Microsoft Edge gets ‘Tracking Prevention’ feature

Microsoft testing a Firefox-like tracking protection feature for Edge.

Microsoft Edge


Microsoft introduced today a new feature to its new Chromium-based Edge browser that it calls Tracking Prevention.

As the name implies, the new feature can be used to block tracking scripts loaded by aggresive online advertisers and web analytics firms.

The feature is currently only available in Microsoft Edge Insiders preview builds. Microsoft says the feature still needs work, but it’s rolling it out in the current in-dev stage so it can get useful feedback from users and accelerate its development.

HOW TRACKING PREVENTION WORKS

Tracking Prevention is eerily similar to the Enhanced Tracking Protection feature that Mozilla added to Firefox last year, and turned on by default for all users this spring.

The two work in a similar way. When enabled, they will block tracking scripts loaded from domains the user isn’t accessing directly, such as those loaded from ad slots, by analytics services, and more.

But the mechanism is a little bit more complex. According to Microsoft, Edge’s new Tracking Prevention feature is possible because of the addition of a new component known as Trust Protection Lists.

This component contains lists of organizations and their domains, known to track their users, and for which Tracking Prevention would activate.


When a user loads a website, the URLs of any third-party domains loaded on a website is verified against the Trust Protection Lists. If the third-party domain matches an URL on the Trust Protection Lists, Edge will (1) restrict its access to various browser storage mechanisms, or, as a more severe major, (2) block that domain from loading additional JavaScript code.

For example, a domain considered a “tracker” would not be able to access any browser storage mechanism where it may try to persist data about the user.

“This includes restricting the ability for that tracker to get or set cookies as well as access storage APIs such as IndexedDB and localStorage,” Edge engineers explained today in a blog post.

Furthermore, besides blocking trackers from accessing or leaving tracking data inside a user’s browser, Tracking Prevention also actively blocks trackers from loading and executing additional tracking scripts, tracking pixels, iframes, and more — which may not require access to a browser storage mechanism, but are still capable of tracking users either way.

HOW TO ENABLE TRACKING PREVENTION

Tracking Prevention has been rolled with Microsoft Edge Insider preview build 77.0.203.0 or higher. The feature is not available on Mac versions due to a build bug, but Microsoft said this would be corrected in a future version.

To enable it, users must visit the Edge flags page at edge://flags#edge-tracking-prevention. Here, they’ll have to activate an Edge flag to enable the feature.

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Microsoft announces OneDrive Personal Vault for sensitive files


Microsoft today announced OneDrive Personal Vault, a new security layer for protecting sensitive and important files. The feature is rolling out “soon” to the web, Android, iOS, and Windows 10 in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. It will be available globally by the end of the year. Furthermore, the company is increasing OneDrive’s cheapest storage plan from 50GB to 100GB at no additional cost. Office 365 subscribers are also getting new storage options.

Personal Vault is a protected area in OneDrive that you can only access with the Microsoft Authenticator app or a second step of identity verification (fingerprint, face, PIN, or a code sent to you via email or SMS). Microsoft envisions OneDrive users saving travel, identification, vehicle, home, and insurance documents in their Personal Vault.

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You can use the OneDrive mobile app to scan documents, take pictures, or shoot video directly into your Personal Vault, keeping such items out of less secure areas like your camera roll. On Windows 10 PCs, OneDrive syncs your Personal Vault files to a Bitlocker-encrypted area of your local hard drive. Personal Vault also automatically locks “after a short period of inactivity.” The defaults are 3 minutes in the mobile app and 20 minutes in the Sync Client and on OneDrive.com. You can adjust the times as you prefer.

OneDrive Personal Vault

But there’s a catch. If you are using OneDrive’s free or standalone plan, Personal Vault only lets you “store up to three files,” a Microsoft spokesperson told VentureBeat. Office 365 subscribers can store as many files as they want in Personal Vault (up to their storage limit).

More storage options

Speaking of storage, Microsoft is doubling the cheapest OneDrive plan from 50GB to 100GB. The cost has not increased — it’s still $2 per month. The new plan will roll out “soon.”

Office 365 subscriptions start at 1TB of OneDrive storage. You will be able to add to this “in the coming months” in 200GB increments at $2 per month, up to an additional 1TB for $10 per month.

