Google to Push for Law Enforcement to Have More Access to Overseas Data

Alphabet’s Google will press US lawmakers on Thursday to update laws on how governments access customer data stored on servers located in other countries, hoping to address a mounting concern for both law enforcement officials and Silicon Valley.

The push comes amid growing legal uncertainty, both in the United States and across the globe, about how technology firms must comply with government requests for foreign-held data. That has raised alarm that criminal and terrorism investigations are being hindered by outdated laws that make the current process for sharing information slow and burdensome.

Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president and general counsel, will announce the company’s framework during a speech in Washington, DC, at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that wields influence in the Trump White House and Republican-controlled Congress.

The speech urges Congress to update a decades-old electronic communications law and follows similar efforts by Microsoft.

Both companies had previously objected in court to US law enforcement efforts to use domestic search warrants for data held overseas because the practice could erode user privacy. But the tech industry and privacy advocates have also admitted the current rules for appropriate cross-border data requests are untenable.

Google to Push for Law Enforcement to Have More Access to Overseas DataThe Mountain View, California-based company calls for allowing countries that commit to baseline privacy, human rights and due process principles to directly request data from US providers without the need to consult the US government as an intermediary. It is intended to be reciprocal.

Countries that do not adhere to the standards, such as an oppressive regime, would not be eligible.

Google did not detail specific baseline principles in its framework.

“This couldn’t be a more urgent set of issues,” Walker said in an interview, noting that recent acts of terrorism in Europe underscored the need to move quickly.

Current agreements that allow law enforcement access to data stored overseas, known as mutual legal assistance treaties, involve a formal diplomatic request for data and require the host country obtain a warrant on behalf of the requesting country. That can often take several months.

In January, a divided federal appeals court refused to reconsider its decision from last year that said the US government could not force Microsoft or other companies to hand over customer data stored abroad under a domestic warrant.

The US Justice Department has until midnight on Friday to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court. It did not respond to a request for comment.

US judges have ruled against Google in similar recent cases, however, elevating the potential for Supreme Court review.

Companies, privacy advocates and judges themselves have urged Congress to address the problem rather than leave it to courts.

Google will also ask Congress to codify warrant requirements for data requests that involve content, such as the actual message found within an email.

Chris Calabrese, vice president of policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology, said Google’s framework was “broadly correct” but urged caution about the process for letting countries make direct requests to providers.

“We need to make sure the people in the club are the right people,” he said.

Microsoft Edge Browser With Windows Defender Application Guard Previewed

Microsoft is finally testing a feature that will make the Microsoft Edge browser more secure and safe. The Windows Defender Application Guard was first announced last year, but Microsoft is finally testing it in its latest Windows 10 Insider Preview for Enterprises build (16188). The new tool essentially does not let the entire PC get affected, in the event that it gets hit by a malware attack. As you may have derived, the feature for now is only mean for Windows 10 Enterprise Edition users.

Browsers often act as a gateway to send malware to PCs and infect them. Application Guard essentially uses a hardware container to isolate Edge browser from the rest of the PC, and prevent malware from seeping in. To use Application Guard right away, you first need to become an Insider Preview for Enterprise member on the Fast Ring. After that, visit Windows Features in settings, and then go to Turn Windows features on or off, and then mark the checkbox for Windows Defender Application Guard. Click OK and then restart your computer. Now when you open Microsoft Edge and click on the Edge menu, you’ll see the option for a New Application Guard window. Click it, and a new special isolated browser window will appear. Apart from Windows 10 Enterprise Edition, test PCs will also need Microsoft Hyper-V enabled.

Microsoft Edge Browser With Windows Defender Application Guard PreviewedEven after it comes to the stable channels, it will only be active on devices running on Windows 10 and above due to the new Virtualization Based Security (VBS) system. This new Application Guard enabled browser will not store any cache and cookies, will be separate from storage, and other apps as well. This essentially prevents all malware from seeping through, and affecting PCs, as all data is lost once the browser is shut.

The Application Guard windows will make Edge run a bit slowly as the browser’s sessions are isolated. The Windows 10 Insider build 16188 also includes integrated Cortana settings, better viewing and navigation, and an improved PDF Reader for Edge.

