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How this partially sighted B.C. gamer learned to play Super Mario –



Millions around the world play the Super Mario video games — but imagine playing them without being able to see them. 

That’s the experience of 21-year-old Jalen Berg, a partially sighted gamer from Langley, B.C.

Berg grew up with cone-rod dystrophy, an inherited eye disorder that affects the retina’s light-sensitive cells and causes people to lose their vision over time. 

He is legally blind but can still see certain things. His particular type of condition is on the colour-blindness spectrum, he explained, making it hard for him to see things that are similarly coloured or shaded.

“It’s hard. I live in a world for people who can see better and farther than I can and things are designed for those kinds of people,” he told CBC News.

He describes what he sees when he plays video games as “a bunch of moving coloured blobs” — yet he has figured out how to play Super Mario by learning the patterns of the games and using his hearing.

WATCH | Jalen Berg describes how he plays video games partially sighted:

How this partially sighted B.C. gamer learned to play Super Mario

2 days ago

Duration 2:09

Jalen Berg is a partially sighted gamer from Langley, B.C., who has learned how to play video games without being able to see the screen.

Berg started playing video games when he was a young kid and says this helped him work around some of the hurdles of playing with vision loss — and turned a hobby into a passion. 

“I think ‘into’ video games is a bit of an understatement … they are my passion at this point,” said Berg, who owns several consoles and says that although he plays a variety of Mario games, Super Mario Sunshine is his favourite.

Repetition, memorizing patterns

Berg says it’s taken a lot of trial and error throughout the years to get to where he is now. As frustrating as it’s been at times, he says, repetition and memorizing patterns on his controller have helped him hone his skills.

“What it comes down to is just years and years and years of just punching the same wall over and over,” he said.

While sighted people are able to see the entire screen while they play, Berg says his attention instead shifts around the screen. That means he usually misses things happening around the edge. 

That’s why it’s important that he always plays with the sound on, so he can hear and recognize familiar noises that go along with different moves in the game.

“You don’t need to see the result. You just need to hear the sound to know that that event has happened,” he said.

“A koopa shell bouncing, that’s a pretty basic example right?” he says, referring to a rare object in the Mario games that can be be used as a projectile. “It bounces, you hear the ‘boop’ sound — you don’t need to see.”

Jalen poses with a game controller in front of a screen that's playing Super Mario Bros. In the background, numerous other game disc covers can be seen, along with an AC unit and a transparent glass case.
Berg is legally blind but can still see certain things. He’s worked out a way to play Super Mario using repetition, memory and sound. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

More accessible options needed

Adrian Bolesnikov, who is doing a master’s degree in human-computer interaction at Carleton University, has studied accessibility in the gaming industry. 

He says Berg’s experience of adapting the way he plays is very common for people within the gaming community.

“There is not necessarily a lot of common resources for accessible game development and game modification,” Bolesnikov said. 

While there are some options out there for accessible gaming — for example, the game The Last of Us Part II was applauded recently for having over 60 accessibility settings, Bolesnikov says — they aren’t often as well known. 

He added that stories like Berg’s are important to “keep the conversation going” and allow others with similar experiences to see what is possible.

“The community knows what they need and they know how to do it. So we should be able to give them the resources to kind of show us how we can help,” Bolesnikov said.

Jalen plays a game sitting on a black couch, with a yellow throw pillow on the carpeted floor.
Berg makes YouTube videos where he talks about his disability and how he’s adapted to gaming. He hopes to encourage more accessibility within the industry. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Berg echoed that sentiment, saying it’s important the industry works to make gaming more accessible. He says one of the most beneficial aspects of gaming for him has been the community he’s gotten to know.

In a bid to encourage more accessibility, Berg and a friend make YouTube videos where they talk about his disability and how he’s adapted to gaming.

“The more people that can easily enjoy video games, I think that is just the best thing for everyone.… You get more perspectives. You get more people to just have fun with and talk about some of your favourite stuff,” he said.

