Senate introduces USA FREEDOM Act to curb NSA spying excesses; Former NSA director will file “at least” 9 patents to detect malicious hackers; Americans’ online privacy worries center on money – and porn; iPhone gets first free app for encrypting voice calls; Antivirus Software for the Morning After; Swap files between Windows and Android in 2 clicks with Pushbullet; 25 Tips to Turbocharge Dropbox; Privacy groups call for action to stop Facebook’s off site user tracking; 5 unexpectedly useful apps; Facebook Begins Forced Migration to Messenger App for Chat; Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free scores 100% in AV-TEST removal test; Treating people like lab rats is NOT OK, OKCupid? How to recover deleted photos from a memory card; Fox’s Bill O’Reilly: Gadgets got Obama elected; Kaspersky Security Scan (free).
Senate introduces USA FREEDOM Act to curb NSA spying excesses: Good news if you’re an American, less so for everyone else – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has introduced the USA FREEDOM Act to the Senate and claims, that, if passed, the legislation will severely curtail the amount of mass surveillance that can be carried out by the NSA and others – provided you’re a citizen of the land of the free. “This is a debate about Americans’ fundamental relationship with their government – about whether our government should have the power to create massive databases of information about its citizens,” Leahy said.
Americans’ online privacy worries center on money — and porn, a bit – According to a survey, Americans say their biggest concern with online infiltrators is that their financial info will be spied on. Some even admit they’re worried about privacy while browsing porn.
Antivirus Software for the Morning After – When your antivirus software is nicely installed and integrated with Windows, it has lots of chances to prevent malware infestation. It can block access to the malicious URL, kill the download before it executes, eliminate known malware based on its signature, detect and avert malicious behavior, and so on. But if the malware has already dug in its heels, that’s a different story. An arduous, months-long test by AV-Test Institute evaluated which products do the best cleanup job.
(In earlier comments on last week’s test, I pointed out that the posted results emasculated Malwarebytes Free, based on an upside down methodology. We now have the results based on a more appropriate methodology – “In this latest test from AV-Test, Malwarebytes was the only product to achieve a perfect score, every single threat completely wiped out. This result is more in keeping with Malwarebytes’s reputation as the go-to tool for malware cleanup.”)
PC Magazine – Antivirus Software for the Morning After
Former NSA director will file “at least” 9 patents to detect malicious hackers – Alexander left his government post in early 2014 and went on to co-found a private company, IronNet Cybersecurity Inc., with unnamed business partners. Alexander said that these business partners helped him create the “unique” method for detecting hackers that he plans to patent. Of course, Alexander himself had unparalleled access to classified security operations from 2005, when he took charge of the NSA, to 2014, when he retired.
(Washington’s political reward system takes a giant leap forward. Another pig gorging at the trough of political corruption. Reprehensible – but expected.)
iPhone gets first free app for encrypting voice calls – An open-source project has released the first free application for the iPhone that scrambles voice calls, which would thwart government surveillance or eavesdropping by hackers. Signal is notable for two reasons. First, it’s free. There are many voice call encryption products on the market for various platforms, most of which are not cheap and are aimed at enterprise users. Second, Signal is open source code, meaning developers can look at the code and verify its integrity. That’s important because of concerns that software vendors have been pressured into adding “backdoors” into their products that could assist government surveillance programs.
Swap files between Windows and Android in 2 clicks with Pushbullet – Pushbullet makes it ridiculously simple to transfer files from one device to another with just a few clicks. The connection between your devices is always present, meaning you don’t have to reconnect every time you want to swap a picture. Pushbullet doesn’t give you complete access to your phone’s file system like AirDroid does. Instead, it allows you to transfer files, links, notes, and messages from one device to another.
Facebook Begins Forced Migration to Messenger App for Chat – Mobile users still hanging on to Facebook’s in-app chat service are now being forced into the arms of the social network’s standalone Messenger application. In April, the company announced its move from all-in-one network to separate apps, initially requiring folks in a handful of European countries to download Messenger if they wanted to chat. Now, the company is rolling it out to everyone. In Monday emails to some users, Facebook notified them about the impending transition to Messenger, which it said is “a free app that’s faster and more reliable for everyday messaging.”
