Accessibility with the new Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge Logo Image
Microsoft Edge (Chromium)

What’s new in Microsoft Edge accessibility

We try to make browsing with assistive technologies as easy and intuitive as possible. Check out the accessibility enhancing features we’ve added in the new Microsoft Edge:

  • Microsoft Edge supports the Windows high contrast theme and improved text scaling.
  • The Windows Ease of Access features are now integrated to Microsoft Edge with closed captions and appearance enhancements.
  • You can navigate Microsoft Edge using the same keyboard shortcuts that you know from Windows. For the list of shortcuts, go to Keyboard shortcuts in Microsoft Edge.
  • Tooltips appear on keyboard focus and include keyboard shortcuts.
  • You can select text with your keyboard by turning on caret browsing (F7).
  • Menus now support underline access keys on Windows.

For more info on accessibility, refer to Accessibility features in Microsoft Edge.

Source: Accessibility with the new Microsoft Edge

Using AI to advance the health of people and communities around the world | Microsoft on the Issues

Using AI to advance the health of people and communities around the world | Microsoft on the Issues

The health of people and communities around the world has been improving over time. For example, the steep decline in child and maternal mortality is a key indicator of positive momentum.

However, progress has not been equal across the globe, and there is a great need to focus on societal issues such as reducing health inequity and improving access to care for underserved populations. While researchers work to unlock life-saving discoveries and develop new approaches to pressing health issues, advancements in technology can help accelerate and scale new solutions.

That is why we are launching AI for Health, a new $40 million, five-year program to empower researchers and organizations with AI to improve the health of people and communities around the world. The program is underpinned with a strong foundation of privacy, security and ethics, and was developed in collaboration with leading health experts who are driving important medical initiatives. AI for Health is the fifth Microsoft AI for Good program, a $165 million initiative to empower researchers, nonprofits and organizations with advanced technologies to help unlock solutions to the biggest challenges facing society today.

The AI for Health initiative will focus on three key areas:

  • Quest for discovery. Accelerating medical research to advance prevention, diagnoses and treatment of diseases
  • Global health insights. Increasing our shared understanding of mortality and longevity to protect against global health crises
  • Health equity. Reducing health inequity and improving access to care for underserved populations

AI for Health is a philanthropic initiative that complements our broader work in Microsoft Healthcare. Through AI for Health, we will support specific nonprofits and academic collaboration with Microsoft’s leading data scientists, access to best-in-class AI tools and cloud computing, and select cash grants.

I am honored to lead AI for Health as part of my mission at Microsoft to fuse AI and data to address the world’s greatest challenges. As a tech company, it is our responsibility to ensure that organizations working on the most pressing societal issues have access to our latest AI technology and the expertise of our technical talent.

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Phone calls in the Your Phone app now rolling out to regular Windows 10 users

Phone calls in the Your Phone app now rolling out to regular Windows 10 users

In December Microsoft rolled out the ability to make and receive phone calls via the Your Phone app to Windows Insiders. Now the feature is rolling out to regular Windows 10 users…

I just did this, and it works OK. I would eventually like to put in the always run taskbar, so it runs without notice. Not easy to do. I also want the same on my phone as well.

My comment from Flipboard where this was initially placed.

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PyDev of the Week: Thomas Wouters | The Mouse vs The Python

PyDev of the Week: Thomas Wouters | The Mouse vs The Python

This week we welcome Thomas Wouters (@Yhg1s) as our PyDev of the Week! Thomas is a core developer of the Python language. He is very active in open source in general and has been a director of the Python Software Foundation in the past. Let’s spend some time getting to know him better!

Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):

I’m a self-taught programmer, a high school dropout, a core CPython developer, and a former PSF Board Director from Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I’ve been playing with computers for a long time, starting when my parents got a Commodore 64 with a couple books on BASIC, when I was 6 or 7. I learned a lot by just playing around on it. Then in 1994 I discovered the internet, while I was still in high school. This was before the days of the World Wide Web or (most) graphics, but I was sucked in by a programmable MUD, a text-based “adventure” environment, called LambdaMOO. LambdaMOO lets you create your own part of the world by making rooms and objects, and programming their behaviour, in a programming language that was similar to Python (albeit unrelated to it). One thing led to another and I dropped out of high school and got a job at a Dutch ISP (XS4ALL), doing tech support for customers. A year later I moved to the Sysadmin department, where I worked for ten years. I gradually moved from system administration to programming, even before I learned about Python. 

Besides working with computers I also like playing computer games of all kinds, and non-computer games like board games or card games. I do kickboxing, and I have a bunch of lovely cats, about whom I sometimes tweet. I’m pretty active on IRC as well, and I’m a channel owner of #python on Freenode. I also keep ending up in administration-adjacent situations, like the PSF Board of Directors and the Python Steering Council, not so much because I like it but because I don’t mind doing it, I’m apparently not bad at it, and it’s important stuff that needs to be done well.

Why did you start using Python?

While working at XS4ALL, a friend with whom I worked on a TinyMUX-based MUD knew I preferred LambdaMOO, and mentioned that Python was a lot like the MOO language, at least conceptually. I knew BASIC, Perl and C at the time, but I wasn’t particularly happy about any of them. The MOO language had always just seemed more logical, more natural to me. When I finally tried Python, it was an eye-opening experience. Mind you, this was in 1999, and it was Python 1.5.2; compared to Python 3.8, practically the stone age. Still, I fell in love with it instantly. It just fit my brain so nicely. That I was able to easily (compared to the state of the art at the time) use C libraries, or even embed Python in C programs, was an extra bonus. I didn’t get to use Python much at work until I moved to Google, but I did all kinds of hobby programming with it. 

Part of why I kept programming is that I found out how much fun it was to work on CPython itself. I had worked on a number of different C code bases at the time, and CPython’s was the cleanest, most readable, most enjoyable by far. I learned a lot from just reading it, and implementing small features that people asked for. I took a proof-of-concept patch from Michael Hudson to add augmented assignment (+=, *=, etc) and ran with it, getting guidance from Guido himself on a lot of the details. It took a lot longer than I expected, but that ended up becoming PEP 204, and made me a core Python developer. I was just in time to help found the Python Software Foundation as well, which we did in 2003, and I was on its Board of Directors the first three years (and again later).

My involvement with Python also meant I got offered a job at Google, working remotely from Amsterdam, to help maintain Python internally. The rest of my team is in California, and I get to visit them regularly. The work at Google is complex and diverse and challenging enough that after 13 years I’m still not bored.

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?

I know C intimately, and C++ and Java fairly well. I use all three (along with Python) at my day job. I’m also somewhat familiar with Haskell, D, Objective C, and Perl. I used to use Perl a lot at my previous job, but I never enjoyed it and I don’t remember much of it now. My favourite language by far is Python, but C is in a firm second place. I’m familiar enough with its pitfalls that I know when I don’t know something, and where to look it up. I’m also under no illusions about its drawbacks, and would be quite happy if everybody moved to more memory-safe languages. Modern C++ — at least the set of features we’re encouraged to use at work — is also growing on me. The main issue I have with C++ is that it has so many features you shouldn’t use. At work we have a lot of tooling to help us make those choices, which greatly improves the C++ experience.

Thanks for doing the interview, Thomas!

The rest of the post PyDev of the Week: Thomas Wouters appeared first on The Mouse Vs. The Python.

Next Generation Washington: Our priorities for 2020 | Microsoft on the Issues

Next Generation Washington: Our priorities for 2020 | Microsoft on the Issues

As we’ve done in recent years, I’d like to share what we’re focused on for Washington State’s current legislative session, as well as share our reaction to one key November 2019 election result. As we’ve said in the past, we believe in the transparency that comes from publishing a preview of the positions we’ll be sharing with legislators as they work in Olympia.