By comparison, Google One offers 100GB of storage for $2 per month, 200GB for $3 per month, and 2TB for $10 per month. Not even four weeks ago, Dropbox increased its comparative 2TB storage option to $12 per month.

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Microsoft OneDrive finally allows you to buy additional storage beyond 1TB

Jun 25, 2019 at 16:13 GMT

Every Office 365 subscription comes with 1 TB of OneDrive storage. Several users have been asking Microsoft to offer a way to buy even more storage. Microsoft has finally listened! Today, Microsoft announced OneDrive additional storage, allowing you to add more storage to your existing Office 365 subscription. There are some limitations though. You can only add storage in 200 GB increments and it will cost you $1.99 per month, going up to 1 TB of additional storage for $9.99 per month. You can increase, decrease, or cancel your additional storage plan anytime.

OneDrive additional storage is not available today, but it will be available in the coming months. Microsoft today also announced that it is increasing the amount of storage in the OneDrive standalone plan from 50 GB to 100 GB for the same $1.99 per month. If you are currently using 50 GB plan, you’ll get 50 GB more storage added to your account for free.

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A Reminder to Update Your Systems to Prevent a Worm

  • On May 14, Microsoft released fixes for a critical Remote Code Execution vulnerability, CVE-2019-0708, in Remote Desktop Services – formerly known as Terminal Services – that affects some older versions of Windows. In our previous blog post on this topic we warned that the vulnerability is ‘wormable’, and that future malware that exploits this vulnerability could propagate from vulnerable computer to vulnerable computer in a similar way as the WannaCry malware spread across the globe in 2017.

Microsoft is confident that an exploit exists for this vulnerability, and if recent reports are accurate, nearly one million computers connected directly to the internet are still vulnerable to CVE-2019-0708. Many more within corporate networks may also be vulnerable. It only takes one vulnerable computer connected to the internet to provide a potential gateway into these corporate networks, where advanced malware could spread, infecting computers across the enterprise. This scenario could be even worse for those who have not kept their internal systems updated with the latest fixes, as any future malware may also attempt further exploitation of vulnerabilities that have already been fixed.

It’s been only two weeks since the fix was released and there has been no sign of a worm yet. This does not mean that we’re out of the woods. If we look at the events leading up to the start of the WannaCry attacks, they serve to inform the risks of not applying fixes for this vulnerability in a timely manner.

Our recommendation remains the same. We strongly advise that all affected systems should be updated as soon as possible.

It is possible that we won’t see this vulnerability incorporated into malware.

But that’s not the way to bet.

EternalBlue Timeline

Almost two months passed between the release of fixes for the EternalBlue vulnerability and when ransomware attacks began. Despite having nearly 60 days to patch their systems, many customers had not.

A significant number of these customers were infected by the ransomware.

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Microsoft rolls out previews of Chromium-based Edge for Windows 7, 8 and 8.1

Microsoft is rolling out the promised Windows 7 and 8 variants of its Chromium-based Edge browser to testers in the Canary channel.

chredgeonwin7.jpg


Microsoft is making available promised test builds of its Chromium-based Edge browser for Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 today, June 19. These are Canary channel builds, meaning they will be updated daily.
Microsoft plans to add Dev channel builds for all these platforms “soon,” according to today’s blog post. Microsoft already offers Canary and Dev channel builds for Chromium-based Edge on Windows 10 and the Mac.
Microsoft has not committed definitively to bringing Chromium-based Edge to Linux, but has hinted that this will likely happen at some point.
As Microsoft notes in its blog post, the first Canary builds have some known issues, including lack of dark-mode support and no support for Azure Active Directory sign-in, which Microsoft is hoping to resolve “soon.”
Chromium-based Edge for Windows 7 leaked a few months ago. I’ve been running it on my Windows 7 PC since then and it has worked well. (Calm down, people, I also have Windows 10 PCs and am running Chromium-based Edge, or Chredge, as I like to call it, there as well.)

In December 2018, Microsoft revealed plans to create a new version of Edge by using Chromium combined with some components currently in Edge, all in the name of providing greater browsing compatibility across the web. At that time, officials said Microsoft planned to make  the new Edge browser available on Windows 7, 8.1, 10 and MacOS.. While Edge will continue to ship with Windows 10, Microsoft finally will be updating it independently of the operating systems on which it runs, meaning it will be updated and patched more frequently than the non-Chromium-based MSHTML version of Edge is currently. 

