Office users are really going to hate this annoying new Microsoft 365 intrusion

Microsoft Office users have reported seeing a raft of sneaky adverts for Microsoft 365 appearing in their work.

Several users contacted BleepingComputer with shots of a new pop-up advertising Microsoft 365 Family subscriptions within Microsoft Word documents.

The “Limited Time Offer” promotes three months of Microsoft 365 for “$$0.99” leading some to think it is a scam, with other users reporting different wording that claims signing up to Microsoft 365, “is like getting six subscriptions in one.”

Microsoft 365 ads

However what has particularly annoyed users is that the advert uses the same format and style as that seen when asking users to enable macros, possibly meaning some absent-minded users may click without knowing.

It remains to be seen if the advert is part of a wider-running promotion, or just affecting a few users, but TechRadar Pro has contacted Microsoft to ask for more details.

The news is the latest issue to affect Microsoft 365 and Office users in recent months as the company looks to drive more users towards its platform.

The company has been attempting to encourage upgrading to Windows 11 for some time – although the latest figures from AdDuplex show Windows 11 is running on less than a quarter of all PCs

The company also recently had to row back on some plans to cut off some generations of Office software, with support originally set to end for Office 2016 and Office 2019 from October 2023, meaning users would be unable to use the software to connect to Microsoft 365 services, including Exchange Online.

Microsoft is also rolling out a new dashboard that will highlight metrics like usage, in-product feedback, and Net Promoter Score values to help make monitoring easier for IT admins.

The tech giant has responded to comments that large organizations find it challenging to monitor the deployment of cloud services like Microsoft 365, because data was either housed in different locations or not even available.

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Looking to buy a new laptop for school? Don’t make the same mistakes I made.

As we all get ready for the start of the new school year in the next few weeks, a lot of parents (and students) are getting ready to buy their back-to-school supplies and tech, and a new laptop is increasingly part of that decision, especially for those about to start a new level of schooling, whether that’s secondary/high school or university.

I’m heading into the final semester of a graduate program myself, and in the many years I’ve been in school over the past decade picking up both undergrad and graduate degrees, I’ve also bought a lot of tech along the way, from graphing calculators for calculus classes (actually the same calculus class that I kept failing miserably) to laptops for general and computer science coursework.

And while I made exactly one mistake buying the wrong calculator (which is totally why I failed calculus, I swear), I went through no less than four laptops in my time in school, three of which were an absolute waste of money. 

Not because the laptops were particularly bad, mind you. In fact, one of those laptops was actually one of the best student laptops around when it was released back in 2015. No, the problem was me, and specifically the way I approached technology at the time, and I made a few costly mistakes in my college career.

Now, here I am, a sadder and a wiser man, pulling you aside on your way into your local retailer to tell you my tale in the hopes it might help you avoid the same tragic fate.

Don’t buy into hype

A man holding a 2-in-1 laptop during a 2014 CES presentation

In 2014, 2-in-1 laptops sucked, I just didn’t know that when I bought one. (Image credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

When I made the decision to go back to school in 2014, I was still rocking an old school Acer Aspire One netbook that served me very well. I wish I had just stuck with it, because it was the best laptop I ever owned. Instead I kept hearing about these new fangled 2-in-1 laptops that seemed to be everywhere in those days.

Well, I thought, it would be pretty awesome to take notes on a 2-in-1 and save myself the trouble of dealing with paper notebooks, so I plunked down close to a grand on a Samsung 2-in-1 that would surely make my second time in college easier than my first.

Have you ever tried to take notes on a 16:9 2-in-1 laptop like it was a notebook? If you have, you already know it’s a huge hassle. The screen just isn’t nearly wide enough to really be useful, and even the best 2-in-1 laptops in 2014 were unwieldy abominations by today’s standard. 

And, tragically, they were even unwieldy then, especially the larger screen laptop I had bought. At over an inch thick, there was no way to comfortably hold the laptop on my desk and take notes like I’d planned on doing. Not to mention the fact that the style of “stylus” we had back then had a bulbus tip as thick as a pencil eraser, so all my notes looked like they’d been written with a magic marker.

In the end, I gave up and went out and bought an actual paper notebook and just wrote in it with a pen, defeating the purpose of buying a 2-in-1 in the first place. And worse still, the laptop sucked as a laptop, so it ended up sitting there while I just ended up using my trusty netbook instead and left my bulky, underpowered 2-in-1 laptop to collect dust at home. I pretty much set that money on fire for all the good it did me.

