Monthly Archives: October 2016

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – October 31, 2016

5 reasons why your laptop is slow;  The IoT security doomsday is lurking, but we cannot talk about it properly;  WTF is the dark web?  6 smart settings to make your Android phone anticipate your needs;  22 Cool Tricks and Secret Gems Inside Facebook Messenger;  How to Launch Windows Without Entering a Password;  How To Clean Boot Windows;  How to Get Windows XP’s Quick Launch Bar In Windows 10 – – and much more news you need to know.

The IoT security doomsday is lurking, but we cannot talk about it properly – Something needs to be done to stop the IoT turning into the IoDDoS, but communication with lay people is all but impossible.

5 reasons why your laptop is slow – If your old laptop is starting to show its age, there can be any number of issues affecting its performance. Here are five likely culprits for why your laptop is running so frustratingly slow and five solutions to return it to its former glory.

6 smart settings to make your Android phone anticipate your needs – There’s no denying that our smartphones have made our lives so much easier, putting our contacts and schedules, our driving directions, the whole internet, right at our fingertips. But if you’re using an Android phone you might be leaving even more convenience on the table. There are a bunch of super-smart settings in Nougat and Google Now that’ll make your Android device feel like it’s 10 steps ahead of you.

22 Cool Tricks and Secret Gems Inside Facebook Messenger – Facebook’s standalone messaging platform, the aptly named Facebook Messenger, has become almost as popular as Facebook itself. As of July, Messenger can boast 1 billion monthly users. That’s pretty impressive. But Zuck & Co. appear to have far bigger plans for Messenger than just being Facebook’s chatty kid sibling. In recent months, Facebook has packed a lot of cool (and somewhat unexpected) functionality into Messenger and has hinted at a lot more to come—particularly in the realms of AI and commerce. It seems that Facebook, Inc. is grooming Messenger to become an all-in-one productivity/communication platform.

Skype for Business comes to Mac, Skype iOS gets Siri messaging support – Microsoft’s messaging and video calling platform Skype has released two updates heading into the weekend, one each for the Mac and iOS. The first isn’t technically an update, but a brand-new app for the desktop: Skype for Business, the platform’s service that focuses more on inter-office communication and productivity, along with heavy Office integration. The second is an update the regular Skype app on iOS, which introduces the ability to send messages by dictating them to Siri.

Min Vid Test Pilot experiment gives Firefox a YouTube picture-in-picture mode – Firefox has a Test Pilot experiment that hardcore YouTube fans will want to grab right away. The new experiment is called Min Vid, and it allows users to watch YouTube videos in a “picture-in-picture” mode. That way you can continue to browse and get work done while still watching your video. But that doesn’t even describe the half of it. Mozilla’s experimental feature places a web-based persistent video player on your desktop that is “always on top” no matter which app or program you’re using. It’s a really great experiment worth trying out for anyone who likes to run a video while doing other things on their PC.

Jim Hillier: How To Clean Boot Windows – You may have read about using Clean Boot to help with diagnosing issues, especially recently in reference to installing the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, but do you know how to Clean Boot and what it actually does? Clean Booting Windows involves disabling all third party startups and services and is a recognized method to help ensure a major upgrade installation completes successfully. Starting Windows in a Clean Boot state is a very simple process which has remained pretty much the same throughout all recent Windows versions, with just a slight variation when startup management was moved from the System Configuration utility in Windows 7 to Task Manager in Windows 8.1 and 10.

How to Launch Windows Without Entering a Password – As long as you feel secure without the protection, you can easily dodge that Windows log-in password.

How to add Google Drive folder shortcuts to your Android homescreen – If you’d like to have home shortcuts to various Google Drive folders on your Android homescreen, check out how to do it.

How to customize Windows 10 colors – You can tweak the built-in Windows 10 color palette quite easily; you just have to know where to look!

How to Get Windows XP’s Quick Launch Bar In Windows 10 – The beloved Quick Launch Bar from Windows XP lives on in Windows 10, providing easy access to specific folders and files from the taskbar. Here’s how to get it.

How to get KeepPass password protection on Android with Keepass2Android – If you’re looking for a best-in-breed password safe for Android, look no further than Keepass2Android.

Here’s how the MacBook Pro stacks up against the PC – If you had to put a word to Apple’s first big MacBook reveal in, well, years, it would have to be meh. Sure, you think I’m just throwing shade at Apple because I’m the original hater, but frankly I expected more after four years of neglecting the MacBook Pro lineup. I really expected Apple to knock it out of the park and show the PC world the bottom of its sneakers as it raced ahead. But no. Apple has not raised the bar. Worse, in plenty of metrics, the PC remains ahead. Don’t believe me? Let’s break it down.

