Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – June 24, 2015

How to beef up your browser security;  Google Launches Free, Ad-Supported Version Of Play Music;  How to remove bloatware;  10 Tips to Help You Get the Most Out of Windows 10;  Gmail enables “unsend” option for all users;  Only on Android: The best apps you’ll only find on Google’s OS;  The Best Tune-Up Utilities of 2015;  Intel’s free remote app lets you control your PC with your Android phone;  Backup basics;  4 news apps that will change everything;  Hackers exploit fresh PC hijack bug in Adobe Flash Player;  SQFT is a Real Estate App to Help Homeowners Slash Broker Commissions;  Apple, Microsoft CEOs Call for End to Racism;  Batman: Arkham Knight for PC is seriously broken;  You Can Now Buy Amazon’s Siri-For-Your-Home;  Hulu will offer its subscribers a discount on Showtime;  PCs, external graphics, is coming soon via Oculink;  Facebook doesn’t need your face to recognize you;  Secure Webcam (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to beef up your browser security – Browsers are your window to the Web, but while you’re looking out, other people may be peeking back at you or breaking in to steal your stuff. Without the right tools, you can’t block intruders — you may not even know they’re there. The good news: browser security tools are simple, and many are free. Read on to find out how to lock down Chrome and Firefox, check for encrypted sites, and practice safer browsing.

Google Launches Free, Ad-Supported Version Of Play Music – Fresh on the heels of the Apple Music launch, Google has just announced that Play Music will now offer a free, ad-supported version of the service to users who don’t want to pay $9.99/month. Play Music is Google’s music streaming service, meant to compete with the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, etc. However, unlike the paid version, the free version launched today won’t let users choose their own songs to play on-demand. Instead users will have the option to choose from pre-curated playlists, similar to Pandora or iTunes Radio.

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Gmail enables “unsend” option for all users – On Tuesday, one of the webmail provider’s most interesting Labs options, “undo send,” graduated to official status. With the option, Gmailers get the chance to click an “undo send” link at the top of the screen after clicking “send” on any e-mail message. As with the original Labs version, the option, which now lives in the service’s “general” settings tab, lets users pick a safety timespan between 5-30 seconds.

How to remove bloatware – Bloatware, aka junkware, is software that the PC maker preinstalls on your machine — software you probably don’t want. Bloatware comes in many varieties and levels of malignance, from extra icons cluttering your desktop to resource hogs that slow PC performance to computer-compromising malware. Read on to learn how to rid your PC of this unnecessary and sometimes dangerous baggage.

4 news apps that will change everything – News apps have always failed, but four apps emerged this month that have cracked the code at last

10 Tips to Help You Get the Most Out of Windows 10 – Windows 10, by all appearances, seems poised for mass adoption, after a lackluster reception for Windows 8. This alternation of popular and unpopular is sort of a pattern for Microsoft operating systems: Vista tanked while Windows 7 killed, for example. Considering Windows 10 embraces devices of every size from smartphones to workstations, covering every aspect of the operating system would be a tall order. So for this selection of tips, we’ll limit the scope to Windows 10 on the desktop, though some suggestions could affect installations on other device sizes.

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Only on Android: The best apps you’ll only find on Google’s OS – Enough about all those iOS exclusives. It’s time to celebrate apps that show off the type of features only possible on Android.

The Best Tune-Up Utilities of 2015 – Quick question: What motivates you to purchase a new PC? If “slow performance” immediately jumps to mind, then please allow me to help you save a few hundred dollars. There’s a very good chance that your lethargic computer could have in it still a second (or third!) life with a relatively inexpensive tool: a PC tune-up utility. A tune-up utility is an application that digs deep into your computer and fixes trouble areas. It performs several functions, including defragmenting your PC’s hard drive, repairing the incredibly problematic Windows registry, and deleting useless and duplicate files.

