Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) Report may not tell you which government-backed hacker is trying to attack your email or cloud account, but at least the company will tell you someone is doing it. In expanding its policy, Microsoft will now notify its users when state-sponsored hackers attempt to infiltrate a user's account.
Scott Charney, vice president of Trustworthy Computing, explained in a Microsoft blog why the company has made this move: "Because it is likely that the attack could be more sophisticated or more sustained than attacks from cyber criminals and others."
However, when users receive a notification by Microsoft, it doesn't necessarily mean they have been attacked. Added Charney, "It doesn't necessarily mean that your account has been compromised, but it does mean we have evidence your account has been targeted, and it's very important you take additional measures to keep your account secure."
What types of measures? He warned users to change their passwords often and to make them more difficult, watch for suspicious activity, and be weary of suspicious emails and Web site.
Microsoft shares closed at $55.48 Thursday, down 1.5%.
The company has faced a difficult year. Investors called for Yahoo! to spin off its Alibaba (BABA) - Get Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Sponsored ADR Report stake, only to see management table the discussion late in the year after questions arose over whether there would be a tax bill attached to the maneuver, and if so how much.
As if the spinoff weren't enough of a headache, the core business has continued its steady decline. As a result of the confusion, lack of performance and outright frustration, shares ended the year down nearly 35%.
The struggling core business is one reason the company could be looking to part ways with the land. Aside from raising a hefty amount of cash from the sale, the company is not growing the way it likely expected to nearly 10 years ago.
Instead, there have been calls for the company to reduce its staff -- not expand -- and cut down expenses. Without a means for expansion, there is no reason for the company to hold land while other Silicon Valley ventures look for opportunities.
Last week, TheStreet's Chris Ciaccia predicted that Yahoo! will be bought in 2016.
Shares of Yahoo! ended the year at $33.26, off a fraction of a percent.
Virtual reality -- or "VR" as the kids would call it -- could be a lot closer to your living room than you may have thought. Oculus VR is perhaps the most well-known VR company out there, and announced it will ship a game, Lucky's Tale, with its Rift gaming unit when it goes on sale next year.
Of course, there are doubters in the emergence of such a new technology, but don't count Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as one of them -- although he did acknowledge it's still in the early stages.
"The reason we're excited in this space is the continued progression of people getting richer and richer ways to share what's on their mind. Ten years ago it was text," he explained earlier this year. "Now it's mostly visual and photos, then primarily video... Immersive 3-D content is the obvious next thing after video."
As for the Oculus Rift, it's expected to ship sometime in the first quarter of next year, for $1,500. Before falling off your chair, realize that this also includes the price for a PC well equipped enough to handle the VR hardware. As for a standalone Rift set, the price has not yet been announced.
While Facebook's VR ambitions look to be heading in the right direction, its goal for global Internet availability may not be.
As reported by Reuters, Facebook's Internet program "launched in around three dozen developing countries, offers pared-down web services on mobile phones, along with access to Facebook's own social network and messaging services, without charge."
However, not everyone appears to be on board with the plan. The Indian government has temporarily shelved Facebook's free Internet plan until it figures out what the next course of action will be.
Although only 20% of India's 1.3 billion population has access to Internet, there has been pushback against Facebook's plans due its violation of net neutrality. In other words, those opposed think not all Web sites are being treated equal, particularly smaller sites and companies.
The feeling goes both ways. On the one hand, Facebook is accelerating and providing Internet to millions upon millions of consumers who would otherwise not have access. On the other hand, there are inevitably some parties at a disadvantage.
CEO Zuckerberg continues to push for global connection to the Internet in order to help lift society out of poverty and create a more connected world -- and of course, sign up more Facebook users.
Shares of Facebook declined 1.5% on Thursday to close at $104.66.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.