Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 24, 2014

How a Netflix subscriber used VPN to thwart Verizon’s streaming slowdown;  Five calendar apps to keep you on track;  Adding a HUD to your car: three options;  The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist;  Majority of UK broadband users opting out of porn filters; Dorm Room Tech Every Student Needs;  OS X Yosemite beta goes PUBLIC on July 24;  Sense sleep tracker analyzes room for smarter rest;  File-encrypting Android ransomware’s extortion attempts mimic FBI;  The world’s most secure OS may have a serious problem;  How to secure your iOS device to prevent unwanted access;  Amazon Expands Prime Music Catalog By “Hundreds Of Thousands” Of Songs;  First there was analog sound, then digital, what’s next?  Man ejected from Southwest flight for tweeting that a gate agent was rude;  Gameloft’s Modern Combat 5: Blackout Hits Android and iOS;  SkyBell WiFi Doorbell hands-on;  MPs to sue UK. gov over ‘ridiculous’ EMERGENCY data snooping law.

How a Netflix subscriber used VPN to thwart Verizon’s streaming slowdown – That’s what one tech-savvy Netflix subscriber did when performance lagged on Verizon’s network. The result? A 10x boost in his streaming speed.

American Users Spend An Average Of 40 Minutes Per Day On Facebook – American Facebook users spend way more time on the social network than exercising. Mark Zuckerberg said today on Facebook’s Q2 earnings call that “people on Facebook in the US spend around 40 minutes each day using our service”, while the CDC recommends Americans exercise 21 minutes a day but only 20% of people meet that goal.

Overwhelming majority of UK broadband users opting out of porn filters – UK broadband users are rejecting the ISP-level porn filters introduced at the behest of the government, with 95% of BT Broadband customers, and 92% of those on Sky Broadband, opting out of using them.

(Once more, the notion that a government can legislate it’s own sense of morality goes down in flames. It seems that morally ambitious governments are incapable of logical thought.)

Obscure but handy: Five calendar apps to keep you on track – Whether we’re tracking a busy work schedule, school classes, our children’s activities, or social events, calendars help us keep up with our commitments. Most users tend to stick with what is known. That means Outlook, Google Calendar, or iCal. But what would you say if I told you that countless other calendar tools are available — some of which are even easier to use than the standard fare? Most would say, “Show me what you got!” That’s what I intend to do.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Oracle Linux 7 released – Oracle has supported Linux almost from day one. But it wasn’t until 2006, when Larry Ellison got into a disagreement with Red Hat, that Oracle decided it had to have its “own” Linux distribution — a Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) clone, Oracle Linux. It’s eight years later, and Oracle is still copying RHEL with its release of Oracle Linux 7.

Dorm Room Tech Every Student Needs – Over the years, universities have modernized their dorms – from A/C and cable to private phone lines and Internet connections. But most setups probably leave something to be desired. Of course, you should be out enjoying the college experience most of the time and not stuck in your room, but you still have to study, sleep, and relax. And in those hours, you’ll want to be as comfortable as possible.

Let family track you in traffic with Google Maps creator’s app PlaceUs – A new app from one of the chief creators of Google Maps, Sam Liang Ph.D, is appearing this week to allow your family to track you at all times. Contextual awareness is key to the existence of “PlaceUs,” an app which allows you to tell your family you’re running late without ever taking your smartphone out of your pocket. This app is entirely free and – again – is available only on iOS through the iTunes App Store for the iPhone at the moment.

Sense sleep tracker analyzes room for smarter rest – A new sleep-tracking gadget which aims to do for the bedroom what wearables like Fitbit and Jawbone have done for exercise claims it can wake you more naturally without a frustrating wristband, figuring out sleep cycles but also taking into account the state of your bedroom. While there’s no shortage of products out there which will analyze how you’re sleeping, new Kickstarter project Sense promises to go several steps beyond simply tracking light and deep phases of rest.

(All these years we’ve been doing the sleep thing all wrong – but, technology has finally come to the rescue. Good grief!)

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SkyBell WiFi Doorbell hands-on: HomeKit’s digital doorman – Your doorbell isn’t smart enough, and SkyBell wants to change that: a hockey puck scale upgrade to the traditional push-button that delivers motion-triggered video direct to your phone. After having raised almost six-times its crowdfunding goal in late 2013, the WiFi-enabled doorbell is counting on some big names like Apple to help it stand out from the growing home automation melee.

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OS X Yosemite beta goes PUBLIC on July 24 – Apple fans eager to take OS X Yosemite for a spin will be able to get their hands on it from July 24. Paid-up developers have been able to test drive the desktop operating system for the past few weeks. The iPhone giant confirmed to The Register today that version 10.10 of OS X will, come this Thursday, be available for download by users who have signed up for the public beta program.

