Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – August 7, 2015

10 Simple, Time-Saving Computer Tricks;  Microsoft vacates moral high ground for the data slurpers’ cesspit;  Why Windows 10 isn’t really free;  Best Buy fails to erase some returned devices before re-selling them;  A Week with Windows 10: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly;  Attention students and teachers: Check if you can get Office 365 for free now;  Send self-destructing messages with Kaboom;  Law banning secret filming of animal abuse on farms ruled unconstitutional;  Design flaw in Intel chips opens door to rootkits;  Hacker-friendly Chrysler hauled into court for class-action showdown;  Apple has new iOS 9 and watchOS 2.0 betas for you;  Meet RollJam, the $30 device that jimmies car and garage doors;  12 Tips All Diehard Xbox 360 Fans Should Know;  Pornhub is emulating Netflix with its new premium streaming service;  Mozilla urges users to update Firefox with file stealing exploit in wild;  Microsoft, Salesforce.com join $5.3 billion Informatica buyout;  Should Software Companies Be Legally Liable For Security Breaches?

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

10 Simple, Time-Saving Computer Tricks – When I watch inexperienced computer users scroll a Web page using the down arrow on their keyboard or look for specific information in a PDF by running their eyes down each page, I realize just how many tiny tricks and tips there are that make more experienced computer users faster at what they do. Here are ten of those tricks that anyone can—and should—learn. Chances are you know some of them, but even if only a couple of them are new to you, it’s worth checking out the list and the video below.

Attention students and teachers: Check if you can get Office 365 for free now – Earlier this year, Microsoft announced it was giving away Office 365 subscriptions to New York City public school students, and later it opened up the program to students in dozens of countries around the world. Now, any qualified student or faculty member can get a free Office 365 Education plan, which gives you unfettered access to Word, Excel and Powerpoint, plus the ability to collaborate with others in real-time using those programs. Here’s how to get it.

A Week with Windows 10: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – It seems almost surreal to think that it has already been a week since Microsoft unleashed Windows 10 to the world. Or at least to those not privy to Insider previews. In that short span of time, a lot has already been said about the latest, and supposedly the last, version of Windows. As expected, not all of them are good, but not all of them are bad either. Here are some of the top five things you can expect to experience when your time finally comes to upgrade.

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How to stop Windows 10 from using your PC’s bandwidth to update strangers’ systems – By default, Windows 10 turns your PC into a server for distributing updates to other machines. Here’s how to make it stop.

Send self-destructing messages with Kaboom – Kaboom is a free app that only requires those who want to send self-destructing messages to download the app. Once downloaded, you can send text and picture messages, complete with a countdown timer that dictates when the message will disappear forever. Not sure how long you want a message to remain active? You can also set a message to expire after a number of views. The company behind the app, Anchor Free, claims the disappearing act also includes deleting the content from its servers once the message expires. You can download the app for free for either iOS or Android.

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Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

7 Apps to Help You Get Stuff Done Around the House – These seven apps can help you keep track of your various household chores and projects, so you can spend more time getting things done and less time keeping track of them.

Facebook gives businesses more ways to privately message users – Businesses using the site now have more ways to send private messages, through Messenger, to Facebook users who interact with businesses’ pages or ads. Previously, businesses could only respond to users’ messages in the way they were initiated, either through a comment or a private message. Now, if a user leaves a comment on a Facebook page, the page owner can respond privately through Messenger.

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Apple has new iOS 9 and watchOS 2.0 betas for you – Apple has released iOS 9 beta 5 for iPhone and iPad, as well as watchOS 2 beta 5 for Apple Watch, as it nears the final versions this fall. The new software, which requires either an Apple developer account or beta program membership in order to access, paves the way for features like WiFi Calling on the iPhone across more carriers, as well as smarter switching of WiFi and cellular data for faster browsing, while on the smartwatch there’s a new Time-Lapse face among other tweaks.

Microsoft’s New App Is PowerPoint for People Who Hate PowerPoint – If the idea of formatting a PowerPoint fills you with dread, then you might want to consider downloading Sway, a new presentation app from Microsoft out Wednesday. Rather than overwhelm users with nitpicky formatting options, Sway sits between the user and the slides like an eager designer, automatically selecting fonts, prepping layouts, cropping photos and placing them flush against the text. PowerPoint maestros may bridle at the prospect of losing control to an overweening algorithm, but that’s fine with the Sway team.