As a company, Microsoft is committed to furthering policies that create new jobs, opportunities and innovations here in Washington State. With more than 50,000 Microsoft employees and their families calling Washington home, these goals and the outcome of the decisions made today aren’t abstract – they’re personal.

As we embark on a new year, we are more committed than ever to two chief objectives: 1. Ensuring Microsoft’s success contributes to the overall success of the state; and 2. Engaging with elected officials and our neighbors to find ways in which we can help improve the quality of life for everyone who lives or works here.

From the 2019 Election to the 2020 Legislative Session

  1. I-976
  2. Affordable housing
  3. Data privacy
  4. Facial recognition
  5. Broadband access
  6. Cascadia Innovation Corridor – High-speed rail

Looking through the joint lenses of economic opportunity and quality of life, we were disappointed in the passage of Initiative 976, which will eliminate billions of dollars of much-needed funding for major transportation projects, city-level street maintenance, transit services, ferries and state patrol services over the coming years. Microsoft was a major supporter of the diverse business-labor-environmental coalition that opposed this measure, and we continue to believe that investments in transportation infrastructure are critical for the vitality of our state in the years ahead.

The rest of the post (without my bolding) Next Generation Washington: Our priorities for 2020 appeared first on Microsoft on the Issues.

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PyDev of the Week: Sebastián Ramírez | The Mouse vs The Python

PyDev of the Week: Sebastián Ramírez | The Mouse vs The Python

This week we welcome Sebastián Ramírez (@tiangolo) as our PyDev of the Week! Sebastián is the creator of the FastAPI Python web framework. He maintains his own website/blog which you should check out if you have some free time. You can also see his open source projects there. You can also see what projects he is contributing to over on Github.

Let’s take a few moments to get to know Sebastián better!


Sebastián Ramírez


Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):
 
 
Hey! I’m Sebastián Ramírez, I’m from Colombia, and currently living in Berlin, Germany.
 
I was “homeschooled” since I was a kid, there wasn’t even a term for that, it wasn’t common. I didn’t go to school nor university, I studied everything at home. At about (I think) 14 I started fiddling with video edition and visual effects, some music production, and then graphic design to help with my parent’s business.
 
Then I thought that building a website should be almost the same …soon I realized I had to learn some of those scary “programming languages”. HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (“but!!! HTML and CSS are not…” I know, I know). But soon I was able to write a very short text, in a text file, and use it to make a browser show a button, that when clicked would show a pop-up saying “Hello world!”… I was so proud and excited about it, I guess it was a huge “I maked these” moment for me. I still feel that rush, that excitement from time to time. That’s what makes me keep loving code.
 
I also like to play videogames and watch movies, but many times I end up just coding in my free time too. I’m boring like that… 😂


Why did you start using Python?

 
At some point, I was taking several (too many) courses on CourseraedX, and Udacity. I knew mainly frontend vanilla JavaScript (Node.js was just starting), so I did all the exercises for the Cryptography, Algorithms, and other courses with JavaScript running in a browser, it sounds a bit crazy now.
 
Then I took Andrew Ng’s ML course on Coursera, it used Octave (kinda Matlab) and it taught me enough Octave/Matlab for the course, and also that learning a new language was not so terrible. But then an AI course from Berkeley/edX required Python… so I took the Python crash course that was embedded (it was just like one page). And I went into the AI course with that. I loved the course, and with it, I started to love Python. I had to read a lot of Python docs, tutorials, StackOverflow, etc. just to be able to keep the pace, but I loved it. After that, I took an MIT/edX Python course and several others.
 
And I just kept learning and loving Python more and more.

 

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?

 
I’m quite fond of JavaScript as it was my first language. I have also used some compile-to-JS languages like CoffeeScript, TypeScript. I have also ended up doing quite some Bash for Linux and Docker.
 
I really like TypeScript, and now I almost never do plain JS without TS, I love having autocompletion everywhere and type checks for free. I naturally got super excited when optional type hints for Python were released as a Christmas gift in 2016. And 2 years later FastAPI came to be, heavily based on them.
 

