United States

Does US Have Right To Data On Overseas Servers? We're About To Find Out (arstechnica.com) 190

Long-time Slashdot reader quotes Ars Technica: The Justice Department on Friday petitioned the US Supreme Court to step into an international legal thicket, one that asks whether US search warrants extend to data stored on foreign servers. The US government says it has the legal right, with a valid court warrant, to reach into the world's servers with the assistance of the tech sector, no matter where the data is stored.

The request for Supreme Court intervention concerns a 4-year-old legal battle between Microsoft and the US government over data stored on Dublin, Ireland servers. The US government has a valid warrant for the e-mail as part of a drug investigation. Microsoft balked at the warrant, and convinced a federal appeals court that US law does not apply to foreign data.

According to the article, the U.S. government told the court that national security was at risk.
Operating Systems

32TB of Windows 10 Internal Builds, Core Source Code Leak Online (theregister.co.uk) 198

According to an exclusive report via The Register, "a massive trove of Microsoft's internal Windows operating system builds and chunks of its core source code have leaked online." From the report: The data -- some 32TB of installation images and software blueprints that compress down to 8TB -- were uploaded to betaarchive.com, the latest load of files provided just earlier this week. It is believed the data has been exfiltrated from Microsoft's in-house systems since around March. The leaked code is Microsoft's Shared Source Kit: according to people who have seen its contents, it includes the source to the base Windows 10 hardware drivers plus Redmond's PnP code, its USB and Wi-Fi stacks, its storage drivers, and ARM-specific OneCore kernel code. Anyone who has this information can scour it for security vulnerabilities, which could be exploited to hack Windows systems worldwide. The code runs at the heart of the operating system, at some of its most trusted levels. In addition to this, hundreds of top-secret builds of Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016, none of which have been released to the public, have been leaked along with copies of officially released versions.
Google

Google Will Stop Reading Your Emails For Gmail Ads (bloomberg.com) 67

Google will soon stop scanning emails received by some Gmail users, a practice that has allowed it to show them targeted advertising but which stirred privacy worries. From a report: The decision didn't come from Google's ad team, but from its cloud unit, which is angling to sign up more corporate customers. Alphabet's Google Cloud sells a package of office software, called G Suite, that competes with market leader Microsoft. Paying Gmail users never received the email-scanning ads like the free version of the program, but some business customers were confused by the distinction and its privacy implications, said Diane Greene, Google's senior vice president of cloud. "What we're going to do is make it unambiguous," she said. Ads will continue to appear inside the free version of Gmail, as promoted messages. But instead of scanning a user's email, the ads will now be targeted with other personal information Google already pulls from sources such as search and YouTube.
Microsoft

Microsoft Claims 'No Known Ransomware' Runs on Windows 10 S. Researcher Says 'Hold My Beer' (zdnet.com) 121

Earlier this month, Microsoft said "no Windows 10 customers were known to be compromised by the recent WannaCry (WannaCrypt) global cyberattack," adding that "no known ransomware works against Windows 10 S." News outlet ZDNet asked a security researcher to see how good Microsoft's claims were. Turns out, not much. From the report: We asked Matthew Hickey, a security researcher and co-founder of cybersecurity firm Hacker House, a simple enough question: Will ransomware install on this operating system? It took him a little over three hours to bust the operating system's various layers of security, but he got there. "I'm honestly surprised it was this easy," he said in a call after his attack. "When I looked at the branding and the marketing for the new operating system, I thought they had further enhanced it. I would've wanted more restrictions on trying to run privileged processes instead of it being such a short process."
Security

Fireball Browser Hijack Impact Revised After Microsoft Analysis (eweek.com) 10

Sean Michael Kerner, writing for eWeek: A browser hijacking operation initially reported to have 250 million victims by security firm Check Point isn't quite that large, according to a new analysis by Microsoft. On June 1, security firm Check Point reported that a browser hijacking operation called "Fireball" had already claimed 250 million victims. According to a Microsoft analysis published June 22, Check Point's estimate of the number of victims was "overblown" and the attack is not nearly as widespread as initially reported. The Fireball attack is a browser hijacking that is potentially able to download malware onto victims' systems, as well as manipulate pageviews and redirect search requests. Check Point's initial analysis claimed that Fireball was being bundled as part of free software downloads to unsuspecting users. "Indeed, we have been working with Microsoft on their analysis, feeding them with some additional data," Maya Horowitz, group manager of threat intelligence at Check Point, said in a statement sent to eWEEK. "We tried to reassess the number of infections, and from recent data we know for sure that numbers are at least 40 million, but could be much more."
Microsoft

Microsoft Admits Disabling Anti-Virus Software For Windows 10 Users (bbc.com) 206

