Google pushes back on expansion of FBI hacking powers; Thousands Join Legal Fight Against UK Surveillance — And You Can, Too; Give your notebook a storage upgrade; Best Antivirus Products Honored by AV-Test Institute; 10 best practices for voice-based applications; 5 free tools for editing images on a Chromebook; The World’s 10 Best Tablets Are; Top Adult Site RedTube Compromised, Redirects to Malware; Internet of Things security check; Lenovo pre-installs adware on its systems, which could also steal your private data; Reddit giving 10% of 2014 ad revenue to charity; Companies Fighting US Government Barred From Naming Themselves, Because Security; Xbox One March preview update; This Museum Is Building a Video Game Hall of Fame; Andy the Android emulator (free).
Google pushes back on expansion of FBI hacking powers – As US law enforcement agencies look for more power over the digital realm, they’re facing increasing pushback from tech companies, particularly Google’s public policy arm. With a recent filing, Google pushed back against an obscure committee measure that would seek to give the FBI increased warrant power to seek out servers involved in illegal activity. The measure didn’t attract much attention when it was introduced to the Department of Justice last year, but today Google put it on the front page of the company’s public policy blog, calling out the measure as “a small rule change that could give the US government sweeping new warrant power.”
The World’s 10 Best Tablets Are – Looking for something to bridge the gap between laptop and smartphone? With Android, Apple, and Windows options, these ten top-rated tablets fit the bill. We tried them all, so you don’t have to. Here are our analysts’ picks of the world’s 10 best tablets.
Best Antivirus Products Honored by AV-Test Institute – The dedicated researchers at AV-Test Institute run constant tests on several dozen popular antivirus products under several different versions of Windows. Six times each year, they summarize their findings by rating and reporting on those products. This week marks AV-Test’s 2014 awards for the products that rated best in several different criteria.
Give your notebook a storage upgrade – Processors and RAM are fixed entities in a PC, but right from day one data is incessantly eating away at your storage space. And it’s not just your data (which you can manage) but endless gigabytes of temp files and cached junk.
10 best practices for voice-based applications – From automated phone systems to call center analytics to voice recognition features, the scope and importance of voice-based apps in the enterprise continues to grow.
How to sideload apps onto Amazon’s Fire TV – Installing apps from the Google Play Store can greatly expand your streaming-video catalog. We’ll show you the tricks to make it work.
iFixit now has an Android DIY repair portal – When new devices come out, we often look to iFixit for the lowdown on what’s under the hood. We also look to them for guidance on best practices for fixing things, or at least how much we can expect to spend for someone else to do it. For the DIY repair crowd, though, the site is an invaluable tool, and just became a lot more useful. Now, the iFixit crew has an Android portal, so you can repair your cracked Android everything.
5 free tools for editing images on a Chromebook – The native image editor built into Chromebooks is hidden and weak, but Chrome OS doesn’t support the powerful desktop image editing software available for Windows. Don’t fear! These free tools can help you tweak your pictures.
New Talking Barbie Can Have 2-Way Conversations With Kids – Imaginary conversations with dolls are so 20th century. A new Internet-connected Barbie arriving on store shelves this fall will let kids have two-way conversations with the doll. The necklace on the doll will feature both the microphone and the speaker that help enable the conversations. Hello Barbie will retail for $74.99 when it launches, likely in time for the holiday season. The doll requires a Wi-Fi connection to talk, though kids can of course continue to use Barbie the old-fashioned way when the Internet’s down.
Hello Barbie is displayed at the Mattel showroom at the North American International Toy Fair in New York City on Feb. 14, 2015.
Cost for continued Windows XP support said to double this year – As it stands, commercial users of Windows XP pay around $200 per PC annually to see software support for the now-retired OS, but in two months the cost of support is expected to jump to $400 per PC annually, with a possible cap of $500,000 for an entire business should the number of supported PCs exceed the half-million dollar mark. As of this moment, the annual cap sits at $250,000. These updates tend to be security-related and are only meant as a temporary solution since Microsoft has made it clear that the support for XP will only exist for three years following the retirement of the OS.
Gmail mass email tips: Avoid the spammy look with the personalized touch – Make it look special (even if it was sent to 75 other people). Create your own mail merge in minutes, with some help from Google Sheets and a free script.
