Latest Technology News

Down but not out, VBA malware makes a comeback in Microsoft Office

Lurking virus

While malware for Microsoft's Office platform has been around just about as long as the suite, we've heard less about it in recent times. That is changing though as new threats surface, altering the landscape a bit. The latest problems are really just a new iteration of the older ones, utilizing a tried and true attack vector.

That line of attack comes from the code itself, using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). Security firm Sophos is reporting a rise in incidents of this across various parts of the suite. The code is unfortunately open to these flaws.

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Have we seen the rise and fall of the cable and satellite industry?


There's a fair chance that most every house built 30 years ago had cable installed in it. Not long afterwards satellite began to take off, and continued to eat into the market of companies like Comcast, CableVision and others. That's a logical progression, as new options give people better choices and channel numbers increased, along with premium options.

But that trend is now on the downside. According to a 2014 report in USA Today cord-cutters (those with neither cable nor satellite) rose from 4.5 percent in 2010 to 6.5 percent as of that time. Meanwhile, the same month saw a study from Leichtman Research Group reveal that the top nine cable companies lost a total of 510,000 subscribers in the second quarter of 2014. Satellite fared little better, shedding 78,000 customers.

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WhatsApp Call feature releases to more users -- here's how you can get it

WhatsApp Call

WhatsApp, the popular instant messaging client, is working on a voice-calling feature which it plans to release to the public soon. WhatsApp has been rolling out the functionality to select users as part of a beta test program, something the company had confirmed last month. BetaNews is now able to report and confirm that WhatsApp is once again rolling out the voice calling feature to many users, and the invite can be disseminated if a user with the feature working on their Android device makes a phone call from within the app to other Android users. We tried to make it work on an iPhone, but couldn't; and we're yet to try it on a Windows Phone handset.

Last year, WhatsApp announced that it was working on a voice-calling feature and would release it to users by the second half of 2014. While that obviously never happened, the company last month began to flip the switches for many users as part of a beta testing program. Last month, it had confirmed that it was beta testing the feature and would release to all as soon as it is satisfied with the initial results.

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Of course, Chromebooks matter


Yesterday, commentary "Do Chromebooks matter anymore?" popped up in my social network feeds. Preston Gralla rightly wonders, when looking at how the laptops have fallen off Amazon's top-seller lists, IDC shipment forecasts, and what happened with netbooks. While being a Chromebook fan, I must admit to similar misgivings.

So today, I emailed Stephen Baker, NPD's vice president of industry analysis: "Are Chromebooks just the next netbook wave? Low-cost, lean configurations, and education adoption all look similar to me. Do you see any parallels to suggest Chromebook is little more than the next netbook and it's headed for the same destination: Short-term appeal that vanishes? Or is there longevity here, based on sales numbers?" His answer is reason for this post.

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Silicon Power Armor A65M is a waterproof and military-grade USB 3.0 hard drive for Mac


Using cloud-based storage is extremely convenient, and arguably safer than traditional hard drive storage. Why? If, God forbid, there is a fire or other disaster in your home or office, your files are safe and secure offsite.

With that said, there are some deficiencies with the cloud, such as a need for an internet connection, and the potential lack of control of your own files. Yes, internet is seemingly ubiquitous nowadays, but do you feel uncomfortable not having access during an outage? If so, a USB solution coupled with offsite storage for redundancy is a smart choice. Today, Silicon power announces the ultra-rugged Armor A65M. Designed for Mac, it should work with Linux and Windows too.

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Reports that uTorrent silently installs Bitcoin crapware are... crap

Reports that uTorrent silently installs Bitcoin crapware are... crap

Sometimes it's easy to be swayed by what's being written online. At the moment there are lots of stories creeping out about the iPad Pro and Apple Watch, none of which are founded in any fact whatsoever. Still, making stuff up, popping it in quotes and attributing it to an anonymous source is great fun, right?

It may be fun, but it's not really fair on the reader. Another story which popped up on my radar today was about uTorrent -- the popular BitTorrent client that's loved and hated in equal measure. Stories on Trusted Reviews, Engadget and the Verge suggest a Bitcoin mining tool called Epic Scale is installed without permission, and is a tricky blighter to remove. There's an easy way to find out; let's just install it.

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Hands on with Microsoft Office for Mac 2016 Preview


After a five-year gap, Microsoft has unveiled the first public beta of its forthcoming Office 2016 for Mac with the release of Microsoft Office for Mac 2016 Preview. The new release is free for all Yosemite users during the remainder of the product’s pre-release phase, with the final version slated for release later this year.

