Mark Wilson

Making Android modular with Project Treble is Google's solution to its fragmentation and update problem

android-project-treble

One of the problems with buying an Android smartphone is that there is usually no way to tell just how long it will be supported and how long you'll get Android updates. Unless you have a Google-branded device, it's hit-and-miss when, or indeed if, you'll receive an upgrade to the latest and greatest version of the mobile OS.

With the impending release of Android O, however, Google is trying out a solution to the problem which has led to endless fragmentation of the Android market. Going by the name of Project Treble, the solution sees Google introducing a modular base to Android. It's described as "the biggest change to the low-level system architecture of Android to date" and it should make it quicker, easier and cheaper for device-makers to roll out updates to handsets in future.

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US government is reviewing whether to use Kaspersky software, because Russia

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Mention the US and Russia in the same sentence and the mind naturally wanders to three things. Firstly, the alleged links between the Trump administration and Russia, secondly whether or not the FBI investigation of these alleged links led to the dismissal of Comey, and thirdly whether or not Russia interfered with the US election.

But now the US government is reviewing whether or not to continue to use Russian-made security software from Kasperksy. Defense Intelligence Agency director Vincent Stewart says "we are tracking Kaspersky and their software." He does not elaborate or give reasons, but there have been -- as yet unsubstantiated -- claims that Russia has been using Kaspersky software to spy on America. The director of the NSA is "personally involved" in monitoring the company.

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Facebook cleans up News Feeds by reducing links to 'low quality', clickbait content

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When it's not being accused of being used for propaganda or peddling fake news, Facebook is often criticized for being home to meaningless clickbait that exists only to generate ad revenue. As part of an on-going drive to make people's News Feeds more useful and pleasant to use, the social network is clamping down on what it refers to as "links to low-quality web page experiences."

Facebook wants to cut back on content that is "misleading, sensational and spammy" and links to web pages that contain "little substantive content and that is covered in disruptive, shocking or malicious ads." Starting right now, you should start to see fewer of these links.

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Facebook shuts down abortion group's page for 'promotion or encouragement of drug use'

women-on-web-abortion-pills

Just yesterday we wrote about the repeated closure of an atheist Facebook group by the social network. Now, in a similar act that has more than a slight whiff of censorship to it, Facebook has "unpublished" the page of Women On Web, a group that puts women who live in places that have abortion restrictions in contact with doctors.

The doctors that women are connected with can provide them with abortion pills, and it seems that because of this the group, Women On Web, has been found by Facebook to be engaged in the "promotion or encouragement of drug use". The group describes itself as "a place for the pro-abortion rights, pro-choice, and reproductive justice communities to engage in discussion and share news."

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Microsoft brings Fluent Design System to Windows 10 -- but WTF is it?

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When Windows 10 arrived on the scene, much was made of the Metro (or Modern) look of the apps. This was Microsoft's design language of the time and now it's time to throw out the old and usher in the new. We've heard a bit about Project NEON in recent months, and this has now evolved in to the Fluent Design System.

This is the new design language for Windows, and it will be making an appearance in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update -- although you can already see glimpses of it in the Redstone 3 builds if you are a Windows Insider. Microsoft describes it as "an eloquent design system for a complex world," and introduces five main building blocks: Light, Depth, Motion, Material and Scale. But just what is it going to mean for the future of Windows 10?

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Google will create custom emoji from your selfies in Allo

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Users of Google Allo can now use selfies -- and a little AI jiggery-pokery -- to generate a custom set of emoji. Or, as Google puts it, users can now benefit from "Neural Network-Generated Illustrations in Allo."

Working in a similar way to the existing Bitmoji idea, Google's nameless feature will transform a simple selfie into a customizable illustration -- emoji with greater character, more personality. In fact, the system doesn't just create a single emoji, it creates a full sticker pack.

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Hell freezes over: iTunes is coming to the Windows Store

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Yes, you did read that correctly. Today at Build Microsoft announces that iTunes is going to appear in the Windows Store by the end of the year. Apple and Microsoft playing ball together like this is a pretty rare occurrence.

With the recently announced Windows 10 S, the timing is interesting, and in embracing the iPhone, Microsoft is sending out yet another message that Windows Phone is dead -- it's iPhone and Android smartphones that matter.

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BBC to clamp down on licence fee avoidance by requiring password for iPlayer

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Within the next few weeks the BBC is planning to introduce password protection to iPlayer. The system is intended to prevent people from using the streaming TV catch-up service without paying a licence fee.

