Microsoft Releases First Windows 10 PowerToys Add-Ons


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In an earlier technological era when desktops ruled and laptops were briefcases, Microsoft released a suite of Windows 95 extensions called PowerToys. Despite a committed fan base, PowerToys faded away in newer versions of Windows, but Microsoft announced some months back that it was reviving PowerToys in Windows 10. Now, the first PowerToys utilities are available for download. 

For those who have forgotten (or are too young to remember), PowerToys debuted in Windows 95. These free add-ons extended the capabilities in Windows 95, and many of them became default features in newer versions of the operating system. The original batch of tools included starting a command prompt from an Explorer folder, auto-launching CD-ROMs, and moving window focus automatically with the mouse. In Windows XP, Microsoft experimented with batch image resizing in IE, file/folder synchronizing, and a more powerful calculator. Microsoft retired PowerToys following the release of Vista. 

It’s taken four months, but the first two PowerToys add-ons for Windows 10 are live on Microsoft’s GitHub. To get started, download the PowerToys installer and launch it. PowerToys lives in the system tray, allowing you to enable or disable each tool. Currently, there are two PowerToys available in the client: FancyZones and Shortcut Guide. 

At the time of the announcement, Shortcut Guide was the only tool Microsoft had fleshed out. The version we have now is indeed similar to what the company demoed in May. This tool helps you use all those Windows key shortcuts you probably don’t use. Simply hold the Windows key for a moment, and an overlay appears on the screen to remind you of features like managing virtual desktops, launching taskbar apps, and various setting shortcuts. 

The other PowerToys module, known as FancyZones, is a bit more advanced. This tool lets you create custom window layouts for more efficient multitasking. For example, you might want to split your monitor into three columns instead of the two zones you get with snapping in Windows 10. Alternatively, you might just want windows floating in a particular area of the screen. Just create a layout or choose one of the templates, and then hold Shift while dragging to drop windows into one of your custom zones — they’ll snap right into place. You can also choose to override the Windows Snap hotkey (Win + arrow) with FancyZones. 

This is only the first release, and Microsoft plans to release a lot more tools. If the new PowerToys is anything like the old one, it may give us a glimpse at features that will come bundled in future Windows builds.

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Telegram fixes bug that failed to delete ‘unsent’ photos and videos – gpgmail


Mobile messaging app Telegram has fixed a bug allowing users to recover photos and videos “unsent” by other people.

Telegram, which has more than 100 million users, has an ephemeral messaging feature that allows users to “unsend” sent messages from other people’s inboxes, such as when a message is sent by mistake.

But one security researcher, Dhiraj Mishra, who found the privacy issue and shared his findings exclusively with gpgmail, said although Telegram was removing the messages from a user’s device, any sent photos or video would still be stored on the user’s phone.

The researcher found other messaging apps, like WhatsApp, had the same ephemeral “unsend” feature, but when tested, deleted both message and content.

Mishra said the Android version of Telegram would permanently store photos and videos in the device’s internal storage.

“This works perfectly in groups as well,” he told gpgmail. “If you have a Telegram group of 100,000 members and you send a media message by mistake and you delete it, it only gets deleted from the chat but will remain in media storage of all 100,000 members,” he said.

It’s not known if Telegram users have been affected by the privacy issue. But recently we reported several cases of visa holders who have been denied entry to the U.S. for content on their phones sent by other people.

After gpgmail reached out, Telegram fixed the vulnerability. Mishra received €2,500 from the bug bounty for discovering and disclosing the vulnerability.

A spokesperson for Telegram confirmed the bug fix had rolled on September 5.


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Reps from DHS, the FBI and the ODNI met with tech companies at Facebook to talk election security – gpgmail


Representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security met with counterparts at tech companies including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter to discuss election security, Facebook confirmed.

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,” according to a statement from Facebook head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher.

First reported by Bloomberg, the meeting between America’s largest technology companies and the trio of government security agencies responsible for election security is a sign of how seriously the government and the country’s largest technology companies are treating the threat of foreign intervention into elections.

Earlier this year the Office of the Inspector General issued a report saying that the Department of Homeland Security has not done enough to safeguard elections in the United States.

