Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – September 16, 2014

Court blasts US Navy for scanning civilians’ computers;  Google user data skyrocket;  What to do when your USB device doesn’t work;  Yahoo slams ‘digital will’ law, says users have privacy when they die;  Boxer: An efficient, yet simple, email client for Android;  How to start blogging with Microsoft Word;  India’s Best Budget Smartphones;  Five new iOS apps to improve your job performance;  Apple Pay is as safe as your selfies, says PayPal ad;  Google wants to test-fly drones in New Mexico;  Prevent identity theft with this interactive site;  Google launches Android One, bringing India $105 smartphones;  Auslogics Duplicate File Finder (free);  Wikileaks Releases German Spyware That Governments Used To Hack Journalists And Dissidents;  Hacker exploits printer Web interface to install, run Doom;  Julian Assange on Snowden, disliking Google, and his “inevitable” freedom;  NirLauncher – 100 portable freeware utilities for Windows (free).

Court blasts US Navy for scanning civilians’ computers for child porn – A federal appeals court said the US Navy’s scanning of the public’s computers for images of child pornography constituted “a profound lack of regard for the important limitations on the role of the military in our civilian society. RoundUp surveillance of all computers in Washington amounted to impermissible direct active involvement in civilian enforcement of the child pornography laws, not permissible indirect assistance,” Judge Marsha Berzon wrote for the San Francisco-based appeals court.

Google user data skyrocket – Government requests for user information — such as registration information, emails and IP addresses — are up 15 percent in the first half of 2014, and up 150 percent since the report was first published in 2009, wrote Richard Salgado, Google’s legal director of law enforcement and information security, in a blog post on Monday. In the US, government requests for user data are up 19 percent and 250 percent, respectively.

Yahoo slams ‘digital will’ law, says users have privacy when they die – What should happen to your personal digital communications — emails, chats, photos and the like — after you die? Should they be treated like physical letters for the purposes of a will? Yahoo doesn’t think so. The company is criticizing new legislation giving executors charged with carrying out the instructions in a person’s will broad access to their online accounts. The legislation aims to tackle the sensitive question of what to do when someone’s online accounts on sites like Facebook, Google or Yahoo outlive them.

What to do when your USB device doesn’t work – Clearly, something is broken. But is it hardware, software, the device or the computer? That’s going to take some experimentation. First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Unplug the device, then plug it again. Did that fix the problem? If not, unplug it again, reboot your PC, and then plug it in again. Did that help? How about trying another port? No? Well, it was worth a try. Since the problem persists, let’s get on to more serious tests.

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Mailpile enters beta—It’s like Gmail, but you run it on your own computer – The extra value with Mailpile is the security side. Unlike many other MUAs that support encryption only through plug-ins, Mailpile integrates PGP as part of its core, letting users transparently send encrypted e-mails to each other without having to go through much of the unfriendly complexity required to properly send and receive encrypted mail. In fact, the heavy focus on encryption is one of Mailpile’s biggest selling points—your mail still transits through Gmail or Yahoo or whatever public mail service you use, but the more of it that’s encrypted at the endpoints, the more difficult it is for an outsider to snoop on it.

Boxer: An efficient, yet simple, email client for Android – If you’re looking for a better email client on your Android device, Jack Wallen has just the tool for you. Boxer will make mobile email an efficient and simple task.

How to start blogging with Microsoft Word – Blogging with Microsoft Word lets you use the richly featured word processor to circumvent many of the underpowered, sometimes unfriendly aspects of browser-based interfaces used by platforms like WordPress or Blogger. We’ll show you several ways to write and publish blog posts directly from Word, using the tools and shortcuts you already know. While the this tutorial is written for Word 2013, the necessary features are available in all versions starting from Word 2007.

Google launches Android One, bringing India $105 smartphones – Today, Google is launching “Android One” in India, an effort to get high-quality, cheap smartphones into the hands of people in developing countries. Google provides a reference design to OEMs, which then build devices to Google’s spec. The devices run stock Android, and Google provides all the updates—you can think of it as a non-flagship version of the Nexus program.

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India’s Best Budget Smartphones – The Android wars have just begun and Google’s new Android Ones will soon go head-to-head against the dominant models in the marketplace. Which means it’s a great time to see who the best of the budget breed in India currently are and what the new Ones will have to do to wrest customers away from them

Five new iOS apps to improve your job performance – From tuning up your brain to enabling on-the-fly sketches and annotations, these apps will help you do your job more effectively.

Apple Lets You Preserve Your Musical Taste With A U2 Album Removal Tool – Removing the Songs of Innocence album is as easy as following a link, and then logging in to your iTunes store account. Once you’ve completed those two steps, a message lets you know it’s gone, though you’ll have to delete the actual tracks from your devices if you managed to download them.

