All posts in “Microsoft”

‘Black Mirror’ augmented reality game created using Hololens

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The augmented reality game of whack-a-mole in the popular Black Mirror episode “Playtest” may have seemed like a fascinating look at the future but now it’s real. 

David Robustelli, a virtual reality and augmented reality developer at Amsterdam-based Capitola VR, posted video of a prototype of an AR whack-a-mole game using the Microsoft Hololens.  

In a post on UploadVR, Robustelli explains how the prototype app simulates hitting the moles as they pop up and disappear.

And while this app isn’t coming to most users anytime soon, it’s yet another example of just how hard it’s getting to come up with sci-fi scenarios that aren’t just previews of things we already have in development. Let’s just hope that most of Black Mirror‘s often dystopian tech visions don’t come true.

The latest ransomware attack is the type that could kill someone

According to a statement by Britain's National Health Service, several hospitals across England have been hit by a large-scale ransomware cyber attack, causing failures to computer systems.
According to a statement by Britain’s National Health Service, several hospitals across England have been hit by a large-scale ransomware cyber attack, causing failures to computer systems.

Image: ANDY RAIN/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

The ransomware attacks spreading across at least 99 countries on Friday are the type of attack that could one day kill someone. 

That sounds like hyperbole, but this attack froze and disrupted computers inside many National Health Service hospitals in the United Kingdom, and it’s not hard to see how an attack on hospital computer systems affects patient care or, at the very least, forces patients in need to find help elsewhere as hospital staff scramble to get vital systems back online. That type of disruption, combined with a person faced with a life-threatening condition, has the potential to result in the loss of life.

Cybersecurity experts have long used the phrase “where bits and bytes meet flesh and blood,” which signifies a cyberattack in which someone is physically harmed. 

There’s no indication that someone was harmed on Friday as a result of this particular attack. But UK hospitals were forced to redirect patients from affected hospitals after a ransomeware virus spread through hospital computers, locking them down and demanding bitcoin payment in exchange for the return of the information contained in those computers. 

Staff also asked that patients not come in unless they were experiencing an emergency. Some hospital staff couldn’t access patient records, and others had to cancel appointments. 

The scale of this attack is unusual, but the type of attack is not. It’s happened before — to hospitals in London in January, for example — and it’s almost certainly going to happen again and again.

Joshua Corman, who sits on the Health Care Industry Cybersecurity Task Force, which falls under the Department of Health and Human Services, paints an abysmal picture of the state of cybersecurity at hospitals around the United States. According to him, around 85% of U.S. hospitals don’t have a single full-time cybersecurity expert on staff. Even if they did, that cybersecurity expert would often be helpless against ransomware attacks of the sort the world saw on Friday. Hospitals often run on comically outdated computers that are vulnerable to a range of unpatchable exploits, and those computers are often networked without the proper security precautions.

“Even though these are very avoidable things, like patching Microsoft, if there’s no one doing them…then yo have this very rich soil for these attacks to take root,” Corman said. 

Part of what makes Friday’s ransomware attack so worrisome is that it did a ton of damage without much sophistication. It appears to have started just like most such attacks, by sending malicious documents around and waiting for folks to open them. Once opened, this attack installs a ransomware known as WannaCry, which locks down the infected computer and demands Bitcoin in exchange for a return to normalcy. At that point, WannaCry spreads to connected Windows computers through a Windows SMB Server vulnerability. Microsoft released a patch for that vulnerability on March 14, but if no one’s updated their computers since then, those computers remain vulnerable.

“There’s never going to be any shortage of unpatched systems or legacy systems that cannot be patched,” said Jim Walters, a senior research scientist at Cylance, which develops anti-virus software. “What you see today is just the latest in the ongoing trenchant behavior we’ve seen all along.”

Yet for hospitals, there’s no easy way to prevent this kind of attack. 

“Everybody thinks, ‘oh if something bad happens we’ll just fix it,'” Corman said, but that’s not the case here. Blocking future ransomware attacks will require cybersecurity personnel, new computers, and better network security. Systemwide security revolution isn’t something that can be fixed in a matter of days, weeks, or even months. 

But until hospitals have vastly greater cybersecurity, these attacks will continue to make frightening headlines. 

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Microsoft releases Windows XP patch for WannaCrypt ransomware

Image: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Still stubbornly running an ancient version of Windows, despite the security threats? You’re in luck, this time.

The ransomware attack known as WannaCrypt that sent organizations and individual users around the world scrambling for security cover has been addressed by Microsoft, the company behind the most widely used operating system on the planet, with a new software update.  And, to the relief of many holding onto old versions of Windows, the update plays nice with some old school systems, too. 

Late Friday, the company posted an official notice on its site regarding the update as well as general guidance regarding the WannaCrypt attack. The update covers users on Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003 (the attack didn’t target Windows 10, according to Microsoft). Additionally, Microsoft advises users to “use vigilance when opening documents from untrusted or unknown sources.” 

The patch goes all the way back to Windows XP, a version of Windows Microsoft stopped supporting several years ago.

