Microsoft Weekly: Windows 11 testing, future gaming, and HiveNightmare aka SeriousSAM

Microsoft Weekly recap - July 25 2021

It’s been a rather busy seven days in Redmond, with new Windows 11 test builds, long-awaited game releases on console, and yet another security vulnerability all being in the news. You can find details about the aforementioned and more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of July 18 – 24.

Windows 11 testing

It would be prudent to start with some of the news surrounding Microsoft’s next major iteration of Windows.

Windows 11 logo white on top of a fractal variant of the Windows 11 default wallpaper

For one, there’s the possible release time frame, which was revealed in a document accompanying a recent Intel GPU driver update. In it, Windows 11 is referred to as the October 2021 Update, though it’s possible this may also be a reference to Windows 10 21H2, which should drop around the same time.

This timing wouldn’t be too surprising, as October has been the month of choice for the denomination or GA of several H2 updates - barring say 1809, which was quickly pulled following a number of problems, then re-released in December -, or previous major releases like Windows XP, Windows 7, and Windows 8.

As far as the release of the Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) variant of Windows 11 is concerned, Microsoft was clear that it is still several years out. The LTSC release that’s about to drop this year will be based on Windows 10 21H2, but the release after that is set to be underpinned by Windows 11. Given the recent change in the LTSC support lifecycle – namely slashing of support from 10 to five years -, there’s still a bit of a wait involved.

Until then though, Microsoft is continuing to shed little more light on its Windows 11 design choices, such as the new context menu, or the Teams integration. Sadly, the Store variants for Business and Education will not be supported in Windows 11, though the downloading of Edge from the Store will be.

And speaking of, Teams chat can now be tested thanks to Windows 11 Insider build 22000.100, which also adds some taskbar enhancements. Naturally, there are some known issues to keep in mind as always, one of which is the fact that Windows Hello is now broken. Not to worry though, there’s a way to fix it.

Finally, in not exactly earth-shattering news, Microsoft has released a new cumulative update to Windows Insiders in the Release Preview ring. This is KB5004296 and should be available for folks running Windows 10 21H1 and 21H2. The only change is a new policy which „creates generic strings and removes branding-specific terms, such as „Windows” or „PC” for IoT Enterprise editions”. In other words, you’ll be seeing phrases like „Getting things ready” instead of „Getting Windows ready”.

Future games

Xbox Series XS controllers on dark grey background

On the gaming side of things, there’s a selection of titles now available on Game Pass, including Battlefield V, Cris Tales, Atomicorps, and Raji: An Ancient Epic. In terms of high-profile releases arriving soon, there’s Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, The Ascent, as well as the long-awaited console release of Microsoft Flight Simulator. If those are not your cup of tea, the Deals with Gold are right this way.

In other news of future releases, Halo Infinite’s first technical preview will focus on bots, with the kickoff allegedly happening as soon as next weekend. Matches will be 4v4 across the Bazaar, Recharge, and Live Fire maps.

Yet another first-party title, this time Fallout 76, is set to get a long-requested feature in a couple of months, namely private servers. Dubbed Fallout Worlds, it will officially arrive in the game in September, but the PTS (Public Test Servers) already have it available, for those interested in testing this out early.

Last but not least, we should mention the Dead Space remake announced at EA Play. Rebuilt by Motive Studios from the ground up to use the Frostbite engine, the game is slated to launch across PC, Xbox Series X|S, and PlayStation 5, though no release date or window was given.

HiveNightmare aka SeriousSAM

Windows 10 logo red on red and dark grey background

It seems like Microsoft just can’t catch a break when it comes to security recently. Following the massive Exchange Online exploits in March and April, and the PrintNightmare exploit affecting the Print Spooler Service, there’s now another high-profile security flaw going around.

Dubbed HiveNightmare – due to it being a registry vulnerability -, or SeriousSAM (due to the Windows Security Account Manager – or SAM – database being involved), the flaw allows passwords and security keys to be accessed by non-admin users. As such, it would give an attacker access to the SAM, SYSTEM, and SECURITY registry hive files. In the linked post, we’ve detailed how to restrict access to the system32 config file, as well as how to delete Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) shadow copies in order to protect yourself against this.

In light of the above, it’s perhaps no surprise that Microsoft chose to acquire CloudKnox Security in order to enhance its unified privileged access capabilities.

Unfortunately, the section won’t be ending with any good news, as the July set of updates for Windows 10 has broken printing and scanning via the use of smart cards. This is an unfortunate side effect of the Redmond giant’s attempts at fixing the aforementioned PrintNightmare flaw.

And as if that wasn’t enough, fake Windows 11 installers have also started circulating around the web. Unsurprisingly, they are being used for malware distribution.

Dev channel

Logging off

We end today with a Task Manager concept featuring what is perhaps one of the most oft-requested features for the utility.

While the Task Manager has certainly evolved over the years from its inception, one of the most often requested features is an option to switch to dark mode. Changes have been made so far in Windows 11 to make the implementation of this theme option a lot more consistent, though legacy apps still don’t respect the dark mode setting.

To visualize just how a dark mode for Task Manager would look, Twitter user Jakub (AlurDesign) has put together a concept – seen above – which makes use of the more rounded aesthetic in Windows 11, as well as translucency effects.

Of course, it’s a mere concept, but here’s hoping Microsoft sees this and chooses to take at least some design cues from it.

Missed any of the previous columns? Check them all out at this link.


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