For those unfamiliar, Microsoft Loop is a new app that combines a powerful and flexible canvas with portable components that move freely and stay in sync across the software giant's apps. It is made up of three elements in the form of Loop components, Loop pages and Loop workspaces.
While Loop pages are flexible canvases where users can organize all of their Loop components in one place and Loop workspaces are shared spaces that allow teams to see and group everything important to a project, Loop components are an evolution of Fluid components that help users collaborate and get things done in chats, emails, meetings and documents.
Now Microsoft Outlook users will be able to leverage the power of Loop components when using the company’s email service.
Loop components in Outlook
According to a new post in the Microsoft 365 roadmap, Loop components are now rolling out in Microsoft Outlook and these live, interactive objects can be embedded in email messages to provide real-time collaboration.
In a support document, Microsoft highlights several of its Loop components that users can add to emails in Outlook or even messages in Microsoft Teams. These include bulleted lists, checklists, numbered lists, paragraphs, tables, task lists and more.
One of the nice things about Loop components is that they are automatically saved to OneDrive so that you’ll be able to easily find and use them again later.
With the addition of Loop components in Outlook, emails will become much more fluid as they’ll even be able to update themselves after being sent. Say you add a list of follow-up tasks to an email, collaborators can check off items as they complete them and all of the changes made to the Loop component will be reflected in the original email. This way users don’t have to waste time sending emails back and forth to one another once a task has been completed.
We’ll likely hear more from Microsoft regarding Loop components once Microsoft 365 users get a chance to test them out for themselves.
Windows is the most prevalent desktop operating system in the world, and therefore PCs running Microsoft’s OS are most often targeted by cybercriminals and their various strains of malware.
While desktop users on other platforms shouldn’t be complacent – even though that might be tempting with less commonly used and more locked-down OS alternatives – it’s true enough to say that those running Windows certainly need to consider security as a priority.
With that in mind, in this article we’re going to look at the most common types of malware which could possibly strike a Windows 10 or 11 system, discussing what they are, how they work and what they might do to any PC that’s unfortunate enough to be infected. Then to conclude, we’ll look at the tools you can use to detect and purge these various intruders, like malware removal software and antivirus and how to go about that process.
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The term ‘virus’ is quite often employed in a general sense to denote anything malicious which has infected a computer, but really, the umbrella term for that is actually ‘malware’. A virus is a specific type of malware, and in fact it’s the oldest family of malicious software around.
A computer virus, much like a biological one, exists with the aim of spreading itself. It hides in a file (like the EXE for an app, or a Word document), and infects the system when that file is opened, triggering the payload (the nasty things done to your machine, which vary widely).
The key element here is that it then tries to spread itself to other files, and should those files off your machine reach another PC, it then infects that (when the file is run), spreads again, and so the cycle continues.
A worm is much like a virus, and spreads itself in the same way, but with a key and very dangerous difference.
Worms directly attack and infect the system they come into contact with. In other words, you don’t have to open a file to trigger the infection; it happens with no interaction from the user required. In this case, there’s no chance to even, say, get suspicious about a Word document’s title and origin, and decide to leave it well alone – the infection just happens.
You’re surely familiar with the myth of the Trojan Horse, and the name of this kind of malware is a direct reference to the fact that it pretends to be a legitimate app or file. Most commonly, it’ll be a fake program that you might download thinking it’s the genuine article – maybe from an authentic-looking website – but when you run it, your machine will become infected (unlike a virus, though, it won’t attempt to spread itself).
Adware is one of the less vicious subcategories of malware, in that it won’t engage in something really nasty like nuking your data. Rather, it just serves up adverts as the name suggests (note that it could, however, track you online and targets ads too).
So, it’s more annoying as opposed to actively destructive, but clearly, it’s still not something you want hanging around on your Windows PC. Particularly not when in some cases it can result in a veritable avalanche of pop-up ads assaulting your desktop – which really isn’t pleasant and could hamper the performance of your Windows laptop or PC.
Again, this is a type of malware named after what it does – namely sit quietly in your system, spying on you, stealthily gathering data. The information harvested is transmitted to the malicious actor behind the spyware, and then bent to whatever dark purpose they have in mind.
It’s similar to adware, and it’s not outright destructive – the whole idea is that you never realize its presence, of course – and adware is generally considered a subcategory of spyware.
However, where spyware is different is that it poses more of a threat than adware, and a potentially major danger to your personal data and security. It could possibly be collecting info such as the passwords for your online accounts, for instance.
