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  1. German government is too dependent on "single software providers", but changing that will be difficult and costly. A report commissioned by the German government identifies strategic risks in using Microsoft software A study commissioned by the German interior ministry has confirmed what many critics have long argued: the German government is too dependent on Microsoft software. Germany's ministry of the interior asked management consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers, or PwC, to produce a "Strategic market analysis on reducing dependence on single software providers". In the 34-page document released yesterday, researchers conclude that "at all levels" the German government is "strongly dependent" on very few software providers. And that is particularly true for Microsoft, whose Office and Windows programs are running on 96% of public officials' computers. This dependence results in "pressure points in the federal government, that work in opposition to the government's [stated] strategic IT goals," the report notes. Concerns about information security at Microsoft could "endanger the country's digital sovereignty". That observation is not new. The German administration's dependence on Microsoft has already come in for plenty of criticism, most recently this summer, when ministers agreed to extend contracts with Microsoft to 2022. In 2018, the central government had spent €73m ($80m) on Microsoft licenses, around €25m ($27.5m) over the forecast budget – and that was without the cost of providing German state governments with Microsoft software. As opposition politicians pointed out, the total amounts to hundreds of millions of taxpayers' money. Besides financial concerns there are also political ones. Despite their best attempts, Germany's Data Protection Conference, or BSK, a collection of state-appointed data-protection officers who are trying to establish whether Windows 10 conforms to national regulations, has not been able to find out exactly what diagnostics, or telemetric information, Microsoft is collecting and where it is being sent. Reacting to the PwC report, Microsoft told the Tagesspiegel newspaper that the company is only there to support the German government and to "improve services for citizens". Its customers had made a choice to use them, and anyway, the Microsoft statement said, even the PwC study said there is "no realistic option" that could be implemented in the medium term. The interior ministry appears to agree, with a spokesperson telling the same newspaper that it isn't planning to stop using Microsoft tomorrow. Instead, there would be further negotiations with software providers, including Microsoft, and then research into options suggested in the PwC report. "We will also be assessing alternative programs, to be able to replace certain software," interior minister Horst Seehofer said in a statement. "This will happen in close coordination with the [German] states as well as the EU." Digital sovereignty is particularly challenging for the German government, Sidonie Krug, a spokesperson for political affairs at Eco, the Association of the German Internet Economy, tells ZDNet. "The federal system means that practically every state and even every district has its own IT system." Even at federal level, hierarchies of responsibility for IT create a lengthy decision-making process that can delay necessary changes. "That's why we've been saying for years that a ministry of digital affairs is needed," she argues, an appropriately financed body that can coordinate all these activities. Bernhard Rohleder, head of Bitkom, an association representing more than 2,600 German companies, says digital sovereignty isn't something that's decided by the operating system running on a civil servant's computer. "It's about being able to freely choose, and have the ability to produce, IT products." Rohleder believes the findings of this report mostly highlight Germany's lost leadership role in critical technologies. "Mutual interdependence is acceptable," he tells ZDNet. "But one-sided dependence must be avoided at all costs." The PwC report presents the German government with various options for improvement. These included setting a framework and rules for the future use of other software, particularly open source. Another option involves negotiating individual deals with software providers. For example, the Dutch justice department has come to an arrangement with Microsoft about the security of telemetric data, while the Israeli government had done a deal on the cost of cloud storage. Realistic goals, user acceptance, taking it step by step, ensuring the right IT skills are available and utilizing the knowledge of open-source communities are all important aspects to seeking digital independence and reaching critical mass, the report's authors argue. It also provides an example of how not to do it: In the early 2000s, city administrators in Munich decided to switch to open-source software – Linux and LibreOffice (formerly OpenOffice) – for both security reasons and to save money. The migration was partially successful with some user groups but around a third of the Bavarian civil servants stayed with Microsoft for one reason or another. This led to the emergence of two parallel systems and eventually, to more expense and less efficiency. In 2017, Munich decided to switch back to just one system: Microsoft's . Digital sovereignty is not impossible for Germany, Dirk Riehle, a professor of open-source software at Friedrich Alexander University in Nuremberg, tells ZDNet. There are three main aspects to it, he says: software, data and servers. Data is the most difficult – as the Eco association reports, only about 4% of the world's data is hosted in the EU – and Germany is tied to the US and China. But when it comes to software, open source presents realistic opportunities, Riehle says, and the country can also build its own server centers. In terms of the German government, he says, some departments obviously need digital sovereignty more than others, while some aspects of general online consumer behavior may not need any. So this should be carefully assessed, Riehle adds. "And we should be clear. It's not easy and it will be expensive, not least because it will be difficult to maintain," he says. "Germany will never have the economies of scale in this area either, so we will be paying extra for our sovereignty. Digital sovereignty is possible, yes, but there will be high costs." Source
  2. Microsoft subsidiary GitHub announced today that it has become a CVE Numbering Authority and that it completed its acquisition of Semmle code-analysis platform. Semmle's analysis engine, QL, simplifies the process of finding variations of the same coding mistake over large codebases, allowing faster discovery of security vulnerabilities. GitHub to improve bug scanning process GitHub plans to add the Semmle technology into its services and improve code development and vulnerability disclosure process for its users. Semmle treats source code as data and makes it possible to identify entire vulnerability classes at a much quicker rate than traditional code analysis methods. The product is now used by big organizations like Google, Uber, Microsoft, and NASA. "Security researchers identify vulnerabilities and their variants with a QL query. This query can be shared and run over many codebases, freeing up security researchers to do what they love and do best: hunt for new classes of vulnerability." - Shanku Niyogi, GitHub SVP of Product GitHub plans to integrate Semmle into its services and provide the 36 million developers on the platform the possibility to check their code for bugs before releasing the product. This is currently in the early stages. Easier bug reporting, tracking, and fixing Starting today, GitHub is a Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) Numbering Authority, or a CNA, in short, which means that it can assign identifiers for vulnerabilities. Security advisories opened on the platform can now be tracked easier and researchers, maintainers, and developers can better collaborate towards fixing security problems. It is worth noting that GitHub already triaged vulnerabilities from the reports it received, to confirm impact and affected users before releasing alerts. The automatic security fixes feature, which came after acquiring the Dependabot service for automated dependency updates (Ruby, Python, JavaScript, PHP, .NET, Go, Elixir, Rust, Java, and Elm), patching dependencies is no longer a manual task for developers. With these changes, GitHub strengthens its role in cybersecurity offering its huge developer base services for discovering vulnerabilities in their projects at a faster rate, for tracking bugs, and for automating dependency patching. Source