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: Microsoft has admitted that it does temporarily disable anti-virus software on Windows PCs, following an competition complaint to the European Commission by a security company. In early June, Kaspersky Lab filed the complaint against Microsoft. The security company claims the software giant is abusing its market dominance by steering users to its own anti-virus software. Microsoft says it implemented defenses to keep Windows 10 users secure. In an extensive blog post that does not directly address Kaspersky or its claims, Microsoft says it bundles the Windows Defender Antivirus with Windows 10 to ensure that every single device is protected from viruses and malware. To combat the 300,000 new malware samples being created and spread every day, Microsoft says that it works together with external anti-virus partners. The technology giant estimates that about 95% of Windows 10 PCs were using anti-virus software that was already compatible with the latest Windows 10 Creators Update. For the applications that were not compatible, Microsoft built a feature that lets users update their PCs and then reinstall a new version of the anti-virus software. "To do this, we first temporarily disabled some parts of the AV software when the update began. We did this work in partnership with the AV partner to specify which versions of their software are compatible and where to direct customers after updating," writes Rob Lefferts, a partner director of the Windows and Devices group in enterprise and security at Microsoft.
Security

Honda Shuts Down Factory After Finding NSA-derived Wcry In Its Networks (arstechnica.com) 62

A Honda factory near Tokyo was shuttered for over 24 hours this week after its computers became infected with WannaCry, the same ransomware virus responsible for crippling systems in dozens of countries last month, the car manufacturer said Wednesday. From a report: The automaker shut down its Sayama plant northwest of Tokyo on Monday after finding that WCry had affected networks across Japan, North America, Europe, China, and other regions, Reuters reported Wednesday. Discovery of the infection came on Sunday, more than five weeks after the onset of the NSA-derived ransomware worm, which struck an estimated 727,000 computers in 90 countries. [...] Honda officials didn't explain why engineers found WCry in their networks 37 days after the kill switch was activated. One possibility is that engineers had mistakenly blocked access to the kill-switch domain. That would have caused the WCry exploit to proceed as normal, as it did in the 12 or so hours before the domain was registered. Another possibility is that the WCry traces in Honda's networks were old and dormant, and the shutdown of the Sayama plant was only a precautionary measure. In any event, the discovery strongly suggests that as of Monday, computers inside the Honda network had yet to install a highly critical patch that Microsoft released in March.
Businesses

Walmart to Vendors: Get Off Amazon's Cloud (wsj.com) 170

Amazon vs. Walmart saga continues. It turns out, Walmart isn't thrilled about its partners using Amazon's cloud, and it's telling them to get off it (alternative source). From a report: Walmart is telling some technology companies that if they want its business, they can't run applications for the retailer on Amazon's leading cloud-computing service, Amazon Web Services, several tech companies say. [...] Walmart, loath to give any business to Amazon, said it keeps most of its data on its own servers and uses services from emerging AWS competitors, such as Microsoft's Azure.
Government

Tim Cook Told Trump Tech Employees Are 'Nervous' About Immigration (cnbc.com) 327

Behind the scenes at the White House tech CEO meeting, Apple CEO Tim Cook told President Donald Trump that technology employees are "nervous" about the administration's approach to immigration, CNBC reports, citing a source familiar with the exchange. From the report: The source said the president told the CEOs on Monday that the Senate's health-care bill needs "more heart." That would be a second known instance of the president criticizing the GOP plan in private meetings. To that, the source said, Cook replied that the immigration approach by the administration also "needs more heart." Cook cited the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is under review by the Trump administration. He also said people in tech and their co-workers were nervous about their status, and added that it "would be great" if the president could "send them a signal." Here's what executives of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft said.
Bitcoin

NYTimes: Move Over, Bitcoin. Ether Is the Digital Currency of the Moment. (nytimes.com) 117

An anonymous reader shares a report: The price of Bitcoin has hit record highs in recent months, more than doubling in price since the start of the year. Despite these gains, Bitcoin is on the verge of losing its position as the dominant virtual currency. The value of Ether, the digital money that lives on an upstart network known as Ethereum, has risen an eye-popping 4,500 percent since the beginning of the year (alternative source). With the recent price increases, the outstanding units of the Ether currency were worth around $34 billion as of Monday -- or 82 percent as much as all the Bitcoin in existence. At the beginning of the year, Ether was only about 5 percent as valuable as Bitcoin. The sudden rise of Ethereum highlights how volatile the bewildering world of virtual currency remains, where lines of computer code can be spun into billions of dollars in a matter of months. [...] The two-year old system has picked up backing from both tech geeks and big corporate names like JPMorgan Chase and Microsoft, which are excited about Ethereum's goal of providing not only a digital currency but also a new type of global computing network, which generally requires Ether to use. In a recent survey of 1,100 virtual currency users, 94 percent were positive about the state of Ethereum, while only 49 percent were positive about Bitcoin, the industry publication CoinDesk said this month.
Microsoft

