Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – August 12, 2014

Most people think public Wi-Fi is safe. Seriously?  How to kill unwanted processes and applications that slow down Windows;  How to send Facebook messages without the Messenger app; Shield Tablet review: The best tablet for gamers, but…;  Microsoft Readies $25 Feature Phone;  Nest thermostat turned into a smart spy in 15 seconds;  Dropbox for Android Gets Office Doc Previews;  YouTube for Android gets Quad HD playback;  First trailer for ‘Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’ multiplayer released;  Microsoft just made your shaky GoPro video watchable;   20 essential Roku channels for dedicated couch potatoes;  Our Bodies, Our Selfies: The Feminist Photo Revolution;  Advanced SystemCare 8 Free Beta 1.0;  Have our mobile devices become our enemies? Tech Companies, ACLU Voice Support For Facebook In Data Search Warrant Case.

Most people think public Wi-Fi is safe. Seriously? – Talk about dismaying numbers! In Ofcom’s recent report, three quarters of the public were unconcerned about security when accessing Wi-Fi outside of their homes, and were quite happy to do *anything* on public Wi-Fi. Help us educate them, please!

Have our mobile devices become our enemies? – Mobile devices were the epitome of personal devices, and users trusted them with everything. Is that perception changing, and if so, what does that mean for mobility?

Can we talk before we arrive in our technical dystopia? – As consumers continue to freely give away their personal information to corporate giants looking to monetise such information, and the extent of government surveillance across the world is still being learned, Alastair MacGibbon says it is time to have a rational conversation about technology’s impact on society.

How to kill unwanted processes and applications that slow down Windows – Windows PCs run a whole lot of code in the background, much of which slows you down and provides little or no benefit. Here’s how to stop them.

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Dropbox for Android Gets Office Doc Previews, Android L Fixes, and Better Search – The Dropbox app on Android gets the job done, but it’s not the prettiest thing in the world. Today’s update doesn’t really change that, but it does bring some useful new features to the table that should make it easier to manage documents saved in your cloud space from a phone or tablet

How to send Facebook messages without the Messenger app – If you’re a Facebook user, you’re probably aware by now that you can no longer send and receive messages from within the mobile app. The company now requires you to use the standalone Messenger app for mobile chats. Fortunately, there are two ways to deal with this.

Intel unwraps Core M chip that lets PCs run sans fans – The new 14 nanometer processor, codenamed Broadwell, allows for computers that are less than 9 millimeters thick, about a third the thickness of PCs from 2010.

Microsoft Readies $25 Feature Phone – Whether in the market for your first cell phone or just looking for a backup device while on vacation, the Nokia 130 comes with a 1.8-inch color display and a battery that lasts up to 36 days on standby. It also boasts a built-in video player, a music player with up to 46 hours playback on a single charge, and everyday essentials like a flashlight, FM radio, and USB charging.

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Beware of Bitcoin, US consumer agency warns – The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has posted a bulletin warning of the risks associated with the virtual currency, including exposure to hackers and scammers. Bitcoin advocates say it paints an incomplete picture.

Little app of horrors – A word of warning: the photographs found on the mobile application Figure 1 may make your stomach turn. They include—and you should skip to the next paragraph if descriptions of medical injuries will nauseate you—a swollen bloody thumb, recently reconstructed after a fireworks injury; a 17 year-old’s foot charred black by an electrical burn; and a worm pulled from a patient’s anus. Yes, really. This is the stuff that medical professionals don’t see everyday, which is exactly why they’re flocking to this photo-sharing app.

Shield Tablet review: The best tablet for gamers, but not for everyone else – Nvidia scores with the highest-performaning Android tablet, but non-gamers may find it hard to live with some of the tablet’s annoyances.

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10 things about (the Internet of) things – We’ve all heard about the promise of the Internet of Things, where your alarm clock will start your coffee maker and your refridgerator will tell you when it is time to buy new milk. That future is coming — many think it will even be here by 2025. But if you can’t wait that long for IoT, here are 10 things that are bringing the hyperconnected future to you today.

YouTube for Android gets Quad HD playback option – Google has made changes to its YouTube app on Android to introduce playback support for 1440p content, allowing devices with Quad HD screens to stream and display video at their full resolution.

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Snapchat Is Now The #3 Social App Among Millennials – That means the app is more popular than Twitter, Pinterest, Vine, Google+ or Tumblr among the millennial demographic, which comScore defines as those between the ages of 18 and 34. Millennials are the youngest, most active generation of mobile social networking users, and their habits are setting the stage to be the new “default” for the generations that follow, like Generation Z or Generation Alpha, or whatever we’re calling the born-with-iPad-in-hand kids.

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The first public beta of Elementary OS ‘Freya’ has been released – Elementary OS Freya is a favorite of Neowinian GNU/Linux users, and rightfully so. Something that GNU/Linux users had often suffered in compared to Windows and OSX users is a beautiful out-of-the-box design (although some would disagree that Windows still deserves to fall in that category). Something that came out of left-field for GNU/Linux users, initially as just a desktop environment that slowly progressed to a full-blown distribution, was Elementary OS.

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Chromebooks get more useful with Elementary OS Beta – Not that a Chromebook isn’t in itself useful enough for the masses, but the team behind the Linux-based operating system Elementary OS are aiming to make functionality easy. Using an installation format called “ChromeeOS”, users will be able to boot into either Chrome OS or Elementary OS whenever they like.

Microsoft just made your shaky GoPro video watchable – Wearable cameras like GoPro do a great job of giving a first-person view of extreme sports and other activities, but their often jerky footage can also end up doing a good job of triggering nausea. That’s where Microsoft Research’s new Hyperlapse system comes in, timelapse videos that run smoothly and pretty much jerk-free, despite coming from raw footage that jumps around madly. The Microsoft Research team is working on a Windows app which would allow GoPro and other sports camera users to work out their own Hyperlapse videos too.

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Security:

Black Hat: Nest thermostat turned into a smart spy in 15 seconds – No, the Nest thermostat can’t be remotely hacked. But you might think twice about buying one from somewhere other than Nest since a persistent backdoor can be added in about 15 seconds…a backdoor that you would have no way of knowing was there and was being used against you.

Meet WordHound, the tool that puts a personal touch on password cracking – Dubbed WordHound, the freely available tool scours press releases, white papers, and Twitter accounts belonging to companies or sites that have recently suffered security breaches. The software then generates a list of commonly found words or phrases that attackers can use when trying to convert cryptographic hashes from compromised password databases into the corresponding plaintext passcodes. The tool, devised by security consultant Matthew Marx, was unveiled Wednesday at Passwords 14 conference in Las Vegas.

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Blackphone “hacked”, root access gained via debug – Blackphone was originally billed as the most secure Android phone you could get. That claim may have been upended, as a hacker going by the handle @TeamAndIRC has gained root access using the Android Debugging Bridge (ADB). Blackphone is mildly disputing the security exploit, but also commend the team for bringing it to light.

Company News:

There’s no free lunch for short-changed Silicon Valley workers – US judge rules that more than 64,000 tech workers have a strong claim against Silicon Valley’s most successful companies in a lengthy conspiracy to hold down their wages and careers.

(Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe – imprison each and every company scumbag who had a hand in this unscrupulous and despotic scheme to devalue their own employees. These morally corrupt throwbacks to the Robber Baron era, not satisfied with compensation packages which should in themselves be dramatically curtailed, stole from the very people who’s efforts create an opportunity for these pigs to line up at the unsupportable compensation package trough.

In any other industry, this criminal activity would have destroyed multiple careers – but, not in an industry where bullshit and bravado form the basis for an ongoing business environment.

The overriding question that needs to be asked is – since these companies steal from their own employees, how often, and under what circumstances, have they stolen from you?

Companies like these don’t steal from their customers you say? Then read the eye opener directly below.)

Comcast conveniently forgets “no fees” promise until confronted by recording – Two weeks ago, in the wake of Ryan Block’s nightmare of a cancellation call, Comcast Chief Operating Officer Dave Watson issued an internal memo saying that the recording was “painful to listen to.” He exhorted his employees to “do better.” Unfortunately for Watson, another call surfaced on Sunday that will likely be just as painful: a fellow named Tim Davis called Comcast to contest some bogus charges on his bill and only managed to get them refunded because he had recordings of previous Comcast calls.

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Amazon to publishers: you think too small about cheap e-books: In the war for cheap e-books, Amazon tries to take shots at its opponent—and fails – Amazon is fighting hard to maintain its image as authors and customers slowly tear it apart over its fight for low e-book prices. As the fight carries on, it’s clear Amazon knows it has a retail reputation to lose, but the company is unsure how to reconcile that with the business dealings coming to light over the last few months.

Lyft accuses rival Uber of dirty ride-sharing tricks – Lyft says that Uber employees have ordered and cancelled thousands of Lyft rides since last fall, hurting its business.

CBS will start producing original programming for online streaming services – If you can’t beat ‘em… The company won’t talk specifics yet, but it looks like a CBS show may soon debut online instead of the on company’s television broadcast network.

Games and Entertainment:

First trailer for ‘Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’ multiplayer released – Slegehammer said the game will include all the traditional Call of Duty modes as well as some new modes, such as a Uplink, which sees players competing for a satellite drone to be thrown or jumped into the opposing team’s goal, similar to a game of football. “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare” will be released for PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One on Nov. 4, though gamers who pre-order will receive it a day early. Those gamers will also receive two custom weapons and a special double-XP event the day before the game’s full retail release.

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Amazon Finally Brings Official Sev Zero Companion App to Play Store – Amazon has been busy cultivating it’s own little corner of Android with the Fire brand. There are Fire tablets, the Fire TV box, and now even a Fire Phone. Through all of that, Amazon has been holding some of its exclusive content back from other Android devices. Now at least some of it is coming to the Play Store with the launch of the Sev Zero: Air Support companion app. Sev Zero on the Fire TV is a third-person shooter—well, mostly.

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20 essential Roku channels for dedicated couch potatoes – While you won’t be able to stream your iTunes or Google Play purchases out of the box, Roku’s diverse library still covers an enormous array of genres to fit every taste, from instructional podcasts to the latest Hollywood hits. But with more than 1,500 channels, it can be difficult to navigate them all. That’s why we’ve narrowed the list down to 20 you absolutely need to install.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Skully Augmented Reality Motorcycle Helmet on Sale – Skully is now taking pre-orders for its AR-1 motorcycle helmet, which integrates a heads-up display for driving directions, incoming calls, speed data, and more. Information is displayed about 10 feet in front of the rider; in a video demo (below), it looks similar to alerts you might receive on Google Glass. The AR-1 made its debut in 2013 in beta, but it is now (almost) ready for primetime. Skully is taking pre-orders on Indiegogo, where the AR-1 is available at an introductory price of $1,399; it will eventually retail for $1,499. Skully expects to ship the AR-1 in May 2015.

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Irrational Fear of Risks Against Our Children – There’s a horrible story of a South Carolina mother arrested for letting her 9-year-old daughter play alone at a park while she was at work. The article linked to another article about a woman convicted of “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” for leaving her 4-year-old son in the car for a few minutes. That article contains some excellent commentary by the very sensible Free Range Kids blogger Lenore Skenazy:

See all 135 NASA Space Shuttle launches in one video montage – America is still without a dedicated orbital spacecraft following the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011. Still, the Shuttle had a pretty good run, having made its first flight way back in 1981. Now you can check out every one of the 135 Shuttle launches in one convenient two hour YouTube video. Okay, maybe “convenient” isn’t the right word, but it’s still an awesome resource.

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Our Bodies, Our Selfies: The Feminist Photo Revolution – Self-portraits have been an outlet for feminist expression, and subversion, for a long time. But when it comes to modern-day beauty representations, what we see daily is often a familiar spectrum of vanilla: white, gaunt, emotionless and airbrushed beyond recognition. Selfies are pushing back against that beauty ideal, through thousands of images of “real” women that they’ve created and shared themselves. “Selfies open up deep issues about who controls the image of women,” says Peggy Phelan, an art and English professor at Stanford University and the author of a recent essay about feminist selfies. “Selfies make possible a vast array of gazes that simply were not seen before.”

Enroll your outdoor cat in a GPS cat-tracking project – Cat Tracker is open to cat owners who are cool with making a DIY GPS harness, setting the cat loose for nine days, and then uploading the data to the project runners. As a result, you get to see where your kitty roamed during that time and the researchers learn more about the movement patterns of cats. The project is run by Your Wild Life, a team of biologists and citizen-scientists, in collaboration with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science and animal movement database organization Movebank.

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Something to think about:

“All the President is, is a glorified public relations man who spends his time flattering, kissing and kicking people to get them to do what they are supposed to do anyway.”

-   Harry S Truman

Today’s Free Downloads:

Synei System Utilities – Synei System Utilities is a complete care package for your computer! This program will clean, speed up, maintain, secure, and repair your system to make your computer run like brand new.

Features:

Optimization you can actually feel – Built precisely for maximum optimization. Compare with other optimization software and experience how our product makes your computer much faster.

Defrag your hard drives – Reorganizes files in your PC’s hard drives, so the files are systematized, which helps your PC achieve tasks quicker.

Customize to your preference – It’s highly customizable. Choose from multiple designed themes or create your own! Easily choose your desired settings to desired color.

You won’t even notice it running – There are many similar programs out there that not only constantly nag you with annoying pop ups or advertisement, but they also use up huge amounts of background resource. You’ll never get that from us; our programs are very light on resource and nag free.

Several Utilities on a simple interface – Whatever utility you need, it’s always there, whether you need disk cleaning or backing up. Don’t bog down your computer by installing several different utilities.

TuneUP Your System – Boosts your system and internet. It automatically modifies your registry settings for quality performance, so you don’t have to worry about a thing.

Don’t want to install? No problem! We offer both the installer and portable version. Portable version lets you run the program without installation. You can also take it with you and load it from anywhere, such as on a USB Drive.

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Tor Browser Bundle – Protect your privacy. Defend yourself against network surveillance and traffic analysis.

The Tor software protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and it lets you access sites which are blocked.

The Tor Browser Bundle lets you use Tor on Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux without needing to install any software. It can run off a USB flash drive, comes with a pre-configured web browser to protect your anonymity, and is self-contained.

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Advanced SystemCare 8 Free Beta 1.0 – Advanced SystemCare 8 Free takes a one-click approach to protect, repair, clean, and optimize your PC. With over 150 MILLION downloads worldwide, this fantastic, award-winning, free PC repair software is a “must-have” tool for your computer. It’s easy to use and 100% safe with no adware, spyware, or viruses.

