Spotify Free Users Complain of Malware-Infested Ads; Company Addresses Issue

Spotify Free Users Complain of Malware-Infested Ads; Company Addresses IssueSpotify Free Users Complain of Malware-Infested Ads; Company Addresses Issue
Some Spotify Free users were treated to malware-infested ads with their ad-supported music streaming service. Some users have reported on the company’s forum that random, malicious ads pop-up on the default browser while running Spotify’s freemium service.

The Next Web reports that while the original report was based on a Windows 10 machine, the malware also seems to pop up on other operating systems as well including Linux and macOS. Spotify has acknowledged the malvertising issue and told Engadget that the issue is an isolated on and has since “shut it down”.

 

“If you have Spotify Free open, it will launch – and keep on launching – the default Internet browser on the computer to different kinds of malware / virus sites,” wrote user Tonyonly on the company’s community page. “Some of them do not even require user action to be able to cause harm,” he added.
In a reply to the user’s complaint, Spotify said, “We’ve identified an issue where a small number of users were experiencing a problem with questionable website pop-ups in their default browsers as a result of an isolated issue with an ad on our Free tier. We have now identified the source of the problem and have shut it down. We will continue to monitor the situation. If you see this issue again, please let us know the exact date and time in this thread.”

In 2011, Spotify faced a similar issue where it displayed malicious ads to some users. The company rectified the problem and issued a public apology.

While Spotify confirms to have fixed the issue, users should still maintain caution and download ad-blockers if running Spotify Free, or shift to the company’s ad-free version instead.

AMD Launches 7th-Gen ‘Bristol Ridge’ CPUs and New Socket AM4 Platform

AMD Launches 7th-Gen 'Bristol Ridge' CPUs and New Socket AM4 Platform
HP, Lenovo are the first to ship PCs with the new CPUs
Eight models have been launched with speeds of up to 4.2GHz
Details of retail pricing and availability are not yet known
Shortly after unveiling its highly anticipated new Zen architecture, AMD has announced that HP and Lenovo have begun shipping PCs with its new 7th-generation A-series processors, codenamed ‘Bristol Ridge’. The refresh also introduces AMD’s new unified AM4 platform which will serve for this generation as well as upcoming consumer Zen CPUs. The launches will give a struggling AMD some presence in the market to compete with devices based on Intel’s new Kaby Lake processors which will be available in full force this holiday shopping season.

AMD says that 7th-gen A-series CPUs will deliver as much power in a 65-Watt envelope as their predecessors did while consuming 95 Watts. Comparing an A12-9800 with an Intel Core i5-6500 which it says is equivalent in terms of CPU performance, AMD claims a 99 percent increase in graphics performance in at least one specific benchmark test. The A12-9800 is a 65W quad-core part with a maximum clock of 4.2GHz and Radeon R7-class graphics.

In total there are eight new CPU SKUs, one of which is a low-end model without integrated graphics and carries the Athlon branding instead of A-series. The Athlon X4 950 is a 65W part while all but one of the A-series parts have 65W and 35W models with different CPU and GPU frequencies. The 4.2GHz A12-9800 is matched with a 3.8GHz A12-9800E. The A10-9700 and A10-9700E run at 3.8GHz and 3.5GHz respectively, while the A8-9600 is the exception with only a 65W 3.4GHz version. Finally, there’s a lower-end pair dubbed the A6-9500 and A6-9500E which are the only dual-core models, and run at 3.8GHz and 3.4GHz respectively with Radeon R5-class integrated graphics.
All the new CPUs are based on AMD’s existing Excavator architecture and have up to four cores. DDR4 RAM support is key to the AM4 platform, and AMD has also taken the opportunity to bake in updated standards including PCI-Express 3.0, USB 3.1, SATA Express and NVMe. Socket AM4 is known to be backwards compatible with Socket AM3+, AM3 and AM2 coolers.

HP and Lenovo are the first out of the gate, though specific PC models have not been detailed. Other OEMs should follow soon. AMD has not shared any details of whether or if these CPUs and supporting motherboards will be available in retail boxed form, or what their individual retail prices might be.

Microsoft Releases ‘Windows 10 Fall Update’ to Windows Insiders

If you can’t wait for another few days to get your hands on the Windows 10 Fall Update, the first major update to company’s latest desktop operating system, you can get access to its beta build dubbed 10586 by enrolling yourself as a Windows Insider. The company on late Thursday released a new Windows 10 build to Windows Insiders, and it has the same version Microsoft signed off as the Fall Update according to a report.

