Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – August 28, 2014

15 simple, secret Windows tips and tricks designed to save you time;  10 Firefox add-ons for boosting productivity;  Windows XP ‘Unofficial Service Pack 4′ brings updates to Microsoft’s obsolete OS;  Pulled patch from August now back on Windows Update;  5 apps for making friends in a new city;  Twitter Opens Its Nifty Analytics Dashboard To Everyone;  Zotac’s $199 Zbox Pico mini PC fits in your pocket;  12.9-inch iPad expected early next year;  Google goes public with security audits to ease corporate concerns;  Microsoft Rolls Out Surface Pro 3 To 25 New Markets;  30-Second Tech Trick: Write Better Papers with Google Scholar;  PS4’s Free Game PS Plus trailer run-down for September;  Protect your devices with a $10 ‘USB Condom';  Senator wants all US cops to wear video cameras;  A Gloriously Stupid History of Sex in Video Games. 

15 simple, secret Windows tips and tricks designed to save you time – Nobody wants to waste time endlessly navigating menus. Fear not! Dr. PCWorld has the cure. Take these 15 secret Windows tricks to streamline your computing experience and eradicate little irritations that trip you up throughout the day. You won’t need to call me in the morning.

Windows XP ‘Unofficial Service Pack 4′ brings updates to Microsoft’s obsolete OS – A developer has created a cumulative rollup of updates for Windows XP called ‘Unofficial Service Pack 4′ after Microsoft ended its support for the ageing operating system earlier this year. This is not the first example of the developer community pulling together Microsoft updates into a collective package, and it probably won’t be the last. The lack of Microsoft support for Windows XP means that many users – especially those who cannot afford to buy newer systems – are turning to unofficial sources to get the support that they need to keep their PCs running.

5 apps for making friends in a new city – Making friends is difficult, especially if you’ve just moved to a brand-new city. And you work from home. And you have strange interests. And you sleep unconventional hours. As it turns out, there are several apps for meeting new people and making new friends, whether you’re a newbie in an unfamiliar town or a hermit with no social life. Unfortunately, a lot of these apps don’t actually work.

Microsoft removes 1500 apps from Windows Store, will refund anyone who purchased them – Microsoft has announced their new initiatives to clean up the Windows Store and as part of that process, they have removed 1500 apps that they considered to be misleading.

10 Firefox add-ons for boosting productivity – Distraction is always a click away on the web, but productivity nuts know not to fall prey to the traps. Largely that’s due to a bevy of tech tools that can help keep you on task, while boosting the capabilities of the web browser through some clever engineering. If you’re part of the Firefox faithful, check out these 10 add-ons that can turbo-charge your productivity.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Pulled patch from August now back on Windows Update – Microsoft has fixed and re-released the patch that was pulled from Windows Update after reports of boot issues from users post-installation of the August update earlier in the month.

Zotac’s $199 Zbox Pico mini PC fits in your pocket – Zotac has made some pretty small PCs before, but they’ve gone positively Lilliputian with their latest Zbox model. The Zbox Pico is so small that you can actually unplug it and shove it into your pocket. Volume-wise, this thing’s actually smaller than an Apple TV. It measures just 11.5 x 6.6cm and stands just under 2cm high. There are plenty of external battery packs and portable hard drives with dimensions like those… the difference being, obviously, that the Zbox Pico has a complete x86-compatible PC crammed inside.

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Intel creates world’s smallest 3G modem – The modem is called the XMM 6255, and it’s slightly larger than a one cent coin as you can see below. It’s a 3G modem, power amplifier, and transceiver in one tiny package, setup to be used in 3G smartphones and tablets as well as IoT devices. Intel also claims the all-in-one solution is quite resilient, meaning the radio won’t overheat easily or be susceptible to power spikes.

