Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – October 21, 2013

Easily root an Android device;  NSA Hacked Former Mexican President; Google Hangouts for iOS free calls for US, Canada; The Great American Phone Insurance Rip-Off;  Your online data packaged and sold; Tips for tougher passwords;  Are you a nomophobe?

The Price of Online Security – Is online privacy simply too good to wish for? Are you willing to give up privacy for security? According to market research company Lab42’s study, people value online privacy more than security. The company released an infographic indicating that the nation is nearly split on the importance of online privacy at the risk of security.

Apple denies claims that it can or will read users’ iMessages – After a research report claimed that it would be very easy for Apple to read users’ iMessages even if by free will, the company is slamming the theory, stating that it does not and will not read them.

How to easily root an Android device – Free Windows utility Kingo Android Root makes it a snap to jailbreak just about any Android smartphone. Here’s how to use it.

Google Hangouts for iOS dials up free voice calls for US, Canada – Version 1.3.0 of Hangouts for iOS adds outbound calling on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, and also lets US users of Google Voice receive calls in the iOS Hangouts app.

One in five children meet strangers from the Web: study – According to a new survey on Internet use conducted by the Safe and Secure Online program, almost one in five young children, many between the ages of nine and 11, have met somebody they only knew previously from the Web.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Microsoft yanks Windows 8.1 update for Surface RT – Microsoft on Friday yanked the Windows RT 8.1 update from its Windows Store after some Surface RT owners reported their tablets had been crippled by the ‘blue screen of death.’

Five apps for screen capture in Windows – Screenshots can show your clients exactly what you mean in a particular context. Here are five apps that act as extensions of the basic screen capture system.

The Great American Phone Insurance Rip-Off – Recently I woke up from a solid night’s sleep and stretched for my Samsung Galaxy Nexus, only to find a black screen blankly staring back at me. “What malarkey is this?” I fumed. So I made my way to Verizon for help. “It’ll be fine,” I assured myself. “If they can’t fix it and it’s no longer under warranty, this is exactly why I pay my $5.18 a month in phone insurance.” Not so much, as it turns out.

For Desktop Users, Windows 8.1 Is Not Worth an Upgrade – Yes, I admit wholeheartedly that I’m old-fashioned, the kind of guy who prefers a keyboard and mouse for interaction and relies on moving files and text between six, seven, or even 10 windows at a time. Windows 8 was designed for the new breed of tablet lover, the person who can be satisfied with using one app on the screen at a time and has little regular need for external typing or pointing devices.

Survey: 35 Percent of Americans Own a Tablet – Around a third of Americans aged 16 and older now has a tablet, up 25 percent since last year, according to new data from the Pew Research Center. The survey also covered cell phones and smartphones. At this point, 91 percent of Americans aged 16 and older have a cell phone, and 55 percent own a smartphone.

Here is how to get the Windows 8.1 ISO and create a USB install stick – Microsoft has stated that they do not have any plans to release a Windows 8.1 ISO outside of MSDN/Technet but if you still would like to get your hands on the file, you can do so with our guide.

How your online data is being packaged and sold – The Direct Marketing Association last week released a 105-page report detailing the value of the Data Driven Marketing Economy (DDME), along with a couple of spiffy infographics. Written by academics from Harvard and Columbia, it describes in numbing detail how vital the buying and selling of our personal data is to the future of our economy and the safety of the free world—and thus should be free from any government oversight. Forgive me if I sound a mite skeptical.


How to respond to a malware incident When malware is suspected don’t jump the gun on diagnosis and countermeasures. Follow these best practice guidelines to ensure an appropriate and measured response.

Mammoth Java Security Update Delivers 51 Essential Patches – This week, Oracle released the first of a new series of updates for Java, which they hope will make the three billion devices that run their product more secure. That might be true, but the update is terrifyingly large with equally terrifying implications. Taken as a whole, the update includes 127 security fixes. Of these, 51 are for Java and—here’s the scary part—50 of those vulnerabilities may, in Oracle’s words, “be remotely exploitable without authentication.”