Top Adult Site RedTube Compromised, Redirects to Malware – This time around, the source of the problem is not malvertising, but rather a malicious iframe placed directly in the source code of redtube[dot]com, a pornographic site that boasts over 300 million visits a month. The attack doesn’t come from a malicious advertisement being loaded on the webpage, like was the case with xHamster, but rather the source code of RedTubes main page was modified to include a hidden piece of redirection code. The code is executed inside of an iFrame, which is basically like a browser window inside of your browser window that can point to any website the attacker wants. In this case the iFrame is set to be completely invisible to the user and navigates to the following malicious URLs:
Internet of Things security check: How 3 smart devices can be dumb about the risks – Internet of Things security is no longer a foggy future issue, as more and more such devices enter the market—and our lives. From self-parking cars to home automation systems to wearable smart devices, analysts currently estimate that some 50 billion to 200 billion devices could be connected to the Internet in 2020. Google CEO Eric Schmidt told world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January, “there will be so many sensors, so many devices, that you won’t even sense it, it will be all around you,” he said. “It will be part of your presence all the time.” That’s hardly comforting when you consider how many of these smart devices still seem to be pretty dumb about security.
Mall security guards misuse CCTV to allegedly stalk women & share ‘sleaze file’ photos – Security guards in Australia’s Westfield Sydney shopping center are accused of stalking women via the mall’s CCTV before tagging, saving and sharing secret ‘sleaze file’ photos. An unidentified SecureCorp security guard told A Current Affair that the “misuse of security cameras particularly against women has been happening for years and is still happening.” He claims he was fired for blowing the whistle on behavior such as “Zooming in if girls were sitting down with short skirts, they’d zoom in between their legs.” He added, “A lot of it was CCTV footage; they would either burn it to a disk or put it on USB and take it home for their personal use.”
Hoping for spy reforms? Jeb Bush, dangerously close to being the next US prez, backs the NSA – Former Florida governor, brother of former President George W Bush, son of former President George H W Bush, and Republican frontrunner for the 2016 US presidential election, Jeb Bush … has strongly defended the NSA’s mass surveillance of innocent people. Speaking at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs as part of his run for the White House, Bush made it clear that if he did become president he would retain the programs introduced under his brother’s administration. Fast forward to the 28-minute mark for the fun to begin in this vid, streamed live on Wednesday, of his talk:
The NSA’s Undetectable Hard Drive Hack Was First Demonstrated a Year Ago – A group of ordinary security researchers warned this was possible, and in fact installed hard drive backdoors themselves, nearly a year ago. The paper ” Implementation and Implications of a Stealth Hard-Drive Backdoor,” published in March 2014 by a team of eight researchers from Eurecom in France, IBM Research in Zurich, and UCSD and Northeastern University in the US, reads almost exactly like security firm Kaspersky’s expose on the NSA malware. The full paper is absolutely worth your read if you’ve been fascinated by Kaspersky’s revelations.
Lenovo pre-installs adware on its systems, which could also steal your private data – The adware, named Superfish, is reportedly installed on devices out of the box and it’s a bit more difficult to get rid of it than you might expect. The software injects ads when users browse the web, with Google searches being a primary target. A number of antivirus programs report Superfish as adware and recommend uninstalling it. While that sounds pretty horrible it gets much worse. There are some reports showing that Superfish doesn’t just inject ads. It also installs its own security certificate which allows it to decode encrypted data such as the one sent between you and your bank. This could effectively allow the software to perform a man-in-the-middle attack on your private data. Internet Explorer and Chrome could be affected by this, while Firefox is currently safe thanks to its independent certificate repository.
Sony throwing in the towel on phones and TVs – Sony’s appetite for struggling through the cutthroat smartphone and TV segments may have finally faded, with the company’s chief exec saying he will no longer chase sales growth, and is open to spinning-off each. The admission of near-defeat comes as CEO Kazuo Hirai outlined his new focus for the next three years, concentrating on PlayStation and camera sensor development rather than segments like phones which have been attacked at either end of the market, both by cheap rivals from Asia, and from more high-end competition from Apple and Samsung.
Samsung buys LoopPay in warning shot to Apple – In an effort to take on Apple Pay head on, Samsung announced Wednesday that it has acquired LoopPay, a Boston-based startup, for an undisclosed sum. Various startups have been jockeying for position in the mobile payments arena, especially now that magnetic stripe cards have become easy targets for massive fraud in the United States and major credit card issuers have agreed to begin issuing European-style chip-and-PIN-based cards by October 2015.
Pinterest said to be pursuing new funding for $11B valuation – Pinterest, which lets people “pin” photos, websites, products and other items on virtual boards for others to see, is in talks to raise $500 million in a funding round that would value the startup at $11 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing unidentified sources described as familiar with the matter. The new cash would bring the company’s total funding raised to date to more than $1.2 billion.