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New Microsoft Security Alert: State-Sponsored 0Day Exchange Server Attacks Confirmed – Forbes



Microsoft confirmed on September 30 that it is investigating two zero-day vulnerabilities that impact Exchange Server 2013, 2016 and 2019. Between them, there are more than 200,000 installations in businesses worldwide. Microsoft goes on to warn that a single, likely state-sponsored, threat group has been confirmed as exploiting both vulnerabilities by chaining them together. Microsoft adds that the CVE-2022-41040 and CVE-2022-41082 chain attacks have facilitated “hands-on-keyboard access, which the attackers used to perform Active Directory reconnaissance and data exfiltration.” While Microsoft says, it has observed these attacks against ten organizations so far, given the Exchange Server user base and the fact that the vulnerabilities are now known, the potential for further attacks is great.

The risk is significant

As such, Mike Walters, the vice-president of vulnerability and threat research at Action1, has warned that “the risk from these zero-days is significant” to many SME and enterprise companies with “vast amounts of critical data.” Security Researchers at GTSC initially disclosed that attacks were underway.

CVE-2022-41040 is a Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF) vulnerability, while CVE-2022-41082 enables remote code execution (RCE) via PowerShell. The former is being used to trigger the latter in a chain exploit if the attacker is authenticated at the user level in Exchange Server.

CISA advises Exchange Server users and admins to act now

Indeed, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has issued a statement urging both users and administrators to apply mitigations while awaiting an official patch from Microsoft. Microsoft is working on releasing this as soon as possible, although a timescale has not yet been given. Microsoft has further confirmed that this impacts on-premise Exchange Server installations, and Exchange Online users are unaffected by the vulnerabilities.

Microsoft has released a script for on-premise users that will mitigate the exploited SSRF vector and has released an automatic URL rewrite mitigation for users of the Exchange Server Emergency Mitigation Service.

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Google Stadia Will Shut Down in 2023, All Purchases to Be Refunded – CNET



Cloud gaming service Google Stadia will shut down on Jan. 18, the search giant said in blog post Thursday. Google will refund all Stadia hardware purchased through its Google Store, along with all games and add-on content purchased from the Stadia store.

The tech giant aims to have all the refunds completed by mid-January. 

People using Stadia will still to be able to access to their game libraries, including Pro games if you had an active Pro subscription as of Thursday. In an email sent to players, Google warned that publisher support for games may vary, and it’s possible that your gameplay experience may be affected during the shut-down period (suggesting that some games could vanish or lose features early). 

It appears that Google didn’t tell many developers about the shut-down prior to the public blog post. Destiny 2 makers Bungie tweeted on Thursday about coming up with “a plan of action” in the wake of the announcement. Assassin’s Creed developer Ubisoft intends to allow players who’ve bought its games on Stadia to bring them to PC through its Ubisoft Connect digital distribution service, it said Friday. 

Google talked to at least one studio (Luxor Evolved developer Olde Skuul) about reimbursement for lost revenue as a result of the abrupt change, Axios reported Friday.

Explaining the move, Stadia vice president and general manager Phil Harrison noted Google’s investments in gaming through its Google Play digital distribution service, its cloud tech and YouTube streaming.

“A few years ago, we also launched a consumer gaming service, Stadia,” he said in the blog post. “And while Stadia’s approach to streaming games for consumers was built on a strong technology foundation, it hasn’t gained the traction with users that we expected so we’ve made the difficult decision to begin winding down our Stadia streaming service.”

Many employees on the Stadia team will be reassigned to other roles within Google, the blog post noted.

The cloud gaming service launched in November 2019, to a mixed reception.

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Playing Google Stadia for the first time


“Stadia isn’t delivering new games [at the moment], it’s just trying to deliver a new way to play through streaming. One that you can already get from other providers,” CNET’s Scott Stein wrote at the time. “Until Google finds a way to loop in YouTube and develop truly unique competitive large-scale games, Stadia isn’t worth your time yet.”

Despite having some solid games in its library, Stadia failed to evolve. Google shuttered its in-house development studio in 2021, hinting that its gaming ambitions were shifting away from Stadia.

