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Paul Merrell

Leaked docs show spyware used to snoop on US computers | Ars Technica - 0 views

  • Software created by the controversial UK-based Gamma Group International was used to spy on computers that appear to be located in the United States, the UK, Germany, Russia, Iran, and Bahrain, according to a leaked trove of documents analyzed by ProPublica.

    It's not clear whether the surveillance was conducted by governments or private entities. Customer e-mail addresses in the collection appeared to belong to a German surveillance company, an independent consultant in Dubai, the Bosnian and Hungarian Intelligence services, a Dutch law enforcement officer, and the Qatari government.

  • The leaked files—which were posted online by hackers—are the latest in a series of revelations about how state actors including repressive regimes have used Gamma's software to spy on dissidents, journalists, and activist groups.

    The documents, leaked last Saturday, could not be readily verified, but experts told ProPublica they believed them to be genuine. "I think it's highly unlikely that it's a fake," said Morgan Marquis-Bore, a security researcher who while at The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto had analyzed Gamma Group's software and who authored an article about the leak on Thursday.

    The documents confirm many details that have already been reported about Gamma, such as that its tools were used to spy on Bahraini activists. Some documents in the trove contain metadata tied to e-mail addresses of several Gamma employees. Bill Marczak, another Gamma Group expert at the Citizen Lab, said that several dates in the documents correspond to publicly known events—such as the day that a particular Bahraini activist was hacked.

  • The leaked files contain more than 40 gigabytes of confidential technical material, including software code, internal memos, strategy reports, and user guides on how to use Gamma Group software suite called FinFisher. FinFisher enables customers to monitor secure Web traffic, Skype calls, webcams, and personal files. It is installed as malware on targets' computers and cell phones.

    A price list included in the trove lists a license of the software at almost $4 million.

    The documents reveal that Gamma uses technology from a French company called Vupen Security that sells so-called computer "exploits."

    Exploits include techniques called "zero days" for "popular software like Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and many more." Zero days are exploits that have not yet been detected by the software maker and therefore are not blocked.

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  • Many of Gamma's product brochures have previously been published by the Wall Street Journal and Wikileaks, but the latest trove shows how the products are getting more sophisticated.

    In one document, engineers at Gamma tested a product called FinSpy, which inserts malware onto a user's machine, and found that it could not be blocked by most antivirus software.

    Documents also reveal that Gamma had been working to bypass encryption tools including a mobile phone encryption app, Silent Circle, and were able to bypass the protection given by hard-drive encryption products TrueCrypt and Microsoft's Bitlocker.

  • The documents also describe a "country-wide" surveillance product called FinFly ISP which promises customers the ability to intercept Internet traffic and masquerade as ordinary websites in order to install malware on a target's computer.

    The most recent date-stamp found in the documents is August 2, coincidung with the first tweet by a parody Twitter account, @GammaGroupPR, which first announced the hack and may be run by the hacker or hackers responsible for the leak.

    On Reddit, a user called PhineasFisher claimed responsibility for the leak. "Two years ago their software was found being widely used by governments in the middle east, especially Bahrain, to hack and spy on the computers and phones of journalists and dissidents," the user wrote. The name on the @GammaGroupPR Twitter account is also "Phineas Fisher."

    GammaGroup, the surveillance company whose documents were released, is no stranger to the spotlight. The security firm F-Secure first reported the purchase of FinFisher software by the Egyptian State Security agency in 2011. In 2012, Bloomberg News and The Citizen Lab showed how the company's malware was used to target activists in Bahrain.

    In 2013, the software company Mozilla sent a cease-and-desist letter to the company after a report by The Citizen Lab showed that a spyware-infected version of the Firefox browser manufactured by Gamma was being used to spy on Malaysian activists.

Gary Edwards

The State Of The Word Processor: HTML Compatibility - ReadWrite - 1 views

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    "Word processors are no longer central to the computing experience, but there are still good reasons to use them. The question is, how well do the work in today's computing environment?"

    Interesting test of ten different word-processors, with the objective to produce an HTML Web Page. The usual suspects were tested and the results are a disaster.
Gary Edwards

Microsoft releases 'Bing Apps for Office' to transform your documents into something mu... - 0 views

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    "You have to think that the addition of apps to Office 365 is the continuation of the evolution of documents from static entities that only change when you change them, to living creations that that can update themselves. And by giving documents apps, Microsoft essentially is transforming documents into apps … all the while and not incidentally giving you, me, and any Joe Blow Nonprogrammer the ability to build things that only short years ago would have required extensive development.

