Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – June 12, 2015

25 Android Apps Put to the Security Test;  Fake mobile phone towers discovered in London;  Which Android phone to get? Google has a tool for that;  This is how much time you’re spending on smartphone apps;  ‘Your PC may be infected!’ Inside the shady world of antivirus telemarketing;  U.K. Review Backs Mass Surveillance But Wants Judges To Sign Warrants;  Apple Says These Are the Best Apps of the Year;   Android TV hidden gems: The 10 best hard-to-find apps;  Surfing the Web On Your iPhone Is About to Get Way Better;  Twitter’s mobile app now supports landscape video recording;  Twitter adds sharing block lists to help limit harassment;  Vintage Ask toolbar is malware – and we’ll kill Jeeves, says Microsoft;  These are the first Oculus Rift games;  German parliament may need to replace all software and hardware after hack;  Court refuses to block the FCC’s net neutrality rules;  Teen discovers new planet 1,000 light years away;  Microsoft Hyperlapse Pro Preview (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The dangers of Android malware may be exaggerated, but you should still play it safe – Not everyone agrees that Android malware seriously threatens security. But taking precautions is still a good idea.

25 Android Apps Put to the Security Test – Sure there are plenty of great apps, but there plenty of dangerous ones, too. That’s why most antivirus software providers, having already faced the massive challenge of dealing with PC malware, also provide security software designed specifically for the protecting the little green robot that lives in your phone or tablet. Every few months independent testing labs AV-Test releases a report on the state of Android security software. While the institute’s latest findings aren’t quite as optimistic as they’ve been in the past, they still contain plenty of good news.

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Which Android phone to get? Google has a tool for that – Diversity is both a boon and a bane in Android. On the one hand, it means that buyers can choose from their manufacturer of choice, features of preference, or unique style. On the other hand, it also exhibits the so-called “irony of choice”, almost paralyzing some from choosing among dozens of options. Although Google has probably been long aware of the situation, now it is taking a more active approach. It has just launched a new “Which Phone” web tool that can help narrow down the choices based on your use cases.

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This is how much time you’re spending on smartphone apps – You’re devoting a whole lot of time to smartphone apps, and it’s likely more for play than work. At least that’s what recent statistics suggest. The amount of time people spend each month on smartphone apps was nearly 37 1/2 hours in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to market research firm Nielsen. That represented a 63 percent jump over the same period two years ago. It’s the latest illustration of just how much time people are spending on their smartphones.

Apple Says These Are the Best Apps of the Year – Apple announced the winners of this year’s Apple Design Awards this week at its 2015 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). 12 apps for iOS and Mac ranging from the old-school hopper game Crossy Road to the slick stock trading app Robinhood were recognized for design, creativity, function and personality, according to a statement from Apple. Two of the honorees were student winners: jump-O, a minimalist puzzle game for iPhone and iPad, and Elementary Minute, a quiz game for iPhone and Apple Watch.

Twitter Gets Serious About Messaging, Will Remove DM Character Limit – Beginning in July, DMs will no longer carry the 140 character limit Twitter enforces for its public posts. Direct Message character limit removal probably makes a lot of sense to anyone who uses the feature regularly. Brevity is key in the public-facing stream of Twitter itself, since that’s the whole point of the “micro-blogging” platform. But in private, it just means you often have to break up longer thoughts over multiple messages, and doing so can actually be really annoying.

Twitter’s mobile app now supports landscape video recording – Praise the heavens, mobile video shooters, Twitter has finally gotten with the times and lets you record videos in landscape orientation from within their iOS and Android apps. When Twitter first made in-app video recording available earlier this year, it used square formatting, made popular by social apps Vine and Instagram. Twitter makes it easy to shoot video in the new orientation, just hold your phone like normal, rotate it 90 degrees to the right or left, and start recording!

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Twitter adds sharing block lists to help limit harassment – Microblogging service hopes the ability to block multiple accounts at once will help curb abuse and harassment on the platform.

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Skype’s modern Windows app is dead, long live Skype for Windows desktop – Microsoft-owned Skype has announced today that it will be merging its two Windows apps into a single offering by retiring the touch-based, Modern UI version, and instead moving forward with the traditional desktop app. The touch-friendly Skype app was made for Windows 8 devices, while Windows 7 and Windows 8 PCs have always continued to use the desktop app. In anticipation of the debut of Windows 10, the modern Skype app will no longer work beginning July 7th, and users will need to switch to the desktop version.

