing again, the available networks list can become quite annoying. If needed you can use the allowed and blocked filter list of Windows 10 to block certain WiFi networks or all unknown WiFi networks.

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Microsoft Tackled Trickbot with Ground-Level Router Replacement

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In an effort to take down the persistent Trickbot malware, Microsoft went on a door-to-door mission to replace affected routers in Brazil and other Latin American nations. According to The Daily Beast, the hacking ring known as Trickbot continues to be a problem online despite the efforts of the cybersecurity community.

Last year, Microsoft and a coalition of security firms took down TrickBot. On a global mission, the companies removed one of the largest malware botnets. Microsoft said at the time it was unlikely to be the last we heard from Trickbot. To that end, the company Microsoft Defender continued to hunt for traces of the malware.

“Trickbot [is] one of the world’s most infamous botnets and prolific distributors of ransomware,” Microsoft has previously said. “As the United States government and independent experts have warned, ransomware is one of the largest threats to the upcoming elections. Adversaries can use ransomware to infect a computer system used to maintain voter rolls or report on election-night results, seizing those systems at a prescribed hour optimized to sow chaos and distrust.”

In the new report, The Daily Beast points out the group continues to have a presence online. Hackers behind the Trickbot group are from Belarus, Russia, Suriname, and Ukraine.

Next Wave

Trickbot was one of the biggest botnet malwares, so it was unlikely to go away easily. Indeed, the company says over one million machines have been infected by TrickBot malware. In the report, Amy Hogan-Burney, general manager for Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit admits the botnet remains a “continued challenge”.

One way to prevent a breach is to relace the router, so Microsoft went right to the source. The company partnered with local internet service providers in Latin America and replaced routers. It marks a rare example of a company taking a ground-level hardware approach to preventing malware attacks.

Tip of the day: Tired of Windows 10’s default notification and other system sounds? In our tutorial we show you how to change windows sounds or turn off system sounds entirely.

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Microsoft’s GitHub Copilot Met with Backlash from Open Source Copyright Advocates

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GitHub-Copilot-Open-AI-Microsoft

At the end of last month, Microsoft introduced GitHub Copilot, a service that allows programmers tools to write code more easily. However, it seems Copilot is not welcome by some programmers, who have rejected the service. Some going as far as to say the GitHub tool breaches copyright.

GitHub Copilot system runs on a new AI platform developed by OpenAI known as Codex. Copilot is designed to help programmers across a wide range of languages. That includes popular scripts like JavaScript, Ruby, Go, Python, and TypeScript, but also many more languages.

“GitHub Copilot understands significantly more context than most code assistants. So, whether it’s in a docstring, comment, function name, or the code itself, GitHub Copilot uses the context you’ve provided and synthesizes code to match. Together with OpenAI, we’re designing GitHub Copilot to get smarter at producing safe and effective code as developers use it.”

One of the main criticisms regarding Copilot is it goes against the ethos of open source because it is a paid service. However, Microsoft would arguably justify this by saying the resources needed to train the AI are costly. Still, the training is problematic for some people because they argue Copilot is using snippets of code to train and then charging users.

 

Fair or Not?

Honestly, the negative response towards GitHub Copilot by some users is failing to land with me. If code that has been generated by machine learning even something that could be copyrighted? It is also unclear whether Copilot replicates the training snippets exactly of not.

In other words, it should be fine for Copilot to surface code snippet suggestions to users without breaching copyright… again, if any copyright should exist in the first place.

Let’s not forget some people are still annoyed by Microsoft buying GitHub for $7bn, while the company’s increased closeness to OpenAI has also caused plenty of grudges to be formed. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft responds to the latest round of criticism.

Tip of the day: Is your system drive constantly full and you need to free up space regularly? Try Windows 10 Disk Cleanup in extended mode which goes far beyond the standard procedure. Our tutorial also shows you how to create a desktop shortcut to run this advanced method right from the desktop.

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Business Technology

LinkedIn Profile Blocking for Tiananmen Square Mentions Highlights Microsoft’s China Problem

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China Flag Wikipedia

Microsoft often champions its human rights efforts and has gotten behind several movements aiming for more freedom. However, as a private company seeking to make profit, the company must balance those commitments with appeasing customers and partners. Sometimes that balancing act means there are some clear contradictions in Microsoft’s policy compared to practice.

