Over the past few weeks Google has added in-app Uber booking and parking availability to Maps, but it isn’t done with the improvements. In an update rolling out today, the app will receive some better navigation—not in how we drive but in how we get around the app.
A blog post details the change, which will only affect the Android version of Maps. The update adds a new menu bar to the bottom of the home screen that brings easy access to three common features: places, driving, and transit. Designed to cut down on the number of taps you’ll need to make to get directions and find restaurants, the update focuses on delivering real time at a glance, according to a Google blog post:
“When you’re on the go, there’s no time for apps that can’t keep up. Whether you need to get to work or you’re just looking for a quick bite around you, Google Maps gives you personalized information about your world so you can make decisions and get around with confidence.”
Under the new places tab, users will find lists of restaurants and bars around you, as well as a search bar that lets you find ATMs, pharmacies, gas stations and grocery stores. Additionally, if you tap the car icon you’ll be able to quickly get an estimated time of arrival for going home or to work, as well as traffic conditions and any possible reported delays. Finally, the subway icon will show you the best train or bus to catch for your commute, or you check out schedules for stations and stops near you.
We all love Google Maps, but let’s face it, no one wants to spend any more time with it than they have to. With this latest update, Google hasn’t added any new features, but by streamlining the interface a bit, it will help us get where we’re going that much faster.
This story, “Google Maps update puts a focus on navigation inside the app” was originally published by Greenbot.
We hear a lot about 2-factor authentication these days, an invaluable way to protect your account from someone who has stolen your password, but there’s an inherent wrinkle built into the system: SMS. Most 2FA setups use text messages to deliver a one-time code sent to your phone, but there can be issues with that system. For one, it requires a cell connection, and for another texts can be intercepted.
Granted, this is a small window of opportunity for hackers, but Facebook wants to close it all the way. To secure accounts even further, it has begun rolling out support for security keys into its account login protection, eliminating SMS from the equation and letting users lock down their accounts with a fast, foolproof 2FA method. And for Android users with one of the newer NFC-capable phones, it’s even easier.
“Starting today, you can register a physical security key to your account so that the next time you log in after enabling login approvals, you’ll simply tap a small hardware device that goes in the USB drive of your computer,” Facebook security engineer Brad Hill wrote in a post. “Your login is practically immune to phishing because you don’t have to enter a code yourself, and the hardware provides cryptographic proof that it’s in your machine.”
Since it’s a new feature, it only works with the latest version of Chrome or Opera on a PC, and isn’t yet supported by the mobile Facebook app. However, as xHill writes, if you have an NFC chip in your Android phone, you can download the latest version of Chrome and Google Authenticator in the Play Store to use your key to wirelessly unlock your account.
Yubico’s security keys start at $18, but the NFC-equipped Yubikey Neo costs $50. However, they aren’t just useful for Facebook. Security keys work with a variety of accounts, including Google, Dropbox, and GitHub, though the implementation may vary, especially over NFC.
Securing online accounts should be a top priority for anyone who posts and shares personal information over social media or email (which is pretty much everyone), but far too few people understand just how important it is. While it’s unlikely that this method will have an immediate measurable effect on Facebook users, it’s a glimpse at how serious the social media giant is about security, and how two-factor authentication could become much more commonplace in the future.
This story, “Facebook taps into NFC in Android phones for strong account security” was originally published by Greenbot.
RPG guru Josh Sawyer is busy these days. Yesterday we wrote about Francis Ford Coppola’s studio turning Apocalypse Now into a video game with Sawyer’s help. And today? After a week of very obvious teasing, Obsidian’s officially announcing a follow-up to its acclaimed Infinity Engine-style CRPG Pillars of Eternity, on which Josh Sawyer served as lead designer.
Titled Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, it’s also embarking on a crowdfunding campaign today. Obsidian’s hoping to raise $1.1 million through Fig—no surprise there, since Obsidian’s CEO Feargus Urquhart is involved in Fig’s advisory board.
Judging by the description, Pillars of Eternity II will be a direct sequel. The announcement says:
“Eothas has returned. The god of light and rebirth was thought dead, but he now inhabits the stone titan that sat buried under your keep, Caed Nua, for millennia. Ripping his way out of the ground, he destroys your stronghold and leaves you at the brink of death.”
Whether you’ll be importing your character and his or her stats, I’m not sure. Regardless, looks like it’ll dovetail right off the last story, a la Baldur’s Gate and its sequel. You’ll be exploring the new Deadfire Archipelago, which judging by the screenshots and art features everything from jungle to a Petra/Ellora-like structure embedded in a desert cliff.
