Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 11, 2014

7 Ways to Prevent Holiday Shopping Identity Theft;  Lenovo Recalls 544,000 Power Cords Over Fire, Burn Hazards;  Microsoft now offering 100 albums for free for a limited time;  Keurig 2.0 spoofing vulnerability: Hack bypasses coffee DRM;  The Best iPhone Apps You Should Download This Week;  Microsoft Just Solved the Biggest Headache in Business;  How Well Do You Know Your Facebook Friends?  Xbox, Windows Store now accepting Bitcoin payments;  Data sent between phones and smartwatches wide open to hackers;  Hangouts adds smarter location sharing, phone number search, and zany stickers;  The most disappointing games of 2014;  Microsoft Flight Simulator returns;  SoftPerfect Network Scanner (free).

7 Ways to Prevent Holiday Shopping Identity Theft – Sometimes it seems like we’re helpless to protect ourselves against identity theft when shopping for holiday gifts, whether online or in brick-and-mortar stores. Fraudsters have myriad ways to steal credentials or otherwise gain illicit access to personal information, and we only have to slip up once. However, a recent survey by Experian’s ProtectMyID service suggests that savvy shoppers are doing a good job of arming themselves against the threat of identity theft. Here’s what they’ve been doing, and what you can do too.

Lenovo Recalls 544,000 Power Cords Over Fire, Burn Hazards – If you own a Lenovo laptop, you better go check your power cord. The computer brand has issued a recall for hundreds of thousands of AC power cords over fire and burn hazards, according to a notice from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The recall affects 500,000 power cords in the U.S. and 44,000 in Canada. According to the notice, the affected power cords can potentially overheat, causing a fire and/or burns.

Keep your data safe with one of these five cloud backup tools – Cloud backup continues to grow in popularity, offering an affordable, flexible, and convenient way to safeguard your data. But which cloud backup solution is right for you? Here are five excellent apps that range from free personal tools to business-centric solutions.

The Best iPhone Apps You Should Download This Week – It seems like hundreds of new iPhone apps pop up every week, but which ones should you bother trying? We explored the App Store and found five apps actually worth downloading.

All aboard the internet of things infosec hype train – Myriad new connected devices may represent an easy target, but criminals are still making plenty of money by hacking what they’ve always hacked. So why bother with Refrigergeddon?

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Facebook plans to use advanced AI to stop you from putting up embarrassing selfies – Ever uploaded a photo in a subconscious state and regretted it afterwards? Not anymore. Facebook is working on a digital assistant which will question you before you upload embarrassing selfies.

Instagram is now bigger than Twitter – Not only does Instagram now have more users, it’s also growing at a faster rate than Twitter. Instagram has doubled the amount of its active monthly users since last fall, when the service passed the 150 million mark. Twitter reached 200 million active monthly users in December of 2012, but it has seen its growth slow since then while also being passed by services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger — both of which have over 500 million.

Microsoft Just Solved the Biggest Headache in Business – Microsoft has an updated app that can scan and save business cards to your phone, letting you sweep your unruly stacks of business cards into the trash. The new “business card” feature was released in an updated version of the Office Lens app for Windows Phone. Snap a photo of any business card, and the app will automatically crop the image down to the relevant text, format it for legibility and save it to OneNote, a Microsoft document management app.

HBO streaming service will launch in April with Game of Thrones – HBO wants to be your streaming service of choice, and is poised to offer their content free of a cable subscription. We’d previously heard the move was in the works, but a new report details when we might see it, and the pains associated with getting it up and running. By the time you’re tuning everyone else out to watch Game of Thrones, HBO GO might be available without the need to work with your cable company. HBO is also changing their back-end tech to support the new streaming.

Microsoft now offering 100 albums for free for a limited time – The Music Deals application is now showcasing 100 free albums from various artists that are up for grabs to anyone with the Xbox Music and the Music Deals apps. Users interested in taking a look at the full catalog should start by browsing the “Holiday Freebies” section within the Music Deals app. When you find albums you’d like to download, select them and you’ll see a “get it for free” button that will link you to the album within Xbox Music. Clicking on the price (which should show up as “get it free” while the promotion lasts).


Google+ adds custom gender option to profiles – If you’ve been putzing around in Google+’s settings today, you might have noticed some new options under “Gender”. Google software engineer Rachael Bennett announced on the company’s social site today the arrival of “an infinite number of ways” for users to display their gender identity. Previously those who didn’t want to use the “male” or “female” options were only given an “other” selection, but now there are four options, one of which is customizable.

