Could generative AI work without online data theft? Nvidia’s ChatRTX aims to prove it can

Nvidia continues to invest in AI initiatives and the most recent one, ChatRTX, is no exception thanks to its most recent update. 

ChatRTX is, according to the tech giant, a “demo app that lets you personalize a GPT large language model (LLM) connected to your own content.” This content comprises your PC’s local documents, files, folders, etc., and essentially builds a custom AI chatbox from that information.

Because it doesn’t require an internet connection, it gives users speedy access to query answers that might be buried under all those computer files. With the latest update, it has access to even more data and LLMs including Google Gemma and ChatGLM3, an open, bilingual (English and Chinese) LLM. It also can locally search for photos, and has Whisper support, allowing users to converse with ChatRTX through an AI-automated speech recognition program.

Nvidia uses TensorRT-LLM software and RTX graphics cards to power ChatRTX’s AI. And because it’s local, it’s far more secure than online AI chatbots. You can download ChatRTX here to try it out for free.

Can AI escape its ethical dilemma?

The concept of an AI chatbot using local data off your PC, instead of training on (read: stealing) other people’s online works, is rather intriguing. It seems to solve the ethical dilemma of using copyrighted works without permission and hoarding it. It also seems to solve another long-term problem that’s plagued many a PC user — actually finding long-buried files in your file explorer, or at least the information trapped within it.

However, there’s the obvious question of how the extremely limited data pool could negatively impact the chatbot. Unless the user is particularly skilled at training AI, it could end up becoming a serious issue in the future. Of course, only using it to locate information on your PC is perfectly fine and most likely the proper use. 

But the point of an AI chatbot is to have unique and meaningful conversations. Maybe there was a time in which we could have done that without the rampant theft, but corporations have powered their AI with stolen words from other sites and now it’s irrevocably tied.

Given that it's highly unethical that data theft is the vital part of the process that allows you to make chats well-rounded enough not to get trapped in feedback loops, it’s possible that Nvidia could be the middle ground for generative AI. If fully developed, it could prove that we don’t need the ethical transgression to power and shape them, so here's to hoping Nvidia can get it right.

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The end of ‘Hackintosh’ – how Apple is sounding the death knell for a once-thriving online community

The beloved ‘Hackintosh’ may be on its last legs, as Apple’s macOS 14 Sonoma kills off a selection of older Wi-Fi drivers in its signature operating system allowing users to run it properly on purpose-built hardware.

For the uninitiated, a Hackintosh was the term given to a non-Apple computer or other device running macOS. The benefits of this are pretty obvious: for starters, Apple’s best MacBooks and Macs can cost a pretty penny, and are usually the only way to access macOS.

On top of that, Apple’s hardware can be limited for some users – if you want a super-powered scientific modeling PC with a ludicrous amount of RAM, for example, you’d normally be limited to purpose-built Windows and Linux machines. Then there's also the silly (but fun) edge cases, like running macOS on a Nintendo DS.

The latest version of macOS, Sonoma, has removed driver support for a selection of old Broadcom Wi-Fi cards found in some Mac models from 2012/13. That might not sound like a big problem in itself (after all, that hardware is more than a decade old now). But Hackintosh fan and app developer Aleksandar Vacić has pointed out that those cards were integral to fully-functioning Hackintosh builds, and a driver shift from .kext to .dext formats has similarly hamstrung other workarounds.

A sad day for macOS lovers… who don’t like Macs

Hackintosh fans formed a small but lively online community around their custom macOS rigs, and some users are already bemoaning the impending death of their favorite homebrew hardware.

As one commenter on OSNews put it Hackintoshes were “a great way to have a machine that Apple doesn’t offer anymore – unsightly big box full of hardware.” Many have noted that Apple dropping Intel and shifting to ARM-based chips for its Macs, starting the release of the very impressive M1 chip seen in the 2020 MacBook Air, was the first sign that the Hackintosh glory days might be coming to an end, and that prophecy seems to be ringing true.

Without proper Wi-Fi driver support, the only way to run Sonoma on non-Apple hardware now seems to be doing so without Wi-Fi at all, which has the knock-on effect of borking many apps in macOS, including FaceTime, AirDrop, and Continuity. With one of the aforementioned Wi-Fi cards and an older version of macOS, all of those tools worked just fine.