Amazon Fire Phone review roundup: misfiring on almost all cylinders – Amazon’s first foray into the smartphone world after the success of its Kindle Fire tablets has hit a snag: it’s not very good. Or at least that’s what the first reviews pouring out of the US seem to indicate.

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Amazon Expands Prime Music Catalog By “Hundreds Of Thousands” Of Songs – One of the major complaints with Amazon Prime Music, the company’s new streaming music service bundled in with its Amazon Prime membership program, was its lack of song selection, and especially current hits. Today, Amazon is taking a small step towards remedying that problem with an announcement of an expansion of the Prime Music service, which now has grown by “hundreds of thousands of songs.” The expansion includes both songs from artists who are new to Prime Music, as well as additional tracks from artists who already offered some content to Prime Music subscribers.

3D print space probes and asteroids, courtesy of NASA – NASA has released STL files so you can 3D print your own scale models of space probes, asteroids and the surface of the moon.

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Model of Mars’ Gale crater.

Matter Lets You Add And Edit 3D Objects In Your Photographs – Pixite, a company that creates high-quality photo editing apps on iOS, is increasing its creative suite today with the launch of Matter, an app that allows users to add 3D effects with shadows and reflections into their existing photographs. Matter has four packs of geometric and architectural models that you can pick a color for, and style it as reflective, opaque, refractive or translucent. You can add shadows in real time and move its position and opacity as well. You can even erase the shadow or model by clicking the tool and rubbing your finger on the parts you want to erase. The app is $1.99 on the App Store.

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What ‘one Windows’ really means (and doesn’t) – Is Microsoft building a single version of Windows that will run on phones, tablets, PCs and gaming consoles? Nope. Here’s a refresher as to what really is happening.

Security:

File-encrypting Android ransomware’s extortion attempts mimic FBI – A ransomware threat that encrypts files stored on the SD memory cards of Android devices has been updated to target English-speaking users with FBI-themed alerts. A new variant found recently displays a message to victims in English that masquerades as an alert from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation about illegal pornographic content being found on the device. The victims are instructed to pay a so-called fine of $300 through a payment service called MoneyPak.

The world’s most secure OS may have a serious problem – The Tails operating system is one of the most trusted platforms in cryptography, favored by Edward Snowden and booted up more than 11,000 times per day in May. But according to the security firm Exodus Intelligence, the program may not be as secure as many thought. The company says they’ve discovered an undisclosed vulnerability that will let attackers deanonymize Tails computers and even execute code remotely, potentially exposing users to malware attacks. Exodus is currently working with Tails to patch the bug, and expects to hand over a full report on the exploit next week.

Dirty Dozen Spampionship – which country is spewing the most spam? – With the 2014 World Cup complete, and the Commonwealth Games just round the corner, we thought it was a good time to publish the latest SophosLabs Spampionship charts. We measured which computers in the world sent the most spam in the second quarter (April, May and June) of 2014, and turned our measurements into a pair of League Tables.

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Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS – Security outlet VUPEN has revealed it held onto a critical Internet Explorer vulnerability for three years before disclosing it at the March Pwn2Own hacker competition. The company wrote in a disclosure last week it discovered the vulnerability (CVE-2014-2777) on 12 February 2011 which was patched by Microsoft on 17 June (MS14-035). The flaw affected Internet Explorer browsers eight through eleven and allowed remote attackers to bypass the protected mode sandbox.

How to secure your iOS device to prevent unwanted access – Leaving your iOS device unattended can pose a security risk as more iOS users are carrying personal information on their devices. Keep it secure with these handy tips.

Firefox 31 has arrived – 11 bulletins, 3 critical, 0 visual surprises – Firefox 31 is out. So is its updated conservative older brother, the Extended Support Release, now at 24.7. And Firefox’s email-oriented cousin Thunderbird gets updated, too.

Company News:

Google has to face U.S. privacy suit over new user data policy – A California court has allowed a privacy class action suit against Google to continue, though only in part. After evaluating each claim of each sub-class in the suit, Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal has allowed two claims of the “Android Application Disclosure Subclass,” which includes all persons and entities in the U.S. that acquired an Android-powered device between Aug. 19, 2004 and the present, and downloaded at least one Android application through the Android Market or Google Play.

BlackBerry offers BES10 as a hosted service through partners – Businesses wanting the security of BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 without the complexity of managing it onsite can now buy it as a hosted service from six BlackBerry partners.

