Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – March 26, 2015

Tech coalition including Microsoft, Apple, and Google presses attack on the Patriot Act;  Who’s in charge, here? The White House, or an advertising company in California?  9 compelling reasons to keep your old PC instead of upgrading;  These Are the 5 Best iPhone Apps of the Week;  Five free apps for dealing with hardware problems;  USB 3.1 set to reach desktops;  10 cheap or free ways to make your old PC run faster;  Kano OS made free for Raspberry Pi 2;  Router hack is injecting ads and porn into random websites;  New York threatens action if RadioShack sells data;  Fan TV’s New App Is A Must-Have For Cord Cutters;  Bill Gates recommends these essential readings;  Google awarded patent for their smart contact lens;  Who Has the Fastest Web Connections? (Hint: Not the U.S.);  Router Password Decryptor (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

New York threatens action if RadioShack sells customer data – New York’s attorney general said his office will take “appropriate action” if personal data on millions of RadioShack customers is handed over as part of a just-concluded bankruptcy sale. The names and physical addresses of 65 million customers and email addresses of 13 million customers were among the assets listed as part of the sale, which concluded this week but has yet to be approved by a bankruptcy court. “When a company collects private customer data on the condition that it will not be resold, it is the company’s responsibility to uphold their end of the bargain,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a statement.

As the Snowden leaks began, there was “fear and panic” in Congress – Minutes after the first NSA leak was published, the phones of US lawmakers began to buzz, hours before most of America would find out over their morning coffee.

Run this Installer Hijacking Scanner app to see if your older Android phone is at risk – Half of all Android phones still run Android 4.2 or older. If they also buy from third-party app stores, they could be vulnerable to a hijacking app. This scanner will tell you if your phone is at risk.

These Are the 5 Best iPhone Apps of the 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 some apps actually worth downloading.

Five free apps for dealing with hardware problems – From bad memory to missing drivers, PC hardware can exhibit aggravating problems that you’ll need to troubleshoot. Here are five apps that can help.

9 compelling reasons to keep your old PC instead of upgrading – Few can withstand the siren song of the latest and greatest gear, the deep allure of a new and shiny gadget—but that doesn’t mean that tossing your old computer in the trash and picking up a fresh PC is necessarily a smart idea. While gamers and hardcore video editors always stand to gain extra performance out of fresh firepower, more casual users might be better off saving their cash and sticking with the PC you already own. Here’s why.

10 cheap or free ways to make your old PC run faster – There’s a reason that unboxing videos and the phrase “new car smell” are firmly ensconced in the public groupmind. New stuff is exciting! New stuff is (theoretically) better! New stuff is just plain cool. But new stuff also costs an arm and a leg—at least if you’re talking about a new PC. And you might not even truly need a new PC to accomplish what you’re looking to do. Fortunately, there are a slew of ways to breathe new life into an older PC that’s starting to feel a little pokey. Even better: Most are outright free, a couple of (still low-cost) hardware upgrades aside. Sure, these tweaks and tips aren’t as thrilling as booting up a brand new PC for the first time—but they’ll let you continue to get the job done with the gear you already have.

BitDefender, Kaspersky top list of best Windows 8.1 antivirus software – In sales, they say that you’re only as good as your last month’s figures. Ditto for antivirus software. And right now, BitDefender, Kaspersky, and Qihoo 360 are the best in the business. AV-Test, one of the two leading antivirus testing houses, released its February antivirus ratings for Windows 8.1 PCs early Wednesday, assessing the 27 or so available antimalware packages on protection, performance, and usability. The results shouldn’t surprise you: The bigger names in the industry rose to the top, while at the bottom—as usual—sat Microsoft.

The Beastgrip Pro Turns Your Phone Into A Mobile Video Rig – The Beastgrip Pro is a rig system for your phone that lets you take better photos and video by adding stability, mics, lights, and lenses. Nearly every aspect is modular or expandable. Depending on what you need to shoot, you might put your phone on a tripod for smoother shots, add a directional mic for better audio during interviews, or swap out lenses to capture wide-angle footage or to get better distance shots without hurting quality as with digital zoom. Every mount or thread uses a common photography standard, making it a great option for getting kids started with video using second-hand gear or for using your phone as an emergency on-shoot backup. Beastgrip’s rig is now available for pre-order on Kickstarter, coming in at $70 for the main rig and $105 if you want the Depth of Field adapter and wide-angle lens.

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USB 3.1 set to reach desktops – The emerging USB 3.1 standard is set to reach desktops as hardware companies release motherboards with ports that can transfer data twice as fast as the previous USB technology. MSI on Wednesday announced a 970A SLI Krait motherboard that will support the AMD processors and the USB 3.1 protocol. Motherboards with USB 3.1 ports have also been released by Gigabyte, ASRock and Asus, but those boards support Intel chips.