Best Buy fails to erase some returned devices before re-selling them – We’ve seen this happen a few times with Best Buy, that ubiquitous chain with 1,600 stores in North America, which boasts that “more than 70 percent of the [US] population lives within 15 minutes of a Best Buy store.” The most recent incident happened last week when Michal Urban bought an open box Apple TV from a Best Buy in Mission Viejo, California. The Apple TV was still logged in to several of the previous owner’s accounts, Urban told Ars. Urban provided us with screenshots showing logged-in accounts for iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now.

Google turns your Android phone into a Hangouts presentation powerhouse – Google is on a roll with adding new features to Slides—the company’s presentation software—on mobile. After introducing support for Airplay and Chromecast in June, Google just announced Slides support for Hangouts video calls on Android. Instead of sharing your PC desktop during a Hangouts call, the new feature allows you to display a presentation on Hangouts from your smartphone or tablet. As with the AirPlay and Chromecast features, this essentially turns your phone into a presentation remote control, allowing you to advance through slides, check your speaker notes, and even monitor your presentation pace with a built-in timer.

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Dual-booting Linux with Windows: What you need to know – Linux can run from just a USB drive without modifying your existing system, but you’ll want to install it on your PC if you plan on using it regularly. Installing a Linux distribution alongside Windows as a “dual boot” system will give you a choice of either operating system each time you start your PC. It’s the ideal way for most people to install Linux, as you can always get back to a full Windows system with a reboot.

iOS keyboard app Signily lets users type with sign language – Signly, a new keyboard app for iOS, offers something that almost no other app does: the ability for deaf users to type and communicate with sign language. The app comes from ASLized, a US nonprofit group, and was created with the help of deaf people, and uses American Sign Language (ASL). Typing is done with hand gestures making different signs, in a style similar to the default emoji on iOS. There are even options to change the hand’s skin color, much like the recent iOS update that did the same to face and hand emojis.

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An SSD upgrade is still the single best thing you can do for your PC – I can’t tell you exactly how much your PC will speed up with an SSD. But I can tell you it will be a lot.

Microsoft caught using Windows user’s bandwidth to seed Windows 10 – I knew something was fishy when my internet connection was far slower than normal. This has been happening over a few days, after contacting my ISP they did some digging and found that my uploads were far higher than normal. I checked my devices one by one and found the culprit was my windows box. Hogging bandwidth and causing huge slowdown. And this is on a fiber connection! Later I found out that this was because MS has decided to automatically opt in ALL windows users into distributing windows 10 to other users!  Absolutely disgusting!

500px Revamps Its App To Better Appeal To The Instagram Crowd – 500px, the online photo-sharing community that recently raised another $13 million to challenge Flickr and Getty, is today rolling out a significant change to its mobile application. Beginning with an update on iOS, the company has completely redesigned and rebuilt its app from the ground up, in an effort that’s focused on making its app appeal to a more mainstream consumer base.

Reddit bans racist communities, ‘quarantines’ other offensive talk – Reddit is removing several racist communities from its website, as well as other offensive discussion topics, part of an ongoing effort to clean up the most toxic content on its site. Among those now banned are the subreddits /r/CoonTown and /r/bestofcoontown—as well as others with even more racist names—and also content related to “animated” child pornography, said Steve Huffman, Reddit’s chief executive, in a post on Wednesday. Reddit is trying to strike a balance between honoring its heritage as a place for free-wheeling free speech while also restricting hateful or harassing content. It’s a tough balance, though, and some of its longtime users have criticized what they see as censorship of the site.

Microsoft releases DVD player app for Windows 10 — for $15 – Windows 10 excludes a few key features, including support for playing DVDs. Microsoft has now released an app to handle the task, though it doesn’t play Blu-ray discs.

Don’t pay! You can watch DVDs for free on Windows 10 – Watching a movie on a DVD may seem archaic in this streaming age, but you shouldn’t have to pay a fee to play a DVD on your computer. For many people, the Windows 10 upgrade doesn’t come with software to play a DVD movie. Microsoft is charging $15 for the program in its app store, but you don’t have to pay. Watch CNET Update below to learn what you can do about it:

Security:

Design flaw in Intel chips opens door to rootkits – A design flaw in the x86 processor architecture dating back almost two decades could allow attackers to install a rootkit in the low-level firmware of computers, a security researcher said Thursday. Such malware could be undetectable by security products. The vulnerability stems from a feature first added to the x86 architecture in 1997. It was disclosed Thursday at the Black Hat security conference by Christopher Domas, a security researcher with the Battelle Memorial Institute.

