Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – June 11, 2014

One-click test finds Gameover Zeus infections on PCs;  Control your climate with these smart devices;  Three new software freebies worth checking out; Tech icons: 10 biographies worth reading;  Android Antivirus Protection Even Better After Latest Round of Testing;  Backup and Recovery options for Your iPhone or iPad;  Adobe updates Flash, fixes several vulnerabilities;  SwiftKey’s Predictive Keyboard App Switches From Paid To Freemium;  Redmond patches 66 flaws on Patch Tuesday;  Google’s URL-hiding ‘origin chip’ is ‘backburnered’; Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.0 Is Here;  Personal data for Twitter founders leaked on Tor network;  Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba plans US debut; GTA V finally comes to PC;  Maps: 15 apps that take you beyond Google and Apple.

Enough with the cyber ‘wake-up calls’ – We already know information security is in dire shape, so let’s get on with fixing it — because we do know how.

Android Antivirus Protection Even Better After Latest Round of Testing – Security company AV-Test has released its latest snapshot of Android security, after subjecting 30 popular security apps to a battery of tests. These tests are a great way to see how antivirus apps for Android are really performing. This round of testing saw several new arrivals, including Baidu Mobile Security, G-Protector Anti Virus Utility, Trustlook Antivirus, VisualThreat ThreatCert, and White Gate AntiVirus.

One-click test finds Gameover Zeus infections on PCs – Users can test by simply visiting a Web page if their computers have been infected with Gameover Zeus, a sophisticated online banking Trojan that law enforcement officers temporarily disrupted last week. The one-click test was developed by security researchers from antivirus vendor F-Secure and takes advantage of the malware’s aggressive URL matching algorithm. (Shown below – quick test results on my personal PC.)

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Three new software freebies worth checking out – For a total cost of zero, you can score basic tools for editing video, ripping DVDs, and migrating to a new PC. Plus: two bonus deals!

17 Spotify Tricks That Will Make You a Streaming Samurai – When it comes to technology, my 60-something-year-old father maintains a lingering skepticism of newfangled beep-boop digital doodads. With one notable exception: Spotify. And why not? Spotify’s a magical, minimalist piece of software that beams all the world’s recorded music (well, nearly all the world’s recorded music) directly to his computer. For free!

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Google’s Chromecast: Holding market share, losing viewers – Google’s $35 streaming-video TV dongle is holding its market position but usage is dropping, according to data from Parks Associates.

Maps: 15 apps that take you beyond Google and Apple – Whether you’re walking a trail, searching for food halfway across the world, or exploring a new city, there are tons of great mapping apps beyond just Google Maps or Apple Maps.

Control your climate with these smart devices – Looking for a more intelligent way to keep your home comfortable this summer? We’ve got the gadgets and appliances you’re going to want to dial in on.

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How to use PushBullet to send notifications from your Android phone to a computer – This free app lets you leave your phone in your pocket or bag, and check on notifications and messages just by glancing at your desktop display. It shoots all notifications and alerts right to my desktop browser. It’s similar to apps like AirDroid, since it wirelessly tethers your Android device to your computer, and it’s not just limited to notifications. You can use the app to reply to emails, as well as transfer images, contact cards, to-do lists, and a variety of other of other file types back and forth between your computer and your Android device. It’s simple to set up, too.

Bankable Backup and Recovery options for Your iPhone or iPad – There are plenty of different ways to prepare for an iOS disaster, each with its own merits. Here are some of the most bankable backup methods – each applicable to Windows and OSX – to ensure the important data on your iPhone or iPad is always at the ready, even in the event of a catastrophe.

Ringly Lets You Know Who’s Calling By The Buzz Of Your Finger – Ringly is a truly wearable fashion technology in the form of finger jewelry. This high-tech ring actually buzzes and lights up when you get a phone call or text or even when someone likes your Instagram.

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Chrome extension provides easy button to close overlay pop-ups – If you use Chrome, the BehindTheOverlay extension can help you in your battle against overlay pop-ups. The extension simply installs a button to the right of Chrome’s URL bar that you can click to close an overlay that you encounter. BehindTheOverlay just works; it does not require you to sign up for an account or restart Chrome.

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Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

1Password for Android is here, does justice to its namesake – One of the best password managers around is now available for Android. 1Password, long an iOS mainstay, has a brand new Android app. Full featured and comparable to the iOS version, 1Password for Android is free to use until August.

