Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – September 26, 2016

The Best Antivirus Protection of 2016;  When is the first Presidential Debate? Live Streaming video detailed;  The Best Password Managers of 2016;   How to customize the Windows 10 Start menu;  What to do when you hate Windows 10;  Black Friday 2016 predictions include $90 Chromebooks;  Google Allo vs. Apple iMessage vs. Facebook Messenger;  Everything coming to Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO Now in October – and much more news you need to know.

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Google Safe Browsing beats rivals but still only flags up 10 percent of hacked sites – Thousands of websites have been hijacked in the past three months, but just 18 percent were blacklisted by four major security services, including Google’s Safe Browsing system. Sucuri’s Hacked Website Report for the second quarter of 2016 contains a rundown of 9,771 infected sites that it has recovered in the past three months on behalf of customers. Only 18 percent of these infected sites have been blacklisted by Google’s Safe Browsing, Symantec’s Norton SafeWeb, Yandex’s Safe Browsing service, or McAfee’s SiteAdviser, according to Sucuri, meaning the vast majority have been spreading malware without users being warned about them.


Google’s service far outperformed the others, accounting for 52 percent of the roughly one-fifth of sites that have been blacklisted. Image: Sucuri

When is the first Presidential Debate? Live Streaming video detailed – Since the year 2008, the last time the United States had a presidential race that the entire world was interested in, a lot has changed in how we’re able to access video. The age of Live Video Streams has truly dawned, and we’re in a place where it’d more surprising to NOT see the debates available for live streaming online than if they were. And they are. And we’ve got all the links and video boxes and streamers in the world below, ready for the clicking and the watching.

Sling TV Capitalizing on Presidential Debate With Free Preview – The Sling TV free preview event starts at 8 a.m. ET on Monday, meaning you can watch pre-debate coverage, the beginning of the Falcons-Saints football game, which starts at 8:30, before (hopefully) flipping over to the debate at 9 p.m. ET. The free period will end at 2 a.m. ET the following day, so you can also check out post-debate coverage and game highlights.

What to do when you hate Windows 10 – I know this is probably not what you want to hear, but overall I don’t think Windows 10 is a bad OS like Windows 8 was when it launched. It’s essentially a hybrid version of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, and it’s going to be around for a very long time in one form or another so you might as well get comfortable with it now. It also offers a lot of tweaks that could help it grow on you. Here are some of my favorites:

How to customize the Windows 10 Start menu with numbered shortcuts – You can streamline the Windows 10 Start menu and make it even easier to access and launch the apps you use most often. This illustrated walk-through explains the steps.

The best online backup service for securely encrypting your data – Every hosted backup solution manages encrypted storage a little differently. We look at who gives subscribers the keys to the castle.

The Best Antivirus Protection of 2016 – Antivirus software is a must for every computer. Without it, you risk losing your personal information, your files, even the cash from your bank account. We’ve tested 44 utilities to help you pick the right one for your PC.

The Best Password Managers of 2016 – A password like “123456” or “monkey” is easy to remember, but it’s also easy to crack. With the help of a password manager, you can have a unique and strong password for every secure website.

Black Friday 2016 predictions include $90 Chromebooks, $299 Apple iPad Air 2 tablets – Expect the trend of store gift cards to be given in lieu of deals on Apple products, while budget Windows laptops will probably be priced around $150.

How to search the full text of web pages in your Chrome browsing history with Falcon – A new Chrome extension called Falcon lets you find web pages in your browsing history by searching for any word or phrase contained on the page you’re looking for.

Messaging app Telegram adds selfie masks, DIY GIFs – With what looks to be an eye on Snapchat’s selfie-loving fanbase, messaging platform Telegram has beefed up its in-app photo editor in what it dubs an “entertainment-heavy update” — including an option that lets users customize selfies by adding cartoon masks that automatically align on their faces. Snapchat of course has a lenses feature for transforming users’ selfies. The Telegram feature is far less sophisticated than Snapchat’s lenses; more ‘selfie augmentation’ than full facial transformation, given it only works with photos (not video). And is really just another sticker set that can be added to photos you’ve already snapped. But the popularity of stickers on messaging platforms should not be underestimated.

Google Allo vs. Apple iMessage vs. Facebook Messenger: How They Compare – The messaging apps you likely use each day, like Apple’s iMessage and Facebook Messenger, have changed dramatically over the past few months. These apps, primarily designed for simple conversation, are gradually evolving into platforms for more complex messaging and outside services. The shift can be compared to the move from mobile webpages to apps that took place once smartphones like the iPhone rose in popularity nearly a decade ago.

