I’ll Be Back

One of the most satisfying rewards of being a long time blogger has been the amazing people I’ve met online over the years. In many respects, my online friends are often the equal of those with whom I communicate face to face.

Since I’ve been unable to effectively post to Tech Thoughts this past 45 days or so, I’ve been humbled by the concern shown by so many people from so many places around the World. So many emails, that I’ve found it difficult to respond to all those who deserved  a response.

Until now, I’ve chosen not to burden readers with a personal tale of medical woe – we all have personal loads to carry and sharing my current burden seemed somehow counterproductive, to me. On top of that, I’ve not been entirely comfortable with the idea of posting personal medical data for all the reasons one might consider.

Still, the time is right, I think, to let readers know that I’m out of the saddle only on a temporary basis – although I’m unhappy with the extended timeframe to date.

Initially, I was prepared for a short medical leave from Tech Thoughts –  a week or so – maybe less. But, life can sometimes rearrange the best laid plans. You’ll see what I mean from the following.

Long story short – Checked into the Hospital on December 4, 2015 to have the first of two non-malignant skin cancer surgeries – one small, and one requiring a skin graft. While waiting in pre-op (wired up to various machines), my heart ran out of control (215 beats a minute) – controlled chaos immediately ensued.

Within minutes they shut down my heart and then restarted it – electrical pads, front and back, to get me rolling.

Not the end.

Two days later, while in my “new” Cardiologist’s office, he wired me up to an ECG and then freaked out. Within 3 minutes I’ve got the Fire guys and the Paramedics rushing me to the Hospital which is directly adjacent to the Cardiologist’s office (wouldn’t let me walk). Again organized chaos and, once again, it’s “let’s make Bill dead for a minute.” My rib cage is still paying the price for that one. It still hurts like hell.

Kidding aside – all the people I came into contact with throughout this ordeal were magnificent – I mean “magnificent.” My respect for those involved in high tech emergency medicine knows no bounds.

So, no cancer surgery – both postponed until the ticker ticks and tocks in step. As it is now, I have a rogue circuit in my Heart that needs to be burned out using a micro-surgery technique. Wire into the Heart and sizzle the bad guy. At this point, I’m scheduled to undergo this procedure on February 19 – fingers crossed!

In the meantime, I’m on a couple of drugs that reduce blood flow to various places, including my Brain, which makes me a little stupid. Some might say – “more than a little.” Smile   Example: I can’t hold a continuous thought for more than a few minutes. For a man like me that’s Dante’s Inferno come a calling.

Piled on top of that, I feel like I have the worst flu I’ve every had. The anxiety though, is the worst. But, there’s a pill for that – a pill that reduces the anxiety somewhat but makes me sicker than ever.

Funny thing is – other than this rogue circuit I’m in tip-top shape. Blood pressure averaging 118/78 – resting heart rate of 62 – less than 5 pounds heavier than I was in my 20’s – and, I’ve already passed the 65 milestone.

I’m hopeful that I can get back on board with the “News” by March 1 (or sooner) – I have no intention of just quitting. Truthfully, I can hardly wait to get back in the saddle.

I’ll be back – you can count on that.

Kind regards to all of you,

Bill

31 Comments

Filed under Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – December 2, 2015

Chrome’s Browser On Android Can Now Save Up To 70% Of Your Data;  5 ways to block frenemies from your Android phone;  19 Vine Video-Shooting Tricks You Must Know;  4 add-ons that make Google Docs a more powerful word processor;  The essential guide to powerline Ethernet adapters;  More hands-on with the Raspberry Pi Zero;  Google mobile search lets you pin (save) images for later;  Could Hello Barbie become the plaything of hackers?  Google’s new Santa Tracker teaches kids coding skills;  Ransomware and scammy tech support sites team up for a vicious one-two punch;  Hibernate resource-hogging Android apps with Greenify;  Hacked Toymaker VTech Admits Breach Actually Hit 6.3 Million Children;  6 nerd words everybody gets wrong.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Chrome’s Browser On Android Can Now Save Up To 70% Of Your Data – For some time, Google has been developing technology to reduce data consumption on mobile devices. Last January, the company officially introduced an optional data compression feature into its Chrome mobile browser, allowing users to reduce their data usage by up to 50%. Now Google has improved upon this earlier release with an update to the Data Saver feature in the Chrome Android browser which can now save users up to 70% of their data usage.

Pro tip: Hibernate resource-hogging Android apps with Greenify – If you want to place certain apps on your Android phone into hibernation so they aren’t using resources, learn how to use a wonderful free app designed for that purpose.

5 ways to block frenemies from your Android phone – Luckily, your Android phone offers plenty of ways to block unwanted calls, text messages and email, as well as mute endless email threads.

19 Vine Video-Shooting Tricks You Must Know – The Vine apps have gone through many iterations since the original iOS-only version at its debut. They’re all free, as is the service.  The Vine app does more than ever—and that’s why we’re here: to show you the coolest new features and well-hidden original ones, and to make your Vine video shoots a breeze.

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Quick Access Edits

4 add-ons that make Google Docs a more powerful word processor – While there’s plenty to love about Google’s lightweight word processor, there are times it leaves you scratching your head wondering how they could’ve left out this or that obvious feature. Fortunately, the power of add-ons lets you put many of your favorite functions back in. Here are four you should install today.

The essential guide to powerline Ethernet adapters – This roundup of powerline ethernet adapters is continually updated. It was originally published on January 15, 2015, and this is the third update. Since the number of products in the story was becoming unwieldy, we’ve removed the older models and kept only the latest HomePlug AV2 MIMO and ITU G.hn adapters. If you want to see the story as it was originally published in January 2015, click here. This latest iteration adds an entirely new review of the ZyXEL PLA5456KIT to our earlier reviews of the D-Link DHP-701AV, Extollo LANsocket 1500, TP-Link TL-PA8030P KIT, and the Trendnet TPL-420E2K. You’ll also find the one ITU G.hn adapter we’ve reviewed to date: the Comtrend PG-9172.

Google’s new Santa Tracker teaches kids coding skills – It’s that time of the year — Google has launched its Santa Tracker! It’s one of the more attractive Santa Tracker pages we’ve seen, and it is packed full of content to keep the kids (and adults) entertained. Those who have used Google’s past trackers will be familiar with the page — it is wintery and styled after Santa and other Christmas elements, and features interactive elements related to the holiday, as well as a timer counting down the days, hours, and minutes before Christmas. The website will be up until Christmas, and features a section for every day of December.

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More hands-on with the Raspberry Pi Zero: Loading, booting and configuring – Today I share more information and first-hand experiences with the Raspberry Pi Zero, including loading, booting, configuring and using the PiHub for both USB expansion and power.

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The Raspberry Pi Zero in the palm of my hand. Image: J.A. Watson

Ubuntu GNOME 15.10: The perfect Linux desktop distribution – Ubuntu GNOME 15.10 is something special. How special? Jack Wallen believes it might well be the perfect Linux desktop distribution. Read on to find out why.

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Adobe distances itself from Flash, Flash Pro becomes Animate CC – Once the darling of web designers, Flash has of late become more of a liability than an asset. The Web at large and the tech giants behind it have called for its death. That puts Adobe in a very difficult position, being one of the standard bearers of good design but also the owner of Flash. But it has seen the writing on the wall and has started to embrace, even move over to, more accepted equivalent HTML5 and WebGL technologies. And nowhere is that more evident than in its latest slew of updates.

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Google mobile search lets you pin (save) images for later – Google may have just started encroaching on Pinterest’s turf. Or to be more precise, further encroaching. The search giant has just announced a new feature available to those doing image searches on Android and iOS, whatever the browser in use. Simply search for an image and, if you want to reference it later, “star” it for safe keeping. For all intents and purpose, this is the same basic functionality that Pinterest offers, minus the social aspects of course. Or at least for now.

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Microsoft PowerApps turns any worker into a programmer – Learning how to code, usually to make apps, has become a topic of debate among the IT, education, government sectors, with some advocating teaching it as a core skill like writing and math. Most, if not all, these thrusts, however, focus on educating kids, leaving adults to fend for themselves. After all, grownups can learn faster and better, right? As any adult will tell you, however, that isn’t always the case. That is perhaps why Microsoft has launched the PowerApps platform to let grownups in workplaces build their own apps, no coding required.

Mozilla to focus solely on Firefox, spinning off Thunderbird email client – Mozilla Foundation, the makers of the popular internet browser Firefox, have revealed that in order focus their efforts on continued development of their most used product, they are planning to spin-off the email and chat client Thunderbird. This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to Mozilla followers, for while Thunderbird first debuted in 2004, shortly after Firefox, it hasn’t been directly updated since 2012. This news comes direct from Mozilla Chairperson Mitchell Baker, via company-wide memo.

Security:

Could Hello Barbie become the plaything of hackers? – Turns out toys are vulnerable, too. Barbie could listen in on your kids, and a hacker stole kids’ pictures and other personal information from Learning Lodge toys. Experts say Internet-connected toys are rife with security problems.

Ransomware and scammy tech support sites team up for a vicious one-two punch – Symantec has seen a curious fusing of two pernicious online threats, which could cause a big headache if encountered by users.

Hey Reader’s Digest: Your site has been attacking visitors for days – Reader’s Digest has been infected since last week with code originating with Angler, an off-the-shelf hack-by-numbers exploit kit that saves professional criminals the hassle of developing their own attack scripts, researchers from antivirus provider Malwarebytes told Ars. People who visit the site with outdated versions of Adobe Flash, Internet Explorer, and other browsing software are silently infected with malware that gains control over their computers. Malwarebytes researchers said they sent Reader’s Digest operators e-mails and social media alerts last week warning the site was infected but never got a response. The researchers estimate that thousands of other sites have been similarly attacked in recent weeks and that the number continues to grow.

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Conficker, back from the undead, dominates malware threat landscape – Conficker was the most common malware used to attack UK and international organisations in October, accounting for 20 per cent of all attacks globally, according to security vendor Check Point. When it first appeared in November 2008, the Windows-affecting Conficker worm caused all manner of problems mainly because of its ability to spread across networks, infect windows machines and brute force passwords. Networks of the French Navy, the UK House of Commons and Greater Manchester Police were all laid low by the malware. Its recent resurgence hasn’t caused anything like the same amounts of problems but still highlights the generally poor state of corporate security.

The Boxes That Can Steal Your Social Media and Dropbox Passwords for the Cops – Just when you thought that surveillance technology couldn’t get any more invasive, along comes a device that can steal your social media passwords, grab your emails, siphon your Dropbox contents, and build a detailed profile of your digital life, if your phone is close enough to it. That’s the promise made by “InterApp” a small black-and-white box that targets smartphones, offered by Rayzone Group, a surveillance company from Israel. Rayzone Group calls the product an “Apps and Cloud Interception System.”

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The InterApp box. Image: screenshot from Rayzone Group website

Hacked Toymaker VTech Admits Breach Actually Hit 6.3 Million Children – The data breach that hit the popular toymaker VTech keeps on getting worse. Less than a day after Motherboard revealed that the hacker who breached the company also obtained thousands of pictures of children and parents, as well as a year’s worth of chat logs, VTech revealed that the breach affected more than 6 million children and not just 200,000. Until now, the Hong Kong-based company, which sells toys and internet-connected gadgets for kids, had tried to downplay the incident. In its first statement last week, the company didn’t mention any number of victims, and didn’t even mention that kids’ data was involved. On Tuesday, however, VTech finally admitted the breadth of the data breach and even released a chart breaking down the number of victims by country. The majority of victims are in the United States, France, the UK, and Germany.

Dell certificates vulnerability: How to protect your Windows systems – A pair of digital certificates released by Dell produced a vulnerability that could expose Windows systems to risk. Learn the scope of the threat and how to remediate it.

Company News:

Amazon Dominated 36% of Online Black Friday Sales, Says Slice – Slice Intelligence, which gathers e-commerce data from receipts linked to its Slice package tracking app, tells TechCrunch that Amazon dominated online Black Friday sales, accounting for 35.7% in e-commerce spending on November 27. A distant second, Best Buy brought in 8.23% of total online revenue, followed by Macy’s at 3.38%, Walmart at 3.35% and Nordstrom at 3.11%. It’s hard to say whether these impressive Amazon numbers are skewing high because Slice’s users are more active online shoppers, but Amazon did post a release, touting its own success. While the e-commerce giant is mum on actual sales numbers, it said that had a record year for Amazon-branded products.

Yahoo board to discuss sale of core business: Report – Yahoo’s board will meet to discuss whether it should sell its core business instead of its Alibaba stake, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. Yahoo board members will hold a marathon series of meetings from Wednesday through Friday to hash out whether it would be best to go ahead with a plan to spin off its multibillion-dollar stake in Alibaba or shift gears and sell its core business, WSJ reported. Yahoo told AFP that it would not comment on the WSJ’s report.

HP exits low-cost tablet market in product shakeup – HP is scrapping its low-end tablet lineup to focus on detachables, hybrids and business tablets.

Spotify Claims Streaming Music Throne Worldwide, But Pandora Is Still Top Service In U.S. – Spotify is the world’s top streaming music service in terms of active users, downloads and revenue, according to a new music-focused report out this morning from App Annie. However, while Spotify bested last year’s top streaming music app Pandora Radio from a global standpoint, Pandora is still strong in the U.S. where it remains the number one streaming service by active users on iPhone and Android. In other markets, niche players have been carving out their own audiences.

Games and Entertainment:

PS4 Battlefront and Uncharted bundles arrive December 6 – Sony has a couple of new PlayStation 4 bundles up its sleeve and they’ll be arriving on December 6, remaining available for a couple of weeks before disappearing shortly ahead of Christmas. First among them is the Star Wars Battlefront Standard Edition PS4 bundle, which is priced at $299.99 USD, and joining it is the Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection PS4 bundle, which comes with the same price tag.

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PlayStation 4 won Black Friday – One of the most important theaters of battle in the never-ending video game console war is Black Friday. This is where a significant amount of systems are sold, and potentially gives the underdog a chance to gain some ground. Unlike last year’s Black Friday, which saw Microsoft’s Xbox One emerge victorious, this year saw the current sales champion, Sony’s PlayStation 4, win the day. This is according to a marketing study done by the InfoScout group, which tracked the purchases of over 250,000 receipts captured on mobile devices during Thanksgiving night and into Black Friday proper.

Latest GTA V Mod Features Stunning 4K Visuals, More – A new mod for the PC version of Grand Theft Auto V makes the already impressive-looking game even more breathtaking. It also adds a slew of gameplay tweaks and adjustments. Created by Josh Romito, the “Pinnacle of V” mod adds 4K textures to everything in the game’s world. These aren’t just simple adjustments either. Everything from lighting, weather effects, smoke, puddles, etc. have been overhauled. Even smaller things like clouds, plants, and blood have been given the 4K treatment as well. At a glance, it looks like a completely different game, if not real-life footage.

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Free game alert: BioWare’s Jade Empire is the latest Origin On the House freebie – It’s not nearly as popular as Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, or Dragon Age. But for free? Great deal.

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Report: DirecTV to launch live 4K service early next year – Consumers are increasingly adopting devices with 4k-resolution displays, but UHD content to match is still relatively sparse. That will change for DirecTV subscribers starting next year, with a new report claiming the company will introduce a live 4K broadcast service in early 2016. Ahead of that launch, DirecTV has been testing 4K broadcasts with Ultra HD sports offerings. The information comes from Advanced Television, which reports that DirecTV’s Senior Vice President of Video & Space Communications Phil Goswitz confirmed the plans at the TranSPORT conference in New York.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Mark Zuckerberg Is Now A Dad, Pledges To Give Away 99% Of His Shares – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg today said he and his wife would give away 99 percent of their shares to “advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation.” His shares are currently worth around $45 billion. His pledge was, still, essentially a footnote in a long letter addressed to his new daughter, Maxima Chan Zuckerberg (Max for short), whose birth was announced on Facebook. Zuckerberg in November said he planned to take two months of paternity leave after his daughter was born.

Extinct vegetable resurrected from 850-year-old seeds – A recent post on Reddit drew attention to the happy conclusion of what has ended up being a long and somewhat exciting story. It started back in 2008 when a clay ball containing seeds was discovered in the Menominee Reservation in Wisconsin. Upon review, it turned out the seeds were about 850 years old, and efforts were taken to see if they’d grow. As it turns out, they did, and the world now has a formally extinct giant squash as the result.

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6 nerd words everybody gets wrong – The language of technology is a moving target. As the technology changes, so do the usage models, business models and behaviors associated with it. So do the words. There are words people often use incorrectly. You don’t have to be a linguist to do your tech talk right. Here are the most commonly used words and phrases everyone should know and how to use them.

Brazilian Activists Shame Web Trolls on Billboards – A group of Brazilian activists have turned the tables on Internet trolls who post racist messages on social media. Part of the “Racismo Virtual, Consequencias Reais” (“Virtual Racism, Real Consequences”) campaign, the NGO Criola is installing signs featuring abusive text near the offenders’ houses. The movement began after an incident in July—on Brazil’s National Day to Combat Racial Discrimination—when bigoted comments about Journal Nacional weather presenter Maria Julia Coutinho were published online. Many Facebook users combated the hateful messages with thoughts of affection and approval. But Criola took things a step further.

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The 10 apps that will own the future of the enterprise – As the needs of the enterprise continue to shift, legacy software vendors are finding themselves competing with a host of potential upstarts. Changes in the way we get work done mean that more small solutions have an opportunity to fill a niche or meet a specific need. This isn’t to say that incumbent providers are going anywhere anytime soon, as many are building out their product offerings to meet the expanding needs of enterprise users. But as the cloud moves towards enterprise ubiquity and buzzwords like big data become canon, the list of top tools for getting work done is changing. Here are 10 apps that are next in line for enterprise dominance.