The announcement also mentions the return of certain companions from the first game (along with concept art for Pallegina, Eder, and Aloth), and promises new ones along the way.
Most interesting is a section that reads “The people of Deadfire have lives of their own, jobs to do, and appointments to keep. They will carry on with their affairs even when you’re not watching. Quests may even present different opportunities depending on when and where characters and environments are approached.”
This sort of AI modeling has been done in bigger-budget RPGs (think Skyrim) but it’s a huge change from the stagnant, always-in-one-place characters in most isometric CRPGs. I’m interested to see how it changes things.
Cue Urquhart himself, who said:
“Our goal for Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is to improve on what fans loved about the original while adding features our fans want to see, truly living cities, more freedom to explore the open world, and pushing what we do best at Obsidian—letting players define and play the role they want to play.”
People seem to be pretty tepid towards crowdfunding nowadays, but less so when it comes to a studio following up on an earlier title. Hopefully that’s the case here and Deadfire gets funded (and then some) because I’d absolutely love another Pillars of Eternity. And hey, another Tyranny while we’re at it. Keep ‘em coming, Obsidian.
Seagate is getting closer to reaching its goal of making 20TB hard drives by 2020.
Over the next 18 months, the company plans to ship 14TB and 16TB hard drives, company executives said on an earnings call this week.
Seagate’s hard drive capacity today tops out at 10TB. A 12TB drive based on helium technology is being tested, and the feedback is positive, said Stephen Luczo, the company’s CEO.
The demand for high-capacity drives is mostly in enterprises and for consumers who can afford the drives. The drives are mostly used in NAS configurations and storage arrays.
Seagate is also rolling out more 10TB hard drives that are priced starting at around US $400.
Hard drives have lost market share to faster and more power-efficient solid-state drives, which are being installed in more PCs.
But hard drives are surviving in PCs and servers because SSDs are more expensive. Hard drives are popular among computer owners who want more storage capacity than most SSDs can provide. In data centers, large-capacity drives are replacing tape storage to preserve data.
Demand for hard drives remains strong in the consumer market but has also picked up in the new areas like surveillance, Luczo said. Surveillance cameras record data and store it on hard drives. Hard drives are also popular in network-attached storage.
Seagate is also increasing the storage capacity per drive, and wants to raise the minimum capacity of hard drives in PCs to 1TB, executives said.
SSDs have largely taken over the lower-capacity market. Thin and light PCs often use SSD storage with up to 256GB, with few, like Dell’s XPS 13, offering capacities of 512GB. Others offer 1TB SSDs.
Seagate made its name in hard drives but has also taken a lead in SSDs. Last year, it showed a 60TB SSD that could ship this year.
Microsoft’s focus on the cloud continues to pay off. The tech titan showed growth across all its cloud-based businesses during the last quarter ended Dec. 31, including Office, Dynamics and Azure.
Reporting financial results for its fiscal second quarter on Thursday, the company said its Commercial Cloud business is pulling in revenue at the rate of $14 billion per year. During the previous quarter, that rate was $13 billion.
Azure growth was especially strong. Azure compute usage more than from a year earlier, and revenue from the business grew by 93 percent.
Overall, Microsoft’s revenue and profit grew year over year. The company reached nearly $24.1 billion in total sales, with net income of $5.2 billion. That’s up from roughly $23.8 billion in revenue and slightly more than $5 billion in net income during the same period in 2015.
The PC market also showed strength during the quarter. Sales of premium Windows devices gained market share during the quarter, Microsoft CFO Amy Hood said during a conference call.
While much of its business did well during the quarter, Microsoft’s near abandonment of Windows smartphones remained a drag on its finances. Phone revenue fell off a cliff during the quarter, with revenue down 81 percent compared with a year earlier.
The company’s Enterprise Services revenue declined 4 percent after growing for three quarters. Microsoft blamed the reversal on businesses ending their custom support agreements for Windows Server 2003. Microsoft officially ended support for that server software in 2015, but some customers buy extended support under custom contracts.
The results didn’t reveal much about the impact of LinkedIn on Microsoft’s business, because the $27 billion acquisition of the enterprise social networking company didn’t close until about three weeks before the end of the quarter. Microsoft said LinkedIn had $228 million in revenue during that period and lost $100 million.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the biggest job for LinkedIn going forward will be to add users and increase engagement. To that end, Microsoft will focus on quick integration between LinkedIn and products like Office and Dynamics.