Google planning to release Wi-Fi router at October event, Home to cost $129: Report – The Google Wi-Fi router is expected to be released at Google’s October 4 event, according to the blog, which has correctly pegged past Google releases. The router is said to be designed like a small, white Amazon Echo Dot, and you can reportedly expand it with multiple access points .

Skype Teams expected to launch in January 2017, beta in November – Earlier in the month, we heard that Microsoft was plotting a competitor to Slack under its Skype branding. This new program, Skype Teams, was rumored to borrow a fair number of features while at the same time attempting to improve on the experience Slack offers its users through things like deep integration with Office 365. Now, we’re hearing that Skype Teams could launch as early as January, with Microsoft rolling out a large scale beta before then.

Snapchat Is Releasing Video-Sharing Sunglasses. They’re Called Spectacles – Snapchat is expanding beyond its platform for short vanishing videos with the launch of video-sharing sunglasses this year. The camera-embedded sunglasses, capable of capturing a wider field of view known as “circular video,” will connect directly to Snapchat, allowing users to share videos that more closely resemble human vision.

Face-Recognition Porn Is Now a Thing – Porn site Megacams just introduced a not-creepy-at-all feature that lets you upload a photo of someone you want to see nude and get matched up with a lookalike “sex model.” The feature leverages facial-recognition technology to scan a photo — analyzing things like the bridge of the person’s nose, their forehead, and chin — to find a similar-looking sex model in the site’s database. What a world we live in, huh?

Uber rolls out security selfies in US for driver authentication – Uber has taken another step toward addressing safety concerns voiced by critics, doing so by starting a rollout of security selfies in the United States. With these selfies, an Uber driver takes a selfie using their phone before they can go online in the Uber system, which users the selfie to determine whether the driver matches the account owner’s photo on file. By doing so, it serves as an authentication of sorts that the driver is who he or she is supposed to be.


Malwarebytes: Top 10 ways to secure your mobile phone –  To get a leg up against a rising tide of mobile malware activity, don’t just phone it in—secure your mobile phone with these tried and true methods.

Malwarebytes: Hosts file hijacks – The hosts file is the internet variant of a personal phonebook. We discuss a few malware variants that replace or change that phonebook, so you end up calling the wrong sites. The ones they want you to call.

Why the silencing of KrebsOnSecurity opens a troubling chapter for the ‘Net – For the better part of a day, KrebsOnSecurity, arguably the world’s most intrepid source of security news, has been silenced, presumably by a handful of individuals who didn’t like a recent series of exposés reporter Brian Krebs wrote. The incident, and the record-breaking data assault that brought it on, open a troubling new chapter in the short history of the Internet. The crippling distributed denial-of-service attacks started shortly after Krebs published stories stemming from the hack of a DDoS-for-hire service known as vDOS. The first article analyzed leaked data that identified some of the previously anonymous people closely tied to vDOS. It documented how they took in more than $600,000 in two years by knocking other sites offline. A few days later, Krebs ran a follow-up piece detailing the arrests of two men who allegedly ran the service. A third post in the series is here.

iOS 10 Has a ‘Severe’ Security Flaw, Says iPhone-Cracking Company – Specifically, the company found that iOS 10 backups saved locally to a computer via iTunes allow password-cracking tools to try different password combinations at a rate of 6,000,000 attempts per second, more than 40 times faster than with backups created by iOS 9. Elcomsoft says this is due to Apple implementing a weaker password verification method than the one protecting backup data in previous versions. That means that cops and tech-savvy criminals could much more quickly and easily gain access to data from locally-stored iOS 10 backups than those produced by older versions.

Company News:

Yahoo already hit with lawsuits over hack – On Friday, the firms Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd and Labaton Sucharow filed a suit in the US District Court in the Northern District of California. The suit, for which the firm intends to seek class action status, accuses Yahoo of “failure to establish and implement basic data security” and being “grossly negligent” with user data, according to the complaint. It also alleges the company knew of the breach “long before” it was disclosed, but hid it from the public until after its $4.83 billion sale to Verizon. A separate class action suit was filed Thursday in US District Court in San Diego, according to the San Jose Mercury News. In that case, plaintiffs came to the lawyer before Yahoo announced the hack, trying to figure out how people were accessing their information.

