Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – August 14, 2014

Snowden reveals automated NSA cyberwarfare program;  Microsoft Urges Reform Of U.S. Government’s Surveillance Practices;  11 apps for surviving natural disasters;  Why LastPass is best password manager on Android;  Word wranglers: 5 apps that make writing easier;  Dash’s Smart Driving App Arrives On iPhone;  Affordable phones built to withstand college;  The Best Photo-Sharing Sites;  Patch critical flaw in Adobe Reader and Acrobat;  Panda Free Antivirus;  Pocket router uses TOR to protect your WiFi traffic;  Awesome tech in the movies: 10 instances;  Sony brings gaming to US and Europe for $99 with Playstation TV;  30 Years of Windows and Not Fixing the Obvious;  These Vintage Computer Ads Show We’ve Come a Long, Long Way.

Snowden reveals automated NSA cyberwarfare program – The U.S. National Security Agency has a cyberwarfare program that hunts for foreign cyberattacks and is able to strike back without human intervention, according to NSA leaker Edward Snowden. The NSA cyberwarfare program, called MonsterMind, uses software to look for traffic patterns indicating possible foreign cyberattacks, according to Snowden, quoted in a lengthy profile in Wired. MonsterMind could automatically block a cyberattack from entering the U.S., then retaliate against the attackers, according to the Wired story.

6 Things We Learned From Wired’s Huge New Interview With Edward Snowden – James Bamford of Wired has published an in-depth interview with National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden after “spending three solid days over several weeks” with the 31-year-old American in Moscow. Here are things that we found interesting, as reported by Bamford.

Why LastPass is best password manager on Android – LastPass is a solid password manager that is the most pain-free and secure method for stepping up your security on Android. While 1Password and other competitors have good solutions, LastPass connects more deeply to Android-specific features, like syncing passwords across the desktop, browser, and mobile apps.

11 apps for surviving natural disasters – It’s shark week on TV, but for many of us danger is closer to home. Summer is the season for tornadoes, hurricanes, and wildfires — do you know what to do in case of emergency? Boost your chances of survival with our top 11 natural disaster apps.

Word wranglers: 5 apps that make writing easier – Quick: Picture a writer in your head. An image of a bearded old man, hunched over a clackety typewriter may come to mind. But these days, a writer is more likely to be tapping away at a tablet or even a smartphone, composing anything from a business document to the next great American novel. No matter what it is you’re writing, these apps can help make the process a little easier.

Dress up your Word document with page numbers, a table of contents and more – No matter how great your idea is, the difference between your business proposal and someone else’s could boil down to the look and feel. A title page, header and footer, table of contents, and other elements separate a professional-looking document from a dull sea of text. It’s worth your time to learn how Word’s tools and wizards make such formatting easy—and keep exploring other ways to present your work in the best possible light.

Toshiba Encore 2 review: This Windows 8 tablet goes easy on your wallet – Microsoft sparked a race to the bottom with the introduction of Windows 8.1 with Bing. And Toshiba cut the bottom out of the bottom line with its Encore 2 series, bringing Windows tablets down to the price of mainstream Android tablets. The 10-inch version reviewed here will set you back just $270, and the smaller 8-inch version costs just $200. What compromises must you put up with at prices that low? Surprisingly few.

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Dash’s Smart Driving App Arrives On iPhone – The Dash smart driving assistant that made its debut earlier this year on Android has launched on iPhone answering one of the most frequently heard requests from its users. The Dash app, which is backed by Techstars New York, connects to any ODB-II dongle that you can get for your car (most cars made since 1996 should have one that’s easily accessible) providing feedback about your trips like fuel efficiency and even info about vehicle diagnostics.

Back-to-school tech: Affordable phones built to withstand college – A recent survey shows that 50 percent of college students break their phones. Here are some low-cost options and warranty plans to protect your investment.

The Best Photo-Sharing Sites – Digital cameras and smartphones mean that most of us have a ton of photos scattered everywhere, from phones and computer hard drives to Facebook and Instagram profiles. But what happens when you switch phones, upgrade computers or simply want to search all your photos at once?

These Vintage Computer Ads Show We’ve Come a Long, Long Way – These ads from the 70’s and 80’s remind us of a time when computers came in briefcases and cost “Under $18,000!”

