Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 19, 2014

The Best Tax Software for 2014;  Top Free Software Picks: Presentation Software;  How to Hide Facebook Posts from Certain People;  Microsoft launches OneDrive with new features;  Don’t look now but the LED light fixtures are spying on you;  Selfie360 Turns Your Face Into A Gif;  Google Explains How Not To Be A Glasshole;  iOS apps riskier than Android apps;  NSA spies back down in T-shirt ridicule brouhaha;   Researchers build pub to find out why people get hammered;  Nasty holes found in Belkin’s home automation kit;  Which cloud storage service is right for you?  Windows Password Kracker.

The Best Tax Software for 2014 – We chose a slightly different group of online tax-preparation websites for this year’s reviews. The company names are the same—Intuit, H&R Block and TaxACT—and we once again covered the most popular versions, the paid, deluxe editions of TurboTax, H&R Block and TaxACT. But we also decided to review their free versions: TurboTax Federal Free, H&R Block Free and TaxACT Free Federal.

Why we need to rethink how we view security – Looking back at the major security stories of the last few months, there’s something of a pattern emerging. While many may seem to be down to a simple flaw in a single layer of security, on deeper examination most actually involve problems with multiple layers, and highlight the importance of an in-depth approach to security.

30-Second Tech Trick: How to Hide Facebook Posts from Certain People – For when unfriending your boss or your parents isn’t an option.

Microsoft launches OneDrive with new features and more ways to increase storage – Microsoft has now officially changed the name of its SkyDrive cloud data storage service to OneDrive and has added some new features along with a way to add new storage amounts for free.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box: Which cloud storage service is right for you? – If you’re ready to take the plunge into storing your files, photos, and more in the cloud, but need help deciding which service is right for your needs and wallet, we’ve got you covered.

Cloud storage made simple: How to integrate it with your workflow – Thanks to cloud storage, files are bursting from the confines of your PC’s hard drive. Now, you can get work done on a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or even portable mini-PCs and dongles. Still, many users still haven’t fully worked the cloud into the way they go about their daily business. Here’s how to seamlessly integrate the cloud into your workflow, starting with the most crucial part: Choosing a service that plays nice with your PC.

Microsoft’s survey reveals how you store your sensitive files, why you should go cloud – Alongside the launch of OneDrive, Microsoft has announced the results of a new survey which shows that a majority of people are still not backing up important files on a cloud server. The survey was conducted in December and based on results from 801 people ages 18 and older who have previously heard of cloud storage. One finding is that a whopping 77 percent of the survey respondents said they stored important files on one device and nowhere else.

We risk becoming citizens of new cloud empires – The rise of cloud computing has led to hyperscale providers–i.e., companies that provide more computing services than has ever been possible. The cloud giants are battling for control at every layer of the technology stack, and the winners will become the new cloud empires. Think about it: Did you become part of the Samsung empire when you bought your smartphone? When you moved your servers to Microsoft Windows Azure, did you become their citizen?

Opera launches public beta of data-saving app – Opera Max is a free app which uses a VPN to measure data usage on a user’s phone. It then routes any non-encrypted data requests through Opera’s servers, compressing video, images and websites so that they use less data. The idea is to give users, especially those on restricted data plans, the chance to use more data than they would normally be allowed to by their network provider.

Top Free Software Picks: Presentation Software – Dive into the presentation creators and players in the next few pages. None of the software here will make you a better presenter or speaker. But they might just be the right tools you need, and definitely at the right price (free!).

FINALLY: Caffeine-Infused Tank Top Promises to Slim You Down – Hammacher Schlemmer – purveyor of wonderfully weird items – has finally outdone itself with this $85 tank top. This magical article of clothing is somehow laced with coffee and green algae, which Hammacher claims will “rev up the body’s fat metabolism while creating a slimmer appearance.” For the magic to work, you’ll have to commit to wearing this thing eight hours a day for 21 days. The payoff, according to Hammacher, is up to an inch off the hips and up to 1.25 inches off the thighs. You can only machine-wash the tank top 20 times before all the juju wears off, too. After that, it’s just a plain black tank with a great story to tell.


Microsoft makes Skype and Lync more compatible, adds Lync for Android tablets – Although Lync and Skype share many features, Microsoft apparently will continue its tradition of pushing Skype at consumer applications, while using Lync as a business communications tool. For example, Giovanni Mezgec, the general manager of product marketing for Skype and Lync, said while Lync contacts will be able to conduct calls and videoconferences with someone on Skype, the Lync user won’t be able to share files.