Why waste money on expensive “registry cleaners” to fix your PC when Advanced SystemCare Free can repair, tune up, and maintain it for you – for FREE!

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Tech Companies, ACLU Voice Support For Facebook In Data Search Warrant Case – A group of tech giants and civil liberties groups voiced their support on Friday for Facebook as it continues its legal battle to return private data collected in a set of bulk search warrants to its users and prevent future searches.

Facebook disclosed in June that a New York court forced the company to turn over personal data for almost 400 users in a disability fraud case. Although only 62 of the people were actually indicted in the case, the government retained private data for more than 300 people it did not charge. Facebook first turned over the data months ago, but the company could not disclose it to its customers because the court enforced a gag order.

In June Facebook filed an appellate brief in June to drive the court to return the data — which included photos and private messages — back to its users. The court responded by lifting the gag order on the case, allowing Facebook to at least inform the Facebook users that their data had been swept up in the bulk collection.

On Friday Dropbox, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, Yelp, Foursquare, Kickstarter, Meetup, Tumblr, New York Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU filed amicus briefs supporting Facebook.

In the first brief, Dropbox, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yelp called the gag order that accompanied the court’s warrant unconstitutional, accusing the court of violating the First Amendment.

US court rules in favor of providing officials access to entire email account – A Judge in Columbia ruled that providing law enforcement with access to an entire email account in an investigation did not violate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures of property.

The order Friday by Chief Judge Richard W. Roberts of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colombia reversed an earlier decision by Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola who refused to allow a two-step procedure whereby law enforcement is provided all emails relating to a target account, and is then allowed to examine the emails at a separate location to identify evidence.

The striking down of Judge Facciola’s ruling will likely fuel the privacy debate in the country. A New York judge defended last month his order that gave the government access to all content of the Gmail account of a target in a money laundering investigation.

Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York held that courts have long recognized the practical need for law enforcement to seize documents if only to determine whether they fall within the warrant.

The opinion was at odds with decisions by judges in several courts, Judge Gorenstein noted.

In his review, Judge Roberts appears to have taken a similar view on the issue as Judge Gorenstein in New York.

Judge affirms probationer has a right to tape police officer in her home: Ruling is one of many nationwide supporting right to record police – In February 2011, plaintiff Mary Crago was visited by three police officers, including defendant Officer Kenneth Leonard. Leonard was working on the Sacramento Police Department’s Metal Theft Task Force, and he was tipped off that Crago may have been involved in a theft involving a vehicle battery. Since Crago was on searchable probation, the officers entered her home—the door was open—and they found Crago “sitting on a mattress, digging furiously through a purse.”

According to court documents, “Inside the purse, defendant found a four-inch glass pipe and a small baggie with white residue. The white residue subsequently tested positive for methamphetamine.” Crago did not resist the officers’ search, but she allegedly told Leonard that she was recording the search on her laptop. Leonard then took her laptop and deleted her recording, telling her that recording was forbidden.

Crago then sued, saying her right to record the police in her home was protected by the First Amendment.

Father of PGP encryption: Telcos need to get out of bed with governments – Phil Zimmermann, the creator of Pretty Good Privacy public-key encryption, has some experience when it comes to the politics of crypto. During the “crypto wars” of the 1990s, Zimmermann fought to convince the US government to stop classifying PGP as a “munition” and shut down the Clipper Chip program—an effort to create a government-mandated encryption processor that would have given the NSA a back door into all encrypted electronic communication. Now Zimmermann and the company he co-founded are working to convince telecommunications companies—mostly overseas—that it’s time to end their nearly century-long cozy relationship with governments.

Zimmermann compared telephone companies’ thinking with the long-held belief that tomatoes were toxic until it was demonstrated they weren’t. “For a long time, for a hundred years, phone companies around the world have created a culture around themselves that is very cooperative with governments in invading people’s privacy. And these phone companies tend to think that there’s no other way—that they can’t break from this culture, that the tomatoes are poisonous,” he said.

Amtrak employee sold customer data to DEA for two decades – A former Amtrak employee has been giving passenger information to the Drug Enforcement Administration in exchange for money for nearly two decades, according to reports from the Whittier Daily News. A total of over $854,460 changed hands over the last 20 years, despite the fact that information relevant to the DEA’s work could have been obtained from Amtrak for free.

The employee, described as a “secretary to a train and engine crew” in a summary obtained by the AP, was selling the customer data with Amtrak’s approval. Amtrak and other transportation companies collect information from their customers including credit card numbers, travel itineraries, emergency contact info, passport numbers, and dates of birth. When booking tickets online in recent years, Amtrak has also collected phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

The Whittier Daily News points out that Amtrak’s corporate privacy policy allows the company to share this information with “certain trustworthy business partners,” however, the secretary’s actions didn’t happen under this sanction.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – August 11, 2014

These 3 Chrome extensions make encryption easier for everyone;  7 back-to-school apps to help you make the grade;  GeckoEye: a security camera puck powered by the sun;  The best Chromebooks for school; How to Tell If The Spies Are Watching You, for Cheap;  What my kid learned with a Little Scholar tablet;  3 data recovery applications for OS X;  Facebook Color Scheme Scam returns: don’t be fooled;  Home routers supplied by ISPs can be compromised en masse;  All you need to know about the ‘X-Men’ movies in 3 minutes;  Battlefield 4 goes free to play on PC for 168 hours;  What are Online Problematic Situations: EU Kids Speak Up;  Beware of US-based Tech Support Scams;  Hackers Unveil Their Plan to Change Email Forever;  Hackers to Auto CEOs: Build Secure Cars!

The best Chromebooks for school – Chromebooks have proven to be wildly popular in schools. More than a million Chromebooks were sold to schools this spring alone. Chromebooks also come with their built-in advantages: They require no anti-virus programs, they boot up in fewer than 10 seconds, they automatically update to the newest patches without any fuss or muss, and with them you can use a wide variety of educational and productivity programs

7 back-to-school apps to help you make the grade – You’re already dreading the early wake-up times and the terrifying tests and term papers that are par for the coursework. While we can’t excuse you from that 8 a.m. class or from the pop quiz that you’re so not prepared for, we can recommend seven educational apps to ease and enrich the coming school year.

These 3 Chrome extensions make encryption easier for everyone – Thanks to the fallout from the revelations about the U.S. government’s surveillance tactics, people are starting to take interest in using encryption tools for keeping email, files, and instant messaging private. Lately, some easy-to-use encryption tools have popped up that are very well designed and don’t require you to dramatically change your usage habits. Here’s a look at three of them.

Keep your laptop secure on campus – Learn how to prevent your laptop from being a target for thieves, and what precautions to take to improve your odds of recovering it in case it gets stolen.

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How to calibrate your TV for movies, sports, and games – One size or setting does not fit all. By adjusting the picture modes that your TV offers, you can improve the image quality for your various entertainment pursuits.

Required Viewing: Dan Geer’s Black Hat Keynote on the Philosophy and Future of the Internet – At this year’s Black Hat convention in Las Vegas, Dan Geer delivered a sobering, thought-provoking key note speech on the current state of Internet technology, the role of government, and his ten suggestions for the future. Watch the video. It’s a veritable feast for thought.

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What my kid learned with a Little Scholar tablet – There’s myriad educational apps and devices out there, and Crave’s Eric Mack has found many of them disappointing, but he reports that School Zone’s Android tablet is a notable exception.

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How to Tell If The Spies Are Watching You, for Cheap – A university professor described to DEF CON attendees how the ordinary citizenry could shield their activities, without having to robbing a bank to fund the project. “Our government’s assault on the Constitution is pretty well known,” Phil Polstra, an associate professor of digital forensics at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, said on Friday. Here are two ways you can tell you are being spied on and how to protect against it, on the cheap.

GeckoEye: a security camera puck powered by the sun – Security cameras serve an obvious purpose: to keep an eye on your possessions in case something happens to them. As technology morphs, these cameras have become smaller and more useful. One such camera is the GeckoEye, a puck-shaped camera that can be fit onto any surface, drawing its power from the sun. The GeckoEye is a round disc measuring in at 45mm, featuring a camera in the middle and an integrated solar panel. The maker says its security camera can be mounted anywhere using sticky tape, and will stay powered on its own via the solar panel.

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Nostalgia alert: Microsoft rebuilds original 1994 home page – Experience the early days of the Web with a faithful re-creation of Microsoft.com as it existed 20 years ago.

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3 data recovery applications for OS X – There are numerous types of data recovery software available and even apps that are designed to support multiple OSs — ones that are Linux-based or boot into a specialized DOS-like environment from Live CDs — but they may or may not support all of the native features of OS X. In this article, we’ll focus only on software that runs natively on OS X.

OS X Tip: Sharing your internet connection – Here’s how to share a single internet connection – perhaps from an ethernet data port – with all your other devices.

What are Online Problematic Situations: EU Kids Speak Up – The London School of Economics and Political Science, in partnership with the EU Kids Online Network, published a long white paper (171 pages!) about what children perceived as online problematic situations (OPS), in contrast to what researchers and/or parents thought were problematic, and why. The report also highlighted the types of risks children are aware of, what the negative consequences are when one engages in or observes risky behaviour online, how they react to them, and what they do to avoid these situations.

Security:

Facebook Color Scheme Scam returns: don’t be fooled – There’s a malicious group of tricksters out there this week with the same game as they’ve had for several years. They suggest you’ll be able to change the color and/or layout of your Facebook homepage, you agree to their terms, and they steal your information. We implore you to let all of your Facebook friends know – DO NOT FALL FOR THIS TRICK.

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Home routers supplied by ISPs can be compromised en masse – Specialized servers used by many ISPs to manage routers and other gateway devices provisioned to their customers are accessible from the Internet and can easily be taken over by attackers, researchers warn. By gaining access to such servers, hackers or intelligence agencies could potentially compromise millions of routers and implicitly the home networks they serve, said Shahar Tal, a security researcher at Check Point Software Technologies. Tal gave a presentation Saturday at the DefCon security conference in Las Vegas.

Beware of US-based Tech Support Scams – Most people associate tech support scams (AKA the fake Microsoft support call) with technicians sitting in a crowded and buzzing boiler room somewhere offshore. Indeed all of the tech support scams we have tracked so far were with companies located either in Mumbai, Kolkata or elsewhere in India. But last month, we stumbled upon fake warning pages urging users to call a number for ‘emergency tech support’. When we rang the number, we were surprised to hear that the technician sounded American. It turned out that their company was based in ‘the sunshine state‘ of Florida, USA.

The 10 most terrifying security nightmares revealed at the Black Hat and Def Con hacker – If the past is any indication, most of these exploits are scarier in theory than in fact—but they still offer a startling glimpse into the dangers inherent in an increasingly connected world. Here are the creepiest security stories coming out of Black Hat and Def Con in 2014.

Hackers to Auto CEOs: Build Secure Cars! – A group of security researchers determined to make the physical world a safer place demanded automobile manufacturers to build cars designed to withstand cyber attacks. The group, with the moniker “I am the Cavalry,” released an open letter to “Automotive CEOs” through Reuters, posted a copy on its website, and launched a change.org petition, to call on automobile industry executives to implement its Five Star Automotive Cyber Safety Program. The pillars of the program includes safety by design, third-party collaboration, evidence capture, security updates, and segmentation and isolation.

Microsoft to drop support for old versions of Internet Explorer – Microsoft announced today that it’s dropping support, including security updates, for older Internet Explorer versions. The changes, which take effect in 18 months, are meant to push the vast Windows installed base to Internet Explorer 11.

Company News:

Andreessen Horowitz invests $50M in BuzzFeed – Entertainment and news site BuzzFeed has closed a $50 million investment from Silicon Valley venture capitalist Andreessen Horowitz. The New York-based company, which was founded in 2006, tracks and serves up the content that is getting the most attention on the Internet to its 150 million average monthly viewers. The investment gives the company a valuation of $850 million, according to the New York Times, which first reported the investment.

Amazon’s latest spat is with Disney, and movie pre-orders are in the crossfire – Amazon is once again nixing movie pre-orders, this time against Disney, likely as a move to “motivate” negotiations in a direction it considers more favorable. Neither Disney or Amazon have commented on the matter, but it has been noted that recent Disney movies like Guardians of the Galaxy are not available for pre-order on Amazon.

Amazon Publishes Hachette CEO’s Email in Latest Salvo Over E-Book Pricing – In its latest move in an escalating battle over e-book pricing, Amazon attacked book publisher Hachette in a strongly-worded letter Saturday which includes the Hachette CEO’s email address and encourages authors to contact him directly.

Games and Entertainment:

All you need to know about the ‘X-Men’ movies in 3 minutes – So what do you do if you’ve been living under a rock for the past 14 years and need to catch up on all seven films — quick? You turn to Mashable’s new TL;DW (Too Long; Didn’t Watch) YouTube video: “Every ‘X-Men’ Film in Less Than Three Minutes.”

(According to this writer, I’ve been “living under a rock for 14 years.” I’ve not yet seen an X-Men movie. On the other hand, I’ve read approximately 588 books – 3.5 books per month on average, during those 14 years. 

I’m not knocking movies (to each his own, and all that) – but personally, given what often passes for entertainment on the big screen these days, I’ll take a book as a first preference. Paper, not an eReader edition.)

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Battlefield 4 goes free to play on PC for 168 hours – Between now and August 14 anyone with an Origin account, or anyone setting one up just for this offer, can claim 168 hours (7 full days) worth of free play time in the game. EA refers to this as Origin Game Time, and they’ve used it before to entice people to play and buy Titanfall. The main difference this time being the 168 hour time limit rather than the comparably stingy 48 hours Titanfall got.

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Microsoft puts the focus on Xbox One multiplayer games in new ad – Microsoft has posted a new Xbox One advertisement showcasing some of the new games heading to the console in the coming months. The advertisement, which dramatically puts the focus on the multiplayer and team elements of gaming, was posted to the official Xbox channel on YouTube earlier today. The upcoming games which make an appearance in the ad include Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Halo: Master Chief Collection, Evolve and Sunset Overdrive.

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Mobile MMORPG Order and Chaos Is Now Free-to-Play – Gameloft is one of the most well-known developers of high-end mobile games on both Android and iOS. Among its popular franchises are Modern Warfare shooters and the Asphalt arcade-style racers. The developer’s MMORPG Order and Chaos has also proven popular, even with the hefty $6.99 asking price. However, this week that game dropped to free on iOS and Android.