SQFT is a Real Estate App to Help Homeowners Slash Broker Commissions – After downloading the app and deciding you want to list your home, SQFT walks you through all the steps needed to create a listing. The software will help you include professional photos and features of your home, and even help identify the ideal asking price. SQFT posts your listing to over 450 real estate sites, including Trulia, Zillow, and MLS. The app will then help you schedule showings, respond to offers, and even sign the contract. These features mean that one could use SQFT to buy or sell a home without ever needing an in-person meeting with a real estate agent. By putting owners in charge of the entire process, SQFT aims to cut the industry standard listing fee from six percent to under two percent.

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Instagram wants to be part of the world’s conversations with its new search and explore tools – Trending places will also get their own dedicated part of the explore section, and Instagram’s search feature has been updated to include places in search results in addition to the existing people and tags categories. There’s also a way to search across all three categories at once, with Instagram bringing you the “top” results across the service.

Lenovo unveils the Ideacenter Stick 300: a $130 PC on a stick running Windows – Lenovo is introducing a brand new PC-on-a-stick device, called the Ideacenter Stick 300. The new device is designed to be taken anywhere and can transform almost any display into a Windows computer. Lenovo’s new HDMI dongle is basically a PC in stick, and though we’ve seen this type of devices before, the Ideacenter Stick’s price might make it quite attractive. The device starts at $139 and comes with the following specs:

Intel Baytrail Z3735F CPU

Up to 2GB of RAM

Up to 32GB of storage

Speakers

WiFI 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0

1 x HDMI, 1x Micro USB 2.0, SD card reader

Windows 8.1 with Bing

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When Windows refuses to eject mass storage: 5 ways to safely remove a USB drive – The whole point of external USB-connected storage is that you can easily unplug it, but Windows’s Eject Mass Storage option balks sometimes. Resist the urge to yank out the drive and try one of these solutions instead.

Google is making a medical wristband that tracks your health – Google is working on a medical-grade fitness tracking wristband, according to Bloomberg. Not only will it measure vitals like heart rate, pulse, and skin temperature on a “minute-by-minute” basis, it will also measure external information like sun exposure. The wristband is being developed by Google X, the secretive lab behind projects like Glass, Loon, and the company’s self-driving cars. It won’t be available to general consumers. Instead, Google intends for the device to be used in clinical trials and prescribed to medical patients.

Replace your PC’s heart: How to install a power supply in your computer – Don’t underestimate the importance of your PC’s power source. A good power supply serves as the cornerstone for a low-maintenance and highly reliable computer. But more often than not, boxed, pre-built desktops ship with the cheapest power supplies that meet the criteria of their product warranties. This means that two or three years after buying your computer, you may find yourself with a perfectly functional desktop that one day decides either not to power on or to emit a puff of black smoke.

Intel’s free remote app lets you control your PC with your Android phone – The new Remote Keyboard app is designed for Intel’s NUC and Compute Stick miniature PCs, but should work with any machine running Windows 7 and higher. The app is easy enough to set up. Just download it from the Google Play Store, then install the free host software on your PC. The mobile app automatically detects the host computer, and you can complete the pairing process by scanning a QR code on the computer screen with your phone’s camera. Similar to other smartphone remotes, Intel’s app uses Wi-Fi to communicate between the phone and the PC.

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Backup basics – The rule of thumb for PC backup is simple: just do it. If you’ve ever lost data as a result of a computer crash, you know what a long, expensive process recovery can be. It’s far easier just to restore data from a backup, whether that’s the cloud, network-attached storage, or a USB device. Here’s an overview of your backup options and a step-by-step guide to backing up your Windows PC.

You Can Now Buy Amazon’s Siri-For-Your-Home – Amazon’s Amazon Echo voice-activated, connected home command center is now available for anybody to purchase. The Siri-like device will start shipping July 14. The cylindrical Echo, which responds to voice commands and allows a user to learn the weather, set alarms, and listen to music, had a limited launch in fall 2014. Since then, Amazon has added many new features to the Echo, including compatibility with the music streaming service Pandora, the audiobook service Audible, and more.