Kano OS made free for Raspberry Pi 2 – To quicken the development of Kano OS and its innards, the team behind the creation of the “fast, fun, friendly OS” have made it free to Raspberry Pi 2. This software works with games, web browsing, a video app, and lots of tools for software development. This system comes with a toolset of utilities for Raspberry Pi and the OS itself and is aimed at developers – though you could very well make your own tiny console with it if you do so wish.

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Google will finally improve Chrome scrolling using a Microsoft invention – Google is finally adopting a standard that supports both mouse and touch navigation for its Chrome browser. If you’ve used a copy of Chrome on a Windows tablet recently then you’ll probably be familiar with the poor scrolling performance and general touch support, and it’s something Google will now address across all of its versions of Chrome. Google revealed today that it plans to support Pointer Events, a standard that was first introduced by Microsoft in Internet Explorer. Google has traditionally focused its efforts on supporting Touch Events, a method used by Apple in its Safari browser. Microsoft, Mozilla, and Opera have all adopted Pointer Events, and Google says that feedback from the web community has led to the change in heart.

Amazon’s On-Demand Services Marketplace Launches Monday – Amazon’s Angie’s List competitor, called “Amazon Local Services,” has been rebranded as “Amazon Home Services” ahead of a larger launch happening Monday, sources familiar with the plans tell TechCrunch. The site, which previously featured only a limited number of service offerings in a handful of select markets, has also recently expanded to include a much larger number of categories of services as well as additional cities around the U.S.

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Security:

This router hack is injecting ads and porn into random websites – A new strain of malware is using routers to inject ads and pornography into websites, according to a report from Ara Labs. Once a router is compromised, the malware will load third-party content onto almost any website visited by the user. The attack alternates between loading ads and directly loading content from pornographic websites like adultyum.info and adultcameras.info. In both cases, it’s functioning as a basic adware attack, redirecting targets as a pay of generating paid traffic for a client. “Due to the nature of this scheme, there is no technology that is going to detect this automatically,” Ara said in a statement. The following video shows the clean, ad-based version of the attack. (Ara Labs described the other as “too graphic to publish.”)

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Microsoft blacklists latest rogue SSL certificates, Mozilla mulls sanctions for issuer – Microsoft has blacklisted a subordinate CA certificate that was wrongfully used to issue SSL certificates for several Google websites. The action will prevent those certificates from being used in Google website spoofing attacks against Internet Explorer users. Microsoft’s move, taken on Tuesday, came after Google reported that the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), a certificate authority (CA) trusted by most browsers and operating systems, issued an intermediate certificate to an Egyptian company called MCS Holdings. The company then used it to generate SSL certificates for Google-owned websites without authorization.

Company News:

Facebook announces Messenger Platform and Businesses on Messenger – Today at the annual F8 developer conference, Facebook announced its new Messenger Platform as well as Businesses on Messenger to expand its traditional messaging application.

Mozilla Extends Its Default Google Search Blockout, Signs Up Yandex In Turkey – Mozilla last November made waves when it swapped out Google as the default search engine in its Firefox browser in the U.S., replacing it with Yahoo, and put Yandex in for Google in Russia at the same time. Today Mozilla announced an expansion of that strategy: Yandex will now also be the default search option in Turkey, once again replacing Google. Yandex is known as the Google of Russia, partly because of the appearance of its search product, and partly for its position as the leading search engine in the country — albeit with a more modest dominance; its market share is just under 60% right now, and 75% among Firefox users.

Facebook sued for alleged theft of data center design – Facebook is being sued by a British engineering company that claims the social network stole its technique for building data centers and, perhaps worse, is encouraging others to do the same through the Open Compute Project. BladeRoom Group says it contacted Facebook in 2011 about using its technique, which involves constructing data centers in a modular fashion from pre-fabricated parts. It’s intended to be a faster, more energy-efficient method. What happened next isn’t clear, since much of the public version of BRG’s lawsuit is redacted. But it claims Facebook ended up stealing its ideas and using them to build part of a data center in Lulea, Sweden, that opened last year.

Games and Entertainment:

Fan TV’s New App Is A Must-Have For Cord Cutters – As a cord cutter, one of the ongoing challenges is figuring out which shows and movies are available for streaming on services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Hulu and others, and which are only available as paid downloads. A company called Fan TV is today introducing a new mobile application that will go a long way to help address this problem, by allowing you to search and save shows and movies you want to watch later – as well as get alerted to when they arrive on your preferred services.

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5 Reasons You Need to Check Out Cities: Skylines – Cities: Skylines, a PC game by a totally different studio (interlopers!) that’s singlehandedly revitalizing the city-building genre. And not in a “Look, here’s something more clever than SimCity!” way, so much as a “Hey, why not just do SimCity old school?” one. Here’s a look at some of the reasons why.

