Microsoft Drops Groove Music Pass Sending Customers To Spotify

Groove Music has had a short, troubled life.

It started out as Zune Music, but Microsoft bought it in 2012, promptly rebranding it as Xbox Music before changing its name again to Groove. Now, the company has decided to get out of the music business altogether, and is sending all of its paying customers over to Spotify.

The idea behind Groove music was a pretty solid one. When Windows 10 was rolled out, it included a new music player called Groove, and the music service was to tie into this new platform, allowing users to play either locally stored music files or subscribe to a streaming service, switching between the two seamlessly.

Groove Music Pass was the name given to the subscription service that allowed users to stream music via desktops, mobile devices and gaming consoles.

Although no detailed explanation was given, it seems clear that the service didn’t turn out to be the financial boon that Microsoft first imagined it to be. So, as part of the company’s next Patch Tuesday rollout, all Groove Music Pass customers will receive a notification and instructions on how to move their music collection over to Spotify.

Note, however, that the Groove music player itself lives on, and you’ll still be able to use it to play locally stored music files.

The bottom line is that if you’re a Groove Music Pass user, this may actually be good news. Spotify is an excellent service with a broader selection than that which was available on Microsoft’s service. They’ve been in the business longer and are obviously committed to remaining one of the industry’s top players, so the opportunity to switch, while it does carry some initial overhead and annoyance, is almost certain to be well worth it in the long run.

New WiFi Issue Could Affect Millions Of Users And Devices

Security researchers have found a new critical security flaw dubbed “Krack” (Key Reinstallation Attacks) that affects literally every WiFi router and smart phone in use today. The reason? The security flaw resides in the WiFi standard itself, rather than in a third-party product.

In addition to being vast in scope and scale, Krack is a particularly nasty, versatile flaw, allowing hackers to intercept credit card numbers, passwords, photos and a whole host of sensitive personal information.

It works like this: A hacker finds a vulnerable WPA2 network, and then makes an exact copy of it, including impersonating the MAC address. This clone then serves as a “man in the middle” allowing the hacker who controls it to intercept everything passing through it.

WPA2 encryption requires a unique key to encrypt each block of plain text, but because Krack attacks make a copy that’s indistinguishable from the original, they’re able to use the same encryption key.

As bad as that is, it gets worse for Android and Linux users. Thanks to a bug in the WPA2 standard, these devices don’t force the client to demand a unique encryption key with each use. Instead, they allow the key to be “zeroed out,” literally creating an encryption key containing all zeroes, which interferes with a key part of the handshake process.

In addition to that, hackers can deploy specialized scripts that can cause the connection to bypass HTTPS, which leaves passwords and other normally protected data exposed.

If there’s a silver lining, it is that the attack can’t be used to target routers directly, but honestly, that’s not much of a silver lining, because the potential damage this new vector could cause is virtually without limit.

Unfortunately, until a patch is released, there’s not much you can do, short of turning off WiFi altogether. This may work for smartphone users, but it is simply impractical for routers.

There’s some good news, though. The fix should be relatively easy to implement, although no ETA has been given at this point.

ATMs Continue To Be Huge Target For Hackers

Hackers are the new bank robbers in a very literal sense. Increasingly, hackers have taken to infiltrating bank networks specifically for the purpose of infecting ATMs attached to their network with malicious code that makes stealing from them a snap.

Once the malware has been installed on a target machine, a lower level member of the hacker’s organization can simply walk up and activate the code via a pre-defined numeric sequence, causing it to spit out money.

All the low-level hacker has to do is pocket it, take it back to HQ, and divide the spoils.

It gets even better from the hacker’s point of view, though. The same malware that can be triggered to launch the “Cash Out” style attack described above can also collect debit card information from anyone who uses the machine, enabling them to double dip, stealing not just from the bank, but also from a growing collection of its customers.

Considering the extreme risks involved with “Old School” bank robbing, this is a pretty attractive option, and it’s not at all hard to see why hackers have been increasingly drawn to it.

Thus far, attacks like these have been seen in the Far East, but haven’t yet made their way to Europe or America in any significant way. Given their level of success, however, it’s just a matter of time before we start seeing similar attacks here.

So far, the largest attack of this type occurred in Taiwan, in July 2016, when a group of hackers orchestrated a highly coordinated attack that struck 41 different ATMs and saw the group make off with a hefty $2.7 million in cash.

Again, this is small potatoes compared to some other, more mainstream attacks. Take the malware Carbanak, for instance, which has been tied to bank thefts totaling more than $1 billion dollars in a combination of fraudulent wire transfers and ATM attacks. Even so, the trend is a growing one, and it’s all but inevitable that we’ll start seeing them in the US, probably sooner rather than later.

Firefox Will End Support For XP, and Vista Users In 2018

<img class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-6998″ src=”” alt=”” width=”300″ height=”225″ />Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP and Vista quite some time ago., Butbut so far, Firefox has been hanging tough, continuing to provide updates to their browser’s users on both platforms, doing at least something to extend their useful life a bit longer.

That’s soon coming to an endgoing to change soon. Mozilla recently announced that as of June 2018, their support for both XP and Vista would be coming to an end.

