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Microsoft is introducing Cortana to Skype users. The artificial intelligence will come to Skype in the form of the personal assistant Cortana. The assistant will help users make plans for going out or look up information.

Skype will be more enjoyable with Cortana

The addition of the personal assistant to Skype was announced for the first time over a year ago and it is still unknown what is taking Microsoft so long. It is said that the implementation is similar to the one used by Facebook for its assistant in Messenger and Google with Allo.

When a Skype user is chatting, Cortana appears to bellow the most recent messages and tries to assist you by suggesting a restaurant or creating reminders. Users can also chat with Cortana.

Cortana, Microsoft’s assistant

Intelligent personal assistants are used by all big companies. Google has Allo, iPhone has Siri, Amazon has Alexa and there are plenty more out there. Cortana is created by Microsoft for Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile, iOS, Android, Xbox One, Amazo Aexa and Windows Mixed Reality.

So far Cortana is available in only a handful of languages suh as English, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, Spanish Japanese and Chinese.

The personal assistant can recognize natural voice without keyboard input sets reminders and answers questions (it uses the Bing search engine). It was natural that Microsoft would use its own search engine, Bing, to help Cortana.

Also, Cortana can simulate rolling a dice or flipping a coin and it has music recognition service (Bing Audio). The service can only recognize recorded songs; it is not available for humming or live songs. The assistant has the Concert Watch feature which monitors Bing search engines to determine user’s favorite bands or musicians. Another service included is the Foursquare that provides local attractions and restaurants.

Source: This article was published tech.blorge.com By Andrew Matviles

Categorized in News & Politics

Those innocent-looking apps in your smartphone can secretly spy on your communications or could allow hackers to do so.

Hard to believe, but it's true.

Recently, Trustwave's SpiderLabs analysts discovered a hidden backdoor in Skype for Apple's macOS and Mac OS X operating systems that could be used to spy on users' communications without their knowledge.

The backdoor actually resides in the desktop Application Programming Interface (API) that allows third-party plugins and apps to communicate with Microsoft-owned Skype — the popular video chat and messaging service.

Appeared to have been around since at least 2010, the backdoor could allow any malicious third-party app to bypass authentication procedure and provide nearly complete access to Skype on Mac OS X.

How an Attacker can Take Complete Control of Your Skype

attacker

The malicious app could bypass authentication process if they "identified themselves as the program responsible for interfacing with the Desktop API on behalf of the Skype Dashboard widget program."

Accessing this backdoor is incredibly easy. All hackers need to do is change a text string in apps to this value → "Skype Dashbd Wdgt Plugin," and the desktop API would provide access to sensitive features of Skype.

An attacker or any malicious program abusing this hidden backdoor could perform the following actions:

  • Read notifications of incoming messages (and their contents)
  • Intercept, read and modify messages
  • Log and record Skype call audio
  • Create chat sessions
  • Retrieve user contact information

The researchers have also provided proof-of-concept Objective-C code that initiates the connection process without asking the user for permission for the process to attach to Skype:

The backdoor believes to have been created by a developer at Skype before Microsoft acquired the company and likely exposed more than 30 Million Mac OS X users.

Update Your Skype Installation Now!

Trustwave notified Microsoft of the vulnerability in October, and the company has patched the issue in Skype 7.37 and later versions.

Here's what a Microsoft spokesperson said about the backdoor:

"We do not build backdoors into our products, but we do continuously improve the product experience [and] product security and encourage customers to always upgrade to the latest version."

Trustwave also speculated that the backdoor believed to have been accidently left in Skype "during the process of implementing the dashboard plugin," as the Skype dashboard widget does not appear to utilize it.

All versions of Skype for Mac OS and Mac OS X, including 7.35 version, are vulnerable. So users are strongly recommended to update their Skype installation as soon as possible.

 

Author: Swati Khandelwal
Source: http://thehackernews.com/2016/12/hacking-skype.html

Categorized in Science & Tech

On paper, Skype is now a tempting choice for a company, as well as being the go-to tool for catching up with tech-fearing relatives. While some businesses may be using the familiar consumer version(which is also available as a web service), the app also comes in another flavor: Skype for Business, which is part of the Office 365 platform. Skype for Business is a rebranded version of Lync, Microsoft's previous business communication tool. It was launched in mid 2015 and brought with it a whole host of enterprise security and IT control features, and includes some great tools for company collaboration.

But Skype (in both forms) is by no means without its issues (many of which are well documented), such as poor call quality, out-of-control notifications, poor connections, problems with Skype credit, and so on. The good news is that there are many communication apps that are credible alternatives to Microsoft's popular product. Here are some of the best of the bunch.

RingCentral

ringcentral

RingCentral is an voice-focused alternative to Skype that brings a professional edge to VoIP for business. The solution emphasizes security, as well as ease of use, focusing on voice calling, text messaging and conference. And those are tasks that RingCentral does exceptionally well. Overall, it's solid, reliable, and flexible.