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How Many People See Your Tweets? Twitter Opens Its Nifty Analytics Dashboard To Everyone – Back in July, Twitter launched a really nifty analytics dashboard. A bit like Google Analytics for tweets, it allows you to gauge the performance of each and every tweet you sent. How many people saw it? How many of those actually clicked your links? There was one catch, though: it was only open to advertisers and verified users. No longer! Now you too can obsess way too hard over the performance of every tweet you send! Hurray!

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SWAT Team Detains Popular Gamer Who Was Live-Streaming ‘Counter-Strike’ – An incredible video showing the apparent swatting of a video game player who operates under the moniker ‘Kootra‘ was published today. Swatting is a prank that involves falsely telling the police of a dangerous situation so that a SWAT — special weapons and tactics (SWAT) — team is deployed in response, erroneously. The police are led to believe that they need to roll out the guns and armor, leaving the intended victim of the prank literally staring down the barrel of the gun. Making the entire situation nearly surreal is the fact that Kootra, whose common name is Jordan Mathewson, was streaming a video game to the Internet when the heavily armed police force entered his location, and detained him.

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12.9-inch iPad expected early next year – Earlier this year, Tim Cook told members of the press that he does about 80% of his work on an iPad. If that’s true, then he’s probably going to get a bit more productive in the next six months: Apple’s expected to unveil a 12.9-inch iPad by early 2015. The latest confirmation was reported to Bloomberg and it follows earlier tips provided to the Wall Street Journal and Korea Times. At this point, it seems like we’re just waiting for the invites to go out.

Dropbox Pro adds security and drops price for 1TB – Cloud storage provider Dropbox has updated its Dropbox Pro service, streamlining storage to a single 1TB plan, and making it easier to secure files and remotely manage content. The tweaks include password-protected shared links, which mean that even if someone else gets access to an URL for a shared file, they’ll still need to have the password you set in the first place.

Sensor-packed Butterfleye camera wants to be the eyes into your home – This smart surveillance camera monitors your home, using video analytics and sensors to decide when to record and when to turn itself off.

Video Games Come of Age as Spectator Sport – This frame grab taken from Twitch.tv shows two gamers competing and a streaming chat, at right, as visitors to the online network watch the two gamers go head to head. Fans watch for the same reasons ancient Romans flocked to the Colosseum: to witness extraordinary displays of agility and skill

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30-Second Tech Trick: Write Better Papers with Google Scholar – Think of it as doing research without the rest of the Internet getting in the way.

Security:

Google goes public with security audits to ease corporate concerns – The tech titan makes available to the public for the first time two independent security audits, as it works to prove its commitment to customer data protection.

Why do we keep relearning the same security lessons again and again? – Two recent vulnerabilities are examples of problems that could have been avoided if we had just applied the lessons already learned in similar contexts.

Protect your devices with a $10 ‘USB Condom’ – The USB Condom is a small and unobtrusive dongle that effectively turns any USB cable into a secure ‘charge-only’ cable to allow safe recharging from untrusted USB ports.

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Retailers warned to act now to protect against Backoff malware – The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council on Wednesday issued a bulletin urging retailers to immediately review their security controls to ensure point-of-sale systems are protected against “Backoff,” a malware tool that was used in the massive data theft at retailer Target last year. The bulletin instructed all covered entities to update their antivirus suites and to change default and staff passwords controlling access to key payment systems and applications.

New malvertising campaign hit visitors of several high-profile sites – Some visitors to several high-profile websites last week were redirected to browser exploits that installed malware on their computers because of malicious advertisements on those sites. The attack affected visitors to Java.com, Deviantart.com, TMZ.com, Photobucket.com, IBTimes.com, eBay.ie, Kapaza.be and TVgids.nl between Aug. 19 and Aug. 22, according to researchers from Dutch security firm Fox-IT. “These websites have not been compromised themselves, but are the victim of malvertising,” the researchers said Wednesday in a blog post. “This means an advertisement provider, providing its services to a small part of a website, serves malicious advertisement aimed at infecting visitors with malware.”

