Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 7, 2014

The NSA Thinks You Are an Extremist If You Care About Privacy;  TSA Will Now Block Dead Devices At Some Airports;  Stop Your Android Device From Broadcasting Your Location;  After psych study, Facebook’s mood shows disconnect;  4 Reasons Nobody Cares About Smartwatches;  8 Geeky Summer Projects to Keep Kids Busy;  Popjam is ‘walled-garden’ Instagram for kids;  Five powerful open source audio editors;  Five WordPress Plugins You Should Update Right Now;  Google Tightens Noose on Adult AdWords Ads;  Totally rad films from the ’80s and ’90s on Netflix;  Fireworks from a drone’s perspective; KeePass Password Safe (free).

Charge Your Phone Before Flying! TSA Will Now Block Dead Devices At Some Airports – We’ve all been there: you’re standing in the security line at the airport. The TSA agent is mad at you about a water bottle, or a pair of scissors, or some other thing you forgot was even in your bag. Get rid of it, or you’re not flying. What if that thing keeping you off your flight was your dead iPhone? This afternoon, the TSA published an announcement stating that passengers boarding flights to the US from “certain overseas airports” (the specific airports go unnamed) will first need to prove that “all electronic devices” they’ve packed can be powered up. No power? No flight — at least not while you’re carrying that dead device. (Security theatre taken to new heights. What’s next on their “scare the crap out of everyone” agenda. This one goes hand in hand with – US warns terrorists considering surgically implanted bombs.)

The NSA Thinks You Are an Extremist If You Care About Privacy – According to the report, the NSA flags anyone using the Tor network for long-term surveillance and retention. Say you were curious about this Tor thing you keep hearing about and visited the Tor Project’s Website to get more information (but don’t use Tor). No matter. Just visiting the site could potentially get you on the NSA watch list. Search for Tor, Tails, or any number of privacy tools online is enough to flag you as an extremist by the NSA. In fact, just reading about news articles here on SecurityWatch or checking out reviews of privacy services on PCMag could have gotten you tagged. How ridiculous is that? And so disturbing.

Gov’t, corporations the most dangerous threats to the internet, say internet experts – Internet blackouts in war-torn countries, censorship masquerading as protective forces in the UK and beyond, CISPA and SOPA, lacklustre and naive attempts to stem the flow of file sharing by firms rather than tackling the core route of content access, and regulations pushed through by those who understand nothing of the web (who can forget the UK Police Commissioner’s claim that “Tor is 90 percent of the internet”?) — the list of forces attempting to wrestle control of the internet carries on. It is these factors, rather than cybercrime or hacking, that internet experts believe pose the greatest threat to the internet in the next 20 years.

After psych study, Facebook’s mood shows disconnect – Even the journal that published the results of Facebook’s manipulation of news feeds has expressed concern. But Facebook seems to be saying “Come on, stop complaining.” “We never meant to upset you,” uttered by COO Sheryl Sandberg, seems a curiously inadequate reaction to the news that Facebook believes there is nothing fundamentally wrong with mind-messing for unexplained purposes and entirely in secret.

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4 Reasons Nobody Cares About Smartwatches – If you watched Google present Android Wear last week, you’d think the smartwatch was the hottest product on the market. What could be better than an intelligent timepiece that can take calls and understand voice commands? It turns out nobody cares. So we asked ourselves: why isn’t the smartwatch as popular as its wrist-based cousin, the fitness tracker? Why hasn’t the mainstream market bought in? Here are four reasons.

Stop Your Android Device From Broadcasting Your Location – If you were at a Starbucks or any other company that has its name as part of the WiFi network name, someone accessing the device’s location signal would know where you’ve been, and where you went next. Considering many of the WiFi networks tend to have fairly descriptive names, the potential of your movements tracked is pretty high.  “This data is arguably more dangerous than that leaked in previous location data scandals because it clearly denotes in human language places that you’ve spent enough time to use the Wi-Fi,” the EFF said.