Stadia also had plenty of cloud gaming competition, with Xbox, PlayStation, Nvidia and Amazon all offering alternatives. 

It hasn’t been a total bust for the company, with Harrison saying the tech can be applied to YouTube, Google Play and its augmented reality projects. 

That tech will also be made available to Google’s industry partners. Sony gave its own streaming service a headstart in 2015 by buying the patents of OnLive — an early game streaming service — shortly before the once-promising startup shut down.

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High-severity Microsoft Exchange 0-day under attack threatens 220,000 servers – Ars Technica



Microsoft late Thursday confirmed the existence of two critical vulnerabilities in its Exchange application that have already compromised multiple servers and pose a serious risk to an estimated 220,000 more around the world.

The currently unpatched security flaws have been under active exploit since early August, when Vietnam-based security firm GTSC discovered customer networks had been infected with malicious webshells and that the initial entry point was some sort of Exchange vulnerability. The mystery exploit looked almost identical to an Exchange zero-day from 2021 called ProxyShell, but the customers’ servers had all been patched against the vulnerability, which is tracked as CVE-2021-34473. Eventually, the researchers discovered the unknown hackers were exploiting a new Exchange vulnerability.

Webshells, backdoors, and fake sites

“After successfully mastering the exploit, we recorded attacks to collect information and create a foothold in the victim’s system,” the researchers wrote in a post published on Wednesday. “The attack team also used various techniques to create backdoors on the affected system and perform lateral movements to other servers in the system.”

On Thursday evening, Microsoft confirmed that the vulnerabilities were new and said it was scrambling to develop and release a patch. The new vulnerabilities are: CVE-2022-41040, a server-side request forgery vulnerability, and CVE-2022-41082, which allows remote code execution when PowerShell is accessible to the attacker.

“​​At this time, Microsoft is aware of limited targeted attacks using the two vulnerabilities to get into users’ systems,” members of the Microsoft Security Response Center team wrote. “In these attacks, CVE-2022-41040 can enable an authenticated attacker to remotely trigger CVE-2022-41082.” Team members stressed that successful attacks require valid credentials for at least one email user on the server.

The vulnerability affects on-premises Exchange servers and, strictly speaking, not Microsoft’s hosted Exchange service. The huge caveat is that many organizations using Microsoft’s cloud offering choose an option that uses a mix of on-premises and cloud hardware. These hybrid environments are as vulnerable as standalone on-premises ones.

Searches on Shodan indicate there are currently more than 200,000 on-premises Exchange servers exposed to the Internet and more than 1,000 hybrid configurations.

Wednesday’s GTSC post said the attackers are exploiting the zero-day to infect servers with webshells, a text interface that allows them to issue commands. These webshells contain simplified Chinese characters, leading the researchers to speculate the hackers are fluent in Chinese. Commands issued also bear the signature of the China Chopper, a webshell commonly used by Chinese-speaking threat actors, including several advanced persistent threat groups known to be backed by the People’s Republic of China.

GTSC went on to say that the malware the threat actors eventually install emulates Microsoft’s Exchange Web Service. It also makes a connection to the IP address 137[.]184[.]67[.]33, which is hardcoded in the binary. Independent researcher Kevin Beaumont said the address hosts a fake website with only a single user with one minute of login time and has been active only since August.

Kevin Beaumont

The malware then sends and receives data that’s encrypted with an RC4 encryption key that’s generated at runtime. Beaumont went on to say that the backdoor malware appears to be novel, meaning this is the first time it has been used in the wild.

People running on-premises Exchange servers should take immediate action. Specifically, they should apply a blocking rule that prevents servers from accepting known attack patterns. The rule can be applied by going to “IIS Manager -> Default Web Site -> URL Rewrite -> Actions.” For the time being, Microsoft also recommends people block HTTP port 5985 and HTTPS port 5986, which attackers need to exploit CVE-2022-41082.

Microsoft’s advisory contains a host of other suggestions for detecting infections and preventing exploits until a patch is available.

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