JPMorgan bank could be hackers’ latest victim – The FBI investigates a data breach into one of the world’s largest banks that may have involved malware being deposited on an employee’s personal computer.

Following the underground path of stolen credit card information – There is a thriving digital black market, more sophisticated than many businesses. Learn what happens to the information stored on a credit card that has been stolen.

Company News:

High-Tech Cooler Now Kickstarter’s Most Funded Project Ever – The high-tech “Coolest Cooler,” which hit the crowd-funding site in July, is now the No. 1 highest funded Kickstarter project of all time. With almost $10.4 million in pledges – and 58 hours to go – it has topped the Pebble Smartwatch, which earned $10,266,845 in May 2012. “Thank you forever!” the Portland-based inventor of the Coolest Cooler, Ryan Grepper, said on Kickstarter.

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Microsoft Rolls Out Surface Pro 3 To 25 New Markets – In keeping with prior expectations, Microsoft is currently in the process of rolling out its Surface Pro 3 tablet-hybrid to 25 new markets over the next 24 hours. With the 25 new markets all live, Surface Pro 3 will be available in a total of 28 markets. The rollout of the device has therefore been quite constrained to date. Microsoft also detailed in a post today that the new Surface dock will sell in the new markets, ahead of its general availability in mid-September.

Apple’s iWatch will reportedly make its debut on September 9th – After months of rumors, it looks we will get our first look at what Apple’s been working on for the past couple of years. Apple’s iWatch is rumored to make its debut at an unannounced September event.

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Judge denies Apple’s request for injunction against Samsung – A US judge rules that Apple won’t “suffer irreparable harm” if Samsung continues to sell various older smartphone models that may include patent-infringing components.

Games and Entertainment:

BioShock releases on iOS: 2K Games’ critically acclaimed 2007 first-person shooter has launched for iPhone and iPad – The game, originally released for Windows PC, Mac OS X, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in 2007, was announced as a mobile port earlier this month. It has been modified with slightly scaled-back graphics so it can run on mobile hardware, as well as touch controls — although it is also compatible with third-party mobile-compatible controllers.

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If you want a Kinect for your Xbox One, you can pick one up for $149 in October – So, if you are an owner of an Xbox One without a Kinect but would still like to purchase one, you will be able to do so starting October 7th for $149.99. The standalone device comes with Dance Central Spotlight, the latest in the dance series from developer Harmonix, which will be available as a digital download.

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Hunger Games: Mockingjay “Rebels” ideal for wallpaper – The publicity campaign for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is in full effect, bringing on viral content with extremely high quality. Most striking thus far has been the collection of massive images provided to the press. What we’ve seen so far includes mainly portraits – beastly, humongous posters of the characters that’ll appear in the film.

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GTA V creators say Lindsay Lohan is attention-seeking with frivolous lawsuit – After Lindsay Lohan took legal action against Rockstar Games, claiming the GTA V character Lacey Jonas is based on her, the company has hit back, saying her lawsuit is purely for “publicity purposes”.

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Lindsay Lohan and Lacey Jonas – not actually the same person

PS4’s Free Game PS Plus trailer run-down for September – Welcome to September – in a few days, but as far as Sony is concerned, right this minute. They’re bringing on a collection of games that’ll be free to download in September just so long as you’ve got a PlayStation Plus account. Signed up and ready to roll?

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A Gloriously Stupid History of Sex in Video Games – When I look back at those naked Lara Croft pictures from 1997, I can’t understand why anyone would bother. They seem like an actual obstacle to jerking off. Thankfully, we’ve gotten a little better at this shit as time’s gone by.

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Illustrations by Stephen Maurice Graham

Off Topic (Sort of):

Crazy CIA spy tech from the 50s, 60s and 70s – Crazy spy gadgets aren’t just limited to Batman and 007. The CIA houses in its museum all kinds of wacky knick-knacks and gizmos, some of which were just too silly for use.

