Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – August 24, 2016

Windows 10 tip: Shut down OneDrive completely;  Google will punish sites that use annoying pop-up ads;  Opera brings its free VPN service to Android;  Best Android phones: What should you buy?  Android 7.0, Nougat: The complete FAQ;  Hackers linked to Russian intelligence agencies target The New York Times;  How Facebook censors your posts (FAQ);  No Man’s Sky on PC vs. PS4 — which version is worth playing right now? – and much more news you need to know.

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Windows 10 tip: Shut down OneDrive completely – In Windows 10, OneDrive is built in. The connections are so tight, in fact, that OneDrive has its own node in File Explorer, with no obvious way to remove it. But the options to disconnect OneDrive are there if you know where to look. Here are full instructions.

How to rearrange the quick-actions tiles in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update – Microsoft’s quick actions tiles are a convenient way to get at key system settings. Here’s how to organize them to your liking in the Anniversary Update.

Google will punish sites that use annoying pop-up ads – Google is about to deal a small blow to some of the most annoying ads on mobile: pop-ups and interstitials. It’s not a stretch to argue that readers don’t like these ads. So Google is making a call that websites that use pop-ups and interstitials are worse search results and may rank them lower because of it. There are a “hundreds of signals” that go into Google’s search result rankings, so it’s not like every website that uses these ads will feel pressured to remove them overnight. If a site with a pop-up still has the best information, it’s still likely to appear first. But this change ought to benefit one site over another when those two sites appear roughly equal otherwise.

Opera brings its free VPN service to Android – Like the iOS version, the Android app is based on Opera’s acquisition of SurfEasy in 2015 and allows you to surf safely when you are on a public network. While Opera’s marketing mostly focuses on safety, Opera VPN also allows you to appear as if you are in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Singapore and The Netherlands, so it’s also a way to route around certain geo-restrictions without having to opt for a paid service. In addition to its VPN features, the service also allows you to block ad trackers. Somewhat ironically, though, the app itself will show you some pretty unintrusive ads.

Best Android phones: What should you buy? – Picking an Android phone can be difficult, but we’re here to help. These are the top Android phones you should consider bringing home.

The best mobile email apps for fast, easy inbox management – It’s estimated that Americans spend around six hours a day in their inbox. All that reading, writing, searching, and organizing email not only eats up our time but also our bandwidth, leaving little for the stuff we really need to get done. A number of mobile apps, however, are changing the way we interact with our email so that we can process messages more quickly and move on to more important tasks. These four lead the pack.

How Facebook censors your posts (FAQ) – High-profile videos involving the police and the black community have gripped the country in recent months. They’ve also put a spotlight on the confusing mess that is Facebook’s censorship policies. We’ve put together the FAQ Facebook doesn’t have to help you understand how, when and why you’re being censored.

Facebook is testing videos that autoplay with sound turned on – Facebook is testing a change to its main mobile apps that would have videos automatically start with the sound turned on, according to Mashable. The test, which appears to be active in Australia and may be ongoing in other countries, has Facebook video playing with sound so long as users have the volume on their smartphone turned on. In a similar test, some users are able to activate and deactivate the sound by tapping a small button in the corner of the video, similar to Twitter and Vine’s handling of videos with sound.

Facebook testing new ‘Add Contact’ option in Messenger – Facebook Messenger is testing a new feature that will make the app entirely more useable for some individuals: the ability to request adding a contact with another Messenger user rather than having to add that individual as a ‘friend.’ The new feature is aptly called ‘Add Contact,’ and would exist between Facebook friendship and messaging someone sans any formal affiliation with them; you can, for now, message someone who isn’t a friend by sending them a message request.

Android 7.0, Nougat: The complete FAQ – I never knew it was possible for so many people to be excited about Nougat. Heck, I don’t think I’d even heard the word “nougat” more than 20 times — ever, in my entire life — up until Google decided to use the sweet treat as the name for its latest Android release. But alas, here we are: Android 7.0 is officially on its way into the world, and that means the honey, egg, and nut-based gloop (yup, that’s nougat for ya) is atop many a tech-lover’s mind. So what’s Nougat — the Android software, that is — all about? And what’ll it mean for you? Here are answers to all of your burning questions.