Tips for tougher passwords – While security professionals can enforce policy on a password’s length, expiration and use of character types, only educated users can create truly strong passwords that they will remember and avoid using elsewhere. With that said, here’s a primer on passwords, easily shared with business colleagues or family members who might need a reminder about the importance and practice of security.

Defense in depth: How phishing emails make it to the inbox – Phishing and spam emails have to defeat a series of barriers to get to the inbox. Are all the defenses in place?

Dick Cheney altered implanted heart device to prevent terrorist hack attacks – Former Vice President Dick Cheney was so concerned that terrorists might hack the medical device implanted near his heart in order to deliver a fatal shock that he disabled a function that allowed the defibrillator to be administered wirelessly, the Associated Press reported. (Hopefully, this pathologically paranoid war criminal will live long enough that we can haul your ass before the The International Criminal Court.)

Company News:

Report: Microsoft Office continues to dominate the productivity software race – A survey conducted by Forrester Research has revealed the huge dominance of Microsoft Office among productivity suites in the corporate world and some other interesting findings about competitors.

Twitter said to be considering killing off its #Music app – The app, which launched just six months ago, is seen as part of the social network’s plan to transform itself into a media platform.

AT&T in $4.85B cell tower deal with Crown Castle – Wireless infrastructure provider will have the option of purchasing about 9,100 towers after an average lease term of 28 years.

Samsung opens first leadership training academy outside Korea – The global facility in Singapore will help train staff, partners and clients in Southeast Asia and Oceania, in line with its strategy to strengthen localized products and marketing.

Apple again said to be trimming iPhone 5C production – NPD DisplaySearch says Apple’s trimming production of the iPhone 5C, while bolstering production of the higher-end iPhone 5S.

Games and Entertainment:

Asphalt 8 Free On iPhone and iPad for One Week – Asphalt 8 is a killer racing game, and it’s free to download on iPad and iPhone for the next week. There’s no better way to start putting in some track time.

13 streaming nightmares on Netflix – It’s only a matter of days before Halloween, and time to really start packing in those scary movies to set the mood. Like our last batch, this selection ranges from moody and spooky to gory and funny. They include zombies, vampires, piranha, giant bugs, and wurdalaks. Light up your jack-o-lantern and press play.

Are Consoles Pushing Gamers to the PC? – There are PC gamers and there are console gamers. The console gamers would rather not get involved with PC gaming, while PC gamers look at those who invest and consoles and can’t help but wonder why they would invest in a device that won’t change over a significant period of time.

Check out SCALE, a Portal-esque Kickstarter game that you’ll want to play – It’s not often that we stumble across a game that appropriately balances action and puzzles, so when we find one we feel its our duty to share.

Microsoft makes Xbox Live Games with Gold program permanent – Microsoft has announced it will make the Games with Gold program, which offers two free games to Xbox Live Gold subscribers on the Xbox 360, permanent following positive feedback.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Google is the best place to be working when you die – If virtually any of the company’s 34,000 workers dies while employed by Google, the company will pay the spouse or common-law partner half that employee’s salary for ten years, and that’s just the beginning.

Are you a nomophobe? – The joys of mobile computing are not without a downside. A wide range of diseases, disorders and syndromes have emerged around our growing gadget habit. Here’s my roundup of problems related to use of smartphones and other mobile gadgets. Are you a sufferer? Let’s have a look.

The Navy’s newest warship is powered by Linux – When the USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) puts to sea later this year, it will be different from any other ship in the Navy’s fleet in many ways. The $3.5 billon ship is designed for stealth, survivability, and firepower, and it’s packed with advanced technology. And at the heart of its operations is a virtual data center powered by off-the-shelf server hardware, various flavors of Linux, and over 6 million lines of software code.

Are tablets the next netbooks? – Tablets may have received too much credit for reinventing computing. It’s quite possible that tablets are an interim device on the way to something new.

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet For Reinventing Yourself – Here are the rules: I’ve been at zero a few times, come back a few times, and done it over and over. I’ve started entire new careers. People who knew me then, don’t me now. And so on. I’ve had to change careers several times. Sometimes because my interests changed. Sometimes because all bridges have been burned beyond recognition, sometimes because I desperately needed money.