Privacy groups call for action to stop Facebook’s off site user tracking plans – U.S. and EU privacy and consumer groups called on privacy regulators to stop Facebook’s plans to gather the Internet browsing patterns of its users while they visit other sites. The privacy groups expressed “deep alarm” about Facebook’s June announcement that it would start tracking information from some of the websites and apps its users are visiting in order to serve more relevant ads.
Australia: Illegal downloading in government’s sights as Online Copyright Infringement Discussion Paper takes aim at consumers, ISPs – The days of downloading your favourite TV show for free could be numbered, with details emerging about the plans to crack down on internet piracy. A leaked discussion paper on the issue, published by news website Crikey, outlines measures the Federal Government is considering to curb illegal downloading, including forcing internet service providers (ISPs) to block offending websites and punishing customers caught infringing copyright. But John Stanton from ISP industry body Communication Alliance says the proposals overlook a major source of the problem — that the content consumers want is not accessible or affordable enough. Australians are among the worst offenders in the world when it comes to illegal downloading. (suggested by Mal C.)
Microsoft debuts Sharks Cove, a costly Raspberry Pi alternative – The pint-sized PC features a 1.33GHz Intel Atom processor with integrated HD graphics, 16GB of EMMC storage, a MIPI connector for display and camera, HDMI, one USB 2.0 port and a micro-USB power port. Ethernet or wifi is available only through USB, meaning users will have to connect to the internet or other networks with a USB adapter. At $299, the board is priced significantly higher than its Raspberry Pi or Arduino board counterparts. Microsoft said the price covers the cost of the hardware, a Windows 8.1 image, and the slightly vague “utilities” required to apply it to the Sharks Cove.
25 Tips to Turbocharge Dropbox – It’s the leading cloud-based sync and storage service—but Dropbox isn’t perfect. Here’s how to make the most of it.
5 unexpectedly useful apps – You probably didn’t know you needed a color-coded goal manager or a dedicated email tracker. But once you try these apps, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them.
How to perform a factory reset on your Android phone or tablet – While the standard procedure is usually good enough, those with enough know-how can possibly dig up your old data, so you should consider encrypting your phone before resetting it if you’re going to sell or donate it. If you’re just wiping your phone just to start over from scratch, be sure to backup the data and content that’s important to you. You can find a great list of backup options right here.
Android’s factory data reset comes up short – Resetting an Android device using the factory data reset is supposed to remove the owner’s data. According to AVAST researchers it does not. Find out what they learned and a possible solution.
Image: AVAST Software
Google makes Material homescreens of Docs, Sheets, and Slides – Given Google’s most recent modifications of Docs, Sheets, and Slides, you’ll be encouraged to use one or all of the collection as your ever-rotating homepage. When you visit any of the three services now with google.com/docs, /sheets, or /slides, you’ll find an entirely different arrangement than you’re used to.
UK Police Replacing Ads On Piracy Sites With Warnings – UK police have started replacing ads on websites that provide access to pirated or copyright infringing material with warnings to web users that the site is on a watch list — and a call for them to close the browser page in question. The initiative, called Operation Creative, is being carried out by the City of London Police’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) and follows a call by the unit, back in April, for advertisers to get behind a plan to tackle IP related crime by helping disrupt piracy sites’ access to ad revenue.
How to recover deleted photos from a memory card – “Uh oh.” Those are probably the first two words you’ll utter when you realise your photos have disappeared. If you have accidentally formatted your card or you suspect it has become corrupted, there are ways to recover your images. Here’s how to get started. You will need a card reader, a computer, the memory card in question and nerves of steel.
Android crypto blunder exposes users to highly privileged malware – The majority of devices running Google’s Android operating system are susceptible to hacks that allow malicious apps to bypass a key security sandbox so they can steal user credentials, read e-mail, and access payment histories and other sensitive data, researchers have warned. Google developers have introduced changes that limit some of the damage that malicious apps can do in Android 4.4, but the underlying bug remains unpatched, even in the Android L preview.