Microsoft is bringing Edge to older versions of Windows and the Mac in the hopes of simplifying testing for developers who need to make sure their apps and sites work across all different operating systems and Windows variants.

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Microsoft cranks up Windows 10 1803-to-1903 forcible upgrades

The company is now telling customers running last year’s Windows 10 version 1803 that it will soon begin forced upgrade to the latest feature refresh released in May.

Microsoft Windows 10 logo bandage data map Microsoft / Thinkstock

Microsoft this week quietly alerted customers running last year’s Windows 10 version 1803 that it would soon start a forced upgrade to the latest feature refresh.

In a note added to the Windows release health dashboard on June 18, Microsoft wrote: “We are now beginning to build and train the machine learning (ML) based rollout process to update devices running the April 2018 Update, and earlier versions of Windows 10, to ensure we can continue to service these devices.”

The move was expected, as last month Microsoft said that starting in late June it would begin upgrading Windows 10 Home PCs – and perhaps Windows 10 Pro systems as well – from 1803, the April 2018 Update, to this year’s 1903.

Previously, Computerworld had pegged June 25 – the fourth and final Tuesday of the month – as the likeliest date for Microsoft to begin the forced upgrades of 1803. Microsoft uses the second day of each week to deliver update and upgrades, notably the second week of each month, the traditional “Patch Tuesday,” to issue security fixes.

Normally, the Home 1803 PCs would have been upgraded to the immediate successor, last fall’s Windows 10 October 2018 Update, aka 1809, long before now. But because 1809 harbored a destructive bug, requiring Microsoft to yank it from distribution and not return it for re-release until early 2019, three months behind schedule, it seemed the company simply gave up on 1809. According to what little outside information exists, in March Microsoft greatly slowed its delivery of 1809 to users of Windows 10 1803.

At nearly the same time, Microsoft decided to change its feature upgrade policy for Windows 10 Home (and again, perhaps Pro as well). That came in April, when the Redmond, Wash. developer announced the “Download and install now” (DaIN) option. DaIN will let users decide when, or even if, to download and install one of the twice-yearly feature upgrades.

But even as Microsoft turned over more control than ever before to Windows 10 Home users and those running unmanaged Windows 10 Pro PCs, the firm reserved the right to do things the old fashioned way. As the Windows 10 version powering a PC neared end of support – Microsoft never nailed down what “near” meant in terms of weeks or months – the company would intervene as it always did before, to upgrade the machine and keep patches flowing.

Assuming Computerworld has correctly interpreted Microsoft’s pronouncements of DaIN, the forcible upgrade and the 1803-to-1903 transition in particular – for Microsoft has been closed-mouthed about anything but the broadest strokes – this will become the new normal. Once Microsoft rolls out a feature upgrade, users will themselves decide whether to acquire and adopt it and if so, when they do.

Shift Left to Handle Your Growing Support Needs


How do support teams handle the pressure of increased demand and complexity without staffing up or spending more money?

If they decline a feature upgrade – by simply doing nothing, since DaIN shifts deployment to an opt-in approach – they will continue to run what now powers their Windows 10 PC. At or around the four-to-five-months-remaining mark Microsoft will take things in its own hands and start to upgrade PCs to keep them in support.

The following figure shows how this will work for the next several feature upgrades. Note: One of the side effects of DaIN and the forced upgrades is that users who do nothing will be moved to an annual upgrade schedule, half the frequency of before.

Window 10 1803-1903 rollout starts

When Windows 10 Home and Pro users do nothing, Microsoft will upgrade their PCs for them as their OS nears the end of support.

It’s not unusual for Microsoft to leave lots of unanswered questions. In fact, that’s the company’s modus operandi: It typically announces a new Windows process or policy but withholds the details, which eventually are gleaned from its actual operation or from documentation, or both.

For example, Microsoft has not specified how much in advance of a feature upgrade’s end-of-support date it will begin to forcibly upgrade customers. This is one of the biggest unknowns in DaIN’s methodology, but far from the only mystery.