At the end of the day, the humble Hackintosh represented a path forward for users who loved the OS, but hated (or simply couldn’t afford) the hardware. It’s no surprise that some fans are upset by its slow death, but the writing was on the wall; the Hackintosh community has undeniably been shrinking ever since the tech giant abandoned Intel’s x86 processors.

Google’s time to shine?

Personally, as TechRadar’s resident macOS hater, I won’t really shed a tear about this. There was one comment on OSNews that resonated with me, though: user ‘cpcf’, who said “we discard so much hardware long, long before its natural use-by-date simply because some software somewhere says ‘No!’”

It’s an excellent point, although I’m not dragging Apple directly here; ending support for decade-plus-old kit isn’t ridiculous. But killing users’ ability to keep their old home-made Macs running is a shame, especially considering that Apple hasn’t historically hated the ‘Hackintosh’ trend too much. Another user speculates about macOS being given the open API license treatment, suggesting Apple takes a stance of “Here’s our driver API so 3rd parties can make drivers, here’s the OS. If you want to run it on an x86 PC, pay us $ 200.”

It’s not a bad idea, and could be a way for Apple to make a bit of side cash off its older macOS versions, but I doubt it’ll ever happen. Apple prides itself on its tightly insulated software ecosystem, and Google beat macOS to the punch anyway. ChromeOS Flex already offers a cheap and easy alternative OS for almost any machine, an admirable way to beat the current e-waste crisis. Good job, Google; sorry you missed the boat, Apple.

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Wix and Amazon team up to make online delivery even faster

Top website builder Wix has upgraded its SaaS platform with the integration of Amazon’s Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF) for ecommerce merchants to deliver orders within one to two days.

Using Amazon’s order fulfillment services, the redeveloped platform will now allow Wix ecommerce merchants in the US to download the Amazon MCF app to their Wix store and hopefully lower fulfilment costs.

Wix merchants will also be able to automatically see shipping speed options and real-time delivery dates from Amazon.

Wix Multi-Channel Fulfillment 

Wix says the integration has also been introduced to reduce the complexities ecommerce website owners face fulfilling orders on their own.

“We’re constantly improving our platform to accommodate rising needs of business owners and to help them increase their Gross Payment Volume (GPV),” said Arik Perez, Head of Wix ecommerce.

“Today, seamless shipping and delivery are essential for businesses to succeed. In partnering with Amazon MCF, Wix merchants can be assured that top-of-the-line packing, handling and fast shipping is at their fingertips, which ultimately boosts the potential growth of their business.” 

Some of the other key benefits for Wix ecommerce merchants using the Amazon MCF app include fulfilling orders 24/7 with fast shipping, leveraging Amazon MCF’s fulfillment network with over 200 fulfillment centers and automatic inventory placement.

“We’re continually listening to merchants and working backwards from their needs to develop solutions that help them delight more customers,” said Gopal Pillai, Vice President of Amazon Fulfillment and Distribution Solutions.

“The new Multi-Channel Fulfillment app easily integrates with Wix stores to help merchants make critical improvements to their customer experience, such as providing shoppers accurate delivery dates at checkout, automatic tracking emails, and on-time, low-cost delivery.

“With Multi-Channel Fulfillment, we make fulfilment so easy and seamless that merchants can focus more time on the growth and success of their business.”

Available now, the integration with Amazon’s MCF network will mean that Wix merchants will pay for fulfilment and storage, but not for commitment or app installation.

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Wix and Amazon team up to make online delivery even faster

Top website builder Wix has upgraded its SaaS platform with the integration of Amazon’s Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF) for ecommerce merchants to deliver orders within one to two days.

Using Amazon’s order fulfillment services, the redeveloped platform will now allow Wix ecommerce merchants in the US to download the Amazon MCF app to their Wix store and hopefully lower fulfilment costs.

Wix merchants will also be able to automatically see shipping speed options and real-time delivery dates from Amazon.

Wix Multi-Channel Fulfillment 

Wix says the integration has also been introduced to reduce the complexities ecommerce website owners face fulfilling orders on their own.

“We’re constantly improving our platform to accommodate rising needs of business owners and to help them increase their Gross Payment Volume (GPV),” said Arik Perez, Head of Wix ecommerce.

“Today, seamless shipping and delivery are essential for businesses to succeed. In partnering with Amazon MCF, Wix merchants can be assured that top-of-the-line packing, handling and fast shipping is at their fingertips, which ultimately boosts the potential growth of their business.” 