Keurig 2.0 spoofing vulnerability: Hack bypasses coffee DRM, allows brewing of any pod – Want to brew any brand of coffee, tea or hot cocoa pods in a Keurig 2.0? Thanks to a ‘spoofing vulnerability’ — and a piece of tape — you can ‘hack’ Keurig’s coffee DRM.


Bing shines some light into its black box, gives guidance on SEO – The team behind the Bing search engine is giving some new insights about how it ranks content which will help webmasters and SEO gurus better optimize campaigns for better search result placement.

Palm-sized Zano auto-follow drone takes extreme selfies – Zano’s creators have big plans for their tiny drone. Not only will it be capable of recording HD video and snapping 5 megapixel images, but it’ll also feature a slick follow mode that tells Zano to track you from a distance (between 15 and 30 meters away from your tethered phone or tablet). You don’t need to worry about Zano veering off course, either. Zano utilizes OriginGPS’ Nano Hornet, which has the distinction of being the world’s smallest with an integrated antenna. While Zano will eventually sell for around $265, you’ll save a bit of cash if you back the Kickstarter project right now. There are still plenty of rewards (the Zano drone in either black or white) available for a pledge of $230.


Xbox, Windows Store now accepting Bitcoin payments – Microsoft has added Bitcoin support to Microsoft accounts. Bitcoin funds can be added to accounts to enable digital purchases from the Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox Games, Xbox Music, and Xbox Video stores. Bitcoin support is currently limited to adding fixed dollar amounts to accounts; there’s no direct purchase option. Up to $100 can be added at a time, and presently the option is only available to US accounts. The Bitcoin support comes via BitPay. Other early commercial Bitcoin supporters, including PayPal and Newegg, also use BitPay.


Hangouts adds smarter location sharing, phone number search, and zany stickers – Google’s Hangouts app is getting some design touch-ups and useful new communication features in its latest update. The most unique addition is the ability to auto detect when someone wants to know your location and serving up a button to share it right away. Also, you can now send wacky stickers just as you can in Facebook Messenger. There are 16 new sticker packs, which are essentially jumbo-sized GIFs and cartoony images. There are some pretty zany choices, including pirates, koalas, Santa, and of course cats in various poses.


Find your Hangout friends by phone number and send then some wacky stickers.

Apple and IBM reveal 10 iOS apps that aim to change the way you work – The two companies now have 10 apps designed to streamline business operations behind the scenes, which may lead to better service for the rest of us. The new apps are the first wave in a lineup that’s expected to include up to 100 iOS apps for business. IBM is firmly entrenched in enterprise, while Apple’s presence in the halls of giant corporations has been largely unofficial, in the form of employees using their personal iPhones to send company emails. So the two companies partnered up in July to bring their complementary strengths to businesses on iOS.

How Well Do You Know Your Facebook Friends? – We all have Facebook friends with certain tells in their choice of status updates. There are the unabashedly peppy, the unrelenting complainers and the 800-word posters. To test how well you can identify your Facebook friends by these clues, we’ve built a simple quiz: This app will randomly select status updates from your recent newsfeed and present you with five possible authors for each one. (Note: This will not work for all users due to differences in privacy settings. If you’re asked for your password, you’ll be logging into Facebook. TIME is not recording or storing your password.)


Nation-backed malware targets diplomats’ iPhones, Androids, and PCs – Inception, as the malware is dubbed in a report published Tuesday by Blue Coat Labs, targets devices running Windows, Android, BlackBerry, and iOS, and uses free accounts on Swedish cloud service Cloudme to collect pilfered data. Malware infecting Android handsets records incoming and outgoing phone calls to MP4 sound files that are periodically uploaded to the attackers. The researchers also uncovered evidence of an MMS phishing campaign designed to work on at least 60 mobile networks in multiple countries in an attempt to infect targeted individuals.

Microsoft takes slow, cautious path to protecting IE against POODLE – Microsoft yesterday added an optional anti-POODLE defense to Internet Explorer 11 (IE11), and promised that additional protection would be switched on by default in two months. With Tuesday’s update to IE11, the browser can now be set to kill what’s called “SSL 3.0 fallback,” a mechanism that forces the browser to switch to the buggy SSL 3.0 from more secure encryption protocols, such as TLS 1.2. The option can be set in IE11 by editing the Windows Registry, downloading and running a small tool, or for corporate IT staffs, with the Group Policy Editor. Starting on Feb. 10, 2015 — that month’s Patch Tuesday — IE11 will default to disabling fallback for most sites. Mozilla disabled SSL 3.0 in Firefox 34, which was released three weeks ago, and Google has scheduled a similar move for Chrome 40, which should ship between the end of this month and the middle of January 2015.