Microsoft Build 2017 Conference: How to Watch Live and What to Expect

Microsoft is set to hold its Build annual conference from May 10 to May 12 in Seattle, Washington. The keynote by Microsoft executives will kick off the three day event, and it is set to begin at 8.30pm IST on Wednesday.

The Microsoft Build keynote will be live streamed for the world to see, and you can watch it here. Build is one of the biggest events for Microsoft, and as the tradition goes, it is expected to announce what’s next for Windows 10, Azure, Office, and its other products from its vast portfolio.

The conference will include two days of keynotes, including announcements from CEO Satya Nadella; Scott Guthrie, EVP of Cloud and Enterprise Group; Harry Shum, EVP of Artificial Intelligence and Research Group; and Terry Myerson, EVP of Windows and Devices Group.

Microsoft Build 2017 Conference: How to Watch Live and What to ExpectWith regards to Windows 10, Microsoft will presumably highlight all the big changes coming with the next update of Windows 10, reportedly also codenamed as ‘Redstone 3’. This update is set to arrive later this year. It could include more information on Project Neon which suggests bringing major changes to the UI of operating system. Previously leaked screenshots indicate it is focused heavily on transitions, animations, simplicity, consistency, and essentially go back to UI elements from earlier versions of Windows. Project Neon also comes with changes for company’s AR headset HoloLens that introduce modifications to the UI at the points of user interaction. Other tipped additions include Adaptive Cards and a new Home Hub app.

Microsoft will also make announcements around mixed reality, as the company has been pushing it quite fiercely in recent times. Hopefully, there’ll also be some update on the Surface Phone, as it’s rumoured for quite a while now, but we recommend you to not hold your breath on that one. The company is also expected to bring bots to Bing, and an announcement on that front could be made as well.

Windows Mixed Reality Development Kits Now Available for Pre-Orders; Microsoft Unveils Motion Controllers

In March this year, Microsoft announced that the company will start shipping development kits for Windows Mixed Reality (earlier called Windows Holographic) later in the month itself. However, the company seemed to have changed its mind later as it didn’t happen. Now the Redmond-based company has finally started taking pre-orders for the mixed reality development kits from HP and Acer. Microsoft also announced its own motion controllers for Windows 10 VR at its Build conference.

Notably, Microsoft has still not announced the release dates for these development kits but interested users can now pre-order the development kits from the company’s website. While the Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset Developer Edition has been priced at $299 (roughly Rs. 19,200), the HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset Developer Edition is available for pre-orders at $329 (roughly Rs. 21,200). The option for pre-orders is currently available for users in the US and Canada.

Both HP and Acer’s Windows Mixed Reality headsets come with some common features including two high-resolution liquid crystal displays with a 1440×1440 pixels resolution, front hinged displays, 95-degree horizontal field-of-view, display refresh rate up to 90Hz (native), built-in audio out and microphone support through 3.5mm jack, single cable with HDMI 2.0 (display) and USB 3.0 (data) for connectivity, and inside-out tracking. Additionally, the HP headset comes with double-padded headband and easy adjustment knob, as per Microsoft.

Microsoft has further provided the list of recommended system specifications for developers on its blog. Needless to say, you will need a powerful configuration to support the mixed reality development kit from the company.

microsoft vr controller story Microsoft VR Motion Controllers

Moving to the motion controllers for Windows 10 VR, Microsoft says “a customer who pairs a Windows Mixed Reality headset with motion controllers will have a rich and immersive experience across creativity tools, productivity, games, and entertainment.”

Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers don’t require any external sensors and offer “precise and responsive” movement tracking, as per company’s claims. The company says that it plans to market and sell these controllers on retail shelves this holiday. The company has confirmed that these controllers will not work with HoloLens headset, as per a report by CNET.

Microsoft announced that Acer will sell its Windows Mixed Reality headset and motion controller bundle priced at $399 (roughly Rs. 25,700) this holiday season.

