Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – September 23, 2016

How the Yahoo mail hack affects you, and what to do;  How online surveillance cracked our trust in the web;  The Best Free Music Download Sites;  How To Make Your Kids Smarter: 10 Steps Backed By Science;   Google Allo: Don’t use it, says Edward Snowden;  How to use your Android, iOS, or Windows 10 smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot;  Firefox Will Now Narrate Articles as You Browse;  Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 review: The finest soccer game ever made – and much more news you need to know.

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How the Yahoo mail hack affects you, and what to do – Today is was revealed that Yahoo experienced a breach of account names and passwords of epic proportions. Now we’re running down the ways which users – any user of Yahoo products of all sorts, with Yahoo accounts – should move forward. This includes password changing. This includes the potential use of Yahoo’s Account Key. It includes not having a heart attack about the situation while, at the same time, understanding that one’s account breach could mean some very serious things.

Google Allo: Don’t use it, says Edward Snowden – Google’s Allo messaging app and its Assistant bot have finally arrived, but Allo has been slammed for reneging on a promise that it would, by default, make it more difficult to spy on. Because of the missing privacy feature, NSA-contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden’s first take of Allo after yesterday’s US launch is that it’s just a honeypot for surveillance.

How to use your Android, iOS, or Windows 10 smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot – If your life is anything like mine, that will be the moment when you absolutely must get your laptop online to make adjustments to a document, or reply to a lengthy email. Sure, you could tough it out and do this work on your phone, but that small screen can be a big hassle for major work. That’s why knowing how to turn your smartphone into a Wi-Fi hotspot for your laptop is so useful.

Hands-on: Opera’s free, unlimited browser VPN is ready for secure surfing – Opera says its VPN service exists as an independent company, operating under strict Canadian privacy laws.

How to use advanced options in Windows 10 to access BIOS settings – In years past, getting to the BIOS configuration software involved pressing a specific key on the keyboard just before the operating system started to load. With Microsoft Windows 10, the advent of UEFI Firmware, and the fast boot setting now common on many PCs, getting to the BIOS settings these days often requires a far different approach and, as you will see, it can hardly be called intuitive. Here is how you access the BIOS settings screen if you are not given the opportunity to do so before Windows 10 starts loading.

Firefox Will Now Narrate Articles as You Browse – Mozilla just updated its browser with an option for text to be read aloud. This means Reader Mode will now narrate that article for you while you listen and browse the Web freely without interruptions. As Firefox users may know, Reader Mode strips away clutter from a page — things like buttons, ads, and background images — and changes the page’s text size, contrast, and layout for better readability. With this update, Mozilla has also added more customization options for Reader Mode, so you can adjust the text and fonts, as well as the voice narrating for you. If you tend to stay up late, you can now read in the dark better by changing the theme from light to dark.

Windows 10 tip: Change UEFI firmware settings or start in Safe Mode – Who can remember the magic keystroke combo that unlocks your PC’s UEFI firmware settings screen? Use the hidden Advanced Options menu instead; it lets you choose advanced startup options for maintenance or troubleshooting.

10 Quick Tips to Fix Your Bad Photos – It’s easy to place the blame on the camera (or your smartphone) if your images aren’t as nice as some others you see online, but by following a few guidelines you can improve the quality of your snapshots—without having to shell out big bucks for a new camera. Keep these 10 easy tips in mind next time you head out to capture the world around you. And if you have any tips that have helped you take better pictures, please share them in the comments section.

Samsung has shut down Milk Music – Samsung users are going to have to find a new way to listen to music: the company announced that it would be shuttering its streaming radio service Milk Music. According to Variety, Samsung will be shutting down Milk Music on September 22nd, urging its Galaxy and Note smartphone users to switch over to Slacker Radio, which powered the system. The elimination of the service has been rumored for several months, with reports that the company was going to shutter the service because it had failed to gain traction with users.

The Best Free Music Download Sites – What is this, you say? You don’t want to pay for music? Good on you! Live that frugal lifestyle since it’s only a matter of time before most humans lose the ability to make a living in an economy run by increasingly capable robots. Thankfully, there are a number of (legal) platforms out there where you can still find all manner of free music to download. Here are just a few.

