Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 13, 2014

NSA Has Plans To Infect “Millions” Of Computers With Malware;  Google Voice: The ultimate iPhone how-to;  How to keep your PC secure when Microsoft ends Windows XP support;  Bypassing content filters: How to see the web they don’t want you to see;  Three practical reasons to use your browser’s private mode;  Make your HDTV sound better;  Desktop app will help turn your voice into songs;  What Asus’s $179 Chrombox is actually like to use;  Ring, lock, or erase your lost or stolen Android device.

Report: NSA Has Plans To Infect “Millions” Of Computers With Malware – The National Security Agency reportedly has plans to control millions of computers by infecting them with malware, according to documents leaked to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. “In some cases the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive

Europe approves new data protection law – European politicians voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday in favor of new laws safeguarding citizens’ data. The new Data Protection Regulation was approved with 621 votes for, 10 against and 22 abstentions. “The message the European Parliament is sending is unequivocal: This reform is a necessity, and now it is irreversible,” said Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, who first proposed the law. “Strong data protection rules must be Europe’s trade mark. Following the U.S. data spying scandals, data protection is more than ever a competitive advantage,” she said in a statement.

Online Bill Of Rights Needed To Protect Democracy, Says Berners-Lee – Speaking in an interview with the Guardian newspaper 25 years after he wrote the first draft of the proposal of what would become the Web, Berners-Lee warned that its neutrality is under sustained attack from overreaching governments and corporates — and an online “Magna Carta” is needed to protect and enshrine its independence.

Google Voice: The ultimate iPhone how-to – Google fought Apple hard for the right to distribute a Google Voice iPhone app and won. This guide shows you how to get the most out of Google Voice on your iPhone.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Popcorn Time Downloads Yanked—by Kim Dotcom’s Mega – That was fast. Popcorn Time, the streaming site that made headlines this week for being the pirated version of Netflix, is no longer accessible. The site currently displays a message that says its “Download links are down for a bit.” Popcorn Time promised to “be right back” and warned users not to download any unofficial Popcorn Time software, “as we have the only official ones.” According to the site, the link for its downloads was removed by its provider, Mega. “We’re going to look for another provider, please hold on!” the company tweeted.

Bypassing content filters: How to see the web they don’t want you to see – The web is supposed to be open, but behind the scenes, content filters are often busy controlling what you see. The filters could be at your school or workplace, blocking sites such as the time-sucking YouTube from being accessed. There are ways to bypass these restrictions, but be warned: Network administrators don’t want you to dodge their data blockades and won’t be happy if they catch you doing it. Use these tools at your own risk and responsibility.

Desktop app will help turn your voice into songs – Have an idea for a song, but no keyboard or instruments handy? There’s new software launching soon to fix that. “Imitone” is a desktop app that can convert your own singing—or humming or whistling—into digital notes on your computer. The software acts as a MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) controller, so instead of having to use a USB keyboard, you can sing into your computer’s microphone and Imitone’s pitch detection figures out what the notes are.

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How to keep your PC secure when Microsoft ends Windows XP support – Look, let’s be honest. You should upgrade from Windows XP right now if at all possible—but not everyone can cut the XP cord so completely. If you can’t upgrade, there are some things you can do to protect yourself. Make no mistake: These tricks are like sticking your finger in a leaking dam. They’ll help a bit, but the dam is crumbling and it’s time to get out of the way.

Ring, lock, or erase your lost or stolen Android device – Jack Wallen introduces you to an app that should become a must-have for anyone concerned with losing their Android devices or the data contained within.

CyberLink Releases Photo Editing App for Android Tablets – Cyberlink is mostly known for making those pre-installed video players on PCs, but now it’s getting into the photo editing space on Android tablets. PhotoDirector is a new editing suite that you can check out for free. It comes with filters, object removal, level adjustment and more. Keep in mind, though, the full version requires an in-app purchase.

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Microsoft releases Windows 8.1 User Readiness Toolkit for IT workers – Microsoft has released the Windows 8.1 User Readiness Toolkit, designed to help IT administrators get their co-workers up to speed if they are upgrading to the latest version of Windows.

In depth: What Asus’s $179 Chromebox is actually like to use – Well, gang, the dry streak is officially over. Asus is kicking off the Chromebox rebirth with the release of its $179 Chromebox (model M004U), which is available for pre-order now and will ship later this month. The device will soon be joined by a higher-end sibling, too: Asus’s $369 Intel Core i3-based Chromebox, which is set to launch in April. So what’s the $179 Asus Chromebox actually like to use? I’ve been living with the device for the past week to find out.

