Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 25, 2014

China seeks answers from US over alleged Huawei spying;  Windows 7 anti-malware products compared;  Every Android device vulnerable to privilege escalation;  Smart ways to secure your home;  Five portable apps for troubleshooting problems;  Hands-On: Zorin OS 8 Linux;  Linux MintBox 2 sells out in European debut;  Google Glass inks Ray-Ban and Oakley frame deal;  Malicious apps can hose Android phones, erase data, researchers warn;  Official ‘Star Trek’ beer;  Judge to porn trolls: IP addresses aren’t people.

China seeks answers from US over alleged Huawei spying – The NSA reportedly hacked the Chinese telecommunications giant’s servers to spy on company executives and government officials. Now, the Chinese government wants to know why.

Every Android device vulnerable to privilege escalation – Six new bugs uncovered in Google’s mobile platform shows how every Android-powered smartphone and tablet – more than a billion devices – are vulnerable to malware.

Windows 7 anti-malware products compared – Independent test lab AV-Test Institute compared 34 anti-malware/Internet security products for home and business users on Windows 7 64-bit. Trend Micro came out on top for business; Bitdefender, Kaspersky and Qihoo for consumer.

Be ready for anything: Five portable apps for troubleshooting problems – The world of computer administration requires you to be on your toes and prepared for just about anything. Along with that, you need to have tools that can get you out of nearly any jam — and that includes a set of portable diagnostic tools to help you when you don’t have the time or the ability to install (or track down) software to solve the problem at hand. Here are five portable tools everyone should consider as first options for solving the problems that plague your systems.

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Smart ways to secure your home – Clever implementation of smart devices and a smart lock can allow you to monitor and secure your home remotely. The cast of The Fix shows you how to use these devices to better secure your home.

4 Apps That Will Save You Time – Modern life comes with many hassles that eat up your precious time. There’s sorting through the daily influx of junk mail, waiting on hold for customer service and trying to find a parking spot when you’re late for an appointment, to name a few. Fortunately, there are apps to help you deal with all these inconveniences. We list the best ones that help you stop wasting your precious time.

Kingsoft Office bests Olive Office in Android office suite faceoff – In this Tech Republic Two Minute Drill, I’m pitting Kingsoft Office against Olive Office Premium in an Android office suite smackdown. What are the qualities I’m looking for? Simple — feature set and ease of use. We’re talking about working with documents and spreadsheets on a mobile platform, so everything needs to be as efficient as possible and work well with standard formats…all while on the go.

Tumblr boosts security with two-factor authentication – In an effort to deter hackers, the blogging platform introduces added security that requires users to log-in with both a password and cell phone code. The blogging platform announced on Monday that it has launched the added security measure via users’ Settings page. Now, Tumblr bloggers have the option of making it more difficult for outside actors to access their dashboards.

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Hands-On: Zorin OS 8 Linux – This is the distribution that is touted as the “easiest” transition from Windows to Linux, so how does it stack up? (Having tested this OS last year, I can say that it stacks up pretty well.)

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Linux MintBox 2 sells out in European debut – The CompuLab MintBox 2, a fanless mini-PC running Linux Mint is available to buy directly in Europe, but the first batch has already sold out.

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Pushbullet Instantly Blasts Alerts From Your Android Phone To Your Computer – Bzzzt. Your phone vibrates. The problem? It’s across the room. Maybe it’s a text. Maybe someone just liked your Facebook photo. Maybe some dumb game wants to remind you to buy fake food for your fake cat. You better go check, or curiosity is going to drive you up the wall. With Pushbullet, that notification — whatever it may have been — would have gone straight to your monitor.

Samsung’s online Smart Simulator showcases mobile devices, TVs, Blu-ray players, and even refrigerators – Device simulators can be helpful when you’re not able to check out the devices in person. They can show you what the device interfaces look like and how the features work. Simulators are also good training tools, especially for inexperienced users.

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Google Now notifications added to Chrome desktop browser – Google has added its Google Now notifications to users of its Chrome desktop web browser for both Windows and Mac, allowing them to see quick pop-up info for weather, traffic and more.

Droplet sprinkler uses cloud data for efficient lawn watering – Droplet takes the innovation of connected homes and applies it outside the home — to the lawn, specifically. The sprinkler can be connected to the Internet and controlled via a smartphone or tablet, gathering local weather information and using that to determine when to water the lawn.

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What USB Power Delivery means for you – A revolution is about to come to the most unlikely of places: those hundreds, maybe thousands, of USB ports scattered throughout your company. This revolution will be all about power distribution and management, the stuff that only interests IT infrastructure staff. But there are wider implications that should make the entire IT organization take notice. What was a data interface capable of delivering power will become a power provider with a data interface. Current USB ports provide only 10 watts; devices conforming to the new standard will transmit up to 100 watts. Larger, more complex devices will be able to run with only USB power. Here’s how USB PD will affect IT:

Security:

Malicious apps can hose Android phones, erase data, researchers warn – Apps that exploit the denial-of-service vulnerability work on Android versions 2.3, 4.2.2, 4.3, and possibly many other releases of the operating system, researcher Ibrahim Balic wrote in a blog post published last week. Attackers could exploit the underlying memory corruption bug by hiding attack code in an otherwise useful or legitimate app that is programmed to be triggered only after it is installed on a vulnerable handset. By filling the Android “appname” field with an extremely long value exceeding 387,000 characters, the app can cause the device to go into an endless series of crashes.

