Monthly Archives: March 2013

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 31, 2013

Facebook research: What our usage reveals about us – Facebook is hot—or not, depending when and whom you ask. But there’s no shortage of people talking about the merits and demerits of the social network, especially researchers who love to dig into how it’s helping or hurting its users. Here’s the latest roundup of what they’re saying about how much we’re using Facebook, if it’s good to have at work, what it does to our egos, and more.

6 Apps That Make Managing E-Mail Easy – Even if you don’t get hundreds of messages a day, most people feel some frustration with e-mail. Here are several good apps that can help.

FREE Fax Service For Occasional Use – On two occasions in the past month I needed to send a fax. Having no actual fax machine to do this, I started exploring some of the online (Internet based) faxing options. What I settled with that worked very nicely, on both of those occasions, was an online faxing service called MyFax.

A simply beautiful weather app – From the same team behind the iOS weather app Dark Sky, this new Web app makes reporting the weather look good, even when it’s cloudy out.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Find My Friends Update Allows for More Specific Stalking – Apple’s updated Find My Friends app now features the flexibility to choose the geographical area about which you want to be notified about

Digital Camera Buying Guide – In this buying guide we’ll help you understand which options and features are most important for what you want to accomplish and offer suggestions ranging from budget all the way up to high-end models for enthusiasts.

In your face, Facebook style – You won’t be able to ignore ads on Facebook any longer, and that’s going to thrill advertisers and Wall Street — unless users are like me and hate it.

Listen for the next big thing on Twitter: #TwitterChats – But the real million-dollar question is: Is it worth it? Needles says for the most part, it’s a fairly low-risk but potentially high-reward proposition. It doesn’t cost a lot of time or money to host a Twitter chat, so it’s basically a no-lose situation. The worst that can happen is nobody participates, then so what?

Crisis Hotlines Turn to Text Messages to Reach Teens – As more teens have gone mobile, using their phones as an extension of themselves, hotline providers have tried to keep up.

Jump-start your job! 10 essential career websites – Inside: a horde of terrific online resources for education, job searches, and overall career advancement.

Tracking the rumor that just won’t die: Facebook phone – This urban legend is alive and well, despite regular denials. Here, we’ve rounded up the rumors from the past two-and-a-half years.

US limits agency use of Chinese gear, citing cyberespionage – Obama this week signed a spending law that included a provision requiring NASA and the Justice and Commerce departments to get clearance from the FBI before buying information technology systems from companies “owned, directed, or subsidized by the People’s Republic of China.”

It’s about frickin’ time: U.S. gov requires security review for Chinese tech purchases – We have been letting the fox guard the hen house for far too long, and it’s high time the U.S. government did something about it.

Security:

5 Min Security Tip: Put Your Security Mask On – Each Internet computer user has the power to improve his or her security for free, in less than 5 minutes and without downloading anything.

Outdated (and vulnerable) Java usage abounds, analysis finds – Despite the widespread and well-publicized exploitation of vulnerabilities in Java, large numbers of businesess continue to use versions that are weeks, months, or even years out of date, a Websense survey of its customers reports. Collecting data from millions of endpoints, Websense discovered an amazing degree of fragmentation of Java clients, with three quarters using a runtime that was at least six months out of date.

NSA Director: Information-Sharing Critical To U.S. Cybersecurity – NSA Director and U.S. Cyber Command chief Gen. Keith Alexander discusses challenges to protecting U.S. interests in cyberspace.

Honeypot Stings Attackers With Counterattacks – Researchers test the controversial concept of hacking back and gathering intelligence on attackers.

Company News:

Google Gets into the Same-Day Delivery Race. Why? – Like eBay and others, Google is trying to make a business out of really fast, really cheap delivery. Good luck!

Reports debate how much Amazon paid for Goodreads – The estimates for how much Amazon paid for Goodreads range from a modest $150 million to a whopping $1 billion.

Pertino serves up small-business networks, in the cloud – Backed with new funding of $20 million, the startup aims to offer software-defined networks for SMBs that don’t want to make – or can’t afford – complex hardware.

Webopedia Daily:

Hybrid database – A relational database system that supports both in-memory and on-disk storage. Hybrid databases are typically deployed to retain the high performance and small database footprint advantages of in-memory databases while leveraging the durability and potential cost savings of on-disk databases.

Games and Entertainment:

Finally, Video Games You Play by Peeing (video 1:51) – What inspired prince-of-lavatories genius came up with this: video games you play by peeing.

Why You Should Watch Doctor Who – Doctor who? If you’ve never investigated the 50-year-old TV show about a time traveler in a broken time machine, here’s what you need to know for the Doctor’s return this weekend.

How virtual reality tech will change the future of games – Thousands of programmers, artists and designers flock to the Game Developer’s Conference every year to discuss the state of the games industry. A significant part of that discussion revolves around gaming technology, and the GDC show floor is filled with companies showcasing their latest game-changing hardware.

Diablo 3 Director Admits Auction Houses ‘Really Hurt’ Game – Diablo 3‘s former director Jay Wilson apparently admitted the game’s auction houses — both the real-money and traditional in-game mechanisms — “really hurt the game.”

Off Topic (Sort of):

You didn’t make the Harlem Shake go viral—corporations did – Experts said the “Harlem Shake” phenomenon was emergent behavior from the hive mind of the internet—accidental, ad hoc, uncoordinated: a “meme” that “went viral.” But this is untrue. The real story of the “Harlem Shake” shows how much popular culture has changed and how much it has stayed the same.

The honest ad your cable company will never make – Here’s a satirical “ad” that aims to expose some of the inner thinking of your local cable company. Tagline: You won’t like it and there’s no other option.

True Facts About The Naked Mole Rat – In association with BBC’s Earth Unplugged!! Check out another special episode on their awesome channel on The Star Nosed Mole! (suggested by Michael F.)

Happy Birthday Superman – With all the buzz and excitement surrounding Man of Steel, how could we forget that it will soon be Superman’s 75th birthday?

Rare Apple photos: Cook in high school, Jobs back on the job – Vintage shots surface on the Web: Tim Cook during his high school days in Alabama in the mid ’70s, and the fortuitous night Steve Jobs returned to Apple and set about engineering a legendary comeback.

Peering into the sci-fi future of PC displays – Prepare to be amazed with eight prototypes that show display innovation at its finest—and most fantastical.

The PC You’ll Never See for Sale – PC manufacturers are neglecting a big part of the market and leaving lots of money on the table.

Today’s Quote:

I have a simple philosophy. Fill what’s empty. Empty what’s full. And scratch where it itches.”