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Security:

Users told to patch critical flaw in Adobe Reader and Acrobat – The vulnerability allows attackers to escape the sandbox protection of Reader and Acrobat X and XI in order to execute code with elevated privileges on the Windows platform. Adobe addressed the flaw in the newly released 11.0.08 and 10.1.11 versions of the two products. The company also released new versions of Flash Player for Windows, Mac and Linux, as well as updates for the Adobe AIR framework, its SDK (software development kit) and compiler.

(Déjà vu – over and over, and over and over, and over and over…..…………….. again.

Take a peek at one of my older articles on why you should consider an alternative to Adobe Reader.

Excerpt – FOUR Free Alternatives To Adobe Reader Malware Magnet (March 2011) – “If you continue to use Adobe Reader, make sure you install the latest version. Users who continue running older versions of Adobe software (not uncommon), is a major element in cyber crooks successful manipulation of this application. Better yet – don’t even consider running Adobe Reader. Instead, choose one of a number of much faster, more streamlined free applications.”)

PORTAL pocket router uses TOR to protect your WiFi traffic – Privacy concerns continue to grow, and efforts to make sure that one’s digital world stays private — or, at least, as private as possible — are at an all-time high. Edward Snowden has famously advised the public to use encryption to keep out prying eyes. This has lead to the creation of what amounts to a portable security-centric travel router.

BlackBerry patches vulnerabilities in BlackBerry OS, enterprise server software – BlackBerry OS version 10.2.1.1925 was released for the company’s Z10, Z30, Q10 and Q5 phone models. It fixes an authentication bypass vulnerability that could allow attackers connected to the same wireless network as affected devices to read or modify data stored on them. The flaw can only be exploited on devices that have the Wi-Fi file-sharing service running, a service that’s not enabled by default.

Virtual servers: No safer than any other kind – Once upon a time, we used to think in terms of one hardware server equals one server operating system. Then, along came KVM, Hyper-V, VMware, and all the rest of the virtual machine (VM) hypervisors and more recently Docker with its containers. Now the idea of a single server operating system on a solo box is downright quaint. Don’t think, however, that just because your servers are virtual instead of physical that they are somehow safer from security threats. They’re not.

Company News:

Dead Steve Jobs sued by own shareholders in no-poach pact brouhaha – Apple is once again facing a lawsuit, this time from its own shareholders over its no-poaching-of-staff pacts with rivals. A lawsuit [PDF] filed in California’s San Jose District Court earlier this week claims the Cupertino giant misled investors and damaged the value of the company by striking a fishy hiring agreement with other corporations. The suit notes that Jobs (whose estate is listed as a defendant in the case) was particularly egregious in sealing deals with rival execs. “Jobs’s conduct is a reminder that even widely respected businessmen can knowingly commit unlawful acts in the zealous pursuit of profits,” the suit alleges. “In this case, Jobs and the other Individual Defendants knowingly caused Apple to enter into agreements that violated California law and U.S. antitrust laws.”

T-Mobile planning to throttle some unlimited data users – In the recent months, there has been a trend between cell phone service providers to throttle heavy data users. Following the fad, T-Mobile has joined the party, according to a leaked memo. The memo states that on August 17, the company will begin to throttle users that are misusing their unlimited data service by using it for peer-to-peer file sharing and tethering for use outside of the terms and conditions when they signed up.

Cisco slashing up to 6,000 jobs – Cisco Systems will cut as many as 6,000 jobs over the next 12 months, saying it needs to shift resources to growing businesses such as cloud, software and security. The move will be a reorganization rather than a net reduction, the company said. It needs to cut jobs because the product categories where it sees the strongest growth, such as security, require special skills, so it needs to make room for workers in those areas, it said.

Games and Entertainment:

Sony brings gaming to US and Europe for $99 with Playstation TV – Sony has said that it will launch the PlayStation TV box – which includes the ability to play games via its PlayStation Now game-streaming service – in the US ($99) and Europe (€99) later this year

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Yep, Activision Is Bringing Back Sierra (And Kings Quest!) – Just a quick update for everyone who geeked out with us last week at the idea of Activision bringing back the legendary gaming brand that is Sierra: It’s happening. Details are still pretty light, but Activision made the revival official at the Gamescom conference this week. If the options, then, were “let Sierra’s old games fade away forever,” “spend a ton of money to hire a bunch of new developers/artists to try to recreate something that resembles Sierra in its glory days,” or “let carefully selected indie developers with proven track records take a stab at making these old series great again,” I’m glad they went with Door No. 3.