Sony agrees to $15m settlement for 2011 PSN attack – The massive attack that brought down the PlayStation Network is not yet forgotten. Sony has finally agreed to a $15m settlement, mainly giving away free games and services to affected users.

Qualcomm delivers blowout Q3, but cuts outlook over China woes – Mobile processor giant Qualcomm said a regulatory investigation in China and licensees that aren’t reporting sales of licensed products will hurt fourth quarter results.

Games and Entertainment:

$10 Xbox credit for those that pre-order ‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection’ – If you haven’t pre-ordered ‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection’ yet, it might be a good time to do so. The Microsoft Store is currently offering a $10 Xbox code for those that pre-order.

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Life On Kim Kardashian’s D-List – Is there anything Kim Kardashian can’t sell? The Kim Kardashian: Hollywood game is now #1 in the App Store with a 5-star rating and more than 140,000 reviews. It’s slated to gross an estimated $200 million in annual revenue and the stock price for the company that created it, Glu Mobile, has nearly doubled in the last month!

(Reading this makes me want to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head.)

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Gameloft’s Modern Combat 5: Blackout Hits Android and iOS – Gameloft is back with the newest installment of its flagship Modern Combat series on iOS and Android. Modern Combat 5: Blackout can be downloaded right now for $6.99 on Android and $8.99 on iOS. Unlike many of Gameloft’s other titles, Modern Combat 5 is free of in-app purchases. You buy it once, and you get all the content. That alone might tempt some people.

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Why Simpsons World will destroy the U.S. but not Canada – The U.S could fall into ruin as millions tune in to cable channel FXX’s marathon showing of every “Simpsons” episode ever, to be followed by a “Simpsons World” website and app. A perfect opportunity for Canada, which is geo-blocked, to take over the continent, as it’s always really wanted to.

(No worries – in Canada, the VPN rules.  Hot smile  )

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Hands-on with PlayStation Now – Sony’s ambitious streaming-only game service is about to hit public beta. Here’s what to expect.

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Access over 15,000 Marvel digital comics for 99 cents – Clear your calendar. For the next month you can treat yourself to Marvel Unlimited’s massive online comic library for just under a buck.

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Just three of the digital comics released this week that you can read through Marvel Unlimited.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Adding a HUD to your car: three options – A head-up display (HUD) enables drivers to see all the details they need while driving without any hassle or risk of distraction (not to mention giving one’s car the snazzy sci-fi feel of having data projected onto the windshield). Your car may not have included the technology, but that doesn’t mean you can’t easily equip it with its own HUD feature, and fortunately there are multiple ways to do this.

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First there was analog sound, then digital, what’s next? – Sound waves are analog in nature, as they are continuous variations in air pressure. An LP’s grooves directly correspond to sound waves, a digital recording does not. It converts the original sounds into a sequence of numbers, and digital recording and playback requires conversions, first from analog to digital, and then digital to analog. The quality of those conversions determine sound quality. Analog recording avoids those conversions, but is subject to a number of distortions that digital audio avoids. Neither format is perfect; we need a new recording and playback technology that sounds more like the real thing.

Comcast’s Internet for the poor too hard to sign up for, advocates say – A California nonprofit says that a Comcast Internet service program for poor people is too difficult to sign up for, resulting in just 11 percent of eligible households in the state getting service. Comcast had to create the $10-per-month Internet Essentials program in order to secure approval of its acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2011. About 300,000 households containing 1.2 million people nationwide have gotten cheap Internet service as a result, but the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) complains that the signup process is riddled with problems, a charge Comcast denies.

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The Guardian: Telling the story of the first world war with 2014 technology – Today we launched our most recent multimedia interactive to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the first world war. It’s a summary of the war, but with a global twist: stories from the outbreak of war to its aftermath are told through the voices of 10 historians from 10 different countries. It is available in seven languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Hindi and Arabic. We are also inviting our readers to translate the project into even more languages for relaunch in the autumn.

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Man ejected from Southwest flight for tweeting that a gate agent was rude – A Minnesota man was ejected from a Southwest Airlines flight for a tweet calling a gate agent rude, reported CBS Minnesota Wednesday. After tweeting, the man was removed from the plane and stated he was “forced” to delete the tweet before he could re-board. Duff Watson is an “A-list” passenger with Southwest, which gives him priority boarding. Watson was miffed when the agent in question told him his two children couldn’t board the plane as priority passengers with him, and Watson let her know that Twitter would, in fact, be hearing about this.

