Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – August 1, 2014

25 useful, free tools for every Windows desktop;  Microsoft ordered to give US customer e-mails stored abroad;  Amazon Giving Away Over $100 in Free Paid Android Apps Today;  Can an App Make You a Better Person? Use MaskMe for disposable email addresses in Chrome;  CIA admits to spying on Senate committee;  Five apps for gathering business intelligence;  Encrypt your face and foil the NSA;  New Signal iOS app allows free encrypted voice calls;  12 powerful websites that can replace your desktop software;  Why the Security of USB Is Fundamentally Broken;  BitTorrent Bleep “bleeps out” your chats from prying eyes;  EC stepping up antitrust inquiry into Google, Android;  Fitness tracking goes under the security spotlight;  Windows XP still runs at more than half of businesses surveyed.

CIA admits to spying on Senate committee – After months of denials, CIA Director John Brennan apologizes for spying on Senate Intelligence Committee computers.

Encrypt your face and foil the NSA – Surveillance cameras are everywhere, backed by sophisticated facial recognition software. But you can defeat them, the NSA and whoever else is monitoring you. Here’s how.

New Signal iOS app allows free encrypted voice calls – With concerns about government spying seemingly at an all-time high, a new iOS app allows users to make secure phone calls from one iPhone to another at no cost.

Microsoft ordered to give US customer e-mails stored abroad: Decision affirms US position that the world’s servers are for the taking – A federal judge ruled Thursday that Microsoft must hand over e-mails stored on an overseas server to US authorities. The case gives the Obama administration approval to reach into servers abroad. “It is a question of control, not a question of the location of that information,” US District Judge Loretta Preska ruled in a closely followed legal flap. The bench order from the New York judge was stayed pending appeal.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

25 useful, free tools for every Windows desktop – If you haven’t looked at free desktop programs lately, you’ll be surprised. The inexorable shift to a post-PC world hasn’t deadened the market or dulled innovation. Quite the contrary. The current crop of free-for-personal-use (and cheap for corporate use) desktop apps runs rings around the best tools we had not long ago. Productivity, file management, media, system, security — here are my top choices for the most useful free and almost-free desktop apps, tested on Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 Update 1.

Can an App Make You a Better Person? – Procrastinators, beware. A new app called Timeful, designed by a team of experts in behavioral economics and artificial intelligence, could help you get your act together. The free app for iOS launched Thursday and blends aspects of time management, task management, scheduling, and prioritization. The idea is to prioritize the tasks you hope to do while considering everything else on your plate at the same time, in order to make time for what matters most.

Which countries made most ‘right to be forgotten’ requests? Google reveals all – Google outlines its process for hiding contentious search results, revealing which countries have made the most requests.

Track your competition: Five apps for gathering business intelligence – The ability to stay current with industry developments and analyze competitor performance enables you to make the right business and technology decisions. Here are five apps that will help.

12 powerful websites that can replace your desktop software – Between the rise of broadband and robust web technologies like HTML5, modern browsers are capable of amazing things, and shifting your workload to the cloud is a very real possibility for many people. Whether you’re rocking a Chromebook, looking for handy occasional-use tools, or want to ditch the hassles associated with standalone software whole hog, these websites can replace your traditional desktop applications.

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Use MaskMe for disposable email addresses in Chrome – Tired of getting spam from websites that require registration to see their content, and then sell it off to other companies? Try using a disposable email from MaskMe.

Government Requests For Twitter Account Data Up 46% Since Second Half Of 2013 – Early this morning, Twitter released its biannual transparency report, detailing the number of requests from global governments for account information, and content takedown demands. Information requests from governments regarding account information for the first half of 2014 totaled 2,058, up 46% from the second half of 2013, and up 77.87% from the year-ago period. The pace of growth in requests for account information is accelerating. The United States accounted for more than 50% of the 2,058 requests tallied in the first six months of this year, racking up an impressive 1,257 requests, impacting a total of 1.918 accounts. Twitter granted 72% of the nation’s requests. A total of 3,131 accounts were targeted in requests in the first half of 2014.

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BitTorrent Bleep “bleeps out” your chats from prying eyes – BitTorrent, the company, will perhaps forever be remembered for creating bittorrent, the file sharing protocol. However, the concept of a serverless system of sending packets to and fro the Internet isn’t just useful for downloading large videos and files, legally acquired or otherwise. It can also be used to ensure secure and private communication lines, as Bleep, BitTorrent’s latest product, tries to demonstrate.