Some of the other key benefits for Wix ecommerce merchants using the Amazon MCF app include fulfilling orders 24/7 with fast shipping, leveraging Amazon MCF’s fulfillment network with over 200 fulfillment centers and automatic inventory placement.

“We’re continually listening to merchants and working backwards from their needs to develop solutions that help them delight more customers,” said Gopal Pillai, Vice President of Amazon Fulfillment and Distribution Solutions.

“The new Multi-Channel Fulfillment app easily integrates with Wix stores to help merchants make critical improvements to their customer experience, such as providing shoppers accurate delivery dates at checkout, automatic tracking emails, and on-time, low-cost delivery.

“With Multi-Channel Fulfillment, we make fulfilment so easy and seamless that merchants can focus more time on the growth and success of their business.”

Available now, the integration with Amazon’s MCF network will mean that Wix merchants will pay for fulfilment and storage, but not for commitment or app installation.

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Google IO 2022 dates, registration, and what to expect from Google’s online show

Google announced its IO 2022 keynote conference for May 11, concluding on May 12, which will mainly be an online event.

While we don't have confirmation yet of what's appearing, it's likely that we'll see Android 13 appear as a preview, similar to last year's Android 12 launch at Google IO 2021.

Like last year, much of Google IO 2022 will be held online, but you can register to attend, according to its FAQ.

After Google canceled its 2020 event due to the pandemic, Google IO 2021 was online only. But with this year's event seemingly hosting an online and offline audience, we may see more demos this year of what Google's been working on.

We suspect Sundar Pichai will kick off the main keynote on May 10, which we expect will be free to stream as before.

See more

We won't know officially until the May 11 keynote what Google intends to show off, but we can already extrapolate based on the rumors and leaks coming from Google's camp. Below, we'll predict Google's hardware and software lineup for Google IO 2022, as well as explain how the virtual event will work.

LATEST NEWS

Google IO 2022 is announced as a mostly-online event, but you can register to attend.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? Google’s yearly developer conference
  • When is it? May 11-May 12, 2022
  • How can I register / how much does it cost? On the Google event page for free; all you need is a Google account

Google IO 2022 Registration

(Image credit: Google)

What are the Google IO 2022 dates?

Google revealed that its developer conference would take place from Wednesday, May 11 through Thursday, May 12. Google regularly schedules its annual three-day conference for mid-May, making these dates on-brand for the company.

The traditional keynote hasn't been confirmed as yet, but we expect it to be held on the first day of IO 2022, May 11.

Google IO 2022 Logo

(Image credit: Google)

Is Google IO online-only?

Google canceled the May 2020 event in early March 2020, right at the advent of the pandemic when everyone had begun to shelter in place and live events felt increasingly unsafe.

Google normally holds the Google IO keynote and subsequent developer sessions in physical gatherings at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California, where COVID-19 restrictions on large events are slowly being lifted across the country. 

But with Google IO 2021 repeating the same plan as 2020, many had assumed that IO 2022 would follow. This has turned out to be partly true, as you can register to attend, but the company has said that invites will be hard to attain.

How Google IO 2022 will work

Most casual Google users associate Google IO with the keynote address, which streams online where anyone can watch it. But in previous years you could also buy a pass to attend Google developer sessions, new product demos, labs to learn about new code, and other events for professionals or hobbyists. 

This year, most of those events look to be virtual and free, with Google announcing more details as the event gets closer.

Some Google IO 2022 events will be free to all and rewatchable on-demand, as in previous years. But there will be other events that will require you to reserve a slot due to its popularity.

Google IO stage

(Image credit: Future)

What to expect at Google IO 2022

Based on Google's annual product and software calendar, plus all the leaks and rumors we've heard about, we have a general idea of what Sundar Pichai and the Google execs will discuss during the Google IO 2022 keynote. Here are the highlights:

Android Logo

(Image credit: Google)

Android 13

The latest Android OS is already in the developer beta stage on Pixel 6 phones and lower, but we're certain that Google will spend time outlining Android 13's undisclosed tricks on stage. 

With Apple almost certainly introducing iOS 16 at WWDC in June, Google will want to jump ahead of that and show off its newest innovations first. It could even announce the launch of the Android 13 public beta, though that isn't confirmed.