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Why Chrome OS should have fewer bugs than other operating systems – In a 4th consecutive Chromebook blog, I look at the way Google handles updates to Chrome OS (the operating system on a Chromebook) and why it should produce a more reliable system.

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Three practical reasons to use your browser’s private mode – Modern browsers are chock full of powerful hidden features, but one of the most overlooked features is incognito or private mode. If you’ve heard of this feature, chances are you know it, rather infamously, as “porn mode.” That’s an undeserved reputation, suggesting the only time someone would want a sliver of anonymity online is to satisfy their basest instincts—and nothing could be further from the truth. There are all kinds of reasons to regularly use your browser’s incognito mode that don’t involve websites with three X’s in the title.

SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive, first take: Useful, but pricey – Summary: A USB stick you can expand and connect via wi-fi to devices that lack USB ports? SanDisk’s wireless flash drive is handy, but not perfect.

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Five tips for creating a successful presentation with an iPad – With a few tips and tricks, you can ditch your laptop and use just your iPad to create presentations that are both fun and educational.

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iMD preps app for growing marijuana via smartphone – iMD said late Tuesday that it has added a network interface to an environmental controller designed for hydroponic marijuana farms, and is readying an app specifically designed to monitor large-scale pot farms. iMD and R-Quest Hydroponics said that its EMC-5000 controller already controls 8,000 watts’ worth of lights, plus cooling fans, nutrient pumps, CO2 monitoring, and system shutdown functions if the temperature gets too high. The controller is already Web-accessible, and a smartphone app is in the works.

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Make your HDTV sound better – You bought a great-looking TV, but don’t forget the audio. Improve voice clarity, music playback, and overall sound with these tips.

Green group, magazine call for boycott on Apple products – Green America, a D.C.-based non-profit group, and The Nation magazine launched a campaign Wednesday intended to persuade consumers to boycott Apple products unless the company makes changes in its production and supply chain operations. But Apple rejected the call, saying it’s been a leader in ridding toxic chemicals from its products and requires its suppliers to match or better U.S. safety regulations.

Security:

Account-hijacking Trojan spreads via Facebook messages – Private messages delivering what seems to be an image are spreading like wildfire on Facebook, as the file in question triggers the download of a Trojan that compromises the victims’ computer and Facebook account to spread the malware further. The infection chain starts like this: the victim sees the message from a friend that simply states “LOL” and includes the “image”. According to Malwarebytes’ Adam Kujawa, it’s still unkown what the Trojan does except compromise the victims’ Facebook account, but if we go by the results on VirusTotal, it could be a variant of the infamous Zusy banking Trojan.

290k+ users possibly affected in North Dakota University breach – Hackers have managed to access and to apparently misuse one of the servers used by the North Dakota University System, but there is no evidence that they made off with the personal information stored on it. Nevertheless, the University is notifying potentially affected users and offering them identity protection services for free. “Records of more than 290,000 current and former students and about 780 faculty and staff resided on the server. No credit card or bank account information was contained in the records,” the University said in a statement released last week.

Adobe patches two important security holes in Flash Player – The security updates released by the company Tuesday are Flash Player 12.0.0.77 for Windows and Mac and Flash Player 11.2.202.346 for Linux. The Flash Player plug-ins distributed with Chrome, Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 8.1 will be automatically updated to version 12.0.0.77 through the respective update mechanisms of those browsers.

Hole In WhatsApp For Android Lets Hackers Steal Your Conversations – As part of what is predominantly an Android security issue, a CTO and consultant has discovered a vulnerability in WhatsApp encryption that could allow another app to access and read all of a user’s chat conversations within it. Bas Bosschert, the CTO at DoubleThink, has posted his own method for accessing WhatsApp chats, and confirms that the vulnerability still exists after yesterday’s big Android update.

We’ve found a file spying backdoor in Samsung phones – The developers of Replicant, a pure free-software version of Android, claim to have discovered a security flaw in certain Samsung Galaxy phones and tablets – one so serious that it could potentially grant an attacker remote access to the device’s file system. Among the devices said to be vulnerable are the Nexus S, Galaxy S, Galaxy S 2, Galaxy Note, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Tab 2, Galaxy SIII, and Galaxy Note 2 – and there may be others. The flaw lies in the software that enables communication between the Android OS and the device’s radio modem, according to the Replicant project’s Paul Kocialkowski.