    Not only is Microsoft is making office productivity tools more like the web, it's giving us the ability to create mashups of data and analysis and visualization on the fly.

    "
Gary Edwards

Free CloudOn app puts your iPad to work | How To - CNET - 0 views

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    The free CloudON app for iPAD provides a very nice ribbon interface for viewing and editing MSOffice XML documents.  Supports important workgroup features like "change tracking", show or hide markup, make and view comments, restrict editing, and compare and combine versions.  Very cool.

    Lacks support for custom add-ons, templates, auto-correct settings, and other advanced features may limit the program's usefulness. 

    Time to do some testing.  Hope Florian catches this post :)

    excerpt:
    Support for Office XML file types, and a ribbon to boot ......

    Speculation continues as to whether -- most say when -- Microsoft will release a version of Office for the iPad. (CNET blogger Zack Whittaker cites sources predicting a November arrival.)

    It's not like you have to wait months to create and edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files on your iPad. Last June I described how to use Google Docs and Google Cloud Connect to edit Word and Excel files on an iPad for free.

    The end of that story noted the likely arrival of iPad apps supporting Office file formats. One of the most popular of these is the $15 Quickoffice, a program that was recently acquired by Google.
    But before you shell out for an Office alternative, check out the free CloudOn app, which now connects to Google Drive and Box accounts as well as Dropbox accounts.

    Other new features in the latest release let you send files as e-mail attachments and open PDFs. (See Lance Whitney's post on the Internet & Media blog for more on the program's PDF features.)
    CloudOn's ribbon is a big departure from the Quickoffice interface, which look nothing like Office. (Of course, many people will prefer the clean, clutter-free look of Quickoffice.)

    None of the Office extras, but all the essentials:

    In a group setting CloudOn's lack of support for custom add-ons, templates, auto-correct settings, and other advanced features may limit the program's usefulness. Still, the word processor lets you track and accept changes, show or
Gary Edwards

Content Controls- A Complete Summary « Ankush's Blog - 0 views

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    Content controls are bounded and potentially labeled regions in a document that serve as containers for specific types of content. Individual content controls can contain content such as dates, lists, or paragraphs of formatted text. In some cases, content controls might remind you of forms. However, they are much more powerful, flexible, and useful because they enable you to create rich, structured blocks of content. Content controls also build on the custom XML support introduced in Microsoft Office Word 2003. Content controls enable you to author templates that insert well-defined blocks into your documents. Content controls enable you to:

    * Specify structured regions in a template. Each structured region has its own unique ID so that you can read from and write to it. Examples of types of structured regions (or content controls) are combo boxes, pictures, text blocks, and calendars.

    * Determine the behavior of content controls. Each content control takes up a portion of a document and, as the template author, you can specify what each region does. For example, if you want a region of your template to be a calendar, you insert a calendar content control in that area of the document, which automatically determines what that block of content does. Similarly, if you want a section of a template to display an image, create a picture content control in that area. In this way, you can build a template with predefined block types.

    * Restrict the content of content controls. Each content control can be restricted, so that it cannot be deleted or edited. This is useful if, for example, you have copyright information in a template that the user should be able to read but not edit. You can also lock a template's content so that a user does not accidentally delete portions of it. This makes templates more robust than in previous versions.

    * Map the contents of a content control to data in a custom XML part that is stored with the document. For example, if you i
Gary Edwards

Microsoft Unleashes Stream of Docs in the Name of Interoperability - 0 views

  • Yesterday, Microsoft announced the release of Version 1.0 technical documentation for Microsoft Office 2007, SharePoint 2007 and Exchange 2007 as an effort to drive greater interoperability and foster a stronger open relationship with their developer and partner communities. They also posted over 5000 pages of technical documentation on Microsoft Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint binary file formats on the MSDN site royalty-free basis under Microsoft’s Open Specification Promise (OSP).
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    wikiWORD and SPoint get the go ahead!
Gary Edwards

Official Google Blog: New ways to experience better collaboration with Google Apps - 0 views

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    If this doesn't make Florian weep, nothing can!

    Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office is now available worldwide. This plugin for Microsoft Office is available to anyone with a Google Account, and brings multi-person collaboration to the Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications that you may still need from time to time. The plugin syncs your work through Google's cloud, so everyone can contribute to the same version of a file at the same time. Learning the benefits of web-powered collaboration will help more people make a faster transition to 100% web collaboration tools.
Gary Edwards

Forrester Reports on the Next Wave of Office Productivity - 0 views

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    According to a new Forrester report, though Microsoft Office continues to be a mainstay both in the enterprise and at home, developing concerns about productivity as they relate to mobile, cloud, and collaboration may bring a shift in enterprise behaviors.
Gary Edwards

Save any Document from Microsoft Word 2007 to EPUB using a Free Add-in from Aspose - As... - 0 views

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    Aspose.Words Product Family
    Save any Document from Microsoft Word 2007 to EPUB using a Free Add-in from Aspose
    We are happy to announce the first release of a free add-in that allows you to convert any document opened in Microsoft Word 2007 to EPUB.

    To download goto http://www.aspose.com/community/files/69/free-microsoft-office-add-ins/aspose.words-for-microsoft-word/default.aspx.

    Below are excerpts from the user's guide that is included in the installer.

    Introduction
    Aspose.Words for Microsoft Word is a free utility that allows converting any document opened in Microsoft Word 2007 to the EPUB format. Microsoft Word 2007 can load documents in many formats including DOC, DOCX, RTF, HTML, ODT etc and you can now easily convert them all to EPUB using Aspose.Words for Microsoft Word.

    About the EPUB format
    EPUB is an XML-based distribution format for eBooks that is rapidly gaining adoption by publishers and distributors. EPUB is an open standard supported by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) organization. See also the Wikipedia article.

    To Save as EPUB
    After you install Aspose.Words for Microsoft Word, the EPUB format will be listed in the Save As dialog. Saving to EPUB is just as simple as saving to any other file format available in Microsoft Word.

    1.      Open any document in Microsoft Word.
    2.      From the Save As menu select "Aspose.Words - EPUB (*.epub)", and then click Save.

    You can save any document from Microsoft Word to EPUB using Aspose.Words for Microsoft Word.
Gary Edwards

TextMaker Viewer 2010 Opens Office Documents Quick and Easy - Office - Lifehacker - 0 views

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    With Office 2010 already available to corporations, documents you can't quite open in Office 2007 are soon to appear in your inbox. If you're not upgrading, or never use Office anyways, TextMaker Viewer is a light, snappy document viewing option.

    TextMaker Viewer actually opens a huge range of word processing files, including Office, OpenOffice.org, the TextMaker app this viewer derives from, and all the standard low-tech formats like HTML, TXT, and RTF. Microsoft offers its own viewers, but only the PowerPoint Viewer has made it up to 2010 compatibility so far. Beyond that, TextMaker is a very lightweight application, so opening huge files likely won't choke up your system as thoroughly.

    TextMaker Viewer 2010 is a free download for Windows systems only. There does seem to be an issue with registering the free version to turn off the "nag" screen on launching, but after a few starts, a checkbox to hide that screen does appear.
Gary Edwards

Is Oracle Quietly Killing OpenOffice? | Revelations From An Unwashed Brain - 1 views

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    Bingo!  Took five years, but finally someone gets it:

    excerpt:  Great question. After 10 years, OpenOffice hasn't had much traction in the enterprise - supported by under 10% of firms, and today it's facing more competition from online apps from Google and Zoho. I'm not counting OpenOffice completely out yet, however, since IBM has been making good progress on features with Symphony and Oracle is positioning OpenOffice for the web, desktop and mobile - a first. But barriers to OpenOffice and Web-based tools persist, and not just on a feature/function basis. Common barriers include:

