Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 1, 2014

FBI, CIA Join NSA In “Backdoor” Searches On Americans;  Two Senators Upbraid The Intelligence Community For Insufficient Disclosure;  10 critical security habits you should be doing (but aren’t);  Court Allowed NSA To Spy On All But 4 Countries;  Apple ships security fixes for iOS, OS X, Safari … basically EVERYTHING;  Download and simulate Android TV now;  Don’t let storage ruin your vacation;  Windows 8 update brings back the desktop;  Five apps that give back for Android, iOS;  Active malware operation let attackers sabotage US energy industry;  Maximize your Wi-Fi;  10 Free iPhone Apps Everyone Should Download;  4 password mistakes small companies make and how to avoid them.

Secret loopholes drive NSA’s ‘unrestrained surveillance’ on Americans – Thanks to a three-decade-old executive order, researchers say, Fourth Amendment protections against warrantless domestic surveillance may not be as strong as first thought. Secret loopholes exist that allow the National Security Agency to bypass Fourth Amendment protections to conduct massive domestic surveillance on US citizens, according to leading legal academics. A research paper released Monday by academics at Harvard University and Boston University details how the US government can “conduct largely unrestrained surveillance on Americans by collecting their network traffic abroad,” despite constitutional protections against warrantless searches.

10 critical security habits you should be doing (but aren’t) – Good news: There’s a lot that regular PC users can do to protect themselves against the worst of the worst. But bad news: Most of us don’t bother. Giving your digital life a thorough security overhaul is easier than you’d think. Here are 10 critical security measures you should be doing right now—go ahead, do it!

4 password mistakes small companies make and how to avoid them – When it comes to IT security very small businesses and micro-enterprises are in a tight spot. We’ve compiled a list of four common password mistakes – if you can avoid them then you’ll have put your security on a stronger footing.

First Windows, now Office is being banned by China’s government – China is not a friendly region for Microsoft at the moment and the country is now starting to ban the use of Office 365 inside some organizations which follows a ban on Windows 8 too.

Windows 8 update brings back the desktop – There’s a new Windows 8 update coming your way this year which is said to bring a real return back to a more “classic” desktop environment. With Windows 8, the launch of the “Modern UI” was made ready for touch screens, appearing to many to ditch the original work environment. Microsoft has clearly seen the light and felt the complaints of workers around the world – Threshold will alleviate. This update will be device-specific, of course, launching features as defaults depending on what sort of machine you’re working with. Tablets will retain the Modern UI while desktop machines will have the option of keeping the Modern UI to a minimum.

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Windows Threshold: The modern UI takes a backseat for desktop users – Microsoft is working on its next major Windows update, Threshold, and we have some new details about the direction that the company is taking with its next major update to the OS. It’s important to note that we are still in the early stages of Threshold and that anything and everything is subject to change. But from what we have been able to gather, Microsoft is once again listening to all the complaints that said ‘let me turn off the Modern UI’.

Maximize your Wi-Fi – If you’re dealing with slow connection speeds or frequent drop-outs, your router is likely the root of the problem. So to help you dial in the best settings for your Wi-Fi router, Eric Franklin will tell you how to access your router settings and what changes will make an impact.

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Download and simulate Android TV now – This week Google has activated the SDK (Software Development Kit) for Android TV for developers. While you’ll likely be a developer wanting to activate this build, anyone can choose to take a peek at Android TV at their leisure, developer or not.

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Don’t let storage ruin your vacation – I did an awesome drive on the trans-Canada highway from Calgary to Vancouver Canada, and I was awed by the natural beauty there. I took hundreds of pictures and videos using my trusty smartphone. As I was in the middle of capturing my walk along a beautiful trail leading to a spectacular waterfall, the camera app suddenly stopped. I found that I had run out of storage.

Google Glass faces country-wide cinema ban in UK – Did you buy Google Glass? If you did, and live in the UK, you’ll have to shelve it should you want to visit the cinema. A newly placed ban on the heads-up wearable means that nearly 4,000 screens in 750 theatres across the UK won’t take to your Glass-wearing ways. The ban comes days after Google released their wearable for users across the pond.