Nearly Half of the World’s Population Is Now Online – The world is slowly but surely getting online, according to a new study from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). There are now 3.2 billion people online, representing 43.4 percent of the global population, ITU, the United Nation’s information and communications agency announced on Monday. A whopping 95 percent of the world’s population is now covered by a cellular connection and there are nearly 7.1 billion cellular connections worldwide, the agency reported.

Something to think about:

“Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings, “The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.”

–      Henry Kissinger – United States Secretary of State, (March 10, 1975)

Downloads:

Hardwipe – We demand freedom from government spying, criminal data theft and espionage!

✔ Secure data erasure on-demand

Wipe internal drives, portable media & instantly shred file data

✔ Integrates with File Explorer

Configurable “right-click” context menus

✔ Boot from USB

Hardwipe Portable Edition integrates easily with Windows® PE for a boot and nuke data sanitization solution

✔ Command line utility

Hardwipe Commander delivers flexibility for power users, and integrates with Windows Task Scheduler for automation

✔ Free for personal use

Upgrade options for advanced features & commercial use

International Support

✔ Unicode file-paths

✔ Multilingual support and extra language packs

Hardwipe is the free data sanitization toolset used by activists, journalists, IT technicians and anyone needing to ensure that discarded, but sensitive, information can never be recovered by someone else.

Freedom to Securely

Erase Sensitive Information

Use Hardwipe to permanently erase (or “hard wipe”) data on disk and portable storage media.

Hardwipe for Desktop provides a slick user interface with optional support for “right-click” context menus in Windows File Explorer. It can conveniently destroy files and folder contents on-demand, erase drives and USB media, and sanitize the Windows Recycler.

Hardwipe for Desktop is free for non-commercial use.

The Hardwipe Portable Edition provides a USB runnable alternative which can easily be combined with Windows PE to create a modern boot and nuke data sanitization solution with a graphical user interface.

Finally, Hardwipe’s command line utility can easily be automated from the Windows Task Scheduler in order to prevent remnant data accumulation, offers total flexibility for power users.

Hardwipe gives you the freedom to securely erase:

Physical Devices

Logical Volumes

Files & Folders

Recycler Bins

Free (unused) Drive Space

Windows Pagefile

Hardwipe provides read-back verification, report logs, and supports all major sanitization schemes, including: GOST R 50739-95, DOD 5220.22-M, Schneier and Gutmann.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

EFF complaint says Google broke privacy pledge by tracking students – The EFF is asking for a federal investigation into whether Google broke a pledge to honor student privacy with its educational tools. Today, the group filed a complaint with the FTC, alleging that Google for Education collects a broad range of data on students’ browsing habits and gives administrators too much power to enable that collection. “We are calling on the FTC to investigate Google’s conduct, stop the company from using student personal information for its own purposes, and order the company to destroy all information it has collected that’s not for educational purposes,” said EFF staff attorney Sophia Cope in a statement.

Google’s educational initiative encompasses versions of its various web services, as well as Chromebook laptops and approved teaching material. In early 2015, the company signed the Student Privacy Pledge, a voluntary agreement that bars companies from selling student information, using data for anything but “authorized education purposes,” and changing privacy policies without notice. President Barack Obama has promoted the pledge alongside more formal student privacy reforms, and around 200 companies currently abide by it.

But the EFF claims that Google goes beyond these limits. The complaint says that Google collects data to improve its own services, instead of for purely educational purposes. While Google stopped scanning student accounts for advertising purposes even before signing the pledge, the EFF argues that it still serves ads on non-educational services, which can be used while students are logged into school accounts.

The National Security Letter spy tool has been uncloaked, and it’s bad – The National Security Letter (NSL) is a potent surveillance tool that allows the government to acquire a wide swath of private information—all without a warrant. Federal investigators issue tens of thousands of them each year to banks, ISPs, car dealers, insurance companies, doctors, and you name it. The letters don’t need a judge’s signature and come with a gag to the recipient, forbidding the disclosure of the NSL to the public or the target.

For the first time, as part of a First Amendment lawsuit, a federal judge ordered the release of what the FBI was seeking from a small ISP as part of an NSL. Among other things, the FBI was demanding a target’s complete Web browsing history, IP addresses of everyone a person has corresponded with, and records of all online purchases, according to a court document unveiled Monday. All that’s required is an agent’s signature denoting that the information is relevant to an investigation.

Appeals court orders Chicago sheriff to stop attacks on Backpage.com escort business – In a sharply worded opinion (PDF), a panel of appeals judges has ordered Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart to stop his campaign seeking to “crush” Backpage.com’s adult advertisement section.

Ars last wrote about the dispute between Dart and Backpage in July, when US District Judge John Tharp Jr. issued a temporary restraining order stopping some of Dart’s pushier behavior, when he confronted Visa and MasterCard over their relationships with Backpage. But Tharp changed his tune the following month, denying Backpage a preliminary injunction that would have stopped Dart from trying to “coerce, threaten, or intimate repercussions” to card companies or other financial institutions. The credit card companies stayed away from Backpage.

US Circuit Judge Richard Posner, writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, writes today that the district court judge was wrong, and he grants Backpage the injunction it sought. In Posner’s view, Dart was using his power as sheriff of a populous county to bully payment processors into backing away from a site that hosted ads he didn’t like, a clear violation of the First Amendment. It’s telling, Posner writes, that Dart didn’t just sue Backpage.com. Dart had already tried that strategy against Craigslist, and lost.

Safe Harbor solution not coming any time soon, says Dutch minister – A solution to the Safe Harbor data framework will not hit its January 2016 deadline, raising the possibility of large fines levied against companies like Facebook in the New Year.

That’s according to Dutch justice minister Ard van der Steur, who has published a lengthy response to Parliamentary questions on the issue.

Van der Steur’s response goes into some depth about the history of the framework, which covers data transfer across the Atlantic, and the decision and resulting impact of the European Court of Justice’s ruling to effectively strike it down in October.

His response also goes into the EU’s efforts to come up with a new solution with the US government, at which point van der Steur warns: “It is not expected that the negotiations with the US will be completed very shortly.”

Critically, it appears that the EU has yet to even broach the issue that caused the framework to fall apart in the first place: mass surveillance of internet traffic by the NSA.

Comments Off on Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – December 2, 2015

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – November 30, 2015

Cyber Monday’s a holiday for hackers too;  Your Black Friday mall brawl highlights;  Even smart TVs can get ransomware infections;  Encrypted Messaging App Telegram Leaks Usage Data;  Think Twice Before Using This Wildly Popular Facebook App;  Access all your cloud accounts from one location on Android;  Cyber Monday tech deals that truly save you serious money;  How to add any website to Windows 10’s Start menu;  Where to place home security cameras, according to the data;  How to turn on Windows 10’s Find My Device feature;  It’s illegal to make private copies of music in the UK—again;  Older Dell devices also affected by dangerous eDellRoot certificate;  10 Games Every Nintendo Wii U Player Needs;  10 Games All Nintendo 3DS Players Need;  Lenovo patches serious flaws in PC system update tool;  The biggest tech turkeys of 2015;  Sony unlocks PS4’s 7th processing core.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Tis the season to be fraud-y: Cyber Monday’s a holiday for hackers too – You downloaded the app because it advertised fantastic holiday deals. Who could resist? You open it up and it looks like a copy of Amazon, but it doesn’t work very well. Frustrated, you delete it. Problem solved, right? Not so fast. The malicious app has already gotten its claws into your phone, collecting your personal information. Discovered by security researchers at zScaler, this is real. It’s one of many attempts hackers and fraudsters will make to take advantage of your zeal for deals.

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Psych! This fake log-in page for eBay, found by security experts at Webroot, could have tricked you into handing over your credentials and potentially your credit card number. The Web page pictured is no longer active.

Screenshot courtesy of Webroot.

Think Twice Before Using This Wildly Popular Facebook App – It’s an old adage, sure. But on the Internet, it may as well be a scientific law: You don’t get something for nothing. I re-learned this most recently when I tried to see what my most used words on Facebook were. Billed as a “quiz” by a South Korean startup named Vonvon, this viral sensation spread across the social web like digital wildfire last week. But when I connected my account to “Most Used Words,” I did what I always do with Facebook apps: denied it access to anything beyond my public profile information. And as a result, the word cloud it returned was blank.

BlackBerry Confirms It Will Exit Pakistan After Rejecting Data Monitoring Demands – BlackBerry has confirmed that it is exiting Pakistan entirely in response to the national government’s continued demand to monitor user data on the Canadian company’s service. Back in July, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) said it would shutter BlackBerry Enterprise Services (known as BES) by December 1 for “security reasons.” The issue was thought to center around BlackBerry’s encryption of emails, BBM messages and other data from its users which prevented authorities from gaining the access to information that they deemed necessary for national security. BlackBerry kept silent at the time, but now the phone maker, which recently launched its first Android handset, has confirmed it will leave the country — with a population of 180 million people — after November 30 after it refused to grant Pakistani authorities access to its systems.

Your Black Friday mall brawl highlights – Technically Incorrect: As people rushed to get electronics, little seemed to have changed from previous years. There was pandemonium, and there were fights.

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5 signs that awesome coupon is probably fake – Is Target offering a fabulous coupon that gives you 50 percent off your entire purchase? No, of course it isn’t. That coupon is 100 percent fake, but this hasn’t stopped thousands of people from sharing it on Facebook.

Online tracking by news organizations is excessive, say researchers – The extent to which The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and other news organizations employ third-party tracking may come as a surprise.

Encrypted Messaging App Telegram Leaks Usage Data – Even if an app allows encrypted communication, there are often still ways to find out about the people using it. Bearing that in mind, a researcher has found that just about anyone can snoop on the activity of Telegram users, and potentially figure out who they are talking to, by using a third party piece of software.

Pro tip: Access all your cloud accounts from one location on Android – Tired of navigating between various cloud apps on your Android device? If so, Jack Wallen shows how to centralize all your cloud accounts with the help of ES File Explorer.

Google’s Version of Facebook Instant Articles Coming Soon – The company says that the project has attracted publishers and advertisers of all kinds.

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Twitter bot uses ‘forgery algorithm’ to turn selfies into art – You probably saw the trippy pictures produced by Google’s neural networks this past summer, and maybe you even created a few yourself. There’s a new and similar tool out there, but it comes in the form an art forger. The Twitter bot, called “The Deep Forger”, will take your selfie or whatever image you provide and transform it into a work of art based on a style of its choosing.

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Cyber Monday tech deals that truly save you serious money  – We’ve sifted through the ads and the deals-that-aren’t-really-deals to find Cyber Monday tech sales that absolutely, positively don’t suck.

Best Buy Cyber Monday 2015 deals on laptops, tablets, desktops – The electronics retailer doesn’t have any eye-raising specials like on Black Friday, but has plenty of discounts if you’re in the market for a new PC.

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It’s illegal to make private copies of music in the UK—again – The UK’s 2014 private copying exception, which allowed you to make personal copies of your own music, including format-shifted versions, has now been definitively withdrawn, according to The 1709 Blog. As a result, it is once more illegal to make personal backups of your own music, videos or e-books, rip CDs and DVDs to standalone digital files, or upload your music to the cloud. The UK’s new private copying exception had been in a state of legal limbo following a judicial review of the legislation in June, which had been sought by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, the Musicians’ Union, and UK Music.

How to turn on Windows 10’s Find My Device feature – The Windows 10 November update has a lot of nice little updates in it including the ability to turn on a smartphone-style Find My Device feature.

How to add any website to Windows 10’s Start menu – Chromebooks aren’t the only PCs that can treat web pages as apps. You can do it in Windows 10 too.

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Security:

Where to place home security cameras, according to the data – Around 65.8 percent of burglaries in the US are residential and a well-placed camera can help identify intruders. If your security cameras are placed in the wrong areas, you may not be as protected as you think. Here are a few tips for putting your security cameras where they will do the best work.

Port Fail VPN security flaw exposes your true IP address – A serious security flaw in VPN protocols used by companies en masse exposes the real IP addresses of users.

VPN bug poses privacy threat to BitTorrent downloaders – A bug affecting some VPN services can be used to figure out a computer’s real IP addresses, including those of BitTorrent users, which could pose a huge privacy and possibly a legal risk.

Connected cars gather too much data about drivers, say motorists associations – Car drivers may imagine they have greater privacy than public transport users, but that isn’t necessarily the case in modern, connected cars, European motoring organizations warned this week. To help identify faults or plan maintenance, manufacturers are able to gather performance data from connected cars such as the total distance travelled, or the length and number of trips made. But drivers may be unaware of just how much other information such cars allow manufacturers to gather about them. A study conducted by German motorists organization ADAC for European lobby group FIA Region 1 found that in addition to trip and distance data, one recent model reported maximum engine revolutions, the status of vehicle lights — and far more besides.

Even smart TVs can get ransomware infections – It’s bad enough that some smart TVs track all your viewing by default and upload it to remote servers. Now, Symantec has figured out how to infect a TV with ransomware. That’s bad news, because if the good guys have figured out how to do it, the bad guys probably have too. The worst part? Symantec’s Candid Wueest says it really wasn’t all that hard to do, either. Smart TVs, Wueest points out, generally run one of four operating systems: Android/Android TV, Web OS 2.0, Firefox OS, or Tizen. If that’s true for your TV, there’s a very good chance that a vulnerability that affects the stock OS affects your set, too.

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A children’s toy company exposed data on 4.8 million parents and 200,000 kids – An unidentified hacker was able to extract nearly 5 million credentials from the website of children’s toy manufacturer Vtech, according to an exclusive report from Motherboard. The hacker, who obtained the data through a SQL injection attack, says he has no plans to release the information. Still, it’s possible that less scrupulous actors also attempted to exploit the security flaw. That would put 4.8 million customers at risk, as well as information on 200,000 customer children whose data is also included in Vtech’s databases. Customers can see if their data is compromised at HaveIBeenPwned.com, and the site’s proprietor, Microsoft developer Troy Hunt, has further thoughts on the breach here.

Older Dell devices also affected by dangerous eDellRoot certificate – After the certificate’s existence came to light earlier this week, Dell said that it started deploying the certificate through a Dell Foundation Services version released in August. This led many people to believe that only Dell devices bought since August were affected. That’s not true. Older devices that had Dell Foundation Services (DFS) installed might also have the certificate, if the tool was configured to receive automatic updates. A Dell Venue Pro 11 convertible Windows tablet in PCWorld’s possession that was bought in April was affected.

A Dark Web Vendor Is Selling Millions of Hacked Cam Girl Site Tokens – MyFreeCams (MFC), one of the most popular cam girl sites on the internet, can’t catch a break at the moment with its security. After Motherboard reported that the site deployed truly terrible password security for both its models and users, we’ve now found out that someone is advertising hacked “tokens” for MFC on the dark web. These tokens are usually purchased directly from MFC, but the hacker is claiming to sell hundreds of thousands of dollars worth at a major discount.

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Lenovo patches serious flaws in PC system update tool – The vulnerabilities could allow attackers with access to limited user accounts to gain administrator privileges,

Millions of embedded devices use the same hard-coded SSH and TLS private keys – Thousands of routers, modems, IP cameras, VoIP phones and other embedded devices share the same hard-coded SSH (Secure Shell) host keys or HTTPS (HTTP Secure) server certificates, a study found. By extracting those keys, hackers can potentially launch man-in-the-middle attacks to intercept and decrypt traffic between users and millions of devices.

Company News:

Judge: There’s no proof Yelp manipulates reviews – A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit alleging Yelp manipulated reviews in an attempt to coerce businesses to buy advertisements. Lawyers representing a Yelp shareholder filed suit in August of 2014, saying that the company had misled investors with false statements about the veracity of its reviews. The complaint, which sought class action status, was filed four months after The Wall Street Journal revealed that the Federal Trade Commission had received more than 2,000 complaints about Yelp. The WSJ article roughly correlated with a significant drop in the value of Yelp stock.

VW forced to recall all 3.0L diesel cars and SUVs in California – The original recall for VW diesel cars in the US focused only on the four-cylinder versions. That recall has now officially expanded with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) forcing VW to recall all of its cars and SUVs that use the larger 3.0L diesel engine within the state.

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Lenovo and Razer unite to build a new range of gaming PCs – The world’s biggest PC vendor is getting serious about gaming, and it’s recruited one of gamers’ favorite peripherals brands to help it establish its legitimacy. Lenovo and Razer today announce a major new partnership that will see them co-brand a range of Razer Edition Lenovo PCs, starting with the Y series of desktop towers that made their debut at IFA in September. The first prototype product of this collaboration is on show over at the Dreamhack Winter LAN party in Sweden today, and the two companies have ambitions to extend their relationship into joint product development as well.

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Facebook Offers All Employees 4 Months of Parental Leave – All new moms, dads, and same-sex partners at Facebook will receive four months of paid parental leave.

Games and Entertainment:

10 Games All Nintendo 3DS Players Need – Make this generation’s best handheld even better with these excellent titles.

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10 Games Every Nintendo Wii U Player Needs – The system with the best first-party exclusives of this console generation continues to delight with highly entertaining, original titles.

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Block Star Wars spoilers with this Chrome extension – With the first Star Wars movie in a decade coming out soon, there’s one thing that we’re all trying to avoid: Spoilers. It can be easy to avoid spoilers for smaller movies and TV shows, but with a franchise as big as Star Wars, it can seem almost impossible. Thankfully, you can use technology to censor such things for you.