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Meet the most insanely authentic flight sims ever: IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad and Ilya Muromets – “This is how we do games: To understand what it’s like to dogfight, we just go outside of Moscow, put ourselves in planes, and do some dogfighting,” says IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad’s producer Albert Zhiltsov, showing me a video of the team flying maneuvers in real planes. It’s crazy. It’s commitment. It’s just a small part of what makes 1C Game Studios—built from the original IL-2 franchise owners 1C Company and Rise of Flight creator 777 Studios—a flight simulator dream-team.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Surveillance in the Movies: Fact vs. Fiction – For those of us who don’t work at a spy agency, the “intel” we’ve gathered on what state surveillance is like comes primarily from movies and TV shows. But just how realistic are those portrayals? A panel of experts at Defcon, one of the world’s top hacker conferences taking place in Las Vegas over the weekend, had some answers.

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The Simpsons Movie (2007)

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The Company You Keep (2012)

Laziness at the expense of privacy and freedom: John McAfee – John McAfee, founder of the antivirus software company that bears his name, has called out laziness and the likes of Google as two of the contributing factors to the “eroded nature of privacy in our lives today”.

Tech Companies Praise The President For Speaking Out In Favor Of Net Neutrality – President Barack Obama spoke in favor of net neutrality this week, pushing back against the idea of paid prioritization, which many call Internet “fast lanes.” Following the president’s comments, a number of technology companies joined cultural and privacy groups in praising the American leader.

FCC chairman downplays net neutrality differences with Obama – The U.S. Federal Communications Commission chairman’s view of net neutrality rules and President Barack Obama’s are not as different as some reports this week have suggested, the chairman said Friday. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, a Democrat appointed by Obama, downplayed news reports suggesting Obama wants stronger net neutrality rules than he does.

Almost one in six doctor visits will be virtual this year – With an aging Baby Boomer population and broadband bandwidth improved a hundredfold from a decade ago, telemedicine is exploding as a convenient and less costly alternative to the traditional visit to the doctors’ office. This year in the U.S. and Canada, 75 million of 600 million appointments with general practitioners will involve electronic visits, or eVisits, according to new research from Deloitte.

Pizza Gio is Australia’s first pizza vending machine – It might sound like pie in the sky, but pizza vending machines have finally arrived in Australia, following examples in France, the US, and Italy. The Pizza Gio machine vends two varieties of 11-inch artisan pizzas, cooked on demand in under three minutes. It’s the brainchild of George Pompei, the owner of Pompei’s pizzeria and Italian restaurant in Sydney’s Bondi Beach.

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Something to think about:

“If everybody knew everything about everybody else, what would human behavior become? We would be limited to the least common denominator of human behavior: those behaviors which no one would find offensive. “We cannot have intrusions into our lives and still have freedom.”

-      John McAfee

Today’s Free Downloads:

Restore Point Creator – Create and manage System Restore Points quickly and easily, all from a free simple program. No more drilling through multiple menus in Windows just to create a System Restore Point, now all you have to do is run this program and that’s it. Follow the simple program layout and you have your System Restore Point created in no time at all.

Plus, for users of Windows 7 and Windows 8, creating System Restore Points is even quicker and easier with this program. Just pin this program to the Taskbar and you have the ability to quickly create System Restore Points using one of the two pinned Tasks (“Create System Checkpoint” and “Create Custom Named”) that the program creates. It’s that simple.

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FileFriend - MajorGeek says: FileFriend lets you password protect, split and join and password protect your files, even inside images.

It’s a real Swiss army knife of file security. The interface should be easy even for inexperienced users. The first tab lets you split files into many pieces and the second tab allows you to rejoin them. Imaging hiding your favorite files you don’t want seen in 10, 20 or even 1,000 different pieces. The third tab lets you encrypt any file or folder. Finally, the fourth tab lets you not only password protect your jpeg files but also to hide files inside your jpeg images. Each section has a few additional options, but again this one is simple to use and a must have for anyone trying to protect their files.

There is no help file but you won’t be needing it.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Crypto Daddy Phil Zimmerman says surveillance society is DOOMED – Defcon 22 A killer combination of rapidly advancing technology and a desire for greater privacy among the public should condemn current surveillance state to an historical anachronism, according to PGP creator Phil Zimmermann.

In an extended talk at Defcon 22 in Las Vegas, Zimmermann said it might seem as though the intelligence agencies have the whip hand at the moment but mankind had faced this situation before. He also said the abolition of slavery and absolute monarchy, and the achievement for civil rights, also once looked unlikely but were achieved.

Zimmermann praised the release of information by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, saying his efforts have alerted the populace to the real state of affairs and made people much more concerned about privacy. The revelations had also forced the technology industry to “up its game” and provide products to meet that demand, he opined.

Russia now requires ID for access to public WiFi – Modern Russia seems to be edging on totalitarianism, and the latest development doesn’t help that notion. Public WiFi hotspots in Russia now require identification to log in, and companies must make it known to the government who is using their connections. The legislation, though over-reaching and drawing the ire of many, is said to be a measure to stop terrorism.

Signed into law on July 31 by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the announcement was made just today. Companies have said they aren’t even certain how to report who is using their WiFi network. Accessing the public networks is done by registering your mobile phone number, after which you can have a code sent to you to log-in to the network where you happen to be. The number is linked to your ID, suggesting you’d need to register with the Government each time you change numbers. The method also requires updating your info every six months.

Malaysia mulls Facebook ban, cites public complaints – The Malaysian government says it is evaluating the need to ban access to Facebook following incidents of abuse on the social media, but critics argue any move to do so is primitive and will face strong opposition.

“If the people [of Malaysia] are of the opinion that Facebook should be closed, we are prepared to look into the matter,” Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek told local reporters after an Umno meeting over the weekend. The ministry is currently gathering public views on this issue, he said, noting that it had received 2,000 complaints involving abuse on the website.

However, he admitted that mandating a ban on Facebook would be “a radical approach”, reported local news agency Bernama. Ahmad Shabery added that it would be “quite impossible” to shut down access when there were 15 million Facebook accounts in Malaysia.

Hackers Unveil Their Plan to Change Email Forever – The creator of an ultra-secure email service once said to be used by Edward Snowden unveiled his next project at a major hacker conference Friday: he and others like him want to change the very nature of email forever.

Ladar Levison, creator of the Lavabit encrypted email provider, was forced in August of last year to give investigators access to an account reportedly used by Snowden, the National Security Agency leaker, after a tug-of-war with federal authorities. But rather than compromise the privacy of his other 400,000-plus email users, Levison says, he shut the entire project down. A similar encrypted email provider, Silent Circle, took heed and shuttered its own service to pre-empt any federal authorities that might come demanding information from it as well.

Out of those ashes, Levison and others launched the Dark Mail project, which is developing Dime, a set of new email protocols its creators hope will revolutionize the way the world communicates online.

“If I sound a little bit upset, it’s because I am,” Levison told a packed ballroom Friday at Defcon, a top hacker conference held annually in Las Vegas.

“I’m not upset that I got railroaded and I had to shut down my business,” said Levison. “I’m upset because we need a Mil-Spec [military grade] cryptographic mail system for the entire planet just to be able to talk to our friends and family without any kind of fear of government surveillance.”

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – August 8, 2014

Why you shouldn’t be scared by the ‘largest data breach’ ever;  Tour Colleges Online With Google Street View;  Facebook also uses PhotoDNA to prowl for illicit images;  8 essential apps for back to school;  Enter Sexfit, the Unmentionable Wearable;  Woman hospitalized with ‘Twitter psychosis';  How to test the speed of your USB drives;  Five high-quality Android voice recorders;  The best times to post on social media: 4 tips;  How to opt out of interest-based ads on your Android phone;  The US Intelligence Community has a Third Leaker;  NFL Now video app launches across mobile, TV boxes;  6 job search ‘hacks’ that will get you hired;  Meet Sproutling, the smart baby monitor that learns your kid’s sleeping patterns;  Dial-Up Still a Cash Cow for AOL.

Why you shouldn’t be scared by the ‘largest data breach’ ever – There’s a good chance that one of your email accounts is among the 1.2 billion accounts compromised in what appears to be the largest credential heist ever. But experts have two words for you: Don’t panic. While 1.2 billion purloined credentials sounds scary, security experts who gathered in Las Vegas for the annual Black Hat hacker conference this week say that there’s little cause for concern.

Facebook also uses PhotoDNA to prowl for illicit images – Google and Microsoft have both recently tipped off the police to illegal materials in users’ accounts. Facebook has confirmed that it also keeps an eye on users’ images, so to speak, in order to scan for “explicit photos of children.” This is done using PhotoDNA.

8 essential apps for back to school – These apps will help you with classwork, homework, and studying, and also keep you in touch with the world outside of school activities. Now all you need to remember to do is use them.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Two alternate ways to install apps on an Android device – Quick…how do you install apps on your smartphone or tablet? If you said “From the Google Play Store”, you are correct. Next question — “How do you easily install previously installed apps on a new phone?” A bit tricker to answer, eh? Thankfully, it’s not a tricky riddle to solve. With the Android platform, you have numerous ways of installing apps. I want to illustrate two different ways to install apps you may not have known about. These “alternative” methods of app installation will save you a lot of time and effort.

Enter Sexfit, the Unmentionable Wearable – It was only a matter of time before some enterprising young thinker took a look at the growing world of smartwatches, fitness trackers, and other such digital bands and thought, “Hey, I bet I know where we could put one of these!” Enter the “SexFit.” It’s a device for men designed with the same kind of performance-tracking capabilities as those other wearables, only it’s worn on, well, not on the wrist anyway. Yep, the SexFit is basically a c*** ring with a computer chip.

Five high-quality Android voice recorders – If you are a frequent flyer of the on-the-go business set, you know having the right tools to do your job is a make or break deal. The ability to quickly and easily record voice memos falls into that must-have category for many. Even though Android does have a built-in voice recorder, it’s not always the best tool for the job. If you do a search of voice recording apps, you’ll come up with a large number of results. So I’ve narrowed the list to five outstanding apps that will help you record and organize your memos, meetings, and notes.

How to get photos from your digital camera to Instagram in 3 easy steps – The best photos on Instagram weren’t taken with a smartphone. Make your account stand out by learning how to get photos from your DSLR or point-and-shoot onto Instagram in no time.

Cyber Dust review: Mark Cuban’s private messaging app is just too inconvenient – The latest super-secret texting app has some interesting features, but lacks anything compelling to set it apart from a crowded field.

NFL Now video app launches across mobile, TV boxes – The league launched new NFL Now apps for mobile and TV Wednesday, which include video and news broadcasts from the company’s NFL Network. The apps stream team news, features, game highlights, and other custom programming. While the apps are free, getting to any of the content requires creating an NFL.com account. From there you can choose a favorite team and prioritize the types of videos you want to watch.

Tour Colleges Online With Google Street View – Just in time for back-to-school season, the Web giant has added 36 new university campuses across the U.S. and Canada to Street View.

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Woman hospitalized with ‘Twitter psychosis’ – A woman was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after saying she believed that a famous actor was sending her coded messages via Twitter, according to a published research paper.

How to test the speed of your USB drives – You could sit in front of your PC with the stopwatch and time how long it takes to move a 100MB file from an internal drive to an external one. But that’s tedious, prone to errors and not that accurate. It’s better to use benchmarking software, even though that isn’t perfect, either. Every test designed for benchmarking is going to show some biases of its designer—big files versus small files, reading vs. writing, and so on. But any good program will still tell you what drives are faster than others. With that in mind, here are three free programs I recommend.

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USB Flash Benchmark is not only free; it’s also portable—you don’t need to install it to use it.

swivelCard paper USB connects to your special web page – swivelCard is a business card with a USB chip but, unlike similar contraptions you might have seen in the past, this one is made out of paper just like a regular business card. Yes, paper. If that weren’t special, or strange, enough, this business card is meant to be used more than a business card but less than a USB drive. You basically hand it out to people, customers, or perspective clients and ask them to plug it into their computers daily, from time to time, or even just once, with the promise of a customized or always changing updates related to their interests or to your product.

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3 tools to schedule your social media posts – With these tools you can keep your tweets and status updates flowing even when you’re stuck in your third meeting of the day. Just remember a couple of golden rules when it comes to scheduling posts: Don’t schedule everything, be prepared to engage when your scheduled posts go live, and stay on top of current events and trending topics.

The best times to post on social media: 4 tips – They say timing is everything. On social media, it can make all the difference. You don’t have to look far to find study after study discussing the best times to post on various social media platforms. There’s a lot of info out there, and some of it conflicts. Here are four points to get you started.

Meet Sproutling, the smart baby monitor that learns your kid’s sleeping patterns – All a video monitor or audio monitor can really tell you is if your kid is awake—and even that is kind of a stretch. In reality, it’s closer to “Is my kid making noise?” But parents want to know a lot more than that. A new smart baby monitor from Sproutling can not only clue you in about your baby’s temperature, heart rate, and sleeping position, but also learn the baby’s unique patterns, helping you more easily attune to her own individual needs.

How to opt out of interest-based ads on your Android phone – Jack Wallen shows you how to opt out of interest-based advertising on your Android device to improve anonymity on your smartphone or tablet.

Security:

Chip and PIN Cards More Secure Than Swipe Cards, Also Pretty Awful – To our U.S. readers, paying with a credit card means swiping a magnetic strip. But for people in much of Europe and other countries, it means inserting your chip card into a reader and entering your PIN. This so-called chip and PIN solution has long been touted as far superior to the American swipe, and in most ways it is. But there are some serious issues with how the scheme has been implemented.

Microsoft to release an updated malicious software removal tool with Patch Tuesday – On the second Tuesday of every month, Microsoft releases patches for all of its software platforms. The day, commonly referred to as ‘Patch Tuesday,’ arrives next week and this time around there will be 9 updates in total with two of them being rated critical. Along with the patches, Microsoft will push out an updated version of the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool tool; nothing else was said about what the update to the tool will include.

Yahoo To Strengthen Email Encryption – Yahoo will join Google in providing users of its email service with end-to-end encryption, helping to keep the private communications of people protected from the prying eyes of governments and hackers alike. The company made the announcement on stage at the Black Hat security conference earlier today.

In major shift, Google boosts search rankings of HTTPS-protected sites – Sites that properly implement the transport layer security (TLS) protocol may be ranked higher in search results than those that transmit in plaintext, company officials said in a blog post published Wednesday. The move is designed to motivate sites to use HTTPS protections across a wider swath of pages rather than only on login pages or not at all. Sites that continue to deliver pages over unprotected HTTP could see their search ranking usurped by competitors that offer HTTPS. Facebook is also getting more serious about encryption, with plans to acquire PrivateCore, a company that develops encryption software to protect and validate data stored on servers.