Firefox falls to record low in overall browser share – Firefox’s user share on all platforms — desktop and mobile — has plunged in the last two months as its desktop browser continued to bleed and efforts to capture users on smartphones fell short.

8 Geeky Summer Projects to Keep Kids Busy – With the rise of sites like Pinterest, it’s easier than ever to find creative projects to keep the little ones entertained. Unfortunately, some require a Ph.D. in crafting (check out PinterestFail.com for a laugh). But you don’t have to be Martha Stewart (or Bill Nye the Science Guy) to have some geeky, crafty fun this summer.Pinterest is a treasure trove of possible projects, but we found eight that will (hopefully) not cause too much of a mess and keep the kids (as well as mom and dad) intrigued.

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Popjam is ‘walled-garden’ Instagram for kids, from Moshi Monsters maker – London-based tech company Mind Candy says its latest app, released today, is a safe alternative to Snapchat and Tumblr, where “kids can be kids.”

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This little Sony will pump up the sound of your headphones – The Audiophiliac oohs and aahs over Sony’s portable PHA-2 digital converter and headphone amplifier.

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Five powerful open source audio editors – A solid audio editor might not seem to belong at the top of your must-have list. It is, however, a tool that can go a long way toward helping you with your business. How? With an audio editor, you can add audio to your business website, create and edit a podcast to help promote your service or product, record and submit audio for radio ads, and more. But what software titles are available from the open source community? Believe it or not, some of the finest audio editors available are open source and offer power and options you might expect only in costly, proprietary software. Let’s take a look at five open source audio editors and see if there’s one that will fit your bill.

In the Wake of Apparent Revenge Killing, New Israeli ‘Kidnap App’ Adapted for Palestinians – In the first two weeks after three Israeli teenagers were abducted on the West Bank, over 60,000 Israelis downloaded a new smartphone app designed to alert police to your abduction and guide them to the place you are being held. Then a Palestinian teen earlier this week was forced into a car and killed in what police suspect was a revenge killing, hastening development of an Arabic version of the same free software.

Thoughts from a tablet addict: What I own and why – When you consider that I own four of them, you’d be justified calling me a tablet addict. Here’s what I use and why they work for me. Hopefully, this glimpse into my tablet world will help those thinking about buying a tablet. If you have a favorite mobile OS, your choice is easier. If not, the field is wide open as I find the three platforms to be just about even for typical tablet functions. As for screen size, get the smallest you can comfortably use if you plan to take it on the road. On the other hand, if you plan on just using it at home, get a big one. You’ll appreciate the screen real estate.

Security:

Quebec mom reels in alleged pedophile on Facebook – A Quebec mother posed as her 12-year-old stepdaughter for four weeks on Facebook to catch an alleged pedophile, QMI Agency has learned. Her sleuthing led to the arrest of Martin Schanck, 24, of Coteau-du-Lac, Que., who is scheduled to appear in court Saturday for allegedly luring five children on the Internet. The mother, who withheld her name to protect her daughter, said her girl received a Facebook message in March from someone posing as a 14-year-old named Sabrina Poirier. The conversation quickly took a sexual turn, the mother said. Sabrina sent a photograph of an erect penis, claiming it was an ex-boyfriend’s. That’s when the 27-year-old mother took action.

Attack on Dailymotion redirected visitors to exploits – Attackers injected malicious code into Dailymotion.com, a popular video sharing website, and redirected visitors to Web-based exploits that installed malware. The flaws that Sweet Orange attempted to exploit are: CVE-2013-2551, patched by Microsoft in Internet Explorer in May 2013; CVE-2013-2460, patched by Oracle in Java in June 2013; and CVE-2014-0515, patched by Adobe in Flash Player in April.

Five WordPress Plugins You Should Update Right Now – WordPress powers over 70 million Websites around the world, making it an attractive target for cyber-criminals. Attackers frequently hijack vulnerable WordPress installations to host spam pages and other malicious content. Researchers have uncovered a number of serious vulnerabilities in these popular WordPress plugins over the last few weeks. Check your administrator dashboard and make sure you have the latest versions installed.

