One of Microsoft’s biggest Windows 11 updates yet brought a massive number of security flaw fixes

Microsoft has issued a mammoth Windows 11 update that brings fixes for around 150 security flaws in the operating system, as well as fixes for 67 Remote Code Execution (RCE) vulnerabilities. RCEs enable malicious actors to deploy their code to a target device remotely, often being able to do so without a person’s consent or knowledge – so this is a Windows 11 update you definitely want to install ASAP. 

This update was rolled out on Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday (the second Tuesday of every month), a monthly update when Microsoft releases security updates. 

Three of these were classed as ‘critical’ vulnerabilities, meaning that Microsoft saw them as posing a particularly hefty risk to users. According to Bleeping Computer, more than half of the RCE vulnerabilities were found in Microsoft SQL drivers; essential software components that facilitate communication between Microsoft apps and its servers, leading to speculation that the SQL drivers share a common flaw that is being exploited by malicious users. 

The three vulnerabilities classed as ‘critical’ had to do with Windows Defender, ironically an app designed by Microsoft to protect users from online threats. 

Windows Defender extension for Chrome

(Image credit: Future)

A possibly record-setting update

KrebsonSecurity, a security news site, claims that this security update sets a record for the number of Windows 11 issues addressed, making it the largest update Microsoft has released this year (so far) and the largest released since 2017. 

The number of bugs is broken down as follows:

  • 31 Elevation of Privilege Vulnerabilities
  • 29 Security Feature Bypass Vulnerabilities
  • 67 Remote Code Execution Vulnerabilities
  • 13 Information Disclosure Vulnerabilities
  • 7 Denial of Service Vulnerabilities
  • 3 Spoofing Vulnerabilities

These spanned across several apps and functionalities, including Microsoft Office apps, Bitlocker, Windows Defender, Azure, and more. 

Two zero-day loopholes that were cause for concern

Two zero-day vulnerabilities were also addressed by Microsoft in April’s Patch Tuesday update, and apparently, they have been exploited in malware attacks. Zero-day vulnerabilities are flaws in software that potentially harmful actors find and possibly exploit before the software’s developers discover it. The zero refers to the proverbial buffer of time that developers have in terms of urgency to develop a patch to address the issue. 

Microsoft hasn’t said whether the zero-day flaws were being actively exploited, but this information was shared by Sophos (a software and hardware company) and Trend Micro (a cybersecurity platform). 

One of these has been labeled CVE-2024-26234 by Microsoft, and it’s been classed as a Proxy Drive Spoofing Vulnerability. The other, CVE-2024-29988, was classed as a SmartScreen Prompt Security Feature Bypass Vulnerability.

You can see the full list of vulnerabilities in a report by Bleeping Computer. Mashable points to the fact that Windows necessitates such a vast number of patches and changes because Windows is used as the operating system on different manufacturers’ machines and has to constantly keep up with accommodating a variety of hardware configurations.   

Some users might find Windows 11’s need for frequent updates annoying, which could lead them to consider alternative operating systems like macOS. If you’re sticking with Windows 11, KrebsonSecurity recommends that you back up your computer’s data before installing the update. I’m glad Microsoft continues to address bugs and security risks in Windows 11, even if that does mean we’re nagged to update the OS more than some of its competitors, and I would urge users to make sure that they install this update, which you can do through Windows Update if your PC hasn’t started this process already. 


TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Meta says fewer Quest 3s are gathering dust – is VR’s biggest issue a thing of the past?

During this year’s Game Developers Conference (GDC 2024) Meta has revealed that the Meta Quest 3 has higher retention rates than any of its previous VR headsets – suggesting one of VR’s biggest problems might be a thing of the past.

VR gadgets have become incredibly popular in recent years – just look at the sales success of the Oculus Quest 2, and the massive hype around the Apple Vision Pro – but there’s been a quiet killer for them all: retention. According to an internal report shared by The Verge in March 2023, Meta was concerned about the relatively low engagement of Quest 2 users and it was apparently stressed to staff by  Mark Rabkin, Meta’s vice president of VR, that the company needs to “be better at growth and retention.”