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Windows 8.1 users: Install the spring update or you will no longer receive patches – It has been one month since Microsoft extended the update requirement for Windows 8.1 and starting today users who haven’t updated to the “Spring” update will stop receiving support.

SwiftKey’s Predictive Keyboard App Switches From Paid To Freemium – SwiftKey, the startup that makes the popular eponymous Android word-predicting keyboard software which last year pulled in $17.5 million in funding from Index and Accel – is switching its consumer keyboard app from a $3.99 paid download to free. The full machine learning keyboard technology, which adapts to its users’ use of language so it can better predict their next likely words, is now free, with additional customization options offered as in-app purchases to pay for the switch. So SwiftKey is basically going freemium.

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Amazon Now Lets You Buy Any Kindle On A Payment Plan Without A Credit Check – Those interested in buying an Amazon Kindle e-reader or tablet can now pay in a series of five equal monthly payments instead of one lump sum at checkout. According to the promotion page, this payment plan doesn’t require a credit check and doesn’t add anything to the price of the gadget, making it a pretty sweet deal for those on a budget looking to pick up a device.

Gamers to Microsoft: We don’t need no stinking ecosystem in our living room – While customers have bought into the increasingly blurred lines between the desktop, tablet, and mobile, Microsoft and its Xbox One console have quickly learned that the living room can be much more unforgiving.

“Digital deadly sins” project calls out porn, Instagram vanity, stalking – The Guardian has unveiled a new project that aims to get a sense for how people feel about—and commit—modern technological transgressions. Digital Deadly Sins, which launched Monday, gives a variety of examples of questionable online and tech-related behaviors, from monitoring your kids’ activity on Facebook to keeping a secret e-mail account. The behaviors are divided up among the traditional “seven deadly sins” of lust, sloth, greed, wrath, gluttony, envy, and pride. While not all the sins fit very neatly into every category—”Wikipedia is my library” goes under sloth—some, like “illegal downloading” under greed, are spot-on.

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Security:

Redmond patches 66 flaws on Patch Tuesday – Microsoft has released updates for critical flaws in Word, Office, and Internet Explorer, along with firmware updates for its Surface 2 tablet line. Redmond said that the June edition of Patch Tuesday would address a total of 66 common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVE)–class vulns, most of them in Internet Explorer. In total, the IE bulletin addresses 59 flaws, an unusually large patch load considering Microsoft’s monthly update cycle. The update, which applies to all versions of Internet Explorer 8 through 11, includes fixes for remote code execution and elevation of privilege flaws in the browser.

Adobe updates Flash, fixes several vulnerabilities – Adobe has issued an update to Flash Player on Windows, Mac, Linux and Android. The bugs affect versions 13.0.0.214 and earlier for Windows and Macintosh and versions 11.2.202.359 and earlier for Linux. The new version for Windows and Mac is 14.0.0.125. Adobe did not say what else may have changed, given the new major version number. The new Linux version is 11.2.202.378.

Security-focused Blackphones launch in three weeks, designed to lock down data – Encrypted communications provider Silent Circle and manufacturer Geeksphone introduced the Blackphone earlier this year to give users a way around data collection by governments and private companies. The $629 device, made by a Swiss joint venture called SGP Technologies SA, runs a custom Android-based OS and was designed from the ground up to prevent hacking. It will offer secure and private voice and video calls, text messaging and file exchanges, as well as anonymous Internet use, the companies say.

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Google’s URL-hiding ‘origin chip’ is ‘backburnered’ – Google has “backburnered” a controversial feature that would have hidden full details of web addresses from Chrome users. The feature was called “origin chip” and, as we explained a few weeks back it removed all the characters beyond the top-level-domain from Chrome’s Omnibox, as you can see below.

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The hackers behind those iPhone ransom attacks have been arrested in Russia – Russian authorities arrested a man and a teenaged boy from Moscow under suspicion that they compromised Apple ID accounts and used Apple’s Find My iPhone service to hold iOS devices for ransom. The two allegedly compromised email accounts and used phishing pages and social engineering techniques to gain access to Apple ID accounts. They are then accused of using the Find My Phone feature to lock the associated devices and send messages to the owners threatening to delete data unless the ransom was paid.