Microsoft issues security advisory and ‘Fix-it’ patch for Word exploit – Microsoft normally waits until the second Tuesday of each month, otherwise known as “Patch Tuesday”, to release security updates for its software products. Today, Microsoft has issued a out-of-schedule security advisory for an exploit that affects all current and older supported versions of its Word program.

ATM malware, controlled by a text message, spews cash – A group of enterprising cybercriminals have figured out how to get cash from a certain type of ATM—by text message. The latest development was spotted by security vendor Symantec, which has periodically written about a type of malicious software it calls “Ploutus” that first appeared in Mexico. The malware is engineered to plunder a certain type of standalone ATM, which Symantec has not identified. The company obtained one of the ATMs to carry out a test of how Ploutus works, but it doesn’t show a brand name.

Microsoft reminds us Office 2003 support ends with Windows XP April 8th – Microsoft has a new blog post and infographic that gives us a reminder that Office 2003 will lose its official support on April 8th, the same day that it ends support for Windows XP.

Basecamp falls to blackmail-fueled denial of service attack – Users of the popular web-based project management app Basecamp may have a hard time loggoing on the service Monday morning. The company behind the app, also named Basecamp (formerly 37Signals), says it is under a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack from extortionists hoping to make a quick buck. The DDoS attack means the company’s marquee product as well as its other services such as Backpack, Campfire, and Highrise may also be unavailable.

Company News:

Sheryl Sandberg: Facebook Refused No-Poaching Agreement With Google – The vast collusion between technology companies to prevent poaching and hiring among themselves, thereby limiting fair-market wages for the workers in question, has a new wrinkle today: Facebook refused to play ball, and we have a statement to that effect. In short, while other companies were being bullied by Apple and others to stop picking up talent from each other, Facebook wasn’t willing to participate.

Google Glass inks Ray-Ban and Oakley frame deal – Google has inked a deal with Ray-Ban and Oakley parent company Luxottica to develop a Google Glass collection, potentially pushing the wearable computing platform directly into the gaze of the mass market. The collaboration will see a joint team of Google and Luxottica eyewear and wearable tech experts collaborate on “the design, development, tooling and engineering of Glass products” to make sporting a computer on your face more fashion-friendly.

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Box IPO papers reveal it’s losing money in a big way – Box, the eight-year-old company that has taken on industry giants to become a leader in cloud storage and file sharing, will seek to raise $250 million by selling shares publicly for the first time. The Los Altos, California, company announced on Monday that it had filed a registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for a proposed IPO (initial public offering) of its common stock.

AT&T promises to lower your Internet bill if FCC kills net neutrality – Are you an AT&T home Internet customer? If so, AT&T has just made a promise you’ll want to take note of. If the Federal Communications Commission lets Internet service providers charge Web companies like Netflix for faster delivery of content to consumers, AT&T will lower its customers’ Internet bills. That’s what AT&T said Friday in a filing in the FCC’s “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet” proceeding.

Games and Entertainment:

Castle Doombad Hits Android with Tons of Hero-stopping Traps – When kidnapping a princess to harvest her screams as a power source, you need to have the most secure evil lair possible. Castle Doombad from Adult Swim is a game all about making your lair impenetrable to even the most determined heroes. This game is essentially tower defense at the most basic level, but there’s a lot more going on than you’d find in a typical game of the genre. After debuting on iOS, this game is now available on Android.

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Redbox reportedly to offer next-generation gaming titles starting March 25 – A new report claims Redbox will begin offering next generation console titles on its kiosk and online rental service starting March 25 for Wii U and April 1st for the PS4 and XBox One.

AMD Mantle Performance Test in Thief & Battlefield 4 – AMD’s Mantle API claims to improve performance in games by allowing them to use your CPU and GPU more efficiently. Today we put those claims to the test with Eidos’ Thief and Dice’s Battlefield 4.

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The Elder Scrolls Online has 3 launch dates starting Sunday, March 30 – The launch of The Elder Scrolls Online seems to have crept up on us, but when you actually get to start playing Bethesda’s first foray into MMOs depends on how exactly you purchased the game. There’s actually 3 release dates for the online title, and 15 launch times if you count different time zones around the world. So it’s worth making it clear when exactly you will be able to play.

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Virtual Reality gaming going multiplayer: Oculus and PS4 on deck – So you want to enter a virtual landscape where you can play any and all games in a holodeck-like situation, but you want to bring your buddies, too? The next generation of virtual reality gaming has your back. As we experienced at GDC 2014 and as is being re-confirmed again this week, the next wave isn’t all going to be about you escaping from the rest of the world – you aren’t going in alone!