Consumer Reports drops the ball on airport Wi-Fi – An article by Consumer Reports called “Free Wi-Fi takes off at airports” is an opportunity missed. It says nothing about security as if there were no dangers to using public wireless networks.

Critical WordPress plugin bug affects hundreds of thousands of sites – Hundreds of thousands of websites running a popular WordPress plugin are at risk of hacks that give attackers full administrative control, a security firm warned Thursday. The vulnerability affects Custom Contacts Form, a plugin with more than 621,000 downloads, according to a blog post by researchers from Sucuri. It allows attackers to take unauthorized control of vulnerable websites. It stems from a bug affecting a function known as adminInit(). Hackers can exploit it to create new administrative users or modify database contents.

Company News:

Windows Phone Store passes 300,000 apps; sees growth of 94% inside a year – Late last night Microsoft confirmed on its by the Numbers webpage that the Windows Phone Store is now host to over 300,000 apps. This marks an accelerated growth for the ecosystem, now considered to be the third largest in the world (at 3.4%) behind Android (52.1%) and iOS (41.3%), and it only took around six months to get there from the 200,000 clocked in December 2013, up from 100,000 in June 2012. According to Microsoft, the latest number of approved Store apps was calculated till the end of June 2014.

Samsung still tops in US smartphone market; Apple takes second – Samsung snagged 36.1 percent of smartphone shipments in the second quarter, compared with 29.7 percent for Apple, new data from Counterpoint Research shows.

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Counterpoint Research

Dial-Up Still a Cash Cow for AOL – A big chunk of people still pay AOL for dial-up, and they’re contributing a not-so-inconsequential amount to the company’s profits. AOL still had some 2.34 million dial-up subscribers as of the second quarter of 2014, according to the company. That figure is down 9 percent from the same time period last year (where the company had approximately 2.58 million subscribers), but it’s only a 3 percent decline from last quarter’s 2.42 million subscribers.

Nvidia reports strong quarter as Tegra sales grow 200 percent – Nvidia’s second-quarter results exceeded analyst expectations, as the company’s core GeForce GPUs propelled growth. The company’s emerging Tegra business grew 200 percent.

Netflix surpasses HBO in subscriber revenue – Netflix has surpassed HBO in subscriber revenue, according to a status update from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings on Wednesday. The company is now pulling in $1.146 billion compared to HBO’s $1.141 billion, and it boasts 50.05 million subscribers, according to its second-quarter earnings reported in July. Netflix has long seen HBO as a competitor in terms of audience and, more recently, in produced content. While HBO has slowly started to come down from the ivory cable tower and be more flexible about how it offers its subscriptions, Netflix has been making gains.

Games and Entertainment:

Peter Molyneux’s Godus Comes to iPhone and iPad – Game designer Peter Molyneux has become an icon in the game industry for creating titles like Dungeon Keeper, Black and White, and Fable. Now his new project, a god simulator called Godus, has arrived on iPhone and iPad. You must take the fate of a tiny digital civilization into your hands and guide them onward to a prosperous future, but only if you’re clever.

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Xbox One Digital TV Tuner brings Europeans free-to-air shows – Xbox One owners in Europe will soon be able to add a digital TV tuner to their console, controlling their viewing by voice and enjoying free-to-air content. The new Xbox One Digital TV Tuner is a compact adapter that plugs into one of the Xbox One’s USB ports and then to a regular TV antenna, while a companion update to the OneGuide and the OneGuide on Xbox SmartGlass app brings control to both the TV and to your phone or tablet.

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Twitch starts scanning for copyrighted audio, silences own videos for infringment – The game streaming giant also changed up the rules for archives, eliminating the ability to archive full-length streams for longer than sixty days.

The Sun Also Rises is a game that shows a different side of war – Joining the growing ranks of indie games offering more thoughtful takes on war, The Sun Also Rises hopes to show the very human impact of the Global War on Terror.

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Unreleased Duke Nukem source code found at Library of Congress – A cache of recently acquired video games at the Library of Congress turned up a true find: the source code for unreleased PSP game Duke Nukem: Critical Mass.

Off Topic (Sort of):

This is the incredible car Bugatti built to honor its founder – When it’s time to build one final model for a super-exclusive series of already rarefied cars, and bearing the name of your esteemed company founder no less, you have to go big or don’t go there at all, which probably explains why Bugatti’s latest Veyron costs $3.14m. Sixth and arguably most-special car in the “Les Légendes de Bugatti” line-up, the last car is being dedicated to Ettore Bugatti with the sort of excesses the company he created is now known for.

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Microsoft partners with iFixit to teach people to repair devices – Currently, there are many companies that offer services to repair or recycle their devices. Many of these services do nothing more than an average consumer (with a little know how) could. In an attempt to revive the PC repair business, Microsoft been working with iFixit over the past year to provide free training on how to repair cell phones, PCs, and tablets for people that are starting a repair business.

6 job search ‘hacks’ that will get you hired – In a tight IT employment market, landing a job isn’t easy regardless of how well-qualified you are. However, there is way you can gain an advantage. These six job search ‘hacks’ can give you a competitive edge on other candidates and put you on your way to a great career move.

Watch this: Robot assembles itself, then crawls away – Robots are typically very complicated devices, full of parts that need a long assembly time and a myriad of hands working on them. A new concept may change that, as researchers at Harvard and MIT have been working on a robot that builds itself. Like a Transformer lying in wait, this one can morph into a new shape.

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Something to think about:

“That is the greatest fallacy, the wisdom of old men. They do not grow wise. They grow careful.”

-    Ernest Hemingway

Today’s Free Downloads:

W8 Sidebar – W8 Sidebar is a free standalone(portable) software that includes several useful components which allow you to monitor your PC right from the desktop.

Features:

W8 Task Scheduler – Lets you create an unlimited number of tasks as desired (i.e. once, daily, weekly, monthly).

W8 Searcher – Allows you to find any personal file in your computer very fast, usually under 2 seconds, depending on the number of files that you have.

W8 Cleaner – Will help you clean your computer of temporary files and other junk files left after installing or running programs.

W8 Auto Shutdown – Allows you to program the computer shuts down, restart, stand by, log off or hibernate it at a predetermined time.

W8 Computer Performance – Offers information about your system boot time, restart time, start up programs and installed software.

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Macrium Reflect FREE Edition – With Macrium Reflect Free Edition you’ll be able to easily make an accurate and reliable image of your HDD or individual partitions. Using this image you can restore the entire disk, partition or individual files and folders in the event of a partial or complete system loss.

File Backup:

Create a single backup file of one or more folders on your hard disk

Incremental and Differential backups.

Include and exclude filter ensures that you only backup relevant files.

Browse the backup file as a virtual FAT32 hard drive in Windows Explorer.

Files in use by Windows (such as Outlook .pst files) are backed up even when locked!

Multiple compression levels.

Backup files can be saved to local or network drives or optical storage (CD, DVD)

Optionally exclude system and hidden files.

Supports Incremental and Differential backups.

Password protect backups to prevent unauthorized access.

Restore specific files or the entire backup.

Restore to any location.

Disk Imaging:

Create a single backup file of a complete hard disk

Create a single backup file of one or many partitions

Incremental and differential images

Restore a partition to a different type. e.g. a logical partition can be restored as a bootable primary partition

Resize the restored partition. A hard disk upgrade can easily be performed by increasing the partition to fill the new disk.

Track 0 (The Master Boot Record) is saved with all backups.

Backup files can be saved to local or network drives or optical storage (CD, DVD).

Disk image can be created whilst Windows is in use. A special driver ensures that the disk image represents an exact point in time and will not be affected by disk access that may occur during the backup process.

Verify images. Images (Backup files) can be separately verified or automatically verified before restore.

System files such as ‘pagefile.sys’ and ‘hiberfil.sys’ are not included in the image. This reduces the final backup file size.

Three compression levels can be selected to optimize between file size and speed.

Password protect images to prevent unauthorized access.

AES 256 bit encryption for ultimate security.

Set image filenames automatically.

Linux based rescue CD

Bart PE rescue CD plug-in

Windows PE 2.1 rescue CD with Windows boot menu.

Save your backup definitions as XML files and execute them with a single click from your desktop.

Includes VBScript integration and a VBScript generator for unparalleled control of the backup process.

Scheduling Features:

Schedule daily, weekly or monthly.

Unattended completion.

Automatic incremental / differential images.

Automatic disk space management for local / remote hard drives.

Full logging of all backup operations. HTML log reports are generated and can be viewed using Reflect’s built in browser.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Leaked Files: German Spy Company Helped Bahrain Hack Arab Spring Protesters – A notorious surveillance technology company that helps governments around the world spy on their citizens sold software to Bahrain during that country’s brutal response to the Arab Spring movement, according to leaked internal documents posted this week on the internet.

The documents show that FinFisher, a German surveillance company, helped Bahrain install spyware on 77 computers, including those belonging to human rights lawyers and a now-jailed opposition leader, between 2010 and 2012—a period that includes Bahrain’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. FinFisher’s software gives remote spies total access to compromised computers. Some of the computers that were spied on appear to have been located in the United States and United Kingdom, according to a report from Bahrain Watch.

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A screengrab from leaked FinFisher data appears to show surveillance targets of the Bahraini government

Earlier this week, an anonymous hacker released 40 gigabytes of what appears to be internal data from FinFisher on Twitter and Reddit, including messages between people who appear to be Bahraini government officials and FinFisher customer service representatives.

In those messages, Bahraini software administrators complained to FinFisher that they were “losing targets daily” due to faults in its software. In one message employing the language of a frustrated consumer, a spy appeared to complain that he or she had to keep re-infecting a targeted computer, risking detection: “[W]e cant stay bugging and infecting the target every time since it is very sensitive. and we don’t want the target to reach to know that someone is infecting his PC or spying on him” one message reads.

The US Intelligence Community has a Third Leaker – Ever since The Intercept published this story about the US government’s Terrorist Screening Database, the press has been writing about a “second leaker”:

The Intercept article focuses on the growth in U.S. government databases of known or suspected terrorist names during the Obama administration.

The article cites documents prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center dated August 2013, which is after Snowden left the United States to avoid criminal charges.

Greenwald has suggested there was another leaker. In July, he said on Twitter “it seems clear at this point” that there was another.

Everyone’s miscounting. This is the third leaker:

Leaker #1: Edward Snowden.

Leaker #2: The person that is passing secrets to Jake Appelbaum, Laura Poitras and others in Germany: the Angela Merkel surveillance story, the TAO catalog, the X-KEYSCORE rules. My guess is that this is either an NSA employee or contractor working in Germany, or someone from German intelligence who has access to NSA documents. Snowden has said that he is not the source for the Merkel story, and Greenwald has confirmed that the Snowden documents are not the source for the X-KEYSCORE rules. I have also heard privately that the NSA knows that this is a second leaker.

Leaker #3: This new leaker, with access to a different stream of information (the NTSC is not the NSA), who The Intercept calls “a source in the intelligence community.”

Snowden granted three-year stay in Russia – National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has been granted permission to stay in Russia for three more years, his lawyer said Thursday.

Snowden’s temporary asylum expired on August 1, but it has been extended via a three-year residency permit. Snowden, who faces espionage charges in the US, fled to Russia in June 2013, two weeks after his first leak appeared in the Guardian.

The leaker’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told a news conference Thursday that Snowden had a tech-related job, was learning Russian, and had private body guards. Kucherena said Snowden was living from donations and his meager wages, and he had not accepted housing or protection from the Russian government.

Can We Fight Government-Sponsored Malware? – Security guru Mikko Hypponen pulled out of the RSA Conference earlier this year to protest the fact that a flaw in the RSA encryption algorithm let the NSA break into encrypted files. Either they did it deliberately, or it was an accident. Evil, or inept? It’s bad either way. At the Black Hat 2014 conference in Las Vegas, Hypponen expanded on what we can expect when governments get into the malware-writing business.

Hypponen led with a small history lesson. “It’s a common misconception,” he said, “that if a company is hacked badly enough, they’ll go bankrupt. But it’s not so. Most large organizations recover quickly. Think of the Sony PSN breach.” He went on to point out one notable exception. In 2011, Dutch firm Diginotar got breached by an outside attacker that used the company’s certificate generation system to generate fake certificates for Google, Mozilla, Microsoft, Twitter, and more.

“This attack was used by the Iranian government to monitor and find dissidents in their own country,” said Hypponen. “An attack like this is doable if you control the whole network of your country. Diginotar didn’t fold because they were hacked; they folded because they didn’t tell anyone. When it came out, they lost trust, and as a certificate vendor trust is what they were selling.”

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – August 7, 2014

Facebook Data Privacy Class Action Now Oversubscribed;  Five tech items you should stow away in your glove box;  Google Search: 5 of the most useful instant answers;  Five unanswered questions about massive Russian hacker database;  Gmail gets official “Unsubscribe” button;  Unclouded App Lets You See What’s Eating Up Your Cloud Storage;  Get your Guardians of the Galaxy fix with these 6 apps;  Fundamental ‘Fake ID’ Flaw Lets Malware Run Wild;  9 tips every Windows user should know;  The guide to password security (and why you should care);  US Homeland Security data possibly stolen in cyberattack;  What’s up with watts; how many watts do your speakers need?  AV-Test proves antimalware apps can restore infected computers;  Cyber defender Brandis is proving unfit for purpose; Top gov’t spyware company hacked; Gamma’s FinFisher leaked.

The guide to password security (and why you should care) – Reports of a massive security breach circulated this week. There are a lot of questions about the extent of this alleged breach, but if you’re concerned that your password and credentials have been taken, we recommend updating your passwords. Here’s our advice for creating a strong password you can actually remember.

Top gov’t spyware company hacked; Gamma’s FinFisher leaked – The maker of secretive FinFisher spyware — sold exclusively to governments and police agencies — has been hacked, revealing its clients, prices and its effectiveness across an unbelievable span of apps, operating systems and more.

Facebook Data Privacy Class Action Now Oversubscribed – A civil class action lawsuit being brought against Facebook on privacy grounds by Europe vs Facebook campaigner Max Schrems has hit its current maximum of 25,000 participants less than a week after the action was announced. Additional participants wanting to join the action are being asked to register their interest, via a Facebook class action website, in the eventuality of the case organizers being able to increase the number of participants.

9 tips every Windows user should know – Still need to upgrade to Windows 8.1 from an earlier version? Read this guide to learn how to do so. As for those of you who have already made the switch, we’ve compiled a list of the top tips to help make your Windows 8.1 experience more enjoyable.

