Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 11, 2015

Apple Products May Have Been Compromised By CIA Mass Surveillance Program;  CIA secretly helped build phone scanning tech for US operations;  Smartphone Thieves Hate This New Android Update;  15 things you’ve forgotten how to do thanks to your smartphone;  Meerkat lets you livestream videos over Twitter;  Facebook letting advertisers take a deeper look at users’ posts;  Apple’s Latest Betrayal;  It costs $158 to put ports back on your new MacBook;  Turkey to ban Minecraft for depictions of violence;  GTA Online Heists released today for Xbox and Playstation;  Senators again push for online sales tax;  Apple donates over $50 million to improve diversity in tech;  Here’s Why People Gossip So Much;  11 of the biggest geek freakouts of all time;  Researcher releases tool that can hijack accounts on sites using Facebook Login.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Apple Products May Have Been Compromised By CIA Mass Surveillance Program – The CIA has been involved in a “multi-year effort” to break through Apple’s security code, according to a new report from the Intercept. Top secret documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden reveal a CIA-sponsored annual gathering called “Jamboree” where researchers presented the latest tactics at cracking the security code of Apple’s iPhones, iPads and proprietary developer tools. The report provides a total of 10 presentation slides detailing efforts to weaken the security of Apple’s products. One such slide describes the creation of a dummy version of Xcode that would be targeted at most likely innocent developers in order to “entice all MacOS applications to create a remote backdoor on execution.” This is just one accusation in a series of damning allegations against the NSA and cooperating security agencies. The NSA worked in conjunction with the British equivalent organization Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to steal SIM encryption keys, according to an earlier report from the Intercept.


CIA secretly helped build phone scanning tech for US operations – The new report furthers allegations that US law enforcement are increasingly relying on intelligence agencies for help, despite rules protecting domestic intelligence operations. The CIA, which is said to have provided most of the resources in the early days of the relationship, is barred from conducting most of its operations on US soil. Officials at the CIA and the Justice Dept. told the newspaper that they didn’t violate those rules.

Smartphone Thieves Hate This New Android Update – Android 5.1 was rolled out on Monday with a new anti-theft technology called Device Protection, according to Google’s Official Android Blog. The system will keep your stolen or lost phone locked until you sign in with your Google account, even if someone restores your phone to factory settings. Device Protection will be available on smartphones shipped with Android 5.1, and also the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9.

3 tools for finding and eradicating duplicate files on your hard drive – Do you have more files than space on your PC? These three tools can help you eke out a little more free space by getting rid of duplicate files and folders on your hard drive.

Meerkat lets you livestream videos over Twitter – With the rise of personal action cameras and, soon, VR headsets, livestreaming is taking a huge leap forward. We already have a lot of such platforms available, serving different needs, like Twitch and, of course, YouTube. But what if you wanted something a bit simpler, but also something that is as easily accessible as, say, your tweets? That is exactly what Meerkat is trying to offer. Users can simply start live streaming footage from their iPhone or iPad and broadcast it to their Twitter followers and for the whole world.


15 things you’ve forgotten how to do thanks to your smartphone – The transition from dumbphones to smartphones was pretty significant, but do you remember what you used to do before you had a portable, pocket-sized phone at all? Not to mention a portable, pocket-sized phone that also connects to the Internet and has hundreds of thousands of apps and controls every aspect of your life. I mean, remember when you had to do things like…call a restaurant from home, after looking up the phone number in the phone book, to make a dinner reservation? Here are 15 things you’ve totally forgotten how to do, thanks to your smartphone:

Facebook letting advertisers take a deeper look at users’ posts – This pipeline of data, which Facebook calls “topic data,” is being developed in partnership with DataSift, a data analysis company that looks at everything from social posts to news and blogs. Starting out, a select number of marketers that work with DataSift in the U.S. and the U.K. will gain access to the data, Facebook said on Tuesday. This type of Facebook data has previously been made available to marketers by third parties, but it offered only a limited view of what people were saying and of their demographic details.

How Apple’s New Health App Could Be Used — or Abused – While helping health care providers and researchers collect data and recruit qualified participants could lead to meaningful research advancements, some see reasons to be wary. “Two things concern me,” says Dr. David Ross Camidge, director of the Thoracic Oncology Clinical Program at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. For starters, big-name institutions may have more money and resources to develop these sorts of diagnostic apps, Camidge says. He worries patients may be directed away from the most-relevant or appropriate clinical trials to those that have the most funding behind them. “I certainly don’t know if that will be the case, but there seems like room for potential bias and commercialization,” he says.

