There’s a surreal element to the release of Half-Life: Alyx, as the long-dormant franchise had turned into a meme as the wait for a new game following Half-Life 2: Episode 2 stretched further and further. Now that the new game has finally released, one developer at Valve has spoken about the gap between releases, and while he can’t commit to anything, he’s hopeful that it won’t be as long.
Robin Walker, a long-time programmer at Valve, has spoken to Polygon about the pressures that come with the Half-Life brand. “Half-Life 3 really always needed to answer the question of what is the opportunity, what is the big technological leap that you think we can use in some way to build some really interesting experience for the player?,” he said. “That’s a paralyzing thing to work on.”
Half-Life: Alyx felt right, he says, and once they had a prototype it was clear that it could be the next game in the series. For now, he says, it’s not clear what the next game will be: “We haven’t made any decisions about what to do next, concretely, because there’s no reason to. We can wait a week.”
However, Walker has reason to think that the next game isn’t 13 years away again. “We ended the game in the way you always end the game as a game developer, which is that the end is when you feel like now you really know how to make this game,” he told Polygon. Walker continued. “I’d like to believe that we’re as good as we’ve ever been at building Half-Life at this point, and I hope we continue to make some more.”
“I don’t think there’s going to be another 13 years [until the next one],” Walker added, noting that he would likely have retired by then.
This isn’t confirmation that another Half-Life will begin development anytime soon, of course–the future remains unwritten for this series.
Half-Life: Alyx received an 9/10 in GameSpot’s review. “Disappointment you may have felt in its 13-year hiatus will feel like water under the bridge, and in a way, have played into just how powerful Half-Life: Alyx turned out to be,” reviewer Michael Higham wrote. “The names, the faces, the iconic objects that have become synonymous with Half-Life have their specific place. And if you weren’t aware previously, you’ll see just how important Alyx Vance–the series’ most infallible personality–has been the entire time.”
Zoom facing increased privacy, security backlash as popularity soars – CTV News
Video conferencing app Zoom is facing increased scrutiny from privacy advocates and lawmakers who warn the app’s privacy settings aren’t secure enough to handle the millions of users flocking to its service during the coronavirus pandemic.
With public gatherings banned and millions working from home amid the global health crisis, Zoom has skyrocketed in popularity, becoming a household name overnight.
But the app has a history of privacy concerns, prompting New York Attorney General Letitia James to send a letter to the company on Monday asking if it had increased its security measures due to the surge of traffic on its networks.
The letter, which describes Zoom as “an essential and valuable” platform, outlines several concerns about the company’s privacy practices, noting that the company had been slow to address security flaws in the past, potentially allowing hackers to gain access to users’ webcams.
Last week, the company was forced to apologize to users after it was revealed that Zoom’s iPhone app was sending data to Facebook, even when the user did not have a Facebook account.
That data included the user’s location and the device’s advertiser identifier information, a unique ID that allows companies send targeted ads.
Zoom has also come under fire for several security flaws, putting users at risk of being hacked, including one found in January that would have allowed hackers to join a video meeting uninvited, giving them access to any files or chat information shared during the meeting. That flaw has since been fixed.
This week, the company also released a blog post explaining how to prevent malicious users from “Zoombombing” public meetings, which allow anyone with a link to the meeting to join.
Zoom’s default setting also allows any meeting participant to share their screen without permission from an event’s host, allowing malicious users to take over meetings to broadcast inappropriate content.
CTVNews.ca contacted the company for comment, but the request was not immediately returned.
Though the company is taking steps to educate users about ways to keep their meetings secure during the COVID-19 uptick, privacy and security experts fear the company is not doing enough.
“We’ve become more vulnerable and dependent. In fact, we’re at the mercy of technology more now than we’ve ever been,” Karen Eltis, privacy expert and law professor at the University of Ottawa, told CTVNews.ca by phone Wednesday.
“This COVID-19 period has exposed how little choice we have in terms of accepting terms and conditions or privacy policies. Unless you’re willing to entirely distance yourself from work and social for a very lengthy period of time, we have no other choice than to defer to these standard agreements.”
Like many companies, Zoom claims the right to collect and store users’ personal data, including videos, transcripts, instant messages, files and documents.
Eltis says concerns surrounding Zoom highlight the need for change when it comes to Canadian privacy laws.
Social media and tech companies, she notes, have changed the way privacy and consent laws work because the services themselves are international.
