Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – August 11, 2014

These 3 Chrome extensions make encryption easier for everyone;  7 back-to-school apps to help you make the grade;  GeckoEye: a security camera puck powered by the sun;  The best Chromebooks for school; How to Tell If The Spies Are Watching You, for Cheap;  What my kid learned with a Little Scholar tablet;  3 data recovery applications for OS X;  Facebook Color Scheme Scam returns: don’t be fooled;  Home routers supplied by ISPs can be compromised en masse;  All you need to know about the ‘X-Men’ movies in 3 minutes;  Battlefield 4 goes free to play on PC for 168 hours;  What are Online Problematic Situations: EU Kids Speak Up;  Beware of US-based Tech Support Scams;  Hackers Unveil Their Plan to Change Email Forever;  Hackers to Auto CEOs: Build Secure Cars!

The best Chromebooks for school – Chromebooks have proven to be wildly popular in schools. More than a million Chromebooks were sold to schools this spring alone. Chromebooks also come with their built-in advantages: They require no anti-virus programs, they boot up in fewer than 10 seconds, they automatically update to the newest patches without any fuss or muss, and with them you can use a wide variety of educational and productivity programs

7 back-to-school apps to help you make the grade – You’re already dreading the early wake-up times and the terrifying tests and term papers that are par for the coursework. While we can’t excuse you from that 8 a.m. class or from the pop quiz that you’re so not prepared for, we can recommend seven educational apps to ease and enrich the coming school year.

These 3 Chrome extensions make encryption easier for everyone – Thanks to the fallout from the revelations about the U.S. government’s surveillance tactics, people are starting to take interest in using encryption tools for keeping email, files, and instant messaging private. Lately, some easy-to-use encryption tools have popped up that are very well designed and don’t require you to dramatically change your usage habits. Here’s a look at three of them.

Keep your laptop secure on campus – Learn how to prevent your laptop from being a target for thieves, and what precautions to take to improve your odds of recovering it in case it gets stolen.

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How to calibrate your TV for movies, sports, and games – One size or setting does not fit all. By adjusting the picture modes that your TV offers, you can improve the image quality for your various entertainment pursuits.

Required Viewing: Dan Geer’s Black Hat Keynote on the Philosophy and Future of the Internet – At this year’s Black Hat convention in Las Vegas, Dan Geer delivered a sobering, thought-provoking key note speech on the current state of Internet technology, the role of government, and his ten suggestions for the future. Watch the video. It’s a veritable feast for thought.

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What my kid learned with a Little Scholar tablet – There’s myriad educational apps and devices out there, and Crave’s Eric Mack has found many of them disappointing, but he reports that School Zone’s Android tablet is a notable exception.

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How to Tell If The Spies Are Watching You, for Cheap – A university professor described to DEF CON attendees how the ordinary citizenry could shield their activities, without having to robbing a bank to fund the project. “Our government’s assault on the Constitution is pretty well known,” Phil Polstra, an associate professor of digital forensics at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, said on Friday. Here are two ways you can tell you are being spied on and how to protect against it, on the cheap.

GeckoEye: a security camera puck powered by the sun – Security cameras serve an obvious purpose: to keep an eye on your possessions in case something happens to them. As technology morphs, these cameras have become smaller and more useful. One such camera is the GeckoEye, a puck-shaped camera that can be fit onto any surface, drawing its power from the sun. The GeckoEye is a round disc measuring in at 45mm, featuring a camera in the middle and an integrated solar panel. The maker says its security camera can be mounted anywhere using sticky tape, and will stay powered on its own via the solar panel.

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Nostalgia alert: Microsoft rebuilds original 1994 home page – Experience the early days of the Web with a faithful re-creation of Microsoft.com as it existed 20 years ago.

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3 data recovery applications for OS X – There are numerous types of data recovery software available and even apps that are designed to support multiple OSs — ones that are Linux-based or boot into a specialized DOS-like environment from Live CDs — but they may or may not support all of the native features of OS X. In this article, we’ll focus only on software that runs natively on OS X.

OS X Tip: Sharing your internet connection – Here’s how to share a single internet connection – perhaps from an ethernet data port – with all your other devices.