Facebook Messenger now lets you poll your friends – Facebook Messenger is getting a new update today, tossing a pair of interesting new features into the mix. First and foremost is the addition of polls, which will let groups make decisions though the age-old concept of majority rule. Payments are also being refined in this update, and can now pick out phrases that would normally be associated with money to summon a “send money” button within the conversation itself.

Amazon Fights for Your Kids’ Eyeballs With $100 Kindle Bundle – Thinking of getting your kid an e-reader this holiday season? Amazon has just the thing. The Web giant just introduced a new, $100 Kindle for Kids Bundle, which includes the latest Kindle e-reader without sponsored screensavers; a kid-friendly cover in blue, green, pink, or purple; and a two-year guarantee. With that guarantee, if anything happens to the e-reader you can send it back to Amazon and the company will replace it with a new one for free, “no questions asked.”

With Google Pixel, the Android promise fulfilled, at last! – This October Google will have fulfilled the promise they’ve been making on the Android operating system for the past decade. In the year 2005, Google acquired Android. In 2011, Google acquired Motorola (then, not long after, sold everything but their patents). In 2016, Google is in a position to not only create a set of Android smartphones and control the hardware, sales, and distribution, but the software, too. Google will be panned for copying Apple’s game plan with these devices, but these devices will be exactly what consumers want, and will buy.


Yahoo says half a billion accounts breached by nation-sponsored hackers – At least half a billion Yahoo accounts have been breached by what investigators believe is a nation-sponsored hacking operation. Attackers probably gained access to a wealth of holders’ personal information, including names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, answers to security questions, and cryptographically protected passwords. Yahoo Chief Information Security Officer Bob Lord dropped that bombshell announcement on Thursday afternoon, several hours after news site Recode reported the company was poised to disclose a compromise affecting several hundred million accounts. With at least 500 million accounts included in Yahoo’s official statement, the breach is among the biggest ever to hit a single Web property.

Hackers post emails from White House staffer, including Michelle Obama’s passport – Anonymous hackers have compromised the private Gmail account of a low-level White House staffer, and posted the email archive publicly on the site DCLeaks. It’s the same site that published Colin Powell’s personal email archive earlier this month, as well as emails from the Democratic National Committee. A number of analysts believe the site is part of a Russian effort to influence US politics. The emails deal largely with day-to-day logistics, but also include what appears to be an image of first lady Michelle Obama’s passport. Since the staffer’s duties largely involve travel and other logistics, it’s plausible he would have had access to the passport, although it’s unclear why it was sent through his personal Gmail address.

Hackers sell tool to spread malware through torrent files – Be careful with what you torrent. A new tool on the black market is helping hackers distribute malware through torrent files in exchange for a fee. On Tuesday, security researchers at InfoArmor said they discovered the so-called “RAUM” tool in underground forums. It leverages torrenting — a popular file-sharing method associated with piracy — to spread the malware. Popular torrent files, especially games, are packaged with malicious coding and then uploaded for unsuspecting users to download. Using torrents to infect computers is nothing new. But the makers of the RAUM tool have streamlined the whole process with a “Pay-Per-Install” model, according to InfoArmor.

Which political party is more cybersecure? – Cybersecurity expert Tim Bandos reveals which political party is most vulnerable, common hacking techniques, and what companies can learn from watching how the DNC and RNC respond to cyberthreats.

71 percent of Australian-used IoT devices failed privacy probe – 71 percent of devices and services used by Australians did not provide a privacy policy nor a notice explaining how personal information is collected, used, and stored.

Report: The top 6 industries hit by ransomware – Education, government, and healthcare top the list of at-risk sectors, according to a new report. Here’s what you need to know to protect your company.

Company News:

Facebook gave advertisers inflated video-viewing metrics for two years – Facebook has been overestimating the average time it told advertisers that users were spending watching videos on its platform for two years, possibly affecting marketer spending on Facebook ads. The miscalculation likely led to an overestimated viewing time of 60 percent to 80 percent, according to a letter sent to an ad-buying agency that was reviewed by the Wall Street Journal. Facebook said it had taken steps to correct the issue. Facebook shares fell $1.78 to $128.30, or 1.3 percent, in after-hours trading after the Journal reported the error.