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Man makes concrete castle using 3D printer – Who needs a house when they can have a castle? Enthusiast Andrey Rudenko has 3D printed his own castle out of concrete, and though it isn’t outfitted as a complete home, it would make quite the spectacular man cave or playhouse. The castle was printed 10mm at a time.

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Senator wants all US cops to wear video cameras – Claire McCaskill, the Democratic senator from Missouri, says police departments nationwide should require their officers to wear body cameras in order to qualify for the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding they receive each year. McCaskill’s comments come in the wake of the Ferguson, Missouri, shooting death of Michael Brown and is one of a myriad of calls in the episode’s aftermath for police officers to wear video cams.

The Times is using typewriter sound effects to “motivate” workers – Those of us working office jobs know how quiet it can get — headphones go on and the subtle clicking of modern keyboards fades away. It would seem such a setup makes for solid productivity, but The Times doesn’t agree. Instead, it is blasting its writers with typewriter sound effects to increase worker output.

Linux Has Run Out of Time – I like Linux and would love to just go all-in with it as the mavens tell me I can do. But I cannot. I use these computers to make a living by writing and podcasting. I also produce photographic art as a hobby. I can’t accomplish any of this with Linux. Yes, I can kind of “get by” but that’s about it. There are a lot of products that I need that will run on WINE, a chunk of code that allows Windows software to run on Linux. It’s not perfect. It takes tweaking, there are all sorts of issues, and, more importantly, what’s the point? If I have to run Windows applications, I want Windows, don’t I?

Five big names that use Linux on the desktop – It’s not just Munich city council that uses Linux on the desktop. A number of household names have also opted for open source. Perhaps the best-known major company to use Linux on the desktop is Google, which provides the Goobuntu OS for staff to use.

Wikipedia wants Congressional staffers to contribute, but bias is a big concern – Should policy wonks write for Wikipedia? The libertarian Cato Institute thinks Congressional staffer expertise could help Wikipedia post more about legislation, but some worry about conflict of interest.

Something to think about:

“When I pass, speak freely of my shortcomings and my flaws. Learn from them, for I’ll have no ego to injure.”

-     Aaron McGruder

Today’s Free Downloads:

CCleaner Standard – CCleaner is the number-one tool for cleaning your Windows PC. This is the standard installer with uninstaller. CCleaner Portable and CCleaner Slim are also available.

CCleaner is a freeware system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool. It removes unused files from your system – allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up valuable hard disk space. Install, uninstall and toolbar included.

Features:

Cleans the following:

Internet Explorer

Temporary files, history, cookies, Autocomplete form history, index.dat.

Firefox

Temporary files, history, cookies, download history, form history.

Google Chrome

Temporary files, history, cookies, download history, form history.

Opera

Temporary files, history, cookies.

Safari

Temporary files, history, cookies, form history.

Windows

Recycle Bin, Recent Documents, Temporary files and Log files.

Registry Cleaner

Advanced features to remove unused and old entries, including File Extensions, ActiveX Controls, ClassIDs, ProgIDs, Uninstallers, Shared DLLs, Fonts, Help Files, Application Paths, Icons, Invalid Shortcuts and more… also comes with a comprehensive backup feature.

Third-party applications

Removes temp files and recent file lists (MRUs) from many apps including Media Player, eMule, Google Toolbar, Netscape, Microsoft Office, Nero, Adobe Acrobat, WinRAR, WinAce, WinZip and many more…

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RealVNC Free – VNC is remote access and control software for an unrivalled mix of Windows, Mac, UNIX and Linux computers. With a simple peer-to-peer architecture, no agents or centralized servers are required.

To get started, download VNC to the computer you want to control, install it, and choose a license. Then, download VNC Viewer to the computer you wish to exercise control from. Note if you are connecting over the Internet, you may also need to configure your network.

VNC Free is free for for individual private use.

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F-Secure Rescue CD – If your computer no longer starts due to malware corrupting the operating system, or you suspect the security software has been compromised, you can use the F-Secure Rescue CD to securely boot up the computer and check the programs installed.The Rescue CD can also be used for more advanced repair and data recovery operations.

