Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – August 19, 2014

Six ways to secure your vulnerable network router (pics);  ‘Google for kids’ reportedly in the works;  Four apps that give you free money;  New website aims to publicly shame apps with lax security;  10 best Chrome apps for students;  HP Stream is a $199 Windows laptop for Google haters;  Noke Bluetooth padlock unlocks with a smartphone;  Check out the LibreOffice productivity suite (pictures);  Chinese Hackers Steal Personal Data From 4.5M Community Health Systems Patients;  Krysanec RAT Spies On Your Android;  Six Popular Linux Desktop Environments;  Has the US Legal System Always Been Such a Joke?  New tool for grading Iowa kids in gym class? Heart rate monitors;  Wifi Password Revealer (free);  New powers could give ASIO a warrant for the entire internet;  Twitter’s last experiment was unpopular… so they increased it;  Get the most out of your tech while traveling.

Six ways to secure your vulnerable network router (pictures) – Your home router is vulnerable to attacks as soon as you take it out of the box. Here are six things you can do to secure your network.

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Four apps that give you free money – That’s right—you’re wasting precious time playing Candy Crush when you could be earning cold, hard cash! (For the purpose of this rhetorical question, using your phone for work email doesn’t count as making money.) Here are four free, awesome, easy-to-use apps that will pay you in cash—sometimes gift cards—just for using your phone in everyday situations. So what are you waiting for? The only thing stopping you from making money is the fact that you haven’t downloaded these apps yet.

‘Google for kids’ reportedly in the works – The only protection against children 13 and under signing up for restricted services is a confirmation page or a checkbox asking them to confirm whether they’re actually over the age of 13. But as anyone who had internet access as a child knows, this is easily bypassed, allowing kids to search potentially dubious content on the web. Google’s rumored new initiative may eliminate this entirely by placing access directly in the hands of parents, who can control and access their childrens’ viewing and browsing habits on services like YouTube via a custom dashboard.

Build and maintain your resume with the help of these five apps – Creating and updating a resume may not be anyone’s idea of fun, but it’s much easier than it used to be. Here are five tools that can simplify the process.

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New website aims to publicly shame apps with lax security – The amount of personal data traveling to and from the Internet has exploded, yet many applications and services continue to put user information at risk by not encrypting data sent over wireless networks. Software engineer Tony Webster has a classic solution—shame. Webster decided to see if a little public humiliation could convince companies to better secure their customers’ information. On Saturday, the consultant created a website, HTTP Shaming, and began posting cases of insecure communications, calling out businesses that send their customers’ personal information to the Internet without encrypting it first.

Microsoft Answer Desk 0x50 Stop error message – Microsoft is investigating behavior in which systems may crash with a 0x50 Stop error message (bugcheck) after any of the following updates are installed. Go here for a solution.

Twitter’s last experiment was unpopular… so they increased it – Earlier this month, Twitter quietly began a new experiment which pushed other users’ favorited tweets into your own timeline, as if they were retweets. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t especially welcome, so Twitter has taken the obvious next step: rolled it out to even more people.

10 best Chrome apps for students – Between the Chrome browser’s ubiquity on PCs and the surging potency of online capabilities, Google’s Chrome Web Store plays hosts to a legion of superb web-based applications that can tackle practically any productivity challenge. These 10 Chrome apps will give students (and anyone else!) a well-rounded tool set—one that transforms your browser into a true productivity powerhouse.

bKey battery lives on your keyring for emergency smartphone charging – The most important moments in the life of your smartphone are those minutes right before it runs out of juice. You send those last-second messages to your friends to let them know you are off the grid for a little while, and you venture out into the world without your digital tether until you find an appropriate charging area. The guys at bKey have a cool keyring battery that isn’t likely to save you from completely draining your phone, but it could give you a few more minutes of hope in an emergency.