Throughout the year, reports of persistent media manipulation and the dissemination of propaganda on social media platforms have cropped up not just in the United States but around the world.

In April, Facebook removed a number of accounts ahead of the Spanish election for their role in spreading misinformation about the campaign.

Companies have responded to the threat by updating different mechanisms for users to call out fake accounts and improving in-house technologies used to combat the spread of misinformation.

Twitter, for instance, launched a reporting tool whereby users can flag misleading tweets.

“Improving election security and countering information operations are complex challenges that no organization can solve alone,” said Gleicher in a statement. “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.”


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A huge database of Facebook users’ phone numbers found online – gpgmail


Hundreds of millions of phone numbers linked to Facebook accounts have been found online.

The exposed server contained over 419 million records over several databases on users across geographies, including 133 million records on U.S.-based Facebook users, 18 million records of users in the U.K., and another with more than 50 million records on users in Vietnam.

But because the server wasn’t protected with a password, anyone could find and access the database.

Each record contained a user’s unique Facebook ID and the phone number listed on the account. A user’s Facebook ID is typically a long, unique and public number associated with their account, which can be easily used to discern an account’s username.

But phone numbers have not been public in more than a year since Facebook restricted access to users’ phone numbers.

gpgmail verified a number of records in the database by matching a known Facebook user’s phone number against their listed Facebook ID. We also checked other records by matching phone numbers against Facebook’s own password reset feature, which can be used to partially reveal a user’s phone number linked to their account.

Some of the records also had the user’s name, gender, and location by country.

A redacted set of records from the U.K. database. The “44” indicates +44, the U.K.’s country code and the “7” indicates a cell phone number.

This is the latest security lapse involving Facebook data after a string of incidents since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw more than 80 million profiles scraped to help identify swing voters in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Since then the company has seen several high-profile scraping incidents, including at Instagram, which recently admitted to having profile data scraped in bulk.

This latest incident exposed millions of users’ phone numbers just from their Facebook IDs, putting them at risk of spam calls and SIM-swapping attacks, which relies on tricking cell carriers into giving a person’s phone number to an attacker. With someone else’s phone number, an attacker can force-reset the password on any internet account associated with that number.

Security researcher Sanyam Jain found the database and contacted gpgmail after he was unable to find the owner. After a review of the data, neither could we. But after we contacted the web host, the database was pulled offline.

Jain said he found profiles with phone numbers associated with several celebrities.

Facebook spokesperson Jay Nancarrow said the data had been scraped before Facebook cut off access to user phone numbers.

“This dataset is old and appears to have information obtained before we made changes last year to remove people’s ability to find others using their phone numbers,” the spokesperson said. “The dataset has been taken down and we have seen no evidence that Facebook accounts were compromised.”

But questions remain as to exactly who scraped the data, when it was scraped from Facebook, and why.

Facebook has long restricted developers access to user phone numbers. The company also made it more difficult to search for friends’ phone numbers. But the data appeared to be loaded into the exposed database at the end of last month — though that doesn’t necessarily mean the data is new.

This latest data exposure is the most recent example of data stored online and publicly without a password. Although often tied to human error rather than a malicious breach, data exposures nevertheless represent an emerging security problem.

In recent months, financial giant First American left data exposed, as did MoviePass and the Senate Democrats.


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Google releases Android 10 – gpgmail


Android 10 is now available, assuming you have a phone that already supports Google’s latest version of its mobile operating system. For now, that’s mostly Google’s own Pixel phones, though chances are that most of the phones that were supported during the beta phase will get updated to the release version pretty soon, too.

Since the development of Android pretty much happens in the open these days, the release itself doesn’t feature any surprises. Just like with the last few releases, chances are you’ll have to look twice after the update to see whether your phone actually runs the latest versions. There are plenty of tweaks in Android 10, but some of the most interesting new features are a bit hidden and (at least in the betas) off by default.

The one feature everybody has been waiting for is a dark mode and here, Android 10 doesn’t disappoint. The new dark theme is now ready for your night-time viewing, with the promise of improved battery life for your OLED phone and support from a number of apps like Photos and Calendar. Over time, more apps will automatically switch to a dark theme as well, but right now, the number seems rather limited and a bit random, with Fit offering a dark mode while Gmail doesn’t.

