Google Chrome is planning a blockbuster update this week: here’s what you need to know

At long last, Google looks finally set to launch the next iteration of its immensely popular Chrome web browser. Dubbed version 81, the new version of the browser was originally due to arrive on March 17 but was delayed because of the coronavirus that continues to spread across the globe.

On March 18, the Mountain View firm announced it was pausing the delivery of all new updates for both Google Chrome and Chrome OS. This, the firm argued, was to ensure a stable, secure and reliable experience for the increasing number of people working from home in an effort to curb the spread of the pandemic.

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Eight days later, Google announced it was resuming the releases of Chrome and Chrome OS updates with an adjusted schedule. The tech firm announced Chrome 81 would start rolling out for users during the week of April 7, which is next week.

So what can you expect from Chrome 81? Well, the new browser version doesn’t radically overhaul what’s proceeded it, but it does introduce a few new features that are noteworthy.

First up is Augmented Reality (AR). Google is bolstering support for AR in Chrome 81 by giving developers more tools that leverage the emerging technology on the web.

Google has been a big proponent of AR and recently launched a new feature in Search that lets users with compatible devices place particular animals in the real world. This offers an unparalleled sense of size and sheer scale that you simply can’t get from viewing pictures online.

Chrome 81 also brings Near Field Communications (NFC) to mobile. In theory, this means users should be able to scan items in the real world and be fed with relevant information or links to related sites.

Just like AR though, the functionality of NFC will depend on how developers take advantage of the tools offered by Google for Chrome.

Finally, Chrome 81 also introduces a number of experience tweaks designed to improve its usability overall. Chief of these is a new media bar for Chrome on Android that can be used to adjust the playback of content from a user’s notification panel. This feature in particular will certainly be welcomed by anyone that likes to listen to audio from Chrome will scrolling through their social media feeds or messaging friends on WhatsApp.

As part of its readjusted release schedule for Chrome, Google has actually ditched version 82 of the browser. Don’t worry though, the Mountain View company is releasing Chrome 83 earlier and will bundle all Chrome 82’s features with it.

Chrome 83 is expected to start rolling out in mid-May. Just like Chrome 81, the new software will be available for Android, iPhone, Windows, Mac and Linux.

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Zoom is racing to fix its biggest issue as video call app surges in popularity

Zoom is more popular than it has ever been, primarily due to more people relying on video conferencing for communication as they work from home amid the coronavirus pandemic. But dramatically increasing user numbers has come with increased scrutiny, too.

One of the biggest uproars transpired after The Intercept reported that Zoom does not offer end-to-end encryption as it previously claimed on both its website and security white paper.

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In response to the controversy about its security and privacy, Zoom founder and CEO Eric S. Yuan recently published a detailed post on the service’s blog.

Yuan not only apologised for “falling short” user expectations for privacy and security, but he also declared Zoom is shifting all its engineering resources to focus on “trust, safety, and privacy issues” for the next 90 days.

The Zoom CEO explained: “These new, mostly consumer use cases have helped us uncover unforeseen issues with our platform. Dedicated journalists and security researchers have also helped to identify pre-existing ones.

“We appreciate the scrutiny and questions we have been getting – about how the service works, about our infrastructure and capacity, and about our privacy and security policies. These are the questions that will make Zoom better, both as a company and for all its users.

“Over the next 90 days, we are committed to dedicating the resources needed to better identify, address, and fix issues proactively. We are also committed to being transparent throughout this process. We want to do what it takes to maintain your trust.”

Yuan also vowed to host a weekly webinar in which he will provide privacy and security updates to the Zoom community.

By far one of the biggest announcements in the CEO’s blog post was certainly about Zoom’s user numbers though. He said by the end of December last year users, both free and paid, were “approximately 10 million”.

However, Yuan claimed last month the service reached over 200 million daily users, both free and paid once again. Safe to say, that’s a prodigious spike in users in an incredibly short period.

The latest blog post from the Zoom CEO appears to be part of the service’s new efforts to be more transparent with users. Of course, it’s yet to be seen what kinds of privacy and security features will be introduced following a load of controversy. Fingers crossed the service finally introduces video conferencing with true end-to-end encryption!

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Zoom video calling: The one thing you should know before using this app

On its website and security white paper, Zoom claims users are able to conduct meetings with “end-to-end encryption”. But it turns out this may not be completely true, at least not in the way you’d think.