While the preview shows few hints towards Android 13, it does look as though privacy will be another focus for Google in this release, alongside more refined theme options.

With Android 12L focusing on tablets more than ever, there's a chance that we may see an Android 13L that's primarily tailored for tablets and foldable devices.

The back of a Google Pixel 6 Pro in yellow

(Image credit: Google)

Less likely: Pixel 7 and Pixel Tablet

Google is actively developing the Pixel 7 and a Pixel foldable phone, alongside a rumored Pixel Tablet, potentially for a simultaneous October 2022 release. That's far enough out that Google may not want to show off their specs or hardware until it's closer to Fall.

But Google IO has primarily been software-focused, with the only hardware being shown in previous years, being a Chromecast or Google Home products.

However, with IO 2022 allowing some attendees, there's always a chance that hands-on demos is something that the company will want to take advantage of.

wearOS Google

(Image credit: Google)

New Fitbit hardware or Wear OS updates

Ever since Google bought Fitbit despite antitrust concerns, we've been curious how Google will put its personal spin on the best Fitbits of the future. 

Since Google IO 2021, we've seen a bigger focus from the company on how Wear OS 'fits' in its product line, but we've yet to see another Google-branded smartwatch return.

This may be the year that we see a section dedicated to Fitbit, Wear OS, and more. Google is aware that the Apple Watch rules over all others in the category, and 2022 may be the year that we see some more major improvements.

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Google IO 2022 dates, registration, and what to expect from Google’s online show

Google announced its IO 2022 keynote conference for May 11, concluding on May 12, which will mainly be an online event.

While we don't have confirmation yet of what's appearing, it's likely that we'll see Android 13 appear as a preview, similar to last year's Android 12 launch at Google IO 2021.

Like last year, much of Google IO 2022 will be held online, but you can register to attend, according to its FAQ.

After Google canceled its 2020 event due to the pandemic, Google IO 2021 was online only. But with this year's event seemingly hosting an online and offline audience, we may see more demos this year of what Google's been working on.

We suspect Sundar Pichai will kick off the main keynote on May 10, which we expect will be free to stream as before.

See more

We won't know officially until the May 11 keynote what Google intends to show off, but we can already extrapolate based on the rumors and leaks coming from Google's camp. Below, we'll predict Google's hardware and software lineup for Google IO 2022, as well as explain how the virtual event will work.

LATEST NEWS

Google IO 2022 is announced as a mostly-online event, but you can register to attend.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? Google’s yearly developer conference
  • When is it? May 11-May 12, 2022
  • How can I register / how much does it cost? On the Google event page for free; all you need is a Google account

Google IO 2022 Registration

(Image credit: Google)

What are the Google IO 2022 dates?

Google revealed that its developer conference would take place from Wednesday, May 11 through Thursday, May 12. Google regularly schedules its annual three-day conference for mid-May, making these dates on-brand for the company.

The traditional keynote hasn't been confirmed as yet, but we expect it to be held on the first day of IO 2022, May 11.

Google IO 2022 Logo

(Image credit: Google)

Is Google IO online-only?

Google canceled the May 2020 event in early March 2020, right at the advent of the pandemic when everyone had begun to shelter in place and live events felt increasingly unsafe.

Google normally holds the Google IO keynote and subsequent developer sessions in physical gatherings at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California, where COVID-19 restrictions on large events are slowly being lifted across the country. 

But with Google IO 2021 repeating the same plan as 2020, many had assumed that IO 2022 would follow. This has turned out to be partly true, as you can register to attend, but the company has said that invites will be hard to attain.

How Google IO 2022 will work

Most casual Google users associate Google IO with the keynote address, which streams online where anyone can watch it. But in previous years you could also buy a pass to attend Google developer sessions, new product demos, labs to learn about new code, and other events for professionals or hobbyists. 

This year, most of those events look to be virtual and free, with Google announcing more details as the event gets closer.

Some Google IO 2022 events will be free to all and rewatchable on-demand, as in previous years. But there will be other events that will require you to reserve a slot due to its popularity.

Google IO stage

(Image credit: Future)

What to expect at Google IO 2022

Based on Google's annual product and software calendar, plus all the leaks and rumors we've heard about, we have a general idea of what Sundar Pichai and the Google execs will discuss during the Google IO 2022 keynote. Here are the highlights:

Android Logo

(Image credit: Google)

Android 13

The latest Android OS is already in the developer beta stage on Pixel 6 phones and lower, but we're certain that Google will spend time outlining Android 13's undisclosed tricks on stage. 

