Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 6, 2014

Top NSA hacks of our computers;  Compared: The Best Music Services;  18 must-have Android productivity apps;  Cameron’s internet porn filter – censorship creep;  Your new PC needs these 22 free programs;  How to delete your Snapchat account;  Yahoo hit with ad-based malware;  Facebook – made of Teflon;  The county sheriff who keylogged his wife;  Online measurements: Whose can you trust?;  Free PC Audit 3.1.

Top NSA hacks of our computers – The latest leaked documents from the NSA reveal a long collection, from 2007-2008, of software and hardware used to spy on computers, networks and to capture audio and video.

David Cameron’s internet porn filter is the start of censorship creep – The question of who is allowed access to what data is a defining one of our age – and Edward Snowden has taught us to be wary.

The self-encrypting drive you may already own – Wondering how to keep sensitive data safe? You may already own a self-encrypting drive – with free, built-in 256-bit encryption – and not even know it. Here’s the scoop.

18 must-have Android productivity apps – So how do you transform your Android device from interesting gadget to indispensable assistant? We’ve got you covered. These 18 apps are among the best functionality-expanding productivity tools available for Android today. Put them on your Android smartphone or tablet, and get ready to watch your productivity soar.

Start the year off right with a clean PC – Grab a can of compressed air and apply a little elbow grease—it’s time to get down and dirty with that dusty PC of yours.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Compared: The Best Music Services – With so many choices now available, which service is best for your listening habits? After examining library size and quality, the range of devices you can use to listen, streaming quality, pricing and the longevity of each service, we’ve narrowed down the list to four great options you should be looking at for your music service.

AT&T Offers Up to $450 to Switch From T-Mobile – Starting today, T-Mobile customers who switch to AT&T can trade in their smartphones and get up to $250 that can be used on AT&T products and services. They can nab an additional $200 per line when they switch to AT&T and select an AT&T early upgrade Next plan, buy a device at full retail price, or activate a device they already own.

Your new PC needs these 22 free programs – Yes, stocking your PC is an intensely personal task. Even still, some programs are so helpful, so handy, so useful across the board that we heartily recommend them to everybody. These are the programs you want to install on a new PC first.

How to delete your Snapchat account – After a recent data leak from Snapchat, for some the only answer is to delete your account. Here’s how.

Apology agonistes? Don’t blame Snapchat — blame yourselves – Snapchat’s middle-finger salute in the aftermath of a massive security breach is par for the course in an industry with the attention span of a hamster.

How to preview PDFs in Windows Explorer – Pdf previews were once built into Windows’ file manager, but not anymore. Here’s how to get them back.

Roku-Infused TV Sets Are Coming This Fall – The first two TV makers Roku is working with are two Chinese companies: TCL and Hisens. Considering their low profiles in the U.S, that doesn’t sound like a big whoop, but the two Chinese manufacturers are the third and fifth largest TV producers globally, according to Roku. And both see built-in Roku as a way to raise their profile in the U.S. market.

How to clean up File Explorer’s cluttered Ribbon menu in Windows 8 – The Ribbon rocks in Microsoft Office. As an everyday menu, not so much. Here’s how to cut it down to size and leave your most-used features intact.

‘Mother’ Knows When You’re Home, And If You Brushed Your Teeth – Mother, which is on display this week at the International CES, looks like an untainted Russian stacking doll and comes with four trackers, or “cookies.” A cookie can act as a fitness tracker if you tuck one into your pocket, or you can set it to tell you about other family matters, such as whether your teenager came home by curfew.

Keep your devices charged with Cobra’s portable CPP battery series – The CPP 100 and 300 from Cobra Electronics harness solar energy to juice up your mobile devices.

Smart (and easy) resolutions for a happy, high-tech 2014 – Unlike resolutions you have to keep all year, like working out every day, most of these technology pledges are set-it-and-forget-it. We know you’re a super-smart person and you’re probably doing all this stuff already, but it never hurts to double-check.

Baseball, golf, or tennis your game? Meet your swing – The multisport sensor and platform from Zepp Labs is designed to give baseball and tennis players, as well as golfers, the most information possible about their swing.

Twitter’s Vine Launches Web Profiles – Users can now log in at to view their friends’ videos in the home feed, and like, comment on, and share content just as they would on the mobile apps. Click the person icon on the top right of the screen, meanwhile, to peruse your own Vine videos online.


Snapchat issues update in wake of 4.6 million user data breach: Words like “apologize” and “sorry” notably absent – The company said that its update will allow users to opt out of the Find Friends system and prevent others from looking up their account information through address books. In doing so, users will no longer appear in results when others seek to match their address book numbers with potential Snapchat friends.