Five unanswered questions about massive Russian hacker database – There’s still much that’s unclear about Tuesday’s revelation that a small group of hackers in Russia have amassed a database of 1.2 billion stolen user IDs and passwords. The company that disclosed the incident, Hold Security, didn’t offer any fresh information Wednesday, but here are five questions we’d like to see answered (and a bonus one that we already know the answer to).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Google Search: 5 of the most useful instant answers – Google isn’t just a search engine it’s also an answer machine. Here are five key queries you may find helpful on a day-to-day basis.

Five tech items you should stow away in your glove box – Having a few pieces of tech on-hand can make your drive a bit easier. We’re not talking about the tech baked into your car’s software, but the things you can tote around with you. From listening to music to not running out of power, these five items can make your day a bit easier on you.

Gmail gets official “Unsubscribe” button – Now that we’ve got non-latin character support, Gmail is officially doing us another big favor. If you’ve ever signed up for a newsletter, only to find yourself inundated with daily roundups of stuff you don’t care to know about, Gmail can now unsubscribe you with a single click.

Public Knowledge readies complaint on mobile traffic throttling – Digital rights group Public Knowledge will file net neutrality complaints against each of the four largest mobile carriers in the U.S. over their practice of throttling some traffic, in some cases on so-called unlimited data plans. Public Knowledge on Wednesday sent letters to AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile USA, telling the carriers it plans to file traffic-throttling complaints at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. The letters are the first step toward filing a formal complaint with the FCC.

Unclouded App Lets You See What’s Eating Up Your Cloud Storage – Back when the PC was king, a number of software programs were available that would let you analyze your hard drive utilization, allowing you to delete and relocate files in order to free up more storage space. But now that we’ve moved to using cloud services, where overuse isn’t just an annoyance, but incurs additional monthly charges, gaining that same sort of visibility is more important than ever. A new application called Unclouded, launching today, helpfully analyzes, explores and assists you with cleaning up your cloud storage in an easy-to-use app offering a level of insight into your online storage usage that you may have not had before.

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What’s up with watts; how many watts do your speakers need? – How much is enough? 25, 50, 100 or more watts, or maybe a lot less; the Audiophiliac ponders the wattage question.

Security:

AV-Test proves antimalware apps can restore infected computers – Independent lab AV-Test confirms that certain antimalware apps do restore Windows 7 computers to pre-infection condition.

(Unless you are experienced in removing malware, don’t be overly encouraged by this news. A proper inspection by a certified computer tech is a small price to pay to ensure your personal and confidential data is in fact, malware free – or not. Especially in this age of malware chaos.)

Foursquare now tracks your location, even when you aren’t using it – The new Foursquare app has drawn some mixed reviews. Some consider it a Yelp challenger, aiming to provide you with food reviews more than a social layer. Now that Swarm is handling check-ins, Foursquare is free to do other things… like monitor you constantly. A new report from The Wall Street Journal touches on the new Foursquare permissions, and they’re uncomfortably intrusive. When you have the app on your device, you’re now allowing Foursquare to check up on you constantly. Even when the app isn’t running, it’s keeping tabs on you (so long as your phone is on, of course).

Now even Internet Explorer will throw lousy old Java into the abyss – Internet Explorer will soon join its rival browsers by automatically blocking old, insecure add-ons – and it’s got its eye set squarely on Java. Microsoft said on Wednesday that starting on August 12, Internet Explorer will begin alerting users when web pages try to launch ActiveX controls that are considered out-of-date and potentially insecure. The change mirrors similar features found in competing browsers, including Chrome and Firefox, both of which already block out-of-date and unsafe plugins.

MDM is Terrible: When Security Solutions Hurt Security – Much to Blackberry’s chagrin, most people aren’t interested in carrying a stodgy work phone along with the fun smart phone they picked out themselves. That’s why big companies have invested heavily in mobile device management (MDM). But how secure are these security tools? A recent Black Hat demonstration had surprising answers.

CryptoLocker decrypted: Researchers reveal website that frees your files from ransomware – CryptoLocker is a nasty bit of ransomware that encrypts all your files unless you fork over $300 in Bitcoin—but Fox-IT and FireEye can help you find the key for free.

Why The Gmail Scan That Led To A Man’s Arrest For Child Porn Was Not A Privacy Violation – No one will argue against the outcome of a case which saw a man arrested on child pornography charges, after Google tipped off authorities about illegal images found in the Houston suspect’s Gmail account. But the nature of how the discovery came about led some to questions about the methodologies used behind the scenes. Was Google actively scanning Gmail for illegal activity?

Man arrested after Microsoft finds child porn on OneDrive account – A Microsoft tip-off led to a man being arrested after it discovered child abuse imagery on his OneDrive account, and found that he had tried emailing similar pictures from his live.com email address.

Fundamental ‘Fake ID’ Flaw Lets Malware Run Wild – One of the best things about mobile operating systems is sandboxing. At Black Hat, Jeff Forristal demonstrated how a flaw in how Android handles certificates could be used to escape the sandbox. It could even be used give malicious apps higher privilege levels, all without giving victims a clue as to what’s going on in their phone. Forristal said that this vulnerability could be used to steal data, passwords, and even take full control of multiple apps.

US Homeland Security data possibly stolen in cyberattack – In what “has all the markings of a state-sponsored attack,” government contractor US Investigations Services reveals the probable theft of government employees’ personal information.

Company News:

Microsoft China offices raided again in government antitrust investigation – Government officials have again raided Microsoft offices in China – as well as the offices of consultancy firm Accenture, to which Microsoft outsources some of its financial work in the country.

Google Acquires Directr, An App For Shooting Short Films On Your Phone – Directr, an app that we’ve covered a few times since its launch back in 2012, has just been snatched up by Google. In an age of ultra-brief videos, Directr existed to help users and businesses shoot videos that were a bit longer than your average Vine — think ads, or promo clips, or family holiday videos.

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Twitter is once again toying with shopping services – Twitter is once again looking at letting its users do their shopping directly in the news stream. And this time the company seems to be serious about new shopping and commercial services

AMD to launch Radeon R7 branded SSDs this month – In April a rumor appeared that AMD was working with Toshiba to create a new range of SSDs that would be sold with Radeon branding. It turns out that rumor is true, and we are set to get three new drives branded Radeon R7 Series SSD. The R7 drives will use Toshiba’s 19nm MLC NAND combined with an Indilux Barefoot 3 controller. They are basically OCZ Vector 150 drives. Capacities include 120GB, 240GB, and 480GB options, with read and write speeds in the 450-550MB/s range. A generous 5-year warranty is also expected.

Google Could Face Lawsuit Over Autocomplete – A Hong Kong court recently gave local business magnate Albert Yeung Sau-shing the thumbs up to sue Google for defamation. Google argued that it is not responsible for autocomplete suggestions, which run on an automated algorithm, and change depending on what the lion’s share of users search for. Besides, the Asian court does not have personal jurisdiction over the U.S. search giant, Google said. But Deputy High Court Judge Marlene Ng disagreed. In her ruling, as reported by Reuters, she said that there “is a good arguable case that Google Inc is the publisher of the words and liable for their publication.”

Games and Entertainment:

Get your Guardians of the Galaxy fix with these 6 apps – If you saw the movie recently and can’t wait until the 2017 sequel to see more of these characters and their adventures, a handful of mobile apps and games can help you geek out on Guardians of the Galaxy—with a couple more set to arrive next month. Snag these downloads on your phone or tablet to learn more about the ragtag bunch of heroes and enjoy their antics, and then go see the movie again with your enhanced knowledge.

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California man sues Sony over Killzone’s 1080p graphics claims – The latest generation of game consoles has led to a fair share of pixel-counting debates and complaints from gamers and developers. But they all pale in comparison to the proposed class action lawsuit just filed against Killzone: Shadow Fall maker Sony Computer Entertainment, which accuses the game of falsely advertising 1080p graphics it did not deliver. In the complaint filed yesterday in California’s Northern District federal court, plaintiff Douglas Ladore notes that Sony promised 1080p single and multiplayer graphics in advertisements and interviews for Killzone: Shadow Fall before the game was released last November. The game’s packaging also features a “1080p HD video output” logo on the back of the box.

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World of Warcraft loses another 800,000 players in 3 months – In the last 3 months alone, another 800,000 players have walked away and stopped paying their $15 a month subscription. Losing $12 million worth of subscribers is enough to make any company take notice, but Blizzard isn’t worried. WoW still counts 6.8 million players on its servers and is planning to release new expansion Warlords of Draenor before the end of the year

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Sony declares end-of-life for PlayStation Mobile on Android – Perhaps it was something inevitable but a rather sad note nonetheless. Sony is pulling the plug on the PlayStation Mobile app for Android, which will completely cut off Android users running the latest versions of the mobile platform. This will ostracize even owners of its “PlayStation Certified” Xperia handsets, in favor of focusing more on Sony’s actual gaming handhelds.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Notes From Crazytown, Day One: The Business Of Fear – Can your computer be hacked? Yep. Can your phone be hacked? Yep. Have your passwords been harvested? Very possibly. (The NYT just reported that one Russian group has more than a billion, though it’s unclear how many are salted and hashed.) So how worried should you be, exactly? Good luck getting a real answer to that. Almost nobody has a strong incentive to give you one. You probably want a thoughtful, rational, dispassionate analysis of the security threats that you–or anybody–may face; but a fundamental problem with the security industry is that hardly anybody has any reason to provide that.

Explore an underwater statue grave with Google Maps – The Cancun Underwater Museum is the location of the collection of humanoid sculptures you’re about to see. Collected by the Catlin Seaview Survey and uploaded straight to Google Maps, this exploration is free for any user to take part in, be it with your desktop computer through a web browser or on your smartphone. At this time Google Cardboard integration is unknown.

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We need to start talking about digital overload for our children – If you were born before 1985, then you are one of the last people in history who remembers life without the Internet. You’re carrying around memories that future generations simply won’t be able to grasp. You will remember absence in a way your children won’t be able to – unless you engineer the experience for them. Yes, this means wrestling shiny things from their desperate grip.

(The comments, following this newspaper story, illustrate how divided we are over this issue.)

7 Amazing Comet Close-Ups From the Rosetta Spacecraft – Following a decade-long meandering multi-loop de loop through the solar system, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft has finally reached its primary target: Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. What the comet lacks in a stylish name, it makes up for in historical prominence as it is the very first comet to get up close and personal with a manmade spacecraft.

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San Jose Police Department says FAA can’t regulate its drone use – Newly published documents show that the San Jose Police Department (SJPD), which publicly acknowledged Tuesday that it should have “done a better job of communicating” its drone acquisition, does not believe that it even needs federal authorization in order to fly a drone. The Federal Aviation Administration thinks otherwise.

Could drones get X-ray vision through Wi-Fi? – Researchers have developed mobile robots that can use Wi-Fi signals to effectively “see through” walls. It’s raising the possibility of flying drones using the technology to see inside buildings. Led by Yasamin Mostofi, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, the group at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) has shown how the radio signals sent and received by a pair of wheeled robots can provide information about what lies behind concrete walls even when the objects do not move.

Something to think about:

“The proposition that the people are the best keepers of their own liberties is not true. They are the worst conceivable, they are no keepers at all; they can neither judge, act, think, or will, as a political body.”

-     John Adams

Today’s Free Downloads:

Right Click Enhancer – A control panel for your right click menu on windows. Add most used applications and folder shortcuts in your right click menu. Manage these right click shortcuts by creating right click sub menus and putting them into these sub menus.

Easily remove or disable right click menu entries added by other applications. Save valuable time by using right click tweaks that provides easy to use quick operations directly in your right click.

Save time in copy paste operations by adding new folder shortcuts in send to menu. Add new file types into New menu to ease the operation of creating new files. Add templates files to new menu so you can get preformatted files upon creating new files and start working on it in less time.

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Graphic taken from a personal system.

RAMDisk - RAMDisk is Freeware (up to 4GB disk size). It creates a virtual RAM drive, or block of memory, which your computer treats as if it were a disk drive. By storing files and programs into memory, you can speed up internet load times and disk-to-disk activities, accelerate databases and reduce compile times. Save and load features allow RAMDisk to appear as persistent storage, even through reboots.

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Graphic taken from a personal system.

If you’re an old DOS veteran you’ll remember RAM drive (RAM Disk) – especially early gamers.   Be right back

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Edward Snowden’s not a one-off: US.gov hunts new secret doc leaker – It appears former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is not the only leaker of secret US documents around, as the US government searches for another whistleblower in the aftermath of another leak of classified information.

CNN reports that leaked documents related to a terrorist watch list and published by The Intercept (a site founded by Snowden confidante journalist Glenn Greenwald) didn’t even exist before Snowden quit his job as a NSA contractor in Hawaii and high-tailed it from the US.

That means the former sysadmin couldn’t have siphoned off this particular piece of secret information and that some other unknown source must be behind the leak.

The Intercept’s article, published on Tuesday, covers the growth in US government’s Terrorist Screening Database, a watchlist of “known or suspected terrorists” that lists 680,000 people, many of whom have no known affiliation with a terrorist group. The article cites documents compiled by the National Counterterrorism Center in August 2013 – three months after Snowden left the US in May 2013.

The leaked database is shared with local law enforcement agencies, private contractors, and foreign governments. These are secret documents and less sensitive than the “top secret” files spirited away by Snowden.

Cyber defender Brandis is proving unfit for purpose – I used to think that cybergeddon, the much-hyped digital Pearl Harbor, was just hawkish scaremongering. Now I’m not so sure. The evidence that we’re in the midst of a cyber cold war is mounting daily — as is the evidence that one of Australia’s key defenders isn’t fit for purpose.

As industrial control system (ICS) hackers told me two years ago, while the SCADA systems that control everything from power stations and oil refineries to chocolate factories and hotel air conditioning have shockingly bad security, you need to know how the systems are set up. Knowing how to hack controller number 75454 is useless, unless you know what controller 75454 actually does, and how it interacts with the rest of the system.

But since then we’ve learned a lot about the scale and scope of cyber espionage and weapons development. Stuxnet and Flame, the worms that got so much attention back then, just hint at what must be a massive stockpile of cyber weapons.

Last November, when Kaspersky Lab founder Eugene Kaspersky was on his global cyber scare tour, his comments about the scale of espionage led me to believe that the operating manual for controller 75454 was probably scooped up long ago — along with the address of the kindergarten where the operator’s children spend their days, oh so vulnerable.

And just days ago, we learned that a Russian crime gang has stockpiled 1.2 billion usernames and passwords. “The group includes fewer than a dozen men in their 20s,” reported The New York Times. So given that, plus what we know via Mr Snowden’s work, imagine what a few thousand well-funded military or defence-contractor hackers could get up to. Or rather, have already gotten up to.

