Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – June 18, 2014

10 things you can do to make Android more secure;  U.K. allows British spies to intercept Google and Facebook traffic;  A free photo editor worth trying: Getting started with GIMP;  How to upgrade an old PC: No-brainer improvements anyone can do;  Microsoft patches antimalware engine vulnerability;  How to set up a smart garden for free;  Turn your webcam into a home security device with one app;  15 Chrome OS productivity apps that work offline;  Assassin’s Creed: Unity preview;  Quad HD vs. 1080p: A real-world display comparison;  Years of infosec education and users still click on anything;  New powerful banking malware called Dyreza emerges; FBI’s Twitter slang book goes public;  NSA Turned Germany Into Its Largest Listening Post in Europe;  Court: Terror suspect can’t get NSA evidence gathered against him.

U.K. allows British spies to intercept Google and Facebook traffic – British spies are authorized to spy on British citizens’ Internet communications transiting through servers outside the U.K., a civil rights group has discovered. Privacy International uncovered the information as part of a lawsuit it filed against the U.K. government over its alleged involvement in mass surveillance programs. It filed the suit with the U.K.’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a court that can investigate complaints about any alleged conduct by or on behalf of the intelligence services.

10 things you can do to make Android more secure – The fact that so many people are using Android suggests that more people will be targeting those devices to get at your data. So it’s crucial for you to practice safe Androiding. Otherwise, precious business data could be compromised. Fear not. There are several best practices and precautionary steps you can take to avoid a possible breach in mobile security. Here are 10 suggestions that will help ensure a more secure Android experience.

How to upgrade an old PC: No-brainer improvements anyone can do – Windows PCs slow down over time—that’s the popular wisdom, at least. Your PC’s hardware isn’t actually becoming slower, though. Startup programs, junk files, and even clumps of dust are just weighing it down. If you give your PC’s software and hardware a quick tune-up, it should run like it did the day you bought it. Inexpensive hardware upgrades can even make your PC run faster than it ever did.

The best portable hard drives: Our top picks are fast, light and spacious – Toss a portable hard drive in your laptop bag, and you can take everything with you. Most models are lightweight, and all but the SSD models offer terabytes of capacity. Here are eight great examples.

20 Siri tips that’ll make your life easier – There are so many ways Siri can make your life easier. But if you don’t know the proper commands, you might get a lot of unwanted sass. Here’s a growing list of tips and tricks that Siri a better personal assistant.

Chrome extension All Seeing Eye indexes all text in your Web history – In addition to the hugely helpful step of indexing all of the text of every page you visit in Chrome, All Seeing Eye captures a screenshot of each page you visit for a quick visual search of your Web history.


How to set up a smart garden for free – The price point of connected plant sensors diffuses the lure of the smart garden for many cost-conscious consumers. Yes, it would be cool if technology could give your plants a voice, make care recommendations, and send you reminders, but why would you want to pay $60 to $120 to monitor a houseplant that you only paid $10 for in the first place? Fortunately, you can set up a smart gardening system, complete with reminders and recommendations, and it doesn’t have to cost you a dime. Here’s how you can use the Internet to help you care for your plants for free.

A free photo editor worth trying: Getting started with GIMP – GIMP is a great open-source alternative to Photoshop if you’re not willing to spend the big bucks on Adobe’s software. Here are three common tasks you can accomplish with it.

Turn your webcam into a home security device with one app – If you’ve got a webcam lying around, you might be wondering what to do with it. Your computer probably has a pretty decent one you use as little as the webcam in the drawer, so that clip-on one is likely wasting away. A decent app, designed for home security, can breathe new life into your dusty old webcam. Called iCam, the app is available for both iOS and Android, and works well with OS X or Windows. For $4.99, you can get home security using the equipment you already have.


Using your phone to wake up rested in the morning – There’s an app by the name of “Sleep Cycle” that takes the prospect of waking up every morning completely refreshed and aims to make it a reality. All you need is a smartphone with an accelerometer to make it work – and you need the app too, of course, which will cost you a couple of bucks. We’re here to tell you that it’s worth the cash – based on our first few tries with the setup, that is to say.

Subscription eBook Service Oyster Comes to Android – Netflix’s massive success has freed many of us from buying video content one title at a time, but what about books? That’s where Oyster comes in. For a single monthly subscription fee, Oyster gives you access to unlimited books, and it’s out now on Android. So, it’s essentially Netflix for books.


15 Chrome OS productivity apps that work offline – Chromebooks are lightweight, inexpensive and efficient — in other words, great for business travel. But can these cloud-based laptops operate when you’re off Wi-Fi? Sure they can — here are 15 productivity apps that can work with you when you’re offline.