  3. Mere days before Microsoft workers are set to walk out of their jobs and publicly call on their employer to reduce carbon emissions and sever its ties with fossil fuel companies, the tech giant has announced a major partnership with two of the biggest corporations in the oil industry. Microsoft employees have responded with a fiery statement condemning the partnership and calling on fellow employees to join them in walking out on September 20th. When hundreds of Amazon workers announced last week that they would be walking out to protest their company’s inadequate climate policies, Microsoft employees were quick to join their fellow Seattleites. On September 9, a group called Microsoft Workers 4 Good tweeted “Microsoft workers will be joining millions of people around the world by participating in the youth-led Global Climate Strike on September 20th to demand an end to the age of fossil fuels.” The workers’ demands are straightforward: “Zero carbon emissions by 2030. Zero contracts with fossil fuel companies. Zero funding of climate denial lobbying or other efforts. Zero harm to climate refugees and frontline communities.” Google, Facebook, and others pledged support for the multi-city walkout, some of which is being organized through the burgeoning Tech Workers Coalition. Then, on September 17, just three days before the well-publicized climate events, Microsoft announced that it had partnered with Chevron, the oil giant, and Schlumberger, the world’s largest oilfield services provider, to accelerate oil field development and extraction of fossil fuels. It is, as Microsoft stated in its release yesterday, “the industry’s first three-party collaboration to accelerate creation of innovative petrotechnical and digital technologies.” The partnership will “dramatically accelerate the speed with which we can analyze data to generate new exploration opportunities and bring prospects to development more quickly and with more certainty,” said Joseph C. Geagea, an executive vice president at Chevron, according to the Houston Chronicle. Essentially, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform Azure will host Schlumberger’s DELFI “cognitive exploration and production environment,” and the two companies will work with Chevron to build AI-powered applications native to both. If successful, the project’s stakeholders have stated they hope to expand the technology and make it available to other oil companies, too. It is, in other words, a project explicitly designed to improve the speed at which oil companies can develop new sites for fossil fuel extraction, as well as the rates of extraction at existing sites. The partnership aims to ensure more oil is extracted and burned, more efficiently. It would help increase carbon emissions, and it’s a new contract with a fossil fuel company—a stark affront to the first two asks of the tech worker climate organizers. “This is a bad look,” tweeted Calvin Jones, a senior product manager at Microsoft, when the news broke. Indeed, the announcement angered a number of employees. One Microsoft worker, who was granted anonymity, told me he was “enraged” by the announcement. “To me it really highlights where Microsoft’s priorities are,” he said. “Needless to say, it is money that drives the company and its actions. But this is starting to be at the expense of our planet.” It also outraged the employees who have been helping to organize the walkout, driving them to release a powerful, sometimes emotional statement urging more Microsoft workers to join them. “With this kind of news making headlines just three days before the Global Climate Strike,” it reads, “it’s no longer possible for us to ignore Microsoft’s complicity in the climate crisis.” It continues: “Microsoft makes millions of dollars in profits by helping fossil fuel companies extract more oil. In this week’s company-wide all-hands, our CEO, Satya Nadella, defended our contracts with Big Oil by suggesting that our technology helps them in their R&D efforts to develop sustainable energy. Yet, this is in clear contradiction to the ambitions of fossil fuel-CEOs and even other Microsoft leaders: Azure Executive Tom Keane, in discussing Microsoft’s multimillion dollar contract with Chevron, asked “How can we [..] more efficiently do oil exploration? Or more efficiently do sensor management from an offshore oil rig?” “As Microsoft workers, we’ve been made complicit.” “If we want to make real impact, all of us need to mobilize, work together, and demand a fundamental change in Microsoft’s priorities,” it continues, “It is imperative that all tech companies stand together, denounce the usage of Cloud and AI services for non-renewable energy extraction, and work together to put an end to fossil fuel consumption.” Gizmodo obtained a copy of the statement, which was first sent to internal channels, then posted on GitHub, where it can now be read in full here. This kind of partnership is not new to the company. Microsoft has been aggressively courting the oil industry, forming partnerships with ExxonMobil and hosting exhibitions like “Empowering Oil & Gas with AI” at industry conferences. Yet the timing of this announcement seems particularly aggressive, given the well-publicized stake that Microsoft employees have in the climate strike. It also remains remarkable that Microsoft’s very public founder, Bill Gates, has made climate change a central focus of his philanthropy, and that he has made no public statement regarding the shift of the company he started towards embracing the oil industry. At this point, of the big five tech companies, Microsoft is perhaps doing the most to explicitly accelerate climate change. “This statement was necessary because we need to do more,” one of its authors, also a Microsoft employee, told me. “Microsoft has so many resources and people power to make great change and emerge as a leader in sustainability. We need to stand with Amazon and Google as a united front and prove that together, we’re an unstoppable force. The Global Climate Strike on September 20th is our chance to show just that. And this statement is calling on everyone, Microsoft employee or not, to come out and show their support.” Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment. Source
  4. By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols Computerworld With Microsoft embracing Linux ever more tightly, might it do the heretofore unthinkable and dump the NT kernel in favor of the Linux kernel? No, I’m not ready for the funny farm. As it prepares Windows 11, Microsoft has been laying the groundwork for such a radical release. I’ve long toyed with the idea that Microsoft could release a desktop Linux. Now I’ve started taking that idea more seriously — with a twist. Microsoft could replace Windows’ innards, the NT kernel, with a Linux kernel. It would still look like Windows. For most users, it would still work like Windows. But the engine running it all would be Linux. Why would Microsoft do this? Well, have you been paying attention to Windows lately? It has been one foul-up after another. Just in the last few months there was the registry backup fail and numerous and regular machine-hobbling Windows updates. In fact, updates have grown so sloppy you have to seriously wonder whether it’s safer to stay open to attacks or “upgrade” your system with a dodgy patch. Remember when letting your Windows system get automatic patches every month was nothing to worry about? I do. Good times. Why is this happening? The root cause of all these problems is that, for Microsoft, Windows desktop software is now a back-burner product. It wants your company to move you to Windows Virtual Desktop and replace your existing PC-based software, like Office 2019, with software-as-a-service (SaaS) programs like Office 365. It’s obvious, right? Nobody in Redmond cares anymore, so quality assurance for Windows the desktop is being flushed down the toilet. Many of the problems afflicting Windows do not reside in the operating system’s upper levels. Instead, their roots are deep down in the NT kernel. What, then, if we could replace that rotten kernel with a fresh, healthy kernel? Maybe one that is being kept up to date by a worldwide group of passionate developers. Yes, my bias is showing, but that’s Linux, and it’s a solution that makes a lot of sense. What’s that? You can’t run your Windows applications on Linux? Wrong. CrossOver and Wine have been doing it for decades now. This works by translating Windows system calls into Linux calls. Ah, you know about Windows compatibility layers, but you can’t get past the fact that CrossOver doesn’t work with everything? Think about this: Its developers don’t have access to Windows’ full APIs and system calls. Microsoft’s software engineers, of course, do. Is this just the pipe dream of a hard-core Linux aficionado with little basis in reality? No. For one thing, I’m quite content using my Mint laptop, and what happens in Windows world is of little real concern to me. But more importantly, Microsoft has already been doing some of the needed work. Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) developers have been working on mapping Linux API calls to Windows, and vice versa. With the first version of WSL, Microsoft connected the dots between Windows-native libraries and programs and Linux. At the time, Carmen Crincoli tweeted: “2017 is finally the year of Linux on the Desktop. It’s just that the Desktop is Windows.” Who is Carmen Crincoli? Microsoft’s manager of partnerships with storage and independent hardware vendors. Since then, Microsoft has been drawing Windows and Linux ever closer. With WSL 2, Microsoft started including within Windows Insiders releases its own in-house, custom-built Linux kernel to underpin WSL. In other words, Microsoft is now shipping its own Linux kernel, which works hand-in-glove with Windows. Why not take the next natural step? Microsoft could continue to encourage users to stop using traditional desktops at all and go with the cloud, while offering the foot-draggers a far more stable and secure old-school version of Windows that just happens to run on top of Linux. Crazy? Well, so was the idea that a Microsoft CEO would get up and say, “Microsoft loves Linux.” So was the very thought that the most used operating system on Microsoft Azure would be Linux, not Windows Server. And who would have ever thought Microsoft would open up its profitable patent portfolio to open-source and Linux developers — for free? As I’m fond of saying, whenever people refuse to believe that Microsoft is now open-source-friendly: “This is not your dad’s Microsoft.” Will Microsoft release a Linux-based Windows? I don’t know. What I do know is that it has been taking the necessary steps to make such a desktop operating system possible. And unlike with the Microsoft of old, surprises do happen. Source
  5. Microsoft has added another high CPU usage issue in the list of known Windows 10 bugs. This particular problem affects some IMEs, including the Chinese Simplified (ChsIME.EXE) and Chinese Traditional (ChtIME.EXE) with Changjie/Quick keyboard. Oh, Microsoft… It’s only Tuesday and it feels like we are already done with a month’s worth of Windows 10 bug reporting. After Start menu, Search, high CPU usage, audio, and connectivity issues (most of them reported since September 10), it is now time for another problem that may result in high CPU usage. The Windows maker has said that the issue has been mitigated and a resolution will be offered in a future update. Unlike all the aforementioned issues, this particular bug isn’t specific to Windows 10 version 1903 as almost all the versions of the operating system are affected. Here is what this latest W10 problem is: IME may become unresponsive or have High CPU usage Some Input Method Editor (IME) may become unresponsive or may have high CPU usage. Affected IMEs include Chinese Simplified (ChsIME.EXE) and Chinese Traditional (ChtIME.EXE) with Changjie/Quick keyboard. Affected platforms: Client: Windows 10, version 1903; Windows 10, version 1809; Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2019; Windows 10, version 1803; Windows 10, version 1709; Windows 10, version 1703; Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2016; Windows 10, version 1607 Server: Windows Server, version 1903; Windows Server, version 1809; Windows Server 2019; Windows Server, version 1803; Windows Server, version 1709 ; Windows Server 2016 How to fix this Windows 10 IME bug Microsoft has recommended the following steps to work around this particular problem. Select the Start button and type Services. Locate Touch Keyboard and Handwriting Panel Service. Double click on it and select Properties. Locate Startup type. Change it to Manual Select Ok. “TabletInputService service is now in the default configuration and IME should work as expected,” Microsoft wrote. The company will deliver a fix in a future Windows 10 release. Can’t keep up with all the Windows 10 bugs? Here’s a short list Latest W10 Update Is Now Breaking WiFi for Some Users – Microsoft Puts Compatibility Hold on Version 1903 Weekend Brought a Fresh New W10 Update to Fix Audio Issues How to Fix the “Unnatural Orange Tint” Experienced by Some Win10 Users v1903 Bug List Increases: Latest Cumulative Update Also Introduced Audio Issues (Here’s How to Fix) Microsoft Confirms Start Menu and Search Problems in v1903 Hold On! W10 CPU Bug May Have Been Fixed but Start Menu/Search Is Broken Ahead of v1909 Release, the May 2019 Update Continues to Create Problems Source
  6. At the October 2019 event, Microsoft might announce the long rumoured dual-screen device with lightweight Windows Core OS, which has been specifically designed to support dual displays hardware. Over the past few years, and especially over the last few months, we have come across several mentions of Windows Core OS (WCOS) in Microsoft’s LinkedIn profiles. One of the profile recently revealed that Microsoft is working on a new Action Center tailored for Windows Core OS. Today, we spotted mentions of Windows Core OS in support documentation published by Microsoft earlier this year – the first time the much-rumoured Windows Core OS name has been used by Microsoft in the official documentation. The document is for Windows 10’s basic level Windows diagnostic events and fields, and Microsoft has published this privacy-focused document for every latest Windows 10 update. A section of the page, which describes the properties that could be populated by a logging library on Windows, also include mentions of Windows Core OS: wcmp The Windows Shell Composer ID. wPId The Windows Core OS product ID. wsId The Windows Core OS session ID. According to Github, Windows Core OS mentions were added to the document on April 19, 2019. In related news, a report recently claimed that Microsoft has been showing off its dual-screen device internally. Also, a patent published on Tuesday revealed a liquid-based hinge design for Microsoft’s foldable device. This Microsoft product is due next year, sometime in the first half of 2020, but it could be unveiled at the October 2019 event. Source
  7. The game quietly built up an audience despite rivals taking the spotlight. Fortnite might still have the lion's share of public attention, but that doesn't mean it's hurting the other gaming phenomenon. Microsoft's Helen Chiang told Business Insider in an interview that Minecraft now has 112 million active players every month, a surge of 20 million over figures from October 2018. This includesplayers across all platforms, including those who play the game as part of an Xbox Game Pass, but that's still no small achievement for a game that has been around in some form for roughly a decade. Chiang described it partly as a virtue of the creative game's evergreen status -- it's a title that people "keep coming back to." You may fire up Fortnite or other games that take the spotlight, but there's a real chance you'll return to building homes and tunnels in Minecraft after that. Other factors are likely important as well. On top of its sheer ubiquity across platforms, Minecraft's blocky graphics and simple mechanics make it easy to play on modestly-equipped devices, whether it's a budget PC or a smartphone. You can spend a modest amount on hardware and still get a quality experience. Microsoft's challenge at this point is to keep the game relevant. The augmented reality of Minecraft Earth helps, as does ray-tracing and other attempts to spruce up the look. It's not clear that's enough, though. Roblox recently topped 100 million monthly players, and Fortnite may not be far off (it reported 78.3 million users in August 2018). It might not take much for other games to capture the cultural zeitgeist. Source