Windows XP still runs at more than half of businesses surveyed – Among more than 100 businesses that recently attended the TechEd North America 2014 conference, a full 53 percent admitted to still running XP within their organization. Polled by IT systems management provider Adaptiva, 29 percent of those surveyed said their inability to move away from XP at this point stemmed from issues of application compatibility, 15 percent said it was because of the time involved in migrating, 4 percent cited the cost of a migration, and 2 percent pointed to the demand for user training.

Four ways to keep in touch with parents when away at school – Moving away for college is an exciting time in life. You’re completely on your own, no parents in sight, and hundreds of like-minded people around the same age. Freedom! But at the end of a long day when you’re feeling homesick, only your parents have the remedy.

Security:

A must read – Why the Security of USB Is Fundamentally Broken – Computer users pass around USB sticks like silicon business cards. Although we know they often carry malware infections, we depend on antivirus scans and the occasional reformatting to keep our thumbdrives from becoming the carrier for the next digital epidemic. But the security problems with USB devices run deeper than you think: Their risk isn’t just in what they carry, it’s built into the core of how they work. That’s the takeaway from findings security researchers Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell plan to present next week, demonstrating a collection of proof-of-concept malicious software that highlights how the security of USB devices has long been fundamentally broken. A must read.

Stealthy new malware snatching credit cards from retailers’ POS systems – US Computer Emergency Response Team, in cooperation with the Secret Service and researchers at Trustwave’s Spiderlabs, have issued an alert about a newly identified variant of malware installed on point-of-sale (POS) systems that was used in a series of recent attacks by cyber criminals. Called “Backoff,” the malware shares characteristics with the one used to attack Target’s point of sale systems last year: it scrapes credit card data out of the infected computer’s memory. Until now, it was undetectable by antivirus software.

Fitness tracking goes under the security spotlight – Hackable location tracking, poor password management, and a lack of privacy policies: Symantec has a number of concerns about the fitness tracking boom.

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China rebuffs Canada for ‘irresponsible’ hacking claims – The Chinese foreign ministry says Canada lacks evidence to prove who hacked into the National Research Council. Canada publicly charged China of hacking into its National Research Council, but the Asian country is denying the accusation. China’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday issued a statement saying “the Canadian side, while lacking credible evidence, offered criticism for no reason.” The government agency, which handles the country’s foreign relations, said the claims made by Canada are “irresponsible,” adding that it wants Canada “to correct its mistake.”

What’s the point of this nonsensical sanctimonious complaining. Canada, as a 5 Eyes member, hacks every country on earth (including it’s own citizens), as per instructions from it’s overseer – the United States.

Here’s my view of Canada’s “Intelligence” establishment – Canada’s Super Spies “Discover” Cybercrime is a Threat (May 18, 2010)

Company News:

LinkedIn Beats The Street In Q2 On Sales Of $534M, EPS Of $0.51 – With social networks Facebook and Twitter handily beating analyst estimates for Q2 earnings, LinkedIn today reported its Q2 results and showed that rising tides are lifting its boat, too. Revenue for the second quarter was $534 million and its EPS (non-GAAP diluted) was $0.51 as the company also raised its guidance for Q3 and the full year. The company’s stock is up by around 8% in after-hours trading to $195 a share.

Apple is about to fire hundreds of Beats staff – Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine have had big smiles on their faces ever since Apple agreed to acquire Beats Electronics for $3 billion back in May. But employees of the audio company would understandably have been worried about their future, and with good reason. Apple is about to fire hundreds of them.

IBM snaps up Italian cloud security vendor CrossIdeas – IBM is adding more troops for its assault on the enterprise security market – this time with an Italian vendor giving it tools to handle segregation of duties.

EC stepping up antitrust inquiry into Google, Android – The European Commission is stepping up its inquiry into Google’s alleged anti-competitive behavior in the market for mobile software, making a formal investigation into the company’s Android business more likely, according to a report. In recent weeks, the Commission sent questionnaires to companies that use Android, seeking more details about how Google promotes its own services, according to a Reuters report. The Commission has posed more than 40 questions about Android and is requiring companies to respond by early September.

Twitter acquires password security startup Mitro – The social network buys Mitro and lets it keep operating as is — the only change is now the startup’s code will be open source.

Facebook app gives free internet access in Zambia – An app launched in Zambia by Facebook will provide access to a number of online services for free, in an attempt by Internet.org to lift the country’s internet penetration rate above 15 percent.

Games and Entertainment:

PlayStation is outselling Xbox by more than 3:1 – The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launched at more or less the same time, but Sony’s console has enjoyed greater success than that of Microsoft. Indeed, it’s no secret that the PS4 has been outselling the Xbox One – earlier this month we reported that the latest figures suggest that Sony had sold around two million more of its next-gen consoles compared with Microsoft.