–      Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Today’s Free Downloads:

Dropbox Folder Sync 2.5 – Dropbox Folder Sync is a simple app for Dropbox that allows you to seamlessly sync folders outside the Dropbox folder. Pretty handy for syncing Firefox profiles, saved games, music library, Outlook data files etc., to Dropbox directly from their locations.

CSE HTML Validator Lite – Clean up your site with CSE HTML Validator Lite for Windows! CSE HTML Validator Lite is an award winning FREE (for personal and educational use) HTML editor and basic HTML syntax checker for Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 and above.

TSR Watermark Image – TSR Watermark Image software, is a free program for personal use that can add digital watermarks to all your images, photos and pictures with the transparency you decide. The program can also resize the images before the digital watermark is added.

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Filed under downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Tomorrow Is World Backup Day – So, Are You Going To? Backup, That Is.

imageI have some bad news – sad news – for you this morning. Those graduation pictures you treasured, the pictures of your toddler’s first steps, this year’s income tax return which was just about ready to be filed, that resume you just finished updating – GONE – ALL GONE.

Your Hard Drive just quit overnight – never to be booted again. I know I should feel some measure of sympathy for you – but, I don’t.

I’m not trying to be a big meanie* here but, it seems to me, that you are the architect of your own misfortune. A little pre-planning to safeguard your irreplaceable data; documents, digital photos, email messages, personal and business related work, and important private data – could have saved you considerable distress.

If only you had a backup – but, you don’t – do you? I suspect that it’s little consolation but, you’re not alone. Despite the importance of Hard Drive and individual file backups, most computer technicians will tell you that typically, computer users’ do not backup their irreplaceable data.

It’s a little late to tell you this but, if you had been one of the few, out of the ordinary, computer users, who regularly and faithfully backup, you would have had some work ahead of you – but, you would have recovered your data.

All of the above of course, is an imaginary scenario – in fact, your system did boot up his morning. But, that’s hardly cause for complacency.

Redundant information: Just like death and taxes are a certainty, the fact that your computer’s Hard Drive will crash one day and refuse to respond, is every bit as certain.

If you don’t yet have a backup plan, it’s time you thought seriously about developing one. The effort involved in learning how to protect your data, by developing and implementing a backup plan in today’s computing age, is minimal. Much easier than it was, even as little as two or three years ago.

The best backup strategy includes imaging your Hard Drives and partitions, since that allows you to restore your important data, your complete operating system, as well as your installed applications, user settings, etc.

There are loads of free applications out in the wild blue that, used properly and regularly, will speed to the rescue. One of the best free program – one that I have no difficulty recommending is – EASEUS Todo Backup.

This is a brilliant application which will allow you to backup, recover your backups, image your Hard Drives, clone your Hard Drives, and a host of additional features. All of this, in a “follow the bouncing ball” simple, user interface.

If there’s an easier way to backup critical data, I have yet to find it.

The user interface has been designed so that a user with minimum computing experience, should have no difficulty.

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The following screen captures illustrate the simple process of backing up a particular folder.

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In this case, I choose the task name, selected the folder to be backed up, selected the backup media/location, and …..

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Done!

Bonus: You can copy backup images to your personal cloud for data double protection. More info here.

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A ton of options so that you can set the parameters of the task to suit your particular needs.

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Recovery, is point and click simple.

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Additional functions and features are available under the “Tools” menu.

In the following example I’ve run a check on the test backup to verify readability.

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Finding that an image file is unreadable when called upon, ranks with one of life’s low points – well, sort of.    Smile

A quick initial check is a prudent move.

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You’ll have the option of creating a system boot disk. You should do so.

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The “emergency disk” will allow you to boot into EASEUS Todo Backup and then choose from a number of options.

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  Fast facts:

System Backup and Recovery – One-click system backup. Backs up entire system state including the operating system and installed applications on-the-fly without interrupting your work to get the system up in time after crash.

File and Folder Backup – Backs up specified files, network shared files, files in use, folders or file types in case of virus attack, hard disk failure, or deletion by accident, etc.

Disk & partition Backup – Full backup disk(s)/partition(s), dynamic volume(s), or GPT disk(s)/volume(s) to image. It ensures PC security and instant data recovery in case of any data loss.

Incremental Backup – Provide alternatives to perform full backups each time by offering incremental backup. To capture changes saving time & disk space.

Backup Schedule – To run backup automatically at a predefined time. By scheduling a backup task, your system and important data can be backed up now, daily, weekly, monthly.

Disk Clone Tool – Clone or transfer all the data on a hard disk to another. Clone disk is especially useful to upgrade your hard drive to a new one without reinstalling operating systems and applications.

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8. (32 bit, 64 bit).

Download at: EASEUS

If you’re looking for a free application to handle all of your backup needs, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in EASEUS Todo Backup. Give it a try.

* In recent years, I’ve written 20+ articles on the importance of backing up critical data and, it distresses me somewhat that they have been amongst the least read articles I’ve written.

Good buddy TeX, summed up the backup issue neatly in a comment to a previous backup article sometime back, when he wrote – There are so many good programs out there for backing up, the problem is getting people to take that whole step seriously. It’s like dying,  “That always happens to someone else” theory.

It’s a point worth considering.

For additional reading on this important task, you might consider dropping by the World Backup Day site – DON’T BE AN APRIL FOOL. Backup your files. Check your restores.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Backup Applications, downloads, Freeware, Hard Drive Cloning, Hard Drive Imaging

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 30, 2013

Spring ushers in US tax scam season – In the US, it’s spring, aka tax fraud season. To remind taxpayers to be on the lookout for scams ranging from identity theft to return-preparer fraud, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on Tuesday posted its Dirty Dozen list of tax scams for 2013.

Track blocked calls and texts on Android with Current Caller ID – Current Caller ID by WhitePages helps you block people who call or text too often, whether they’re in your address book or not.

Move, clone, and remove objects with Handy Photo – Available for iOS and Android, Handy Photo boasts the usual allotment of photo-editing tools plus a handful of unique features that let you remove, clone, and move objects in your photos.

Facebook ‘Likes’ can reveal your sexuality, ethnicity, politics, and your parent’s divorce – Big data is not your friend because it can easily be used to reveal highly personal information…

Infographic: What Your Instagram Filters Say About You – Turns out, the Instagram filter you choose to art-up images of sunsets, coffee cups, and last night’s dinner says more about you than the picture itself.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Rohypnol, rape and other disturbing content. Isn’t it about time Facebook cleaned up its act? – Facebook should be doing more to protect its billion users from abuse, argues Graham Cluley. Can any social network defend taking no proactive action against pages which promote date-rape drug Rohypnol and have obviously offensive content?

Breathometer Turns Smartphones Into Breathalyzers – This gadget may prevent your fun night out from turning to tragedy.