Microsoft Build 2017: The Biggest Announcements for Developers

Microsoft made a host of announcements at Build 2017 in Seattle this week – Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is coming later this year with a brand new video editing app and other features like Cloud-enabled clipboard, OneDrive Files On-Demand, Timeline to revisit all your activity, and a whole lot more. But at the end of the day, Build is a developers conference and there was a whole lot more in store for those who design apps and services on Microsoft platforms.

Let’s take a look at the biggest developer-focussed announcements from Build 2017:

1. Visual Studio 2017 for Mac
Unveiled last year, Visual Studio 2017 for Mac is now out of preview and available to everyone. Developers can use the IDE to build Web-based applications using ASP.NET Core and front-end languages like HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript; leverage .NET APIs covering 100 percent “of the APIs for Android, iOS, tvOS, watchOS, and macOS development”; build games using Unity; and more.

visual studio 2017 mac visual studio

2. Azure Cosmos DB
Azure Cosmos DB is Microsoft’s distributed data service that aims to combine high availability and consistency with low latency across multiple geographical regions. The service is designed for globally distributed, highly distributed apps, and Microsoft is backing it “by the most comprehensive SLAs” aka uptime guarantees.

3. Azure IoT Edge
Potentially the most exciting announcement at Build 2017, Microsoft defines IoT edge devices as IoT devices that are able to leverage the cloud infrastructure to extended their capabilities. With Azure IoT Edge, Microsoft wants to “make it easy to securely distribute cloud intelligence locally” by offering seamless deployment of multiple cloud services.

4. MySQL- and PostgreSQL-managed services
Continuing the trend of offering users and developers what they want without worry about platform lock-in (or lack thereof), Microsoft has announced Azure Database for MySQL and Azure Database for PostgreSQL managed services that will offer developers alternatives to its own SQL database offering.

5. Cortana Skills Kit
Developers can now extend the capabilities of Cortana, Microsoft’s voice-based assistant, by writing their own ‘skills’ using the Cortana Skills Kit. Developers can leverage the Microsoft Bot Framework to create the bot’s conversational logic and use the Cortana Channel in the Bot Framework to add speech capabilities.

6. Azure Database Migration Service limited preview
Microsoft also used Build 2017 to announce an early preview of the Azure Database Migration Service that will offer to migrate on-premises SQL Server, Oracle, and MySQL databases to Azure.

7. Xamarin Live Player
The latest alpha releases of Visual Studio Tools for Xamarin for Windows, and Visual Studio for Mac feature preview support for Microsoft’s Xamarin Live Player apps that allow developers to write, execute, and debug code continuously on an iOS or Android device straight from the IDE.

xamarin live player pairing xamarin

8. New Microsoft Cognitive Services
Microsoft has added new services to its Cognitive Services portfolio with the addition of Bing Custom Search, Custom Vision Service, Custom Decision Service, and Video Indexer. Read more about each of these new services.

Microsoft also announced XAML Standard 1.0 and .NET Standard 2.0; a new framework called adaptive cards that lets you define how your content will be presented across a variety of platform; Azure Batch AI Training; Windows Mixed Reality Development Kits; and new bot capabilities including analytics and payments, among other things. Also see Microsoft’s other announcements at Build for Azure and Office developers.

Disclosure: Microsoft sponsored the correspondent’s flights and hotel in Seattle for Build 2017.

Windows 10 S Won’t Support Fedora, SUSE Linux, and Ubuntu

Earlier this month, Microsoft announced that Linux distributions Ubuntu, SUSE Linux, and Fedora were coming to the Windows Store. It was assumed that this was because of the launch of the Windows 10 S, which ran only Windows Store apps. Now, Microsoft has clarified that these apps won’t run on Windows 10 S, as the platform isn’t meant for app developers, hackers, and IT professionals.

In its blog, the company notes explicitly that “Windows 10 S does not run command-line applications, nor the Windows Console, Cmd / PowerShell, or Linux/Bash/WSL instances since command-line apps run outside the safe environment that protects Windows 10 S from malicious / misbehaving software.”

Windows 10 S Won't Support Fedora, SUSE Linux, and UbuntuMicrosoft elaborates that Windows 10 S is meant for the non-technical users, and looks to keep things simple and safe. The operating system is targeted towards teachers and students, who aren’t expected to do aimless work on their PCs, and quite frankly, don’t need the Linux distributions.