    Third-party integration requirements. Some applications only work with Office. For example, one financial services firm I spoke with was forced to retain Office because its employees needed to work with Fiserv, a proprietary data center that is very Microsoft centric. "What was working pretty well was karate chopped." Another firm rolled out OpenOffice.org to 7,00 users and had to revert back 5,00 of them when they discovered one of the main apps they work with only supported Microsoft.
    User acceptance. Many firms say that they can overcome pretty much all of the technical issues but face challenges around user acceptance. One firm I spoke with went so far as to "customize" their OpenOffice solution with a Microsoft logo and told employees it was a version of Office. The implementation went smoothly. Others have said that they have met resistance from business users who didn't want Office taken off their desktop. Other strategies include providing OpenOffice to only new employees and to transition through attrition. But this can cause compatibility issues.
    Lack of seamless interoperability with Office. Just like third-party apps may only work with Office, many collaborative activities force use of particular versions of Office. Today's Web-based and OpenOffice solutions do not provide seamless round tripping between Office and their applications. Corel, with its
Gary Edwards

OffiSync Introduces Real-Time Co-Authoring Between Microsoft Office and Google Docs - 0 views

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    Good stuff!  Be sure to watch the YouTube video.  There is a demo of how a Google Docs and MSWord collaborative document gets synchronized.  Notice the layout mismatch.  They do however seem to understand the problems of the advanced formatting common to compound documents and "in-process" workgroup documents.

    excerpt:  OffiSync is launching an all-new version of its Microsoft Office to Google Docs synchronization tool, a plugin that's a "must-have" for anyone still straddling the two worlds of office suites: that is, the desktop-based world of Microsoft software and the web-based world of Google Docs. In the updated version of OffiSync, set to arrive minutes from now, you'll be able to co-author documents in real-time between Microsoft Office and Google Docs, no matter what version of the Office software you use. There are a few other new features too, including improvements to search, added Google Sites support and the ability to store any file type, but it's the co-authoring feature that's today's biggest reveal.
Gary Edwards

More details on Microsoft's free Office: Crippled Business Processes | Beyond Binary - ... - 0 views

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    Microsoft's free "Office Starter" suite will be able to fully open and display complex OOXML - 2010 MSOffice documents.  But they will not be able to execute macros or edit embedded logic such as Scripts, Macros, OLE, and ODBC connectors.  That's a killer for workgroup-workflow oriented business documents.  A category of "compound documents that includes forms, reports, compound documents and workflow logic.

    As for what users can do with the applications, Capossela said that Word will be capable of opening and displaying even the most complex documents. However, Office Starter users won't be able to use macros, create automated tables of contents, or add comments, though they will see comments added by others.
    The approach with Excel is similar, with users able to view and edit documents, but not create their own pivot tables and pivot charts, for example.
Gary Edwards

Looking beyond Windows 7 and Office; Pondering the alternatives | Between the Lines | ... - 0 views

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    Gartner Analyst Michael Silver wrote the study, "Windows 7 is all but inevitable".  Here is a quote explaining why it's near impossible to migrate away from MSOffice and the MSOffice Productivity Environment:

    There have been many organizations that have investigated moving off Microsoft Office, usually to a distribution of OpenOffice.org (including the free download, Sun's StarOffice, Novell Edition and IBM Symphony), but relatively few have actually made the migration. Impediments include switching costs, issues with macros, stationery, databases and mail clients. For better or worse, for the past 15 years, organizations have chosen to overprovision and deploy a product that can do everything the most-advanced user requires to every user for the sake of homogeneity. Organizations that want to deploy OpenOffice.org (OO.o) need to come to terms with the fact that some users will still require MS Office and they will be forced to support a mix of products.

    To Gartner, it makes sense to take advantage of viable perpetual licenses for Microsoft Office for as long as possible. The expensive product you already own will be cheaper than the cheap or "free" product you need to spend money to which to migrate.
Gary Edwards

Gray Matter : Open XML and the SharePoint Conference - 0 views

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    excerpt: The trend in Office development is the migration of solutions away from in-application scripted processing toward more data-centric development. Of course this is a primary purpose of Open XML, and it is great to see the amount of activity in this area. We've seen customers scripting Word in a server environment to batch process / print documents or for other automation tasks. In reality Word isn't built to do that on a large scale, it is better to work directly against the document rather than via the application whenever possible.

    The Open XML SDK unlocks a "whole nuther" environment for document processing, and gets you out of the business of scripting client apps on servers to do the work of a true server application (not to mention the licensing problems created by installing Office on a server).

    comment:  Gray makes a very important point here.  The dominance of the desktop based MSOffice Productivity Environment was largely based the embedded logic driving "in-process" documents that was application and platform (Win32 API) specific.  Tear open any of these workgroup-workflow oriented compound documents and you find application specific scripts, macros, OLE, data bindings, security settings and other application specific settings.  These internal components are certain to break whenever these highly interactive and "live" compound documents are converted to another format, or application use.  This is how MSOffice documents and the business processes they represent become "bound" to the MSOffice Productivity Environment.