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Metal Gear Solid V gameplay demo full rundown – Today we’re watching Meal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain in some (what appears to be) live gameplay straight from Gamescom. As our demonstration captain suggests, this is the most advanced version of Metal Gear Solid 5 (or V) that we’ve yet seen, modified and changed since E3 2014. What you’ll see below is a full video of this demonstration for your perusal.

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Respawn announces third ‘Titanfall’ map pack, ‘IMC Rising’ – The map pack, “IMC Rising,” was announced at Germany’s Gamescom conference today, and it will include three new maps: Blackwater, Zone 18 and Sandtrap. No details were provided about the maps, however, other than the fact that the DLC will cost $10, the same price as the last two map packs, and it will release “this fall.” Those who purchased the $25 “Titanfall” season pass will also receive the map pack, which is the third and final DLC in the subscription.

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How one Diablo 3 player pulled in $130,000 from the Real Money Auction House – Our anonymous Diablo 3 player, who recently published his recipe for success online, figured out quickly that gold was a trivial thing to get a hold of when compared to items. Through scripted bot accounts, he crawled the auction house looking for high value items that had been lazily posted for fractions of what the economy had decided their worth was. When the RMAH was launched, he was able to use these bot accounts to purchase items for comparably little in-game gold and sell that same item on another account for cash.

Robin Williams will be memorialized with WoW in-game character – The shock of Robin Williams’ passing is still very fresh. The actor who made millions happy with his intensely paced brand of comedy was also an avid gamer. In honor of his love for World of Warcraft, Blizzard — the Development house responsible for the online RPG — will memorialize him as a character.

Inside the Cup: Cuphead is a 1930′s cartoon video game come to life – Welcome to Cuphead, a game that will have you doing a double-take when you first see it, no matter what environment you’re coming from. Be you a hardcore gamer or someone who hasn’t played a video game since PONG, Cuphead aims to capture your imagination, visuals first.

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Awesome tech in the movies: 10 instances – Movie tech gets to implement imagination and play outside the realm of reality. Here are 10 examples of cool ways tech has taken flight in cinema.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Florida man used Siri to dump body of dead roommate – Pedro Bravo, a 20-year-old man from Florida, is accused of strangling Christian Aguilar in September of 2012. Bravo reportedly got upset when Aguilar began dating his ex-girlfriend. The body of Christian Aguilar was found in a shallow grave a few weeks later. During the investigation into Bravo, police obtained his cell phone records. They found he used his iPhone flashlight several times between around 11:30pm and midnight the day Aguilar disappeared. During that time, he told Siri “I need to hide my roommate”.

Here’s another Comcast cancellation horror story, with video evidence – This story will sound familiar, but it’s not a repeat. A month after AOL’s Ryan Block posted an audio recording of a Comcast cancellation call that even a Comcast executive called “painful to listen to,” another customer has posted a video showing how difficult it was for him to cancel service.

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30 Years of Windows and Not Fixing the Obvious – You would think that after 30 years of Windows, many of the obvious and consistent flaws would be fixed. Are they unfixable? Or are the people at Microsoft who can fix them uninterested?

The Internet of Things is here and there — but not everywhere yet – The Internet of Things is still too hard. Even some of its biggest backers say so. For all the long-term optimism at the M2M Evolution conference this week in Las Vegas, many vendors and analysts are starkly realistic about how far the vaunted set of technologies for connected objects still has to go. IoT is already saving money for some enterprises and boosting revenue for others, but it hasn’t hit the mainstream yet. That’s partly because it’s too complicated to deploy, some say.

Anonymous Releases Purported Audio Tapes of Brown Killing – Members of Anonymous launched what they are calling OpFerguson in response to the shooting of Michael Brown after an altercation with an unnamed officer and reports that his body was left in one place for hours without medical assistance being called in. The Missouri teen was reportedly shot by the officer several times on Saturday in Ferguson, a town with a majority African American population and a police force that is predominantly white.

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Something to think about:

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Today’s Free Downloads:

Panda Free Antivirus – Panda Free Antivirus is fast and free, boasts the top score in real-world protection, and offers a USB drive cleaner.

Pros:

High security scores: Panda Free Antivirus scored an impressive 99.9 percent in real-world protection from AV-Comparatives, edging Bitdefender out of the top spot. Scanning in full mode took us about six minutes, which is fast for a free scanner.

Easy USB rescue setup: Panda includes a rescue USB tool that scans and removes viruses from your hard drive. The walk-through will show you how to install Panda Cloud Cleaner onto your flash drive, so that you can then boot your PC with Cloud Cleaner running.