Don’t look now but the LED light fixtures are spying on you – If you feel like you’re being watched at Terminal B in the Newark Liberty International Airport, then that’s real and not paranoia. It’s not the TSA this time, but covert airport surveillance via LED light fixtures capable of taking video, identifying suspicious activity, as well as collecting and data-mining mountains of data about ‘ordinary citizens.’ Whether or not you pay any attention to the lighting overhead, the lighting may be paying such close attention to you that privacy advocates are warning about the “terrifying” potential for misuse.

You can keep using XP for another year, but do you really want to? – While clinging to the 11-year-old OS after Microsoft issues its last security patch in April is defensible, the security risks are going to keep mounting.

Fine, you can mock us: NSA spies back down in T-shirt ridicule brouhaha – The NSA and Department of Homeland Security have abandoned efforts to shut down an internet site selling parodies of its logos on T-shirts, coffee cups and bumper stickers. Almost three years ago the NSA sent a cease-and-desist letter to online retailer Zazzle claiming that some of its merchandise was illegal under Public Law 86-36 contained in the 1959 National Security Agency Act, which prohibits misuse of the agency’s logo. At fault were items designed by the politically themed T-shirt company Liberty Maniacs.


Selfie360 Turns Your Face Into A Gif – Meet Selfie360, the newest, and most aptly named, app from the Cycloramic team. After building an app that automatically rotates your phone (hands-free, no less) to take a 360-degree photo, the Cycloramic team leveraged the technology in a brand new way. A narcissistic way, you might say.

Get e-mail contact info with Vibe – Chrome extension Vibe shows promise as a way to gather quick background information about an e-mail contact, including his or her company and location information, and social media profiles.

Google Explains How Not To Be A Glasshole – Here are the do’s and don’t’s of wearing Google Glass. Right from Google. Apparently, and I know this might be a shocker, you’re not supposed to stand in the corner of the room and record people with Google Glass. That would make you a glasshole according to this list.

Tell your friends their relationship sucks? Here’s an app for that – Oh, we all gossip about it when the happy couple isn’t looking. They’re a terrible match, we say. Now a free app lets us put our money where our mouths are.

Iridium GO!: A mobile Wi-Fi hotspot for anywhere access – Iridium’s GO! is a solution for people who want to be voice and data connected anywhere in the world, but would rather not carry a satellite phone. Iridium GO!’s data-link speed will remind you of bygone days and 25-45 Kb/sec modems. If you’re patient, Iridium is working on its NEXT satellite constellation, which will have data-link speeds approaching 1 Mb/sec. Another reason to be patient is that Iridium GO! is not slated to be released until the second quarter of 2014.



Nasty holes found in Belkin’s home automation kit – Insecure firmware handling, poor communications practises and API vulnerabilities are among a range of vulnerabilities security company IOActive has identified in Belkin’s WeMo home automation systems. In its advisory, here, IOActive says it’s discovered that the systems leak a hard-coded key and password that Belkin uses to sign firmware. This makes it a cinch for an attacker to create firmware that’s presented to the user as legitimate.

Asus router vulnerabilities go unfixed despite reports – It may be news to you that some Asus wireless routers leave your computer and networked drives open to hackers, but Asus has known about the problems for months, reports indicate. The vulnerabilities make it possible for hackers to access directories on networked drives using Asus’ proprietary AiCloud option. Enabling features such as “Cloud Disk,” “Smart Access,” and “Smart Sync” appear to enable the vulnerability, security researcher Kyle Lovett told Ars Technica. Enabling the file-sharing tool Samba in the router also exposes the vulnerability to hackers.

Admin rights key to mitigating vulnerabilities, study shows – A new study from Avecto demonstrates the real world import of running with “least privilege”. In 2013, Microsoft released 106 security bulletins and updates to address the 333 vulnerabilities identified in them. 200 of the 333 total vulnerabilities would be mitigated if the user were not running as administrator. 147 of the vulnerabilities were designated critical; 92 percent (135) of these would be mitigated.

Report finds iOS apps riskier than Android apps – Appthority found that 95 percent of the top 200 free apps on iOS and Android exhibit at least one risky behavior. That number drops to 80 percent for paid apps—an improvement, but four out of five paid apps exhibiting risky behavior is hardly something to cheer about. Appthority also discovered that iOS apps are riskier overall than Android apps—91 percent contain risky behavior as opposed to 83 percent on Android. They risky behaviors vary, but include things like location tracking—found in 70 percent of the free iOS and Android apps—weak authentication, sharing data with ad networks, accessing the contact list, or identifying the user or UDID.