  8. Microsoft subsidiary LinkedIn lost an appeal in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday against hiQ Labs Inc., with three justices unanimously ruling that hiQ could continue scraping publicly available information off the site, Reuters reported. LinkedIn sent a cease-and-desist to hiQ, a data analytics firm, in 2017, arguing in part that the latter company’s practice of scraping publicly available information from their platform violated the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). The CFAA is infamously vaguely written and makes it illegal to access a “protected computer” without or in excess of “authorization”—opening the door to sweeping interpretations that could be used to criminalize conduct not even close to what would traditionally be understood as hacking. (As TechDirt noted in 2016, the vagueness of “authorization” seems to invite big tech companies to direct the ire of federal prosecutors based on their own incentives “rather than by policy.”) Per Ars Technica, hiQ then sued LinkedIn “seeking not only a declaration that its scraping activities were not hacking but also an order banning LinkedIn from interfering.” hiQ won an injunction preventing LinkedIn from blacklisting them from their site with technical tools in 2017. Monday’s ruling upholds both that injunction and found that scraping publicly available data doesn’t violate the CFAA. Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon wrote that hiQ could go out of business without an injunction, as well as argued that allowing companies control over who can use publicly available data would give them too much power, Reuters wrote: She also said giving companies such as LinkedIn “free rein” over who can use public user data risked creating “information monopolies” that harm the public interest. “LinkedIn has no protected property interest in the data contributed by its users, as the users retain ownership over their profiles,” Berzon wrote. “And as to the publicly available profiles, the users quite evidently intend them to be accessed by others,” including prospective employers. According to Ars Technica, the judges also noted that in the 1980s the CFAA applied to specific computer systems with financial, military, or protected data, not the sprawling public internet of today: “None of the computers to which the CFAA initially applied were accessible to the general public. Affirmative authorization of some kind was presumptively required.” Conversely, public LinkedIn profiles are explicitly meant by their creators to be available to anyone with an internet connection. Berzon also suggested that if LinkedIn really wanted to stop the data scraping, it could simply make all profiles private: “Of course, LinkedIn could satisfy its ‘free rider’ concern by eliminating the public access option, albeit at a cost to the preferences of many users and, possibly, to its own bottom line.” The ruling “doesn’t establish that scraping websites is completely legal, but it goes a long way toward establishing that it’s not a federal crime,” University of California, Berkeley law professor Orin Kerr told the Associated Press. Kerr added that the ruling certified people “can’t be arrested and prosecuted just for visiting” a website. Source
  9. By Mary Jo Foley for All About Microsoft Microsoft may deliver a new Surface Go tablet with a more powerful CPU, if a new Geekbench benchmark offers any indication. When rumors about Microsoft's Surface Go first surfaced last May, I'd heard from my contacts that the device would ship with an Intel Core m3 processor. That didn't end up happening. But according to a recent benchmark on Geekbench, Microsoft might be readying a new model Surface Go with a faster processor. The Surface Go -- Microsoft's tablet for students, firstline workers and others wanting a small, thin and light device -- ships with a Pentium Gold CPU. But a Geekbench benchmark from April 2019 first noticed by Windows Latest raises the possibility that there could be a Surface Go with a dual-core Intel Core m3 processor. When Microsoft rolled out the Surface Go in July 2018, the 10-inch, 1.15 pound tablet came in a couple of different configurations. There was Windows 10 Home in S Mode variant upgradable for free to Windows 10 Home which started at $399 (without a keyboard). And there was a Go With Windows 10 Pro for business users. The Geekbench benchmark was for a device running Windows 10 Pro. Microsoft's fall Surface hardware launch is just around the corner. On October 2, the company is expected to introduce a number of new Surface devices, including an AMD-based Surface Laptop; an ARM-based Surface two-in-one; and an updated (with USB-C) Intel-based Surface Pro, sources have said. I haven't heard any rumors about a refreshed Surface Go being part of this October 2 launch. But Microsoft does sometimes add new models of its Surface devices to its lineup with little fanfare. If the company does end up giving the Surface Go a processor upgrade, I could see Microsoft going the quiet route. I've asked Microsoft to comment on the possibility of a Core m-based Surface Go. No word back yet. Source
  10. By Mary Jo Foley for All About Microsoft Microsoft is adding satellite support to Azure ExpressRoute and is making Azure available from two new regions in Berlin and Frankfurt, Germany. Microsoft is adding satellite connectivity as a new option for its Azure ExpressRoute private networking service. Microsoft is touting the addition of satellite support as a way to improve connectivity and performance with rural and remote sites. On September 9, Microsoft officials announced that Microsoft's cloud services now can be accessed with ExpressRoute using satellite connectivity. Microsoft added three new partners -- SES, Intelsat and Viasat -- to provide the satellite piece of its solution. ExpressRoute for satellites connects its partners' ground stations to Azure over a dedicated private link. Microsoft anticipates Azure customers in aviation, oil and gas, remote manufacturing will be potential markets for this new satellite offering. Satellite connectivity with ExpressRoute also works with Azure Government clouds. Microsoft first made ExpressRoute generally available to enterprise users in 2014. Originally codenamed "Golden Gate," ExpressRoute is designed to provide users private and dedicated network connections that don't use the Internet. Microsoft has been delivering ExpressRoute via partnerships with telecommunications providers like AT&T, Verizon, BT, Level 3, Equinix, Telecity and more. In other Azure news, Microsoft announced today, September 9, its two newest German regions are now open. The two new regions -- in Berlin and Frankfurt -- currently offerAzure. Microsoft officials said Office 365 should be available in these new datacenters in the first quarter of 2020 and Dynamics 365 later in 2020. Microsoft originally announced its German expansion plans in March 2018 Microsoft opened its first German regions in 2015 with a twist to enable in-country data residency needs there. Source
  11. European regulators to Microsoft: We’re watching you The company has kept out of regulators’ crosshairs for some time now, but its seeming indifference to privacy matters could be changing that. Thinkstock Microsoft has built itself into the company with the world’s highest valuation, while managing to avoid (for the past several years, anyway) the attention of the U.S. Justice Department, federal regulators and Congress. Its peers, meanwhile, including Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple, have found themselves embroiled in time-consuming and energy-sapping investigations. But for Microsoft, those days of freedom may be coming to an end. Windows 10 and Office have fallen afoul of the European’s GDPR privacy regulations, and the consequences may be serious, and even spur investigations in the United States. The biggest danger to Microsoft is the way in which Windows gathers and uses data. Even before the GDPR regulations, which went into effect in late May 2018, some European countries had their doubts about Windows and privacy. In 2017, the Netherlands’ Data Protection Agency (DPA) concluded that the way in which Windows 10 gathers telemetry data from its users violated that country’s data protection laws. The agency didn’t fine Microsoft but did require that Microsoft change the way it gathers and uses the data. Those changes were incorporated into the Windows 10 April 2018 update. Among them were a tool Microsoft released, with great hoopla, called the Diagnostic Data Viewer. Microsoft said in a blog post that the tool is part of the company’s commitment to be “fully transparent on the diagnostic data collected from your Windows devices, how it is used, and to provide you with increased control over that data.” Transparent it isn’t. The tool is so complex and arcane that even many programmers can’t understand or use it. Rather than providing a simple way to let you know what information Windows gathers about you, it forces you to scroll or search through incomprehensible headings such as “TelClientSynthetic.PdcNetworkActivation_4” and “Microsoft.Windows.App.Browser.IEFrameProcessAttached” with no explanation of what they mean. Click a heading and you get a listing of spaghetti code you can’t possibly understand. Looking at it, it’s hard to imagine how anyone could talk about the Diagnostic Data Viewer and transparency in the same breath. The Dutch DPA has taken a long time examining that and other changes Microsoft made, to see whether Windows now complies with the agency’s regulations, as well as with the newer GDPR rules. The DPA concluded that the changes complied with what the DPA originally asked Microsoft to do. But its examination “also brought to light that Microsoft is remotely