Sony’s PlayStation Now game streaming service enters open beta – Two years after its purchase of game streaming service Gaikai, Sony has finally launched the fruits of that labor: PlayStation Now entered public beta Thursday. PlayStation Now is Sony’s answer to backwards compatibility—a library of older PlayStation titles that can be streamed to your console. Right now the beta consists of merely PlayStation 3 titles streamed to your PS4, with 100 titles for you to choose from.

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Hacker group targets video game companies to steal source code – A group of attackers with links to the Chinese hacking underground has been targeting companies from the entertainment and video game industries for years with the goal of stealing source code. The stolen intellectual property is used to “crack” games so they can be used for free, to create game cheating tools or to develop competing products, security researchers from Dell SecureWorks said in an analysis of the group’s activities.

The 50 Geekiest Movies Streaming on Netflix – Everyone loves streaming movies, but no one more than hardcore nerds. Here are the 50 films currently streaming on Netflix that no member of the fandom should miss

Get a huge Square Enix game bundle for $15 – From older titles like Thief Gold to recent hits like Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut, this massive collection is too good to pass up. The Humble Square Enix Bundle gives you 20 big-name games for $15. Actually, you can pay as little as a buck for six games, or beat the average ($8.87 as of now) for 15 games. But I say pony up for the complete bundle, as that’s the level where you get the newer, more glamorous stuff.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

The NFL Gets Quantified Intelligence, Courtesy Of Shoulder Pad-Mounted Motion Trackers – The NFL is making a move to integrate RFID-based activity-tracking tech to give fans, coaches and players more information about what exactly athletes go through during each game. The Zebra Technologies tracker systems will mount to player shoulder pads and communicate with receivers installed in 17 stadiums during the 2014 season. They will provide information about each player’s position, speed, distance travelled, acceleration and more.

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Google Glass thief unknowingly live streams his day – When it comes to thieves and technology, the latter usually proves to be their biggest nemesis. Earlier this summer, for example, one thief was caught after logging into his Facebook account at the victim’s home, then forgetting to log back out. The newest dumb criminal? A man who stole a pair of Google Glass and unknowingly broadcasted his day.

Google Glass resistance won’t matter in a few years – With hoards of both supporters and detractors, few modern gadgets have been as polarizing as Google Glass. Here’s why the anti-Glass sentiment is destined to dissipate.

New service will send your dead pet into space – Launching this fall, Celestis Pets will memorialize your pet by sending its cremated remains to infinity. And beyond.

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Fido and Fluffy can dance among the stars with Celestis Pets.

7 unexpected places you’ll find Android under the hood – Android isn’t just limited to your phone or tablet—or that smart watch on your wrist. It’s being used in other realms, too.

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Driver who killed teen posts Facebook pic of wreck, with smiley face – A Minnesota man who smashed into two vehicles, police say, took to Facebook to laugh about it. He reportedly has many driving violations and no valid license.

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The post as it appeared on Facebook.

Would you buy a self-driving car? – While self-driving cars may seem like some far-off, futuristic technology, they are edging closer to reality. Not only are several mainstream car manufacturers working on either semi-autonomous or fully autonomous vehicles, but people are also warming to the notion of owning an automobile that can drive itself. A recent survey found that more than 75 percent of Americans said they’d consider buying a self-driving car. The survey was conducted by Insurance.com, the car insurance comparison-shopping website, which polled 2,000 licensed drivers, half men and half women, in June.

Something to think about:

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”

-      Proverbs 13:20

Today’s Free Downloads:

Amazon Giving Away Over $100 in Free Paid Android Apps Today – Amazon is offering over $100 in free paid apps for Android users today, and all you have to do is click a few buttons. The promotion is through Amazon’s Appstore for Android, meaning you’ll have to install the Appstore client on your device. Still, that’s not a lot of hassle for 30 free paid apps.

To get apps from Amazon, you’ll need to enable unknown sources for app installation in the system settings. Don’t worry—Amazon’s page will walk you through it. Then run the Appstore client and get your free apps. You can go through the list of free apps online and “buy” all of them quickly, then find the ones you want instantly on the phone to download and install. All the apps will remain in your cloud library, though.

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Partial list.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Microsoft Loses Email Privacy Case With U.S. Gov, Will Appeal – Microsoft lost an appeal today, as a federal judge ordered that it must comply with a U.S. warrant seeking email data on servers located in Ireland. During this process, it has been Microsoft’s contention that a warrant issued by the U.S. doesn’t have legal standing because the data being sought is stored abroad. Judge Loretta A. Preska disagreed.

It’s not clear whether the person who owns the email being sought by the warrant is a U.S. citizen.