Microsoft hasn’t officially committed to a ship date for Windows 10’s Creators Update, but evidence suggests it could reach Insiders as soon as the end of March. Given how the last major Windows 10 update went, however, we’re feeling equal parts eagerness—and caution.
So far, all Microsoft has promised for the Creators Update is that it will ship in “early 2017.” Two tantalizing clues suggest a more specific date: Both Microsoft’s Surface Studio PC and Dell’s Canvas monitor offer features closely tied to the Creators Update, and both now list shipping dates at the end of March. It’s no stretch to suppose that both companies would align those releases with the Creators Update, and Dell has said as much already.
Our caution stems from what happened when Windows 10’s Anniversary Update launched last August. A swarm of bugs came with it, including a login freeze, as well as a more serious issue that crashed webcams. Third-party security firms, like McAfee, warned that their products might not be compatible. Consumers and businesses certainly don’t want a repeat.
Microsoft undoubtedly has pressure to push the Creators Update out the door to ensure that work on the other major Windows 10 update this year—Redstone 3—begins in time to meet holiday deadlines. We’re going to lay out the case that Microsoft could ship the Creators Update in two months’ time—but maybe it shouldn’t be in such a rush.
Several clues point to an end-of-March release for the Creators Update. For starters, there’s the update cycle. When Microsoft has prepared major Windows 10 updates in the past, the company has fixed bugs in one release, then unveiled features to its Insider testers in the next. The last few weeks before a major Windows 10 update, Microsoft launches few, if any further features, focusing instead on bug-bashing. Finally, Microsoft sends the update release to Insiders, rolling it out to the greater public a week or two later.
Right now, we seem to be in the features phase. The company’s recently delivered a series of builds to Insiders. One of them, Build 15002, offers a particularly heavy bag of goodies. More is coming: When it ships, the Creators Update promises a host of new capabilities, including 3D imaging support and a much-anticipated Games Mode.
And then there are the Creators Update’s touch input innovations, which help set apart Microsoft’s Surface Studio and Dell’s Canvas from other Windows hardware. The sophisticated stylus controls, and especially the moveable menu-navigation device that Microsoft calls the Surface Dial and Dell calls the Totem, offer new ways for people to interact with their software, Neither product is complete without these features enabled by the Creators Update.
It’s very unusual for different companies to ship similar products on more or less the same day unless there’s a concerted effort, such as timing to the release of a product they have in common. That’s why the coincidence of Microsoft’s Surface Studio and Dell’s Canvas seems to point to something bigger afoot with Windows 10.
While technically the Surface Studio began shipping last fall, Microsoft currently shows March 31 as the “ships by” date for the two lower-end versions of the PC (priced at $2,999 and $3,499). A day earlier on March 30, Dell will ship Canvas, a Studio-like tilting monitor ($1,799) that you can use with a separate PC.
Dell has also told PCWorld that the Creators Update will be in place by the time the Canvas ships on March 30. “Since the device isn’t available until 3/30—all of the features of the Creators Update will be available when Canvas ships,” a Dell representative said in an email earlier this month.
Time is not on Microsoft’s side. The company has already said that it plans two updates in 2017: the current Redstone 2 release (the Creators Update), and its successor, Redstone 3. The latter is the problem: PC makers are undoubtedly depending upon Redstone 3 to help drive holiday PC sales. Delay the Creators Update too long, and Redstone 3’s development window will shrink to the point where Microsoft will have to sacrifice something. We’re currently in the sixth month of the Creators Update’s development cycle. Shipping it sometime in April or May would allow a scant six months to develop Redstone 3 by October or early November.
Microsoft does have one thing going for it: Aside from the Surface Studio and Dell Canvas, there’s no indication that other PC vendors will be aligning a new generation of PC hardware around the Creators Update. However, Windows 10’s Creators Update is the first to include the Windows 10 Holographic Shell, which will power a series of head-mounted displays from Acer, Asus, Dell, and more. Delaying the Creators Update wouldn’t tank the PC market, but it would disappoint a legion of hardware makers with some VR equipment to sell.
Even so, Microsoft could still afford an extra week or two to ensure everything goes smoothly. If anything, Surface buyers know that the first (or third!) revisions of the hardware often ship with their own set of bugs.
If that’s the debate within Redmond, here’s what we’d say to Microsoft: Suck it up and get it right. Maybe the only exciting thing about 2017’s holiday PCs will be Intel’s Optane and AMD’s Ryzen chips. That’s enough. As for Microsoft, let Project Scorpio be the product that gets shoppers into stores.