Apple’s Latest Betrayal – “Seriously, fuck them,” read the tweet by M.J. The person was speaking about Apple and the new MacBook the company recently announced. There are countless other tweets and comments with the same sentiment. Right now there’s visceral hate directed at the company. A swath of consumers feel betrayed by the stark design of the new MacBook. Our original post on the topic was shared over 25,000 times. For good reason, too. The new MacBook thinks different. It has more in common with a tablet than most laptops. Think of it as an iPad that has a keyboard and runs OS X. And like the iPad, it only has one port, which is the cause of the outcry. This is Apple’s world and we just live in it.


It costs $158 to put ports back on your new MacBook – If the Lightning connector taught us anything, it’s that Apple is, unsurprisingly, totally willing to squeeze aging technology out of its products for the sake of thinness, even if means alienating customers in the short-term. Plus, it gives the company an excuse to sell that functionality back in the form of pricey little dongles. So with the newly announced thinnest-ever MacBook ditching everything but a headphone jack and an all-purpose USB Type-C port, get ready to buy a whole new set of adapters to turn it into a complete computer again.


Try These Interactive Demos Of Apple Watch Apps Featured At Apple’s Events – Apple has now spent a fair amount of time showing us how Apple Watch apps will work on its wearable, which launches on April 24 (with pre-orders starting April 10), but few have had a chance to try out the software for themselves. Dedicated watch app site WatchAware has spent considerable time and effort providing interactive teaser trailers that provide a basic idea how apps for Apple Watch will work in practice, however, and you can find a collection of those embedded below that include all the third- and some of the first-party apps Apple has featured both at Monday’s show, and at the iPhone launch event last September where the Apple Watch was first introduced to the world.


Here’s How the Apple Watch Will Work for Lefties – The device, which features a digital crown on its right side that can be twisted to manipulate menus, will offer an option to be oriented for the right wrist on initial setup. With that mode enabled, owners can simply flip the watch face over so the crown is on the left side instead. Watch bands can also be easily switched out so that they’re properly oriented.

Turkey to ban Minecraft for depictions of violence – When you think of Minecraft, the firs thing that pops into your mind isn’t likely to be violence. That’s not what the Turkish Ministry’s Children Services General Directorate is suggesting, though, making clear this week that they intend to begin the process of banning the game from the country for its depictions of violence. “Although the game can be seen as encouraging creativity in children by letting them build houses, farmlands and bridges,” said the ministry, “mobs [hostile creatures] must be killed in order to protect these structures. In short, the game is based on violence.”

OneDrive web app will get some usability improvements this month – Microsoft is constantly improving its online storage offering, whether it is by offering additional free storage, better integration with Outlook, or simply updating the apps that access the cloud service in order to provide a better experience. The Redmond giant today has announced that it will start rolling out a number of updates to its OneDrive web app, in order to improve the overall experience of using the cloud service for work. It will now be easier to create, share, and find the files you need to get things done.

Senators again push for online sales tax – A group of U.S. senators has revived an effort to require major online retailers to collect sales tax from shoppers. The nine senators on Tuesday reintroduced legislation that would allow states to collect sales taxes—more than 9 percent in a handful of states—from large Internet sellers with no operations in the states collecting the taxes.

OnePlus One arrives in 16 new European countries – Chinese smartphone startup OnePlus is extending sales of the One in Europe ahead of the launch of its successor to the popular handset.

Microsoft India offers discounts on a new Lumia 435 if you trade in your Asha – Microsoft India has announced a Smart Exchange program, allowing owners of its Asha feature phones to trade in their devices in exchange for discounts of up to 25% off its new Lumia 435 Windows Phone.


Patch Tuesday patches FREAK, Universal XSS – Today’s bumper crop of updates for Windows and other Microsoft products doesn’t just fix a new version of the Stuxnet shortcut attack. It also provides fixes to two serious flaws, one in the operating system’s handling of secure connections and the other in Internet Explorer. First up is a fix for the FREAK attack that lets miscreants trick software into using crackable encryption. Windows was initially believed to be immune to the attack, but a couple of days after it was publicized, Microsoft announced that its software was vulnerable, though the company did not explain what it had learned or why Windows was initially believed to be safe.

Microsoft has pushed out four security patches for Windows 10 – If you are running Windows 10, Microsoft has released four security patches today that you should install as soon as possible to make sure that your OS is protected. The four patches were released today as part of ‘Patch Tuesday’ which occurs on the second Tuesday of every month.