Microsoft Now Lets Surface Laptop Owners Revert Back To Windows 10 S (mspoweruser.com) 81

Microsoft is kind enough to offer Surface Laptop users the option to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for free until later this year if they don't like Windows 10 S, which is installed by default and is only able to run apps or games that are in the Windows Store. The company is taking that generosity one step further by letting users revert back to Windows 10 S if they installed Windows 10 Pro and aren't happy with the performance and battery life. The option to revert back to the default OS wasn't available until now. MSPoweruser reports: Microsoft recently released the official recovery image for the Surface Laptop which will technically let you go back to Windows 10 S on your device but you'll be required to remove all of your files which is a bit frustrating. The recovery image wasn't available a few days after the Surface Laptop started shipping, but it is now available and you can download it to effectively reset your Surface Laptop. The recovery image is 9GB, so make sure you have a good internet connection before downloading the file. It is quite interesting how Microsoft isn't letting users go back to Windows 10 S from Windows 10 Pro without having to completely reset their devices, as the company would want more users to use its new version of Windows 10 for many reasons. Maybe this is something Microsoft will be adding in the future, but for now, we'll just have to do with the recovery image. If you own a Surface Laptop, you can find the recovery image here.
Encryption

Microsoft, Accenture Team Up On Blockchain-based Digital ID Network (reuters.com) 53

Accenture and Microsoft are teaming up to build a digital ID network using blockchain technology, as part of a United Nations-supported project to provide legal identification to 1.1 billion people worldwide with no official documents. From a report: The companies unveiled a prototype of the network on Monday at the UN headquarters in New York during the second summit of ID2020, a public-private consortium promoting the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goal of providing legal identity for everyone on the planet. The project aims to help individuals such as refugees prove who they are in order to gain access to basic services such as education and healthcare. Blockchain, first developed as a public ledger of all transactions in the digital currency bitcoin, is increasingly being used to securely track data in other fields.
Programming

Community Ports 'Visual Studio Code' To Chromebooks, Raspberry Pi (infoworld.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: A community build project led by developer Jay Rodgers is making Visual Studio Code, Microsoft's lightweight source code editor, available for Chromebooks, Raspberry Pi boards, and other devices based on 32-bit or 64-bit ARM processors. Supporting Linux and Chrome OS as well as the DEB (Debian) and RPM package formats, the automated builds of Visual Studio Code are intended for less-common platforms that might not otherwise receive them. Obvious beneficiaries will be IoT developers focused on ARM devices -- and the Raspberry Pi in particular -- who will find it helpful to have the editor directly on the device they're programming against... Rodgers said the lure of Visual Studio Code for him was its user-friendly interface, making it approachable for new users.
Microsoft

Microsoft Will Disable WannaCry Attack Vector SMBv1 Starting This Fall (bleepingcomputer.com) 73

An anonymous reader writes: Starting this fall, with the public launch of the next major Windows 10 update — codenamed Redstone 3 -- Microsoft plans to disable SMBv1 in most versions of the Windows operating systems. SMBv1 is a three-decades-old file sharing protocol that Microsoft has continued to ship "enabled by default" with all Windows OS versions.

The protocol got a lot of attention recently as it was the main infection vector for the WannaCry ransomware. Microsoft officially confirmed Tuesday that it will not ship SMBv1 with the Fall Creators Update. This change will affect only users performing clean installs, and will not be shipped as an update. This means Microsoft decision will not affect existing Windows installations, where SMBv1 might be part of a critical system.

Displays

Xerox Alto Designer, Co-Inventor Of Ethernet, Dies at 74 (arstechnica.com) 95

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Charles Thacker, one of the lead hardware designers on the Xerox Alto, the first modern personal computer, died of a brief illness on Monday. He was 74. The Alto, which was released in 1973 but was never a commercial success, was an incredibly influential machine... Thomas Haigh, a computer historian and professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, wrote in an email to Ars, "Alto is the direct ancestor of today's personal computers. It provided the model: GUI, windows, high-resolution screen, Ethernet, mouse, etc. that the computer industry spent the next 15 years catching up to. Of course others like Alan Kay and Butler Lampson spent years evolving the software side of the platform, but without Thacker's creation of what was, by the standards of the early 1970s, an amazingly powerful personal hardware platform, none of that other work would have been possible."
In 1999 Thacker also designed the hardware for Microsoft's Tablet PC, "which was first conceived of by his PARC colleague Alan Kay during the early 1970s," according to the article. "I've found over my career that it's been very difficult to predict the future," Thacker said in a guest lecture in 2013. "People who tried to do it generally wind up being wrong."
Microsoft

