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China starts blocking HTTPS connections with encrypted SNI: Report

TLS 1.3 introduced Encrypted SNI (ESNI) that encrypts the SNI so that intermediaries cannot view it, said the report.

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San Francisco, Aug 9 : In an update to its national censorship tool, known as the Great Firewall, China has reportedly started blocking HTTPS connections with Encrypted Server Name Indication.

The ban has been in place for over a week now, three organisations tracking Chinese censorship — iYouPort, the University of Maryland, and the Great Firewall Report – said this week in a joint report.

“We confirm that the Great Firewall (GFW) of China has recently begun blocking ESNI – one of the foundational features of TLS 1.3 and HTTPS,” said the report.

TLS is the foundation of secure communication on the web (HTTPS). It provides authenticated encryption so that users can know whom they are communicating with. It also ensures that an intermediary does not read or tamper with your information.

But even though TLS hides the content of a user’s communication, it does not always conceal with whom the user is communicating.

The TLS handshake (a process that kicks off a communication session) optionally contains a Server Name Indication (SNI) field that allows the user’s client to inform the server which website it wishes to communicate with.

Nation-state censors have used the SNI field to block users from being able to communicate with certain destinations, said that report, adding that China has long been censoring HTTPS in this manner.

TLS 1.3 introduced Encrypted SNI (ESNI) that encrypts the SNI so that intermediaries cannot view it, said the report.

The Great Firewall of China blocks ESNI connections by dropping packets from client to server, it added.

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Microsoft announces bold features in video meet app Teams

Presenters can choose to hop between breakout rooms, make announcements to all breakout rooms, and/or close the breakout rooms that then bring everybody back into the main meeting.

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Seattle, Sep 22 : Microsoft on Tuesday announced several new capabilities to help people stay connected, collaborate and build solutions in its video meet app Teams.

While there isn’t a limit on the number of people in a Teams tenant, team membership is currently limited to 5,000 members. Later this year, it will be increased to support up to 25,000 members per individual team, the company said.

Coming in October, breakout rooms will allow meeting organisers to split up participants into smaller groups to facilitate brainstorming sessions or workgroup discussions.

Presenters can choose to hop between breakout rooms, make announcements to all breakout rooms, and/or close the breakout rooms that then bring everybody back into the main meeting.

“With the new Together mode scenes coming this year, you can transport your team to a variety of settings that can help set the tone and create the experience for your meeting, whether it be an auditorium, a conference room, or a coffee shop,” the company said during the ‘Microsoft Ignite 2020’ virtual conference.

Coming later this year, custom layouts will allow for a more dynamic content viewing experience and enable presenters to customise how content shows up for participants during a meeting.

For example, when a presenter is showing a PowerPoint slide, participants will be able to see the presenter’s video feed transposed onto the foreground of the slide they’re showing.

Microsoft said that later this year, Teams will have the option for a recap with the meeting recording, transcript, chat, shared files and more that can be automatically shared in the meeting Chat tab and viewable in the Details tab for each meeting.

The recap will also be available in the meeting event in the Outlook calendar.

“For more structured meetings such as customer webinars, organisers can use event registration with automated emails to make it easier to manage attendance. After the meeting, a detailed reporting dashboard will help understand attendee engagement,” Microsoft announced.

Microsoft Teams will have a streamlined view that shows contacts, voicemail and calling history at once, making it easier to initiate or return a call with a single click.

A new search experience in Teams, powered by Microsoft Search and available late this year, will make finding messages, people, answers, and files faster and more intuitive.

“This redesigned search results page provides better context and faster results, with AI-powered relevance based on the people and content you engage with most in Teams and other Microsoft 365 services,” the tech giant announced.

Also, new personal well-being features like a virtual commute, integration with apps like Headspace, and an emotional check-in experience will be available in the first half of 2021.

In an effort to strengthen security, Mcrosoft will enable customers to add a layer of encryption using their own keys for Teams, similar to Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and OneDrive.

“Customer Key for Teams is targeting public preview before the end of this calendar year”.

Developers will soon be able to integrate their apps into Teams meetings and create scenarios that have deep awareness of the meeting context – including roster, roles, and permissions, Microsoft said.

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Facebook plans drastic measures if US polls descend into chaos: Report

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San Francisco, Sep 22 : Facebook is bracing for tough measures to restrict content in case the November elections in the US descend into chaos or violent protests, according to a report in the Financial Times on Tuesday.

The plans were revealed by Facebook’s head of global affairs, Nick Clegg, in an interview to the newspaper.

“There are some break-glass options available to us if there really is an extremely chaotic and, worse still, violent set of circumstances,” Clegg was quoted as saying.

Facebook is under pressure to help maintain the integrity of the elections as it has faced criticism for failing to contain the spread of disinformation and hate speech on the platform.

It was even accused of failing to prevent attempts to create divisions in American society through disinformation campaigns by foreign players during the 2016 presidential election.

The stakes appear to be even higher this time with reports of similar attempts to influence the US presidential elections by groups operating from Russia, China and Iran.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg earlier this month announced additional steps it is taking to help secure the integrity of the US elections by encouraging voting, connecting people to authoritative information, and reducing the risks of post-election confusion.

These include measures to attach an informational label to content that seeks to delegitimise the outcome of the election or discuss the legitimacy of voting methods, for example, by claiming that lawful methods of voting will lead to fraud.

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Travel bug hits people, digital skills to boost recovery: Google

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After living months in isolation during the pandemic, the travel bug has hit millions of people and according to Google, 45 per cent of the top 100 questions related to travel in Search focused on the impact of Covid-19 and the desire to travel as safely and as soon as possible.

Google research, conducted with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), showed that 31 percent of people hope to plan leisure travel once they feel safe enough to do so, the company said in a blog post on Monday.

World Tourism day is coming up on September 27, and Search trends show that people have the travel bug. In August, the top queries were related to where and when people can travel ‘right now,'” said Pierric Duthoit, Senior Lead, Google Global Tourism Acceleration Centre.

Where do travellers want to go right now?

Heading to the beach and visiting rural areas or small towns are top of the list, particularly for Italians and the Dutch.

“Our data and analyses, available on our ‘Think with Google’ site, can help tourism businesses identify new trends in consumer preferences,” Duthoit said.

For example, as people increasingly search for local and outdoor tourism, businesses can react to these changing needs by doing marketing campaigns that highlight nature destinations, and they can prepare for an uptick in last-minute bookings.

“We’re partnering with government ministries, businesses and experts throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa to foster digital skills in the travel sector,” Google said.

“While this World Tourism Day marks a uniquely challenging period for tourism, it’s also an opportunity to prepare and find new ways to engage with would-be travelers,” it added.

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