Reddit Bans Five Harassing Subreddits, Its Trolls Respond Exactly As You’d Expect – Reddit, the hugely popular online community know as the ‘front page of the internet’, has dropped the hammer on five groups on its site judged to be in violation of its policy against harassing users.

The final version of Oculus Rift is coming soon (pictures) – After years of prototypes and updates, Oculus Rift is ready to debut a final version that anyone can buy in 2016.

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10 do’s and don’ts for successful podcasting – Whether you’re in the process of planning a new podcast or you’re already producing episodes, there are (as you might expect) a number of do’s and don’ts to consider. Although these are not hard and fast rules, they will make the entire process (from creation to publication) easier, more productive, and more enjoyable.

Surfing the Web On Your iPhone Is About to Get Way Better – The next version of Apple’s iPhone software will allow adblocking on the device’s Safari browser, according to Apple’s iOS developer library. It’s the first time Apple’s mobile browser will allow adblocking extensions, which over 100 million people already use on their desktops, Nieman Lab reports.

Security:

Hackers stole Social Security numbers, personal data from every single federal employee – Last week, Chinese hackers were pinned for a large-scale attack which compromised the personal information of millions of current and former government employees. The breach targeted the Office of Personnel Management, and incited outrage from security firms and public officials over the lack of security surrounding the incident. Now, the country’s largest federal employee union, the AFGE, has claimed in an internal letter that the Social Security numbers and personal information of every single federal employee – 2.1 million people – have been compromised. Additionally, the AFGE claims Social Security numbers and personal information of 2 million federal retirees have been similarly compromised.

Report: Hack of government employee records discovered by product demo – An OPM statement on the attack said that the agency discovered the breach as it had “undertaken an aggressive effort to update its cybersecurity posture.” And a DHS spokesperson told Ars that “interagency partners” were helping the OPM improve its network monitoring “through which OPM detected new malicious activity affecting its information technology systems and data in April 2015.” Those statements may not be entirely accurate. According to a Wall Street Journal report, the breach was indeed discovered in April. But according to sources who spoke to the WSJ’s Damian Paletta and Siobhan Hughes, it was in fact discovered during a sales demonstration of a network forensics software package called CyFIR by its developer, CyTech Services. “CyTech, trying to show OPM how its cybersecurity product worked, ran a diagnostics study on OPM’s network and discovered malware was embedded on the network,” Paletta and Hughes reported.

Vintage Ask toolbar is malware – and we’ll kill Jeeves, says Microsoft – Older versions of the Ask toolbar, the bane of many a computer user over the years, has been declared persona non grata by Microsoft, and Redmond says its security software will now kill it on sight. In a June 11 update to its Malware Protection Center site, Microsoft states that older versions of the toolbar, which set itself up as a browser’s homepage and redirected all searches through Ask’s engine, now contravene Redmond’s policies. The latest build is fine, but older Ask toolbars will be hunted down and deleted.

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‘Your PC may be infected!’ Inside the shady world of antivirus telemarketing – Consumer antivirus software has become a highly competitive business, in part because data breaches are in the news almost every week, and people feel a need to protect themselves. It’s also a huge market, with an estimated $4.9 billion in annual sales, according to Gartner. That’s drawn all types of players, some of whom specialize more in affiliate marketing than in security.

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Agents at EZ Tech Support had a job to do: upsell hapless consumers who thought they had a computer virus.

Security Firm Kaspersky Hacked – In an ironic twist of fate, security firm Kaspersky on Wednesday announced that it was hacked. “The bad news is that we discovered an advanced attack on our own internal networks,” the company’s chairman and CEO, Eugene Kaspersky, wrote in a blog post. “It was complex, stealthy, it exploited several zero-day vulnerabilities, and we’re quite confident that there’s a nation state behind it. We’ve called it Duqu 2.0.”

German parliament may need to replace all software and hardware after hack – Some parliamentarians are refusing help from German intelligence services, a report said.

