Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – August 6, 2014

Russian Gang Amasses Over a Billion Internet Passwords;  Google on Gmail child abuse trawl: We’re NOT looking for other crimes;  18 Google Search Tips You Need to Learn;  Five texting apps for business users;  Zip Phone Lets You Make Free Calls Over The Internet;  NFL Player Comparison Tool: From Casual Fan to Fanatic;  Google Maps Now Lets You Explore Mars And The Moon;  PF Chang’s data breach lasted 8 months; Barack Obama’s Secret Terrorist-Tracking System, by the Numbers;  iOS security myths and threats;  Target’s data breach tab: $110 million;  Survival Bike: Black Ops combines a moped and end of the world arsenal;  Symantec, Kaspersky deny being banned in China;  Why I don’t play console games on my smartphone;  Happy now? This equation predicts your well-being;  Ginger Proofreader (free);  Abbott says Australians’ web browsing history to be retained;  Edward Snowden isn’t the only leaker in town: new source surfaces;  Free Calling App Nanu Claims Superiority Over Skype, Viber.

Russian Gang Amasses Over a Billion Internet Passwords – A Russian crime ring has amassed the largest known collection of stolen Internet credentials, including 1.2 billion user name and password combinations and more than 500 million email addresses, security researchers say. The records, discovered by Hold Security, a firm in Milwaukee, include confidential material gathered from 420,000 websites, including household names, and small Internet sites. Hold Security has a history of uncovering significant hacks, including the theft last year of tens of millions of records from Adobe Systems. Hold Security would not name the victims, citing nondisclosure agreements and a reluctance to name companies whose sites remained vulnerable. At the request of The New York Times, a security expert not affiliated with Hold Security analyzed the database of stolen credentials and confirmed it was authentic. Another computer crime expert who had reviewed the data, but was not allowed to discuss it publicly, said some big companies were aware that their records were among the stolen information.

Google on Gmail child abuse trawl: We’re NOT looking for other crimes – Uncovering criminals who are active in exchanging images of child abuse is an obvious public good, but Google’s role in this case raises questions about just how closely the search engine giant is scrutinising our webmail for evidence of criminal activity. In a statement, Google outlined its use of automated image scanning technology to fight child abuse online, an established practice though one not previously connected to Gmail as such. It added that it is not looking for evidence of more general criminality that might be gleaned from scanning customers’ webmail accounts.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Child-porn suspect Skillern caught by the Googlies – Google is said to have spotted an alleged child pornographer. The company supposedly discovered known kiddyporn images in a Gmail account, and alerted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Cue: Moral dilemma in 3… 2… 1… In IT Blogwatch, bloggers wonder what else Google is searching for.

Author Goes on Epic Twitter Rant After Kid ‘Accidentally’ Spent $120 on Kardashian Game – Kim Kardashian is no friend to 11-year-old Abe Chabon, whose mother said he “accidentally” contributed $120 in two days to the celebrity mogul’s expected end-of-year $200 million paycheck for her “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” game. Things got a little tense when Abe’s mother Ayelet Waldman, acclaimed author of bestseller Bad Mother and wife to fellow novelist Michael Chabon, found out that her kid had been making real life payments for in-game perks. And so began a Twitter tirade against the “scumbag” Kardashians.

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18 Google Search Tips You Need to Learn – It’s easy to take the common Google search for granted. But if you take just a moment to really think about it, you might appreciate it for what it truly is: crazy superhero magic! While you probably use it just about every day, there may still be a lot you still don’t know about the old dependable Google search. Click through our slideshow and see how much more you can get from a simple search.

Texting apps for business users – These days, texting is a business tool, and a serious one at that. Businesses are using texting as a means of inter-office communication and as a way to reach out to business contacts and even customers. And while your smartphone comes with its own, perfectly serviceable texting app, if you’re relying on that alone to fill your texting needs, you might be missing out. A third-party texting app can offer more features and an improved design and save you money as it won’t rely on your monthly messaging plan. Here are five to consider.

Zip Phone Lets You Make Free Calls Over The Internet…Without Launching Its App – A company known as Zip Phone is making it easier to place secure, Wi-Fi enabled phone calls, in order to save consumers from using up the limited number of cellular minutes that come with their smartphone’s voice plan. That’s a more common problem outside of North America where unlimited calling plans are prevalent, though these consumers can still benefit from Zip Phone while traveling to save on roaming charges.