How to jump the queue and download Android 7.0 Nougat now – Here’s how you can get the Android 7.0 Nougat up and running on selected Android devices right now.

Lisn’s new app lets you stream songs for your friends while chatting – “It’s like sharing earphones,” the startup’s website proclaims – and indeed, it does seem like the modern-day version of handing one of your earbuds to a friend. The app allows you to stream and share tracks via SoundCloud and Spotify (either full tracks via Spotify Premium, or 30-second previews). These songs are then synced in real-time when your friend tunes in to listen along with you.

Boomerang launches machine learning email composition tool Respondable – Writing emails that get responses is a valuable skill – but it is hard to determine what makes an email likely to get a response. Boomerang thinks its new tool has the answer for businesses.

Slice’s new browser add-on will email you when prices drop – Slice, a company best known to consumers for its mobile shopping assistant that helps you find the best deals, track packages, organize your receipts, and more, is out today with a new service aimed at helping online shoppers save. Called Slice Watch, its latest app lives in your web browser instead, allowing you to track price drops on items you find online. The idea is something akin to a smarter “wish list” of sorts.

Security:

Hackers linked to Russian intelligence agencies target The New York Times – Hackers believed by US officials to be working for Russian intelligence agencies have targeted American news outlets including The New York Times. The news was first reported by CNN on Tuesday afternoon, with the Times later confirming that there had been an attack on its Russian bureau, but that “there is no evidence that the hackers […] were successful.” CNN reports that the hackers also targeted “other US news organizations” in recent months, but did not specify which outlets. US intelligence officials told the publication that they are considering the attacks as part of a broader series of hacks that include those targeting emails from the Democratic National Committee. The Times says that the FBI is currently investigating the attack on its organization, but denied reports from CNN that it hired private investigators to help do so.

Wildfire ransomware code cracked: Victims can now unlock encrypted files for free – Victims of the Wildfire ransomware can get their encrypted files back without paying hackers for the privilege, after the No More Ransom initiative released a free decryption tool. No More Ransom runs a web portal that provides keys for unlocking files encrypted by various strains of ransomware, including Shade, Coinvault, Rannoh, Rakhn and, most recently, Wildfire. Aimed at helping ransomware victims retrieve their data, No More Ransom is a collaborative project between Europol, the Dutch National Police, Intel Security, and Kaspersky Lab.

NSA-linked Cisco exploit poses bigger threat than previously thought – Recently released code that exploits Cisco System firewalls and has been linked to the National Security Agency can work against a much larger number of models than many security experts previously thought. An exploit dubbed ExtraBacon contains code that prevents it from working on newer versions of Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA), a line of firewalls that’s widely used by corporations, government agencies, and other large organizations. When the exploit encounters 8.4(5) or newer versions of ASA, it returns an error message that prevents it from working. Now researchers say that with a nominal amount of work, they were able to modify ExtraBacon to make it work on a much newer version. While Cisco has said all versions of ASA are affected by the underlying vulnerability in the Simple Network Messaging Protocol, the finding means that ExtraBacon poses a bigger threat than many security experts may have believed.

Juniper confirms leaked NSA exploits affect its firewalls – Shy on specifics, the networking equipment maker wouldn’t say when patches would become available.

‘Grand Theft Auto’ Fan Site Hacked – Details for nearly 200,000 Grand Theft Auto fan site users have been traded on the digital underground. GTAGaming.com, which posts news, screenshots, and other information about the Grand Theft Auto video game series, was breached earlier this month. A source provided Motherboard with the data after finding it on a hacking forum, and it contains email addresses, hashed passwords, dates of birth, and IP addresses. The hacking forum has since shut down.

Has your internet provider been compromised? Malicious insiders are helping cybercriminals hack telecoms firms – Hackers are using both willing and blackmailed staff at internet and phone providers to help them breach networks and steal data.

