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Facebook

Apple Jams Facebook's Web-Tracking Tools (bbc.com) 117

The next version of iOS and macOS "will frustrate tools used by Facebook to automatically track web users," reports BBC. At the company's developer conference, Apple's software chief Craig Federighi said, "We're shutting that down," adding that Safari would ask owners' permission before allowing the social network to monitor their activity. BBC reports: At the WWDC conference - held in San Jose, California - Mr Federighi said that Facebook keeps watch over people in ways they might not be aware of. "We've all seen these - these like buttons, and share buttons and these comment fields. "Well it turns out these can be used to track you, whether you click on them or not." He then pointed to an onscreen alert that asked: "Do you want to allow Facebook.com to use cookies and available data while browsing?" "You can decide to keep your information private."

Apple also said that MacOS Mojave would combat a technique called "fingerprinting", in which advertisers try to track users who delete their cookies. The method involves identifying computers by the fonts and plug-ins installed among other configuration details. To counter this, Apple will present web pages with less details about the computer. "As a result your Mac will look more like everyone else's Mac, and it will be dramatically more difficult for data companies to uniquely identify your device," Mr Federighi explained.

Operating Systems

Apple Unveils macOS 10.14 Mojave With Dark Mode and Finder Photo Tools (venturebeat.com) 99

Alongside iOS 12, at its developer conference WWDC on Monday, Apple also unveiled macOS 10.14 -- named "Mojave" -- the upcoming software update for the company's laptop and desktops lineups. The headline feature of macOS 10.14 is dark mode, a feature that people who work during late hours might appreciate. VentureBeat: A new Mojave feature called Dynamic Desktop can subtly change the desktop throughout the day, morning, afternoon, and evening. There's also Desktop Stacks, which can automatically clean up a messy desktop by arranging desktop contents into stacks based on content, date, or tag. Gallery View in the Finder lets you see content in a Photos-like display, including full metadata from cameras that can appear in an optional second sidebar; you can rotate photos and do basic automation of Actions within the Finder. The macOS screenshot creation tool has been expanded, as well, to enable instant creation of screengrabbed videos from current screen content.

Continuity has been expanded with Continuity Camera, leveraging your phone's camera to instantly add photos and scans to programs that request them. It also includes a Mac version of the Apple News aggregation app that debuted on iOS two years ago, including the Stocks feature and new sidebar that were shown off for the updated iPad version of News earlier in the Keynote. Voice Memos is also being brought to the Mac, as is Home, the HomeKit app from iOS. Apple also announced a collection of heightened security features for macOS, including protection by default of camera access, microphone access, your mail database, message history, and other private data.
Apple has also redesigned the App Store, and is bringing favicons to Safari tabs.
Security

Google and Microsoft Disclose New CPU Flaw, and the Fix Can Slow Machines Down (theverge.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Microsoft and Google are jointly disclosing a new CPU security vulnerability that's similar to the Meltdown and Spectre flaws that were revealed earlier this year. Labelled Speculative Store Bypass (variant 4), the latest vulnerability is a similar exploit to Spectre and exploits speculative execution that modern CPUs use. Browsers like Safari, Edge, and Chrome were all patched for Meltdown earlier this year, and Intel says "these mitigations are also applicable to variant 4 and available for consumers to use today." However, unlike Meltdown (and more similar to Spectre) this new vulnerability will also include firmware updates for CPUs that could affect performance. Intel has already delivered microcode updates for Speculative Store Bypass in beta form to OEMs, and the company expects them to be more broadly available in the coming weeks. The firmware updates will set the Speculative Store Bypass protection to off-by-default, ensuring that most people won't see negative performance impacts.

"If enabled, we've observed a performance impact of approximately 2-8 percent based on overall scores for benchmarks like SYSmark 2014 SE and SPEC integer rate on client 1 and server 2 test systems," explains Leslie Culbertson, Intel's security chief. As a result, end users (and particularly system administrators) will have to pick between security or optimal performance. The choice, like previous variants of Spectre, will come down to individual systems and servers, and the fact that this new variant appears to be less of a risk than the CPU flaws that were discovered earlier this year.