Free Calling App Nanu Claims Superiority Over Skype, Viber – Launched for Android on Monday, the free ad-supported app promises crystal clear calls for free, even if you’re not on the latest and greatest 4G LTE network. And unlike other Web-based calling services, which only offer app-to-app calls for free, Nanu has a limited offer letting you call landlines and mobile phones which don’t have the app installed, without having to pay a cent. All Nanu-to-Nanu calls are free, excluding data usage fees, and the first million users of the app will also get 15 minutes of free Nanu-to-non Nanu calls. These minutes can be used to call landlines in 41 countries and territories, including the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Puerto Rico.

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NFL Player Comparison Tool: From Casual Fan to Fanatic – You don’t need to know every detail about NFL players to win a fantasy draft. All you need is the NFL Player Comparison Tool, analytical insights, and a little luck.

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NASA Augmented Reality app brings Mars Rover to your desk – The NASA Spacecraft 3D app has been updated today to allow all iOS and Android users take part in an experience which puts spacecraft in their living room. This app utilizes augmented reality in a way that the creators of the PlayRoom for PS4’s Camera would be proud of. Place a ship here, run it around there, and take photos all the while. This app is free, of course, and is available through NASA’s app collection listing. You’ll want to scroll down to the app “Spacecraft 3D” and give it a tap.

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Google’s HTML5 Web Designer Gets Animation Tools, Deeper AdWords And DoubleClick Integrations – Last September, Google launched Web Designer, a free tool for Mac, Windows and Linux that makes it easy for anybody to build interactive HTML5 sites and ads. Since its launch, Web Designer got a couple of minor updates, but today’s release is the first major update in a long time and brings quite a few new features to the software.

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Google Maps Now Lets You Explore Mars And The Moon, If You Know Where To Click – Hey, you! Want to explore the surface of Mars? No problem! All we need is a few billion dollars, a couple hundred of the world’s brightest minds, and for someone to get around to solving that pesky “massive levels of radiation” problem. On second thought, that might take a while. Until then, Google Maps will have to do.

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Navdy’s Heads-Up Display Wants To Be The Safer Alternative To Using Your Smartphone While Driving – Frustrated with using the built-in infotainment system and his phone in his car, Doug Simpson, CEO and founder of Navdy, decided to create a heads-up display to create a new and safer way to interact with smartphones while driving.

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Sandstorm Wants Web Users To Gain More Control Over The Apps They Use – This open source initiative is aiming to recast the relationship between web users and the underlying infrastructure that serves them content — by making it easier for web users to run their own servers. The project, which bills itself as “a personal cloud platform”, is called Sandstorm.

Windows Threshold: Here come the virtual desktops – Microsoft is considering bringing virtual desktops to Windows Threshold. The feature, which is already on other platforms like Ubuntu and OS X is currently being tested and is said to have similar functionality to that of Ubuntu. You can activate the desktops with a button on the taskbar (subject to change) and there are keyboard shortcuts that let you jump between active desktops.

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Ubuntu Virtual desktop feature shown above, Windows Threshold will act in a similar manner.

Five timers just for meditation – The App Store has no shortage of meditation timer apps, which can not only count your time, but also play sounds to let you know when your time is up, or at regular intervals to remind you of your progress. Here are five of the best meditation timer apps.

Electric Objects: A computer created to display art – The Internet is full of beautiful and compelling art, but it can’t be fully appreciated on a computer or smart device with emails, tweets and games competing for your attention. That’s where Electric Objects comes in. This integrated computer with a framed HD screen can be hung on the wall and displays art that can be changed as often as your mood

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Security:

PF Chang’s data breach lasted 8 months – Asian-themed US restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s China Bistro has finally provided some more details about the breach it suffered earlier this year, including the 33 restaurant locations where the security of their PoS systems was compromised. The compromised locations are in Arizona, California, Florida, New York, Ohio, Colorado, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Illinois, Nevada, Maryland, Texas, and Washington (full list provided here, as well as the time-frame within which they have been compromised). The stolen card data has appeared for sale on well-known carder store Rescator(dot)so in June, and was sold for prices between $18 to $140 per card.