‘Things’ on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece – Ten of the most popular Internet of Things devices contain an average of 25 security vulnerabilities, many severe, HP researchers have found. HP’s investigators found 250 vulnerabilities across the Internet of Things (IoT) devices each of which had some form of cloud and remote mobile application component and nine that collected personal user data. Flaws included the Heartbleed vulnerability, cross site scripting, weak passwords and denial of service. Some of the unnamed devices contained users’ credit card data, date of birth details and name and address records.
12 of the biggest, baddest, boldest software backdoors of all time – It’s always tough to ensure the software you’re using is secure, but it’s doubly difficult if the creators of the software — or some malicious unknown third party — has surreptitiously planted a back way in. Here’s a look at 12 of the trickiest, subtlest, and nastiest software backdoors found in the wild yet.
Mobile Top-Up Credit Sharing Scams in Circulation – There are lots of mobile providers who allow customers to share their top-up load with friends and family – a handy way to get someone out of a “no way to make a call” pinch, and a more flexible alternative to networks who offer a handful of “call this number, I’m out of money” texts. However, the awesome ability to donate some top-up time to someone who needs it also gives scammers the opportunity to pilfer some of those call credits in a number of ways.
Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free scores 100% in AV-TEST removal test! – Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free is the only product, out of a total of 17 analyzed over a grueling 10-month long period, to achieve a perfect 100% score. We removed and repaired every single threat thrown at us. AV-TEST created a variety of scenarios intended to simulate real user experiences between September 2013 and June 2014. Malwarebytes was tested against 30 different pieces of the latest malware in two separate situations, and asked to rip them off a Windows 7 machine. Not only did we do this every single time, we also completely disinfected each system, not even leaving harmless file remnants.
1,000,000 lost credit cards = £150,000 fine – A UK travel company has been fined £150,000 for putting an “internal only” parking database system on the internet without securing it first. The vulnerable system was used as a stepping stone for a crook to steal more than 1M e-commerce records.
Twitter Skyrockets After Reporting Big Q2 Revenue Of $312M, Profit Of $0.02 Per Share – This afternoon Twitter reported its second quarter financial performance, including revenue of $312 million, and earnings per share of $0.02. The street had expected Twitter to lose a penny per share on revenue of $283.07 million. Its revenue in the quarter was up 124 percent from the year-ago period. In the second quarter of 2013, Twitter’s revenue totaled $139.3 million. In its most recent, sequential quarter, Twitter had revenue of $250 million. In the period, 81 percent of Twitter’s ad revenue came from mobile advertising.
Oracle slashes Larry Ellison’s stock options following shareholder discontent – Oracle has granted CEO Larry Ellison 3 million stock options, a significant reduction from the 7 million options he received in previous years, according to a regulatory filing. Other Oracle executives, such as co-presidents Mark Hurd and Safra Catz, were also awarded smaller stock option grants than in the past, other filings made Monday show. Each received 2.25 million stock options, compared to 5 million last year. The changes, which were first reported by The Wall Street Journal, come after years of shareholder discontent over Oracle’s executive compensation.
Chinese officials seize Microsoft PCs, emails, financial info in antitrust probe – In a note on its website, China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC), one of several agencies tasked with enforcing antitrust laws, said that with the help of nearly 100 law enforcement officers, regulators made unannounced visits to four Microsoft offices in Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Shanghai. During the raids, SAIC regulators and police seized two Microsoft computers; internal emails, contracts and financial information; and interviewed senior managers and other personnel in the company’s marketing and finance departments.
Netflix strikes peering agreement with AT&T – In the same way it did with Comcast and Verizon, Netflix has struck a peering agreement with AT&T to bring subscribers’ buffering woes to an end. This news was first rumored earlier today, and later on confirmed by AT&T in a statement saying, in part, “We’re now beginning to turn up the connections, a process that should be complete in the coming days.”
Ford and GM sued for millions over CD-ripping tech in cars – The copyright protection arm of the U.S. music industry is suing Ford and GM because the companies sold cars with CD players that can rip music to the vehicle’s hard drive. The lawsuit calls out a feature in Ford vehicles called Jukebox, which records songs from CDs to the infotainment system’s hard drive. The Jukebox function has been available on Ford vehicles since at least the 2011 model year.