Microsoft is expected to release Fall Update – codenamed Threshold 2 – sometime next week. But the build 10586 it has seeded out to the testers is the same build the company has signed off as the Fall Update, according to The Verge. The update, which largely aims to smoothen the rough edgesWindows 10 shipped with on July 29 – also offers a handful of new features.

The Fall Update features an improved Media Creation Tool, new capabilities in Cortana, and several tweaks to Edge – notably though, support for add-ons on Microsoft Edge is not on the cards, the company has confirmed. There are several changes to the user interface as well. Microsoft has pushed out the coloured title bar for desktop applications and improved the contextual menu. Prior to this update, the contextual menu inside apps and various windows looked oddly different.

Another major addition you can see in the new update is the introduction of Skype integration. Both Messaging app and Skype Video apps, available to download from the Windows Store, now offer built-in Skype capability. Prior to this, a user needed to download and install the standalone Skype client separately.

The company is expected to roll out the update on Patch Tuesday next week. While the nature of the update isn’t officially known yet, according to a report, users who’re on build 10240 (the preview version sent to RTM and testers in the last week of July), will be able to directly upgrade to the latest version of the operating system. A standalone ISO version of the updated build 10586 isn’t available for download yet.

Windows 10 Fall Update to Begin Rolling Out From November 2

The next major update to Windows 10, Microsoft’s latest operating system, appears set to roll out in a few weeks. According to multiple reports, Microsoft plans to release the rumoured Threshold 2 (TH2) Update in November.

Citing a trusted source, Microsoft watcher Paul Thurrott reported the company plans to release the next major Windows 10 update – also referred to as Windows 10 Fall Update – in November. According to tech blog WinBeta, the update will arrive on November 2.

The update will come with a handful of features and a number of changes, as you would expect. The report says that the update will bring with it an improved Media Creation Tool, new features forCortana, and several tweaks to Edge. But don’t expect support for add-ons on Microsoft Edge in the next update, the report adds. The company has confirmed to The Verge that it has delayed the rollout of extensions support till 2016.

The Verge separately reports that the Windows 10 Fall Update will also bring several UI changes that were originally planned for the final version of Windows 10. These changes include the ability to add an extra column of Live Tiles in Start menu. The context menu, and coloured title bars for desktop apps, are also on their way. The Messaging and Skype Video apps for Windows 10 will be updated to add support for native Skype calling and messaging.

Thurrott also revealed the nature of the impending update. He noted that users will be able to install this update on their computers that currently have the RTM version of Windows 10, without having to first install all the updates the company has seeded out since the release of Windows 10 on July 29. Also, users who are currently on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 will be pushed to Windows 10 Fall Update version of the operating system if they decided to upgrade their gear.

The update wouldn’t require you to reactivate your copy of Windows 10 if your computer already runs an activated version of the said operating system. However, if you haven’t upgraded your system yet, you will be able to use your existing Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 product key to do that.

Western Digital to Buy SanDisk in $19 Billion Deal

Hard disk drive maker Western Digital Corp said it would buy memory chip maker SanDisk Corp for about $19 billion (roughly Rs. 1,23,765 crores), the latest in a wave of consolidation in the chip-making industry.

The cash-and-stock offer values SanDisk at $86.50 (roughly Rs. 5,630) per share, or a total equity value of about $19 billion, using a five-day volume weighted average price ending on Oct. 20 of $79.60 (roughly Rs. 5,185) per share of Western Digital stock.

SanDisk’s shares rose 6.4 percent to $80 in pre-market trading. Western Digital’s shares were down 1.1 percent at $74.

Demand for cheaper chips and new products to power Internet-connected gadgets, as well as a push from technology companies to consolidate suppliers, has led to record levels of dealmaking in the semiconductor sector this year.

The value of the SanDisk acquisition will depend on the closing and approval of an investment from a unit of China’s state-backed Tsinghua Holdings Co Ltd, Unisplendour Corp Ltd in Western Digital, the companies said on Wednesday.

The deal is expected to close in the third calendar quarter of 2016.

Cortana Now Lets You Respond to Texts Messages From Your Windows 10 PC

Microsoft has rolled out new features to Cortana on Windows 10. With the latest update, the voice-based virtual assistant lets you know when you have missed a call. The app, in addition, also allows you text to people right from your computer. Separately, the company has announced that it will be relaunching its payments app, Windows Wallet, possibly featuring the Windows 10 biometric security system.

The Redmond-giant introduced Cortana to the desktop platform with Windows 10. The company at the time of launch had also stated that Cortana on the desktop will work in conjunction with mobile devices. While we saw third-party tools embracing Cortana’s availability on desktop, Microsoft hadn’t done much on this front. The company is changing that.