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How Many Times A Day Do You Check Your Phone? Checky Will Tell You – This very basic app simply shows you how many times per day you’ve checked your phone, and maps out where that usage occurred. Effectively, the app serves as an advertisement for Calm’s flagship application by introducing the concept of technology addiction and behavioral change. The app is also a literal ad for Calm, too, as it serves up an ad at the bottom of the screen pointing to the meditation app, which recently raised an additional $578,000 in new funding.

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Comcast calls rumor that it disconnects Tor users “wildly inaccurate” – Comcast has lately found itself issuing public apologies on a somewhat regular basis as subscribers share tales of horrible customer service. But the latest accusation leveled against Comcast—that it is threatening to disconnect customers who use the anonymity-providing Tor browser—hasn’t been backed by convincing evidence that it’s happening. And Comcast dismisses the rumor as “wildly inaccurate.”

DisplayPort 1.3 details announced – A update to the DisplayPort standard was announced today. DisplayPort 1.3 will allow bandwidth up to 32.4 Gbits/second and connections to much higher resolution displays and multi-monitor setups.

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Apple Pay is as safe as your selfies, says PayPal ad – In a newspaper ad reacting to Apple’s new payment system, PayPal suggests it’s not secure. And, well, PayPal is.

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PayPal is America. Or at least so this ad seems to imply. And this America doesn’t trust Apple.

Security:

Most mobile apps will fail standard security tests, Gartner says – Seventy-five percent of mobile apps will fail the most basic of security tests next year, predicts market researcher Gartner. The market researcher said Sunday that in 2015, the majority of mobile applications — whether in the Android, iOS or Windows Phone ecosystems — will not have basic business-acceptable security protocols in place.

Prevent identity theft with this interactive site – Choice Loans, a financial lending service based in the UK, has put together a site that can help. It’s an interactive guide to various types of identity fraud, complete with 16 things you can do to detect or respond to them. The site covers a broad swath of risks. It shares detailed information about computer viruses and malware, con artists and fraud, credit card fraud, online shopping, card skimming, card-not-present fraud, stolen credit or debit cards, mail theft, man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks, cell phone scams, online password theft, passport fraud, pharming, phishing scams, pyramid schemes, shoulder surfing, and more.

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Watch Out! This Suspicious Android App WIll Cost You $365 a Year – How much would you expect to pay for an Android security app? No, don’t say anything, because I’ll tell you that $30 a year is about the maximum. Trust me, it’s my job to know these things. But for ten times that amount, you can let a shifty app sorta-kinda-not-really keep your phone safe! Blue Coat Security shows us what’s under the hood of Armor for Android, and it’s not pretty.

Hacker exploits printer Web interface to install, run Doom – On Friday, a hacker presenting at the 44CON Information Security Conference in London picked at the vulnerability of Web-accessible devices and demonstrated how to run unsigned code on a Canon printer via its default Web interface. After describing the device’s encryption as “doomed,” Context Information Security consultant Michael Jordon made his point by installing and running the first-person shooting classic Doom on a stock Canon Pixma MG6450. Sure enough, the printer’s tiny menu screen can render a choppy and discolored but playable version of id Software’s 1993 hit, the result of Jordon discovering that Pixma printers’ Web interfaces didn’t require any authentication to access.

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HarperCollins now uses invisible watermarks to combat ebook piracy – Battling piracy has proven difficult, but that hasn’t yet stopped companies from trying, and as such it isn’t surprising that a couple publishers have turned to a new option in an effort to pinpoint where, exactly, ebook uploads are surfacing from. Using Digimarc technology, the publishers’ ebooks will be tagged with an invisible — and traceable — watermark.

Company News:

Microsoft Buys Minecraft Developer Mojang for $2.5 Billion – Mojang is the developer of the wildly popular block-based game Minecraft. The game has grown far beyond its modest beginnings, and that has made it a target for acquisition–even Microsoft has been snooping around. The rumors started showing up late last week, but earlier today Mojang announced that Microsoft has indeed purchased the company for a whopping $2.5 billion.

Alibaba raises price range of massive IPO due to demand – With its IPO already expected to be record-breaking in the US, the Chinese company will price its stock even higher. That could translate to $25 billion.

Microsoft Confirms Its Windows Event Will Take Place On September 30th – Microsoft today confirmed its correctly rumored Windows event that will take place on September 30 in San Francisco. The event is widely expected to include a release of the technical preview of Windows 9, the successor to the controversial Windows 8.x operating system that was released in 2012, along with the Surface line of tablets.