Personal data for Twitter founders leaked on Tor network – The names, addresses, and SSNs for Twitter founders and CEO are published to the “hidden” Internet, possibly in retaliation for account suspensions.

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Company News:

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba plans US debut – Following the announcement of what may potentially be the largest IPO in tech company history, Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba has announced that they will expand operations outside of China with a US debut which is coming soon. Alibaba plans to debut under the name 11main.com, which, while not currently available to the public, boasts an email field for early invites and a shortlist of news outlets which have mentioned the site. They intend to provide early access to customers and retailers by invitation only, with a full release later on.

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Amazon Said To Start Selling Babysitting And Other Home Services Later This Year – Amazon wants to be your one-stop shop for everything – including trades and services, according to a new report by Reuters. The company is looking at debuting sales of things like babysitting, handymen services, painters, haircuts, home repair and more. The move would extend Amazon’s range of competitors to sites like Angie’s List and Craigslist.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.0 Is Here, Guarantees 10 Years Of Support – Red Hat released version 7.0 of their Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) flagship operating system today. It boasts Windows interoperability, a new default file system, Docker containerization and guarantees 10 years of support across any future major or minor releases. In an effort to provide more stability for its customer base, Mark Coggin, senior director of marketing at Red Hat, says they have guaranteed that they will support this release for 10 years. Coggin says this is a serious commitment to customers by Red Hat and means providing bug fixes, security releases and updates for the 10 years.

Apple’s slice of the enterprise market has doubled in three years – Those Windows XP boxes may still be whirring away in the forgotten corners, but Apple’s slice of the enterprise market has doubled across the last three years, JAMF Software reports.

Google Confirms Purchase Of Satellite Startup Skybox Imaging For $500M – Google is today confirming that it has purchased Skybox Imaging, the satellite startup that we reported it was close to acquiring last month. The price is somewhat lower than we had heard it would be: $500 million rather than close to the $1 billion our sources had told us.

Games and Entertainment:

GTA V finally comes to PC; pre-orders start today – After such a long time waiting, it’s almost incredible that Grand Theft Auto V is finally coming to PC, alongside the Xbox One and PS4. Pre-orders will begin later today from the Rockstar Games site.

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Mario Maker Lets You Build Your Own Levels For The Greatest Platformer  And Tweak Graphics – Nintendo debuted Mario Maker at its E3 special digital event, which allows you to build your own courses for the famous plumber to navigate. You can build the courses on your Wii U, and paint using tiles and objects you’ll remember if you’ve played the series at all, including bricks, enemies and pipes, and you can render them in either 8-bit or New Super Mario Bros. U-style 3D graphics.

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Sony game streaming service PlayStation Now hits open beta on July 31 in US and Canada – Games, on every platform, are getting bigger. With some games hitting a 50GB install on consoles, Sony is looking to push its PlayStation Now game streaming platform to its PS consoles.

DOOM 4 teaser trailer ignites E3 2014 – There’s a teaser trailer now for DOOM (or DOOM 4), a game that might not appear before the end of the year is up. This teaser trailer teases to no end, giving some hints about storyline and not one whole heck of a lot else. It does look fantastic, of course – and it proves again that DOOM does, indeed, exist.

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Fantastic Indie Puzzler VVVVVV Is Coming To iOS And Android This Thursday – If you haven’t gotten around to playing through VVVVVV in all of its wonderfully frustrating indie puzzler glory, first of all: shame! Second: You’ll be able to play it on your phone soon, so now you have no excuse.

Halo Master Chief Collection available for pre-order; tops Amazon charts – The new Halo Master Chief collection is now available for pre-order on Amazon where in less than a day it took the number one spot. The pack includes HD remakes of Halo 1-4, and beta access to Halo 5

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Speed through your day with this (legal) white powder – To stay stimulated on the cheap, a powdered product made for adults lets caffeine fiends keep their energy levels high without the high cost. Just don’t go snorting it. Touted as the “world’s first non-bitter caffeine in a handy shaker bottle,” CaffeinAll is a white powder (insert your blow jokes here) that you shake on food or mix up with a beverage. It costs about 9 cents per dose and each bottle contains roughly 200 doses (one dose roughly equals the caffeine in one cup of coffee).