That emphasis seems to have paid off, with it now being said by Chris Pruett, Meta's Director of Content Ecosystem, that the Quest 3 has a higher retention rate than any previous Meta / Oculus headset.

Why are people using their Meta Quest 3 more? 

Meta hasn’t given any direct explanation of why its headsets are proving better at retaining owners’ attention than its predecessors, but we have more than a few theories.

Meta Quest 3 missing its faceplate showing its insides

The Quest 3’s better specs and software is a big win (Image credit: iFixit)

The first, and perhaps most important, is the Quest 3's simplicity. If it’s charged up you can just slip it on and start playing a VR game instantly – unlike older PCVR models. This reason is likely also why the original Oculus Quest had the highest retention of any Oculus headset ever according to John Carmack in 2019 (Via UploadVR)

Another likely reason the Quest 3 has been able to take things up a notch in terms of retention is software. The Quest store has been up and running for roughly five years, and in that time developers have created a superb VR catalog of cross-platform and exclusive software.

The Quest 3 has also raised the bar with good specs, and solid mixed reality passthrough, adding even more opportunities for app creators to develop meaningful software that owners want to use regularly. 

This, and the headset’s less bulky and comfier-to-wear design, are, as we see it, the two biggest reasons why we’ve started using the device more regularly than the Quest 2.

Lastly, there’s a belief that the Quest 3’s higher cost could be helping its retention levels. At $ 299 / £299 / AU$ 479 the Quest 2 was almost a tech impulse buy – especially considering it also came out not long before the pandemic, a period when people typically had more disposable income. 

Whereas at $ 499.99 / £479.99 / AU$ 799.99 – and launching at a time when disposable income is typically a lot lower – the Quest 3 is much more of a considered purchase. So if you aren’t planning to use the new Meta device fairly often, you’re more likely to talk yourself out of buying it.

A Meta Quest 3 owner playing tennis in VR while in their dorm room with their desk behind them.

(Image credit: Meta)

Why does higher retention matter? 

Beyond making it easier to get a VR squad together to play a multiplayer game, why does a higher retention rate matter to you or us?

From a hardware perspective, it suggests that the Quest 3 is doing something right – whether it's the mixed reality focus, its newfound balance of specs and cost, or a mixture of factors. This could clue us into what future devices might look like; specifically that they could try to follow the Quest 3’s lead by leaning further into mixed reality, or the mainline Quest headset maintaining a similar price point (in exchange for better specs) – which could pave the way for the rumored cheaper Meta Quest 3 Lite.

It may also encourage more VR software development, as it shows developers that there is a reliable market for meaningful VR software. So if you have a Quest headset already, you might see more and better apps launch in the future.

Given Meta made the announcement at GDC 2024, it's likely hoping that this latter point proves true. However, given the speed of hardware and software development, we'll likely have a little while to wait and see what the Quest 3’s newfound popularity means in practical terms.

You might also like

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Microsoft’s next major Windows 11 update could bring the biggest AI upgrade yet

It’s beginning to look like we’re getting another Windows 11 update in the second half of 2024 which could bring even more artificial intelligence (AI) features to the operating system. 

Windows Latest spotted references to the update, dubbed “Hudson Valley” and also known as Windows 11 24H2, in a support document – and it looks like Microsoft might not have wanted the existence of this update to be made public.

However, Windows Latest spotted references to the EnumDeviceDrivers function, used by system admins and developers to interact with Windows 11’s drivers.

The document that references this function also mentions Windows 11 Version 24H2. The document elaborates that update 24H2 will modify how Windows 11 retrieves information from the EnumDeviceDrivers function.

You can check out the document for yourself, but it’s intended for developers and other similar professionals, so it’s a bit of a dry read.

AI for the Windows guy

So, there you have it – Microsoft is planning to update 24H2, which we can assume it’s actively working on, and we can look forward to it sometime in Q3 or Q4 of 2024 if Microsoft doesn’t change course. This news follows recent reports that made reference to a new preview build that’s currently being internally tested, which suggests it could be the biggest AI upgrade coming to Windows 11 to date. 