Data sent between phones and smartwatches wide open to hackers – Researchers from security firm Bitdefender mounted a proof-of-concept hack against a Samsung Gear Live smartwatch that was paired with a Google Nexus 4 running Android L Preview. Using readily available hacking tools, they found that the PIN obfuscating the Bluetooth connection between the two devices was easily brute forced. From that point on, they were able to monitor the information passing between the watch and the phone.


Sony – This data breach isn’t like all other data breaches – In addition to the juicy stuff, attackers claim to have stolen terabytes of data and have proved that they got internal employment and medical data on employees, HR documents, criminal background checks AND more than 11,000 documents with RSA SecureID tokens, Lotus Notes IDs and certificates, vendor passwords, FTP access info, login data for outside services, lists of networking hardware, servers, QA, staging and production database servers and maps detailing much of Sony’s internal IT infrastructure. “In short, the IT data leak is everything needed to manage the day-to-day operations at Sony,” according to a Dec. 4 story by Steve Ragan at CSOonline that thrummed with tension but still underplayed how bad the damage really is. The risk involved in a simple data breach are a lot more serious than they were a month or so ago. Back then you could only lose information that could ruin your customers’ lives. Now you can lose your company.

Company News:

Qualcomm, Intel, and others speak out against Title II net neutrality – Much of the fight over how to handle net neutrality has been between the two industries that have the most obvious stake in it: cable companies and web services. Today, though, 60 tech companies, including Intel, IBM, and Qualcomm, have signed a letter opposing reclassifying broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act — a solution that’s favored by many of net neutrality’s supporters and President Barack Obama himself. The letter is addressed to members of Congress and the FCC, and it warns that this stricter regulation would stop companies from investing in broadband.

eBay planning massive job cuts following PayPal split – report – Holiday good cheer may be short-lived for eBay employees this year, many of whom could reportedly lose their jobs not long after the Christmas shopping season. According to The Wall Street Journal, the online tat bazaar is considering cutting as much as 10 per cent of its workforce in the New Year, with most of the 3,000 layoffs hitting its core marketplace division. The move would come as part of an effort to slim down eBay’s operations following the spinoff of its PayPal division into a separate company, which is due to complete in 2015.

Acer reportedly plans to launch a range of Windows Phones in 2015 – Despite saying in February that it could not “take the risk” on Microsoft’s mobile OS until its market share and app situation improved, Acer is said to be launching multiple Windows Phones next year.

McDonald’s to roll out in-store tablets to let customers configure their own burgers – 30 McDonald’s restaurants in the US are to be equipped with tablets allowing diners to design their own burgers, with plans to expand to 2,000 of the chain’s 14,000 US locations by the end of 2015.

Sony Pictures mad at Netflix’s failure to block overseas VPN users – Netflix’s tolerance of overseas VPN users was a sore point in negotiations with Sony over licensing Breaking Bad, leaked e-mails revealed. The latest data leaked from Sony Pictures Entertainment by hackers reveals that Sony executives had accused Netflix of breaching its licensing contract for Sony Pictures Television (SPT) shows by allowing customers in foreign markets to use virtual private

Google News to shut down in Spain – Google News has faced a fair bit of opposition in recent times from publications struggling to sustain themselves in the digital age. Many publications have demanded Google pay for showing news it sources from them, even if it is only a snippet, and the Internet giant has strongly opposed such measures. While Google did see victory in Germany last year, it hasn’t had the same fortune in Spain, and now it has announced plans to shutter its service there.

Games and Entertainment:

Microsoft Flight Simulator returns, heading to Steam on December 18 – An updated version of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X will soon be available on Steam for a “spectacular introductory price”, with new original games and add-on packs coming next year.


The Little Prince could be one of the most beautiful animated films of 2015 – The trailer itself is a gorgeous blend of papercraft animation (for the story of the Little Prince himself) and Pixar-esque CG (for the framed story around it). There’s no English-language version of the trailer yet, but we’re expecting one soon enough — the voice cast for this one is pretty phenomenal (Rachel McAdams, James Franco, Jeff Bridges, Marion Cotillard, Ricky Gervais, and Benicio del Toro, among others).


Microsoft’s Minecraft finally arrives on Windows Phone – Minecraft: Pocket Edition appears to be the same version that’s available for Android and iOS, and costs the same, too: $6.99. It requires Windows Phone 8.1. Given that its download size is just 12 megabytes, it seems realistic that the game will run on even low-end phones with just 1 Gbyte of RAM.