Target’s data breach tab: $110 million – Target announced Tuesday that it is lowering the earnings outlook for its second quarter financial period, citing costs related to the now infamous data breach and the repayment of debt. The Minneapolis-based retailer saw net expenses of $110 million from the data breach, and said it now expects to earn roughly 78 cents a share for the quarter, down from the 85 cents to $1 per share it had previously anticipated. Target also said it expects sales to be flat at established locations in the U.S.

Smart Building Technologies Could Expose Companies To A New Breed Of Cyber Attack – Building control is moving away from the human hand and it is time to view a building as IT and not just the traditional brick and mortar. While connected buildings that use the cloud and IP networks to more efficiently control building operations are not new, there are new security precautions that need to be implemented to prevent intruders. More emphasis on and education around this topic is necessary.

iOS security myths and threats – In this interview, Zuk Avraham, CEO of Zimperium, talks about iOS security myths and threats, discusses the difficulties in exploring iOS security vs. “breaking” Android and offers advice to those managing a variety of iOS devices in a large organization.

Email Hijack Leads to “I was robbed, send me money” Scam – Oh dear, one of your relatives has had a bit of an accident and now they need help. Or maybe their bag was stolen and you’ve had a desperate message pleading for some funds to get them home safely. Perhaps they locked themselves out and the locksmith won’t leave until you fix their cash shortage. All of the above are entirely possible scenarios, but they’re also great ways for scammers to relieve you of some money.

Company News:

Apple and Samsung Agree To End All Non-U.S. Patent Disputes – The announcement came late Tuesday in a release first reported by the Financial Times. In the joint statement, the two tech giants said they “…have agreed to drop all litigation between the two companies outside the United States.” Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. But, as noted in the statement, this agreement does not involve any licensing arrangements or existing court cases within the U.S. Both companies have sued each other all over the globe for various issues involving patent infringement.

Groupon lost over $60 million in first half of 2014, stock tanks 15 percent – There was a reason that we wondered in early 2013 if Groupon would make it to 2014—the company is hemorrhaging cash, and the situation has just gotten a lot worse. According to the company’s latest earnings report published on Tuesday, the online deals site sustained a net loss of $22.8 million in the second quarter of 2014—approximately triple the level of losses the company had during the same period a year ago. During the first half of 2014, Groupon lost over $60.6 million, or over five times what it lost during the first half of 2013. From 2009 through 2013, Groupon has incurred total net losses of over $820 million.

Symantec, Kaspersky deny being banned in China – Symantec and Kaspersky Lab are both denying that China has banned their products, amid media reports that the country is shutting out foreign security vendors from selling to government agencies. Both companies are not listed among the approved anti-virus vendors with the country’s central government procurement center, leaving only domestic security providers. This prompted reports to suggest that China had excluded both Symantec and Kaspersky Lab as a way to curb the use of foreign technology. But despite the exclusion, U.S.-based Symantec said on Tuesday its products could still be sold to the Chinese government.

Verizon: We throttle unlimited data to provide an “incentive to limit usage” – Verizon Wireless has told FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler that its policy of throttling unlimited data users on congested cell sites is perfectly legal and necessary to give heavy data users an incentive to stop using their phones so much.

Report: Sprint gives up on pursuit of T-Mobile USA – Sprint, the number-three U.S. carrier, had been looking to buy fourth-placed T-Mobile as a way to compete better against Verizon and AT&T, which are both much larger rivals. But Sprint, which is owned by Japan’s Softbank, has abandoned the plan because it thought it would be too difficult to get approval from U.S. regulators, sources told The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News and The New York Times.

Games and Entertainment:

Capcom is remastering a remake of the original Resident Evil – Resident Evil is coming to Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, and the PC, thanks to a plan to remaster the game with 1080p visuals. There’s only expected to be a few minor gameplay tweaks, fixing things like fixed camera angles that were obnoxious in the original. This also means the game will exist in 16:9 for the first time, but if you’re feeling nostalgic you’ll be able to set it back to 4:3 and kick it old school.

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Microsoft has announced a limited edition Halo mouse – In another refreshment of the Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500, this time Microsoft has given the mouse a more attractive Master Chief theme for fans of the Halo gaming series.