You Can't Open the Microsoft Surface Laptop Without Literally Destroying It (vice.com) 312

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Microsoft's latest Surface Laptop may have earned glowing reviews from certain sections of the tech press, but don't tell that to iFixit. The company, which provides repair tools and manuals for popular gadgets like the iPhone and PlayStation, has handed the Surface Laptop a score of 0 out of 10 in terms of user repairability, stating definitively that the laptop "is not meant to be opened or repaired; you can't get inside without inflicting a lot of damage." iFixit's detailed teardown illustrates just how difficult it is to open the Surface. For starters, there are no screws, proprietary or otherwise, on the outside of the laptop. Instead, the laptop is literally welded together using a type of "plastic soldering" that is rare to see in consumer electronics. Anyone hoping to get inside the "beautifully designed and crafted" computer will have to pry it open with a knife or dedicated pick in order to defeat Microsoft's plastic welding. Whether or not it's actually worth going through the trouble of defeating said welding is another matter, given that the "glue-filled monstrosity," as iFixit dubs the laptop, has none of the user-upgradeable parts you'd want to see in a PC, like memory or storage.

"It literally can't be opened without destroying it," the repair company concludes. "If we could give it a -1 out of 10, we would," iFixit said in an emailed statement on Friday. "It's a Russian nesting doll from hell with everything hidden under adhesive and plastic spot welds. It is physically impossible to nondestructively open this device."

Businesses

Team Collaboration App Slack, Valued at $9 Billion, Draws Attention of Amazon (bloomberg.com) 79

Amazon is in the running among a handful of companies looking to acquire the popular chatroom startup, reports Bloomberg. From the article: San Francisco-based Slack could be valued at at least $9 billion in a sale, the people said. An agreement isn't assured and discussions may not go further, said the people. Buying Slack would help Seattle-based Amazon bolster its enterprise services as it seeks to compete with rivals like Microsoft and Alphabet's Google. The company's cloud-hosting unit, Amazon Web Services, in February unveiled a paid-for video and audio conferencing service -- Amazon Chime -- that lets users chat and share content. Kara Swisher, reporting for Recode: Slack, the popular business communications company, is in the midst of raising $500 million at a $5 billion post-money valuation, an effort that has attracted several potential buyers interested in taking out the company ahead of the funding. Those include Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Salesforce, several of which have previously shown interest in acquiring Slack. Bloomberg reported the interest by Amazon today, with a $9 billion sales price.
Microsoft

Green Party Leaders Don't Want Windows In Munich (techrepublic.com) 139

Reader sqorbit writes: Munich spent a lot of time (9 years) and a lot of money in shifting some 15,000 staff to a Linux-based OS. The plan now is to move to Windows 10 by 2021. Munich's Green Party is citing the WannaCry virus as a valid reason not to switch to Windows. "As with many of the biggest attacks, the computers that were mainly hit were running the Windows operating system," the Green Party said in a statement.
Privacy

US Internet Company Refused To Participate In NSA Surveillance, Documents Reveal (zdnet.com) 95

Zack Whittaker reports via ZDNet: A U.S. company refused to comply with a top-secret order that compelled it to facilitate government surveillance, according to newly declassified documents. According to the document, the unnamed company's refusal to participate in the surveillance program was tied to an apparent expansion of the foreign surveillance law, details of which were redacted by the government prior to its release, as it likely remains classified. It's thought to be only the second instance of an American company refusing to comply with a government surveillance order. The first was Yahoo in 2008. It was threatened with hefty daily fines if it didn't hand over customer data to the National Security Agency. The law is widely known in national security circles as forming the legal basis authorizing the so-called PRISM surveillance program, which reportedly taps data from nine tech titans including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and others. It also permits "upstream" collection from the internet fiber backbones of the internet. Any guesses as to which company it may be? The company was not named in the 2014-dated document, but it's thought to be an internet provider or a tech company.
AI

Robots Are Coming For Our Ms. Pac-Man High Scores (fastcompany.com) 74

A Microsoft-made AI system has achieved a perfect score of 999,990 points on the Atari 2600 version of the classic 'Ms. Pac-Man.' From a report: Researchers at the Microsoft-owned deep learning company Maluuba have used an AI system to break the all-time Ms. Pac-Man record. In a blog post, Microsoft wrote that, "using a divide-and-conquer method that could have broad implications for teaching AI agents to do complex tasks that augment human capabilities," Maluuba's AI was able to record a perfect Ms. Pac-Man score of 999,990 on the Atari 2600 version of the game, breaking the all-time record of 933,580.

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