What are Online Problematic Situations: EU Kids Speak Up – The London School of Economics and Political Science, in partnership with the EU Kids Online Network, published a long white paper (171 pages!) about what children perceived as online problematic situations (OPS), in contrast to what researchers and/or parents thought were problematic, and why. The report also highlighted the types of risks children are aware of, what the negative consequences are when one engages in or observes risky behaviour online, how they react to them, and what they do to avoid these situations.

Security:

Facebook Color Scheme Scam returns: don’t be fooled – There’s a malicious group of tricksters out there this week with the same game as they’ve had for several years. They suggest you’ll be able to change the color and/or layout of your Facebook homepage, you agree to their terms, and they steal your information. We implore you to let all of your Facebook friends know – DO NOT FALL FOR THIS TRICK.

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Home routers supplied by ISPs can be compromised en masse – Specialized servers used by many ISPs to manage routers and other gateway devices provisioned to their customers are accessible from the Internet and can easily be taken over by attackers, researchers warn. By gaining access to such servers, hackers or intelligence agencies could potentially compromise millions of routers and implicitly the home networks they serve, said Shahar Tal, a security researcher at Check Point Software Technologies. Tal gave a presentation Saturday at the DefCon security conference in Las Vegas.

Beware of US-based Tech Support Scams – Most people associate tech support scams (AKA the fake Microsoft support call) with technicians sitting in a crowded and buzzing boiler room somewhere offshore. Indeed all of the tech support scams we have tracked so far were with companies located either in Mumbai, Kolkata or elsewhere in India. But last month, we stumbled upon fake warning pages urging users to call a number for ‘emergency tech support’. When we rang the number, we were surprised to hear that the technician sounded American. It turned out that their company was based in ‘the sunshine state‘ of Florida, USA.

The 10 most terrifying security nightmares revealed at the Black Hat and Def Con hacker – If the past is any indication, most of these exploits are scarier in theory than in fact—but they still offer a startling glimpse into the dangers inherent in an increasingly connected world. Here are the creepiest security stories coming out of Black Hat and Def Con in 2014.

Hackers to Auto CEOs: Build Secure Cars! – A group of security researchers determined to make the physical world a safer place demanded automobile manufacturers to build cars designed to withstand cyber attacks. The group, with the moniker “I am the Cavalry,” released an open letter to “Automotive CEOs” through Reuters, posted a copy on its website, and launched a change.org petition, to call on automobile industry executives to implement its Five Star Automotive Cyber Safety Program. The pillars of the program includes safety by design, third-party collaboration, evidence capture, security updates, and segmentation and isolation.

Microsoft to drop support for old versions of Internet Explorer – Microsoft announced today that it’s dropping support, including security updates, for older Internet Explorer versions. The changes, which take effect in 18 months, are meant to push the vast Windows installed base to Internet Explorer 11.

Company News:

Andreessen Horowitz invests $50M in BuzzFeed – Entertainment and news site BuzzFeed has closed a $50 million investment from Silicon Valley venture capitalist Andreessen Horowitz. The New York-based company, which was founded in 2006, tracks and serves up the content that is getting the most attention on the Internet to its 150 million average monthly viewers. The investment gives the company a valuation of $850 million, according to the New York Times, which first reported the investment.

Amazon’s latest spat is with Disney, and movie pre-orders are in the crossfire – Amazon is once again nixing movie pre-orders, this time against Disney, likely as a move to “motivate” negotiations in a direction it considers more favorable. Neither Disney or Amazon have commented on the matter, but it has been noted that recent Disney movies like Guardians of the Galaxy are not available for pre-order on Amazon.

Amazon Publishes Hachette CEO’s Email in Latest Salvo Over E-Book Pricing – In its latest move in an escalating battle over e-book pricing, Amazon attacked book publisher Hachette in a strongly-worded letter Saturday which includes the Hachette CEO’s email address and encourages authors to contact him directly.

Games and Entertainment:

All you need to know about the ‘X-Men’ movies in 3 minutes – So what do you do if you’ve been living under a rock for the past 14 years and need to catch up on all seven films — quick? You turn to Mashable’s new TL;DW (Too Long; Didn’t Watch) YouTube video: “Every ‘X-Men’ Film in Less Than Three Minutes.”

(According to this writer, I’ve been “living under a rock for 14 years.” I’ve not yet seen an X-Men movie. On the other hand, I’ve read approximately 588 books – 3.5 books per month on average, during those 14 years. 

