Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – October 3, 2013

Be Smart About Checking Your Online Bank Account; Target follows Walmart with launch of prepaid mobile service; Do these 3 essential security tasks for your family today; Dell gives up on Windows RT; Three new attacks using IE zero-day exploit; Silk Road raided; Thinking the unthinkable: Why Bill Gates needs to go;  How facial recognition software can track you in the offline world.

Be Smart About Checking Your Online Bank Account – Surprisingly, on average, people access their online bank account on 2.4 unique devices. The data also shows that there are some accounts accessed by as many as twenty devices in a month timespan, which is a serious concern. The more devices you access your bank account on, the more you’re putting yourself and your bank at serious risk for fraud and malware threats.

Do these 3 essential security tasks for your family today – You’re probably your family’s 24/7 IT support desk, switching the printer off and on again, locating the missing internet… Make your life easier and your family safer – kick off National Cyber Security Awareness Month by doing these 3 essential security tasks today.

How facial recognition software can track you in the offline world – So we know the technology exists, and has become very refined. We also know corporations and governments are hard at work to implement it for their own purposes. The problem is that as with most things in technology, the law is lagging behind. There is no legal framework as to how facial recognition can be done.

The 7 best crime-fighting features of iOS 7 – Let’s be honest: Security isn’t sexy. iPhone and iPad users are understandably enamored with iOS 7’s photography features and Siri’s new voice and likely haven’t given a thought to the host of security additions under the hood. But iPhone theft is on the rise everywhere, and your device could be next.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

First bill banning “revenge porn” passes in California – The governor of California has signed Senate Bill 255, which will make the posting of “revenge porn” a crime. In California, anyone distributing nude photos online with an “intent to harass or annoy” can now face six months in jail as well as a $1,000 fine. The bill was signed yesterday and goes into effect immediately.

How to choose a USB hub – If you purchased a new laptop recently, especially an Ultrabook, you may have noticed a certain dearth of USB ports. Indeed, my Samsung Series 9 has just two of them. Two! A mouse here and an external hard drive there, and bam, no more ports. Fortunately, it’s a simple matter to add extras. In fact, you can daisy-chain something like 67 million USB ports off of just one, so your expansion options are fairly endless. And if you’ve shopped around, you’ve no doubt seen USB hubs in all shapes, sizes, and prices. How do you know what kind to buy?

FAA panel: Wi-Fi is safe on planes even during takeoff and landing – Committee goes even further than expected in lifting restrictions on device use. A Federal Aviation Administration advisory committee “has concluded passengers can safely use hand-held electronic devices, including those connected to onboard Wi-Fi systems, during all portions of flights on nearly all US airliners,” the Wall Street Journal reported last night.

Asus, HTC and LG also caught boosting Android benchmark scores – A follow-up investigation that originally discovered the Galaxy Note 3 boosts its processor speed on benchmark tests now shows that Asus, HTC and LG devices have been found to do the same thing.

Windows 8.1 boxed copies now available for preorder – Windows 8.1 is a free update for users of Windows 8, but if you’re looking to upgrade from an older version or build your own PC, the sticker price is $120. Windows 8.1 Pro, which includes Bitlocker, Hyper-V, Group Policy andother business-minded features, is also available for $200. Both pre-orders are for the full version, and they come on a DVD.

How to delete your Google+ account – Google+ lags behind powerhouses Facebook and Twitter in terms of popularity, and if you’re anything like me, you might find that you simply can’t deal with a third social network. If this sounds like you, you can always delete your Google+ account without saying goodbye to Google services like Gmail.

4 simpler alternatives to Google Analytics – Here’s a look at four noteworthy alternative tracking tools, all of which I tried out in production on my own wine and spirits blog, Drinkhacker.com. While most do have a nominal cost, all of them offer free trials with no credit card required to sign up. (Full pricing is discussed below.)

Chromebooks now being utilized by 22% of K-12 US school districts – Google’s Chromebooks are now being used in 22-percent of all K through 12 school districts in the United States, according to Google’s Vice President of Product Management for Chromebook Caesar Sengupta. Likewise, Chromebooks now represent 3-percent of the back to school PC market share, having achieved that figure in a one year time span, something the VP is reportedly happy with.

Security:

Norton: You sleep with your smartphone, but you don’t use protection – Norton says that while consumers are going mobile in their droves, they are leaving security behind — placing their identities and personal data at risk.