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Model drone finds elderly man, missing for three days, alive – It took just 20 minutes for a model drone to locate a missing elderly Wisconsin man, a feat that helicopters, search dogs, and volunteers couldn’t accomplish in three days. Just don’t tell that to the Federal Aviation Administration, whose regulatory wings are already flapping about model drones. This weekend’s discovery of the 82-year-old man in an area of crops and woods comes amid a legal tussle between flight regulators and model drone operators—the latest of which coincidentally involves search-and-rescue missions.

Watch LG roll up an 18-inch OLED panel while it plays video – The latest innovations to make it into the TVs we can buy today are 4K resolutions and curved screens. But if LG has its way, the TVs we purchase in the future are set to be a lot more flexible and transparent.

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Something to think about:

“America’s admirers overseas accept that money talks in Washington politics, since money talks in everybody’s politics. It is the energetic ideological justification of the dollar’s power in Washington that seems perverse. To citizens of other liberal democracies, the Supreme Court doctrine that money in politics deserves the protections accorded speech seems like doctrinal insanity. For other Western democrats money is plainly power, not speech, and needs to be regulated if citizens are to stay free. It’s difficult to defend liberal democracy with much enthusiasm abroad if it works so poorly at home.”

–     Michael IgnatieffAre The Authoritarians Winning?

Today’s Free Downloads:

Disconnect – Used by over a million people – Disconnect is the easiest way to protect your online privacy.

“There is an entire invisible ecosystem that is reliant on my data,” says Casey Oppenheim, co-founder of online privacy service Disconnect. “My very personal information about what I’m browsing for, searching for, is being combined with real-world information about where I work, who I’m friends with. People are creating very detailed profiles, not just for advertising but also for employers and also for insurance companies.”

Mr. Oppenheim’s company issued an update on Monday notifying users that his service can block third-party software attempts at canvas fingerprinting.

About us:

Why Disconnect – You should be in control of your personal info. But these days thousands of companies, governments, and other parties invisibly collect your Internet activity. Often, this very personal data is packaged, sold or inspected without your permission. We make tools that put you back in control of your online privacy.

What we believe – Understanding online data collection and controlling access to your personal info should be easy. You should be free to move about the Internet without anyone looking over your shoulder and without fear that your online activity might be analyzed, your searches scrutinized, or your security compromised.

Who we are – Disconnect was founded in 2011 by former Google engineers and a consumer-and privacy-rights attorney. We develop award-winning, user-friendly privacy and security software in Palo Alto, California. By being an advocate for Internet users everywhere, we hope to create enduring, positive change in the way personal info is handled online.

Certified B Corp Disconnect exists to help solve an important social issue and our founding principles are reflected in the way we run the company. We’re proud to be a Certified B Corp.

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Disconnect running on my personal system.

Wireshark – Wireshark is a network packet analyzer. A network packet analyzer will try to capture network packets and tries to display that packet data as detailed as possible.

You could think of a network packet analyzer as a measuring device used to examine what’s going on inside a network cable, just like a voltmeter is used by an electrician to examine what’s going on inside an electric cable (but at a higher level, of course).

In the past, such tools were either very expensive, proprietary, or both. However, with the advent of Wireshark, all that has changed.

Wireshark is perhaps one of the best open source packet analyzers available today.

Examples:

network administrators use it to troubleshoot network problems

network security engineers use it to examine security problems

developers use it to debug protocol implementations

people use it to learn network protocol internals

Beside these examples, Wireshark can be helpful in many other situations too.

Features:

The following are some of the many features Wireshark provides:

Available for UNIX and Windows.

Capture live packet data from a network interface.

Display packets with very detailed protocol information.

Open and Save packet data captured.

Import and Export packet data from and to a lot of other capture programs.

Filter packets on many criteria.

Search for packets on many criteria.

Colorize packet display based on filters.

Create various statistics.

… and a lot more!

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist – The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept.

The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, spells out the government’s secret rules for putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings. The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place “entire categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted.

Over the years, the Obama and Bush Administrations have fiercely resisted disclosing the criteria for placing names on the databases—though the guidelines are officially labeled as unclassified. In May, Attorney General Eric Holder even invoked the state secrets privilege to prevent watchlisting guidelines from being disclosed in litigation launched by an American who was on the no fly list. In an affidavit, Holder called them a “clear roadmap” to the government’s terrorist-tracking apparatus, adding: “The Watchlisting Guidance, although unclassified, contains national security information that, if disclosed … could cause significant harm to national security.”

The rulebook, which The Intercept is publishing in full, was developed behind closed doors by representatives of the nation’s intelligence, military, and law-enforcement establishment, including the Pentagon, CIA, NSA, and FBI. Emblazoned with the crests of 19 agencies, it offers the most complete and revealing look into the secret history of the government’s terror list policies to date. It reveals a confounding and convoluted system filled with exceptions to its own rules, and it relies on the elastic concept of “reasonable suspicion” as a standard for determining whether someone is a possible threat. Because the government tracks “suspected terrorists” as well as “known terrorists,” individuals can be watchlisted if they are suspected of being a suspected terrorist, or if they are suspected of associating with people who are suspected of terrorism activity.