The last major Windows 11 update we saw was Windows 11 23H2, which  Microsoft rolled out at the end of 2023, which included a preview of the Windows Copilot AI-powered digital assistant.

While insiders, tech experts, and Microsoft enthusiasts are eagerly watching for any news about the next iteration of Windows, unofficially known as Windows 12, Windows Latest also speculated that we may not be getting this for a little while. The former head of Windows and Surface at Microsoft, Panos Panay, left Microsoft in a surprising move and this leads some to think that whoever takes over probably won’t begin their tenure at Microsoft by heading up the next huge Windows release.

Microsoft’s been clear and consistent with its intent to integrate AI into multiple Windows features and apps, like Windows Copilot and Cocreator AI-powered assistants for apps like Notepad and Paint. This looks like it’ll be the Windows 11 update that will carry on this process and we’ll have to keep watching for when more information about Windows 11 24H2 comes out, and if Microsoft is indeed putting more AI efforts into Windows 11, it could mean Windows 12 won’t be here any time soon.

You might also like

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Facebook Messenger gets its biggest ever update – including a major privacy boost

Big changes are coming to Facebook Messenger, covering everything from photo and video sharing to user privacy. The changes are rolling out from today, although it may take some time for everyone's account to be updated.

Perhaps the biggest upgrade is the switch to end-to-end encryption as the default option for conversations – this had previously been available as an option in individual chats, but will now be automatically applied to all conversations and audio and video calls.

As on other similarly secured messaging apps like WhatsApp, end-to-end encryption means only you and the person or people you're chatting to can see the conversations – so no one else can intercept or unlock your communications, including staff at Meta, malicious actors, and law enforcement agencies.

The existing disappearing messages feature is getting tweaked, too: all messages now vanish after 24 hours (previously you could customize this), and Meta is making it easier for users to see when disappearing messages are enabled. You'll be alerted if anyone tries to take a screenshot of a disappearing message, too.

More upgrades

Image 1 of 2

Message editing in the Facebook Messenger app

Message editing is coming to the Messenger app (Image credit: Meta)
Image 2 of 2

Photo layouts in the Facebook Messenger app

Get ready for new photo and video layouts (Image credit: Meta)

In addition, Messenger is now joining Apple's iMessage in letting you edit messages after you've sent them. You get a 15-minute window after a message has been sent to revise it, if you've made a glaring typo or want to change the tone of your latest communication.

Another change is that read receipts can now be switched off, if you don't want other people knowing when you've seen their messages. As is the case with other messaging apps, there's a trade-off: you won't be able to see read receipts from other people either.

Photo and videos will now be shared at an “upgraded” quality, Meta says – so expect files that are less compressed when you share them around. Photos and videos will be easier to access in the Messenger interface, with some “fun” layouts applied when you share them in batches, and instant reactions to photos and videos are being added too.

Lastly, voice messages are going to get controls for variable speed playback, and the app will now remember where you left off in a voice message if you come back to it later. Voice messages will also continue to play if you navigate away from the chat or the app.

All in all, it's a big range of upgrades that'll be welcome for regular Messenger users, even if it might not convince others to switch from WhatsApp or iMessage.

You might also like

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Google Bard’s biggest AI upgrade so far sees it close the gap on ChatGPT

Google Bard is receiving a huge boost in performance as it will now be powered by the company’s “most capable AI model”, Gemini.

This news may come as a surprise as recent reports circulated claiming that Gemini’s launch was being delayed due to poor performance across multiple languages. But now, it appears Google felt the pressure to bump up the release of its long-awaited (and possibly worthy) ChatGPT rival.

Gemini comes in three different “sizes”; however, we’re only going to focus on the two more powerful versions, Pro and Ultra, because those directly impact Bard. The former, according to the company, can handle a wide variety of tasks. It’s the all-rounder that will be present on other Google platforms. It’s important to mention the company has fine-tuned Gemini Pro on Bard allowing the AI to be more capable at certain actions like understanding prompts, summarizing content, planning things out, and reasoning.

