Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – July 29, 2016

Free Windows 10 upgrades end today;  WhatsApp isn’t fully deleting its ‘deleted’ chats;  Windows 10: The smart person’s guide;  Must-have mobile apps to encrypt your texts and calls;  YouTube Gaming update;  LastPass browser extensions reported to be vulnerable to exploits;  Will your PC run Windows 10?  Five ways to stay safe online while playing Pokémon Go – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Free Windows 10 upgrades end today – You only have one day left to upgrade to Windows 10 for free if you’re currently running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. After July 29th, Microsoft will start charging $119 for upgrades to Windows 10, and if you upgrade during the free period you’ll also get the Anniversary Update (launching August 2nd) free of charge. The upgrade is an easy process which you can initialize from the taskbar upgrade notification on eligible machines, or you can follow Microsoft’s guide. If you’re planning to upgrade over the next 24 hours, make sure you’ve backed up all your important documents and data.

Windows 10: The smart person’s guide – This comprehensive guide covers must-know Windows 10 details, like features, system requirements, upgrade options, and Microsoft’s Windows-as-a-service strategy.

Will your PC run Windows 10? Use the official compatibility checker to find out – The Get Windows 10 app lets you register for a free upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. But it also keeps a list of potential upgrade issues you might need to deal with. Here’s how to check your own compatibility report.

How to stay connected while traveling with cheap and easy mobile access – You don’t have to leave your phone in airplane mode throughout your trip anymore, as there are plenty of ways to get online and make calls.

Must-have mobile apps to encrypt your texts and calls – What are the best apps which offer strong encryption to keep out spying eyes?

WhatsApp isn’t fully deleting its ‘deleted’ chats – WhatsApp retains and stores chat logs even after those chats have been deleted, according to a post today by iOS researcher Jonathan Zdziarski. Examining disk images taken from the most recent version of the app, Zdziarski found that the software retains and stores a forensic trace of the chat logs even after the chats have been deleted, creating a potential treasure trove of information for anyone with physical access to the device. The same data could also be recoverable through any remote backup systems in place.

Google Docs and Sheets get third-party Android add-ons – Google just made Docs and Sheets a bit more attractive with the launch of Android add-ons — that is, third-party tools on Android that add extra functionality to Google’s office software. Assuming you’re viewing a particular document using your Android mobile device (and that you’ve downloaded the appropriate add-on), you could do things like sign a sheet or document using DocuSign, scan a document into Docs using Scanbot, and more.

A new app from Channels brings live TV to your iOS device – Channels has grown to become one of the more popular applications for cord cutters who want to watch, pause, rewind and fast-forward live television on their 4th-generation Apple TV. Now that same functionality is arriving on iOS in a new app, launched this week. In addition to letting you watch live TV, the mobile application also lets you see what’s on in a full-grid TV guide.

Facebook must refund purchases by minors upon request, court rules – Way back in 2012, Facebook was hit with a lawsuit over real-world currency children had spent playing games on the social network. The issue revolved around Facebook Credits, which gamers could buy using a credit card; the currency, then, would be used to buy virtual goods of one sort or another in Facebook games. This quickly became an issue as kids charged huge bills on their parents’ bank accounts without realizing what they were doing. The issue has dragged on in various legal matters since, and now a judge has ruled that Facebook must refund parents.

Tumblr rolling out ads on blogs, users to get cut of revenue – With little warning, Tumblr has announced that advertisements are coming to all user blogs — starting today. This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, seeing as how Yahoo has struggled to turn a profit from its $1.1 billion purchase of Tumblr back in 2013, and it comes just after the announcement that Verizon will purchase Yahoo for $4.8 billion.

With Yahoo on the skids, here’s how to get your photos out of Flickr – For those with many precious photos stored on Flickr, Yahoo’s purchase may inspire some concern. Here are some tips for backing up your images, including ways to automatically save your images to cloud services and get more reliable backups.

