Technology

Weekly Bytes | WhatsApp Web’s biometric security, Tesla’s full automation, and more


Here’s our curated list of important tech news from this week in byte size.

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WhatsApp Web, Desktop get biometric authentication

WhatsApp is bringing biometric authentication to its web and desktop versions, providing an additional layer of security when linking devices. The new feature will prompt users to “unlock” using face or fingerprint authentication before they can scan a QR code to link their device. It is available to both Android and iOS (on iOS 14 and above) users. They can access the feature under ‘WhatsApp Web or WhatsApp Web/Desktop’ in the settings menu, then tap on ‘Link a Device’ and follow the on-screen instructions. Recently, WhatsApp has received criticism from privacy experts after it announced its updated privacy policy and terms of service. While announcing the feature on Twitter, it wrote, “WhatsApp does not see your face or fingerprint data,” and added, the authentication is handled by a device’s operating system using the biometrics stored there. In another update, Signal app has added new features from WhatsApp’s ecosystem.

Musk says, Tesla will achieve Level 5 autonomy in 2021

Tesla’s advanced autopilot option – Full Self-Driving (FSD), was released in a limited beta in October 2020. On Wednesday, during the fourth-quarter earnings call, CEO Elon Musk said he is confident that Tesla’s FSD will achieve Level 5 autonomy (or full automation) in 2021. The company will also expand the FSD beta to include more people, he added. Tesla does not allow owners to transfer their FSD from their present car to the next one, however, according to Musk, the company “will be offering subscription pretty soon,” so owners will have an option of not buying it. Further, Tesla will also be licensing its autopilot software to third parties, and has had some preliminary discussions about it, Musk noted. In another development, SpaceX launched a record 143 spacecraft into space as part of the company’s rideshare programme.

Teams enhancements for digital classroom

Microsoft has added new features to help students and teachers in the digital learning environment. Using Whiteboard, a free-form digital canvas, they will be able to take notes, share ideas and collaborate. Students can access these Whiteboards for reference after the class. Also, teachers can use the Assignment and Grading feature to understand how individual students as well as classes are performing with access to detailed information on specific assignments or students. Further, the Classroom Drop-in app can be used to bring guest lecturers, teaching assistants, substitute instructors, and other approved individuals into the virtual classroom, Microsoft noted in a blog post. Earlier this month, Microsoft had introduced a new set of features to improve the meeting experience for users on the Teams platform.

iOS and iPadOS 14.4 fixes three security bugs

Apple has released iOS and iPadOS 14.4, which according to the company will fix three security bugs that “may have been actively exploited.” It fixed two WebKit issues, that could have been exploited by a remote attacker for “arbitrary code execution,” and, one Kernel issue, that allowed a malicious application “to elevate privileges.” Additional details about the security issues will be available soon, Apple noted in a support page. The new OS updates are available for these devices: iPhone 6s and later, iPad Air 2 and later, iPad mini 4 and later, and iPod touch (7th generation). Apple users can check and install iOS and iPadOS 14.4 in Settings – General – ‘Software Update’. In another update, Apple became world’s biggest smartphone seller with record shipments in the fourth quarter.

Minecraft’s free Sustainability City map

Mojang Studios, Minecraft’s developer, has released a free Sustainability City map for the game. Gamers can use it to explore how some of the goals and themes in Microsoft’s Annual Sustainability Report come to life in a Minecraft town, the software giant noted in a blog post. The new map is available in the Minecraft Marketplace “Education Collection” and within Minecraft: Education Edition, where educators can download six new lessons for students, including Sustainable Food Production, Outflow Order, Wasted to Wanted, Dependable Forests, Sustainable Home, and Alternative Energy, it added. Last week, the company reversed its decision to increase Xbox Live Gold membership price after a backlash from online gaming community. In another game update, we reviewed ‘Hitman 3’, the conclusion to the World of Assassination trilogy.

You can read more at thehindu.com/technology

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