8×8

8×8 helps you to better service your customers with a smattering of intuitive features and a squeaky clean interface. It's a fully-featured VoIP application that provides more than just phone service. 8×8 also includes first-class web conferencing, faxing and mobile integration. If you're switching from Skype, you'll appreciate the improved audio quality, which sounds clear as a bell, thanks to its audio compression methods. Add to that excellent iOS and Android integration, and 8×8 quickly becomes a worthy alternative to Skype for business.

Nextiva

Nextiva No matter if you are emerging, entrepreneurial and growing business or a larger organization that need executive level phone service, Nextiva is a solution for you. It provides flexibility, affordability and reliability you need to run your business, with a comprehensive feature set. And, it's all delivered without any CapEx, on-premise hardware costs or system requirementsWhile you can use traditional landlines and mobile phones, the good news is that by downloading Phone.com's software, you computer can serve this purpose just as well.

Phone.com

Phone.com is all about VoIP rather than video chat, focusing on providing the a fully-featured conference call service for your business. Innovative features include conference calling for up to 500 people, SMS messaging to your Phone.com number, the ability to send and receive faxes from your account, and integration with the Phone.com mobile app, which allows you to start group messaging chats. While you can use traditional landlines and mobile phones, the good news is that by downloading Phone.com's software, you computer can serve this purpose just as well.

Aircall

Aircall

Aircall's VoIP solution is an excellent way to simplify and localize the way you connect with your customer. From providing you with local phone numbers in up-to 30 countries, to cascading phone calls through team members, to the shared inbox option where multiple employees can access voice messages, Aircall has a strong feature set. There are also no limits to the amount of calls you can make at one time, while desktop notifications mean that you can always be aware of when your customers are calling.

Team on the Run

Team on the Run is a robust and scalable mobile messaging application, Team on the Run was designed for businesses of all sizes. From five-person wedding planning agencies to private organizations with 10,000 or more employees, Team on the Run is a reliable and convenient tool that saves organizations time, money, and space. In addition to secure mobile messaging, Team on the Run also offers mobile corporate directories, ECM support and cloud storage access, web chat, and VoIP/walkie-talkie capabilities..

GoToMeeting

As the name suggests, GoToMeeting is all about arranging meetings and it makes it pretty easy, too. With the ability to virtually meet with up to 25 people, you can either chose to chat via video or VoIP, or join with your mobile phone. There's a plethora of other useful features, including screen sharing, personal "chat rooms", and the ability to record the meeting and share it with those people who were unable to attend. It's straightforward and simple to use.

Zoho Meeting

There are a couple of features that make Zoho Meeting a particularly interesting alternative to Skype. First of all, as Zoho offers a number of other apps such as CRM, Chat, and Calendar, you can start the meeting directly from there, as well as other integrations such as Google Apps. What makes it a useful business tool is that you can rebrand the app according to your company brand, as well as easily manage users and create customized reports. Then it also comes with all the usual features, such as VoIP, video chat, and screen sharing.

Cisco WebEx

Cisco WebEx has a strong focus on HD video calling, with a key feature being its ability to show seven screens at a time. It also comes with audio and video recording options, as well as annotation, note taking, and whiteboarding tools. The screen sharing feature is pretty cool, allowing you to only share certain apps on your screen, instead of your whole desktop, as is the "call me" option, which has a phone call you instead of you having to dial in.

Join.me

While Join.me may market itself as a simple solution that is super easy to use, it actually boasts features to rival its more "complicated" competitors. It has the usual VoIP, screensharing, video chat, and file transfer features, plus record functionality, the ability to chat with up to 250 participants, calendar plug ins, Salesforce.com integration, cloud storage, and personal chat rooms, along with integrated mobile apps. Overall, it's a fully-featured program that is suitable even for tech novices.

If you still haven't found what you're looking for, check out GetApp's full list of communication apps, or see how customer service, CRM, and call center apps are rated on GetRank, GetApp's quarterly ranking of business apps.

Source : https://www.getapp.com

Author : Karen McCandless

Categorized in Social

 

The internet is undoubtedly one of most important technical advances ever, but it's not always a very nice place.

It's the home of trolls and haters, a place where famous people and ordinary people alike are often subject to shocking threats, insults, and having their personal information published online (a practice known as doxing.)

It's a thorny problem for social-media sites like Twitter, which would rather protect free speech instead of police speech, and Facebook, where like-minded people can gather and affirm each other.

But Microsoft is taking harder stance against hate speech. On Friday it said it wants to make it easier for people to report online abuse in its consumer communities, which includes everything from Skype, OneDrive, and Outlook to gaming community Xbox Live.

"For many years we’ve sought to protect our customers by prohibiting hate speech and removing such content from our hosted consumer services. While neither our principles nor our policies are changing, we are refining some of our processes to make it easier for customers to report hate speech," explains Microsoft's chief online-safety officer Jacqueline Beauchere in a blog post.

