Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – May 13, 2014

NSA Allegedly Intercepts Shipments of Servers To Install Spying Backdoors;  When Tech Support calls youHow to better secure your Twitter account;  CyberGhost VPN (free),  What can I do to fight online stalking?  Top apps to keep your iPhone, iPad private and secure;  11 Amazing Amateur Aerial Drone Videos (Including 5 Big Crashes);  Bruce Schneier: Internet Subversion;  Microsoft extends Windows 8.1 update requirement by 30 days;  How to share your Steam gaming library with friends and family;  PCLinuxOS, hands-on: The Linux with something for everyone;  Pinterest starts displaying ads;  Linux gets fix for code-execution flaw;  Sign up for Square Cash, get $1 free;  European Court: Google Must Amend Some Results.

NSA Allegedly Intercepts Shipments of Servers To Install Spying Backdoors – Today in a published excerpt of his forthcoming book, No Place to Hide, Glenn Greenwald reports, citing documents from 2010, that the NSA intercepts routers and servers being shipped from the United States overseas and compromises them. The document that the revelation is based on, according to Greenwald, will be released tomorrow. Backdooring American technology not only dramatically undercuts its potential attractiveness to potential foreign purchasers, but also represents an almost comical hypocrisy given that the U.S. government has repeatedly fretted that China could be compromising technology from local firms such as Huawei.

When Tech Support calls you – Out of the blue, someone calls and tells you your computer is infected or has a problem. Maybe they claim to be from Microsoft. Here’s what you should do.

How to better secure your Twitter account – Have you ever had your Twitter account hacked? Did you find it unexpectedly spewing out claims that you had lost weight following a miracle diet, malicious links to phishing sites, or even over-run by mischievous hackers like the Syrian Electronic Army? If so, it’s time to learn about how to better secure your Twitter account. Here’s my quick guide.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Top apps to keep your iPhone, iPad private and secure – What are some of the best apps on the market to keep your iPhone and iPad safe, secure, and able to be located?

Microsoft extends Windows 8.1 update requirement by 30 days – Users who haven’t installed the first major update to Windows 8.1 now have an additional 30 days to do so, or they will no longer receive updates for the operating system. Those who don’t install the update will run the risk of exposing themselves to security issues, as Microsoft will no longer provide updates of any sort, including security improvements, to earlier versions of Windows 8.1 after June 10.

This Is Motorola’s $129, No-Contract Smartphone – In its brief life as a division of Google, Motorola has been trying that approach. Its Moto X is a pretty serious Android smartphone for $350; the Moto G is a more basic one for $200. Both those prices are without a contract or other strings. Now the company—which Google has agreed to sell to Lenovo, though the deal isn’t yet done—is filling out its line with the Moto E. The new model sells for a rock-bottom, contract-free list price of $129, which means you could buy five of them for less than the price of one unsubsidized Samsung Galaxy S5.

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Twitter adds a way to “mute” posts that users don’t want to see – Twitter has officially added a new feature that will let users “mute” posts that they receive from other accounts, although those muted users can still see, reply and retweet posts.

How to share your Steam gaming library with friends and family – Valve offers thousands of new and old games from hundreds of big name and independent publishers in one convenient place, its Steam digital distribution platform. The company frequently has promotions and sales that offer up hit games for cheaper than anywhere else on the Web. It’s because of these sales that people like me have built vast gaming libraries with hundreds of titles. Thanks to Valve’s new sharing features, which the company unveiled last September, you can now share these games with friends and family members.

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PCLinuxOS, hands-on: The Linux with something for everyone – With MiniMe, LXDE, MATE, KDE and Full Monty versions, there’s a size and style for everyone in this distribution family.

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Sign up for Square Cash, get $1 free – In an effort to boost usage, Square is offering anyone who enters an email address on its website a dollar. Requiring some of your personal information in exchange for the dollar doesn’t mean it’s totally free, but at least the company is paying you instead of a data warehouse. After entering your email address, you’ll receive a message for Square explaining how Cash works, along with directions detailing how to claim your money.