Giphy to Offer Tool for Converting Vines to GIFs – Vine is going away, but your Vines—six-second looping videos that have attracted a faithful Internet following—are not. The Twitter-owned company already announced that the clips will continue to live on the web even after its mobile app is discontinued, and soon you’ll also be able to turn them into GIFs. That’s thanks to Giphy, which today announced it is working on a conversion tool for Vine that will be launching “very soon.” All that’s required is a Vine account, Giphy wrote in a blog post on Friday, although it’s unclear whether you’ll import Vines from the app or the web. If it’s the latter case, you should be able to convert your Vines to GIFs indefinitely, even after the Vine app shuts down.

Go PC! 5 killer MacBook Pro alternatives for disappointed Apple fans – Looking for an alternative to Apple’s new MacBook Pro? Check out these pretty, powerful PC laptops.

Free online ‘Web Bloat Scores’ encourage overweight pages to slim down – Most of today’s web pages are overweight, but a free service can provide a Web Bloat Score that’s more than just the raw download size. And, of course, cutting WebBS leads to faster downloads and happier users.

Best color LED smart bulbs – Today’s color-tunable bulbs are brighter and easier to control than ever, but choosing the right one for your environment remains a challenge.


Watch The FBI’s Hilariously Overacted Cybersecurity PSAs – Scared of being hacked? Have no fear, Americans, the FBI is here to help. Earlier this week, the agency released a collection of amazing, hilariously overacted cybersecurity public service announcements on YouTube. Citizens, wheel the big TV cart into your conference room and get ready to learn how to be a productive denizen of the internet. In all fairness, the FBI’s cybersecurity tips are actually pretty sound advice.


New Annoying Ransomware Forces Victims to Take Online Surveys – Ransomware, as it’s called, is so lucrative that countless different strains have popped up in the last couple of years. Some are really effective ones, and some are just plain weird. Now, someone is making particularly annoying new type of ransomware. Instead of asking infected users for money, it forces them to fill out tedious online surveys. This new ransomware strain is apparently still in development, and hasn’t infected anyone yet, according to the blog Bleeping Computer, which first wrote about the ransomware on Thursday, after it was discovered by GData security researcher Karsten Hahn.

130 serious Firefox holes plugged this year – The browser-backing outfit announced the statistics in a post covering its bug bounty program and broader information security efforts. More than 500 million users ran Firefox at the close of 2015. It’s since become the world’s second-most-used browser. Google Chrome dominates the browser rankings soaking up 50 percent of all browser usage. Mozilla security head Richard Barnes says shuttering the serious bugs is critical for the security of the web.

Lost thumb drives bedevil U.S. banking agency – A U.S. banking regulator says an employee downloaded a large amount of data from its computer system a week before he retired and is now unable to locate the thumb drives he stored it on. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which is a part of the Department of the Treasury, said the loss represented “a major information security incident” as it reported the case to Congress on Friday. The data was taken in November 2015, but its loss was only discovered in September this year as the agency reviewed downloads to removable media devices in the last two years.

Video: 5 things to know about ethical hacking – Tom Merritt explains how white hat hackers keep systems safe and secure from their bad guy counterparts.

Company News:

Amazon Prime arrives in China – Amazon Prime has arrived in China as of today, and it works more or less the same way it does in the U.S. Customers in China can subscribe to a year of Prime for the equivalent of $28 USD during a promotional period, with the regular price being $57 USD. With this comes free shipping, including on imports from the Amazon Global Store. With this new business move, Amazon takes on Alibaba and other competitors.

Mozilla promises a next-gen Firefox engine that will deliver huge improvements – Mozilla says the new Project Quantum engine at the heart of its Mozilla web browser will be “blazing fast,” both for web browsing as well as apps.

UK court rules Uber drivers are employees, not contractors – The ride-hailing service has long maintained its drivers are independent contractors. In a decision that could majorly impact the gig economy, British judges disagree.

Facebook tried to buy Asian Snapchat clone Snow – Here’s fuel to the fire for those who believe that Facebook will buy anything that looks, smells or moves like Snapchat. The U.S. social networking giant this summer made an unsuccessful bid to acquire Snow, a Snapchat-like service from Naver, the $25 billion-valued Korean firm behind chat app Line, a source close to the company told TechCrunch.