Infographic: Five years of Android milestones – Android is so outrageously popular (over 1 billion device activations), it’s hard to belive it has only been five short years since the first Android-powered phone went on sale. Here’s a visual walk through the most important milestones in Android’s first half-decade, starting with the humble T-Mobile G1 (aka HTC Dream) slider phone with physical keyboard that started it all.

13 tech trends that would have terrified us ten years ago – Ten years ago we could have foreseen choppy waters in the not so distant future. But little could we envisage some of the horrors that we face today. Here are 13 of the scariest, most terrifying tech trends of the 21st century, all in the name of the Halloween spirit.

Something to think about:

Self-regulation will always be a challenge, but if somebody’s going to be in charge, it might as well be me.”

–    Daniel Akst

Today’s Free Downloads:

Comodo Internet Security – Comodo’s award-winning free security suite, offers prevention-based, Default Deny Protection (DDP) technology to prevent malware in your PC.

CryptoPrevent 1.4 – A tiny utility to lock down any Windows OS to prevent infection by the Cryptolocker malware or ‘ransomware’, which encrypts personal files and then offers decryption for a paid ransom.

WinPatrol – WinPatrol takes snapshot of your critical system resources and alerts you to any changes that may occur without your knowledge. WinPatrol was the pioneer in using a heuristic behavioral approach to detecting attacks and violations of your computing environment. Now, using our “Cloud” technology you can benefit from the experience of other WinPatrol users. WinPatrol continues to be the most powerful system monitor for its small memory footprint.

Belarc Advisor – The Belarc Advisor builds a detailed profile of your installed software and hardware, missing Microsoft hotfixes, anti-virus status, CIS (Center for Internet Security) benchmarks, and displays the results in your Web browser.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The NSA Hacked Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s Email While He Was In Office – Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden demonstrate that the National Security Agency (NSA) hacked the email of former Mexican President Felipe Calderon while he was in office, according to a report in Der Spiegel. The operation, dubbed “Flatliquid,” exploited a mail server to garner access to the account. The compromised system was also in use by other Mexican governmental authorities.

NSA collected 70.3 million French phone records: report – The U.S. National Security Agency swept up 70.3 million French telephone records in a 30-day period, according to a newspaper report that offered new details of the massive scope of a surveillance operation.

The top 5 things we’ve learned about the NSA thanks to Edward Snowden – Snowden’s leaks detailed for the first time the vast scale of American international telecommunications surveillance. While many people may have speculated or even “known” about such capabilities, Snowden’s disclosures provided internal proof previously unavailable to the general public.

PRISM’s value was overstated, NSA chief acknowledges – At the Black Hat/Defcon security conference, General Alexander told attendees that 54 terror plots were stopped because of records collected under Sections 215 and 702, and of those 13 of them were in the U.S. Moreover, General Alexander noted that of the 13 plots halted in the U.S., 12 of them were directly linked to the intercept programs. However, when questioned by Senator Leahy, General Alexander confirmed that only “one, perhaps two” terror plots were halted by business records collections.

Documents reveal NSA’s extensive involvement in targeted killing program – It was an innocuous e-mail, one of millions sent every day by spouses with updates on the situation at home. But this one was of particular interest to the National Security Agency and contained clues that put the sender’s husband in the crosshairs of a CIA drone.

Jury still out on FISA court – Data released by the presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) suggest that the secret court is tougher on government requests for wiretaps on foreign terrorism suspects than had been generally assumed. Nonetheless, critics contend that the jury is still out on whether the court truly acts as a bulwark against unconstitutional surveillance demands by government agencies.

Fallout from Snowden leaks could hinder next NSA chief – Whoever succeeds Gen. Keith Alexander as the next director of the National Security Agency will be stuck weathering the fallout from the Edward Snowden media leaks for the conceivable future. The NSA on Thursday confirmed that Alexander would step down as the agency’s director in the spring. Deputy Director John Inglis will also be leaving the agency in January, the NSA noted.