Company News:

Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo Chooses To Step Down, Jack Dorsey Named Interim CEO, Shares Up 3% – After years of user growth struggles, Twitter just announced that its CEO Dick Costolo will be stepping down July 1st, though he’ll remain on the board. Twitter co-founder and Square CEO Jack Dorsey will be the interim CEO. A conference call with investors has been set for 2:15pm PST today to discuss the situation.

eBay, PayPal asked to explain robocall policies – The soon-to-be-split eBay and PayPal need to answer for changes they’re making to their user agreements, according to the New York state attorney general’s office. Those modifications would allow eBay and PayPal to use “autodialed or prerecorded calls or text messages” to contact their users. The communication could be used to collect debts, seek opinions or answers to surveys, or offer promotions. eBay’s new policy will take effect on Monday; PayPal will implement its changes on July 1.

BlackBerry might adopt Android for its next handset – According to new reports, BlackBerry might be looking to adopt Android for one of its next handsets. This could prove a good move and help showcase the company’s focus on enterprise device management.

BMW and Chinese tech giant Baidu are launching a self-driving car this year – As Google edges closer to the dream of self-driving cars, Chinese search giant Baidu is trying to beat it to the finish line. The Chinese company — which has been working on self-driving vehicles for the past few years — first announced it had entered a partnership with BMW in 2014. It seems that collaboration has already paid off: this week, Baidu senior vice president Wang Jin said that his company would launch of a new self-driving car with the German car manufacturer before the end of the year.

Uber launches iPhone game to attract new drivers – ‘UberDrive’ teaches players to navigate the streets of San Francisco and recruits them to drive for the company

Games and Entertainment:

Retail video game industry suffered abysmal sales slump in May – May marked another dark spot for the US retail video game industry. Sales of game software on discs resumed a downward spiral, falling 25 percent year over year to $212.3 million and dampening the few brief moments in the last six months when software sales were up year over year thanks to a popular new game release, according to industry watcher the NPD Group. Hardware sales, after months and months of keeping the retail industry afloat, fell 18 percent to $153.6 million due to a continued steep drop-off in sales of older gaming consoles, like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

These are the first Oculus Rift games – The Oculus Rift is coming, and now we finally know some of the very first virtual reality games we’ll be able to play on it. At a press conference today, Oculus unveiled the final consumer version of its VR headset, as well as some of the initial games that will be playable when it finally launches. Some we already knew about, some are new, but all look potentially very exciting. The list includes games like sci-fi flight sim Eve Valkyrie, atmospheric RPG Chronos, and Edge of Nowhere, an arctic survival game from Insomniac Games, the studio behind Ratchet & Clank and Resistance.

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Android TV hidden gems: The 10 best hard-to-find apps – Last week, Android TV went from a platform bereft of apps to a platform lousy with them. With devices like the Nexus Player and the Nvidia Shield Android TV, you can now venture beyond Google’s curated selection and browse the entire catalog of more than 600 apps. This newfound openness for Android TV, however, is a mixed blessing. While the full catalog has some great apps throughout, finding them involves sifting through a lot of junk. To spare you the trouble, I’ve dug deep into the Android TV app store to find these 10 hidden gems:

Everything We Love (and Hate) About The Witcher 3 After 160 Hours –  This is a lightly edited dialogue between TIME’s games critic Matt Peckham and assistant managing editor Matt Vella about playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The conversation took place over email over the period of several days.

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Steam’s holding a ‘monster’ summer sale until June 21st – Steam’s annual summer sale is a time-honored tradition at this point, and this year’s iteration is particularly monstrous. Users can take advantage of daily rotating deals and flash sales that switch up every 12 hours until June 21st, meaning there’ll be plenty of opportunities to find steals even if nothing seems especially purchase-worthy on your first click-through. The sale’s kicking off with deals on games like the Tales from the Borderlands series, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, and Grand Theft Auto V. There’s also a gamified component to the sale: by playing the accompanying Monster Summer Game, users across the Steam community can work together to unlock even more deals.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Teen discovers new planet 1,000 light years away – Technically Incorrect: A 15 years old, a British school-kid finds something out there that no one had noticed before. How? By studying data.