The other major tweak is the updated gesture navigation. This remains optional — you can still use the same old three-button navigation Android has long offered. It’s essentially a tweak of the navigation system the launched with Android Pie. For the most part, the new navigation gestures work just fine and feel more efficient than those in Pie, especially when you try to switch between apps. Swiping left and right from the screen replaces the back button, which isn’t immediately obvious, and a slightly longer press on the side of the screen occasionally opens a navigation drawer. I say ‘occasionally,’ because I think this is the most frustrating part of the experience. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The trick to opening the drawer, it seems, is to swipe at an angle that’s well above 45 degrees.

Also new is an updated Smart Reply feature that now suggests actions from your notifications. If a notification includes a link, for example, Smart Reply will suggest opening it in Chrome. Same for addresses, where the notification can take you right to Google Maps, or YouTube videos that you can play in — you guessed it — Youtube. This should work across all popular messaging apps.

There are also a couple of privacy and security features here, including the ability to only share location data with apps while you use them and a new Privacy section in Settings that gives you access to controls for managing your web and app history, as well as your ad settings in a slightly more prominent place.

The new Google Play system updates, the company can now also push important security and privacy fixes right to the phone from the Google Play store, which allows it to patch issues without having to go through the system update process. Given the slow Android OS upgrade cycles, that’s an important new feature, though it, too, is an evolution of Google’s overall strategy to decouple these updates and core features from the OS updates.

Two other interesting new features are still in beta or won’t be available until later this year, but Google prominently highlights Focus mode, which allows you to silence specific apps for a while and which is now in beta, and Live Caption, which will launch in the fall on Pixel phones and which can automatically caption videos and audio across all apps. I’ve been beta testing Focus Mode for a bit and I’m not sure it has really made a difference in my digital wellbeing, but the ability to mute notifications from YouTube during the workday, for example, has probably made me a tiny bit more productive.

Oh, and there’s also native support for foldable phones, but for the time being, there are no foldable phones on the market.

Like with most recent releases, those are just some of the highlights. There are plenty of small tweaks, too, and chances are you’ll notice a few new fonts and visual tweaks here and there. For the most part, though, you can continue to use Android like you always have. Even major changes like the updated gesture controls are optional. It’s very much an evolutionary update, but that’s pretty much the case for any mobile OS these days.


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Malicious websites were used to secretly hack into iPhones for years, says Google – gpgmail


Security researchers at Google say they’ve found a number of malicious websites which, when visited, could quietly hack into a victim’s iPhone by exploiting a set of previously undisclosed software flaws.

Google’s Project Zero said in a deep-dive blog post published late on Thursday that the websites were visited thousands of times per week by unsuspecting victims, in what was described as a “indiscriminate” attack.

“Simply visiting the hacked site was enough for the exploit server to attack your device, and if it was successful, install a monitoring implant,” said Ian Beer, a security researcher at Project Zero.

He said the websites had been hacking iPhones over a “period of at least two years.”

The researchers found five distinct exploit chains involving 12 separate security flaws, including seven involving Safari, the in-built web browser on iPhones. The five separate attack chains allowed an attacker to gain “root” access to the device — the highest level of access and privilege on an iPhone. In doing so, an attacker can gain access to the device’s full range of features normally off-limits to the user. That means an attacker can quietly install malicious apps can be installed to spy on an iPhone owner without their knowledge or consent.

Google said based off their analysis, the vulnerabilities were used to steal a user’s photos and messages, and track their location in near-realtime. The “implant” could also access the user’s on-device bank of saved passwords.

The vulnerabilities affect iOS 10 through to the current iOS 12 software version.

Google privately disclosed the vulnerabilities in February, giving Apple only a week to fix the flaws and roll out updates to its users. That’s a fraction of the 90 days typically given to software developers, giving an indication of the severity of the vulnerabilities.

Apple issued a fix six days later with iOS 12.1.4 for iPhone 5s and iPad Air and later.

Beer said it’s possible other hacking campaigns currently in action.

The iPhone and iPad maker has a good rap on security and privacy matters. Recently the company increased its maximum bug bounty payout to $1 million for security researchers who find flaws that can silently target an iPhone and gain root-level privileges without any user interaction. Under Apple’s new bounty rules — set to go into effect later this year — Google would’ve been eligible for several million dollars in bounties.