The Rescue CD contains Knoppix (a derivative of Linux), an operating system that runs completely from the CD and allows access to your computer’s Windows operating system and hard disks.

Note: the Rescue CD cannot scan encrypted disks.

You can also download the Rescue CD updates to a USB drive (minimum 256 MB of free space) using a healthy computer with Internet access. You can use this USB drive to fix a computer that cannot connect to the Internet. Instructions on how to do this are included in the Rescue CD User’s Guide.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The executive order that led to mass spying, as told by NSA alumni: Feds call it “twelve triple three”; whistleblowers says it’s the heart of the problem – One thing sits at the heart of what many consider a surveillance state within the US today.

The problem does not begin with political systems that discourage transparency or technologies that can intercept everyday communications without notice. Like everything else in Washington, there’s a legal basis for what many believe is extreme government overreach—in this case, it’s Executive Order 12333, issued in 1981.

“12333 is used to target foreigners abroad, and collection happens outside the US,” whistleblower John Tye, a former State Department official, told Ars recently. “My complaint is not that they’re using it to target Americans, my complaint is that the volume of incidental collection on US persons is unconstitutional.”

The document, known in government circles as “twelve triple three,” gives incredible leeway to intelligence agencies sweeping up vast quantities of Americans’ data. That data ranges from e-mail content to Facebook messages, from Skype chats to practically anything that passes over the Internet on an incidental basis. In other words, EO 12333 protects the tangential collection of Americans’ data even when Americans aren’t specifically targeted—otherwise it would be forbidden under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978.

Feds warn first responders of dangerous hacking tool: Google Search – In a restricted intelligence document distributed to police, public safety, and security organizations in July, the Department of Homeland Security warned of a “malicious activity” that could expose secrets and security vulnerabilities in organizations’ information systems. The name of that activity: “Google dorking.”

“Malicious cyber actors are using advanced search techniques, referred to as ‘Google dorking,’ to locate information that organizations may not have intended to be discoverable by the public or to find website vulnerabilities for use in subsequent cyber attacks,” the for-official-use-only Roll Call Release warned. “By searching for specific file types and keywords, malicious cyber actors can locate information such as usernames and passwords, e-mail lists, sensitive documents, bank account details, and website vulnerabilities.”

That’s right, if you’re using advanced operators for search on Google, such as “site:arstechnica.com” or “filetype:xls,” you’re behaving like a “malicious cyber actor.” Some organizations will react to you accessing information they thought was hidden as if you were a cybercriminal, as reporters at Scripps found out last year. Those individuals were accused of “hacking” the website of free cellphone provider TerraCom after discovering sensitive customer data openly accessible from the Internet via a Google search and an “automated “ hacking tool: GNU’s Wget.

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Australia: ASIO chief unfussed by data-retention bypasses – The use of virtual private networks (VPNs) and other methods to bypass mandatory data-retention regimes in Australia will be a challenge, according to Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) director-general David Irvine, but metadata is still an invaluable tool for law enforcement.

As part of the Australian government’s proposed mandatory data-retention regime, to be introduced in legislation later this year, telecommunications companies will be required to keep a vast amount of customer “metadata”, including the IP addresses assigned to a customer.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has already acknowledged that VPNs would limit the ability of law enforcement to match up a user’s IP address, and Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm reportedly said that a minister, widely assumed to be Turnbull, had to recently demonstrate to a law-enforcement agency what a VPN is, and how it could mask an IP address.

“He gave them a demonstration on a VPN and said, ‘By my IP address, tell me what you can find out about me now.’ And they had no idea there was such a thing as a VPN. It indicates to me that these people are not well informed enough to make these kinds of decisions,” Leyonhjelm reportedly said.

Speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday, Irvine was reluctant to go into the technical detail of the use of VPNs to bypass data-retention regimes, but said that it does present a challenge in the way his organisation uses metadata in investigations.