Yik Yak, the Hyperlocal Gossip App, Raises $10M and Unsettling Questions – Yik Yak, a hyperlocal gossip-sharing app, has received $10 million in venture capital to help spread the gossip at college campuses across the globe. Yik Yak allows users to anonymously post messages to a local “bulletin board,” which is visible to anyone within a 1.5 mile radius of the sender. But the app has also sent rumor mills spinning dangerously out of control. One Connecticut high school temporarily suspended classes as Yik Yak’s local message board was flooded with venomous posts. “Nobody is taking H. to prom because nobody has a forklift,” read one such message, according to a student’s personal account in New York Magazine. Two schools in Chicago have sent letters urging parents to stop their children from downloading the app.

Forget.me Puts Out Early Data On What Europeans Want To Vanish From Google – An online service called Forget.me, launched last week to quickly capitalize on a European court ruling from late May that requires Google to process requests by private individuals to de-index outdated or irrelevant personal information, has put out some early data on the kind of requests individual Europeans are submitting via its (for now) free service.

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Mood experiment helps Facebook innovate a new way to creep-out users – Facebook exceeding expectations once again — has managed the impossible — discovering how to creep-out: clowns, possessed toys, and that person you know that never blinks — all at the same time. How? The social media company recently allowed a team of psychology researchers to validate a theory that happy and sad emotions can spread like a contagion on social networks.

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GoCam extends selfies beyond the length of your arm – Love them or hate them, selfies seem to be very popular with the majority of people who own a smartphone. However, selfies are limited by the fact you typically have to hold the phone in order to capture one. Swedish start-up Crunchfish has decided to solve this problem by removing the need to hold your camera when capturing a selfie. It has achieved this by introducing hand gesture recognition as can be seen in the video below.

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BlackBerry Passport leaked pics prove it’s an odd duck – It seems that BlackBerry is really serious about its Passport smartphone, which might call into question the company’s sanity. But whether you are enamored or shocked by the revelation of the device, the large smartphone with a square display is real and has been spotted out in the wild thanks to these leaked photos and one video.

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Reading Rainbow Has More Backers Than Any Kickstarter Campaign Ever – Ever since Reading Rainbow went off the air in 2006, LeVar Burton has been working to bring it back. In 2012, he launched a tablet app program, and just recently, he launched a Kickstarter campaign asking for $1 million to develop Reading Rainbow programming across all platforms, which will be provided to classrooms for free. The Reading Rainbow Kickstarter campaign now has nearly $5 million in funding and has become the most backed Kickstarter campaign ever, with more than 91,000 backers.

10 Free iPhone Apps Everyone Should Download – It wasn’t easy. But after much deliberation, I narrowed the apps I use every day down to a list of 10 that spans multiple genres, from GPS navigation to fitness tracking. Take a look at my faves, and if you’d like, use the comments section to tell us all your favorite free apps that I might have missed.

Five apps that give back for Android, iOS – Apps can be fun, but they can also serve another purpose. In going about our daily lives, we often turn to apps on our smartphones and tablets to assist us. What if those apps did more than just help us out? Here are five that aim to give back, and all you have to do is use them.

Quickoffice closing down, replaced by Google Drive – The latest updates to Google Drive’s document editing features might have been a welcome announcement, but for Quickoffice, it was practically the writing on the wall. Now Google is formally putting a timer on the mobile office suite’s life, giving users of the app a few weeks notice before it finally takes down the app from Google Play Store.

Google launches ‘cookie choices’ site to let Europeans know how they’re being tracked – With code, publishers can incorporate data notifications into their sites. But who’s doing what? Google aims to let you know.

Security:

New malware program hooks into networking APIs to steal banking data – There is yet another reason to be wary of spam email about bank transfers or invoices—it could be carrying a new, cleverly designed malware program that steals financial information. The new threat has been named Emotet by security researchers from antivirus vendor Trend Micro, who recently analyzed variants targeting the customers of several German banks. The malware is distributed via malicious links in spam email messages that masquerade as bank transfer notifications or invoices.