I’m not knocking movies (to each his own, and all that) – but personally, given what often passes for entertainment on the big screen these days, I’ll take a book as a first preference. Paper, not an eReader edition.)

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Battlefield 4 goes free to play on PC for 168 hours – Between now and August 14 anyone with an Origin account, or anyone setting one up just for this offer, can claim 168 hours (7 full days) worth of free play time in the game. EA refers to this as Origin Game Time, and they’ve used it before to entice people to play and buy Titanfall. The main difference this time being the 168 hour time limit rather than the comparably stingy 48 hours Titanfall got.

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Microsoft puts the focus on Xbox One multiplayer games in new ad – Microsoft has posted a new Xbox One advertisement showcasing some of the new games heading to the console in the coming months. The advertisement, which dramatically puts the focus on the multiplayer and team elements of gaming, was posted to the official Xbox channel on YouTube earlier today. The upcoming games which make an appearance in the ad include Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Halo: Master Chief Collection, Evolve and Sunset Overdrive.

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Mobile MMORPG Order and Chaos Is Now Free-to-Play – Gameloft is one of the most well-known developers of high-end mobile games on both Android and iOS. Among its popular franchises are Modern Warfare shooters and the Asphalt arcade-style racers. The developer’s MMORPG Order and Chaos has also proven popular, even with the hefty $6.99 asking price. However, this week that game dropped to free on iOS and Android.

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Meet the most insanely authentic flight sims ever: IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad and Ilya Muromets – “This is how we do games: To understand what it’s like to dogfight, we just go outside of Moscow, put ourselves in planes, and do some dogfighting,” says IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad’s producer Albert Zhiltsov, showing me a video of the team flying maneuvers in real planes. It’s crazy. It’s commitment. It’s just a small part of what makes 1C Game Studios—built from the original IL-2 franchise owners 1C Company and Rise of Flight creator 777 Studios—a flight simulator dream-team.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

Surveillance in the Movies: Fact vs. Fiction – For those of us who don’t work at a spy agency, the “intel” we’ve gathered on what state surveillance is like comes primarily from movies and TV shows. But just how realistic are those portrayals? A panel of experts at Defcon, one of the world’s top hacker conferences taking place in Las Vegas over the weekend, had some answers.

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The Simpsons Movie (2007)

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The Company You Keep (2012)

Laziness at the expense of privacy and freedom: John McAfee – John McAfee, founder of the antivirus software company that bears his name, has called out laziness and the likes of Google as two of the contributing factors to the “eroded nature of privacy in our lives today”.

Tech Companies Praise The President For Speaking Out In Favor Of Net Neutrality – President Barack Obama spoke in favor of net neutrality this week, pushing back against the idea of paid prioritization, which many call Internet “fast lanes.” Following the president’s comments, a number of technology companies joined cultural and privacy groups in praising the American leader.

FCC chairman downplays net neutrality differences with Obama – The U.S. Federal Communications Commission chairman’s view of net neutrality rules and President Barack Obama’s are not as different as some reports this week have suggested, the chairman said Friday. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, a Democrat appointed by Obama, downplayed news reports suggesting Obama wants stronger net neutrality rules than he does.

Almost one in six doctor visits will be virtual this year – With an aging Baby Boomer population and broadband bandwidth improved a hundredfold from a decade ago, telemedicine is exploding as a convenient and less costly alternative to the traditional visit to the doctors’ office. This year in the U.S. and Canada, 75 million of 600 million appointments with general practitioners will involve electronic visits, or eVisits, according to new research from Deloitte.

Pizza Gio is Australia’s first pizza vending machine – It might sound like pie in the sky, but pizza vending machines have finally arrived in Australia, following examples in France, the US, and Italy. The Pizza Gio machine vends two varieties of 11-inch artisan pizzas, cooked on demand in under three minutes. It’s the brainchild of George Pompei, the owner of Pompei’s pizzeria and Italian restaurant in Sydney’s Bondi Beach.

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Something to think about:

“If everybody knew everything about everybody else, what would human behavior become? We would be limited to the least common denominator of human behavior: those behaviors which no one would find offensive. “We cannot have intrusions into our lives and still have freedom.”

–      John McAfee

Today’s Free Downloads:

Restore Point Creator – Create and manage System Restore Points quickly and easily, all from a free simple program. No more drilling through multiple menus in Windows just to create a System Restore Point, now all you have to do is run this program and that’s it. Follow the simple program layout and you have your System Restore Point created in no time at all.