The Intercept recently reached out to Zoom and asked whether its meetings are end-to-end encrypted. In response, a spokesperson for the American firm said: “Currently, it is not possible to enable E2E encryption for Zoom video meetings.

“Zoom video meetings use a combination of TCP and UDP. TCP connections are made using TLS and UDP connections are encrypted with AES using a key negotiated over a TLS connection.”

Essentially, Zoom uses TLS encryption for its video conferences, meaning data is only available to the user and Zoom itself. That’s not a completely foreign way of doing things – both Facebook and Gmail work in a similar manner.

When questioned on why the firm uses the words “end-to-end encryption” on its website and in its security white paper, the spokesperson said that is used to reference the end point of the user and Zoom.

The Zoom spokesperson continued: “When we use the phrase ‘End to End’ in our other literature, it is in reference to the connection being encrypted from Zoom end point to Zoom end point.”

Of course, this isn’t exactly what end-to-end encryption means. As fans of iMessage and WhatsApp might already know, true end-to-end encryption is when only the end user or users are able to access the data in question. That means if you’re sending texts to your friends on iMessage, not even Apple is able to see the exact conversations in any level of detail.

Naturally, the wording from Zoom on its website and white paper can be seen as misleading, given its response to The Intercept. That said, Zoom has iterated that it takes user privacy “extremely seriously” and only collects essential data to improve the service, such as IP addresses.

Zoom denies that it is misleading any of its users with the wording on its website and security white paper.

In a statement to The Intercept, the American firm said: “Zoom takes its users’ privacy extremely seriously. Zoom only collects data from individuals using the Zoom platform as needed to provide the service and ensure it is delivered as effectively as possible. Zoom must collect basic technical information like users’ IP address, OS details and device details in order for the service to function properly.

“Zoom has layered safeguards in place to protect our users’ privacy, which includes preventing anyone, including Zoom employees, from directly accessing any data that users share during meetings, including — but not limited to — the video, audio and chat content of those meetings. Importantly, Zoom does not mine user data or sell user data of any kind to anyone.”

It’s worth noting Zoom does seem to offer end-to-end encryption if you’re using its text chat service. However, this does not translate to its video conferencing functionality.

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P40 Pro revealed: Huawei’s flagship has an S20-beating camera but a glaring software issue

Huawei has just lifted the lid on its all-new P40 range and fans now have a trio of phones to get excited about. Along with the standard P40, there’s also a flagship P40 Pro and ultra-premium P40 Pro+ which gets some added extras you won’t find on its cheaper siblings including a white ceramic case which should provide better resistance against scuffs and scratches.

Perhaps the most exciting feature to grace the top-end Pro+ is a new Leica camera system which Huawei boasts is the world’s first SuperZoom Array.

While the P40 Pro gets a quad system with a single telephoto (5X optical) lens, the Pro+ offers five lenses with two optical telephoto sensors (10X and 3X) which work together to deliver a maxed out zoom of 100x.

This is similar to that found on the Galaxy S20 Ultra although Huawei says it’s using clever AI to improve the stability of these long-range shots.

Other features coming to Huawei’s new camera include a much larger sensor which should boost images with improved light intake, higher dynamic range and lower noise.

There’s even a claim from the Chinese firm that its sensor lets in 200 percent light than Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Huawei also says low light images will look much better thanks to a faster focus plus there’s the usual AI tricks which can work out what you are taking images of for improved results.

In fact, this new camera can now identify over 18 scenes to ensure you get the best shot every time.

There’s also some clever extras which can remove strangers who might have wandered into the back of your photos and reflections when taking images from behind glass.

If video is your speciality then the new 4K-capable cameras also include improved movie-making with super steady technology even working on long-range footage.

This should mean even when you’re zooming in from far away the image will look clearer and less shaky than what was capable on the P30 Pro.

But while Huawei has made some huge improvements to its cameras, it’s also making the display a huge focus of the new P40 series, too.

Both the P40 Pro and P40 Pro+ get a 6.58-inch quad-curve “Overflow Display” which, as the name suggests, bends around the edges of the phone to create an almost bezel-free appearance – the P40 gets a more standard 6.1-inch flat screen.

Huawei has also now included a 90Hz refresh rate which it claims offers the best balance of performance and battery life.

90Hz isn’t quite up to snuff with the Galaxy S20 series or the Oppo Find X2 Pro that both boast 120Hz panels. But Huawei is confident the P40 can match its rivals when it comes to screen quality. We’ll be the judge of that…

Under the hood, there’s Huawei’s latest Kirin 990 chipset which, along with being more powerful, also brings 5G data speeds to the P-series for the first time. That means you’ll be able to access blisteringly fast downloads when away from your fixed-line broadband.

