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Microsoft Project Natick Rises from the Deep to Prove Underwater Datacenter Viability

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Project Natick is a Microsoft initiative that focuses on placing a datacenter on the ocean floor. After several years of developing and testing, Microsoft has raised its datacenter from the seabed. According to the company, the results point to a new era of cloud data reliability.

Microsoft’s efforts to develop underwater datacenters was launched in 2014. In 2017, Project Natick was selected among the 190 finalists of the first World Changing Ideas Awards. By 2018, the project was ready and deployed underwater off the coast of Scotland’s Orkney Islands.

Power came from the European Marine Energy Centre, a project set up to monitor renewable energy from tidal power. Since 2018, Microsoft’s 40-foot capsule has sat on the sea floor with 864 servers on board and 117 feet of Atlantic Ocean above it.

Microsoft’s goal has been to show underwater data centers are viable. The company aims to highlight the environmental, economic, and logistical benefits of such technology. In a blog post this week, Microsoft says the Project Natick capsule has been risen from the deep.

In the post, Microsoft says its prediction about the benefits of underwater datacenters have been upheld.

“The consistently cool subsurface seas also allow for energy-efficient data centre designs. For example, they can leverage heat-exchange plumbing such as that found on submarines,” the blog post says.

Early Success

Needless to say, the capsule rose slightly grimier than when it was sunk. After a cleanup, the capsule had health checks. Microsoft points out some of the servers and cables failed. While that seems problematic, Ben Cutler, a project manager in Microsoft’s Special Projects research group says the company saw 8x more reliability.

“The team hypothesizes that the atmosphere of nitrogen, which is less corrosive than oxygen, and the absence of people to bump and jostle components, are the primary reasons for the difference. If the analysis proves this correct, the team may be able to translate the findings to land data centres,” Cutler adds.

Source Winbuzzer

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Business Technology

Microsoft Fixes Zerologon, One of the Most Dangerous Bugs Ever

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Each month, Microsoft issues its Patch Tuesday updates. These are cumulative rollups that tackle security flaws across the companies services. While many Patch Tuesday events cause their own set of bugs, there is obvious importance in installing updates to shore up major flaws and mitigate attacks.

When a Patch Tuesday arrives, Microsoft details all security vulnerabilities it fixes. However, without digging deep into the release notes, some bugs are fixed and simply ignored. One such bug and subsequent fix came with no details during last month’s August Patch Tuesday.

Specifically, this bug is known as Zerologon and is especially dangerous. Microsoft’s fix is under the identifier CVE-2020-1472 but was not detailed properly until Dutch security firm Secura B.V. issued a blog post this week.

In fact, Zerologon may be one of the most dangerous bugs Microsoft has ever dealt with. It would allow attackers to easily take control of Windows Servers. It is an elevation of privilege flaw found in Netlogon, a Microsoft process that authenticates users against domain controllers.

Microsoft rates the flaw as a full security score of 10, meaning it is as severe as it gets. That may explain why Microsoft never made the details of the vulnerability public.

Enterprise Attack

Secura shows Microsoft was correct to deem Zerologon an especially dangerous vulnerability. Researchers point an exploit of the bug would allow attackers to impersonate a user on any machine across a network. They could also disable security in Netlogon and change computer security credentials on Active Directory.

Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the bug is an attack would move quickly. In fact, infiltration would only last three seconds at the most. Attackers could also use a Zerologon attack to change passwords and relatively easily take over a whole organization’s network. Enterprises beware!

While this is clearly an extremely dangerous vulnerability, an attacker would face some limitations. For example, they would need to be inside the network in some way. If the actor could enter the Windows Server, then all bets are off, and the target compny is in big trouble:

“This attack has a huge impact,” Secura researchers say. “It basically allows any attacker on the local network (such as a malicious insider or someone who simply plugged in a device to an on-premise network port) to completely compromise the Windows domain.”

As the start of this article suggests, Microsoft has already sent out a patch for Zerologon. However, Microsoft says the patch will be rolled out over two phases due to the sheer complexity of sending out a fix to billions of enterprise devices.

Last month’s fix was a temporary one to mitigate any exploit until the phased rollout is complete.

Source Winbuzzer

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Business Technology

Microsoft Debuts Deepfake Authenticator Tool Ahead of the U.S. Elections

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Many would agree deepfake technology is both extremely interesting and potentially very dangerous. On the one hand, it is a world-changing technology, but in the wrong hands could be pushed too far. Certainly, tech companies share that optimism and concern. Microsoft wants to combat deepfakes and is launching a tool to help.

