Google makes important Workspace change to prevent phishing

Google has made an important change to how it displays comment notifications for Workspace apps, like Docs, to prevent phishing and protect users from malware. This change makes it safer for users to collaborate remotely without worrying about hacks and other types of malicious attacks, and the change is notable at a time when more people are working, learning, and collaborating from home during the global health pandemic.

With the new notification change, Google is now including the full email address of the collaborator in its notification when you receive an @mention, making it easier to safely identify your collaborator and trusted contacts.

In the past when a collaborator inserts an “@mention” note to Google Workspace apps, you would get an email in your inbox notifying you that someone has made a change to your document. The problem, however, is that the email notification only contains the commenter’s name and not their email address, making it easy for malicious attackers to target users pretending to be someone who you know and trust. Google’s change should make it easier for you to confirm your collaborator by being able to see the commenter’s email address.

“When someone mentions you in a comment in a Google Workspace document, we send you an email notification with the comment and the commenter’s name,” Google explained of the change. “With this update, we are adding the commenter’s email address to the email notification.”

Google is rolling out the feature now, and it could take up to 15 days for the update to show up for everyone. There are no additional steps users or IT administrators will need to take, according to Google’s Workspace support document. The feature will roll out to all Google accounts, including personal Google accounts as well as legacy G Suite and Business accounts.

“We hope that by providing this additional information, this will help you feel more confident that you’re receiving a legitimate notification rather than a spam or phishing attempt by a bad actor,” Google added.

As more companies begin to or continue to adopt hybrid and remote work environments, technology companies are also stepping up their efforts to help prevent malicious attacks. In addition to Google’s latest efforts to protect Workspace users, last year Microsoft released a new feature for its Teams collaboration platform that makes it more difficult for hackers to steal your personal data by sending look-alike web pages. Microsoft stated that phishing is responsible for nearly 70% of data breaches in its Digital Defense report, and recent changes made by tech companies like Google will ultimately help to keep users safe so as long as they remain vigilant and practice basic security hygiene when it comes to handling unknown links and emails from unknown senders.

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How To Change Your Default Apps On Android Phones

But what if you don’t have a certain app installed on your phone? For example, if someone sends you a Play Store link for a cool chess game. Tapping on the link takes you to the Play Store listing of an application that supports the Instant App feature. In a nutshell, an Instant App is a condensed web-based version of an app that lets you get a brief taste of it without having to download and install it. Not all Android applications support the Instant App system, and it is up to the developers to offer the convenience. A

For applications that support the Instant app functionality, there’s an option to specify the default link opening behavior — open the Play Store in a link in a browser, or directly launch the Instant app version in the Play Store. To do so, follow the steps below:

1. In the Settings app, head over to the Apps section.

2. Scroll down and open the Default apps section, and then select the Opening links option at the bottom.

3. On the next page, select Instant Apps preferences and then enable the toggle that says Upgrade web links.

4. Once enabled, users will be able to directly access the Instant Play option for eligible apps, as is depicted in the image above.

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Fortnite’s dreaded BRUTE is back, but with a very important change

In August 2019, Epic Games added a new “weapon” to its hit battle royale game Fortnite called the B.R.U.T.E, a mech suit that could carry two players and cause utter destruction to anything in its path. Though Epic said it had added the mech suit to help inexperienced players get some wins, the weapon/vehicle quickly proved controversial among players.

In an announcement on November 16, Epic revealed some changes that arrived with Fortnite 18.40, not the least of which is the return of B.R.U.T.E., news that not everyone was happy to hear. The item was brought back as part of the “War Effort” part of this season’s storyline, meaning it’ll be used to battle the monsters next month when the finale arrives.

The newly unvaulted item isn’t exactly the same as the one that first arrived in the game in 2019. Epic calls this version the Salvaged B.R.U.T.E., one that was apparently cobbled back together from leftover parts by the island fighters as they prepare for The Convergence.