Games and Entertainment:

Google is celebrating Halloween with an adorable, ghastly game – Google’s new doodle gets into the Halloween spirit a bit early this year with a browser game. This is a really clever game. Players disperse the ghosts by drawing the symbol hovering over their heads: A V and inverted V, horizontal and vertical lines, and lightning bolts. Players draw a heart to replenish their lives. The game takes place in five levels: the school’s library, cafeteria, a classroom, the gym, and the roof, each with their own boss. As each level progresses, the ghosts come with even more complicated strings of symbols, which you have to cast in the right order to make them go away.


Review: Civilization VI is a beautiful prance through history – This time it’s not just Civilization’s version of history that’s virtually spotless and free of pesky complications. Sid Meier’s Civilization VI is a nearly spotless game—freer of the menu-diving, micromanagement, and spreadsheet reading than just about any turn-based 4X strategy game I’ve yet played. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at exploring, expanding, exploiting, and exterminating ahistorical societies, but were always too afraid of numbers to give Civ a shot, there’s never been a better time to dive in. Newcomers will also be spared the trouble of un-learning all the franchise lessons that Civ 6 throws out of the series’ window. Civ 6 is both the easiest-on-the-eyes Civilization yet and the series’ biggest departure from tradition (among the mainline “numbered” games, that is).

Gears of War 4’s first free maps arrive on November 1 – Xbox One exclusive Gears of War 4 has been out for a few weeks now, and players, especially those that partake in the multiplayer modes, might be wondering when new maps will be released. Fortunately, Microsoft has just addressed that, revealing that the first two maps will be available for players starting in early November. GoW4 developer The Coalition has said that the legacy maps Checkout and Drydock will be the first additions to the third-person shooter’s multiplayer arena lineup. Players who have purchased the game’s Season Pass can start playing on the two maps on November 1st by visiting the early access Developer Playlist. Then on November 8th, the maps will be added to the general public playlists.


Comparing Skyrim: Enhanced Edition with the classic version – Now that Skyrim: Enhanced Edition has hit shelves, plenty of people are going to be checking to see whether a five-year-old game is worth playing for the first time or generally good enough to justify a second playthrough. Special Edition is free if you own all of the Skyrim DLC and $39.99 if you don’t (the new game contains all previous DLC). If you already own the game, you can grab a pretty sweet upgrade for free. If you don’t, the $39.99 price tag isn’t terrible, but it’s a good idea to know what you’re getting when you buy a new version of a five-year-old title.

Off Topic (Sort of):

WTF is the dark web? – Maybe you heard your LinkedIn, Tumblr or Dropbox password was floating around there. Or maybe you read a news story about that guy who got busted for running Silk Road, that site that sold drugs and other illicit goods. Chances are, you’ve seen the words “dark web” splashed in a headline or heard them mentioned by a friend. But WTF is the dark web? How do you get there? And what makes it “dark”?

Horrible hacks, death robots, and kamikaze phones: Meet the scariest tech of the year – With Halloween just around the corner, what better way to mark the day than telling stories of wail and woe about the technology that wants to kill, terrify, or bring about the end of society as we know it. ZDNet’s bloggers, writers, and editors have come up with a list enough to scare the wits out of you. Robots that will murder you in the street. Cars that will drive you off this mortal coil. Phones that will blow up in your pocket (yes, we’re looking at you, Samsung). Why not ask your iPhone, “Siri, are you giving all of my data to the government?” See what she says. Boo! You weren’t expecting that now — were you? Let’s begin.

7 unexpected places you can hide a spare key – It’s always a good idea to have a spare key for your home. While it poses an obvious security threat, it can also help you gain entry to your home should you misplace your primary key. Not to mention, it can save you a costly locksmith call. It takes just a small amount of creativity and time to come up with a few good hiding places for spare keys around your home. Below are seven unusual places you can use for inspiration for hiding your spare key.

Tesla Powerwall 2 can power a 2-bedroom home for a full day – In addition to the new Solar Roof, Elon Musk has announced the arrival of the Powerwall 2, an update to Tesla’s original Powerwall offering. The Powerwall 2 is a vital component for powering your home using the sun, particularly with one of the new solar roofs. This residential home battery will power a two bedroom home, including its lights and appliances, for a full day.

New ‘social impact scoring system’ xocial spurs a movement of competitive kindness – There is a new online community that calculates and curates what it calls “competitive kindness” to help mere mortals out-nice each other, and make the world a better place. Optimistic online community xocial (pronounced soh-shuhl) gives cause-conscious and otherwise kind-hearted individuals and companies the ability to do good, see good, feel good, and measure good. The platform connects people, businesses, and organizations to causes they care about. It also inspires them to take action, and measures the impact of their efforts. The idea is to compete to “out nice” each other. The tool calculates how nice they are (their social impact) and ranks them in a scoring system.