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PlayStation 4 Gets Suspend And Resume, External HD Backups On March 26 – The Suspend/Resume function means you won’t have to save to stop the action, and it’s much more convenient now that it survives the PS4’s Rest Mode, which puts the console into a low-power, stasis-like state. Previously, games could be temporarily paused like this, but only while you exited to the menu to quickly check on something else. Another anticipated new feature coming with Yukimura (PS4 software version 2.50 if you want to get technical) is the ability to back-up and restore console HDD content to an external USB drive. That means you can fully back up the system, including everything from settings, saved data an screenshots to games, patches and downloads.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Bill Gates recommends these essential readings to TED 2015 attendees – Although Gates was not a speaker at this year’s TED 2015 event, he was invited to attend and was asked by the team to recommend a list of books for the conference attendees. Naturally, Gates obliged and created a list with books that focus on health, business and the world. In no particular order, here is the list that Bill Gates put together for the attendees at TED 2015.

Business Adventures by John Brooks

The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin

On Immunity by Eula Biss

Making the Modern World by Vaclav Smil

How Asia Works by Joe Studwell

How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff

For a full description of each book, head over to Gates’ site where he has a short synopsis of each book.

Google awarded patent for their smart contact lens – Remember the Google X skunkworks project that saw the company imagining contact lenses that could monitor your glucose levels? Sounded weird, and more like some means to an end for a bigger project. Then we found Google had a partner in Novartis, and the contact lens that could monitor your health seemed a bit closer to reality. It’s now even closer to being on your eye, as Google has been granted a patent to manufacture the lenses, which have multiple layers and their own chipset.

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The father of all humans lived 239,000 years ago – By sequencing the genomes of 2,636 Icelanders — the largest set ever obtained from a single population — researchers were able to identify that genetic mutations play a role in everything from Alzheimer’s disease to liver disease. The Icelandic data also suggest that humanity’s most recent common male ancestor, the “father” of us all, would have lived between 174,000 and 321,000 years ago. The estimate for the most recent common male ancestor contradicts some past findings. A 2013 study from the University of Arizona estimated that the age of the father of all humans is about 340,000 years old. But the Icelandic analysis indicates he probably lived about 239,000 years ago — a number that’s much closer to the estimate for humanity’s most recent common female ancestor, who lived about 200,000 years ago.

FTC hits back; Google investigation integrity questioned again – The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is coming out against statements made last week by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), as well as new claims that Google had used its political ties to the Obama administration to obtain a favorable outcome in the FTC investigation into alleged anti-trust and unfair internet search practices. The FTC states that such claims are unfounded and undermine the integrity of its investigation, while the WSJ is giving weight to the idea that anti-trust investigation might not have had much integrity on the FTC’s part at all.

Who Has the Fastest Web Connections? (Hint: Not the U.S.) – Global average Internet connection speeds remained above the 4 Mbps threshold for broadband in the fourth quarter of 2014, increasing 0.7 percent to 4.5 Mbps, according to the latest report from Akamai. Despite a 12 percent decline, South Korea held its first-place position with a 22.2 Mbps average connection speed, followed by Hong Kong (16.8 Mbps) and Japan (15.2 Mbps). Sweden, Switzerland, and The Netherlands all landed in the 14 Mbps range, with Latvia (13 Mbps), Ireland (12.7 Mbps), the Czech Republic (12.3 Mbps), and Finland (12.1 Mbps) bringing up the rear. At 11.1 Mbps average connection speed, the U.S. did not break the top 10.

Something to think about:

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

–     Richard Feynman

Today’s Free Downloads:

HTTPS Everywhere – HTTPS Everywhere is a Firefox, Chrome, and Opera extension that encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure.

It automatically switches thousands of sites from insecure “http” to secure “https”. It will protect you against many forms of surveillance and account hijacking, and some forms of censorship.

HTTPS Everywhere is produced as a collaboration between The Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Many sites on the web offer some limited support for encryption over HTTPS, but make it difficult to use. For instance, they may default to unencrypted HTTP, or fill encrypted pages with links that go back to the unencrypted site. The HTTPS Everywhere extension fixes these problems by using a clever technology to rewrite requests to these sites to HTTPS.

DeepSound – DeepSound is a steganography tool and audio converter that hides secret data into audio files. The application also enables you to extract secret files directly from audio files or audio CD tracks.

DeepSound might be used as copyright marking software for wave, flac, wma, ape, and audio CD. DeepSound also support encrypting secret files using AES-256(Advanced Encryption Standard) to improve data protection.

