Security

Windows Defender will strap pushy scareware to its ass-kicker machine

Doomed: Junkware claiming it can rid PCs of viruses, clean up the Registry, etc


Microsoft will tighten the screws on scummy developers who use scare tactics to frighten people – particularly non-tech savvy folks – into paying for unnecessary software.

Think applications that offer to scan your Windows PC for free, and then – conveniently – claim your computer is under attack by viruses, or has serious defects, and that the only way to save your files is to fork out fifty bucks for a magic cleanup tool.

That kind of crap – the junkware you strip from relatives and friends' desktops at the weekends – is soon going to be nuked on sight by Windows Defender.

An update this week on the website of Microsoft's antivirus package states that Redmond will soon consider the aforementioned "coercive messaging" as grounds for automatically removing software as "unwanted programs."

"Programs must not display alarming or coercive messages or misleading content to pressure you into paying for additional services or performing superfluous actions," Microsoft explained.

This crackdown will hit apps that trick people into "performing other actions such as taking a survey, downloading a file, signing up for a newsletter, etc" in order to remedy bogus problems with their computers.

In short, vendors that use scare tactics to get you to install, pay for, and use their system utilities will now have to be very careful about how they advertise, least Microsoft deem their products unwanted software and flag the applications for removal.

In particular, Microsoft says, the rules will be aimed at killing off the dubious claims made by filesystem and Registry "cleaner" apps that try to charge users for performing routine or unnecessary tasks.

"This update comes in addition to our other long-standing customer protection requirements designed to keep our customers from being deceived by programs that display misleading, exaggerated, or threatening messages about a system’s health," explained Barak Shein of the Windows Defender Security Research team on Tuesday.

"This requirement aims to protect customers from programs that present aggregate 'error' results with no specific details, without providing customers with the ability to assess and validate the so-called errors."

Microsoft said the new rules will go into effect on March 1, meaning any application in violation of the rules will have one month to clean up their act, or have their software deleted from desktops by the built-in Windows Defender antivirus and other Microsoft security products. ®

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China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D

Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

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FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data

Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

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Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China

Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

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SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?

High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

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US fears China may have ten exascale systems by 2025

China refuses to share benchmarks, US sharpens focus on developing optimized software

The US is racing to catch up with China in supercomputing performance amid fears that the country may widen its lead in exascale computers over the next decade, according to reports.

The Frontier supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is expected to be the first exascale system in the US once it is fully operational, but China already has two exascale systems up and running since last year, as reported on our sister site The Next Platform.

This lead may widen as the US has three exascale systems in the pipeline, while China aims to have up to 10 operational systems by 2025, says a report in the Financial times.

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Repairability champ Framework's modular laptop gets a speed boost

With any other portable, this would be bad news for existing owners

Laptop vendor Framework Computer has launched new faster models. Unlike in the case of any other laptop maker, if you already have one, this is good news.

Modern laptops tend to be promoted on the basis of thinness and lightness, and the Framework range is no different. The machines have 13.5-inch (8.89cm) screens, are just under 16mm thick (0.6 inch), and weigh 1.3kg (2lb 14oz).

The new models have faster 12th-generation Intel Core CPUs.

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Boeing's Starliner CST-100 on its way to the ISS 2 years late

A couple of thruster failures shouldn't affect the Calamity Capsule's second attempt at reaching space station

Two and a half years after its first disastrous launch, Boeing has once again fired its CST-100 Starliner capsule at the International Space Station.

This time it appeared to go well, launching at 18:54 ET from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral. The RD-180 main engine and twin solid rocket boosters of the Atlas V performed as planned before Starliner was pushed to near orbital velocity by the Centaur upper stage.

After separation from the Centaur, Starliner fired its own thrusters for orbital insertion and is on course for the ISS. Docking is scheduled for approximately 19:10 ET today (23:10 UTC).

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Biden tours Samsung fab, talks chip cooperation with South Korea

Factory is a model for one the company has planned in Texas

US president Joe Biden kicked off his first Asian tour since taking office in South Korea, where he visited a Samsung semiconductor fab said to be the model for the company's planned plant in Taylor, Texas.

While speaking at the Samsung Electronics Pyeongtaek Campus, Biden said the region will be a key part of the next several decades – a reason "to invest in one another to deepen our business ties.". 

Much of the talk on Biden's five-day trip to South Korea and Japan will center around broader deepening of economic and business ties. In Pyeongtaek, however, the emphasis was on semiconductor cooperation. While touring the plant with recently elected South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol, Biden noted "these little chips are the key to propelling us into the next era of humanity's technological development."

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Meta to squeeze money from WhatsApp with Cloud API for businesses

How to make a free messaging platform bought for $22 billion profitable

At Meta's first Conversations keynote yesterday, the company announced the WhatsApp Cloud API, aimed at improving the customer service experience for businesses of all sizes.

Meta already has the WhatsApp Business API, the first revenue-generating enterprise product for the otherwise free messaging app, where companies pay WhatsApp on a per-message basis and can use the platform to direct customer communications to other lines like SMS, email, other apps, and more.

It's basically another online presence where enterprises can set up shop to make it easier for customers to get in touch. But the WhatsApp Business API is on-premises and would normally need a solutions provider like Twilio to facilitate back-end integration.

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Microsoft patches the patch that broke Windows authentication

May 10 update addressed serious vulns but also had problems of its own

Microsoft has released an out-of-band patch to deal with an authentication issue that was introduced in the May 10 Windows update.

Elizabeth Tyler, cyber security consultant on Microsoft's Detection and Response Team, confirmed the fix to worried administrators early this morning.

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Daisy Group to take on some of data management company Sungard's UK customers

Customers at other Sungard datacenters are not affected

UK customers of datacenter and colo service provider Sungard Availability Services are to be transferred to Daisy Corporate Services, part of the Daisy Group, months after Sungard went into administration.

According to some reports, Daisy Group has signed a deal to acquire the UK arm of Sungard, in a move that would see the company pick up Sungard's former customers, including major banks and other financial institutions.

However, a statement given to The Register by the administrators, Teneo Financial Advisory, merely states that some Sungard customers will be transferred to Daisy Corporate Services, and it is not clear how many are included this arrangement.

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