Three new attacks using IE zero-day exploit – Attackers are continuing to pile on a critical Internet Explorer zero day that remains unpatched two weeks after it was reported. During the last two weeks, it appears that at least three separate targeted attack campaigns have been using the same bug previously used by Operation Deputy Dog, a campaign that wound up compromising Japanese media outlets and tech systems in the middle of September.

Silk Road raided: Flawed mastermind arrested and $3.6m Bitcoins seized – US federal agents seized the notorious Silk Road underground online store and arrested its founder, New York prosecutors confirmed today, taking the Tor-accessed bazaar of illegal and controlled substances, stolen software, and identity fraud documents offline. The FBI snatched Ross William Ulbricht, known as “Dread Pirate Roberts” (DPR) on the Silk Road, on Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York has confirmed.

Feds: Silk Road boss paid $80,000 for snitch’s torture and murder – The kingpin of the Silk Road drug empire paid $80,000 to commission the torture and murder of an employee suspected of cheating customers in a deal gone bad, federal prosecutors alleged. “I’m pissed I had to kill him…but what’s done is done,” he allegedly laments.

Iran’s cyberwarfare czar is allegedly assassinated – Iran’s chief of the Cyber War Headquarters, Mojtaba Ahmadi, is the latest person said to be killed in a string of murders targeting the country’s nuclear scientists and security bosses. Ahmadi was said to be found dead with two bullet wounds near his heart in the outskirts of a town near the capital Tehran, according to the Telegraph. The government alleges it was most likely done by Israel’s external intelligence agency, the Mossad.

Company News:

Microsoft rated as America’s “most inspiring” company – According to a new survey by Performance Inspired, Microsoft has been rated America’s most inspiring company ahead of other tech giants Google, Amazon and Apple.

Google buys Flutter, a gesture recognition startup – Google has acquired Flutter, a gesture recognition company whose technology lets people control music and movies on their desktop by waving their hands. Flutter makes an application for Mac and Windows machines that lets people control programs like iTunes and Quicktime by capturing gestures using the computer’s webcam.

Target follows Walmart with launch of prepaid mobile service – Retailer to offer trio of plans starting Sunday, with unlimited text and talk costing $35 a month.

Dell gives up on Windows RT – Neil Hand, head of tablets at the PC maker, says Dell won’t be releasing follow-up Windows RT products because they didn’t sell well. At this point, it appears that only Microsoft continues to push Windows RT.

Games and Entertainment:

Image of Logitech’s iOS 7 gamepad for iPhone leaks – There are two major issues with touchscreen gaming. In order to play you inevitably end up covering part of the screen, and because all you can do is tap and gesture, the controls are quite limited and don’t fit some types of gameplay at all well. With the release of iOS 7 Apple has added support for hardware controllers, and therefore we can expect to see a number of peripheral manufacturers offering game controller add-ons for iPhones and maybe even iPads.

Microsoft adapts Windows 95 game ‘Hover’ for web browsers – Microsoft has announced that “Hover,” the game that was bundled with every Windows 95 CD-ROM, has been revamped and made to run on web browsers thanks to the efforts of the Internet Explorer team.

GTA V timelapse video shows off game graphics from a different perspective – Time lapse videos are the calming peek at cities and situations from a perspective not available in the daily grind of life, showing large swaths of time in a few short seconds — rolling clouds, passing sun beams, and such. The Despicables Channel has taken this photographic art and used it in a rather interesting way, creating a time lapse video of Grand Theft Auto V’s world of San Andreas.

Hands On With Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – Black Flag’s action takes place in the Caribbean during the time when many nations were battling for a piece of the New World—pirates, too. My half-hour demo showcased the traditional, land-based missions—which involved much sneaking and assassinating—as well greatly expanded naval encounters.

Grand Theft Auto Online cash packs frozen as Rockstar battles servers – Rockstar has disabled Grand Theft Auto Online currency purchases and massaged the PlayStation Network servers so as to bring the GTA5 multiplayer environment back online, but the cloud-based missions still struggle to hold up to the eager gamers.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Thinking the unthinkable: Why Bill Gates needs to go – A Microsoft without Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer? Unimaginable. Unthinkable. But ultimately undeniable. Gates may wield significant influence within Microsoft, but the man himself has moved on. The plot thickened on Monday when Reuters reported that three of the top investors in Microsoft want company founder and current chairman Bill Gates to step down as well.