The judge will grant Microsoft time to appeal her ruling, which, the company tells TechCrunch, it will do. This is Microsoft’s second loss on the issue.

In a written statement, Microsoft’s top lawyer Brad Smith stated that the “only issue that was certain this morning was that the District Court’s decision would not represent the final step in this process” and that Microsoft “will appeal promptly and continue to advocate that people’s email deserves strong privacy protection in the U.S. and around the world.”

Several technology companies voiced support for Microsoft’s suit in the time leading up to today’s appeal — Apple and Cisco filed an amicus brief in Microsoft’s favor. Other companies and groups had also made noise in the same direction as Redmond. Presumably, when Microsoft takes up its case again, those same allies will remain in its corner. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft changes its argument in the face of today’s defeat.

In the light of the recent NSA revelations, expending the effort to protect user privacy is a worthy exercise.

It’s About the Lying – I don’t want to understate how seriously wrong it is that the CIA searched Senate computers. Our constitutional order is seriously out of whack when the executive branch acts with that kind of impunity — to its overseers, no less.

But given everything else that’s been going on lately, the single biggest — and arguably most constructive — thing to focus on is how outrageously CIA Director John Brennan lied to everyone about it.

“As far as the allegations of the CIA hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth,” Brennan told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell in March. “We wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s just beyond the, you know, the scope of reason in terms of what we do.”

Earlier, he had castigated “some members of the Senate” for making “spurious allegations about CIA actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts.” He called for an end to “outbursts that do a disservice to the important relationship that needs to be maintained between intelligence officials and Congressional overseers.”

And what compelled Senate intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein to make a dramatic floor speech in the first place, bringing everything out in the open, was that Brennan had responded to her initial concerns not by acknowledging the CIA’s misconduct — but by firing back with an allegation of criminal activity by her own staff.

Not coincidentally, the document the CIA was hunting for, that Senate staffers were accused of purloining, and that Brennan was now lying about, was a big deal precisely because it exposed more lies.

Known as the Panetta Review (evidently prepared for Leon Panetta, who served as CIA director from 2009 to 2011), it became relevant last year, when the CIA started pushing back against many of the scathing conclusions in the several-thousand page “Torture Report” the Senate staffers had finished up in December 2012.

Even as the CIA was officially rebutting key parts of the committee’s report, the staffers realized they had an internal CIA review that corroborated them. In other words, it was proof that the CIA was now lying.

Strengthened Senate NSA Reform Measure Is ‘A Good First Step’ – Earlier this week, Sen. Patrick Leahy introduced a strengthened version of the USA FREEDOM Act to praise from tech companies, privacy groups and the New York Times editorial board. As that initial applause settled, Rep. Zoe Lofgren argued on Thursday that the legislation would only rein in parts of the nation’s intelligence apparatus.

The Congresswoman did note that the bill is “an improvement” on the House’s watered-down version that recently passed.

Most notably, the Senate’s FREEDOM Act does not include provisions to address programs conducted under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows the government to target the communications of foreign persons outside the United States. Under Section 702 authority, the National Security Agency (NSA) often sweeps up the communications of U.S. citizens who aren’t being targeted, and holds onto it. The Washington Post has reported on extensive use — abuse, to some — of the program as revealed in files leaked to reporters by former government contractor Edward Snowden.

Lofgren said the FREEDOM Act “falls short” by failing to reform Section 702.

“Chairman Leahy’s bill is an encouraging improvement in many respects, and I applaud him for that. But I am disappointed it omits an essential restriction on the collection and use of American communications under 702 authority,” said the California Democrat in a statement.

Twitter Slams DOJ ‘Inaction’ on National Security Data Request – Twitter’s fifth transparency report hit the Web today. But like the four before it, this account lacks national security request disclosures.

Though the Department of Justice in January announced that tech firms could publish information about national security-related requests, the data must be in ranges of 1,000 or 250, depending on how the information is presented.

That was not good enough for Twitter, which has asked for “the freedom to provide that information in much smaller ranges,” which Twitter believes would be more meaningful to users, Jeremy Kessel, senior manager of Twitter’s global legal policy, wrote in a blog post today.

In April, Twitter sent the DOJ a draft transparency report, asking the government to indicate what, if any, information is classified and cannot be published. More than 90 days later, the agency has not responded, so Twitter published its latest report sans national security requests.

Twitter said it is “weighing our legal options to provide more transparency to our users.” The company is “heartened” by Sen. Patrick Leahy’s USA FREEDOM Act, which “requires the government to report to the public key information about the scope of collection under a range of national security authorities,” among other things. But “we remain disappointed with the DOJ’s inaction,” Twitter said.

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