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HP Stream is a $199 Windows laptop for Google haters – What do you get if you rip Chrome OS out of the 14-inch HP Chromebook and stuff Windows 8.1 into it? The HP Stream, a laptop that’s going to fly off store shelves this Christmas with a $199 price tag. This could be one of HP’s hottest sellers ever — it’s priced like a Chromebook but it offers the advantages of the Windows ecosystem.

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Here you learn exactly what a Chromebook can do – Interested in buying a Chromebook, but afraid they’re a bit too different from Windows laptops and MacBooks? Or, perhaps you already own a Chromebook, but you’ve yet to explore its capabilities. If either of these two sentences describe your experience, then you’ve come to the right place. Every day this week we’ll focus on a different aspect of Chromebooks, hopefully demystifying them a bit and showing exactly what they’re capable of. So go ahead and bookmark this page, then check back here tomorrow for a new Chromebook post. Wash, rinse, and repeat for a few days.

Simple.TV antenna DVR debuts ability to share recorded TV shows – Simple.TV says it doesn’t anticipate any legal issues for its new feature allowing users to share their recorded shows with up to five others, regardless of whether or not the invitees have the paid service.

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Six Popular Linux Desktop Environments – Unlike Windows and OS X, Linux allows you to fully customize not only the look and feel of your desktop, but also its functionality as well as settings, through different “desktop environments”. These desktop environments offer different styles and options, and unavoidably, with choice often comes confusion. Today we’ll do a brief overview of the most popular Linux desktop environments to give you an idea about what each has to offer and what suits you the best.

Tom Hanks’ Typewriter App Shoots To The Top Of The App Store – Tom Hanks’ name can do more than sell a movie, it seems. His recently launched, hipster-ish typewriter app for iPad, Hanx Writer, has now shot to the top of the iTunes App Store, ranking No. 1 in both the Productivity section, as well as Overall. Launched last week, Hanx Writer turns your iPad into an old-fashioned typewriter, offering a pseudo-analog typing experience.

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Noke Bluetooth padlock unlocks with a smartphone – FUZ Designs envisions a future where your smartphone replaces your key ring, at least as far as your padlock is concerned. The Noke (pronounced no-key) is a Bluetooth padlock that looks like an ordinary Masterlock, but rather than using a physical key, it unlocks at the presence of your handset.

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Get the most out of your tech while traveling – For the next two weeks, we’ll show you the best ways to get the most out of your tech while traveling. Even if you’re just taking a weekend road trip, you’ve come to the right place. Expect a new blog every day focusing on a different aspect of travel.

Check out the LibreOffice productivity suite (pictures) – When you think office suite, there’s a good chance you’re thinking about the word processor. In LibreOffice’s case, that’s Writer: it does everything you’d expect from a modern Microsoft Office clone, including support for comments and tracking changes between multiple users. It will also read older Office documents that Microsoft Word has abandoned, which could come in handy if you have old Word files kicking around.

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Security:

Chinese Hackers Steal Personal Data From 4.5M Community Health Systems Patients – Community Health Systems, one of the largest hospital operators in the U.S., today announced that hackers stole about 4.5 million records with patient names, addresses, birth data, phone numbers and Social Security numbers. The company says the data was stolen in attacks that occurred between April and June 2014 and the hackers gained access to data from anybody who was referred for or received services from any doctor affiliated with Community Health Systems. The only good news about this breach is that the hackers did not gain access to any medical records.

Krysanec RAT Spies On Your Android – If you saw an app called “The Nasty, Malicious App That Will Record Your Phone Calls and Worse,” you wouldn’t download it. That’s why Android malware creators repackage their nefarious software within legitimate, well-known apps. It’s a common tactic, and one that’s easy to pull off. It’s also the strategy used by Krysanec, a Remote Access Trojan discovered by ESET.

Phishing emails used to hack US Nuclear Regulator – The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, regulator of the nation’s use of nuclear materials and commercial power plants, was compromised three times in as many years, according to a report from Nextgov. Two of the hacks are said to have resulted from someone(s) abroad, while the third responsible party has not yet been identified.