Netflix launches in France, faces legal, cultural hurdles – Netflix has just launched in France, but it might be getting a cold shoulder. Because of its pride and focus on its local film and TV productions, both French industry players and lawmakers are looking into how they make the video-streaming giant play by the country’s rules and give due important to French and European content.

Apple Sells 4M iPhone 6 And 6 Plus Pre-Orders In Opening 24 Hours – That’s twice the number of pre-orders achieved in 24 hours by the iPhone 5 back in 2012, which managed two million pre-orders in its initial day of pre-sales. Apple didn’t publicly release pre-order numbers for the initial day of iPhone 5s and 5c sales last year, but estimates pegged them at somewhere around 2.2 million according to some analyst projections.

Google wants to test-fly drones in New Mexico – Google has requested the ability to flight-test their Titan drones from the FCC, which they previously announced would fall under the auspice of Project Loon. In a letter to the FCC, Google said “These systems may eventually be used to provide Internet connections in remote areas or help monitor environmental damage, such as oil spills or deforestation. The STA [Special Temporary Authority] is needed for demonstration and testing of [REDACTED] in a carefully controlled environment.”

IBM cuts pay by 10% for workers picked for training – Salary cut draws employee ire; management calls it a ‘co-investment in training’.

Games and Entertainment:

Resident Evil Revelations 2 detailed in trailer – The first full-length trailer has arrived for the game Resident Evil Revelations 2. This game will be rolling out with elements from Resident Evil 2, but will move on from that storyline to a new island entirely. This version will star Resident Evil 2’s Claire Redfield and Barry Burton’s daughter Moira. This game will be unveiled in early 2015, according to Capcom, and will NOT be a replacement for Resident Evil 7. Instead it’s more like an offshoot of the series. Resident Evil Revelations 2 will be coming to Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC.

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‘Minecraft’ creator Notch says selling Mojang to Microsoft was about keeping his sanity – Markus “Notch” Persson, creator of “Minecraft,” has penned a post on his blog saying the decision to sell his studio to Microsoft wasn’t about the money, but about keeping his sanity.

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Malware is being spread on Twitch that empties your Steam wallet, armory, and inventory – Been spending a lot of time on Twitch watching those wacky fish searching for Pokemon in the tall grass or nailing each other with Hadoukens in Street Fighter? You may be putting yourself in harm’s way. There’s a nasty piece of malware being spread to Twitch users that can clean out your Steam account. Users are being duped into thinking that a harmless-looking contest entry will reward them with awesome in-game upgrades on Steam. Instead of putting anything in to you Steam inventory, however, Eskimo immediately sets to work cleaning out your entire digital locker.

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Off Topic (Sort of):

A teenager created an $80 breath-to-speech device that costs 100x less than the competition – Specialized computer systems that allow people with movement and speech impairments like ALS or Parkinson’s to speak usually cost thousands of dollars. However, a 16 year-old student from India has created a device that accomplishes the same basic task as these $7,000-10,000 computers for only $80. Arsh Shah Dilbagi calls his invention the TALK because, well, that’s what it lets you do.

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The FCC Has Received More Than 3 Million Comments Concerning Net Neutrality – The FCC has received more than 3 million comments concerning the current net neutrality notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). That figure is dramatically higher than the previously reported 1.5 million figure that was released last week. 3 million comments deep, the public has said its piece. What the FCC will do with the collected public opinion isn’t clear.

8 truths and myths of driverless cars – For decades, humans have dreamed of driverless vehicles. From the Jetsons to Minority Report, we’ve gotten a certain idea of how those cars should function and how the world could be if they existed. Driverless cars, however, aren’t science fiction. That said, we took a look at some of the common misconceptions about driverless cars, along with truths that are good to keep in mind.

MIT researchers take cheetah robot out for a run without a leash – MIT researchers have released a video of a robot they’re calling “cheetah” making its way across campus. An earlier robot that was also called cheetah was part of a DARPA/Boston Dynamics (now owned by Google) collaboration that was notable for its speed. The MIT version is notable for ditching the tethers that supplied power to it—it goes for runs using on-board battery power and control logic.

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Rosetta’s comet landing site chosen, harpoons will deploy November 11 – The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced the precise location on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko that its Philae lander aboard the Rosetta probe will attempt to touch down. The team says site J on the comet’s “head” region won out because it’s scientifically interesting and less risky than the alternatives. The action is currently scheduled to begin on November 11th. Yes, they sent Rosetta to P67 to do more than take amazing selfies.

