Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 28, 2014

Angry Birds and other “leaky” apps used by NSA to grab user data;  What browser has the safest add-ons?  Brits spy on YouTube, Facebook behavior;  People pirate porn and TV more than music;  Seven apps to help you stay sober;  Help Grandma with her Facebook settings;  Five essential apps for traveling with your pets;  Take the 3-step Privacy Plan Diet; Toys,  Games and Malware for Boys and Girls;  Detroit wants its own high-tech visa;  Flatulent cows make shed explode;  Why you need to start using Google Voice;  Congressmen Call For DNI Clapper’s Removal.

Angry Birds and other “leaky” apps used by NSA to grab user data – The NSA likes it when mobile users download so-called “leaky” apps, a new report by The Guardian reveals. The reason? These apps, with Angry Birds being specified among them, allows the intelligence agency to gather pieces of information on users, such as phone information and location. The same method is reportedly being used by the United Kingdom’s GCHQ spy agency. (Time for the U.S. to be classified as a “rogue state” by the U.N.? Substitute “China” for the “U.S.” – what would your position be?)

New GOP resolution says NSA metadata dragnet program harms basic human rights – The resolution also states that “unwarranted government surveillance is an intrusion on basic human rights that threatens the very foundations of a democratic society and this program represents a gross infringement of the freedom of association and the right to privacy and goes far beyond even the permissive limits set by the Patriot Act.”

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Here’s what Brit snooping tells us: IE users are no fun – The latest presentation dumped by former U.S. contractor Edward Snowden reveals a mishmash of bad psychology, slightly delusional big data dreams and presentations that would require a lot of faith in government IT practices to believe.

Snowden’s Squeaky Dolphin leak: Brits spy on YouTube, Facebook behavior – What the Brits were trying to do was cull an ocean of data—even relatively meaningless Facebook likes and YouTube shares—to garner some insight.

After Chrome’s recent extension drama, what browser has the safest add-ons? – Given how Chrome’s system of updates, design restrictions, and ownership seemed to have gotten ahead of itself, we decided to take a look at the policies of other browsers to see if their extensions could be subjected to a similar fate. While Chrome isn’t the only browser where an Add To Feedly tale could be spun, it seems to be the most likely place for such an outcome.

Why you need to start using Google Voice, your Android phone’s best-kept secret – Google Voice is a powerful suite of tools comprised of a dedicated phone number, call routing, caller announce, call recording, free texting, online voicemail, voicemail-to-text transcription, low-cost International calling, and more (whew!). It’s an amazing suite of features, and you can leverage this service to add these killer tools to just about any phone.

Help Grandma with her Facebook settings using AVG’s new privacy tools – You’re completely mastered your social networks’ privacy settings. Facebook? Check. Twitter? Locked down. Google+? Deleted. (Just kidding! Sort of.) But then Facebook removes a setting and Instagram adds messaging, disrupting the delicate ecosystem of privacy protections you’ve worked so hard to create. Security firm AVG says they have the cure with PrivacyFix, free software that lets you manage privacy settings across all your social networks from a centralized dashboard.

Hands-on with Knoppix Linux 7.2.0 Over the years, Knoppix has evolved and expanded. In about 2005 a Live DVD version was added, with loads of additional applications, utilities and packages included. Rather than drop the Live CD version, however, both formats have been maintained since then, with the CD version as a “small/fast/easy” alternative, and the DVD version as an “everything including the kitchen sink” alternative.

The Porno Bay: People pirate porn and TV much more than music – A little over one-third — 35% — of the Pirate Bay is composed of pornography torrents, second only to TV episodes and movies, which make up 44% of the Bay’s new uploads. What was once piracy’s biggest target, music, is now one of its smallest, making up just 9% of new uploads — down from the 34% makeup from 2004. The site receives around 75,000 uploads per month, which has risen over the years from just the 2,000 per month back in 2004.