Ransomware is one of the nastiest kinds of malware, one which effectively takes over your machine.
If it infects a PC – like most malware, it may be hidden in a file perhaps emailed to you, or picked up via a dodgy web link – it systematically goes through your files and encrypts them (or at least some of the more critical ones). It then demands a ransom to be paid for the key to decrypt that data. Essentially, it locks away files so you can’t get to them, and threatens to throw away the key unless you pay up, usually in Bitcoin or an alternative cryptocurrency.
Of course, even if you do pay up, there’s no guarantee that the malicious party behind the scam will free your files from their encrypted chains. You are trusting an inherently untrustworthy third-party that this will actually happen.
How to remove malware from your Windows PC
Let’s say the unfortunate happens and you get infected by one of the above threats. You may be certain of an infection, or you might just suspect it. In the latter case, perhaps your computer is suddenly behaving oddly, running really slowly, or popping up random messages at you that don't make sense.
The first question to ask is: are you running an antivirus app? Remember, Windows has its own Microsoft Defender built-in, so you don’t have to install a third-party app if you don’t want to. Assuming you are running an antivirus, if you’re not sure – but suspect – that malware is present, run a manual scan (the option to do a ‘full scan’ should be easily accessible from the app’s main menu). This scan should pinpoint anything malicious, and then deal with the offending party automatically.
If you are certain you’ve been infected, and you’re running an antivirus already, this shows that these apps aren’t always totally bulletproof. It’s at this point you may want to ask yourself whether you’re running one of the best Windows antivirus apps, with a more accurate antivirus engine? If not, then switch over to one of these top-rated products to get better protection and run a scan.
If your antivirus doesn’t find anything, then you can enlist another line of defense: anti-malware (or, if you don’t have an antivirus, and don’t want to install one at all, you can skip straight to this step). Our recommendation as the top pick in this case is Malwarebytes. Once installed, start the app and click on ‘Scan’ to initiate the scanning process. If the apps finds a threat, it’ll deal with the malware (the software may also flag up potentially suspicious programs that you may or may not wish to get rid of). We have a full tutorial giving step-by-step instructions on how to clean up your Windows PC with an anti-malware tool.
In short, the combination of an antivirus and/or anti-malware should hunt out and destroy any malware present.
As a final note, there may be especially problematic malware, and here we’re mainly thinking of ransomware, which is a particularly thorny type of infection. In some cases, you might be locked out of your PC, or need specialist help, although don’t forget there are ransomware decryption tools out there from major security vendors that could help – you could check out Kaspersky and Avast’s resources for starters.
Meta-owned Messenger has announced the launch of end-to-end (E2E) encryption across its platform, meaning chats and calls should be safe from snooping.
Users can now choose whether to have their messages, group chats and calls fully encrypted when logged into the service. One option is to use vanish mode, which can be activated by swiping up on an existing chat to activate a new option where messages automatically disappear when the chat window is closed.
There's also the Secret Conversations feature, first introduced back in 2016, which also offers fully-secured chats and can be toggled on by swiping on the lock icon when starting a new chat.
“We know that people expect their messaging apps to be secure, private and provide them a space to be expressive,” Timothy Buck, Product Manager, Messenger wrote in a company blog post.
“Building secure and fun interactive features takes time and requires our engineers to innovate and solve technical challenges, so this is part of a series of product updates as we keep improving our services. With cybercrime and hacking on the rise, it’s more important than ever to find great ways to connect with friends and family through private and secure communications.”
“We know the importance of safety and privacy when it comes to communicating with the people who matter most to you. End-to-end encryption protects you and your data from hackers, criminals and other prying eyes.”
The news comes shortly after the UK government hired a top ad agency to help it launch a campaign against Meta's plans to introduce E2E for Messenger. The Home Office apparently believes the move will allegedly help criminals, and has pointed to Meta's WhatsApp platform, which also features E2E encryption as an example of unregulated technology leading to crime.
Long before the ongoing pandemic shut down the world’s offices, millions of workers became conditioned to remote work—probably without meaning to—because their physical workplaces were rife with digital tools. But many practiced a form of remote work that doesn’t suit the current environment.
I mean, haven’t you received instant messages from people who could literally spin their chair 180 degrees to say the same thing? Have you not spent 45 minutes reading and responding to an email chain that a five-minute conversation down the hallway could have addressed?