With Apple almost certainly introducing iOS 16 at WWDC in June, Google will want to jump ahead of that and show off its newest innovations first. It could even announce the launch of the Android 13 public beta, though that isn't confirmed.

While the preview shows few hints towards Android 13, it does look as though privacy will be another focus for Google in this release, alongside more refined theme options.

With Android 12L focusing on tablets more than ever, there's a chance that we may see an Android 13L that's primarily tailored for tablets and foldable devices.

The back of a Google Pixel 6 Pro in yellow

(Image credit: Google)

Less likely: Pixel 7 and Pixel Tablet

Google is actively developing the Pixel 7 and a Pixel foldable phone, alongside a rumored Pixel Tablet, potentially for a simultaneous October 2022 release. That's far enough out that Google may not want to show off their specs or hardware until it's closer to Fall.

But Google IO has primarily been software-focused, with the only hardware being shown in previous years, being a Chromecast or Google Home products.

However, with IO 2022 allowing some attendees, there's always a chance that hands-on demos is something that the company will want to take advantage of.

wearOS Google

(Image credit: Google)

New Fitbit hardware or Wear OS updates

Ever since Google bought Fitbit despite antitrust concerns, we've been curious how Google will put its personal spin on the best Fitbits of the future. 

Since Google IO 2021, we've seen a bigger focus from the company on how Wear OS 'fits' in its product line, but we've yet to see another Google-branded smartwatch return.

This may be the year that we see a section dedicated to Fitbit, Wear OS, and more. Google is aware that the Apple Watch rules over all others in the category, and 2022 may be the year that we see some more major improvements.

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Google has released a new font it says makes reading online easier

Google has unveiled Roboto Serif, a new typeface for Android that it says should be ideal for reading text online. 

Roboto Serif is available now via Google Fonts and will come included with Android as part of Google's Material Design ethos. 

Google says it created Roboto Serif for reading because we spend around seven hours per day reading things online. Clearly, a font designed specifically to do so was needed. 

Roboto Serif

(Image credit: Google)

“Roboto Serif joins the functional Roboto superfamily alongside Roboto Sans, Mono, Slab, and Condensed,” says Google font consultant Sarah Daily. “But unlike Roboto Slab, the design of which was derived directly from Roboto Sans, this newest serif brings its own identity to the collection.” 

“We wanted it to feel comfortable next to a sans-serif, and not to feel cluttered. It doesn't need to have serifs everywhere to drive home the point that, ‘I am a serif and have serifs in all the places serifs go,” addec Google's Rob Giampietro. 

Fonts glorious fonts 

According to 9to5Google, Roboto Serif has four axes: weight: 100–900; width: condensed, regular, extended;  optical size: with or without size, 8–14; and grade: -50–100.

Google has also released a full typo specimen document detailing all of the technical details for Roboto Serif, including a range of examples of how the font can be applied in use cases from recipe books to music playlists.

“Google Fonts’ mission is to make web typography better for everyone,” the book added, “We’ve invested heavily in variable font typefaces, as well as in tools for their production, testing, and use, and we’re excited to see what creative designers and developers do with this technology.”

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Zomato, Swiggy to collect 5% GST: Will your online food bill get costlier?

If you are planning to ring in the New Year tomorrow by ordering food through platforms like Swiggy and Zomato, don't be surprised if you are asked to pay more. For, starting tomorrow, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) changes kick in, and food delivery platforms like Swiggy and Zomato are mandated to collect and pay the GST on behalf of all restaurants.

As ever with tax changes in India, there is a bit of confusion in this one too. 

Currently, all cooked food orders sold by restaurants (via food aggregators) invites a 5% GST. That is over and above the 18% GST that all foods get levied at the restaurant.  The onus of paying the the 5% GST  was hitherto with the restaurants. Now that responsibility has changed to the food delivery platforms.

What is the real change? Has a new tax been levied?

The proposal to direct food delivery platforms to collect and pay 5% GST on food orders directly to the government was announced last September at the GST Council Meet. 

The decision was taken to bring online food deliveries on par with cooked food sold by restaurants. The government has made it clear that no new taxes have been introduced, and that it is simply a matter of the GST collection centre being transferred. 