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‘Dead or Alive Xtreme 3’ Bikini Malfunctions Are Too Hot for America – Dead or Alive is a frenetic fighting game series much like Street Fighter, but it’s also the birthplace of some particularly buxom women, which is why publisher Koei Tecmo also makes Dead or Alive Xtreme, a spinoff that shines a spotlight on its female characters. Instead of pummeling each other with punches and kicks, in Dead or Alive Xtreme, players engage in poolside activities and other mini-games with the bikini-clad Dead or Alive women. It’s meant to be simple, titillating fun, and for some players, a reason to ogle the characters. For the first time, the latest version of the game won’t be published in North America and Europe.

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Decide ‘Who Must Die’ in This Live Action Investigation Simulation – Ready for a harrowing imaginary scenario? You’re a doctor who’s been given the extremely difficult task of determining who, among three unique patients, is infected with a peculiar virus. The fate of humanity rests in your hands as you analyze the patients in your care for specific symptoms and subject them to various experiments. You could make the guard perform the experiments required for the good of humanity if it’s too disturbing for you, but in the end you’re the one tasked with making the choice that’s also the title of the game: Who Must Die?

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You’ll keep an eye on your patients using these eerie screens. Image: Antoine Gargasson.

Sony unlocks PS4’s 7th processing core – Microsoft had closed the performance gap to Sony, but with this core unlock the PS4 is sure to pull further ahead of the Xbox One again. The impact of this change won’t be seen immediately, but games in development for Sony’s console right now should be able to take advantage of the extra performance this will offer. The end result seems inevitable: the PS4 will increase the performance gap to its rival.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates Join Forces To Invest in Clean Energy Technology – The founders of Facebook and Microsoft are teaming up to solve climate change. Mark Zuckerberg announced today that he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have launched the Breakthrough Energy Coalition with Bill Gates to invest in zero-carbon energy technology around the world. The organization’s membership roster includes some of the most prolific names in technology, including Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma, and Masayoshi Son. The news was timed to coincide with the U.N. Climate Control Conference, which will take place in Paris this week. During the event, Gates and U.S. President Barack Obama are expected to unveil a significant new initiative called Mission Innovation, which will work with governments to double public investments in energy research over the next five years.

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10 Things I Learned From My 3D Printer: An Early Adopter’s Diary – How can I possibly describe what it’s like using a 3D printer for a year? It’s not easy. It’s sort of like asking someone why they like sunsets or the opera. Instead, let me describe the 10 things I learned over the last year—and what you can expect to go through yourself after you open the box of what I call “the best Christmas present ever.”

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A piece of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is sitting on a beach in England – A piece of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has apparently been recovered in the UK, nearly five months after the spacecraft exploded in mid-flight. As the BBC reports, a 32-foot-long part of the rocket was found floating near the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago off Great Britain’s southwest coast. The coast guard pulled it ashore with the help of local boaters, and it’s now under guard on a beach.

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(Tresco Island / Twitter)

The biggest tech turkeys of 2015 – The year’s most notable embarrassments in technology run the gamut from the industry’s inability to secure our personal data to the blunders of Airbnb, Twitter and Tinder.

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“Enough shovels to go around”: Ars looks back at the lies of the Cold War – In the 1950s and 1960s, the US government went through the motions of trying to prepare the American public for nuclear war. The Federal Civil Defense Administration (which would later become the Office of Civil Defense within the Department of Defense, and then eventually the Federal Emergency Management Agency) produced an array of educational films to educate people on how to evacuate cities—and what to do if there was no time for evacuation because of a surprise attack. These films tried to make planning and practicing for attacks a routine part of being a homeowner. FCDA even published specifications for building home fallout shelters—specifications that would raise their head again in the 1980s.

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Amazon Shows Off New Prime Air Drone With Hybrid Design – Amazon delivered a lovely update on its ‘Prime Air’ project today — almost exactly two years after it showed the first iteration of its drone. You know, the flying delivery drone that some thought was a massive joke meant for April 1st. Included are some high-res shots and two new videos.

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Watch cars levitate — there’s a down-to-earth explanation – In China, cars roll up to a junction, lift off the ground and spin bizarrely. A weird magnetic field? Or something more prosaic?

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Something to think about:

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

–      Michael Jordan

Downloads:

Plants vs. Zombies™ 2 – Play the sequel to the hit action-strategy adventure with over 30 Game of the Year awards. Meet, greet and defeat legions of zombies from the dawn of time to the end of days. Amass an army of powerful plants, supercharge them with Plant Food and power up your defenses with amazing ways to protect your brain.

This app offers in-app purchases. You may restrict in-app purchasing using your device settings.

100 Million Downloads – This app has received more than 100 million overall downloads.

Winner: Best Mobile Game at E3 – Game Informer

Winner: Best Mobile Game 2013 – Mashable

Winner: Game of the Year 2013 – Slide to Play

Screenshots

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA will stop collecting bulk phone data by the end of the day – At 11:59PM ET tonight, the NSA will shut down its systems that collect bulk phone call data from Americans across the US. The move comes as planned, precisely six months after the USA Freedom Act was signed into law.

The legislation called for the NSA to cease collection of bulk phone records, which includes metadata like phone numbers and the duration of calls. Congress provided six months for the surveillance agency to transition its systems, and now the deadline is up. Phone companies like Verizon and AT&T will now hold onto that data, and the NSA will have to apply for permission from a special court to obtain those records on a case-by-case basis. The law also increases transparency — the government will need to provide annual records revealing how many requests for data it makes.

The end of bulk phone metadata collection by the NSA comes two and a half years after security contractor Edward Snowden revealed the agency’s massive surveillance programs. While many, including President Obama, hailed passage of the USA Freedom Act as the first major step towards limiting surveillance powers since the attacks of September 11th, 2001, others noted that the law did not go far enough. The bill passed in the Senate by a 67 to 32 vote, with at least four opponents voting against the legislation specifically because it did not do enough to limit the NSA.

Could the Third Amendment be used to fight the surveillance state? – The Third Amendment to the United States Constitution is just 32 words: “No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”

Amongst very nerdy constitutional law circles, the Third Amendment is practically a joke. It’s never been the primary basis of a Supreme Court decision, and it only turns up rarely in legal cases. The reality is that the federal government isn’t going to be sending American soldiers to individual homes anytime soon. Even The Onion tackled the issue in 2007: “Third Amendment Rights Group Celebrates Another Successful Year.”

But in a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, one California state lawmaker, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, has proposed a novel legal theory that could allow this amendment to fuel a major legal challenge to the American surveillance state:

UK ISP boss points out massive technical flaws in Investigatory Powers Bill – The head of the UK ISP Andrews & Arnold, Adrian Kennard, has pointed out a number of major technical issues with the proposed Investigatory Powers Bill (aka the Snooper’s Charter). Kennard and other representatives of the UK Internet Service Provider’s Association (ISPA) met with the Home Office on Tuesday, where they presented a number of ethical, technical, and privacy related issues with the incoming new law. These issues, plus some of the Home Office’s responses, can be found in written evidence (PDF) penned by Kennard.

Kennard’s key point is that the Internet Connection Records, which lie at the heart of the UK government’s proposals, are largely meaningless for most modern online services. He recounts that, in the Home Office briefing this week, the example of a girl going missing was used once more to illustrate why the authorities want to be able to see which services she accessed just before disappearing, in the same way that they can track her phone calls. But Kennard and the other ISPA members pointed out this example betrayed a lack of understanding of how the Internet works today:

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – November 25, 2015

Why citizens need encryption as a fundamental human right;  Here’s how almost anyone can wiretap the internet;  Skype, WhatsApp, and Yelp access your data hundreds of times;  20 Apps To Help Students Power Through;  Thanksgiving tech support survival guide (2015 edition);  8 Gifts For Your Grandparents That They Won’t Just Toss In A Drawer;  Text Fairy is the Android OCR app you’re looking for;  Bing Maps update adds traffic camera video feeds;  Yahoo! locked Adblock users out of their inboxes;  Five free tools for building websites;  Second Dell backdoor root cert found;  World’s most complex cash register malware plunders millions in US;  For privacy and security, change these iOS 9 settings right now;  Hot or Not? Twitter Bot Judges Your Selfies;  Here’s the tech you shouldn’t buy on Black Friday;  Xbox One and Xbox 360 Free Games With Gold for December 2015;  7 features to look for in a home security camera.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Why citizens need encryption as a fundamental human right – Some government agencies use terrorist attacks to justify limiting encryption. TechRepublic spoke with two UN reporters who explained why encryption is critically important for all citizens.

Here’s how almost anyone can wiretap the internet: A lesson in why encryption today is more important than ever – Wiretapping isn’t as difficult as you might think. Kevin Mitnick, a former black hat hacker turned security consultant, can do it in just a few minutes. Using a test-bed setup, Mitnick demonstrates in a video first published earlier this year how to perform a man-in-the-middle attack to get access to your email, your passwords, and even your bank account by tapping into a commonly-used fiber optic connection. Anyone with basic, off-the-shelf equipment can do the same. Using a fiber optic coupler, Mitnick is able to conduct a simple wiretap without breaking into the fiber itself. From there, he’s able to demonstrate accessing emails on the wire, passwords, and other content, highlighting not only how weak our networks are by default but also how important encryption is to everyone. The attack is almost impossible to detect, but it is entirely preventable. Good encryption is the answer, said Mitnick.

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Without encryption, anyone wiretapping your connection can read your emails — and worse. (Image: Kevin Mitnick/ZixCorp)

Skype, WhatsApp, and Yelp access your data hundreds of times, but nobody knows why – Skype, WhatsApp, and Yelp have accessed my contacts list data thousands and times, and none of the companies are sure why. Over three days, Skype accessed my contacts list 3,484 times. WhatsApp wasn’t much better, accessing my contacts list a total of 2,449 times. (Both figures were accurate at the time of writing.) Yelp, on the other hand, was far lower, yet still significantly higher than any other app, accessing my contacts list 165 times. Skype, WhatsApp, and Yelp all have wide access to the Android devices they’re installed on, as well as iPhones and iPads — including cameras, microphones, and more — but also crucially, contacts. Your contacts list isn’t just sensitive to you, but it’s also personal information for everyone else on that list. Uploading that data literally thousands of times in just a few days seems more than excessive.

9 ways to keep your Windows computer safe – For today’s criminals, the Internet’s where the action is. Compared to traditional muggers and burglars, cybercrooks make more money with less risk. And that means that us honest folk have to be extra cautious. Protecting yourself in cyberspace is more complex than locking your door or keeping a hand on your bag. I’m concentrating here with protecting your Windows PC.

Thanksgiving tech support survival guide (2015 edition) – Thanksgiving is a time of year which sees “the techies” and “the non-techies” come together, and chances are that you being the techie, the non-techies will spot you and hunt you down — The Walking Dead style, albeit slower thanks to the tryptophan — in search of “help”. With this in mind, I’ve put together what I call a “Turkey Day” tech support survival guide. While I’ve called it a “Turkey Day” guide — I’m certain that it will work just as well at other times of year — this seems to be the time of year when the techie’s superhero skills seem to be in greatest demand.

Here’s the tech you shouldn’t buy on Black Friday – Wait! Before you fight the crowds to plunk down your hard-earned cash, make sure that a Black Friday deal is really a deal.

20 Apps To Help Students Power Through – The second half of the semester is always the most hectic, with exams to study for, papers to write, and partying yet to be done. In order to make your life less stressful, stay healthy and help you finish with strong grades, here are some handy apps to download and sites to bookmark.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 2: Looks like iPad mini, runs either Android or Windows 10 – The 7.9-inch slate with 326 ppi display looks familiar on the outside. Boot it up or look at the internal components and you’ll see the difference which can be had for as little as $156.

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Text Fairy is the Android OCR app you’re looking for – This app can scan text from images on your device (previously taken by your camera or from Google Drive) or scan text from photos taken immediately by the camera. The best part is the OCR of Text Fairy is really, really accurate. Top that off with the fact that Text Fairy is free (of price and ads) as well as open source ( download the source), and you have the makings for one of the best OCR apps on the Google Play Store.

7 features to look for in a home security camera – One of the greatest tools in home security is the networked security camera. They come in an array of sizes and shapes, and they have a laundry list of features that can make choosing just one rather difficult. Here is a breakdown of some of the more common security camera features you should consider before biting the bullet.

8 Gifts For Your Grandparents That They Won’t Just Toss In A Drawer – Buying tech gifts for grandparents can be tough, depending on how interested they are in technology in the first place. One of my grandmothers is using the same television she used in 1975, her cable box passing through a crazy series of converters to make it compatible. My other grandmother hits me up on FaceTime about once a week. Some grandparents read TechCrunch every day. With this guide, we’ve tried to find a balance: things that just about anyone would like, but that grandparents on either side of the tech-loving spectrum should love.

Hot or Not? Twitter Bot Judges Your Selfies – The best selfies contain women with over-saturated faces; the worst: low lighting and too many people.

Bing Maps update adds traffic camera video feeds – Microsoft has updated Bing Maps with a new traffic camera option that allows users to view video feeds from one of thousands of traffic cameras located around the globe. The idea is that seeing the actual current conditions beats out any weather and traffic report, and also gives travelers a bit of an idea of what to expect in a region. The feature allows multiple camera feeds to be monitored at once, as well. The update adds more than 35,000 traffic camera video feeds from 11 countries. The feature can be found under the “Traffic” layer on Bing Maps, with the cameras being shown as small camcorder icons on mapped roadways. Clicking one of the cameras pulls up the video feed in a window over the map.

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Yahoo! locked Adblock users out of their inboxes – More and more of you are using ad blocking software, and more and more content providers are looking for ways around them. Yahoo’s latest gambit: preventing Adblock users from accessing their inboxes. It all started last week. Around the 19th, a handful of Adblock users began seeing a screen like the one embedded below when they tried to sign in to their Yahoo! Mail accounts. The query string in the address bar (launch?reason=ADBLK_TRAP) made it pretty clear what was going on.

Investigating Sleep states in Windows 10 – What exactly happens when your system takes a snooze? Gain more insight into Windows 10 energy usage by learning about each of the six power states.

Encrypted Messaging App SOMA Launches Group Voice And Video Calling – Users can now use the app to video chat with up to four friends from phones running both iOS and Android. According to the company, it is the only app to offer encrypted group video calling for free. The app already has offered messaging for up to 500 people, making it a communication tool for businesses and even a hospital. Built in the SOMA neighborhood of San Francisco, the name also is an acronym for Simple Optimized Messaging App. The encrypted messaging app launched in July, and its makers claim it is “safe enough for the CIA.” However they don’t market it to the government for one reason — not enough customers.

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Five free tools for building websites – With the help of these apps, you can build a topnotch website without spending a dime. And they aren’t just free–they offer a rich assortment of features for both newbies and seasoned web builders.

Windows 10 November update was pulled for forgetting privacy settings; it’s now back – The mystery behind the removal of the Windows 10 November Update, version 1511, has been revealed. Last week Microsoft received reports that, when upgrading from the Windows 10 July release to the November update, four privacy-related settings were getting reset to their default values. Concerned that there might be a significant problem, Microsoft removed the November Update from Windows Update for existing Windows 10 users and also removed the updated Media Creation Tool used to create install media. Microsoft has now fixed the upgrade/installation process to properly preserve these settings, and the November Update has once more been made available to Windows 10 users through Windows Update. The updated Media Creation Tool has also been restored, re-enabling clean installs of version 1511.

YouTube Kids Faces Further FTC Complaints Related To Junk Food Ads Targeting Young Children – According to the new complaints, a number of big-name brand advertisers including Coca-Cola, Oreo, Kellogg, General Mills and more, have broken their pledges to not advertise their products – including Coke, Coke Zero, Pop-Tarts, pizza and Oreo cookies, for example – to young children. YouTube Kids, YouTube’s first app aimed at the preschool set, was initially thought of as a relief for parents who wanted an easier way to keep small children from stumbling upon YouTube’s more adult fare. But the app, which is effectively this generation’s version of TV in terms of its presence in the lives of children, has faced controversy and complaints from consumer advocacy groups, and even U.S. Senators, concerned about the app’s content and its advertising.

WordPress.com Goes Open Source And Gets A Desktop App – First, WordPress.com is now fully separated from the WordPress core. WordPress.com is now an admin interface that interacts with the WordPress core just like any other third-party interface and app out there. It uses a REST API to fetch your posts, publish new ones, upload photos and more. Second, the team behind WordPress.com switched to an entirely new stack. Instead of using PHP and MySQL, the developers built everything using JavaScript and API calls. It means that when you go to the website, the server will distribute a fully working WordPress client that mostly runs in your browser.

3 ways to address looming big data privacy and security issues – Big data privacy and security issues are areas to watch for two reasons: 1) there are many unanswered legal questions, and 2) the law always lags technology. Let’s first take a look at the data privacy issue from the perspective of the consumer.

Security:

For privacy and security, change these iOS 9 settings right now – Before you do anything on your new iPhone or iPad, you should lock it down. Here are the important tweaks you need to protect your privacy.

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Prevent apps from uploading your data

Second Dell backdoor root cert found – A second root certificate has been found in new Dell laptops days after the first backdoor was revealed. The DSDTestProvider certificate was first discovered by Laptopmag. It is installed through Dell System Detect into the Trusted Root Certificate Store on new Windows laptops along with the private key. Dell has been contacted for comment. The Texas tech titan has called the first certificate gaffe an “unintended security vulnerability” in boilerplate media statements. Carnegie Mellon University CERT says it allows attackers to create trusted certificates and impersonate sites, launch man-in-the-middle attacks, and passive decryption.