The Salvaged B.R.U.T.E. lacks the over shield found on the original version, plus the armor has been reduced, meaning it’ll be much easier for players to take down these giant mech suits. This should address the controversy that surrounded the item the first time it was available in the game.

Rather than enabling players to easily decimate opponents, Epic says the Salvaged B.R.U.T.E. is now designed to effectively take down hordes of Cube Monsters. Salvaged B.R.U.T.E Stations need to be fully funded with gold bars; players can start donating them now. As a side note, Epic has also added the Shopping Cart “vehicle” back into the game.

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Nvidia creates digital twin of Earth to battle climate change

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Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang boasted of many world-changing technologies in his keynote at Tuesday’s GPU Technology Conference (GTC), but he chose to close on a promise to help save the world.

“We will build a digital twin to simulate and predict climate change,” he said, framing it as a tool for understanding how to mitigate climate change’s effects. “This new supercomputer will be E2, Earth 2, the digital twin of Earth, running Modulus-created AI physics at a million times speeds in the Omniverse. All the technologies we’ve invented up to this moment are needed to make E2 possible. I can’t imagine greater and more important news.”

Utilizing digital twins to model improvements for the real world

Consider this, Nvidia’s goal for 2021 — a stretch challenge that ultimately feeds into not just scientific computing but Nvidia’s ambition to transform into a full-stack computing company. Although he spent a lot of time talking up the Omniverse, Nvidia’s concept for connected 3D worlds, Huang wanted to make clear that it’s not intended as a mere digital playground but also a place to model improvements in the real world. “Omniverse is different from a gaming engine. Omniverse is built to be data center scale and hopefully, eventually, planetary scale,” he said.

Earth 2 is meant to be the next step beyond Cambridge-1, the $100 million supercomputer Nvidia launched in June and made available to health care researchers in the U.K. Nvidia pursed that effort in partnership with drug development and academic researchers, with participation from GSK and AstraZeneca. Nvidia press contacts declined to provide more details about who else might be involved in Earth 2, although Jensen may say more in a press conference scheduled for Wednesday.

The lack of detail left some wondering if E2 was for real. Tech analyst Addison Snell tweeted, “I believe the statement was meant to be visionary. If it’s a real initiative, I have questions, which I will ask after a good night’s sleep.”

Jensen Huang closes #GTC21 keynote announcing @nvidia will create an "E2" or "Earth 2" supercomputer as a digital twin of Earth. I believe the statement was meant to be visionary. If it's a real initiative, I have questions, which I will ask after a good night's sleep. #HPC #AI

By definition, a supercomputer is many times more powerful than the general-purpose computers used for ordinary business applications. That means the definition of what constitutes a supercomputer keeps changing, as performance trickles down into general-purpose computing — to the point where an iPhone of today is said to be more powerful than the IBM supercomputer that beat chess master Gary Kasporov in 1997 and far more powerful than the supercomputers used to guide the Apollo mission in the 1970s.

Battling climate change with Earth’s digital twin

Many of the advances Nvidia announced are aimed at making very high-performance computing more broadly available, for example by allowing businesses to tap into it as a cloud service and apply it to purposes such as zero-trust computing.

Today’s supercomputers are typically built out of large arrays of servers running Linux, wired together with very fast interconnects. As supercomputing centers begin opening access to more researchers — and cloud computing providers begin offering supercomputing services — Nvidia’s Quantum-2 platform, available now, offers an important change in supercomputer architecture, Huang said.

“Quantum-2 is the first networking platform to offer the performance of a supercomputer and the shareability of cloud computing,” Huang said. “This has never been possible before. Until Quantum-2, you get either bare metal high performance or secure multi-tenancy, never both. With Quantum-2, your valuable supercomputer will be cloud-native and far better utilized,”

Quantum-2 consists of a 400Gbps InfiniBand networking platform that consists of the Nvidia Quantum-2 switch, the ConnectX-7 network adapter, the BlueField-3 data processing unit (DPU), and supporting software.

