Mark Wycislik-Wilson

Europe threatens Facebook with fines for tracking users and non-users online

Facebook on mobile and laptop

Just last week Facebook was hit with the news that its privacy settings -- as well as the way the company uses personal data -- are illegal in Germany. Now the social network has been threatened with fines for tracking people through third-party websites.

The tracking affects even people who do not have a Facebook account, and this is something that a Belgian court took exception to. Belgium's privacy watchdog also told Facebook to delete data that had been illegally collected about Belgian citizens.

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Freely accessible Wikipedia Zero is no more

Wikipedia on iPhone

The Wikimedia Foundation is to kill off Wikipedia Zero this year. The zero-rated version of the online encyclopaedia was launched six years ago with the aim of providing free access to mobile users in numerous countries, but there has been a significant drop in demand.

The foundation has partnered with dozens of mobile operators around the world to provide free access to Wikipedia. Among the reasons for shutting down the program is "low awareness of Wikipedia outside of North America and Europe."

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Microsoft Edge vulnerability exposed as Microsoft misses Google's Project Zero disclosure deadline

Microsoft Edge

Google has revealed details of a security vulnerability in Microsoft Edge before a patch has been produced. Through Project Zero, Google notified Microsoft about a bug in the browser's Arbitrary Code Guard (ACG) feature back in November, giving the company the usual 90-day disclosure deadline.

Google went further, granting Microsoft a further grace period of two weeks on request, but the vulnerability remains unfixed in Windows 10. As such, details of the "ACG bypass using UnmapViewOfFile" bug have now been made public.

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White House joins UK government in blaming Russia for NotPetya

White House on Russian flag

The US government has joined the government of the UK in pointing the finger of blame at Russia for the NotPetya cyberattacks. The ransomware/destructoware hit computers around the world last June.

After speculation that the attack was a state-sponsored one carried out by Russia, this position has now been confirmed as the White House accused the nation of the "reckless and indiscriminate." At the same time, the UK's National Cyber Security Centre said that the Russian military was "almost certainly" responsible for the attack.

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Samsung pauses Oreo update for Galaxy S8 and S8+ due to restart issues

Samsung Galaxy S8

It's only a week since Samsung started to roll out Android 8.0 Oreo to the Galaxy S8 and S8+, and now the company has paused the update.

A "limited number" of handsets receiving the update have been experiencing reboot problems after installing Oreo. While Samsung investigates the matter, the rollout has been paused and a new version of the update is being worked on.

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If you're concerned about privacy, you might want to skip Facebook's VPN -- Onavo Protect

Facebook icon on iPhone 8

Facebook and privacy are not words that really belong in the same sentence, so the idea that the social network is offering a VPN tool might well raise your suspicions. Back in 2013, Facebook acquired Onavo, the company behind the VPN tool Protect.

Recently, users of the Facebook iOS app noticed a link to something labelled Protect within settings. While this appears to be a built-in setting, it is in fact just a link to the Onavo Protect VPN app -- and the idea of a Facebook-owned VPN tool being promoted from within the Facebook app has people concerned. Take a look at the app description, and you may well understand why.

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With Intel's updated bug bounty program, you could earn big bucks for finding the next Meltdown

Intel keychain

Intel has updated its bug bounty program, offering up to $250,000 to anyone identifying vulnerabilities in its hardware and software. The key update here is that the program is now open to everyone through the HackerOne platform -- it was previously open to selected security researchers on an invite-only basis.

The move comes in the wake of the Meltdown and Spectre chip vulnerability revelations, and it's clearly an attempt by Intel to not only ramp up its security, but to be seen doing so. The company says it wants to create "a process whereby the security research community can inform us, directly and in a timely fashion, about potential exploits that its members discover."

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Google explains how Chrome's new ad filtering feature works -- and why it's not your new ad blocker

Chrome in Google Play

Despite the fact that Google has a vested interest in online advertising, the company is about to enable its own built-in ad blocker (of sorts) in Chrome. Starting tomorrow, 15 February, the Chrome browser across all platforms will feature ad filtering to cut out those advertisements that fail to comply with the Better Ads Standards.

