Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – July 10, 2015

Take the time to walk through the new Google Privacy Checkup;  How to make Google Drive more secure;  Install Security, Speed Up Your PC;  Declutter your phone with one of these handy apps;  10 ways to tune up your mobile office;  Two-Factor Authentication: Who Has It and How to Set It Up;  Meerkat live-stream app adds new features;  iOS 9 And OS X El Capitan Are Now Available To All As Public Betas;  Try These Apps and Sites for Selling Your Old Stuff;  Google’s Chromecast gets a hardwired Ethernet adapter;  How to install the iOS 9 public beta;  Adobe Flash exploit that was leaked by Hacking Team goes wild; patch now!  Massive Federal Data Breach Affects 7% of Americans;  Mozilla patches critical bugs in fresh Firefox update;  Windows 10: The end of computing as we know it;  A Social Watchlist App For Finding The Best Movies And Shows on any Service;  Xbox Music app now lets users stream from OneDrive;  Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 multiplayer beta hits PS4 August 19th;  Getting by with pre-post-PC devices in a post-PC world;  Microsoft Worldwide Telescope (free);  Tech and politics clash over protecting your data.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Take the time to walk through the new Google Privacy Checkup – Google has finally introduced a user-friendly means of taking control of account privacy. Jack Wallen thinks the Google Privacy Checkup should go a long way to ease the Fear Uncertainty and Doubt surrounding the juggernaut.

Install Security, Speed Up Your PC – When activities on your PC seem to bog down, do you blame your security suite? Maybe it’s spending too much time scanning files in the background, or sucking up bandwidth exchanging details with its cloud database? Well, maybe you should think again. A new report from AV-Comparatives indicates that installing security can actually speed up your computer’s operation.

How to make Google Drive more secure – If you have a Gmail account, you have 15GB of free cloud storage from Google. It’s pretty handy, because it works across a variety of devices, and desktop users can create a special folder on their computer and drop files into it, and that folder syncs with your Drive account as fast as the file can be sent to the cloud. Of course, convenience isn’t the only concern for cloud backup services, as we explained recently in our review roundup. Our cloud of choice is SOS Online Backup. But because you may have good reasons for sticking with Google Drive, we’ve come up with a few things you can do to tighten its security.

Declutter your phone with one of these handy apps – Like PCs, smartphones can accumulate a lot of clutter in the form of duplicate pictures, temporary files, and unused applications. All this clutter can rob your phone of performance and decrease available storage space. Fortunately, a number of utilities can help you to cut through some of the mess.

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Meerkat live-stream app adds new features, including a new co-host mode – Live streaming video app Meerkat announced two new features designed to bring streamers and viewers a little closer together, including a way for people to jump into streams and a way to store a library of recordings. Meerkat said its new “Cameo” feature will allow stream viewers, once approved by the main broadcaster, to take over a stream and broadcast themselves for up to 60 seconds. The company will also now automatically save and store streams when people finish broadcasting. The library is private, but saved streams can be made publicly available.

Tips to get the most out of Wi-Fi on a train – The author’s local commuter rail offers free Wi-Fi service for riders. Find out how it works and what to expect from similar scenarios.

Try These Apps and Sites for Selling Your Old Stuff – Depending upon what you’re trying to sell, some services are better than others. We scoured online markets big and small, looking for the best ways to help you unload anything from your fridge to your Fendi bag.

Facebook makes it easier to hide annoying posts from friends – Facebook has updated its controls to let users prioritize posts from friends and pages while making it easier to unfollow those whose posts aren’t relevant or interesting enough.

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Pinterest users can now log into other apps with their Pinterest account – Frequent users of social networks know that often you can log into apps and other websites using your credentials from some of the biggest social networks like Facebook. Pinterest has announced that users of its site can now log into other apps with their Pinterest accounts and by doing so users get new ways to pin images to Pinterest to share.

iOS 9 And OS X El Capitan Are Now Available To All As Public Betas – The iOS 9 beta build will allow early adopters to try out upcoming features, including new apps like News and a refreshed Notes, transit directions in Apple Maps, an improved Siri, a smarter search which lets you surface results from inside apps, and much more. Meanwhile, El Capitan offers a variety of improvements to core features like Mission Control, Spotlight, native apps, including Safari, Mail, Maps, Photos, plus performance improvements, and other items.