“It’s interesting to familiarize yourself [with a platform’s terms and conditions]. It’s interesting to know that your data will be shared. But when you have no power to do anything about it, I think that creates a false sense of security,” she said.
Former Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian said she is encouraged to see government bodies putting Zoom to task, especially given it’s rise to fame, noting that it will force the company to take precautions more seriously.
“It will force zoom, who has been very slow in addressing the security flaws, to really accelerate their movement is terms of strengthening security,” Cavoukian told CTVNews.ca by phone Wednesday.
“I don’t want to discourage people from using it, but I want to keep the pressure on Zoom to strengthen their security and privacy. They need to know people really care about this.”
WHAT CAN I DO TO PROTECT MY PRIVACY?
Both Eltis and Cavoukian agree, services like Zoom are essential in a time like this. But the experts note that there are steps consumers can take to protect themselves.
“You need to lock your front door, right,” Eltis said, noting that the first step users should take is creating a secure password for their meetings and encouraging attendees not to share any public meeting links on social media.
Eltis also notes that users can choose not to use certain features of the app, such as the video function or chat feature, although she notes both are popular right now.
“Take one minute and ask the question, I would like the strongest measures possible to protect my privacy, can you point me in the right direction,” Cavoukian noted.
“If you do that with Zoom and anyone else online you will get additional measures that you may not have realized before.”
Zoom calls are not end-to-end encrypted, even though it says they are – Techradar
Zoom Video Communications has seen usage of its video conferencing service spike as a result of the coronavirus but a new report from The Intercept has shed light on the fact that its claim that its meetings have end-to-end encryption are not true.
On its website and in a security-related white paper, the US-based video conferencing company boasts about end-to-end encryption. However, The Intercept discovered that the service actually uses transport encryption instead.
Transport encryption is a Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol which secures the connection between a user and the server they are connected to. TLS is also used to help secure connections between users and any website they visit with HTTPS protocol.
However, the main difference between transport encryption and end-to-end encryption is that while others won’t be able to access your data, Zoom will still be able to.
In a statement to The Intercept, a Zoom spokesperson revealed that the service is unable to provide end-to-end encryption at the moment, saying:
“Currently, it is not possible to enable E2E encryption for Zoom video meetings. Zoom video meetings use a combination of TCP and UDP. TCP connections are made using TLS and UDP connections are encrypted with AES using a key negotiated over a TLS connection.”
Basically the company clarified that its use of the phrase “end-to-end” in its white paper is in reference to the connection being encrypted between Zoom endpoints. This means that other people can’t access the data shared during Zoom video calls but the company itself still can.
Despite its recent surge in popularity, a number of privacy issues have come to light surrounding the service such as how its iOS app was found to be sending data to Facebook without explicit user consent. Thankfully Zoom recently removed the code that was sending data to the social network.
Additionally a new report from Bleeping Computer revealed that it is possible for hackers to steal passwords through Zoom’s Windows client.
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Slack launches new integrations for Microsoft Teams calls – MobileSyrup
Slack now has an app to integrate Microsoft Teams call features into its own chat app.
The new Microsoft Teams Calls beta app arrived mere days after Slack revealed it was working on the integration. However, the app only allows Slack users to launch Teams calls from Slack. It doesn’t allow Slack users to participate directly in a Teams call through the Slack app.
Regardless, the new integration will certainly be a welcome one, especially in workspaces where smaller, individual teams may use Slack while the organization as a whole uses Teams.
Slack users can set Microsoft Teams Calls as the default calling provider with the app. Further, they can see who’s already in a call and when the call started before they join it. On top of that, Event reminders from the Outlook Slack app will support the ability to join Microsoft Teams calls direct from Slack.
However, Teams isn’t the only new integration coming to Slack. The chat platform will launch VoIP phone integration with Zoom, WebEx, Jabber, RingCentral and DialPad. Slack users will be able to call phone numbers directly within the app using these VoIP providers.
The new integrations come as Slack says calling has grown 350 percent in its app. The increase happened over the last month, fueled by businesses transitioning to remote work in response to COVID-19. Further, Slack says it’s having a record-breaking surge in users.
All the new integrations will be available starting today. The Teams Calls app is already accessible from Slack’s website.
Further, the company is in the process of rolling out a major redesign of its platform, which is hitting new users first before making its way to existing users.
Source: The Verge
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