How Security Awareness Can Keep Your Organization Safe


In the office, cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility. By reminding your employees of these simple online safety best practices, your organization can avoid becoming the next victim

Computerworld columnist Woody Leonard highlighted others, such as “Can you simply ignore the link until Nov. 10, and stay on 1803?” and “Will the ML pusher respect the metered connection setting?”

“Yes” is an unlikely answer for either. If Microsoft means to keep systems in support, letting users wait until the last minute would contradict that; if DaIN works as advertised, the metered connection setting won’t be necessary (and wouldn’t be allowed to interfere, one would think, with the forced upgrade during the last four or five months of support).

It’s unclear whether the DaIN decision was linked to the debacle of Windows 10 1809 or if Microsoft had decided to give upgrade control to users long before. The close timing suggested the latter, as it seemed that it would have been difficult for Microsoft to decide on, then implement DaIN in just four or five months.

There is no question, though, that DaIN, particularly the rule that lets Microsoft upgrade without user approval near the end of support, helped solve the 1809 problem. Rather than back everything up – getting 1809 onto 1803 machines months late, which would have a domino effect – it let Microsoft gracefully (well, relatively) skip 1809 and go straight to 1903, putting the schedule almost back on track.

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Microsoft Announces New Education Tools and Resources

In today’s classrooms, diversity is the new norm. By creating student-centered, inclusive learning environments, educators have the flexibility and opportunity to meet the needs of the diverse group of learners in every classroom. Technology has the power to help teachers not only navigate, but also benefit from, their students’ unique learning styles.

In this month’s What’s New in EDU, we’re excited to announce tools and resources to help teachers empower all students to find their voice, grow their confidence and build 21st century skills. Also, join us from ISTE next week on our Microsoft Education Facebook Channel for more live updates from Philadelphia on Monday, Wednesday and Hack the Classroom on Tuesday.

Reach every student with new accessibility features from Windows and Office 365

We are excited to share new features that enable educators to tailor learning to ensure every student has a voice in today’s classrooms, 72% of which have students with special requirements. Whether a permanent or temporary disability, personal preference, or a unique learning style, the robust set of built-in and third-party accessibility features in Windows 10 and Office 365 let students choose how to use technology and express their ideas.​ Today, we’re unveiling new resources to help every student unlock his or her potential.

  • Improve reading comprehension with Immersive Reader, now available in Minecraft: Education Edition and other popular education apps. Today, we’re thrilled to announce that Immersive Reader, a proven resource to improve reading and writing for students regardless of their age or ability, will now be integrated into Minecraft: Education Edition to read in-game text, character dialogue, chalkboards and more. Immersive Reader will also be available as an Azure Cognitive Service, allowing third-party apps and partners to add the tool into their products to help both students and parents read text within the apps. In our pilot program, Skooler integrated Immersive Reader into its parent portal, enabling better communication with parents and guardians who are non-native English speakers. These partners will be the first to integrate Immersive Reader:

Immersive Reader Cognitive Services gf

  • Help students speak with confidence using Presenter Coach in PowerPoint. To give teachers and students an easy way to practice their presentations and improve their public-speaking abilities, we’re launching Presenter Coach in PowerPoint online this summer, which uses best practices and academic research to provide tips and tricks for more effective presentations. Presenter Coach allows teachers and students to enter rehearsal mode and receive on-screen guidance about pacing, inclusive language, conciseness of language, profanity, filler words like “um” or “uh,” culturally inclusive words, and originality as they speak into a microphone. At the end of each rehearsal session, the presenter receives a detailed report with metrics for additional practice. Check out this post and video for more details.

Motivate students ​to share their voice with Flipgrid and Teams

This month, we’re also rolling out some big updates coming to Teams for Education that will make it simpler and more comprehensive than ever before, saving teachers time when creating new Teams, communicating with parents and students, and grading assignments. These updates include:

  • Big, easy-to-find visual icons for each of your teams and classes
  • A new way to create and track all of your assignments
  • A new gradebook so teachers can view and grade all of their assignments for a class directly from the channel’s Grades tab and view a single student’s progress across assignments
  • A new “Share To Teams” button that allows teachers to share resources with their classes directly from a learning source like Brittanica, Kahoot, Buncee, ThingLink, and Wakelet
  • The ability to import existing OneNote content into your Class or Staff Teams, allowing you to access all your information from a single location
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