Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – June 9, 2014

A ‘Nightmare Scenario:’ Vodafone Reveals Huge Global Snooping Program;  What Europe’s new ‘right to be forgotten’ online means;  Cable companies bankroll fake consumer groups to end net neutrality;  How to stream the World Cup;  6 Guaranteed Ways to Get More Followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+;  Six tips to get the best out of Skype;  Wrap Up Father’s Day With Gifts Under $50;  Locked out? Get back into Windows 8 by resetting your password;  Nostalgia break: Watch this ’90s PC booting up;  You should know about this malware exploit before buying a Smart TV;  10 streaming films perfect for summer;  Missing Pieces: Wrapping up the week’s must-know gaming news;  The 10 Most Anticipated Games at E3 2014;  Google Is Making it Harder for the NSA to Grab Its Data;  Woman charged with wiretapping for filming cops wins $57,000 payout.

A ‘Nightmare Scenario:’ Vodafone Reveals Huge Global Snooping Program – Just a day after the first anniversary of Edward Snowden’s watershed surveillance leaks, the world’s second-largest mobile phone company has announced that numerous government agencies have direct and open access to the conversations of its 381 million customers across the globe. Privacy advocates are calling it a “nightmare scenario.” U.K. civil liberties advocate Shami Chakrabarti said to the Guardian that the fact that governments were able to “access phone calls at the flick of a switch” created a situation that was “unprecedented and terrifying.” Vodafone said it intends to call for an end to “direct access to an operator’s communications infrastructure without a lawful mandate.”

Jimmy Wales Blasts Europe’s “Right To Be Forgotten” Ruling As A “Terrible Danger” – Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has spoken out against a controversial ruling by the European Court of Justice that requires Google to consider information removal requests from individuals whose data its search engine has indexed. In comments emailed to TechCrunch, Wales described the ruling as censorship of knowledge — pure and simple. “In the case of truthful, non-defamatory information obtained legally, I think there is no possibility of any defensible ‘right’ to censor what other people are saying,” he said. He also warned the ruling may make it more difficult to make “real progress on privacy issues.” (Now why would I be convinced by someone like Wales who has an equity interest in the outcome? Wales is not a guardian of the public interest by any measurement.)

What Europe’s new ‘right to be forgotten’ online means – Can you really be forgotten on the Internet? The European Union (EU) believes so, and recently ordered Google, Bing, and Yahoo to make it happen. The court’s decision could fundamentally remake search engines, impact journalism and lead to all manner of thorny issues related to censorship, privacy, and the public’s right to know. To make sense of the right-to-be-forgotten issue—including how it potentially impacts Web users—here’s a look at some questions you may have about the European court’s decision.

Cable companies bankroll fake consumer groups to end net neutrality – Cable companies that stand to benefit the most from an end to net neutrality have been bankrolling so-called “consumer advocacy” groups that aim to kill it. Such non-profits like Broadband for America and the American Consumer Institute (ACI), both of which claim to be “independent consumer advocacy groups” and have been fighting against classifying ISPs as a utility (a move that would make it easier to enact net neutrality rules in the future), have been shown to be heavily funded by the cable industry.

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How Apple wants you to feel inadequate – If you don’t have a “verse” and you don’t have fitness “goals,” you are not a real, modern human being. At least that’s what Apple’s latest ads are telling you.

Chromebooks Get Offline Support for Google Play Movies, TV – Good news, Chromebook users. You can now watch movies and TV shows from Google Play offline. The Web giant this week rolled out an update for its Play Movies and TV Chrome App, bringing support for offline playback. This means you’ll now be able to download movies and TV shows to your device, and watch them any time, even when you don’t have a Wi-Fi connection.

Six tips to get the best out of Skype – If you have been using Skype for some time, you might have missed some of the new features that have been introduced in recent releases. Here are six cool things you can do with Skype to improve your experience.

How Steam in-home streaming can turn your old laptop or Windows tablet into a PC gaming force – The new in-home streaming feature Valve recently introduced in its blockbuster Steam gaming platform can turn any laptop into a full-fledged gaming machine—even older notebooks with ho-hum power, or Linux or OS X machines or Windows 8 tablets. It’s all done by streaming games from your primary gaming PC to any computer in your house in OnLive-like fashion, but Steam’s in-home streaming only works on your home network—and it’s dead simple to set up. Here’s how to start playing all sorts of modern games—Wolfenstein? Watch Dogs? Transistor? Why not!—on your clunker of a computer.