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Microsoft Office for iPad bags 27M downloads in short order – Speaking at the Microsoft’s TechEd conference, Julia White, general manager of the Office division, said the number of downloads for the top 10 countries as has reached 27 million, up from the 12 million figure announced on April 3. That’s an impressive number, considering the apps have been available for about a month and a half (that comes to an average daily download rate of about 587,000). Microsoft Word is the most popular free Office app on the iPad and is now ahead of Google Docs.

Pinterest starts displaying ads from Gap, Target, Kraft, and more – Pinterest has been planning to earn some money and the social network’s users started seeing the byproduct of those efforts on Monday. The virtual pinboard has followed examples set by Facebook and Twitter and introduced advertising into its fray. The company announced Monday that the ads come in the form of “promoted pins,” which are sponsored by brands like Kraft, Target, Gap, General Mills, Nestle, Lululemon Athletica, and more.

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This Is How iPad Multitasking Should Look – Even after Jony Ive took the helm of the entire user experience at Apple and redesigned iOS, multitasking has remained an area that leaves us wanting. But a new jailbreak tweak that brings all the brilliance of OS X multitasking may be just the ticket. After jailbreaking your iPad and installing the “OS Experience” tweak from Cydia, you’ll be able to run two apps simultaneously on the same screen, side by side, as well as moving apps between various desktops by simply dragging them around.

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FireChat hopes to tame trolls with make-your-own chat rooms – On Monday, FireChat rolled out an update for iOS and Android that lets you create your own room. If Nearby and Global are both overrun with weirdos, you can make a room for your neighborhood or your favorite TV show. If you get bored, you can jump back and forth between rooms, all while remaining entirely anonymous.

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ReShare App Offers International News Articles Translated Into 11 Languages – ReShare is targeted at news junkies who are tired of relying on Google Translate to read articles from foreign-language publications. Instead, the app offers articles translated into 11 languages by humans. The iOS and Android app was created by Conyac, a crowdsourcing translation platform. ReShare has translated news articles available in 11 languages: Japanese, English, Chinese (traditional and simplified), Indonesian, Spanish, Polish, Russian, French, Vietnamese, Brazilian Portuguese, Korean and Italian. All stories are picked, translated, and uploaded to the app by the translators, says Conyac founder Naoki Yamada.

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No HTML experience necessary to build responsive apps with RapidMoon – Designers who hate to write code, and developers who would rather stick with HTML, JavaScript, APIs, and CSS3 and not worry much about design should check out RapidMoon.

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European Court: Google Must Amend Some Results – A European court has ruled that Google must amend some search results at the request of ordinary people when they show links to outdated, irrelevant information, in an important test of the so-called “right to be forgotten.”

Security:

Windows XP users can slash risks by dumping IE – By switching to a non-Microsoft browser, Windows XP users can halve the number of vulnerabilities that apply to the OS, according to a survey of flaws Microsoft fixed in the second half of 2013.

The latest iPhone lock screen bypass, and how to stop it – iOS 7 has brought some cool new features to Apple’s mobile operating system, but it has also introduced its fair share of embarrassing and unwelcome security holes. Now, it appears that an iPhone lock screen flaw has been found in iOS 7.1.1, the latest version of the operating system, which can allow someone to reach the Contacts of an iPhone without unlocking the device.

What can I do to fight online stalking? – After his family was stalked and abused using commercially available data, a ZDNet reader emailed Violet Blue to ask what he can do to fight the problem.

Linux gets fix for code-execution flaw that was undetected since 2009 – Maintainers of the Linux kernel have patched one of the more serious security bugs to be disclosed in the open source operating system in recent months. The five-year-old code-execution hole leaves computers used in shared Web hosting services particularly vulnerable, so users and administrators should make sure systems are running updated versions that contain a fix.