Snapchat unveils $130 connected sunglasses and rebrands as Snap, Inc. – Snapchat’s first hardware product is coming to the market sooner than anyone expected. The company said tonight that it will sell Spectacles, a set of connected sunglasses that record 10-second snippets of video, for $130 sometime this fall. It also rebranded itself as Snap, Inc. — a reflection of a fact that the company now makes more than its flagship app, co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel told the Wall Street Journal. Spectacles have a single button that you press to begin recording your snap, according to the Journal.

Facebook apologizes for feeding inflated video-view numbers to advertisers – On Friday, Facebook took to its official blog to confirm and respond to a Wall Street Journal report. In the blog post, the company acknowledged that one of Facebook’s most crucial metrics for measuring video-view performance had been wildly inflated. The blog post, from Facebook VP of marketing David Fischer, spells out exactly what the company did wrong. Its advertising-dashboard measure of “average duration of video viewed” was apparently based on questionable math. To get that count, the “total time spent watching a video” was only divided by the number of people who have seen at least three seconds of the video rather than everyone who watched the video.

Leica and Huawei continue camera partnership with joint R&D center – Leica and Huawei have announced plans for a new research and innovation center to be situated at Leica’s headquarters in Wetzlar, Germany. The Max Berek Innovation Lab, named after the famed optical pioneer who created many of Leica’s early lenses, continues a partnership first announced in February and solidified in April with the launch of Huawei’s Leica-branded P9 phone. According to Huawei, the R&D lab will “drive further development of optical systems and software-based technologies to improve imaging quality in a wide range of photographic and mobile device applications,” including AR and VR solutions. It’s not clear when work will begin at the center.

Tesla Sues Michigan Over Direct Sales Ban – Tesla has sued Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and two other officials over the state’s refusal to allow the automaker’s direct sales-and-service model. The suit was filed only days after the state government rejected Tesla’s application for direct vehicle sales, Reuters reports. Tesla does not operate franchised dealers, but instead chooses to run its own facilities, which are not allowed in Michigan—a decision that violates the company’s right to due process, equal protection, and commerce, it claims.

Singapore social music startup buys 49% stake in Rolling Stone – BandLab Technologies says it plans to set up an international subsidiary in Singapore to build up its business and drive Rolling Stone’s expansion into new markets including Asia.

Games and Entertainment:

Street Fighter V PC update included rootkit, now pulled over malware concerns – Thursday saw the release of an update for Street Fighter V on both PS4 and PC that included several new features, including new character Urien, a versus CPU mode, and stage KOs, or the ability for players to defeat opponents using a level’s environment. But those playing the fighting game on PC noticed that they got something extra for their platform: a rootkit that allows any application access to the PC’s kernel.

Forza Horizon 3 review: the unofficial Fast and Furious video game – After a superlative 30-minute intro, that is like test-driving every car in the lot at the speed of light, you choose a driver — Forza Horizon developer Playground Games offers a diverse set of playable characters, not just bald white beefcakes — and begin taking over Australia through good-spirited road races, that leave a paradoxical wake of joyful onlookers and destroyed property. Nobody ever gets hurt, and damaged fences, shredded yards, and obliterated vineyards are repaired within minutes, as if by a set decoration team prepping a second attempt at a film’s big stunt sequence. And even coming in last place accrues followers in your quest to convert the island into a never-ending party sequence that starts every Fast and Furious film. (In one respect, it bests the Fast and Furious films by not sexualizing car culture and providing a full wardrobe for all female characters, not just the ones driving the cars.)


More Minecraft goodies: llamas in September, dragons in October – The Minecraft “Boss Update” may be coming to the Pocket, Windows 10, and Gear VR editions of the game on October 18th, but even before that happens, there will be a double blow update to be unleashed. One of them even starts on the 28th! This time, however, it will be the PC (and Mac) players as well as console gamers who will experience the new features first, introducing maps and fluffy, spitting llamas for one and colossal dragons for the other.

No one’s playing No Man’s Sky, as developer remains silent and players flee the franchise – When No Man’s Sky launched in August, it was already clear that the game would primarily appeal to a niche audience. The title’s lead designer and head of developer Hello Games, Sean Murray, has been blasted for promising the game would include features that didn’t actually ship. Not long after launch, Murray and Hello Games went radio-silent as players began requesting refunds. Now, nearly a month later, the game has transformed into a ghost of its former self.