Waiting for Android’s inevitable security Armageddon – We’re on day who-the-heck-knows of the Android Stagefright security vulnerability, and there’s really no point keeping track of the days because no one’s going to fix it. The Android ecosystem can’t deal with security, and it won’t change until it’s too late. The Android ecosystem’s reaction to the “Stagefright” vulnerability is an example of how terrible things are. An estimated 95 percent of Android devices have a have a remote arbitrary code execution just by receiving malicious video MMS. Android has other protections in place to stop this vulnerability from running amok on your smartphone, but it’s still really scary. As you might expect, Google, Samsung, and LG have all pledged to “Take Security Seriously” and issue a fix as soon as possible.

Google, Samsung, LG promise monthly Android phone security updates – Good news, Android users! Your devices are about to get more secure, thanks to a new update program Google is kicking off. You’ll now be getting security updates on a monthly basis — not whenever your carrier gets around to approving them. Samsung and LG are on board, and Google expects other manufacturers to follow their lead. The first update will be delivered to Nexus devices (4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, and the Nexus Player) this week. It features “fixes for issues in bulletins provided to partners through July 2015,” including the Stagefright exploit that set alarm bells off last week.

Windows patches can be intercepted and injected with malware – Researchers say Windows machines that fetch updates from an enterprise update server not configured to use encryption are vulnerable to an injection attack.

Russia blamed in Pentagon cyber-attack – A Russian cyber-attack in July saw the Pentagon pull the plug on the entire unsecured email and internet system for the Joint Staff, it’s been revealed. Described as a “sophisticated cyber intrusion”, the incident saw email accounts of around 4,000 military and civilian personnel who work for the Joint Chiefs of Staff compromised, though officials aren’t decided yet on whether it was sanctioned by the Russian government or the handiwork of an independent player. No classified documents or correspondence was taken, officials insist to CNBC. Nonetheless, it seems the haul has been well distributed.

Meet RollJam, the $30 device that jimmies car and garage doors – Serial hacker Samy Kamkar has devised RollJam, a $30 device that steals the secret codes so attackers can use them to gain unauthorized access to a car or garage. It works against a variety of market-leading chips, including the KeeLoq access control system from Microchip Technology Inc. and the High Security Rolling Code generator made by National Semiconductor. RollJam is capable of opening electronic locks on cars from Chrysler, Daewoo, Fiat, GM, Honda, Toyota, Volvo, Volkswagen Group, Clifford, Shurlok, and Jaguar. It also works against a variety of garage-door openers, including the rolling code garage door opener made by King Cobra.

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Mozilla urges users to update Firefox with file stealing exploit in wild – A violation of the same origin policy within Firefox’s built-in PDF Viewer is being exploited, which is fixed in newly released Firefox versions.

Man-in-the-Cloud Attacks Want Your Dropbox, Google Drive Files – We’ve heard of man-in-the-middle and man-in-the-browser attacks. But Imperva researchers have now uncovered man-in-the-cloud attacks, and they’re coming for your Google Drive and Dropbox accounts. With a man-in-the-cloud attack, someone can compromise major file sync services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and Box (to name a few) without having to resort to stealing the user’s account credentials or somehow compromising the cloud provider’s servers. In this scenario, attackers just have to steal the synchronization token saved on the user’s endpoint machine.

Company News:

Pornhub is emulating Netflix with its new premium streaming service – Adult entertainment giant Pornhub — the flagship in the portfolio of online video conglomerate MindGeek — is launching a premium offering as a Netflix-style streaming service, one complete with ad-free HD viewing, faster playback, and exclusive content. This appears to be the site’s first step into the world of paid porn after years spent feasting on free (and often illicit) content. The service costs $9.99 per month, and it’s currently available within both desktop and mobile browsers. Pornhub is working on Android and Roku apps for release in the near future, and it’s also planning to augment the existing service with VR integration in 2016.