This is something that Google has talked about before, but ahead of the ribbon-cutting, the company has revealed how the feature works and what it means for Chrome users. The first thing to note is that it does not mean you should ditch your current ad blocker.

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Amazon offers refunds to people who paid to remove ads from Prime Exclusive Phones

Amazon logo on iPhone

For anyone looking to bag a bargain-priced handset, Amazon Prime Exclusive Phones were a great idea. There was just one drawback: lockscreen ads. Of course, there was the option to pay to hide the advertising, but that sort of negated the benefit of the initial low price.

Last week, Amazon announced it was going to get rid of these ads. This is great news for owners of Prime Exclusive Phones, but it irked people who had paid for ad removal. Now Amazon has announced that it will be offering refunds to anyone who parted with money to hide ads.

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Microsoft gives sysadmins Meltdown and Spectre detection in Windows Analytics

Broken processor

Microsoft has released an update to its free Windows Analytics tool, giving system administrators a new way to check for the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities.

The update not only makes it possible to see whether firmware patches are already installed or if they are needed, but also helps sysadmins to determine whether the patches are causing problems of their own. The checking tool is available for fully updated versions of Windows 7 through Windows 10.

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Judge refuses to quash arrest warrant for Julian Assange

Julian Assange Twitter account

A UK judge has refused to cancel a warrant for Julian Assange, meaning that the WikiLeaks founder still faces arrest if he leaves the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has taken up residence. The judge said that Assange "appears to consider himself above the normal rules of law and wants justice only if it goes in his favor."

Assange skipped bail back in 2012, fearing extradition to Sweden where he faced rape charges, and further fearing being handed over to the US where he believes he faces charges of revealing state secrets. Although Sweden has since dropped charges, he could still be arrested in the UK for breaking his bail conditions.

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Google is bringing AMP to Gmail, promising dynamic emails with interactive content

Gmail on smartphone

Google has launched a developer preview of AMP for Email, bringing its Accelerated Mobile Pages feature to Gmail. The aim is modernize email, allowing for the creation of messages with interactive, dynamic content.

In practice what this means is that emails could be updated with new information if details change, and that it will be possible to fill out forms and so on without leaving your inbox. There are already a number of big names getting involved -- including Pinterest and Booking.com -- and more will use the open source tool.

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The UK government reveals AI software that automatically blocks extremist content online

Amber Rudd

Continuing its drive to take control of the internet, the UK government has unveiled a new tool that it says can block extremist content "on any platform" with astonishing accuracy. The system -- as yet unnamed -- was unveiled by Home Secretary Amber Rudd and cost £600,000, paid for with public funds, and has been designed to detect jihadist content.

The government says that the algorithms can automatically detect "94 percent of Daesh propaganda with 99.995 percent accuracy." Speaking to reporters in London, Rudd said that "we're not going to rule out taking legislative action if we need to do it," opening up the possibility that the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google could be forced to use the system.

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Microsoft to bring Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection to Windows 7 and 8.1

Square Microsoft store logo

Formerly a Windows 10 exclusive, Microsoft today announced that Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) is coming to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

That's not to say that the older operating systems are set to gain the full benefit of ATP, however. Microsoft says that it is the Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR) functionality that will make its way to Windows 7 and 8.1 at some point this summer. This cloud-driven feature will be made available as a preview in the spring.

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Android P will support iPhone X-style notches and feature a dramatic redesign

Android P

The number of people running Oreo may well be very small, but there's already talk about the next version of Android -- Android P. Reports about what has been named internally as Pistachio Ice Cream promise not only a design overhaul, but also iPhone X-style notch support.

The Oreo successor is due for release later this year, and a Bloomberg report shed some light on what we can expect, including tighter Google Assistant integration, support for different phone formats, and improved battery life.

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