Security:

What is malware? – There are currently over 375 million malicious programs out there, with another 390,000 recorded each day, according to AV-Test. In recent months, the number of total malware threats has increased by 13 percent, and mobile malware is growing even faster, with the number of new incidences skyrocketing by 49 percent, according to McAfee (PDF link to report). Don’t ignore the onslaught — get to know your coded enemies and learn how to defeat them.

Hackers exploit fresh PC hijack bug in Adobe Flash Player, the internet’s screen door – Adobe is advising users and administrators to patch its Flash Player after yet another remote-code execution vulnerability was discovered in the plugin. The patch fixes bug CVE-2015-3113, which allows attackers to take control of a system if it opens a malicious Flash file. Miscreants are exploiting the flaw in the wild to hijack PCs, targeting Internet Explorer on Windows 7 and Firefox on Windows XP. Adobe credited researchers at FireEye in spotting and reporting the flaw. Miscreants are apparently spamming out links in emails to websites hosting malicious Flash files that exploit the vulnerability.

Programmers are copying security flaws into your software, researchers warn – Many software developers are cribbing code, and its flaws, that someone else created. And the problem is only getting harder to keep up with.

The government is falling behind on application security – Three out of four applications used by government organizations are not compliant with one of the primary software security policies and most of the flaws found in them never get fixed, according to a report released Tuesday by U.S.-based application security firm Veracode. The report is based on an analysis of more than 200,000 applications over the past 18 months that are used by organizations in various industries. The tests were performed using Veracode’s cloud-based application security testing platform that uses static analysis, dynamic analysis and manual penetration testing techniques.

Polish airline victim to DDoS attack, U.S. planes could be susceptible – A cyber attack grounded a fleet of aircraft in Poland on Sunday. All the planes were part of the Polish national airline, LOT. although the Polish domestic intelligence agency is being stingy with details, they claim the 1,400 passengers who were stranded were never actually in any danger. The flight plan systems that were affected are not used not used during actual flight. Therefore, none of the planes already en route were affected, only those on the ground at Chopin airport in Warsaw.

Google cures Chrome security flaws in fresh update – Tech giant highlights four vulnerabilities spotted by external researchers — one with a $5000 bounty — in notes on the latest update to its Web browser.

Company News:

Apple, Microsoft CEOs Call for End to Racism After Charleston Shooting – In the wake of last week’s shooting at a church in Charleston, S.C., that left nine dead, some voices that rarely pipe up on national issues resounded across social media: those of Silicon Valley CEOs. Over the weekend, executives from Salesforce, Apple, Microsoft, and other tech companies took to Twitter to express condolences for the victims’ families. And some took it even further, joining some politicians to call for South Carolina to take down the Confederate flag that flies in the capital.

Samsung teams with Red Hat to build enterprise apps – Red Hat and Samsung will build “enterprise-ready, industry-specific” apps in areas like business intelligence, customer service and inventory management, they announced Tuesday. Companies will be able to deploy the apps on Red Hat’s new mobile application platform, which Red Hat announced separately the same day. The apps will run on Android and other OSes, and they’ll be configurable to work with common back-end systems, the companies said. Red Hat and Samsung will jointly market the apps, focusing initially on the U.S.

Nokia files for EU permission to buy Alcatel-Lucent – The European Commission has set 27 July as D-Day for its decision on the Nokia/Alcatel-Lucent takeover. The €15.6 billion deal, first announced in April, was waved through US approval by the Department of Justice last week.

Verizon Completes Its Acquisition of AOL For $4.4B – Well, that was fast: Verizon has just announced that it has completed its acquisition of AOL, owner of TechCrunch, purchasing all outstanding shares for $50 per share in cash for a total price of $4.4 billion. The sale was originally announced just over a month ago. As Verizon said at the time of the original announcement that it was buying AOL, Tim Armstrong, AOL’s CEO, will continue to lead AOL operations. Now we have a few more details of how the whole operation with merge with Verizon’s. Bob Toohey, president of Verizon Digital Media Services, reporting to Armstrong. Digital Media Services is Verizon’s advertising business.

