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Microsoft Adds New App Lockout Feature To Windows 10

March 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft has added a setting to Windows 10 that will allow users to restrict new software installation to only those apps hosted in the Windows Store.

The option has been deployed in the latest version of Windows 10 Insider, the preview program which gives participants an early peek at the next feature upgrade as Microsoft builds it. That version, labeled 15042, was released Friday.

With the setting at its most stringent, Windows 10 will block the installation of Win32 software — the traditional legacy applications that continue to make up the vast bulk of the Windows ecosystem — and allow users to install only apps from the Windows Store, Microsoft’s marketplace.

Other settings allow software installation from any source, or, while allowing that, put a preference on those from the Windows Store.

Unless Microsoft removes them, the options will appear in the next Windows 10 feature upgrade, dubbed “Creators Update,” which is to launch in March or April.

The appearance of the installation-origin settings followed reports last month that Microsoft was crafting another Windows 10 edition, called “Cloud,” which would run only Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps obtained from the Store.

Microsoft has said nothing about the purpose of the new settings or confirmed the reports of Windows 10 Cloud. But when the new options were applied, they touted themselves as making devices “safe and reliable.”

When asked today for more information about the thinking behind the installation options, a company spokeswoman repeated a stock statement about the Insider program that included the line, “We regularly test new features and changes to existing features to see what resonates well with our fans.”

By limiting Windows 10 to only the apps on the Windows Store, Microsoft will follow in the footsteps of Apple’s iOS and macOS, as well as Google’s Chrome OS. Each of those operating systems block all software but that hosted in a vetted mart, or in the case of macOS, let users choose the option. (The new Windows 10 setting is most like macOS’s “Gatekeeper,” which debuted in 2012’s Mountain Lion.)

In iOS, for instance, the App Store serves as the only sanctioned software gateway; iPhone owners must “jailbreak” their smartphones for it to install apps not in the store. The practice has largely kept iOS devices malware free.

John Pescatore, the director of SANS, has argued for years that the best security move Microsoft could take would be to mimic iOS, and restrict what runs on the OS. He repeated his call in a recent interview.

“Look at iPhones and Android, they live without AV [antivirus] software,” Pescatore said. “iOS and Android were built with app store construction and the Internet in mind,” he added, pointing out that unauthorized executable code — whether legitimate or malware — could not be run on iOS.

“Unfortunately, Windows 10 still has much in it that was built before the Internet,” Pescatore continued. “So, it’s easy for executables to work.” Since 2003 — when Pescatore was with Gartner Research — he’s argued that Microsoft should restrict runnable code.

Apple Finally Offers A Way Out From iMessage

November 13, 2014 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple has finally published a tool that lets iPhone owners sever the link to iMessage, iOS’s texting service, when they leave the company’s circle of devices for Android, BlackBerry or Windows Phone.

The tool, which allows former owners to disable iMessage even after they’ve disposed of their iPhones, was the first self-service option Apple has offered.

Because iMessage is enabled by default — and is the standard texting service for iOS-to-iOS communication — iPhone owners who had changed smartphones and kept their numbers were not getting texts from other iPhone owners. Apple, unaware that the user had deserted iOS for a rival smartphone ecosystem, was still routing iOS-originating texts to the recipient’s now-unused Message app.

Some called it “iMessage purgatory,” while others referred to it as the “iMessage black hole.”

The problem had existed since 2011, when Apple introduced iMessage and the companion Message app, and was partly technical: Texts sent between iOS devices via iMessage don’t transit a carrier’s SMS (short message service) network, but instead are sent over the Internet.

iMessage’s inability to reroute texts from iOS users — and since 2012’s OS X Mountain Lion, from Mac owners as well — prompted at least one federal lawsuit.

The new tool aims to solve the purgatory problem by letting former iPhone owners, even if they have disposed of the device, route texts to non-Apple smartphones. After entering the phone number for the Android, BlackBerry or Windows Phone device, the user must enter the confirmation code sent to the smartphone into the Web form.



European Do Not Track Supporters Make Demands

October 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Supporters of the Do Not Track standard have warned its detractors that they won’t stand for any nonsense, and have given backers an encouraging nudge in the direction of fair implementation.

In Europe, Neelie Kroes, the VP of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda, has just given a speech in which she cautioned the industry against ignoring Do Not Track, messing around with its standards or abusing the cookie system.