Originally, Mozilla planned to discontinue support to both XP and Vista in December 2016. That date came and went, and the company announced that they’d provide a revised date for ending their support no later than September 2017. They’ve now settled on a final date, and odds are that the two platforms won’t get another extension beyond this.

If you’re still using either XP or Vista, it’s well past time to migrate or upgrade. Unfortunately, tens of millions of users around the world are still clinging to these systems, because the legacy software running on them simply isn’t compatible with more modern operating systems.

The danger, though, is that sans security patches, these systems are growing increasingly vulnerable to hacking attacks as time passes. New security flaws and exploits are being discovered all the time, and they’re not getting patched, making these old systems little more than ticking time bombs on your company’s network.

All that to say, if you’re still struggling to upgrade your legacy systems so you can finally move away from Windows Vista and XP, it’s more important than ever. No matter how important those legacy systems are to your company, the hard truth is that the longer those old systems remain connected to your network, the more danger your company is in. It’s not a question of if a hacker will exploit that system, it’s a matter of when.

The clock is ticking.

Google Has Announced Earbuds That Translate Language In Real Time

Google Labs has produced some amazing ideas. Some of them have found their way to the market, and many others have not. The one thing they have in common, though, is that they’re all intriguing and exciting.

That’s especially true of Google’s latest offering, Google Pixel Buds.

If you’ve ever read “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy,” then you know the term “Bable Fish.” If you grew up watching Star Trek, then you know all about the Universal Translator. Well, Google has built the version 1.0 of that very device.

The new earbuds are able to translate forty different languages in something close to real time. Close enough, in any case, to be useful in day to day conversation.

Obviously there are some glitches and limitations at this point, just as there were in the first smartphones and computers, but the fact that this new technology exists at all, in any form, is nothing short of amazing.

The potential applications are limitless, and the number will only grow as the technology matures. We can see the possibility of seamless global communications that cut across language barriers. It boggles the mind.

If you do business with vendors all over the globe, imagine how much simpler this is going to make your life. As mentioned, it’s a given that early adopters will face certain limitations and no doubt chafe under the shortcomings of the early versions of the device, but that’s been true of just about every invention we’ve ever seen enter the marketplace.

Consider speech-to-text technology, for example. The early versions were quite buggy and you could count yourself lucky if they successfully interpreted 40 percent of your words, translating them into text. These days, that percentage is closer to 98.

The best way to help this new product succeed is to jump in and start using it, bugs, flaws, shortcomings and all. Kudos to Google Labs!

Microsoft Edge Browser Coming To Android And IOS

Since ditching its beleaguered Internet Explorer browser, Microsoft’s latest offering, Edge, which is bundled with Windows 10, has been struggling to gain a foothold in the market.

Yes, it comes preloaded on Windows 10 machines, and that fact alone has prompted significant use. However, the browser has its share of weaknesses and limitations, one of the largest being that it has, until now, completely lacked a cross-platform, multiple device experience.

That has changed. Users can now install the Edge browser on iOS and Android devices, which makes it easier to surf the web seamlessly across multiple devices.

It should be noted, however, that “smartphone Edge” is Microsoft Edge in name only. The variants created for iOS and Android devices have little in common with Microsoft Edge for the PC, other than the name, and a similar look and feel.

In the case of the iOS version, this is because Apple doesn’t allow the development of third-party browsers, so iOS Edge is essentially the Safari browser, wrapped in a different skin.

Google’s Android platform doesn’t have rules quite as restrictive, and as such, Edge for the Android platform is built around Chromium, which is an open source Chrome variant.

Even with these limitations, though, the multi-platform, multi-device Edge does get the job done, allowing for basic tab syncing across devices.

This development, while encouraging, is likely to do little to change the equation much. Most users are pretty happy with whatever browser they’re currently using, and unless there’s a truly compelling reason to switch, they simply won’t.

This development, while certainly a nice addition, is not something most people are likely to find compelling enough to switch browsers for. However, it may have some impact at the Enterprise level, if and where there are applications and web portals that have been optimized for use with Edge. If your company has one of these, then this is welcomed news indeed.

Microsoft Officially Pulls Plug On Windows Phone

The Windows phone is officially dead, with the announcement from Joe Belfiore that there would be no new feature updates and no further development.

The writing has been on the wall for a while now, with Microsoft gutting its phone division and laying off thousands of employees. But until Belfiore’s announcement, the company hadn’t made it official.

Microsoft was very slow to recognize how big a footprint smartphones would ultimately have in the market, and as such, paid little attention to them when they were first introduced.

Their first serious effort to try and gain a foothold in the market was with the introduction of Windows CE, a “lite” version of Windows that was plagued with problems almost from the start.

The company tried again with Windows 8, which was redesigned with apps specifically in mind.

Unfortunately, it represented too much of a change and was introduced too quickly. The new OS was not well-received.

Windows 10 essentially represented a “do-over”, and to the company’s credit, it was much more well-received than its predecessor. However, by the time the company hit upon something that may have worked, the market was already too mature, and the big players were already too well-entrenched for the company to have a realistic shot at gaining significant ground.