The most disappointing games of 2014 – No game is perfect, but a lot of games promise one thing and deliver something totally different. To be clear, not all of the games on our are list are necessarily bad — they just didn’t live up to the hype.


Off Topic (Sort of):

‘Carry’ a stranger’s package for $500? What could go wrong? – Startup Carry aims to be the Airbnb that will disrupt FedEx, UPS and the like. It will pay individuals to deliver packages to and from strangers. How safe can it be?

Watch the world’s thinnest phone hammer nails, crack nuts and smash through fruit – Some people were concerned with how strong the 4.8mm Oppo R5 smartphone was, so Oppo decided to release a video detailing exactly how tough the Chinese smartphone really is.


YouTube celebrates the moments, memes, and people that made 2014 – While we get ready to close out the year, YouTube has unveiled a video that hopes to encapsulate some of the best moments, memes, and people that made 2014. The ‘YouTube Rewind’ video attempts to encapsulate the most interesting moments and sounds from 2014 in six minutes and thirty five seconds. The upbeat soundtrack is mixed by DJ Earworm and jumps from Pharrell’s “Happy” to Frozen’s “Let It Go” and everything in between.


Ancient doodle hints that Homo erectus was smarter than we thought – When piecing together the story of human capabilities, one of the most useful sources of evidence available is the presence or absence of an ability in other species. Humans make art; chimpanzees do not. This gives us some clues about the time bracket where we should search for the emergence of symbolic and abstract thinking. It wasn’t clear whether extinct species of humans like Neanderthals engaged in these behaviors until earlier this year, when a group of researchers announced evidence of Neanderthal etchings in a cave wall from more than 39,000 years ago. Now, a new paper in Nature reports a more startling discovery: etchings on a shell that date back to 500,000 years ago, created by an entirely different species: Homo erectus. The shell was actually found with the first Homo erectus skeleton, Java Man, but has sat in a collection until recently re-analyzed.


Video: Navy tests awesome new Laser Cannon at sea – The United States Navy has massive weapons. Big, booming guns that can destroy all kinds of things, and their latest is equally impressive, save for its ability to pinpoint its target. As you’ll see in the video below, the Navy’s new laser cannon is really powerful, but can pick a small target out. The new Laser Weapon System, or LaWS, is currently being tested, and if the video below is proof if its prowess, we’re not sure how much cooler it can get.


Bah humbug: Stop sending Seasons Greetings spam – Are you getting too much holiday spam from your friends and associates? So is our own David Gewirtz, who lets loose with a particularly cranky rant. So much for holiday cheer.

Something to think about:

“What mattered was not what happens to you, but how you handle it. Self-command is required to overcome the dangerous misinformation of our emotions, and because for the most part the self is the only thing that we can command. We have no control, ultimately, over what people do or think. What we can influence is our understanding of these circumstances and how we respond to them.”

–       Daniel Akst, We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess, 2011

Today’s Free Downloads:

SoftPerfect Network Scanner – SoftPerfect Network Scanner is a free multi-threaded IP, NetBIOS and SNMP scanner with a modern interface and several advanced features. It is intended for both system administrators and general users who are interested in computer security. The program pings computers, scans for listening TCP ports and displays which types of resources are shared on the network (including system and hidden).

In addition, it allows you to mount shared folders as network drives, browse them using Windows Explorer, filter the results list and more. SoftPerfect Network Scanner can also check for a user-defined port and report back if one is open. It can also resolve host names and auto-detect your local and external IP range. It supports remote shutdown and Wake-On-LAN.


Pings computers.

Does not require administrative privileges.

Detects hardware (MAC) addresses even across routers.

Detects hidden shared folders (normally invisible on the network) and write accessible shares.

Detects your internal and external IP addresses.

Scans for listening TCP ports and SNMP services.

Retrieves currently logged-on users.

You can mount and explore network resources.

Can launch external third party applications.

Exports results to HTML, XML, CSV and TXT

Supports Wake-On-LAN, remote shutdown and sending network messages.

Retrieves potentially any information via WMI.

It is absolutely free, requires no installation, and does not contain any adware/spyware/malware.


Style Jukebox – Jukebox is a free app that automatically keeps your music in the Cloud and lets you play it anytime, anywhere, no matter the device.

Ever been on the subway and wanted to listen to a song but you forgot to sync it from your laptop? With Jukebox you never have to be in that situation. All you have to do is add your music on one device and it will be automatically available on all your other devices. Forget about the sync button. In a blink of an eye you will be jamming to your favorite artists.

