The War Against Fake News Continues

The battle against “fake news” continues, at least on social media.

Facebook reported earlier this week that it has targeted 30,000 fake accounts linked to France ahead of the country’s presidential election, as part of a worldwide effort against misinformation.

Facebook went on to state that it’s trying to “reduce the spread of material generated through inauthentic activity, including spam, misinformation, or other deceptive content that is often shared by creators of fake accounts.”

Facebook had previously ramped up its efforts against the spread of false news and misinformation on its service in December, a month after the U.S. presidential election. The company said at the time that it will focus on the “worst of the worst” offenders and partner with outside fact-checkers and news organizations to sort honest news reports from made-up stories.

This action is partially a result of Facebook being accused of allowing the spread of false news in the months leading up to the U.S. election, which may have helped change the results of the election.

Image result for facebook fake news

Last week, Facebook launched a resource (above image) to help users spot false news in 14 countries including the U.S., France and Germany. It’s a notification, available for a few days, that leads users to a list of tips for spotting false news and ways to report it.

Facebook’s other efforts include participating with other companies and tech industry leaders to establish a “news integrity” nonprofit organization to promote news literacy and increase the public’s trust in journalism.

I do expect that this fake news problem, which is now a world wide phenomenon will eventually be dealt with. However, how that will look, or how effective our efforts will be is unknown.

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Goodbye Windows Vista

If you are using Windows Vista it’s time to move on. That is because earlier this week Microsoft released the official release of the Windows 10 Creators Update, bringing with it new 3D, gaming, privacy, and security functionality to the operating system  and at the same time announced the end of Windows Vista support.

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What this means is that Microsoft is officially ending Windows Vista extended support as of April 11, 2017. This was expected and is five years after the operating system hit its end-of-maintenance support date of April 10, 2012, and roughly 10 years since Microsoft first released Windows Vista to a litany of complaints and its eventual replacement by the much more well-received Windows 7.

Microsoft’s operating system support policies are spelled out fairly specifically, as follows:

  • Mainstream support. Microsoft will offer mainstream support for a minimum of 5 years from the date of a product’s general availability. For example, if you buy a new version of Windows and five years later another version is released, you will still have two years of support left for the previous version.
  • Extended support. Microsoft will offer extended support for a minimum of 5 years from the date of a product’s general availability.

What this means is that Windows Vista will no longer receive any kind of update, including new security updates, non-security hotfixes, or free or paid support. Microsoft will also no longer provide any online technical content updates. In other words, if you’re intent on continuing to use Windows Vista — and there aren’t many of you who remain committed to one of the company’s least popular operating systems — then you’re completely on your own.

Perhaps the most significant downside to using an unsupported OS is that you’re leaving yourself wide open to security vulnerabilities. You’ll also likely receive zero support from hardware and software vendors in terms of keeping their products working well.

Most users will likely go ahead and upgrade their machine to Windows 10 if it’s currently stuck on Windows Vista. Windows 10 offers a host of improvements, not the least of which is enhanced security — albeit raising some potential privacy concerns — along with the best level of third-party support. If your PC can’t handle an upgrade to Windows 10, then you might just want to consider buying a new one.

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Pausing Updates with Windows 10 Creators Upgrade

The Windows 10 Creators Update is rolling out to Windows 10 PCs across the world. The massive Windows 10 update is packed full of features, like Start menu tile-folders, an overhauled Game Mode, and further integration of the Control Panel into the new Settings menu. There is something for everyone here.

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Microsoft continues to receive negative feedback regarding their new update system. Windows 10 removed control over system updates from the user, switching to an enforced update system. It was, understandably, very unpopular. In the nearly two years following the Windows 10 rollout, Microsoft has stuck firmly to its guns: automatic updates are the easiest and safest option for the majority of users.

However, Microsoft is softening, and the Windows 10 Creators Update introduces a new Pause Updates option.

A Momentary Pause

The Pause Update button provides a momentary pause in the Windows 10 update schedule. Your system will be update-free for seven days from the moment you push the button. Once the seven days is up, your system will be open to updates once again.

In fact, Microsoft has made sure you cannot simply spam the seven day pause to cut updates out completely. In order to use the Pause Update feature again, you’ll have to let your system update. Meaning while you’ve had a quiet seven days, at the end, there is a barrage waiting.

To find the new Pause Update feature, head to Settings > Update & security > Advanced options, then toggle the Pause Update to On. Your pause update timeframe will be displayed underneath.