In a demonstration, the tech giant had scientific YouTuber Mark Rober try out the updated Bard. He asked the AI to come up with “the most accurate paper airplane” which then provided a bunch of different designs and optimizations. The video is supposed to show how Bard can now play a bigger role in the creative process.


Bard with Gemini Pro is available today in English across over 170 countries and territories. A full list of supporting nations can be found on Google’s Help website. At the time of this writing, you can only enter text prompts although there are plans to implement other “modalities” soon. Still, we don't know yet what those modalities will be. What’s more, Google intends to expand the AI’s reach to Europe (users on the continent currently don’t have access), plus grow its language support.

Early next year, Bard will see another upgrade where we’ll see Google install its Gemini Ultra model to the AI. This is the top-of-the-line version specifically designed to handle “highly complex tasks” and accept multimodal inputs such as text, video, and even code. Google explains Ultra will “think more carefully before answering” tough questions as it has better reasoning skills. 

Right now, the company is doing some safety checks to make sure the upgrade is the best it can be. When it does come out, the new version will be called Bard Advanced. 

It’s unknown exactly when the new Bard will launch, however, Google will soon release a tester program to a select group of users. We contacted Google to ask when and how people can join this tester program. This story will be updated at a later time.

Until then, check out TechRadar's list of the best AI writers for 2023.

You might also like

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Report: Google delays its biggest AI launch of the year, but it’s still coming soon

Google has delayed a series of top-secret artificial intelligence (AI) events that were set to showcase the company’s Gemini generative AI tool, according to The Information. If true, it's another blow to Google’s efforts to compete with the likes of ChatGPT in the AI world – although Gemini is still expected to launch soon.

As detailed in a paywalled report from The Information, the Gemini event was due to take place just days from now, with the first one kicking off next week. Yet Google CEO Sundar Pichai has apparently taken the decision to push it back to January 2024, according to “two people with knowledge of the of the decision.”

The reason for the delay? Google was not confident that Gemini was able to “reliably handle some non-English queries,” The Information claims. Google wants to ensure its AI tool works well in a number of languages, and it’s clearly not quite there yet.

The events – due to be held in California, New York and Washington – would apparently have been “Google’s most important product launch of the year” owing to how keen Google is to catch up with OpenAI’s ChatGPT. That means that delaying them could be a sizable blow to Google, even if they do ultimately take place in early 2024.

In ChatGPT’s shadow

Google on a smartphone

(Image credit: Solen Feyissa/Unsplash)

Despite their imminent dates, Google hadn’t done much promotion for the events (perhaps due to concerns over Gemini’s abilities). In the end, that meant the company managed to avoid an embarrassing retraction or cancellation of already-announced events.

Yet Google isn’t likely to be very happy with the situation. The delay demonstrates how much the company is struggling to get on level terms with OpenAI, despite its vast wealth and engineering abilities. It’s also the second time in recent weeks that Google has reportedly had to delay its Gemini events.

It comes shortly after OpenAI reportedly had a major breakthrough with its own generative AI efforts. This tool is supposedly able to solve problems it has not been trained on, something that AI has traditionally found difficult, thereby ramping up the pressure on Google to hit back.

Google is likely to weave Gemini’s AI capabilities into its other products, such as Search, Google Assistant, Google Docs and more, The Information believes, so keep an eye out for AI updates if you regularly use the company’s apps. Just don’t expect to see these changes until early next year.

You might also like

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Microsoft Paint is getting its biggest upgrade in over a decade thanks to Windows Copilot

During Microsoft’s Surface Event, the tech giant revealed a ton of new features and updates. One of the most interesting and possibly biggest was the Copilot all-in-one AI assistant, which is coming to Windows 11 on September 26, 2023.