Stack Exchange App Answers All Your Questions on Android – When seeking expert advice on the internet, your Google searches have likely taken you to a Stack Exchange website on occasion. Stack Exchange is a network of 112 question and answer sites that focus on a diverse set of topics. There’s everything from programming, to photography, to cooking. Now you can get all that content in a single compact Android app.

Seven apps to help you stay sober, one day at a time – If you’re new to recovery and looking for resources, reach for your smartphone and see if any of the following apps can give you an assist. Remember: An app is just software, and it alone can do only so much.

Google may be the last calculator you’ll ever need – Many of us rely on Google to find things on the Internet. But what you may not know is that the Google search bar also makes a heck of a calculator—useful if you’re like me and still have to rely on your fingers to perform basic math. But it can do more than that: It can tell you how many liters are in 3.9 gallons or the currency exchange rates between the Euro and the Yen.

Create custom, embeddable Google Maps in minutes – This demo shows how to use the Google Map Builder tool to customize a Google Map and then embed it into a website or web page document.

Your backup drive needs a backup plan: Three ways to safeguard the data – Congratulations on backing up your PC—but you aren’t as safe as you may think you are. Files on your backup drive can be just as vulnerable to disaster as files on your main system are. Most recently, CryptoLocker demonstrated that an external drive connected to a PC—a secondary hard drive, for example, or an external USB hard drive used for backup—could fall victim to ransomware just as easily as the PC on the other end of the cable.

Google Glass prescription frames official in four styles – Google has revealed its prescription frames for Google Glass, the much-anticipated accessory which will make the wearable computer more user-friendly to those who already wear glasses. Dubbed the Titanium Collection and offered in four styles – Thin, Classic, Bold, and Split – all are made from lightweight titanium, like the original Glass band, and will be supplied with non-prescription lenses suited for those who don’t need their vision corrected, but can be optionally fitted out to suit a prescription.

The many ways to copy, move, or delete multiple files – You may think there’s nothing more to learn about these common tasks, but you may be wrong. Here are some tips and tricks even seasoned users could miss.

Five essential apps for traveling with your pets – If you ever travel with your dog—even just around town—the free iOS app BringFido is an excellent resource for quickly finding dog-friendly destinations, accommodations, restaurants, beaches, and, of course, parks. In my travels, the app was especially useful for finding and booking hotels, because BringFido’s rates were in many cases the best rates I could find.

Sprint offers customers unlimited cloud storage for $4.99 a month – Sprint has announced it is teaming up with Pogoplug to offer its iPhone and Android customers unlimited cloud storage for photos, videos and documents for $4.99 a month.

Windows 8.1 Update 1: Everything we know so far – The next refresh of Windows will place more emphasis on desktop-friendliness, and it’s said to be right around the corner.

Wikipedia adding voice recordings to famous people’s pages – England’s BBC is helping to get the project off the ground by openly licensing clips from its broadcast archives.


Take the 3-step Privacy Plan Diet – Losing your grip on personal privacy is easy these days: the internet is never more than an arm’s length away. That’s why we’ve come up with the 3-step Privacy Plan Diet – it’s time to say “Hello” to the new you!

Hacker will become the first charged under India’s cyber security laws – Amit Vikram Tiwari will be the first person to be charged under India’s cyber security laws. The man is accused of operating a hacking service where bank and email details were breached for a fee.

WhatsApp shutting down on 28th January? It’s a hoax – A hoax spreads on WhatsApp telling users to forward a warning to all of their friends, or risk having their account deactivated. I guess you can tell that a social messaging service has become popular with the masses when the hoaxes and chain letters begin to spread in fury. Toys, Games and Malware for Boys and Girls – A week ago (on Monday, January 20), as well as on January 14, 11, and 10, Hasbro’s website pushed malicious software to visitors’ computers. As with the compromise a week prior, the incident was the result of direct site compromise, and affected users were unlikely to have recognized that their computers were infected.