Dianne Feinstein’s Bragging About NSA Surveillance Program May Finally Result In It Being Declared Unconstitutional – This is quite an incredible story that’s unfolding about a new opportunity for a Constitutional challenge to the FISA Amendments Act, which has enabled broad NSA surveillance. And it may have all unravelled because of Dianne Feinstein’s gloating and bragging about how important the FISA Amendments Act is. (suggested by Aseem S.)



Filed under downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

10 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – October 21, 2013

  1. Fred

    Hi Bill!
    “For Desktop Users, Windows 8.1 Is Not Worth an Upgrade”
    I enjoyed this very much. I wonder why it is, to use the author’s term, “OS Overlords in the Ivory Tower of Redmond”, don’t seem to care what so many desktop users prefer? As the gentleman notes this may be the future but it isn’t the future YET, and I would certainly prefer a familiar friend as an OS for desktop. I recall you once posted a link and blurb to an article about getting Windows 7 in the business section or whatever it is called, from sellers. And just recently you posted how Toshiba’s main sales are in Windows 7 with those sales going to businesses. Now maybe businesses are run by old fuddy-duddies, but I sure hope that when this Vista goes down I can get a Windows 7 desktop. Do you think that will be possible?

    I wish you, as always, the best,

    • Hi Fred,

      Win 8.1 is a terrific OS which incorporates a multitude of additional security features over and above those which Win 7 brought on stream. This is an important consideration – generally overlooked by all the inexperienced, johnny-come-lately baby tech journalists. Frankly, it disgusts me to read a putdown of Win 8 written by some kid barely out of short pants.

      I run with both Win 7 and Win 8.1 (have done so since the first release of Win 8 Beta), and my Win 8 machine looks and acts (with a couple of minor tweaks), just like the Win 7 machine. Except for one major difference – the Win 8 machine wins the footrace handily – much faster on the same hardware. I rarely find it necessary to deal with the “metro” interface.

      So Fred, please don’t be anxious regarding Win 8. When/If, Win 8 is on your radar, you and I will take 10/20 minutes to craft Win 8 into Win 7. You have my promise.



  2. delenn13

    Hi Bill,

    Thanks for article about phone insurance. It reminded me to cancel ours. As the article states, it’s pretty much useless after a year. ….Because the phone you are using is out of date or can’t be replaced. You might as well go with a new one. However, I will say Telus honored ours last Xmas and we got the same type of phone back. Bet that wouldn’t happen today.

    • Hey Delenn13,

      Yeah, I hear ya on that. The old – “you get what we got – take it or leave it.”

      BTW, got 91 tomatoes from the garden this year. Gotta admit – I’m kinda “tomatoed” out. 🙂



  3. Mal

    Hey Bill,
    Re: Tips for tougher passwords
    Mentioned in the article was Keepass, which I have been running with for a few months now. I gave up on writing passwords down in a notebook, it ended up full and messy and unmanageable. Keepass is top notch chock full of features, one is which a really good password generator, which can create VERY strong passwords. Also, it doesn’t need to connect to the internet except to check for updates, which I really like too.


    • Hey Mal,

      Good to get your input on this. I’m convinced – I’ll take it for a ride, mate.

      And, as I remind you every year at this time – boo hoo to you just getting ready for Summer, while I’m getting ready for Winter. It’s not bloody fair. 🙂



  4. Mal

    Hey Bill,
    I think Summer has arrived with those big bushfires in the Blue Mountains (west of Sydney), and it is not even officially Summer yet. Fires like that don’t usually happen until around December/January. I hope it’s not a omen of things to come.
    Summer is a good time though, and I’m looking forward to the bbq’s, grog and good food. I might even post a pic of me sipping on a beer outside while you are freezing your ass off lol.

    • Hey Mal,

      Yeah man, those fires are tremendous. Been watching the incredible destruction these last few days. Very scary stuff.

      Just got through a season of grog and good grub and I’m now jonesing already. Couple of friends just headed down to Mexico on Sunday, for the next 6 months. I plan on a loooong visit. 🙂

      Looking forward to your pic (say, on New Years Eve), which I can assure you will produce copious quantities of tears freely flowing into my Brew. 🙂