Microsoft Copilot is a more general version of 365 Copilot that uses AI to help users with any Windows 11 programs including popular programs like Paint, Snipping Tool, Photos, and more. And now we have even more information about the standalone app, which just might be the most important update to Windows OS yet.

A new blog post from Yusuf Mehdi, CVP & Consumer Chief Marketing Officer, explains how Copilot works with a multitude of Windows programs. For instance, the Paint Cocreator app (which will be available to Windows Insiders starting September 26) allows users to input a text prompt, select a style, and generate a unique image, which can then be further modified by using the new layers feature for Paint, or by simply drawing on top of the generated image.

Microsoft Clipchamp, meanwhile, is a new companion AI tool for video editing with the use of enhanced AI tools like Auto Compose. By answering a few questions on the type of video you're developing, Clipchamp will provide recommended scenes, edits, and a narrative for you based on your input and creative assets. Then you can upload the video to, for instance, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, or LinkedIn as well as to OneDrive or Google Drive.

Snipping Tool also received several new upgrades. You can now capture sound using audio and mic support along with visuals, by simply pressing Win + Shift + R or Print Screen to activate. Two new text actions, text extraction and redaction, were also added. 

Text extraction is used to scan content from an online article, a video call, or any other source and then copy it text directly into other documents like Word or PowerPoint. Text redaction is a safety feature that completely blacks out any text you don’t want to show, like an email address within your screenshots or a category of information.

A person using a touchscreen Windows 11 laptop.

(Image credit: Surface/Unsplash)

Photos app has been upgraded as well with a new feature called Background blur that offers a way to enhance image resolution and apply blur effects. Enhanced search capabilities make it easier to find photos saved in OneDrive by typing in keywords related to objects, locations, or dates. There’s also a new slideshow feature that organizes photos into a presentation to share with family and friends.

Voice also has gotten a boost and now works in more places including during the log-in process. You can now dictate complex and nonstandard words through the new spelling experience, and the corrections functionality will fix words that were recognized incorrectly. Narrator supports even more languages including Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and English (UK, India).

The Passkeys tool creates a unique, unguessable credential and allows you to sign in using your face, fingerprint, or device PIN. It will now be integrated into Windows OS and will work on multiple browsers including Edge, Chrome, Firefox, and more.

Adaptive Dimming is another new feature that allows users to conserve energy. If your PC presence sensor detects you are no longer paying attention, it will slowly dim your screen and save energy. It can also serve as an alert to refocus if your attention has been wandering.

John Cable, Microsoft’s, VP, Program Management, Windows Servicing & Delivery, released his own blog post which outlines how to access all these new features and updates. Windows 11 devices will gradually get access to these updates over the next few weeks. Anyone with Windows 11, version 22H2 running on their device can get access to these tools as soon as they're ready by going to Settings > Windows Update and turning on ‘Get the latest updates as soon as they’re available.’ 

All of these Copilot updates are expected to be broadly available in the November 2023 security update release. The Windows 11 23H2 update, meanwhile will not be dropping next week but in Q4 2023, which is October at the earliest.

You might also like

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Windows Copilot might be the biggest change Microsoft has ever made to its long-running OS

Clippy, that helpful paperclip sprite that used to watch your work in Microsoft Word and do its best to help you, was never that smart, or even that deeply integrated with Microsoft's popular computing platform.

Now imagine if Clippy got a brain and body transplant that made it a true genius and then hooked it into the deepest parts of Windows 11. That's Windows Copilot, which was among the big reveals at Microsoft's 2023 Surface Event.

Microsoft showed off a lot of Copilot demos during its packed AI and Surface launch event, but it wasn't until I got an up-close and personal demo of the Copilot preview in action on a Windows 11 system that I truly understood it and the ramifications for the next generation of Windows 11 users.

When the Windows 11 update arrives on September 26, it will bring with it the Copilot preview. Microsoft tells me that it will work with every PC that supports Windows 11.

To be clear, Copilot is not an app. It's marginally a utility. It's more like the voice inside Windows 11 head, a consciousness that is fully aware of everything Windows 11 can do, and much of what you're doing on Windows 11.