Google

Google Sued For 'Clandestine Tracking' of 4.4 Million UK iPhone Users' Browsing Data (theguardian.com) 33

Google is being sued in the high court for as much as $4.3 billion for the alleged "clandestine tracking and collation" of personal information from 4.4 million iPhone users in the UK. From a report: The collective action is being led by former Which? director Richard Lloyd over claims Google bypassed the privacy settings of Apple's Safari browser on iPhones between August 2011 and February 2012 in order to divide people into categories for advertisers. At the opening of an expected two-day hearing in London on Monday, lawyers for Lloyd's campaign group Google You Owe Us told the court information collected by Google included race, physical and mental heath, political leanings, sexuality, social class, financial, shopping habits and location data.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing Lloyd, said information was then "aggregated" and users were put into groups such as "football lovers" or "current affairs enthusiasts" for the targeting of advertising. Tomlinson said the data was gathered through "clandestine tracking and collation" of browsing on the iPhone, known as the "Safari Workaround" -- an activity he said was exposed by a PhD researcher in 2012. Tomlinson said Google has already paid $39.5m to settle claims in the US relating to the practice. Google was fined $22.5m for the practice by the US Federal Trade Commission in 2012 and forced to pay $17m to 37 US states.

The Internet

Chrome Tests Picture-in-Picture API To Show Floating Video Popups Outside the Browser (bleepingcomputer.com) 150

Browser makers are working on a new W3C API that will standardize Picture-in-Picture (PiP) mode and allow websites to show a floating video popup outside the browser window itself. From a report: In the past, picture-in-picture has only been supported inside a web page's canvas as a floating window that only appeared inside the current website, as the user scrolled up and down the page. Some platforms added support for a picture-in-picture mode, but those were OS-specific APIs that worked with all sorts of video apps, not just browsers. Now, the Web Platform Incubator Community Group (WICG) at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), has released details about a browser-specific API for standardizing picture-in-picture interactions that allow websites to open an external "floating video" popup outside the browser window itself. [...] Chrome and Safari have already shipped out the new Picture-in-Picture API.
Firefox

Bookmark Syncing Service Xmarks Closes For Good On May 1 (betanews.com) 51

Remember that popular browser extension that let you sync your bookmarks on multiple devices? Launched in 2006 by Foxmarks (a company created by EFF co-founder Mitch Kapor), it was saved from death in 2010 when it was acquired by the password-management service LastPass. But now BetaNews reports: If you're a user of Xmarks, there's some bad news for you -- the service is closing down... The bookmark syncing tool, which is available as an addon for Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari, is to be shuttered on May 1... Emails have also been sent out to registered users notifying them of the impending closure.

"On May 1, 2018, we will be shutting down Xmarks... After this date, your bookmarks should remain available in any previously accessed browser, but they will no longer sync and your Xmarks account will be deactivated... After careful consideration and evaluation, we have decided to discontinue the Xmarks solution so that we can continue to focus on offering the best possible password vaulting to our community."

It was apparently especially popular with long-time Slashdot reader vm, who writes "I have held on to my Xmarks account over the years because I can always get to them despite changes in operating systems, browsers, employers, etc.

"What do other folks use that may also have a mobile option?"
Operating Systems

macOS 10.13.4 Enables Support for External GPU (engadget.com) 53

With the latest release of macOS High Sierra, Apple has officially delivered on a couple of items in the works since WWDC 2017 last June. macOS 10.13.4 brings the external GPU (eGPU) support that lets developers, VR users gamers and anyone else in need of some extra oomph to plug in a more powerful graphics card via Thunderbolt 3. From a report: While that may not make every underpowered laptop VR ready, it certainly makes staying macOS-only more palatable for some power users. Another notable addition is Business Chat in Messages for users in the US. Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and others have tweaked their services to enable customer service linkups and now Apple has its version available on the desktop. With it, you can interact with business representatives or even make purchases. Other tweaks include waiting for the user to select login fields before autofilling password information in Safari, a smoke cloud wallpaper that had previously been restricted to the iMac Pro and a Safari shortcut for jumping to the rightmost tab by pressing Command-9. Further reading: Gizmodo.
Firefox

Firefox In 2018: We'll Tackle Bad Ads, Breach Alerts, Autoplay Video, Says Mozilla (zdnet.com) 84

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Firefox maker Mozilla has outlined its 2018 roadmap to make the web less intrusive and safer for users. First up, Mozilla says it will proceed and implement last year's experiment with a breach alerts service, which will warn users when their credentials have been leaked or stolen in a data breach. Mozilla aims to roll out the service around October. Breach Alerts is based on security consultant Troy Hunt's data breach site Have I Been Pwned. Firefox will also implement a similar block on autoplay video to the one Chrome 66 will introduce next month, and that Safari already has. However, Dotzler says Firefox's implementation will "provide users with a way to block video auto-play that doesn't break websites". This feature is set to arrive in Firefox 62, which is scheduled for release in May.