What you need to know about Dell’s self-signed certificate blunder – Whoops, said Dell, effectively, we’re going to have to go ahead and remove this bit of software from your computer before it becomes a problem. This week Dell was discovered to have installed a piece of code by the name of “eDellRoot” on a number of Dell computers. This code is a “certificate” inserted by Dell that would allow them to access a Dell computer when it needed to be serviced – when you call tech support, for example. Unfortunate for them, this certificate also left a hole in the security of the computers in which it was installed.

World’s most complex cash register malware plunders millions in US – The world’s most complex sales till malware has been discovered … after it ripped millions of bank cards from US retailers on the eve of post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzies. The ModPOS malware has pilfered “multiple millions” of debit and credit cards from the unnamed but large retail companies incurring millions of dollars in damages. The attackers have operated in a low-key, ultra professional manner since late 2013 and has only come to light after weeks of painstaking reverse-engineering efforts by malware experts. They have kept mum, too. Cybercrime forums are entirely devoid of references to the malware.

Amazon resets some passwords, cites vague ‘issue’ as reason – Some Amazon users have received notifications stating the company has reset their accounts passwords due to a possible issue, the nature of which isn’t clear. Both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk users saw the message appear in the account’s message center, as well as in email. The move was one made out of an “abundance of caution,” according to the email, but the company hasn’t explicitly stated why it decided to act in such a manner.

Tor Turns To Crowdfunding To Lessen Its Dependence On Government Money – Tor, the network that facilitates hidden communications and secure Internet activity, has begun accepting donations in a move aimed at lessening its financial dependence on the U.S. Government. The organization, which The Verge reports as relying on government donations for 80-90 percent of its financial backing, kicked off its campaign with a brief profile of Laura Poitras, the filmmaker behind the documentary on the Edward Snowden-NSA leaks and a leading privacy advocate.

Company News:

Apple Has Acquired Faceshift, Maker Of Motion Capture Tech Used In Star Wars – As the market for virtual reality technology continues to grow, Apple has made an interesting acquisition that could further its role in the space. TechCrunch has confirmed that Apple has snapped up Faceshift, a startup based in Zurich that has developed technology to create animated avatars and other figures that capture a person’s facial expressions in real time.

Two dozen Disney IT workers prepare to sue over foreign replacements – At least 23 former Disney IT workers have filed complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) over the loss of their jobs to foreign replacements. This federal filing is a first step to filing a lawsuit alleging discrimination. These employees are arguing that they are victims of national origin discrimination, a complaint increasingly raised by U.S. workers who have lost their jobs to foreign workers on H-1B and other temporary visas.

HP bows out with a 9 percent drop in sales – It was an inglorious ending but not a surprising one: The former Hewlett-Packard Co. logged an 9 percent drop in sales for its last quarter before the split, perhaps a sign that it’s better off in two pieces.

Microsoft blames layoffs for drop in gender diversity – Microsoft has blamed a drop in its workforce’s gender diversity on the thousands of layoffs it made to restructure its phone hardware business.

Tango, Chat App Unicorn, Lays Off 9% Of Staff Following Failed Move Into E-Commerce – Tango, the mobile messaging unicorn that reached a billion-dollar valuation when Alibaba invested $280 million in it early last year, has laid off around 9 percent of its workforce after it shuttered a brief effort at e-commerce. The Mountain View-based company launched an in-app commerce feature powered by Alibaba and Walmart back in May of this year, initially in the U.S. market, but it has confirmed to TechCrunch that ‘Tango Shop’ was closed down last month, leading to the lay-off off around 30 employees working on it.

Games and Entertainment:

GOG.com sale slashes 50 percent off The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s price – One of the year’s best RPGs is now one of the year’s best sales.

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Pixel Enemy

Developer brings unofficial PS4 streaming to Windows – With the latest update, Xbox One owners have been able to stream their games to their Windows 10 PC. This is handy for those times when the TV is tied up by someone else. For PS4 owners, your only real option for streaming is to pick up a Vita, or use a Playstation TV and use another TV. However, one person has been perfecting a method that will allow you to stream your PS4 games to any PC in the house.

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Bethesda releases Fallout 4 Beta update for PC – Last week, Bethesda promised that it would roll out updates to Fallout 4 at a more frequent rate than they have with past titles. That’s a promise that was kept. Today, the developer has released a beta for the game’s first patch on the PC. Beta update 1.2.33 will let players remap the number pad keys. In addition, Remapping Activate now works on Quick Container. The fixes this patch brings include:

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‘Uncharted: Nathan Drake’ PS4 Bundle Gets Black Friday Discount – Not to be outdone by the Xbox One Black Friday deals, Sony will also be offering a discounted bundle for its PlayStation 4. Starting this Friday, Nov. 26 and lasting until Cyber Monday, Nov. 30, customers will be able to purchase the Uncharted Nathan Drake Collection PS4 Bundle for $299 ($369.99 in Canada) at select retailers. The bundle includes a 500GB PlayStation 4, and the PS3-era Uncharted titles Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Each game has been optimized for the PS4, with 1080p resolution and running at 60 frames per second.

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Xbox One and Xbox 360 Free Games With Gold for December 2015 – Microsoft today announced the free titles that will be available to Xbox Live Gold members in December, a list which includes a bonus Xbox 360 game. On Xbox One, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing will be free throughout the month of December. Starting on December 16, Thief will join it as a free download. On Xbox 360, CastleStorm will be free for the first half of the month. On December 16, it’ll be replaced by Sacred 3 and, as an extra gift for the holidays, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising. The full schedule for December’s Games With Gold lineup follows below.

Off Topic (Sort of):

10 Tech Buzzwords And How To Explain Them To Your Extended Family – One of the nice things about living in the Bay Area or another technology hub is that everyone speaks the same language – there’s common jargon. As nice as going home and meeting family is, your language is going to need a bit of a readjustment. Here’s a list of some tech buzzwords that you can explain to your family when you’re not quietly moving your grandparents from Internet Explorer to Firefox.

Biowearables – Biowearables are devices that can be worn by consumers to collect data from their bodies.

Domino’s Easy Order Button is a ninja turtle’s dream come true – In their neverending quest to make the pizza ordering process as painless as possible, Domino’s is willing to try anything. Their latest creation lets you place a delivery order with a single button press. They call it the Easy Order Button, and it’s sort of like an Amazon Dash for Domino’s Pizza. It’s not a standalone device, however. It’s a Bluetooth peripheral, so it needs to be paired with your phone or tablet and you also need to have the Domino’s app installed. Once you’ve got that all squared away, you can tap the button to set the pizza delivery wheels in motion.

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Two-thirds of the world can’t pass this basic financial literacy test. Can you? – Two-thirds of people around the world failed a short test of basic financial concepts. The five-question test—created by Standard & Poor’s, Gallup, the World Bank, and George Washington University—was posed to 150,000 people in more than 140 countries last year. It tests understanding of risk, inflation, interest, and compound interest. To pass, people had to demonstrate competency in three out of four topics. Yet just 33% of people were able to do that. See how you fare on this slightly modified version of the quiz. After each question, we’ll tell you how various countries did on it, too.

Google’s soaring piracy link-removal requests hit 65 million last month  – Copyright owners and “reporting organisations” last month requested over 65 million URLs be removed from Google’s search results, up from 30 million a month just over a year ago. And those figures exclude requests concerning copyrighted content on YouTube. Piracy link takedowns in search dwarf the 1.2 million URLs Google has assessed under European privacy law since May and the few hundred URLs targeted by governments each year. The new piracy-link record was documented earlier this week by TorrentFreak, which noted the number of links targeted for removal per day has climbed from a few hundred in 2011 to two million today.

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Getting started with a career in cybersecurity – With the ongoing and seemingly never-ending flood of cyberattacks, companies and governments the world over need experienced, skilled professionals to protect, defend, and strike back. But how do you get into the lucrative cybersecurity career? David Gewirtz has some advice.

Kim Dotcom slams ‘dirty ugly bully’ Uncle Sam as extradition hearing ends – The extradition hearing of rotund web baron Kim Dotcom finally ended Tuesday, having taken three times longer than expected. Tweeting on the last day of the ten-week hearing in Auckland, New Zealand, Dotcom railed: “My defense team has shown how utterly unreliable, malicious, and unethical the US case against me is. They have exposed a dirty ugly bully.” Dotcom wasn’t in court for the final day, having limped out the previous day with back pain, but despite a stream of sarcastic and mocking tweets throughout the process, the odds could not be higher for him and three colleagues of the Megaupload file storing service.

NEW Gartner Research: The Top 10 Cloud Myths – To address popular misperceptions that surround cloud, Gartner offers a top 10 list of cloud myths to clarify how the cloud actually works.

Something to think about:

12570 deaths by gun violence in the USA last year 

624 people shot and killed by police (most justifiable) 

And Americans are worried about terrorists?

Downloads:

AdNauseam – As online advertising is becoming more automatic, universal and unsanctioned, AdNauseam works to complete the cycle by automating all ad-clicks universally and blindly on behalf of the target audience. Working in coordination with your ad blocker, AdNauseam quietly clicks every blocked ad, registering a visit on the ad networks databases. As the data gathered shows an omnivorous click-stream, user profiling, targeting and surveillance becomes futile.

dNauseam is a browser extension designed to obfuscate browsing data and protect users from surveillance and tracking by advertising networks. Simultaneously, AdNauseam serves as a means of amplifying users’ discontent with advertising networks that disregard privacy and facilitate bulk surveillance agendas.

AdNauseam joins a broader class of software systems that attempt to serve ethical, political, and expressive ends. In light of the industry’s failure to achieve consensus on a Do Not Track standard, or to otherwise address the excesses of network tracking, AdNauseam allows individual users to take matters into their own hands, fighting back against unilateral surveillance. Taken in this light, the software follows an approach similar to that of TrackMeNot, employing obfuscation as a strategy to shift the balance of power between the trackers and the tracked.

TrackMeNot – TrackMeNot is a lightweight browser extension that helps protect web searchers from surveillance and data-profiling by search engines. It does so not by means of concealment or encryption (i.e. covering one’s tracks), but instead, paradoxically, by the opposite strategy: noise and obfuscation. With TrackMeNot, actual web searches, lost in a cloud of false leads, are essentially hidden in plain view. User-installed TrackMeNot works with Firefox and Chrome browsers and popular search engines (AOL, Yahoo!, Google, and Bing) and requires no 3rd-party servers or services.

TrackMeNot runs in Firefox and Chrome as a low-priority background process that periodically issues randomized search-queries to popular search engines, e.g., AOL, Yahoo!, Google, and Bing. It hides users’ actual search trails in a cloud of ‘ghost’ queries, significantly increasing the difficulty of aggregating such data into accurate or identifying user profiles. TMN serves as a means of amplifying users’ discontent with advertising networks that not only disregard privacy, but also facilitate the bulk surveillance agendas of corporate and government agencies, as documented recently in disclosures by Edward Snowden and others. To better simulate user behavior TrackMeNot uses a dynamic query mechanism to ‘evolve’ each client (uniquely) over time, parsing the results of its searches for ‘logical’ future query terms with which to replace those already used.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The Encryption Debate Isn’t Taking A Thanksgiving Break – Lawmakers and Congressional staffers may be trickling out of their Hill offices and to the airports, the encryption debate is not taking a holiday this week.

Following media reports that the terrorists responsible for the Paris attacks communicated via encrypted messaging platforms, both opponents and proponents of backdoors for law enforcement are speaking up. Yesterday Senator Ron Wyden published a blistering Medium post, where he outlined the risks of providing backdoors to encrypted communications:

“I am standing up against these dangerous proposals to ensure we act based on the facts, not fear, in the days ahead,” Wyden wrote. “Some are calling for the United States to weaken Americans’ cybersecurity by undermining strong encryption with backdoors for the government. But security experts have shown again and again that weakening encryption will make it easier for foreign hackers, criminals and spies to break into Americans’ bank accounts, health records and phones, without preventing terrorists from “going dark.”

But proponents of backdoors aren’t taking a vacation either. Today lobbying groups representing both district attorneys and police officers throughout the country released a letter calling for legislation that would enable law enforcement to be able to access encrypted communications when they obtain a proper warrant.

Cyber-terror: How real is the threat? Squirrels are more of a danger – The UK Chancellor George Osborne last week announced that the British government plans to double cybersecurity spending and establish a single National Cyber Centre.

Cybersecurity spending will rise to £1.9bn ($2.87bn) at a time of budget cuts to police and other government departments. More details are expected to come in the Autumn Statement to Parliament on Wednesday.

Speaking at GCHQ last week, Osborne claimed that the extra spending is justified in large part because cyber-jihadists are trying to take down critical infrastructure – power stations, air traffic control systems and more. Daesh, aka the Islamic State, is plotting deadly attacks on computer systems – and is close to achieving the capability, the Chancellor alleged [speech transcript here, press statement here].

“I have made a provision to almost double our investment to protect Britain from cyber attack and develop our sovereign capabilities in cyberspace, totaling £1.9 billion over five years,” Osborne said.

“If you add the spending on core cyber security capabilities government protecting our own networks and ensuring safe and secure online services, the government’s total cyber spending will be more than £3.2 billion.”

Some of the money will go into an Institute of Coding as well as fighting cybercrime. But a major focus of the spending will come in further boosting the capabilities of GCHQ to tackle Daesh killers. Neither Russian nor China (the UK’s most capable cyber-espionage adversaries) merited a mention in the Chancellor’s speech.

Daesh, by contrast, were mentioned eight times. As well as talking about the use of the “internet for hideous propaganda purposes, for radicalization [and] for operational planning,” Osborne claimed the medieval terror mob posed a growing cyber threat.

But what are the capabilities of the self-styled Cyber Caliphate? Russia is now the chief suspect in the most serious network assault ever attributed to the Cyber Caliphate group, the hack on French TV station TV5 Monde back in April. Jihadist propaganda was posted on the station’s website by miscreants who claimed they were affiliated with the Islamic State. The TV network was knocked off air for about 18 hours.

Pretty much everyone took it at face value that the Cyber Caliphate was behind the attack, and it wasn’t until weeks later, once the dust had settled, that experts published evidence that undermined the Daesh-involvement hypothesis and fingered Russians as the likely culprit.

Comments Off on Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – November 25, 2015

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – November 23, 2015

Microsoft cuts thousands of movies and games to 10 cents for Windows 10;  How NSA continued to spy on American citizens’ email traffic; Edward Snowden explains how to reclaim your privacy;  Facebook back in hot water after Safety Check ignores Mali;  Shop more safely on Cyber Monday;  Windows 10 Mobile review;  13 Google Chrome Tips That Will Make Your Life Better;  Now reply to individual story snaps in Snapchat;  How to buy a productivity tablet;  Microsoft yanks Windows 10 November upgrade from download site;  The best cooking apps for the holidays;  The PS4 can now emulate PlayStation 2 games;  A deep dive into the security features of a router;  Only 31% of Preteens Can Distinguish Paid Ads from Real Search Results;  How to try Firefox OS preview on your Android device;  Malware caught checking out credit cards in 54 luxury hotels;  Walmart moves Cyber Monday to Sunday;  EFF Launches Website for Reporting Content Takedowns;  11 ways video games can make you a better person;  10 Small Things You Can Do Every Day to Get Smarter;  Sleeping in on weekends linked to health problems.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

13 Google Chrome Tips That Will Make Your Life Better – There are many extensions and programs that innovative developers have built to make using Chrome more productive and more fun. With them, you can save articles to read anywhere, learn a new language, save money while shopping, and even improve your writing. And the beauty is that they don’t actually require you to put in any extra work. These 13 extensions and apps can help you both streamline your Chrome browsing and help you do things you didn’t even know were possible. Read on to become a Google Chrome pro:

It’s official—NSA did keep its e-mail metadata program after it “ended” in 2011 – Though it was revealed by Edward Snowden in June 2013, the National Security Agency’s (NSA) infamous secret program to domestically collect Americans’ e-mail metadata in bulk technically ended in December 2011.  Or so we thought. A new document obtained through a lawsuit filed by The New York Times confirms that this program effectively continued under the authority of different government programs with less scrutiny from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

How NSA continued to spy on American citizens’ email traffic – from overseas – Newly revealed documents (not from Snowden this time) show that the NSA has continued to collect Americans’ email traffic en masse using overseas offices to get around curbs introduced domestically. To get around the restrictions on operating in the USA, the NSA simply started using its overseas offices to do the collection. Stations like RAF Menwith Hill in Yorkshire were tasked with collecting the metadata and feeding it back to the NSA headquarters in Maryland.

Microsoft cuts thousands of movies and games to 10 cents for Windows 10 – The software giant is kicking off a huge promotion for its Windows Store, with more than a 1,000 movies, songs, apps, and games discounted down to just 10 cents. There’s a wide range of titles available, but you won’t own movies as they’re available to rent for the 10 cents offer. Movies include Jurassic World, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Dark Knight Rises. Songs like Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean” or John Legend’s “All of Me” are just 10 cents, and Microsoft has a variety of Xbox-enabled Windows 10 games available. Hitman Go, Angry Birds Star Wars, Assassin’s Creed Pirates, and Reckless Racing Ultimate are some of the highlights. There’s even applications at just 10 cents, including IM+ Pro, Sticky Notes Pro, and a variety of unnecessary ZIP extractors. To keep track of each daily deal you just need to open the Windows Store on a Windows 10 PC and the home section will list all of the daily movies, games, and app deals. Microsoft’s “10 days of 10 cents deals” runs until Sunday November 29th.

What’s the catch with off-brand prepaid wireless services? – In this edition of Ask Maggie, CNET’s Marguerite Reardon explores whether prepaid brands, which are owned by the major wireless operators, offer a true bargain over traditional services.