“Linux distro store packages are an exotic type of app package that are published to the Windows Store by known partners. Users find and install distros, safely, quickly, and reliably via the Windows Store app. Once installed, however, distro’s should be treated as command-line tools that run outside the UWP sandbox & secure runtime infrastructure. They run with the capabilities granted to the local user – in the same way as Cmd and PowerShell do. This is why Linux distro’s don’t run on Windows 10 S: Even though they’re delivered via the Windows Store, and installed as standard UWP APPX’s, they run as non-UWP command-line tools and this can access more of a system than a UWP can,” the blog elaborates.

This means Linux distributions aren’t coming to Windows 10 S, but if you want your laptop to run them nevertheless, upgrade to full Windows 10, and you’ll be able to access them via Windows Store.

Microsoft Releases Windows XP Security Patches for Additional Protection Against WannaCry-Like Cyber-Attacks

Microsoft was criticised last month for not providing free security patches to Windows XP users early enough to help protect against WannaCry ransomware. It seems like the Redmond-based company has taken the criticism seriously, as it has now included additional security updates for earlier versions of Windows as part of ‘Update Tuesday’. These updates are said to offer enhanced protection against cyber-attacks with characteristics similar to WannaCry.

While reviewing the security updates for June, Microsoft identified there certain vulnerabilities posed “elevated risk of cyber-attacks by government organisations, sometimes referred to as nation-state actors or other copycat organisations,” Adrienne Hall, General Manager, Cyber Defense Operations Center, said in her blog post on Tuesday.

Microsoft Releases Windows XP Security Patches for Additional Protection Against WannaCry-Like Cyber-AttacksIn order to address these vulnerabilities, Microsoft is providing additional security patches with the update, even to those customers who are on earlier versions of Windows. “Due to the elevated risk for destructive cyber-attacks at this time, we made the decision to take this action because applying these updates provides further protection against potential attacks with characteristics similar to WannaCrypt,” Hall said. Notably, Microsoft officially ended the support for Windows XP in 2014.

Microsoft says that if you are on Windows 10 or Windows 8.1, the currently supported versions, and have Windows Update enabled, you don’t need to do anything from your side. Further, the company has warned users that the “best protection” is to be on a modern up-to-date system and that “older systems, even if fully up-to-date, lack the latest security features and advancements.”

WannaCry ransomware, which erupted last month, hit more than 150 countries and encrypted files on more than 200,000 computers. In order to unlock the files, the malware creators reportedly demanded a ransom of $300 (roughly Rs. 19,300) worth of Bitcoins from the users. It seems like Microsoft has now taken a more pro-active approach to the situation and decided that it should provide further protection to those users who are on unsupported versions as well.

Microsoft Admits Windows Can Disable Third-Party Antivirus Software Under Certain Conditions

After coming under antitrust fire from Kaspersky in the wake of the WannaCry ransomware, Microsoft has attempted to clear the air by talking about its work on safety and security – namely Windows Defender – and working with third-party antivirus providers. Kaspersky had filed a complaint with the EU claiming Microsoft was using its dominance to promote its own offering, and creating obstacles for everyone else, including disabling their products and not providing enough time to maintain support.

In a lengthy blog post, Rob Lefferts, Microsoft’s director of program management for Windows enterprise and security, stayed away from mentioning Kaspersky directly, while stressing on support and choice. He noted that they provide early builds through the Windows Insider Program to ensure antivirus software are compatible before an upcoming release.

“We’ve worked closely with AV partners to identify changes, provide early builds through the Windows Insider Program and other testing environments, and provide technical guidance through our Microsoft Virus Initiative (MVI) program,” Lefferts said. “This cadence of regular updates, along with the Windows Insider Program, affords our partners and customers much greater transparency and insight into the Windows development process than ever before.”

“Also, because AV software can be deeply entwined within the operating system, we doubled down on our efforts to help AV vendors be compatible with the latest updates,” he added. Lefferts noted that about 95 percent of Windows 10 machines had compatible antivirus protection with the recent Windows 10 Creators Update, and so they built a feature for the remaining ones.