Off Topic (Sort of):

TV on Twitter: Tweets get you to tune in and click through, study shows – If you’ve seen a TV-related tweet, say, about a show you might be interested in watching, 92 percent of you acted in response to that tweet—by searching for the show, following one of the actors on Twitter, or retweeting some interesting fact about the show. A third of users surveyed actually changed the channel to watch the show.

Judge to porn trolls: IP addresses aren’t people – Adult film company Malibu Media has sometimes been called a “porn troll,” or “copyright troll,” because it has sued hundreds of people for allegedly illegal downloads of pornographic movies that it owns. Malibu is believed to have filed over 1,000 such lawsuits. Last week, a federal judge in Florida threw one of those Malibu lawsuits out of court with some remarkable legal reasoning. Just two months after Malibu filed its case, US District Judge Ursula Ungaro tossed the lawsuit Malibu filed against the user at IP address 174.61.81.171. Ungaro said that there’s no proof Malibu is even in the right venue, since “[t]here is nothing that links the IP address location to the identity of the person actually downloading and viewing Plaintiff’s videos and establishing whether that person lives in this district.”

Security black market as mature as any other free market: Juniper – A new report from Juniper has found that the black market for security exploits is as sophisticated, reliable, and resilient as any other free market within the economy.

Zombie-inspired beer is brewed with actual brains – Zombies generally don’t crave a nice, cold beer… but if they did, it would be this one: Dock Street Brewing Company’s Walker. It’s got one heck of a kick, and it’s brewed with real brains. It’s got cranberries in it, too. I’m going to assume you’re not fixating on the cranberries, though. Let’s talk about the brains.

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Official ‘Star Trek’ beer lets you drink like a Klingon – Sharpen the bat’leth, a Klingon-inspired beer is coming to our little corner of the galaxy. Warnog gets the official “Star Trek” blessing and comes from Tin Man Brewing Company in Indiana in partnership with the Federation of Beer, a company that already released a product called Vulcan Ale. Vulcan Ale has only been available in Canada, meaning Klingon Warnog will be the first official “Trek” beer available in the US. It should fuel many a “Star Trek” drinking game where you have to take a sip every time Captain Kirk violates the Prime Directive, Spock says “Fascinating,” and Sulu takes the con.

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Facebook use during sex? Many seem to ‘like’ it – A full 5 percent of folks have checked Facebook during lovemaking, a new survey finds. I’m not sure if I should be disturbed or impressed by such an apparent mastery of multitasking.

Something to think about:

“Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”

–    Friedrich Nietzsche

Today’s Free Downloads:

Complete Internet Repair – With any repair utility, you will need to remember only two golden rules. Firstly; don’t try and repair something that is not broken, you might break it. Secondly; the utility can’t repair it all, we are not like the all-seeing and all-knowing Oracle, we cannot anticipate each and every situation, but this all said, this utility should be able to help with most situations. Rizone Complete Internet Repair is basically a combination of Internet Recovery KIT and Winsock Repair.

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HostsMan – Freeware application that lets you manage your Hosts file with ease. Features include online update of hosts file, enable/disable usage of hosts file, open Hosts file with one click, merge two hosts files, built-in hosts editor and more.

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Throughput Test – TamoSoft Throughput Test is a utility for testing the performance of a wireless or wired network. This utility continuously sends TCP and UDP data streams across your network and computes important metrics, such as upstream and downstream throughput values, packet loss, and round-trip time, and displays the results in both numeric and chart formats. TamoSoft Throughput Test supports both IPv4 and IPv6 connections and allows the user to evaluate network performance depending on the Quality of Service (QoS) settings.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

White House to propose law to end NSA bulk collection of phone data – Back in January, after receiving the recommendations of the panel he formed to examine the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, President Barack Obama said he wanted to end the NSA’s mass collection of Americans’ phone call records—without crippling its ability to conduct surveillance. The President gave the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence until March 28 to come up with a plan to make it happen. That date wasn’t just pulled out of the air—it’s also the date that the current Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order authorizing the collection program expires. Now, less than a week before the deadline, that plan is in the President’s hands. According to a report from the New York Times, the White House is getting ready to take the wraps off of a legislative package that will both eliminate NSA’s in-house phone call data store and create a new surveillance court to handle phone data requests. The new court would review requests for phone data directly from the phone companies, allowing records requests that go out two “hops” from a phone number of interest.

When gov’t spies fake your company’s website, what can be done? – A recent article by The Intercept showed how US and UK intelligence agencies have been impersonating the servers of companies like Facebook. In November, Der Spiegel noted that agencies created “bogus versions” of sites like Slashdot and LinkedIn to plant malware in targets’ machines. “We are not happy that our intellectual property is being used in that way,” LinkedIn’s general counsel told Wired when asked about the techniques. If whole-cloth copies of websites were used by competitors or scammers, they’d be—at a minimum—buried in lawsuits. But what, if anything, can companies do against government agencies about such impersonations? Turns out, there are avenues available to those who may be bold enough to use them.

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