Deepfake are photos, videos, or audio that are synthetic media. They manipulate the original content with artificial intelligence (AI) to make it seem the content is something else. For example, a person talking in their bedroom could use deepfake to make themselves look like Tom Cruise, complete with movements and voice.

While the technology is still new, it is improving constantly. Some of the best deepfakes will fool people who don’t pay enough attention. In a few years, it’s fair to presume deepfake tech could become seamless.

If that happens, there are concerns the tech could be used for nefarious means. That concern is already there, and Microsoft has announced a video authenticator tool to point out deepfakes. The tool can analyze a video or image and offer a percentage chance of whether the media has been manipulated.

Improving Detection

As deepfake tech improves, these sorts of detection tools will become important. Creating a Tom Cruise video in your bedroom is fun but creating a video where you make it look like Tom Cruise is saying something illegal or inflammatory is dangerous.

It is worth noting Microsoft is not seeking to stop deepfakes. Instead, the company wants to give users tools to know when media has been changed. This distinction is important. If detection tools become better, deepfake could be resigned to just being an entertainment technology.

At the moment, Microsoft is concerned deepfakes will play a part in this year’s Presidential Elections.

“We expect that methods for generating synthetic media will continue to grow in sophistication. As all AI detection methods have rates of failure, we have to understand and be ready to respond to deepfakes that slip through detection methods,” the company said in a blog post.

“Thus, in the longer term, we must seek stronger methods for maintaining and certifying the authenticity of news articles and other media.”

Microsoft’s authenticator was created in partnership with the AI Foundation. It is available to organizations in the political realm as part of the Foundation’s Reality Defender 2020 Initiative. At the moment, the tool is only available through the initiative.

“Improving media literacy will help people sort disinformation from genuine facts and manage risks posed by deepfakes and cheap fakes,” Microsoft adds. “Practical media knowledge can enable us all to think critically about the context of media and become more engaged citizens while still appreciating satire and parody.”

Source Winbuzzer

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Business Technology

Instagram Hit by Phishing Campaign Targeting Messages

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Cybercriminals originating from Turkey are conducting phishing campaigns against unwitting Instagram (IG) users. According to cybersecurity researchers, the ploy involves sending messages that look like official Instagram messages.

If the victim falls for the trick and clicks a link, they are leaving the door open to bad actors stealing their email credentials and IG details.

So far, the campaign has already gone after hundreds of celebrities. Instagram has become a favorite amongst famous people, and many cybercriminals see them as easy targets. However, the phishing attacks are also targeting startups and any other Instagrammer with a high follow number.

Researchers caught the attack when a police officer with a large follow base was attacked.

Phishing attacks are typically associated with email, and that’s how previous campaigns on Instagram have unfolded. However, the latest attack method involves directly messaging people on their IG account.

This is arguably more effective because users would be more willing to blindly believe a seemingly official IG message on the platform itself.

“The message also provides a link which masquerades as a form for sending an appeal but which is actually a phishing link,” Trend Micro researcher point out in a recent report. “Opening the link leads to a page where the user will be requested to provide their username. As of writing, the form has no data validation, meaning that any input — even a non-existent account or no input at all — would be accepted.”

Trap

If an unwitting user selects “Next” on the landing page, they are asked to give their name, password, email address, and email password. Essentially, their account credentials for IG. Notably, many users would likely understand Instagram would never ask for all this information at once. However, many will also be fooled by the campaign.

When a user inputs the information and selects “Continue”, they are sent to the real IG login page.

“If the user was already logged in to the social media site before tapping the said button, the form then redirects to their homepage,” the researchers add. “This gives the illusion that the form they filled out is officially connected to Instagram.”

Attackers can use the information to log into a victims account, remove their cell number and change the email… essentially taking control of the account.

Researchers say users can use extreme caution when any service request full details.

Source Winbuzzer

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Business Technology

Microsoft Defender ATP Lands on Android in Public Preview

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Back in June, Microsoft Defender ATP (Advanced Threat Protection) was confirmed for release on the Android mobile platform. Microsoft made a promise a preview of the security tool would come to Google’s service soon. Well, now Defender ATP has made its debut in public preview.

Users can get the app from the Google Play Store, but this is not a free tool. Instead, it is part of Redmond’s wider Microsoft 365 E5 license. That removes all but the top paying enterprise customers who subscribe to Microsoft 365’s top tier.

It’s still an important release because Microsoft is increasingly positioning its mobile tools to business users and not consumers.

Back in June when the company made its announcement regarding Microsoft Defender ATP on Android, it was seemingly to coincide with the Surface Duo. Microsoft’s new Android smartphone is certainly for business users, with camera and other consumer-focused features taking a back seat.