The corporation says that it does not plan to introduce "mass surveillance techniques or ask internet providers for IP addresses," but is merely interested in ensuring people comply with the law. The system should also help the BBC to reduce the number of people from outside the UK using iPlayer for free.

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Atheist group claims Facebook keeps deleting its page

atheist-republic

An atheist Facebook page with more than 1.6 million fans is being repeatedly deleted by the social network, claims the group behind it. Atheist Republic says that a coordinated campaign has resulted in the page being removed at least three times.

It is thought that Facebook’s automated removal process may be to blame, with algorithms taking the page offline after a series of reports. The page is used to actively criticize religion, and it is believed that an orchestrated fightback from religious groups is leading to its repeated automatic removal.

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Leaked images show Microsoft is ready to take on Amazon Echo with Windows 10 HomeHub

Image credit: The Verge

While we've heard about the HomeHub feature of Windows 10 before, we've not seen what it might look like in practice. Now, thanks to a series of leaked images, that all changes, and it shows that Microsoft is ready to take on Google Home and Amazon Echo with its own devices.

Like the Amazon Echo Show, the leaked images depict a device with a screen. It's running Windows 10, supports voice-activated Cortana commands, and it's something that Microsoft clearly wants to be at the center of future smart homes.

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Word vulnerability, Windows bug, and 'Trump's_Attack_on_Syria' document used in Sednit phishing attack

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The Sednit group believed to have been involved in interference with the French election was also responsible for a phishing attack that used President Trump to lure in victims. Security firm ESET analyzed a phishing email with an attachment named Trump's_Attack_on_Syria_English.docx and found that it had the hallmarks of the well-known group.

The document was engineered to infect victims' computers with the Seduploader tool, and it did this by exploiting two vulnerabilities, one in Microsoft Word, and one in Windows. Sednit -- previously known as APT28, Fancy Bear, and Sofacy -- took advantage of a recently discovered Remote Code Execution vulnerability in Word (CVE-2017-0262) as well as a security hole in Windows (CVE-2017-0263) in executing the attack.

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Serious app permissions flaw will not be fixed until Android O, leaving users at risk

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The security of Android has been questioned many times, but the general thinking is that installing apps from Google Play offers a decent level of protection. But research by Check Point shows that this is not the case due to a flaw in permissions.

The permission model used by Google grants apps installed from the Play Store extensive access, and opens up the risk of malware, ransomware and other threats. Google is aware of the problem, but does not plan to address it until the release of Android O, meaning that an unknown number of apps pose a risk to millions of users.

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McAfee will provide protection for a range of Samsung products... including TVs

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We live in strange times when security software is needed for TVs -- although given recent WikiLeaks revelations, it's perhaps not entirely surprising -- but this is precisely what McAfee is providing. The security firm today announces an expansion of its partnership with Samsung, and this sees the company providing protective software that will be pre-installed on a range of devices.

As well as smart TVs, McAfee will also be offering security software for Samsung PCs and smartphones. A recent survey by McAfee found that consumer concerns "underscore the need for robust cross-device security," but is the company using this as a money-making venture?

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Mozilla's Paperstorm campaign calls for copyright reform to save the internet

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Mozilla has teamed up with design studio Moniker and launched a new "digital advocacy tool" called Paperstorm with the aim of modernizing copyright laws in Europe. The tool makes it easy for ordinary internet users to carpet bomb European lawmakers with virtual leaflets demanding change.

The campaign is looking to drop millions of leaflets on cities around Europe to send a message to EU policymakers. The timing is important because copyright laws are due to undergo amendments, and proposals need to be in by the end of the year. Mozilla says that existing rules are outdated, and now is the time to make sure the laws are appropriate to modern needs.

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Open source password strength meter could help boost account security

password-protection

It's no secret that most people are rubbish at choosing passwords -- it's something that's proved time and time again when the annual list of common passwords is released. To help overcome the problem, and hopefully increase the security of people's accounts, a team of researchers from the Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Chicago have created an open source password meter that provides advice about how to strengthen a password.

While it's quite common to encounter online forms that require you to create passwords that meet certain criteria, it still does not necessarily mean they are secure. CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory (CUPS), in conjunction with the Institute for Software Research, has created a tool that provides real-time feedback that helps to explain why a password is insecure, and offers tips about how to strengthen it.

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