Reddit giving 10% of 2014 ad revenue to charity – When a company reports their earnings, we tend to marvel at the amount they brought in (or didn’t). From there, not much seems to happen, at least in view of the public. Reddit recently announced they pulled in $8.3 million in ad revenue during 2014. That’s interesting enough news, but what they’re doing with it is even more interesting. After their big win, Reddit is paying it forward, and will donate 10% of their ad income to charity. Best of all, you can help decide where the cash goes.
Google Faces App Bundling Antitrust Complaint in Russia – Russian search giant Yandex is suing Google for what it says is anti-competitive practices. The country’s largest search provider accused Google of actively preventing local smartphone vendors from pre-loading competing services onto Android devices. According to the lawsuit, Yandex believes user-centric services—search, maps, email, etc.—should be unbundled from the OS, leveling the playing field and allowing local developers to expand their audiences.
More change for Mozilla as top Firefox exec departs – Johnathan Nightingale, Mozilla’s vice president of Firefox, is leaving. Firefox is stronger now after a tough 2014, he says, but his departure means more unsettled times for the browser maker.
Uber sees $1 billion Series E venture funding surge – Uber has increased its latest Series E funding round amount by $1 billion after receiving increased interest from investors, with the round reaching a total capacity of $2.8 billion.
Facebook says it’s developing virtual reality apps – Less than a year after Facebook closed its acquisition of Oculus VR, maker of the innovative wrap-around Oculus Rift headset and a pioneer in the virtual-reality video game realm, Facebook revealed Tuesday it’s developing versions of its apps for use in a virtual reality environment.
Games and Entertainment:
This pirated movie brought to you by Pampers – Whether they know it or not, major advertisers are subsidizing online movie piracy, accelerating a trend in which illicit video streaming is eclipsing illegal P2P file sharing and downloading of copyrighted material. That’s according to an upcoming study commissioned by Digital Citizens Alliance, a nonprofit organization with the stated goal of making the Internet a safer place. The study is a follow-up to a February 2014 report that pegged the collective annual revenue of the nearly 600 illegal movie sharing sites it sampled at $227 million.
Xbox One March preview update brings long-awaited screenshot feature – Microsoft has released its Xbox One March system update to people enrolled in the preview program, finally bringing the the long-awaited screenshot feature to the console. In addition to the screenshot feature, a number of smaller improvements have also been released, such as suggested friends and the ability to block spam accounts, a problem that has recently plagued Xbox Live. Microsoft provided the following rundown of the update:
Get Ready to Binge Watch: Amazon OKs More Original Series – The Web giant on Wednesday announced it has greenlit five more original shows, including The Man in the High Castle, which is based on the Philip K. Dick alternative history novel and was a hit during the recent pilot season. Amazon has also ordered up full seasons of the hour-long dark comedy drama Mad Dogs, which “follows the reunion of a group of underachieving forty-something friends” as well as its first-ever docu-series The New Yorker Presents, which brings the pages of the magazine to life.
Comcast’s TV Everywhere streaming lineup doubles as cord-cutting options skyrocket – In a press release, the cable giant says it has doubled its number of live, streaming channels to more than 70 in just over a year, including recent additions like AMC, BBC America, and Showtime. That’s in addition to more than 21,000 on-demand videos for mobile devices and 466,000 videos through the browser.
This Museum Is Building a Video Game Hall of Fame – The Strong museum has collected more than 55,000 video games and related artifacts from the history of gaming — but only a few titles will be inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame, which the museum officially launched on Tuesday. “Electronic games have changed how people play, learn and connect with each other, including across boundaries of culture and geography,” said G. Rollie Adams, president and chief executive of The Strong museum in Rochester.
Off Topic (Sort of):
These Are the Most Gorgeous Google Street Views Imaginable – Google Street View just added a new virtual destination: some of the most stunning landscapes in Greenland, from fjords to viking ruins. “Thanks to our partners Visit Greenland and Asiaq, you can now explore immersive 360-degree imagery of the world’s largest island, which is sparsely populated yet chock full of glorious natural wonders and historical sites,” Google wrote on its blog Wednesday. “Let us take you on a tour of fjords, waterfront vistas, Norse ruins and more.”
This 43-Second Short May Be the First Sci-Fi Film – There’s a case to be made that the first science fiction ever filmed wasn’t about spaceships, aliens, or trips to the moon. Our rich history of cinematic sci-fi may have begun instead with a 43-second, single-reel film about a box that turns pigs into pork products. It’s true: Some of the earliest sci-fi ever filmed was about drones and factory farming.