Vodafone Germany starts rolling out SIM card based encryption – Vodafone Germany has announced that it will be providing SIM card based end-to-end encryption in order to enable secure communication for its users and protect them from third party threats.

Google fixes 7 Chrome security holes just before CanSecWest – The day before two annual Google-sponsored hacking contests kick off at a security conference in Vancouver, Google tidies up some of Chrome’s loose ends.

Researchers prove Wi-Fi at risk for malware attacks – There’s new proof that Wi-Fi is capable of propagating malware, and current antimalware is ineffective. Find out how to stop these attacks.

Company News:

Candy Crush Maker King Files For IPO To Raise Up To $533M – King, the European makers of the hit game Candy Crush Saga, today moved one step closer to an IPO in the U.S., filing an updated F-1 with the SEC that priced 22.2 million shares between $21 and $24, to raise up to $532.8 million and value the company at around $7.6 billion.  The move comes weeks after King filed an initial F-1 with a maximum aggregated offering price of $500 million.

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Google buys Green Throttle, a smartphone game controller company – Rumors have been swirling that Google is going to jump into the home game console market with a set-top box. According to Pando Daily, Google has just snapped up a gaming company called “Green Throttle Games,” the producer of a gaming controller for Android.

Neil Young’s PonoMusic hits $2M on Kickstarter in one day – Offering both the FLAC-playing PonoPlayer and access to the PonoMusic online store, the rocker’s campaign goal of $800,000 was easily surpassed.

Games and Entertainment:

Angry Birds Epic Is Final Fantasy With Swine And Fowl, Hits Australia And Canada This Week – Unlike the physics-based Angry Birds franchise, which sees players flinging their birds at structures and evil pork, Epic features a story-driven campaign according to Kotaku, and it has the aforementioned turn-based combat system and RPG levelling, along with a crafting mechanic where you can build in-game items and armor by redeeming currency either earned through play or via (you guessed it) in-app purchase.

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Mozilla strives to take Web gaming to the next level with Unreal Engine 4 – Around this time last year Mozilla and Epic Games showed off the Unreal 3 game engine running in the browser, using a combination of the WebGL 3D graphics API and asm.js, the high performance subset of JavaScript. Commercial games built using this technology were launched late in the year. With this apparently successful foray into using the browser as a rich gaming platform, Mozilla and Epic today demonstrated a preview of Epic’s next engine, Unreal Engine 4, again boasting near-native speeds. The Web version of UE4 uses Emscripten to compile regular C and C++ code into asm.js.

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NVIDIA claims new GTX 800M mobile GPUs offer much better battery life for gaming – PC gamers who owns notebooks know that when the power cord is no longer connected, it sometimes can take an hour, or even less, to drain its battery due to the amount of CPU and GPU activity when playing many games. Today, NVIDIA claims that their new family of GTX 800M mobile GPUs will help solve that issue with a feature called Battery Boost.

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Snag a Titanfall Bundle With One Year of Xbox Live Gold – Direct from Microsoft, gamers can now get a Titanfall bundle featuring a 12-month subscription to Xbox Live Gold for $539.98. The bundle is an extension of the $500 Xbox pre-order Titanfall bundle, which provided over $60 in savings and included the Xbox One console, Kinect sensor, wireless controller, and headset – ($499.99 value), the Titanfall game ($59.99 value), and a one-month Xbox Live Gold Membership.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Goldman Sachs: Bitcoin Is Not A Currency – Goldman Sachs thinks that Bitcoin believers need to take a cold shower, drink some coffee, and sober up. In the wake of Mt. Gox’s collapse, the supposed outing of Bitcoin’s creator, and some high-profile arrests, the financial services firm has put together an exhaustive survey of “Bitcoin” and “bitcoin” and ultimately finds the technology promising but the currency wanting. The key takeaway: Bitcoin likely can’t work as a currency, but … the ledger-based technology that underlies it could hold promise.

Dying for an Ubuntu Linux phone? Here’s how much it’ll cost you – Just because Ubuntu Mobile is based on Linux doesn’t mean Ubuntu handsets will be really cheap, like phones running some other open-source mobile operating systems. Speaking at the CeBIT conference in Hanover, Germany on Tuesday, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth said we should expect the first Ubuntu phones to be “mid-high end” devices, with price tags in the $200 to $400 (£120 to £240) range. That’s a much different approach than the one taken by Mozilla, which has been targeting emerging markets with open source Firefox OS phones that it hopes will soon cost as little as $25.