Opera Max Now Also Helps You Save Data While Streaming Music – While Opera is best known for its browsers, the company has recently put quite a bit of effort into its Opera Max data-saving app for Android. Opera Max promises that its latest version will allow users to save about 50 percent of the data they would usually use to stream music from YouTube Music, Pandora, Slacker Radio, Gaana and Saavn. The service that’s obviously missing here is Spotify, but if you’re a heavy user of one of the supported apps — and you don’t have an unlimited plan (or are on T-Mobile’s post-paid network), it’s probably worth a try.

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You can now reply to individual story snaps in Snapchat – Snapchat quietly dropped an update last night that makes its chat feature a lot more interesting. Now, when viewing a snap in someone’s story, you can swipe upward to send that user a direct chat message. The original poster receives a notification and can hop into a private message thread tied directly to the original snap. The update makes it easier to start a conversation with another user based off something they snap to their story, whereas before users weren’t quite sure which snap any incoming message may be replying to — think of it like quoting someone’s public tweet in a direct message on Twitter.

Facebook At Work Gets Its Own Version Of Messenger With Debut of “Work Chat” – Facebook at Work, the version of Facebook designed for chatting with colleagues on a private social network, now has its own chat client as well. Somewhat like Facebook at Work’s version of Messenger, the new “Work Chat” app, as it’s called, allows coworkers to message each other individually, participate in group chats, share photos and videos, make voice calls, and even use stickers. The application quietly debuted on the Google Play store on Thursday. Facebook tells us the iOS version is in the works, and will arrive soon. However, the company would not provide an exact launch date.

How to try Mozilla’s mobile Firefox OS preview on your Android device, no deep-level tech tricks required – Instead of going through the pain and commitment of re-flashing your phone with Firefox OS, all you have to do is download and install Mozilla’s APK. Then the next time you try to hit the home button on your device you’ll see the option to use Firefox OS as your app launcher. From then on you’ll experience what Firefox OS has to offer without losing your Android apps. If you get tired of Firefox OS as Android launcher you can get rid of it by scrolling downwards to the Android Settings app. Inside Settings, find the “Device” heading, tap Home, and select the standard Android launcher that comes with your device.

Five to Try: Horizon Chase is a rad retro racer, and Dragon Anywhere delivers pro-level dictation – Load up with the latest Android apps and games before Thanksgiving rolls around.

Microsoft yanks Windows 10 November upgrade from download site – Microsoft last week stopped offering Windows 10’s November upgrade as a disk image, shutting down the route many had used to skip the wait as the company slowly rolls out the refresh via Windows Update. The .iso files are still available, but when downloaded using Microsoft’s Media Creation Tool, they now install the original July 29 edition of Windows 10, not the November upgrade as they did earlier.

Five key facts about how Windows 10 search works – You can search for anything and everything from the Windows 10 desktop, but the results may sometimes be confusing. Here is what you should know.

Video: How to buy a productivity tablet – Whether you’re opting for an iPad or a Surface, here are five things to consider before you buy a tablet.

Windows 10 Mobile review: Next-gen Windows Phones focus on unique features to double down on productivity – Microsoft’s Windows 10 Mobile operating system may be a second-tier OS, but it’s not second-rate. With its new smartphone OS, Microsoft has doubled down on the productivity message, crafting a utilitarian OS with occasional flashes of magic—most notably its new PC-like Continuum feature.

Feature phone growth outstrips smartphone sales in India for Q3 – In a bizarre twist, aggressive distribution strategies as well as mistrust of more expensive smartphones have helped feature phones stage an unlikely comeback.

EFF Launches Website for Reporting Content Takedowns  – The website allows visitors to indicate when their content has been removed from various social media sites.

The best cooking apps for the holidays – Whether you’re heading into the kitchen, or are on the hook to bring the drinks to the big meal, these apps will help find the right recipes, cook like a pro and get the right bottle of wine this holiday season.

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Facebook back in hot water after Safety Check ignores Mali – Facebook activated its Safety Check feature immediately following the attacks in Paris, representing the first time the social network’s tool was used for something other than a natural disaster. The company was heavily criticized for doing so, not because the tool isn’t useful, but because Facebook didn’t activate it for previous similar attacks elsewhere, such as Lebanon. This highlighted a bias in the company, according to critics, which Facebook dismissed. However, as a harrowing attack took place in Mali, Safety Check remained inactive.

Security:

Shop more safely on Cyber Monday – Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is America’s biggest shopping day, but Cyber Monday is catching up. Why camp outside a store for limited-quantity “door buster” deals when you can get goods online, snug on your couch with a cup of cocoa? However, you don’t want to avoid the mall circus only to get your personal or financial info trampled by an insecure site. Here’s how to shop more safely online.

Malware caught checking out credit cards in 54 luxury hotels – Add Starwood – owner of the Sheraton, Westin, W hotel chains – to the ranks of resorts infiltrated by credit card-stealing malware. The luxury hotel chain said on Friday that 54 of its North American locations had been infected with a software nasty that harvested banking card information from payment terminals and cash registers. Starwood said the 54 compromised hotels [PDF] were scattered throughout the US and Canada, and were infected from as early as November of 2014 to June 30 of this year. Malware was found in payment systems in gift shops, restaurants, and sales registers. Data stolen by the software could include customer names, credit card numbers, card security codes, and expiration dates. Starwood said that customer addresses, reservation data, and reward card information were not exposed in the breach.

Security experts: Every business should have a security and encryption policy – Two experts from security firms explain the basics of why your business needs a security and encryption policy.

TrueCrypt is safer than previously reported, detailed analysis concludes – Despite the vulnerabilities, the analysis concluded that TrueCrypt remains safe when used as a tool for encrypting data at rest as opposed to data stored in computer memory or on a mounted drive. The researchers said the vulnerabilities uncovered by Project Zero and in the Fraunhofer analysis should be fixed but that there’s no indication that they can be exploited to provide attackers access to encrypted data stored on an unmounted hard drive or thumb drive. According to a summary by Eric Bodden, the Technische Universität Darmstadt professor who led the Fraunhofer audit team:

It does not seem apparent to many people that TrueCrypt is inherently not suitable to protect encrypted data against attackers who can repeatedly access the running system. This is because when a TrueCrypt volume is mounted its data is generally accessible through the file system, and with repeated access one can install key loggers etc. to get hold of the key material in many situations. Only when unmounted, and no key is kept in memory, can a TrueCrypt volume really be secure. In result, TrueCrypt provides good protection mostly when storing encrypted data offline. If keeping a backup stored offline on a hard drive, for example, or keeping encrypted data on a USB flash drive to be sent via a human carrier, then this can be considered relatively secure.

A deep dive into the security features of a router – This look at the D-Link DIR-860L router is focused exclusively on security, which probably makes it the first review of its kind. My last blog, How secure can your router get?, described a checklist of router security features on my RouterSecurity.org site. Here I employ that checklist to evaluate the security aspects of a random router.

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Only 31% of Preteens Can Distinguish Paid Ads from Real Search Results – Well, this is alarming: a new study revealed that only 31 percent of 12 to 15 year-olds could recognize the difference between Google Ads and regular Google search results. In kids ages 8 to 11, the number was much lower, at only 16 percent. The study was conducted by Ofcom, the UK’s regulatory agency in charge of communications, and examined results from several hundred children in each age group. The kids were shown an image of a search for “trainers,” and most either did not identify the paid results or trusted that they were still reflective of the best possible results.

Company News:

Blackphone maker Silent Circle distances itself from criminals – Rampant spying by governments, spates of large scale hackings, and a general atmosphere of vulnerability over the Internet and mobile networks has made many look at heavily encrypted services and devices just to feel safe even while swimming in this digital age. Silent Circle has been one of the loudest voices in that market, putting out not only encrypted communication services but also an encrypted communication device: the Blackphone. Sadly, one of its most recent endorsers is one that the startup could do without, the Islamic State, more notoriously known as ISIS.

Pointing up   In related news – Toyota has taken the unusual step of distancing itself from bank robbery “get away cars.” Expert experts agree, that virtually all manufacturers of consumer goods are now likely to make similar statements disavowing any connection with the criminal class. Knives, hammers, rope…, will receive special attention.

Expert experts also agree that Blackphone’s  announcement is an example of corporate grade political correctness taken to the “stupid” level.     Crying face

Walmart moves Cyber Monday to Sunday because people now have the internet at home – As if starting Black Friday on Thanksgiving evening wasn’t enough to demonstrate Walmart’s flagrant disregard for the meaning of words that end in “day,” the mammoth retailer has now announced that it is choosing to ignore the temporal boundaries of yet another beloved American institution. Get ready to do your Cyber Monday shopping on, well, Sunday instead. The reason? People have the internet at home now, too. “The customers have changed but Cyber Monday hasn’t changed with them,” Walmart.com CEO Fernando Madeira tells Reuters. “Now everyone has Internet.” In other words, there’s no reason why they should have to wait until Monday morning to use their office internet connection for shopping. What an age we live in.

Report: Google Play’s move into China now scheduled for 2016 – A report from Reuters gives us the latest update on Google’s ongoing effort to get Google Play into China. The report says that Google employees are “working hard in China to lay the ground for the app store’s launch” and the store will go live in 2016, sometime after February. With 1.3 billion people, China is the world’s largest smartphone market, but a Google-blessed version of Android isn’t available there. Google is very active in the second- and third-most-populated countries—India and the US—but the company effectively pulled out of China several years ago due to censorship laws.

Coinbase launches their first Bitcoin debit card – One of the biggest hurdles for Bitcoin adoption is the fact that it’s difficult to actually spend the crytocurrency. While people have dreamed of a time where you can go to any store and spend your Bitcoin, it’s just not taken off in a way that’s made it feasible. However, Coinbase has just secured a deal that will let you do exactly that.

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Yahoo surrenders all search share gains from Firefox deal – A year after Yahoo struck a deal with Mozilla to make its search engine the default in Firefox in the U.S., Yahoo’s share of search usage share has fallen to levels lower than before the partnership was inked, according to one Web measurement. In the last five months, Yahoo’s U.S. search share as tracked by Irish metrics vendor StatCounter has has been under the 8.9% recorded in November 2014, the month when Yahoo and Mozilla announced the deal. For October, Yahoo’s usage share was 7.6%, a new low. By StatCounter’s tally, Yahoo’s top mark in the past 12 months was the 10.2% in January 2015.

Mobile OS Maker Jolla To Cut Half Its Staff, Restructure Its Debt After Funding Stalls – Finnish alternative mobile OS startup Jolla is facing the situation startups dread the most: running out of financing to keep the business going in the way they’d like. Today the Sailfish OS maker said it is being forced to adjust its operations after failing to close a €10 million ($10.6M) Series C round within the required timeframe to keep up with its outgoings. Negotiations with the unnamed single investor for its Series C have been postponed, according to chairman and co-founder Antii Saaarnio. He tells TechCrunch he hopes the financing negotiations will start up again in December.

Jawbone cuts 15 percent of staff in second round of layoffs this year – A company spokesperson told TechCrunch, “Jawbone’s success over the past 15 years has been rooted in its ability to evolve and grow dynamically in a rapidly scaling marketplace. As part of our strategy to create a more streamlined and successful company, we have made the difficult decision to reorganize the company which has had an impact on our global workforce.” The layoffs will affect every part of Jawbone’s business. No product areas will be closed down as part of the restructuring, though, meaning that the company will still sell Up fitness trackers, Jambox speakers, and Era headsets.

Following The Launch Of Its Ad-Free Tier, Hulu Breaks Into The Top 10 Apps By Revenue – Following a number of big moves to attract subscribers and grow its revenue, including a deal with Epix films and the introduction of a commercial-free paid tier to its service, streaming service Hulu has managed to shoot up the ranks on a number of app store charts this past month. It reached No. 8 on the worldwide iOS Top Revenue chart for October and No. 10 on the worldwide Top Revenue chart for iOS and Android combined. Hulu is also moving up the ranks in terms of monthly active users, according to new data provided by App Annie, though it still has far to go to reach No. 1 Entertainment app Netflix or No. 2 Vine.

Marijuana Startup Incubator “Gateway” Fires Up – Marijuana prohibition is coming to an end, and massive businesses will grow in its place. Gateway wants to seed them. This year Gateway will back two classes of 10 cannabis startups with $30,000 each plus five months of office space in exchange for 6% of their equity. The cash comes from LA’s Marijuana Investment Corporation (now just known as MJIC), and will fund further rounds for top performers after Gateway’s demo days. Applications, in the form of four-minute videos, open today for the first class starting in 2016.

Games and Entertainment:

11 ways video games can make you a better person – Even though video games are one of the most profitable sections of the entertainment industry, they still get a bad rap. Ask most people and they’ll tell you that gaming is a waste of time at best and actively harmful at worst. While that might be true in some cases — nobody is going to argue that playing World of Warcraft until you have to poop in a sock so you don’t stop playing for bathroom breaks is a good idea — there’s a growing body of research that indicates that gaming might actually help you improve yourself. How, though?

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Make you morally conscious

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is already breaking sales records – Being a huge Star Wars fan, I’ve been itching to see my favorite franchise break new sales records. While we’re still weeks away from seeing if it breaks opening weekend records, it’s already set one. Which is pretty good for a movie that hasn’t premiered yet.

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Valve will reportedly do away with Steam’s Daily and Flash sales – Steam Sales have historically been big deals. I don’t buy many games these days, mostly because I’ve filled up on them in previous years. I’d wake up early to see what was on sale, and continue to check back throughout the day, as some of those would change throughout the day. But for the upcoming Autumn and Winter sales, that might be changing.

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Bethesda promises frequent updates to Fallout 4 – “Our process for updating the game will include releasing a beta patch on Steam, followed by full release on PC, then release on the consoles,” said Bethesda in a blog post. “This process has worked well for us in the past and allows us to get more fixes out faster. Expect to see more updates, that are smaller and more frequent, than a few big ones. This allows us to make sure each fix is working right, as any change can have unintentional side effects in a game this huge. We expect the first beta patch to be up next week.”

Pointing up    Let’s hope Bethesda is a little more successful at this than they have been with Skyrim, for example.

Video: Basic kit needed to record YouTube/Twitch gaming “Let’s Plays” – Gaming is as popular as ever, so much so that there are those who now enjoy sharing their gaming experiences on video sharing sites such as YouTube or Twitch. Here’s a tour of some of the basic hardware and software to get you started.

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The PS4 can now emulate PlayStation 2 games – If you own a PS4, I have good news: It is now capable of playing PS2 games through emulation. Rather unusually, though, Sony hasn’t actually announced anything officially. The PS2 emulator was discovered by Eurogamer when it was sent a new PS4 Star Wars bundle containing three games that originally debuted on the PS2. Eurogamer entered a PSN download key, their PS4 downloaded all of the old games… and then the classic PlayStation 2 logo appeared “in all its upscaled glory.” Following Eurogamer’s exposé, a Sony spokesperson then confirmed with Wired that the PS2 emulator exists: “We are working on utilising PS2 emulation technology to bring PS2 games forward to the current generation. We have nothing further to comment at this point in time.”

Off Topic (Sort of):

10 Small Things You Can Do Every Day to Get Smarter – You might be under the impression that intelligence is a fixed quantity set when you are young and unchanging thereafter. But research shows that you’re wrong. How we approach situations and the things we do to feed our brains can significantly improve our mental horsepower.

Mark Zuckerberg Will Take Two Months Off From Facebook For Paternity Leave – Mark Zuckerberg, the face of Facebook since the company’s founding back in 2004, will be taking a few months off for paternity leave. It’s hard to imagine Facebook without Zuck, even temporarily — but it’s also not likely that much will change while he’s gone, at least without his stamp of approval. He does control over half of the company’s voting power, after all.

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Ford creates a drugged-driving suit to show why you shouldn’t toke behind the wheel – The automaker will use the suit as part of its new-driver education program, in the hopes that motorists will think twice before making a bad decision.

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Ford’s drugged-driving suit is the follow-up to its drunk-driving suit, which helped teach new drivers the dangers of mixing alcohol and cars.

How cyber insurance actually works – Having worked for a broker for five years and been involved in a number of client-facing presentations, I can promise you that while cost is a factor, the suitability of cover and quality of the claims service are given at least equal prominence. Insurers recognise that their primary product is the claims service and if you make a habit of stiffing your customers it would probably only take a year for your business to dry up. So what does this tell us about the growth of cyber insurance? Well the products have been around longer than you might imagine, but have been getting a lot more media time in the last couple of years. Mostly this reflects an increase in the board level understanding of the potential risks they are running, although this may also reflect an increase in understanding that traditional policies don’t cover cyber events.

Struggling to understand Docker? Let’s start with a Minecraft demo – Explaining containerisation can be tricky, so Docker has turned to a medium it reckons everyone can understand. Minecraft. The vendor used its EU conference this week to demonstrate how to use Minecraft as an interface to its technology, via Cuberite, a scriptable Minecraft server. Thus Docker containers are visualised as … containers, while according to the Docker blog, “To start or stop a container, you go into the container and hit a switch”. Docker commands can be typed in Minecraft itself. Of course, given the nature of Minecraft, everything looks like it’s made from containers anyway. You’ll need a Minecraft account, though we’d suggest things might be easier if you just have a ten year old handy and just use theirs. After all, it’s you that’s probably had to shell out for the game anyway.

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Sleeping in on weekends linked to health problems – Sleeping late on days-off—and other sleep-time adjustments—are linked to metabolic problems, including insulin resistance and a higher body mass index, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. The finding suggests that regular sleep shifts could rouse long-term health problems such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, the authors conclude. Such weekly sleep changes may alone cause trouble by throwing off the body’s internal clocks, putting metabolic cycles out of sync with other circadian rhythms, the authors speculate. For instance, fat accumulation in tissues, food absorption in the gut, and insulin secretion in the pancreas and liver all show tissue-specific circadian rhythms, the authors note.