After Firefox 62 the browser will gain an optional Chrome-like ad filter and several privacy-enhancing features similar to those that Apple's WebKit developers have been working on for Safari's Intelligent Tracking Prevention. By the third quarter of 2018, Firefox should also be blocking ad-retargeting through cross-domain tracking. It's also going to move all key privacy controls into a single location in the browser, and offer more "fine-grained" tracking protection. Dotzler says Mozilla is in the "early stages" of determining what types of ads Firefox should block by default. Also on the roadmap is a feature that arrived in Firefox 59, released earlier this month. A new Global Permissions feature will help users avoid having to deny every site that requests permission for location, camera, microphone and notifications. Beyond security and privacy, Mozilla plans to build on speed-focused Quantum improvements that came in Firefox 57 with smoother page rendering.

IOS

Apple Updates All of Its Operating Systems To Fix App-crashing Bug (engadget.com) 70

It took a few days, but Apple already has a fix out for a bug that caused crashes on each of its platforms. From a report: The company pushed new versions of iOS, macOS and watchOS to fix the issue, which was caused when someone pasted in or received a single Indian-language character in select communications apps -- most notably in iMessages, Safari and the app store. Using a specific character in the Telugu language native to India was enough to crash a variety of chat apps, including iMessage, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook Messenger, Gmail and Outlook, though Telegram and Skype were seemingly immune.
Piracy

Tickbox Must Remove Pirate Streaming Add-ons From Sold Devices (torrentfreak.com) 70

TickBox TV, the company behind a Kodi-powered streaming device, must release a new software updater that will remove copyright-infringing addons from previously shipped devices. A California federal court issued an updated injunction in the lawsuit that was filed by several major Hollywood studios, Amazon, and Netflix, which will stay in place while both parties fight out their legal battle. TorrentFreak reports: Last year, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership between Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies, filed a lawsuit against the Georgia-based company Tickbox TV, which sells Kodi-powered set-top boxes that stream a variety of popular media. ACE sees these devices as nothing more than pirate tools so the coalition asked the court for an injunction to prevent Tickbox from facilitating copyright infringement, demanding that it removes all pirate add-ons from previously sold devices. Last month, a California federal court issued an initial injunction, ordering Tickbox to keep pirate addons out of its box and halt all piracy-inducing advertisements going forward. In addition, the court directed both parties to come up with a proper solution for devices that were already sold.

The new injunction prevents Tickbox from linking to any "build," "theme," "app," or "addon" that can be indirectly used to transmit copyright-infringing material. Web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Safari, and Firefox are specifically excluded. In addition, Tickbox must also release a new software updater that will remove any infringing software from previously sold devices. All tiles that link to copyright-infringing software from the box's home screen also have to be stripped. Going forward, only tiles to the Google Play Store or to Kodi within the Google Play Store are allowed. In addition, the agreement also allows ACE to report newly discovered infringing apps or addons to Tickbox, which the company will then have to remove within 24-hours, weekends excluded.

Privacy

DuckDuckGo App and Extension Upgrades Offer Privacy 'Beyond the Search Box' (theverge.com) 48

An anonymous reader quotes the Verge: DuckDuckGo is launching updated versions of its browser extension and mobile app, with the promise of keeping internet users safe from snooping "beyond the search box." The company's flagship product, its privacy-focused search engine, will remain the same, but the revamped extension and app will offer new tools to help users keep their web-browsing as safe and private as possible. These include grade ratings for websites, factoring in their use of encryption and ad tracking networks, and offering summaries of their terms of service (with summaries provided by third-party Terms of Service Didn't Read). The app and extension are available for Firefox, Safari, Chrome, iOS, and Android.

