Friday Five: Microsoft accounts now fully passwordless

Zone’s Ross Basham handpicks and shares the five best new stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…

1. Microsoft accounts now fully passwordless

Microsoft now lets you remove passwords from Microsoft accounts to embrace a passwordless future. As of Wednesday, the software giant will let consumers sign into Microsoft accounts with its Microsoft Authenticator app, Windows Hello, a security key, or an SMS/email verification code instead of a password.

The new option arrives after Microsoft started rolling out passwordless authentication for commercial users in March to help people adjust to remote working. “The number of attack surfaces has increased exponentially, so that was a big driving factor for us in accelerating a lot of our security initiatives,” said Microsoft’s Vasu Jakkal.

2. Co-op announces partnership with Amazon

Co-op has announced a new partnership with Amazon and an acceleration of robot deliveries. The moves are part of its plan to increase online sales from £70m to £200m by the end of the year. The partnership allows Prime customers to do their full Co-op shop on Amazon UK, with same-day delivery and two-hour time slots.

Co-op has also confirmed the extension of its partnership with Starship Technologies (which was launched by the co-founders of Skype), allowing the delivery of groceries in as little as 20 minutes. It will increase the number of autonomous vehicles operating and delivering Co-op groceries from 200 to 500 by the end of this year.

3. Apple rushes to block ‘zero-click’ software

Apple has issued a software patch to block so-called “zero-click” spyware that could infect iPhones and iPads. Independent researchers identified the flaw, which lets hackers access devices through the iMessage service even if users do not click on a link or file. The problem affects all of the technology giant’s operating systems.

University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, which first highlighted the issue, said the vulnerability was exploited to plant spyware on a Saudi activist’s iPhone, adding that it had high confidence that the Israeli hacker-for-hire firm, NSO Group, was behind that attack. In a statement, NSO would not confirm or deny its involvement.

4. Bitcoin protesters gather in El Salvador

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in El Salvador, angry at the introduction of Bitcoin as its legal tender. President Nayib Bukele says the cryptocurrency will help Salvadorans working abroad to send money back home. But demonstrators fear it will bring instability and inflation to the impoverished country.

Last week, El Salvador became the first country to use the virtual currency as a legal tender, alongside the US dollar. The demonstrators gathered in the capital San Salvador on the 200th anniversary of the country’s independence, brandishing placards reading “No to Bitcoin” and “Respect the Constitution”.

5. Google’s transatlantic cable hauled ashore

Google’s newest transatlantic subsea cable has finally been hauled ashore in Cornwall, more than a year after it revealed plans to connect the UK and US. The arrival of the Grace Hopper cable — named after the computer science pioneer — brings the 16-fibre pair Google-funded cable to Bude on the north coast of Cornwall.

Once all plumbed in, the cable is expected to be able to carry around 340Tbps of capacity — that’s about the same as 17.5 million people streaming 4K videos all at the same time. Interestingly (to cable enthusiasts, anyway), the cable was actually split mid-ocean, with one half diverted to Bilbao in Spain and the other half to Bude.

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