Tidal fires CEO amid fears of competition from incoming Apple Music – Tidal has just let go of its CEO, Peter Tonstad. As Tonstad was only the interim CEO, it’s natural that his time with Tidal would come to an end. But, Tidal doesn’t have anyone stepping in to take over as CEO, indicating the change is abrupt. Tonstad had only been with Tidal since April when he replaced the previous CEO, Andy Chen. This juggling act of power positions comes as Tidal gets a new competitor on the streaming scene, Apple Music.

Box And IBM Ink Wide-Ranging Cloud Partnership – This evening, Box and IBM announced a partnership that will see their technologies integrated, and their cloud products commingled. As part of the arrangement, Box will also offer its customers the ability to store their data on IBM’s cloud, which will have — I checked with the firm — 46 data centers around the world by the end of the year. The deal has a number of facets, including the integration of Box with IBM’s content management technology, the application of IBM data tools to information stored by Box, use of IBM security tech by Box, and a set of promised mobile applications building on the tech of both firms.

Games and Entertainment:

Batman: Arkham Knight for PC is seriously broken, say AMD and Nvidia users – Reviews for the console version of Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Knight have been overwhelmingly positive, but PC players aren’t so happy. Users on reddit and Steam are reporting all manner of problems with the game, including stuttering, wildly variable frame rates, and crashes, to name but a few. There are also reports of memory leaks causing the game to spike to over 12GB of memory usage before crashing entirely. In response, Steam users have bombed the game’s profile page with negative reviews. While the performance issues affect both Nvidia and AMD users, including those with high-end cards like the GTX 980 running the latest “Game Ready” drivers, it appears that once again AMD users are suffering the most.

PCs, external graphics, is coming soon via Oculink – Oculink, designed for external PCI Express graphics on notebooks and PCs, could give laptops the graphics punch they need for gaming after hours.

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Hulu will offer its subscribers a discount on Showtime – Hulu is making another big play for cord cutters. It’s partnering with Showtime to offer online subscriptions to the network’s shows, movies, and live video feeds — everything that’s available through its upcoming streaming service — but the subscriptions will be offered at a discount to existing Hulu subscribers. Rather than paying the standard $10.99 per month for online Showtime, Hulu subscribers will only have to pay $8.99 per month (although that’s on top of the existing $7.99 per month for Hulu itself). It’s a small discount, but it certainly adds up month to month and starts to better position Hulu as the hub for streaming TV that it’s always dreamed of being. Appropriately, Showtime’s shows and movies will be accessed through the Hulu app.

This week’s Xbox One and Xbox 360 Deals With Gold revealed – Microsoft has announced the latest round of Xbox One and Xbox 360 games and DLC that Xbox Live Gold members can pick up on the cheap, and it’s a list of games headlined by Wolfenstein and Evolve. You can check out the full list of deals, which are available from now through June 29, below.

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Bethesda Softworks

New Study Shows A Rise In Cord Cutting – 8.2 Percent Ditched Pay TV In 2014, Up 1.3% YoY – There’s been some debate about how many consumers are actually cutting ties with their pay TV providers and replacing them with over-the-top streaming media services – a trend generally referred to as “cord cutting.” But a recent study  indicates that the number of cord cutters in North America is, in fact growing – in 2014, 8.2 percent of former pay TV subscribers surveyed by TiVo subsidiary Digitalsmiths said they ditched their service – an increase of 1.3 percent over the prior year. Meanwhile, a much larger 45.2 percent said they reduced their cable or satellite TV service during the same time frame.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Facebook doesn’t need your face to recognize you – Facebook has developed the next level of facial recognition software that is so clever, it can identify you even if your face is obscured. If you were paranoid about being auto-tagged in pictures before, Facebook’s new recognition capabilities won’t do anything to allay those fears. This new algorithm removes any residual layers of privacy a user would have from photographing themselves from the neck down, or covering their face. The AI behind the development seems human-like its ability to identify a friend from the back of their head.