Active malware operation let attackers sabotage US energy industry – Researchers have uncovered a malware campaign that gave attackers the ability to sabotage the operations of energy grid owners, electricity generation firms, petroleum pipelines, and industrial equipment providers. Called Dragonfly, the hacking group managed to install one of two remote access trojans (RATs) on computers belonging to energy companies located in the US and at least six European countries, according to a research report published Monday by Symantec.

Apple ships security fixes for iOS, OS X, Safari … basically EVERYTHING – Apple on Monday shipped new versions of its operating systems, its web browser, and Apple TV firmware – with each update a minor release aimed at fixing bugs and closing security vulnerabilities. The latest release of OS X Mavericks, version 10.9.4, addresses a total of 19 vulnerabilities in a variety of OS subsystems, ranging from graphics and Thunderbolt drivers to the Dock.

Millions of dynamic DNS users suffer after Microsoft seizes No-IP domains – Millions of legitimate servers that rely on dynamic domain name services from No-IP.com suffered outages on Monday after Microsoft seized 22 domain names it said were being abused in malware-related crimes against Windows users. Almost immediately, end-users, some of which were actively involved in Internet security, castigated the move as heavy handed, since there was no evidence No-IP officially sanctioned or actively facilitated the malware campaign, which went by the names Bladabindi (aka NJrat) and Jenxcus (aka NJw0rm).

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Blackphone, the Android handset focused on privacy, begins shipping to buyers – The Blackphone – a device with a customized version of Android 4.4 that offers “unparalleled” privacy and claims to keep users “off the grid” – is now shipping to buyers that pre-ordered it for $629.

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Microsoft stops Patch Tuesday emails, blames Canada, then does U-turn – The decree mentions “changing governmental policies concerning the issuance of automated electronic messaging” – a head-scratcher that Microsoft spokespeople subsequently clarified by pointing to a new Canadian anti-spam law that takes effect today.

Company News:

Google Will Shut Down Its Orkut Social Network In September – Orkut, the social networking service Google launched back in 2004, miraculously survived multiple rounds of spring cleaning despite the fact that it was never a huge hit outside of Brazil, India and a few other countries. It was always just a matter of time before Google was going to shut it down, however, and that day has now come.

Twitter to acquire mobile advertising company TapCommerce – Twitter said Monday it has agreed to acquire TapCommerce a mobile advertising company focused on re-engaging people who have downloaded advertisers’ apps. The financial terms of the proposed acquisition of the New York startup were not disclosed. Some reports, however, said Twitter is paying about US$100 million for the company.

Samsung admits its Chinese factories STILL ‘unsafe’, violate laws – Samsung has admitted that its Chinese suppliers are still guilty of legal and safety violations, despite its repeated promises to clean up its factories. In its annual sustainability report, the firm said that this year’s audits had found a number of instances of poor working conditions for people at 100 of its suppliers. The company didn’t find any child labourers at its factories, but it did find that minors were working with chemical handling processes at 48 of its suppliers.

Supreme Court declines to intervene in Street View wiretapping scandal – The Supreme Court declined Google’s invitation to review a lower court’s conclusion that the media giant could be held liable for hijacking data on unencrypted Wi-Fi routers via its Street View cars. The legal flap the justices refused (PDF) to weigh into Monday should concern anybody who uses open Wi-Fi connections in public places like coffee houses and restaurants. That’s because Google claims (PDF) it is legal to intercept data from Wi-Fi signals that are not password protected.

Hewlett-Packard close to settling shareholder lawsuit over Autonomy – Hewlett-Packard is in “serious” talks about settling a lawsuit brought by shareholders over its troubled acquisition of infrastructure software vendor Autonomy. In October 2011, HP spent more than US$10 billion to acquire Autonomy, which develops software for searching and managing information. But after discovering what it called serious accounting irregularities, HP wrote off $8.8 billion of the purchase price.