50 facts about Destiny that you may not know – With so much coverage of the game since launch, it feels as if Destiny has no more secrets left to uncover. However, there are still a few things that folks may not know about the game. From hidden messages buried in the game’s UI and clever pop culture references, to a strange working title, and even a few nods to the Dark Souls series, Destiny’s secrets run deep. Below, we’ve compiled a list of 50 Destiny facts you may or may not know about. Some are weirder than others, but they are all equally as interesting.

Call of Duty 3 gets Xbox One backwards compatibility – Xbox One backwards compatibility has added Call of Duty 3 to its roster, allowing those with the latest Xbox One console to play the older COD title. The addition was confirmed by Larry Hyrb via a tweet yesterday; the support is in place now, so you can go ahead and pick up the title for your Xbox One if you’re so inclined. The addition joins both Call of Duty 2 and Black Ops on the backwards compatibility list.

Everything coming to Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO Now in October – We’re just a few days away from October, and that means it’s time for Halloween. Scary movies. Spooky stories. Specters that crawl out of your television and have really long hair. Given that, it’s hard to not see this upcoming month as a streaming service contest: which player can out-Halloween the others?

The Best Original Shows On Netflix Streaming – Not all Netflix original series are great – we’ll have a tough time saying nice things about Fuller House – but the best ones are as good as anything on HBO or other prestige networks. Not being bound to a staggered release schedule lets creators get away with some stuff, too. What follows are our eleven top original series streaming on Netflix. As they debut more shows, expect some changing of the guard, but as of September 2016 these are the cream of the crop.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Register to Vote Now Via Snapchat – Snapchat is the latest platform to help consumers enroll in the voting process. Users in the US who are eligible to vote (those 18 years or older) can access video ads between Stories and Discover, Mashable reports. Tap to be redirected to an in-app voter registration site powered by TurboVote. Folks can sign up through the service to get registered, update current information, or request an absentee ballot. The joint campaign—run by Snapchat and nonprofit Democracy Works—runs through Oct. 7.

What The F? What swearing reveals about language and ourselves – In his new book What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves (UK) Benjamin Bergen—a linguist in the Cognitive Science Department at UC San Diego—tries to explain exactly why cussing is so amazing. His self-described “book-length love letter to profanity” defines what makes a swearword and why using one feels so great. Although What the F has its share of silliness, it’s full of cute tidbits you can drop at cocktail parties, like how all Samoan babies’ first words are “eat s#!t” and how Japanese completely lacks curse words. Japanese people with Tourette’s syndrome blurt out insults and childlike words for genitalia that are generally considered impolite and inappropriate, but not profane.

10 pieces of obsolete technology still in use today – The tech world moves fast, but not always as fast as you think. Obsolete technology has a tendency to hang on, and hang on strong. Here’s a list of 10 pieces of obsolete technology that are still alive and kicking, starting with a surprising one: dial-up internet. The days of connecting to the internet with a 56K modem are over for most of us, but approximately three percent of Americans are holding out–that’s about 9.5 million people. Who are they–and do they know they could get online faster?

Trump launches nationwide Snapchat filter to attack ‘Crooked Hillary’ before debate – After blasting her in Twitter tirades and during campaign trail speeches, Donald Trump is turning to Snapchat to attack Hillary Clinton. Trump’s campaign has purchased national Snapchat geofilters, the Independent Journal Review reports, that will be available to Snapchat users during Monday’s debate. A preview version of the filter frames the event as being “Donald J. Trump vs. Crooked Hillary,” but Time says it will be changed during the debate itself for a different version that removes the direct attack on the Democratic candidate.

Palmer Luckey’s Trump fund has been a kick in the teeth for VR – Last night, The Daily Beast reported that virtual reality pioneer Palmer Luckey had secretly funded a pro-Trump group called Nimble America, dedicated to promoting internet memes and “shitposting” in support of the candidate. While Luckey’s general political alignment hadn’t been a secret, the news potentially tied him to some of the uglier parts of Trump’s online support base, including alt-right cheerleader Milo Yiannopoulos. Late on Friday, Luckey called the reports of his Trump support inaccurate, although he admitted to donating $10,000 to the group in question — and one of his key claims remains in doubt.

What Does Alt-Right Patron Palmer Luckey Believe? – Palmer Luckey, the 24-year-old founder of Oculus and virtual reality pioneer, was just exposed by The Daily Beast for giving money to a pro-Donald Trump non-profit through a convoluted Reddit scheme. The news shocked the VR and tech community at large on Thursday night, but a look at Luckey’s Twitter activity reveals that he’s been openly in support of the alt-right and the bigotry that defines it since March. Luckey has “liked” many alt-right memes and WikiLeaks-sanctioned conspiracy theories on Twitter, many of them from his girlfriend Nikki Moxxi, a Trump supporter and GamerGater.

