Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – August 10, 2016

Windows 10 Anniversary Update: Watch out for these nasty surprises;  Microsoft rolls out several new Windows 10 cumulative updates;  Why Tor and privacy may no longer be synonymous;  Facebook will start showing ads even if you have an ad blocker;  Hulu will soon end its free streaming options;  4 essential Android add-ons for Google Docs and Sheets;  Google Chrome puts Flash to pasture starting next month;  Surprise: a lot of smart locks have terrible security  –  and much more news you need to know.

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Windows 10 Anniversary Update: Watch out for these nasty surprises – Windows 10 users are getting the first major update to the operating system in just under a year, with the release of the Anniversary Update. But alongside the new features and fixes are some more unwelcome changes, ranging from less control for users to frozen machines. Here are the main gotchas to look out for, as well as some fixes.

Microsoft rolls out several new Windows 10 cumulative updates – Microsoft is making a number of fixes and reliability and performance improvements available across a variety of different flavors of Windows 10 via new Cumulative Updates.

How to adjust your AutoPlay settings in Windows 10 – Control how AutoPlay responds to various removable media in Windows, so you can enjoy the feature’s convenience while minimizing the risk to your PC’s security.

11 Much-Hyped Tech Features That Aren’t Worth the Money – Not all tech features are created equal. These nine aren’t worth the extra cash.

Why Tor and privacy may no longer be synonymous – Many security experts and tech journalists for years have been championing Tor, a platform designed to prevent network traffic analysis (a surveillance technique) as a means to securely share sensitive information over public networks without compromising the sender’s privacy. However, these same pundits (including me) are now warning that government agencies, including the FBI, are finding ways to circumvent the technology behind Tor. Knowing that might, and should, give pause to those who use and rely on Tor. Adding more fuel to the fire are two researchers at Northeastern University: Guevara Noubir, professor of computer and information science, and Amirali Sanatinia, Ph.D. student.

Facebook will start showing ads even if you have an ad blocker – It is not an unreasonable position — Facebook is free to use, completely optional, and funded by advertisements — but the change is likely to tick off those who find ads frustrating enough to block. To remedy that, Facebook is giving users the ability to block ads from certain businesses, as well as ads that pertain to various interests, “like travel or cats.” Its hope is that by letting users remove unwanted ads and only receive more personalized ones, the ads it does show will be far less annoying.

4 essential Android add-ons for Google Docs and Sheets – Create mobile apps, e-sign documents, and more right from your phone with these third-party enhancements.

Soon, All Twitter Users Will be Able to Create Moments – Twitter on Tuesday announced it is expanding its Moments feature to a larger group of partners, brands, and “influencers,” like civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson. And, more exciting than that: in the coming months, all Twitter users will be able to create their own Moments, which, for the uninitiated, are essentially collections of tweets that tell a story. Until now, only Twitter’s curation team and a small group of publishing partners (like BuzzFeed, The New York Times, and Major League Baseball) have been able to create Moments.

Hulu will soon end its free streaming options – Hulu will reportedly stop offering free video, but the streaming service’s users still be able to find some of Hulu’s free shows thanks to a new business partnership with Yahoo. In the next few days, Hulu will begin notifying customers of a plan to “shutter its offering of no-cost, ad-supported television and movies,” The Hollywood Reporter wrote today. Hulu has already de-emphasized its free offerings, attempting to push customers toward subscription plans that cost $8 to $12 a month.

Google is rolling out a Wi-Fi-only mode for Maps on Android – Back in July, Google began testing a new feature that would allow users to enable a Wi-Fi-only mode for Maps, which would help those with limited or expensive data plans avoid overages. Well apparently the tests went well, as Google has started rolling out the addition to Google Maps on Android. Wi-Fi-only mode can be toggled on in settings and will limit the app to only working with your saved offline areas unless you’re connected over Wi-Fi, while the rest of your device operates as normal. Maps for Android is also picking up SD card support, allowing you to download those offline maps without eating up your local storage.

How to set up Google Family Sharing to share apps, books, movies, and more – Here’s what you need to know about Google Play’s new scheme to make all of its content easier to share.

Netflix’s speed test tool is now on iOS and Android – Netflix launched an internet speed test at Fast.com back in May, and this week it rolled out dedicated apps for the tool on iOS and Android. While the apps are identical to the website, Fast’s launch as an app could go a long way toward getting people to use it. And that’s a big part of the goal here: the more people using Fast, the more data Netflix has on where internet service providers are doing a poor job. There’s good reason to pick Fast over other speed tests, too. Service providers are well aware of certain popular testing sites, and they can optimize their network to perform better on those specific tests.

