Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 16, 2013

Android’s backup feature means Google knows most of the world’s WiFi passwords – As shipment numbers have shown many times, vast quantities of the technology-using public own or have owned an Android smartphone or an Android tablet, and as such have used Google’s operating system to log onto their own and likely other WiFi networks. What isn’t so commonly known is that those WiFi passwords are stored by Google as part of its backup feature, giving Google the passwords to many of the world’s wireless networks. If legally compelled to, it is entirely possible that Google could be strong-armed into providing the wireless passwords it has stored for a specific Google user, allowing law enforcement or government entities to access a network, no hacking or erstwhile means necessary.

How to find out what the data miners know about you – To access your data, you have to surrender your name, address, email, phone number, and the last four digits of your social security number. Acxiom collects this, it says, in order to verify that you are really you and not someone pretending to be you. Once you’re in, you can peruse data in six categories.

What can IT do in the fight against government surveillance tactics? – A lot of what the government has been doing in secret is made possible in part because of IT pros like you. This isn’t to say that most of the honest workers in IT are complicit, but data leaks out to the government because companies are forced to play by secret rules, with laws no one knows about, and warrants issued without any real due process. But clever people can come up with quite a few alternatives to simply rolling over and abandoning all sorts of online privacy.

Split Chrome tabs into multiwindow, preset layouts with Tab Resize – For times when you find yourself engaged in a research project or otherwise tab-heavy browsing session, there is Tab Resize for Chrome. This extension lets you split tabs into multiple windows, arranged in a number of preset layouts. It’s particularly useful on larger displays.

Epic Privacy Browser blocks cookies, trackers, ads and more – For Web surfers tired of having their browser activities tracked and who want to make anonymous searches, the new Epic Privacy Browser from Hidden Reflex may be just the thing with the added bonus of some faster download speeds. The browser, free to download, proxies all search requests so they can’t be traced back to actual source IP addresses, and it has a one-click proxy feature that can invoke the same proxy for any other type of browser activity, according to Alok Bhardwaj, founder and CEO of Hidden Reflex.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

After the Deadline review: Every writer needs an editor, and this one works for free – Available as an add-on for Chrome, Firefox, OpenOffice, and WordPress (as well as some lesser-known programs), After the Deadline goes well beyond the basics of spelling and grammar checks. It conducts stylistic analysis, outlining passive voice usage and other pitfalls common to fiction writing. Its implementation is very unobtrusive, with suspect words or phrases underlined in red for spelling errors, green for grammar suggestions and blue for style issues. After the Deadline is free for personal use and requires an Internet connection.

5 Other Video Sites Like YouTube – You love it—but you may hate it too. Here are some useful alternatives to online video-streaming giant YouTube.

Use System Restore as a recovery tool in Windows 8 – The venerable System Restore, which has been around since Windows XP, is still a recovery tool that you should keep in mind when it comes to getting your system back up and running in the event of a problem. In fact, System Restore is one of the options that you can run from the Recovery Drive. However, you can still run and configure System Restore right from within Windows 8.

Disk Investigator review: Find deleted files and more with this free utility – When you launch the free application, it quickly analyzes your disk and presents you with a list if information about its size and contents. The information will likely fly over the head of anyone but the geekiest of geeks: It’s all about clusters, cluster size, zones, and more. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as the main window displays strings of letters and numbers that are completely indecipherable to most humans.

Android: Perform a batch removal of apps with Easy Uninstaller – Jack Wallen take a look at Easy Uninstaller, a free app that helps you remove batches of apps from your Android tablet.

Email marketers panic as Gmail’s Promotions tab does its job – Google’s recent platform-wide implementation of smart tabs in their email client may have been a head scratcher from some, but as pleading emails from mailing list managers come pouring in it is clear they made the right choice.

Microsoft updates display ‘worrisome’ decline in quality – Microsoft on Friday acknowledged it had rewritten four of its security updates issued just three days earlier after customers reported never-ending demands that they be installed, even though they had been. The repeated installation requests followed Microsoft’s yanking of a non-security update last week, as well as buggy fixes shipped in August and April that blocked access to server-based email mailboxes and crippled Windows 7 PCs.

Google’s Eric Schmidt downplays NSA spying – Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt says he was worried that the NSA spying scandal could “split” the Internet.

Verified Twitter Users Can Now Filter Out the Noise – Twitter is providing another perk to its Verified users: filtering unwanted mentions.

Security:

Dropbox takes a peek at files. But it’s totally nothing, says Dropbox – Dropbox takes a peek at some kinds of uploaded files. That’s normal, the Web storage service says. The disclosure comes after a test of the service found that several “.doc” files were opened after being uploaded to Dropbox. Still, the behavior may make some people nervous. Security experts generally recommend that for stronger privacy, users should encrypt documents before transmitting those files to Web-based storage providers.