Singapore will ban civil servants from using the internet – Public servants in Singapore will be barred from using the internet at work, under a new policy aimed at protecting the city-state from cyber attacks and espionage. As Reuters reports, computers in some Singaporean ministries are already disconnected, or “air-gapped,” from the web, but security experts doubt that expanding the policy will do much to enhance cybersecurity. David Koh, head of Singapore’s Cyber Security Agency, tells Reuters that officials decided to air gap government computers after realizing that the threat of a cyber attack “is too real.” Research has shown that countries in Southeast Asia face a higher risk of cyberattack, particularly those implicated in ongoing disputes over the South China Sea.

Company News:

Nintendo sells its majority stake in the Seattle Mariners for $661 million – Nintendo has revealed that it has sold off a majority of its ownership in the Seattle Mariners. They started negotiations to do so in April and it’s just been announced that they have sold their stake to minority shareholders for $661 million, dropping their stake from over 50 percent to 10 percent. The sale will no doubt be good news to Nintendo investors, who have seen the company struggling in recent years as the Wii U failed to live up to its promise. A recent surge in share price attributed to Pokemon Go has helped, however.

Instapaper has been acquired by Pinterest – Instapaper, a pioneering app for saving articles to read later, has been acquired — again. The app, which was created by developer Marco Arment and sold to Betaworks in 2013, has found a new home at Pinterest. The goal is “to accelerate discovering and saving articles on Pinterest,” the company said in a statement. It will continue to operate as a standalone app, and the Instapaper team will work on both that app and on Pinterest generally. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Microsoft acquires intelligent scheduling startup Genee – Microsoft announced Tuesday that it has acquired Genee, a startup that provided a virtual assistant for scheduling appointments.

‘Misleading’ Practices or Go to Court, Watchdog Says – Ashley Madison, the extramarital affair hookup site that was disgraced after a massive hack exposed its users’ personal information last year, fooled prospective users into joining with deceptive practices that included a fake “trusted security award,” Canada’s federal privacy watchdog has concluded in a new report. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) began its investigation into Toronto-based Avid Life Media, which owns Ashley Madison, in August of 2015. On Monday, the OPC released its damning report, which slams the company for poor security practices and misleading claims that likely influenced people to join the site, including the promise of a “100% discreet service.”

Apple acquires Gliimpse, a health data startup – Apple has acquired Gliimpse, a startup that concerns itself with health data and making it easier for patients to access their medical records. Apple has, according to sources, acquired the startup, adding it to its own growing repertoire of health products. Though Apple has confirmed the acquisition, it hasn’t provided any details; sources claim the acquisition took place earlier this year. Gliimpse has not commented on the business deal.

Games and Entertainment:

The 50 Best Video Games of All Time – Whether you play video games or not, they’ve become an integral part of our culture. For some, it’s hard to imagine a world without video games—the chup-chup-boop of an arcade legend like Space Invaders or the growling “Finish Him!” in Mortal Kombat can be as evocative as a Michael Jackson or Beatles tune. Representing multiple generations of gamers, TIME’s tech team put more than 150 nominees through a multistage ranking process to compile a cross-section of gaming’s best ideas across nearly four decades. Here are our picks for the 50 greatest video games of all time.

People are quickly losing interest in Pokémon Go – Pokémon Go is unquestionably this season’s hit game. But whether it has any staying power is a very open question, and early signs suggest it’s already trailing off. Bloomberg has published some charts by Axiom Capital Management that show daily users and engagement dropping. One chart, using data from analytics firm Apptopia, shows Pokémon Go peaking at around 45 million users in mid-July, during the week or so following its launch. It then begins a decline to somewhere above 30 million daily users last week.

No Man’s Sky on PC vs. PS4 — which version is worth playing right now? – While the massive galaxy of No Man’s Sky is unquestionably impressive, a number of technical limitations, public gaffes, and design decisions have caused some disappointment and anger to bubble up online. Is it worth jumping in on your platform of choice, or is a wait-and-see approach still your best bet?

Sony Is About to Turn PCs Into PlayStations – Sony says a PC-compatible version of its PlayStation Now cloud gaming service, which at the moment boasts a catalogue of more than 400 PlayStation 3 games, is imminent in the U.K., and the U.S. and Canada “shortly thereafter.” All you need are a PC, a sufficiently fast broadband connection and a PS Now subscription.