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Four upcoming horror games you should keep an eye on – For those of us who enjoy thrills of a darker nature, it never seems like there are enough satisfactory horror games on the market. Often times, when a horror-centric game does arrive, it proves derivative or lackluster, much like their movie counterparts. That’s not to say the genre is hopeless, however, and there are several titles coming up in the near future that promise big things for gamers.

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Classic Warhammer Board Game Blood Bowl Scores a Touchdown on Android and iPad – Warhammer games on mobile have a sordid history in that they tend to fall short of expectations. There are few fan bases as uncompromisingly purist as Warhammer fans, and that makes them hard to please. However, the newly released Blood Bowl for Android and iOS might be the first one that most Warhammer fans can agree has turned out to be rather good.

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Why I don’t play console games on my smartphone – BioShock is coming to iOS? Awesome! But I won’t be playing it. I say this based on repeated cycles of great anticipation — Grand Theft Auto is coming to iOS! Need For Speed Most Wanted is coming to Android! — followed by inevitable disappointment. Yep, it’s more or less the same game I enjoyed on my Xbox, but writ small. Too small. Hard to see, hard to control, and ultimately much less fun.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Survival Bike: Black Ops combines a moped and end of the world arsenal – We’ve seen big trucks decked out for the ever-anticipated apocalypse, but if you’re looking for something a bit smaller and easier on gas, Motopeds has a bike that fits the bill. The Survival Bike: Black Ops edition, is a model outfitted with an end of the world arsenal, including a crossbow and tomahawk.

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New Wizardry Allows Researchers To Turn Photos Into Three-Dimensional Objects – Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have created a way to manipulate objects in photos in three dimensions, allowing you to see all sides of formerly 2D objects. How is it done? Some might say there is dark magic afoot, but what’s really happening is far more interesting.

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Alleged Comcast customer service handbook: ‘Take Control’ – The legend of Comcast’s customer service has now gone before it and taken on a peculiar life of its own. With just one recording of a customer service agent, in which he attempted to choke the life out of a customer’s simple request to have his service terminated, the whole company was tarnished by the notion that its agents would make fine interrogators in a time of war. Now an edifying document has emerged that might explain some of the rep’s behavior.

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The 7 instruments NASA is sending to Mars in 2020 – New cameras, radar, and even an instrument to generate oxygen from carbon dioxide are all heading to Mars in 2020.

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Happy now? This equation predicts your well-being – Can something as subjective as happiness be mathematically quantified? British researchers have formulated an equation that they say can predict moment-to-moment happiness.

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Something to think about:

“The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.”

-      Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today’s Free Downloads:

Ginger Proofreader – Ginger Proofreader, the first product to be released based on the NLP platform, is a free spelling and grammar checker, intended for both speakers of English as their mother tongue, and English as a second language (ESL). Ginger Proofreader checks and corrects spelling mistakes, misused words, and corrects grammar mistakes, based on the context of the full sentence. Even when a word is spelled correctly, Ginger Proofreader checks grammar to see whether it makes sense in the sentence, and offers alternatives to the word.

Ginger Proofreader can also be used seamlessly by users writing documents, presentations, and emails, in MS-Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, IE, Firefox, and Chrome, enabling them to correct words in the sentence with a single click.

Features:

Ginger Proofreader is integrated with MS Office ® and with all major browsers

Contextual grammar and spell checking

Ginger Proofreader identifies and marks both spelling and grammar mistakes while considering their context

Corrects as you type or scans entire documents

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Run-Command – Run-Command is a small windows program created as an alternative to the standard Windows Run-Dialog.

In this program you will find a number of improvements e.g. the function run as administrator and add to favorites commands for frequently used commands.

You can comfortably manage the favorites and grouping by command categories is also possible.

Features:

Very small program

Arbitrary Windows shortcut

Execute programs via the command line

Run programs via favorite commands

Run commands as administrator

Supports Windows Environment Variables

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Barack Obama’s Secret Terrorist-Tracking System, by the Numbers – Nearly half of the people on the U.S. government’s widely shared database of terrorist suspects are not connected to any known terrorist group, according to classified government documents obtained by The Intercept.

Of the 680,000 people caught up in the government’s Terrorist Screening Database—a watchlist of “known or suspected terrorists” that is shared with local law enforcement agencies, private contractors, and foreign governments—more than 40 percent are described by the government as having “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” That category—280,000 people—dwarfs the number of watchlisted people suspected of ties to al Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah combined.