How the cops watch your tweets in real-time – Consider BlueJay, the “Law Enforcement Twitter Crime Scanner,” which provides real-time, geo-fenced access to every single public tweet so that local police can keep tabs on #gunfire, #meth, and #protest (yes, those are real examples) in their communities. BlueJay is the product of BrightPlanet, whose tagline is “Deep Web Intelligence” and whose board is populated with people like Admiral John Poindexter of Total Information Awareness infamy.

Aged, vulnerable Java, Flash abound, Websense finds – Businesses are still ignoring the threat posed by out-of-date versions of Java, with barely one in five running the latest version during August, security firm Websense has reported.

Android Trojan appears to launch off earlier botnet – The Obad.a Android Trojan first analyzed by Kaspersky Lab in June has turned out to have an innovative and predatory capability to piggyback on botnets controlled by third-party criminal networks. This behavior was spotted when the firm noticed that smartphones that had been infected with the hugely successful but apparently unrelated Opfake.a Trojan were being used as a launching pad for Obad.a to send malicious links to everyone in that victim’s address book.

Report: French ministers told to install Android sandbox if they want to use smartphones – As well as his warning about smartphone use, Ayrault’s chief of staff told government officials not to store sensitive data in cloud services outside France, and not to use personal email services or SMS to discuss sensitive matters. The letter also reminded them of the “elementary rules of security,” including guidance on the creation of strong passwords, and warnings about phishing attacks and the dangers associated with USB memory sticks.

Company News:

LinkedIn’s Market Cap Passes Salesforce – For the second week in a row, LinkedIn’s market capitalization finished higher than Salesforce.com. Linkedin ended trading on Friday with a $32.56 billion market cap while the Salesforce market cap was $29.59 billion. Salesforce is a darling of Wall Street and has long been the symbol of the SaaS and new world of the enterprise, the first to surpass $1 billion in annual revenues. But with LinkedIn’s rise, the financial markets have another company to point to as a leader of the SaaS world.

Rdio to offer free music service as part of Cumulus radio pact – Online subscription music service will get “broad access” to the terrestrial radio giant’s programming to help it better compete with Spotify and Pandora, the New York Times reports.

HTC’s America division lets go of 20-percent of its workforce – HTC’s American division has had a round of layoffs this past week, with the division shedding approximately 30 contractors and employees. Though the number is not as large as some layoffs we’ve seen in past months from other tech companies, the American division only has about 150 contractors and employees, meaning this layoff represents about 20-percent of its workforce.

Microsoft pulls iPhone-bashing video, says “it was off the mark” – Microsoft recently posted a video advertisement on YouTube, a lengthy piece that was a parody of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c handsets the Cupertino company recently unveiled. The video was both long and lacking in humor, and beyond that had a few head-scratching elements that all culminated in an advertisement that earned more criticism than anything else.

Netflix follows the pirates to decide which shows to pick up – While an opponent of illegal downloading, the streaming service tracks popular piracy targets to determine which programs to offer its customers.

Games and Entertainment:

Glory Days: Völgar the Viking dredges up, then pummels, your fondest memories – An aggressive, almost tribal soundtrack edges you along as you wade through all manner of nasty lizard things, rendered in 16-bit glory. Corpses explode in a wonderfully violent shower of blood and bone with every swing of your sword or volley of your limitless supply of spears. As you roam, you’ll find chests that’ll award you with increasingly powerful equipment, that’ll be stripped off piece by piece as the endless waves of foes whittle away at your resolve.

Xbox 360, 3DS again top the games industry in August – Total sales were up a bit in August, but hardware sales in the U.S. plummeted in anticipation of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Ingress real-world Android game update 1.35.1 rolls out on Google Play – Ingress is an Android game that turns the real world into a global game it says is full of “mystery, intrigue, and competition.” The game is still a closed beta, but the latest version 1.35.1 has rolled out for those who have an invite code, bringing with it some performance boosts, fixes for known bugs, and an agent profile for monitoring one’s stats.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Software turns 2D objects 3D; lets you ‘reach into’ photos; bends your mind – With 3-Sweep, you can “grab” an object in a photo and turn it around to see what it looks like from different angles. Check out the demo video.

Weird Science quantifies just how much haters gotta hate – Haters really do gotta hate. Typically, we tend to view people’s responses to items as being a product of the item’s properties. But some researchers considered the possibility that some people may have inherent tendency to have positive or negative reactions to things—that people are likers or haters.

New Study Shows How Social Influence Can Significantly Manipulate Online Ratings – Digital ratings platforms proliferate our lives and influence the consumption of wide ranges of goods and services. Given their widespread use and relative transparency, most users have come to expect that the comments and ratings on sites such as TripAdvisor, Angie’s List or Open Table accurately portray the wisdom of the crowds. But recently published research should make you change your expectations.

Aussies start paying for beers in Bitcoin – The Old Fitzroy will become the first pub in Australia that will allow customers to buy their beers in Bitcoin. The pub in Woolloomooloo, Sydney, will start accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment on September 29, with Bitcoin Sydney on hand to help new-timers to the crypto-currency. The pub, which has been around since at least 1907, will use QR codes to handle transactions. With Bitcoin wallets able to be accessed via smartphones, customers simply scan the QR code and authorise the transaction in order to pay.