U.K. – Here are 63 million reasons why politicians need to take technology seriously – Few of our elected representative understand the importance of technology. That’s a big problem for us – and them. I’m not suggesting every MP should want to code their own app, but we need them to understand that the impact of new technology on society is significant and important; that our elected appointees have a responsibility to engage in and lead the debate here in order to benefit all 63 million of us. There are also massive questions about state surveillance, the right to be forgotten, the future skills mix in this country, and more that won’t be answered by politicians who laughingly dismiss boffins and techies.

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The Houses of Parliament were built in the mid-nineteenth century; some politicians haven’t updated their attitudes towards technology since then. Image: Shutterstock

Male faces may have evolved to take a punch – That square jawline isn’t just there to make menfolk ruggedly handsome, according to a new study from evolutionary biologists at the University of Utah. The heavier bones of the face may actually have developed in males to protect them from the flying fists of other males who were seeking the same mates. The past was a rough place, apparently. The so-called “protective buttressing hypothesis” is not new, but this study provides more evidence for it gathered from the fossil record and fistfights in modern times.

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A fast look at Swift, Apple’s new programming language – While we haven’t yet produced any Swift code, we have read the entire language guide and looked at the code samples Apple provided. What follows is our first take on the language itself, along with some ideas about what Apple hopes to accomplish.

Check out Google’s Street Art project for graffiti around the world – If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if someone aimed to collect all the street art they could, all around the world, with the power of a major tech company at their back – your wondering days are over. Today Google has let it be known that they’re launching their Street Art Project. This is a project based in Maps and Google Earth that shows off the whole world’s graffiti.

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Chimps outsmart humans at simple strategy game – When it comes to simple strategy games, chimpanzees consistently outperform humans at tasks that involve short-term memory and predicting opponents’ moves.

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Tech icons: 10 biographies worth reading – Whether you read them on a tablet, an e-reader, or the dead tree version, here are 10 biographies that sketch the rise of the tech industry.

Something to think about:

“Politicians and diapers should be changed often, and for the same reason.”

–     Bumper Sticker (unknown origin)

Today’s Free Downloads:

Mozilla Thunderbird – Thunderbird makes emailing safer, faster and easier than ever before with the industry´s best implementations of features such as intelligent spam filters, a built-in spell checker, extension support, and much more.

We designed Thunderbird from the ground up to boost users´ productivity. That´s why we´ve made it easier for you to simply get your work done, without the hassles of wading through advertisements and other junk mail. Emailing should be efficient and convenient. We make that possible using fully open and industry leading standards. Read on to find out more about the reasons why you should use Thunderbird as your mail and news client.

Smartest Way to Stop Junk Mail – Thunderbird provides the most effective tools for detecting junk mail. Our tools analyze your e-mail, and identifies those that are most likely to be junk. You can automatically have your junk mail deleted or you can put in a folder you specify, just in case you like reading junk mail.

Your Mail, Your Way – View your e-mail the way you want it. Access your e-mail with Thunderbird´s new three-column view. Customize your toolbar, change its look with themes, and use Mail Views to quickly sort through your e-mail.

Safe and Secure – Thunderbird provides enterprise and government grade security features such as S/MIME, digital signing, message encryption, support for certificates and security devices.

Thunderbird gives you IMAP/POP support, support for HTML mail, labels, quick search, smart addressbook, return receipts, advanced message filtering, LDAP address completion, import tools, powerful search, and the ability to manage multiple e-mail and newsgroup accounts.

Unlimited Features – Thunderbird lets you add additional features as you need them through extensions. Extensions are a powerful tool to help you build a mail client that meets your specific needs.

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Tor Browser Bundle – Protect your privacy. Defend yourself against network surveillance and traffic analysis.

The Tor software protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location, and it lets you access sites which are blocked.

The Tor Browser Bundle lets you use Tor on Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux without needing to install any software. It can run off a USB flash drive, comes with a pre-configured web browser to protect your anonymity, and is self-contained.

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SyMenu – SyMenu allows you to manage portable applications resident on a removable drive. SyMenu can be installed in pen drives, external USB disks, memory cards and even CDs and DVDs.

Moreover SyMenu can automatically link any application residing on host pc. Any linked item (SyItem) can be organized in a hierarchical structure with colorful folders and found with the internal search tool.

You can customize SyMenu, adding links to portable programs, documents, Windows commands, folders and urls. Linked items can reside on the same USB device or even on host since SyMenu supports absolute path (such as C:\Windows\Explorer.exe).