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The documents, obtained from a source in the intelligence community, also reveal that the Obama Administration has presided over an unprecedented expansion of the terrorist screening system. Since taking office, Obama has boosted the number of people on the no fly list more than ten-fold, to an all-time high of 47,000—surpassing the number of people barred from flying under George W. Bush.

“If everything is terrorism, then nothing is terrorism,” says David Gomez, a former senior FBI special agent. The watchlisting system, he adds, is “revving out of control.”

Edward Snowden isn’t the only leaker in town: new source surfaces – Edward Snowden isn’t the person who has tasked himself with leaking government secrets, according to U.S. officials that spoke to CNN. The information comes after The Intercept published a story today containing information acquired from a new source that provided national security documents. The identity of the new leaker, however, hasn’t been discovered.

The most damning piece of evidence that a new source has surfaced are the documents that were provided to the Intercept — they’re from the National Counterterrorism Center and they are dated August 2013. Snowden had already fled from the United States at that point.

Only time will reveal how many documents this new leaker has acquired; CNN points out that the classification of the documents are lower than what was released by Snowden. Some of the documents were classified as “Secret”, which are said to be stored on a Pentagon computer system called SIPRNet.

Abbott says Australians’ web browsing history to be retained – Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said web browsing history for each and every Australian resident would be required to be retained by telecommunications companies under new data retention legislation expected to be entered into parliament later this year.

Yesterday the prime minister and Attorney-General George Brandis said that in principle approval had been given by Cabinet for Brandis to develop a framework to require telecommunications companies to retain customer data for up to two years. Brandis said he would be consulting with the companies in developing this proposal, but iiNet’s chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby told ZDNet yesterday he had yet to hear from the government.

The definition of the actual data the government wants kept, and the length of time it will be kept for remains a mystery, with the announcement yesterday not detailing the exact specifics of the data that will be held.

iiNet has said if the data retention proposal is simply about retaining call records, then there is little controversy with the proposal, but said that confidential briefings from the Attorney-General’s Department state that much more data will be kept as part of the scheme.

Speaking to the Today Show this morning, Abbott confirmed an expansion of data retained indicating that browsing history would be required to be retained by the telecommunications companies.

“Let’s be clear about what this so-called metadata is. It’s not the content of the letter, it’s what is on the envelope,” he said.

“It’s not what you’re doing on the internet, it’s the sites you’re visiting. It’s not the content, it’s just where you’ve been, so to speak. We’re talking to the internet providers to ensure this so-called metadata is kept.”

Abbott went further on ABC’s AM program, stating that any data generated by the telcos about their customers would be kept.

In the wake of the Snowden revelations, a wave of innovation – It was an absurd scene. Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA and a four-star general in the Army, stood alone on the stage, squinting through the floodlights as members of the standing-room-only crowd shouted insults and accusations. Armed men in dark suits roamed the area in front of the stage, eyeing the restless crowd. Nearby, a man sat with a carton of eggs at his feet, waiting for a chance to let fly.

This was perhaps the height of the outrage surrounding the Edward Snowden NSA leaks, and the crowd, assembled for Alexander’s opening keynote at Black Hat last year, was buzzing with tension. It had only been about six weeks since the first stolen information had leaked out, and the most outrageous and controversial NSA documents wouldn’t be seen for several months yet, but the security community was up in arms over the revelations of the agency’s ability to collect and store millions of cell phone records every month, as well as the existence of the XKeyscore capability.

The leaks were coming at a furious pace and it was difficult for even the most sympathetic reader of the documents to argue that the NSA, as described in the public information, hadn’t overreached.  This was not a soft landing spot for Alexander, who, for many people, had come to represent not just the NSA, but the seemingly unlimited power and reach of the U.S. intelligence apparatus.

There were loud calls for Alexander’s resignation throughout the summer, and previous whistleblowers, security experts and some lawmakers said that there was a clear need for reform at Fort Meade. Critics said the agency had taken the expanded powers granted it after 9/11 and run with them. Concurrent advancements in technology gave the NSA a deep bag of tricks for conducting offensive operations and as the details of the TAO toy catalog and other capabilities emerged, the anger and outrage in the security and privacy communities festered. Something had to be done. Things needed to change.

Something had to be done. Things needed to change. And then, oddly enough, things began to change.

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Filed under Free Software Downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

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