Other extras include a 4,200mAh battery, dual-lens selfie camera, WiFi 6 download speeds and 40W wireless charging which, for reference, is faster than many rivals’ wired charging speeds.

Huawei has also increased the size and speed of its embedded fingerprint scanner which, it says, finally offers the same experience found on the older physical scanners that have been phased out of premium flagships in the last couple years.

Of course, despite all these amazing features and top-notch specs, there is one glaring issue with the P40 Pro.

That’s because there’s still no access to the Google suite of apps including the Play Store.

In a bid to convince consumers this isn’t a big deal, Huawei is making a huge song and dance about its own app store called the AppGallery.

The range of applications has been slowly growing on this Play Store rival with services such as TikTok and Snapchat now readily available.

However, if you want services like WhatsApp or Facebook, these have to be installed manually via the official websites which isn’t ideal and there’s still no access to staple Android apps such as Google Maps, Gmail or Google Photos which could be a huge turn-off.

One feature Huawei is keen to point out is its Phone Clone service which transfers all apps from your old Android phone to the new P40 Pro.

How well this works in real life remains to be seen but we’ll bring you more news on this in our upcoming review.

If none of that has put you off then the P40 range will be on sale soon with pricing expected later.

The P40 comes in three glossy finishes called Ice White, Black and Deep Sea Blue plus there’s new matt coatings called Silver Frost and Blush Gold

If you want the Pro+ then this arrives in black and a fancy ceramic white.

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Three Mobile WARNING: If you get this ’email from Three’ please DON’T open it

Three Mobile users should be on high alert for a convincing email scam that claims to be from the UK mobile network. According to the team at the Cofense Phishing Defence Center (PDC), this new attack is designed to fool unsuspecting customers into handing over names and even bank details.

The message, which has begun dropping into inboxes across the UK, is designed to look like it has been sent from an official Three account. Once opened, the message warns that the mobile network is struggling to process a payment, stating: “Your latest bill payment could not be processed by your bank. Access your mobile service will be suspended. Download the attachment form to amend your billing information.”

The attached file then takes users to a fake website where it then requests vital information such as login credentials, personal information and credit card details.

PDC says the source code indicates this is a clone of actual Three html code, re-appropriated for malicious purposes; for instance, styling elements are pulled from Three website – making them much more convincing than some other scam campaigns. Additionally, all the options in 3GUK direct users to the legitimate relevant Three page so that, for example, if one clicks on “iPhone 11” under the Popular Phones section at the bottom, the end user is redirected to the real Three iPhone 11 page.

These are clever tactics from the scammers to try and make this look as real as possible.

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Those who are tricked could end up handing over vital information which could lead to serious financial losses. So this threat is well worth taking note of.

If you’re worried about any scams it’s worth following this advice from Three who say they will never email customers requesting information such as user names, passwords or bank details.

Top tips to avoid getting scammed

• Never give out any passwords to anyone, over the phone, in person, online or via email.

• Your bank, network provider and many other companies that handle your money will usually ask you to enter select characters of a password or login number. If you’re asked for your full password or login number by one of these companies, it’s almost certainly a phishing scam, and you should contact your bank or network provider immediately.

• Never click on links in emails or texts that ask you to sign in to your account. Close the email and go directly to the company’s website.

• Install good virus protection on your personal computer. You can buy trusted anti-virus software from companies like McAfee and Norton, or you can download free software from well-respected places, such as Avast and Kaspersky. Make sure you research the software you choose.

• Make sure you’re visiting secure websites. You can look for the padlock icon in the address bar to check if a website is secure.

• Remember, grammar and spelling are important to respectable companies like your internet or network provider and your bank, so if something reads really badly, it’s probably a scam.

• Your bank, phone provider and money management companies know you. They’ll address you by name.

• If you’re worried about the security of your personal details, you can find out more on our Fraud and Security page. Keep your details protected, stay safe online, and stay connected.

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LG joins Samsung with a blockbuster upgrade to your 4K TV

Samsung announced last week that it was upgrading some of its TVs giving customers access the new Disney+ service straight from their home screens. Now LG is joining the streaming party with a similar update for some of its latest televisions.

The Korean technology firm has just revealed the changes, which are now available in U.K., Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria, mean that LG customers can access all of the content from Disney straight from their smart TVs.