This update is particularly noteworthy because the patch goes all the way back to Windows XP, a version of Windows Microsoft stopped supporting several years ago. Regarding that unusual move, Microsoft’s blog post states, “This decision was made based on an assessment of this situation, with the principle of protecting our customer ecosystem overall, firmly in mind.” 

“Today our engineers added detection and protection against new malicious software known as Ransom:Win32.WannaCrypt,” a spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Mashable. “In March, we provided a security update which provides additional protections against this potential attack. Those who are running our free antivirus software or have Windows Update enabled, are protected.”

The new update is available here and those looking for more detailed information regarding WannaCrypt ransomware and how it may impact Windows can find it listed on the Microsoft security blog. 

The rapid response from Microsoft indicates just how worrisome the ransomware attack has been for businesses around the world including vital organizations where computers are central to daily work such as hospitals and utility companies.

On Saturday, a report from Reuters indicated that the impact of the ransomware has been greatly reduced in recent hours due to the work of an unnamed UK-based researcher who worked to limit its spread. 

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This week in Apps: Gagamoji, Mother’s Day and an all new Shazam

Reading about Elon Musk’s latest announcement about his Boring company and the expanded laptop ban may have kept you too busy to keep up with this week’s app news. We’ve kept up for you.

Each week we round up the most important app news along with some of the coolest new and updated apps to help you stay in the loop with everything you need on your phone.

Here’s what caught our eye this week. If you’re looking for more, make sure to check out last week’s roundup of top apps.

Lady Gaga gets her own emoji app

Following the lead of celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Ellen Degeneres, Lady Gaga has launched her own sticker pack – Gagamoji. The app features unique stickers and  GIFs that showcase Gaga’s distinct personality and brand.

Download iOS

Allo launches Bitmoji-like personalized stickers

Image: google

Google’s AI powered messaging app Allo has been launching feature after feature, even though it’s not clear that anyone uses it. The company’s latest gimmick is an AI powered personalized sticker feature, similar to Snapchat’s Bitmoji. Start by taking a selfie and the software then generates a cartoon version which doesn’t try to match your image but rather pulls “key features” from your face and makes a cartoon that resembles it, sort of like a caricature.

Google Photos Mother’s Day Movie

Image: google

Google Photos is making it easier than ever to automatically make a Mother’s Day video. To try it, simply go to https://photos.google.com/mothersday. A simple builder will guide you through choosing the images and allow you to customize the video as you want. If you don’t like your Google Photos video, you can try a Facebook Mother’s Day card.

Elsewhere

Image: google maps

Image: google maps

Google Maps now shows you exactly where to turn using images from Google Street View. The company has been adding several new features to Maps powered by Street View in the last few months, that make good use of Street View data and make Maps more powerful.

Image: shazam

Shazam has a slick new redesign that makes the app faster and delivers a much nicer overall user experience.

Download iOS and Android.

Microsoft announced a new tool called Windows Story Remix that makes it easy for just about anyone to make Hollywood worthy graphics and make it easier for everyone to create and tell powerful stories.

Finally, the next version of Microsoft Windows works well with your iOS and Android devices. 

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Microsoft needs your iPhone as part of its new mobile strategy

Microsoft is shifting its mobile strategy.
Microsoft is shifting its mobile strategy.

Image: lance ulanoff/mashable

It wasn’t that long ago when Windows Phone was an important topic at Microsoft’s Build developer conference.

But you’d be hard-pressed to tell from watching this year’s keynotes. Like last year’s event, no one in the parade of Microsoft executives who took the stage made any mention of Windows Phone.

Except for that one moment.

Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president in Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group, was demoing a new OneDrive feature from the upcoming Fall Creators Update on a Windows Phone. As soon as he said the words “Windows Phone,” someone in the audience let out an inexplicably enthusiastic “Woot!”

“Thank you,” he said, before continuing the demo. He didn’t mention Windows Phone again. Later, a slide appeared. “Windows PCs ❤️  All Your Devices,” it proclaimed. The first smartphone on the slide? An iPhone.

That almost perfectly encapsulates Microsoft’s mobile strategy right now. And, yes, despite the irrelevance of Windows Phone, Microsoft does have a new mobile strategy — it’s just not what you’d expect.

Consider the Fall Creators Update: while a fairly underwhelming update overall, three of the features Belfiore highlighted were squarely aimed at helping Windows users get more from Microsoft apps on their iOS and Android devices. 

More than simply working cross-platform, Timeline, Clipboard, and Pick Up Where you Left Off were all created with the assumption that the people using them are not using Windows on mobile. 

“Getting things done across all the devices you use should be easy. That’s the principle behind several of the new features that will begin to roll out with the Fall Creators Update,” Terry Myerson, Microsoft executive VP for Windows and devices, wrote in a blog post detailing the update.

That all may sound obvious but it’s a significant shift for the company, which hasn’t had a clear path forward when it comes to mobile. 

Now, with the Fall Creators Update, it’s clear that’s changed. While the company can’t give up on Windows Phone entirely just yet (though it’s probably inevitable that it will), it now has a clear goal: figure out how to tie its core services into iOS and Android in ways that will make users want to use apps like Cortana. 

And, with 500 million Windows 10 devices, if it can succeed, then Microsoft might have another shot at being relevant on mobile — even if it doesn’t have a phone.

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