Target hack strips banks and credit unions of $200M – Not only were as many as 110 million Target customers affected by the massive hack on the retailer in December, but banks have also had to deal with the security breach. The hack is said to have cost banks and credit unions more than $200 million, according to data gathered by the Consumer Bankers Association and the Credit Union National Association. Originally, the two associations estimated that losses tallied around $178 million but now say those costs are rising.

Sleeper servers lurking in data centers of 139 US retailers – Two reports announce that a significant number of business networks, including retailers, have sleepers, also known as compromised servers, that are in contact with remote command and control servers. “Based on our analysis of 139 U.S. retailers from November 1, 2013 through January 12, 2014 we found 1,035 distinct infections communicating out from corporate networks, 7.5 on average per company,” according to BitSight’s 2014 Risk Management Blog.

Company News:

Verizon seeks payment for carrying Netflix traffic, WSJ reports – According to a Wall Street Journal report tonight, “[t]he online-video service has been at odds with Verizon Communications Inc. and other broadband providers for months over how much Netflix streaming content they will carry without being paid additional fees. Now the long simmering conflict has heated up and is slowing Netflix, in particular, on Verizon’s fiber-optic FiOS service, where Netflix says its average prime-time speeds dropped by 14 percent last month.”

Facebook must follow Germany’s data protection law, rules court – The Higher Court of Berlin has ruled in favor of a 2012 court finding that Facebook has run afoul of German data protection law, and that it must comply with such legalities. Beyond this, the Higher Court also confirmed that the social network’s terms of service and privacy policy contain multiple clauses in violation of the nation’s law.

HP execs were aware of Autonomy’s sales practices – report – Hewlett-Packard senior executives knew of Autonomy Corp.’s sales practices and problems months before a whistle-blower exposed the company, according to new reports. The US-based PC giant purchased Autonomy in 2011 for $11.1 billion. However, only a year later, Hewlett-Packard was forced to write down the acquisitions’ value by $8.8 billion. A whistle-blower then came forward, stating that hardware sales conducted by Autonomy were often conducted at a loss. As a result, Hewlett-Packard has accused the firm of accounting fraud, which remains an ongoing saga.

Games and Entertainment:

CastleStorm Beta Reaches Android and You Can Play Right Now – CastleStorm originally came to the Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and other platforms last year. Now it’s coming to mobile devices as a free-to-play title. Yes, that’s just how things work these days, whether you like it or not. CastleStorm is now available as a beta on Android, so you can take a look at it free of charge.


Microsoft begins week long Xbox 360 Ultimate Games Sale – Microsoft has started a week long Ultimate Games Sale event for Xbox 360 owners, with big price cuts on digital games all week, along with daily sales deals as well.

Titanfall: Xbox One vs PC – After having played the Titanfall Beta on both the Xbox One and PC (via Origin on Windows 8), we’ve come to one conclusion. If you want to play Titanfall on your Xbox One, we’d recommend simply skipping the demo of the PC side of things. When you’ve got a ramped-up beast of a gaming PC pitted against the Xbox One, gameplay is comparable – but the graphics delivery difference is immense.


Irrational Games, The Company Behind BioShock, Is Shutting Down – Whoa. Irrational Games, the company that built the acclaimed BioShock video game series, is going away. Co-founder Ken Levine announced directly on the company’s front page this morning that they will soon see sweeping layoffs and will be reborn as a much smaller team with a new focus.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti Review – With the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 and 750 Ti comes the company’s first implementation of their 1st generation Maxwell GPU architecture. Maxwell brings what NVIDIA suggests is the most efficient GPU on the market – efficiency, that is, doing more with less. NVIDIA says they’ve increased the performance of Maxwell up per watt up 2x over Kepler.


Valve: Our anti-cheat software doesn’t record DNS data; we don’t ‘care what porn sites you visit’ – Valve CEO Gabe Newell has responded to a claim that its anti-cheat software records a user’s DNS data, saying that is not the case and added, “Do we care what porn sites you visit? (What a classless asshole!)

Off Topic (Sort of):

Without Net Neutrality “the Internet could turn into a high-priced private toll road” – The White House gives a very encouraging response to a petition regarding Net Neutrality, emphasizing the importance of a free and neutral Internet.

Researchers build pub to find out why people get hammered – A UK university wants to understand why people get drunk. So it spent $33,000 on a pub laboratory with microphones and hidden cameras to solve a great human mystery. (Maybe not so much of a mystery?)