Vine moves beyond Twitter with new embed feature – Previously, Vine posts could only be shared within users’ networks on Vine itself as well as on Twitter and Facebook. But with an update launched Friday, users can now pull the embed code for any post to embed it on pages across the Web.

Use Google Translate offline by downloading language packs – Google has made it even easier to use its language translation app on Android by supporting offline language packs. Here’s how to get started.

How To: Chrome Browser Privacy Settings – In the latest installment of Threatpost’s occasional how-to video series, we look into the ways we can manage Google Chrome privacy settings and security while navigating the web in the Chrome browser.

How to find truly free wireless access – Gaps in free wireless Internet access are slowly being filled in by public and private organizations, as well as by ad hoc groups of wireless-network users offering a portion of their bandwidth to the public.

Best Android tablets (April 2013 edition) – Don’t want to give your money to Apple in exchange for an iPad or iPad mini? No problem! Here are my top 5 Android tablets for April 2013.

Windows Blue under the hood – There’s been talk that the Windows 8 update would include more than just UI tweaks. Now, there are clues about deeper changes.

Balancing ISO and digital noise for sharper low-light photos – Life is full of compromises. One example in photography involves shutter speed and aperture: To achieve the right exposure, slower shutter speeds must be offset by smaller apertures. A similar balance exists between ISO and digital noise.

Security:

Major Bitcoin exchange slammed with denial of service attack as the currency surges – Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox faced a distributed denial-of-service attack late Thursday, at a time the digital currency is seeing an upward swing. The Japanese company, which is rated as the largest exchange for bitcoins, was hit by a DDoS attack that was “stronger than the average,” the exchange’s support team said. Such attacks aim to overwhelm systems by sending an overload of requests to websites.

Phishing Campaign Using Military, Illicit Attachments – The malware is fairly old and not particularly advanced, but a lot of it has been trying to pass through the Kaspersky security network lately and on a very regular basis. Godwood advises that you just don’t open attached documents with titles like: “EAT FOR BETTER SEX.doc,” “How to last longer in bed.doc,” “6 Awkward Sex Moments, Defused.doc,” “9 ways to have better, hotter, and more memorable sex.doc,” and “10 Ways to Get More Sex.doc.”

Cisco Fixes Seven Critical Security Bugs – Cisco Systems issued seven security updates yesterday, all of which patched vulnerabilities in the networking giant’s internetwork operating system (IOS), the software it deploys on the majority of its routers and network switches.

Understanding the SpamHaus DDoS Attack – Experts agree that the recent Distributed Denial of Service attack against SpamHaus was the biggest ever. What can be done to head off this type of attack?

Company News:

Dell’s directors forecast a grim future for the PC industry – A Special Committee sees a gloomy future for the PC industry and even worse prospects if Dell tries to compete with more agile rivals.

Google, Nokia face off in video codec dispute – Nokia says Google is trying to force VP8 down the computing industry’s throat, but Google is backing up its free video technology with patent deals and help with HTC’s legal defense against Nokia.

Report: Facebook prepping Android-powered smartphone OS – Rumors have been circulating for quite some time now about an indigenously branded Facebook smartphone powered by Android and ready to take on Apple’s wildly popular iOS.

Microsoft changes pave way for smaller Windows tablets – If you’ve been holding out hope for a 7-inch tablet running Windows 8, you may soon get your wish. Recent Microsoft policy changes, leaked software builds, and supply chain rumors suggest it’s not a matter of if a small-fry Windows 8 tablet is headed your way, but when.

Report: Apple builds a gaming controller – Apple has reportedly designed a dedicated gaming controller that it plans to launch at some point in the relatively near future.

Webopedia Daily:

SugarSync – An online cloud storage service that offers online data backup to the cloud. The service synchronizes files using a lightweight client utility that works in the background. Using SugarSync enables businesses to sync any file or folder from any device to the cloud service and collaborate by sending files of any size from any device to anyone with options to control permissions for all shared files.

Games and Entertainment:

The Room you won’t want to leave – This puzzle game has everything, including challenging puzzles, a unique and beautiful graphic style, and an inherent eeriness that keeps you coming back for more.

Your smartphone may be your console’s best friend – Phones and video games might just be the next peanut butter and jelly.

Games grow more social, ditch Facebook – The growth of smartphones and tablets around the world has made mobile development the king of casual games. That doesn’t mean the social element is gone, though. Game developers still view social connections as a key part of their game design, or at the very least, an important way to get their game noticed and shared among friends.

The Ouya console, apps, and the future of gaming – The “appification” of gaming has now come to the console. Hardcore games are next, says Ben Parr.

GameStop: PlayStation 4 demand to outpace supply at launch – The retailer used its earnings call to offer early indicators of strong interest in the PS4 — and expressed concern with demand for the Wii U.

Off Topic (Sort of):

What Is Bitcoin and What Can I Do With It? – Bitcoin is a digital currency used to pay for a variety of goods and services. In many ways, it works the same as paper money with some key differences.When you actually have some of the currency, you can then use it to purchase anything that accepts it. In some cases, Bitcoin is the only accepted form of payment and you’ll have to acquire it in order to complete a transaction. While this basic explanation might answer most of your initial questions, it likely brings up quite a few more. Let’s discuss how you can acquire Bitcoin and why you’d use it.

Cracked: If You Could Tell Companies One Thing About Their Products – Here’s a sample of some very funny stuff.

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Best April Fools’ Day pranks in recent Internet history – While the suits put the kibosh on tomfoolery sneaking onto company home pages most of the year, all bets are off come April Fools’ Day. We expect this year websites and associated geek portals will again unleash an unholy barrage of “cray cray” on the public. Google, in particular goes friggin’ bonkers every year. Here are some of our favorite standouts from past April Fools’ days.

Top 7 products that should still exist – Despite glowing reviews from the press and public alike, sometimes a good product goes to end-of-life or just fails. Here are seven products that we wish were still around.

FCC finally opens review of cell phone safety standards – Nine months after the FCC said it would take a closer look at its standards for cell phone safety to see if the agency needs to revise the 15-year-old guidelines, it finally opened the official inquiry.

Today’s Quote:

Fools rush in where fools have been before.”

–      Unknown

Today’s Free Downloads:

WirelessNetView 1.46 – WirelessNetView is a small utility that runs in the background, and monitor the activity of wireless networks around you.

Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit Beta – Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit is a handy and reliable application designed to scan, detect and clean malicious rootkits that reside on your computer.

Belarc Advisor 8.3.2.0 – The Belarc Advisor builds a detailed profile of your installed software and hardware and displays the results in your Web browser. All of your PC profile information is kept private on your PC and is not sent to any web server.