An update to Cortana will allow you to send text messages from your system. Thanks to Cortana’s support for voice input, you will also be able to dictate a message to Cortana on your system and it will send out the message. The text message will, as you would expect, will be sent from your phone itself. In addition, Cortana will also let you know if you missed a call on. You will need to have a Windows Phone app to use this feature, and signed in with Microsoft account at both the places. The feature doesn’t support Cortana for Android just yet.

Separately, the company had some information about its upcoming payments feature to offer as well. In an interview with The Verge and Recode, Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore said that the company plans to relaunch the Windows Wallet app. “Windows is going to have a wallet concept. You’ve seen it on phones before. We’re going to continue to iterate it,” Belfiore told the publications, referring to the Windows Wallet app for Windows Phone. “We’re going to think about the range of payment scenarios.”

Belfiore noted that the app could support Windows 10 biometric authentication system Windows Helloas this is the “kind of technology we’ll build into devices for authentication to make… payments better.” He didn’t have a release timeframe to offer, but the sooner the company improves it the better it is for it as the market for the mobile payments is getting crowded every day.

Western Digital Hard Drives Feature Multiple Security Flaws

According to researchers, several vulnerabilities have been found in the built-in encryption offered with Western Digital hard drives. The vulnerabilities, if exploited, can give an attacker access to the data on a password-protected hard drive. The hard drive manufacturer has acknowledged the existence of flaws in its hardware-based encryption but did not reveal if it was working on a fix.

Security researchers Gunnar Alendal, Christian Kison, and one who goes by the alias “modg,” investigated how the self-encryption feature is implemented in several popular Western Digital My Passport and My Book models. The researchers presented a paper last month titled “got HW crypto? On the (in)security of a Self-Encrypting Drive series” reporting vulnerabilities in the abovementioned hard drive models. They found that the hard drive models depending on the type of microchip they used for the encryption had various types of design flaws.

The researchers said most hard drive brands come with a built-in capability to encrypt all stored data. The hard drive uses strings to create DEK, the data encryption key. In theory, it produces 32 bytes, which should still be hard enough to decrypt. But as security researchers noted, the algorithm which the hard drive uses encapsulates just repetitions of a four-byte value.

The researchers also found flaws in the USB bridge chips used in WD drives. If exploited, the flaw allowed an attacker to gain backdoor access to the encrypted data. In some cases, furthermore, the researchers found that the chip stored the key in plain text in its EEPROM, making it easy to recover it.

“We developed several different attacks to recover user data from these password-protected and fully encrypted external hard disks,” the researchers noted. “In addition to this, other security threats are discovered, such as easy modification of firmware and on-board software that is executed on the user’s PC, facilitating evil maid and badUSB attack scenarios, logging user credentials, and spreading of malicious code.”

Newer My Passport hard drives use JMicron JMS569 that can be forcibly unlocked using forensic tools able to access unencrypted portions of the drive. These forensic tools are commercially available.

The researchers also noted that the firmware update process on the tested hard drives did not use cryptographic signature verification which makes it prone to attacks. In theory, one can riddle the firmware with malware and infect host computers and even add cryptographic backdoors in them.

Security researchers said that they have informed the hard drive company about the vulnerabilities, and that they are not aware if the company is working on a fix. A Western Digital representative told Forbes, that the company continues “to evaluate the observations.”

Arduino 101 Development Board Unveiled With Intel Curie Chip

Arduino 101

Intel and Arduino have unveiled a new development board this week in the form of the Arduino 101 as it will be named in the US or the Genuino 101 throughout Europe.

That has been equipped with Intel’s new Curie chip module, which was unveiled at the beginning of this year during CES in January 2015. Intel officially announced the new Arduino board during the Maker Faire in Rome

Arduino 101

Curie is equipped with a 32-bit microcontroller together with a small amount of RAM and Flash. As well as a six-axis sensor with a gyrometer and accelerometer and Bluetooth Low Energy for connectivity.

The new Arduino 101 board that measures 7 cm long and 5.5 cm wide will be made available early next year and will be priced at $30 or around €27. The specifications of the new Arduino 101 development board include :

Arduino 101-b

 

AMD to Sell Some Testing Operations, Gives Weak Revenue Forecast

Advanced Micro Devices Inc said on Thursday it would sell most of its assembly and testing operations in two Asian cities, as the struggling chipmaker looks to cut spending amid weak demand for its processors for personal computer.

