Microsoft’s Cortana may be stuck behind the 8-ball in the rivalry with Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant, but the company has been working hard to make it an indispensable part of the PC experience.
While Microsoft’s virtual digital assistant can generally be accessed from Windows Search on the Start Menu, the company is now said to be working on integrating Cortana more closely with the Action Center, after having already migrated its proactive content to the Action Center in Windows 10 preview build 17017.
As per earlier reports, Cortana is also expected to receive its own dedicated spot on the System Tray and users will still be able to use ‘Hey Cortana’ to summon the digital assistant, but Microsoft will move the Cortana controls to the Action Center by moving the ‘Quick Actions’ out of there.
There’s no official word on when Microsoft will roll out these changes officially, but according to Windows Central, the changes should be ready for prime-time by the end of this year as part of the Redstone 5 update.
Another change that’s also likely to roll out as part of that update is a chat-based, windowed UI for Cortana, something that Microsoft has been testing for some time.
It will be interesting to see how users will receive these forthcoming changes in case the Windows Central report does turn out to be true, given how important Cortana has become in the context of Windows Search.
Reliance JioFiber with Free 100Mbps Internet to be Launched in March: Report Says
After several months of rumors, speculations and alleged leaks, JioFiber, the much-hyped Fiber broadband network from Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio, may finally see the light of day this March, according to reports today.
The JioFiber service could apparently launch as early as next month, as per a report in DNA. While the exact launch date for the JioFiber service is yet unknown, the story suggests that the company will look to disrupt the country’s broadband market with lucratively-priced high-speed offerings, just like it did with its LTE services back in 2016.
What we do know, however, is that Jio will offer India’s first large-scale, commercial Gigabit services, something the company has long been testing in at least 10 cities around the country including, but not limited to, Mumbai, Delhi-NCR, Ahmedabad, Jamnagar, Surat and Vadodara.
One thing to note here is that the March-end date that is being touted, is unlikely to be the full-fledged commercial launch of JioFiber. Just like it did with its LTE services back in 2016, Jio is expected to have a soft launch next month, whereby the company will offer free services to customers till the official launch at a later date.
Earlier rumors suggested that the pricing of the JioFiber will start at Rs. 500 for 600GB of data at 100Mbps, although, you’ll do well to take these figures with more than just a pinch of salt. It remains to be seen if Jio can do to the home broadband market what it did to the cellular market over the past couple of years.
The company already has a lot of goodwill among consumers because of the way it handled the roll out of its 4G services (all the petabytes of free data didn’t hurt either), so it will be interesting to see if the company can finally also democratize home broadband, which has traditionally suffered from slow speeds, reliability issues and absurdly high pricing. If it can, expect the likes of Netflix, Hotstar and Amazon Prime Videos gain even more traction in the days to come.
‘Drive-by’ Crypto-Mining Affecting Millions of Android Users: Malwarebytes
If you haven’t been paying attention to the rising scourge of crypto-mining scripts on websites hijacking your computer hardware to mine cryptocurrencies, you should.
From Facebook to YouTube, nobody is apparently safe from this growing menace, with recent reports even suggesting that thousands of government sites in the UK were recently targeted by crypto-mining malware. Now, security researchers at Malwarebytes are reporting that they have found evidence that millions of Android devices may have become part of the largest “drive-by crypto-mining campaign” targeted specifically at mobile devices.
According to the research published on the company’s official blog yesterday, the fact that most people do not use any web-filtering or security applications on their smartphones is being exploited by a section of cyber-criminals to run crypto-mining scripts for Monero (XMR), one of the leading cryptocurrencies right now.
“In a campaign we first observed in late January, but which appears to have started at least around November 2017, millions of mobile users (we believe Android devices are targeted) have been redirected to a specifically designed page performing in-browser cryptomining”.
The exploit uses forced redirects and Trojanized apps, which are not new, but in a curious bit of social engineering, they are honest about being crypto miners. While most cyber-criminals would keep this fact hidden, this new wave of miners is being clear about its purpose. The attackers claim the mining is being done to pay for server traffic, and will continue to do so until the visitor can prove they are human and not ‘bots’, by solving a captcha.
As can be seen in the above screenshots, the sites ask visitors to solve a captcha and till then will use the phone’s resources to mine Monero.
Malwarebytes has listed the affected domains and also the sites with redirect you to these domains. It would be wise to block these from your network if you have the know-how. Ominously, the company warns that the problem is going to get worse with more such mining attacks likely to hit the web.
“The first (domain) was registered in late November 2017, and new domains have been created since then, always with the same template”. With cryptocurrencies bouncing back from a slump off-late, it would be interesting to see whether this particular modus operandi will continue in the same vein even after its discovery.
New Skype Bug Could Provide Unrestricted Access to Hackers
A new bug has been discovered in Skype’s updater which can potentially allow hackers to gain complete access to a user’s system. First reported by security expert Stefan Kanthak at Seclists.org, the bug can be exploited to gain unrestricted access to every part of the operating system.
According to Kanthak:
“Once installed, Skype uses its own proprietary update mechanism instead of Windows/Microsoft Update…[Because] Skype periodically runs ‘%ProgramFile%\Skype\Updater\Updater.exe’ under the SYSTEM account, when an update is available, [the] Updater.exe copies/extracts another executable as ‘%SystemRoot%\Temp\SKY.tmp” /QUIET’.”
Kanthak goes on to explain that it is because of the aforementioned executable that the updater is vulnerable. Hackers can make use of DLL highjacking as the executable loads at least one DLL file called ‘UXTheme.dll’ from its application directory instead of loading its from the Windows system directory.
If a local user is able to place the UXTheme.dll or any of the other DLLs loaded by the vulnerable executable, the user will be able to gain access to the SYSTEM account. Microsoft has already ways to avoid the vulnerability, but Kanthak claims that the company’s developers seem to be ignoring the issue.
Kanthak adds that he alerted Microsoft about the bug back in September, but the company has not released a fix. According to Seclists’ reported timeline of the bug, Microsoft is expected to release a fix in a newer version of Skype, instead of rolling out a dedicated security update, as the latter option would be too painstaking giving the company’s development cycle.