Security:

LastPass browser extensions reported to be vulnerable to exploits – Passwords are the first and last line of defense against getting hacked, which is why users are strongly advised to use strong and different passwords for each service. Keeping track of those, however, is more than our little brains can handle, which is why password managing services have thrived. But what if those services themselves become vulnerable? That was the situation LastPass found itself in when its web extensions were discovered to be exploitable and can be used to trick users into giving away their passwords. The good news is that LastPass has already addressed those issues, but should still serve as a warning to everyone.

How to make sure you’re using the latest version of LastPass for Firefox – LastPass just patched a major security flaw that allowed an attacker to remotely compromise an account. Here’s how to make sure you’re not vulnerable.

Infographic: The 5 phases of a ransomware attack – Ransomware is the most profitable type of malware attack in history—and attacks will only get worse in the future, according to Cisco Systems’ midyear report on the state of cyber security, released Tuesday. It’s now important for employees to understand the different phases of an attack and best practices to prevent them.

Long-running malvertising campaign infected thousands of computers per day – Security researchers have shut down a large-scale malvertising operation that used sophisticated techniques to remain undetected for months and served exploits to millions of computers.

Malware Explained: Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) – An Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) is a prolonged, aimed attack on a specific target with the intention to compromise their system and gain information from or about that target. The target can be a person, an organization or a business.

Google beefs Linux up kernel defenses in Android – Future versions of Android will be more resilient to exploits thanks to developers’ efforts to integrate the latest Linux kernel defenses into the operating system. Android’s security model relies heavily on the Linux kernel that sits at its core. As such, Android developers have always been interested in adding new security features that are intended to prevent potentially malicious code from reaching the kernel, which is the most privileged area of the operating system.

Company News:

Alphabet’s huge Q2 shows its ads business may not be so challenged after all – Alphabet reported a second quarter that continued tech’s hot streak today, handily beating Wall Street’s expectations and boosting its shares by as much as another 5 percent. Google reported earnings per share of $8.42 on revenue of $21.5 billion. Analysts were expecting earnings of $8.03 per share on $20.76 billion in revenue. (Again, that 5 percent may seem small, but that’s adding tens of billions in value to the company.)

Amazon shatters earnings expectations – Amazon shattered expectations when it reported second quarter earnings after the bell on Thursday. Adjusted earnings per share came in at $1.78, when Wall Street was forecasting $1.11. Amazon also beat revenue predictions, posting $30.4 billion for the quarter when analysts were expecting $29.55 billion. Shares ticked up 2 percent in after-hours trading. The company saw a significant increase in sales and profit from the same period last year. Net sales were up 31 percent and net income was $857 million, a large jump from last year’s $92 million. Amazon also spent many years unprofitable, while it invested in growth.

Apple sold its billionth iPhone last week – It would have been a nice piece of information to share during yesterday’s earnings report, but Tim Cook and Co. were clearly too preoccupied with service revenues and R&D. And hey, no better way to kick off a midweek meeting than a little positive news — particularly if you can carry some of yesterday’s expectation-beating positivity into the following day to help rally the troops.

Facebook crushes Q2 earnings, hits 1.71B users and record share price – Coming off an all-time high stock price of $123.34, Facebook in Q2 2016 smashed earnings again. The social network continued steady growth just slightly slower at 3.63% compared to last quarter’s 3.77%, adding 60 million monthly users this quarter to reach 1.71 billion. It scored $6.44 billion in revenue and $0.97 EPS, blowing past estimates of $6.02 billion and $0.82 EPS. Revenue growth was 59% year over year, which looks favorable compared to competitor Twitter, who yesterday announced its YOY revenue growth sunk to 20% from 60% a year ago. With 84% of ad revenue from mobile, total ad revenue was $6.24 billion.