To make things clearer: At present, if any customer orders from a restaurant using platforms like Swiggy or Zomato, the online food app is supposed to collect the 5% tax on the order from the customer and pass it on to the restaurant that will have to pay the government. From now on, the food delivery apps will collect the same tax from customers and deposit it to the government directly.

Why this change?

The decision was taken in order to prevent revenue leakage at unregistered restaurants. Many eateries are unregistered as they are below the threshold of Rs 40 lakh turnover per annum.

Further, restaurants charge GST from their customers on every order placed through the food delivery app but fail to pay the tax to the government. Delegating responsibility to food aggregators is meant to reduce this tax evasion. It is estimated that the government has so far lost revenue of around 2,000 crore due to revenue leakage.  

While Swiggy or Zomato cannot charge you a fee on the GST slab, they can charge a fee that justifies the extra work. And that is where this fear that your online food orders may get costly stems from.

Some clarity is expected to emerge based on the decision that food app companies take.

Check out our yearend stories around Tech, OTT, Fintech and Movies:

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There are more malicious domains online than ever before

Thousands of new domains are registered everyday so that businesses and individuals can build websites but new research from Palo Alto Networks has revealed that cybercriminals often register malicious domains years before they intend to actually use them.

The cybersecurity firm's Unit 42 first began its research into dormant malicious domains after it was revealed that the threat actors behind 2019's SolarWinds hack used them in their attack. To identify strategically aged domains and monitor their activity, Palo Alto Networks launched a cloud-based detector in September of 2021.

According to the findings of the firm's researchers, 22.3 percent of strategically aged domains pose some form of danger with a small portion being straight-out malicious (3.8%), a majority being suspicious (19%) and some being unsafe for work environments (2%).

The reason cybercriminals and other threat actors let a domain is age is to create a “clean record” so that their domain will be less likely to be blocked. Newly registered domains (NRDs) on the other hand are more likely to be malicious and for this reason, security systems often flag them as suspicious. However, according to Palo Alto Networks, strategically aged domains are three times more likely to be malicious than NRDs.

Detecting malicious domains lying dormant

When a sudden spike in traffic is detected, it's often the case that a strategically aged domain is actually malicious. This is because normal websites typically see their traffic grow gradually from when they're created as more people visit a site after learning about it through word of mouth or advertising.

At the same time, domains that aren't intended for legitimate purposes often have incomplete, cloned or questionable content and usually lack WHOIS registrant details as well. Another sign that a domain was registered and intended to be used at a later time in malicious campaigns is DGA subdomain generation.

For those unfamiliar, DGA or domain generation algorithm is a method used to generate domain names and IP addresses that will serve as command and control (C2) communication points used to evade detection and block lists. Just by examining sites using DGA, Palo Alto Networks' cloud-based detector was able to identify two suspicious domains each day.

During its investigation, the cybersecurity firm discovered a Pegasus spying campaign that used two C2 domains registered in 2019 that finally became active two years later in July of 2021. Palo Alto Networks' researchers also found phishing campaigns that used DGA subdomains as well as wildcard DNS abuse.

We've also highlighted the best web hosting, best endpoint protection software and best malware removal software

Via Bleeping Computer

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7 essential online security and digital tasks you should do before 2021 ends

Keeping your digital world safe and secure is vital, everyone knows that. But it also takes time, and when life is hectic, jobs to do, places to go, people to see, it's easy to put off even the most important security tasks off until 'later' – whenever that might be.

It's OK. It's the same for most us. But it's never too late to get started, and there's a real payback for your efforts. While you may already have your antivirus and VPN installed, a few more minutes spent on even just one or two of these tasks can save you money, speed up your devices, protect you from cyber-scammers… and that's just the start.

Illustration of a login screen on a laptop

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

1. Change your passwords

It's a hassle to set up, remember and manage your passwords, so precisely no-one at all wants to change them regularly. Even if it is good security practice.

Occasional updates are better than none at all, though, so why not change a few passwords right now? If nothing else, just choose the accounts that would cause you the most damage if they were hacked – your bank, PayPal, Amazon, email – and give them a brand new login.

And remember… if you’re tempted to use something like ‘password123’, then that’s definitely not improving your security situation. Use the Memorable Password Generator to create secure but also readable passwords.

And if you're feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of passwords you have to remember, then our guide to the best password managers is well worth a read.