The ability to block ad tracking networks is probably the most important feature here. These networks are used by companies like Google and Facebook to follow users around the web, stitching together their browsing history to create a more accurate profile for targeted advertising.

DuckDuckGo calls it "a major step to simplify online privacy," adding that without it, "It's hard to use the Internet without it feeling a bit creepy -- like there's a nosey neighbor watching everything you do from across the street."
Security

'Text Bomb' Is Latest Apple Bug (bbc.com) 60

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: A new "text bomb" affecting Apple's iPhone and Mac computers has been discovered. Abraham Masri, a software developer, tweeted about the flaw which typically causes an iPhone to crash and in some cases restart. Simply sending a message containing a link which pointed to Mr Masri's code on programming site GitHub would be enough to activate the bug -- even if the recipient did not click the link itself. Mr Masri said he "always reports bugs" before releasing them. Apple has not yet commented on the issue. On a Mac, the bug reportedly makes the Safari browser crash, and causes other slowdowns. Security expert Graham Cluley wrote on his blog that the bug does not present anything to be particularly worried about -- it's merely very annoying. After the link did the rounds on social media, Mr Masri removed the code from GitHub, therefore disabling the "attack" unless someone was to replicate the code elsewhere.
IOS

Apple Updates macOS and iOS To Address Spectre Vulnerability (engadget.com) 67

Days after Apple disclosed how it would be dealing with the Meltdown bug that affects modern computers, it's pushed out fixes for the Spectre exploit as well. From a report: iOS 11.2.2 includes "Security improvements to Safari and WebKit to mitigate the effects of Spectre," the company writes on its support page, while the macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 Supplemental Update does the same for your Mac laptop or desktop. Installing this update on your Mac will also update Safari to version 11.0.2.
Windows

Windows 10 Visits To US Government Sites Surpass Windows 7 For the First Time (onmsft.com) 111

In what may be a signal of changing attitudes for Windows 10, visits to U.S. government sites via Windows 10 have surpassed Windows 7 for the first time. On MSFT reports: This United States government website reports that of the 2.54 billion visits to U.S. Government websites over the past 90 days, 20.9% came from Windows 10, and 20.7% from Windows 7. Interestingly, Windows 8.1 came in at 2.7%, Windows 8 .05%, and other OS 0.8%. The numbers are a bit niche and could be just from a holiday bump based on the sites 90-day average, but they still do give a solid number comparison for the state of various OS and browser stats. When it comes to browser share, Edge was not popularly used to visit U.S. Government websites. Chrome was on top with 44.4%, Followed up Safari with 27.6%, Internet Explorer at 12.3%, and then Firefox at 5.9% and Edge at 3.9%. Though all these government percentages may be bleak for Microsoft, the latest AdDuplex December report also shows strong adoption for Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, so things can only go up from Microsoft from here on out.
Security

Apple Issues Security Updates for MacOS, iOS, TvOS, WatchOS, and Safari (bleepingcomputer.com) 30

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Over the course of the last four days, Apple has released updates to address security issues for several products, such as macOS High Sierra, Safari, watchOS, tvOS, and iOS. The most relevant security update is the one to macOS, as it also permanently fixes the bug that allowed attackers to access macOS root accounts without having to type a password. Apple issued a patch for the bug the next day after it was discovered, but because the patch was delivered as an out-of-band update that did not alter the macOS version number, when users from older macOS versions updated to 10.13.1 (the vulnerable version), the bug was still present. With today's update, the patch for the bug -- now known as "IAmRoot" (CVE-2017-13872) -- has received a permanent fix. All users who upgrade to macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 are safe.
The Internet

All Major Browsers Now Support WebAssembly (bleepingcomputer.com) 243

An anonymous reader writes: "It took only two years for all browser vendors to get on the same page regarding the new WebAssembly standard, and as of October 2017, all major browsers support it," reports Bleeping Computer. Project spearheads Firefox and Chrome were the first major browsers to graduate WebAssembly from preview versions to their respective stable branches over the summer. The second wave followed in the following weeks when Chromium-based browsers like Opera and Vivaldi also rolled out the feature as soon as it was added to the Chromium stable version. The last ones to ship WebAssembly in the stable branches were Apple in Safari 11.0 and Microsoft in Microsoft Edge (EdgeHTML 16), which is the version that shipped with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. Both were released last month. WebAssembly, or wasm, is a bytecode format for the web, allowing developers to send JavaScript code to browsers in smaller sizes, but also to compile from C/C++/Rust to wasm directly.
Google