Dash cam shows police striking suspect until cop turns off recording – Among a host of fresh concerns, however, is that the police might turn off the camera gear when footage is needed most. The Oakland Police Department in California, for example, has disciplined police officers 24 times for disabling or failing to activate body-worn cameras. That’s similar to what happened in the case of a St. Louis man arrested for marijuana possession, resisting arrest, and unlawful use of a weapon. Dash cam video, released Monday, shows a suspect, Cortez Bufford, being pulled from the vehicle he was driving before being kicked and shocked with a taser. Charges against Bufford were dropped after the camera being turned off “diminished the evidentiary merits of the case,” police said.
Pussy Riot release harrowing music video tribute for Eric Garner – The song is being released with an equally haunting music video on YouTube. It shows two members of the band, Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina, being buried alive while wearing Russian riot police uniforms. “This song is for Eric and for all those from Russia to America and around the globe who suffer from state terror — killed, choked, perished because of war and state sponsored violence of all kinds — for political prisoners and those on the streets fighting for change,” the video’s YouTube description reads. “We stand in solidarity.”
Something to think about:
“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald
Today’s Free Downloads:
Andy the Android emulator – Andy breaks down the barrier between desktop and mobile computing, while keeping a user up to date with the latest Android OS feature upgrades. It also provides users with unlimited storage capacity, PC and Mac compatibility, and the freedom to play the most popular mobile games on a desktop, Yes you can now run Android on windows.
With phone as a joystick, you will never have to sacrifice the multi-touch or gyro elements of gaming, and thanks to seamless connection between desktop and mobile, you can receive a SnapChat phone picture on the street and see it on your desktop at home or even a whatsapp message.
Provides seamless sync between desktop and mobile devices
Connects Win/Mac with Android apps for launching, push notifications and storage
Enables app download from any desktop browser direct to Andy OS
Ensures most up to date Android OS at all times
Brings your favorite communication and entertainment mobile apps to the desktop
ISO Workshop 5.8 – Optical disc images are files storing complete copies of various media, including CD, DVD and Blu-Ray discs. They are used for backing up data from optical discs and creating exact disc copies for further replication. The main advantage of disc images is that they are essentially exact sector-by-sector copies of original discs preserving both their content and structure. If you have a disc image in any format, you can easily recreate the original disc by burning the image to a blank CD, DVD or BD disc. And although this task may initially seem to be somewhat hard, proper software will make it a breeze – software like ISO Workshop!
Extract files and folders from disc image
Copy disc to disc image (including Audio CD)
Convert disc image to ISO or BIN format
Burn ISO or CUE/BIN image to disc
Supports common formats (ISO, CUE, BIN, NRG, MDF, CDI etc.)
Supports CD-R/RW, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, DVD+R DL, BD-R/RE
Supports verification of written files
Free for personal and commercial use
Monkey’s Audio 4.14 – Monkey’s Audio is a fast and easy way to compress digital music. Unlike traditional methods such as mp3, ogg, or wma that permanently discard quality to save space, Monkey’s Audio only makes perfect, bit-for-bit copies of your music. That means it always sounds perfect – exactly the same as the original.
Even though the sound is perfect, it still saves a lot of space (think of it as a beefed-up Winzip™ your music). The other great thing is that you can always decompress your Monkey’s Audio files back to the exact, original files. That way, you’ll never have to recopy your CD collection to switch formats, and you’ll always be able to perfectly recreate the original music CD.
Efficient (fast and great compression) — Monkey’s Audio is highly optimized and highly efficient
Perfect sound — absolutely no quality loss, meaning it sounds perfect and decompresses perfect (it’s lossless!)
Media Center™, Foobar™, WMP™, Winamp™, and more support — supported by most popular players and rippers
Easy — the Windows environment interface is both powerful and easy to use
Free — Monkey’s Audio is completely free!
Error detection — Monkey’s Audio incorporates redundant CRC’s to ensure proper decompression of data (errors never go unnoticed)
Tagging support — Monkey’s Audio uses its own extremely flexible APE Tags so you can easily manage and catalogue your Monkey’s Audio collection
External coder support — you can use Monkey’s Audio as a front-end for all of your encoding needs
Freely available source code, simple SDK and non-restrictive licensing — other developers can easily use Monkey’s Audio in their own programs, and there are no restrictive licensing agreements
In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:
Thousands Join Legal Fight Against UK Surveillance — And You Can, Too – Thousands of people are signing up to join an unprecedented legal campaign against the United Kingdom’s leading electronic surveillance agency.
On Monday, London-based human rights group Privacy International launched an initiative enabling anyone across the world to challenge covert spying operations involving Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, the National Security Agency’s British counterpart.