Metro-like design: Panda Free Antivirus comes dressed like Windows 8. Each tiled module behaves similarly to the Windows 8 tile screen, complete with rearrangeable boxes and colors. Add more tools by upgrading to one of the premium versions.

Cons:

Browser tampering: Panda includes some minor annoyances during installation. If you miss the opt-out prompt, your default browser search will automatically change to Yahoo, and your home page will be taken over by MyStart. You can avoid these results, but some users will still find the behavior annoying.

Bottom Line:

Panda Free Antivirus has significantly boosted its protection score. As you make your way up through the pro versions, Panda Antivirus begins offering some of the more compelling tools, like backup schedulers, and removes browser offers from the installation process. The modern, Windows-8-style look hasn’t changed much from last year’s appearance, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Panda Free Antivirus doesn’t offer a lot of bonus tools but is a solid release that will protect your PC.

This is a CNET “secure download” – strict attention to the install process is required in order to avoid the crap normally offloaded by Cnet’s “secure download.”

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AVG LinkScanner – Nowadays, there are far more threats out there than plain viruses. You have probably come across the term spyware as well, however, authors of malicious codes and dangerous websites are very innovative, and new kinds of threats emerge quite often, the vast majority of which are on the Internet. Here are some of the most common:

Exploit is a malicious code that takes advantage of a flaw or vulnerability in an operating system, Internet browser, or other essential program.

Social engineering is a common term for various techniques used to trick people into giving away their personal information (passwords, bank account details, credit card numbers etc.). A typical example of social engineering is phishing – an attempt to acquire sensitive personal data by shamming a trustworthy and well-known organization. Usually, the potential victims are contacted by a bulk e-mail asking them to e.g. update their bank account details. In order to do that, they are invited to follow the link provided which then leads to a fake website of the bank.

Scam can be also considered a kind of social engineering; it includes false job offers, or ones that will abuse the workers for illegal activities, summons to withdraw a large sum of money, fraudulent lotteries and the like.

Hoax is a bulk e-mail containing dangerous, alarming or just bothering and useless information. Many of the above threats use hoax e-mail messages to spread.

Finally, malicious websites are ones that deliberately install malicious software on your computer, and hacked sites do just the same, only these are legitimate websites that have been compromised into infecting visitors.

AVG LinkScanner is here to protect you from all these online threats.

AVG LinkScanner is up and running immediately from the moment of installation. All basic settings have been pre-set by the manufacturer, so most of the time you will not have to worry about anything – just let AVG work in the background and protect you without any effort on your part. However, there might be situations where you need to adjust the program settings, or decide what to do with a virus infected file; this help system is here to provide detailed information and assist you with any task.

IP Camera Viewer – IP Camera Viewer allows you to view live video from your USB or IP cameras on your PC. Use any USB or IP camera to keep an eye on your home, office, parking area or anywhere you need security.

View video from multiple IP cameras directly to your computer. Currently more than 1500 different IP camera models from leading camera manufactures are supported. It includes Axis, Canon, D-Link, Foscam, Panasonic, Mobotix, Pixord, Sony, Toshiba, Vivotek and many more. You can send a request to our technical team if your camera or model is not listed in our application. Virtually all USB cameras work with IP Camera Viewer.

You can control and view up to 4 camera feeds simultaneously. Get a live preview from multiple cameras with this light-weight application. IP Camera Viewer’s centralized camera and layout management allows you to view your cameras from multiple remote locations on a single screen. You can change the arrangement and preview layout of the cameras, for your security needs.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Snowden Reveals NSA Intervention In Syria, Hacking Program Compelled Him To Leak Documents – Many in the media have conjectured that supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were responsible for a series of Internet outages in Syria in 2012. But National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden asserts at least one was caused by the U.S. government.

Snowden went public with this claim for the first time in a recent interview with another NSA whistleblower, James Bamford, published today in Wired Magazine. Snowden’s basis for this claim seems more flimsy than past revelations (it doesn’t seem like he has documents to back it up), and it is based on the word of one source. At first glance the assertion seemed to be fantastical, but so have other Snowden claims before they were confirmed.