AMD said it will sell 85 percent of its ATMP (assembly, test, mark and pack) operations in Suzhou, China and Penang, Malaysia to China’s Nantong Fujitsu Microelectronics Co Ltd (NFME) for a net proceeds of $320 million (roughly Rs. 2,078 crores).

The company also said it would create a joint venture with NFME as part of the deal, to which it will contribute 1,700 employees. It said it did not plan to cut any jobs.

AMD earlier this month said it would cut 5 percent of its global workforce. It had 9,700 employees globally, according to its annual report in February.

AMD, which makes central processing units and graphics chips, said it expects the transaction to be “cost neutral” and significantly reduce its capital expenditures.

The company also reported its fifth straight fall in quarterly revenue and forecast current-quarter revenue that fell short of analysts’ average expectations.

“Overall, PC demand, particularly in the consumer market, continues to be somewhat muted,” Chief Executive Lisa Su said on a call with analysts.

PC shipments fell 7.7 percent worldwide in the third quarter as the rising dollar made them costlier, research firm Gartner said last week.

AMD posted a net loss of $197 million (roughly Rs. 1,279 crores) in the third quarter ended September 26 compared with net income of $17 million (roughly Rs. 110 crores) a year earlier. It lost 17 cents per share on an adjusted basis.

Sunnyvale, California-based AMD’s revenue fell 25.8 percent to $1.06 billion (roughly Rs. 6,885 crores).

Analysts on average had expected a loss of 12 cents per share and revenue of $995.9 million (roughly Rs. 6,469 crores), according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

AMD forecast current-quarter revenue to fall 10 percent, give or take 3 percent, sequentially. The midpoint of the range translates to about $955 million (roughly Rs. 6,203 crores), well short of analysts’ estimate of $996.3 million (roughly Rs. 6,471 crores).

The company’s shares were volatile in trading after market and were last down 0.5 percent at $1.96.

The stock had fallen about 26 percent this year through Thursday, steeper than the 5 percent fall in the broader Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index.

Lenovo, HP, Microsoft, Intel, and Others Partner on PC Ad Campaign

So many people have gone so long without buying a new personal computer that the industry’s biggest players are trying something different: a quirky advertising campaign. The $70 million (roughly Rs. 454 crores) marketing push aims to highlight how much better PCs have gotten since smartphones and tablets came along.

Rival PC makers Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Lenovo are joining forces with Microsoft and Intel to revive languishing PC sales with ads that don’t promote specific brands. They’ll be punctuated with the slogan, “PC does what?”

It’s a concept similar to earlier campaigns by beef and dairy producers that sought to extol the virtues of their products.

The PC campaign will tout the increased versatility of laptops that have slimmed down while adding more powerful chips, longer-lasting batteries and higher resolution screens that also respond to touch commands. Many of the screens also detach from keyboards so they can function as tablets, too. Most new PCs are now powered by Windows 10, which Microsoft bills as its best operating system yet.

“With this perfect storm of innovation, we felt it was the time to tell our story,” said Steve Fund, Intel’s chief marketing officer. “People think having something good is good enough because they are unaware of how much better the PCs are now.”

The campaign, scheduled to begin Monday in the US and China, will include TV commercials on major networks and online ads. The participating companies will split the $70 million cost of the campaign, which will run through November in an effort to entice holiday shoppers.

The ads are primarily targeting consumers who haven’t bought a new PC in at least four years – a potential audience of about 400 million people, estimated technology industry analyst Patrick Moorhead.

The PC push comes amid a 3 1/2-year decline in sales that has been driven by a shift to smartphones and tablets able to handle many of the tasks that previously required desktop and laptop computers.

Even the late July release of Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system couldn’t reverse the slide. Worldwide shipments of PCs fell by 8 percent from the previous year during the three-month period ending in September, according to the research group Gartner. Lenovo, HP and Dell were the top three PC makers in the quarter.

But the pendulum may be poised to swing in the other direction.

About half the consumers polled in Gartner’s personal technology survey said they plan to buy a new PC during the next year, compared to just 21 percent who said they have a tablet on their shopping list.

In an effort to reverse a recent decline in iPad sales, Apple introduced a larger version of its trendsetting tablet that’s designed to behave much like a laptop. The iPad Pro will sell for $800 (roughly Rs. 51,200) and an accompanying keyboard will cost an additional $169 (roughly Rs. 10,800).

Consumers who have owned the same PC for several years can now buy a vastly improved model for $500 to $700 (roughly Rs. 32,000 to Rs. 44,800), Moorhead said, making it more likely the marketing campaign will win converts.

“I think the PC might have its best hand in the past five to seven years,” Moorhead said.