collecting other data from users. As a result, Microsoft is still potentially in breach of privacy rules,” according to the agency. So the DPA turned over the case to the Irish Data Protection Committee (DPC), because Microsoft’s European operations are headquartered in Ireland. That agency will determine whether Microsoft is violating the GDPR. The signs don’t look good for Microsoft. The DPA’s investigation noted, “We’ve found that Microsoft collect diagnostic and non-diagnostic data. We’d like to know if it is necessary to collect the non-diagnostic data and if users are well informed about this.” How well informed are Windows users about the non-diagnostic data? As far as I can see, not very. The Diagnostic Data Viewer certainly provides no help. And as TechCrunch points out, Windows is coercive about getting people to accept its privacy agreement during the operating system’s installation. TechCrunch notes that during installation, Windows asks several times if you want to allow the gathering and use of data about you, including for targeting ads. Cortana provides a running commentary. At one point, TechCrunch says, Cortana bluntly warns, “If you don’t agree, y’know, no Windows!” If the investigation finds Microsoft is violating the GDPR, the consequences could be serious — up to a $4 billion fine, according to Forbes, as well as the requirement that Microsoft change the way that Windows gathers and uses data. It’s not just Windows that European regulators are targeting for privacy issues. Various versions of Office are in their crosshairs as well. Dutch authorities found that “Microsoft systematically collects data on a large scale about the individual use of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Covertly, without informing people. Microsoft does not offer any choice with regard to the amount of data, or possibility to switch off the collection, or ability to see what data are collected, because the data stream is encoded.” In addition, a German state has banned the use of Office 365 because of the way Office handles data. Even more problematic for Microsoft is what the U.S. might do based on GDPR findings. U.S. regulators and Congress aren’t immune to publicity generated overseas, especially in a political climate in which big tech has become Washington’s latest bogeyman. If Europe fines Microsoft for its privacy practices, U.S. investigations may follow. Already many states, including California and New York, are creating their own tech privacy rules, and Microsoft is one of the targets. What does all this mean? Although Microsoft has so far dodged a bullet when it comes to privacy issues, those days may be coming to an end. The last time the company faced down federal regulators, in the 1990s, it led to a long, slow decline in the company’s fortunes. If it happens again, it could end up being, in the words of Yogi Berra, “déjà vu all over again.” Source: European regulators to Microsoft: We’re watching you (Computerworld - Preston Gralla)
  12. Brad Smith tells Bloomberg he wants evidence backing up the Trump administration's ban on the Chinese company. Microsoft provides its Windows OS to Huawei. Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a Bloomberg interview that the Trump administration hasn't provided enough evidence about the national security threat posed by Huawei. Acts like blacklisting the Chinese company shouldn't be taken without a "sound basis in fact, logic, and the rule of law," he said. When Microsoft asked US lawmakers to explain the threat, they've been too vague for Smith's liking. Huawei is a major customer of his company: Its laptops come with Microsoft's Windows operating system. "Oftentimes, what we get in response is, 'Well, if you knew what we knew, you would agree with us'," Smith told Bloomberg. "And our answer is, 'Great, show us what you know so we can decide for ourselves. That's the way this country works.' " The US Commerce Department added Huawei to its blacklist following a May executive order from President Donald Trump, over security concerns due to Huawei's alleged links to the Chinese government. As a result, American companies will have to get licenses to sell to Huawei once its recently extended reprieve ends. Smith, who's also Microsoft's chief legal officer, said his company argued that the department should limit its ban to sales that pose national security risks, such as universities with Chinese military links -- an approach he compared to a "scalpel" rather than its current "meat cleaver" method. Neither Huawei nor the White House immediately responded to requests for comment. Source
  13. Microsoft will be hosting a community conference on the Windows Subsystem for Linux and related technologies in March 2020. Microsoft saying it loves Linux; the company released its own Linux distribution for Windows 10; and free-software founder Richard M. Stallman spoke at Microsoft, so why not have a Linux conference on the Microsoft conference campus? Hayden Barnes, founder of Whitewater Foundry, a startup focusing on Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) announced WSLconf 1, the first community conference for WSL. This event will be held on March 10-11, 2020 at Building 20 on the Microsoft HQ campus in Redmond, WA. The conference is still coming together. But we already know it will have presentations and workshops from Pengwin, Whitewater's Linux for Windows, Microsoft WSL, and Canonical's Ubuntu on WSL developers. This conference will feature two days of hands-on workshops, hackathons, presentations, and networking events for WSL programmers. The conference will be free, but space will be limited and preregistration will be required. Many people still doubt that Microsoft is seriously committed to Linux. Consider this one more proof point that it's time to rethink how you see Microsoft's relationship with Linux. Source
  14. A sale might keep the app alive Wunderlist founder Christian Reber has offered to buy back the popular task management app from Microsoft to avoid it being shut down. “Still sad Microsoft wants to shut down Wunderlist, even though people still love and use it,” says Reber on Twitter. “I’m serious Satya Nadella and Marcus Ash, please let me buy it back. Keep the team and focus on Microsoft To-Do, and no one will be angry for not shutting down Wunderlist.” Microsoft first acquired Wunderlist back in 2015, for a rumored price of between $100 million and $200 million. The software giant has since launched its own Microsoft To-Do app, and it’s clear the Wunderlist acquisition has been complicated. Wunderlist’s API runs on Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft decided to rewrite everything rather than attempt to port it directly over to Azure. While Wunderlist is still functional, Microsoft has said it plans to shut down the app once all of its features are available in Microsoft To-Do. It’s not clear exactly when that will take place, but Reber is keen to avoid it happening at all. He has confirmed it’s a “serious offer,” but there’s no sign Microsoft is even willing to entertain the offer. Source
  15. Now available for download on GitHub Microsoft revealed earlier this year that PowerToys were coming back to Windows 10. PowerToys used to be useful little utilities that would let you further customize Windows, and now Microsoft is releasing two new utilities for Windows 10 under the PowerToys brand. The first is a Windows key shortcut guide that is a full screen overlay with dynamic shortcuts for each active window or app. You can use the utility to hold down the Windows key and discover keyboard shortcuts, and it’s useful if you’re not familiar with most of the built-in Windows keyboard shortcuts or you want to find quicker ways to get things done in certain apps. The second utility is a FancyZones window manager, and you’ll definitely want to check this out if you like to run multiple apps side-by-side. You can set custom zones and then simply drag and drop apps into these layouts to have them automatically resize. It’s great if you really want to customize your desktop and window management even further on Windows 10. Microsoft has even created a 5-minute tutorial video to step through all the different ways you can use FancyZones. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to work well with multiple monitor setups right now, though. Windows fans were happy to see the return of PowerToys earlier this year, and these two utilities mark the first release of this effort for Windows 10. Microsoft is making them available open source on GitHub, and there will be many more to follow. Microsoft is now embracing this enthusiasm for PowerToys to let the community contribute and make some powerful Windows 10 utilities. “When the PowerToys project was first announced this spring, we didn’t think the reception would be as enthusiastic as it has been,” explains Microsoft’s dev platform team. “Given this enthusiasm, we’re anticipating many developers will want to contribute to PowerToys, and we’ve made sure that the documentation, project architecture, and tools are ready for the community to dive in.” You can download FancyZones and the Windows key shortcut guide utilities as part of the new PowerToys project over at GitHub. Source