Yelp fighting court order requiring it to remove negative review – California’s top court is agreeing to hear a case in which a lower court has ordered Yelp to remove a bad review. The California Supreme Court did not say when it would hear the case that tests the Communications Decency Act, which San Francisco-based Yelp maintains protects it from having to remove content on its site posted by third parties. The case concerns a June decision by a state appeals court that requires Yelp to remove a defamatory review about a law firm written by an unhappy client. A lower court issued a default judgement for over $500,000 against the reviewer, Ava Bird, for a review that the law firm claimed was defamatory. Bird was sued for defamation but was a no-show in court.

Amazon undercuts rivals with launch of new photo printing service, Amazon Prints – Watch out, Shutterfly. Amazon has quietly launched a new service called Amazon Prints, which allows consumers to print photos and custom photo books, and soon, other photo products like stationery and calendars, at prices significantly cheaper than rivals. Though the company made no formal announcement, Amazon Prints debuted last week and is being made available to customers who use the Amazon Drive cloud storage service – in fact, that’s the only way you can use Prints, as it turns out. The news of the launch caused Shutterfly’s stock to take a big nose-dive, Bloomberg reported. With shares dropping 12 percent to close at $44.20 on Wednesday, it clocked in as the worst single-day decline for Shutterfly stock since February 2008.

Apple acquires another machine learning company: Tuplejump – Apple is on a machine learning company buying spree. After buying Perceptio at the end of 2015 and Turi just a few months ago, Apple has now acquired an India/US-based machine learning team, Tuplejump. We’d been hearing rumors of another acquisition in this space by Apple for some time. While Apple won’t outright confirm it, when asked about Tuplejump this morning, a representative from Apple gave us the company’s standard we’re-not-saying-yes-but-well-yes response that they only give when they have, in fact, bought the company in question:

Samsung, LG, and Vizio accused of exploiting TV energy tests – Scoring better energy use and efficiency makes a TV more desirable to consumers, so manufacturers are keen to score as best they can. What the NRDC discovered is that because the test loop used in the EnergyGuide testing is well known, it can be exploited. More specifically, Samsung, LG, and Vizio TVs have their energy saving features turned on during tests, but they are disabled if and when an owner adjusts settings on their TV. The tests also do not test the most up-to-date content and do not take into account relatively new visual features such as HDR or 4K content viewing, both of which can increase energy use.

Games and Entertainment:

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 review: The finest soccer game ever made – There are many ways to interpret the beautiful game. Some teams prefer to keep the ball on the turf. Others prefer to launch it into the air. Defending deep in your own half is an option, as is pushing up the pitch towards the opposition. And do you play physically, or cerebrally? As long as you play by the rules, in football, there is no right or wrong approach. PES 2017 continues this tradition. Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus, and Paris-Saint Germain all play very differently in real life, and that’s ably represented in PES. Football is a simple game made complex through myriad approaches it offers players, teams, and mangers. No other game comes as close to replicating those intricacies with a pair of analogue sticks as PES does. Simply put, PES 2017 is the finest football game ever made.


You can now stream Android games to Facebook Live from your PC – Game streaming is something that everyone working in streamed video wants a part of, and now Facebook Live can stream Android games (and other apps) via the BlueStacks desktop emulator for PC and Mac. The integration is pretty smart, and while it was previously available for Twitch, the addition of Facebook Live support means mobile games streamers can potentially reach a different, more varied audience than they might encounter on Amazon’s more gamer-centric streaming network.

Forza Horizon 3 (PC) review impressions: Get ready to make your graphics card sweat – Ever since Microsoft announced its Xbox Play Anywhere program—a fancy name for “We’re porting all our first-party titles to PC”—the game I’ve been looking forward to most is Forza Horizon 3. Bombing through the back-country of Australia at 144 frames per second, music thumping, tires squealing, reflections…reflecting. And after spending most of a night with the game, I can confirm it’s gorgeous. You’re going to need one monster of a PC, though.