I’m guessing that a variety of nation-states have already gathered plenty of SCADA plans and logins, have already conducted plenty of drills, have already calculated how well it’d work given certain levels of failure, and have already turned it all into operating procedures. On a planet whose ape-creatures set up systems for launching thousands of thermonuclear warheads at each other on a few minutes’ notice, what’s turning off a few power stations or crashing a few oil trains into each other? SCADAgeddon will have been automated.

When the siren sounds, gentlemen, insert your keys and select “Shut down Belgium”. In brief, we’re screwed.

Which brings me to the glory that was Wednesday evening’s television appearance by Australia’s favourite Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis QC. Watch it. His brandisplaining of metadata collection in the context of the proposed mandatory data retention regime is hilarious — web surfing, the “electronic address” of a website, “computer terminals”, it’s all there.

Wikimedia Attacks Europe’s Right To Be Forgotten Ruling As Threat To Its Mission – The Wikimedia Foundation, the not-for-profit organization behind Wikipedia, has strongly condemned the recent right to be forgotten (rtbf) ruling in Europe, warning the requirement to allow private individuals to request the de-indexing of links from search results associated with their name is going to have “critical repercussions” for its online crowdsourced encyclopedia.

The Foundation also stated its intention to oppose what it dubbed the “censorship of truthful information” stemming from the European Court of Justice ruling — on the grounds that it threatens the organization’s mission to provide ‘free access to the sum of all human knowledge’. It said it will therefore be posting notices about indefinite removals of links to Wikipedia articles when it is made aware of them.

Speaking at a press conference in London this morning, at which the Foundation was also launching its first Transparency Report, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Wikimedia CEO Lila Tretikov and the Foundation’s General Counsel Geoff Brigham lined up to condemn the rtbf as compromising humans rights and freedom of expression.

CIA infosec guru: US govt must buy all zero-days and set them free – Black Hat 2014 Computer security luminary Dan Geer has proposed a radical shakeup of the software industry in hope of avoiding total disaster online.

Geer played a crucial role in the development of the X Window System and the Kerberos authentication protocol, and is now the chief security officer of the CIA’s VC fund In-Q-Tel.

And during the opening keynote of the Black Hat USA hacking conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday, he presented a ten-point plan for solving many of the problems found online. Without serious and drastic action, the technology industry will be destroyed by inaction, he suggested.

“We have to do something,” Geer told the audience of 5,000 attendees. “It’s as Einstein said about repeating the same action again and again and expecting the same result. We have to do something different.”

One of his more radical suggestions was restructuring the way the software industry handles liability. There are only two industries that have no liability problems he said – religion and software – and this needs to change for the coding community.

His proposed solution was offering two different business models. Software firms could carry on selling code, but if the programs are faulty then the companies must pay out when things go wrong. Alternatively, they can publish the source code of software, allow the user to shut down functions they don’t want, and enjoy freedom from being sued.

“Software houses will yell bloody murder and pay any lobbyist they can to scream that this will end computing as we know it,” he said. “I would respond ‘Yes please, that was exactly the idea’.”

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

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – August 5, 2014

11 apps that help you save money;  The six most useful Chrome extensions;  miniLock’s powerful file encryption is dead simple to use;  Securely back up personal files with Duplicati (free);  How to use Google as your universal translator;  3 ways to make calls when your cellular signal is terrible;  Anonymous email service ‘Leak’ ready for the masses;  Teach Google Now new voice commands;  Five apps that will help automate your home;  Facebook slapped with $123 million revenge-porn lawsuit;  If you ate at one of these PF Chang’s restaurants, your bank card is at risk;  PayPal’s two-factor authentication is easily beaten;  5 Steam Early Access Games Worth Checking Out;  Want to be in a comic?  Try these three apps; NSA leaker Thomas Drake says Oz security reforms are ‘scary';  Snowden latest: NSA targets Gaza, pumps intelligence to Israel;  10 ways Apple, Google and others will change the way you drive.

11 apps that help you save money – Ready to buy new clothes, dorm furnishings, gadgets, or just want to make sure you can afford to eat? The good news is that you won’t have to spend all of your time looking through the newspaper or local flyers to find the best deals. Here’s a collection of 11 apps that will help you locate coupons, hidden rebates, and tips for getting the best prices everywhere.

The six most useful Chrome extensions – Chrome, as Chromebooks prove, can be used as a universal interface for almost anything you need to do with a computer. One big reason it can be so useful is because of its extensions. They enable you to add everything from minor, but useful tasks, such as copying a link’s text, to major work such as being able to edit Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files without Microsoft Office. See for yourself, download Chrome, and head to the Chrome Store’s Extension section. I think you’ll like what you find.

Hands-on: miniLock’s powerful file encryption is dead simple to use – The creator of Cryptocat, Nadim Kobeissi, is back with another easy-to-use encryption tool. This time it’s a Chrome app that aims to make it easy to create and share single encrypted files with others. Called miniLock, the app is freely available on the Chrome Web Store. Similar to other encryption tools, miniLock relies on public key cryptography. Under this scheme you have to share your public key with others so they can encrypt files meant for you and only you. But unlike many encryption tools—which are often difficult to use—miniLock is very easy to understand and takes away a lot of the pain typically associated with encryption tools.

Securely back up personal files with Duplicati – Duplicati is a free, open-source (LGPL) backup client that stores incremental, compressed backups on various public cloud services such as Amazon S3 and Microsoft OneDrive, or on private file servers using standard protocols such as WebDAV, SSH, and FTP. Backups with Duplicati are AES-256 encrypted, and the program features a scheduler to ensure that backups are always up to date. Duplicati is maintained by Kenneth Skovhede and René Stach, who have generously offered to answer some questions about managing incremental data storage, cloud security, and backup integrity.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

10 ways Apple, Google and others will change the way you drive – Apple and Google are driving toward the connected car. Government and car manufacturers are working with them to achieve this. This isn’t just about sending emails or music playback — driving will be changed forever. Your car will speak to you. Here are 10 ways driving will change.

Gimme a boost: 3 ways to make calls when your cellular signal is terrible – In our increasingly connected age, it’s frustrating to find yourself in a place where the cellular connectivity is weak to nonexistent. And that frustration only magnifies when you have to struggle with poor voice quality and dropped calls in your very own home. Geography, money, technology, and the different ways buildings are put together can all factor into why signals from the cell towers will never be perfect. Nevertheless, you have options for boosting that wimpy cell signal—or generating one yourself.

How to use Google as your universal translator – The search giant offers a variety of tools for translating websites and text from one language to another. Here’s how you can tap into Google when you need a decent translator.

Friendly skies likely to remain that way, as feds look to keep ban on in-flight mobile calls – All signs point to the U.S. Department of Transportation putting the kibosh on allowing you to make calls during flights. That’s bad news for hard-charging road warriors, but great news for anyone seated around them.

Twitter feature shows tweets from accounts your friends follow – You’re probably not into all the same things your friends are, which is why you don’t follow the same accounts on Twitter. It seems the micro-blogging service forgot that, and is testing a new feature that would put posts from accounts your friends follow in your feed. It’s an interesting program, but one that goes a step too far for many.

Anonymous email service ‘Leak’ ready for the masses – Sometimes, it needs to be said. Whatever “it” is, you need to tell someone, but how can you do that without being the one to confront them? A new service called Leak lets you send emails anonymously, all from a web page. Simply put in an email address, and your relationship to that person, and away you go.

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Facebook Data Privacy Class Action Joined By 11,000 And Counting – On Friday the Europe vs Facebook privacy campaign group kicked off a new legal initiative targeting Facebook — in the form of a class action lawsuit that’s inviting adult non-commercial Facebook users located anywhere outside the US and Canada to join in. Today, the group told TechCrunch its civil action has pulled in some 11,000 participants so far, in the first weekend since launch.

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Fancy memory sticks mount your SSD to your RAM – If you’re building a powerful PC with a size constraint — such as my gaming rig that needed to fit inside an IKEA desk cabinet — you’ll likely end up requiring a case with very specific dimensions, or relying upon non-traditional methods of making all of your components fit. In an attempt to make your life a little less tedious, Apacer is developing DDR3 RAM sticks that have slots into which M.2 SSDs and CFast CompactFlash cards can mount.

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Teach Google Now new voice commands – With the help of an app called Commandr for Google Now, you can toggle Wi-Fi on or off, pause your music, or ask your phone to read your text messages out loud, all by speaking a few simple voice commands.

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HP Reveals Stylish Smartwatch for Men – Hewlett-Packard is partnering with designer Michael Bastian to introduce a stylish smartwatch, which will be available exclusively on Gilt.com this fall. The American fashion designer will develop a “men’s timepiece,” featuring technology engineered by HP. Interested customers can sign up online to receive sale updates. Whereas most smartwatches are marketed toward consumers of either gender, Bastian’s device is meant to be showcased on the wrist of a gentleman—with its 44mm stainless steel case, inlaid button controls, and three interchangeable bands (brown leather, green nylon, or black rubber).

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Five apps that will help automate your home – As Internet of Things technologies catch on, home automation solutions are gaining popularity. Here are several apps that let you automate everything from thermostats to security systems.

How to be a social media team of one: 7 tips – It’s not uncommon to be a solo artist in social media. These seven tips will make your experience easier.

Security:

Researcher says PayPal’s two-factor authentication is easily beaten – A security feature offered by PayPal to help prevent accounts from being taken over by hackers can be easily circumvented, an Australian security researcher has found. Joshua Rogers, a 17-year-old based in Melbourne, found a way to get access to a PayPal account that has enabled two-factor authentication. He published details of the attack on his blog on Monday after he said PayPal failed to fix the flaw despite being notified on June 5.

If you ate at one of these PF Chang’s restaurants, your bank card is at risk – US eatery chain P.F. Chang’s has named 33 of its restaurants that were compromised by bank card fraudsters this year. The company said payment systems at its Chinese bistros in states from California to Florida were infiltrated, allowing crooks to siphon off victims’ credit and debit card details.

Hacker claims planes can be hacked through on-board WiFi – Passenger airplanes are vulnerable to hackers because of their on-board WiFi, says security researcher Ruben Santamarta. According to Santamarta, he has come up with a way to compromise the communications equipment on passenger planes, a serious threat if it is determined to be true.

Researchers to name the most hackable cars at Black Hat – A report to be presented this week at the Black Hat USA conference in Las Vegas will detail which vehicles are most vulnerable to hacker attacks via a car’s Bluetooth, telematics or on-board phone applications. Researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, who in the past have issued reports on the most vulnerable vehicles, intend to release an update showing the most and least hackable cars.

Multi Function p0wnage just getting worse, researcher finds – It is now easier than ever to hack corporate networks through multifunction printers, which can even offer up access to Active Directory accounts according to security consultant Deral Heiland. The mustachioed Rapid 7 tech veteran said his team now gained access to corporate active directory credentials through credentials stored in the latest printers in one in every two attempts. Four years ago they had only a 10 to 15 percent success rate. High end Konica Minolta, Sharp, Dell, Canon and HP enterprise multi function printers spewed usernames, email addresses and passwords from address books, even after some vendors released fixes. They coughed up Active Directory usernames and application data and offered hostname information.

Company News:

Facebook slapped with $123 million revenge-porn lawsuit – For months, Facebook hosted a revenge-porn page dedicated to humiliating one Texas woman with Photoshopped clips of her face pasted onto porn shots, a US woman from Texas is claiming. Facebook’s report abuse procedure got her nowhere; only a police subpoena got through. Is that Report Abuse button actually hooked up to anything, or is it buzzing in an empty room?

LinkedIn paying shorted employees $6 million in unpaid wages, damages – Professional-networking site LinkedIn is agreeing to pay nearly $3.35 million in unpaid overtime to 359 workers, in addition to $2.5 million in damages under a deal announced Monday with the US Department of Labor. The accord covers current and former employees at LinkedIn offices in California, Illinois, Nebraska, and New York. “This company has shown a great deal of integrity by fully cooperating with investigators and stepping up to the plate without hesitation to help make workers whole,” David Weil, administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, said in a statement.

BlackBerry: Our restructuring is over – now we’re hiring – BlackBerry CEO John Chen has said that the company’s three-year restructuring – which has seen its workforce reduced by 60% to just 7,000 – is now over, and BlackBerry will soon begin hiring again.

Surface damage mounts at Microsoft as red ink hits $1.7B – Microsoft lost money on its Surface tablets throughout its just-concluded 2014 fiscal year, adding hundreds of millions of dollars in red ink.

Games and Entertainment:

5 Steam Early Access Games Worth Checking Out – Last year, Valve announced Steam Early Access, a repository for games that are still in development but available for purchase. With hundreds of options, what should you play? We picked five great games that not only have ambitious projects, but also provide enough content to keep you entertained. Check them out in the slideshow, but a word of warning: some of the featured videos are NSFW, so it might be best to view this at home.

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Flappy Bird returns as Flappy Birds Family – After a long hiatus, ‘Flappy Bird’ has returned. The addictive title that was released in 2013 has now been re-released and includes selectable characters, new obstacles, and a multiplayer mode.

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Want to be in a comic? Try these three apps – Now that Comic-Con is over, we’re sure there is an unpleasant return to reality. The humdrum droll of real life can get you down, but it doesn’t have to. If you want to animate your life, we’ve got a few apps you might want to check out. Whether it be a quick bit of avatar fun, or taking pics and making the moment pop like the animated books you love, these three will help you through it.

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White Xbox One with Sunset Overdrive expected later this year, Madden bundle available 8/26 – Microsoft is preparing to release a couple of Xbox One bundles in the near future and one of them will include a White Xbox One with the highly anticipated upcoming game, Sunset Overdrive.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Robot bees being built to replace real bugs – A little over a year after the first robot insect swarm was introduced by Harvard University’s Robert Wood, the bee problem in the United States hasn’t gotten any better. It’s not a problem of too many bees – on the contrary. Researchers are looking into ways to create artificial bees because of incredible losses of bees – and we need bees to pollinate the food we eat.

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Amid backlash, hotel rescinds $500 fines for “negative” online reviews – Apparently recognizing that restaurants and hotels can live and die by their online ratings, the Union Street Guest House in Hudson, NY included a table-turning clause in their reservation policies: if you book an event at the hotel and a member of your party posts a negative review, the hotel will fine you $500.

As initially reported by Page Six News, the Events and Weddings page on the hotel’s website contained the following language:

If you have booked the Inn for a wedding or other type of event anywhere in the region and given us a deposit of any kind for guests to stay at USGH, there will be a $500 fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH placed on any Internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding or event. If you stay here to attend a wedding anywhere in the area and leave us a negative review on any Internet site, you agree to a $500 fine for each negative review.

