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FIBER OPTIC CABLES are the gold standard of a good internet connection, but laying them can be expensive, and in some parts of the world, a physically daunting task. So in remote corners of the globe, people often connect to the internet instead of via massive geostationary satellites. These school bus-size instruments are especially far away, producing significantly slower connections.  A host of companies believe the better way to connect the estimated half of Earth’s population that’s still offline is to launch “constellations” of smaller satellites into low Earth orbit, around 100 to 1,250 miles above our planet. According to emails obtained from the Federal Communications Commission in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by WIRED, and confirmation from the company itself, Facebook is officially one of them. The emails show that the social network wants to launch Athena, its very own internet satellite, in early 2019. The new device is designed to “efficiently provide broadband access to unserved and underserved areas throughout the world,” according to an application the social network appears to have filed with the FCC under the name PointView Tech LLC. With the filing, Facebook joins Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Softbank-backed OneWeb, two well-funded organizations working on similar projects. In fact, SpaceX launched the first two of what it hopes will be thousands of its Starlink satellites just this past February. More in-depth detail is posted on OUR FORUM.

Security researchers have discovered a precursor of the notorious Proton macOS malware. This supposed precursor appears to have been developed back in 2016, a year before Proton and uploaded on VirusTotal, where it remained undetected for nearly two years until May 2018, when Kaspersky researchers stumbled upon it. Researchers who analyzed the malware used the term "raw" to describe its code and capabilities. It was clear in their analysis that the malware was still under development and did not have the same capabilities as the Proton remote access trojan. Proton became a household name in the infosec community in March 2017 when threat intelligence analysts from Sixgill found it being sold on an underground hacking forum for steep prices ranging from $1,200 to $820,000. Two months later, Proton was seen in the wild for the first time when someone hacked the website of the HandBrake app and poisoned the official app with the malware. Proton was used again in October 2017 when hackers breached the website of the Eltima Player and injected the malware in that app as well. More details can be found on OUR FORUM.

With Gmail’s new design rolled out to more and more users, many have had a chance to try out its new “Confidential Mode.” While many of its features sound promising, what “Confidential Mode” provides isn’t confidentiality. At best, the new mode might create expectations that it fails to meet around security and privacy in Gmail. We fear that Confidential Mode will make it less likely for users to find and use other, more secure communication alternatives. And at worst, Confidential Mode will push users further into Google’s own walled garden while giving them what we believe are misleading assurances of privacy and security. With its new Confidential Mode, Google purports to allow you to restrict how the emails you send can be viewed and shared: the recipient of your Confidential Mode email will not be able to forward or print it. You can also set an “expiration date” at which time the email will be deleted from your recipient’s inbox, and even require a text message code as an added layer of security before the email can be viewed. Unfortunately, each of these “security” features comes with serious security problems for users. Read this article and more on our Forum

If you have been avoiding Windows 10 because you are concerned about Microsoft spying on you via its telemetry services, the company has just made your life slightly more difficult. Microsoft has just classified KB2952664 and KB2976978, for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, respectively as Critical Updates, meaning their installation is now compulsory. The updates have been available earlier but were then Optional. The updates bring a telemetry service to the operating systems, as explained in their descriptions. The updates automatically activate DoScheduledTelemetryRun, a process that records and sends telemetry data, even on devices that do not participate in the Windows Software Usage Analysis program. Windows 8.1 is already unsupported and Windows 7 is leaving support in 2020. With the updates now marked as Critical, we assume the majority of Windows 7 and 8.1 users will soon also be letting Microsoft know how healthy their PCs are, which is a good thing, after all, isn’t it? Read the description on OUR FORUM.

It has been heralded as the last version of Windows you will ever need. This is great news for internal IT. Rather than large abrupt OS version updates such as the cumbrous leap between Windows 7 and 8, the Windows-as-a-Service delivery of Windows 10 will allow for regular incremental improvements and updates. The expectation is to eliminate the arduous elongated process of OS migrations that require significant planning, training and working hours. For those who need any further incentive, there is also the impending end-of-life deadline in January 2020 for Windows 7. Of course, to get to Windows 10, you have to endure one final big upgrade. Fortunately, Microsoft has taken great strides to simplify the Windows 10 migration process. New deployment methodologies that utilize images, task sequences and provisioning packages make the deployment process far agile today. That does not mean there aren’t challenges in the process, however. The hurdles instead lie in the standardization of the user workspace. It is the details of ensuring that all those configuration settings, applications, printers and security protectants are delivered to ensure a secure productive work environment. A recent survey conducted by PolicyPak and GPanswers.com set out to learn firsthand about the experiences that businesses are having today in their Windows 10 migration projects. The survey involved over 500 organizations representing 30 countries and multiple industries. The organizations ranged in size from small businesses of less than 100 users to enterprises with more than 5,000 users. Continue on OUR FORUM.

Microsoft plans to officially support "leap seconds" in Windows 10 and Windows Server editions, the company has revealed today. Leap seconds are one-second adjustments made to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) in order to keep Earth time in sync with solar time. The reason why leap seconds appear is that of irregularities in the Earth's rate of rotation. Leap seconds have been accounted for since 1972, and they typically happen every 18 months. When they do happen, one second is added at the end of the last minute of the day the leap second happens, or one second is subtracted when the leap second is negative (has never happened). Microsoft and most software engineers have known about leap seconds for many years, but have not bothered to support them, with Linux creator Linus Torvalds once telling people to chill out about "leap seconds." But as software, and especially Windows, became part of our daily lives and our critical infrastructure, US and EU regulators have issued orders that any software that handles critical tasks must be able to synchronize to UTC time with a very low margin of error, so it can execute critical tasks in sync with other equipment. Complete details are posted on OUR FORUM.