The application additionally contains an easy to use Audio Converter Module that can encode several audio formats (FLAC, MP3, WMA, WAV, APE) to others (FLAC, MP3, WAV, APE).

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Router Password Decryptor – Router Password Decryptor is the FREE tool to instantly recover internet login/PPPoE authentication passwords, wireless WEP keys, WPA/WPA2 passphrases from your router/modem configuration file.

Currently it supports password recovery from following type of router/modems:

Cisco

Juniper

DLink

BSNL

In addition to this, it also has unique ‘Smart Mode’ feature (experimental) to recover passwords from any type of Router/Modem configuration file. It detects various password fields from such config file (XML only) and then automatically try to decrypt those passwords.

It also has quick link to Base64 Decoder which is useful in case you have found Base64 encoded password (ending with =) in the config file and automatic recovery is not working.

It is very easy to use tool with its cool GUI interface. Administrators & Penetration Testers will find it more useful to recover login passwords as well as wireless keys from the router configuration files.

It is fully portable and works on both 32-bit & 64-bit windows platforms.

Features:

Instantly decrypt and recover login/PPPoE/WEP/WPA/WPA2 Passwords from Router/Modem Config file

Supports Cisco/Juniper/DLink/BSNL modems/routers

Also has Smart Mode feature to recover password from any config file

Useful for Admins & Penetration Testers

Simple & elegant GUI interface makes it easy to use

Supports quick Drag & Drop of Router config file

Right click context menu to quickly copy the Password

Sort feature to arrange the displayed passwords

Save the recovered password list to HTML/XML/TEXT/CSV file

Fully Portable, does not require Java or .NET

Includes Installer for assisting you in local Installation & Uninstallation.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Tech coalition including Microsoft, Apple, and Google presses attack on the Patriot Act – Advocacy groups, major tech companies, and a coalition of huge firms including Google, Microsoft, and Apple have sent a letter to the Obama administration urging it to decisively end the NSA’s bulk collection of metadata, which expires June 1st as part of Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Obama has already urged Congress to develop a new framework for handling metadata, proposing that telecom companies hang onto the records and only hand them over when law enforcement receives a court order. That proposal was made a year ago. If Congress wants to keep allowing the government to access these records — and, yeah, it probably does — it’ll have to act within the next several months.

“There must be a strong, clear, and effective end to bulk collection practices under the USA Patriot Act, including under the Section 215 records authority and Section 214 authority regarding pen registers and trap & trace devices,” the companies write in the letter, which was sent today and signed by nearly four dozen groups. “Any collection that does occur under those authorities should have appropriate safeguards in place to protect privacy and users’ rights.” Other signatories of the letter include Wikimedia, Mozilla, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, Silent Circle, the ACLU, and CloudFlare. The text of the letter is below:

Who’s in charge, here? The White House, or an advertising company in California? – Google and the White House manage to hook up more than the majority of married couples, having met up once a week for the past five years.

That’s the latest indicator of the powerful internet giant’s worrying cosy relationship with the Obama administration, pulled from logs requested by the Wall Street Journal.

The disclosure comes hot on the heels of last week’s revelations that US watchdog the FTC very nearly pursued an antitrust lawsuit against Google for unfairly burying rivals in its search results, but ultimately gave up the chase. Google denies any wrongdoing.

The relationship between the rich California corporation and the Obama administration has been going on for some time, and has resulted in a string of troubling situations – a few of which we documented in a report over the weekend.

The Journal today highlights that as the FTC neared its decision not to prosecute Google for abusing its dominant search and online advertising position, its senior executives had a sudden run of meetings both with the watchdog and the White House.

EU: Don’t use Facebook if you want to keep the NSA away from your data – In a key case before the European Union’s highest court, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the European Commission admitted yesterday that the US-EU Safe Harbor framework for transatlantic data transfers does not adequately protect EU citizens’ data from US spying. The European Commission’s attorney Bernhard Schima told the CJEU’s attorney general: “You might consider closing your Facebook account if you have one,” euobserver reports.

The case before the CJEU is the result of complaints lodged against five US companies—Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Skype, and Yahoo—with the relevant data protection authorities in Germany, Ireland, and Luxembourg by the Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems, supported by crowdfunding. Because of the important points of European law raised, the Irish High Court referred the Safe Harbor case to the CJEU.

California bill requires warrant for stingray use – A California state bill that would require a warrant to access all kinds of digital data passed its first hurdle after being approved by the Senate Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.

Among other sweeping new requirements to enhance digital privacy, the bill notably imposes a warrant requirement before police can access nearly any type of digital data produced by or contained within a device or service.

In other words, that would include any use of a stingray, also known as a cell-site simulator, which can not only used to determine a phone’s location, but can also intercept calls and text messages. During the act of locating a phone, stingrays also sweep up information about nearby phones—not just the target phone.

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