Consumers Spend 85% Of Time On Smartphones In Apps, But Only 5 Apps See Heavy Use – New research on mobile behavior released today points to the growing struggle that app businesses face in establishing themselves as a must-have download on users’ smartphones. Today’s consumers are spending over 85 percent of their time on their smartphones using native applications, but the majority of their time – 84 percent – is spent using just five non-native apps they’ve installed from the App Store. Those five apps will vary from person to person. For some, their top five could include social media or gaming, while others may spend more time in instant messaging.

Girl gets leg stuck in drain while texting and walking – This is the latest in a series. It’s a series that has no end. It will run permanently on Web channels because there’s something so very human — in a Benny Hill way — about its episodes. Today’s episode comes from Mianyang City, China where a teenage girl was walking down the street and was also, as teens do, texting. As News.com.au in Australia reports, she stepped on a storm drain. There was only one problem. She was quite a skinny girl and her leg slid straight through the bars of the drain. She became wedged.

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News Time/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

11 Jaw-Dropping Solar Flare Images – On Sunday, while you were busy being disappointed by the new season of True Detective, the Sun was cranking out a big ol’ fireball and floating it in our planet’s general direction. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) has labeled the storm a G4, the most severe solar storm designation. This is the most active storm of the year so far, and we may not be out of the woods yet. The SWPC has issued a forecast that ejecta from a second solar flare will get tangled up with the Earth on Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

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US Navy paid millions to stay on Windows XP – The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, which runs the Navy’s communications and information networks, signed a $9.1 million contract earlier this month for continued access to security patches for Windows XP, Office 2003, Exchange 2003 and Windows Server 2003. The entire contract could be worth up to $30.8 million and extend into 2017.

Faster computers, coming soon, as graphics chip answers the call to action – New tech used by Apple and Microsoft promises to uncork bottlenecks. That’s great for computer users who want new features, but brings new complications for those who build our software.

eBay has banned all auctions and sales of the Confederate flag – The Confederate flag has seen its last eBay auction. Today the company announced that effective immediately, it’s banning all sales of the divisive flag and “its image.” eBay joins US retailers Walmart and Sears in doing away with the Confederate flag in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.

Something to think about:

“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”

–     Oscar Wilde

Today’s Free Downloads:

Secure Webcam – Secure Webcam monitors your active built-in webcam in real-time with a disable button in menu. You can also use the exit button to quit the software application at anytime.

Features:

Check Webcam Function

No PayPal Donations SPAM

Easy To Use

100% FREEWARE

100% Spyware Free

Compatible with Windows 8

Very Lightweight

User Elevation

Newer Interface

Disable any Webcam Hardware – New Feature!

Works with all kinds of HIPS Protection

Icons & Sound Effects

All Software Bugs fixed – New Feature!

Activation Box – New Feature!

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The NSA targeted France’s last three presidents for surveillance, says Wikileaks – Wikileaks has published a new cache of secret communications, and the documents come with explosive allegations about US surveillance of French government affairs. According to Wikileaks, the documents are the result of sustained NSA surveillance of the French elected officials, including the country’s last three Presidents. That claim is backed up by an apparent list of NSA targets, including the names and phone numbers of more than fifteen French ministers and advisors, including the president. The dump also includes intercepts from conversations between various French officials, including intelligence summaries.

The source of the documents is still unclear. Notably, the organization has not named prominent NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who has expressed support for Wikileaks in the past but disagrees with the group’s full-disclosure policies and has never publicly worked with the group. Some have speculated that there may be other sources leaking NSA documents who have yet to come forward. If these documents do come from a separate source, it would represent the most significant breach of NSA security since the initial Snowden leaks.

Supreme Court declares warrantless searches of hotel registries illegal – The Supreme Court gave a big boost to privacy Monday when it ruled that hotels and motels could refuse law enforcement demands to search their registries without a subpoena or warrant. The justices were reviewing a challenge to a Los Angeles ordinance requiring hotels to provide information to law enforcement—including guests’ credit card number, home address, driver’s license details, and vehicle license number—at a moment’s notice. Similar ordinances exist in about a hundred other cities stretching from Atlanta to Seattle.