LG Display invests $1.7 billion to produce flexible OLED phone screens – LG Display will spend around $1.7 billion to build a new production line for making flexible OLED smartphone screens. Flexible smartphone screens, which go into phones like the curved Galaxy S7 Edge, are becoming increasingly popular, and they seem likely to become a dominant style in a few years. The investment is meant to let LG become a leader in this display tech — it may have buyers lined up already, or LG could be planning to use the displays itself.

Report: Apple’s negotiating tactics sunk its long-rumored TV service – In the months leading up to the announcement of the new Apple TV box last year, there were multiple reports that said the company was also working on a streaming TV service as a way to entice cord-cutters and “cord-nevers” into its ecosystem. Those reports suggested that the service would include some 25 channels and cost $30 or $40 a month, and it would stream live content as well as offer a Netflix-esque back catalog of shows on demand. But it never came to pass. When the new Apple TV launched, Apple pushed apps as the future of TV rather than an all-in-one service. A new report from the Wall Street Journal today says that Apple’s negotiating tactics were to blame and that the service didn’t come to pass in part because Apple was offering too little money and making too many demands.

Games and Entertainment:

Five ways to stay safe online while playing Pokémon Go – No one has expected to see a mobile gaming app become so popular so fast and affect people the way it has. Indeed, the introduction of Pokémon Go—plus the sharp rise of popularity of augmented reality—has opened a lot of opportunities for cross-industry innovation and growth. Unfortunately, it’s not all fun and games for every player and those caught in the experience of others. What we have below are surefire ways one can play Pokémon Go safely while avoiding potential threats online:

Pokemon Radar downloads: the app everyone is cheating with – Cheating at Pokemon GO isn’t especially difficult, as a rabble of Android and iOS developers will tell you this week. Today the quickest rising app on either app store is an app called “Poke Radar” which, as you’ll soon find out, isn’t what it suggests it is. It works just how it says it’s supposed to, but if you’re looking for a Pokemon Radar that works, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Meanwhile, there’s an app called “Poke Scanner” that’ll do just what you want it to.

DOOM’s big free update tomorrow brings two multiplayer modes – Bethesda Softworks will release a big free update for DOOM (2016) tomorrow, the second of its kind for the title. This particular update adds a pair of new multiplayer game modes, addressing the mostly justified criticism about the game’s lackluster multiplayer experience. The new game modes are comprised of capture-the-flag with a single flag and moving bases and a capture-and-hold mode where gamers take control of specific zones.

YouTube Gaming update packs in landscape mode, new chat layout, and other improvements – A few features are getting polished, such as subscribing to new channels and changing which part of the world you want to see videos from.

AMD will release two new entry-level graphics cards for gaming – The company is continuing to stick with its low-price / solid-performance model today with the announcement of two new GPUs — the RX 460 and RX 470. These aren’t meant for VR, but Radeon is billing them as an affordable way to get into gaming while not compromising quality. The 470, which is designed for 1080p gaming and video streaming, can reach up to 4.9 teraflops of power, has a memory bandwidth of up to 211 Gbps, and has 4GB of GDDR5 memory. The 460, which is meant for the vaguely defined purpose of “e-sport gaming,” reaches up to 2.2 teraflops, has a memory bandwidth of up to 112Gbps, and either two or 4GB of GDDR5 RAM.

Star Trek VI and 11 other movies are now streaming online – Night of the Hunter, the Explorers, Blade II…. Pick your genre, sit back, and enjoy.

Off Topic (Sort of):

We Need to Change the Psychology of Security – There are a wide variety of opinions on how to fix security and stop the seemingly endless parade of breaches. Like many, I believe the problem is multi-faceted: it’s more than just a lack of encryption, the inability to block malware, or that IT professionals don’t do “the basics,” though these all contribute to security failures. I believe we have a people problem, but not in the same way that most might think.