Spambots are impersonating teens to spread pro-Trump tweets – A new Twitter campaign is impersonating American teens, and using their likenesses to spread right-wing propaganda. The pattern was identified by Nicole Flotteron, who analyzes Twitter activity at Mercury LLC, after a friend fell victim to the scheme. But while Flotteron is used to spotting spam, she says this is something different. “They’re pushing pro-Trump propaganda,” Flotteron told The Verge. “There are a lot of disturbing things that happen on Twitter, but I’ve never seen something like this.”

The reasons why Twitter won’t let anyone save Vine – There are so many ways Twitter could end up looking like a fool if it gave up control of Vine that it would rather bury the app than sell it. There’s little to gain and a lot to lose. So in the spirit of Vine, I’m going to break down the reasoning into 6-second snippets of text:

Something to think about:

“I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.”

–      Khalil Gibran

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Facebook lets advertisers exclude users by race – Imagine if, during the Jim Crow era, a newspaper offered advertisers the option of placing ads only in copies that went to white readers.

Facebook’s ad platform now guesses at your race based on your behavior

That’s basically what Facebook is doing nowadays.

The ubiquitous social network not only allows advertisers to target users by their interests or background, it also gives advertisers the ability to exclude specific groups it calls “Ethnic Affinities.” Ads that exclude people based on race, gender and other sensitive factors are prohibited by federal law in housing and employment.

Here is a screenshot of a housing ad that we purchased from Facebook’s self-service advertising portal:


The ad we purchased was targeted to Facebook members who were house hunting and excluded anyone with an “affinity” for African-American, Asian-American, or Hispanic people. (Here’s the ad itself.)

When we showed Facebook’s racial exclusion options to a prominent civil rights lawyer John Relman, he gasped and said, “This is horrifying. This is massively illegal. This is about as blatant a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act as one can find.”

WhatsApp-Facebook privacy U-turn now being probed by EU data watchdog – A seismic shift in privacy policy by messaging app WhatsApp this summer, when it said it would begin sharing user data with parent company Facebook including for ad targeting, has now attracted the attention of European’s data protection watchdog group, the Article 29 Working Party.

The WP29 group wrote to WhatsApp founder Jan Koum yesterday, setting out its concerns about the privacy policy U-turn — including how the shift was communicated to users.

“The Article 29 Working Party (WP29) has serious concerns regarding the manner in which the information relating to the updated Terms of Service and Privacy Policy was provided to users and consequently about the validity of the users’ consent,” it writes.

“WP29 also questions the effectiveness of control mechanisms offered to users to exercise their rights and the effects that the data sharing will have on people that are not a user of any other service within the Facebook family of companies.”

It adds that its various members, so basically all the national DPAs of EU Member States, will “act in a coordinated way” to target any problems they identify, with a dedicated working group for enforcement actions set to address the WhatsApp issue specifically.

The letter asks WhatsApp for details of the specific data being shared — including data categories, source and recipients, and the effects of the data transfer on users and on “potential third persons” — so the working group can assess whether changes are necessary to ensure legal compliance.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – October 28, 2016

New code injection method exposes all versions of Windows to cyberattack;  How to Free Up Disk Space on Your Windows 10 PC;  Apple MacBook Pro 2017: The smart person’s guide;  Apple MacBook Pro swaps outdated function keys for Touch Bar;  Twitter is shutting down Vine;  Pornhub offers to buy Vine;  8 easy ways to make a GIF;  Windows 10 quick tips: How to protect your privacy;  These Are Some of the Devices Vulnerable to Mirai;  Borderlands: The Handsome Collection is free on Xbox One – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

New code injection method exposes all versions of Windows to cyberattack – To make matters worse, there is no fix.

These Are Some of the Devices Vulnerable to Mirai – Internet users across the eastern seaboard found their connections interrupted Oct. 21 during a massive cyberattack. The attack was in part fueled by Mirai, a virus that gives hackers access to unsecured webcams and similar devices. How can you tell if your gadgets are infected with Mirai? A good place to start is this list compiled by security researcher Brian Krebs, who analyzed Mirai’s publicly available source code to see which devices it’s been targeting.

Twitter is shutting down Vine – The announcement was devoid of any explanations about what led to the decision, only stating that Twitter would share more news on its blog and via its official Twitter account in the future regarding what comes next. While the plan is to wind down Vine’s operations, Twitter also says the website will remain online because the company thinks “it’s important to still be able to watch all the incredible Vines that have been made.”