Copilot combines all of Microsoft's best AI work to date. It can bring a large language model (LLM) to understand text, and context, and produce fresh text. It integrates Bing Chat to make it conversational (and also supports voice, though I did not see that in my demos).

Two things, though, make Copilot feel like a true part of the Windows 11 experience. The first is, crucially, that Windows 11 copy and paste triggers Copilot, basically waking it up to the possibility of working directly with you.

Image 1 of 7

Windows 11 Copilot

(Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 7

Windows 11 Copilot

(Image credit: Future)
Image 3 of 7

Windows 11 Copilot

(Image credit: Future)
Image 4 of 7

Windows 11 Copilot

(Image credit: Future)
Image 5 of 7

Windows 11 Copilot

(Image credit: Future)
Image 6 of 7

Windows 11 Copilot

(Image credit: Future)
Image 7 of 7

Windows 11 Copilot

(Image credit: Future)

In the demo I saw, we opened a Word document full of a massive list of things to do in New York City – there's nothing like a sea of gray text to make the eyes glaze over.

Copilot isn't pushy like Clippy. It didn't pop up immediately asking if it could help. Instead, copying the text set it off.

The fact that Copilot can see that you're performing one of the most fundamental Windows 11 tasks, and using that action to help you, is a big deal. Once Copilot sees the clipboard text, it politely asks if you want to use that text to chat. Once we did that, Copilot's chat asked what we wanted to do with it (Revise, Summarize, Expand, Explain). You can be quite specific in your requests, so we asked for distances between Tribeca and our hotel.

Copilot is deep inside Windows, but it's not shut out from the outside. As with Bing Chat, Copilot sources the web for answers. In fact, it synthesizes the best answers and then, yes, provides citations and links for it all.

Copilot tries to be extra helpful by going beyond the initial request. In this instance, it also quickly served up some local attractions.

The other thing that tells you Copilot isn't simply a plugin or add-on is that it has its own invoke and dismiss key combo: You use the Windows button and 'c.'

In my opinion, you don't get the keys unless you're part of Windows and not just a temporary tenant.

Image 1 of 6

Windows 11 Copilot

(Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 6

Windows 11 Copilot

(Image credit: Future)
Image 3 of 6

Windows 11 Copilot

(Image credit: Future)
Image 4 of 6

Windows 11 Copilot

(Image credit: Future)
Image 5 of 6

Windows 11 Copilot

(Image credit: Future)
Image 6 of 6

Windows 11 Copilot

(Image credit: Future)

Other demos further solidified my belief that this is not your father's Windows 11.

When we dragged a food photo from Outlook into the chat windows, Copilot asked what we wanted to do with it. We requested instructions on how to make the unidentified dish. It took a moment (Copilot preview isn't always that fast) for it to identify it as Shashuka, and then offer detailed instructions on how to cook it.

Copilot further demonstrated its integration by working seamlessly with Windows Snip (which always sends snipped images to the clipboard). We snipped a math problem image and, naturally, when we asked, Copilot helped us solve it.

Image 1 of 5

Windows 11 Copilot

(Image credit: Future)
Image 2 of 5

Windows 11 Copilot

(Image credit: Future)
Image 3 of 5

Windows 11 Copilot

(Image credit: Future)
Image 4 of 5

Windows 11 Copilot

(Image credit: Future)
Image 5 of 5

Windows 11 Copilot

(Image credit: Future)

When we told Copilot we wanted to know how to focus at work, it used its platform integration to help guide us through Windows 11's Focus settings.

Copilot can be used for the most prosaic of Windows tasks, as well. Our demo desktop was getting a little cluttered, so we asked Copilot to “snap my windows.” It quickly organized the desktop and offered advice on how to make adjustments.

Windows Copilot Preview will simply arrive with the Windows 11 update. You won't have to install anything and there's no requirement that you use it. However, based on what I saw, if you ignore Copilot, you may be missing out on an entirely new way of working with the World's most widely used desktop platform.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More