How to Be a Good Kisser – 10 Tips From Scientific Research – Regular readers might be saying “What the hell is this, Cosmo Magazine?” In all fairness, how to be a good kisser is something no one really gets instruction in. Yet, it can be a huge part of one’s personal life and the sources we do get info from are, well, far from scientific. Let’s tackle it.

Something to think about:

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“So we need Silicon Valley not to view government as its adversary. We need to challenge our best minds in the private sector to work with our best minds in the public sector to develop solutions that will both keep us safe and protect our privacy. Now is the time to solve this problem, not after the next attack.”

–       Hillary Clinton

Downloads:

GIMP: The Free & Open Source Image Editor – GIMP is the Free and Open Source, cross-platform image editor available for GNU/Linux, OS X, Windows and more.

You will find information here about downloading, installing, using, and enhancing it. We try to provide as much information about the GIMP community and related projects as possible.

High Quality Photo Manipulation – GIMP provides the tools needed for high quality image manipulation. From retouching to restoring to creative composites, the only limit is your imagination.

Original Artwork Creation – GIMP gives artists the power and flexibility to transform images into truly unique creations.

Graphic Design Elements – GIMP is a high quality application for producing icons, graphical design elements, and art for user interface components and mockups.

Programming Algorithms – GIMP is a high quality framework for scripted image manipulation, with multi-language support such as C, C++, Perl, Python, Scheme, and more!

Key Component in a Desktop Publishing Workflow – GIMP provides top-notch color management features to ensure high-fidelity color reproduction across digital and printed media. It is best used in workflows involving other free software such as Scribus,

Extensibility & Flexibility – GIMP provides extensibility through integration with many programming languages including Scheme, Python, Perl, and more. The result is a high level of customization as demonstrated by the large number of scripts and plug-ins created by the community.

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Initial pass with the Crop Tool. Crop Tool options (left), cropping on the canvas (right).

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Edward Snowden explains how to reclaim your privacy – [Opsec] is important even if you’re not worried about the NSA. Because when you think about who the victims of surveillance are, on a day-to-day basis, you’re thinking about people who are in abusive spousal relationships, you’re thinking about people who are concerned about stalkers, you’re thinking about children who are concerned about their parents overhearing things. It’s to reclaim a level of privacy.

The first step that anyone could take is to encrypt their phone calls and their text messages. You can do that through the smartphone app Signal, by Open Whisper Systems. It’s free, and you can just download it immediately. And anybody you’re talking to now, their communications, if it’s intercepted, can’t be read by adversaries. [Signal is available for iOS and Android, and, unlike a lot of security tools, is very easy to use.]

You should encrypt your hard disk, so that if your computer is stolen the information isn’t obtainable to an adversary — pictures, where you live, where you work, where your kids are, where you go to school. [I’ve written a guide to encrypting your disk on Windows, Mac, and Linux.]

Use a password manager. One of the main things that gets people’s private information exposed, not necessarily to the most powerful adversaries, but to the most common ones, are data dumps. Your credentials may be revealed because some service you stopped using in 2007 gets hacked, and your password that you were using for that one site also works for your Gmail account. A password manager allows you to create unique passwords for every site that are unbreakable, but you don’t have the burden of memorizing them. [The password manager KeePassX is free, open source, cross-platform, and never stores anything in the cloud.]

The other thing there is two-factor authentication. The value of this is if someone does steal your password, or it’s left or exposed somewhere … [two-factor authentication] allows the provider to send you a secondary means of authentication — a text message or something like that. [If you enable two-factor authentication, an attacker needs both your password as the first factor and a physical device, like your phone, as your second factor, to login to your account. Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, GitHub, Battle.net, and tons of other services all support two-factor authentication.]

Metadata Surveillance Didn’t Stop the Paris Attacks – Since terrorists struck Paris last Friday night, the debate over whether encryption prevents intelligence services from stopping attacks has reignited. The New York Times and Yahoo reported on vague claims that the terrorists’ use of encryption stymied investigators who might have thwarted their plans. CIA Director John Brennan made equally vague comments Monday morning, warning that thanks to the privacy protections of the post-Snowden era, it is now “much more challenging” for intelligence agencies to find terrorists. Jeb Bush piled on, saying that the United States needs to restore its program collecting metadata on U.S. phone calls, even though that program won’t be shut down until the end of this month.

Following a terrorism incident as shocking as the Paris attacks, it is no surprise that politicians and the intelligence establishment would want to widen American spying capabilities. But their arguments are conflating the forest—bulk metadata collection—and the trees: access to individual communications about the attack. To understand why that’s the case, start with this tweet from former NSA and DHS official Stewart Baker: “NSA’s 215 program”—and by association the far larger metadata dragnet of which the domestically focused phone-metadata program is just a small part—“was designed to detect a Mumbai/Paris-style attack.”

Only it didn’t.

Judge: Stingrays are “simply too powerful” without adequate oversight – A federal judge in Illinois has recently taken the unusual step of issuing three new stringent requirements for the government when it wants to deploy cell-site simulators. The move aims to protect the Fourth Amendment rights of innocent bystanders against unreasonable search and seizure.

Of course, for now, this order only applies to this one judge in the Northern District of Illinois.

These new stingray requirements come just about a month after the Department of Homeland Security imposed its own warrant requirement, following a similar move by the Department of Justice.

Not only can stingrays be used to determine location by spoofing a cell tower, but they can also be used to intercept calls and text messages. Once deployed, the devices intercept data from a target phone as well as information from other phones within the vicinity.

Who’s running dozens of top-secret unpatched databases? The Dept of Homeland Security – The US Department of Homeland Security is running dozens of unpatched databases, some of which are rated “secret” and even “top secret,” according to an audit.

An inspection [PDF] of the department’s IT infrastructure found huge security gaps, including the fact that 136 systems had expired “authorities to operate” – meaning that no one was in charge of keeping them updated. Of the 136, 17 were classified as “secret” or “top secret.”

Unsurprisingly, with so many systems not undergoing active maintenance, the audit found that many did not have up-to-date security patches, leaving them open to hacking efforts. The problems extended from browsers to PCs to databases. It also found a large number of weak passwords.

“We found additional vulnerabilities regarding Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Reader, and Oracle Java software on the Windows 7 workstations,” the department’s inspector general noted in a 66-page report. “If exploited, these vulnerabilities could allow unauthorized access to DHS data.”

The report details a year-long effort to get the DHS to address its security issues, and a seemingly bureaucratic effort to delay a report announcing the flaws in its systems.

Comments Off on Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – November 23, 2015

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – November 20, 2015

Encryption: You can’t put the genie back in the bottle;  Tech Industry Coalition Defies Calls for Weakened Encryption;  Google Play radically updated;  Google Will Pay to Defend YouTubers Against Copyright Claims;  Skype for Android now lets you save video messages;  Free PowerPoint add-in offers integration with Facebook and Twitter;  Facebook Debuts The Digital Breakup;  Instagram doubles its active users in India in a year;  Amazon now allows two-factor authentication;  Number of Web Users in India on Track to Top U.S;  Play all of the Fallout games prior to Fallout 4 for $20;  7 common holiday travel nightmares, solved;  The 10 Best Bluetooth Speakers of 2015;  µBlock, a lean and fast blocker (free):  The 25 Best Inventions of 2015.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Tech Industry Coalition Defies Calls for Weakened Encryption – A coalition of dozens of the largest tech companies in the world is adamantly opposing any form of an official “backdoor” into encrypted devices. The Information Technology Industry Council is a group of more than 60 major tech companies and organizations, including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Intel and Facebook. The tech community isn’t persuaded by the calls for an encryption backdoor: From CEOs and investors to researchers and privacy advocates, many have already spoken out against the idea.

Encryption: You can’t put the genie back in the bottle – Security researchers and executives at Google and Microsoft warn that the rhetoric around encryption, and a back door, is counterproductive — and technologically infeasible.

Keep sensitive data in texts private and screenshot-proof with Confide – Let’s say you send a text message that contains sensitive information. What happens when the recipient takes a screenshot of the text and posts that information on a social forum? While it’s rare, this can (and does) happen. How can you avoid it? One method is to employ an app called Confide. Confide allows you to send messages to a recipient — who either has to be using the same app or must be viewing the messages in a browser via a link — and prevent them from taking a screenshot of the message. For anyone who is seriously concerned about privacy, this could be a must-have app. Let’s dive in and see if it’s right for you. Before you install the app, here’s what you need to know.

Google Will Pay to Defend YouTubers Against Copyright Claims – Google will cover up to $1 million in legal costs for YouTube video creators who are sued for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) but are —in Google’s opinion—actually using that footage legally. The DMCA allows for “fair use” exemptions—criticism, research, teaching, news reporting, etc.—that lets creators use footage without permission from the copyright owner. But copyright holders still issue takedown notices for fair use videos, and many smaller video creators, fearing a pricey legal battle, don’t fight back. That’s where Google comes in.

Skype for Android now lets you save video messages – The Skype app for Android has just been updated with a handy option for users who would like to save and keep video messages of importance. The new version, available now, lets users save received video messages by tapping the thumbnail in the conversation view, and simply choosing the “Save to Gallery” option. Think of it as a way to hang on to video voicemails from loved ones or those with important details needed later.

Google Play radically updated: APK download available now – Those of you wishing to see the new Google Play – wait no longer. The folks at Google responsible for selling you apps and entertainment have done the store a great justice. They’ve split the whole thing in two. Now you’ll be able to decide instantly whether you’re going to be looking for Apps and Games OR Entertainment bits and pieces. Inside Entertainment you’ll find books, movies, and music too. The app file has been released to the public – you can wait, or you can update your device using the APK file.

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Google Hangouts activates guest mode for meetings – Google’s latest bid to make their products more instantly-available to users is in “guest” mode in Google Hangouts. This feature allows people with Google accounts to host Google Hangouts meetings in which invited guests can join the conversation without needing a Google account of their own. This system requires joining guests to tap a button or two, write in a name so people know who they are on the call, and begin to chat.

Free PowerPoint add-in offers integration with Facebook and Twitter – A group of Microsoft developers created Social Share, an add-in that integrates Twitter and Facebook into PowerPoint. The possibilities for enterprise communication and social interaction are endless.

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Facebook Debuts The Digital Breakup With New Tools For Former Flames – Breaking up is hard enough without having to see your ex’s newfound happiness flung in your face every time you log on to Facebook. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to unfriend or block your ex. There should be some middle ground. Today, Facebook says it will begin to experiment with new tools that will help people better manage these complicated relationships.

Facebook Adds ‘Fundraisers’ Tool for Nonprofits – Facebook on Wednesday announced a new tool, dubbed Fundraisers, which lets nonprofits raise funds on their page for a specific campaign. With this tool, nonprofits can “tell their campaign story, rally supporters, collect donations, and visibly track progress toward a goal,” Facebook explained. Sympathetic social networkers will be able to donate to the cause with a few taps, then brag about their good deed to their friends on the site. When you share that you contributed, the post will also include a Donate button, so your friends can easily follow your lead.

Google Shopping Gets A Mobile Makeover With A Focus On Local Commerce – This is the largest mobile redesign the service has had to date, and it offers a variety of new elements aimed at helping consumers better discover and locate products they’re interested in, says Google. That also now includes more easily checking the availability of products at nearby stores. According to Google, the redesign was prompted by the shift the company has been seeing when it comes to shopping-related searches – that is, as of this fall, more shopping-related searches took place on mobile devices instead of desktop computers.

The 10 Best Bluetooth Speakers of 2015 – Powerful or portable, rugged or stylish, Bluetooth speakers can suit any need and work with nearly any device to stream music wirelessly. Here’s what to look for, along with the top speakers we’ve tested.

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Here are 7 common holiday travel nightmares, solved – Some reports suggest this year will be the worst for traveling around Thanksgiving and beyond. That’s because gas prices are low, leading more people to travel, and storms are poised to halt travel in major hubs. To get through the stress of it all, you’ll need to be prepared. Whether you’re heading to the airport to waiting in long security lines or stuck in a car for a few hours to visit friends and family, there are ways to make the experience less awful. CNET’s rounded up the best tools to make traveling a breeze.

How to save Windows Store apps to external storage in Windows 10 – The Window 10 November update brings lots of little tweaks to Microsoft’s operating system including the ability to save your apps to external storage.

Security:

Ransomware’s latest threats: What to do about CryptoWall, Chimera and their ilk – In the past, if you had a backup of your files, you could avoid paying ransomware. Malware developers claimed to have added a new twist, threatening to publish the data of anyone who has not paid.

Amazon now allows two-factor authentication – When it comes to securing your financial data and personal information more security is better, or at least the option to use more security. PayPal has had two-factor authentication capability for a while now where you need a password and a special code sent to a mobile or even a portable key device. Amazon is probably the biggest hold out that hasn’t offered two-factor authentication, until now.

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Dyre banking malware: Windows 10 and Edge browser now targets – The notorious Dyre banking malware has been updated to take on Windows 10 machines and hook its claws into the Edge browser. Dyre, also known as Dyreza, appeared on the cybercrime scene in July 2014 and has quickly gained a reputation as a nasty piece of malware that aims to steal credentials. It’s been found to target Salesforce users and banking customers, and more recently was discovered to have been adapted to steal credentials from a range of supply-chain businesses, including fulfilment and warehousing, inventory-management software vendors and wholesale computer distributors. Security firm Heimdal has reported that the malware — sold as a cybercrime-for-hire service — has now been updated to support the targeting of Windows 10 and its Edge browser.

Company News:

Tinder parent company Match Group is now public – Match Group, which owns dating platforms like OKCupid, Match, and Tinder, held its initial public offering this morning. Its stock opened at $12 per share and climbed slightly higher to $13.50 by midday. It will trade on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol MTCH. It raised a little more than $400 million, giving it a market cap of around $3 billion. The offering is on the low end of expectations for the company, which had said earlier this month it was looking to raise around $466 million at a value of more than $4 billion. Last year, Match Group generated over $836 million in revenue, up from $788 million in 2013.

Salesforce satisfies Q3 targets, boosts revenue outlook – Salesforce.com published better-than-expected third quarter financial results Wednesday after the bell. The CRM giant reported non-GAAP earnings of 21 cents per share on a revenue of $1.71 billion, up 24 percent year-over-year (statement). Wall Street was looking for earnings of 19 cents per share with revenue of $1.7 billion. Subscription and support revenues increased 24 percent annually to $1.6 billion. Professional services and other revenues totaled $116 million, up 22 percent year-over-year. For the current quarter, Salesforce projects a revenue range of $1.8 billion to $1.9 billion with earnings between 18 and 19 cents per share.

Square is officially a public company – Mobile payments company Square is officially trading on the stock market today, a little over a month after filing paperwork to go public. The company, led by CEO Jack Dorsey, will now trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol SQ. It priced last night at $9 a share, the bottom of its range, a clear sign that investor interest and confidence was lacking. It’s been trading up since opening, rising to $11.20 by midday.

UrbanClap, India’s Largest Services Marketplace, Fetches $25 Million Series B – UrbanClap, which uses a matchmaking algorithm to help consumers find the best service providers in major Indian cities, plans to scale rapidly after landing a $25 million Series B. The round was led by Bessemer Venture Partners, with participation from returning investors SAIF and Accel Partners, and brings UrbanClap’s total venture funding so far to $37 million.

Instagram doubles its active users in India in a year – India is on the cusp of officially becoming the country with the world’s second largest Internet userbase, and that’s great news for Mark Zuckerberg. Instagram, a megapopular photo-sharing platform that in 2012 was bought by Facebook for around $1 billion, doubled its base of monthly active users in India during the period between this and last September, reported the Economic Times.

Spotify Announces Six-Month Parental Leave Policy – Music streaming service Spotify announced it will offer six months of paid parental leave to full-time employees. The paid leave, which would apply to both mothers and fathers, can be taken all at once or broken up, according to a Spotify press release on the policy. New parents can take advantage of the policy until their child’s third birthday.

LG unveils its new ‘G Pay’ mobile payment platform – The service could do well in Korea where LG has large market share, but it will be an uphill battle against Google and Samsung in the U.S.

Games and Entertainment:

Play all of the Fallout games prior to Fallout 4 for $20 – Buying a new Fallout game on launch day is always a risky proposition. The sheer scale of these games (combined with Bethesda’s track record on quality control) means there will be bugs, and they will take weeks to fix. So, with the recent launch of Fallout 4, why not play all the Fallout games that came before it first? That decision has been made a lot easier this week by Bundle Stars. They are offering every Fallout game that came before Fallout 4 on PC for $20.39. Normally such a package would cost you $60, so that’s a serious saving. Included in the bundle are 5 games and all available DLC packs. Here’s the complete list:

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Star Wars Battlefront suffers immortal player glitch – Star Wars Battlefront suffers immortal player glitch – According to report from Ars sister publication Wired UK, immortal players have been causing grief in the game’s multiplayer modes. Wired UK played several multiplayer matches earlier this week, and saw at least two instances of players who were impervious to all weapons and melee attacks. Those players racked up 100 kills each in a mere 10-minute round. The appearance of immortal players has lead to accusations of deliberate cheating on social media and Reddit. However, with most of the reports of immortal players coming in from the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game, it makes it highly unlikely that any deliberate hacks have been deployed. Instead, players on Reddit are claiming they inadvertently became immortal after crashing a ship, with others saying it just happened randomly.