The campaign was made possible following a historic court ruling earlier this month that deemed intelligence sharing between GCHQ and the NSA to have been unlawful because of the extreme secrecy shrouding it.
Consequently, members of the public now have a rare opportunity to take part in a lawsuit against the spying in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a special British court that handles complaints about surveillance operations conducted by law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
Privacy International is allowing anyone who wants to participate to submit their name, email address and phone number through a page on its website. The group plans to use the details to lodge a case with GCHQ and the court that will seek to discover whether each participant’s emails or phone calls have been covertly obtained by the agency in violation of the privacy and freedom of expression provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. If it is established that any of the communications have been unlawfully collected, the court could force GCHQ to delete them from its vast repositories of intercepted data.
By Tuesday evening, more than 10,000 people had already signed up to the campaign, a spokesman for Privacy International told The Intercept.
Companies Fighting US Government Barred From Naming Themselves, Because Security – Two major companies—a telecom and an “internet company”—have asked the US government simply for the right to disclose how often the NSA, FBI, and other agencies ask them for user information. Who are these companies? Who knows! The federal government has said that it’s illegal for them to come forward and name themselves.
That’s the astounding claim alleged by the two companies Tuesday in the Northern District of California court. The companies filed what’s known as an amicus curiae brief in support of Twitter’s ongoing legal battle with the US government, in which the social media company is fighting for the right to be able to publish more granular data about government information requests on its users.
The requests, called National Security Letters (NSLs), are not approved by a judge and are issued by the FBI. NSLs have since been deemed unconstitutional, but that decision is being appealed. In the meantime, more NSLs continue to be issued. Last year, the US Department of Justice finally said that companies could disclose information about NSL requests, but only in a way that makes it nearly useless.
Australia: Stop monkeying around with our metadata laws, prime minister – There’s something rather endearing, sweet even, about watching Prime Minister Tony Abbott explain Australia’s “urgent” need for mandatory telecommunications data-retention laws.
Evidence continues to mount against the idea of capturing and storing this so-called “metadata” for two years — at least in the proposed law’s current form — and I’ll get to that. But Abbott just keeps banging away with the same old discredited spin. He’s like one of those wind-up toy monkeys clashing his cymbals. All noise, all repetition, no information, no clue.
There’s also something rather endearing, sweet even, about Abbott’s simplistic, binary world view.
“The cost of losing this data is an explosion in unsolved crime… If we want to combat crime, we need this legislation, and if we don’t get it, it will be a form of unilateral disarmament in the face of criminals, and the price of that is very, very high indeed,” Abbott told a press conference on Wednesday.
Yes, in the criminal-infested cartoon land of Abbott’s political mind, telecommunications data is the only tool in the investigative toolbox. With it, crime can be solved. Without it, the very fabric of society will dissolve under a tsunami of crooks.
Meet Babar, a New Malware Almost Certainly Created by France – The NSA, GCHQ, and their allies in the Five Eyes are not the only government agencies using malware for surveillance. French intelligence is almost certainly hacking its targets too—and now security researchers believe they have proof.
On Wednesday, the researchers will reveal new details about a powerful piece of malware known as “Babar,” which is capable of eavesdropping on online conversations held via Skype, MSN and Yahoo messenger, as well as logging keystrokes and monitoring which websites an infected user has visited.
Babar is “a fully blown espionage tool, built to excessively spy” on its victims, according to the research, and which Motherboard reviewed in advance. The researchers are publishing two separate but complementary reports that analyze samples of the malware, and all but confirm that France’s spying agency the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE) was responsible for its creation.
France’s Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.
Russia Wants to Block Tor, But It Probably Can’t – The Russian government said last week it wants to ban Tor, a browser and network that anonymizes web traffic, but how likely is it that they will succeed at censoring a tool that is itself used to circumvent censorship?
Certain domains have been blocked in Russia since 2012, when a blacklist law went into effect, but the current legislation relies on individual internet service providers to block these sites. Many citizens easily bypass the barriers with tools like Tor and VPN, or virtual private network, services, which allow them to tunnel traffic through alternative IP addresses and appear as if they are located outside of Russia.
Vadim Ampelonskogo, the chief press officer for the country’s federal authority on telecommunications, released a statement describing Tor as, “den of criminals” and “ghouls, all gathered in one place.” He made it clear the government has the service in its sights, saying blocking it would be difficult but “technically possible.”
According to Jillian York, Director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, it is unlikely Russia would follow through on such a massive undertaking. While VPNs are fairly easy to block, Tor is a different game.