  16. Microsoft and Twitter were reportedly present as well. Both intelligence agencies and tech companies are gearing up to secure the 2020 US election, and that apparently includes some heart-to-heart conversations between the two. Bloomberg sources have learned that Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter are meeting members of the FBI, Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to discuss the industry's security strategy. This reportedly includes plans for tighter coordination between tech and government, as well as curbing disinformation campaigns. We've asked the companies in question for comment. Microsoft confirmed to Engadget that it "is participating in this meeting." In a statement, Twitter said it "always welcome the opportunity" to meet with government agencies and fellow companies to discuss securing the 2020 election, and said there was a "joint effort in response to a shared threat." The meeting shows that both sides want to coordinate on election security in a way they didn't in 2016. Tech firms have been more proactive this time around -- Facebook has been operating "war rooms" to monitor elections, for instance, while Google has instituted measures to protect high-risk hacking targets. The question, as always, is whether or not these measures will be enough. Security improvements didn't stop Russia and others from targeting the 2018 midterms, and it's doubtful they'll back off just because they face a more united opposition. Update 9/4 7:30PM ET: Facebook has also confirmed the meeting in a detailed response, outlining how companies and government bodies were finding ways to share data and coordinate responses. You can read the full statement below. "Today security teams from Facebook and a number of technology companies, including Google, Microsoft, and Twitter, met at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, CA with representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Department of Homeland Security. The purpose was to build on previous discussions and further strengthen strategic collaboration regarding the security of the 2020 U.S. state, federal, and presidential elections. "Participants discussed their respective work, explored potential threats, and identified further steps to improve planning and coordination. Specifically, attendees talked about how industry and government could improve how we share information and coordinate our response to better detect and deter threats. "For Facebook, we've developed a comprehensive strategy to close previous vulnerabilities, while analyzing and getting ahead of new threats. Our work focuses on continuing to build smarter tools, greater transparency, and stronger partnerships. "Improving election security and countering information operations are complex challenges that no organization can solve alone. Today's meeting builds on our continuing commitment to work with industry and government partners, as well as with civil society and security experts, to better understand emerging threats and prepare for future elections." Source
  17. By Mary Jo Foley for All About Microsoft Microsoft has acquired Movere, a Microsoft (and AWS) cloud partner and plans to use its tools to complement Microsoft's Azure Migrate service. Microsoft has acquired cloud-migration provider Movere for an undisclosed amount. Movere, formerly known as Unified Logic, was founded in 2008 and is based in Bellevue, Wash. According to Microsoft's September 4 blog post about the acquisition, Movere will fit in with Microsoft's strategy to migrate existing applications and infrastructure to Azure. The company's discovery and assessment capabilities "will complement Azure Migrate and our integrated partner solutions, making migration an easier process for our customers," said Jeremy Winter, partner director of Azure Management, in that blog post. Movere officials describe the company as a software as a service (SaaS) platform "that increases business intelligence by accurately presenting entire IT environments within a single day,providing enterprises with the confidence they need to have visibility and control of their environments regardless of platform, application or geography as organizations grow, change and digitally optimize." Movere, prior to the acquisition, has been a certified Microsoft Gold Partner and an AWS Advanced ISV Partner for Migration. Source
  18. In May 2018 during its annual Build developer conference in Seattle, Microsoft announced a partnership with Qualcomm to develop what it described as a developer kit for computer vision applications. It bore fruit in the Vision AI Developer Kit, a hardware base built on Qualcomm’s Vision Intelligence Platform designed to run AI models locally and integrate with Microsoft’s Azure ML and Azure IoT Edge cloud services, which became available to select customers last October. Above: A schematic of Microsoft's Vision AI Developer Kit. Today, Microsoft and Qualcomm announced that the Vision AI Developer Kit (made by eInfochips) is now broadly available from distributor Arrow Electronics for $249. A software development kit containing Visual Studio Code with Python modules, a prebuilt Azure IoT deployment configurations, and a Vision AI Developer Kit extension for Visual Studio is on Github, along with a default module that recognizes upwards of 183 different objects. Microsoft principal project manager Anne Yang notes that the Vision AI Developer Kit can be used to create apps that ensure every person on a construction site is wearing a hardhat, for instance, or to detect whether items are out-of-stock on a store shelf. “AI workloads include megabytes of data and potentially billions of calculations,” he wrote in a blog post. “In hardware, it is now possible to run time-sensitive AI workloads on the edge while also sending outputs to the cloud for downstream applications.” Programmers tinkering with the Vision AI Developer Kit can tap Azure ML for AI model creation and monitoring and Azure IoT Edge for model management and deployment. They’re able to build a vision model by uploading tagged pictures to Azure Blob Storage and letting Azure Custom Vision Service do the rest, or by employing Jupyter notebooks and Visual Studio Code to devise and train custom vision models using Azure Machine Learning (AML) and converting the trained models to DLC format and packaging them into an IoT Edge module. Concretely, the Vision AI Developer Kit — which runs Yocto Linux — has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 603 at its core, paired with 4GB of LDDR4X and 64GB of onboard storage. An 8-megapixel camera sensor capable of recording in 4K UHD handles footage capture duties, while a four-microphone array captures sounds and commands. The kit connects via Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n 2.4Ghz/5Ghz), but it has an HDMI out port, audio in and out ports, and USB-C port for data transfer, in addition to a Micro SD card for additional storage. The Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine (SNPE) within Qualcomm’s Vision Intelligence 300 Platform powers the on-device execution of the aforementioned containerized Azure services, making the Vision AI Developer Kit the first “fully accelerated” platform supported end-to-end by Azure, according to Yang. “Using the Vision AI Developer Kit, you can deploy vision models at the intelligent edge in minutes, regardless of your current machine learning skill level,” he said. The Vision AI Developer Kit has a rival in Amazon’s AWS DeepLens, which lets developers run deep learning models locally on a bespoke camera to analyze and take action on what it sees. For its part, Google recently made available the Coral Dev Board, a hardware kit for accelerated AI edge computing that ships alongside a USB camera accessory. Source