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Philadelphia Is Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession – The City of Brotherly Love is decriminalizing marijuana possession and public consumption, ending a drug policy that has disproportionately targeted African Americans and Latinos in Philadelphia for decades. After a long summer of negotiations between Mayor Michael Nutter and supporters of Councilman James Kenney’s decriminalization bill, the mayor agreed to sign the legalization measure, which will take effect October 20. Support from Philly cops, African American community organizations, and black media outlets helped forge the decriminalization law that passed 13-3 through the city council — a margin that would have overridden a potential mayoral veto.

Modder turns Xbox One into Xbook One laptop – Modder Ed Jarick describes himself as a “self-taught engineer,” and has a history of turning Xbox 360s into “laptops.” Now, with the advent of a new console generation he’s gone and given an Xbox One the portable treatment. Though to call this thing portable is a bit of a misnomer, maybe. The Xbook One is less a laptop and more an Xbox bolted onto a ship anchor. The device uses the innards of an Xbox One, some fans, 3D-printed parts, and an enormous 22″ 1080p LCD monitor.

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Aquaponic Garden gives new life to an aquarium – The AquaSprouts Aquarium Aquaponic Garden is an indoor garden that is a self-contained ecosystem. You feed the fish, the fish-waste feeds the plants and you eat what is grown from the garden. It’s a win-win-win. The Kickstarter project is designed to work with a standard 10-gallon aquarium. It consists of three main components: legs, a grow bed and a light bar (that need not be installed for those with sufficient lighting). A reward level is also available that includes a glass aquarium.

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Something to think about:

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”

–   Mark Twain

Today’s Free Downloads:

Auslogics Duplicate File Finder – Auslogics Duplicate File Finder will find and remove duplicate files so you won’t experience lack of free disk space!

Auslogics Duplicate File Finder has the MD5 search engine which allows you to find duplicate files by content, regardless other match criteria. It would be helpful, for example, when two identical mp3 tracks or video files have different names. Give Auslogics Duplicate File Finder a try to see what it’s really capable of!

Features:

Improve computer performance by deleting duplicate files

Identical files not only waste your hard disk space, but also may cause system slowdowns. By deleting duplicate files you can reduce time needed to defragment your hard drives and minimize time used by antivirus to scan your computer.

Sort and organize your media collections

Media files collections, such as music, video, images and photos, often become the primary source of identical files. If you have a music collection of several hundreds or even thousands mp3-files, you may want to sort them by deleting identical tracks.

With Auslogics Duplicate File Finder you can organize your media files and increase free disk space needed to enlarge your collection.

Find duplicate files by content!

Auslogics Duplicate File Finder has the MD5 search engine which allows the program to search for duplicate files by content, regardless of other match criteria. It would be helpful, for example, when two identical mp3 tracks or video files have different names.

CDBurnerXP – CDBurnerXP is a free application to burn CDs and DVDs, including Blu-Ray and HD-DVDs. This is the installer version, CDBurnerXP Portable can be downloaded here.

It also includes the feature to burn and create ISOs, as well as a multilanguage interface. Everyone, even companies, can use it for free. It does not include adware or similar malicious components.

Features:

burn all kinds of discs

audio-CDs with or without gaps between tracks

burn and create ISO files

data verification after burning process

create bootable discs

multi-language interface

bin/nrg → ISO converter, simple cover printing and much more!

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NirLauncher – NirLauncher is a package of more than 100 portable freeware utilities for Windows, all of them developed for NirSoft Web site during the last few years.

Features:

NirLauncher can be used from USB flash drive without need of any installation.

NirLauncher and all the utilities in the package are completely freeware, without any Spyware/Adware/Malware.

NirLauncher package includes variety of tools that you may need for your daily computer use, including utilities to recover lost passwords, to monitor your network, to view and extract cookies, cache, and other information stored by your Web browser, to search files in your system, and more…

For every utility in the package, you can easily run it, view the help file, or jump to the Web page of the utility.

When using it from USB flash drive, the configuration of every utility is saved into .cfg file on the flash drive.

On x64 systems, NirLauncher automatically run the x64 version of the utility, when there is a separated x64 version.

NirLauncher also allows to add more software packages in additional to the main NirSoft package.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The Questions for New Zealand on Mass Surveillance – Yesterday, we revealed details at The Intercept about the New Zealand government’s secret plan to access data from the country’s main internet cable. The government has since denied that the project was ever completed — but its statements in the past 24 hours have raised more questions that they have answered and deserve some closer scrutiny.

The surveillance project we revealed — named Speargun — was listed as “underway” in classified documents from New Zealand’s GCSB spy agency in March 2012. In early 2013, an NSA document listed the first phase of the project as having been achieved. It noted that the second phase — which would entail inserting covert “metadata probes” — was scheduled to begin later the same year following the passing of a new surveillance law. That law was approved in August 2013.