How to install the iOS 9 public beta – First things first: Yes, Apple has released iOS 9 as a public beta, but that doesn’t mean it’s ready for everyday use. In fact, I’d suggest you stay away if you don’t like troubleshooting issues. And even after you’ve attempted to fix the issue, there are times when you simply have to live with an app not working or a feature you used to rely on crashing your device. It’s a beta for a reason. OK, with that out of the way, you want to test out Apple’s latest and greatest mobile operating system? Good. The more the merrier, as they say.

Windows 10 SDK Preview build 10166 now available – A new build of the Windows 10 SDK Preview is now available for developers that includes bug fixes, API surface level changes and the latest Windows 10 Mobile emulator.

Android M preview update brings a lot of sweet goodies – Google has just announced the first ever update to its developer preview of Android M, which still has to be christened with a name. Continuing the new tradition it set last year. Google is rolling out limited updates in order to let developers prepare their apps in advance as well as report bugs. And while Google is only officially sharing some of the juicy tidbits that are relevant to developers, the update also so has some hidden treasures for end users waiting to be discovered.

Room.me Wants To Prevent You From Getting Stuck With Horrible Roommates – Room.me works by matching potential roommates up with different personality types based on a the kinds of quizzes dating sites use, but tailored to a preferred living situation. It asks the usual questions like if you care if other roommates smoke or have sleepovers with partners a lot, but also things such as if you are a night owl or a morning person and if you prefer living with another night owl, or if you’d rather have a roommate that is a morning person. It also asks if you are looking for new best friends or would rather others stay out of your way – all things that can make a tremendous impact on who you match up with.

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Google’s Chromecast gets a hardwired Ethernet adapter – Google just started selling a cool little accessory for Chromecast owners with Wi-Fi woes, though: a hardwired ethernet adapter for the Chromecast. The accessory is a power brick that plugs into the Chromecast’s USB port, and—in addition to providing power—embedded in the brick is a full-sized Ethernet port. Just plug in and you can forget about ever having to push bits over Wi-Fi again. The adapter is $15 on the Google Store, and it supports up to 100Mbps.

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Five lightweight Linux desktop worlds for extreme open-sourcers – There are dozens of smaller distros that specialize in lightweight desktops that do the basics – manage windows, and offer file browsers, launchers and sometimes a menu bar of some sort – but otherwise stay out of the way. The point, after all, is the applications. Why waste RAM running a fancy desktop when all you want to do in interact with the apps you’re running? If you have the RAM to spare, well, sure, why not? But not all of us do.

Solar Paper is a paper-thin solar charger – Small solar chargers for your gadgets are nothing new, but the most modern batches are only vaguely similar to the first chargers on the market. Solar Paper is perhaps the best example of this — it is a solar charger ranging from 2.5 watts to 10 watts, and it is thin enough to slip between the pages of a book, hence its name. The charger features a USB port for charging USB devices, and is scarcely larger than a dollar bill. If the Solar Paper catches your fancy, you can back it on Kickstarter where its maker were hoping to raise $50,000 USD (they’ve since exceeded the $97,000 mark). A $69 pledge will get backers a 5W Solar Paper charger, while $99 will get a 7.5W unit, $129 will get a 10W unit, and higher amounts will get different bundle packs. Shipping to backers is estimated to start in September.

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10 ways to tune up your mobile office – If you’re an on-the-go IT pro, your mobile office could be slowing you down. Here are 10 simple tips to help make your workday more efficient.

Six cool accessories for mobile professionals from $20 – From a portable projector to a better gear bag, these six handy accessories can make help your business trips go more smoothly.

T-Mobile offers free calling and data services in Canada and Mexico – T-Mobile today announced a new feature of its Simple Choice wireless plans that adds free roaming services in Canada and Mexico. The new feature, which will be available to all T-Mobile Simple Choice customers starting on Wednesday, July 15th, includes free calling and texting services to and from Mexico and Canada, as well as 4G LTE data service in both countries at no additional charge. The new services for travelers to Mexico and Canada are an expansion of T-Mobile’s free international data roaming that was introduced in 2013.

Two-Factor Authentication: Who Has It and How to Set It Up – By sheer brute force or simple phishing, passwords are, to be honest, a pretty laughable way of authenticating who you are (or aren’t, as the case may be). What you really need is a second factor of authentication. And that’s why many Internet services, a number of which have felt the pinch of being hacked, have embraced two-factor authentication for their users. It’s sometimes called 2FA, or used interchangeably with the terms “two-step” and “verification” depending on the marketing. But what is it?