Cracking smart house devices & pwning thousands of PCs via VNC remote access – Pen testers cracked the security of every IoT device within a smart house. Other researchers scanned the Internet and grabbed 30,000 screenshots in an hour of PCs running VNC without a password. Moral of the story? Change default usernames and use a strong password.

Can we make hack-proof computers? – They could be hack proof – or much less hackable – if security were built into them instead of bolted on. Here’s an example of what that means.

Company News:

Symantec folds nine Norton products into one service – Symantec will consolidate its cluttered Norton line of security software, folding nine products into one online service that can be used across desktop computers and mobile devices. The product, in beta now, will simply be called “Norton Security” and cost $79 a year when it goes on sale in North America on Sept. 23, said Gerry Egan, senior director of product management. It replaces Norton Internet Security, Norton AntiVirus and Norton360, among others.

Google Makes It Easier For Advertisers To Track Which Ads Generate Phone Calls – Over the course of the last year, Google’s AdWords advertising platform started launching a number of new products that allow advertisers to link ads and phone calls. Those include click-to-call ads, call metrics and calls as conversion in your AdWords stats, but today, it is taking this concept a bit further with the launch of Website Call Conversions.

New BlackBerry unit to focus on patents, software – BlackBerry said Monday it has created a new business unit that will include its 44,000 patents and several software projects, as the struggling handset maker seeks to find new revenue streams. The unit, called BlackBerry Technology Solutions, will be led by Sandeep Chennakeshu, who has been involved in wireless, semiconductors and other tech sectors for over 25 years. He has served as president of Ericsson Mobile Platforms and chief technology officer of Sony Ericsson, and is a named inventor on 73 patents. Chennakeshu starts immediately as the new unit’s president.

Ethical Quandry? Washington Post Adds Amazon Affiliate Links to Articles – It’s no great secret that making money via affiliate links can be a fairly lucrative business. Some major websites subsist almost entirely on revenues generated by a pay-per-sale system, and one of the bigger programs around is offered by Amazon. As Pando Daily noticed, however, Amazon has added affiliate links into editorial properties that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos now owns. We’re speaking, of course, about The Washington Post, which Bezos bought last year.

Report: Google to launch YouTube Music Key subscription service – According to an exclusive report by Android Police, Google has big plans to turn YouTube into a better place to listen to music. It’s called YouTube Music Key, and it offers ad-free music, audio-only playback, and offline playback. It’ll start at $9.99 a month—which is how much Google Play Music All Access costs now—and new users will be able to try it free for 30 days. That same ten bucks would give you a subscription to Play Music All Access, which would be renamed Google Play Music Key.

Games and Entertainment:

Xbox Video for Windows Phone gets an update: faster playback, better searches – For those who enjoy watching movies and TV shows on their smartphone or tablet, Windows Phone’s Xbox Video app is a must — and for those who already have it, the latest update makes the app better than ever. Several performance features have been added, including faster playback, better startup time, and refined search results.

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Swing Copters Is The Latest Game From The Creator Of Flappy Bird – Take Flappy Bird, make the bird fly vertically and avoid swinging things, and you have Swing Copters, the next mobile game from Dong Nguyen. Because let’s burn more of our time on this earth with mindless games.

How to hide games in your Steam library – Why would you even want to hide games in your Steam library? It’s simple: Between Humble Bundles, Steam Summer sales, (sometimes) separate listings for beta, Mac, and Linux versions of games, and the slew of ways to snag free PC games, your library can quickly become cluttered with titles that you have no intentions of playing anytime soon, if ever. Steam’s new feature is the digital equivalent of spring cleaning.

Bungie’s New Destiny Trailer Detours to Storm-Wracked Venus – From Mars to Venus, it seems Bungie’s counting down planetary locales you’ll be visiting in Destiny, its online-only first-person shooter due out on September 9. Last week saw our band of intrepid heroes stalking the red-duned surface of the fourth rock from the sun, so this week is about the second.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Ferguson, MO and Police Militarization (HBO) – In the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, John Oliver explores the racial inequality in treatment by police as well as the increasing militarization of America’s local police forces.