Plus, for users of Windows 7 and Windows 8, creating System Restore Points is even quicker and easier with this program. Just pin this program to the Taskbar and you have the ability to quickly create System Restore Points using one of the two pinned Tasks (“Create System Checkpoint” and “Create Custom Named”) that the program creates. It’s that simple.

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FileFriend – MajorGeek says: FileFriend lets you password protect, split and join and password protect your files, even inside images.

It’s a real Swiss army knife of file security. The interface should be easy even for inexperienced users. The first tab lets you split files into many pieces and the second tab allows you to rejoin them. Imaging hiding your favorite files you don’t want seen in 10, 20 or even 1,000 different pieces. The third tab lets you encrypt any file or folder. Finally, the fourth tab lets you not only password protect your jpeg files but also to hide files inside your jpeg images. Each section has a few additional options, but again this one is simple to use and a must have for anyone trying to protect their files.

There is no help file but you won’t be needing it.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Crypto Daddy Phil Zimmerman says surveillance society is DOOMED – Defcon 22 A killer combination of rapidly advancing technology and a desire for greater privacy among the public should condemn current surveillance state to an historical anachronism, according to PGP creator Phil Zimmermann.

In an extended talk at Defcon 22 in Las Vegas, Zimmermann said it might seem as though the intelligence agencies have the whip hand at the moment but mankind had faced this situation before. He also said the abolition of slavery and absolute monarchy, and the achievement for civil rights, also once looked unlikely but were achieved.

Zimmermann praised the release of information by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, saying his efforts have alerted the populace to the real state of affairs and made people much more concerned about privacy. The revelations had also forced the technology industry to “up its game” and provide products to meet that demand, he opined.

Russia now requires ID for access to public WiFi – Modern Russia seems to be edging on totalitarianism, and the latest development doesn’t help that notion. Public WiFi hotspots in Russia now require identification to log in, and companies must make it known to the government who is using their connections. The legislation, though over-reaching and drawing the ire of many, is said to be a measure to stop terrorism.

Signed into law on July 31 by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the announcement was made just today. Companies have said they aren’t even certain how to report who is using their WiFi network. Accessing the public networks is done by registering your mobile phone number, after which you can have a code sent to you to log-in to the network where you happen to be. The number is linked to your ID, suggesting you’d need to register with the Government each time you change numbers. The method also requires updating your info every six months.

Malaysia mulls Facebook ban, cites public complaints – The Malaysian government says it is evaluating the need to ban access to Facebook following incidents of abuse on the social media, but critics argue any move to do so is primitive and will face strong opposition.

“If the people [of Malaysia] are of the opinion that Facebook should be closed, we are prepared to look into the matter,” Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek told local reporters after an Umno meeting over the weekend. The ministry is currently gathering public views on this issue, he said, noting that it had received 2,000 complaints involving abuse on the website.

However, he admitted that mandating a ban on Facebook would be “a radical approach”, reported local news agency Bernama. Ahmad Shabery added that it would be “quite impossible” to shut down access when there were 15 million Facebook accounts in Malaysia.

Hackers Unveil Their Plan to Change Email Forever – The creator of an ultra-secure email service once said to be used by Edward Snowden unveiled his next project at a major hacker conference Friday: he and others like him want to change the very nature of email forever.

Ladar Levison, creator of the Lavabit encrypted email provider, was forced in August of last year to give investigators access to an account reportedly used by Snowden, the National Security Agency leaker, after a tug-of-war with federal authorities. But rather than compromise the privacy of his other 400,000-plus email users, Levison says, he shut the entire project down. A similar encrypted email provider, Silent Circle, took heed and shuttered its own service to pre-empt any federal authorities that might come demanding information from it as well.

Out of those ashes, Levison and others launched the Dark Mail project, which is developing Dime, a set of new email protocols its creators hope will revolutionize the way the world communicates online.

“If I sound a little bit upset, it’s because I am,” Levison told a packed ballroom Friday at Defcon, a top hacker conference held annually in Las Vegas.

“I’m not upset that I got railroaded and I had to shut down my business,” said Levison. “I’m upset because we need a Mil-Spec [military grade] cryptographic mail system for the entire planet just to be able to talk to our friends and family without any kind of fear of government surveillance.”

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