PlayStation Plus annual fee jumping $10 in September, no new features – If you’re a fan of Sony’s PlayStation Plus subscription service—which doles out free monthly downloads for the company’s various systems and enables online play on PS4 games in exchange for an annual fee—you might want to lock in your next annual renewal of $50 per year pretty soon. That’s because the annual fee goes up to $60 (or CAD $70) starting September 22, which is exactly one month after an announcement posted on Monday. Sony took an odd approach to making this announcement: the company edited the news into a late-July alert about the freebies PS Plus members would receive in August. The post did not receive an updated headline, despite the official PlayStation Twitter account linking to the post once it had been edited.

Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit 30-disc bundle will set you back $720 – Warner Bros. has announced a new collection for those who love Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. This new Limited Edition packages the extended versions of all six films together in a 30-disc set called The Middle-Earth Collection, including art books and disc cases made to look like leather-bound books. Sounds pretty nifty doesn’t it?

Off Topic (Sort of):

Blame it on your brain: Researchers discover why we ignore PC security warnings – A BYU study finds that you’ll most often ignore security warnings when you’re busy, which is bad for both the developer and you.

19% of shoppers would abandon a retailer that’s been hacked – Nearly a fifth of shoppers would avoid at a retailer that has been a victim of a cybersecurity hack, according to a survey. The 2016 KPMG Consumer Loss Barometer report surveyed 448 consumers in the U.S. and found that 19% would abandon a retailer entirely over a hack. Another 33% said that fears their personal information would be exposed would keep them from shopping at the breached retailer for more than three months. The study also looked at 100 cybersecurity executives and found that 55% said they haven’t spent money on cybersecurity in the past yearand 42% said their company didn’t have a leader in charge of information security. Those responses confirmed worries that retailers are falling behind other industries like financial services and technology on cybersecurity issues.

Hollywood’s take on cybersecurity – Cybersecurity experts are a small and elite group, and, more often than not, feel the same way watching movies about our field that genuine medical doctors do as they watch Patrick Dempsey and Kate Walsh trade flirtatious one-liners over a flat-lining patient’s body on “Grey’s Anatomy,” or how forensic pathologists feel when watching CSI. It’s entertaining, perhaps, but not enough to counter the cringe. This baseline frustration explains some of the crazy hype for “Snowden,” Oliver Stone’s hotly anticipated take on the most famous government whistle-blower of our time. Even the story of the film’s evolution is fascinating to those of us who work in the same fields as Snowden once did: Director Oliver Stone was so paranoid about the National Security Agency interfering in his project that he packed up cast and crew and moved the entire set to Germany — and even in Europe the long fingers of the U.S. government continued to stymie him throughout filming. But as we get our tickets and popcorn ready, it’s a good time to take a look at the rare handful of film and TV projects that actually got hacking, and the complicated business of security in the cybersphere, right.

What a Night of Sleep Deprivation Does to Your Brain – Sleep: We all do it, a lot of us enjoy it, but no one knows exactly why we need it or what it does. We know that sleep deprivation can cause physical and psychological damage, yet it has also proved a very fast and effective treatment for depression (albeit usually only until the person falls asleep again). Basically, there’s a lot about sleep that’s still a mystery. Christoph Nissen, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist at the University Medical Center Freiburg in Germany, wants to understand more about the function of sleep in order to unravel potential mechanisms of related disorders and treatments. To do so, he and a team of researchers recently measured people’s brain activity after a night of sleep and a night of no sleep. They found several key differences in the sleep-deprived participants. Their results are published in Nature Communications.

Happy 25th birthday, Linux – Linux will turn 25 years old on August 25, the day Linus Torvalds sent out his fateful message asking for help with a new operating system. “I’m doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won’t be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing since april, and is starting to get ready. I’d like any feedback on things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it somewhat (same physical layout of the file-system (due to practical reasons) among other things),” he wrote in the comp.os.minix message board. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Numbers lie all the time: How political polls work – The business of numbers is big business. Read our quick guide to how polling works, how big data changed the industry, and the most influential and accurate polls of the 2016 election.