Bitly hackers stole user credentials from offsite database backup – Bitly has shed a little more light on the serious security breach it suffered last week. As you may recall, the URL-shortening service announced last week that it believed the account credentials of Bitly users could have fallen into the hands of hackers, but it fell short of answering how it determined customer privacy had been breached, how securely passwords had been stored, or – indeed – what had actually gone wrong. Now some of those questions are being answered.

Company News:

AT&T may buy DirecTV for $50 billion – AT&T could close a deal to buy DirecTV for roughly $50 billion in as little as two weeks, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. The purchase would allow AT&T to expand its television footprint in the US, an attractive move for the telecommunications company. Like its competitors, AT&T continues to compete with cable companies for customers who want bundled services for TV, broadband, wireless, and home phone. DirecTV is the No. 2 satellite TV provider, with 20 million subscribers. AT&T U-Verse TV, the company’s digital TV service, has 5.7 million customers.

GM: Your car’s 4G data plan will start at $10 for 200MB – The vehicle data plans represent a potentially lucrative new business for GM. The automaker hopes connected cars will generate additional service revenue, augmenting its traditional core automotive sales and its separate OnStar monitoring and assistance service. An LTE connection could potentially give it an edge over competitors and increase customer loyalty.

Why would Apple buy Beats? – The rumor that Apple may buy Beats, the fast growing audio accessories firm, has excited a lot of negative comment, based partly on race. But it makes good sense from multiple Apple exec perspectives. Here’s why.

A painful blow to the tablet market, Morgan Stanley slashes growth estimates – It’s not quite a “death sentence for the tablet market”, but it’s glory days may be over — if the latest research proves true. Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty said in a research note on Sunday that the investment giant is lowing its tablet growth forecast by more than half — from 26 percent to 12 percent — for 2014. The reason? Mostly due to the “lack of new, differentiated products,” she wrote. Although the slowdown in tablet growth might help the ailing PC market, its global PC market estimates remain unchanged, down by 5 percent this year and the year after. It’s not surprising. The signs have been there for a while — not least Apple’s dismal iPad figures for the second quarter.

Time Warner in talks to acquire FullScreen video network – Online YouTube video network FullScreen is reportedly of interest to Time Warner as the company seeks ever-increasing audience scope and sizes for its advertizers.

Games and Entertainment:

Soon-to-launch Hellraid: The Escape promises effective handheld horror – Launching on the App Store this week, it comes from a publisher that knows a thing or two about bigger-budget thrills—Techland, the makers of Dead Island and the upcoming Dying Light for PC and consoles—and serves as an iPad and iPhone prequel of sorts to next year’s Hellraid, a cooperative multiplayer action game for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.

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Nvidia Shield Gets Half-Life 2 And Portal As Valve Classics Get Their Android Moment – Nvidia’s Shield mobile gaming console has two powerful new titles under its belt today – Half-Life 2 and Portal, both from celebrated developer turned platform creator Valve, and both appearing for the first time on Android. Nvidia worked on these ports with the guidance and blessing of Valve, so they’re understandably exclusive to the graphics company’s unique Shield gaming handset for now, but earlier announcements suggested Portal at least might make it to other Android devices eventually, so the Shield-less can hold out hope.

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Bungie helping to keep Halo PC multiplayer up and running past GameSpy shutdown – A programmer from Bungie is helping to create an update for the Halo PC port that will allow its users to continue to play online past May 31st, when its GameSpy server is expected to shut down.

‘Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition’ coming Aug. 19 for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3 – Xbox One and PlayStation 4 owners will soon be able to join their Xbox 360 and PS3 counterparts in playing “Diablo III,” with some new content added in for good measure. Today, Blizzard Entertainment announced “Diablo III Reaper of Souls: Ultimate Evil Edition” will be out on Aug. 19 for Microsoft and Sony’s two currently supported home console systems.