Company News:

Following Trademark Dispute With BSkyB, Microsoft Rebrands “SkyDrive” To “OneDrive” – As Microsoft helpfully points to in its blog post, the real reason behind the rebrand is a dispute with European broadcaster BSkyB, which claimed the name “SkyDrive” infringed on its own trademark. The company, one of the largest pay-TV providers in Europe, offers online streaming, mobile apps, and even had its own online storage service called “Sky Store & Share” from 2008-2011. BSkyB took Microsoft to court to force it to change the name of its cloud storage service, first launched back in 2007.

Google bets $2.7 million that Chrome OS can’t be hacked – Google’s putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to Chrome OS security. They’re putting up more than $2.7 million in prize money to CanSecWest hackers that can compromise the Chromebook software. Those looking for a piece of the action have to register for this year’s installment of Pwnium by March 10. The battle begins just two days later when CanSecWest 2014 kicks off in Vancouver.

Strategy Analytics: 990M Smartphones Shipped In 2013, Huawei, Lenovo and LG ‘Star Performers’ – To coincide with Apple releasing its Q1 earnings, Strategy Analytics has put out its quarterly and full-year figures for how the smartphone market has fared, along with figures on the wider mobile phone market. Overall, there were nearly 1 billion — 990 million — smartphones shipped in 2013, representing growth of 41% over 2012′s 700 million units. Smartphone shipments for the…

Cook admits Apple blew the call on the iPhone 5C – Apple sold a record 51 million iPhones in the fourth quarter of 2013, but acknowledged it underestimated the appeal of the flagship iPhone 5S, making some analysts question the company’s two-model strategy.

Games and Entertainment:

GTA San Andreas finally available on Windows Phone – Rockstar Games has finally launched Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for Windows Phone 8 smartphones after multiple delays and months after launching on Android and iOS.

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Review – We’re in an era of reboots in the greater gaming universe, that’s for certain, and games like Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition are taking the term as lightly as possible in an upgrade from one year to the next. Like the current trend in seasons of a smartphone, Square Enix has opted to suggest: if it isn’t broken, just make it look better. While we never really saw any iteration of Tomb Raider in 2013 as a title that needed some visual finessing, here it’s made rather clear: sometimes you don’t know what you want until it’s been given to you.

Microsoft buys rights to Gears of War franchise, says new game in development – Microsoft has announced it has acquired the rights to the Gears of War game franchise from its creators at Epic Games and that a new game from Black Tusk Studios is in the works.

“League of Legends” sees big jump in daily users – League of Legends, the popular fantasy game from Riot Games, has announced a large jump in daily players, exceeding 27 million gamers per day. This is more than a doubling of the daily users in a little over a year, with the company previously sitting at 12 million gamers back in October 2012. Its simultaneous-players peak has also risen substantially over the last several months.

Nintendo to test out mobile mini games – We may not see the Super Mario for iOS everyone desperately wants, but Nintendo is beginning to test the mobile waters and could find something useful there.

At 20 Million Copies Sold, Skyrim Is in the Top 20 Bestselling Games of All Time – Bear in mind that 20 million copies comprises all the subsequent compilation editions, and a certain number of buyers (myself included) are probably double-dipping, but consider that by comparison, Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. 3 sold 18 million copies, while Super Mario World grabbed just a tick more at 20.6 million. None of the Halos are in that list, nor any of the Gears of Wars. Not a single Zelda game’s ever come close, and the top-selling installment in Sony’s bestselling PlayStation 2-exclusive franchise, Gran Turismo 3 (and remember that the PS2 is the bestselling game console in history), couldn’t crack 15 million copies.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Report from the future: Data Privacy in the year 2044 – Today is 28 January 2014. That means it’s Data Privacy Day! So we asked Naked Security’s Virtual Futurist, Frank di Scorse, to do the following: Go forward in time 30 years. Absorb the next generation’s attitude to privacy. Report back from the future. Here’s the way Frank sees it, all the way from 2044. Ask yourself, “Is this where we want to go?”

Thirty years ago: My first computer was an IBM PC – The 30th anniversary of the Apple Mac has spurred a lot of reminiscences. But Mary Jo Foley has a different story.