Security:

Adobe Flash exploit that was leaked by Hacking Team goes wild; patch now! – With the exploit folded into exploit kits that are available on the Internet, users who rely on Flash should install the update immediately (don’t forget to uncheck the boxes Adobe shamelessly checks by default to promote crapware). Readers may also want to experiment with uninstalling Flash altogether. If the results are acceptable, that’s a more secure alternative since it drastically reduces attack surface.

Mozilla patches critical bugs in fresh Firefox update – Mozilla has issued a new Firefox browser update with fixes for four critical vulnerabilities and a number of less severe issues. In Firefox 39, a total of four critical vulnerabilities, two high-level flaws and six moderate bugs have been patched among a total of 13 fixes. According to the Mozilla security advisory, security issues relate to use-after-free vulnerabilities, poor validation processes, buffer overflow problems and a variety of memory problems.

Trackbuster Lets You Remove Those Pesky Email Tracking Beacons – Trackbuster is a nifty little tool that could be useful if you’re paranoid about your privacy. Launching today, this service will analyze your incoming emails in Gmail, identify those that have invisible trackers and remove these trackers. It works with Gmail and it’s not perfect yet, but I can see why someone would use it.

After second hack, OPM confirms more than 22 million affected – The federal agency in charge of vetting government workers for security clearance has been hit by a second breach, leading to the theft of more than 21 million individuals’ records. The figure confirmed Thursday by the Office of Personnel Management includes a portion of the 4.2 million records — including Social Security numbers — compromised in an earlier breach reported last month. The total figure now stands at about 22.1 million individuals affected by the two cyberattacks.

Massive Federal Data Breach Affects 7% of Americans – The U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced Thursday that a massive data breach—one that targeted its security clearance system—compromised the sensitive information of 21.5 million people, including social security numbers for current and former federal workers, contractors, friends, and families, the agency said. As many as 19.5 million of those people had applied for security clearances.

Hacking Team claims terrorists can now use its tools – Hacking Team warned that a devastating data breach it suffered will allow its spying tools to be used by criminals and terrorists. The company’s claim, however, is worth questioning as it isn’t clear why someone would attempt to use software that’s been under extremely close scrutiny in recent days. Hacking Team somewhat undermined its claim as well. Rabe wrote that “we expect too that antivirus companies are upgrading their programs to detect the compromised RCS.”

Company News:

Barnes and Noble nixing Nook store for users outside US and UK – After some troubling signs, Barnes and Noble has made it official: it’s going to be dropping many of its customers, namely those living outside of the United States and the United Kingdom. This concerns the Nook aspect of Barnes and Nobles’ business, and will be taking place early next month. It’s a somewhat surprising move, given that Barnes and Noble previously offered the Nook in 40 countries including most of Europe, Australia, and Canada. Now only those located in the US and the UK will get access beyond August 7.

PC Market Slips 11.8 Percent In Q2 But Apple Keeps Picking Up Steam – According to IDC, the global PC market’s unit volume slipped 11.8 percent in the second quarter of 2015, a slightly larger-than-expected dip. As the company notes, the size of the decline reflects a strong second quarter in the year-ago period, when the death of Windows XP bolstered sales of new machines. Apple performed well in the quarter, seeing its market share rise to a global 7.8 percent, up from 5.9 percent the year before. Of all major PC OEMs, only Apple managed to grow its unit sales in the quarter. That fact mirrors TechCrunch’s prior reporting on Apple’s current PC business. For the rest, it was rough. Here’s the chart:

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IBM reveals first 7nm chips – Moore’s law has spurred improvements in processor architecture for years and Big Blue has just taken the next step, by creating working copies of 7nm transistors. IBM, last year, pledged $3 billion in funding for research into improvements in silicon design and it seems that their investment has paid off. While Intel, Samsung, Nvidia and other manufacturers are just now starting to move from the 28nm processes to 14nm transistors, IBM already has working prototypes of 7nm chips.

IBM inks $180 million cloud deal with energy company Columbia Pipeline – IBM has inked a $180 million cloud deal with Columbia Pipeline Group (CPG). Based in Houston, Texas, the energy company operates roughly 15,000 miles of natural gas pipelines across North America. As part of the deal, IBM will move CPG’s entire IT infrastructure and business applications into a private cloud in IBM’s Columbus, Ohio data center. IBM will manage the infrastructure — which includes human resources, billing and finance, and pipeline operations — for a minimum of five years.