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EA to nix online support for Crysis and more – EA has revealed plans to retire a slew of older games, cutting online support at various points over the course of the year for Crysis for PC, some Battlefield games, a few Need for Speeds, and more. Lords of Ultima was given the axe today.

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Titanfall Expedition DLC Gameplay trailer and details unveiled – The first DLC for Titanfall has been revealed in full, and today we’re having a peek at gameplay within its three new maps. This game will include a barrage of updates in the coming days and weeks for all players, while this map set will include 3 maps only available to those who purchase the DLC.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

11 Amazing Amateur Aerial Drone Videos (Including 5 Big Crashes) – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (aka drones) are no longer just the weapons of choice for armies looking to blow-up their enemies from halfway around the planet. Nor are they the unapproachable technologies used by billionaire CEOs as part of their grandiose plans to reshape civilization. In fact, these increasingly affordable and progressively sophisticated tools are being tapped by average folks in a number of ways. Notably, amateur aerial videography.

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Perfect Match: Brazilian Kids Learn English by Video Chatting With Lonely Elderly Americans – It’s such a great, simple idea: Young Brazilians want to learn English. Elderly Americans living in retirement homes just want someone to talk to. Why not connect them? FCB Brazil did just that with its “Speaking Exchange” project for CNA language schools. As seen in the touching case study below, the young Brazilians and older Americans connect via Web chats, and they not only begin to share a language—they develop relationships that enrich both sides culturally and emotionally. (The Internet at it’s finest.)

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Self-healing plastic can patch 1-inch holes in minutes – The key to this new self-healing material is in its circulatory system — a network of tiny channels just 330 micrometers wide carry two different fluids. When the material is damaged, these channels are ruptured, causing the liquids to flow into the fissure and mix. This results in a chemical reaction that forms a semi-solid gel, patching the hole like clotting blood. The layer is permeable, which allows more of the fluids to seep in until the damage is completely filled. A few minutes later, the gel hardens into a solid piece of plastic, thus patching the hole.

Ban killer Robocops before it’s too late, rights groups say – Serve the public trust, protect the innocent, uphold the law. Those were RoboCop’s directives in the 1987 film about a cyborg police officer who would shoot bad guys while quipping “Your move, creep.” But as science fiction inches closer to fact in the 21st century, rights groups are warning that armed police robots will threaten human rights instead of protect them. Governments must impose a preemptive ban on fully autonomous weapons before it’s too late, even though they don’t yet exist, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Harvard Law School said in a report released Monday.

This animated short about the future will make you cringe – Watch “Johnny Express,” a hilarious, tragic little film about an ill-fated delivery guy from quite a few decades down the line.

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Samsung dominates phone market, now making drugs – Samsung, the market leader in Android-based mobile phones, is branching out into the pharmaceutical market by investing over $2 billion (with a B) into drugs that are no longer patented.

Something to think about:

“It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.”

–    Abraham Lincoln

Today’s Free Downloads:

CyberGhost VPN – CyberGhost is an important tool for protecting your privacy. CyberGhost VPN replaces the externally visible IP address, which users have received from their provider when they dial up to connect to the Internet, with a CyberGhost VPN IP address. The CyberGhost user shares this IP address with a number of other users. This procedure ensures that the CyberGhost VPN IP address should not be assigned to one particular CyberGhost VPN user.

Communication between the CyberGhost VPN user’s computer and the anonymization servers is also particularly well protected to prevent any eavesdropping on data transfers. This protection is set up in 2 steps when establishing the connection. 1024-bit SSL encryption is used when establishing the connection. In this case, a 128-bit AES key is negotiated, which is unique for each connection. The actual communication takes place via this AES key.

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SyncDroid – Free Android Backup & Restore tool that makes a secure backup of everything on your device including contacts, photos, bookmarks and more.

Losing or breaking your phone doesn’t mean you have to lose all your data. SyncDroid is a free Android Backup & Restore tool that makes a secure backup of all the following items in the device, so you can easily restore them to any Android device whenever you like.