Normal Service Resumes

The Windows 10 Pause Update button isn’t the indefinite update stopper that many users still cry out for. But it does offer an easier method of pausing updates than installing third-party software or tinkering with the command line.

Is the new Pause Update enough? Or do you still want more from Microsoft? How many times have you lost work because of an unexpected update? Or have you simply ditched Windows? Let us know your thoughts below!

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New Microsoft Word Threat Discovered

Image result for word macro virusJust yesterday I warned against a scam alert and now here is yet another threat that involves Microsoft Word. We live in scary times dedicated readers.

You might want to be extra careful about what files you open in Word over the next few days: Attackers are exploiting a previously undisclosed vulnerability in Microsoft Office to sneak malware into your system.

The zero-day bug fundamentally relies on infected Word documents, which then download malicious HTML applications disguised as make-belief Rich Text files. Once executed, the HTML application connects to a remote server and runs a custom script designed to stealthily install malware.

What is particularly worrying is that unlike regular macro hacks – which Office generally warns against when opening macro-enabled documents – the attack vector makes it difficult to prevent potential attacks.

This latest threat has to do with the Windows Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) function, which has been exploited on a number of occasions over the past few years.

The vulnerability affects all versions of Office, including the latest Office 2016 for Windows 10, according to the researchers.

Fortunately, a Microsoft spokesperson has confirmed that Microsoft will eliminate the issue with the release of its upcoming monthly update later on Tuesday, April 11.

Until then users should only run Office in Protected View mode as well as to refrain from opening any Office files obtained from untrusted locations.

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Scammer Alert

Sometimes having the best anti-virus software on your computer is not enough. Sometimes email messages will get through that threaten your security and financial welfare – because the email does not contain a virus. Also criminals continue to use old technologies like phone calls, snail mail and faxes to separate you from your money.

As in this case, criminals will try to get to your cash through the simple use of your fax.

A very common trick of cyber criminals today is pulling at your heartstrings. For example. This morning a co-worker reported receiving this fax/email message. I share this in order to help spread the word. Never ever respond to messages like this.

Here is the actual fax, which in our case was received through a connected email account. Today many fax accounts are often attached to email.

Here is the message which as I recommend should not be opened if received by email. Check out the date on the letter. It’s from the future!

Letters like this should never – ever be responded to. Throw them away.

Again – if you do not know the sender personally disregard the message. Always double & triple verify before you send any money to anyone. It’s a dangerous world out there dedicated readers.

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Social Media Begins Responding to Fake News

Fake news is anything but fake, it is a very real problem. Both Facebook & YouTube which have been outlets for creators of fake news are starting to respond to this threat. In fact one of the biggest ways in which Russia interfered with the presidential election of 2016 was through the publishing of fake news stories which even included entire Facebook pages.

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Facebook’s Fake News Response

Facebook is launching a resource to help you spot false news and misleading information that spreads on its service.

The resource, similar to previous efforts around privacy and security, is basically a notification that pops up for a few days. Clicking on it takes you to tips and other information on how to spot false news and what to do about it.

Tips to spot false news include looking closely at website addresses to see if they are trying to spoof real news sites, and checking websites’ “about” sections for more information. Some sites might look like real news at first glance, but their “about” sections inform the visitor that they are in fact satire.

The new feature is part of a broader plan by Facebook to clamp down false news stories, which gained outsized attention in the months leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

False news, of course, was around long before the election. But supermarket tabloids peddling stories about aliens and celebrity miracles are less insidious than, say, “Pizzagate,” a false internet rumor that led a gunman to fire an assault weapon inside a Washington pizzeria in December.

This new resource should be launching soon. Watch for it.

YouTube’s Fake News Response

Youtube announced this past Thursday that is it is cracking down on fake news channels by no longer placing advertising on them until they’ve reached 10,000 overall views.

YouTube, which is owned by Alphabet Inc., also the parent company of Google, announced changes after several big companies pulled their advertising from the company because their ads were appearing with objectionable content.

The online video service said the changes are designed to make sure channels are legitimate and not stealing content.

In the past, the open-ended policy allowed amateur video creators to earn money and some work became viral and earned a considerable amount.

Several advertisers, including Walmart, General Motors, JPMorgan Chase, Pepsico, Starbucks and Johnson & Johnson, pulled out of YouTube after their ads appeared in extremist hate-speech videos.

YouTube, due to it’s reliance on advertisers and their growing reluctance to appear on fake news & hate filled stories is spearheading this response.