Avast acquires mobile virtualization firm Remotium – Avast has acquired Remotium in a deal aimed at boosting BYOD security in the enterprise. Announced on Wednesday, security firm Avast said virtual enterprise mobility company Remotium’s solutions assist the enterprise to implement bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies more securely and effectively, and therefore can be considered a valuable addition to Avast’s mobile security portfolio.

Judge tosses jury’s $533M patent verdict against Apple, orders new trial – A $533 million jury verdict that would have been the largest ever for a “patent assertion entity” has been struck down four months after a jury granted it. US District Judge Rodney Gilstrap, who oversaw the case against Apple, has ruled (PDF) that the damages verdict must be thrown out because of a faulty instruction to the jury. He has ordered a new trial to be held solely on the issue of damages.

With $10M In New Funding, Lendingkart Helps Small Businesses In India Get Loans – Since launching a year ago, Lendingkart has processed loans from 50 cities and 17 states across India. It will use its new capital to expand into all towns and cities in India, improve its credit scoring technology, and hire more employees. The startup is similar to LendingClub in that it allows businesses to apply for loans online, bypassing banks and other traditional finance institutions. Co-founder and chief executive officer Harshvardhan Lunia explains that Lendingkart’s algorithms use 1,500 data points to score credit application. The site claims that its application process takes just 15 minutes, with most loans approved in a few hours and disbursed within three working days.

BlackBerry and Google team up to make Android business-friendly – BlackBerry has announced a new partnership with Google to develop new enterprise security standards for Android and improved device management tools for businesses.

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Uber Files Opposition To Case That Could Make All Drivers Employees Instead Of Independent Contractors – Uber filed a briefing in court today that opposes a class-action lawsuit attempting to label drivers as Uber employees instead of as independent contractors. Drivers in both Lyft and Uber also filed class-action lawsuits in March alleging both ride hailing companies had misclassified them as independent contractors instead of employees. And both claim that Uber and Lyft were depriving them of certain rights and benefits. Uber refutes the claim that drivers should be employees and says the lawsuit does not reflect the desires of most of its drivers to remain independent.

Logitech to rebrand as “Logi,” dropping “tech” from its name – Speaking at the launch event, Logitech company representatives explained that the “Logi” brand will be used for “future-facing stuff,” and consumers will soon see it begin to appear in striking colors on new Logitech products, especially in the “Internet of Things” categories (which in this context realistically means small connected devices). The full “Logitech” branding will continue to stick around for more established legacy products, like keyboards and mice.

Games and Entertainment:

Legit Debuts A Social Watchlist App For Finding The Best Movies And Shows On Any Service – Today, an app called Legit is launching with hopes of becoming the go-to watchlist for finding any movie or TV show across service, streaming or otherwise. It even helps you figure out if movies are worth seeing in the theaters, or if you can wait for the digital release. Currently, Legit focuses on content that can be found on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube or iTunes, as well as in theaters. At first launch, the app asks you about favorite genres, movies, and the platforms you use, in order to customize the experience. You can then dive into Legit to find things to add to your watchlist, track friends’ ratings, and more. You can even quickly poll friends about their likes on the app or on its Apple Watch counterpart.

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Xbox Music app now lets users stream from OneDrive – The soon to be re-branded Xbox Music apps for iOS and Android have received a big update from Microsoft this week. The main new feature allows users to stream songs they’ve stored on OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service. This has already been available to those who use Xbox Music on Windows since earlier this year, but now it’s available to mobile users for the first time.

Survey: Most people don’t care about the sex of a game’s protagonist – It’s a common stereotype that boys like games where sexy images of women are present. However, a survey has revealed that most gamers don’t care about the sex of the protagonist.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 multiplayer beta hits PS4 August 19th – The latest entry in gaming’s biggest FPS franchise, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, will soon be upon us, and these days that can only mean one thing: a multiplayer beta test to get fans pumped up. Call of Duty players won’t be disappointed, as developer Treyarch has just announced the beta will be available for PlayStation 4 on August 19th. Keep in mind that date is only for players on the PS4, as a beta will be available on Xbox One and other platforms, but just at a later date.