Nvidia did not detail the architecture of E2, but Huang said modeling the climate of the earth in enough detail to make accurate predictions ten, 20, or 30 years in the future is a devilishly hard problem.

“Climate simulation is much harder than weather simulation, which largely models atmospheric physics — and the accuracy of the model can be validated every few days. Long-term climate prediction must model the physics of Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and waters, ice, the land, and human activities and all of their interplay. Further, simulation resolutions of one to ten meters are needed to incorporate effects like low atmospheric clouds that reflect the sun’s radiation back to space.”

Nvidia is tackling this issue using its new Modulus framework for developing physics machine learning models. Progress is sorely needed, given how fast the Earth’s climate is changing, for example with evaporation-induced droughts and drinking water reservoirs that have dropped by as much as 150 feet.

“To develop strategies to mitigate and adapt is arguably one of the greatest challenges facing society today,” Huang said. “The combination of accelerated computing, physics ML, and giant computer systems can give us a million times leap — and give us a shot.”


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Twitch says ‘server configuration change’ led to massive data leak

Twitch has released an update on a massive hack that appears to have exposed source code, streamer payment figures and other information. It said that data was exposed to the internet “due to an error in a Twitch server configuration change that was subsequently accessed by a malicious third party.” It added that its teams are working with “urgency” to investigate the attack. 

The Amazon-owned streaming site added that it has “no indication” that any login credentials, including passwords, were exposed. “Additionally, full credit card numbers are not stored by Twitch, so full credit card numbers were not exposed,” the company said.

Twitch also said that “out of an abundance of caution, we have reset all stream keys,” and provided a link to get a new one. Depending on the broadcast software you use, you may need to manually update your software to start a new stream. “Twitch Studio, Streamlabs, Xbox, PlayStation and Twitch Mobile App users should not need to take any action for your new key to work,” it wrote. “OBS users who have connected their Twitch account should also not need to take any action.”

However, if you haven’t connect your OBS account to Twitch, you’ll need to manually copy your stream from the Twitch Dashboard and paste it into OBS. “For all others, please refer to specific setup instructions for your software of choice.”

Yesterday, attackers said they stole the “entirety of,” including the site’s mobile, desktop and console Twitch clients. It also accessed proprietary SDKs and internal AWS services, red-teaming tools and more. All of that information could make Twitch vulnerable to future attacks by letting potential hackers probe for weaknesses. 

The leak also shows creator payments in the millions for streamers like xQc, Nickmercs and Shroud. Several have confirmed that the figures are accurate. 

Twitch said that the investigation is ongoing. “We are still in the process of understanding the impact in detail,” the company wrote. 

Update 10/7/2021 4:54 AM ET: Twitch has reset all stream keys and advised users on how to update their software. That information has been added to the article. 

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Apple files appeal to delay change in App Store payments

The judge who presided over the Apple vs. Epic case largely sided with the tech giant, except in one area: She ruled that Apple must allow developers to direct users to other payment systems within their apps. Any changes the company has to make to App Store rules to accommodate for that must be in effect by December 9th, or so the judge originally ruled. But now, Apple has filed a notice of appeal (PDF via CNBC) asking for a stay on the injunction, which could push back developers’ ability to offer alternative means of payment by one more year.

In its appeal, Apple wrote that it “has already taken concrete, specific steps in the direction indicated by the Court’s opinion — including by agreeing to eliminate the prohibition on targeted out-of-app communications.” The tech giant argued that it “would be a poor use of resources” to require it to comply with the injunction due to the “near-inevitable litigation” from Epic regarding the scope of its compliance. “There is no reason to expend resources,”it said, adding that “a stay would maintain the status quo while the appellate process progresses to completion.”

Trystan Kosmynka, Apple’s senior director of App Review, also said:

“At a high level, it is my judgment that, without thoughtful restrictions in place to protect consumers, developers, and the iOS platform, this change will harm users, developers, and the iOS platform more generally.”