Trump’s hacking comments rattle cybersecurity pros – Donald Trump’s muddled stance on hacking has disturbed security experts at time when the tech industry is looking for clarity on the U.S.’s cyber policy. On Wednesday, the outspoken presidential candidate seemed to call on Russia to break into rival Hillary Clinton’s email system. Some security experts are concerned that Trump is taking the matter so lightly when the country is trying to halt a rash of cyberattacks against it, not promote them. “Whether he was sarcastic or not, it was an open invitation to hack,” said Justin Harvey, CSO with Fidelis Cybersecurity. “And I guess I’m deeply disturbed by that posturing.”

Online activist group petitions to keep Trump out of security briefings – Credo Action is seeking 10,000 online signatures on a petition that urges the government to not let the GOP presidential nominee attend security briefings.

This Website Is Changing How Politicians Communicate – Medium is taking over the political realm—at the media’s expense. You might not have heard of Medium, but you’ve probably visited the site without knowing it. The blogging platform, which launched in 2012, is focused on one thing: providing a beautiful, custom way to present text to an audience. That simple focus has convinced political stars from Hillary Clinton to Sen. Chuck Schumer to start making major use of it.

Riley roving camera is a home sentry robot – A company called iPatrol has a new HD camera robot called Riley. The little bot cruises around your home on two-rubber tank-tread like strips. It is able to see in the dark with night vision tech and can alert the homeowner when motion is detected.

 

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Dark Patterns are designed to trick you (and they’re all over the Web) – It happens to the best of us. After looking closely at a bank statement or cable bill, suddenly a small, unrecognizable charge appears. Fine print sleuthing soon provides the answer—somehow, you accidentally signed up for a service. Whether it was an unnoticed pre-marked checkbox or an offhanded verbal agreement at the end of a long phone call, now a charge arrives each month because naturally the promotion has ended. If the possibility of a refund exists, it’ll be found at the end of 45 minutes of holding music or a week’s worth of angry e-mails. Everyone has been there. So in 2010, London-based UX designer Harry Brignull decided he’d document it. Brignull’s website, darkpatterns.org, offers plenty of examples of deliberately confusing or deceptive user interfaces. These dark patterns trick unsuspecting users into a gamut of actions: setting up recurring payments, purchasing items surreptitiously added to a shopping cart, or spamming all contacts through prechecked forms on Facebook games.

What’s this whole email thing about, anyway? – What do you know about the Clinton email scandal? If you’re anything like me, not much — yet! Let’s take a stroll into our political Swamp of Sadness where both parties are currently mired. One candidate became stuck there while trying to beat the dead horse of the Crooked Hillary meme and the other candidate is sinking simply because government email is just so damn crappy.

Apollo astronauts dying of heart disease at 4-5X the rate of counterparts – Apollo astronauts who have ventured out of the protective magnetosphere of mother Earth appear to be dying of cardiovascular disease at a far higher rate than their counterparts—both those that have stayed grounded and those that only flew in the shielding embrace of low-Earth orbit. Though the data is slim—based on only 77 astronauts total—researchers speculate that potent ionizing radiation in deep space may be to blame. That hypothesis was backed up in follow-up mouse studies that provided evidence that similar radiation exposure led to long-lasting damage to the rodents’ blood vessels. All of the data was published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports. The study, while not definitive, may add an extra note of caution to the potential hazards of future attempts to fly to Mars and elsewhere in the cosmos.

Something to think about:

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

–     Winston Churchill

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Phone hacking: What the FBI won’t reveal could hurt users, experts argue – We already know that law enforcement agencies can hack our phones. But we don’t know what they find, how they find it, or even who helps them discover the information. Top cybersecurity experts and lawmakers argued about how much should be revealed at a July 11 meeting of the Congressional Internet Caucus.

“Government hacking has already happened. The question of whether it should happen is actually way past the point,” said Harley Geiger, director of public policy at Rapid 7, an Internet security company.