Inbox for Gmail adds Trello, GitHub, and Google Alerts summaries – Inbox for Gmail has become a little more organized starting today, assuming you get notifications from Trello, GitHub, or Google Alerts. Those who use Trello, for example, will find a summary of their projects in their Gmail inbox, making it easier to see the projects’ status in one place. Similarly, GitHub users will see a summary detailing issues and code changes in repositories and Google Alerts users will see alerts grouped together.

Google Chrome puts Flash to pasture starting next month – There really is no stopping Flash’s demise. Not when all the major browsers have ganged up on it. The latest to pull the plug is Google’s Chrome, which is kickstarting the process to Flash’s exit from the Web scene starting in September. Of course, that doesn’t mean that annoying ads, especially video ones, will be going away forever, though some will undoubtedly see some downtime on Chrome browsers. It just means that, eventually, they will be taking on a more resource efficient, standards compliant form.

Security:

Kaspersky Lab offers free anti-ransomware tool for Windows – Kaspersky recently teamed with Intel Security, Europol, and the Dutch Police to launch No More Ransom, a free online portal which provides keys to unlocking encrypted files, as well as information on how to avoid getting infected in the first place. Kaspersky Lab’s tool combines two technologies: the cloud-based Kaspersky Security Network, which processes data of voluntarily participants across the globe, and System Watcher, a security technology that records and analyses network events, along with providing evidence of malicious activity.

Surprise: a lot of smart locks have terrible security – As I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, the security of these devices is often inadequate. This week at DEF CON, two researchers, Anthony Rose and Ben Ramsey, emphasized this point by demonstrating how they easily compromised 12 different Bluetooth Low Energy smart locks using cheap hardware that cost around $200 altogether. Some devices, including the Quicklock Doorlock & Padlock and the iBluLock Padlock, stored passwords in plain text. Anyone with a Bluetooth sniffer could gain access. Other locks, including the Ceomate Bluetooth Smart Doorlock and the Elecycle EL797, were vulnerable to replay attacks, which means the researchers grabbed data over the air when a legitimate user unlocked the lock, and they then just replayed that data to gain access. Some of the other attacks were a bit more intricate, although still fairly basic.

Website for Australian census 2016 attacked, ABS says – THE minister responsible for the Census has denied that the national survey was “hacked” or “attacked”, despite public statements from the Australian Bureau of Statistics claiming otherwise. In an overdue press conference this morning after more than 12 hours of confusion, Small Business Minister Michael McCormack said: “This was not an attack, nor was it a hack. “It was an attempt to frustrate the collection of data, an attempt to frustrate the collection of data. People should feel rest assured their data is safe.” This directly contradicts tweets and a press release issued by the ABS this morning, which stated there were four “attacks”. (recommended by Mal C.)

Android’s ‘Verify Apps’ feature may keep QuadRooter threats at bay – Yesterday we told you about a rather scary set of vulnerabilities that could potentially threaten as many as 900 million Android devices. Known as “QuadRooter,” the set of four vulnerabilities was discovered in Qualcomm drivers, lending to how widespread the threat is. However, today we’re getting confirmation that a feature introduced way back in Android 4.2 Jelly Bean could stop QuadRooter in its tracks, and it was designed specifically for scenarios like this.

Researchers crack open unusually advanced malware that hid for 5 years – The malware—known alternatively as “ProjectSauron” by researchers from Kaspersky Lab and “Remsec” by their counterparts from Symantec—has been active since at least 2011 and has been discovered on 30 or so targets. Its ability to operate undetected for five years is a testament to its creators, who clearly studied other state-sponsored hacking groups in an attempt to replicate their advances and avoid their mistakes. State-sponsored groups have been responsible for malware like the Stuxnet- or National Security Agency-linked Flame, Duqu, and Regin. Much of ProjectSauron resides solely in computer memory and was written in the form of Binary Large Objects, making it hard to detect using antivirus.

Data theft rises sharply, insiders to blame – A new survey exploring the main causes of corporate data breaches suggests that three out of four organizations in the US have been hit with the loss or theft of sensitive data in the last two years — and insiders are usually the ones at fault. According to the researchers involved in the study, rising data breach and information loss is often due in part to compromised employee accounts, which is further exacerbated by staff and third parties having access to more sensitive information than they need. In addition, the “continued failure” by businesses to properly monitor access and activity around email and file systems is to blame.

Follow a Trail of Twitter Porn Bots and This Is Where They’ll Take You – Everyone has probably come across a Twitter porn bot at some point. You go to check your notifications, someone called “Viola13” has liked your tweet, and she wants you to check out her latest sexy pics, or something. Tired of the alerts from fake accounts, I decided to dig into a few that had recently interacted with my tweets, curious as to where all these bots were coming from. Who were all these attractive women, some with the same profile picture, and why were they so fascinated with my Twitter stream? What I found was a network of over a dozen interlinked dodgy-looking dating websites, just a click or two away from the porn bot underbelly of Twitter.