Virtru, A Secure Email App Built By An Ex-NSA Engineer, Raises $6M – Revelations about how the NSA tracks users online, the growth of malicious hacking and a general move towards people wanting more privacy in their online interactions have all contributed to a surge of apps that offer users ways to control how the content they create is used online. One of the latest of these services, Virtru, designed to work with cloud-based email services like Gmail and Yahoo Mail, is today announcing a round of $6 million that it will use to continue to build out its service.


Qplay Is An iPad App For Binge-Watching The Internet – While the seemingly infinite video options on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and elsewhere provide plenty of content, there’s definitely a “paradox of choice” effect when it’s time to pick the next thing to watch. Qplay is an iPad app that looks to reduce that stress of choice by turning videos from around the web into “Qs,” channels of content from your social feeds and around the web.


Apple releases OS X 10.10 and iOS 8 beta 2 – If you are running either of Apple’s next-generation operating systems, there is a new beta to download but you should do so with caution as these builds are not intended for production devices.

The 250 New Emoji? Here’s What They’ll Look Like – Yesterday afternoon, the Unicode Consortium published a list of 250 new Emoji that they hope Google, Apple, Twitter and the rest will all come to embrace. Spiders! Middle fingers! “Man in business suit levitating”! The problem? Except for a tiny handful of exceptions, the list of what’s to come was just a big pile of text. Now we have pictures!


Surface Pro 2 gets big price cuts ahead of Surface Pro 3 launch – With the Surface Pro 3 well on its way to a commercial release, it was only a matter of time before Microsoft sounded the death knell for the previous generation its tablets. The first part of that process has now started as Microsoft implements a substantial price cut of the Surface Pro 2 tablets across all available configurations.


LinkedIn-Owned Email Widget Rapportive Is About To Get Less Useful – All good things must come to an end. Rapportive, the fantastically helpful email widget which jazzed up your Gmail sidebar with rich contact information pulled from LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and more, is getting its first big revamp following its acquisition by LinkedIn in 2012. And frankly, it’s not all good news.

Facebook tries to stop Snapchat drain with Slingshot – The world’s largest social network today unveiled Slingshot, a mobile app that lets users share photos, videos or selfies with a group of friends instantly. Slingshot does not direct users to Facebook nor does it post the shared images or video on the site. The app is also an effort to take back those important younger users who have started paying more attention to Snapchat, a photo sharing application, that has been draining younger users away from Facebook.


Microsoft patches antimalware engine vulnerability – Microsoft has issued an update to all their antimalware products to fix a denial of service bug in the engine they share. The advisory describing the update and vulnerability says that the denial of service is invoked when the engine scans a specially-crafted file. Denial of service bugs are often considered less-serious, but with this one: “[a]n attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could prevent the Microsoft Malware Protection Engine from monitoring affected systems until the specially crafted file is manually removed and the service is restarted.” The advisory goes on to say that exploitation might cause the operating system or an application to become permanently unresponsive until manually restarted, or cause an application to quit unexpectedly.

Years of infosec education and users still click on anything – Security professionals despair: Users will run dodgy executables if they are paid as little as one cent. Even more would sign up to botnets if the price was increased to five or 10 cents. Offer a whole dollar and you’ll secure a herd of willing internet slaves. The demoralising findings come from a study lead by Nicolas Christin, research professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab which baited users with a benign executable sold to users under the guise of contributing to a (fictitious) study.

New powerful banking malware called Dyreza emerges – Security researchers said they’ve spotted a new type of banking malware that rivals the capabilities of the infamous Zeus malware. The malware, which is being called “Dyreza” or “Dyre,” uses a man-in-the-middle attack that lets the hackers intercept unencrypted web traffic while users mistakenly think they have a secure connection with their online banking site.

Researchers warn of preloaded spyware in Android handsets – Security firm G-Data is warning users about their discovery of malware shipping preinstalled on some Chinese mobile phones. The German researchers said that they followed up on customer tips to study the Star N9500 mobile phone. The handsets, sold on eBay and many other online retail sites, are said to primarily be shipped out of China, and can be loosely described as a clone of the Samsung Galaxy S4.

Hackers use YouTube to sell stolen credit card numbers, group says – YouTube has thousands of videos promoting compromised credit card numbers, with the site sometimes running advertisements for legitimate credit cards or retail outlets alongside the hacker videos, according to a new report from an online safety group.