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IBM Buying Merge Healthcare For $1B To Bring Medical Image Analysis To Watson Health – IBM announced a huge deal today, agreeing to pay a billion dollars for Merge Healthcare, a medical imaging company it plans to fold into the Watson Health unit. Merge’s technology is in use in 7500 healthcare facilities in the US, according to information supplied by IBM. The firm processes billions of images such as x-rays, MRIs and CT scans with 30 billion images processed to-date, a number that is growing by the day. In fact, IBM researchers estimate that up to 90 percent of all medical data today is in the form of images.

Microsoft, Salesforce.com join $5.3 billion Informatica buyout – Data-integration giant Informatica has made itself a private company in a $5.3 billion deal that includes investments from Microsoft and Salesforce.com. The deal, said to be the biggest leveraged buyout this year, means Informatica’s stock ceased trading on the Nasdaq on Thursday. In exchange, Informatica stockholders are getting $48.75 per share in cash. It’s part of a trend in which companies have been taking themselves private to make themselves more competitive. Dell, Tibco Software, Riverbed and Compuware have all made similar moves.

Hacker-friendly Chrysler hauled into court for class-action showdown – Fiat Chrysler is facing a class-action lawsuit in the US after researchers proved they could wirelessly snatch control of the engine management systems in some of its vehicles. The lawsuit, filed in the southern district of Illinois, claims Chrysler knew the networking systems in its cars were insecure. The motoring giant offers a service called uConnect that connects vehicles and their internal Wi-Fi to the public internet via the cellular network, allowing people to check Facebook on the move, or whatever.

NVIDIA Soars 9% After Beating On Profit And Revenue, Credits Growth In Its Gaming And Auto Tech Divisions – NVIDIA shares were up nearly 9 percent in after-hours trading following its announcement of a beat in FY 2016 Q2 earnings Thursday. The computer component manufacturer managed to exceed street expectations on revenue with $1.153 billion while posting non-GAAP earnings of $0.34 per share, up 13 percent from a year ago. Analysts had looked for Nvidia to generate $0.20 per-share profit on top line of $1.01 billion.

Games and Entertainment:

12 Tips All Diehard Xbox 360 Fans Should Know – The 360 is the best-selling console Microsoft has made, the sixth best-selling in gaming history (right behind the PS2, Nintendo DS, Game Boy, original PlayStation, and Nintendo Wii). Which means there are a lot of 360 users still making do. There is obviously a lot of life left in the ol’ Xbox 360. To solidify that fact, I’ve put together 12 tips that keep me happy every day with mine. Implement them if the console remains your hub of fun and entertainment activity.

Classic iPhone game Spider finally has a sequel – 2009 was an exciting time for mobile games. The App Store was new, and game developers were still trying out strange and inventive ideas for touchscreen gaming, without having to worry about payment models or an over-flooded market. One of the best of that early wave of games was Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, where you played as a tiny spider, spinning webs to eat bugs while also exploring a sprawling house filled with secrets. It was an entirely unique combination of gameplay and environmental storytelling. Now, six years later, an eternity for mobile gaming, a sequel arrives: Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon, available today on iOS and Steam.

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HBO NOW Adds Support For Google’s Chromecast – HBO’s over-the-top streaming service may not be making money just yet, but it is rapidly expanding its footprint. Starting today, the service will support Google’s Chromecast for streaming from your mobile device to your TV, according to the update text in the iOS version that just arrived on the iTunes App Store. The Android app has not yet been updated, as of the time of writing, but will arrive later today.

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The Mad Max game has little to do with the movie, but could be just as good – Here’s an easy recipe for disappointment: take one of the awesomest, most refreshingly nuanced and thoughtful action movies of recent times, Mad Max: Fury Road, and turn it into a generic find-and-destroy open world game. That’s exactly what I envisioned when I first heard of the Mad Max game, which is set in the same universe and stars the same titular character, but is otherwise divorced from Fury Road. I’m glad to say I was wrong.

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World of Warcraft: Legion unveiled with teaser – Blizzard has announced the upcoming expansion to World of Warcraft, it is called Legion. The company showed off Legion at Gamescom in Germany earlier today, including releasing the first teaser for the expansion that includes a look at both gameplay and its different features (we’ve the video after the jump). Among other things, World of Warcraft: Legion will include a new level cap raised to 110, as well as a new hero class called Demon Hunter.