Pornhub offers to buy Vine: ‘Six seconds is more than enough’ – Vine will not be left to shrivel up and die on itself, not if Pornhub has anything to say about it. Earlier on Thursday Twitter announced it was ending Vine’s short run, and the adult site was quick to come to the rescue…maybe. In a letter from Pornhub VP Corey Price to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey that was shared with CNET, Price lays out the rationale:

Check out these 11 new Windows 10 features Microsoft sneakily revealed – Microsoft showed off a handful of marquee features for next year’s Windows 10 update on Wednesday, but the company sneakily hid 11 more new releases in its sizzle reel preview of the Creators Update. There’s a lot packed in there, including a new app plus changes to Edge, Maps, Windows Defender, and more. The company declined to comment when asked about these features, and the video makes clear that they may change or disappear before the update launches this spring. Fair warning.

How to Free Up Disk Space on Your Windows 10 PC – If you’re running low on disk space on your Windows 10 PC, there are a few ways to free up some real estate.

Samsung to cap battery charge of unreturned Note 7s at 60 percent – The South Korean tech giant will commence a software update to cap battery charging at 60 percent, again, for Galaxy Note 7s yet to be returned.

8 easy ways to make a GIF – Since there’s a GIF for every occasion there should be a GIF-making tool for every occasion, so here are eight easy-to-use options and some suggestions of when to use them. This list is going to be Giphy-heavy because Giphy’s invested a lot of time and energy in dominating the GIF-making market. They may not be making any money, but they sure are making a lot of GIFs.

There’s Now a Search Engine for Every Animated GIF From GeoCities – Remember the good old days™? When Bill Clinton was President, when average monthly rent was around $645, and when Yahoo’s acquisition of GeoCities shot the dream of personal websites into the stratosphere? What a simpler, kinder time. Now, just in time for Halloween, the good folks over at the Internet Archive have a little GeoCities gift for us. A special project has blown away the cobwebs and dug up all of the GIFs ever hosted in the tombs of the old web. Available, for your viewing pleasure, is GifCities: An animated GIF search engine for GeoCities GIFs.

Get spooky on Facebook Live with Halloween-themed filters – The scariest time of year has arrived, and I don’t mean election season. To help users get in the Halloween spirits, Facebook Live has taken a page from Snapchat and rolled out some spooky new face filters that take the form of masks. Among the options to choose from are a witch, skull, jack o’lantern, and a handful of animals, including a panda.


7 PDF editing tools for iOS and Android – It’s not enough to read a PDF on your mobile device anymore — you have to be able to sign it, copy it or edit it. These apps can help.

Apple MacBook Pro 2017: The smart person’s guide – Everything you need to know about the new MacBook Pro, including the new OLED touch panel that redesigns the keyboard, fingerprint ID and an overall smaller package.

Apple MacBook Pro swaps outdated function keys for Touch Bar – Apple’s latest laptop gets rid of the old terminal function keys in place of a touch sensitive toolbar with Touch ID and Siri.

Apple’s new MacBook Pro kills off most of the ports you probably need – Apple just introduced a shiny, super thin new MacBook Pro. But for what was birthed, a lot of widely-held standards had to die. Today, Apple removed the MagSafe 2 charging port type, they stripped away the HDMI port, they ripped out the SD card slot, they shuttered the Thunderbolt 2 ports (which you probably used like three times) and they most notably killed the standard USB port.

Photos: Microsoft’s new Surface Studio and 10 great alternatives – Microsoft recently announced its new all-in-one PC, the Surface Studio. Here are the details and some other good options. Microsoft’s new Surface Studio features an ultra-thin,12.5-millimeter touch screen that is 28 inches across. It seems to be targeted toward creatives and designers as part of the new Windows 10 Creators Update. It costs $2999, and is available for preorder.

Windows 10 “Creator’s Update” will be coming for free this spring – Although Microsoft has released a number of new Windows builds to members of its insider program since the August release of the Anniversary Update, so far these haven’t contained much by way of substantial new features. The contents of the next major update to Windows 10 have remained largely unknown. That changed today. At its NYC event, Microsoft revealed some—though the company stresses, not all—of what we should expect to see when the update is released next year. And as with the Anniversary Update, the “Creator’s Update” will focus on various key areas such as productivity and gaming.

Windows 10 quick tips: How to protect your privacy – There has been some concern that Windows 10 gathers far too much private information from users. Whether you think Microsoft’s operating system crosses the privacy line, or just want to make sure you protect as much of your personal life as possible, we’re here to help. Here’s how to protect your privacy in just a few minutes.