They struggled to get a sufficient number of developers interested in writing apps for their phone, and even if they had, their app store was plagued with problems. Thus, the company’s decision to pull the plug was not terribly surprising.

Mr. Belfiore stressed that the company would continue to support the platform, providing bug fixes and security patches to all those who wish to continue using them, but as the already small user base continues to shrink, it will eventually reach a point where it’s simply no longer financially viable to do even that.

Windows 10 Now Installed On Over 600M Machines

When Microsoft first released Windows 10, the company boasted that it would try to get its new OS running on a billion devices by 2018.

Time and circumstance have conspired to make that lofty goal unlikely, and the company has since retreated from it. However, according to statistics released at a recent shareholder’s meeting, there are now more than 600 million devices utilizing it, including PCs, tablets, HoloLens headsets, Surface Hubs and Xbox One consoles.

It’s an impressive number, but two things contributed to dramatically slowing the overall rate of adoption.

First and foremost, the company recently ended its free Windows 10 upgrade offer, which had been the driving force behind the rapid adoption since the initial release of the OS. Secondly, Microsoft gave up on the Windows Phone, making it unlikely in the extreme that smartphones will ever contribute in any significant way to the total number of installed devices.

Earlier this year, Microsoft found itself in hot water when it was discovered that the company was quietly pushing the new OS onto Windows 7 and Windows 8 machines. This move ate up a whopping six gigabytes of hard disk space and drew a considerable amount of fire from a variety of user and industry groups.

Some of the other tactics used by the company have also been found to be overly aggressive, and in some cases, downright coercive. The worst of these have since been abandoned, but not before considerable damage had been done to the company’s image.

As things stand now, Windows 10 is the second most widely used desktop OS, behind only Windows 7, which has a market share of 52.37 percent according to the latest statistics by Netmarketshare. Even if Microsoft never quite reaches its initial 1 billion-device goal, 600 million devices is nothing to sneeze at.

OnePlus Mobile Phone Found To Be Collecting User Data

If you own a smartphone made by Chinese manufacturer OnePlus, you can thank security researcher Chris Moore for making a discovery that the manufacturer wasn’t going to tell you about.

It turns out that OnePlus phones running the OxygenOS are recording a disturbing amount of user data and sending it back to a company server. The data being collected on users include, but are not limited to:

• Any time the user locks or unlocks the phone
• Any time the user launches, uses or closes an app
• Which WiFi networks the device connects to
• The phone’s IMEI
• The phone number tied to the phone
• Mobile network names

All of this makes it very easy for the company to personally identify users.

When Moore was conducting his tests, he noted that the phone sent more than 16MB of data back to the server in a span of just ten hours. If you’re on a data plan with tight limits, that could max out your usage in no time.

The company issued a response to the findings, confirming that it does indeed transmit analytic data to an Amazon server in two distinct streams, one designed to help them fine-tune their software and the second for sale support, but insists that nothing nefarious is going on. They further stress that users can turn off some of the data collection by going into Settings  Advanced, and then deselecting the option to “Join The User Experience Program” which is set to active by default.

Unfortunately, this only deactivates the first of the two data streams. It is apparently impossible to deactivate the second.

The company’s official explanation seems a bit thin, but unfortunately, there’s little to be done. While you can limit the amount of data collected on you, at this time, there’s no way to stop it completely. Keep this in mind if you use a OnePlus phone.

New iPhone X May Be Susceptible To Burn-In

<img class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-7088″ src=”” alt=”” width=”300″ height=”225″ />Apple’s new iPhone X is a technological marvel that boasts the best display in the industry today, featuring Super Retina OLED display technology and offering a mind boggling 1,000,000 to 1 contrast ratio.

Unfortunately, there’s a problem, as revealed by a new support document the company released on the iPhone X. In it, Apples states that users may experience shifts in hue and color, and burn-in with the new display, especially if they maximize the phone’s brightness and keep the same image displayed for long periods of time.

According to the support document itself:

“If you look at an OLED display off-angle, you might notice slight shifts in color and hue. This is a characteristic of OLED and is normal behavior. With extended long-term use, OLED displays can also show slight visual changes. This is also expected behavior and can include ‘image persistence’ or ‘burn-in,’ where the display shows a faint remnant of an image even after a new image appears on the screen. This can occur in more extreme cases such as when the same high contrast image is continuously displayed for prolonged periods of time. We’ve engineered the Super Retina display to be the best in the industry in reducing the effects of OLED ‘burn-in.'”

The company also recommends a simple workaround users can employ to minimize the chances of this occurring. If it’s something you’re concerned about, simply adjust your phone’s brightness as follows:

• Go to Settings, and then into General
• From General, tap Accessibility, and then Display Accommodations
• Adjust to taste from there

Another simple thing you can do would be to set your phone to auto-lock after a shorter period of time. To make changes to that feature:

• Go to Settings
• From there, select Display &amp; Brightness
• Then, go to Auto Lock and set whatever time period you deem appropriate

While neither of these are perfect solutions, they will certainly get the job done for the overwhelming majority of users.