Think carefully about your needs

A close up of the Chrome logo on a Chromebook

(Image credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Not long after that, I hadn’t learned my lesson about buying into hype, and I bought one of the early-generation Chromebooks when I saw them on display in a Best Buy. The experience turned me off from Chromebooks for nearly half a decade.

The problem wasn’t that the Chromebook failed to do what it promised, it absolutely did. I just hadn’t thought about the kind of things I needed it to do when I bought it. By this point, Chromebooks were still just a dedicated way of accessing Google apps like Docs and Sheets, and if you weren’t connected to the internet, it was useless.

I’d started with my double major in English and Computer Science at that point, and while it was fine for writing papers, my netbook easily dis the same despite being several years old by this point. There were no C++ compilers on Chrome OS at the time and this was before Chromebooks came with an integrated Linux kernel, so I couldn’t do any of the work with Linux that I needed to do.

And while I could, theoretically, write code in Google Docs, coding with rich text formatting is a disaster waiting to happen, so I once again ended up letting that laptop sit on top of the 2-in-1 I’d bought a year earlier. Chromebooks did get a lot better in the year or two afterwards, but by then I was making an even more costly mistake than I’d already made.

Buy the least expensive option that gets the job done 

In 2016, I decided I was going to try one last time to get a laptop that would replace my netbook, which I thought was “showing its age”. I decided to get aboard the hype train again and went with a MacBook Air. It wasn’t all that great for programming unless you were programming for a Mac, which I definitely wasn’t, but it still worked well enough. It was also one of the best laptops for writers (and still is), so it worked great for typing up papers for my literature classes as well as doing my own writing work.

It was also way more expensive than it needed to be for what I was doing, which ultimately could have been done on a much cheaper laptop at the time. I got some good use out of my MacBook Air before I finally ended up giving it to my mom who needed a new computer after her decade old netbook finally died.

What this ultimately taught me is twofold: first, netbooks were incredible and we really didn’t appreciate them enough at the time; and second, the cheapest option that can get the job done is often a good bet. Just be sure that it can get the job done, and do your research on what the best cheap laptops can offer before going that route.

But my $400 netbook from 2010 is ultimately what got me through an entire undergraduate degree, and I damn near cried when it finally called it quits on me after several years of honest labor, so don’t feel like you’ve got to go big to get a great laptop for school.

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Some Xiaomi phones have serious security flaws

A flaw discovered in some Xiaomi phones could have cost users their hard-earned money. 

Cybersecurity experts from Check Point Research (CPR) found a flaw in the devices’ mobile payment mechanism, which threat actors could have used to sign fake payments, essentially stealing people’s money. 

“We discovered a set of vulnerabilities that could allow forging of payment packages or disabling the payment system directly, from an unprivileged Android application,” commented Slava Makkaveev, Security Researcher at Check Point.” We were able to hack into WeChat Pay and implemented a fully worked proof of concept.” 

According to CPR’s report, the flaw was found in Xiaomi’s Trusted Environment, a tool that stores and manages sensitive information, such as passwords, or security keys. There were two ways to go about stealing people’s cash: by having them install malware, or by stealing and tinkering with the device itself. 

Fixing the problems fast

In the first instance, the malware would extract the keys, and send fake payment packets to steal the money. In the second instance, the attacker would need to root the smartphone, downgrade the trust environment, then run the code to create a fake payment package without an application.

In both cases, however, the endpoint would need to be running on MediaTek processors.

After finding the flaw, CPR notified Xiaomi, which seems to have worked fast to address the issue: “We immediately disclosed our findings to Xiaomi, who worked swiftly to issue a fix,” Makkaveev noted. 

“Our message to the public is to constantly make sure your phones are updated to the latest version provided by the manufacturer. If even mobile payments are not secure, then what is?”

Mobile payment systems seem to be the next big frontier. According to Fortune Business Insights, the market is expected to hit $11.83 trillion in 2028, with a compound annual growth rate of 29.1%. That also makes it a major target for cybercriminals, who’ve been increasingly targeting payment systems, cryptocurrency wallets, and similar.

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Thousands of VNC servers have just been left open online

More than 9,000 Virtual Network Computing (VNC) endpoints were found sitting completely unprotected on the internet, available for access to anyone who knew where to look. To make matters even worse, some of these endpoints were industrial control systems, meaning the potential for disaster was quite big.

Researchers from Cyble recently scanned the internet for connected VNC instances and found that of the 9,000 vulnerable, the majority were located in China and Sweden, with a notable number of instances also discovered in the United States, Spain, and Brazil. 