How to keep your Linux PC safe from exploits – The 9-year-old Dirty COW vulnerability was recently fixed, if you’re running a patched kernal. Here’s how to know if your Linux is safe.


Emergency Flash Player patch fixes zero-day critical flaw – Adobe Systems has released an emergency patch for Flash Player to fix a critical vulnerability that attackers are already taking advantage of. Users are advised to upgrade to Flash Player on Windows and Mac and to version on Linux. The Flash Player runtime bundled with Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 10 and 8.1 will be updated automatically through those browsers’ update mechanisms.

Twitter to reveal new security measures to combat trolls next month – If you’re a frequent Twitter user, you might have noticed that the site has a bit of a troll problem. This isn’t a new problem, either, with harassment long being at the forefront of conversations about Twitter. The company has tried a number of things to prevent more unsavory folks from using Twitter as a platform for harassment, but those measures haven’t always been the most successful.

20 arrested, 61 charged in India-based IRS phone scam case – On Thursday morning, federal authorities in Texas unsealed criminal charges against dozens of people who are accused of being part of a “transnational criminal organization” that allegedly victimized tens of thousands of people and yielded hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. The indictment was filed against 61 people and includes charges of conspiracy to commit identity theft, impersonation of an officer of the United States, wire fraud, and money laundering. Of those people, 20 were arrested Thursday in the US.

Australian Red Cross apologises for massive data leak – Half a million Australians look to be impacted by a data leak that the Red Cross has put down to human error.

Malware from Friday’s DDoS attack continues to harass in short bursts – It’s still unclear who pulled off Friday’s massive internet disruption, but the malware largely responsible for the cyber attack has since been found assaulting new targets—possibly video gamers.

Dan Kaminsky calls for a few good hackers to secure the web – Dan Kaminsky, chief scientist for the cybersecurity firm White Ops, reknowned for fixing flaws in the DNS system, has a new project push on and he’s looking for coders to lend a hand. He’s currently hosting a four-day hackathon to build a set of tools designed to fix some of the most basic flaws and faults in IT security. These include Autoclave, a browser that uses multiple VM sandboxes to open possibly dodgy data, and Jump to Full Encryption (JFE) to automate full-disc encryption of systems. The full list of software being worked on is up on Dan’s GitHub page and he said he is looking for coders of all skill levels, saying there are plenty of projects for all. He’s physically hosting the hackathon in San Francisco before heading out to an O’Reilly security conference in New York on Monday – but the coding will go on in the meantime.

5 best practices for switching your site to HTTPS for improved security – Chrome is starting to flag more pages as insecure. Here are five things every webmaster should know about HTTPS.

Microsoft adds macro blocker to Office 2013 to stymie old-school attackers – Microsoft yesterday said that it had added a malware-in-macros blocker to Office 2013 after customers demanded that it expand the feature beyond the latest version, Office 2016. IT administrators have been able to block macros from running in Office 2016 since March. Enterprise IT staff can craft group policies to restrict macros, completely block them, or amplify the warnings users normally see before a macro is opened. The same capability was extended to Office 2013 last month, Microsoft said.

Company News:

Amazon plunges on earnings miss – Amazon disappointed investors when it posted third quarter earnings after the bell Thursday. With an adjusted earnings per share of 52 cents, this was well beneath the expected 78 cents. The stock quickly fell at least 6 percent in after-hours trading. Revenue of $32.7 billion was in line with what Wall Street was expecting. The miss came as a surprise because in recent years the company has significantly improved its financials. For a long time, Amazon was seen as an example of an unprofitable business that could maintain investor enthusiasm because the market believed in Bezos’ long-term vision and stuck along for the ride.

Amazon sues more sellers for buying fake reviews – Amazon is continuing its efforts to crack down on fraudulent reviews across its site with new lawsuits aimed at two U.S. sellers, and one from the E.U., which claim to have evidence of customer review abuse. That is, the defendants created fake reviews for their products, which could have influenced customers’ buying decisions. These suits, like those that preceded them, are meant to dissuade sellers from engaging in review abuse as they know that by doing so, they could be subject to legal action. Since the beginning of last year, Amazon has sued more than 1,000 defendants who offered to post fake reviews on its site in exchange for compensation. It has gone after those who sold their fake review services on the website, the operators of websites who engage in this practice and the sellers who buy the fake reviews.