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Microsoft will be carbon negative by 2030 | Microsoft on the Issues

Microsoft will be carbon negative by 2030 | Microsoft on the Issues

The scientific consensus is clear. The world confronts an urgent carbon problem. The carbon in our atmosphere has created a blanket of gas that traps heat and is changing the world’s climate. Already, the planet’s temperature has risen by 1 degree centigrade. If we don’t curb emissions, and temperatures continue to climb, science tells us that the results will be catastrophic.

Read about Microsoft’s commitment on the Official Microsoft Blog and at https://news.microsoft.com/climate/

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Code Jumper: Jumpstarting computer science interest in kids who are blind

Why didn’t I think of this. To represent code and actions based on tactile patterns is flat out genius.

The group went beyond my initial thoughts of a physical implementation of some tech akin to Scratch, a popular open source environment for primary school students to learn how to Code and think logically and sequentially. At the risk of a spoiler alert..

Research in Microsoft’s Project Torino leads to Code Jumper, which introduces kids who are blind and low vision to programming through a physical language.

Source: Code Jumper: Jumpstarting computer science interest in kids who are blind

How tech is catering to the elderly and caregivers | Venture Beat

This is very much worth some time to read. As this blogger is approaching elderly status, this needs to begin now, so when the market matures a bit, the price will come down enough to reach the maximum number of clients that could use these technical innovations, devices, and software.


At CES 2020, tech’s biggest trade show, the tech industry showed it is paying attention to the needs of the elderly and their caregivers.

Source: How tech is catering to the elderly and caregivers

PyDev of the Week: Tyler Reddy | The Mouse vs The Python

PyDev of the Week: Tyler Reddy | The Mouse vs The Python

This week we welcome Tyler Reddy (@Tyler_Reddy) as our PyDev of the Week! Tyler is a core developer of Scipy and Numpy. He has also worked on the MDAnalysis library, which is for particle physics simulation analysis. If you’re interested in seeing some of his contributions, you can check out his Github profile. Let’s spend some time getting to know Tyler better!

Tyler Reddy

Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):

I grew up in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada and stayed there until my late twenties. My Bachelor and PhD degrees were both in biochemistry, focused on structural biology. I did travel a lot for chess, winning a few notable tournaments in my early teen years and achieving a master rating in Canada by my late teens. Dartmouth is also known as the “City of Lakes,” and I grew up paddling on the nearby Lake Banook. In the cold Canadian Winter the lake would freeze over and training would switch to a routine including distance running—this is where my biggest “hobby” really took off. I still run about 11 miles daily in the early morning.

I did an almost six year post-doc in Oxford, United Kingdom. I had started to realize during my PhD that my skill set was better suited to computational work than work on the lab bench. Formally, I was still a biol- ogist while at Oxford, but it was becoming clear that my contributions were starting to look a lot more like applied computer science and computational geometry in particular. I was recruited to Los Alamos National Labora- tory to work on viruses (the kind that make a person, not computer, sick), but ultimately my job has evolved into applied computer scientist here, and nothing beats distance running in beautiful Santa Fe, NM.

Why did you start using Python?

I think it started during my PhD with Jan Rainey in Canada. He was pretty good about letting me explore ways to use programming to make research processes more efficient, even when I might have been better off in the short term by “just doing the science.” Eventually my curiosity grew to the point where I just read one of the editions of Mark Lutz’s “Learning Python” from cover to cover. I very rarely used the terminal to test things out while reading the book—I just kept going through chapters feverishly—I suppose Python is pretty readable! I still prefer reading books to random experimenting when approaching new problems/languages, though I don’t always have the time/luxury to do so. I remember reading Peter Seibel’s “Coders at Work,” and making a list of all the books the famous programmers interviewed there were talking about.

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?