Hostile state-sponsored hackers breached government network – Hackers under the control of a foreign government managed to gain access to the UK government’s secure network, it has been revealed. The hackers, described as a “state-sponsored hostile group” gained access to a system administrator account on the Government Secure Intranet, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has revealed. In a speech to a security conference Maude said the “recent” attack was discovered early “and dealt with to mitigate any damage”.

Company News:

Nokia paid millions of euros to software blackmailers – Nokia paid millions of euros to blackmailers in 2008 who threatened to publish the source code for its Symbian OS – but after it left the money in a parking lot, police lost track of the suspects.

Microsoft is on the hunt for home automation startups – Microsoft is opening up a new accelerator program in which it is looking to work with home automation startups at its campus in Redmond, Washington and is teaming up with American Family Insurance.

Third Party Android App Store Files EU Antitrust Complaint – Google has a good and a bad problem in Europe. It’s now facing new accusations of anti-competitive behaviour in mobile, (it’s separately being scrutinised for its dominance of online search). Aptoide — a Portuguese company that runs a third party apps marketplace — claims Google is abusing its dominant position to push users away from app stores that compete with Google Play. Yesterday it filed a complain with European Union regulators.

YouTube confirms it will remove indie labels’ videos for not signing up to new music service – YouTube confirms that, “in a matter of days”, it will remove videos from its site from artists such as Adele and Arctic Monkeys who haven’t agreed to its terms for its new music subscription service.

Nuance may be in sales talks with Samsung and others – Nuance, a company rich in advanced digital assistant and speech recognition technology but poor in profits, has reportedly been looking for a buyer, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Games and Entertainment:

Assassin’s Creed: Unity preview: Stealth stabbing sneaks into the French Revolution – This looks a lot like Assassin’s Creed II . It’s the only thought flitting through my brain as I watch this year’s awkwardly-clad assassin—seriously, doesn’t anyone think he stands out with his hood on?—leap down the wrought-iron-and-stone exterior of Notre Dame. Substitute Notre Dame for any of a dozen Roman or Florentine cathedrals, though, and you might not notice a huge difference between Assassin’s Creed: Unity and its earlier predecessors. After last year’s little tangent into Caribbean piracy, Assassin’s Creed has returned to its roots. This is the most “traditional” Assassin’s Creed game since 2011’s Revelations.


Microsoft offers new Deals with Gold savings of up to 80% on Xbox games – Microsoft’s latest Deals with Gold promotion is offering big savings of 50-80% on a range of Xbox One and 360 games and add-ons, including Tomb Raider, Red Dead Redemption, LA Noire, Bully and more.

The Best Android Digital Comic Book Apps – Yup, comics have gone digital. There are a ton of digital comic book apps in Android’s Google Play marketplace that let you read both classic and contemporary comics, but they’re aimed at different audiences. Some digital comic book apps feature integrated stores. Others are stand-alone readers that let you enjoy DRM-free comic files. A few others are publisher-exclusive apps for fans of a particular comic book house. In short, there are numerous ways to read comics on an Android tablet or smartphone—you just need to find the app (or apps) that works best for you.


New Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Trailer Tells the Story of Its Story – It’s short and splashy and won’t tell you any more about Kevin Spacey’s heavily hyped role in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, but Sledgehammer creative director Bret Robbins does clarify a few details about the futuristic arsenal you’ll be wielding in the game. That’s actually kind of important to understand for the following reason.


Sony Says PS4 “Wins” May, Game Sales Surge Across the Board – Monthly video game sales for May 2014 arrived late last night courtesy NPD Group, with the sales tracker noting — along with Sony, which deployed a beaming media email — that the PS4 was the best-selling games console for the fifth month in a row. Sony added that the Ps4 was numero uno for both hardware as well as “next gen” software sales, claiming four of the latter category’s top five slots. Numero two was not the Xbox One, but rather Nintendo’s 3DS (according to Nintendo).

Off Topic (Sort of):

Quad HD vs. 1080p: A real-world display comparison – Don’t get me wrong: I’ve got perfectly good vision. (With my contacts in, at least.) But smartphone manufacturers are now telling us we need super-high-res Quad HD screens on our mobile devices — and damn it, I can barely tell the difference between them and the already-impressive 1080p screens on smartphones today. So I must need some sort of special superhuman vision. Either that or, you know, we really don’t need these Quad HD displays after all.


And you know what? In most real-world use, the differences between the two are virtually impossible to detect.

FBI’s Twitter slang book goes public – The FBI, much like your grandma, wants to know what the kids are talking about on Twitter, and the myriad of abbreviations used can make that a bit difficult at times. To make sure everyone’s on the same page, it crafted a Twitter slang book, which has now been made public.