In a physical workplace that is digitised to the teeth, we can get away with using tools inefficiently. Knowing that we can spin the chair or walk down the hall gives us permission to do so. Fire out that email as fast as possible, and if it doesn’t make sense, well, talk it out.
Not anymore. Now, we have to use our digital tools to their fullest potential. Our communications, processes, and handoffs must be impeccable. Today, the biggest difference is not the technology we use, but how we use it.
I would argue that even if you’re using platforms specialised to your department, there are some patterns and common needs in a remote work environment. Maybe you have all these boxes checked, but hopefully, I’ll point out a blind spot, and you can do something about it.
How do you initiate work?
If you’re working in a home office—perhaps while your kids reenact scenes from Lord of the Flies—your output is probably creativity, information, and ideas. And the more abstract and complex your product is, the more it’ll benefit from project management platforms. Coders (and marketers) gravitate to systems like Asana, Basecamp, Trello, Jira, and Workfront.
Particularly in a remote work setting, we need to be articulate about what we’re doing. What is it? Who’s it for? Why are we doing it? When’s it due? Time in a pandemic is a trickster. Project management will give some order to the groundhog days.
If you can't spin your chair, how do you talk?
In business, there are different versions of conversations. There are “check-ins,” often done by email, which tend to be light in substance but heavy in exclamation marks. There are, “what-do-you-really-need-from-me?” conversations, where someone sends an email, and you send one back asking the person what they actually asked. And there are many others, mostly done through email. That is why in remote work, you need a channel that isn’t email.
The top options tend to be Slack, Hangouts Chat, and Salesforce Chatter. They let you spin the chair around. Email is a medium of conversation, but it doesn’t facilitate talking. You need a way to talk.
How do we get things we need?
Have you ever counted the number of the emails you receive that entail person A, a coworker, asking person B, you, for something persons C, D, or E might have, maybe, delivered to you sometime last month?
In a physical setting, we can triangulate the location of any file, folder, or image. But in a remote setting, we need ways for people to share files and search for them without taking up someone else’s capacity. Whether your team uses Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, a digital asset management system (DAM) etc., you need a place where people can scoop their own ice cream instead of lining up and waiting for a coworker to do it.
Are we making a difference?
Without the in-person stand-ups, shout-outs, and comradery, it’s harder to feel impactful. Regardless of what department you work in, a system to measure your impact is priceless.
In marketing, we look to social and content analytics not just for validation, but to learn from our decisions and do better next time. In sales, our colleagues are motivated to hit their numbers and track how much business they’ve brought in. Many IT people find satisfaction in resolving tickets faster and eliminating recurring problems. Give yourself the pleasure of knowing you made a difference and the awareness to rise to a higher potential.
I wish I could end with a bold claim, like working remotely will be the best thing that ever happened to us! The reality is, we don’t know yet.
However, evicted from our usual routines, there is a chance to see anew the way we worked before the crisis, and the way we work within it. It’s the kind of perspective we normally get by traveling to a distant country or meeting someone from an unfamiliar background.
So, meet your new remote life. It’s weird. It’s boring, at times. But it’s going to make you rethink what remote work is, and what you and your team need to be successful in any conditions.
Not only are these updates making PCs slower to boot, when Windows 10 does load up, some people have noticed that their computers act more slowly than before – for example taking longer to load up apps or open folders.
Not everyone will be affected by these issues, but in its testing, Windows Latest found that Windows 10 KB4535996 was particularly bad at slowing down various PCs.
One of our biggest concerns is that Windows 10 KB4551762 is billed as an important update that is supposed to bring a number of fixes. That means Windows 10 users are being encouraged to install it.
People in Windows Latest’s comment section, as well as Microsoft’s support forums and on Reddit, have been complaining about issues their PCs are having after installing the update, including slow boot times, system crashes and the dreaded Blue Screen of Death.
Some people are also stating that the update itself fails to install, instead throwing up an error message. This might be a blessing in disguise.
How to fix these problems
For each of these faulty Windows 10 updates, the easiest way of fixing the problems they have brought is to uninstall the updates themselves. Once uninstalled, users have reported that the issues have cleared up.
Thankfully, the process of uninstalling a Windows 10 update is pretty simple. Open up the Settings app (the cog icon in the Start menu, or by pressing Windows + I on the keyboard), then click 'Update & security'.
From the window that appears, click 'Windows Update' on the left-hand menu, then 'View update history'. Click 'Uninstall updates' then select the name of the troublesome update to uninstall it. The problems should now be fixed.