Yahoo visitors hit with ad-based malware this week – Many visitors to Yahoo got hit with malware this week that was delivered by the website’s ad network. Yahoo has admitted to the issue and said those ads have been removed.

Questions left unanswered about Yahoo malware attack – Yahoo says that mostly non-mobile Windows users in Europe were attacked, but hasn’t provided any public guidance on the number of affected users or what they should do.

Technology can’t stop phishing perhaps common sense can – Despite the warning, phishing attacks are still the favored attack vector of bad guys. It’s time to forget technology and rely on good old common sense.

Facebook made of Teflon when it comes to privacy – Facebook scans users’ private messages, follows any links in the messages to third-party Web sites and uses the information to build user profiles that are then shared with third parties, according to the suit brought by Facebook users Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley on Dec. 30 in federal court in San Jose. The suit also seeks to be certified as a class action on behalf of all Facebook users in the U.S. who have sent or received private Facebook messages that included a URL in the content of the message.

So Facebook allegedly reads your private messages. But what about Google? – Facebook is being sued after third-party security researchers demonstrated that it is intercepting and scanning the content of “Private” messages. But Facebook is not the only company that does this.

Hackers easily hijack Windows crash reports, report says – Microsoft transmits a wealth of information from Windows PCs to its servers in the clear, claims a security researcher.

Company News:

Google loses another appeal in Street View privacy case – Appeals court rejects company’s petition for another hearing about its data-collection from neighborhood Wi-Fi networks while building Street View.

BlackBerry sues Ryan Seacrest firm over iPhone case that looks like a BlackBerry – Only one day after BlackBerry severed ties with “global creative director” and singer-songwriter Alicia Keys, the smartphone maker says that a company founded by Seacrest infringed on its rights in making an iPhone case that copies BlackBerry’s distinctive keyboard.

Gates to surrender shareholder crown to Ballmer in 2014 – Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates’ once-invulnerable position as the company’s biggest stockholder continued to erode in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Apple acquires rapid image camera company SnappyLabs – Apple has acquired SnappyLabs, a one man development shop that had released an iOS app, SnappyCam, that allows the iPhone’s camera to take photos at 20 to 30 frames per second.

Games and Entertainment:

Microsoft reveals “Throne Together” as its newest Windows 8.1 game – Microsoft has released “Throne Together”, a new free game for Windows 8.1 where players must use blocks to construct castles in 65 different levels with different modes of play.

Jet Car Stunts 2 review – Jet Car Stunts 2 improves on almost every aspect of the original game, and the free-to-play pricing model is just about as good as it gets, but download only if you’re up for a serious challenge.

Valve’s Family Sharing plan increases security – Valve changed to two-factor authentication for its Steam Family Sharing plan on Friday, putting a cap on how many machines and users can access your digital games library.

Check out five smaller games you might have missed over the holiday season – In the gaming world, “when it’s done” has been the rebellious release-date choice favored by the industry’s coolest coders. Forget quarterly reports and optimal schedules! Just ship the thing! Then the holidays come along, and everyone’s trying to keep up with year-end lists and holiday game sales, when suddenly a bunch of indie knock-outs materialize with surprise releases. With new consoles and big-name games launching, these games get lost in the mix.

Zynga testing Bitcoin payments in several of its games – Zynga has announced it has started a program that will test the use of Bitcoin in several of its web-based micro-transaction games, including FarmVille 2 and CityVille.

What Games Are: Why All The Clones? – Why are there so many game companies that clone or copy one another? A lot of it has to do with risk aversion, genre thinking and a lack of patience or process. It also tends to be a shortcut, but one with serious downsides.

Off Topic (Sort of):

The county sheriff who keylogged his wife – On April 22, 2013, Miles J. Slack of Clay County, West Virginia made a bad decision. Slack was going through a divorce at the time and had grown concerned about his wife’s relationship with an “unnamed individual.” So he entered his wife’s workplace after normal business hours, located her PC, and installed a tiny keylogger between her keyboard cable and her computer. The keylogger would record his wife’s e-mails and her instant messaging chats as she typed them out letter by letter, along with the usernames and passwords she used for various online services.

Hong Kong to welcome planet’s second EVER Bitcoin ATM – Hong Kong is set to make waves in the crypto-currency industry after it was revealed as the location for the world’s second Bitcoin ATM. The crypto-cash point will be Asia’s first and follows on from Robocoin’s first Bitcoin ATM, launched in Vancouver in October 2013, which apparently took over C$1 million (£576,000) in its first month.