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Prison Break becomes the latest Fox series to be rebooted – Prison Break, a show about hot tattooed men learning how far they will go for the people they love as they writhe inside cages, is coming back for another escape. Deadline reports that the series, which limped off the air in 2009 after two incredible seasons and two mediocre ones, will return for 10 episodes. The first one is now being written by creator Paul Scheuring, with stars Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell returning as brothers who perpetually find themselves caught up in shadowy conspiracies. They will probably have to break out of something again. It could be fun!

Off Topic (Sort of):

Microsoft vacates moral high ground for the data slurpers’ cesspit – A funny thing happened while I was reinstalling Windows 8 over Windows 10 yesterday morning. There in front of me, halfway through the installation process, were two full, clear pages of privacy toggles. Every toggle was set to not send private information to Microsoft, or anyone else. In addition, Windows 8 created a local user account by default – and didn’t demand I maintain a constant, umbilical connection to Microsoft’s servers. Windows 8 was configured for maximum privacy. Now compare this to the indiscriminate data slurp that Microsoft calls Windows 10. It’s basically a clumsy, 3GB keylogger.

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Why Windows 10 isn’t really free: The subtle new world of built-in costs – Windows 10 isn’t really free. Realizing why and how it isn’t really free can help you understand why installing the operating system on 1 billion systems by 2017 is such a big deal for Microsoft—and why this version of Windows is very different at its core than Windows 7 and its predecessors. Let’s get the “free” part out of the way before we dive into that, though.

Should Software Companies Be Legally Liable For Security Breaches? – It’s a truism that all software has bugs and security holes. It’s another that license agreements invariably make software vendors immune to liability for damage or losses caused by such flaws. But, to my surprise, Black Hat’s founder and keynote speaker are arguing that software product liability, presumably mandated by governments, is inevitable. If they’re right, a seismic change is on the horizon.

Man films cop, who quickly unholsters his weapon for no apparent reason – In the most recent incident involving authorities, filming, and firearms, a new viral phone video from California depicts a bizarre situation where a local police officer unholsters his weapon at a man for no apparent reason. The video was taken by Don McComas (aka Ryan Jones), of Rohnert Park, California, about 50 miles north of San Francisco. The five-minute film was posted to YouTube on August 3, and it shows a Rohnert Park police SUV slowly approaching McComas on what appears to be a quiet residential street. In the YouTube notes, McComas wrote that it all started when he was out in front of his house, hooking up his boat to his car.

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Samsung will turn its TVs into giant credit cards – Samsung wants to make it easier for you to make purchases from the comfort of your couch. That’s why they’re bringing Samsung Pay integration to their smart TVs. Only 2014 and 2015 models will be receiving the upgrade. If that happens to include your Samsung set, you’ll soon be able to make payments with the greatest of ease. Link your Samsung Pay account to your credit card or PayPal account, and all you have to do to complete a transaction on your television is to enter a four-digit PIN.

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The One Thing Every Great Company Has In Common – Obscured in the valuation dust of the current unicorn stampede is a key question: What actually makes a great company great? What do the future Facebooks, Googles and Apples have in common — not to mention the current ones?

Something to think about:

“When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.”

–     Albert Einstein

Today’s Free Downloads:

Belarc Advisor – Belarc Advisor builds a detailed profile of your installed software and hardware, network inventory, missing Microsoft hotfixes, anti-virus status, security benchmarks, and displays the results in your Web browser.

While there are a lot of choices in system info tools, Belarc has the advantage of being around the longest. It’s a tool found in most techs toolboxes.

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Pointing up  I bought a new machine yesterday and Belarc Advisor got me up to date quickly on all facets of this new box. The graphic above illustrates just a small sample of the type of reporting this app is capable of. Highly recommended.

IP Camera Viewer – IP Camera Viewer lets you use any USB or IP camera is to keep an eye on your home, office, parking area or anywhere you need security.

View video from multiple IP cameras directly to your computer. Currently more than 2000 different IP camera models from leading camera manufactures are supported. It includes Axis, Canon, D-Link, Foscam, Panasonic, Mobotix, Pixord, Sony, Toshiba, Vivotek and many more.

You can send a request to our technical team if your camera or model is not listed in our application. Virtually all USB cameras work with IP Camera Viewer. You can control and view up to 4 camera feeds simultaneously. Get a live preview from multiple cameras with this light-weight application. IP Camera Viewer’s centralized camera and layout management allows you to view your cameras from multiple remote locations on a single screen. You can change the arrangement and preview layout of the cameras, for your security needs.