VNC is a graphical desktop-sharing system allowing users to remotely control an endpoint. It is platform-independent and allows multiple clients to connect to a VNC server at the same time. Usually, VNCs are used as remote technical support or remote file access, and as such, must be protected with a password, or other means of user authentication. Sometimes, that’s not the case, as some people prefer convenience over security. Sometimes, the passwords are not set up in error, or due to negligence, BleepingComputer reports.

Sensitive systems exposed

But oftentimes, important systems lie behind exposed VNCs (such as water treatment facilities), leaving entire communities at risk. 

“During the course of the investigation, researchers were able to narrow down multiple Human Machine Interface (HMI) systems, Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition Systems (SCADA), Workstations, etc., connected via VNC and exposed over the internet,” Cyble says.

Cyble’s researchers managed to find an exposed VNC that gave them access to an HMI for controlling pumps on a remote SCADA system. 

The risk is not purely theoretical, either. It’s quite palpable, Cyble say. Scanning for attacks on port 5900, the default port for VNC, the researchers found more than six million requests – in just a month. Most of these attempts came from either the Netherlands, Russia, or the United States.

Via: BleepingComputer

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Microsoft Surface Laptop 5: Everything we know so far

Since making its debut five years, the Surface Laptop has consistently ranked among the best thin and light laptops you can buy. 2020 was the first year without a new device in the lineup, but Microsoft put that right just a few months later.

Surface Laptop 4 arrived in the spring slot usually associated with minor hardware updates and was was undoubtedly a cautious upgrade. Despite impressing in core areas such as display, performance and battery life, it’s clear Microsoft could go further to make the device best in class.

That’s exactly what we’re hoping for from the Surface Laptop 5, which could be just a few weeks away. Here’s everything we know at this stage.

When will the Surface Laptop 5 be released? 

  • October announcement rumoured
  • Will likely go on sale a couple of weeks later

Microsoft is yet to even confirm the existence of the Surface Laptop 5, but the device looks set to arrive between now and the end of 2022. 

According to Windows Central’s Zac Bowden, that was originally meant to be spring, potentially alongside the
Surface Laptop Go 2. However, Microsoft’s usual autumn/fall slot is now the most likely:

Lots of people asking if I’ve heard anything about a Surface Laptop “5” launching soon. I was told late last year that Laptop 5 was pushed back from spring to fall due to the ongoing component shortage. AFAIK, this has not changed. Expect Laptop 5 in Oct.— Zac Bowden (@zacbowden)
April 12, 2022

If true, that would put the gap between generations roughly in line with its predecessors:

  • Surface Laptop – June 2017 
  • Surface Laptop 2 – October 2018 
  • Surface Laptop 3 – October 2019 
  • Surface Laptop 4 – April 2021 

How much will the Surface Laptop 5 cost? 

  • Similar starting price (£799/US$899) likely 
  • Cheaper models may still use use AMD Ryzen processors 
  • Intel Core CPUs likely only for more expensive models 

Microsoft brought AMD Ryzen processors to the 13.5in
Surface Laptop 4 for the first time. This allowed it to drop the starting price, as these are from the older (but still very capable) Ryzen 4000 Series. Here’s how that compares to previous generations:

  • Surface Laptop – from £649/US$799 
  • Surface Laptop 2 – from £979/US$999 
  • Surface Laptop 3 – from £999/US$999 (13.5in), £1,199/US$1,199 (15in) 
  • Surface Laptop 4 – from £799/US$899 (13.5in), £1,299/US$1,199.99 

However, according to
Windows Central the Surface Laptop 5 is expected to have the option for the latest Intel and AMD processors. That may yield a slight price increase.

Remember, the 15in model was only introduced in the
Surface Laptop 3. We’re expecting Microsoft to continue with both screen sizes on the Laptop 5.

Surface Laptop 5 design & new feature rumours 

  • New Intel and AMD processors expected
  • 120Hz display and Thunderbolt support likely 
  • Could have a new design 

The first big news comes courtesy of
WindowsPrime, where you’ll find full specs for a device claiming to be the Surface Laptop 5. Its layout mirrors what you’ll find on the Microsoft website for existing Surface products, but that doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to be accurate. It’s the only page on the whole site, and WindowsPrime has no track record when it comes to leaks. However, the specs it predicts don’t seem too far wide of the mark. 

Microsoft will supposedly stick with 13.5in and 15in models for the Surface Laptop 5, although both will apparently have a 120Hz refresh. The latter is something Windows Central’s Daniel Rubino also said in an August 2022 video, and it mirrors what we’ve seen in the Surface Pro 8 and Surface Laptop Studio. Windows 11‘s Dynamic Refresh Rate (DRR) feature is now available, so the Laptop 5 should be able to automatically adjust refresh rate depending on what you’re doing. This is likely to benefit battery life.