Games and Entertainment:

World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor beta goes live – The player base for World of Warcraft may never top 12 million players again, but declining subscriber numbers hasn’t deterred Blizzard from releasing new content for its MMO. The next expansion is set to arrive this fall in the form of the Warlords of Draenor, and the beta test for it went live over the weekend.

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Yahoo secures streaming rights to sixth season of Community – No date has yet been attached to Community’s sixth season premiere; the report is so preliminary, in fact, that longtime executive producer Chris McKenna has yet to ink a contract for the season. Still, the move sees Yahoo moving far beyond its small-scale video-streaming efforts of years past, which were mostly notable for securing the streaming rights to Saturday Night Live’s archives. Yahoo may hope to tie Community’s debut close to the launch of its two other impending original TV series—Other Space, produced by Freaks & Geeks co-creator Paul Feig, and Sin City Saints, created by CW veteran Mike Tollin—set to debut by the end of 2015.

Thousands of Steam codes revoked after digital theft – A wave of thefts has occurred with the game Sniper Elite 3, one that’s prompted Steam to revoke a whopping 7,050 game keys. Having been stolen earlier this year through an unnamed game distributor, Sniper Elite 3 was then sent off to multiple reputable gaming sales sites. Unbeknownst to thousands of purchasers therein, the game has had all access cut off.

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The 10 Most-Pirated Movies – PCMag doesn’t condone illegal movie streaming or downloading, but we do see the value in keeping an eye on what’s happening in the pirated movie space. Tracking illegal streams and downloads is one of the best ways to get an insight into what’s trending online and in pop culture as a whole.Now, let’s talk about stolen movies!

Off Topic (Sort of):

Google “arrogant” self-driving car plans turn off automakers – Google may be bringing self-driving cars to the public, but its “pod-car” trial is likely to remain small-scale sources claim amid ongoing tensions with traditional auto makers. Legal concerns insufficiently placated by Google’s own promises to take responsibility for self-driving accidents, along with accusations of arrogance on the part of the search giant have left negotiations cold.

Man escapes death by rock by mere inches during building implosion – The fact we all carry camera-equipped smartphones in our pockets means it’s much easier to record anything even remotely interesting. And sometimes those recordings reveal how lucky people can be, such as this man who escaped death, or at the very least serious injury by inches, while recording a building implosion.

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Students create an inexpensive VR headset, similar to Google Cardboard, that predates it by a week – A group of high school students are making waves with their VR headset that resembles Google Cardboard, but predates it by over a week. The headset is made with household items and a mobile phone.

Boston Rolling Out Smart Charging Benches – The high-tech benches will be deployed in the next week in green spaces around the city, including Titus Sparrow Park, Boston Common, and the Rose Kennedy Greenway. They are also being tested at Babson College and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Developed by Changing Environments, a spin-off of the MIT Media Labs, the Soofa is a solar-powered outdoor charging station, which debuted during last week’s White House Maker Faire.

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Staunch opponent of reform tapped to head US Patent Office – A top pharmaceutical industry lawyer is set to be installed as the next head of the US Patent and Trademark Office. The Obama Administration intends to nominate Philip Johnson, the head of intellectual property at Johnson & Johnson, to be the next director of the US Patent and Trademark Office. The selection is a setback for the tech sector and a seeming 180-degree turn on the patent issue for the Obama administration, which was pushing Congress to pass patent litigation reform just months ago.

20 Jobs Likely to Be Replaced by Robots (and 20 That Are Safe) – Consider that six years after the great global financial train wreck, the United States is still saddled with a sluggish job market which has yet to really kick back into pre-recession gear. Is it possible that technology—specifically A.I. and robotics—has replaced so many jobs so quickly that we have lurched over some tipping point? Some are starting to wonder if this is indeed the case.

Something to think about:

“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”

–    Samuel Johnson

Today’s Free Downloads:

Surf Anonymous Free – Surf Anonymous Free is the most advanced and reliable software for Internet users who want to ensure that their sessions and all online activities are secure and private. For instance, it is used to protect your sensitive data such as bank account information, private photos from being stolen and pried, or visit those websites, blogs and forums that once blocked you.

