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Whether you believe AI will be the salvation of humankind or the death of it, whether you think it’s little more than a plaything to while away your time or the surest way to get onto the fast track at work, you’re going to use it someday. Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week or next month. But one day, you’ll turn to it. And you’ll most likely be surprised at how helpful it can be, even in its earliest days. For many business users, that means using Copilot, Microsoft’s umbrella name for a variety of AI products. There are already highly targeted Copilots for various Microsoft products, notably Copilot for Microsoft 365, which integrates with Microsoft Office apps like Word, Outlook, and OneNote. That Copilot is only available for business customers willing to pay a hefty $30 per user per month, essentially doubling the price of the Microsoft 365 E3 plan, for instance. There’s also a $20-per-month Copilot Pro subscription for individuals that offers integration with Office apps and priority access during peak times. In this article, though, we’re going to give you tips about how to get the most out of the everyday, free version of Copilot, available directly inside Windows, inside the Edge browser, inside Microsoft’s Bing search engine, and on the web for anyone using Windows or macOS, as long as they have a Microsoft account. Before you start using Copilot, you need to understand exactly what it is — and what it isn’t. It’s what’s called generative AI, or genAI for short. It’s called that because it can create, or generate, different kinds of content — notably text, images, and videos. In this article, we’ll primarily cover text-based content. For text generation, Copilot uses a large language model (LLM) to do its work. It’s based on the GPT-4 model, developed by a company called OpenAI in which Microsoft is the largest investor. It’s trained on massive amounts of articles, books, web pages, and other publicly available text. Based on that training, it can respond to questions, summarize articles and documents, write documents from scratch, and much more. Like its more famous cousin, OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Copilot works as a chatbot. You ask it a question or feed it a prompt, and it generates a response. You can ask a series of follow-up queries in an ongoing conversation, or start over with a new query. Using Copilot can initially be somewhat eerie because its responses are often human-like. But don’t be fooled — it has no human intelligence. So when asking it for information, give it very precise detailed information about what you want, and be as concise as possible. Microsoft also recommends that you “avoid using relative terms, like yesterday or tomorrow, and pronouns, like it and they. Instead, use specifics, such as an exact date or a person’s name.” If you use Windows 11, Copilot for Windows (still in preview) is always just a click away — there’s an icon of it just to the right of the search box. (If you don’t see the icon, try updating to the latest version of Windows 11. If you’re using Windows in a business or educational setting, your organization may not yet have enabled Copilot.) As I write this, the Copilot preview in Windows 10 is available only for those who are Windows Insiders and have opted in to get the newest preview updates. Eventually, though, it will make its way to all Windows 10 users. Click the Copilot icon and Copilot appears in a right-hand pane. The pane stays open no matter what you’re doing in Windows — running an app, switching between windows, or just looking at the desktop. It always stays the same size and takes up the entire right side of your screen. So running it this way is your best bet if you run it regularly and use it throughout the day. Learn more by visiting OUR FORUM.

If you’re one of the billion-plus users of Google Chrome on Windows, then you should note the serious new warning issued this week. This particular warning is a surprise—because it seems to come on Chrome’s behalf from one of its harshest critics.  Google Chrome dominates the worldwide browser market, with approaching 65% of the market to Apple Safari’s less than 20% in second place. Every other alternative, including Microsoft Edge, is just an also-ran. Microsoft isn’t used to any kind of also-ran status, and in a world where its Windows operating system has an even more dominant desktop market share, a new report suggests it is doing something about this. If you use Chrome on a Windows device, the report warns that your user experience will be badly hit. The research was sponsored by Mozilla, developer of the Firefox browser which lags a little behind Edge, with a 3.3% versus 5.3% market share. Mozilla commissioned “two independent experts… to investigate Microsoft’s design practices across its core OS (Windows 10 and 11), web browser (Edge), and search engine (Bing).” “We find,” those experts say, “Microsoft repeatedly using harmful design to influence users into using Edge.” Claims include “harmful preselection, visual interference, trick wording, and disguised ads patterns to skew user choice of which browser to install… Obstruction to dissuade the switch [to a different default browser] and a refusal to switch the corresponding default app for various local web-related filetypes… [and ongoing] “harmful patterns to push the user back towards Edge.” Mozilla is no fan of Chrome, to say the least. “Chrome is the only major browser that does not offer meaningful protection against cross-site tracking,” it has said of the long-delayed removal of tracking cookies from Chrome. And its website warns that Chrome’s “privacy record is questionable… Google collects a disturbingly large amount of data from its users—Google runs the world’s largest advertising network, thanks in large part to data they harvest from their users.” But the report that Mozilla has just published is not really about Edge competing for users with Firefox. It is all about Chrome. Because, in reality, most Windows users by the numbers will install Chrome. And so it serves as a warning to those users. With a fresh Windows desktop, users find Edge pre-installed and set as the default. It is also pinned to the taskbar and can’t be uninstalled. If the user decides to install Chrome, the report shows how Microsoft interrupts the installation, claiming the security and privacy benefits of Edge. The researchers warn that “users may be alarmed when they see the Edge promotional message appear within the Chrome download page, reasoning that since the banner is unusual it must be very important.” For more visit OUR FORUM.

LastPass notified customers today that they are now required to use complex master passwords with a minimum of 12 characters to increase their accounts' security. Even though LastPass has repeatedly said that there is a 12-character master password requirement since 2018, users could use a weaker one. "Historically, while a 12-character master password has been LastPass’ default setting since 2018, customers still could forego the recommended default settings and choose to create a master password with fewer characters, if they wished to do so," LastPass said in a new announcement today. LastPass has begun enforcing a 12-character master password requirement since April 2023 for new accounts or password resets, but older accounts could still use passwords with fewer than 12 characters. Starting this month, LastPass is now enforcing the 12-character master password requirement for all accounts. Furthermore, LastPass added that it will also start checking new or updated master passwords against a database of credentials previously leaked on the dark web to ensure that they don't match already compromised accounts. If a match is found, the customers will be alerted via a security warning pop-up and prompted to select another password to block future cracking attempts. As part of the same effort to increase account security, LastPass also started a forced multi-factor authentication (MFA) re-enrollment process in May 2023, which led to many users experiencing significant login issues and getting locked out of their accounts. "These changes include requiring customers to update their master password length and complexity to meet recommended best practices and prompting customers to re-enroll their multi-factor authentication (MFA), among others," said Mike Kosak, a Senior Principal Intelligence Analyst at LastPass. "Starting in January 2024, LastPass will enforce a requirement that all customers use a master password with at least 12 characters. "Next month, LastPass will also begin immediate checks on new or reset master passwords against a database of known breached credentials in order to ensure the password hasn't been previously exposed on the Dark Web." LastPass told BleepingComputer that B2C customers will begin receiving emails about these changes today, with B2B customers receiving them on January 10th. These measures are the direct result of two security breaches LastPass disclosed in August 2022 and November 2022. In August, the company confirmed its developer environment was breached via a compromised developer account after the attackers hacked into a software engineer's corporate laptop. During the breach, they stole source code, technical info, and some LastPass internal system secrets. The information stolen in this incident was later used by threat actors in the December breach when they also stole customer vault data from its encrypted Amazon S3 buckets after compromising a senior DevOps engineer's computer using a remote code execution vulnerability to install a keylogger. In October 2023, hackers stole $4.4 million worth of cryptocurrency from over 25+ victims using private keys and passphrases they could extract from LastPass databases stolen in LastPass' 2022 breaches. For more please visit OUR FORUM.