Speaking at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels she said, “Standardisation work is not going according to plan. In fact, I am increasingly concerned. About the delay, and about the turn taken by the discussions hosted by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). I think that won’t come as a surprise to you. And I know that my colleagues across the Atlantic, at the Federal Trade Commission, feel the same.”

So what is the problem? According to Kroes the problem is a watering down of the standard, and she repeated her earlier calls for firm rules that actually protect the individual.

“For the avoidance of doubt, I will say it again today: the DNT standard must be rich and meaningful enough to make a difference, when it comes to protecting people’s privacy,” she said.

“It should build on the principle of informed consent, giving people control over their information. And, indeed, it must be designed to let people choose to not be tracked. The clue is in the name: do NOT track.”

European Minister though she might be, Kroes also aimed her warning at those American companies that ultimately could make or break the standard. She’s looking at the internet giants, and their implementation of the rules when she says that European regulators won’t stand for any nonsense.

“I mean everyone,” she said. “Including American companies. Because if you want to track Europeans, you have to play by our rules. Our new data protection framework is crystal-clear on that point.Including online businesses. In the long term, the online economy won’t grow if it acts against the grain, against the wishes of ordinary users, against their need for trust. And under such conditions, nor can online services prosper.”

Over the pond Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus co-chairs Joe Barton and Edward Markey expressed their disappointment at statements from the Digital Advertising Alliance that call for avoidance of the standard and ignoring of its guidance.

“Privacy is an issue that affects everyone, and the Digital Advertising Alliance’s announcement made clear that it puts profits over privacy. If consumers want to be tracked online, they should have to opt-in to be tracked, instead of the other way around,” they said.

“This is why we are disappointed to hear the Digital Advertising Alliance insist that it will not honor Microsoft’s “Do Not Track” default and will not penalise companies that ignore it.”

The Digital Advertising Alliance is a self regulatory group for online behavioural advertisers.


Half Of All Macs Will Lack Security Access This Summer

May 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Computing

Unless Apple changes its security update policy, nearly half of all Mac owners will be left without patches sometime this upcoming summer.

Apple will launch OS X 10.8, aka Mountain Lion, in the next few months, and then will — baring a change in a decade-old habit — stop serving patches to OS X 10.6, or Snow Leopard.

Although Apple has never spelled out its support policy for older operating systems, it has always dropped an edition around the time it has two newer versions in play. If the current OS X is dubbed “n,” then “n-2” support ends at the debut of “n.”

In other words, patches are provided only to the newest OS X and the one immediately preceding it.

The company has practiced this since OS X’s birth: The second iteration, 10.1 — dubbed Puma — received its final security update in January 2004, three months after the appearance of OS X 10.4, or Panther.

More recently, Apple snuffed out support for OS X 10.5, aka Leopard, when 10.7, or Lion, shipped. The former got its last security update in June 2011, a month before the latter was released.

If Apple continues this policy, Snow Leopard users will stop seeing patches about the time Mountain Lion ships. Apple has not set a hard date for OS X 10.8’s debut, although it has pegged “late summer.”


Google Says Chrome Will Support ‘Do Not Track’

February 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Google will add support for “Do Not Track” to its Chrome browser some time before the end of 2012.

The move is a reversal for Google, which has resisted supporting the technology that lets users opt out of the online tracking conducted by websites and advertisers.

Google’s change of heart came as the White House today pushed a privacy bill of rights and said it would introduce new online privacy legislation in Congress.

Chrome joins other browsers — Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) and Mozilla’s Firefox — which can already transmit special information with every HTTP page request that tells sites the user does not want to be tracked.

Apple’s Safari currently supports Do Not Track, although turning it on requires a user to select “Send Do Not Track HTTP Header” from the “Developer” menu on the browser; Apple will make the setting easier to find in the Privacy section of Safari’s Preferences pane this summer when it releases OS X Mountain Lion.

Opera, from the Norwegian browser maker Opera Software, does not support Do Not Track. Two weeks ago, however, Opera launched an experimental build of its desktop browser with support for for the anti-tracking technology.

Mozilla was the first browser maker to add Do Not Track support to its software.

The silver lining of today’s announcement is that Chrome’s adoption of Do Not Track puts the option in front of a majority of Internet users: According to Web metrics company Net Applications, the browsers that now, or will later this year, support the header request accounted for 98% of those used last month.