Considering the Surface Duo is launching in September, the arrivals of Microsoft Defender ATP is timely. Microsoft announced its plan to bring Microsoft Defender ATP to Android and iOS back in February.

Users need to be running Android 6 or newer and can get ATP from the Google Play Store here.

Features

As for the core features of Microsoft Defender ATP, here are the details:

  • “Protection from phishing and access to risky domains and URLs through web protection capabilities that will block unsafe sites accessed through SMS/text, WhatsApp, email, browsers, and other apps. We’re using the same Microsoft Defender SmartScreen services that are on Windows to quickly detect malicious sites which means that a decision to block a suspicious site will apply across all devices in the enterprise.
  • Proactive scanning of malicious applications, files, and potentially unwanted applications (PUA) that users may download to their mobile devices. Our capabilities and investments in cloud-powered protection and intelligence on application reputation allow us to quickly detect sophisticated malware and apps that that may display undesirable behavior.
  • Adding layers of protection to help prevent and limit the impact of breaches in an organization. By leveraging tight integration with Microsoft Endpoint Manager and Conditional Access, mobile devices that have been compromised with malicious apps or malware are considered high risk and are blocked from accessing corporate resources.

A unified security experience through Microsoft Defender Security Center where defenders can see alerts and easily get the additional context they need to quickly assess and respond to threats across Windows, Mac, Linux, and now mobile devices.”

Source Winbuzzer

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Business Technology

Microsoft Bing Maps COVID-19 Tracker Now Includes Vaccines

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Microsoft provided a fast reaction of the COVID-19 pandemic with its Bing Maps coronavirus tracker. Arriving at the start of the crisis in March, the tracker shows a worldwide overview of COVID-19 data by compiling information online.

In an update to the tracker, Microsoft says Bing Maps can now track and chart COVID-19 vaccines. According to the company, the tool can find vaccine candidates around the world and users can track progress of trials.

Of course, no vaccine for COVID-19 exists. However, there are several in-development vaccines that are being explored. For those who are tracking COVID-19 information, the Bing Maps expansion could be a valuable tool.

Bing Against COVID

During the crisis, the Bing COVID-19 tracker has been used by millions to get accurate information and up-to-date data on the spread of the virus.

It allows users to view various aspects of the outbreak, such cases per country, currently active cases, recovered cases, and fatalities. In the United States, the interactive map offers more granular controls, such as state-by-state information.

For more local information, users can go deeper into data from individual countries. When a nation is selected, Bing search will surface news stories and videos related to COVID-19 from that country.

Microsoft leverages data from the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and Wikipedia, to ensure information is accurate and timely.

Bing was also used to bring a COVID-19 search function directly into the Windows 10 Search bar. Windows users can now tap directly into the Bing coronavirus interactive map. Alternatively, you can select the headlines button to be taken to MSN (Microsoft News) to see the latest news on COVID-19.

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Business Technology

Power BI Mobile Receives New Navigation and Share Tools

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Microsoft has this week rolled out the latest version of Power BI Mobile. With this update, the virtualization and analysis platform on iOS and Android has several improvements. Among them are new headers, and an overhaul of the navigation experience.

Starting with Navigation, Microsoft has put a new Navigation tree in Power BI Mobile. Users can access the location of their content through a hierarchy system. Finding items within a hierarchy is now simple and can be done in one click.

Furthermore, there are also direct routes to both the home page and related content. Microsoft says report pages will be displayed in their entirety under the new Navigation system.

Elsewhere in the new Power BI Mobile update, Microsoft has changed headers for dashboards, apps, and reports. Specifically, there is now a “Share” tool that allows users to share links from items in applications that are installed on their device. Also on the new header experience, actions have been shuffled.

Finally, Microsoft says this update brings the “pinch and zoom” feature to all report layouts on mobile.

If you’re interested in Power BI Mobile on Android, find it at the Google Play Store here. Users on Apple’s iOS can head to the App Store here.

Power BI on Smartphones

Last September, Microsoft introduced a new design for its Power BI Mobile experience.

The app received a new home page to make accessing features simpler. From this central hub, users can select between two tabs, Quick Access and Activity.

Furthermore, Power Bi mobile now has a new navigation bar that has replaced the Hamburger menu. It is this new navigation menu that was tweaked in the latest update. Microsoft says the new method for accessing and navigating the app will make swapping pages more efficient.

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Business Technology

TikTok Found Secretly Collecting Android Users Data

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There has been a lot written about TikTok in recent weeks, including Microsoft’s interest in buying some of the company. In the United States, the Trump administration wants to ban the service, accusing it of passing state secrets to the Chinese government. With that in mind, the discovery TikTok has collected Android user data without permission is not a good look.