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Why the First Amendment remains a key check and balance to police militarization – The disproportionate impact of police militarization upon poor and minority communities highlights the need to uphold the right to record police activity in a democratic society.

Has the US Legal System Always Been Such a Joke? – Between the daily drip of stories about paramilitary police forces exerting their will on minorities in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and the regular escape from punishment by rich white bankers, it’s easy to be cynical about law and order in America.

Women.com Is A Place Where Women Can Engage In Real Talk Online — No Men Allowed – When women are with other women that they trust, they often can be completely honest and comfortable in a way that they may not be in more mixed company. A website called Women.com aims to be the go-to place where women can speak honestly with each other online, deliberately away from the male gender — a sort of Ladies Four O’Clock Club for the online world. The bootstrapped startup, which is co-founded by CEO Susan Johnson and CTO Neal Kemp, is launching this week out of the current class of Y Combinator.

Omote uses light to project virtual makeup and real-time animations on your face – A team of artists and computer graphics designers have created a projection mapping system that you need to see to believe. Omote uses advanced face tracking technology to project precise images onto a user’s face that can simulate anything from makeup to cascading water. It all happens in real time, and you can see it demonstrated in the incredible video below.

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New tool for grading Iowa kids in gym class? Heart rate monitors – The Dubuque Community School District, you see, has decided that starting this year middle- and high-school students must wear heart monitors in gym class to see if they’re really making an effort to lose their quarterpounders, macs and cheeses. As ABC’s “Good Morning America” explained it, the results will be transferred to an iPad and projected onto a big screen in the gym. I can imagine that feelings will be torn about this exercise. You see, their measured gym performance is to become part of the students’ report card.

(The thin edge of the wedge? Is this a precursor to your employer monitoring your brain waves to ensure you’re reaching maximum productivity – 100% of the time? You decide if this is my attempt at humour – or not.)

Vehicle-to-vehicle networks could save over 1,000 lives a year, US says – The U.S. government wants to force cars to talk to each other over wireless networks, saying that could save more than 1,000 lives every year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is seeking input about a possible federal standard for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology, which would let cars automatically exchange information, such as whether they’re close to each other. The agency will accept comments from the public and industry for 60 days from when the advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) is published in the Federal Register.

First Smartphone Turns 20: Fun Facts About Simon – A tip of the hat to Simon, long referenced as the first smartphone. It went on sale to the public on August 16, 1994 and packed a touchscreen, email capability and more, paving the way for our modern-day wondergadgets. Here’s a look at some of Simon’s history.

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An original IBM Simon Personal Communicator is placed next to an Apple iPhone 4S at the Science Museum on August 15, 2014 in London, England.

Something to think about:

“We think having faith means being convinced God exists in the same way we are convinced a chair exists. People who cannot be completely convinced of God’s existence think faith is impossible for them. Not so. People who doubt can have great faith because faith is something you do, not something you think. In fact, the greater your doubt the more heroic your faith.”

-     Real Live Preacher

Today’s Free Downloads:

Wifi Password Revealer – WiFi password revealer is a small freeware utility which will show you all your saved WiFi passwords. If you forgot or lost password to your wireless network – this tool is for you.

For Windows XP and 2003 Server users. your passwords will be recovered as 64 HEX digits, and not exact password which you have entered. This is NOT a bug. Windows XP automatically converts them into this form, and it can’t be converted back. But you can still use this HEX digits instead of real password in order to connect to your wirelesss network.

Administrator rights are required on your PC in order to decrypt stored passwords.

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Opera 23 – A full-featured final version of Opera Next Internet browser, integrating modern style with powerful features, Opera gives you the freedom to truly open the web and explore. Includes pop-up blocking, tabbed browsing, integrated searches, and advanced functions like Opera’s groundbreaking E-mail program, RSS Newsfeeds and IRC chat. And because we know that our users have different needs, you can customize the look and content of your Opera browser with a few clicks of the mouse.