During my second postdoc at Los Alamos I read Stephen Kochan’s “Pro- gramming in C.” For that book I did basically do every single exercise in the terminal as I read it—I found that far more necessary with C than Python to get the ideas to stick. I had made an earlier attempt at reading the classic “The C Programming Language” book by K&R and found it rather hard to learn from! I thought I was doing something wrong since it was described as a classic in “Coders at Work,” I think. I’ll probably never go back to that book now, but I certainly get a lot of mileage out of my C knowledge these days.

I did a sabbatical at UC Berkeley with Stéfan van der Walt and the NumPy core team, working on open source full time for a year. NumPy is written in C under the hood, so it was essential I could at least read the source. A lot of the algorithm implementations in SciPy that I review or write are written in the hybrid Cython (C/Python) language to speed up the inner loops, etc.

I’ve also written a fair bit of tcl, and I write a lot of CMake code these days at work.

Python easily wins out as my favorite language, but C isn’t too far be- hind. I have to agree with the high-profile authors in “Coders at Work” who described C as “beautiful” (or similar) and C++ as, well, something else. Indeed, the NumPy team wrote a custom type templating language in C, processed by Python, instead of using C++. That said, Bjarne did visit UC Berkeley while I was there and it sounds like C++ may be taking a few more ideas from the Python world in the future!

Thanks for doing the interview, Tyler!

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Listen up North Carolina | NowThis

Listen up North Carolina | NowThis

The main issue is funding. It seems to me that the collective we can fund whatever we feel is important. However, in North Carolina, most of the collective we aren’t important. And this spans both political parties in this state. It’s almost as North Carolina has “Alabama” level aspirations in their interaction with minorities in general.

NowThis tweet.

Microsoft shares new technique to address online grooming of children for sexual purposes | Microsoft on the Issues

Microsoft shares new technique to address online grooming of children for sexual purposes | Microsoft on the Issues

Online child exploitation is a horrific crime that requires a whole-of-society approach. Microsoft has a long-standing commitment to child online protection. First and foremost, as a technology company, we have a responsibility to create software, devices and services that have safety features built in from the outset. We leverage technology across our services to detect, disrupt and report illegal content, including child sexual exploitation. And we innovate and invest in tools, technology and partnerships to support the global fight needed to address online child sexual exploitation.

In furtherance of those commitments, today Microsoft is sharing a grooming detection technique, code name “Project Artemis,” by which online predators attempting to lure children for sexual purposes can be detected, addressed and reported. Developed in collaboration with The Meet Group, Roblox, Kik and Thorn, this technique builds off Microsoft patented technology and will be made freely available via Thorn to qualified online service companies that offer a chat function. Thorn is a technology nonprofit that builds technology to defend children from sexual abuse.

The development of this new technique began in November 2018 at a Microsoft “360 Cross-Industry Hackathon,” which was co-sponsored by the WePROTECT Global Alliance in conjunction with the Child Dignity Alliance. These “360” hackathons are multifaceted, focusing not just on technology and engineering but also on legal and policy aspects as well as operations and policy implementation. Today’s announcement marks the technical and engineering progress over the last 14 months by a cross-industry v-team from Microsoft, The Meet Group, Roblox, Kik, Thorn and others to help identify potential instances of child online grooming for sexual purposes and to operationalize an effective response. The teams were led by Dr. Hany Farid, a leading academic who, in 2009, partnered with Microsoft and Dartmouth College on the development of PhotoDNA, a free tool that has assisted in the detection, disruption and reporting of millions of child sexual exploitation images and is used by more than 150 companies and organizations around the world.

<snip>

At Microsoft, we embrace a multi-stakeholder model to combat online child exploitation that includes survivors and their advocates, government, tech companies and civil society working together. Combating online child exploitation should and must be a universal call to action.

Learn how to detect, remove and report child sexual abuse materials at PhotoDNA or contact photodnarequests@microsoft.com. Follow @MSFTissues on Twitter.