5 Oculus Rift alternatives if you’ve changed your mind – Today we’re running down a number of alternatives to the Oculus Rift, a device made by the folks who re-invigorated the modern world of virtual reality computing. While no device is exactly like the Oculus Rift, there are a few devices that fit the bill for a wide variety of computing situations – especially gaming. If you’ve been convinced today that you need to send your Oculus Rift right back where it came from, we’ve got a bit of info about that, as well.

What the List of Most Banned Books Says About Our Society’s Fears – When the American Library Association started keeping a database of challenged books in the early ’90s, the reasons cited were fairly straightforward, according to James LaRue, director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. “‘Don’t like the language,’ or ‘There’s too much sex’—they’d tend to fall into those two categories,” he says. Some books are still challenged for those reasons—Fifty Shades of Grey is a common example. But there’s been a shift toward seeking to ban books “focused on issues of diversity—things that are by or about people of color, or LGBT, or disabilities, or religious and cultural minorities,” LaRue says. “It seems like that shift is very clear.”

Pharma company boosts the price of an old acne cream 3,900% – The greedy, price-hiking ways of Turing, Mylan, Valent, and countless others are breaking out like blemishes across the face of the pharmaceutical industry. So it may come as no surprise that a simple acne cream, called Aloquin, saw its price hit a whopping $9,561 (£7,400) last week. The 60g tube of zit-zapping topical previously cost just $241.50—but that was months ago, before Chicago-based Novum Pharma bought the medication from Primus Pharmaceuticals in May of 2015 and made no changes to the product at all. Since then, Novum hiked the price three times, reaching an increase of 3,900 percent.

Something to think about:

“I can’t give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time.”

–      Herbert Bayard Swope (1882 – 1958)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Police are increasingly using social media surveillance tools – We’re approaching a level of social unrest that we haven’t seen since the days of the Civil Rights movement. That means law enforcement agencies are trying to figure out how to manage and circumvent the unrest — a lot of which has resulted from the police killings of unarmed black people — through surveillance. You may remember that, back in August, Bloomberg found out that police in Baltimore had been secretly operating “wide-area surveillance” throughout the area. Well, that’s not the only type of surveillance law enforcement agencies are using.

This summer, the American Civil Liberties Union of California requested records from 63 police departments, sheriffs and district attorneys across California. Of the records they received, 40 percent of the agencies (20) used social media surveillance tools, and most of them started using them within the last year.

But these agencies didn’t notify the public or lawmakers about their use of this type of surveillance. And none of the agencies examined by the ACLU have any policies covering how to use those tools in a way that actually protects civil rights and civil liberties.

With these social media surveillance tools in hand, law enforcement agencies are able to target activists, according to the ACLU’s analysis of records. Agencies are using tools like MediaSonar, X1 Social Discovery and Geofeedia, some of which actively market their products as tools to target activists.

In addition to the fact that law enforcement agencies didn’t tell anyone about their use of social media surveillance tools, it’s unsettling to see the role Silicon Valley plays in all of this. Law enforcement agencies are using tools that are venture-backed and covered by the tech press.

Privacy groups urge US FTC to investigate WhatsApp promises – The U.S. Federal Trade Commission should stop mobile messaging service WhatsApp from sharing user data with parent company Facebook in violation of earlier privacy promises, several privacy groups said.

The FTC should step in to stop WhatsApp from violating “commitments the company previously made to subscribers,” the 17 groups said in a letter sent to the agency Thursday. WhatsApp has long billed itself as a secure and private messaging service.

WhatsApp’s recently released plan to share user data with Facebook as a way to target advertising could amount to an “unfair and deceptive” trade practice, said the groups, including the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, Consumer Watchdog, and Demand Progress.

“We are deeply concerned about the impact this proposed change in data practices will have on the privacy and security of WhatsApp users in the U.S. and across the world,” the letter added. When Facebook acquired the messaging service in 2014, both companies “made numerous promises” that WhatsApp’s privacy policies wouldn’t change, the letter added.


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One response to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – September 26, 2016

  1. Amazing how today’s quote reminds me of a former President (Jimmy) and a current candidate for that office (Hillary).
    Whenever you try to please everyone, you usually wind up pleasing no one.
    You usually also antagonize those you try to please most.