2. Uninstall surplus apps

It's easily done. You see an app, it looks great, you install it to try later, but never get around to it. Not a problem if you've only one, but there more you add, the more your device gets weighed down by all this surplus junk. And that equally goes for apps that you used to use on a regular basis and no longer have the need for.

Take the time to browse all your apps and think about when you last used them or whether you really need them any more. If you can't think of a good reason to keep something, just uninstall it..

If you're unsure, then as long as it's not performing some useful background function (backup, security), uninstall it anyway. If you realize you need the app later, you can always reinstall it.

Windows 10 Uninstall Applications screen

(Image credit: Microsoft)

3. Review your finances

It's easy to sign up for apps and web services, but there's a down side: it's even easier to forget you've done that, and carry on paying for something you no longer use.

Visit your app store of choice, scroll down the Subscriptions list and make sure you recognize and need everything you see. If there's something you no longer use, cancel it; if there are payments you don't understand, investigate them.

Do the same at PayPal, if you've got an account, and with your bank, credit cards and anywhere else you might make payments. It's your money – make sure you're not handing it out without getting something useful in return.

4. Check renewal dates

Cheap VPNs, antivirus companies, web hosts and others often try to tempt you into buying with ultra-cheap signup deals. Which is great at the time, but the costs might double (or more) on renewal.

Do you have any long-term subscriptions to apps or web services where that might apply, and the renewal date is coming up? If so, and even if you think you know approximately when the renewal might be, remember many companies take renewal payments a few days before your term is up. You might remember that you bought a service in February, but if it was February 3, you might have to cancel at the end of January.

If you're unsure about any of these long-term subscriptions, sign into your web account and check. If you know you want to renew, turn off any Auto-Renew setting, or check how to cancel (some services require that you contact them).

If you're unsure, check the latest VPN deals (or whatever) to see if switching to another provider's introductory deal might be a better plan.

Avast Cleanup running on an Android device

(Image credit: Avast)

5. Clean up your system

Every time you install, use or remove apps, your device is busily creating new files and folders. Some might get removed later, but others won't, and that means your device just gets more and more cluttered over time.

This isn't the disaster that speedup tools claim, and you won't magically turbo-charge your hardware just by emptying your Recycle Bin. But all these leftovers can slow you down, so it's worth taking a little time to clean up your device.

Look at your Downloads and Documents folders, for instance. Sort them by date, and look at the oldest. Delete anything you're sure you don't need. Of the rest, is there anything you won't use regularly? Think whether it might be better off backed up to the cloud, or local storage. 

On Windows, use Disk Cleanup to clear away temporary files (launch Explorer, click a drive, select Drive Tools > Optimize.) Other devices have their own maintenance tools, and there are plenty of free apps (try CCleaner) that go a little further.

6. Browse app settings

No matter how carefully you set up your device and app security, there's scope for problems later. Maybe you turn off a firewall or some other key setting, then forget to enable it later. Perhaps another device user turns off that feature by mistake. App updates might sometimes change settings (or introduce new ones) without telling you, and you haven't noticed.

Take the time to browse your device, antivirus and VPN settings and make sure they're set up to suit your needs. If you remember setting the VPN kill switch on, for instance, is that still the case? Is your antivirus configured properly? If you have cloud backup, is it protecting everything you expect?

Go and browse all the backed-up files, make sure it has the most up-to-date versions, and isn't missing anything important.

PayPal web dashboard

(Image credit: PayPal)

7. Visit your account dashboards

Open a new account with a VPN, security company, web store or anywhere else, and you're usually directed to a web dashboard with various admin-type details. But if you just want to download the app, manage the product or shop in the store, then probably you'll do exactly that instead, and never revisit the dashboard again.

Trouble is, that could mean you're missing out. What if there's some brand-new feature you could really use? Or a feature you're currently using, which is about to get pulled? Has there been a price change? Maybe your details have changed since you signed up, and the website has an email address you no longer use?

Log into a few of your web accounts, and just look at the dashboards. Often they'll have notifications for changes you really need to know. 

If you don't see anything, look at any 'Personal Details' page: is everything correct? What about your subscriptions, are they all as you expected? Look at the Settings page: does the site have any useful functionality you're not using, such as two-factor authentication to make it more secure? Who knows what money-saving or privacy-boosting features might be waiting for you, just a click or two away.

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