Microsoft Envisions a Passwordless Future Starting in 2021

Computer security concept shot, with binary code and password textBiometrics are one option.

By Rick Richardson

At least 80 percent of cybersecurity failures involve direct attacks on users’ passwords, the World Economic Forum warns. This is a problem that’s not going away any time soon. For Microsoft, as it explains in an official blog post, the solution may lie in a passwordless future, and it’s hoping to ramp it up this year.

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Whether it’s storing personal information about addresses, finances and highly private records, or running companies entirely virtually, the internet is where people live a good deal of their lives. And these people rely on passwords to guard their data and information against malicious actors. In response to hackers, some experts encourage the use of two-factor authentication, but that still isn’t airtight.
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Go Ahead, Use Your Own Router

It’ll probably take some legwork to make the fees stop.

By Rick Richardson

Many Americans are very frustrated that they have to pay a mandatory router rental charge every month as part of their internet service provider bill. It gets added even if you purchase and use your own router in many cases.

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But as of Dec. 20, the practice is now illegal, and you can demand your ISP stop the charge.
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5G Delivered Via Hydrogen-Powered Aircraft

plane against planetEach plane can replace 200 towers.

By Rick Richardson

In the near future, your phone may take its 5G signal from the sky instead of a nearby mast on the ground. It’s an innovative way to solve the problem of increasing connectivity without relying on thousands of terrestrial cell towers.

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The concept is known as a High-Altitude Platform Station (HAPS), and it essentially takes the cell tower from the ground and puts it in the sky.
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Five Edge Computing Predictions for 2021

Industrial metal number 5Welcome to private 5G networks.

By Rick Richardson

One of my “go-to” technology research firms is Forrester Research. Recently, the firm said 2021 would be the year that edge computing graduates from experiment to practically applicable technology, primarily driven by AI and 5G.

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Edge computing is a technology that places the processing close to the data source rather than concentrated processing at a distant central location.
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Is Amazon Stealing Your Internet?

illustrationHere’s how to check.

By Rick Richardson

Remember when Amazon (quietly) announced its expansion to Sidewalk, back in September? Well, the feature is live for some in a new update for the Amazon Alexa app, and you might want to go turn it off.

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Sidewalk is a feature that extends the network coverage of your devices, particularly Ring surveillance tech (like its cameras, smart lights, and pet trackers) and Echo smart speakers. But it’ll also share a small chunk of that internet bandwidth to provide the same services to your neighbors – so your privately owned devices won’t be so private anymore.
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Will Fast Charging Become Tomorrow’s Gas Station?

Car driving on road on pillars through Swiss mountainsMaybe, but there are tradeoffs.

By Rick Richardson

The electric vehicle (EV) market’s demand for ultrafast charging has never been higher, as automotive batteries aim to replicate the convenience of filling up a tank at a gas station in minutes.

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According to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), more than 80 percent of EV charging takes place at the driver’s residence via basic wall outlets (100V/120V) or dryer outlets (220/240V). This makes sense as residential charging is convenient and inexpensive.
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What You Need to Know About Amazon Sidewalk

illustrationIt’s enabled by default, for one.

By Rick Richardson

Amazon is now starting to roll out its Amazon Sidewalk local networking system to customers in the U.S. Here’s what you should know about it.

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First announced in September 2019, Sidewalk is a new idea and long-term effort for extending the smart home to entire smart neighborhoods by using various local networking options.
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Microsoft: Stop Using Phone-Based Multifactor Authentication

Smiling woman using smartphoneThe best option? Hardware security keys.

By Rick Richardson

Microsoft is urging users to abandon telephone-based multifactor authentication (MFA) solutions like one-time codes sent via Short Message Service (SMS) and voice calls and instead replace them with newer MFA technologies, such as app-based authenticators and security keys.

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The warning comes from Alex Weinert, director of identity security at Microsoft. For the past year, Weinert has been advocating on Microsoft’s behalf, urging users to embrace and enable MFA for their online accounts.
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Add Live Captions to Your Zoom Meeting

screenshot of captioned Zoom meetingIt’s arguably the most consumer-facing such technology out there.

By Rick Richardson

Zoom calls will now come with the option of live captions, in a move that’s likely to make life easier for remote workers whose attention spans suffer steep declines during online meetings.

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Otter.ai, a Los Altos, CA startup, is expanding its technology to enable speakers on a Zoom call to see their words turned into accurate captions in real time. This should put an end to the unfortunate miscommunications frequently caused by remote collaboration tools.
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