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Government data protection—earning and retaining the public’s trust with Microsoft 365

Microsoft Photo

Citizen confidence in government institutions and public servants depends on trust. Citizens need to trust that the individuals and agencies representing them will act in good faith to protect their interests. Whether it’s the safety of food, medications, infrastructure, information, or national security, the sustainability of the social contract between the government and its constituents requires persistent attention to retain the public’s trust.

For governments to function, the flow of data on a massive scale is required—including sensitive information about critical infrastructure, public safety, and security. The higher the stakes in data sensitivity, the more attractive the information is to malefactors for reasons that range from financial gain to political influence. It should come as no surprise that the security of government information systems is subject to constant attempted attacks.

The Zero Trust model

The Zero Trust security model adheres to three pillars:

  1. Explicit verification of every access request.
  2. Use of least privileged access with just-in-time adaptive risk-based access policies.
  3. Assume breach mentality to minimize potential damage to, or loss of data from, additional parts of the organization.

The rest of the post:Government data protection—earning and retaining the public’s trust with Microsoft 365 is inside the hyperlink.

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PyDev of the Week: Bryan Weber | The Mouse vs The Python

PyDev of the Week: Bryan Weber | The Mouse vs The Python

This week we welcome Bryan Weber (@darthbith) as our PyDev of the Week! Bryan is a contributor for Real Python and a core developer for Cantera. If you’d like to learn more about Bryan, you can check out his website or his Github profile. Let’s take a few moment to get to know him better!

Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):

I am a teaching professor at the University of Connecticut, as well as the Director of Undergraduate Studies for Mechanical Engineering. This means that I focus mostly on improving the education of our undergraduate students. I teach a lot of thermodynamics and fluid mechanics courses, and I’ve developed a few Python packages to help with that.

I got my doctorate in Mechanical Engineering in 2014, also from the University of Connecticut. One of my favorite things about mechanical engineering is that it is a super broad field, covering everything from robotics to chemistry, cars and trucks to planes and rockets, and everything in between.

My hobbies are open source software, Ultimate Frisbee, and cooking. I have a daughter and I love spending time as a family. Aside from that, there isn’t much time for anything else!

Why did you start using Python?

While I was in grad school, my dissertation was focused on developing experimental data for biofuels. Originally, I wrote all of my data processing in MATLAB because that was the language I knew from undergrad. At some point, I realized that if I wanted to practice open science, that included sharing the data processing scripts as well as the raw data. Of course, MATLAB is proprietary software and is quite expensive. This means that my work would not be really open and free (as in speech).

So I rewrote everything in Python, so that I could share it all! I chose Python because another package that I wanted to use had a Python interface, and it made it easy to integrate everything together. The package I wrote for data processing is still on GitHub (it is called UConnRCMPy) although I’m not sure if anyone uses it at all.

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?

I used to know FORTRAN and MATLAB pretty well, but those skills have mostly atrophied. I can read most C++ code, but can’t write it all that well. Python is by far my favorite language that I’ve learned so far. I’m also very interested to learn Julia and see how it compares!

Thanks for doing the interview Bryan!

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Chrome OS has failed to innovate, says Android Police

OnMSFT.com story image.

Ah, what could have been. At least it’s still a foundational open-source point for my favorite Web Browser, Vivaldi!

Chrome OS has failed to innovate, says Android Police:

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Teens and adults hope for more civil online discourse in new decade | Microsoft on the Issues

Teens and adults hope for more civil online discourse in new decade | Microsoft on the Issues

It’s a new year and a new decade, and teens and adults around the world hope that respect, safety and freedom will define online life in the 2020s, new Microsoft research shows.

For the past four years, we’ve been invested in research as part of a campaign to promote digital civility ­­– safer, healthier and more respectful online interactions among all people. With the advent of the new decade, we wanted to enhance that work and seek insight into people’s “2020s vision.”