Apple patches FREAK vulnerability on Mountain Lion, Mavericks, Yosemite – Apple has published its second major security roll-up package of the year, Security Update 2015-002, which contains fixes for multiple versions of OS X stretching from Mountain Lion 10.8.5 to Yosemite 10.10.2. These updates mitigate threats from several different vulnerabilities, but the most notable is a fix that will inoculate Safari users against the so-called “FREAK” SSL/TLS exploit (CVE-2015-0204, although at publication time the Apple page shows CVE-2015-0167 as the CVE ID for FREAK).

MajorGeeks blacklists Haysoft and MassTube for forced malware during installation – While making a test of the updated MassTube from HaySoft this morning I was given an unexpected detour of spending an hour trying to remove everything they silently installed when I attempted to close the window of one program it tried to install. The X in the corner was grayed out forcing you to reboot or end the process as seen in the picture below.


Ending the process or rebooting was too little, too late when I discovered 7 programs, including an out of date Java, installed on my computer without any warning.

Researcher releases tool that can hijack accounts on sites using Facebook Login – The tool, dubbed Reconnect, was released last week by Egor Homakov, a researcher with security firm Sakurity. It takes advantage of a cross-site request forgery (CSRF) issue in Facebook Login, the service that allows users to log in on third-party sites using their Facebook accounts. Homakov disclosed the issue publicly on his personal blog in January 2014, after Facebook declined to fix it because doing so would have broken compatibility with a large number of sites that used the service.

Yet Another Cleaner, Yet Another Stealer – Recently, we discovered that a relatively popular “anti-malware” product known as “Yet Another Cleaner” or YAC for short, has been claiming to be an affiliate of Malwarebytes in addition to using a lot of our detection names as their own. We looked deeper into their operation and found some pretty amazing and ugly things.

Kaspersky reveals CAPTCHA-tricking Podec Trojan – Kaspersky has unearthed an Android-targeted Trojan, dubbed Podec, that can trick the CAPTCHA image verification system into thinking it is human.

Company News:

Apple donates over $50 million to improve diversity in tech – In an effort to improve diversity within the tech community, Apple is donating over $50 million to a pair of organizations working to get more women and minorities working in the tech industry. In an interview with Fortune, Apple’s HR chief Denise Young Smith revealed that the company has partnered with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the National Center for Women and Information Technology to help improve diversity within the pipeline of talent coming into Apple, and throughout the industry.

PayPal Doubles Down On Israel: Confirms CyActive Acquisition, New Security Hub – PayPal — soon to be spinning off from parent company eBay — today confirmed its latest acquisition and move to build out its payment technology as a standalone business, and provide better protection in the growing problem of security breaches in e-commerce. It is buying CyActive, a specialist in predictive malware detection based out of Israel. And it will use the company’s operations to kickstart a larger security hub in the country, including potentially more acquisitions. Terms of the CyActive deal are not being reported but local press reports last week leaked out and put the price at $60 million. Specifically, PayPal’s CTO and SVP of payment services James Barrese told TechCrunch that price was “speculative.”

Apple seeks dismissal of battery maker’s poaching lawsuit – Apple asked a federal court on Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a maker of batteries for electric cars. The suit, by A123 Systems, accuses the iPhone maker of poaching key engineers, and Apple argues that the complaint is based on unfounded speculation.

Uber Pledges to Hire 1M Women by 2020 – Uber is looking to diversify its workforce, and has pledged to create 1 million jobs for women by 2020. Uber said it plans to work with UN Women, an organization dedicated to gender equality, towards a shared vision of “equality and women’s empowerment.” Besides creating more jobs for women as drivers on the Uber platform, the company plans to invest in long-term women’s programs in local communities.

Sling TV notches 100,000 users in a month – Dish’s Sling TV streaming video service is off to a solid start, with more than 100,000 subscribers on board after one month. The user numbers come from Re/code’s Peter Kafka, who cites unnamed sources. One anonymous executive called the early adoption “encouraging.”

Games and Entertainment:

GTA Online Heists released today for Xbox and Playstation – Can anyone ever get sick of Grand Theft Auto? If you were wishing for more GTA or still holding your breath until GTA V for PC is released April 10th, then the new GTA Online Heists is your gaming solution. We showed you the trailer for GTA Online Heists, and now it’s finally here. You can now coordinate strings of high-intensity robberies across multiple counties in-game. Best of all is that it’s free and playable across multiple platforms such as Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.