Wrap Up Father’s Day With Gifts Under $50 – Whether your dad is putting together his own PC or is still trying to send a text with his smartphone, there are tech gifts that he’s sure to love. Perhaps a gadget to improve that summer cookout and cold beer? Or some tech to help him get through the work day (personalized animated GIF, anyone?). No matter what he’s doing, we have gifts that will be a big help – and maybe help cut the cable bill (If you’re not his favorite child after that, we don’t know what to tell you.)

6 Guaranteed Ways to Get More Followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ – Follower count is often considered one of the vainest of vanity metrics. I can relate. I’ve had my fair share of ego tied to that golden number on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn—pointing out my follower growth to a friend one day and archiving emails just as fast as I could when growth doesn’t come. Still, despite the vanity, there is value in follower count. While it seems like a smug number to chase, followers have a proportional impact on how far and wide your message spreads and the volume of how you convert.

Locked out? Get back into Windows 8 by resetting your password – A forgotten Windows password isn’t the end of the world. You don’t have to trash the computer, or even perform a dreaded factory restore. There are many ways to remove or reset a Windows password, but how quickly and easily it can be done depends on the situation.

Leak suggests Google will soon unveil Nearby location tracking service – According to a report from Android Police, the company’s next big Play Services update will include a new feature called Nearby. Apparently, it will enable you to connect with people, places, and things (the definition of a noun!) near you. You’ll be able to set actions around any of these criteria through Google Now, too.

Google Now can tell you to get off buses and trains at your stop – The option to set the alarm appears when the app knows you are on public transport and where your destination is. Tapping the alarm sets it to notify you shortly before you reach the most appropriate stop on your route for where you are headed. The app can even work out approximately when you should arrive at the stop so the alarms sound with a decent amount of accuracy. The feature will be available in all of the countries where Google Now is aware of the public transport networks including the US, UK and most European countries.

Turn any browser tab into a basic text editor – If you’re looking for a quick-and-dirty way to take notes on your PC, you can’t beat using your browser. No, I’m not talking about online tools like Google Keep, Word Online, or any other text-editing Web app. An easier way to turn your browser into a note-taking machine is to use a little snippet of HTML code that creates an offline notepad in your browser. Coding, you might ask with a shiver? Don’t worry, it’s beyond simple to use. Sorry, Internet Explorer fans, your browser of choice won’t play nice with this piece of HTML.

How to stream the World Cup – People all over the world are preparing for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The tournament is set to begin on June 12 in Brazil and will run through the middle of July. In the United States, all 64 matches will be broadcast live in English on ABC, ESPN, and ESPN 2, and in Portuguese on ESPN Deportes. To find out what network will broadcast the tournament in your country, I recommend checking out the website LiveSoccer. As for those of us in the United States, there are a few different options for streaming the games when you are out and about.

Nostalgia break: Watch this ’90s PC booting up – Were you computing in the early 1990s? This relic turning on will send you on a sentimental trip down computer memory lane.

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For the best sound quality, does the format really matter? – High-resolution audio is frequently touted as the best possible way to experience music. Maybe, but I also think that standard resolution CDs and 320 MP3s, ALAC, and FLAC files can sound good, really good. Before we dive into the numbers I want to make the point that sound quality is first determined by the quality of the gear used to record, mix and master music, and perhaps even more important, the skill and artistry of the engineers.

Security:

You should know about this malware exploit before buying a Smart TV – A new exploit in Smart TVs has been discovered, which affects various smart TVs and allows a would-be hacker to potentially exploit your entire system. The threat lasts as long as you use an affected app, but once the malware is placed, the app itself is compromised. Called a “Red Button Attack”, the vulnerability is already widespread in Europe, and could be working its way to the US and other territories.

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We “will be paying no ransom,” vows town hit by Cryptowall ransom malware – The town manager of a hamlet in south eastern New Hampshire has defied demands that he pay a ransom to recover police department computer files taken hostage by Cryptowall, a newer piece of malware that encrypts hard drive contents of infected machines until victims pay for them to be decrypted. “Make no mistake, the Town of Durham will be paying no ransom,” Town Manager Todd Selig was quoted as saying by CBS Boston news. Police department computers for the town of almost 15,000 residents were reportedly infected Thursday after an officer opened what appeared to be a legitimate file attachment to an e-mail. By Friday morning, widespread “issues” were hitting the department computer network. It was shut down by noon that day to prevent the infection from spreading to other systems.