By the time he went to work for Booz Allen in the spring of 2013, Snowden was thoroughly disillusioned, yet he had not lost his capacity for shock. One day an intelligence officer told him that TAO—a division of NSA hackers—had attempted in 2012 to remotely install an exploit in one of the core routers at a major Internet service provider in Syria, which was in the midst of a prolonged civil war. This would have given the NSA access to email and other Internet traffic from much of the country. But something went wrong, and the router was bricked instead—rendered totally inoperable. The failure of this router caused Syria to suddenly lose all connection to the Internet—although the public didn’t know that the US government was responsible

The Wired interview gave an unprecedented perspective into why Snowden decided to steal a trove of documents from the NSA and disperse them to journalists in 2013. Following the Syria revelation, Snowden discovered a quick, automated system that responds to cyberthreats, known as MonsterMind. The program also was first disclosed in the Wired interview.

The system’s automated nature is dangerous, according to Snowden, who said that cyber attacks can be “spoofed,” implying that an automatic response could hit the wrong target. According to the interview, Snowden “views MonsterMind as the ultimate threat to privacy” due to its need to acquire huge amounts of communications data.

Snowden points out that to analyze “all traffic flows,” you have to “[intercept] all traffic flows.” Such an effort would violate the Fourth Amendment, according to Snowden, as the government would be “seizing private communications without a warrant, without probable cause or even a suspicion of wrongdoing.”

Microsoft Urges Reform Of U.S. Government’s Surveillance Practices – In a set of comments regarding “big data,” submitted in response to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) request for public input, Microsoft listed a number of changes to how the U.S. government handles surveillance and digital privacy that it thinks would help build “confidence in the cloud.”

Its list, while not surprising in its content, is worth noting as it puts the weight of Microsoft’s stature in the technology industry, a group of companies that have been somewhat muted in their public response to sweeping revelations regarding pervasive government surveillance.

Here’s Microsoft’s list of what it calls a “minimum” set of steps that the government should follow:

Update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to address changes in technology.

Reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to ensure that its proceedings are the product of the adversarial process that is the hallmark of our judicial system.

Commit not to hack data centers or cables.

Increase transparency about the amount and types of information collected through intelligence surveillance.

End bulk collection of data of telephone records.

Work with our international allies to improve the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty process, and use that process to obtain digital evidence stored overseas, rather than using unilateral processes.

Justice Department asks court to vacate stay in Microsoft email privacy case – The U.S. Department of Justice has asked a New York court to vacate a stay on an order that would require Microsoft to turn over to the government certain emails held abroad.

The company, which had asked for the stay to pursue an appeal, may now have to refuse to comply with the order after the stay is lifted for its appeal to be acceptable by the appeals court, according to the plan outlined by DOJ to the court, citing a “jurisdictional defect.”

Judge Loretta Preska of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected Microsoft’s appeal of an earlier ruling requiring it to turn over the emails stored in the company’s facility in Dublin, Ireland, but ruled that the company will not have to turn over the emails while it pursues an appeal.

In a letter to the judge on Tuesday, the DOJ, which had earlier consented to the stay, points to the issue that Judge Preska’s decision was not a final, appealable order from the point of the view of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Microsoft has, meanwhile, informed the district court that it has appealed to the 2nd Circuit from the order entered by the district court on July 31.

Many US companies failing to uphold EU privacy rules, privacy group claims in FTC complaint – At least thirty US companies are “failing to provide” safeguards for European citizens promised by the US government, a new complaint alleges.

A filing submitted to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Thursday by the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) claims Salesforce, Adobe, AOL, and other companies are “compiling, using, and sharing EU consumers’ personal information without their awareness and meaningful consent, in violation the Safe Harbor framework.”

“Petraeus-gate,” some U.S. pundits are calling it. How significant is it that even the head of the CIA can have his emails read by an albeit friendly domestic intelligence agency, which can lead to his resignation and global, and very public humiliation? Here’s how.

The US-EU Safe Harbor regulations allow European data, which is generally not allowed to leave the continent, to enter and reside on US servers so long as the same strong data protection and privacy rules are adhered to.

The self-certifying system, however, has come under heavy fire, not least European officials, as being inadequate in the wake of the Edward Snowden disclosures, which detailed massive surveillance by the US National Security Agency.

Based in Washington, DC, the privacy group calls on the FTC, which manages and ensures the validity of the US-EU Safe Harbor rules, to investigate the thirty named companies, which the CDD claims they are involved in, among other things, “data profiling and online targeting.”

“All of the companies, we believe, fall far short of the commitments they have made under the Safe Harbor,” a summary of the filing says.

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