Minecraft: Education Edition arrives November 1 – The full version of Minecraft: Education Edition is finally arriving on November 1, following an extended testing and free trial period that began this summer. The version of Minecraft aimed at educators and schools came out of Microsoft’s acquisition of learning game MinecraftEdu earlier this year, which built upon Minecraft to give teachers tools to build lessons around STEM, art, language and more. The free trials will still be available to educators up until the launch date, giving them a way to check out the early access edition and evaluate whether they might want to use the full software once it’s available. Minecraft: Education Edition will then be available for purchase from November 1 and following. Pricing is $5 per user, per year, and customers can either buy directly on their own, or via Microsoft’s Enrollment for Education Solutions volume licensing arrangement.

October Xbox Live Games With Gold Lineup Revealed – Heads up, Xbox Live Gold members: Microsoft just revealed next month’s Games With Gold lineup. Like usual, you can expect four free games in October — two on Xbox One and two on Xbox 360.

YouTube Gaming update smooths out chat experience and drops in a new Easter Egg – Version 1.7 also is built to better support Android Nougat and fix a number of pesky bugs that have hung around.

Off Topic (Sort of):

How To Make Your Kids Smarter: 10 Steps Backed By Science – I’ve explored the science behind what makes kids happier, what type of parenting works best and what makes for joyful families. But what makes children — from babies up through the teen years — smarter? Here are 10 things science says can help:

19 caffeine-laced foods to replace coffee – Face it: Your office latte machine has not been cleaned since the last tech-bubble crash. The cost of Starbucks soy mochas can add up. And you’re hungry. And you’re tired. So try these caffeine-infused food alternatives instead. You’d be amazed what they’re putting caffeine in these days.

Windows 10: ‘Microsoft should pay compensation for user upgrade woes’ – Now Microsoft’s pushy Windows 10 upgrade offer is over, a consumer rights group has called on Microsoft to compensate users for the issues it caused.

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative announces $3 billion investment to cure disease – The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative just announced a new program informally called Chan Zuckerberg Science to invest $3 billion over the next decade to help cure, prevent, or manage all disease. The money comes from the $45 billion organization Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan started last year to advance human potential and equality. The project will bring together teams of scientists and engineers “to build new tools for the scientific community” Priscilla Chan said on stage at an event in San Francisco.

YouTube will livestream the election debates, too – Both Facebook and Twitter will be livestreaming the 2016 Presidential debates, and now YouTube has announced that it will be, too. The company is pushing for individuals to get out and vote this election season, and in that spirit it has announced the #voteIRL campaign. Livestreaming and campaigns such as this both largely target young viewer bases, the same group that is unlikely to have a regular cable subscription through which to watch the events.

Trump: Internet control belongs to US. Period – Trump lends his support to former Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, Trump’s bitter rival and the highest profile government figure to lead the charge against the transition. Cruz argues that if the US cedes control to nonprofit ICANN, it could give countries like Russia and China power over the internet. Trump echoed that sentiment.

The most ancient civilisation on Earth is still around today – While there have been claims that Indigenous Australians were the world’s oldest civilisation for some years, the genomic study published in the science journal Nature is the first time extensive DNA evidence has been able to prove it. The study has revealed that not only did Indigenous Australians first come to Australia some 50,000 years ago, they remained almost entirely isolated on the continent until around 4,000 years ago.

Something to think about:

“It is folly to punish your neighbor by fire when you live next door.”

–       Publilius Syrus

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The undercover war on your internet secrets: How online surveillance cracked our trust in the web – Learn how the battle over privacy technologies could define the future of the web. This TechRepublic cover story explains the strange history and the serious consequences of the fight over encryption.

Twitter Makes it Easier to See Who Wants Your Data – Twitter this week released its latest transparency report, and with it, a revamped website that makes the heaps of data easier to digest.

Updates include bigger and bolder visualizations (notably, the interactive graph at the top of the page), clearer explanations of numbers, and more granular details about requests.

Unsurprisingly, the US is Twitter’s biggest data requester, with 44 percent (2,520) of all worldwide applications (5,676) for account information between January and June 2016. Most originated from California, New York, Virginia, and Illinois and came from top requesters the FBI, Secret Service, and the New York County District Attorney’s Office. The microblogging service also received 25 information requests—emergency and nonemergency—from US embassies abroad.