A spokesperson for Apple did not immediately comment.


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Google to pay security researchers who find Android apps and Chrome extensions misusing user data – gpgmail


Google said it will pay security researchers who find “verifiably and unambiguous evidence” of data abuse using its platforms.

It’s part of the company’s efforts to catch those who misuse user data collected through Android apps or Chrome extensions — and to avoid its own version of a scandal like Cambridge Analytica, which saw millions of Facebook profiles scraped and used to identify undecided voters during the U.S. presidential election in 2016.

Google said anyone who identifies “situations where user data is being used or sold unexpectedly, or repurposed in an illegitimate way without user consent” is eligible for its expanded data abuse bug bounty.

“If data abuse is identified related to an app or Chrome extension, that app or extension will accordingly be removed from Google Play or Google Chrome Web Store,” read a blog post. “In the case of an app developer abusing access to Gmail restricted scopes, their API access will be removed.” The company said abuse of its developer APIs would also fall under the scope of the bug bounty.

Google said it isn’t providing a reward table yet but a single report of data misuse could net $50,000 in bounties.

News of the expanded bounty comes in the wake of the DataSpii scandal, which saw browser extensions scrape and share data from millions of users. These Chrome extensions uploaded web addresses and webpage titles of every site a user visited, exposing sensitive data like tax returns, patient data, and travel itineraries.

Google was forced to step in and suspend the offending Chrome extensions.

Instagram recently expanded its own bug bounty to include misused user data following a spate of data incidents,


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Spotify aims to turn podcast fans into podcast creators with ‘Create podcast’ test – gpgmail


Spotify is testing a new ‘Create podcast’ feature that shows up atop a user’s list of their subscribed podcasts in the app interface, as first uncovered by Jane Manchung Wong (@wongmjane) (via Engadget). The button then provides a takeover promotion directing users to download Anchor, the podcast creation app that Spotify acquired in February.

This is yet another example of the investment that Spotify is making in podcasts – both their consumption and their creation. The subscription streaming company also unveiled a new analytics dashboard for podcasts earlier this year, and released it to all creators earlier in August. Because the company is also primarily a music streaming service, these insights include showing podcast creators what artists their listeners primarily gravitate towards.

Spotify has also launched a personalized playlist that mixes music with podcasts, opened up its podcast submission tool to all creators, and redesigned its navigation in-app to put podcasts on more equal footing with music, all in 2019 alone. The company is clearly doubling down on podcasts as a key element of its overall platform, building on a number of acquisitions on both the content and creation side.

Podcasts represent a way for Spotify to both diversify its revenue and open up a new line of business wherein it can own more of the upside, since its current licensing relationships with music labels mean it gets very little of the money paid from subscribers to its service based on their streams of songs. Especially via selling ads to creators and advertisers, Spotify stands to be able to make more from podcasts in terms of profit if it can continue to increase usage among listeners.




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Microsoft wants to bring exFAT to the Linux kernel – gpgmail


ExFAT, the Extended File Allocation Table, is Microsoft’s file system for flash drives and SD cards, which launched in 2006. Because it was proprietary, mounting these drives and cards on Linux machines generally involved installing additional software. Today, however, Microsoft announced that it is supporting the addition of exFAT to the Linux kernel and publishing the technical specifications for exFAT.

“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 development of conformant, interoperable implementations.”

In addition to wanting it to become part of the Linux kernel, Microsoft also says that it hopes that the exFAT specs will become part of the Open Invention Network’s  Linux definition. Once accepted, the code would benefit “from the defensive patent commitments of OIN’s 3040+ members and licensees,” the company notes.

Microsoft and Linux used to be mortal enemies — and some in the Linux community definitely still think of Microsoft as anti-open source. These days, though, Microsoft has clearly embraced open source and Linux, which is now the most popular operating system on Azure and, optionally, part of Windows 10, thanks to its Windows Subsystem for Linux. It’ll still be interesting to see how the community will react to this proposal. The aftertaste of Microsoft’s strategy of  “embrace, extend and extinguish” still lingers in the community, after all, and not too long ago, this move would’ve been interpreted as yet another example of this.


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