To that end, Microsoft introduced a new form that makes it easier to report hate speech and a clear definition of the kinds of things that constitute hate speech. Anything that advocates violence or promotes hatred based on age, disability, gender, national or ethnic origin or race, religions or sexual orientation/gender identity is the kind of thing Microsoft will nix.

The new form also makes it easier for people to log a protest if their sites or posts were found to be in violation and blocked or removed.

Microsoft also recently joined other online firms to support the European Commission Code of Conduct countering illegal hate speech online, Beauchere says.

Source : http://www.businessinsider.com/microsoft-tries-to-silence-internet-haters-2016-8

 

Categorized in Search Engine

Google nailed e-mail with the 2004 introduction of Gmail. Now it’s the No. 1 form of electronic correspondence in the United States.

But as traditional e-mail falls out of favour with a growing sliver of the population, Google has struggled to release newer messaging tools that resonate widely.

Now Google is trying again with a new video chat application called Duo. The app works with mobile devices running Google’s Android operating system and Apple Inc.’s iOS. It runs on Wi-Fi and cellular networks, automatically switching between different types and speeds of connection and adjusting video quality.

Duo uses phone numbers, rather than a Google account, making it easier to call friends, family and other people already stored on smartphone contact lists. The company’s existing video calling and messaging app, Hangouts, requires a Google account. That limited adoption, especially in emerging markets. Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp and Messenger, Skype – now owned by Microsoft Corp. – and Apple’s FaceTime used phone numbers to grow faster.

A confusing array of communication options has held Google back. It has two e-mail services – Gmail, which is the top e-mail service in the United States based on unique visitors, according to ComScore, and Inbox; three text offerings, Hangouts, Messenger and the upcoming Allo; and now two video chat services, Duo and Hangouts (which offers texting and video calls).

This scattershot approach, and Google’s late start, is becoming more costly for the Alphabet Inc. division as messaging evolves from a simple way to communicate quickly into one of the next big technology platforms supporting digital commerce, advertising and new services powered by artificial-intelligence.

“Google missed it because of the requirement that you needed a Google ID to communicate with others,” said Ankit Jain, a former Googler and executive at SimilarWeb Inc., which measures website and mobile app usage.

Hangouts ranked 84th among Android apps in the United States in July, based on installs and usage, according to SimilarWeb. That lagged behind Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Snapchat.

Nick Fox, a 13-year Google veteran, was tasked by Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai 18 months ago with fixing the sprawl. Soon after, his new team formulated a strategy and started building Duo and Allo.

“Google sees communication as this essential human need, whether that’s through text, a picture, calling someone or doing a video call.” Mr. Fox said in a recent interview.

This insight is a decade old and has guided Facebook’s strategy since its creation in 2004. Asian companies, such as Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat and Line, have grown into tech powerhouses by connecting people through communication apps and offering related services on top of their networks. Skype, founded in 2003, became a leading video chat app on a similar foundation.

So how is Mr. Fox going to catch up? Job number one is clearing up the bloated smorgasbord of Google communications services.

Hangouts will be a workplace service, offering group video conferencing mostly via desktop computers and office laptops, Fox said. It will be integrated more with Google’s work software, such as Docs, Sheets and Slides, which will be easier to share.

Duo is a mobile app and only allows one-to-one video calling, limiting it as a consumer offering. Allo, a messaging service coming out later this year, will also target consumers, Fox said. Google’s Messenger is a basic text system, part of a group of services provided to wireless carriers that work closely with Android.

The second tactic: Bringing what Mr. Fox says is better technology to the new services to catch up with rivals.

Duo constantly performs “bandwidth estimation” to understand how much video can be delivered. If Wi-Fi weakens, it switches to a phone’s cellular network. If a cellular signal drops as low as 2G, Duo will automatically cut video and maintain audio.

Allo will use Google’s expertise in AI to automatically understand texts and provide useful suggestions. Google will also let third-party developers create chatbots that will interact with Allo users through messages. That’s already being tried by other companies such as Facebook and Microsoft, but Google has been working hard on AI for about a decade, so it may be more advanced.

“First build a great product,” Mr. Fox said, repeating a common Google mantra. “Once you get people to love it, they will share it with friends and co-workers and it grows.”

Google was late in other technology and caught up, Fox noted. Gmail started in 2004, more than six years after Yahoo Mail, but Google’s offer of mountains of free storage won over hundreds of millions of users. Google’s Chrome emerged in 2008 – over a decade after Microsoft’s Internet Explorer – and is now the most popular web browser partly because of speed and frequent updates.

Better technology may not be enough to catch up, Mr. Jain said. WhatsApp and Snapchat offered something useful enough to persuade many people to switch away from their existing communication service where all their friends already were.

Duo’s promise of video calling for everyone on Android and iOS is something that Hangouts already offers, but that didn’t move the needle enough, he noted.

“It’s worth another shot, but having better tech can’t be the only thing,” Mr. Jain said.

Source : http://www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/knock-knock-google-duo-video-call-is-here/article31426625/

Categorized in Science & Tech

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