While publicly New Zealand government officials were reassuring the public that the new law would not lead to an expansion of powers, behind closed doors GCSB was preparing to install its metadata probes — which would have constituted the biggest expansion of GCSB’s surveillance reach in decades.

In response to our story, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key (pictured above) has said that the Speargun project was not finalized. What he claims is that the project was instead eventually replaced by a narrower initiative. In a radio interview on Monday morning, Key described this as a toned down version of what he called “mass cyber protection.” What’s now in place, he said, is a “bespoke functionality which an individual company or agency could deploy,” apparently to mitigate cyber attacks.

In a bid to prove this, Key declassified documents later on Monday (after we published our story) that outlined a project called Cortex. Key seemed to think — or perhaps hope — that these documents would kill off any concerns and put the controversy to a swift end. But they fail to address a number of crucial issues — critics have already dismissed them as a “red herring” — and in fact only seem to cloud matters further.

Wikileaks Releases German Spyware That Governments Used To Hack Journalists And Dissidents – As part of its ongoing Spyfiles series of posts, Wikileaks has released the back and front-end systems used by multiple governments to spy on journalists, dissidents, and others. The files appear to be weaponized Windows malware although the software, called FinFisher, also works on OS X.

From the post:

FinFisher (formerly part of the UK based Gamma Group International until late 2013) is a German company that produces and sells computer intrusion systems, software exploits and remote monitoring systems that are capable of intercepting communications and data from OS X, Windows and Linux computers as well as Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Mobile devices. FinFisher first came to public attention in December 2011 when WikiLeaks published documents detailing their products and business in the first SpyFiles release.

Three back-end programs route and manage traffic which is sent to FinSpy Master, a collection program. The system can steal keystrokes, Skype conversations, and even watch you via your webcam.

While there is no definitive proof that any one organization is using the software, a list of FinFisher customers leaked as well shows us that Pakistan, Estonia, and Italy (among others) have bought the service.

Wikileaks’ Julian Assange hopes the malware will allow researchers to pinpoint and destroy the command and control structure in the wild and help prevent the software from infecting new users.

Julian Assange on Snowden, disliking Google, and his “inevitable” freedom – It would be too much to say that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange feels optimistic. He’s been holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London for more than two years now, with cameras and police—”a £3 million surveillance operation,” he calls it—just meters away.

“There’s a sense of inevitability now,” Assange said when we asked if his situation might change.

Assange: “The situation is clarifying politically and legally.”

Ars: “I just want to be clear on this point—are you saying you’re hopeful you’ll be free soon?”

Assange: “I wouldn’t say hopeful. I would say it’s inevitable. It’s inevitable that we will win the diplomatic standoff we’re in now.”

It’s getting late in London, where Assange is doing a barrage of press interviews on the eve his new book, When Google Met Wikileaks (it goes on sale in the US later this week). We called at the agreed upon time, and a man who didn’t identify himself answered the number, which was for a London cell phone. He said call back in five minutes, and only then was the phone finally handed to Assange.

We’re supposed to focus on the book. But first, we want to know what life trapped in the embassy involves—where does he eat, sleep, do laundry? What is the room he’s was in now like?

Australia: Can Snowden finally kill the ‘harmless metadata’ myth? – “Metadata is extraordinarily intrusive. As an analyst, I would prefer to be looking at metadata than looking at content, because it’s quicker and easier, and it doesn’t lie.”

In just two sentences, Edward Snowden nailed the hypocrisy — or perhaps it’s really just stupidity — at the heart of the Australian government’s efforts to sell a mandatory data-retention scheme.

Snowden was appearing via a video link at the Moment of Truth event in New Zealand on Monday night. He was speaking to ardent fans — he scored a standing ovation laced with the tribal whooping of “Yeah!” and “Woo!” before he’d even begun — so he had an easy run. But he also spoke with a clarity that’s hard to argue against.

“If I’m listening to your phone call, you can try to talk around things, you can use code words. But if I’m looking at your metadata, I know which number called which number. I know which computer talked to which computer. And yeah, that [capability to access metadata] exists comprehensively for all the Five Eyes analysts,” Snowden said.

The signals intelligence agencies of all Five Eyes nations — the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand — have access to the NSA’s XKeyscore, a federated search system that deals in metadata captured from the NSA’s interception of international fibre links, as well as other sources.

XKeyscore also searches the last three to five days of content data, Snowden said, and that archive is growing — but that’s another story.

Snowden isn’t the first person to point out that metadata can be more revealing than content. Far from it.

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