New Nvidia freebie bundles The Witcher 3 with GeForce graphics cards – Nvidia announced Tuesday that it’s giving away copies of The Witcher 3 with the purchase of a GeForce GTX 960, 970, or 980 graphics card from now until…sometime. Despite the bundle’s cringeworthy name (the “Undeniably Epic” bundle) this is a hell of a good deal—especially since AMD retired its “Never Settle” free game bundle for Radeon cards earlier this year.


Watch a new trailer for Pixar’s highly emotional Inside Out – After plenty of teasing, Pixar is finally releasing a trailer for Inside Out that gives a real sense of what the movie will be like — and if the prior trailers didn’t get you on board, this one should do it. The latest trailer makes Inside Out look like an appropriately emotional take on what it’s like to be young and struggling with your emotions. The film has an all-star voice cast, including Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, and Phyllis Smith, and it’s directed by Pete Docter, who’s behind Pixar classics Monsters, Inc. and Up. Inside Out will be out June 19th.


Cities: Skylines – Cities: Skylines somehow lives up to the unfair expectations heaped upon it, presenting one of the best city builders in years.


Assassin’s Creed: Rogue (PC) impressions: Cap’n, she runs fine – We just got review code for the PC port of Assassin’s Creed: Rogue yesterday, so unfortunately we don’t have a review for you yet. In light of Ubisoft’s/Assassin’s Creed’s recent PC track record, however, I thought it maybe prudent to let you know how the game runs. In short: Great. That should come as no surprise. After all, Rogue is built on basically the same engine that powered Black Flag, and Black Flag ran perfectly fine. On a 970 I’m getting a smooth 60 frames per second with settings cranked. And boy, there sure are a lot of settings to tweak.


Off Topic (Sort of):

Here’s Why People Gossip So Much – According to some estimates, the average corporate email user sends 112 emails every day. About one out of every seven of those messages, says a new study from Georgia Tech, can be called gossip.

End Daylight Saving Time Now – This is the computer era. Why are we continuing with this idiocy called daylight saving time (DST)? I used to not care so much about this, but this time around, I’m finally fed up with it. I normally get up fairly early, around 7:30 a.m. I do not like getting up at 6:30 a.m. unless I need to get to the airport, and I’ll often cancel a trip if it means getting up that early. Because of DST, I am essentially getting up at 6:30 all the time.


Chameleon color changing abilities unlocked by science – A paper has been published this week in Nature Communications which shows how chameleons are able to swiftly and radically alter their exterior colors. Believe it or not, this study is brand new – science did not know how a creature like the Panther Chameleon was able to change colors based on emotion or surroundings. In addition to uncovering the secrets of miniature nanocrystals for color change, these scientists also uncovered another reason for their existence: passive thermal protection (made to keep cool).


Denver Police With Body Cameras Failed To Record Most Use-Of-Force Incidents, Report Finds – A report released Tuesday found that during a six-month pilot program for body cameras, a group of Denver police officers failed to record about three-quarters of the use-of-force incidents they were involved. There were 80 documented cases of use-of-force during the test run that included officers punching, “tasing” or using batons on a suspect. Of those, just 21 — or 26% — were recorded. The Denver Police Department did not immediately return calls for comment.

This finger-mounted camera helps the blind to read – A prototype device developed by researchers at MIT’s Media Lab would allow the blind to read with their finger without having to learn Braille. The FingerReader, mounted on the user’s finger, is equipped with a number of sensors that allows it to read text on a page on behalf of the reader. While using a computer, a blind user can make use of software that converts text to speech for web pages, word processing documents, PDF files and emails — but printed text is a different matter. The FingerReader brings text-to-speech to the real world by guiding the user’s finger along a line of text, generating the corresponding audio in real-time.


MIT Media Lab

11 of the biggest geek freakouts of all time – Let’s be honest with each other: when the geek community doesn’t like something, we’re loud about it. Complaining online is part and parcel of the nerd identity, and in this feature we’re going to take a trip back in time to find the 11 things that made us spill our spaghetti like never before.

Something to think about:

“It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it; consequently, the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any one meaning.”

–     George Orwell

Today’s Free Downloads:

Tweak-SSD – The original Tweak-SSD: Everything you need to optimize your SSD drive on Windows 7 or 8.

Optimize and tweak your Windows 7 or Windows 8 for a better performance of your SSD drive

Includes several tweaks that will optimize your SSD drive, making it even faster and reducing read and write access

Intuitive tweaking wizard guiding you from one tweak to the other, suggesting the best settings

Designed especially for Windows 7 and Windows 8 – unlike competitive products!