Microsoft increases Outlook and OneDrive security and opens a transparency center – In the wake of security concerns and a PR nightmare following allegations of spying by governmental organizations, Microsoft steps up security for its cloud products and opens a transparency center.

Company News:

Xiaomi claims it sold 50,000 Mi Pads in under four minutes – Chinese electronics company Xiaomi is claiming that they have sold 50,000 of their latest tablet, the Mi Pad, in less than four minutes. It comes as no surprise considering this tablet is packed with an immense amount of power and priced to compete. The 7.9″ Android tablet is a direct competitor to the iPad Mini Retina with prices starting at $240 USD.

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Google Tightens Noose on Adult AdWords Ads – Bad news for porn websites promoters. Starting soon, Google will be enforcing the “no super-naughty ads” provision of its AdWords policies that it first posted in March. Google has started to email advertisers to remind them of the coming crackdown on risqué advertising. While the company isn’t banning adult advertising in general, it is greatly tightening the definition of what it will allow on AdWords.

Oculus halts sales in China to stop resellers from hawking development kits – Developers in China who want an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset will have to wait a while to get one, it seems: As reported by Eurogamer, Oculus VR has “suspended” sales of the current Oculus Rift development kit (DK2) because too many people were buying the kits to resell them for a profit.

iWatch imminent, Apple hires sales exec from Swiss watchmaker – The company nabs the vice president of sales and retail from Tag Heuer, as it reportedly gears up to launch an iWatch later this year.

IBM aims to collaborate with Beijing on energy, health issues – IBM said its research labs will aim to help China revamp its energy system and healthcare over the next 10 years via big data, the Internet of Things and cognitive computing. The effort is led by IBM’s China research unit. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. IBM said it had a collaboration agreement with the Beijing Municipal Government. The two parties will work on air pollution and try to leverage cognitive computing, optical sensors and other tools to predict weather, climate and the pollution hit.

Games and Entertainment:

Monster versus hunter game Evolve opens alpha test sign-ups, but act quick – Turtle Rock Studios is giving you the chance to sign up for a limited alpha of Evolve, its monster-versus-hunters multiplayer game that’s one part Left 4 Dead, one part Big Game Hunter. The game’s not officially out until October 21, but you have a chance to get in early if you take a brief hardware survey. Caveats: The alpha is PC-only, limited to the United States and Canada, and you must have a working Steam account to participate.

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How Real Will Wearable Games Be? – Wearables, primarily smartwatches, are in many ways a compelling idea. Yet do the actual wearables we’re seeing offer anything like that? From a gaming standpoint are they really that big of a deal, or are they more a case of high-hopes and maybe-one-days?

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PSA: Japan’s biggest ‘00s RPG series, Monster Hunter, finally on iOS – Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, priced at $14.99 for both iPhone and iPad, doesn’t crib from last year’s Monster Hunter 3G release on 3DS; instead this is a port of the 2009 PSP game Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G, presumably because its wimpier 3D assets would run efficiently across iOS devices. The only changes involve MFi controller support, which includes a camera stick that the original didn’t have, along with touch-screen controls.

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EA blames a ‘system error’ that charged $5 for demos – Xbox One gamers across the globe are discovering that EA game demos are hit with a $4.99 pricetag, even if they were previously free. FIFA 14, which was released last year, and EA Sports UFC, which was made available last month, both feature the charge for the normally free downloads. EA admits that the charge was due to an “error in the system” and has said that the games have been restored to free of charge. Various sources have confirmed that the paid demos were available in the USA, UK, and Australia.

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Totally rad films from the ’80s and ’90s on Netflix – Perhaps only the most visionary souls could have possibly foreseen the days when these movies could be watched instantly, at the push of a button, from a computer or even a smartphone. Yet here they are. And guess what—some of the movies from those bygone decades are still pretty good.