Report: Airbus transport crash caused by “wipe” of critical engine control data – Reuters reported additional details today provided by individuals familiar with the investigation into the crash, stating that a critical part of the configuration data in three of the aircraft’s four ECUs—a file storing torque calibration parameters for each engine—was somehow “accidentally wiped” when the software was being installed. As a result, three of the aircraft’s engines automatically shut down in flight. Citing a safety document shown to Reuters, Tim Hepher reported that the pilot of the A400M would not have gotten an alert about the missing data until the aircraft was already at an altitude of 400 feet.

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A protoype of the Airbus A400M at the 2010 Farnborough Airshow. MilborneOne

Samsung unveils a transparent OLED TV, hides another one in a mirror – Soon, you’ll be able to mount a Samsung TV in your home without sacrificing valuable wall space that you could be using for shelves to show off your Amiibo collection (since you could hang it right over a picture window if you wanted to). Samsung claims their see-through OLED display is four times more transparent than competitors’ LCD-baesd designs. It’s also got a broader color gamut, higher contrast ratio, faster refresh rate (just 1ms), and uses much less power.

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See a diver high-five (high-fin?) a massive great white shark – A diver in the waters off the coast of Guadalupe Island gets out of the cage and exchanges a friendly slap with a massive shark that could easily eat your face.

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Court refuses to block the FCC’s net neutrality rules – In April, soon after the FCC passed strong net neutrality rules, the broadband industry sued to stop them. But, at least for now, the rules are safe: the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has denied a request for a stay that would have temporarily halted the rules. Industry groups had hoped — quixotically — that a judge would prevent the rules from being implemented until the lawsuits were finished, but the rules will now officially come into effect tomorrow. Still, even as the lawsuits unfold, Republicans in Congress have been pushing legislation to stop the FCC. Most recently, the GOP has attempted to add a provision to a funding bill that would stop the commission from enforcing the rules. (This still requires the approval of both the House and Senate, as well as President Obama, who has supported the FCC’s rules.)

Something to think about:

Beyond Facebook:


Presently, I am trying to make friends outside of Facebook while applying the same principles.

Everyday I go down the street and tell every passerby what I have eaten, how I feel, what I did the night before, and what I will do after.

I give them pictures of my friends, my family, my dog, and me gardening and spending time in my pool. 

I also listen to their conversations and tell them that I love them.

It works.

I already have 3 people following me – 2 police officers and a psychiatrist.


Thanks Joan   Smile

Today’s Free Downloads:

Windows 10 UX Pack 4.0 – Experience Windows 10 without modifying system files. Also you can read about the upcoming Windows 10 in our preview: 7 Plus 8 Equals 10.

Windows 10 UX Pack will give you Windows 10 UI improvements such as theme and some Windows 10 features without touching system files at all so it won’t have such risk to harm your system at all. In this package, you’ll have Windows 10 inspired themes and applications to make your system resembles Windows 10 as much as possible without modifying system files.

Features:

Instantly dress up Windows 7/8/8.1 to upcoming Windows 10 in one minute

Seamless installation and uninstallation giving user’s confidence and security in system

Easily configurable in single click with intelligence Metro UI design

UxStyle memory patching

Windows 10 Modern, Glass or Metro theme

Instant cursors, wallpaper/logon screen customization

Start Orb rebuilt from original resources with authentic orb from Windows 10 resources

Virtual Desktop from Microsoft

Revived start menu with Metro support

Metro UI desktop emulation with pre-configured gadgets

Aero’s auto-colorization feature

And much more

Limitations: Requires Microsoft .NET Framework

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Unreal Engine 4.8 – Unreal Engine 4 is now available to everyone for free, and all future updates will be free! You can download the engine and use it for everything from game development, education, architecture, and visualization to VR, film and animation. When you ship a game or application, you pay a 5% royalty on gross revenue after the first $3,000 per product, per quarter. It’s a simple arrangement in which we succeed only when you succeed.

Unreal Engine technology powers hundreds of games as well as real-time 3D films, training simulations, visualizations and more. Over the past 15 years, thousands of individuals and teams and have built careers and companies around skills developed using the engine.

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Microsoft Hyperlapse Pro Preview – Microsoft Hyperlapse is a new technology that creates smooth and stabilized time lapses from first-person videos. Want to show your friends what you saw on that 12-mile hike you took last weekend or let them experience how it felt to fly down the mountain on your recent ski trip? With Microsoft Hyperlapse, you can time lapse those experiences, distilling them into easily consumable, enjoyable experiences.