Google Paid $7.2 Billion Last Year To Partners, Including Apple, To Prominently Showcase Its Search Engine and Apps on Smartphones (bloomberg.com) 57

A reader shares a Bloomberg report: There's a $19 billion black box inside Google. That's the yearly amount Google pays to companies that help generate its advertising sales, from the websites lined with Google-served ads to Apple and others that plant Google's search box or apps in prominent spots. Investors are obsessed with this money, called traffic acquisition costs, and they're particularly worried about the growing slice of those payments going to Apple and Google's Android allies. That chunk of fees now amounts to 11 percent of revenue for Google's internet properties. The figure was 7 percent in 2012. These Google traffic fees are the result of contractual arrangements parent company Alphabet makes to ensure its dominance. The company pays Apple to make Google the built-in option for web searches on Apple's Safari browsers for Mac computers, iPhones and other places. Google also pays companies that make Android smartphones and the phone companies that sell those phones to make sure its search box is front and center and to ensure its apps such as YouTube and Chrome are included in smartphones. In the last year, Google has paid these partners $7.2 billion, more than three times the comparable cost in 2012.
The Almighty Buck

Browsers Will Store Credit Card Details Similar To How They Save Passwords (bleepingcomputer.com) 182

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: A new W3C standard is slowly creeping into current browser implementations, a standard that will simplify the way people make payments online. Called the Payment Request API, this new standard relies on users entering and storing payment card details inside browsers, just like they currently do with passwords. The API is also a godsend for the security and e-commerce industry since it spares store owners from having to store payment card data on their servers. This means less regulation and no more fears that an online store might expose card data when getting hacked. By moving the storage of payment card details in the browser, the responsibility of keeping these details safe is moved to the browser and the user. Browsers that support the Payment Request API include Google Chrome, who first added support for it in Chrome for Android 53 in August 2016, and added desktop support last month with the release of Chrome 61. Microsoft Edge also supports the Payment Request API since September 2016, but the feature requires that users register a Microsoft Wallet account before using it. Firefox and Safari are still working on supporting the API, and so are browser implementations from Facebook and Samsung, both eager to provide a simpler payment mechanism than the one in use today.
Google

Apple Replaces Bing With Google as Search Engine For Siri and Spotlight (geekwire.com) 54

Apple is ditching Bing and will now use Google to power the default search engine for Siri, Search within iOS (iOS search bar), and Spotlight on Mac. From a report: TechCrunch reported Monday that Apple users will now see search results powered by Google, instead of Bing, when using those tools. For example, when an iPhone user asks Siri a question that needs a search engine result, the voice assistant will now pull from Google, not Bing. Apple will still use Bing for image search queries using Siri or Spotlight on Mac, TechCrunch reported. Apple said the move was done for consistency; its Safari browser uses Google as the default search engine. In a statement, the company told TechCrunch that "we have strong relationships with Google and Microsoft and remain committed to delivering the best user experience possible." Google is reportedly paying Apple $3 billion this year to remain as the default search engine on iPhones and iPads.
Google

Google Experiment Tests Top 5 Browsers, Finds Safari Riddled With Security Bugs (bleepingcomputer.com) 105

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Bleeping Computer: The Project Zero team at Google has created a new tool for testing browser DOM engines and has unleashed it on today's top five browsers, finding most bugs in Apple's Safari. Results showed that Safari had by far the worst DOM engine, with 17 new bugs discovered after Fratric's test. Second was Edge with 6, then IE and Firefox with 4, and last was Chrome with only 2 new issues. The tests were carried out with a new fuzzing tool created by Google engineers named Domato, also open-sourced on GitHub. This is the third fuzzing tool Google creates and releases into open-source after OSS-Fuzz and syzkaller. Researchers focused on testing DOM engines for vulnerabilities because they expect them to be the next target for browser exploitation after Flash reaches end-of-life in 2020.

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