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Paramount movies get in-home streaming just 17 days after theatrical release – To get this done, Paramount struck up a deal with the US’s second largest chain, AMC Theaters, and the Canadian giant Cineplex by offering a percentage of digital rental sales to the theater owners up to 90 days after the movie debuts in movie houses. AMC and Cineplex were reportedly the first two outlets Paramount went to, but now that they’re on board, the studio is seeing if other chains want to get in on the action.

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10 Hidden Roku Tricks for Streaming Success – Whether you just got a Roku or you’ve had one for years, there’s more to know beyond the basics of watching Netflix and catching up with “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” on Crackle. We’ve put together 10 ways for you to get more out of your Roku.

GOG.com’s old-school PC games will be ready for Windows 10 – The entire existence of GOG.com (and DOSBox, et cetera) is predicated on the fact that eventually our computers outgrew—for a number of reasons—some of our most beloved games, from SimCity 2000 to Dungeon Keeper to Syndicate. Which should make today’s news from GOG.com a relief: “Windows 10 is coming on July 29th and we are as ready as can be!”

Off Topic (Sort of):

Windows 10: The end of computing as we know it – IT leaders considering a Windows 10 migration as a cornerstone initiative risk having a focus that is a decade behind. Patrick Gray explains why.

Getting by with pre-post-PC devices in a post-PC world – Even though many three and four-year old devices still work, they’ve reached obsolescence by virtue of the changing nature of computing. Here’s a story every ZDNet reader can identify with. A late-night “please fix my computer” call from a friend.

Just say no to connected cars – Around 5% of new vehicles already include some form of embedded technology inside. But have you thought about the consequences?

Mount Fuji will be a free Wi-Fi zone for 3 months – Imagine reaching the end of an exhilarating but also tiring mountain climb. You reach for your phone to take a selfie or tweet to the world about your accomplishment. But alas, you have no Internet connection. Big problem, right? Well, not if you’re on top of Japan’s highest peak. That’s right, the iconic Mount Fuji is going to have free Wi-Fi hotspots, eight of them, in fact, and they are being placed exactly so that you can share to the world your wonderful hiking experience.

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Solocam Is A Selfie Stick That Isn’t Completely Insufferable – Solocam is a selfie stick that may actually provide value (bear with me here) by letting journalists shoot video from the field without lugging around an entire camera crew. The device is a selfie stick attached to a high-definition bluetooth microphone, just like the pros use. While the entire setup looks ridiculous, the video it helps create looks surprisingly professional. The device also comes with an app for your mobile device which lets you record while using features like a teleprompter or special effects. The camera is set at an angle to avoid the dreaded flesh beard under all of our chins. The most basic version will set you back $50, while the pro is selling for $149.

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Read the first chapter of Harper Lee’s first book since To Kill A Mockingbird – It’s been a long, 55-year wait, but Harper Lee, the author of the seminal To Kill A Mockingbird, is about to release her second book. Go Set A Watchman is out on July 14th, and courtesy of The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal, you can read the first chapter now. The book follows Scout, the protagonist of To Kill A Mockingbird, now grown up and traveling from New York to Alabama to visit her sick father. The chapter joins Scout on a train traveling south.

Something to think about:

“The problem is humans can’t keep up with all the technology they have created. It’s becoming unmanageable by the human brain. Our best hope may be that computers eventually will become smart enough to maintain themselves.”

–      Avivah Litananalyst at Gartner

Today’s Free Downloads:

VirtualBox – VirtualBox is a general-purpose full virtualizer for x86 hardware. Targeted at server, desktop and embedded use, it is now the only professional-quality virtualization solution that is also Open Source Software.

Features:

Modularity. VirtualBox has an extremely modular design with well-defined internal programming interfaces and a client/server design. This makes it easy to control it from several interfaces at once: for example, you can start a virtual machine in a typical virtual machine GUI and then control that machine from the command line, or possibly remotely. VirtualBox also comes with a full Software Development Kit: even though it is Open Source Software, you don’t have to hack the source to write a new interface for VirtualBox.

Virtual machine descriptions in XML. The configuration settings of virtual machines are stored entirely in XML and are independent of the local machines. Virtual machine definitions can therefore easily be ported to other computers.

Guest Additions for Windows and Linux. VirtualBox has special software that can be installed inside Windows and Linux virtual machines to improve performance and make integration much more seamless. Among the features provided by these Guest Additions are mouse pointer integration and arbitrary screen solutions (e.g. by resizing the guest window).