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XPocalypse, not now – Two months after Microsoft ended support for Windows XP, the catastrophic wave of exploits security experts expected to wash over the aged operating system have failed to materialize.

What data breaches teach us about the future of malware: Your own data could dupe you – When a eBay suffered a massive data breach a few weeks ago, most of the attention revolved around the compromise of passwords and the vulnerabilities in the site’s security. While those are legitimate concerns, they obscure the most glaringly weak link in the security chain: people. Indeed, it was not a sophisticated exploit that facilitated the eBay breach, but an old-fashioned con. It’s been determined that as many as 100 eBay employees were likely victims of a social engineering scheme: an attack where the perpetrators arm themselves with enough information to pass themselves off as a known and trusted individual or organization and convince the victim to reveal valuable personal information—in the case of the eBay employees, their logins.

KnowBe4 backs its training with a crypto-ransom guarantee – KnowBe4, a company that offers security awareness training, is so confident it can teach users to protect themselves, it’s offering to pay the ransom if a customer falls victim to a ransomware scheme. It may be more of a publicity stunt than anything else, but the guarantee is nothing to scoff at. It is a simple truth that users are the weakest link in the security chain, and it makes sense that an investment in security awareness training should yield as much or more benefit than an equal investment in yet another layer of defense—a layer that can be easily bypassed by preying on human nature and tricking the user into doing something they shouldn’t.

Company News:

Uber claims $17 billion valuation, a new record for tech startups – Following a new $1.2 billion round of funding, the smartphone-fueled car service Uber announced Friday that it now has an estimated valuation of $17 billion, believed to be a new record for tech startups. By comparison, publicly traded companies like Best Buy, Twitter, and Yahoo have market capitalizations of $10 billion, $19 billion, and $36 billion, respectively. Uber, which began four years ago in San Francisco as a black car service, has gone through rapid growth.

Microsoft stock price hits 52-week high, suggests market approves of Nadella – The stock market is a finicky beast. While daily movements in share price often defy conventional logic, broader trends are generally representative of the confidence that the markets have in an organization. With that in mind, Microsoft’s stock has hit a 52-week high today at $41.66, suggesting that Wall Street appears to approve of Nadella’s direction for the company.

Google unseats Microsoft as the U.S. browser powerhouse – Google has unseated rival Microsoft as the leading browser maker in the U.S. for the first time, Adobe said this week, citing data from its analytics platform. For April, Google accounted for 31.8% of all browser usage in the United States. Meanwhile, Microsoft owned a 30.9% share.

Games and Entertainment:

10 streaming films perfect for summer: Just add popcorn – School is out and summer is finally here, that time when popcorn blockbusters and irreverent comedies reflect a general sense of lightness and freedom in the air. Even Netflix and Hulu are in the mood for summer, introducing a series of refreshing movies for your lazy viewing pleasure.

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El Dorado (1967)   ★★★★☆

The 10 Most Anticipated Games at E3 2014 – These aren’t necessarily the most interesting or biggest games at E3, though. These are the games we know about. A half dozen press conferences into the show could signal a slew of completely new titles ready to catch peoples’ attention. Heck, Mortal Kombat X was only announced this week, and it’s on our list. Which is a great reason to read all of our E3 coverage through the next week as we look for the biggest upcoming games, both known and unknown.

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Try out Super Smash Bros Wii U in select Best Buy stores next week – Best Buy’s website currently has a special page dedicated to showing everyone the dates, times, and locations that Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros Wii U will be available. Like last time, there will be two dates the games will be available, so if you’re not around on June 11, you can try on June 14.

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Record-Holding Video Game Collection Goes to Auction Block – Any gamers out there with a hefty amount of cash to spare? Michael Thommason, the current Guinness Book of World Records holder for the “World’s Largest Video Game Collection,” has officially put all the titles in his collection up for auction. If you’re curious just what it takes to achieve that milestone — and just how many games you’ll be getting if you win the GameGavel auction — Thommason puts his total count somewhere north of 11,000 titles.

Missing Pieces: Wrapping up the week’s must-know gaming news – This is it—the last week before E3. The “calm before the storm” was a lie. Instead, we had a ton of trailers and announcements this week, as publishers try to get out ahead of the E3 news onslaught. Mortal Kombat X, Forza Horizon 2, The Witcher 3, Lord of the Rings—we’ve got them all here.

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Is that zombie game good for your moral compass? – A new kind of computer game lets players kill, or help, each other, giving gamers a mirror to examine their morals.