Surface Laptop 4

Talking of battery life, the Laptop 5 will have a capacity somewhere between 53Wh and 58Wh according to WindowsPrime. Depending on the processor and size, this will apparently get you somewhere between 17.5hrs and 21hrs of maximum battery life.

The main processors available will be from Intel’s 12th-gen lineup (i5 or i7), although custom Ryzen 6000 Series chips (Ryzen 5 or 7) will also be on offer. This is what Windows Central is also reporting, with author Zac Bowden suggesting the Intel silicon will come from the performance-focused P-Series in a separate tweet:

P most likely— Zac Bowden (@zacbowden)
April 12, 2022

These CPUs are expected to be paired with with Iris Xe (Intel) and Radeon (AMD) integrated graphics respectively. 

The only other new features of note are a new 1080p webcam (up from 720p on the Laptop 4) and
Windows 11 running out of the box. You’ll still get 8/16/32GB of RAM and SSDs from 256GB to 1TB, as well as a relatively limited selection of ports will also remain – that means Surface Connect as the main charging method.

It’s possible everything WindowsPrime mentions will make it into the final product, but it doesn’t tell you if the Surface Laptop 5’s design will be updated. Its predecessor is beginning to look outdated, so it’d be nice to see something similar to the Pro 8. In an August 2022 Windows Central video, Daniel Rubino suggested we could get slimmer bezels on the Laptop 5, and hopes to see some upgrades that will make the 15in model a more compelling device. Could we see the option for Intel Arc graphics?

In the same video, Zac Bowden speculates that Microsoft may make a thin and light version of the Surface Laptop Studio, albeit without the pull-forward display.

We’ll update this article if any more information is revealed, or if more sources become available to consolidate these leaks.

Related articles for further reading 


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AMD could time Ryzen 7000 CPU launch to disrupt Intel Raptor Lake reveal

AMD was rumored to be planning to have its Ryzen 7000 processors launch – as in hit the shelves, and be available to buy – on September 15, but a fresh leak suggests that Team Red has pushed back that date, and the intended new timeframe happens to coincide with the expected Intel Raptor Lake unveiling.

That’s the word from sources who spoke to Wccftech, who believe that AMD has shifted the launch of next-gen CPUs based on Zen 4 to late September.

The contention is that the new date is September 27, which as mentioned is the day on which Intel has its Innovation event, and is rumored to be readying our first glimpse at next-gen Raptor Lake processors. Note that for Intel, this will just be a reveal, ahead of sales kicking off in October (in theory); whereas for AMD, this will supposedly be when the actual products are on sale.

AMD’s reveal will come much earlier, at the end of this month if rumors are right, on August 29 to be precise. The thinking is that we’ll be treated to a quartet of new CPUs: the Ryzen 9 7950X, 7900X, and 7700X plus 7600X.

Analysis: Running interference with Raptor – or something else?

If true – and we’d be very careful about assuming it is – this would be a pretty confident move for AMD on the face of it. In effect, by shifting the date to coincide with the Raptor Lake launch, it’s pretty much a direct challenge; a throwing down the gauntlet, if you will, and the assumption would be that this is how confident AMD is in Zen 4.

After all, if AMD had any doubt here, surely the company would want to get Ryzen 7000 out there before Raptor Lake, with the window of opportunity to rack up a couple of weeks of sales (if it went with that previous rumored date of September 15), before anyone knew about the relative power of Intel’s 13th-gen range.

Unless there’s another reason for this apparent pushback. We have also heard that AMD wants to get large volumes of the initial Zen 4 CPUs out there, so maybe production hasn’t gone as swiftly as Team Red envisaged, and it needs more time to ensure high stock levels from the get-go.

Either way, this should be music to the ears of consumers, if you think about it: either AMD is highly confident in its Ryzen 7000 silicon, or it wants to make sure there’s plentiful supply (which would certainly be refreshing at launch time, particularly for the top-end Ryzen 9 models). Maybe even both of the above will be true, but we shouldn’t get carried away with rumors, as we’ve all been burnt before on that score.

There is another way to look at the purported date shift, however, namely that AMD doesn’t want to give Intel the chance to evaluate Ryzen 7000 CPUs for comparisons with Raptor Lake at the latter’s unveiling. Ultimately, we can’t be sure of the reasoning here – if any – but our personal feeling for a while now, based on the various leaks which have sprung up in recent times, is that the race between Zen 4 and Raptor Lake is going to be a pretty close call.

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