Features:

Start Search bar: (Windows Vista like) allows to quickly search amongst any SyItem configured on menu;

Windows Start Menu wrapper: SyMenu exposes through Start Search bar every program linked in host PC Windows Start menu too;

Extension Manager: allows to temporarly replace normal Windows extension associations with SyMenu custom extension association;

Autoexec: allows to launch a custom list of SyItems at SyMenu startup or closing.

Execution modes: Run, RunAs, Open folder and Show Properties.

Batch Import: allows to make massive imports of new SyItems.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Former Vice President Al Gore Declines To Call Edward Snowden A Traitor – Speaking at the Southland Conference, former Vice President Al Gore declined to call former NSA contractor Edward Snowden a traitor for leaking tens of thousands of secret government documents to journalists.

In response to the question “Is Edward Snowden a traitor?” Gore dismissed the dichotomy, not putting him into the category of being a traitor or not. Continuing, Gore noted that Snowden “clearly violated the law,” but also pointed out that his revelations have shown “violations of the United States’ Constitution that were way more serious than the crimes that he committed.”

Gore’s stature at home and abroad makes his unwillingness to call Snowden a traitor notable. Also, his implication that the NSA has violated the Constitution is something to chew on.

Snowden provided an “important service,” according to Gore.

Current government members have endeavored to paint Snowden as not merely a traitor, but also possibly an agent of a foreign power. New head of the NSA Admiral Michael Rogers recently stated that Snowden is “probably not” a foreign spy, but that admission comes at the end of a parade of insinuations. Gore’s comments, coming after the Admiral’s, underscore what Snowden’s supporters have been arguing for a year now: That he leaked of his own accord, and that the revelations that have come from those leaks have been productive on a national level.

Ars tests Internet surveillance—by spying on an NPR reporter – On a bright April morning in Menlo Park, California, I became an Internet spy.

This was easier than it sounds because I had a willing target. I had partnered with National Public Radio (NPR) tech correspondent Steve Henn for an experiment in Internet surveillance. For one week, while Henn researched a story, he allowed himself to be watched—acting as a stand-in, in effect, for everyone who uses Internet-connected devices. How much of our lives do we really reveal simply by going online?

Henn let me into his Silicon Valley home and ushered me into his office with a cup of coffee. Waiting for me there was the key tool of my new trade: a metal-and-plastic box that resembled nothing more threatening than an unlabeled Wi-Fi router. This was the PwnPlug R2, a piece of professional penetration testing gear designed by Pwnie Express CTO Dave Porcello and his team and on loan to us for this project.

Enlarge / NPR’s Steve Henn in his home office and studio, with the Pwnie Express PwnPlug R2 that collected his Internet traffic for a week.

The box would soon sink its teeth into the Internet traffic from Henn’s home computer and smartphone, silently gobbling up every morsel of data and spitting it surreptitiously out of Henn’s home network for our later analysis. With its help, we would create a pint-sized version of the Internet surveillance infrastructure used by the National Security Agency. Henn would serve as a proxy for Internet users, Porcello would become our one-man equivalent of the NSA’s Special Source Operations department, and I would become Henn’s personal NSA analyst.

EFF asks Supreme Court to rule on secret surveillance memo – The Electronic Frontier Foundation has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in its effort to obtain a copy of a secret government memo authorizing the FBI to collect phone records.

The EFF, a digital rights group, on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to decide whether a January 2010 U.S. Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel [OLC] opinion, apparently allowing the FBI to informally collect phone records from telecom carriers without further legal authority, should be made public.

The OLC opinion “establishes the scope of the executive branch’s authority to obtain private communications records without legal process or a qualifying emergency, despite apparent statutory prohibitions to the contrary,” EFF’s lawyers wrote in their request to the Supreme Court.

The FBI’s informal telephone records requests, revealed in a 2010 report by the DOJ’s Office of Inspector General, is separate from the U.S. National Security Agency’s controversial telephone records collection program revealed in leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The OLC opinion appears to rely on legal authority that is different than that used by the NSA program, which cites the Patriot Act, said Mark Rumold, an EFF staff attorney.”In fact, we can’t say with 100 percent certainty what statute the [FBI] collection authority is based on, because they’ve kept that secret,” he said by email.

A DOJ spokesman declined to comment on the EFF’s Supreme Court request.

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