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A moment of decision in DayZ.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Watch Microsoft’s smart home of the future, from 1999 – The video, created in 1999, shows how the company was imagining a smart home of the future back then. In 1999 most of us were thinking about Ross and Rachel from Friends, Y2K and how much better our new 56 kbps dial-up modem was going to be for internet porn. But Microsoft was thinking about the future, a future in which the internet and smart devices would be ubiquitous and they’d all come together into a smart home.

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CIA joins Twitter, gets a few laughs with its first tweet – Think of the CIA, and the first things that come to mind probably aren’t especially flattering towards it. The Central Intelligence Agency has been at the centre of numerous controversies over the years – from extraordinary rendition to intelligence failures, and allegations of human rights violations. As part of its continuing efforts to improve how Americans, and those in other countries, see the CIA, the agency has now joined Twitter – and its first tweet was just about perfect.

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Let’s Talk About Sex Baby, Because The Internet – A global survey of thousands of parents showed that over 80% of them blamed the internet for teaching their kids about sexuality before they did. Most parents are now talking to their kids at an average of around age 10 about sex and relationships before the internet does, according to the survey. That’s a full five years younger than the previous generation. Nearly half of all parents report never even having had the sex talk with their own parents when they were growing up.

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Woman charged with wiretapping for filming cops wins $57,000 payout: Settlement follows appeals court declaring “First Amendment” right to record – A local New Hampshire police department agreed Thursday to pay a woman who was arrested and charged with wiretapping $57,000 to settle her civil rights lawsuit. The deal comes a week after a federal appeals court ruled that the public has a “First Amendment” right to film cops.

Productivity And The Education Delusion – There is a constant tension about education in labor economics these days. On one hand, education is strongly correlated with income and employability. Workers with college degrees, or even just some university-level courses, are significantly more likely to have a job and to be paid better, as well. This is borne out by today’s U.S. jobs report, which showed a decrease of unemployment for college graduates, but an increase of unemployment for high school graduates.

Apple uses Windows on Mac Pro production line – Anyone who purchases a Mac Pro can do so knowing they are supporting manufacturing on US soil. And Apple is also very happy to remind us of this fact, with Tim Cook recently visiting the Austin, Texas manufacturing facility where the Pro is put together. The photo Cook tweeted of himself at the facility revealed something Apple will be less than happy to share with the world. Manufacturing the Mac Pro involves the use of the Windows operating system.

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2015 Corvette Z06 hits 650HP: Sets GM record – Chevrolet’s 2015 Corvette Z06 was always going to be powerful, but the upcoming supercar has had its 6.2L V8 supercharged LT4 engine officially rated, and it’s mustering a massive 650 horsepower. The car was expected to deliver in excess of 625HP, Chevrolet said back in January when it took the wraps off the coupe, but has comfortably exceeded that.

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Something to think about:

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

–    Mencken

Today’s Free Downloads:

Windows Firewall Notifier – Windows Firewall Notifier extends the default Windows embedded firewall behavior, allowing to handle outgoing connections.

This application only uses existing Windows features, enabling some of them when first launched:

Enables the Windows embedded firewall

Sets the firewall to block both inbound and outbound connections for which no rule exists

Enables the default Windows firewall inbound connection notification

Enables the Windows firewall outbound connections logging (disabled by default)

Creates a scheduled task linked to the Windows firewall event log entries, allowing Windows Firewall

Notifier to be launched when needed only

Once enabled (after a first launch), the application will show a notification balloon when an application attempts an outgoing connexion while not being allowed to do so. A click on the notification will display a dialog box, allowing the user to:

temporary allow the application

create a rule for the application, so that it will always be able to connect

block the application once only, after what other notifications may (will) appear

always block the application (no notification will therefore be displayed afterwards)

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Wise Care 365 – Wise Care 365 is a bundle of important tools including a registry cleaner, disk cleaner, program uninstaller, memory optimizer and more.

Easy to use and effective, Wise Care 365 is the good solution to improve your PC’s performance. Get Wise Care 365 and your computer will never run slow again!

Features:

Clean up, defragment and optimize the Windows Registry

Defragment and free up space on your hard disk

Protect your privacy by erasing personal tracking data

Recover lost files

Hide important files or folders

Prevent unauthorized use of personal applications

Auto shut down your PC

Free up Memory to boost game and enterprise software performance

Simple “One Click Tune-up” option will optimize your PC

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

One year after Snowden, phone giants’ privacy policies are laughable at best – If you didn’t laugh, you’d probably cry – It’s been one year to the day since we first learned about PRISM, the surveillance program authorized under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, which allows targeted acquisitions of your Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo data — among others.