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Primal Fear – ★★★★☆

Off Topic (Sort of):

Swiss castle recreated in stunning 3D with the help of a drone – The image of Chillon Castle you’re looking at wasn’t painstakingly created by digital artists and 3D modelers. It was actually produced by stitching together more than 6,200 photos. The result: a stunning 3D reproduction of one of Switzerland’s most visited tourist destinations that’s accurate to between 5mm and 20cm. This wasn’t just an outside flyby, either. The castle’s entire interior has been reproduced, too.

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U.S. Military’s TALOS Project tapped Hollywood designer – It is not unusual for Hollywood to refer to the US Military personnel for realistic movie plot, but this time it is the other way around. Legacy Effects, the company known for designing props for movies such as Iron Man and RoboCop has been hired by the U.S. Military to design a war suit to protect soldiers in the field.

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Fireworks from a drone’s perspective – Believe it or not, throughout the drone’s flight, no damage was recorded. The drone itself was not damaged, regardless of how close several calls were in the process. While he very well could have gotten in loads of trouble for floating above a public arena where controlled explosives were being fired, Jos Stinglingh also sustained no damage to his record.

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Remote-controlled chip could be the future of contraceptives – The chip, just 20 x 20 x 7 millimetres, is designed to last up to 16 years — about half of a woman’s reproductive lifespan — delivering a daily dose of 30mg of levonorgestrel, used in several hormonal contraceptives and emergency contraceptives. In the event a couple wants to conceive, the woman can use a remote control to turn the chip off, and then back on again when she needs to.

Something to think about:

“If there were in the world today any large number of people who desired their own happiness more than they desired the unhappiness of others, we could have paradise in a few years.”

–     Bertrand Russell

Today’s Free Downloads:

KeePass Password Safe – Today you need to remember many passwords. You need a password for the Windows network logon, your e-mail account, your homepage’s ftp password, online passwords (like CodeProject member account), etc. etc. etc. The list is endless. Also, you should use different passwords for each account. Because if you use only one password everywhere and someone gets this password you have a problem… A serious problem. The thief would have access to your e-mail account, homepage, etc. Unimaginable.

KeePass is a free/open-source password manager or safe which helps you to manage your passwords in a secure way. You can put all your passwords in one database, which is locked with one master key or a key-disk. So you only have to remember one single master password or insert the key-disk to unlock the whole database. The databases are encrypted using the best and most secure encryption algorithms currently known (AES and Twofish).

Limitations: Requires Microsoft .Net Framework installed.

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Why Can’t I Connect? – “Why Can’t I Connect” makes it easier to resolve TCP/IP connection errors. Use it to diagnose connections to common server types and create generic clients and / or servers. A source tar, a 32 bit rpm, a 32 bit deb, and a 32 bit Windows install exe are available.

The 32 bit Windows executable runs fine in 64 bit Windows systems. 64 bit Linux systems, however, should compile from source.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

New Snowden leak: Of 160,000 intercepted messages, only 10% from official targets – Late Saturday night, the Washington Post dropped a bombshell of a report related to a trove of documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The documents included 160,000 e-mail and instant-message conversations intercepted by the NSA, as well as 7,900 documents taken from more than 11,000 online accounts. The Washington Post says that the information spans from 2009 to 2012.

This article is the first acknowledgement that the cache of documents from Snowden includes not just documents describing how NSA operates, but actual intercepted communications. Those communications include both intelligence targets, as well as “people who may cross a target’s path,” the Post explained.

In the Post’s analysis, “nearly half” of the files contained details that the NSA had marked as belonging to US citizens or residents, which the agency masked, or “minimized,” to protect those citizens’ privacy. Still, despite the 65,000 minimized references to Americans that the Post found in the cache, 900 additional e-mail addreses were found unmasked “that could be strongly linked to US citizens or US residents.”