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Technology Training Day @ West Chester

Today much of our staff got together for our quarterly technology training. Although you may have not been there – you can check out much of what we talked about right here.

We covered Microsoft Excel, Outlook, Word, OneNote, Skype for Business and the very scary situation that is Ransomware.

 

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Microsoft Sprinkles Your iPhone

Microsoft has launched a new iOS camera app called Sprinkles. I am not sure if we actually need another iOS camera app, but I guess Microsoft thinks we do. I do think Microsoft picked a cool name for this app. It’s called Sprinkles. With Sprinkles Microsoft is taking on a genre currently dominated by Snapchat. Like Snapchat Sprinkles brings with it captions, stickers, and emojis and more fun stuff.

There was a time, not so long ago, when you’d take a photograph and that would be that. Each photo would capture a moment in time, and remain unsullied by filters and other silly stuff. And then Snapchat arrived on the scene, and changed everything.

Microsoft’s Sprinkles

Sprinkles is an iOS camera app which lets you do a host of different things with each photo you snap. You can add your own caption, add stickers and emojis, and place virtual photobooth-style props about your person.

Sprinkles utilizes Microsoft’s machine learning capabilities. The app will suggest captions based on what’s in the photo, resize and align stickers to fit your face, auto-detect your age, and inform you who your celebrity lookalike is.

Sprinkles is a strange app, but one that’s likely to appeal to a certain demographic. That being the younger generation who need to add something, anything, to a photo before letting anyone see it. Which is, we assume, why Microsoft called this app Sprinkles in the first place.

Sprinkles is available for free on the iTunes App Store right now.

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New Patch Arrives On Your iPhone Today

Today Apple is rolling out a new over the air (OTA) update for all iOS 10 users. Arriving as version 10.3.1, the latest patch isn’t a substantial one like iOS 10.3 which introduced important new features such as Find My AirPods, the Apple File System, and enhancements to Siri. Instead, the patch note simply states that “iOS 10.3.1 includes bug fixes and improves the security of your iPhone or iPad.”

A closer look at Apple’s security page sheds light on some of the content of the new update. A discoevred Wi-Fi flaw has apparently been fixed. It appears that this vulnerability could have allowed “an attacker within range” to execute arbitrary code on the Wi-Fi chip of your phone or tablet.
Apple releases iOS 10.3.1: See what's included in the new update10.3.1 is available as a free OTA update for anyone on iOS10, while you can also download it by connecting your device to iTunes. It weighs in at less than 30MB, so a Wi-Fi connection isn’t really all that necessary.

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Google Patches New Chrome Bug

Last week Google updated Chrome to patch several recently discovered vulnerabilities, including a bug in the browser’s JavaScript engine that a Chinese team tried to exploit at a recent hacking contest.

The update to version 57.0.2987.133 contained fixes for five vulnerabilities, one marked “Critical” — the most serious rating in Google’s system — and the others tagged “High.”

Of the four vulnerabilities ranked High, one was attributed to “Team Sniper,” one of five groups from Chinese company Tencent Security that participated in this year’s edition of Pwn2Own, one of the world’s best-known hacking contests. Pwn2Own ran March 15-17 alongside the CanSecWest conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Google noted that the bug used by Team Sniper was an “out-of-bounds memory access [vulnerability] in V8,” Chrome’s JavaScript engine. As is Google’s practice, it did not divulge any other information about the flaw. After several weeks, or even months — enough time for most users to update the browser — Google usually lifts the embargo on the bug report and its technical data.

No other individual researcher or team of hackers attempted to crack Chrome at Pwn2Own. Several successful attacks were conducted against other browsers during the contest, however, including five that compromised Microsoft’s Edge, four that broke Apple’s Safari and one which hijacked Mozilla’s Firefox.

Make sure you update your Chrome browser today. Here’s how:

Normally updates happen in the background when you close and reopen your computer’s browser. But if you haven’t closed your browser in a while, you might see a pending update:

  1. On your computer, open Chrome.
  2. At the top right, look at More More.
  3. If an update is pending, the icon will be colored:
    • Green: An update’s been available for 2 days.
    • Orange: An update’s been available for 4 days.
    • Red: An update’s been available for 7 days.

To update Google Chrome:

  1. On your computer, open Chrome.
  2. At the top right, click More More.
  3. Click Update Google Chrome. If you don’t see this button, you’re on the latest version.
  4. Click Relaunch.

The browser saves your opened tabs and windows and reopens them automatically when it restarts. If you’d prefer not to restart right away, click Not now. The next time you restart your browser, the update will be applied.

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