If you own a compatible set then you can now simply click on the Disney+ icon on LG Home Launcher to start watching.

LG says it has integrated this service into the webOS platform to offer a smooth and seamless experience.

“The expansion of Disney+ in Europe provides a new and exciting opportunity for LG customers residing in the newly added nations,” said Lee Sang-woo, senior vice president of corporate business strategy and content service business at the LG Home Entertainment Company. “Spearheaded by its award-winning OLED TVs, LG is now ready to deliver even more of the best content around on some of the most awarded TVs on the market.”

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Disney+ launched yesterday in the UK and offers hundreds of movies and TV shows for a £5.99 monthly fee.

This service features action from the likes of Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars plus there’s s swathe of extra content via National Geographic.

You’ll also find some shows that are exclusive to Disney+ including Star Wars: The Mandalorian, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, and The World according to Jeff Goldblum.

There’s also movies from Disney, Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar with some content beamed in full 4K at no extra costs and four people can binge at once.

Here are some of the movies that will be available from this Tuesday on Disney+.

ALADDIN (2019) • BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2017) • THE JUNGLE BOOK 2 • MARY POPPINS RETURNS • MULAN II (2005) • PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL • TANGLED (2010) • CARS • COCO • RATATOUILLE • FINDING NEMO • TOY STORY 4 • WALL-E • AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR • AVENGERS: ENDGAME • ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY • SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY • STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE

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Your Windows 10 laptop is probably slower than Apple’s newest iPad

Apple has just unveiled its newest iPad Pro, complete with a Magic Keyboard accessory that totes a backlit keyboard and trackpad support. The tablet also comes with a new camera system, improved display and, you guessed it, a boatload of horsepower.

The new iPad Pro appears to be Apple’s most direct attempt yet to go toe-to-toe with traditional Windows laptops. In fact, it only took the firm a couple sentences in its press release announcing the product to throw punches Microsoft’s way.

Discussing its new iPad Pro yesterday, the American tech titan said: “Apple today announced its most advanced iPad Pro. Now with the A12Z Bionic chip, iPad Pro is faster and more powerful than most Windows PC laptops.”

That’s really as direct as it gets. Apple believes the A12Z Bionic powering the new iPad is a serious performance champion.

The A12Z Bionic is an eight-core CPU that has an enhanced thermal architecture and tuned performance controllers, making it the fastest chipset Apple has ever put in its tablet series. The firm claims the silicon should breeze through demanding tasks that could leave Windows 10 laptops chugging and spitting out hot air like 4K video editing or designing 3D models.

Of course, it’s not just the blisteringly fast processor inside the new iPad Pro that makes it a more viable alternative to a Windows 10 laptop. The device also boasts native trackpad support for the first time with Apple’s new Magic Keyboard, that’ll be sold separately of course.

The addition of a trackpad is certainly what many Apple fans have been waiting for. And with the likes of USB-C support, an intuitive Files app and up to 1TB of storage, it’s safe to say the iPad has never been in a better place to be a true productivity king.

Apple has said trackpad support should work seamlessly with all the apps you’re used to. Most importantly though, the functionality gives users a degree of control that simply didn’t exist before.

Explaining the addition, the Cupertino firm said: “Trackpad support in iPadOS is designed to work great with the apps customers use every day. From smoothly scrolling through web pages in Safari and photo libraries in Photos, to precisely editing text in Notes and quickly viewing and organising your email in Mail, it’s a joy to use a trackpad with iPad.

“Most third-party apps work with no change at all, and developers can go even further with new APIs that let them deliver unique experiences in their apps.”

The new iPad Pro also comes with a number of other improvements worth shouting about, like a new ultra wide-angle camera, a LiDAR scanner for AR features and higher quality microphones.

Apple’s flagship tablet is available to order right now in 11-inch and 12.9-inch models. The former starts at £769 and the latter is available from £969.

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Lloyds Halifax DOWN: Online banking not working in latest outage

Are you having trouble managing your money online with Lloyds and Halifax? Well, you might not be alone. Downdetector has registered over 1,300 reports and 800 reports from Halifax and Lloyds respectively claiming the services from each are not working as normal. That said, Express.co.uk has been unable to find Halifax and Lloyds customers complaining of an outage on social media. Additionally, the server status pages of both banks claim everything is working as normal. 

Each bank claims its online banking, mobile app, ATMS, debit cards and credit cards are not suffering from any issues.

Of course, Express.co.uk will be updating this page with the latest from Lloyds and Halifax.