Well into its second decade, Google’s business is still booming – Alphabet, the holding company formed around Google, reported its third quarter earnings today. The company grew its revenue 20 percent over the same period last year, to $22.45 billion. Its profit also improved, climbing 27 percent over the same period last year to $5 billion. These numbers were only slightly better than analysts expectations, and shares of Google didn’t move much in after-hours trading. But its nonetheless impressive that a company in its 18th year is still posting such strong and continuous growth in both revenue and profits.

Twitter lays off 9% of its workforce as it posts a desperately-needed positive Q3 – With Twitter’s acquisition hopes essentially dead, the company now seems it’s on its own to fend for itself and needs to figure out a way to build a reasonable and profitable business. Today, it got a much-needed good Q3 performance by largely beating Wall Street’s expectations across the board. Twitter reported earnings of 13 cents per share and revenue of $616 million, and the service grew to 317 million users. Analysts were looking for earnings of 9 cents per share on around $606 million in revenue, as well as 315 million monthly active users. Last quarter, the company had 313 million monthly active users.

Games and Entertainment:

Streaming TV bundle roundup: Everything we know so far – Streaming-TV channel bundles probably aren’t the future of television, but they’re the hot trend right now. After Sling TV and PlayStation Vue paved the way with cheaper alternatives to the traditional cable bundle, more competition is coming from companies like AT&T, Hulu, and YouTube. While these bundles don’t represent a radical re-envisioning of television—they’re largely trying to duplicate the cable TV experience through streaming devices—they might still be cheaper than cable, especially when you take away the rental fees for clunky cable box hardware. Here’s a roundup of all the nationwide streaming bundles we know about, including those that are rumored, announced, and already available.

Apple’s new TV app is an important half-step to the future – I just got a chance to play with Apple’s new TV app on the Apple TV, which is… just called TV. It’s more of a second home screen than an app, really — when you open it up you see a bunch of shows and movies that you can watch based on the video services you’ve subscribed to either directly or through your cable provider. If you don’t have the apps installed, you won’t see the stuff. That’s the big thing to know — this is another frontend to apps, not a service on its own. And importantly, there’s no Netflix content anywhere in sight, although Apple says it’s working to sign up more partners soon.

Game streaming coming to Windows 10, and bitstream coming to Xbox One – Microsoft’s Windows Creator Update event included a brief segment about the company’s game-specific updates. That Wednesday segment kicked off with an announcement that Windows will now come with live, online game-streaming capabilities built in. These won’t be powered by the popular game-streaming site Twitch, however, but by Beam, a very similar game-streaming service that Microsoft acquired in August. Instead of having to connect games to Beam’s Web UI, PC gamers will be able to load the Windows “game bar” interface—which already exists in Windows 10 by pressing the Windows key and the G button—and pick a “Beam” streaming option.

Borderlands: The Handsome Collection is free on Xbox One – Borderlands: The Handsome Collection is free on Xbox One from October 27 to October 30, it has been announced. The game has been made free for these days so you can get in on an event Xbox Live has underway. During these days, Xbox Live members — including those without a Gold membership — can play during the Multiplayer All-Access event. It is available for both Xbox One and Xbox 360.

More proof shows Hollywood insiders leaking movies on torrent sites – A legal flap between Warner Bros. and a Hollywood talent agency once again shows that Hollywood insiders are leaking pre-release movies to BitTorrent file-sharing sites. The latest evidence is spelled out in a copyright infringement lawsuit (PDF) brought this week by Warner Bros. against talent agency Innovative Artists. The studio claims Innovative Artists effectively set up its own pirate site of DVD screeners and other movie rips on a shared Google drive folder. This, according to the lawsuit, led to watermarked screener copies of Creed and Heart of the Sea being uploaded to file-sharing sites.

Off Topic (Sort of):

10 programs to help you break into a cybersecurity career – Eighty-two percent of IT professionals report a shortage of cybersecurity skills at their company. Here are 10 programs spanning all education levels to help you get your start in the field.

Internet Archive celebrates 20 years of ‘wayback web’ and a new mission – The Internet Archive in San Francisco celebrates 20 years. Here’s a quick introduction to some of the people that created a global treasure…

Self-driving cars doomed to be bullied by pedestrians – In a paper published on Wednesday in the Journal of Planning Education and Research, Adam Millard-Ball, an assistant professor in the Environmental Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, argues that the increased adoption of autonomous vehicles may make them less desirable in urban environments than human-driven cars. The reason is that pedestrians know their fellow humans may run them over. So they act accordingly – as if their lives depended on not wading heedlessly into onrushing traffic. They also know that automated vehicles will defer to them, or they will discover as much when they interact with them. Millard-Ball contends that pedestrians and drivers are engaged in a game of chicken, in which one party eventually decides to yield to the other based on the psychological perception of risk.