Allowing developers to add in-app links to external payment options would be a major shift for the company. It originally yanked Fortnite from the App Store when Epic offered buyers discounts and freebies if they make their purchases directly from the developer. Shortly after that, the tech giant removed Epic’s developer tools, as well. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney shared communications between the two parties back in September, wherein the tech giant said it wouldn’t allow Fortnite back in the App Store until all court appeals are exhausted. The process could take five years.

According to a previous analysis by the CNBC, the App Store had gross sales of around $64 billion in 2020. Apple typically takes a 30 percent cut from app purchases, though it recently lowered that to 15 percent for all apps that earn less than $1 million a year. Giving developers the means to accept alternative modes of payment could cost the company billions. As Bloomberg notes, however, the judge that issued the injunction didn’t specifically mention that the company can’t charge developers a commission for payments made outside the App Store. Whether Apple would still ask developers for a cut remains to be seen, though it would be a complex undertaking if it decides to do so. 

A hearing has been set for Apple’s request to stay the injunction on November 16th, but it’s looking to move the proceeding to November 2nd. 

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IBM launches AI service to assist companies with climate change analysis

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IBM today launched the Environmental Intelligence Suite, a set of AI-powered software that customers can use to prepare for climate risks that could disrupt operations. By combining AI, weather data, climate risk analytics, and carbon accounting capabilities, the Environmental Intelligence Suite can be used to help organizations assess their impact on the planet while reducing the complexity of regulatory compliance, IBM says.

Companies are facing climate-related damage to their assets, as well as increasing expectations from consumers to perform as environmental leaders. McKinsey predicts that climate change could mean more disruptions in global supply chains, interrupting production and raising costs and prices. At the same time, shoppers are seeking out — and are willing to pay a premium for — environmentally-friendly products, according to recent studies from GreenPrint and others.

The Environmental Intelligence Suite leverages existing weather data from IBM, along with technologies developed by IBM Research. Via APIs, dashboards, maps, and alerts, the platform delivers recommendations aimed at addressing both immediate challenges and long-term planning and strategies. With the platform, climate and data scientists can analyze environmental datasets and use a new climate risk modeling framework to generate data on future wildfire and flooding risks. They can also tap natural language processing and automation features designed to help estimate carbon emissions and identify opportunities for reduction.

“The future of business and the environment are deeply intertwined. Not only are companies coping with the effects of extreme weather disruptions on their operations, they’re also being held increasingly accountable by shareholders and regulators for how their operations impact the planet,” IBM’s general manager of AI applications and blockchain Kareem Yusuf said in a statement. “IBM is bringing together the power of AI and hybrid cloud to provide businesses with environmental intelligence designed to help them improve environmental performance and reporting, create more efficient business operations to reduce resource consumption, and plan for resiliency in the face of climate disruptions.”

AI for climate change

IBM is pitching the Environmental Intelligence Suite as a way to monitor for severe weather, wildfires, flooding, and air quality in addition to prioritizing mitigation efforts and measuring environmental initiatives. For example, the company says, retailers could use the platform for severe weather-related shipping and inventory disruptions, while energy and utility companies could deploy it to determine where to trim vegetation around power lines.

While studies suggest that some forms of machine learning do contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, the technology has also been proposed as a tool to combat climate change. Researchers are using AI-generated images to help visualize climate change and estimate corporate carbon emissions. And nonprofits like WattTime are working to reduce households’ carbon footprint by automating when electric vehicles, thermostats, and appliances are active based on where renewable energy is available.

Beyond AI-powered services, tech giants are releasing tools to corner a global emission management software market expected to be worth $43.6 billion by 2030. Recently, Microsoft announced Cloud for Sustainability, a service designed to help companies measure and manage their carbon emissions by setting sustainability goals. It was released on the heels of Salesforce’s Sustainability Cloud, an enterprise carbon accounting product designed to drive climate action, and apps from Google Cloud to help businesses choose cleaner regions to locate their resources.