Features:

Find something unexpected

The Discover feature gives you top-quality news and entertainment from around the globe. Enjoy new content from a variety of categories and read articles from your region, in your language.

Search and navigate easily

Opera has one intuitive, powerful location for searching and navigating the web. Search using multiple providers and view site suggestions as you type.

Browse with style

Opera’s interface combines precision and quality. Integrating modern style with powerful features, Opera gives you the freedom to truly open the web and explore.

Speed up on slow networks

Off-Road mode compresses pages for faster, all-conditions browsing. It helps you stay online when your connection slows down.

Organize your favorites

An enhanced Speed Dial groups your top-visited sites directly on a custom start page. Quickly search and access your favorite content with refined searching and grouping options.

Keep what you find

Found something you’ll want to come back to? The Stash feature captures a page with one easy click and organizes your pages into a simple, sophisticated list. Scan your Stash in a resizable page preview or search what you’ve saved, by keywords.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

New powers could give ASIO a warrant for the entire internet

Summary: The broad definition of a ‘network’ in new national security legislation could give Australia’s top spy agency access to just about every computer on the internet, according to legal experts.

New national security legislation designed to make it easy for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to tap, access, and disrupt target and third-party computers and networks is so broad that it could in effect give ASIO access to every computer on the internet, according to legal experts.

Attorney-General George Brandis introduced legislation into the parliament last month that would expand the powers of ASIO, and its ability to access computers or computer networks under warrant as part of intelligence gathering, including the ability to access third party computers in order to gain access to a target computer under a warrant.

Two legal experts appearing before the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security investigating the legislation yesterday warned that the drafting of the legislation could potentially mean that almost any computer in the world could be accessed.

“I guess our major concern is more the situation where, say, computer networks could extend to any computer located on university premises where a person is studying, or all the computers where a person otherwise might work. But our main concern is that that idea of a network is not defined by even such a physical restriction as that,” University of New South Wales law lecturer Keiran Hardy said.

“Some requirements like having reasonable grounds to believe that the person had access to other computers, or a kind of last-resort provision that other means of obtaining that intelligence, aside from accessing multiple computers, might in some way sensibly limit that, whereas there is nothing in the legislation so far to even explain what the potential limits of that definition might be.”

UNSW’s Professor George Williams said it could extend as far as the entire internet.

NSA/GCHQ/CSEC Infecting Innocent Computers Worldwide

There’s a new story on the c’t magazin website about a 5-Eyes program to infect computers around the world for use as launching pads for attacks. These are not target computers; these are innocent third parties.

The article actually talks about several government programs. HACIENDA is a GCHQ program to port-scan entire countries, looking for vulnerable computers to attack. According to the GCHQ slide from 2009, they’ve completed port scans of 27 different countries and are prepared to do more.

The point of this is to create ORBs, or Operational Relay Boxes. Basically, these are computers that sit between the attacker and the target, and are designed to obscure the true origins of an attack. Slides from the Canadian CSEC talk about how this process is being automated: “2-3 times/year, 1 day focused effort to acquire as many new ORBs as possible in as many non 5-Eyes countries as possible.” They’ve automated this process into something codenamed LANDMARK, and together with a knowledge engine codenamed OLYMPIA, 24 people were able to identify “a list of 3000+ potential ORBs” in 5-8 hours. The presentation does not go on to say whether all of those computers were actually infected.

Slides from the UK’s GCHQ also talk about ORB detection, as part of a program called MUGSHOT. It, too, is happy with the automatic process: “Initial ten fold increase in Orb identification rate over manual process.” There are also NSA slides that talk about the hacking process, but there’s not much new in them.

The slides never say how many of the “potential ORBs” CESG discovers or the computers that register positive in GCHQ’s “Orb identification” are actually infected, but they’re all stored in a database for future use. The Canadian slides talk about how some of that information was shared with the NSA.

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