Canada’s ex-defense minister: Aliens would give us more tech if we’d stop wars – Paul Hellyer, who has long insisted that aliens have visited Earth for many years, says that when aliens saw the atomic bomb they decided that we were a great threat to the cosmos.

Xbox One users view less porn than those on the PS4 – SugarDVD, an adult movie company, released stats for the month of December that showed PS4 users are quite a bit hornier than their Xbox One counterparts, streaming more porn by a 3-to-1 ratio.

Facebook Without The Cool Kids – It’s not just an attractive advertising demographic that Facebook is losing as teens take their mercurial attention elsewhere in sullen search of what’s cool. Facebook sans the cool kids may well be taking a substantial knock to the accuracy of its data too.

10 mesmerizing perfect loop GIFs – Creating the perfect loop GIF is an art form. Here are ten of the best ones ever made.

Online measurements: Whose can you trust? – Curious about which computing platforms are most popular? Take your pick of two separate independent data sources: Net Market Share and. StatCounter.

Dogs poop in line with the Earth’s magnetic field – Not only can they perform tasks like sniffing out bombs and illegal drugs, but dogs are eminently empathetic, and always seem to know just when we’re feeling down and need a furry friend. New research from the Czech Republic has found that dogs can sense much more than our moods and emotions, but can actually sense variations in the Earth’s magnetic field — and are affected by it when they poop.

Something to think about:

The one thing more difficult than following a regimen is not imposing it on others.”

–     Marcel Proust

Today’s Free Downloads:

Connection Keeper 13.1Connection Keeper is an invaluable time-saving tool for dial-up users. This free program simulates Internet browsing (at a random interval) to prevent your connection from appearing idle, thus preventing your ISP from dropping the connection due to inactivity. Connection Keeper can also automatically close many types of popup windows, such as those asking if you wish to stay connected. And if the connection is lost, Connection Keeper can automatically dial back in, restoring the connection as fast as possible.

Ratool (Removable Access Tool) – Removable Access tool is a very simple-to-use portable application that helps an individual or a system administrator control USB storage devices. You can protect your confidential data from being copied by others. Ratool can disable USB storage access or enable write protection on all USB Flash drives thus prevent data from being modified or deleted.

Free PC Audit 3.1 – Free PC Audit is a freeware system, hardware and software information tool. It extracts details of all components of the PC, shows installed software with version and product key. Free PC Audit does not require installation and can be used as a portable application. It can be run from a removable storage device such as a CD-ROM drive, USB flash drive, flash card, or floppy disk.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

US BACKDOORED our satellites, claim UAE – A French contract to supply intelligence satellites to the United Arab Emirates could be cancelled, with the UAE claiming it’s discovered backdoors in US-supplied components of the birds. Defence News, which broke the story, claims that the $US930 million contract could be scrapped, according to high-level UAE sources, if the issue can’t be resolved. That would be a blow for prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space, and payload maker Thales Alenia Space. Defence News says the backdoors would “provide a back door to the highly secure data transmitted to the ground station”. An unnamed UAE source says the discovery of the components has been reported to Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, deputy supreme commander of the UAE’s armed forces.

Costs of NSA phone records collection program outweigh the benefits – The National Security Agency (NSA) has often claimed that its data collection programs have helped thwart dozens of terrorist plots in the U.S. But an analysis of one such program, the NSA’s controversial bulk telephone records collection initiative, suggests that the cost of running and maintaining the effort may far outweigh any benefits. The analysis, conducted by John Mueller, an adjunct professor in the department of political science at Ohio State University, and Mark Stewart, a professor at the University of Newcastle in Australia, is based on published reports, court records and publicly released government data.

Surveillance court renews NSA phone records program – The FISA court approves the metadata collection program for the 36th time in seven years – A U.S. surveillance court has renewed its approval of a U.S. National Security Agency program that collects U.S. residents’ telephone records in bulk. The U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Friday again approved the NSA phone records program amid multiple lawsuits challenging the legality of the program and more than 20 bills in Congress that seek to alter the program.

NSA activity flips the security equation – With each Snowden document release, it seems that the only way to avoid the NSA’s tendrils is one’s own obscurity, and there is so much more yet to be revealed.

How the NSA (may have) put a backdoor in RSA’s cryptography: A technical primer – This is a technical primer that explains what a backdoor is, how easy it can be to create your own, and the dangerous consequences of using a random number generator that was designed to have a backdoor. This is necessarily a long technical discussion, but hopefully by the end it should be clear why Dual_EC_DRBG has such a bad reputation.

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