Man mistakes Blackberry for blackberry – A man went to the hospital after he swallowed a Blackberry mobile phone and it became lodged in his throat. Warning, the video is not for the squeamish, and bodily fluids are shown.


I stopped a ten million dollar robbery – “For various reasons, including my wife Claudia is slightly worried I could get killed, I am changing all of the names. All of the other details are intact.” A true story by James Altucher.

Meet “Spire”, The Wearable Breath Tracker That Calms You Down – “You haven’t taken a deep breath in 30 minutes”. This is the smartest thing a wearable has ever told me. Most fitness trackers just pump out near-meaningless numbers. But Spire could actually make you healthier, happier, and more productive. Just clip the subtle little stone-looking device to your belt or bra, and it measures and visualizes your breathing in real-time on its companion app. Spire can let you know if you’ve been sitting still too long or need to relax because your breaths are shallow. Today, Spire goes on pre-sale for $109. Soon, it could nudge you towards calm and focus like your own personal yoga master.


Something to think about:


Today’s Free Downloads:

iSpy – iSpy uses your webcams and microphones to detect and record movement or sound and provides security, surveillance, monitoring and alerting services. Any media that is captured is compressed to flash video and made available, securely over the web. iSpy can be setup to run on multiple computers simultaneously. iSpy is free, open-source software, so if you want it to do anything else, please download the source code and customise it to your requirements.

With iSpy you can:

Connect and monitor as many cameras and microphones as you like. Import and export object lists to share with colleagues.

Connect multiple computers in a group and manage over the web

Install iSpy Server and publish your webcam to other instances of iSpy, over your network and to the web

Detect, highlight, track and record movement

Detect loitering

Customise movement detection areas on your cameras

Detect and record sound

Run any program or send an email or SMS alert when movement or sound is detected

Run any program or send an email or SMS alert when movement or sound is not detected (monitor machinery or staff activity)

Receive email movement alerts with attached frame grab images from your webcams

Periodically receive image grabs via email from your webcams

Connect to any device, even webcams attached to other computers with JPEG, MJPEG, IP Cam, webcam and AVI file support

Watch live and recorded media over the web (through this website) and also via mobile devices

Access and control iSpy remotely

Password protect iSpy and hide it in the System Tray

Schedule sound and video capturing to start and stop automatically

Time-lapse record from any camera

Motion track and count moving objects

Connect multiple instances of iSpy and iSpy server running on different computers to this website and view all aggregated media online

Create groups, invite friends and share access to your webcams and microphones

Receive email alerts if your connection goes offline

Download the source code and customise it to your own requirements!



TeamViewer – Desktop sharing has never been easier: With TeamViewer you will be able to connect to the desktop of a partner anywhere on the Internet. This is the complete TeamViewer with install and uninstall support.

TeamViewer also works in the other direction: Show your own desktop to a partner over the Internet and illustrate your own developed software, presentations or solutions.


Remote Control without Installation:

With TeamViewer you can remotely control any PC anywhere on the Internet. No installation is required, just run the application on both sides and connect – even through tight firewalls.

Remote Presentation of Products, Solutions and Services:

The second TeamViewer mode allows you to present your desktop to a partner. Show your demos, products and presentations over the Internet within seconds – live from your screen.

File Transfer:

TeamViewer comes with integrated file transfer that allows you to copy files and folders from and to a remote partner – which also works behind firewalls

Works behind Firewalls:

The major difficulties in using remote control software are firewalls and blocked ports, as well as NAT routing for local IP addresses.

If you use TeamViewer you don’t have to worry about firewalls: TeamViewer will find a route to your partner.

Highest Security Standard:

TeamViewer is a very secure solution. The commercial TeamViewer versions feature completely secure data channels with key exchange and RC4 session encoding, the same security standard used by https/SSL.

No Installation Required:

To install TeamViewer no admin rights are required. Just run the software and off you go…

High Performance:

Optimized for connections over LANs AND the Internet, TeamViewer features automatic bandwidth-based quality selection for optimized use on any connection.

NOTE: Free for non-commercial use only.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA Turned Germany Into Its Largest Listening Post in Europe – The National Security Agency has turned Germany into its most important base of operations in Europe, according to a story published by Der Spiegel this week.

The German magazine reports that documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden “paint a picture of an all-powerful American intelligence agency that has developed an increasingly intimate relationship with Germany over the past 13 years while massively expanding its presence.” The magazine adds, “No other country in Europe plays host to a secret NSA surveillance architecture like the one in Germany…In 2007, the NSA claimed to have at least a dozen active collection sites in Germany.”