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Senate May Pass NSA Reform Bill Before Upcoming Recess – After some pessimism that a deal couldn’t be reached, there is indication in Washington that the Senate may be able to pass its version of the USA FREEDOM Act (UFA) before the coming August recess.

Until the final text of the bill can be examined, all analysis is synthetic, but Senator Patrick Leahy — its sponsor in the upper chamber — has indicated that it will put in place “clear cut guidelines” on what the nation’s intelligence apparatus “can and cannot do.” The Act will also “let the American people know that their privacy is going to be protected,” according to the Senator.

MPs to sue UK.gov over ‘ridiculous’ EMERGENCY data snooping law: DRIP Act was rubber-stamped in THREE days – Two MPs are planning to sue the UK government over its controversial emergency data snooping law, which was rushed through Parliament last week with what they described as “ridiculous and unnecessary haste”.

Conservative David Davis and Labour’s Tom Watson are looking for a judicial review of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIP), which was announced and rubber-stamped in a few days after the Europe’s top court ruled against long-term data retention.

The European Court of Justice said in April that ISPs were no longer required to log comms data on their subscribers for up to 12 months under the Data Retention Directive because the directive interfered with privacy rights. The judgement called into question existing UK law on data snooping, including the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) that covers law enforcement and government agency surveillance of individuals.

The government quickly drew up the DRIP Act forcing telcos to hang onto customers’ information to allow spooks to continue slurping Brits’ phone and internet activity. The act became law in just three days, following discussions between the three main party leaders.

Russian parliament approves law requiring all internet companies to store data within the country – A new amendment put forward by Russia’s Duma and signed into law by Russian president Vladimir Putin may see tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Twitter face a ban from the country unless they comply with new potentially privacy-invading regulations.

The “Information, Information Technologies and Protection of Information” amendment, which modify’s Russia’s existing anti-terrorism laws, would require any communications concerning a Russian citizen — including tweets, status updates, and search histories — to be physically stored within the country for potential use by Russian intelligence and security agencies like the FSB. At current, Russia can’t legally access any data from foreign companies without submitting a legal request, which is likely to be denied. This amendment is an attempt to circumvent those regulations, but considering Russia’s stored history with personal privacy and data rights, the potential for abuse is strong.

If internet companies don’t physically store user data within Russia, they could face being banned from the country entirely — which means services from companies like Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Microsoft would effectively cease to operate within Russia. Despite a difference in methodology, the potential law isn’t far from recent incidents in other countries, like Turkey’s sweeping ban of Twitter and Iraq’s wide-ranging block of all social networks.

Dutch spy agencies can receive NSA data, court rules – Dutch intelligence services can receive bulk data that might have been obtained by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) through mass data interception programs, even though collecting data that way is illegal for the Dutch services, the Hague District Court ruled Wednesday.

The possibility that data received by Dutch intelligence services AIVD and MIVD could have been collected in a way that would not be legal for the Dutch services, doesn’t mean that receiving this data violates international and national treaties, the court said.

The Hague District Court ruled in a civil case file by a coalition of defense lawyers, privacy advocates and journalists who sued the Dutch government last November. They sought a court order to stop the AIVD and MIVD from obtaining data from foreign intelligence agencies that was not obtained in accordance with European and Dutch law.

The coalition’s lawyers had argued that the NSA’s mass data collection programs violate human rights guaranteed by international and European treaties including the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

However, under Dutch law, Dutch intelligence services are allowed to collaborate with the NSA , the court said. And the NSA in turn is bound by U.S. law which, in general, does not conflict with the human rights convention privacy requirements, the court said.

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2 Comments

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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 24, 2014

  1. Fred

    Hi Bill!
    Disconnect
    “Mr. Oppenheim’s company issued an update on Monday notifying users that his service can block third-party software attempts at canvas fingerprinting.”
    Now it was just yesterday that I mentioned to you if there was going to be some way of blocking or removing this and you said, just wait they are working on it. Well…
    I noted on the photo from your system it was the ‘Privacy Badger’ and if I recall correctly didn’t you have a post on that just a few days ago? But I didn’t realize this is what it was.
    Do you think it odd that the download for this using a domain from Montenegro?! https://disconnect.me/
    This blog has to be the most fascinating website I’ve ever come across. Truly.
    Kind regards,
    Fred