Office for Mac 2016 Preview ships with five components: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote. It boasts a refreshed and optimized codebase, Retina-friendly visuals and support for full-screen mode.

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Wiper Messenger now lets you send Bitcoin to your friends


Wiper is a messaging service which offers an interesting privacy and security-centric option. It lets users delete their conversations, on-demand, from the other users' smartphones as well as Wiper's servers. I took a look at what it can do in a previous article, which you can check out here.

In the meantime, Wiper has received a couple of major updates which improve the user experience and add new features to the mix. Among the highlights is the ability to send and receive Bitcoins straight from the app.

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WeatherMate now portable, supports 100+ US weather maps


Its last big release was back in 2007, but Windows weather monitor WeatherMate has jumped back to life with the release of version 4.0, and a host of major improvements.

The program can now display a vast number of detailed US radar and weather maps, organized into categories like "Current Conditions", "Forecasts", "Severe Weather", "Travel", "Health", "Aviation", "Marine", "Golf" and "Farming".

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Best Windows apps this week


One-hundred and twenty one in a series. Welcome to this week's overview of the best apps and games released for Windows in the past seven days.

If you are interested in the development of Windows 10, you may be interested in screenshot leaks of build 10031 and build 10022 which allow you to glimpse at new or improved features.

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Oracle: How about some adware to go with that new Java for Mac?


One of the things I -- and I assume a lot of fellow users -- like about using a Mac is that most OS X programs do not try to trick the user into installing adware. In fact, a lot of the programs I use do not even feature a typical setup, as they can be installed simply by copying them to the Applications folder. For someone coming from Windows, it may feel impossible to grasp at first -- yes, you can actually enjoy the install process. Wow!

Of course, there are developers who do not care about the experience their users have during and after the setup, so they bundle adware with their programs. Thankfully, on Macs it's easier to spot, but it's still something to look out for at times, especially if you wish to install Oracle's latest Java release.

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Facebook's inactive account cull means fewer likes for pages

Facebook's inactive account cull means fewer likes for pages

Like just about any online service, Facebook has a huge number of dead and dormant accounts. It could be that the owner has died, they might have lost interest, or they may be spam accounts that are no longer used. Facebook is now having a spring clean, sweeping aside inactive accounts, and this could have an interesting side effect for page owners.

Accounts that have been purposely deactivated, or memorialized after a death, are currently still factored into the 'like' count for pages. This is set to change, so many page owners should brace themselves for a sudden drop in likes over the coming weeks.

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Financial companies seek cloud strategy for secure relationship

cloud money dollars

Cloud technology is being adopted across a wide range of industry sectors and financial companies are no exception. But a new report from the Cloud Security Alliance suggests that many of them are still looking for the right strategy.

The survey targeted executives from banking, insurance and investment firms around the world. Whilst it found that cloud computing is becoming more and more prevalent throughout the financial sector, many respondents still don't have a firm strategy.

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Microsoft and Google working together on Angular 2 JavaScript framework

Microsoft and Google working together on Angular 2 JavaScript framework

There are unlikely partnerships, and there are unlikely partnerships -- Google and Microsoft certainly make for strange bedfellows. At developer conference ng-conf in Salt Lake City, Google's Angular team revealed that it has been working with the TypeScript Team from Microsoft to produce Angular 2.

The worlds of TypeScript and AtScript have converged, resulting in the collaborative effort that is Angular 2. The new version of the JavaScript framework will be written in TypeScript and will be used to develop the next generation of web sites and web apps.

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All Windows versions are vulnerable to FREAK

OS X, iOS and Linux have more vulnerabilities than Windows

When the FREAK vulnerability was brought to our attention earlier this week, Windows was not originally believed to be affected by it. Apple and Google took the heat, as the cryptographers who made the discovery named OpenSSL (which is used by Android, among others) and Apple TLS/SSL clients (like Safari) as being vulnerable to FREAK attacks (short for Factoring Attack on RSA-EXPORT Keys).

However, a new security advisory released by Microsoft yesterday paints a different picture. In reality, all supported versions of Windows, including Server products, are vulnerable to FREAK attacks. Microsoft isn't discussing non-supported versions of Windows -- like Windows XP -- for obvious reasons, but it is safe to say that they are also impacted.

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