  19. It's usually hard to plan end-of-life support. We suspect it's much easier for companies to decide how they'll finally let Adobe Flash wither away, given the plugin's many problems, but Microsoft said on August 30 that it's had to change its approach to dropping Flash support from its browsers. Adobe itself announced in July 2017 that it would stop updating Flash at the end of 2020. Other companies were quick to reveal their own plans for phasing out the plugin: Microsoft said that same day that it would disable Flash by default in Edge and Internet Explorer in "mid to late 2019." The browsers would still technically support the plugin, but it would have to be enabled on a site-by-site basis instead of activated on all sites at once. In the years since that announcement, however, Microsoft decided to rebuild Edge around the Chromium project at the heart of Google Chrome. The company said last week that shifting to Chromium has changed its plans to drop Flash support from the new version of Edge, the old version of Edge and Internet Explorer. Now the company will disable--and ultimately remove--Flash on whatever timeline Google sets for Chromium to do the same. The company's focus on the Chromium-based version of Edge also changed its plans for Edge Classic (not its real name) and Internet Explorer. It said: "For both the in-market version of Microsoft Edge (built on EdgeHTML) and Internet Explorer 11, the current experience will continue as-is through 2019. Specifically, we no longer intend to update either Microsoft Edge (built on EdgeHTML) or Internet Explorer 11 to disable Flash by default. We still plan to fully remove Flash from these browsers by December 2020, as originally communicated." Microsoft said that more information about Google's plans to drop Flash support from Chromium browsers can be found in one of the company's blog posts. (Which, like Microsoft's original announcement, was published the same day as Adobe's revelation of Flash's demise.) Soon enough, it will be time to pour one out for the plugin that everyone loved just as much as they eventually hated it. So long, Flash, and thanks for all the browser games. Source
  20. Microsoft’s foldable Windows 10 device might come with 360 degree hinge and a magnetic closure Microsoft currently is in the process of making its first foldable device reportedly codenamed Centaurus. Since Microsoft’s foldable Windows 10 device is currently in the development phase, we have only a few pieces of information related to the product, for example, and this is obvious — Centaurus will have two screens. Beyond that, Microsoft’s upcoming foldable Windows 10 device might have a magnetic closure and a 360-degree hinge, according to latest patents filed Microsoft Microsoft and published by Patentscope. Talking about the 360-degree hinge, here is how Microsoft described it in the patent: Each device may include a link that receives top and bottom channels for receiving the flexible connection members. Both the first and second flexible connection members can be coupled together through a termination block. In the first and second flexible connection members. Alternatively, it can be used in connection with the termination block to create tension in the flexible connection members. Each device may include a hinge eyelet having upper and lower channels for receiving the flexible connectors. Both the first and the second flexible connection element can be coupled to one another via a termination block. A screw may be threaded through the hinge tab and slide on the terminal block to create tension in the first and second flexible connectors. Alternatively, a spring may be used in conjunction with the terminal block to create stresses in the flexible connectors. In another patent, the Surface maker has described the magnetic enclosure. Multi-sided magnetic access to an electromagnetic coil of a multi-configuration computing device in the presence of one or more metal structures, such as a conductive (eg, metal, graphite) computer device chassis or midframe. The described technology solves one or more of the foregoing problems by providing multi-sided magnetic access to an electromagnetic coil of a multi-configuration computing device in the presence of one or more metal structures, such as a conductive (eg, metal, graphite) computer equipment housing or center frame. Microsoft is could talk showcase its foldable Windows 10 device at the Surface event, which is taking place on October 2. However, things may change at the last moment and it might meet the same fate as the Surface Mini, which never saw the daylight. Source: Microsoft’s foldable Windows 10 device might come with 360 degree hinge and a magnetic closure (MSPoweruser)
  21. By Paul Thurrott We already knew that the new, Chromium-based version of Microsoft Edge won’t support the EPUB document format. But Microsoft is also killing support for this format in Edge classic. “Download an .epub app to keep reading,” a notification in Edge classic reads when you load an EPUB document. “Microsoft Edge will no longer be supporting [sic] e-books that use the .epub file extension. Visit the Microsoft Store to see our recommended .epub apps.” Aside from the contorted grammar and word usage in the notification—it’s “support” not “be supporting,” Microsoft—the linked webpage is a “Reading room” area on the Microsoft Store that includes audiobook apps in addition to e-book apps. So good luck with that. Microsoft provides a more grammatically correct explanation for the change on its Microsoft Edge support site, which notes that “Microsoft Edge will no longer support e-books that use the .epub file extension.” The site also links to the same terrible Microsoft Store area, but adds that “you can expect to see more added over time as we partner with companies like the DAISY Consortium to add additional, accessible apps … These apps are expected to be available in the Microsoft Store after September 2019.” Given that, it’s likely that EPUB support will disappear in Edge classic sometime after those apps appear in the Store. As you may recall, Microsoft killed support for e-books in Microsoft Edge (classic) and the Microsoft Store in April, and it started issuing refunds to customers who actually purchased e-books in July. That e-book functionality was based on a protected version of the EPUB document type. But it’s still unclear why Microsoft is killing EPUB in Edge: As is the case with PDF files, Edge is/was a great EPUB reader. Source
  22. Pentagon contract suggests shift toward cloud computing The federal government's award of a massive 10-year, $7.6 billion computing contract to a trio of vendors led by General Dynamics Corp. to provide Microsoft Corp. office software for the Pentagon late Thursday is the latest indication that cloud-computing leaders are the preferred vendors of choice. The Defense Department and General Services Administration announced the winners of the coveted Defense Enterprise Office Solution (link)(DEOS) following a months-long evaluation process by the GSA. DEOS would provide email, calendar, video-calling and other productivity tools to the U.S. military. Dell Marketing LP and Minburn Technology Group were the two other winning bidders for DEOS, in addition to General Dynamics (GD). "DEOS is a great example of a fit-for-purpose cloud that supports our multi-cloud strategy," DoD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy said in a statement (link). "DEOS will streamline our use of cloud email and collaborative tools while enhancing cybersecurity and information sharing based on standardized needs and market offerings." An even larger deal, the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), is expected to be awarded by the Defense Department in September. Microsoft (MSFT) and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) are finalists for that cloud deal after Oracle Corp. (ORCL) and International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) were eliminated earlier this year. Oracle sued, claiming Amazon had an unfair advantage because of a conflict of interest, but a judge dismissed the case last month. On Monday, Oracle said it would appeal again on JEDI, claiming "the procurement was unlawful on several grounds." Amazon has long been considered the favorite to land JEDI, but analysts such as Wedbush Securities' Daniel Ives say Beltway contacts tell them Microsoft has made "steady and impressive progress" and is in the mix. Regardless of who wins JEDI, the two mega-deals strongly hint at a shift in whom the Defense Department chooses for high-profile deals after years of working with Oracle and IBM. Source