Features:

Keep Your Internet Activities Safe and Private

Via our anonymous proxy servers, you are hardly traced or monitored by hackers when browsing websites. Therefore, all your online activities can be protected against others’ prying.

Help You Browse Web Anonymously

Surf Anonymous Free ensures you to send anonymous email or post on bulletin boards without displaying your real IP address.

Guard Your Wireless Connection

Via Surf Anonymous Free, your wireless Internet surfing is protected by establishing a secure tunnel, which could encrypt all your browser traffic so it can not be intercepted and read.

Protect You From Cybercrime

No trail of activity can be used to track back to your computer by cybercriminals since you are spoofing with a fake IP address. From now on, you are totally free of identity theft, credit card fraud and other crimes.

Excellent Compatibility

Surf Anonymous Free supports Internet Explorer, Firefox, Maxthon, MyIE browsers, Opera, etc.

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Risen3D – Risen3D is an advanced Doom port by Graham Jackson based on Jaakko Keranen’s Doomsday port.

Features:

Advanced algorithms provide more accurate rendering in OpenGL.

Full Boom and MBF compatibility.

Super fast rendering of OpenGL graphics.

Slopes and 3D floors.

Md2 models, particle effects and high resolution texture options.

Skybox support.

Translucent water and underwater effects.

Outside fog support for maps that require it.

Model activation capability using the R3D scripting method.

Mobj spawning using the R3D scripting method

Detailed texture support.

Dedicated smart Launcher for easy launching and pwad management.

Uncapped frame rate for smoother game play.

Definition and dehacked editing capabilities.

Basic Doom mode option

Water splashes, ambient sounds, scrolling skies and stealth monsters.

In game texture alignment using the R3D Edit mode.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

FBI, CIA Join NSA In “Backdoor” Searches On Americans – Thousands of Americans were targets of so-called “backdoor” warrantless surveillance by the NSA and other intelligence agencies last year, according to a letter sent to Senator Ron Wyden.

The missive, written by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to the Senator in response to a question posed earlier this month, is plainspoken. The Office also stated that the searches in question are not based on an exploited legal “loophole.”

The House recently voted to curtail such searches by defunding them.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows the government to collect information on foreign targets that are, to use its own language, “reasonably believed to be outside of the U.S. at the time of collection.” It can’t target United States persons by law, and it isn’t allowed to reverse-target — picking a foreign target with the hopes of picking up the communications of someone thought to be in the United States.

The information collected under Section 702 authority may include the communications of Americans picked up in the process of collecting data on foreign targets. The stored information can then be queried by the NSA, and its intelligence brethren, using search terms to find the communications of Americans. Hence the term “backdoor.”

How many Americans are caught up in the mix? According to the letter, the NSA used such queries to search the communications content of 198 U.S. persons in 2013. It also made around 9,500 metadata queries for the communications of U.S. persons in the period. The number of people impacted by the meta-data searches isn’t clear.

Two Senators Upbraid The Intelligence Community For Insufficient Disclosure – Consider Senators Al Franken and Dean Heller unimpressed.

Today the two Senators, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, released statements disparaging a recent transparency report from the U.S. intelligence community that broke down its activities in incredibly vague fashion.

The view of Senator Heller, that the report is progress, but not nearly enough, is roughly what I’m hearing from the private sector, as well. Here’s the Senator himself:

The report released by the Administration represents some progress, but it does not do near enough to provide Americans with adequate information. The American people deserve greater transparency and American companies should be able to disclose more information when it comes to privacy rights and the federal government’s surveillance activities.

His statement goes on to indicate support for the Surveillance Transparency Act (STA) of 2013, which he and Senator Franken introduced.

Senator Franken had similar comments, saying that the report is a “far cry from the kind of transparency that the American people demand and deserve.” The senator continues, stating that the report “still leaves Americans in the dark,” and that it “doesn’t tell the American people enough about what information is being gathered about them and how it’s being used.”