This has been evident recently in China, where Microsoft has fallen foul of censorship in the country. China is noted as, well, having a less than stellar human rights record. Freedom of information is patchy in the country at best.

Microsoft and indeed other companies have to go through significant censorship before their products can be used in China. It is the same for movies, music, TV, games, and all other forms of media.

In terms of Microsoft, this involves censoring/removing content that highlights some of the less than glowing parts of China’s history. A notable example if the Tiananmen Square massacre. As you might expect, Microsoft is not permitted to show any information on Bing Search related to the event, including images of the infamous Tank Man.

LinkedIn Profile Blocking

Recently, Microsoft accidentally spread that censorship worldwide, meaning the Tank Man image was off limits for Bing users around the world. In the latest clear indication Microsoft kneels to China’s demands, the company actively hides LinkedIn profiles in China if they mention Tiananmen Square.

Cybersecurity researcher Kevin Beaumont discovered the censorship. Before hiding a profile, LinkedIn sends the following messages to users:

“Your LinkedIn profile is an integral part of how you present your professional self to the world. That’s why we believe it’s important to inform you that due to the presence of prohibited content located in the Skills & endorsements section of your Linkedin profile, your profile and your public activity. such as your comments and items you share with your network, will not be made viewable in China. Your profile and activity continues to remain viewable throughout the rest of the countries in which Linkedin is available. We will work with you to minimize the impact and can review your profile’s accessibility within China if you update the Skills & endorsements section of your profile. But the decision whether to update your profile is yours.

In February 2014, we began offering a localized version of Linkedin in China. We believe that people everywhere can benefit from Chinese individuals connecting with each other and Linkedin members in other parts of the world, and that the creation of economic opportunity can have a profound impact on their lives and the lives of their families and communities.

While we strongly support freedom of expression, we recognized when we launched that we would need to adhere to the requirements of the Chinese government in order to operate in China. As a reminder, your profile will remain viewable throughout the rest of the countries in which Linkedin is available.”

Rock and a Hard Place

Sure, LinkedIn is essentially apologizing in a “we don’t agree but want to make money” kind of way, and that’s exactly the problem Microsoft faces in China. As a massive market, it make economic sense for the company to play China’s games and censor content locally. However, it comes at the cost of making the company look hypocritical.

Let’s be clear again, this is not an issue unique to Microsoft. It is a universal problem for any company wanting to do business in China. One question is, why do companies keep bowing to China’s rules and not take a unified stance? Well, once again it comes down to money. Never forget a private company is more interested in profit that your human rights, no matter how noble they may appear.

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Microsoft to Beef Up Legal Division Amid Increased Regulatory Scrutiny

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U.S. regulators are starting to take a tougher stance against Big Tech companies, following the lead of European lawmakers. While Microsoft has avoided the first of major investigations, the message is clear… big tech is changing and scrutiny will increase. Microsoft president Brad Smith says the company is responding to the change by beefing up its legal and corporate affairs division.

Speaking to Axios, Smith, who also serves as Microsoft’s chief lawyer, says the company will increase the division by 20% over the coming fiscal year. The drive is part of a wider recruitment push by Microsoft that is targeting key areas of its business.

“This reflects a conclusion that this decade will bring expanded tech regulation around the world,” Smith said. “As I sometimes put it inside the company, the 2020s will bring to tech what the 1930s brought to financial services.”

While Microsoft is boosting its legal team to help thwart legal action from regulators, there is another motive. With a wider legal team, the company will be able to better position itself to adhere to regulations and avoid litigations.

“While I think it is easy for people to focus just on antitrust law and just the U.S., what is happening is much bigger and broader than that,” Smith said. “This is a sweeping set of changes. The wise course in our view is to start to prepare what it takes.”

Interestingly, Microsoft’s decisions to increase its legal arsenal comes just as a private agreement with Google to avoid suing each other comes to an end. Microsoft and Google have avoided legal wrangling because they have been participating in a legal truce. This six-year pact is about to come to an end, so the floodgates may open.

Big Tech Investigation

Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon are currently all under investigation for anti-trust. Those are Microsoft’s biggest rivals and they are being targeted by five bills presented to the House this month.

Those five bills give regulators more funds to beef up investigations and punishments against offending Big Tech companies. Specifically, there will be a focus on stopping monopolization practices, such as companies buying smaller competitors.