An invisible skyscraper is being built in South Korea – Dubbed Tower Infinity, the building is designed to achieve invisibility through a rather simple method. It will employ a system that uses optical cameras to project what’s behind one side of the building onto an LED facade on the opposite side. So, if you’re looking at the building from the north and a rainstorm is behind it to the south, you’ll see the rainstorm on that north side.

US bid to name “Science Laureate” hits snag with climate denialists – The bill is likely to make it back to the House floor, but only after going the full route through committee, and possibly in an amended form. But, in the meantime, the first attempt to pass it has provided a window into how some groups have become so frightened of the policy implications of basic science that they will attempt to limit the probability that the public will hear about it.

Something to think about:

Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity.”

–     Christopher Morley

Today’s Free Downloads:

Shutter – Shutter shuts off your PC on schedule, but it can schedule and execute a whole range of actions and events. Its no-nonsense interface and easy-to-set commands mean anyone can use Shutter to schedule and automate all kinds of tasks. Shutter runs in Windows NT to 8 and is free for non-commercial users.

Rufus Portable – Rufus Portable creates a bootable USB drive that can help you recover your system when very bad things happen to it. When your PC won’t start, the bootable disk you created in a rare moment of foresight will often let you boot into Safe Mode or System Recovery, where you can fix the problem and reboot normally. If the patient’s condition is more serious, you might even need a bootable disk to recover your OS, disk, or entire system from the full backup you also made (you did, right?).

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA Allegedly Spies On International Credit Card Transactions – Germany’s Der Spiegel newspaper – increasingly joining the NSA revelations train – reports today that the intelligence agency is interested in international credit card transactions and may have found a way to monitor payments processed by companies including Visa. Spiegel alleges it has even set up its own financial database to track money flows.

NSA chief shared only part of the story at Black Hat – When NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander addressed the Black Hat conference earlier this year, he painted a rosy picture of how well the agency controls access to its phone record database, but he never brought up cases when those controls broke down, unauthorized access was made, and data was shared among analysts who shouldn’t have seen it.

FISA intelligence court will reveal some of its secret legal opinions – In an unprecedented order published today, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) says that it will make public some of the legal opinions that justify the government’s bulk data collection. Until now, those opinions have been secret.

Magic Lantern: Keyboard Recorder of the FBI – Rumors of Magic Lantern first hit the internet airwaves when Bob Sullivan, a prominent journalist and co-founder of MSNBC network, accused the FBI for using powerful keylogger software to aid in its investigations of extortion and harassment. A shocker came when it was revealed that Magic Lantern could not be detected by popular antiviruses, developed by security software giants like Norton and McAfee. This was so because these big companies had formed an alliance with the FBI. They purposely left a backdoor for Magic Lantern to pass through their walls and begin operation without any restrictions.

Silicon Valley Luminaries Got Grilled On The NSA At Disrupt, Here’s How They Responded – Over the course of the three day conference, Arrington interviewed 13 of the most influential people in the tech industry on stage, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. Dropbox founder Drew Houston and Paypal co-founder Max Levchin also discussed the NSA with other TechCrunch writers. Let’s take a look at the highlights from their talks. Full videos of each speaker’s comments regarding the NSA, and some analysis, are below.

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5 Comments

Filed under downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

5 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 16, 2013

  1. ori

    Hi Bill,

    In the reference link “Dropbox takes a peek at some kin…”

    I have been trying ncryptedcloud recently, Maybe you might wanna take a look at https://www.ncryptedcloud.com/ , it does encrypts your Dropbox.

    Cheers.
    Tijybba

    • Hey Tijybba,

      Just spent some time on the site – time well spent. Love the concept – will take this one for a spin. Looking forward to it. 🙂

      Thanks for this.

      Best,

      Bill

  2. If you want to get to SystemRestore the easy way and, add additional useful features to what’s currently available in the default System Restore feature, install Restore Point Creator:
    http://www.toms-world.org/blog/restore_point_creator
    It’s free and has no hidden installs. I’ve used it for some time and liked it so much that I even created a video to highlight it’s functions.
    The video is on the authors website. 🙂

  3. Richard James

    Hi Bill,
    Re:Disk Investigator review: Find deleted files and more with this free utility.

    Took a quick look and it looks like it’s aimed at advanced users only! Another utility that I used fairly recently is Autopsy which does pretty much the same thing but is fairly simple to use although a little slow due to the amount of information processed. I decided to wipe my HD using Dban and reinstall windows after finding it detected some files that I thought I’d securely overwritten. (On a deleted partition).

    Best wishes:

    Rick J.

    AutoSpy for Windows/ Linux:
    http://www.sleuthkit.org/autopsy/download.php

    Quick Guide & Screenshot:
    http://computer-forensics.sans.org/blog/2009/05/11/a-step-by-step-introduction-to-using-the-autopsy-forensic-browser