Make the live video clearer by adjusting camera image and video properties. It allows you to individually configure video properties such as resolution and frame rate for USB cameras. You can set image properties such as saturation, brightness, contrast for USB and IP Cameras.

What if your camera is mounted upside-down or its preview is tilted a bit? With IP Camera Viewer you can adjust the orientation of your camera preview. It helps you to adjust the coverage area by supporting many PTZ (Pan/Tilt/Zoom) enabled network cameras. IP Camera Viewer provides a digital zoom, even if it is not supported by your camera.

IP Camera Viewer allows you to set up a system that suits your needs. It’s absolutely free and ideal for both personal and business use.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Dream of Internet freedom dying, Black Hat keynoter says – Today the dream of Internet freedom is dying as the global network becomes more centralized, regulated and globalized, according to Jennifer Granick, who delivered the opening keynote Wednesday at the annual Black Hat USA Conference in Las Vegas.

Granick, director of civil liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, said we will have an Internet in 20 years that does not reflect the original dream of freedoms and global conversation.

“It will be a slick, stiff, controlled closed thing,” she told a packed Mandalay Bay Ballroom.

Granick said the hacker ethic that information should be accessible is dying along with decentralization, that was an original design element of the Internet, and the idea of a network that would allow free speech, while providing security and privacy.

Australia: Foxtel to launch legal action to block pirating websites – FOXTEL will be the first rights-holder to begin launching legal proceedings, with the company confirming it is receiving legal advice on how it can best put the new anti-piracy legislation into effect.

If Foxtel does launch a case in the coming months, it would be aimed at blocking websites such as The Pirate Bay, which Australians flock to to illegally download shows such as Game of Thrones, which Foxtel has the exclusive rights to in Australia.

A Foxtel spokesman told news.com.au: “The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill does nothing more than give copyright holders similar rights in relation to foreign websites which steal their content to those they would have if the sites were based in Australia.

“Because these pirate sites do not exist in Australia, rights holders are not able to take direct legal action against them.

“Similar laws exists in Europe, the UK, Singapore and many other jurisdictions.

“Foxtel and other rights holders are currently assessing what action can and should be taken to give effect to the legislation.” (recommended by Mal C.)

China Is Making a Massive New Move to Censor the Internet – China, long known for its strict Internet censorship laws, is now sending online censors to take posts at the country’s biggest online companies.

Key “network security officers” will monitor the work of key websites and Web firms for crimes such as fraud and the “spreading of rumors,” China’s Ministry of Public Security said in a statement. These officers would be a part of the roughly 2 million people employed by the government to monitor Web activity, as first reported by the BBC.

The ministry didn’t say which companies would be getting a new in-house police unit, the Wall Street Journal notes. It also wasn’t clear whether these new measures would apply to international companies as well as local tech firms operating in China.

Germany’s top prosecutor fired over Netzpolitik “treason” probe – Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas has fired the country’s top prosecutor, Harald Range, over the latter’s handling of the Netzpolitik.org “treason” investigation, turning what began as a battle over blogs, whistleblowing, and freedom of the press, into a full-blown political crisis. As the Deutsche Welle website reports, the dismissal was framed as an “early retirement.” Maas said: “I have told Federal Prosecutor Range that my trust in his ability to fulfill the office has suffered lasting damage and therefore in agreement with the Chancellery I will request his retirement today.”

On Sunday, Ars reported that Range was pausing the investigation. That was partly as a result of the growing public outcry over the suggestion that two journalists at Netzpolitik.org had committed treason for publishing leaks about Germany’s surveillance plans, but also because of growing political pressure. Last week, Maas indicated to Range that he doubted that publishing the leaked documents on Netzpolitik.org constituted treason. Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said on Monday that she gave her “full support” to the Justice Minister, while refusing to say whether she still had confidence in Range—effectively siding with Maas.

Yesterday, Range hit back, accusing Maas of “an intolerable encroachment on the independence of the judiciary.” AFP reported him as saying: “The freedom of the press and of expression is a valuable asset. But this freedom, including on the Internet, is not limitless. It does not absolve journalists of the duty to comply with the law.” This framing turned the “treason” affair into an open battle between the German state and its judiciary, but with Merkel’s public support, Maas evidently felt in a strong enough position to remove Range without further discussion.