Company News:

Lyft starts selling $20 physical gift cards at Starbucks – On demand ride provider Lyft is getting physical – creating actual gift cards with $20 in ride credit that people can buy beginning today at participating Starbucks stores across the U.S. The cards also come with a $5 Starbucks gift card as a free bonus, and Lyft passengers will also start being able to earn Starbucks Reward Stars by riding. This isn’t Lyft’s first tie-up with Starbucks: The ride-sharing provider teamed up with the coffee seller first in July 2015, when a multi-year deal kicked off with Lyft drivers getting the chance to opt in to Gold Level status int he old My Starbucks Reward program. Drivers could also receives Starbucks virtual gift cards as tips from riders. The two are also testing a program (Lyft confirms the test continues) in the Bay Area where Starbucks employees would get free rides from work starting late at night and continuing until early AM.

Facebook is testing a new Wi-Fi service in India – Facebook’s latest effort to provide people with internet so they can become Facebook users is taking shape as Express Wifi, a new program that lets phone owners in India purchase data from local internet service providers. Effectively, Facebook is providing software that helps local ISPs and entrepreneurs sell and provide internet service in rural areas, which can be accessed via public Wi-Fi hotspots. Express Wifi has already completed a trial period in the country with a local state-run telecom and about 125 rural Wi-Fi hotspots, according to the BBC. This is Facebook’s second attempt to provide connections for one of the world’s most populous and fast-growing countries.

Disney will invest $1B into MLB’s streaming video business – The Walt Disney Company just announced that it’s paying $1 billion for a 33 percent stake in BAMTech, the video streaming company created by Major League Baseball. As a result of the deal, BAMTech is also spinning out of MLB’s broader digital media business, MLB Advanced Media. BAMTech’s clients aren’t limited to baseball (they include HBO Now, the National Hockey League, the PGA Tour and the WWE Network), and Disney says it will be working on its own streaming efforts with the company. In fact, those efforts will include a new multi-sport subscription service from Disney-owned ESPN.

AT&T to Pay $7.75M For Phone Bill Scam – AT&T will pay $7.75 million to settle an FCC investigation into whether the company added unauthorized cell phone charges to customers’ bills. According to the FCC, the carrier allowed scammers to charge approximately $9 per month for a sham directory assistance service.

Games and Entertainment:

You can now play more than 2,000 Amiga games in your browser – In its latest tribute to retro gaming, the Internet Archive has uploaded a treasure trove of games, applications, and demos for the Amiga family of computers. You can play all of them for free, directly in your browser, but be warned — you might run into a few glitchy titles. There are more than 2,000 games online, including classics such as Bubble Bobble, R Type, and Double Dragon. However, our searching couldn’t find a number of well-loved Amiga titles, such as Elite, Cannon Fodder, and The Secret of Monkey Island (all of which were available on other platforms as well). There are also thousands more applications and demo titles, designed to shown off the hardware’s capabilities, though, of course, we’ve not had time to look through them all.

No Man’s Sky is an immersive wonder for solitary wanderers – The change in perception you experience as a player coming back to your ship after a long trip on foot for the first time in No Man’s Sky is astounding.

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Pokemon GO update tries to prevent driving while playing – Niantic has pushed out another Pokemon GO update, and first among the changes is an effort to curb driving while playing. After updating, players will be reminded not to play Pokemon GO if they’re “traveling above a certain speed,” per Niantic’s wording. The game will require the player to confirm they aren’t driving in order to keep playing, presumably when the game detects they’re going over that ‘certain speed.’ As well, the update fixes some more bugs, enables nickname changes, and more.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Myth busted: Older workers are just as tech-savvy as younger ones, says new survey – We’ve seen them in movies for years: The bumbling, out-of-touch older person at the office who just can’t figure out how to turn on a computer or send a text. Contrary to this pervasive stereotype, a recent Dropbox survey of more than 4,000 IT workers found that people over age 55 are actually less likely than their younger colleagues to find using tech in the workplace stressful. On average, people 55 and up used 4.9 forms of technology per week, compared to the overall average of 4.7 per week, the survey found. Only 13% of respondents aged 55 and older reported having trouble working with multiple devices, compared to 37% of 18-to-34-year olds. Despite their evident tech skills, workers in all age groups tended to believe that older workers were slower to adopt new technology, with 59% of 18-34 year olds reporting feeling this way.

An Amateur’s Guide to Taking Photos of the Perseid Meteor Shower – Get your cameras ready, astro-nerds: This week brings a regular highlight to space-gazing with the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, and it’s expected to be a particularly good one this year. Watching the meteor shower isn’t difficult—go out at night, away from streetlights and clouds, allow 45 minutes for your eyes to adjust, and look up. Getting a picture, though slightly trickier, doesn’t have to require hugely professional kit.