TD Bank’s Automated Thanking Machine touched people’s lives – TD Canada had an idea. It wanted to demonstrated the power of gratitude and thank its loyal customers in the most unforgettable way ever. And so they transformed what seemed like an innocent looking ATM into an “Automated Thanking Machine” and gave these people gifts that may have undoubtedly changed their lives forever.

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Gorgeous astrophotography video shows heavens from Earth – Photographer Gavin Heffernan turns his lens on the night skies from two US national parks to make an awe-inspiring video that looks like something out of a fantasy novel.

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MIT Researchers Can Spy on Your Conversations With a Potato-Chip Bag: There’s eavesdropping, and then there’s this – There’s a new threat to privacy lurking in our midst: potato-chip bags, which scientists can watch closely to figure out what you’re saying in conversations. Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Microsoft and Adobe can reconstruct intelligible audio of speech by videotaping and analyzing the tiny vibrations of objects — like potato-chip bags — thanks to a new algorithm they’ve developed.

Something to think about:

Dwight D. Eisenhower exit speech on Jan.17,1961 warning us of the military industrial complex.

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Today’s Free Downloads:

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Download at: vpnbrowser.org

Media Player Classic Home Cinema 1.7.6.139 Beta – Media Player Classic – Home Cinema application was designed to be a Media Player Classic but for home cinema usage.

Supported Decoding:

MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 playback. Media Player Classic is capable of VCD, SVCD and DVD playback, without the need to install any additional software or codecs.

It has built-in codecs for MPEG-2 video and codecs for LPCM, MP2, AC3 and DTS audio, and also contains an improved MPEG splitter that supports playback of VCDs and SVCDs using its VCD/SVCD/XCD Reader. A *.mp4 and MPEG-4 Timed Text support added. An AAC decoding filter makes MPC suitable for AAC playback in MP4.

MPC Home Cinema also has H.264 and VC-1 with DXVA support, DivX, Xvid, and Flash Video formats is available in MPC HC. MPC can also use the QuickTime and the RealPlayer architectures. Media Player Classic supports native playback of OGM and Matroska container formats.

Supported Video, Audio and Image File Formats:

WAV, WMA, MP3, OGG, SND, AU, AIF, AIFC, AIFF, MIDI, MPEG, MPG, MP2, VOB, AC3, DTS, ASX, M3U, PLS, WAX, ASF, WM, WMA, WMV, AVI, CDA, JPEG, JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, D2V, MP4, SWF, MOV, QT, FLV, WEBM

Additional Player Features:

Option to remove Tearing.

Better support for Windows Vista and 7, including a release for 64 bits platform.

Full ICC color management

Support for EVR (Enhanced Video Renderer)

Usage of Toolbar images

Supports Subtitles.

Playback and recording of television if a supported TV tuner is installed.

Creation of minidump when MPC HC crashes.

OSD (On Screen Display)

Support Multi-Monitor configuration

Pixel shader to convert BT601 – BT701

YV12 Chroma Upsampling pixel shader

Language Translations.

All features from the Guliverkli MPC Project from Gabest.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA leaker Thomas Drake says Oz security reforms are ‘scary’ – National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake says Australia’s looming national security reforms makes him ‘shudder’, labelling them ambiguous and a plot to stamp out legitimate public-interest whistleblowing.

Drake, who Edward Snowden said was his inspiration for leaking the NSA spy documents, blew the lid in 2006 on the NSA’s massively inefficient Trailblazer Project while at the agency that wasted billions of US dollars in spy operations post 9/11.

He along with NSA colleagues had built ThinThread what he said was a much more efficient intelligence program that cost a fraction of the Trailblazer Project and had more checks and balances in place to prevent wholesale collection of private data.

“A secret is what the Government says is a secret, and what is a special intelligence operation,” Drake told a small gathering of security and privacy pundits in Melbourne on Friday.

“I think it is really designed to deal with people like myself and others who would dare to bring to light those activities that are behind the shield of national security.

“It will send an extraordinarily stark message; ‘even if you see something bad, just shut up’.”

The Australian security reforms, spearheaded by Federal Attorney General George Brandis, would criminalise journalists and activists who would help whistleblowers leak information to the public.

The laws would introduce enhanced abilities for clandestine targeted malware implantation to combat whistleblowing terrorism and impose strict penalties for those who leak sensitive state information.

Drake said the laws will criminalise attempts to reveal corruption and invasions of privacy and urged Australia’s press to rally against the laws to prevent them from coming into effect.

Leaked docs reveal power of malware-for-government product ‘FinFisher’ – A string of documents detailing the operations and effectiveness of the FinFisher suite of surveillance platforms appears to have been leaked.

The documents, some dated 4 April this year, detail the anti-virus detection rates of the FinFisher spyware which German based Gamma Group sold to governments and law enforcement agencies.

The leaks were posted to cyberlocker Dropbox by a parody Gamma Group Twitter account (@GammaGroupPR) that began posting links to the documents and satirical tweets today.

It proclaimed to the amusement of followers that the products were being sold to the general public because the company had “run out of governments to sell to”.

Gamma Group and the operator of the fake Twitter account did not confirm the legitimacy of the documents or whether the company was breached by the time of publication. However the documents did not appear to have been posted elsewhere and included a purported screen shot of a customer’s FinSpy installation.

Information on Gamma Group’s spy kit was last leaked to Wikileaks in October 2011 under the Spy Files. Since then the targeted malware offerings had become under fire from activist and privacy groups.

One spreadsheet titled FinFisher Products Extended Antivirus Test dated April shows how the software performed against 35 popular anti-virus products with most ‘passing’. That means FinFisher would probably not be detected by a targeted users’ security systems.

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Snowden latest: NSA targets Gaza, pumps intelligence to Israel – According to the latest drop of leaks from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the US spy agency provides financial assistance, weapons and signals intelligence to Israel.

The Intercept reports that Canadian, British and Jordanian signals intelligence is also shared with Israel. This intelligence relates to Palestinian targets, including those in Gaza, according to the documents handed to Snowden confidante Glenn Greenwald.

According to Greenwald, one document dated April 2013 reads: “[The] NSA maintains a far-reaching technical and analytic relationship with the Israeli SIGINT National Unit (ISNU) sharing information on access, intercept, targeting, language, analysis and reporting.”

Another top-secret document appears to detail a 2009 cooperative surveillance-sharing relationship effort, code named “YESTERNIGHT” by the NSA, GCHQ, and the ISNU. The timing of the sharing arrangement coincides with the 2009 “Cast Lead” Israeli attack on Gaza that marked the last significant conflict in the area before the current, ongoing hostilities.

“[The] new Snowden documents illustrate a crucial fact: Israeli aggression would be impossible without the constant, lavish support and protection of the U.S. government, which is anything but a neutral, peace-brokering party in these attacks,” wrote Greenwald. “The relationship between the NSA and its partners on the one hand, and the Israeli spying agency on the other, is at the center of that enabling.”

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – August 4, 2014

How one judge single-handedly killed trust in the US technology industry;  Some GameStop stores now fingerprint customers who trade in games;  50 Best Websites 2014;  Are You Using The Most Secure Web Browser?  UK finally makes it legal to copy music to your iPhone;  Four ways to watch your favorite TV shows online;  LA Residents Call 911 Over Facebook Outage;  The 9 Best Android Phones of 2014;  Windows 8’s uptake falls again, now slower than dud Vista;  Phantom Brings Self-Destructing Photos To Facebook, Twitter And More;  Google takes down sex offender by going through his personal e-mail;  The Only Guide to PS4 vs Xbox One You’ll Ever Need;  8 apps for streaming foreign TV and movies;  Forget drones: These tethered blimps can spy on cities below;  10 great Rainmeter skins for productivity.

How one judge single-handedly killed trust in the US technology industry – Some people volunteer at shelters. Some people play video games. Some work tirelessly for 80 hours a week for the sake of their startup. Some destroy the global trust in the US technology industry. In a single two-hour courtroom session on Thursday morning — just in time for lunch — US District Judge Loretta Preska ruled on a case that has massive global implications for US technology giants. As for the vast majority of foreigners not living in the US? The bottom line is simple, and it’s a question rather than a statement. Based on this ruling, why should you ever trust a US technology company again?

Some GameStop stores now fingerprint customers who trade in games – Certain GameStop stores in Philadelphia have started requiring fingerprints from customers who want to trade in their used games. The change has been acknowledged by GameStop, which said through a spokesperson that the practice kicked off in early July. The change is necessary to meet local legal requirements, according to the company, and it isn’t limited to Philadelphia stores — any region that requires pawn shops or second-hand sellers to fingerprint customers will have the same policy. What happens to the thumbprints that are taken? They are shuttled off to a database for law enforcement to keep an eye out for thieves who trade in stolen games for cash.

(Up next? A DNA test – of course. Insanity like this doesn’t just disappear – it continues to expand.)

Don’t fly camera-equipped drones over our police stations, LAPD says – The inquiry was prompted Friday after the LAPD confronted a Southern California man outside its Hollywood station. The cops told him he was trespassing for using a drone to capture footage of the station’s parking lot, and ordered him to stop. The incident is posted to YouTube. “What concerns us is that they are filming over private property and it’s gated – you’re looking at the layout of the police station, how we operate, personnel license plates,” police Lt. Michael Ling said. “It’s kind of like if it was your house, if they’re flying over your backyard you’d start asking questions about it.”

(One more example of the police making up rules and regulations on the fly – so to speak.)

50 Best Websites 2014 – TIME’s annual salute to great sites and services.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Are You Using The Most Secure Web Browser? – All of us like to think we use the safest web browser possible whether it’s Chrome, Firefox, or any other of the many options. Each has their pros and cons, but is there one browser that can carry the unquestionable title of most secure? According to Skybox Security, the answer is: no. Even tackling this question is hard, as the security experts admitted, because how do you begin to measure security of a web browser? Skybox Security decided to take a few different metrics into account including fewest exposed vulnerabilities, most published (and patched) vulnerabilities, and the shortest time between security patches

UK finally makes it legal to copy music to your iPhone – A small change to the UK’s copyright laws has finally made it legal for Brits to do what they’ve most likely been doing for a decade — copying a CD to MP3 format. As ridiculous as it sounds, until this week it has been illegal for British citizens to copy a CD that they own and put it on their iPhone. That changed with an announcement by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office that Parliament had approved new “exceptions” to copyright, making it legal for consumers to copy music, books, film and photographs, so long as it’s for private use.

Four ways to watch your favorite TV shows online – Watching television is a common pastime, but the way it is done is rapidly changing, with many gravitating away from traditional cable to get their fix through the Internet. Downloading individual episodes was the most common way to do this, but with the introduction of set-top boxes like Roku and streaming apps for smartphones, this has too changed. The ways to watch your favorite TV shows online are numerous, but we’ve detailed four methods that will likely meet all of your needs.

NFL brings Surface tablets to the sidelines–for watching replays, not checking Facebook – According to Engadget, the NFL will provide players and coaches with ruggedized Surface Pro 2 tablets on the sidelines this season as part of a program called the Sideline Viewing system. The idea here is that players and coaches will be able to use the tablets to watch replays of game action from the sidelines, and be able to make adjustments as needed as the game progresses.

LA Residents Call 911 Over Facebook Outage – Facebook was not accessible for a short time during “a widespread outage that affected users in multiple countries,” according to Reuters. Service was restored fully and the outage was being blamed on “a ‘technical’ failure rather than any suspicious activity,” the news agency cited an unnamed source as saying. But before all Facebook users were able to access the site again, some LA-area Facebookers seems to have thought the interruption of their social networking fix was worthy of a call to emergency dispatch, the Los Angeles Times reported.

These Are the 9 Best Android Phones of 2014 – The “big four” high-end Android smartphones are the HTC One M8, the Samsung Galaxy S5 the Sony Xperia Z2 and the LG G3. But then there’s a whole host of cheaper, smaller and, in fact, bigger alternatives too, and they come from all manner of different manufacturers. It seems like everyone is making a Google-running phone these days, which makes the selection process even more of a headache.

Windows 8.1 update 2 (‘August Update’) said to have minor UI changes – In August, Microsoft will be releasing its second update for Windows 8.1 and although it is expected to be a minor update, it will also bring a few small changes to the user interface

Windows 8’s uptake falls again, now slower than dud Vista – Windows 8’s uptake was stuck in reverse for the second straight quarter as the reputation-challenged operating system fell behind the pace set by Windows Vista six years ago, according to data released Friday. Web metrics firm Net Applications’ figures for July put the combined user share of Windows 8 and 8.1 at 12.5% of the world’s desktop and notebook systems, a small drop of six-hundredths of a percentage point from June. That decline was atop a one-tenth-point fall the month before, the first time the OS had lost user share since its October 2012 debut.

10 great Rainmeter skins for productivity – The Rainmeter desktop customization tool isn’t just about creating the coolest-looking desktop by mixing and matching different skins. Rainmeter can also help your productivity by letting you keep tabs on your inbox at a glance, know what kind of weather you’re facing outside, monitor PC system health, track the news, and take notes. Thanks to a recent Rainmeter update, these skins are also getting smarter by reacting to conditions set by programmers, such as PC temperature or an upcoming appointment.

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Phantom Brings Self-Destructing Photos To Facebook, Twitter And More – The app, available on both iOS and Android, lets you snap a photo or record a video, or select an item from your smartphone’s gallery, then mark it up with commenting and drawing tools that are very similar to those found in Snapchat. But instead of just offering a timer function to control how long the image or video is visible to a friend after it’s shared, Phantom also lets you configure how long the content will live, period, as well as how many viewers it can have.

Crock-Pot hits market with WeMo smartphone control – The “Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker enabled with WeMo” is a mouthful, to be sure – but it’ll also fill your mouth with delicious, digitally controlled cooking excellence. Controlled wirelessly using the WeMo app, this Crock-Pot will allow you to receive alerts, change the temperature, and a variety of other oddities.

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Chrome passes 20% share milestone, locks up 2nd place – Because the browser war is a zero-sum game, when Chrome won others had to lose. The biggest loser, as has been the case for the last year: Mozilla’s Firefox, which came dangerously close to another milestone, but on the way down. Firefox accounted for 15.1% of the desktop and laptop personal computer browsers used in July, a low point not seen by the open-source application since October 2007, a year before Chrome debuted and when Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) was only on version 7.