  23. For years, Microsoft has profited from its FAT file system patents. Now the company is making it explicit that it's freeing its remaining exFAT patents for Open Invention Network members. For years, Microsoft used its patents as a way to profit from open-source products. The poster-child for Microsoft's intellectual property aggression were the File Allocation Table (FAT) patents. But the Microsoft of then is not the Microsoft of now. First, Microsoft open-sourced 60,000 patents of its patent portfolio and now Microsoft is explicitly making its last remaining FAT intellectual property, the exFAT patents, available to Linux and open source via the Open Invention Network (OIN). Microsoft announced that it now loves Linux and "we say that a lot, and we mean it! Today we're pleased to announce that Microsoft is supporting the addition of Microsoft's exFAT (Extended File Allocation Table) technology to the Linux kernel." ExFAT is based on FAT, one of the first floppy disk file systems. Over time, FAT became Microsoft's files ystem of choice for MS-DOS and Windows. It would become the default file system for many applications. Microsoft extended FAT to flash memory storage devices such as USB drives and SD cards in 2006 with exFAT. While FAT isn't commonly used today, exFAT is used in hundreds of millions of storage device. Indeed, exFAT is the official file system for SD Card Association's standard large capacity SD cards. Now, Microsoft states: It's important to us that the Linux community can make use of exFAT included in the Linux kernel with confidence. To this end, we will be making Microsoft's technical specification for exFAT publicly available to facilitate the development of conformant, interoperable implementations. We also support the eventual inclusion of a Linux kernel with exFAT support in a future revision of the Open Invention Network's Linux System Definition, where, once accepted, the code will benefit from the defensive patent commitments of OIN's 3040+ members and licensees. Specifically, according to a Microsoft representative, "Microsoft is supporting the addition of the exFAT file system to the Linux kernel and the eventual inclusion of a Linux kernel with exFAT support in a future revision of the Open Invention Network's Linux System Definition." When Microsoft first started loosening its grip on Linux-related patents, Bradley Kuhn, president of the Software Freedom Conservancy, asked for "Microsoft, as a sign of good faith and to confirm its intention to end all patent aggression against Linux and its users, to now submit to upstream the exfat code themselves under GPLv2-or-late." Microsoft isn't doing that. Instead, said a Microsoft representative, "We are supporting the inclusion of exFAT in the Linux kernel and to facilitate that, we are making Microsoft's technical specification for exFAT publicly available. We will also support the eventual inclusion of a Linux kernel with exFAT support in a future revision of the OIN's Linux System Definition." But while "we are supporting the inclusion of exFAT in the Linux kernel, the code submission is being performed by other members of the community." The Microsoft speaker added the company has "no on-going patent litigation involving exFAT." Why is Microsoft doing this considering over the years it's made tens of millions from its FAT patents? Stephen Walli, Microsoft's principal program manager for Azure, explained at Open Source Summit Europe last year that "Open source changed everything. Customers have changed. Fifteen years ago, a CIO would have said, 'we have no open source, they would have been wrong, but that's what they thought.' Now, CIOs know open source's essential … Microsoft has always been a company by, of, and for developers. At this point in history, developers love open source." Keith Bergelt, OIN's CEO, welcomed this news. "We're happy and heartened to see that Microsoft is continuing to support software freedom. They are giving up the patent levers to create revenue at the expense of the community. This is another step of Microsoft's transformation in showing it's truly committed to Linux and open source." When the next edition of the Linux System Definition is released in the first quarter of 2020, any member of the OIN will be able to use exFAT without paying a patent royalty. Bergelt noted that membership in the open-source patent protection consortium is free for any company willing to share its patents with others. However, a company need not have patents to join the OIN. Source
  24. There’s nothing wrong with your PC - Microsoft is again the top phished brand this year Once again, Microsoft was granted the top spot as the most impersonated company, in this quarter’s Vade Secure’s Phishers’ Favourites report. Vade’s machine used learning algorithms to analyse data from more than 600 million protected mailboxes worldwide and performed real-time analysis of the URL and page content to identify the brand being impersonated. In Q2 2019, the AI engine detected 20,217 unique Microsoft phishing URLs- averaging at more than 222 per day; which is a 15.5% YoY increase compared to the same quarter last year. The company has also ranked number one on the Phisher’s Favourites list every quarter since the release of the official rankings. Cybercriminals often like to target users of Office 365 for their credentials, as they provide a single entry point to the entire platform, allowing them to go onto infiltrate the entire business. Facebook has also had its fair share of phishers, with a 175.8% increase in phishing URLs; advancing the company up to the third position. This is likely due to the increase in the use of Facebook Login to sign into other sites, which makes it easier for hackers to gain access to those accounts too. Chief Solution Architect at Vade Secure, Adrien Gendre, warns both organisations and individuals to be wary of the prevalence of the attacks: Cybercriminals are more sophisticated than ever, and the ways they target corporate and consumer email users continued to evolve in Q2. Microsoft Office 365 phishing is the gateway to massive amounts of corporate data, while gaining access to a consumer’s Facebook log-in information could compromise much of their personal, sensitive information. The fact that we saw such a significant volume in impersonations of these two brands, along with the coinciding new methods of attack, means that virtually all email users and organizations need to be on heightened alert. In the list of the top 10 most impersonated brands, PayPal came in at number 2, and Netflix number 4, followed by Bank of America, Apple, CIBC, Amazon, DHL and DocuSign. Amazon also saw a massive increase in phishing URLs, with a 182.6% increase since Q1, and 411.5% YoY. New Amazon phishing kits were reported in both May and in the time prior to Prime Day 2019. In terms of industries, cloud companies were the most impersonated, taking the top spot for the fifth quarter in a row with 37.6%. Financial services made up 33.1%, social media 15.6%, followed by e-commerce/logistics with 7.7% and finally internet/telco contributing to 5.2%. Interestingly, Tuesday and Wednesdays were the most popular days for cybercriminals to attempt attacks, with 80% of phishing taking place on weekdays. Maybe hackers also need a weekend after a hard week of scamming. Microsoft published a blog post earlier this year, which outlines all of the anti-spoofing protection methods that are available in Office 365, in order to reduce the likelihood of users suffering a phishing attack. Check it out here. Source: There’s nothing wrong with your PC- Microsoft is again the top phished brand this year (MSPoweruser)
  25. Microsoft continues to embrace Linux by bringing Trusted Execution Environment to the open source OS As expected, only good things came from Microsoft joining the Linux Foundation. Together with the consortium of other companies that use Linux extensively, such as Intel and IBM; Microsoft has helped bring support for trusted execution environment to the Linux OS under the umbrella of “Confidential Computing”. The Confidential Computing push would allow applications to execute in protected environments in the operating system, such that data and code would be protected, even if the OS itself was compromised. Readers will, of course, be familiar with the similarities between this and the various DRM schemes that Microsoft attempted to build into Windows. As part of the effort, Microsoft is contributing the Open Enclave SDK that can be used by developers to build apps that will run in the trusted execution environment. Using the SDK, each application will consist of two components- one untrusted part that will run in the untrusted OS, and a trusted part, that’s protected inside the enclave. These trusted computing initiatives, of course, very much rely on hardware support; and Intel will be contributing their software guard extension chip feature, that will enforce the security of the Open Enclave code. Open-source company Red Hat is contributing its Enrax framework, which is similar to Microsoft’s Open Enclave but is targeted more at public cloud services. As Microsoft continues to embrace and extend the Linux operating system to make it more suitable for their cloud computing needs, it seems the only thing at risk of being extinguished is Linux’s long, irrelevant reputation as a “toy operating system”. Read more about the trusted execution environment initiative at Microsoft here. Source: Microsoft continues to embrace Linux by bringing Trusted Execution Environment to the open source OS (MSPoweruser)
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