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Tested: Nvidia GeForce and AMD Radeon graphics cards for every budget – What graphics card within my budget gives me the best bang for my buck? Let us be your guiding light. We’ve tested graphics cards of all shapes, sizes, and price points to nail down exactly what you can expect for your money—from itty-bitty $90 cards to fire-breathing $1000 models to behemoths with not one, but two graphics processors and custom watercooling loops.

Beyond: Two Souls, Heavy Rain Heading to PS4 – Quantic Dream has just announced that PlayStation 3 exclusives Beyond: Two Souls and review of Heavy Rain will see new life on the PlayStation 4. Beyond: Two Souls (pictured) will be the first one out of the gate and is set to be released digitally on the PlayStation Store on Nov. 24. The game will come “complete with graphical improvements and new fan-requested features,” according to Quantic Dream co-CEO Guillaume de Fondaumiere, who announced the game in a blog post. The game will also highlight decisions made by the user and compare them to those of other players. Users will be able to go through the entire game in chronological order once they have finished it.

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Halo World Championship starting in December – The Halo World Championship is happening this December. Having partnered with MLG, ESL and Gfinity, this event is set to be the biggest Halo eSports competition out there and is centered around Halo 5’s Arena multiplayer mode. Microsoft has just released new details about the HaloWC including when the tournament will take place, the crowd-fund assisted prizepool, and more. The original prize pool of $1 million has grown thanks to the Halo community who has crowdfunded it via the Requisition System in Halo 5: Guardians. Due to their efforts, the prize pool is now $1.7 million and is said to be growing daily.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Number of Web Users in India on Track to Top U.S. – The number of Web users in India is expected to surpass 400 million by the end of the year, according to a new report. That’s a 49 percent increase since 2014, and puts India on a path to eclipse the U.S. as the second-largest online population in the world, according to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and market research group IMRB. China is No. 1 with more than 600 million users. As of October, 375 million people were surfing the Web in India—about 260 million of them going online daily, up 60 percent from last year. About 71 percent are men, and while usage among women is growing at 46 percent, they still have a long way to go before catching up to their male counterparts. Most Internet users in India are ages 18 to 30; 11 percent are under the age of 18, while only 8 percent are 31 to 45 years old.

Windows turns 30: a visual history – The PC revolution started off life 30 years ago this week. Microsoft launched its first version of Windows on November 20th, 1985, to succeed MS-DOS. It was a huge milestone that paved the way for the modern versions of Windows we use today. While Windows 10 doesn’t look anything like Windows 1.0, it still has many of its original fundamentals like scroll bars, drop-down menus, icons, dialog boxes, and apps like Notepad and MS paint. Windows 1.0 also set the stage for the mouse. If you used MS-DOS then you could only type in commands, but with Windows 1.0 you picked up a mouse and moved windows around by pointing and clicking. Alongside the original Macintosh, the mouse completely changed the way consumers interacted with computers.

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Reuters bans submission of RAW photos: “Our photos must reflect reality.” – Reuters, the news and photography agency, has issued an outright ban on photographs captured and submitted in RAW format. Instead, freelance contributors must now only submit photos that were processed and stored as JPEG inside the camera. According to Reuters, there are two reasons for this move. First, there’s the matter of alacrity: RAW images need to be processed by the photographer, which takes time—and when you’re reporting on a breaking story, sometimes you don’t have time. The second reason is much more contentious: Reuters wants its photographs to closely reflect reality (i.e. be journalistic), and it’s concerned that some RAW photos are being processed to the point where they’re no longer real.

The 25 Best Inventions of 2015 – Welcome to TIME’s annual round-up of the best inventions making the world better, smarter and—in some cases—a little more fun.

Something to think about:

‘Billions and billions are spent on a Surveillance State that can’t stop the Tsarnaev brothers, even when it’s told where to look, but does know what’s on German Chancellor Merkel’s cell phone !!”

–       Anonymous

Downloads:

µBlock, a lean and fast blocker – Yet another blocker for those who can’t stand micromanaging rules etc., but are yearning for something that doesn’t eat away at their computer resources, it’s easy on CPU and memory footprints. As you may have guessed, pretty much a lot of it was taken from HTTP Switchboard and then reduced to a simple blocker like so many out there. Only one big button in the popup to turn it off or on for specific sites.

Pointing up     This application has been recommended by long time subscriber Keith P. Keith has recommended more than a few apps over the past few years – and, every one has been a winner. Thanks Keith.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

ANALYSIS: After Paris, there will be no stopping the surveillance state now – An old acquaintance who spent years in Canada’s secret world, where he developed a you-don’t-know-the-half-of-it smile, regularly sends me taunting emails and links.

The general theme is that thanks to all the whinging in the mainstream media about civil liberties, and the cavilling by politicians who disagreed with Stephen Harper about the imminent danger posed by Islamic terrorism to Canadians everywhere, our security agencies are unnecessarily hobbled.

After the mass murders in Paris this week, he passed on an article by the conservative writer Mark Steyn, who wrote that instead of meeting about climate change, “a problem that doesn’t exist,” Western leaders should be doing something about the millions of Muslims who now live in Europe, most of whom “at a certain level either wish or are indifferent to the death of the societies in which they live — modern, pluralist, Western societies.”

My friend the ex-spy — who, like a number of security professionals I’ve met over the years, holds an advanced degree — clearly believes the only sensible remedy is increased powers for state security organs.

And that anyone who refuses to accept that premise, or who wants to debate root causes, is quite simply advocating self-destruction.

John Brennan, the CIA director, used the Paris massacre to make essentially the same point this week, denouncing “a lot of hand-wringing over the government’s role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists.”

Manhattan DA demands Congress require mobile phone backdoors – Cyrus Vance, Jr., the Manhattan district attorney and an outspoken critic of encryption, called on Congress to adopt legislation mandating that mobile phone makers like Apple and Google bake backdoors into their smartphones.

Vance said it is “government’s principal responsibility to keep its residents safe, and that a government cannot fulfill that responsibility if huge amounts of vital information directly related to public safety are inaccessible to the government.”

“Criminal defendants across the nation are the principal beneficiaries of iOS 8.”

The district attorney’s proposal provided data saying that in a span of 12 months ending in October, as many as 111 prosecutions in his office for a variety of crimes like homicide, attempted murder, sexual abuse of a child, sex trafficking, assault, and robbery were hindered because of encrypted mobile phones connected to the cases. He also cited a litany of prosecutions in which evidence obtained from mobile phones helped solve the same types of cases.

“The federal legislation would provide in substance that any smartphone manufactured, leased, or sold in the US must be able to be unlocked, or its data accessed, by the operating system designer. Compliance with such a statute would not require new technology or costly adjustments. It would require, simply, that designers and makers of operating systems not design or build them to be impregnable to lawful governmental searches,” according to Vance’s position paper (PDF) on the topic released Wednesday.

The proposal made clear that the backdoor keys would not be provided to the government. The “keys would be held by the operating system designers,” the paper said.

Our National Encryption Debate, In Quotes – The long-burning debate concerning encryption, its impact on both consumer privacy and the government’s ability to protect its citizens is back with a vengeance.

The dialogue appeared to be dwindling after the White House said it would not require companies to breach the security of their products to provide the government with information. The Paris terror attack has thrust encryption back into the national dialogue. Following a New York Times report that the ISIS terrorists used an unspecified form of encryption, the calls to curtail the cryptography practice are back and louder than ever.

The debate follows two key lines at the moment. The first is that the government must have the capability to either get around or get through encryption when national security is at risk. Some have gone so far to say that the attacks in Paris happened because of the increase in encryption practices. The second is that encryption must remain secure.

Though providing a backdoor to law enforcement may seem at first glance like a compromise that allows us to keep our data secure and law enforcement to obtain the information they need, it’s as effective as having no encryption at all. Providing a key, a backdoor, a front door or whatever the kids are calling it these days to the government, you also provide one to criminals and hackers.

Given the current political climate, national security landscape, geopolitical unrest, nuance can be in short supply. Encryption inevitably will now be a major 2016 election issue, so it will likely only get worse.

The FBI Is Worried About ‘Hacktivists’ Targeting Politicians and Cops – The group of hackers who broke into the CIA Director’s personal email account are still at large, and the FBI is worried there may be more attacks targeting high profile public officials and cops to come.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a multi-agency task force led by the FBI, issued an alert on Wednesday, warning politicians and law enforcement agents of the risk of having their email accounts compromised, and their personal information “doxed” by “hacktivists.”

While the public service announcement doesn’t name a specific person or group, the IC3 is clearly referring to a recent string of high profile hacks by a group of allegedly teenage hackers known as “Crackas With Attitude” or CWA.

In the last month, CWA bragged of breaking into John Brennan’s email account, the email account of the FBI’s Deputy Director’s wife, and also claimed to have gained access to a law enforcement online portal where they found a database of thousands of law enforcement agents’ personal details. The hackers said all these actions were done to support Palestine.

The alert also refers to a “recent threat” where hackers contacted a target’s Internet Service Provider and used social engineering to obtain details about the account. Attackers can use this information to reset the password on the target’s email account and take control, according to the alert.

Congress targets cybersecurity; you’re the victim – We all want the world to be a safer place. We want to be protected from cyberattacks, security breaches and terrorism aided by the Internet. And so, in theory, a piece of legislation wending its way through Congress, called the Cyber Intelligence Sharing Act (CISA) should have plenty of support from the tech industry, academics, citizens and others.

That it instead has been greeted as a dangerous, privacy-endangering proposal that would do little to keep us safe is a testament to just how shallowly Congress understands technology. Our national legislators seem to favor applying simple-minded, even misguided, fixes over paying serious attention to problems.

The idea behind the bill has some merit. It’s stated intention is to encourage private companies and government agencies to share information that could identify potential cyberthreats and cybercriminals. But although that goal sounds good, tech companies, privacy experts and academics warn that the actual bill is a significant privacy invader that will do nothing to keep us safer.

Drone Strikes Fuel the Hatred that Led to Paris Attacks, Ex-Drone Pilots Say – In the past week, hawkish politicians and government officials have seized on the terrorist attacks that killed 129 in Paris in a renewed push for various counterterrorism agendas. Now four former US drone operators who took part in remote assassination missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere are pushing back, describing in intimate detail the inner workings and culture of the US drone program, which they say is fueling the resentment that drives the kind of violence recently seen in Paris.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – November 18, 2015

Encryption is not the enemy: A 21st century response to terror;  Why the CIA wanting encryption backdoors is a failure of leadership, not intelligence;  The Best Free Password Managers for 2015;  Benchmark your hardware with one of these five apps;  5 new Windows 10 features worth looking into;  Vizio slapped with two class-action lawsuits over alleged smart-TV spying;  When will your phone get Android Marshmallow?  These Are the Gadgets Everybody Wants This Holiday;  Inside Windows 10’s November update: 3 tips to get started;  Black Friday 2015 tech guide: The best deals so far;  Turn any HDTV Into a Chrome PC for Only $90;  Tumblr’s app can now turn your photos and videos into GIFs;  Google just completely revamped Google+;  NBC streaming service SeeSo to launch free public beta;  This Is the Best Selling Video Game of 2015;  10 Games Every Xbox One Player Needs;  Tor Is Trying to Make Dark Web Sites More Secure.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Encryption is not the enemy: A 21st century response to terror – Whenever terrorists strike, governments respond. It is in the quality and wisdom of those responses that the future of our society rests. David Gewirtz looks at the question of encryption, and how we should think about policy and security in light of the Paris attacks.

Why the CIA wanting encryption backdoors is a failure of leadership, not intelligence – Analysis: The question shouldn’t be if encryption should have backdoors, but why intelligence agencies have begun shifting the blame onto those who push for privacy.

The Best Free Password Managers for 2015 – Remembering strong, unique passwords for every website you visit is too hard to do on your own. Fortunately, there are plenty of free password managers that can help.

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Microsoft updates Privacy Statement, addressing concerns from critics – Windows 10 isn’t the only Redmond-based product that got a big update in the past few weeks. Microsoft recently revised its global Privacy Statement, with a few minor changes and some significant additions aimed at cooling overheated privacy concerns. Here are the details.

When will your phone get Android Marshmallow? Here’s what we know so far – Android Marshmallow is here! Well, sort of. You see, Android updates are a tricky affair. Unless you have a Nexus device, where you get the updates directly from Google, it’s a bit of a slog before you can actually get the latest Android operating system on your phone. That’s because there’s a process. Here’s what we know at this point about when your phone or tablet will get Android Marshmallow. We’ll update our list as the carriers or handset makers detail their plans.

Inside Windows 10’s November update: 3 tips to get started – Microsoft’s November update is rolling out now. Here are three tips to help take advantage of the switch and watch out for one minor annoyance.

Pointing up   Upgraded both Win 10 Pro and Win 10 Home yesterday – a very smooth experience on both machines. No issues at all.

5 new Windows 10 features worth looking into – Microsoft has just rolled out the biggest update to Windows 10 for PCs yet. Considering its new practice of flowing updates as they come, it might almost be unusual for Microsoft to dump such a huge update and yet here it is. Of course, this is more than just a maintenance release and if you’ve been following news and hints for the past months, you will most likely be familiar with some of the changes. But in case you’re only jumping in now, here are some of the five most noteworthy changes to your Windows 10 experience.

Benchmark your hardware with one of these five apps – Whether you want to play the latest first person shooter game or perform some hard core data analytics, having the right hardware can make all the difference in the world. That’s where system benchmarking comes into play. Benchmarking allows you to quantify your PC’s performance to make sure it’s up to the task at hand. This article discusses five benchmarking tools.

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Passmark PerformanceTest sells for $27.00, but a free trial version is available for download.

These Are the Gadgets Everybody Wants This Holiday – According to research from the Consumer Technology Association, 65% of Americans are planning on buying tech gifts this year, with one in three holiday shoppers scooping up cutting edge devices like drones or smart home gear. So, what should you be on the lookout for while you do your shopping? Here are some of the most popular items that people will hunting down this year.

Turn any HDTV Into a Chrome PC for Only $90 – The Asus Chromebit is no bigger than a flash drive and can turn any HDMI-equipped HDTV or monitor into an all-in-one desktop PC.

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Google Voice Search Gets Smarter, Now Understands Complex Questions And Their Meaning – If voice-based assistants are to become the primary way we interact with our devices now and in the future, then Google has just upped the ante in the battle between its own voice search functionality and that of rival mobile assistants like Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana. While Google’s app has historically done a better job at understanding its users and answering queries accurately, the company says today that its app has now gotten better at actually understanding the meaning behind users’ questions, as well. That is, the app has been improved so that it better understands natural language and more complex questions.

Black Friday 2015 tech guide: The best deals so far – What are the best gadgets and tech on sale leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday? ZDNet finds out. [This guide will be updated as new deals appear]

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Google Photos can now delete pictures to save space on your phone – After an update to Google Photos on Android today, a new button will appear in its settings tab offering to help “Free Up Space.” Tapping it will delete all local photos that have already been backed up by the app. A similar option has appeared in the past for people who back up photos at full resolution, but Google is now building it into the settings menu for everyone to use. On some Android phones, Google Photos will also be able to delete copies stored on SD cards. With Photos being the default Android gallery app for many, this update really should make it easier to start clearing up space. The feature is coming “soon” to iOS.

Tumblr’s app can now turn your photos and videos into GIFs – The next time you go to post a photo on Tumblr, you may find a bunch of GIFs ready and waiting to be posted instead. Tumblr is updating its iOS app today with a new feature that lets it turn photo bursts and videos into GIFs. It works really well, automatically detecting GIFable moments in your camera roll and presenting them right alongside your other images, nearly ready to post. If you have a long video or burst, Tumblr will ask you to trim the GIF down to about three seconds. You can also choose to speed up or slow down a GIF and whether you want it to restart over and over again or if it should play back and forth endlessly, hiding the cut.

Google just completely revamped Google+ – Google’s update to Google+ includes a redesigned home stream that keeps main controls atop and below the moving river of content. Material Design cues can be seen throughout this complete aesthetic change-up, making the app more spectacularly simple, visually, and in turn making the app faster. The new look for Google+ will be released simultaneously this afternoon on desktop machines (via the web), Android, and iOS devices – iPhones and iPads. The version you’re seeing today is a preview, so you’ll be able to switch to and fro between the new and the old if you do so wish.

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How to enlarge display text in Windows – You can easily enlarge the text on your screen by switching to a smaller resolution…but I don’t recommend it. You’ll lose all of the advantages of high-definition (and likely get a soft-focus visual effect), and you won’t be able to put as many windows on your screen. You’d be better off changing the settings in Windows that control the size of your text and other objects, such as icons and the taskbar. Here are instructions for Windows 7, 8, and 10.

12 travel-friendly tech gifts you’ll want to take with you – The travel-friendly tech in this gift guide can save your favorite frequent flier some stress on their next trip. Whether it’s a clip-on camera accessory or a great organizer, it’s all worth taking with you.

Apple Pay Arrives in Canada, Australia This Week – The Cupertino tech giant on Tuesday launched Apple Pay in Canada, but just for American Express customers.

Security:

Vizio slapped with two class-action lawsuits over alleged smart-TV spying – Vizio, the company best known for its bang-for-buck TVs, is these days in the news for all the wrong reasons owing to some truly troubling data collection practices. And it doesn’t seem as if the controversy is going to blow over in a jiffy. On the contrary, as first reported by Consumer Reports, it has boiled over into court. While that site only referred to a single lawsuit in its report, turns out the company is facing two different class action complaints.