• SMS, Contacts, Call Logs

• Audio & Video

• Camera/SD Card Photos

• Browser Bookmark

Limitations:

Some limitations exist with photo and bookmark backup.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Bruce Schneier: Internet Subversion – In addition to turning the Internet into a worldwide surveillance platform, the NSA has surreptitiously weakened the products, protocols, and standards we all use to protect ourselves. By doing so, it has destroyed the trust that underlies the Internet. We need that trust back.

Trust is inherently social. It is personal, relative, situational, and fluid. It is not uniquely human, but it is the underpinning of everything we have accomplished as a species. We trust other people, but we also trust organizations and processes. The psychology is complex, but when we trust a technology, we basically believe that it will work as intended.

This is how we technologists trusted the security of the Internet. We didn’t have any illusions that the Internet was secure, or that governments, criminals, hackers, and others couldn’t break into systems and networks if they were sufficiently skilled and motivated. We didn’t trust that the programmers were perfect, that the code was bug-free, or even that our crypto math was unbreakable. We knew that Internet security was an arms race, and the attackers had most of the advantages.

What we trusted was that the technologies would stand or fall on their own merits.

We now know that trust was misplaced. Through cooperation, bribery, threats, and compulsion, the NSA — and the United Kingdom’s GCHQ — forced companies to weaken the security of their products and services, then lie about it to their customers.

Intelligence employees, current and past, barred from citing news leaks – The Obama administration is barring current employees and contractors, as well as former workers at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from addressing leaked media material.

The revelation of the edict, first disclosed by Secrecy News, means that those working for the agency that supervises the nation’s 17 spy organizations cannot mention any leaked material in speeches, opinion pieces, research papers, or books. It does not even matter whether the material is classified, according to the edict from the office run by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence.

Citing leaked material is prohibited, according to the new “pre-publication review policy,” (PDF) because it “can confirm the validity of an unauthorized disclosure and cause further harm to national security.”

The gag order comes amid repeated media disclosures based on leaked documents from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Machines of Loving Grace: I’d rather risk becoming a terrorist’s victim than live under a surveillance state – That the United States will suffer another major terrorist attack is certain. In the long run, determined, intelligent malice, coupled with the willingness to sacrifice one’s own life in the act, must now and then trump our defenses, which remain merely reactive. To be sure, proactive measures (such as drone strikes and commando operations) may prevent certain terrorist operations. All the same, we can only see and foresee so much. A lone-wolf suicide bomber retains the advantage.

It follows that any rational policymaker would wish to know as much as possible about as many people as possible. A perfect extension of this aim would entail constant passive surveillance of everyone on Earth, with the capability of making that surveillance active and then employing lethal force as needed. As a Richard Brautigan poem has it, we would be “all watched over by machines of loving grace.”

I myself would rather risk becoming a terrorist’s victim than live under any such system.

NOT LONG AGO, THANKS TO A REQUEST MADE under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), I learned that I had been a suspect in the Unabomber case. You see, I had written a historical novel called Fathers and Crows, and the Unabomber’s moniker was FC. That book, by the way, exemplified my “anti-growth and anti-progress” themes, according to the (redacted) copy of my FBI file, because it was about 17th-century Iroquois. Even worse, “regarding airline-related targets, VOLLMANN’S extensive travel (beginning at age 5) would presumably cause interaction with airline industry.”

In fact, some cursory investigation of my activities might not have been unreasonable. To carry out my journalistic work I have visited war zones, drug lords, and so-called “rogue states.” But the snoopers were more interested in my “anti-progress” themes.

My file, which I wrote about in detail for Harper’s, indicates that the FBI surveilled and perhaps burgled my home. After the Unabomber was brought to justice, I became a suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks, in part because I had been a former Unabomber suspect. Your tax dollars at work! (suggested by Aseem S.)

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