Apple patents headphones that can monitor your vital stats – Key to the invention would be sensors embedded into one or more areas of the headsets or earbuds. By coming into contact with your skin, these sensors would be able to detect your heart rate, temperature, perspiration, and other physical stats. Wearing such a hands-free device would be a way to monitor and record your vitals as you exercise or play sports.

Hottest Gadgets at Toy Fair 2014 – The Toy Industry Association’s Toy Fair expo is in New York this week, with hundreds of companies showing off the gadgets and gizmos your kids (and maybe a few adults) will be begging you for in 2014. There were plenty of big brands with big toys at the Javits Center, but don’t forget the smaller companies showing off their own unique and high-tech takes on classic ideas.


Half of Americans want to live in a smart city with driverless cars – According to the survey, 44% of U.S. respondents said they would like to live in a city, where cars, buses and trains operate autonomously. Forty percent said they thought driverless vehicles would cut down the number of traffic accidents, while 38% said it would decrease traffic congestion and 34% said it would reduce carbon emissions.

First Bitcoin ATMs heading to the U.S. in February – The world’s first Bitcoin ATM landed in Vancouver, B.C. in October and now similar machines are headed stateside to Austin, TX and Seattle, WA. Nevada-based Robocoin, makers of the Bitcoin ATMs, announced on Tuesday that the U.S. would get its first Bitcoin machines later in February. Specific locations for the ATMs were not announced.

Something to think about:

Examine what is said, not him who speaks.”

–      Arab Proverb

Today’s Free Downloads:

Social Password Decryptor – Social Password Decryptor is the FREE software to instantly recover Passwords for popular Social Networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus etc.

Windows Password Kracker – Windows Password Kracker is a free software to recover the lost or forgotten Windows password.

VNC Password Recovery – VNC Password Recovery is the FREE software to instantly recover VNC password stored by popular VNC Servers.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Snowden Documents Reveal Covert Surveillance and Pressure Tactics Aimed at WikiLeaks and Its Supporters – The efforts – detailed in documents provided previously by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – included a broad campaign of international pressure aimed not only at WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but at what the U.S. government calls “the human network that supports WikiLeaks.” The documents also contain internal discussions about targeting the file-sharing site Pirate Bay and hacktivist collectives such as Anonymous. One classified document from Government Communications Headquarters, Britain’s top spy agency, shows that GCHQ used its surveillance system to secretly monitor visitors to a WikiLeaks site. By exploiting its ability to tap into the fiber-optic cables that make up the backbone of the Internet, the agency confided to allies in 2012, it was able to collect the IP addresses of visitors in real time, as well as the search terms that visitors used to reach the site from search engines like Google. Another classified document from the U.S. intelligence community, dated August 2010, recounts how the Obama administration urged foreign allies to file criminal charges against Assange over the group’s publication of the Afghanistan war logs. (suggested by Aseem S.)

AT&T’s 2013 Law Enforcement Data Requests Topped 300K – AT&T in 2013 received nearly 302,000 law enforcement requests for customer information relating to criminal and civil cases, the carrier has announced. That included 248,343 subpoenas from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies; 36,788 court orders; and 16,685 search warrants, AT&T said in its first-ever transparency report, released Tuesday. In more than 17,000 cases, AT&T provided partial or no information in response to those requests. The carrier also received 37,839 demands for historical or real-time location data, including 1,034 “cell tower searches” for all the numbers registered to a particular cell tower for a certain period of time. AT&T also responded to 94,304 911-related inquiries from law enforcement working on kidnappings, missing person cases, attempted suicides, and other emergencies.

Megaupload founder Dotcom loses in search warrant case – A court in New Zealand has ruled that warrants used to search the homes of Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and his colleague Bram van der Kolk were valid, but objected to the removal to the U.S. by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of copies of the electronic items seized. The Court of Appeal of New Zealand ruled Wednesday that the warrants were defective in some respects, but the defects were not sufficient to treat them as “nullities.” A ruling against the validity of the warrants would have made it harder for the U.S. bid to extradite Dotcom, van der Kolk and two other colleagues to face charges in the U.S., as the evidence collected could have been called into question.


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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 19, 2014

  1. Dave B.

    Re: Fine, you can mock us: NSA spies back down; The fact that these entities even think they have the authority to ban T-shirts that mock them speaks volumes about the state of the U.S. government, and it doesn’t say anything good.

    • Hi Dave,

      Totally agree. Attack – Attack – Attack! The mantra of the underhanded, undereducated political sociopaths, who bring out the “hammer” at every opportunity.