Known internally as the “702 Program” by senators and congresspeople alike, the highly-controversial program relies on two methods of data acquisition: from the ISP or Internet company level, as well as “Upstream” data from high-level internet infrastructure. This works in conjunction with the U.K. government’s “Tempora” program, which helps the U.S. National Security Agency collect data in Europe and further afield.

That relies on the telecom giants. Which phone giants? We don’t know, because the U.S. government is holding those secret “relationships” — which are not entirely consensual on the corporate level — close to its chest.

Co-operation with the U.S. and U.K. government is mandatory under telecom regulations and law on both sides of the Atlantic. But the language of these companies’ privacy policies are not — repeat not — governed by law.

In fact the irony is that despite the disclosures, and many of these companies being thrown under the bus by the Snowden leaks, they are still, in some cases one year after the fact, still promoting peace, love, happiness, and above all else — privacy.

Which in itself is a loose term.

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Image via Washington Post; Guardian

Encouraging Words of Regret From Dean Baquet and Weasel Words From James Clapper – NPR’s David Folkenflik has a revealing new look at what I have long believed is one of the most important journalistic stories of the last decade: The New York Times‘ 2004 decision, at the behest of George W. Bush himself, to suppress for 15 months (through Bush’s re-election) its reporters’ discovery that the NSA was illegally eavesdropping on Americans without warrants. Folkenflik’s NPR story confirms what has long been clear: The only reason the Times eventually published that article was because one of its reporters, James Risen, had become so frustrated that he wrote a book that was about to break the story, leaving the paper with no choice (Risen’s co-reporter, Eric Lichtblau, is quoted this way: “‘He had a gun to their head,’ Lichtblau told Frontline. ‘They are really being forced to reconsider: The paper is going to look pretty bad’ if Risen’s book disclosed the wiretapping program before the Times“).

As Folkenflik notes, this episode was one significant reason Edward Snowden purposely excluded the Times from his massive trove of documents. In an interview with Folkenflik, the paper’s new executive editor, Dean Baquet, describes the paper’s exclusion from the Snowden story as “really painful.” But, as I documented in my book and in recent interviews, Baquet has his own checkered history in suppressing plainly newsworthy stories at the government’s request, including a particularly inexcusable 2007 decision, when he was the managing editor of The Los Angeles Times, to kill a story based on AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein’s revelations that the NSA had built secret rooms at AT&T to siphon massive amounts of domestic telephone traffic.

How an FBI informant orchestrated the Stratfor hack – Sitting inside a medium-security federal prison in Kentucky, Jeremy Hammond looks defiant and frustrated.

“[The FBI] could’ve stopped me,” he told the Daily Dot last month at the Federal Correctional Institution, Manchester. “They could’ve. They knew about it. They could’ve stopped dozens of sites I was breaking into.”

Hammond is currently serving the remainder of a 10-year prison sentence in part for his role in one of the most high-profile cyberattacks of the early 21st century. His 2011 breach of Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (Stratfor) left tens of thousands of Americans vulnerable to identity theft and irrevocably damaged the Texas-based intelligence firm’s global reputation. He was also indicted for his role in the June 2011 hack of an Arizona state law enforcement agency’s computer servers.

There’s no question of his guilt: Hammond, 29, admittedly hacked into Stratfor’s network and exfiltrated an estimated 60,000 credit card numbers and associated data and millions of emails, information that was later shared with the whistleblower organization WikiLeaks and the hacker collective Anonymous.

Sealed court documents obtained by the Daily Dot and Motherboard, however, reveal that the attack was instigated and orchestrated not by Hammond, but by an informant, with the full knowledge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (recommended by Aseem S.)

Google Is Making it Harder for the NSA to Grab Its Data – Google is stepping up its technological arms race against National Security Agency surveillance as Silicon Valley firms aim to make it more difficult and expensive for spy agencies to monitor their users’ communications.

The search giant is laying a fiber optic cable under the world’s oceans, a highly expensive task but one that will it allow it to better protect its customers’ data, reports the New York Times. The company is also encrypting more of its information to make it more secure.

Some technology companies have cooperated with the NSA’s requests for information, while others claim to not have known about certain NSA snooping activities. But the NSA revelations leaked by Edward Snowden have pushed Silicon Valley away from cooperating with the NSA on intelligence gathering, instead creating privacy-based competition among companies.

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