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Why downloading this Windows 10 update could be a serious mistake

At the tail end of last month Microsoft released the KB4535996 cumulative update for Windows 10. The new software is designed to fix a number of issues related to PC battery life, Windows Search, printer settings and more.

However, it seems KB4535996 is inadvertently causing a number of problems on some PCs that install it. As noted by Windows Latest, these range from frame drops when playing games to being greeted with Windows 10’s Blue Screen of Death (BSOD).

Discussing the latest cumulative update on Reddit, one user said: “It’s not extreme, but I say my frame rate in games has gone down 10 frames or so and stuttering occurs once in a while. After uninstalling the cumulative update, everything was fine. Weird.”

A different user, posting on Microsoft’s Community forum, posted: “Newest update KB4535996 is crashing machines. Makes the machines lock up and blue screen at log in screens. Not able to get into any safe mode and uninstall this update. Forcing rebuild and GPO’s to block this particular update. Microsoft says they haven’t heard of any problems. However when you search the web there is a slew of issues just from this optional update.”

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Another wrote: “Since I installed this update, my computer crashes multiple times a day. I get a different error message each time. Very frustrating.”

Of course, the posts on Reddit and Microsoft’s Community forum have been met with a swathe of comments from other users plagued by similar issues.

By far the most worrying of all was a Windows 10 user who said they had been greeted by the BSOD on “about 200 machines” within their organisation.

In addition to crashing machines and dipping game frame rates, others have reported the KB4535996 update has also messed with their CPU usage and has caused File Explorer and Task Manager to crash.

One Windows 10 fan explained: “After installing KB4535996 and after one day’s use, I encountered 100 percent CPU usage (not continuous), File Explorer crash (after closing its window, unable to open it anymore), Task Manager crash (+ without its icon display on taskbar), + File Explorer -related software (e.g. Mendeley) crash on opening.

“Unable to kill File Explorer and restart it because the Task Manager also always crashes.”

At the time of writing, Microsoft’s Support page discussing the KB4535996 update says the firm is “not currently aware of any issues” with it.

Of course, Express.co.uk will update you if the American firm responds to the reports of issues with KB4535996 that are scattered across the web.

If you’re suffering from any of the problems from the latest Microsoft cumulative update, it seems that uninstalling it is the best remedy.

KB4535996 is actually an optional update, so if you haven’t downloaded it on your device yet it might be worth skipping in its current form.

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Virgin Media shock as 900,000 customers at risk after major security blunder

Virgin Media has revealed that almost one million customers could be at risk after a database containing personal details was left unsecured for 10 months. The incident occurred due to a member of staff not following the correct procedures. This meant that personal details such as name, home address, email and even date of birth were all easily accessible.

The broadband and TV firm said it was alerted to the blunder by an independent security researcher.

Most of those affected are customers who have television or fixed-line phones with the company.

Virgin Media has now begun emailing all of those affected with a message saying: “We are very sorry to have to inform you that we recently became aware that some of your personal information, stored on one of our databases has been accessed without permission.

“Our investigation is ongoing but we currently understand that the database was accessible from at least 19 April 2019 and that the information has been recently accessed.

“We take our responsibility to protect your personal information seriously. We know what happened, why it happened and as soon as we became aware we immediately shut down access to the database and launched a full independent forensic investigation. We have also informed the Information Commissioner’s Office.”

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It’s worth noting that the database didn’t contain any passwords or bank details but there is still some concern that the data could give cyber criminals the chance to target users with phishing campaigns.

Virgin is now advising all those affected to be on alert with the firm advising the, given the nature of the information involved, there is a risk you might be targeted for phishing attempts, fraud or nuisance marketing communications.

Speaking about the security lapse, Lutz Schüler, chief executive of Virgin Media said: “We recently became aware that one of our marketing databases was incorrectly configured which allowed unauthorised access. We immediately solved the issue by shutting down access.”

“Protecting our customers’ data is a top priority and we sincerely apologise,” he said.

“Based upon our investigation, Virgin Media does believe that the database was accessed on at least one occasion but we do not know the extent of the access or if any information was actually used,”

And Adam French, Which? Consumer Rights Expert, added: “This data breach has exposed the data of almost a million Virgin Media customers and whilst no financial details or passwords were included, those customers are likely to be worried. It is vital that Virgin Media continues to provide clear information on what has happened.

“For anyone concerned they could be affected – it’s good practice to update your password after a data breach. Also, be wary of emails regarding the breach, as scammers may try and take advantage of it.”

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