Microsoft Admits Windows Can Disable Third-Party Antivirus Software Under Certain Conditions“For the small number of applications that still needed updating, we built a feature just for AV apps that would prompt the customer to install a new version of their AV app right after the update completed,” he said. “To do this, we first temporarily disabled some parts of the AV software when the update began. We did this work in partnership with the AV partner to specify which versions of their software are compatible and where to direct customers after updating.”

Lefferts also emphasised Microsoft’s belief in “always-on” protection, and said that Windows Defender doesn’t come into action unless the third-party antivirus software is incompatible, out of date, or expired. “If AV software is protecting our customers, Windows Defender Antivirus will stay off,” he noted. “If a customer does allow an antivirus application to expire, Windows Defender Antivirus is automatically turned on so that they are not left unprotected.”

“In the case of paid AV solutions, we worked with our AV partners to build a consistent set of notifications to inform customers if their licence is about to expire and to present options to renew the licence,” Lefferts said. “Only when an AV subscription expires, and the AV application decides to stop providing protection to the customer, will Windows Defender Antivirus begin providing protection.”

Though Microsoft has now laid out its defence in full, it remains to be seen how the European Commission will reflect on the Kaspersky complaint. In the past, the EU has tried to make an example out of American tech giants, as evinced by its tax ruling against Apple in Ireland.

Forza Motorsport 7 Release Date Leaked; Hints at Possible Xbox Scorpio Launch Date

Forza Motorsport 7 release date for the Xbox Scorpio and Xbox One could be October 3, 2017 according to a new leak. This comes hours before Microsoft’s E3 2017 press conference that should see the reveal of the Xbox Scorpio console as well as a host of games that could take advantage of its impressive specifications.

Nonetheless, Forza Motorsport 7 for the Xbox Scorpio should come as no surprise. After all, Forza did feature for the console’s specifications announcement earlier this year.

The October 3 release date for Forza Motorsport 7 could also mean an earlier than anticipated Xbox Scorpio release date.

Forza Motorsport 7 Release Date Leaked; Hints at Possible Xbox Scorpio Launch DateWith analysts weighing in on a possible $399 price for the Xbox Scorpio and journalists claiming $499, it appears that the console’s release date may have been hidden in an E3 teaser from the company.

One teaser shows a large crowd at what seems to be music concert. On the stage to the right is “X10S101-317”. Assuming that X10S is Xbox Scorpio, you’re left with a possible October 13, 2017 Xbox Scorpio release date. This is a Friday and would be in line with the Xbox One that also launched on a Friday.

But would Microsoft risk launching a new game meant to take advantage of the Xbox Scorpio before the console itself? It seems unlikely. All shall be revealed at the Xbox Scorpio E3 2017 event.

Xbox Scorpio Is Xbox One X; Release Date Announced: Microsoft at E3 2017

The Xbox One X has a release date of November 7, 2017 worldwide. Microsoft finally announced the much hyped console during its Xbox E3 2017 conference. Allaying rumours aplenty over the week from analysts and journalists chiming in on what to expect. All existing games and accessories will work with the Xbox One X. Along with the release date, an Xbox One X price of $499 has been announced as well. No India price has been revealed just yet.

Xbox One X Specifications

  • Project Scorpio CPU Eight custom x86 cores clocked at 2.3GHz
  • GPU 40 customised compute units at 1172MHz
  • Memory 12GB GDDR5
  • Memory Bandwidth 326GB/s
  • Hard Drive 1TB 2.5-inch
  • Optical Drive: 4K UHD Blu-ray

Xbox Scorpio Is Xbox One X; Release Date Announced: Microsoft at E3 2017Xbox One X price in India

As usual, don’t expect India to get Xbox One X the same time as the rest of the world despite Microsoft claiming a worldwide release. The Xbox One S released globally in August, 2016, but doesn’t have a concrete release date for India yet.

That aside, the Xbox One X won’t be cheap either, with several grey market retailers planning to capitalise on the hype surrounding it to sell at exorbitant rates. Safe to say, you’ll need to import it or get a friend or relative to pick it up for you abroad if you want the best possible deal.