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Filed under downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 29, 2013

Google Keep vs. OneNote vs. Evernote: We name the note-app winner – Whether you’re about to start using a note-taking app or are considering defecting from your current choice, you must first think about the features you need most. One app may excel at OCR support and another might be best for anywhere access, while a third may be ideal for content sharing within a team. To help you make an informed decision, here’s a closer look at how Google Keep, Microsoft OneNote, and Evernote stack up in a variety of categories.

Invoke god mode to take control of Windows 8 – Control panel settings are typically scattered all over in Windows 8, unless you know about god mode.

Feedly Updates with 10 New Features to Help Ease Your Google Reader Transition – Feedly has updated their interface to make it a bit more friendly to Google Reader converts, while making it easy to switch between all its different views. Its List View is denser now, similar to what Google Reader fans are used to, while also adding keyboard shortcuts, better sorting, and more.

The Best Backup Software – With World Backup Day upon us once again, we can only continue to remind you of the perils of not backing up, and present you with the best tools to protect your data.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Santa Clara launches free outdoor Wi-Fi on backs of smart meters – Here’s a clever idea: Piggyback the installation of connected, smart utility meters with free Wi-Fi service for outdoor use. That’s exactly what the City of Santa Clara is doing. (suggested by Aseem S.)

New Windows 8 hardware specs hint at 7-inch tablets and a Microsoft Reader – A quiet change in the logo requirements for new Windows 8 devices allows Microsoft’s hardware partners to build new devices that would compete with popular 7- and 8-inch tablets like the iPad Mini, Kindle Fire HD, and Google Nexus 7. Could a Microsoft Reader be just around the corner?

Google Glass to roll off Foxconn’s US factory line in weeks – The first run of Google’s Glass networked specs will be rolling off the production lines of device manufacturing giant Foxconn within weeks, according to the Financial Times. While many components are being sourced from Asia, final assembly will happen in Santa Clara, the paper said.

Remains of the Day: Gmail’s New Compose Window Comes to Everyone – Gmail makes its new compose feature standard, Amazon acquires Goodreads, Google starts testing its same day delivery service, and Facebook Messenger gets free calling in the UK.

Know the Difference Between Types of Computer Monitors and Pick the Best One – It may seem like size is all that matters when it comes to buying a monitor, but there’s a lot going on under the hood. This video from Techquickie tells you everything you need to know about LCD monitors as fast as possible.

Tablets Hold Their Own – And Then Some – In Work-Related Application Usage – Data from Forrester’s global Forrsights Workforce Employee survey shows that tablets are being used dynamically and deeply for a wide variety of work-related applications.

Prep an Android for resale – Just upgraded to the latest, greatest Android phone? Here’s how to get your old Android phone ready to sell.

Security:

Egypt Captures Divers Trying to Sever Undersea Internet Cables – Internet access in Egypt has been spotty in recent days, and officials may have just discovered why. As Reuters first reported, Egyptian Coast Guard officials caught three divers who were in the midst of cutting undersea Internet cables. The cables belonged to Telecom Egypt, Reuters said. It does not appear that the company has addressed the incident; at this point, it has only posted on its Facebook page a link to a news story about the capture of the divers. The report comes several days after cable operator Seacom experienced an outage in Southern and Eastern Africa.

Evernote account used to deliver instructions to malware – A piece of malicious software spotted by Trend Micro uses the note-taking service Evernote as a place to pick up new instructions. The malware is a backdoor, or a kind of software that allows an attacker to execute various actions on a hacked computer. Trend Micro found it tries to connect to Evernote in order to obtain new commands.

The largest DDoS attack didn’t break the Internet, but it did try – A 300Gbps attack thought to be the largest in the world has put key internet infrastructure to the test, and, so far, the attack has failed.

Researchers find new point-of-sale malware called BlackPOS – POS malware is not a new type of threat, but it’s increasingly used by cybercriminals, said Andrey Komarov, the head of international projects at Group-IB, Wednesday via email. Komarov said that Group-IB’s researchers have identified five different POS malware threats in the past six months. However, the most recent one, which was found earlier this month, has been investigated extensively, leading to the discovery of a command-and-control server and the identification of the cybercriminal gang behind it, he said.

Wisconsin man charged with participating in Anonymous DdoS – He is alleged to have participated in a Feb. 28 attack using Low Orbit Ion Cannon against a Koch Industries website, “Kochind.com.” The company is privately held with headquarters in Wichita, Kansas, and has businesses in a number of areas including oil and manufacturing. LOIC is a popular DDoS tool used by Anonymous and other online attackers to overload websites with requests and disrupt the target server.

Company News:

Chinese regulator calls for tighter oversight of Apple – Watchdog wants greater supervision of the iPhone maker’s consumer-right practices in the wake of state-run media reports critical of the company’s warranty policies.

Microsoft adds five more ‘specialty’ outlets to its store roster – Small-footprint ‘specialty’ stores in malls and shopping centers are a new, key focus for Microsoft with its retail-store push.

BlackBerry aims to show it can keep popular apps updated – BlackBerry 10 appears to be off to a solid start, but to be a long term winner popular applications have to keep up with other platforms. That reality means BlackBerry developers may be adding features.

Amazon acquires Goodreads, aims to meld Kindle with social – Amazon on Thursday said it will buy Goodreads, a social site that discusses and recommends books. In a statement, Amazon positioned Goodreads as an acquisition that it would pair up with its Kindle platform. Amazon added that it will “build many new ways to delight readers and authors alike.”

Bitcoin hits record exchange values with Cyprus banking crisis – The peer-to-peer virtual currency is up nearly 350 percent in the past two months, thanks largely to uncertainty in Europe’s banking community.

First Ouya Consoles Shipping to Backers – The early bird gets the worm, or in this case, the new portable home gaming system. Ouya’s $99 Android-based console is now shipping to early backers, and is expected to hit shelves this summer for all consumers.

Webopedia Daily:

Candy bar – A candy bar or candy bar mobile is a mobile phone form factor where the phone is a solid device with no moving parts except for the keypad buttons, and in some cases, the antenna. Because the candy bar style does not have anything covering the buttons these types of phones offer a key guard that prevent keys from being pushed when the phone is not in use. Several mobile phones using the candy bar form factor include the Apple iPhone, RIM Blackberry the Sony Ericsson, and the Motorola (Sprint) MOTO Q.

Games and Entertainment:

Free Game Friday: Expect the unexpected – From unexpected genre mashups to games where everything changes every 10 seconds, this week’s free games are about not doing what you expect them to do.