Something to think about:

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

–      Peter Drucker (1909 – 2005)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

France and Germany want Europe to crack down on encryption – France and Germany this week called on the European Union to adopt a law that would require app companies to make encrypted messages available to law enforcement, as part of Europe’s ongoing efforts to thwart terrorist attacks.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and his German counterpart, Thomas de Maizière, said in a joint proposal released Tuesday that encrypted messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram “constitute a challenge during investigations” by making it difficult for law enforcement to conduct surveillance on suspected terrorists. The proposal calls on the European Commission to draft a law that would oblige app makers to “remove illicit content” and “decrypt messages” in terrorist investigations.

Intelligence officials in the US and Europe have argued that end-to-end encryption makes it easier for terrorists to covertly plot attacks, since the content of encrypted messages is only accessible to senders and recipients. But privacy advocates and security experts say that creating “backdoors” for law enforcement would jeopardize security and user privacy.

The proposal announced Tuesday follows a spate of attacks across both France and Germany this summer, including an attack at a church in Normandy that was carried out by two jihadists who reportedly met on Telegram. The proposal acknowledges that encryption plays a critical role in securing communications and financial transactions, though it says that “[s]olutions must be found to enable effective investigation” while protecting user privacy. The ministers urged the European Commission to discuss encryption at a summit on security next month in Bratislava.

Turkish Journalist Jailed for Terrorism Was Framed, Forensics Report Shows – Turkish investigative journalist Barış Pehlivan spent 19 months in jail, accused of terrorism based on documents found on his work computer. But when digital forensics experts examined his PC, they discovered that those files were put there by someone who removed the hard drive from the case, copied the documents, and then reinstalled the hard drive.

The attackers also attempted to control the journalist’s machine remotely, trying to infect it using malicious email attachments and thumb drives. Among the viruses detected in his computer was an extremely rare trojan called Ahtapot, in one of the only times it’s been seen in the wild.

“We have never seen a computer attacked as ferociously as Barış’s. The attackers seemed to pull everything out of their bag of tricks,” Mark Spencer, digital forensics expert at Arsenal Consulting, said.

Pehlivan went to jail in February of 2011, along with six of his colleagues, after electronic evidence seized during a police raid in 2011 appeared to connect all of them to Ergenekon, an alleged armed group accused of terrorism in Turkey.

Report: WikiLeaks published rape victims’ names, credit cards, medical data – Even as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sits trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, the WikiLeaks website continues to publish the secrets of various governments worldwide.

But that’s not all it’s publishing. A report today by the Associated Press highlights citizens who had “sensitive family, financial or identity records” published by the site.

“They published everything: my phone, address, name, details,” said one Saudi man whose paternity dispute was revealed on documents published by the site. “If the family of my wife saw this… Publishing personal stuff like that could destroy people.”

One document dump, from Saudi diplomatic cables, held at least 124 medical files. The files named sick children, refugees, and patients with psychiatric conditions.

In one case, the cables included the name of a Saudi who was arrested for being gay. In Saudi Arabia, homosexuality is punishable by death. In two other cases, WikiLeaks published the names of teenage rape victims.

Rights groups decry plan to inspect social media of US-bound tourists – Calling it “highly invasive” and “ineffective,” more than two dozen rights groups urged the US Department of Homeland Security on Monday to scrap a proposal asking the millions of tourists entering the country each year to reveal their “online presence,” such as social media identities. The government announced in June that it wanted to implement the plan to give the DHS “clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections.”

A coalition of 28 groups are not in favor. “This program would invade individual privacy and imperil freedom of expression while being ineffective and prohibitively expensive to implement and maintain,” the organizations, led by the Center for Democracy & Technology,  wrote the government.

The plan adds a line to the paper form and the online Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) application that US-bound visitors must fill out if they don’t have a visa and plan on staying for up to 90 days for vacation, business, or other affairs. The agency says travelers coming to the US under the Visa Waiver Program won’t be forced to disclose their social media handles. The authorities said it was “optional.” However, as we all know, leaving it blank could raise red flags.

This is what will be asked: “Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.” This field doesn’t call for additional information such as passwords.

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