Shared folders. Like many other virtualization solutions, for easy data exchange between hosts and guests, VirtualBox allows for declaring certain host directories as “shared folders”, which can then be accessed from within virtual machines.

A number of extra features are available with the full VirtualBox release only.

Virtual USB Controllers. VirtualBox implements a virtual USB controller and allows you to connect arbitrary USB devices to your virtual machines without having to install device specific drivers on the host.

Remote Desktop Protocol. Unlike any other virtualization software, VirtualBox fully supports the standard Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). A virtual machine can act as an RDP server, allowing you to “run” the virtual machine remotely on some thin client that merely displays the RDP data.

USB over RDP. With this unique feature, a virtual machine that acts as an RDP server can still access arbitrary USB devices that are connected on the RDP client. This way, a powerful server machine can virtualize a lot of thin clients that merely need to display RDP data and have USB devices plugged in.

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Microsoft Worldwide Telescope (WWT) 5.2.9 Beta / 3.1.52 Legacy – The WorldWide Telescope is a rich visualization environment that functions as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground- and space-based telescopes to enable seamless, guided explorations of the universe. WorldWide Telescope, created with Microsoft’s high-performance Visual Experience Engine, enables seamless panning and zooming across the night sky blending terabytes of images, data and stories from multiple sources over the Internet into a media-rich, immersive experience. The WorldWide Telescope experience scales from a web browser all the way to multi-channel full dome in some of the world’s most advanced planetariums.

You can research and import your own data and visualize it, then create a tour to share with others.

Features:

Navigate seamlessly through 3D spherical environments: the Sky, Planets and our Solar System

Access to hundreds of terabytes of sky, earth and planet data

View, create, and edit guided tours

Experience the 3D Solar System view with moon orbits, asteroids, and more

Access billions of objects in a web-based astronomical catalog

Use touch controls for touch-screen navigation

Travel 2,000 years forwards and backwards in time

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Tech and politics clash over protecting your data – How far can government surveillance reach, and how protective are we allowed to be of our personal communications? On Wednesday, the director of the FBI said he thinks the government should be able extend its powers and break tools that keep information private.

It used to be that Internet and phone communications were easy to intercept, hack and read. That was before Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, revealed information showing the US government has been snooping on citizens far more than most of us expected. Now tech companies are fighting back.

Their weapon: encryption, or technology that disguises communications and files so that only the intended recipient can read them.

It’s quickly becoming the standard way people communicate. Apple’s iMessage text message program uses encryption, as does Facebook’s WhatsApp. Google, Yahoo and a bunch of other tech companies have begun scrambling information being sent between their servers, all with the goal of keeping prying eyes from seeing what’s going on inside.

Surprise: The US and UK governments don’t like it, and are trying to stop the practice from becoming pervasive. FBI Director James Comey told a committee of US senators on Wednesday that encryption could be a godsend to criminals and terrorists.

This is the most outrageous government tirade against iOS 8 encryption – Following the leaks by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden that began in the summer of 2013, encryption and encryption backdoors have become hot-button topics of discussion.

That’s because many companies, including Apple and Google, have been going out of their way to encrypt products after the public learned that the US had embarked on a massive, legally and morally suspect electronic spying operation against its own citizenry and the global community at large. Fearing encryption is undermining their surveillance capabilities, government officials from the US and across the pond in the UK have been increasingly decrying encryption or at least demanding a government-accessible backdoor to unlock said encryption.

FBI Director James Comey complained to a Senate panel that companies, like Apple, are building products in which the keys necessary to decrypt communications and electronic devices are being left “solely in the hands of the end user.” In a joint statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey and a Justice Department official essentially told lawmakers that we’re all doomed unless companies bake encryption backdoors into their products to allow for lawful access by the government. Comey said the problems backdoor-less encryption presents to law enforcement “are grave, growing, and extremely complex.”

FBI chief tells Senate committee we’re doomed without crypto backdoors – James Comey, the director of the FBI, told a Senate committee Wednesday that the government should have the right to lawfully access any device or electronic form of communication with a lawful court order, even if it is encrypted.

Comey and another Justice Department official briefed the Senate Judiciary Committee and complained that keys necessary to decrypt communications and electronic devices often reside “solely in the hands of the end user”—which they said is emblematic of the so-called “Going Dark problem.” Companies should bake encryption backdoors into their products to allow lawful access, they said.