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How to Change Your Router’s Wi-Fi Password

A router Wi-Fi password should hit the sweet spot between being secure enough to offer protection, and being easy enough to remember and share with family or friends. To help stay safe and keep out unwanted guests, a good Wi-Fi password should include upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and ideally, special characters too.

If it’s time for a quick update to your old Wi-Fi password, our guide will show you just how to do it.

Note: There are two important passwords connected to your router. The first, and the one we are discussing here, is the Wi-Fi password that you and your guests use to log onto your Wi-Fi network. The second is an administrative password that you use to log in when changing router settings or updating your router — the default login for this password is usually on the back of your router (though you should change it too, for security reasons).

Step 1: Find and sign in to your router app

Routers today typically offer management options through an app that can be used to control settings and change your Wi-Fi password. Make sure you have the correct router app downloaded on your device, and sign in to it using your administrative password if necessary.

Router apps will naturally differ when it comes to user interfaces, so your individual steps may vary slightly from what we will go over here. In this case, we are using Netgear’s Nighthawk app as an example of what to do. If you are using a different app, look for similar language and options and it should be clear what to do.

Step 2: Select Wi-Fi Settings

The Nighthawk app showing Wi-Fi settings.

After you have signed in, the app will detect your router and connected devices, which may take a minute. It will then take you to the home screen, where you will see a variety of categories. Scroll down here until you see Wi-Fi Settings. Select this.

Step 3: Choose your Wi-Fi network

The Nighthawk app showing present Wi-Fi bands.

Now you will choose the Wi-Fi network that you want to change. The Nighthawk app, for example, allows you to choose between different Wi-Fi bands if you want. Unless you are setting up more complex access options, you probably want to set the same password for every Wi-Fi band, so you should change each in turn if necessary. Select your standard 2.4Ghz band to begin.

Important note: If you are using Netgear’s Nighthawk app, you will see an option to enable Smart Connect, which is automation software for your Wi-Fi network. If Smart Connect is enabled, you must disable it to access your Wi-Fi bands and make changes. This process will take several minutes.

Step 4: Select your Wi-Fi password and change it

The Nighthawk app showing the option to change Wi-Fi password.

You will now see the name of this specific Wi-Fi band and its current password below. Simply select the password and type in a new one to make the change. In the Nighthawk app, you’ll notice a small eye-shaped icon to the right, something most apps should offer. Selecting this will allow you to see the characters of your Wi-Fi password, which is very useful when you are typing a new one.

When finished, select Save to complete the change. Now that you have a new Wi-Fi password, you’ll want to do two important things: First, make a note of it in your password manager or a similar safe space. Second, make sure you update all your smart devices, smart TVs, mobile devices, game consoles, and anything else on your Wi-Fi network with the new password.

Don’t have a router app?

Text on the back of a router showing the access website and default password.

Older routers may not support access to an app for quick management. In this case, you can log into your router settings webpage to make changes. You can usually find this page by inputting the default local IP address for the router, which may be printed on the router — although we have a guide to help you find it no matter what. You will also need to log in with your administrative password to change settings.

Once logged in, look for options like Wireless Settings or Wireless Security. Here you will find options to adjust your encryption (WPA3 or WPA2 are recommended here) and change your password. Type in the new password and save your changes to make it go into effect.

Setting up your Wi-Fi for the first time?

Your default wireless password should also be printed on the back of the router for easy access. If you are using an app to set up, you may not need to worry about logging in at all, just recognizing the default name of your Wi-Fi network so the app can connect to it during setup, which will prompt you to change both the Wi-Fi name and the password to something personalized.

Editors’ Choice

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Stadia Pro revenue model change has game developers worried

A gaming platform lives or dies by the number and quality of games available on it. The latter, in turn, is dependent on attracting developers and publishers to make a bet on that platform. Although it has been around for more than a year now, Stadia’s long-term survival has always been in question because of developer and publisher support. Now it seems that developers are once again questioning Google’s commitment to the cloud-based game streaming platform, thanks to an important change it made to Stadia Pro’s revenue model.