Scientists charge mobile phone with lightning – Scientists at the UK’s University of Southampton have harnessed the power of artificial lightning bolts to charge a Nokia Lumia 925. Nokia Lumia 925, we hereby dub thee “Adam.”

iPhone Users Vulnerable to Suggestion and Mass Hysteria – Hordes of iOS 7 users are claiming the new interface is making them nauseous. Is this legit? Then there are links to sensational stories such as “Apple iOS 7 is sickening users, doctor confirms.” It is ludicrous that anyone is getting nauseous from the interface but one article even cited a user who complained about having to leave work, sick as a dog. What a crock. Here are the real possibilities:

Cyclist bikes across SF Bay, no bridge required – Next up in his quest to turn “aquatic biking” into a global phenomenon, BayCycle Project founder Judah Schiller will cross the Hudson on a bike fixed to a portable flotation device.

Bosses respond to the dancing YouTube quitter – Staff at the former company of Marina Shifrin, the woman who danced her resignation, respond on YouTube (by dancing and taking their pants off). Were they all told to dance or else?

Something to think about:

There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply. The person who buys on price alone is this man’s lawful prey.”

–     John Ruskin

Today’s Free Downloads:

Google Play Music for Android – Google Play Music makes it easy to discover, play and share the music you love on Android and the web. With our new All Access service, you can play millions of songs on Google Play, listen to radio with no limits, and enjoy playlists handcrafted by our music experts. With both All Access and Standard, the Google Play Music app lets you listen to your music collection anywhere. All your music is stored online, so no need to worry about syncing, storage space or offline playback.

Memtest86 4.3.4 – MemTest86 is a free, thorough, stand alone memory test for x86 architecture computers.

Run-Command 2.01 – Run-Command is a small windows program created as an alternative to the standard Windows Run-Dialog. In this program you will find a number of improvements e.g. the function run as administrator and add to favorites commands for frequently used commands.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The chilling effect of the NSA surveillance leaks – Beyond the effect the NSA leaks have had on the way that the general public perceives the government, there also has been a shift in the security community regarding the way that members share information and interact with one another. The levels of trust among some researchers and companies, built up over the years, have been reduced in some case, Lee said, because researchers aren’t sure who they can trust now and who might be disclosing information to intelligence or law enforcement agencies.

DOJ Opposes Tech Firms’ Push for Surveillance Stats – The Justice Department this week urged the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to reject requests from Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and others that would allow them to reveal more details about government requests for user data. The DOJ argued that it has already made more than enough concessions to the tech industry and that going further might allow terrorists to gain a clearer picture of U.S. surveillance efforts.

Silent Circle ditches NIST cryptographic standards to thwart NSA spying – The U.S. National Security Agency’s reported efforts to weaken encryption standards have prompted an encrypted communications company to move away from cryptographic algorithms sanctioned by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Silent Circle, a provider of encrypted mobile Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and text messaging apps and services, will stop using the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) cipher and Secure Hash Algorithm 2 (SHA-2) hash functions as default cryptographic algorithms in its products.

Sen. Feinstein Claims The NSA Does Collect Phone Call Location Information, Contradicting The NSA – Today Senator Feinstein stated that the NSA phone metadata program that collects records on the telephone calls of American citizens includes location information. Previously, head of the NSA, General Keith B. Alexander, stated that the NSA was not currently collecting call location data under the authority of Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

Lavabit got order for Snowden’s login info, then gov’t demanded site’s SSL key – Had e-mail provider given up key, all users’ data would have been compromised.

NSA conducted test on identifying US cell phone locations – The NSA reportedly conducted a test “pilot project” that involved the use of collecting bulk data and using it to identify the location of cellphones located in the United States. The government agency elected not to use the program for the time being, but could do so under a Patriot Act provision, Section 215, a legal means for the NSA to carry out some of its other activities.

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5 Comments

Filed under downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

5 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – October 3, 2013

  1. Fred

    Bill,
    I needed to tell you that I always thought this blog was the best and yet you didn’t sit back you keep on improving it. I’ve noticed the additions you’ve made and they all are quite impressive. I was just reading through today’s entries and I thought, my God, I would NOT have known about all of this without your good efforts. I might go so far as to say that if people don’t read Tech Thoughts, they aren’t really informed, and not just on computer issues either.

    I wish you, as always, the best,
    Fred

    • Hi Fred,

      Trying to make it a little easier for people to pick out items of interest from the overwhelming morass of “news”, “scandal”, and just plain silliness that frequently passes for “news.” 🙂

      Your complementary comments always lighten the load on sometimes weary shoulders – so, much appreciated. 🙂

      Best,

      Bill