Disable this feature to stop your Vizio smart TV from spying on you – Vizio is the latest TV maker to come under fire for tracking the viewing habits of its customers. A feature that is turned on by default on more than 10 million Vizio smart TVs can track what you’re watching and then share the data with advertisers. This is similar to programs we have seen in the past from Samsung and LG. While you could disconnect your TV from the Internet to prevent this, it’s not the best solution. You likely bought a smart TV to use built-in apps like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video. Disconnecting the TV from the Internet would mean that you could no longer use a majority of the smart functions. You can, however, manually disable the data collecting feature. Here’s how:

Tor Is Trying to Make Dark Web Sites More Secure – Tor users were reminded about the importance of dark web security recently with news that a university had unmasked both the servers and users of some hidden services—sites that hide their location using the Tor network—and provided that information to the FBI. Tor has since patched the vulnerability that the attackers took advantage of, but there are still concerns with some aspects of its security. With that in mind, the Tor Project is making several security improvements to the infrastructure that allows dark web sites to remain hidden.

Blackhole exploit kit makes a surprising encore appearance – The Blackhole exploit kit has made a surprising reappearance two years after cybercriminals stopped using it, according to security vendor Malwarebytes. About four years ago, the source code for Blackhole was leaked, which led to more cybercriminals using it. But exploit kits require quite a bit of ongoing maintenance, and fresh exploits for new vulnerabilities need to be integrated to maintain high infection rates. For some reason, whoever decided to start using Blackhole recently made a large error and left the server that hosted the exploit kit’s infrastructure open on the Internet, which allowed Malwarebytes to take a look.

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Don’t fall for drone registration scams, warns FAA – The Federal Aviation Administration hasn’t revealed its plans for drone registration yet, but that hasn’t stopped at least one company from trying to make a buck from confusion about the rules.

Microsoft touts new, holistic approach to enterprise security – Microsoft combines the attack protection, detection and response features built into Windows 10, Office 365, Azure and the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite to help enterprises improve their operational security posture.

How Cisco is trying to keep NSA spies out of its gear – Cisco’s suppliers have stronger security requirements, and customers will soon be able to inspect products before buying.

Millions of sensitive records exposed by mobile apps leaking back-end credentials – Thousands of mobile applications, including popular ones, implement cloud-based, back-end services in a way that lets anyone access millions of sensitive records created by users, according to a recent study. The analysis was performed by researchers from the Technical University and the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology in Darmstadt, Germany, and the results were presented Friday at the Black Hat Europe security conference in Amsterdam. It targeted applications that use Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) frameworks from providers like Facebook-owned Parse, CloudMine or Amazon Web Services.

ISIS calls Anonymous ‘idiots,’ offers tips to elude hackers – In a message circulated via encrypted messaging app Telegram, an account allegedly linked to ISIS called Anonymous “idiots” and offered tips to avoid being hacked by the group. The message, which was posted in English and Arabic, was forwarded to multiple ISIS-affiliated Telegram channels, according to Business Insider. In its warning message, ISIS gave supporters a handful of tips to avoid being hacked by Anonymous. The group warned against opening links from untrusted sources and talking to unknown people on Telegram. Supporters were also told to avoid direct messages on Twitter. The message also said supporters should use a VPN, or virtual private network, which can create a secure “tunnel” for Web browsing, so all data sent to and from a browser is encrypted.

Company News:

Microsoft Invests In Affordable Internet Access With Launch Of New Fund – Microsoft is ramping up its efforts to bring affordable Internet access to underserved parts of the globe with the launch of a new fund that will invest in companies that are solving problems associated with bringing the Internet to the 4 billion people worldwide who are still disconnected. The fund will aid in entrepreneurial efforts focused on last-mile access technologies, cloud-based services and applications, new payment mechanisms, and other innovative business models that help get people online.

Pandora To Buy Rdio Assets For $75M In Cash, Rdio Files Ch.11, Will Shutter Service – That was fast: just as soon as it was reported that Pandora was in talks to buy Rdio, the two sides have confirmed that an acquisition is indeed taking place. Pandora has acquired “key assets” from Rdio for $75 million in cash, the company has just announced. But as part of it, the Rdio service as we know it is tanking: the streaming service is filing for bankruptcy.

India’s largest technology incubator ‘T-Hub’ launched – The PPP project aims to assist 800 Indian start-ups, with the first phase offering seed funding, working space, mentorship, and opportunities to network in one place.

Home Services Marketplace Angie’s List Rejects IAC’s $512M Acquisition Offer – Well, it looks like it might be a while yet before you swipe right to find your next bricklayer or painter. Angie’s List, a marketplace for independent contractors, has formally rejected an offer from IAC, owner of Tinder, to buy the business for $512 million. The offer, originally made earlier this month, was for IAC to buy the company at $8.75 per share. Angie’s List trades on the NASDAQ exchange.

Citrix to spin off GoTo, focus on enterprise, cut 1,000 jobs – Citrix outlined its moves to focus on its core business and simplify. The GoTo business, which has about $600 million in trailing 12-month revenue, will become an independent entity.

Nuance tops Q4 targets on revenue of $513 million – Nuance released its fourth quarter and fiscal 2015 earnings report Monday after the bell. The voice recognition software giant posted a net loss of $11 million, or four cents per share (statement). Wall Street was expecting earnings of 35 cents per share on revenue of $508 million. Nuance also acknowledged that it lost $9.2 million of revenue due to “accounting treatment in conjunction with acquisitions.” For fiscal 2015, the company reported net income of $411.6 million, or $1.27 per diluted share, compared to $360.1 million, or $1.12 per diluted share, for fiscal 2014. Nuance also narrowed its GAAP net loss to $115 million, compared to $150.3 million the year prior.

NY Attorney General Adds Yahoo To FanDuel & DraftKings Investigation, Preliminary Hearing Next Week – While DraftKings and FanDuel await their day in court next Wednesday, the NY Times has reported that Eric T. Schneiderman, NY’s Attorney General, has decided to include Yahoo in his investigation into the daily fantasy sports. While Yahoo has avoided the flashy prime-time ads that are now common in the industry, the site actually added daily fantasy sports to its fantasy offerings in July, and since then has become the third largest DFS provider after FanDuel and DraftKings.

Games and Entertainment:

This Is the Best Selling Video Game of 2015: It earned over $750 million in 24 hours – Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 is no longer the biggest entertainment launch of 2015. Bethesda’s Fallout 4 sold 12 million copies and generated over $750 million in its first 24 hours at retail on Nov. 10. Those numbers obliterate the over $550 million in 72 hours that Activision-owned developer Treyarch earned with Call of Duty: Black Ops 3.

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NVIDIA Shield Tablet K1 returns with new $200 price – NVIDIA’s Shield Tablet is back, refreshed post-recall and sweetened with a $100 price cut over the original model. The Android slate was already one of the cheaper ways to get a performance tablet, but now NVIDIA has trimmed both the range and the specifications to a single unit at $199, dubbed the Shield Tablet K1.

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NBC streaming service SeeSo to launch free public beta – NBC is preparing to launch SeeSo, its own streaming video service with a focus on comedy TV shows and movies, no ads, and priced at just $4 a month. Basically like a mini Netflix or Hulu service that only offers one specific genre of entertainment. In order to let viewers try out SeeSo, and in turn test the demand for the service, NBC has said it’s launching a one-month free trial in the form of a public beta.

10 Games Every Xbox One Player Needs – The Xbox One games that you’ll find in this list are titles that will let you: engage in hyper-violent combat; race fast cars down beautiful, winding roads; hop inside mechanical behemoths; solve murders; and more. Microsoft’s console has a little something for nearly every type of gamer. If you’re ready to discover what the PCMag staff considers the best Xbox One games, click through the slideshow. You can watch video clips of the games in action, and read our pithy words regarding what makes each title one that’s worth owning.

Xbox One now supports button remapping for standard controllers too – Last week, the Xbox One was treated to a big new software update that not only introduced backwards compatibility with over 100 Xbox 360 games, but also improved the console’s dashboard interface, making it easier to navigate. Even better, however, is that the update introduced a feature that, until now, was exclusive to Microsoft’s new Xbox One Elite controller: total button remapping. This customization option allows users to swap button functions, like switching the X and B buttons, or A with the left trigger, for example, and is now available on the console’s standard controller.

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Green Man Gaming under fire for potentially unauthorized sales – In this day and age, when you want the best deal, you don’t need to drive around to multiple stores to check their prices. You just hop online, browse your favorite sites, and in a few minutes, you’ve found the lowest price. Sure, there’s a chance that you’ll stumble onto a site that you’ve never heard of, but as long as you stick to the big names, you won’t have any trouble getting your order filled. However, what happens when one of the big sites starts showing signs of questionable practices.

Off Topic (Sort of):

More than a billion PCs are over three years old, and there’s little reason to replace them – There are over a billion PCs in use today that are more than three years old (according to Intel, I’ve not personally counted them, but I assume they have their finger on the pulse), and around half of those it is claimed are four to five years old. While that sounds like a massive opportunity for the OEMs to cash in on an upgrade wave, the truth is that there’s little reason for people to spend the money to replace a working PC. There’s a dirty little secret that PC makers don’t want you to know, and it’s this – take a middle-of-the-road PC from three years ago and put it next to a brand new middle-of-the-road PC and you’ll be hard-pressed to see any difference.

Anonymous just might make all the difference in attacking ISIS – Anonymous’ key message on Twitter is: “Make no mistake: #Anonymous is at war with #Daesh. We won’t stop opposing #IslamicState. We’re also better hackers.” That last sentence is key. What Anonymous is talking about is a cyberwar against ISIS, one that is not restricted by any of the laws that could hamper a cyberattack undertaken by U.S., French or Russian governments. And, to Anonymous’ credit, they are indeed better hackers. This could be very effective. While governments bomb and soldiers attack on the ground, it’s essential that ISIS’ recruitment and funding be killed. If DDoS and other shutdown tactics make social media useless to the terror group, it will find it far more difficult to fund terror and recruit replacements. Let’s take a look at Anonymous’ prospects for weakening ISIS in these areas.

Thales shows watch app for plainclothes cops at French security show – French defense contractor Thales Communications & Security wants to take the smart watch back to its “Dick Tracy” origins with an app for plainclothes cops and security services.

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Grow your own insects at home, then eat them to live – Bugs may very well be the future of food and Livin Farms wants to help you grow your own. The Desktop Edible Insect Hive is a device with a small footprint designed to allow you to raise your own food. However, this food would be mealworms — rich in protein and a sustainable source of food, but mealworms. “Insects give us the opportunity to grow on small spaces, with few resources,” Katharina Unger, the founder of Livin Farms, said in an interview with Fast Co. “With their benefits, insects are one part of the solution to make currently inefficient industrial-scale production of meat obsolete.” This device provides one possible solution to the growing problems surrounding factory farming, which is responsible for around 9 percent of emissions. But until lab-grown meat goes to mass market, insects are a viable option.

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Australian Police Are Actively Trying to Arrest Motorized Picnic Table Riders – Australia is known for being pretty chill, as a nation. It’s an outdoorsy, laid-back kind of place. So this group of mates cruising around Perth on two motorized picnic tables is peak Aussie. The Western Australia Police posted a short clip on Facebook of the nine offenders motoring their creations down an alarmingly busy road, and said they are seeking the men for “failure to wear proper protective clothing,” but that they could also be charged with driving an unlicensed vehicle and drunk driving, the last of which is a little preemptive.

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A Gift Guide For The Cyclists You Care About – Does someone you care about bike to work even as winter sets in, with all of the associated cold and damp? Upgrade their commute with some great digital technology and plain cool hardware. Show the bike enthusiast or commuter in your life that you really do care – both that they get places in style but also that they do it safely. From turn signals to light-up jackets, make sure that your gift recipients are the coolest and safest bikers on the road. We hope that you’ll bike safe and follow traffic rules. Please remember that as great as smart devices are, they are not a replacement for good common sense and situational awareness.

DJI is updating its drones so they won’t fly in restricted airspace – By default, starting in December, users of DJI-brand drones will not be able to enter into, or take off from, areas like prisons or power plants. The company says the system — called Geospatial Environment Online, and powered by a company called AirMap — will also be constantly updated with new information on restrictions, which will prevent drones from entering zones with shifting security needs, like stadium events or wildfire areas. DJI will be letting people bypass the system if they so choose, but only on one condition: users must have a verified account with the company, including a credit card, debit card, or phone number, although the system will be free. The company says users will not allow the system to be turned off in certain areas with national security concerns, such as Washington, DC.

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This Subreddit Captures That Awkward Moment People Realize They’re on Camera – All of us are probably guilty of a photobomb or two, but some of us take this art to the next level. This subreddit captures that really awkward moment that people realize they’ve been caught on live TV. The gif that started it all features a policeman brusquely strolling toward the camera, realizing he’s live on air and freezing like a rabbit caught in the headlights before crab walking out of the frame:

Do IT pros work too much? Survey says ‘Yes’ – More than 600 IT pros made their collective voice heard in a new survey conducted by Spiceworks. You’re working longer hours and there’s no end in sight. The people who work the longest hours won’t surprise you.

Coffee drinking linked to lower mortality risk—again – In a fresh-brewed study involving more than 200,000 people, researchers found that drinking coffee—regular or decaf—is associated with an overall lower risk of mortality. Drinking between three and five cups a day perked up survival rates the most, lowering the risk of premature death by up to 15 percent compared to coffee abstinence, researchers reported Monday in Circulation. Though the study reveals only a correlation—not a potential cause for the life-upper—it follows decades of studies that found specific and general health benefits of coffee drinking, particularly lower risks of cardiovascular disease, liver diseases, diabetes, and overall mortality. Plus, the study’s large size helps parse other health factors, particularly smoking, that may conceal coffee’s protective effects.

Something to think about:

“Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute.”

–       Josh Billings

Downloads:

Windows 10 Threshold 2 – Still waiting for Windows 10 or need to clean install or make a backup copy? You can create your own Windows 10 installation media using either a USB flash drive or a DVD with this download.

This installer will download Windows which is actually about 4 GB.

Before you begin install make sure you have:

Sufficient data storage available on a computer, USB or external drive for the download.

A blank USB or DVD (and DVD burner) with at least 4 GB of space if you want to create media. We recommend using a blank USB or blank DVD, because any content on it will be deleted.

If you will be installing Windows 10 for the first time, you will need your Windows product key.

Editor’s Note: While Microsoft offers a 32 bit and 64 bit download, both will let you choose Home or Pro editions as well as 32 or 64 bit. Be sure to select your language as English is NOT the default. Downloading it and burning it only to see it’s Croatian is a bummer (or so I am told) .

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Encryption Is Being Scapegoated To Mask The Failures Of Mass Surveillance – Well that took no time at all. Intelligence agencies rolled right into the horror and fury in the immediate wake of the latest co-ordinated terror attacks in the French capital on Friday, to launch their latest co-ordinated assault on strong encryption — and on the tech companies creating secure comms services — seeking to scapegoat end-to-end encryption as the enabling layer for extremists to perpetrate mass murder.

There’s no doubt they were waiting for just such an ‘opportune moment’ to redouble their attacks on encryption after recent attempts to lobby for encryption-perforating legislation foundered. (A strategy confirmed by a leaked email sent by the intelligence community’s top lawyer, Robert S. Litt, this August — and subsequently obtained by the Washington Post — in which he anticipated that a “very hostile legislative environment… could turn in the event of a terrorist attack or criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement”. Et voila Paris… )

Speaking to CBS News the weekend in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks, former CIA deputy director Michael Morell said: “I think this is going to open an entire new debate about security versus privacy.”

“We, in many respects, have gone blind as a result of the commercialization and the selling of these devices that cannot be accessed either by the manufacturer or, more importantly, by us in law enforcement, even equipped with search warrants and judicial authority,” added New York City police commissioner, William J. Bratton, quoted by the NYT in a lengthy article probing the “possible” role of encrypted messaging apps in the Paris attacks.

Congressman: To stop ISIS, let’s shut down websites and social media – US Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) has a plan to stop terrorists: shut down websites, including social media networks.

Barton today asked Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler if the commission can shut down websites used by ISIS and other terrorist groups. Barton didn’t name any specific sites but said that “we need to do something” because of the terrorist attack in Paris.

“ISIS and the terrorist networks can’t beat us militarily, but they are really trying to use the Internet and all of the social media to try to intimidate and beat us psychologically,” Barton said. Addressing Wheeler during an FCC oversight hearing held by the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, Barton continued:

Isn’t there something we can do under existing law to shut those Internet sites down, and I know they pop up like weeds, but once they do pop up, shut them down and then turn those Internet addresses over to the appropriate law enforcement agencies to try to track them down? I would think that even in an open society, when there is a clear threat, they’ve declared war against us, our way of life, they’ve threatened to attack this very city our capital is in, that we could do something about the Internet and social media side of the equation.

Wheeler answered, “I’m not sure that our authority extends to picking and choosing among websites, but I do think there are specific things that we can do,” with Barton interrupting to ask, “Do we need on a bipartisan basis to give additional authority to shut sites down?”

Brandis warns of even less privacy for Australians – Islamic State has declared war and made life harder for liberal democracies, and as a consequence, Australians will have to accept further limitations on their privacy, Australian Attorney-General George Brandis said on Wednesday morning.

Asked if Australia was at war, Senator Brandis told the Nine Network: “Absolutely. ISIL have declared war on us.”

“We would be fools not to take them at their word and to take whatever steps are necessary to protect our civilisation,” he said.

Senator Brandis said Australians may have to “calibrate their attitudes” on privacy.

“There will be occasions in which we will have to accept greater limitations, greater impediments to personal privacy,” he told the Seven Network.

Under Brandis’ tenure as Attorney-General, Australia passed legislation that mandated the collection and storage of call records, assigned IP addresses, location information, billing information, and other customer data stored for two years for warrantless access by law enforcement.

Pointing up    Time for Australia to put the boots to these bastards!

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