Journey Takes Game of the Year at GDC Awards – Journey, Thatgamecompany’s third Sony-funded “indie” outing, was the big winner at the Game Developers Choice Awards in San Francisco Wednesday night. The PSN-exclusive title was declared game of the year, beating out finalists Dishonored, The Walking Dead, Mass Effect 3, and XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Journey also took home the award for best downloadable game, as well as acolades for innovation, audio, game design, and visual arts, making it the top winner of the night.

Mozilla wants you to get your game on — in your browser – Mozilla goes gunning for native code speed with a plan to “supercharge” JavaScript, and it wants to use games to spread the word.

Watch the trailer for Broken Age, Double Fine’s Kickstarter game – A little over one year ago, Double Fine posted an adventure game project to Kickstarter and asked for $400,000 in funding. They didn’t announce any details at all at the time of the posting, stating only that it will be an adventure game, and come from a studio headed by one of the most prolific adventure game creators of all time, Tim Schafer. By the time funding closed, it raised $3.3 million.

Surging PC game sales won’t wither when new consoles appear, expert says – The PC gaming market reached $20 billion in 2012, a healthy increase of eight percent over the previous year, the PC Gaming Alliance (PCGA) revealed this week at a news conference held in San Francisco. More than a third of those sales ($6.8 billion) were fueled by increased interest in PC gaming in China, David Cole, an analyst with DFC Intelligence in San Diego, said in a statement.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Homeland Security out of touch with reality – The US government’s Homeland Security Tsar is so far out of touch with technology that she could be living on another planet in another dimension trying to play chess with Schrodinger’s cat.

A Customizable, Digital Avatar That Can Express Emotions – The Wizard of Oz’s trickery has been unpacked by a team of researchers at the University of Cambridge in the UK. Researchers built a virtual “talking head” known as Zoe, capable of expressing human emotions on demand with “unprecedented realism.” Zoe is able to express a full range of human emotions and could be used as a digital personal assistant, or to replace texting with “face messaging.” The virtual face is able to convey emotions like happiness, anger and fear, and changes in Zoe’s voice allow it to add the proper level of emotion in what she is saying as well. (suggested by Aseem S.)

Ban social media as a distraction? No, it boosts productivity – Any manager who thinks staff should be banned from using social media at work is seriously misguided and could be doing grave damage to the business.

Socrates (In The Form Of A 9-Year-Old) Shows Up In A Suburban Backyard In Washington – We all know smart kids, who are curious, who collect information. But this 9-year-old — what he knows is different. It’s not local; it can’t be found looking under a couch. It’s mind stuff, found mostly in books or college classrooms, or by letting your mind run free. (suggested by Michael F.)

Beyond megapixels: The future evolution of smartphone cameras – Smartphone cameras have come a long way — moving from being a convenient way to share a mediocre snapshot, to near pro-quality image capture tools in the right hands. While the old benchmark of resolution seems to have topped out, innovation is accelerating in many areas of mobile camera technology, so we can look forward to continuing upgrades as new phones are released.

Technology Darwinism hits Microsoft’s licensing policies – The time for good old-fashioned evolutionary extinction is at hand concerning Microsoft’s licensing policies. The general consensus is in favor of that extinction.

Look in the mirror: Adults apparently text while driving even more than teens do – A pair of new surveys, funded by AT&T, found that nearly half of commuters admit to texting or sending e-mails while driving, and 43 percent of those commuters have a habit of doing so. Six out of 10 respondents also said they never sent text messages from behind the wheel three years ago, suggesting that the habit is increasing.

Today’s Quote:

Fear not those who argue but those who dodge.”

–     Marie Ebner von Eschenbach

Today’s Free Downloads:

Advanced Mobile Care for Android – Advanced Mobile Care is a veritable Swiss Army knife for Android tuning up. It gives Android users an excellent way to protect their smartphones from Android security and performance problems.

ServersCheck – ServersCheck Monitoring was designed to be a tool running on Windows based systems for monitoring, reporting and alerting on network, servers and other IT systems availability.

EasyGPS – EasyGPS is the fast and easy way to upload and download waypoints, routes, and tracks between your Windows computer and your Garmin, Magellan and hundreds of others.

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Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 28, 2013

28 fantastically helpful online tools and utilities – These sites are handier than a pocket on a shirt – There’s a certain simple joy to be found in a good tool, and we present 28 fabulous online gadgets in this collection. These websites run the gamut, from custom font design to tech (and drink!) recipes to digital brainstorming tools. And they’re all free to use!

Smartphone OS Showdown – Android, BlackBerry, iOS, or Windows Phone? The phone, the features, and the apps you’ll get depend on your platform choice. Here’s a close look at the big four mobile operating systems.

Slideshow: Use System Image Recovery tool to restore your hard disk – Greg Shultz shows you how to use System Image Recovery tool from the Recovery Drive to restore your hard disk.

The “Other” Facebook inbox you didn’t know you had – Surprised, as in you have another inbox you didn’t know you had. According to Facebook, the Other folder is “where you’ll find messages and emails that have been filtered out of your inbox”—in other words, messages from people you probably don’t know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to mute annoying email threads in Gmail – For users of Gmail, there’s a quick response that doesn’t require you to mark the email as spam or threaten the emailers with bodily harm. Yes, Gmail makes it easy to mute specific email threads and keep them out of your inbox.

Review: Freemake Video Downloader grabs any video with a URL – There are a lot of video downloaders out there, but few are as slick and easy on the eye as standalone utility Freemake Video Downloader v3.5. The program will download video from any site that you can snag a URL from—and if you’re using YouTube and Firefox, you can even download using a button that the program embeds below the video being viewed. Not bad for a free program.

Infographic: The next social trend is mobile video – Mobile video will represent 66% of global media traffic by 2017, which is up from 51% in 2012, according to this infographic from and sponsored by Uberflip. Find out which online video platform gets the most traffic, which two social networks are trying to dominate the video sharing market, and more by taking a look at this graphic.

How to set up public Wi-Fi at your business – Offering wireless Internet access for guests can open new doors for your business. For a cafe or restaurant, customers are more likely to stay longer, purchase more items, and return knowing they can use a Wi-Fi connection. For motels and hotels, Wi-Fi is one of travelers’ deciding factors when selecting where to stay. Offering guest wireless access from an otherwise private office can be beneficial too, as it provides outside associates, contractors, and other visitors with a reliable Internet connection.

Linux use in enterprises jumps again: survey – While overall server revenue grew at just 3.1 percent and Windows server revenue increased just 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 year-over-year, Linux experienced 12.7 percent year-over-year growth for the same period. Unix, meanwhile, was down 24.1 percent.

Business Backup: Nothing Personal – Business data demands more than personal users requires when it comes to backup, especially when the cloud’s involved.