BlackBerry focuses on security for the enterprise – Now that BlackBerry has fallen significantly behind Apple and Google in the race to offer features and third-party apps for its smartphones, the company is concentrating on providing devices that, it claims, have the strongest available security—the killer feature for the enterprise. To this end, BlackBerry announced Tuesday that it is purchasing Secusmart, a German company that offers a technology to encrypt voice calls and texts made on BlackBerry devices.
Games and Entertainment:
New Dark Ages Update for Plants vs. Zombies 2 Now Out on Android and iOS – You would have to be living under a very large sound-proof rock to have missed the launch of Plants vs. Zombies 2 last year. The game came with three worlds spread across time and space, but EA has been pushing out updates every few months with new levels and even entirely new worlds. Today the second half of the Dark Ages update is live with new maps, zombies, plants and more.
EA Launches A $30 Per Year Netflix For Games On Xbox One – The game publisher just announced a new subscription service called ‘EA Access‘ for Xbox One users that will give subscribers all the games they can play (from a limited catalog) for $4.99 per month.
P90X for Xbox Fitness arrives just in time for summer – With the highly successful workout program coming to the Xbox One, P90X for Xbox Fitness will offer some unique features. For starters, the program will feature five routines that are exclusive to the console. The Xbox One version will also feature real-time feedback, which will gives users access to their earned fit points, heart rate, and also muscle tension. P90X for Xbox Fitness on the Xbox One will be available for download for $59.99 USD.
PlayStation 4 patch adds support for 3D Blu-ray content – Sony has just announced that an upcoming Playstation 4 patch will add support for 3D Blu-ray playback. However, this does little to appease gamers that feel Sony’s focus is shifting away from gaming.
Assassin’s Creed Unity Trailer Introduces Female Warrior – Following last month’s E3 sneak peek of Ubisoft’s upcoming Assassin’s Creed Unity, the game maker on Tuesday offered another look at our hero, Arno Dorian, as well as the introduction of a young Templar named Elise. A new trailer opens with Arno racing through the war-torn streets of Paris in the late 1780s, the camera panning across another man stepping up to the guillotine. Arno’s sword-slinging skills arrive just in time to save a woman from impending death. Upon rescue, it’s revealed that she sports a Templar necklace and a willingness to fight alongside Arno.
Modern Combat 5: Blackout looks great on mobile (pictures) – Gameloft’s Modern Combat series has always been a hit on mobile devices, but the latest sequel adds even more reasons to play.
Off Topic (Sort of):
Treating people like lab rats is NOT OK, OKCupid? – Christian Rudder, cofounder of dating site OKCupid, believes experimenting on users and outright lies about dating compatibility are hunky dory — because OKCupid is a web site! All the fuss about Facebook’s mood experiments is overblown, and he has the data to prove it!
Smartphone kill switch could save US consumers $3.4B, study says – If kill switches became standard in all phones, consumers could save big on replacement phones and insurance coverage, according to a researcher from Creighton University.
Ed Bott: Four ways the ‘new Microsoft’ will change the lives of IT pros – If you work in a traditional Windows-based shop, you could be in for a bumpy ride. Ed Bott explains how IT pros will need to adapt to a variety of changes. (Registration required)
WTC 18th century mystery ship traced back to Philadelphia – A few years ago, an 18th-century ship was discovered at the former World Trade Center site in New York City. Researchers had suspected at the time that the ship was a Hudson River merchant vessel, and over the years have worked towards learning more about the discovery — something that has recently proven a success.
Fox’s Bill O’Reilly: Gadgets got Obama elected – The Fox News presenter says iPads and the like made it easier to present a candidate’s image that was “false” to narcissistic young people. Perhaps they should talk to one of Fox’s most celebrated and erudite presenters, Neil DeGrasse Tyson. He explained only on Friday that most geeks are Democrats. And geeks have influenced human behavior over the last ten years more than anyone else.