Security:

Google takes down sex offender by going through his personal e-mail – Google, Microsoft and other companies as well as the FBI use automated image scanning to fight online child exploitation mainly by finding and punishing sites that deal with such content. However this was a bit different as Google was scanning images inside of e-mails for illicit content. Of course this is undeniably good news and we’re very glad the police had the support of Google in finding and taking down this offender and others like him. However, being reminded of how much power these companies and the government have to intrude into our personal lives does leave us with a sort of mixed bag of feelings.

(How about that? Google scans your email images. All in a good cause of course. Clearly, you’re either with us, or you’re with the child pornographers. Right? Right???)

Registry-infecting reboot-resisting malware has NO FILES: Anti-virus doesn’t stand a chance becuase there’s nothing for it to scan – Researchers have detailed a rare form of malware that maintains infection on machines and steals data without installing files. The malware resides in the computer registry only and is therefore not easy to detect. It code reaches machines through a malicious Microsoft Word document before creating a hidden encoded autostart registry key, malware researcher and black hat exterminator Paul Rascagneres (@r00tbsd) says. It then creates and executes shellcode and a payload Windows binary.

Mozilla gaffe exposed 76,000 email addresses, 4000 passwords – Mozilla has ‘fessed up to accidentally exposing the email addresses for 76,000 members of its Developer Network, along with 4000 encrypted passwords. The breach was caused by a bad script that on July 23 was found to have inadvertently published the records online over the previous month.

Attackers can easily create dangerous file-encrypting malware, new threat suggests – A new program that encrypts files to extort money from users highlights that attackers don’t need advanced programming skills to create dangerous and effective ransomware threats, especially when strong encryption technology is freely available. Researchers from antivirus vendor Symantec recently came across a Russian-language—for now—ransomware program of which the core component is a simple batch file—a command-line script file.

US warns of ‘Backoff,’ latest entry into POS malware market – US Homeland Security has warned businesses to stay on their guard against a newly-detected strain of point-of-sale malware.

Company News:

Facebook hit with international class action privacy suit – An Austrian privacy activist has launched a wide-reaching class action suit against Facebook Ireland for breaching European data protection law. Anyone outside of the US and Canada can join activist and law student Max Schrems’ suit via the website fbclaim.com, since they will have signed up to Facebook’s terms and conditions via the Dublin-based European subsidiary. That amounts to around 82 percent of all Facebook users. After being live for just one hour, the site has collected 100 participants.

Twitter adding 50,000 Australians a month – New research shows that Australian Twitter accounts have mainly been created to keep up to date with breaking news, particularly during major crisis such as earthquakes and flooding.

HP agrees to settle allegations it overbilled US Postal Service – Hewlett-Packard has agreed to pay US$32.5 million to settle allegations that it overbilled the U.S. Postal Service on a IT hardware contract. The U.S. Department of Justice had alleged that HP overbilled the Postal Service for a government contract called Acquisition of Desktop Extended Processing Technology (ADEPT) II, which ran between October 2001 and December 2010. HP allegedly failed to comply with pricing terms of the contract that required the company to offer the Postal Service prices that were not higher than offered to HP customers with comparable contracts, the DOJ said in a news release. The DOJ also alleged that HP misrepresented its prices.

Android makers must pay Microsoft, or else—software giant sues Samsung – Samsung was late in making a patent royalty payment to Microsoft over the Android phones it sells, and today that led to the predictable result: a lawsuit. “Today’s legal action is simply to enforce our contract with Samsung,” Microsoft wrote in a blog post explaining its actions. “We don’t take lightly filing a legal action, especially against a company with which we’ve enjoyed a long and productive partnership.” The two companies reached a patent deal in 2011, in which Samsung presumably paid Microsoft for the patents it says apply to devices running Google’s Android operating system.

German copyright law is unconstitutional, Yahoo says in complaint – Yahoo thinks that the new copyright law imposes an unconstitutional restriction on the freedom of information of Internet users because obtaining specific information from the Internet without the help of search engines is not feasible, Helge Huffman, general counsel of Yahoo Germany said in a statement published on Friday.

Judge decides Apple’s $450M e-books settlement is OK after all – A US district court judge on Friday gave preliminary approval for Apple’s $450 million settlement for e-book price fixing. Judge Denise Cote, of the southern district of New York, initially had issues with the terms but later came to believe the settlement was fair to consumers, she said in a ruling Friday.

Games and Entertainment:

The Only Guide to PS4 vs Xbox One You’ll Ever Need – Both the Xbox One and PS4 have been around for enough time to give us a solid grounding for the strengths and weaknesses of each. Whether you go for the people’s favourite, the PS4, or opt for the potentially more well-rounded Xbox will be decided on your preferences. The decision is not clear cut. To help you work out which console is right for you we’ve compared each aspect so you can safely decide between the PS4 or Xbox One.

An hour of video games a day is good for kids, according to study – Many of us are used to hearing the arguments that video games are bad for children, but there’s now peer-reviewed research indicating that the opposite may be true. A study – conducted by Oxford University, and published in the medical journal Pediatrics – tested nearly 5,000 children, and compared those who played no video games at all with those that played them for various amounts of time per day. For those who insist that such games do nothing but destroy the minds of children, the results may well prove eye-opening.

Microsoft releases Xbox ‘teaser trailer’ video for Gamescom 2014 – Microsoft’s main Xbox Briefing at Gamescom 2014 will take place on August 12, and its ‘teaser trailer’ for the event reveals highlights of what it’s got lined up, and where you’ll be able to watch.

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For those about to rock, 10 music films to stream – Summer is the time for music festivals and larger-than-life concerts—nothing beats dancing under the stars with a pack of friends, sloshing beer on your shoes from a plastic cup of Budweiser you paid $12 for. You can’t go to a concert every night (and after a few Budweiser hangovers, you’ll agree that’s probably for the best), but anytime you want, you can fire up Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video to rock out to a great concert film or a documentary about an amazing musician.

8 apps for streaming foreign TV and movies – You prefer subtitles to big Hollywood titles, Japanese anime to American animation, and Gérard Depardieu to Gerard Butler. If you hunger for more international programming but don’t want to rely on pricey cable add-ons or out-of-the-way art-house theaters, then check out our software picks for streaming the best foreign cinema and TV.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Tablets really are the new PCs; nobody needs to buy them any more: There’s nothing new tablets can offer existing owners – The tablet market is tapped out. We saw signs of this when Apple reported that its iPad sales were down year-on-year and we’re seeing a similar message from retailers. Re/code’s Walt Mossberg recently talked to Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly, who said that tablet sales had “crashed.” The computer industry has to face an uncomfortable truth. Tablets aren’t the next smartphone. They’re the next PC.

Technology’s Role In Direct Democracy – An influx of communication and collaboration technologies since the beginning of the 21st century has helped to make this the most connected time in human history — and seemingly easier than ever for society to work together. Yet, where is the political yield?

These old-timey Radio Shack photos prove techies have been nerding out since 1931 – Just as Radio Shack moves to reinvent itself for 2014, we look at the most adorable photos from the company’s archives.

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Minnesota man 3D-prints a castle big enough to walk in – Most of the 3D-printed scale models you’ve seen have probably been relatively small. This project is anything but. You can actually walk inside this castle; it’s going to be more than 10 feet tall when it’s finished. The massive printer that’s laying down the concrete castle is the creation of Minnesota engineer Andrey Rudenko.

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Everything you need to know about Ebola – Right now, West African countries are experiencing the worst outbreak of Ebola in history. Guinea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Liberia have confirmed more than 700 deaths from the disease, which has swept through those countries since appearing just six months ago. In this outbreak, it’s killing more than half of the people it infects — which makes it one of the less lethal strains of Ebola to emerge recently. Perversely, this relatively low mortality rate has a lot to do with its quick and devastating spread; Ebola is the sort of malicious evolutionary creation that exploits anything and everything it can find. It is the disease on which virtually all viral-horror thrillers are based.

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Galaxy phone blocks bullet after man brings knife to gun fight – A Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 stopped a bullet this week as a man had a friendly disagreement with another citizen in the streets of Xinjiang. The altercation involved a wallet being dropped by the first man, the second man picking it up for him and joking about spending his cash, the first man pulling a gun, and the second man pulling a knife.

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Elon Musk: AI could be more dangerous than nukes – The entrepreneur has used technology to reshape payments, electric cars and space travel, but he’s still really worried about what could happen if tech gets super-smart.

Something to think about:

“The average person thinks he isn’t.”

-    Father Larry Lorenzoni

Today’s Free Downloads:

WPS Office Free 2014 (Formerly Kingsoft Office) – WPS Office(formerly Kingsoft Office) is a free MSO alternative for PC users. It lets users view, create and share office documents that are fully compatible with MS Office.

Composed of Writer, Spreadsheets and Presentation, WPS Office adopts many outstanding features such as specialized paragraph tool, drag-and-drop table tool and tabbed interface. It also supports spell check for multiple languages.

Powerful as it is, WPS Office does not have a large installation package. With a package of less than 60 MB, WPS Office allows you to download and install at a lightning speed.

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(WPS Office Free is my goto office application. It beats Open Office and LibreOffice hands down. The graphic above illustrates today’s Tech Thoughts Daily Net News being prepared.)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Forget drones: These tethered blimps can spy on cities below – Patrolling the skies these days is hard. There’s so many options to choose from: traditional helicopters, new wide-angle surveillance planes, and even the more cutting-edge drones.

Each of these options has its drawbacks. Beyond the initial purchase price, well-tested helicopters typically cost at least hundreds of dollars per hour to send up. One-off surveillance planes are also not cheap, coming in at around $1,000 per hour. Drones, while very cheap, are problematic. Law enforcement needs a blanket Certificates of Authorization (COA) from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and possibly a specific Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) each time a drone is used above 400 feet.

Enter a small Florida company now attempting to make snooping from the air both cheap and administratively easy. The Drone Aviation Holding Corporation (DAHC) recently announced that it had sold its second-ever “Blimp in a Box” for local law enforcement purposes.

These tethered blimps—formally known as aerostats—don’t move on their own. They’re allowed by the FAA as a “moored balloon” if they stay below 500 feet and meet other minor restrictions. The company said that similar tethered drones (which would require FAA approval) are also on their way.

The Blimp in a Box has a “days-duration flight time,” an infrared sensor, and video cameras, according to the company’s marketing materials. The device is designed to aid with surveillance, enhance situational awareness, and help with “communications research.” For years, this type of inflatable spy technology has been sold to the military for ISR (intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance) missions, but only more recently has it come home to roost.

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Internet Companies Berate Microsoft’s Recent Loss In Email Privacy Case – The case, in which U.S. authorities demanded email content of stored on servers in Ireland, has attracted considerable attention in the technology industry. Apple and Cisco filed a joint amicus brief in Microsoft’s favor, among others. Microsoft has vowed to appeal.

Moreover, the judge seemed ill-equipped to make a ruling on the case based on her technical knowledge. According to sources present, the judge referred to Microsoft repeatedly as an ISP — which it isn’t. She also made mention of a Microsoft employee in California executing a search, where the company is not headquartered, and suggested she did not know much about cloud technology.

In the wake of Microsoft’s quick loss, Internet service providers have criticized the court’s decision.

Wayne Watts, AT&T senior executive vice president and general counsel, said the company supported Microsoft.

“There is nothing more critical than protecting the privacy and information of every single AT&T customer – no matter the country in which they reside,” Watts said in a statement. “That’s why we’re extremely disappointed with today’s U.S. District court decision in favor of the U.S. government’s extraterritorial search warrant. We will strongly support Microsoft’s pursuit of a stay and subsequently a successful appeal of this decision.”

Verizon also disagreed with the court’s decision.

Dear America, Would You Please Give Edward Snowden His Medal Of Freedom Already? – 2013: “A government task force is preparing legislation that would pressure companies such as Face­book and Google to enable law enforcement officials to intercept online communications as they occur.” 2014: “Politically, it’s plutonium now for a member of Congress in this environment to be supporting something that would enhance the government’s ability to conduct electronic surveillance.”

What happened? You guessed it: everyone’s favorite hero/villain/demon/saint, Edward Snowden, who was granted asylum in Russia exactly one year ago. This week, the tech industry threw its weight behind a bill that proposes “sweeping curbs on NSA surveillance” and “would represent the most significant reform of government surveillance authorities since Congress passed the USA Patriot Act 13 years ago.” And it could actually pass — again, thanks to Snowden.

So when does the man get his medal?

A lot of people, including Dianne Feinstein and John Kerry (and Marc Andreessen), still think of Snowden as a traitor. Mind you, in theory, treason requires “helping or supporting an enemy.” I’m not sure which enemy they have in mind: Russia? China? Edward Epstein insinuates that the Snowden affair was a foreign espionage operation all along, but the man himself claims he took no secret files to Russia and was able to protect them from Chinese spies as well.

Do the people of Earth count as an enemy?

The anti-Snowden brigade generally claim that he should have worked within the system to blow the whistle on it, and/or should have returned to the USA to face the subsequent music — although it has since become apparent that the NSA has not been completely forthcoming about Snowden’s attempts to express his concerns without going public.

China bans Symantec and Kaspersky from providing software to government – In recent weeks, the Russian government has been taking steps to discourage the use of foreign software – including the likes of Microsoft’s Windows and Office – in favour of using home-grown software solutions. But Russia isn’t the only country that’s making moves to limit its use of international software.

China’s largest newspaper group, the state-controlled People’s Daily, reports that the agency responsible for government software procurement has barred two of the world’s leading antivirus developers – American firm Symantec, and Kaspersky Lab from Russia – from a list of approved software vendors.

Malaysia’s former PM calls for web censorship, lashes out at its impact on ‘morality’ – The internet has played a key role in eroding public morality and must be censored to prevent further degradation, urges Malaysia’s former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad.

He said his government should not have promised not to censor the web as it did not then understand the “power of the internet”. “Today, I have changed my mind,” , Mahathir said on his blog.

He argued that alternative media has no true freedom to begin with, where governments and operators of internet platforms, among others, can censor alternative media. Since websites can be blocked, the internet is “actually less free” than print and electronic media operating under government licences, he added.

“I myself have suffered from such censorship,” he said, referring to his previous post about the Jews and the war in Gaza which was blocked from Facebook. In an attempt to reinstate his post, he revealed that he changed hosting servers three times but still faced attempts to block his blog.

“I think it is time we stop talking of the freedom of the press. Let us admit that the press needs to be censored. It needs to be censored because freedom, any kind of freedom will always be open to abuse. The worst abuses are in the field of morality,” said the former politician, who was Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister from 1981 to 2003. He remains a major influence on local politics and his blog is widely followed by the local community.

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