WordWeb dictionary is a crossword-puzzle fan’s dream – There used to be a time when you would reach for the dictionary, knock the dust off it, then run your finger down the page while looking up a mysterious word. But these days, the concept of the print dictionary has fallen by the wayside with dictionary websites and modern desktop alternatives. Desktop program WordWeb can look up words in mere seconds, as well as provide you with plenty of useful related information.

Create Your Own Magazine With Flipboard 2.0 – Social news magazine Flipboard this week introduced Version 2.0, which includes more content, faster navigation, and the ability for users to create their own magazines.

Security:

Record-Breaking DDoS Attack Slows Web – Spam crusaders The Spamhaus Project have been battling massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that have reportedly resulted in a slowdown of the entire Web.

Could WikiLeaks, Not Spamhaus, Be the Target of Cyber Attacks? – I was sold on this bullcrap story until I looked into it. There is something very sketchy about this fight and it’s unclear to me which party is on the offensive. But if Cyberbunker is such a huge source of spam, aren’t there legitimate ways to shut it down? It’s been done before. If it turns out that this is really about WikiLeaks rather than spam, then we are being terribly misled by the media. So what else is new?

How Domain Name Servers Work – Computers and other network devices on the Internet use an IP address to route your request to the site you’re trying to reach. This is similar to dialing a phone number to connect to the person you’re trying to call. Thanks to DNS, though, you don’t have to keep your own address book of IP addresses. Instead, you just connect through a domain name server, also called a DNS server or name server, which manages a massive database that maps domain names to IP addresses.

U.S. and Russia–Not China–Lead List of Malicious Hosting Providers – China has become the go-to bogeyman behind every cyber attack or malware campaign, but if you’re looking for the most malicious hosting providers on the Web, you won’t find any of the top 10 in China. In fact, the United States and Russia have many more bad hosting providers in the top 20 than China does.

Three arrested for trying to cut undersea Internet cable – Attacks on the submarine cables running along the ocean floors carrying massive amounts of Internet traffic aren’t terribly uncommon. A series of the cables were severed for reasons unbeknownst back in 2008, for example, and again early last year, the latter of which cut off Internet service to various locations in Africa. Now three have been arrested for attempting to severe a cable feeding Internet to Alexandria.

Is uncovering digital vulnerabilities doing more harm than good? – A noted virtual-reality technologist and author views “security through obscurity” as the only true way security can exist. Michael P. Kassner looks at what this uniquely divergent viewpoint means.

British Security Agency Found Sending Passwords in Plain Text – It was revealed in the last week that those who apply for jobs through the GCHQ’s recruitment portal are emailed their password in plain text after filling out the forgotten password feature on the site. The GCHQ defended the security of its recruiting system this week by claiming it’s working to change it and that only a small number of their applicants are sent the emails.

Company News:

T-Mobile Cuts the Bulls**t, But Can it Win Customers? – T-Mobile’s raucous new CEO says he’s bringing simplicity and sanity to mobile phone plans. Here’s what he needs to do to win

Microsoft hires former Oracle exec to run North American sales – A former Oracle channel exec joins Microsoft to head up North American sales, while a veteran software development architect moves on to teaching cloud programming.

HP launches free service to secure mobile, Web apps – HP says it now has a free service called “Fortify My App” that lets anyone building mobile or Web applications upload code to the Fortify software-as-a-service and get a limited analysis about whether the code has specific vulnerabilities or design flaws.

MakerBot, Ouya Team Up for 3D-Printed Console Cases – Ouya and 3D printer company MakerBot have partnered to provide a 3D Printing Kit for game console owners to personalize their Ouya.

Webopedia Daily:

RAID – redundant array of independent disks – RAID is short for redundant array of independent (or inexpensive) disks.It is a category of disk drives that employ two or more drives in combination for fault tolerance and performance. RAID disk drives are used frequently on servers but aren’t generally necessary for personal computers. RAID allows you to store the same data redundantly (in multiple paces) in a balanced way to improve overall storage performance.

Games and Entertainment:

Temple Run Launches on Windows Phone 8 – The popular mobile game Temple Run is now available for Windows Phone 8 devices.

EA, Dice Unveil ‘Battlefield 4’ With 17-Minute Trailer – Electronic Arts introduced Battlefield 4 at this week’s 2013 Game Developers Conference with a 17-minute gameplay trailer.

Great Graphics for a Budget Price – The Nvidia GTX 650 Ti Boost graphics card offers substantial performance at a great price.

Fruit Ninja Developer Tips ‘Fish Out of Water’ Game – Looking for a new mobile game? Halfbrick, the studio behind Fruit Ninja, has unveiled the trailer for its newest game, Fish Out Of Water

Don’t like Excel? This spreadsheet-based RPG might change your mind – A lot of us buy into the cliché that accountants are boring and uncreative, but Cary Walkin has shown us how assumptions make an ass out of “u” and me. The Canadian accountant has created a full RPG game called Arena.Xlsm from scratch, and the cool part? You play it completely within Microsoft Excel. Version 1.0 is available for free, and you can download it for yourself.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Big Oil’s Wikipedia cleanup: A brand management experiment out of control – When BP was accused of improving its environmental record on Wikipedia Jimmy Wales stood by the oil giant’s practices on Wikipedia. That’s because unchecked image cleanup by Big Oil’s PR reps – with readers none the wiser – is standard operating procedure for the “Internet’s encyclopedia.”

Researchers create ultra-thin and flexible Harry Potter-like invisibility cloak – Researchers at the University of Texas in Austin have created a new, ultra-thin (0.15mm) invisibility cloak. If cloaks aren’t your thing, check out this invisibility cube.

A Needed Response (video 0:27) – To the Steubenville rapists…or any rapists out there. Real men treat everyone with respect.

Researchers create fiber network that operates at 99.7% speed of light, smashes speed and latency records – Researchers at the University of Southampton in England have produced optical fibers that can transfer data at 99.7% of the universe’s speed limit: The speed of light. The researchers have used these new optical fibers to transfer data at 73.7 terabits per second — roughly 10 terabytes per second, and some 1,000 times faster than today’s state-of-the-art 40-gigabit fiber optic links, and at much lower latency.

Join 1 million others in the biggest heart study ever – The Health eHeart Study wants to enroll one million people and gather more data about heart health than any research study has done before. Using smartphones to gather real-time health measures, they’re looking for patterns that might give advance warning of heart attack and predict the onset of irregular heart beats and stroke. Wall Street Journal reports.

Honest Trailers – Les Miserables – In honor of the movie musical Les Miserables – we decided to make a Musical Honest Trailer. Trust us, it sounds way better than Russell Crowe. (very funny).

Today’s Quote:

So, let us not be blind to our differences – but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved.”