Tech industry objects to terrorist activity reporting section in US legislation – Powerful tech industry groups have asked the U.S. Senate to drop a plan to require Internet companies to report terrorist activity on their platforms, as the provision could potentially raise privacy issues for users.

Section 603 of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 would require Internet services companies, who obtain ”actual knowledge of any terrorist activity,” to provide to the appropriate authorities the “facts or circumstances” of the alleged activities.

Describing “any terrorist activity” as a vague and overbroad term, the Internet Association, Reform Government Surveillance and Internet Infrastructure Coalition have in a letter Wednesday warned that the provision could result in “overbroad reporting to the government, swamping law enforcement with useless information, and potentially raising First Amendment and privacy concerns for the user who posted the item.”

How the Arab Spring blew the lid off the commercial spyware – When Middle Eastern governments fell in the Arab Spring uprisings, one of the side effects was that hard evidence of dodgy practices by commercial spyware vendors was made public. Unfortunately, the result is putting us all at risk.

Documents uncovered when the Mubarak regime fell showed that the Egyptians had bought commercial spyware from the UK-based firm Gamma International, while in Syria, Blue Coat Systems was found to have been selling deep packet inspection equipment to the government.

The same was true in Libya, where after the fall of the Gaddafi dictatorship, documents were found showing that Amesys – a subsidiary of French conglomerate Groupe Bull – had sold the mad colonel’s government spyware that was tracking Libyan citizens both at home and abroad.

“All of this became evidence of what people knew all along – that there were sales of sophisticated malware that enabled governments that weren’t tech savvy to spy on their own citizens and on diasporas abroad,” explained security researcher Collin Anderson.

Carly Fiorina calls on Apple, Google to provide greater access for FBI – Republican presidential candidate and former tech-executive Carly Fiorina has called on Apple and Google to provide greater access to information about their users to the FBI and law enforcement in order to aid investigations.

Speaking Thursday in a televised debate in Cleveland organized by Fox News Channel, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard said restrictions that prevent private companies and law enforcement from working together need to be changed.

“I certainly support that we need to tear down cyber walls, not on a mass basis but on a targeted basis,” she said in response to a question from a moderator.

“I do not believe that we need to wholesale destroy every American citizen’s privacy in order to go after those that we know are suspect or already a problem, but yes, there is more collaboration required between private sector companies and the public sector and specifically we know that we could have detected and repelled some of these cyber attacks if that collaboration had been permitted,” she said.

Law banning secret filming of animal abuse on farms ruled unconstitutional – Idaho’s pro-agribusiness law that barred the secret recording of livestock has been deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge who ruled that the so-called “ag gag” law violated the First Amendment.

The decision, if it survives on appeal, threatens similar laws in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, and Utah. A North Carolina law takes force in January. Idaho’s law carried a maximum one-year jail penalty and up to a $5,000 fine for first offenders for filming or audio recording at a farm without the owner’s consent.

It was challenged by several animal-rights groups. Monday’s decision marks the first time one of these laws has been declared unconstitutional.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said the group hopes the Idaho decision snowballs. “This Idaho decision is just the first step in defeating similar ag gag laws across the country,” the group said in a statement.

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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 – August 7, 2015

  1. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: Microsoft caught using Windows user’s bandwidth to seed Windows 10

    This is why I never update to a new operating system until months, if ever, afterwards. I am still on Windows 8, and couldn’t be happier. Everything works, no driver conflicts, all software working properly, no secret sneaky business going on in the background.

    This crap happens everytime MS bring out a new OS. One Windows update a few months ago was designed to install 8.1 silently, in the background, without my knowledge. Luckily I caught that and it was gone. But others got stung.

    Some people are quite happy running with an older version of Windows, and don’t need MS shoving updates and so forth down their throats. It’s sneaky and wrong, and they should pull their collective fingers out and get their act together.

    Cheers
    Mal

    • Hey Mal,

      I had some people over on the weekend (a mix of pros and amateur users), and the one opinion shared by all was – Windows 10, like it’s predecessors, is JUST A G.D. OPERATING SYSTEM. So yeah, I have no trouble seeing your point of view. 🙂

      Best,

      Bill