Driverless Cars to Hit Public Roads in Britain by January 2015 – On Wednesday, the British government will announce its plans to test autonomous vehicles on public roads by January 2015, but first the Highway Code will need to be revised to allow the driverless cars on the streets
Something to think about:
“Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?”
– Kelvin Throop III
Today’s Free Downloads:
theHunter 736 – Download and play the most realistic hunting game online for free. Go hunting with your friends in multi-player with up to 8 players – or explore the seven diverse and immersive hunting reserves in the world of the Hunter by yourself.
PLAY WITH YOUR FRIENDS – theHunter supports up to eight players in competitive or co-operative multiplayer. Invite your friends, organize an expedition and play together – Or challenge each other for bragging rights and see who can bag the biggest trophy!
AN IMMERSIVE OPEN WORLD – Within the large open world environment of the Evergreen Hunting Reserve are seven hunting reserves for you to explore. Immerse yourself in detailed hunting grounds based on Scandinavian, Central European and North American environments.
SHOW OFF YOUR SKILLS – Take part in competitions, community events and show everyone that you are a master hunter by moving up the leaderboards. Your Hunter Score and skill levels increase as you play – Do you have what it takes to become the number one hunter in the Evergreen Hunting Reserve?
Kaspersky Security Scan – Checks for known malware and software vulnerabilities on your PC – plus advises you on your PC’s security status.
Quick scanning for viruses and other security threats – Checks for known malware and software vulnerabilities on your PC – plus advises you on your PC’s security status.
Access to the latest, cloud-based security information – Our servers in the ‘cloud’ provide real-time information – to scan your PC for the latest viruses and emerging threats.
Real-time results from recognized security experts – Award-winning scanning capabilities – built by the same world-class experts that develop other Kaspersky products.
Won’t conflict with antivirus software that’s already on your PC – Installs quickly and works on PCs that have an active firewall or antivirus software installed.
Advice for a more secure future – Provides advice on how to remedy security problems that have been identified by Kaspersky Security Scan.
The latest data… to find the latest threats – Kaspersky Security Scan uses the latest Kaspersky Lab technologies – plus real-time information from Kaspersky Lab’s servers in the ‘cloud’ – to ensure it can scan your PC for the latest viruses and emerging threats.
Tweaking.com – Envelope Printer – A free app to simplify printing your envelopes. Save and store addresses and even add an image.
The program remembers your settings, so once all ready to go you can open the program, open the address book, choose the address hit use this address and the click print. 4 mouse clicks and you are done.
In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:
Personal Privacy Is Only One of the Costs of NSA Surveillance – There is no doubt the integrity of our communications and the privacy of our online activities have been the biggest casualty of the NSA’s unfettered surveillance of our digital lives. But the ongoing revelations of government eavesdropping has had a profound impact on the economy, the security of the internet and the credibility of the U.S. government’s leadership when it comes to online governance.
These are among the many serious costs and consequences the NSA and those who sanctioned its activities—including the White House, the Justice Department and lawmakers like Sen. Dianne Feinstein—apparently have not considered, or acknowledged, according to a report by the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute.
“Too often, we have discussed the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs through the distorting lens of a simplistic ‘security versus privacy’ narrative,” said Danielle Kehl, policy analyst at the Open Technology Institute and primary author of the report. “But if you look closer, the more accurate story is that in the name of security, we’re trading away not only privacy, but also the U.S. tech economy, internet openness, America’s foreign policy interests and cybersecurity.”
Over the last year, documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, have disclosed numerous NSA spy operations that have gone beyond what many considered acceptable surveillance activity. These included infecting the computers of network administrators working for a Belgian telecom in order to undermine the company’s routers and siphon mobile traffic; working with companies to install backdoors in their products or network infrastructure or to devise ways to undermine encryption; intercepting products that U.S. companies send to customers overseas to install spy equipment in them before they reach customers.
The Foundation’s report, released today, outlines some of the collateral damage of NSA surveillance in several areas, including:
Economic losses to US businesses due to lost sales and declining customer trust.