Los Angeles claimed the ordinance (PDF) was needed to battle gambling, prostitution, and even terrorism, and that guests would be less likely to use hotels and motels for illegal purposes if they knew police could access their information at will.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for the 5-4 majority, ruled (PDF) that the Los Angeles ordinance violated the Fourth Amendment and is an illegal “pretext to harass hotel operators and their guests.”

US, UK Intel agencies worked to subvert antivirus tools to aid hacking – Documents from the National Security Agency and the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) obtained by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden reveal that the two agencies—and GCHQ in particular—targeted antivirus software developers in an attempt to subvert their tools to assure success in computer network exploitation attacks on intelligence targets. Chief among their targets was Kaspersky Labs, the Russian antivirus software company, according to a report by The Intercept’s Andrew Fishman and First Look Media Director of Security Morgan Marquis-Boire.

Kaspersky has had a high profile in combatting state-sponsored malware and was central in the exposure of a secret NSA-backed hacking group that had been in operation for 14 years. More recently, it was revealed that Kaspersky had come under direct attack recently from an updated version of the Duqu malware—possibly launched by an Israeli-sponsored hacking group. The same malware was found on the networks of locations hosting negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. But the latest Snowden documents show that both the NSA and GCHQ waged a somewhat more subversive battle against Kaspersky—both by attempting to reverse-engineer the company’s antivirus software and leveraging its intelligence-collection operations for their own benefit.

Australia passes controversial anti-piracy web censorship law – A controversial bill to allow websites to be censored has been passed by both houses of the Australian parliament. The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 allows companies to go to a Federal Court judge to get overseas sites blocked if their “primary purpose” is facilitating copyright infringement.

Dr Matthew Rimmer, an associate professor at the Australian National University College of Law, points out that there is a lack of definitions within the bill: “What is ‘primary purpose’? There’s no definition. What is ‘facilitation’? Again, there’s no definition.” That’s dangerous, he believes, because it could lead to “collateral damage,” whereby sites that don’t intend to hosting infringing material are blocked because a court might rule they were covered anyway. Moreover, Rimmer told The Sydney Morning Herald that controversial material of the kind released by WikiLeaks is often under copyright, which means that the new law could be used to censor information that was embarrassing, but in the public interest.

The bill passed easily in both houses thanks to bipartisan support from the Liberal and Labor parties: only the Australian Greens put up any fight against it. Bernard Keane explains in an article on Crikey that the main argument for the new law—that it would save Australian jobs—is completely bogus. Claims that film piracy was costing 6100 jobs every year don’t stand up to scrutiny: “If piracy were going to destroy 6000 jobs in the arts sector every year, why is employment in the specific sub-sector that according to the copyright industry is the one directly affected by piracy now 31,000, compared to 24,000 in 2011?” Keane asks.

U.K. Spy Oversight Court Rules GCHQ Acted Unlawfully Again – The U.K.’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), the judicial oversight body which handles complaints relating to domestic intelligence agencies, has ruled that GCHQ acted unlawfully in the handling of intercepted communications data in another case brought by civil liberties groups, including Liberty, Privacy International and Amnesty International.

The IPT judged that GCHQ acted unlawfully and breached its own internal policies on interception, examination and retention of emails from two human rights organizations — the Egypt­ian Ini­tia­tive for Per­sonal Rights (EIPR) and the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) in South Africa — thereby breaching their human rights.

The court ruled only that “error” and “technical” failures led to the spy agency to break its internal interception policies.

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2 Comments

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

2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday Edition – June 24, 2015

  1. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: How to beef up your browser security

    Interesting article. I prefer to not store anything at all on browsers. Everything is wiped regulary.

    Cheers
    Mal

    • Hey Mal,

      You would think that after all this time that this (not saving to a browser), would be SOP. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m now wiping (Ccleaner), 2,3 times a day. It’s not always security related, but it’s now a bit of a habit.

      Best,

      Bill