–     John F. Kennedy

Today’s Free Downloads:

Mail PassView 1.80 – Mail PassView is a small password-recovery tool that reveals the passwords and other account details for all popular email clients.

Microsoft Autoruns 11.50 – This utility, which has the most comprehensive knowledge of auto-starting locations of any startup monitor, shows you what programs are configured to run during system bootup or login, and shows you the entries in the order Windows processes them.

Microsoft Process Monitor 3.04 – Process Monitor is an advanced monitoring tool for Windows that shows real-time file system, Registry and process/thread activity.

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Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 27, 2013

The Best Antivirus App for Windows – Windows has more antivirus programs than we can count, and none of them are quite perfect. Right now, we recommend Avast Free Antivirus for the best balance between protection, ease of use, and cost.

Sex, Lies, and Email From Infants: Inside Social Network Scams – In the past months, we’ve seen popular social networking services like Facebook, Twitter, and others targeted for attack by hackers. However, these same services are being used by Internet scammers in far more insidious and personal attacks against users.

Add SkyDrive cloud storage to your Android tablet – Jack Wallen discusses how to install, configure, and use Microsoft’s SkyDrive app on an Android tablet.

Dropproxy Hides Your Dropbox Username from Public Files – Sharing links from Dropbox is great, but when you do so you’re always throwing your username out there to the public. If that bothers you, Dropproxy is a webapp that hides your Dropbox username and creates a proxy address for sharing with the public.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Mobile batteries: Everything you need to know – The batteries in your mobile devices are miracles of chemical engineering, holding huge amounts of energy that can keep your devices running for hours. How do they work, and how can you get the most out of them?

Buyer beware: unbranded battery packs may be full of sand – There’s a good reason we are urged to only buy branded products from trusted sources. If you don’t, then the product you are purchasing may be counterfeit, faulty, or even dangerous, and won’t be covered under warranty. Inevitably, counterfeit products end up costing the consumer money while allowing the individuals selling them to keep on trading.

Evernote (for Android) – Evernote’s Android app, now in version 5, has some exclusive new features that make this amazing service and program even more enticing. Five stars for version 5.

Home networking explained, Part 5: Setting up a home router – CNET editor Dong Ngo explains the best way to set up most Wi-Fi routers: via the Web interface. This guide can be applied to all consumer-grade routers in the market, save those from Apple. (Note: This post is part of an ongoing series. For the other parts, check out the related stories.)

Reduce tab clutter in Chrome with OneTab – This ingenious Chrome extension converts all your open tabs into a single one, thus freeing up considerable memory and making Chrome (and perhaps your entire PC) run quite a bit faster. Once installed, OneTab adds a little filter-like icon to the far end of Chrome’s address bar. Click it and every open tab disappears, replaced by, well, a OneTab tab. Within that you’ll find all your tabs in a convenient list; click any one of them to reopen that tab, or click Restore all if you want them all back.

App tracks the wise who hate their bosses on Twitter – FireMe! takes note of all those who tweet about how much they loathe their hardworking bosses. It even has a leaderboard.

Sick of bad spelling in your browser? So is Chrome – The latest update to Chrome offers a boon to grammarians everywhere: an improved homonym- and spell-checking function, right in your browser.

Security:

Forget Passwords! EyeVerify Knows You by Your Eyes – EyeVerify says that their technology allows them to identify you by the unique patters of blood vessels within your peepers. The company believes that their product could succeed where so many other biometric verification methods haven’t, and might be the solution to the password problem.

Worldwide spam war breaks out – A spam-a-lam-a-ding- dong has erupted between a group dedicated to fighting spam and a Dutch outfit which hosts a few spammy sites. According to the New York Times, it has escalated into one of the largest computer attacks on the internet, causing widespread congestion and jamming crucial infrastructure around the world. Apparently the attacks are becoming increasingly powerful, and computer security experts worry that if they get worse people may not be able to reach basic internet services.

Don’t Make Users A Security Punching Bag – Security blame game makes it easy to point the finger at ‘dumb’ users, but the delivery mechanisms of today’s undetectable Web malware will get past even the savviest and most educated users.

New Microsoft study says your software is counterfeit – A malware investigation conducted by IDC and commissioned by Microsoft alleges 33% of software is counterfeit and sizes the malware market at $114 billion.

Wells Fargo warns of ongoing DDOS attacks – Wells Fargo warned on Tuesday that its website is being targeted again by a distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attack. The bank said most of its customers were not affected. “For customers who are having difficulty accessing the site and mobile banking, we encourage them to try logging on again as the disruption is usually intermittent,” Wells Fargo said in a statement.

Company News:

AMD builds a game console monopoly – AMD has quietly gained control of the game consoles currently shipping (with the exception of the PS3), and the company recently confirmed it will be providing the core technology for Sony’s upcoming PS4.

Walmart to test product locker system at stores – Walmart says it will test out a new locker system that lets shoppers buy goods online and pick them up in stores.

Microsoft hit with complaint over Windows 8 Secure Boot – A Spanish Linux group files a competition complaint with the European Commission over the implementation of UEFI Secure Boot for Windows 8.

Facebook’s Plan B: New ads in News Feed – The social network, currently under pressure to grow revenue, is now letting advertisers run a more familiar, albeit less holistic, ad type in the News Feed.

Ericsson in talks with Microsoft to buy television streaming software – According to reports, Ericsson is in talks with Microsoft to buy Microsoft’s IPTV business.

Microsoft Acknowledges Windows Blue Ahead of Build 2013 – Microsoft issued a blog post that discussed how Redmond plans to “advance our devices and services” in the coming months.

Webopedia Daily:

DNS – Short for Domain Name System (or Service or Server), an Internet service that translates domain names into IP addresses. Because domain names are alphabetic, they’re easier to remember. The Internet however, is really based on IP addresses. Every time you use a domain name, therefore, a DNS service must translate the name into the corresponding IP address. For example, the domain name http://www.example.com might translate to 198.105.232.4. The DNS system is, in fact, its own network. If one DNS server doesn’t know how to translate a particular domain name, it asks another one, and so on, until the correct IP address is returned.

Games and Entertainment:

Mojang’s next game, Scrolls, goes open beta in April – Around two years ago, after Minecraft had already become an indie darling, Mojang revealed their second full-featured game. Called Scrolls, the game is a digital CCG, and is completely different from Minecraft in every way — right down to the smooth, cartoon-like graphical style.

Our 25 favorite lifestyle websites – Welcome back to our week-long celebration of relatively obscure, but infinitely awesome web destinations. In today’s installment, we name the sites we haunt when we’re indulging our hobbies, learning how to do things, shopping for hidden treasures, or just gathering factoids to share with friends over a beer.