The bills and investigation are aimed at the four companies with criteria they have a $600 billion market cap and over 50 million monthly active users. Interestingly, Microsoft fits the criteria but is not part of the investigation.

Earlier this month a Republican politician called for Microsoft to be included in such an investigation.

Tip of the day: Thanks to the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) you can run complete Linux distributions within Windows 10. In our tutorial, we show you how to install Ubuntu or other Linux packages and how to activate the bash shell.

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Business Technology

Microsoft’s Leaked MS Poll Shows How Employees Rate Working for the Company

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Microsoft has over 160,000 employees around the world and you probably think it would be pretty good working for the company. However, what do a majority of those employees really think? Well, a leaked internal poll shows what 132,000 of Microsoft’s staff think about working for the tech giant.

Each year, the company conducts the MS Poll, an internal employee satisfaction survey. In this poll, Microsoft staff can offer their opinion on a wide range of work areas, such as work/life balance, compensation, benefits, and leadership.

Microsoft has a good reputation as an employer, and it seems the MS Poll backs up that feeling. The survey shows employees are overwhelmingly positive about their work experience with Microsoft. Specifically under the category of “work group health” which includes inclusion, career development, and work/life balance.

However, there was a little more dissatisfaction when they were asked if they get a “good deal” financially by working for the company.

Details found by Business Insider show 123,000 of 149,000 eligible employees took part on the 2021 MS Poll. That’s 88% of the company’s staff, with the remaining 12% opting not to participate.

Results

The “inclusion index” category drew the most responses, with 90% providing positive responses for “authenticity, belonging, belief in the commitment to diversity”.

Some other categories were less effusive, but still delivered positive results. For example, the “performance” category saw 66% respond favorably, while “deal” saw 73%. This latter category seems to be about whether an employee believes they get a good deal by working with Microsoft.

“Pay” has often been one of the more contentious points of the MS Poll over the years. For example, in 2020 just 55% of those asked believed their bonuses, salary, and equity were comparable with similar jobs at other companies. Unfortunately, no data regarding compensation has been leaked this year.

However, it did show that 84% of employees surveyed gave a favorable response to the “Work Group Health Index” category.

Tip of the day:

Did you know that your data and privacy might be at risk if you run Windows 10 without encryption? A bootable USB with a live-linux distribution is often just enough to gain access to all of your files.

If you want to change that, check out our detailed BitLocker guide where we show you how to turn on encryption for your system disk or any other drive you might be using in your computer.

Source Winbuzzer

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Business Technology

Microsoft Switches All Services to Exclusively Use SHA-2

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Microsoft is finally leaving SHA-1 behind and is moving all of its services to Secure Hash Algorithm 2 (SHA-2). Specifically, the company says the transition will start from next month, making all services SHA-2 exclusive.

Secure Hash Algorithm 1 (SHA-1) is a quarter of a century old and is a system that creates hashes through cryptographics. Major weaknesses were found in SHA-1 by Google back in 2017 and browsers have been adopting SHA-2 since.

Microsoft is going a step further and moving all services under the newer algorithm. This completes a move Microsoft has been discussing for years. Back in 2019, the company signaled its intentions to switch to SHA-2:

“Unfortunately, the security of the SHA-1 hash algorithm has become less secure over time due to weaknesses found in the algorithm, increased processor performance, and the advent of cloud computing,” Microsoft said at the time.

“Stronger alternatives such as the Secure Hash Algorithm 2 (SHA-2) are now strongly preferred as they do not suffer from the same issues.”

Transition

SHA-2 is a newer improved version of SHA-2 and provides enhanced security and better performance. Microsoft will now let the SHA-1 certificate expire and move to SHA-2 Trusted Root Certificate Authority. The company says this will happen from May 9, 2021 at 4PM PT.

Microsoft is not making a big deal of this move, and describes it as “uneventful”. That’s because the company already tested all the major apps. Still, the company is urging enterprise customers to also make the switch:

“Manually installed enterprise or self-signed SHA-1 certificates will not be impacted; however we strongly encourage your organization to move to SHA-2 if you have not done so already.”

Tip of the day:

Did you know that your data and privacy might be at risk if you run Windows 10 without encryption? A bootable USB with a live-linux distribution is often just enough to gain access to all of your files.

If you want to change that, check out our detailed BitLocker guide where we show you how to turn on encryption for your system disk or any other drive you might be using in your computer.

Source Winbuzzer

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