The story reveals that the NSA’s key facilities in Germany include Building 4009 at the “Storage Station” on Ludwig Wolker Street in Wiesbaden, which is in the southwest of the country. Officially known as the European Technical Center, the facility is the NSA’s “primary communications hub” in Europe, intercepting huge amounts of data and forwarding it to “NSAers, warfighters and foreign partners in Europe, Africa and the Middle East,” according to the documents.

Spiegel also reports that an even larger NSA facility is under construction three miles away, in the Clay Kaserne, which is a U.S. military complex. Called the Consolidated Intelligence Center, the facility will cost $124 million once it is completed, and will house data-monitoring specialists from the Storage Station.

Three Senators Decry The House’s NSA Bill, Citing “Watered Down” Reform – A trio of Senators wrote an op-ed for the LA Times calling for NSA reform and decrying the bill that passed the House recently as insufficient for the protection of the privacy of U.S. citizens.

The Senators, Rand Paul, Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, come from both parties. Senator Wyden is known as the senator that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to, regarding government surveillance.

The editorial is punchy, saying that “for years […] senior government officials claimed that domestic surveillance was narrow in focus and limited in scope. But in June 2013, Americans learned through leaked classified documents that these claims bore little resemblance to reality.”

The senators also mention a “loophole” in American law that allows the government to “read some Americans’ emails without ever getting a warrant.” This is likely a comment on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 that, somehow, still allows for the government to get its hands on email that is older than 180 days with a simple subpoena.

The group wants to ban bulk collection of “American’s private information,” fix the ECPA, and install an “advocate” in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Here’s How UK Spy Agencies Justify Snooping On Brits’ Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google  – Some new details about UK government thinking regarding mass surveillance of domestic Internet users have emerged today, in a witness statement made by Charles Blandford Farr, Director General of the UK Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism.

The statement was made in response to a legal challenge made by a group of privacy rights organisations, including Privacy International, Liberty, Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union. That challenge was made in the wake of revelations about the US Prism program, revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and the UK’s own Tempora data collection program.

In the witness statement, Farr reveals that UK spy agencies could legally justify the mass harvesting of UK Internet users’ Facebook missives, tweets, YouTube and Google searches because those type of communications can be defined as ‘external comms’ if the servers of the hosted content are located outside the UK.

External comms do not require a warrant to be intercepted under the UK’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), unlike internal comms which do require a warrant.

Which means that Brits using US-based Internet platforms should be aware that their communications could be subject to routine capture and scanning by domestic spy agencies — as a matter of course. Although Farr did not go so far as to confirm the existence of such a mass surveillance program, rather he was detailing how the UK government would be able to justify one, should such a program exist.

City of London Police Commissioner says TOR is ’90 per cent of the net’ – Of course he’s wrong: the TOR-using population is tiny – Yet again, someone who should know better is hyping up the size of the so-called “darkweb” to push a law enforcement case.

As reported by TorrentFreak, the remarks were made to the IP Enforcement Summit in London.

According to that report, among other things, Commissioner Adrian Leppard of City of London Police said: “Whether it’s Bitnet, The Tor – which is 90 per cent of the Internet – peer-to-peer sharing, or the streaming capability worldwide. At what point does civil society say that as well as the benefits that brings, this enables huge risk and threat to our society that we need to take action against?”

It’s a piece of silly scare-mongering, and would be laughable except that numbers like this are being used to shape public policy. As the TorrentFreak report states, Leppard believes counterfeit goods is a trillion-dollar market.

Court: Terror suspect can’t get NSA evidence gathered against him – The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has ruled against terrorism suspect Adel Daoud, saying that he and his attorneys cannot access the evidence gathered against him. The Monday ruling overturns an earlier lower district court ruling that had allowed Daoud and his lawyers to review the legality of digital surveillance warrants used against him.

In May 2012, Daoud, an American citizen, was arrested in Chicago after having orchestrated the bombing of a downtown bar. However, the bomb was a dud, provided by FBI handlers who encountered his postings online.

In a December 2012 session of the US Senate, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) cited Daoud’s case (although not by name) as an example (PDF) illustrating why her colleagues should support renewing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). That piece of legislation contains the controversial Section 702, which provides the legal authority that the National Security Agency uses as the basis for Prism and other surveillance and data collection programs.

When Daoud’s lawyers discovered that this case involved secret evidence that they had not been privy to, they eventually asked the court to notify them if any evidence gathered had been done so under a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) order. Under the normal procedures of American jurisprudence, a defendant has the right to see the evidence against him or her and can challenge the basis on which such a warrant was authorized.

The government responded with its own affidavit from Attorney General Eric Holder, who told the court that disclosing such material would harm national security.

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