Unmechanical for iOS is the best PC port ever – As more and more people play games on mobile devices, and the hardware driving these portable computers continues to scale, we’re going to see more blurring of the lines between PC and mobile gaming. The most recent example, Unmechanical, manages to move from the desktop to iOS without skipping a beat.

Video: The first 14 minutes of SyFy’s Defiance are here – Syfy has posted the first 14 minutes of Defiance a few weeks before the official premiere of the long-awaited series.

Off Topic (Sort of):

How Much Does Owning an iPhone Cost? – If you’re an iPhone user considering upgrading to an iPhone 5 and/or switching carriers, one of the biggest considerations is cost–not only of the handset but also the monthly cost, the activation fee, and tax. Geek.com takes a look at the least–and most–expensive options for Apple’s top handset on all the major carriers.

What Is Bitcoin and What Can I Do With It? – Bitcoin is a digital currency used to pay for a variety of goods and services. In many ways, it works the same as paper money with some key differences. Although physical forms of Bitcoin exist, the currency’s primary form is data so you trade it online, peer to peer, using wallet software or an online service.

‘Ogooglebar’ … and 14 Other Swedish Words We Should Incorporate Into English Immediately – Today brought the news that Google has officially objected to one of the best words that has ever graced this planet: ogooglebar, which translates — if such a glorious word must be subjugated to the indignities of translation — to “ungoogleable.” That the wondrous word is Swedish is unsurprising. Many of the world’s most delightful expressions, it seems — among them smörgåsbord, sliddersladder (“gossip”), and kackerlacka (“cockroach”) — are, indeed, Swedish in origin. (suggessted by Michael F.)

Five things to consider before buying LED bulbs – More than ever, there is also an overwhelming number of LED varieties, and choosing an LED is entirely different from picking up an incandescent. Before you head to the store, find out what you need to know about choosing the right LED bulbs.

Woman breaks into house to browse Facebook, police say – A student at the University of Georgia allegedly breaks into another woman’s house and takes over her laptop. Purely for social purposes.

Today’s Quote:

Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.”

–      W. H. Auden

Today’s Free Downloads:

Better than BackTrack? Kali Linux offers new brand of pen-testing tools – BackTrack Linux no more. The popular open source package of penetration testing tools now has a new platform and a new name. More than 300 penetration testing tools included. Still funded by Offensive Security

FreePrintable.net: Easter Printables Roundup and New Recipe Cards – In this week’s newsletter, I have a roundup of Easter printables, including letters from the Easter Bunny, at FreeEasterPrintables.com as well as coloring pages, certificates, cards (20 new ones!), and more from other FreePrintable.net sites.

KeyScrambler – KeyScrambler encrypts your keystrokes deep in the kernel, foiling keylogging attacks with scrambled, undecipherable data.

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Ransomware! – How A Layered Security Approach Can Defeat It

My Australian mate, Mal Cowan, steps into the breech when his good friend gets infected with one of the most difficult to remove pieces of malware currently ripping up the Internet – ransomware. Follow Mal, in this guest writer article, as he spins up his skill set and puts the hammer to a ransomware payload cybercrime.

imageRecently, I received a frantic call from a good friend.  He informed me that when he booted his computer, there was a message supposedly from Australian Law Enforcement, stating that his PC had been involved in illegal activity and, distributing pornographic material.

Freak-out time – The malware had taken a photo of him via his webcam and placed it in the top  middle of the Law Enforcement notice.

Note: This scam is not restricted to Australia. The graphic below provides ample evidence that this type of ransomware is a global issue.

Graphic courtesy of F-Secure.

Immediately, I knew what this program was – Ransomware.  Tech and blog sites have been full of news of this scourge in the past few months.

At first look, there was a full screen message – complete with an official looking logo from the Australian Federal Police.  The computer’s IP address had been logged, and there was indeed a photo of my friend, along with the messages outlined above.

The clincher? The message stated that he had to pay a fine to unlock his computer.

First, I tried to start Task Manager to stop the malware process.  That did not work – it simply would not load.  The computer was well and truly locked.

Next, I tried to restart the computer in Safe Mode.  No luck.  The message appeared again.  Still frozen.

Then, I inserted Kaspersky Rescue Disk (a fantastic Linux based recovery disk made for just this type of situation), and restarted the computer.

Selecting boot options before Windows started, I loaded Kaspersky and updated the malware database via the Internet.  The wonderful thing about Kaspersky is, it scans the infected machine without Windows running, so anything nasty cannot hide.

After a three hour scan, Kaspersky came up with 50 Trojan detections (one of the biggest I have ever seen).  It was able to eliminate all but one of them.

I crossed my fingers and restarted Windows.  Instead of the message, there was just a big white screen – still locked.  Kaspersky had obviously made a dent, but I needed something more.

Before leaving for my friends house, I had loaded up a USB stick with Hitman Pro Kickstart.  Hitman Pro is a wonderful true cloud antivirus scanner using multiple AV engines, with an excellent detection rate.

Recently, it also added a feature in which one can create a bootable USB stick that can bypasses the infected boot process.  The catch is – this must be done on an uninfected machine (which is why I used my personal computer to create it).

I inserted the USB stick into the slot, restarted the machine, and went to boot options (the F12 key on the infected machine) and selected “Boot from USB”.

Hitman Pro Kickstart came through.  It booted straight into the Windows environment without a hitch, and then proceeded to run a scan (an Internet connection is required).  I was a bit dismayed when the scan came back clean, as I knew Kaspersky had not been able to eliminate one threat.

But now, I was past the ransomware Trojan and able to start other antimalware applications.  Malwarebytes was next.  I updated it and proceeded to run a full scan.  Bingo.  It nailed a few more Trojans that had got past Kaspersky and Hitman Pro, and after deleting these nasties and rebooting the computer normally again, a further scan with Hitman Pro, Malwarebytes and AVG, the computer came up clean.

The point of my story really is quite simple.  NOBODY can rely on one antivirus/antimalware application to catch all malware.  The ransomware obviously got past the onboard, realtime antivirus (which was not AVG, I installed that afterwards).  Kaspersky detected most of the infections, Hitman Pro helped me boot into the Windows environment, and Malwarebytes cleaned up the rest.  AVG came up with a clean scan after I uninstalled the old antivirus.

How did my friend get infected?  Who knows.  There are so many exploits that this Trojan could have used that I don’t have a clue.  The computer is a family machine, used mostly by children for online games and such.

Just visiting a family friendly site can get your computer infected these days. It could have been worse.  It might have been an infection that actually encrypted the contents of the whole computer.  That’s a nightmare I am glad I didn’t have to deal with.

Thanks Mal.   Smile

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