Geiger and others cited the FBI-Apple encryption dispute as a troubling example. Apple refused to help the FBI unlock the iPhone belonging to one of the terrorists involved in the December, 2015 attack in San Bernardino, California. The agency sued Apple, then dropped the lawsuit when it used a third party to crack the passcode in the phone instead. The issue of whether law enforcement should be able to take advantage of vulnerabilities remains unresolved, and government hacking is still unregulated.

EU recommends outlawing backdoors, while UK pushes for them – A review of European privacy rules has concluded that any effort to weaken encryption across the bloc of member states “should be prohibited.”

A preliminary report by European data protection supervisor Giovanni Buttarelli, the leading figure in ensuring data protection and privacy rules are enforced across the European bloc, said that nation-state governments should not be allowed to monitor, reverse engineer, or decrypt communications that are deliberately scrambled.

It added that encryption providers, internet and phone providers, and “all other organizations” should be prohibited “from allowing or facilitating ‘backdoors’.”

The report also called on end-to-end encryption to be “encouraged, and when necessary, mandated” in line with the bloc’s principles of data protection by design.

That will come as good news to the security and privacy community, which has persistently pushed back on any notion of backdoors in products, services, or cryptography, and has long promoted the use of encryption across products, services, and technologies.

But the report’s findings fall in direct conflict with efforts by the UK government to expand its decade-old surveillance laws.

Don’t use a VPN in United Arab Emirates – unless you wanna risk jail and a $545,000 fine – A royal edict from the president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) may have effectively made it illegal for anyone in the country to use a VPN or secure proxy service.

Those caught could face jail time and fines of between 500,000 and 2,000,000 UAE dirham (US$136,130 and $544,521). The change was announced this week by the UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan in a proclamation that amended federal laws.

The wording is ambiguous and technologically illiterate. Essentially, it seems, you are not allowed to use systems that hide the fact that you’re committing a crime or covering one up. If you’re routing your network traffic through a secure VPN or proxy server, you could be evading the eyes of the state while breaking a law, and that’s now a big no-no.

You could claim you were using the VPN or proxy for legit reasons, and that no criminal activity was being committed or concealed, but since your packets were encrypted, you may have a hard time proving your innocence.

Amazon saw spike in US demands for customer data – The total number of government requests for data on Amazon customers has doubled over the past year.

The retail and cloud giant quietly announced the latest figures for the first six months of 2016 ending June in a report, published Thursday evening, which showed a total of 1,803 different requests from the US government.

On the same period a year earlier, the company received a total of 851 different requests.

The number of search warrants the company received went up by more than eight times on the same period a year earlier.

Dozens of Lawyers Across the US Fight the FBI’s Mass Hacking Campaign – The US Department of Justice has a battle on its hands, as dozens of lawyers question evidence the FBI obtained using hacking techniques across a string of ongoing cases.

In 2015, the FBI used a piece of malware to identify suspected visitors of a dark web child pornography site. Now, nearly 30 legal teams across the country have pushed to get all evidence thrown out of court, and many attorneys have decided to pool their efforts in a “national working group.”

The cases revolve around Operation Pacifier, in which the FBI briefly assumed control of the “Playpen” website. The agency hacked computers all across the world—including over one thousand in the US—based on one warrant that has become legally contentious.

In the wake of the operation, many defendants quickly pleaded guilty, likely because of the wall of evidence presented before them: The FBI’s malware grabbed a suspect’s IP address, MAC address, and other identifying system information when they visited specific child pornography-related threads.

“The more that we coordinate and we can get our arguments and pleadings out for other people to use … the better the overall legal products are going to be”

But some lawyers have successfully argued that all the evidence should be suppressed. In others instances, the government’s case has fallen apart after the FBI would not hand over the full code for its malware, even when the judge said the defense had a right to see it. Even suspects who have already had guilty pleas accepted are now successfully having them withdrawn.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – July 29, 2016

  1. June Becker

    I enjoy you Bill Mullins; please be more informative regarding Windows 10, which I downloaded this week! Thank you in advance. June B.