Features:

Hyperlapse Pro Preview can take video from any camera and create a time lapse with a smoothly moving camera.

It works especially well with wide field of view action camera videos, such as GoPro.

Supports different speed up factors from 2x to 25x.

Hyperlapses can be output at different resolutions and framerates.

Takes advantage of multi-core CPUs and high-end GPUs for better processing speeds.

A step-by-step user interface makes it easier than ever to create hyperlpases.

Limitations: 64-Bit Only

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

U.K. Review Backs Mass Surveillance But Wants Judges To Sign Warrants – A long-awaited independent review of U.K. government surveillance capabilities, conducted by QC David Anderson and published today, has recommended that interception warrants should be signed off by the judiciary, rather than government ministers.

And while the review generally supports U.K. intelligence agencies having bulk interception and data retention (aka mass surveillance) capabilities — which stands in contrast to the U.S. Senate’s recent rowing back on this front in the USA Freedom Act — Anderson stresses these powers should be “subject to strict additional safeguards”, such as having judges sign off interception warrants.

The review recommends a new body, called the Independent Surveillance and Intelligence Commission (ISIC), be set up to judicially authorize all interception warrants.

Other safeguards recommended in the report are tighter definitions of the purposes for which data is sought — with Anderson specifying it should be “defined by operations or mission purposes” (as opposed to fishing expeditions); and the introduction of a new form of “bulk warrant” to limit the acquisition of data captured via mass surveillance to comms metadata.

Fake mobile phone towers discovered in London: Stingrays come to the UK – It has been suspected for some time that stingrays are being used in the UK: back in 2011, The Guardian ran a story to this effect, but the Metropolitan Police refused to comment. A 2014 article in The Times gave details about what is believed to be the legal framework that regulates their use.

As a post from Privacy International explained, following The Times’ report, “when someone is targeted by an IMSI Catcher, it is considered a ‘property interference’ under the Police Act 1997 Part III … a ‘property interference’ is designed to regulate the placing of bugs and breaking into someone’s home, not mobile phone interception.” This approach allows the use of IMSI catcher devices to be bundled up with other kinds of bugging in official reports, which means it is impossible to know exactly how many times they have been deployed.

Freedom of Information (FOI) requests about IMSI catchers, submitted by Privacy International and Sky News, were all refused. Asked by Sky News about the IMSI catchers discovered in London, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, would only say: “We’re not going to talk about it, because the only people who benefit are the other side, and I see no reason in giving away that sort of thing.” That’s the standard reply for all kinds of surveillance, but is as unsatisfactory here as it is elsewhere.

Belgian data retention law axed by constitutional court – A Belgian law requiring telecommunications operators and ISPs to store customer metadata for police investigations was axed by the Constitutional Court of Belgium on Thursday because it violates fundamental privacy rights.

Under the law, customer metadata such as call logs as well as location and Internet data had to be stored for one year for law enforcement to use when investigating serious crimes and terrorism.

The law went into effect in 2013 and was based on the now defunct EU Data Retention Directive that was invalidated by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) last year, also because it violated fundamental privacy rights.

The Belgian law was challenged by the League for Human Rights and the Order of French-speaking and German-speaking Lawyers shortly after it was introduced. They wanted the law annulled, arguing it was unconstitutional and violated European human rights.

If hackers can spy on you all then so should we – US Senator logic – CISA info-sharing bill tacked onto military funding paperwork – Following the cyber-attack during which dossiers on four million US government employees were stolen from Uncle Sam’s servers, staggering out of the smoldering blast crater is Senator Richard Burr (R-NC). And he’s not happy.

In his soot-covered hand is a copy of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), and this week, he angrily stapled it to another proposed law. Because that’s how people get things done in Washington.

The CISA legislation was written to allow technology companies to share information about their customers with the Feds for the purposes of national security and online threats, in exchange for partial legal immunity from citizens upset about this data handover. Critics say it’s a license to spy, whereas supporters say it will thwart the cyber-boogeymen.

CISA was due to be debated in the Senate later this year, but Burr has now added it as an amendment to the larger National Defense Authorization Act, which is primarily focused on military funding.

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2 Comments

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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – June 12, 2015

  1. muhammadarslanj

    Reblogged this on muhammadmarthtech.