Leaked paper reveals Australia’s obsessive metadata secrecy – Last Friday, the Australian Attorney-General’s Department sent internet service providers (ISPs) a confidential discussion paper — subsequently leaked to Fairfax Media — that attempts to clarify exactly what metadata they’ll be required to store under the government’s proposed mandatory data-retention scheme. The detailed requirements are presumably designed to feed into the “statutory specification” of metadata that will be included in legislation to be introduced to parliament in coming weeks.

Until now, the only official government description of metadata we’d seen — apart from that breathtakingly confused TV performance by Australia’s favourite Attorney-General Senator George Brandis QC — was the hilariously inadequate one-pager (PDF) that the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) tabled in Senate Estimates on October 15, 2012, after much prodding by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam.

You might therefore think that the description of the government’s metadata needs in Friday’s document was a recent development.

You’d be wrong.

A confidential document obtained by ZDNet shows that even more detailed descriptions of the government’s data-collection ambitions had been discussed with ISPs as far back as early 2010.

The document, Carrier-Carriage Service Provider Data Set Consultation Paper version 1.0 (PDF), is a 16-page PDF file created on March 9, 2010, at 14:49. Its core sections are similar in structure to the nine-page document obtained by Fairfax Media this week, with the addition of tables of “sample data to further illustrate the expected type of data to be retained for each specific retention requirement from the data set”, discussion questions for industry to answer, and an introductory background section rather than an executive summary.

4 Comments

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

4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – August 28, 2014

  1. Fred

    Hi Bill!
    ‘Windows XP ‘Unofficial Service Pack 4′ brings updates to Microsoft’s obsolete OS’
    That is something that is what I used to think the online community was all about. It does me good to see there are still people out there who care about their fellow man.
    Unlike Mozilla and their turning of firefox into an abomination soon to be replete with ADS.
    Maybe the good guys will do the same for Vista when its time runs out. One can only hope.

    ‘Pulled patch from August now back on Windows Update’
    Last week you gave me some prudent advice on these updates you said not to install them until several days had gone by.
    Now ordinarily I would have installed this latest update immediately yet your words of caution stopped that and then upon reading this article it said MS said to uninstall the previous update and that the fix still had a bug in it, however with the “problem” update I have not experienced any issues, so my question for you is why should I do it at all? Have Vista not the ones mentioned as having the problems, what do you think Bill?
    Thanks,
    Fred

    • Hi Fred,

      Despite the wild west undertone of the Internet we have any number of examples, including this one, which lend truth to the cooperative nature of the Internet. Sure, there are loads of yahoos lurking in the shadows, but on the whole we’re pretty lucky, I think, that the Internet is largely a cooperative community.

      The Open Source community is one example of this – taken to a higher level. Surprisingly, Microsoft’s strong commitment to open source applications and systems is not well known- but, it’s there.

      It may well be that a similar compilation for Vista will be developed – but, I think not. The installed base for XP, even yet, is substantial. Not so for Vista.

      Releasing a patch which admittedly contains a partial solution, coupled with additional system risk, is ludicrous and self defeating. Bypass this one Fred until the issue has been resolved.

      Have a super weekend. :)

      Best,

      Bill

  2. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: Australia: ASIO chief unfussed by data-retention bypasses

    Just trust them to use metadata responsibly. Ha ha ha ha. What a load of crap. I wouldn’t trust them as far as I can spit.

    At least they aren’t going to ban VPN (so far). That would be interesting seeing them justify that. The fact that Turnbull had to show law enforcement what a VPN is and does just shows how pathetic they all are. If they don’t understand tech, then bugger off and get people who do.

    Cheers

    • Hey Mal,

      Yep, totally agree. It really is chilling that the very people we have entrusted to guard our welfare – and, whom we trust will comply – are incompetent.

      Scares the hell out of me. :)

      Have a great weekend.

      Best,

      Bill