Flatulent cows make shed explode, report says – I understand that cows are largely to blame for global warming. However, I never imagined that the seemingly life-weary animals had an explosion in them. Life has a way of surprising you, so I am fascinated to learn that the anal emissions of 90 cows are said to have caused a fire in a German shed. As Reuters reports, these cows were cooped up together and the products of their flatulence had nowhere to emerge.

Let there be light: A hand-made solar lamp from Uganda – Although not exactly polished, the light itself looks reasonably good. It’s compact and fairly lightweight, and it clearly doesn’t need an owner’s manual. Its lone control—a switch—is labeled. It’s fairly lightweight, though I wouldn’t carry it on a backpacking trip. But the key thing is that it works. I’m using it in the middle of winter in New York City, where the weather’s been on the cloudy side of nice for most of the time I’ve had it.

Nearby supernova will light up the sky for a week, grant insight into dark energy – An exceptionally bright nearby supernova can be seen with regular binoculars, but astronomers think that same intensity could also tell us something about the very nature of the universe.

Google could be the first company to implement Asimov’s Three Laws – Rumors of an ethics board to accompany Google’s recent acquisition of the artificial intelligence company DeepMind Technologies could see the creation of uniform robotics laws in the future.

Detroit wants its own high-tech visa – Detroit, a city in bankruptcy and dealing with a shrinking population, hopes to turn itself around with the help of 50,000 employment-based green cards. The visas would be made available under the EB-2 visa category, a visa for professionals who hold advanced degrees or those deemed to possess “exceptional ability” in the sciences, arts or business, said Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, who pitched the idea on Thursday. In exchange for the visa, an immigrant would be required to live and work in Detroit. The required length of the residency has not been determined, according to a spokesman for the governor.

Something to think about:

Half of the modern drugs could well be thrown out of the window, except that the birds might eat them.”

–      Dr. Martin Henry Fischer

Today’s Free Downloads:

Download Hash Verifier 3.5 – Verify the integrity of your downloaded file with both MD5 and SHA256 hash verification methods so you don’t have to use multiple tools. It makes file hash verification easier and quicker with its smart features such as ‘Auto Hash Detection’, ‘Drag & Drop File’, ‘Instant copy from Clipboard’ etc. Hash verification is a standard mechanism used to verify that downloaded file is original and not tempered. Often it happens that hackers modify the download files on the server and plant it with trojans/spywares.

Switch Hitter 1.0 – Switch Hitter is a keyboard diagnostic program that allows for key actuation testing and aims to alleviate difficulty in switch bounce/chatter diagnosis. Different keyboard layouts can be selected from a simple drop-down list. Layout files are customizable and any number of layout files can be added and easily selected.

Money Manager Ex – Money Manager Ex is a free, open-source, cross-platform, easy-to-use personal finance software. It primarily helps organize one’s finances and keeps track of where, when and how the money goes. It is also a great tool to get a bird’s eye view of your financial worth. Money Manager includes all the basic features that 90% of users would want to see in a personal finance application. The design goals are to concentrate on simplicity and user-friendliness – something one can use everyday.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA May Want Mobile Data, Including Info From Angry Birds And Maps – The National Security Agency reportedly has a love affair with mobile app data, collecting personal information from Google Maps and Angry Birds, referring to the program as a “Golden Nugget”. The classified documents, which were leaked to a handful of news agencies — originate partly from a leak by whistleblower Edward Snowden. They reveal a long-standing project to collect personal data from “leaky” mobile applications. Mobile apps collect a staggering amount of personal data, on everything from product preferences to location.

Department Of Justice Will Allow Big Tech Companies To Disclose Detailed Numbers Of Surveillance Requests – Apple today released more details on the requests it receives from government surveillance agencies after the Department Of Justice releaxed limits on disclosures. Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, and LinkedIn today were given the right to disclose more details on the data requests and orders they receive from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court after suing the government for months to declassify these numbers.

Gearing up for midterm elections, candidates jostle to be most anti-NSA – This year is a midterm election year, with all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 33 (of 100) seats in the US Senate up for grabs. (Not to mention, there’s a slew of other state and local elections.) And this year, according to Politico, individuals on both the political left and libertarian right are attempting to position themselves as the pro-privacy, anti-National Security Agency candidates.