According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), TikTok has taken unique identifiers from millions of Android users. This has been specifically banned by Google and was done without the user knowing. The report says this allowed TikTok to secretly track users online.

It is worth noting the report points out Chinese company ByteDance, which owns TikTok, stopped the practice last November.

TikTok was collecting MAC addresses, which are unique identifiers held by devices within the network connector. Because manufacturers install these MAC addresses and rarely change them, they have become sought after by advertisers. With a device MAC address, third parties can send targeted content to devices and gain unique knowledge on a user’s online behavior.

TikTok was found to be gathering this information for 15 months and sent it directly to ByteDance. Amazingly, this practice was done the first time the TikTok app was used after installation. It also included the advertising ID from the device. This is a 32-digit number that gives advertisers a way to track users.

Damaged Reputation

Again, this is going to do nothing to help TikTok as it aims to remain in the United States. Donald Trump is actively trying to remove the company from the United States. This is part of his war against Chinese companies who the administration believe are working with the China government.

An executive order stops ByteDance from handling any transactions in the United States. This order will come into effect within the next 45 days and could mean TikTok leaves the market in the country.

As we reported last week, Microsoft has confirmed it has an interest in buying TikTok’s operations in the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Trump spoke about the matter and Microsoft says discussions are ongoing.

This week, the WSJ said Twitter is also looking at the popular video social network.

Source Winbuzzer

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Business Technology

Twitter Reportedly Joins Microsoft in Pursuit of TikTok Acquisition

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Last week, Microsoft confirmed it has an interest in acquiring TikTok, specifically the company’s U.S., Australia, and New Zealand operations. Redmond spoke to President Trump about a potential deal and remains the only company officially interested. However, the Wall Street Journal reports Twitter is also hovering around the popular video social network.

According to the WSJ, Twitter is seeking a “combination” with TikTok parent ByteDance. This could mean the company does not seek to purchase operations but instead have licensing in certain markets.

Whether it’s Microsoft or Twitter, any deal for TikTok would have to clear major obstacles. The most obvious is Donald Trump actively trying to remove the company from the United States. This is part of his war against Chinese companies who the administration believe are working with the China government.

An executive order stops ByteDance from handling any transactions in the United States. This order will come into effect within the next 45 days and could mean TikTok leaves the market in the country. However, ByteDance says it will challenge the order.

It is believed some companies are interested in rescuing TikTok in the country. Any purchase would allow the buyer to control the brand in relevant markets. ByteDance would retain control in other markets.

Microsoft’s Interest

A week ago, Microsoft said it was looking at TikTok’s U.S. operations. It is clear Redmond is serious about a potential deal considering it’s rare for a company to confirm such interest before making an offer.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Trump spoke about the matter and Microsoft says discussions are ongoing. Such a concrete interest suggests Microsoft has been following TikTok for some time. Any deal would be huge and cost Microsoft billions.

Just a week ago, Reuters reported on Sequoia Capital and General Atlantic bidding for the entirety of TikTok for $50 billion. Microsoft is interested only in operations in the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. Still, this would require a massive outlay considering TikTok claims to have 100 million users in the U.S. alone and is growing.

Source Winbuzzer
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Business Technology

WhatsApp Debuts Search the Web Tool to Fact Check Fake News

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WhatsApp has rolled out a new feature that will help users avoid fake news and other problematic content. Called “Search the Web”, the tool allows users to receive links to find pertinent information on a topic.

While services like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Slack battle over enterprise communication, WhatsApp continues to lead the way in terms of consumer-fronted tools. Still, like other communication services, it has struggled to prevent the spread of misinformation.

That said, the Facebook-owned company has also done a decent job at avoiding the numerous controversies that have befallen its parent company. WhatsApp has often taken a more proactive approach to keeping users safe, keeping content private, and helping them avoid fake news.

Search the Web is the next step. By using the tool, users can find stories when they are discussing a topic. Not only does the tool provide more information on the subject matter, it can weed out fake information.

In a blog post, WhatsApp showed an example. A user was discussing the incorrect claim that boiled garlic water can be consumed to cure COVID-19. By using the new magnifying glass icon, the user could search the web. Results show fact checking websites that highlight whether information is incorrect or not.

Stopping Fake News

During the COVID-19 pandemic, WhatsApp has introduced several measures to stop the spread of misinformation. In April, the company restricted the use of double arrow messages. WhatsApp debuted the double arrows feature back in 2019. It allows users to know which messages have come from third-party sources and have been shared many times. Amid COVID-19, users have been limited to one double-arrow message per chat.

Search the web is being rolled out starting today in Brazil, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, UK, and US.

Source Winbuzzer

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