There’s nothing to set up. Once you install Jukebox and create a cloud account, all your music and playlists will be automatically managed and brought to you on any device you want.


Alternate Pic View – A simple open source picture viewer and manipulator that can do Slideshow, Thumbnails, Drawing operations, Several picture formats, Tile pictures, Combine pictures, Size pictues/extend and more.




Drawing operations

Serveral picture formats

Tile pictures

Combine pictures

Size pictures/extend

Batch conversation/Sizing

Icon extraction from DLL

and EXE-files

Save selection to file

File properties

EXIF/IPTC information is not lost while saving a picture

Red eye reduction

Scale colors

Rotate colors

Drawing arrows

Available in polish and slovak language

Size display correction for saving JPEGs compressed

Rectangle selection enhanced

Multipage TIFFs

Now also in danish and italian language

Compare pictures

Create/edit animated GIFs

Search for pictures

Now also available with chinese language

Print all pages or a range of multipage GIFs/TIFs


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

For CIA, Truth about Torture Was an Existential Threat – For the CIA officials involved in torture, one thing was clear from the very beginning: The only way they would be forgiven for what they did was if they could show it had saved lives.

It was the heart of their rationale. It was vital to public acceptance. It was how they would avoid prosecution.

The executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s grindingly exhaustive torture report released Tuesday indelibly captures CIA officials  turning their back on human decency,  and it all starts with a “novel” legal defense floated in November 2001 by CIA lawyers – and arguably prompted by their White House masters, lurking offstage  –  that the “CIA could argue that the torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical harm to persons, where there is no other available means to prevent the harm.”

Specifically, they pointed out: “states may be very unwilling to call the U.S. to task for torture when it resulted in saving thousands of lives.”

And so, when the tragically predictable sequence of events began to unfold – and torture, as it always has, produced false confessions and little to no intelligence of value – admitting that it had failed was not even an option.

Instead, those involved made up stories of success.

Senate’s torture report will provoke hacktivist reprisals – The release Tuesday of the U.S. Senate’s report that excoriated the Central Intelligence Agency for torturing suspected terrorists will result in retaliation by cyber-hacktivist groups, a security expert predicted today.

“I expect there will be some sort of retribution,” said Tom Chapman, director of cyber operations at Edgewave, a San Diego-based security firm. A former U.S. Navy cyber-warfare commander, Chapman joined Edgewave in September and leads the company’s threat intelligence unit.

“We’ll see denial-of-service attacks, we’ll see attempted hacks and we’ll see site defacements,” said Chapman. “This is something we’ll be keeping an eye on.”

Chapman was referring to the news from the U.S. Senate’s Intelligence Committee, which released a 500-page summary of its years-long investigation into CIA interrogation practices in the aftermath of the September 2001 attacks against New York and Washington D.C. The report blasted the agency for torturing Al Qaeda suspects, not on moral grounds, but on practicalities: It concluded that the repeated torture of terrorist suspects produced little or no information of value.

Australia’s security agencies quiet on metadata definition – The security agencies that will most use stored telecommunications data under new legislation before the Australian parliament will not reveal exactly what data they want retained until negotiations with telecommunications companies have finished.

When Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull entered legislation into parliament in October that would force telecommunications companies to retain customer data for a period of two years for warrantless access by law-enforcement agencies, the exact data set to be retained had not been defined.

The type of data is detailed as call records, assigned IP addresses, customer billing details, and other so-called metadata. The legislation specifically rules out retaining internet browsing history, but Turnbull and Attorney-General George Brandis said the data set would be defined through regulation after the passage of the legislation, and once negotiations with telecommunications companies had concluded.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) are leading the charge demanding the retention of this data, stating that it is vital for their work in investigating terrorist-related activity and espionage.



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

4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 11, 2014

  1. Good Morning Bill,
    I thought the following might be of interest to some of your subscribers:

  2. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: Australia’s security agencies quiet on metadata definition

    I have no doubt that, if not immediately, sometime in the future the agencies will want to be able to access web browsing history, without warrants. Once they have the legislation is place, they will in the future tweak it so they can get whatever they want. This government has form on this, in other areas. Put in minimal legislation, to get it through, then change it somewhere down the track.


    • Hey Mal,

      Yep – it’s the thin edge of the wedge theory alright. The Australian and Canadian governments are in lockstep (or, should that be goose step), in erasing what once passed for undeniable human rights.

      As a population control mechanism, the Internet continues to prove it’s worth.

      Have a super weekend, mate.