Microsoft aimed high with Windows 10, but buggy updates have damaged the operating system’s reputation. That can and should change. Courage isn’t removing a headphone jack. Courage is sitting down in front of upset customers and admitting that Microsoft didn’t deliver a product whose quality is worthy of its name—but this time, it will.
A hacker is proving that sites on the dark web, shrouded in anonymity, can easily be compromised.
On Friday, the unnamed hacker began dumping a sizable database stolen from Freedom Hosting II onto the internet, potentially exposing its users.
The hosting service, Freedom Hosting II, was known for operating thousands of sites that were accessible through the Tor browser; the “dark web” is essentially the encrypted network comprising Tor servers and browsers. But on Friday, the service appeared to be down. Its main landing page was replaced with a message saying that it had been hacked.
Allegedly, Freedom Hosting II had been hosting child pornography sites, though its anonymous operator claimed to have a zero-tolerance policy toward such content, according to the hacker behind the breach.
“What we found while searching through your server is more than 50% child porn…” the hacker wrote in the message left on the site. “Moreover, you host many scam sites, some of which are evidently run by yourself to cover hosting expenses.”
In an email to the IDG News Service, the hacker explained how the breach came about. “I just recently read an article about a well-known exploit that some hosting providers fell victims of many years ago,” the person said.
Freedom Hosting II worked as a free service that allowed anyone to sign up and create a site on the dark web. However, starting on Jan. 30, the hacker gained access to its web server, using a 20-step method.
The hack essentially involved starting a new site on Freedom Hosting II and creating a link to gain access to the service’s root directory. This allowed the hacker to browse the entire server.
“I was just curious at first,” the person said. “I had reading permissions to everything the web server could get access to just by creating a symlink to / (the root directory).”
After coming across child porn sites, the hacker decided to take over Freedom Hosting II by altering its configuration file to trigger a password reset.
“Once I found out what they were hosting, I just wanted to shut them down,” said the hacker, who’s also been circulating what he stole through a torrent file.
The dump includes 74GB of files and a 2.3GB database from the service, the hacker claims.
“The IP of the server has been leaked, which potentially could reveal the admin’s identity,” the hacker added.
Chris Monteiro, a cybercrime researcher based in the U.K., has been looking through the data dump, which he said appears to be real. The information includes the sites that Freedom Hosting II had been operating, along with the admin credentials to access them.
The dump also appears to contain a client database, meaning that anyone who used Freedom Hosting II might be exposed, Monteiro said.
“We’re going to see emails, usernames, all of which can be used by law enforcement for prosecution of people,” he said.
In addition, the dump contains forum posts from users mentioning sex with minors, the sale of hacked internet accounts, and files that reference botnets and online scamming.
Freedom Hosting II was the largest shared hosting service on the dark web, Monteiro said. It was specifically designed for users who wanted anonymous hosting, but who lacked the know-how to set it up, he said.
However, many of the sites hosted by the service were probably small. “I doubt we’ll find any large sites operating child porn,” he said of the data dump.
According to the hacker’s message, Freedom Hosting II was responsible for 10,613 sites. However, the database dump indicates that a vast majority of those sites had only a few dozen or hundreds of user visits.
Troy Hunt, a data breach expert, said in a tweet that he noticed the database dump contained 381,000 email addresses.
“Law enforcement will absolutely have this data, it’s very public. It also obviously has many real email addresses in it,” he tweeted.
Privacy researcher Sarah Jamie Lewis has also been researching Freedom Hosting II. In October, she wrote that the service had been hosting sites that sold counterfeit documents and stolen credit card numbers, in addition to those that operated as personal blogs and web forums.
Last week, researchers from the Microsoft Malware Protection Center warned about a new wave of spam emails that carried malicious .LNK files inside ZIP archives. Those files had malicious PowerShell scripts attached to them.
PowerShell is a scripting language for automating Windows system administration tasks. It has been abused to download malware in the past and there are even malware programs written entirely in PowerShell.
In the recent campaign seen by Microsoft, the malicious LNK files contained a PowerShell script that downloaded and installed the Kovter click fraud trojan. The same technique has been used in the past to distribute the Locky ransomware.
On Thursday researchers from Intel Security warned that PowerShell can also be used in so-called fileless attacks, where the malicious code is launched directly into memory and nothing is saved to disk for endpoint security products to detect.
“You may think that you are protected from fileless malware because your PowerShell execution policies are set to ‘Restricted’ so that scripts can’t run,” the Intel Security researchers said in a blog post. “However, attackers can easily bypass these policies.”
Banning LNK or JS file attachments is easy, because it’s rare for people to send such files via email. However, banning SVG might prove impractical since it’s a widely used image format.
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