The deterioration of internet security as a result of the NSA stockpiling zero-day vulnerabilities, undermining encryption and installing backdoors in software and hardware products.
Undermining the government’s credibility and leadership on “internet freedom” and governance issues such as censorship.
Tech Companies Throw Their Support Behind Strengthened NSA Reform Bill – As expected, Sen. Patrick Leahy introduced the USA FREEDOM Act to the upper chamber of Congress on Tuesday. The bill comes on the heels of a similar, weaker measure passed in the House that was widely condemned as denatured and passed by brute force.
“If enacted, this bill would represent the most significant reform of government surveillance authorities since Congress passed the USA Patriot Act 13 years ago,” Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.
The new bill is widely heralded as a compromise, as Leahy sought input from the Obama administration in drafting the bill. Privacy groups, such as the ACLU and The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), as well as tech companies that pulled support from the House version when it became too watered down, praised the bill.
A coalition representing AOL (which owns us), Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo expressed support for the bill. That group, called Reform Government Surveillance (RGS), previously pulled support for the House version of the USA FREEDOM Act after its gutting.
“[The Senate] bill will help restore trust in the Internet by ending the government’s bulk Internet metadata collection and increasing transparency around U.S. surveillance practices,” the group said in a statement.
Leahy’s bill would curtail bulk collection of data under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, create a special advocate inside of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) and add a host of language changes to current law that would greatly limit the potential purview of many surveillance programs.
Importantly, if enacted in its current form, the bill would end the now-infamous call metadata program that was first unveiled last June. That program was the first of the National Security Agency (NSA) activities that came to light due to the documents that former-NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked to the media.
Analysis: Bill banning phone metadata collection gives NSA access to it – A prominent senator unveiled legislation Tuesday that would end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of all telephone metadata—a package that still provides the nation’s spooks limited access to the data of every phone call made to and from the US. And the probable-cause standard under the Fourth Amendment is not present.
Conceding the realpolitik, civil rights groups and others are backing the proposal from Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, even though the NSA may acquire the data absent constitutional protections.
The American Civil Liberties Union supported the legislation—called the USA Freedom Act—while admitting that it’s “not perfect.” The ACLU said:
The Senate bill is an improvement over the version passed by the House, but problems remain. It is important that the public understand that there is much more work to be done to narrow the government’s overbroad surveillance authorities to bring them in line with our Constitution and values. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we have miles left to go
The New York Times even weighed in, saying that the measure “represents a breakthrough in the struggle against the growth of government surveillance power.”
All the celebrations concerning the Leahy measure were in response to the bill’s perceived impact of countering greater spying powers for the NSA.
The Center for Democracy & Technology, which opposed the House bill, supported the Leahy measure, saying Tuesday that it was a “significant step forward in protecting Americans from unnecessary and intrusive NSA surveillance.”
EFF Files Motion Asking Judge to Rule NSA Data Collection Unconstitutional – The EFF has asked a federal judge to rule that the NSA’s collection of massive amounts of upstream user data is unconstitutional, violating the Fourth Amendment. The motion for partial summary judgment in the case of Jewel v. NSA, a six-year-old lawsuit related to NSA data collection on AT&T’s network, is based mainly on statements from the government itself about how it conducts such collection.
The Jewel lawsuit is a long-running case that stems from revelations several years ago that AT&T had installed secret taps that allegedly copied massive amounts of inbound and outbound Internet traffic on its network and handed that data to the NSA. The suit was filed by the EFF on behalf of Carolyn Jewel, an AT&T customer, and alleges that much of what the NSA collects via the tap is domestic communications.
The motion by the EFF, filed late last week, is based on the government’s own descriptions of its data collection and alleges that the collection violates customers’ Fourth Amendment right to protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
“We believe there is enough on the record now for the judge to rule that both the initial mass seizure and the subsequent searching of the content of Internet communications are unconstitutional,” EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn said. “By installing fiber-optic splitters on the Internet backbone, and then searching through tens of millions of Internet communications it collects, the NSA is conducting suspicionless and indiscriminate mass surveillance that is like the abusive ‘general warrants’ that led the nation’s founders to enact the Fourth Amendment.”