This marks the first time Twitter has identified “the US law enforcement agencies that make the highest volume of requests for account information,” as well as the types of legal instruments—subpoenas, court orders, search warrants—they use,” Jeremy Kessel, director of Twitter’s global legal policy, wrote in a blog post.

Facebook is expanding its campaign to combat hate speech – Facebook is expanding its efforts to combat online hate speech, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. The company’s Online Civil Courage Initiative, announced in January, will transition from a pilot phase to offer advertising credits and marketing advice to a wider range of groups that counteract extremist messaging. The Berlin-based program has so far focused its efforts on France, Germany, and the UK.

The announcement marks Facebook’s latest effort to combat propaganda from terrorist organizations and far-right groups. Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other major web companies have faced increased pressure to escalate anti-hate speech campaigns, and to more swiftly remove propaganda from groups like ISIS and far-right extremists. While the companies have touted an increase in takedowns of extremist content, the Online Civil Courage Initiative is focused on so-called counter-messaging, which seeks to discredit hate speech and propaganda. A Google-funded study published over the summer found that such campaigns can be an effective means of sparking debate online.

“Censorship is not effective,” Erin Saltman, program manager for the Online Civil Courage Initiative, tells the Journal. “Conversations would start on mainstream platforms and migrate to less regulated, encrypted platforms.”

Kids need to reclaim their data and security… especially at school – Another school year is now in full swing, which for many kids means reconnecting with friends and learning. It also means a start of another data collection cycle that is neither visible nor truly optional for the majority of the students.

Over a third of US middle and high school students use school-provided laptops or tablets. Even more kids are required to adopt a wide range of tech applications that allow for more personalized learning. Although this approach certainly has great educational benefits, it raises serious questions about the long-term security and privacy implications for this generation.

Palmer Luckey is funding Donald Trump’s internet trolls with his Oculus money – Oculus founder Palmer Luckey is financially supporting a pro-Donald Trump group of “shitposters,” he confirmed to the Daily Beast today, using his considerable personal fortune to fund the creation of memes attacking Hillary Clinton. Luckey, who is believed to have received some $700 million from Facebook’s $2 billion Oculus purchase, said he had donated “significant funds” to Nimble America — a group that calls itself a “social welfare 501(c)4 non-profit dedicated to shitposting in real life.”

In its announcement post on Trump-fan subreddit r/The_Donald, Nimble America said it had already “proven that shitposting is powerful and meme magic is real,” and that it wanted to bring so-called “shitposting” into the real world “in a way that was transparent and had purpose.” In practice, the unofficial Trump-supporting group suggested this could be done via T-shirts, Nimble America’s spokesperson saying that it would “not just sell t-shirts to sell them, but to sell t-shirts to shitpost.” The group’s home page was last updated on July 11th.

Luckey said that he first reached out to the unofficial group over Facebook. “It went along the lines of ‘hey, I have a bunch of money. I would love to see more of this stuff,'” he told the Daily Beast, referring to the anti-Clinton memes the group had produced before its official launch as Nimble America. Luckey said the group wanted to “build buzz and do fundraising,” and he offered to pay for both its initial push and its ads, as well as promising to match any money earned during a 48-hour donation drive. “I thought it sounded like a real jolly good time,” he said.

Should Hacking a Tor User to Get an IP Address Require a Warrant? – On Monday, a judge chucked out all evidence obtained by a piece of FBI malware in a child porn case, becoming the third court to suppress evidence related to the FBI’s investigation of dark web site Playpen.

But US District Court Judge Robert W Pratt also threw a punch in an ongoing legal debate with implications that stretch beyond any single case.

In recent months, judges, defense lawyers, and the government have fought over whether obtaining a Tor user’s real IP address, perhaps through hacking, counts as a search under the Fourth Amendment. The debate has serious consequences for whether law enforcement requires a warrant to break into a suspect’s computer, even if it’s only to learn the target’s IP address.

Pratt argued that when the FBI hacked suspected Playpen users and grabbed their IP addresses, that constituted a search.

“If a defendant writes his IP address on a piece of paper and places it in a drawer in his home, there would be no question that law enforcement would need a warrant to access that piece of paper—even accepting that the defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the IP address itself,” Pratt writes in his order.

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