TRIM performance optimizer included (licensed edition only)

Completely free!

Compared to competitive products, Tweak-SSD does not require any user knowledge when it comes to activating SSD related system tweaks. The included wizard guides the user from one tweak to the other and suggests the best setting by intuitive red-green switch buttons, and an additional system status gauge visualizing the system’s optimization status.

Tweak-SSD works on Windows 7 and Windows 8, both on 32bit and 64bit editions. It includes an English user interface.

BitTorrent Sync – Share directly from device to device. No cloud. No limits.

Sync uses advanced peer-to-peer technology to share files between devices. No cloud is required. This means there are no accounts, no file size limits, and transfer speeds are never throttled. You are free to share anything and everything you have.

Sync is a powerful and flexible application that equips users to get the job done. It is simple enough to share photos with friends, and powerful enough to sync terabytes of video between co-workers.

Sync is built from the ground up to ensure that you are in always in complete control of your files. Data is transferred directly from device to device. Files are never duplicated on to third party servers. Every connection is encrypted and secured against prying eyes.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Wikipedia sues NSA over dragnet internet surveillance – Researchers working with the Central Intelligence Agency have conducted a multi-year, sustained effort to break the security of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, according to top-secret documents obtained by The Intercept.

The security researchers presented their latest tactics and achievements at a secret annual gathering, called the “Jamboree,” where attendees discussed strategies for exploiting security flaws in household and commercial electronics. The conferences have spanned nearly a decade, with the first CIA-sponsored meeting taking place a year before the first iPhone was released.

By targeting essential security keys used to encrypt data stored on Apple’s devices, the researchers have sought to thwart the company’s attempts to provide mobile security to hundreds of millions of Apple customers across the globe. Studying both “physical” and “non-invasive” techniques, U.S. government-sponsored research has been aimed at discovering ways to decrypt and ultimately penetrate Apple’s encrypted firmware. This could enable spies to plant malicious code on Apple devices and seek out potential vulnerabilities in other parts of the iPhone and iPad currently masked by encryption.

The CIA declined to comment for this story.

Pointing up   This action is not sufficient – not even close to what is required. Every computer owner, world wide, should be part of a class action lawsuit directed at the United States, named members of Congress, and Obama and his thug cabinet.

In any other era, the United States absolute disregard for the rights of other countries and its citizens, would be seen as an attack on those countries, its citizens and its sovereignty.

More to the point – its time for Americans to ask the most pertinent question of all.  Who, or what, directs the U.S. government? It sure as hell doesn’t appear to be Obama and his cabal.

The CIA helped develop planes that scrape cell phone data – The US may be using cellphone-sniffing planes to find suspects across the world, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal. In November, the Journal revealed the US Marshal’s secret program to locate specific fugitive through airplane equipped to mimic cell towers. Flying over an urban area, the planes can pinpoint the location of a single number amid a million or more phones. The new report shows the technology first originated with the CIA, which guided the initial deployment of the planes by the Marshal Service. Furthermore, Journal sources say continues to be used to locate intelligence targets overseas.

If true, the report unveils a powerful weapon in US intelligence efforts abroad, but also reveals a troubling trend of foreign intelligence tools used for domestic law enforcement purposes.

New Zealand Targets Trade Partners, Hacks Computers in Spy Operations – New Zealand is conducting covert surveillance operations against some of its strongest trading partners and has obtained sophisticated malware to infect targeted computers and steal data, newly released documents reveal.

The country’s eavesdropping agency, Government Communications Security Bureau, or GCSB, is carrying out the surveillance across the Asia-Pacific region and beyond as part of its membership in the Five Eyes, a spying alliance that includes New Zealand as well as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

The documents, revealed on Tuesday by the New Zealand Herald in collaboration with The Intercept, expose more details about the scope of New Zealand’s involvement in the Five Eyes, and show that the agency’s reach extends far beyond its previously reported eavesdropping on at least ten small South Pacific nations and territories.

Bulk comms spying is not mission creep, insists UK foreign sec – The minister responsible for the oversight of GCHQ has today defended the interception of bulk communications data, saying it does not amount to mission creep by Blighty’s intelligence agencies.

Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said it was necessary to address public concerns about the regulatory framework and the powers that govern their activities.

Hammond made the comments in a wide-ranging speech on security and intelligence, which also criticised ‘Jihadi John’ apologists and warned that Russia could pose the single biggest threat to UK security.

Hammond said there will always be a tension between giving agencies reasonable access to information and the legitimate concern of law-abiding people to protect their private communications.

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