“We are not asking to expand the government’s surveillance authority, but rather we are asking to ensure that we can continue to obtain electronic information and evidence pursuant to the legal authority that Congress has provided to us to keep America safe,” read the joint prepared remarks (PDF) of Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates. “Mr. Chairman, the Department of Justice believes that the challenges posed by the Going Dark problem are grave, growing, and extremely complex.”

Canadian Senators Want to Target Radicalization by Training and Certifying Imams – Canada’s senators are calling on the government to ramp up its efforts to thwart terrorism and radicalization by getting involved with the training and certification of imams in the country.

In a new report on security threats facing Canada released Wednesday, the Standing Committee on National Security and Defense offers the federal government 25 recommendations on how it can better deal with terrorist threats.

“The committee heard testimony from members of the Muslim community and others that some foreign-trained imams have been spreading extremist religious ideology and messages that are not in keeping with Canadian values,” the report says.

It urges the government to “work with the provinces and the Muslim communities to investigate the options that are available for the training and certification of imams in Canada,” but doesn’t say whether the government should carry out the training process.

Pointing up   Another hair-brained attempt by the Stephen Harper “boys in short pants brigade” to challenge the Constitution and Canadian Bill of Rights. Current challenge score –

The Constitution – 8

The Harper troglodytes – 1

ASIO, NT Police, NSW Police named in Hacking Team emails – The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) was allegedly interested in using products from surveillance software company Hacking Team as recently as November last year, according to emails leaked from the Milan-based company.

Hackers on Monday uploaded a 400GB torrent file containing the sensitive documents, tweeted a link to the file using Hacking Team’s own Twitter account, and also posted screenshots of internal company emails and secret deals with governments around the world.

Early assessments of the company’s receipts and client lists only linked Hacking Team to the Australian Federal Police (AFP). However, on Thursday, WikiLeaks made Hacking Team’s entire email archive searchable, revealing a number of other links to Australian government organisations.

One email from Hacking Team’s Singapore salesperson representing the company in the Asia-Pacific region, Daniel Maglietta, said Canberra-based surveillance firm Criterion Solutions was interested in products from Hacking Team for ASIO as recently as in November last year.

How to take over the accounts of UK politicians using public Wi-Fi hacks – An experiment using public Wi-Fi networks to break into accounts belonging to UK politicians has highlighted a distinct lack of understanding basic security principles.

In the UK, the new currently budget dominates the news, but last week, comments made by the UK Prime Minister David Cameron caused uproar in the technology space. We know the US and UK have a fondness for surveillance and collecting data en masse, but following Edward Snowden’s leaks to the media concerning government spying programs, tech firms began ramping up encryption efforts to make spying more difficult.

This has not sat well with the PM. Cameron, following in the steps of the US FBI director James Comey, wants to ban strong encryption to “ensure that terrorists do not have a safe space in which to communicate.”

In other words, encryption protocols which would force officers of the law to go directly to a device owner instead of companies to demand data are not a popular idea for law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Security professionals slammed the demand as outrageous and portraying a lack of basic understanding of how security works.

The results of a recent test conducted by F-Secure suggest this lack of training and understanding trickles down the parliamentary chain.

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4 Comments

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

4 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – July 10, 2015

  1. Install Security, Speed Up Your Computer.
    Nice report but again, pushing Paid when Free does a better job.
    Is there a reason why the product that had the least impact on System performance and also scored highest with an Advanced+ Rating was left out ?
    Avast’s Impact score was 4.1 which was lower than any other tested product.
    Avast also earned an Advance+ rating with a 97.9 score. That’s also better than any of the other products tested. Avast is also FREE. ( https://www.avast.com )

    • Hi Bob,

      This idea of testing/rating, on a site driven by advertising (aren’t they all), fails miserably since, in my view, there is always the suggestion that the selection process can be tainted, in one form or another. Your comment here is a perfect example of how consumers can be misled (intentionally, or otherwise), into choosing products that may not suit their needs.

      Here’s a real world example (I’m sure you have similar stories) – a close friend continues to pay for AVG despite the fact I’ve illustrated to him that Avast more than satisfies his requirements, given his experience level. But no, he continues happily on his way. Free, you see, according to him must have some deficiencies. Advertising, in this case, beats my 35+ years experience. It is to laugh.

      Consumers, it seems to me, are often poorly served by tech sites that review, supposedly in an unbiased manner, products which are advertised on site. Without exception, such reviews should carry a disclaimer.

      Best,

      Bill