Court Allowed NSA To Spy On All But 4 Countries – A court permitted the NSA to collect information about governments in 193 countries and foreign institutions like the World Bank, according to a secret document the Washington Post published Monday.

The certification issued by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2010 shows the NSA has the authority to “intercept through U.S. companies not just the communications of its overseas targets, but any communications about its targets as well,” according to the Post’s report. Only four countries in the world — Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — were exempt from the agreement, due to existing no-spying agreements that the Post highlights in this document about the group of countries, known as “Five Eyes” with the U.S.

The secret certification from 2010 was part of a trove of documents that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked to reporters at The Washington Post and The Guardian last year. In addition to permitting the NSA to collect information about most countries, it also authorizes the NSA to target institutions like the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The documents reveal the NSA had even more free rein when it came to surveilling foreign individuals than was previously known, raising major concerns about the privacy implications this program could have, even for Americans domestically.

Remaining Snowden docs will be released to avert ‘unspecified US war’ – All the remaining Snowden documents will be released next month, according to whistle-blowing site Cryptome, which said in a tweet that the release of the info by unnamed third parties would be necessary to head off an unnamed “war”.

Cryptome said it would “aid and abet” the release of “57K to 1.7M” new documents that had been “withheld for national security-public debate [sic]”.

The site clarified that will not be publishing the documents itself.

Transparency activists would welcome such a release but such a move would be heavily criticised by inteligence agencies and military officials, who argue that Snowden’s dump of secret documents has set US and allied (especially British) intelligence efforts back by years.

NSA flip-flops on Snowden leaks, from hyperbolic to “measured” response – The new National Security Agency director has quite a different take on the national security fallout from the leaks of whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Adm. Michael Rogers, with just three months on the job, said he has seen terrorist groups “make changes,” but “you have not heard me as the director say, ‘Oh my God, the sky is falling.’ I am trying to be very specific and very measured in my characterizations.”

Rogers’ comments Sunday in The New York Times couldn’t be any more different from those uttered by former NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander. Alexander had said the leaks jeopardized the US and its allies, causing “the greatest damage to our combined nations’ intelligence systems that we have ever suffered.”

Rogers’ statements come as Alexander finds himself in the hot seat for moving to financially capitalize on those leaks. Under IronNet Cybersecurity, his new consulting venture, Alexander has been seeking as much as $1 million in monthly fees from the banking industry. “It would be devastating,” he said, “if one of our banks was hit, because they’re so interconnected.”

At least one lawmaker, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) suggested that the only way Alexander can provide such costly services is if he “discloses or misuses classified information, including extremely sensitive sources and methods.”

Europe backs Microsoft fight over US warrant for Irish email – Microsoft’s fight against a US search warrant involving email hosted in its Irish datacentre has gained the support of EU vice president Viviane Reding, who believes the warrant may be in breach of international law.

In a response to questions from Dutch MEP Sophia in’t Veld, Reding said the warrant served to Microsoft “bypasses existing formal procedures that are agreed between the EU and the US, such as the Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement”.

Microsoft is arguing for the US government to turn to these avenues for data stored outside the US, comparing the warrant to the US government “breaking down the doors” to its Irish datacentre. It’s says the warrant extends US authority outside its own jurisdiction, which Reding agrees with.

“The Commission’s concern is that the extraterritorial application of foreign laws (and orders to companies based thereon) may be in breach of international law and may impede the attainment of the protection of individuals guaranteed in the Union,” she said.

Reding’s statement echoes arguments laid out by Apple, Cisco, AT&T, and Verizon in support of Microsoft’s District Court bid to quash the warrant which, if successful, could set new boundaries for US law-enforcement investigation powers in the context of cloud computing.

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6 Comments

Filed under Free Software Downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

6 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 1, 2014

  1. delenn13

    Happy Canada Day!

    Sung By Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield and his brother Dave, who wrote the song.

    In Canada – YouTube