Volvo embeds magnets in a road to make self-driving cars more accurate – Self-driving cars may already exist on our roads today in limited form, but they are by no means going to be a mainstream option for many years. Safety is obviously a very high priority, and ensuring self-driving cars travel within lanes, at safe speeds, and are able to react to other vehicles, pedestrians, and obstacles on the road is a challenge. Volvo believes it has the answer to more accurate self-driving cars, though. Rather than just relying on GPS and cameras for navigation, Volvo wants to embed magnets in our roads.

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9000 year-old masks are the world’s oldest – Masks are something that we don’t think much about in the modern world. At certain times of the year, you could walk into just about any retail store in the US and walk out with a mask made of plastic or other materials. Masks have been around much longer than you might think and some of the world’s oldest masks are on display in Jerusalem.

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The Rise, Fall, and Rise of the Web: 25 Years in 5 Acts – The Web turned 25 today, and it’s been my livelihood for 20 of those years. Let me show you how I’ve seen the Web grow, and where I think its next act lies.

Something to think about:

“Politics will eventually be replaced by imagery. The politician will be only too happy to abdicate in favor of his image, because the image will be much more powerful than he could ever be.”

–    Marshall McLuhan

Today’s Free Downloads:

YouTube Ratings Preview – Show the likes and dislikes bar over every video thumbnail in YouTube so that you can know its rating before watching it. Throughout all youtube.com, this extension shows a bar of likes and dislikes under every video snapshot, just like the official one. In this way, you can view the rating of the videos before watching the actual video, so that you can avoid garbage and spot amazing ones. In addition, you can move your mouse to the bottom bar and a tooltip will show up to tell you the likes percentage and the total ratings count. You can also configure it to automatically highlight with a blue box the best videos in every page.

Blender – Blender is the free open source 3D content creation suite, available for all major operating systems under the GNU General Public License.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

How the NSA Plans to Infect ‘Millions’ of Computers with Malware – Top-secret documents reveal that the National Security Agency is dramatically expanding its ability to covertly hack into computers on a mass scale by using automated systems that reduce the level of human oversight in the process.

Lawmakers don’t ask NSA chief about reports it plans to plant malware – U.S. lawmakers had a chance to pose questions to the director of the National Security Agency on Wednesday but declined to ask him about reports that the agency plans to install malware on millions of computers. General Keith Alexander did not volunteer information about the reported NSA program to deploy tens of thousands of copies of surveillance malware on computers and networking devices around the world. Committee members didn’t ask him about it, either. Instead, committee members praised the soon-to-retire Alexander for his years of service at the NSA and Cyber Command. “A grateful nation salutes you,” said Representative Jim Langevin, a Rhode Island Democrat.

Calls for Brennan’s Ouster Emerge Along With Details of CIA Search of Senate Computers – CIA Director John Brennan’s decision to search Senate committee computers was such a blatant violation of the Constitutional separation of powers that some pro-accountability groups in Washington are starting to seek his ouster.

Dutch intelligence illegally shared data with foreign services, says report – The Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) illegally shared data with foreign services and hacked Web forums without ministerial approval, according to a report made at the request of the Dutch House of Representatives. Although it is allowed to share data in bulk with other countries under existing partnerships, the MIVD illegally provided selected signal intelligence (SIGINT) data without permission of the relevant minister, according to the report, published late Tuesday.

UK surveillance hub GCHQ ‘tapping Belgian undersea cables’ – UK surveillance agency GCHQ is reportedly using telecom companies to gain access to sub-sea data cables in Europe. The Belgian morning newspaper De Standard claims five of the cables, which resurface at the Belgian coast, are affected, and the data GCHQ gleans from them is then shared with the US National Security Agency.

6 Comments

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

6 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 13, 2014

  1. Fred

    Hi Bill!
    “How the NSA Plans to Infect ‘Millions’ of Computers with Malware”
    I had read on this blog a month or so ago that the next Mozilla Firefox update was to have ADVERTISEMENTS in the browser!!! Now wouldn’t that be a jim dandy way for NSA and other Bad Actors to put malware on the computer?
    Wishing you the best,
    Fred

  2. The now un popped Popcorn’s program also no longer opens. Even if you managed to download and install the program, it no longer opens.
    I’m glad I’m a member of the MLPAA (mlpaa.org) not the MPAA.

  3. Again you have filled my mind with so much… I have work to do, darn it! (and I’m a day behind!) Great stuffs as always! Thank you!

  4. Reblogged this on khrystleraineduste and commented:
    I don’t think I re-blogged this yet – hours worth of interesting and useful bits…