Congressmen Call For DNI Clapper’s Removal – A group of six Congressmen have asked President Barack Obama to remove James Clapper as director of national intelligence as a result of his misstatements to Congress about the NSA’s dragnet data-collection programs. The group, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), said that Clapper’s role as DNI “is incompatible with the goal of restoring trust in our security programs”.

TorMail’s entire database nabbed by FBI, reveals court documents – Security concerns in the digital world are a valid area of focus, and many both before and after the Snowden epic elected to use encrypted email services over the more typical Gmail and Outlook offerings. One such mail service is TorMail, namesake of the popular onion-routing Tor (though an independent project), which offers anonymous messaging. According to court documents that recently surfaced, the FBI has cloned the entire email database.

DOJ statement: public interest outweighs security concerns – In accordance with orders sent out earlier this month by the President of the United States on intelligence reforms, the US Department of Justice has begun “acting to allow” more transparency in a number of areas. The number of “national security orders and requests” sent to communications providers as well as the number of customer accounts that that are targeted will be part of this set of “more detailed disclosures.”

Lavabit to have its day in federal appeals court – Lavabit, the private email service that shut down last year after a court order called for its private SSL (secure socket layer) keys, will make its case Tuesday before a U.S. federal appeals court. Although tangentially related to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s activities, the case could eventually affect all Web service providers, such as Google or Facebook, in that it could set precedents for the legal scope that law enforcement agencies will have over those holding the keys to encrypted data.

With NSA reform, what does more disclosure from tech firms mean? – While technology companies can now release the number of user data requests they receive from the government, civil liberties groups say this is just a small step.

US looks to prevent spying on its spies – The US government is looking into encryption techniques that could prevent eavesdroppers from spying on its own surveillance of Americans’ phone records. As the Obama administration considers shifting the collection of phone records from the National Security Agency (NSA) to requiring that they be stored at phone companies or elsewhere, it’s quietly funding research to prevent phone company employees or eavesdroppers from seeing who the US is spying on, the Associated Press has learned.



Filed under Free Software Downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 28, 2014

  1. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re:Angry Birds and other “leaky” apps used by NSA

    They really are a pack of bastards, aren’t they? “Do as I say, not what I do” is a phrase that comes to mind. If another country was doing this, the good old US government would be the first to start screaming about it. But it’s ok for them, because everything the US government does is allowed, because they know everything and what is best for the rest of us. They have gone “rogue” as you put it, they are doing whatever they feel like and don’t give a f**k what the rest of the world thinks.

    My mobile app is used for making calls, and that’s it. If people want to play games, use an Xbox or Sony playstation, or a PC. But knowing the NSA, they probably have all that covered too.


    • Hey Mal,

      The U.S. is a pariah. It is no different than failed Soviet bloc dictatorships that survived by infiltrating the daily lives of powerless citizens.

      The issue here is NOT U.S. national security – the issue is the U.S. government’s desire to exercise complete control over it’s citizens and by extension – the WORLD.



  2. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    Seems the UK government is no slouch in the “National Security” stakes either. Perhaps the Scots are right to consider independence. Trouble is, apart from my own personal reasons for opposing it, I don’t trust Alex Salmond as far as I could throw him (ie not very far :)).

    I’ve seen reports of minor criminals boasting of their exploits on social media and getting caught but that just proves that they are more stupid than a government agency that thinks terrorists would do the same.

    To paraphrase Samuel Johnson “knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful”.

    Kind regards,

    • Hi John,

      Just finished a series of novels by Bernard Cornwell (and a few last year as well), all of which lay out the fascinating history of the early “English.” I must admit (given my Anglo/Irish background), I walked away from all this with a renewed sense of pride. Without getting into a deep discussion, I concur – Scottish independence seems somewhat illogical.

      Yes, Sam had it right. Unfortunately, in our society, integrity is like a disease – nobody wants to catch it. And, political parties seem to be immune.