    What Gray is pointing to here is that Microsoft is moving the legacy Productivity Environment to an MSWeb based center where OpenXML, Silverlight, CAML, XAML and a number of other .NET-WPF technologies become the workgroup drivers.  The key applications for the MS WebStack are Exchange/SharePoint/SQL Server.  To make this move, documents had to be separated from the legacy desktop Productivity Environment settings.

    Note th
Gary Edwards

Constructing A SharePoint History: Microsoft SharePoint Team Blog - 0 views

  • it was clear customers wanted a more integrated and comprehensive solution from us. As just one example, they told us like they liked the WYSWIG HTML editing of SharePoint Team Services and the Web Part declarative and reusable editing of SharePoint Portal but wanted to use both models on the same site?
  • On the application side, we were hearing customers wanted Office to go beyond personal productivity to organizational productivity and we had to decide whether Microsoft would invest in content management, portals, unified communications, business intelligence and many other new scenarios.
  • we made sure SharePoint was an open platform and worked with vendors across the industry on a variety of integration approaches including published APIs and protocols.
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  • to enable customers to build business process integration and business intelligence portals, we added Excel Services and InfoPath Forms Services. Besides being exciting features, we gained invaluable learning for the team how to have an architecture that worked in the rich Office client and on the server with web access with high fidelity, round tripping, etc.
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    Wow.  Why fight over the editing of Wikiword when you can make up your own history?  The Microsoft Office - SharePoint Blog team is busy trying to reshape history from the inside out.   This bookmark is going to require a ton of highlights and comments.
Gary Edwards

Microsoft's Answer to the Web Platform Threat? CHEAT!!!! - Microsoft Web Apps are actu... - 0 views

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    For most of this decade, web developers have been suffering the shortcomings of Internet Explorer. Like 1998 limited HTML-CSS support.  And nothing for the language of the Web - HTML+ :: HTML5, CSS3, SVG/Canvas and advanced JavaScript.  That hasn't bothered Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) too much, because the company has historically focused on developing "real" applications that run only on Windows and don't use the browser as a platform. With the new Office web apps, many thought that Microsoft might actually have to experience the living nightmare that web app development can be. Yet the company has figured out a way to make things easier: cheat.  

    MIcrosof thas figured out how to provide MSOffice as Web Apps, without having to use the language of the Web: HTML+.  Instead, they use protpietary formats, protocols and interfaces to create an interesting dichotomy - a rich MS-Web, and a poor, 1998 Open-Web.
Gary Edwards

Compatibility Matters: The Lessons of Massachusetts - 0 views

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    This document discusses the primary reason ODF failed in Massachusetts: compatibility with the MSOffice productivity environment, and, the billions of binary documents in use by MSOffice bound workgroups and the business processes so important to them.
Gary Edwards

Compatibility matters: The Lessons of Massachusetts - 0 views

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    Gary Edwards's List: Compatibility matters - The lessons of Massachusetts are many. Application level "compatibility" with existing MSOffice desktops and workgroups is vital. Format level "compatibility" with the legacy of billions of binary documents is vital. And "ecosystem" compatibility with the MSOffice productivity environment.
Gary Edwards

AppleInsider | Microsoft takes aim at Google with online Office suite - 0 views

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    Microsoft has announced the next generation of MSOffice, and it turns out to be SharePoint at the center of the deep connected MSOffice "rich client" desktop productivity environment, and, an online Web version of MSOffice. Who would have guessed that one of the key features to MOSS would be universal accessibility to and collaboration on MSOffice documents - without loss of fidelity? No doubt the embedded logic that drive BBP's (Bound Business Processes) is also perfectly preserved.

    Excerpt: "Office Web Applications, the online companion to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote applications, allow you to access documents from anywhere. You can even simultaneously share and work on documents with others online," Microsoft says on its Office 2010 Technical Preview site. "View documents across PCs, mobile phones, and the Web without compromising document fidelity. Create new documents and do basic editing using the familiar Office interface."
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