At first glance, the changes Google announced last week seemed to favor all developers. New games launching from October 1st, 2021, until some time in 2023 will see an 85/15 split between developer and Stadia, at least for the first $3 million in sales. It won’t last forever, though, and it will revert to the “standard” 70/30 revenue sharing sooner or later.

The problem, however, is the change that Google is making for the games that are offered for free on the Stadia Pro tier. Instead of upfront payment for games like Google promised in its previous terms, developers will instead get 70% of revenue that’s based on player engagement. In other words, the more days a Stadia Pro game is played in a month, the higher that revenue and the higher the cut that a developer will make.

The problem is that this new revenue-sharing model might be skewed to favor certain types of games only. Online games like PUBG definitely have the advantage because there is no definite end game and content just keeps getting added. Players of single-player titles or even co-op games with end content will most likely taper off at some point.

It remains to be seen whether this new business model will end up being more profitable for developers, especially when they factor in direct sales outside of Stadia Pro. The changes, however, are already adding more worry to developers on top of fears that Google might pull the plug at any given point in time like Google often does.

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Tech News

Audacity spyware denial: App-owners defend privacy policy change

Audacity owners Muse Group have denied that the popular open-source audio app is secretly turning into spyware, blaming an unclear privacy policy update rather than nefarious intent for the confusion. Long a popular tool for musicians and podcasters, Audacity made headlines earlier this week after changes to its privacy policy suggested the owners planned to sell user data.

Open-source, Audacity was first released all the way back in 2000. However it was acquired earlier this year by Muse Group, which also owns MuseScore and Ultimate Guitar. Last week the company revealed upcoming changes to Audacity’s privacy policy, causing controversy in the process.

The new policy – which would come into play with the upcoming Audacity (3.0.3) release – seemingly gave Muse Group permission to collect user data, transmit it back to its servers, and share it with law enforcement. It also apparently left leeway for Muse Group to sell user data to third-party companies.

The reaction was fairly swift, and almost ubiquitously negative. A fork of Audacity quickly sprang up, splitting off from the proposed privacy changes, while users accused Muse Group of undermining the spirit of open-source software. Now, though, Muse Group says the interpretation of its new policies was incorrect, and that it’s updating the language to make completely clear what is planned.

“We do understand that unclear phrasing of the Privacy Policy and lack of context regarding introduction has led to major concerns about how we use and store the very limited data we collect,” Daniel Ray, Head of Strategy at Muse Group, posted on the company’s GitHub page. “We will be publishing a revised version shortly.”

Ray also gave a run-down of some of the things the amended policy will presumably be making more clear. “We do not and will not sell ANY data we collect or share it with 3rd parties,” he insists. Meanwhile, “data we collect is very limited.”

For example, IP addresses are “pseudonymised and irretrievable after 24 hours,” and the only system information collected is OS version and processor type. No further data is gathered, beyond anything included in a manually submitted Error Report.

As for compliance with law enforcement, that too is limited to the same collection boundaries. “Data is not shared upon an agency request,” Ray says, “we will do so only if compelled by a court of law in a jurisdiction that we serve.”

Finally, the Privacy Policy will not apply to any offline use of Audacity. “We are working with our legal team to revise our privacy policy to more clearly communicate the above points and our intent,” Ray concludes.

While it’s not uncommon for uncertainty to spread because of “legalese” language, it’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time Muse Group has been forced to defend itself after changes unwelcome among users. A new Contributor License Agreement (CLA) requirement announced in May, for example, prompted fury at the possibility of a proprietary version of the app, though at the time Ray insisted that there was no plan to make a paid Audacity version or one in which features were locked behind a paywall of some sort.

Prior to that, Muse Group was forced to reverse course when it was spotted adding Google and Yandex telemetry to Audacity. Although the company insisted it had planned to announce the idea first – and make it opt-in – instead users discovered it inadvertently as part of a new pull request. As a result, Muse Group said it would instead be self-hosting error reports.

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