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Why privacy is the killer app – Companies are consuming, processing, amassing and analyzing massive volumes of consumer data to help marketers advertise, personalize, predict and convert browsers into buyers. Add to that the inevitable explosive growth of internet connected “things” and the speed at which artificial intelligence is maturing to help interpret massive amounts of data and make decisions. It’s clear that the era of data-driven marketing is just getting started. Whether this is a utopian or dystopian view of the future depends on your perspective. For marketers, the availability of data is a dream. For the general public, the aftershock of Edward Snowden’s revelations about government surveillance has created a growing awareness and concern about how personal data is used. Privacy is rapidly becoming the defining issue of the digital era.

Humans Have Used All the Earth’s Resources for the Year – As of yesterday, we’ve officially overspent nature’s resource budget, according to the Global Footprint Network, an international climate research organization. Metaphorically speaking, if Earth were a bank, we’d be in over our heads with overdraft fees. This year, “Earth Overshoot Day” fell on August 8, based on measurements of each nation’s withdrawal of natural capital. From carbon sinks to fisheries, humanity has taken more from nature than it’s been able to reproduce. Quite simply, we’re in environmental debt.

Twitter explodes over Trump Second Amendment ‘joke’ – Technically Incorrect: An aside made by the Republican candidate was interpreted by many as suggesting the assassination of his Democratic opponent.

Something to think about:

“You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.”

–      Eric Hoffer

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Local Police In Canada Used ‘Stingray’ Surveillance Device Without a Warrant – For years, Canadian police have successfully kept their use of controversial and indiscriminate surveillance devices called IMSI catchers a secret.

Today, for the first time, and thanks to a year-long effort by a coalition of civil rights organizations and Vancouver-based Pivot Legal Society, we know that at least one local police force in Canada has used an IMSI catcher, also referred to as a “Stingray”: the Vancouver PD.

According to the BC Civil Liberties Association, which posted a blog announcing the news on Monday, the Vancouver police used an IMSI catcher once, nearly a decade ago, and without a warrant.

“We sent a letter asking the Vancouver police if they’d ever used one of the RCMP’s IMSI catchers, and if they would again,” said Micheal Vonn, policy director for the BCCLA. “The answer to both questions was yes.”

The police force claimed that the surveillance device was used under “exigent circumstances,” Vonn said, meaning that there was an imminent threat that couldn’t wait for a warrant to be dealt with. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the Vancouver police maintained in May of this year that they possess no records relating to their use of IMSI catchers.

FBI chief Comey: “We have never had absolute privacy” – FBI Director James Comey has some phones—650 of them, to be exact—that he’d really, really like to take a look at.

Right now, the FBI can’t read the data on those phones, because it’s encrypted. For Comey, that’s a problem. In remarks to the American Bar Association on Friday, he made it clear this is an issue he intends to bring up before Congress next year.

While nothing other than the election will get politicians’ attention during the next few months, Comey told the audience that he intends to gather data about how the problem of encryption, which he calls “going dark,” is affecting his agents’ work. Then, he’ll present the findings to Congress.

“I love encryption,” he said. “I love it. It not only protects me personally, it protects the FBI from theft, and stalking, and threatening. It is a great thing for all of us. I also love public safety, and being able to solve terrorism cases and child pornography cases. We can have an informed conversation as a democracy about what to do about it. A democracy should not drift to a place.”

Court: Feds must get warrant to search e-mail, even if cops find child porn – A federal appeals court in Denver has ruled that e-mailed images obtained by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children constituted a warrantless search and therefore must be suppressed as part of a child pornography case.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last Friday in favor of a Kansas man who sent an e-mail in April 2013 with four attachments that included suspected child porn via his AOL account. AOL immediately flagged the message via its hash value matching algorithm, believing one of the attached images was suspect, and sent them all on to NCMEC. (Providers have a “duty to report” to the NCMEC if their users access, transmit, or store child pornography.) The agency then opened his message and confirmed that Walter Ackerman had indeed attempted to transmit not just one, but four illegal images.

The following month, a Homeland Security Investigations special agent got the tip through the NCMEC system, and he sought and received a warrant to search Ackerman’s home in Lebanon, Kansas. Under questioning, Ackerman admitted to distributing child pornography via e-mail. Months later, Ackerman was formally indicted on two counts of child pornography. His lawyers filed a motion to suppress in February 2014, arguing that his e-mail was searched illegally. Ackerman eventually accepted a plea deal in September 2014. Although he was sentenced to 170 months in prison, he was kept out of custody pending an appeal on the Fourth Amendment question.

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