Who Watches The Watchmen? – In honor of the Fourth of July, let’s talk a little about how horrifically paranoid and counterproductive the US government has become. And I’m not even talking about Congress! Instead I mean our old friend the No Such Agency, who, it turns out, have been singling out for special treatment anyone who displays any interest in tools which might make the NSA’s life more difficult.

Go on, read the source code yourself, courtesy of a recent report from Jacob Appelbaum1 and co. The message is clear: if you do not accept that the NSA has every right to spy on everything everyone does (oh, and store that data forever to be used against us in the future) then you are the enemy! For sheer horrifyingly hilarious absurdity this reminds me of the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.

Crypto thwarts TINY MINORITY of Feds’ snooping efforts – US government court-sanctioned wiretaps were sometimes defeated by encryption, according to official figures on law enforcement eavesdropping released this week.

State police were unable to circumvent the encryption used by criminal suspects in nine cases last year, while plain text was recovered in 32 of 41 cases where use of cryptography was a factor last year. By comparison, law enforcement was stymied by crypto in four cases during 2012.

Prior to two years ago, crypto had never prevented cops from snooping on a criminal suspect, Wired reports. Crypto had been used by criminal suspects in cases dating back as early as 2004 but its use had never been successful until much more recently.

Federal and state police snooped on US suspects’ phone calls, text messages, and other communications 3,576 times in 2013, an increase of five per cent from 2012. This means that crypto was a factor in just one in 100 cases. The vast majority of investigations (87 per cent) involved drugs.

Only one wiretap application in a domestic criminal case was denied during the whole of 2013.

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4 Comments

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

4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 7, 2014

  1. Fred

    Hi Bill!
    “Firefox falls to record low in overall browser share”
    When Firefox 2 updates ago or so TOOK AWAY the ability to disable pictures and Java Script, I complained here. I asked what on earth was the reason for such an action. Mozilla said that users would miss out on the internet experience and would not know how to re-enable Pictures and Java Script. Well if they are so unknowledgeable about browser use then how do they find that section in the first place, it just sounded like a LIE to me. Disabling pictures and Java Script 1. provides ADDITIONAL SECURITY in that Java Script is often a vector for much malware and ditto for photos and also speeds up, for those of us on dial-up, browsing websites.
    I wonder if that irked others beside myself.

    As far as “The NSA Thinks You Are an Extremist If You Care About Privacy” The DHS under Obama called anyone who was part of the disorganized group known as the “Tea Party”, Second Amendment supporters, returning Veterans, and other folks “EXTREMIST” and they were watched also. The IRS was auditing conservative and Tea Party groups, stuff like this also happened under Clinton. Regardless if these ;people are right or wrong, they have a right under the Constitution’s Bill of Rights to hold divergent opinions. However the only people who appear to believe in honoring personal freedom are the regular people not those in power, not the elite.
    That is why I enjoy so much the fight back section it shows we are not alone.
    Best,
    Fred

    • Hi Fred,

      Yep – have to say it did. Freaked me out. 🙂

      I’ve “blue skied” the odd time with my associates on the privacy issue. You know, just to get a feel for where this whole thing is likely to end up.

      Long story short – the consensus in my group is essentially – there will be no end to government interference in what have long been considered our “natural rights.” There is no solution – unless and until, the people fight back aggressively. Government’s attitude, coupled with the continued militarization of police forces worldwide, is cooking up a brew which is bound to overflow.

      Best,

      Bill

  2. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: KeePass Password Safe

    I love this app, have been using it for about a year now. Apart from being feature rich, and extremely secure, it does not need to access the internet to do its job. I don’t like password apps automatically filling in my info on sites that I visit (like banking, social security etc). If I want to see if there is an update to Keepass, I don’t press the “check for update button”, I go to the website and look there. Keepass never needs to access the internet, which is great security in my opinion.

    Cheers

    • Hey Mal,

      A great tip! I’ve always had a hands off attitude with password apps – but, you’ve always steered me in the right direction, so I’ll take this out for a spin.

      Best,

      Bill