We asked respondents to select three words to best describe what they hope will come to define online experiences and digital interactions over the next 10 years. “Respect” was by far the preferred option, chosen by two-thirds (66%) of participants. “Safety” followed at a rather close second (57%), while “freedom” (33%), “civility” (32%) and “kindness” (26%) rounded out the top five. “Empathy” was the only other choice to receive more than 20% of the vote – 21% precisely. Meanwhile, “well-being,” “inclusivity,” “health,” “compassion” and “curiosity” all scored between 11% and 15%.

In addition, we asked survey participants to pull out their crystal balls and predict the tone and tenor of online behaviors in the next decade, particularly with respect to some specific — and sometimes troubling — scenarios. Here are some of their responses:

  • Half (50%) say technology and social media companies will create tools and implement policies to encourage more respectful and civil online behavior and punish poor conduct.
  • Half (50%) also predict people’s ability to protect their privacy and personal data will improve.
  • A third expect fewer women to be sexually harassed online (34%), fewer teens to be bullied (33%) and they expect online political discussions to become more constructive (33%).

The latest study, “Civility, Safety and Interaction Online – 2019,” polled teens aged 13-17 and adults aged 18-74 about their exposure to 21 different online risks across four categories: behavioral, sexual, reputational and personal/intrusive. This research builds on similar studies about digital civility that Microsoft has conducted in each of the last three years. The 2019/2020 installment polled respondents in 25 countries, up from 14, 23 and 22 countries from 2016 to 2018, respectively. A total of 12,520 individuals participated in this study, and we’ve surveyed more than 42,000 people on these topics since the start of this work. Full results of this poll, including the release of the latest Microsoft Digital Civility Index, will be released on international Safer Internet Day on February 11.

Online expectations bar graph

<snip>

To learn more about digital civility and how you can help advance these practical ideals for online interaction, visit www.microsoft.com/digitalcivility. For more on digital safety generally, visit our website, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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Microsoft takes court action against fourth nation-state cybercrime group | Microsoft on the Issues

Microsoft takes court action against fourth nation-state cybercrime group | Microsoft on the Issues

This will become very important as probably the most important election year in my lifetime (I know, this could be said about every election, but…) the need for cybersecurity is critical to the collective survival of the experiment named the United States of America.

Personal emphasis.

On December 27, a U.S. district court unsealed documents detailing work Microsoft has performed to disrupt cyberattacks from a threat group we call Thallium, which is believed to operate from North Korea. Our court case against Thallium, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, resulted in a court order enabling Microsoft to take control of 50 domains that the group uses to conduct its operations. With this action, the sites can no longer be used to execute attacks.

Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) and the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) have been tracking and gathering information on Thallium, monitoring the group’s activities to establish and operate a network of websites, domains and internet-connected computers. This network was used to target victims and then compromise their online accounts, infect their computers, compromise the security of their networks and steal sensitive information. Based on victim information, the targets included government employees, think tanks, university staff members, members of organizations focused on world peace and human rights, and individuals that work on nuclear proliferation issues. Most targets were based in the U.S., as well as Japan and South Korea.

Like many cybercriminals and threat actors, Thallium typically attempts to trick victims through a technique known as spear phishing. By gathering information about the targeted individuals from social media, public personnel directories from organizations the individual is involved with and other public sources, Thallium is able to craft a personalized spear-phishing email in a way that gives the email credibility to the target. As seen in the sample spear-phishing email below, the content is designed to appear legitimate, but closer review shows that Thallium has spoofed the sender by combining the letters “r” and “n” to appear as the first letter “m” in “microsoft.com.”

Phishing example

The link in the email redirects the user to a website requesting the user’s account credentials. By tricking victims into clicking on the fraudulent links and providing their credentials, Thallium is then able to log into the victim’s account. Upon successful compromise of a victim account, Thallium can review emails, contact lists, calendar appointments and anything else of interest in the compromised account. Thallium often also creates a new mail forwarding rule in the victim’s account settings. This mail forwarding rule will forward all new emails received by the victim to Thallium-controlled accounts. By using forwarding rules, Thallium can continue to see email received by the victim, even after the victim’s account password is updated

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