This ‘Pickled’ Dinosaur Brain Was Miraculously Preserved for 133 Million Years – For the first time ever, paleontologists have identified fossilized soft brain tissue from a dinosaur, providing an unprecedented glimpse inside the heads of these iconic Mesozoic animals. According to a Special Publication of the Geological Society of London released Thursday, an innocuous rock found near Bexhill-on-Sea in southern England contains traces of capillaries, partial cortical tissues, and meninges—protective membranes that envelop the brain—which belonged to an Iguanodon-like dinosaur some 133 million years ago.


The innocuous-looking sample found in Bexhill, Sussex. Image: Jamie Hiscocks

WWF Says Wildlife Populations Have Declined by 58% Since 1970 – The current human population on Earth is somewhere in the neighborhood of 7.2 billion. That’s a lot of anything to have walking around the planet, but our impact is greatly increased by the industrialized society most humans exist in. A new report from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) illustrates the scale of human impact. It says vertebrate wildlife populations have declined by 58% since 1970.

Something to think about:

“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.”

–     Jonathan Swift (1667 – 1745)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

FCC imposes ISP privacy rules and takes aim at mandatory arbitration – The Federal Communications Commission today imposed new privacy rules on Internet service providers, and the Commission said it has begun working on rules that could limit the use of mandatory arbitration clauses in the contracts customers sign with ISPs.

The new privacy rules require ISPs to get opt-in consent from consumers before sharing Web browsing data and other private information with advertisers and other third parties. The rules apply both to home Internet service providers like Comcast and mobile data carriers like Verizon Wireless. The commission’s Democratic majority ensured the rules’ passage in a 3-2 vote, with Republicans dissenting.

Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn was disappointed that the rules passed today did not include any action on mandatory arbitration clauses that prevent consumers from suing ISPs. But Chairman Tom Wheeler said that issue will be addressed in a separate rulemaking.

Canadian Police Are Texting Potential Murder Witnesses – On Thursday, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) will send text messages to anybody who was in the vicinity of a murder in the hopes that one of them will have information that can help catch the culprit. One of the recipients may even be the killer. Others may wonder how the police obtained their phone number in the first place, or knew where they were on the day in question.

The OPP is ramping up its efforts to find the murderer of 65-year-old hitchhiker John Hatch, who was found dead near Erin, Ontario, on December 17, 2015. He was last seen alive the day before, outside Ottawa.

Now, the OPP has announced what it’s describing as a “new investigative technique” for the force: obtaining the phone numbers of everyone who was in the area where and when Hatch was last seen alive, via a court order, and sending each person a text message directing them to a police website. If they follow those instructions, they’ll be asked a series of online questions.

According to digital privacy lawyer David Fraser, this technique is known as a “tower dump”—essentially asking telecom companies for information about everyone who connected to a certain cellphone tower, at a given time. If the police plan on using this technique again, its future uses could have unintended effects, Frasier said.

“There’s got to be a cut-off of severity here,” said Fraser. “Are they going to do this after a bar brawl at a strip club? Imagine you’re sitting on the couch with your lovely spouse and your phone buzzes and your spouse looks and says, ‘Oh, it’s the police wondering if you were at the strip joint and if you saw anything?”

EU-US Privacy Shield data transfer deal faces legal challenge – The European Commission’s newly minted data-sharing arrangement with the U.S. — the EU-US Privacy Shield — is facing a legal challenge on privacy grounds.

Reuters reports that privacy rights organization Digital Rights Ireland has filed a legal challenge against Privacy Shield, arguing it does not contain adequate privacy safeguards, citing several people familiar with the matter.

Critics of the new deal had predicted this day would come, arguing the arrangement lacks adequate privacy safeguards to pass muster with Europe’s courts.

The agreement, which was multiple years in negotiation, was only formally adopted this July, with sign-ups open from August. Urgency had been injected into the negotiating process after fall 2015 when Europe’s top court struck down the prior Safe Harbor agreement, ending a regime that had authorized personal data transfers between the EU and the U.S. for some 15 years.

The EC argues Privacy Shield greatly strengths privacy safeguards to ensure Europeans’ data protection rights are secure when personal data flows to the U.S. Critics disagree, pointing to U.S. mass surveillance programs as an inexorable violation of these fundamental rights.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – October 26, 2016

How hackable are your smart home gadgets?  Beware this fake Windows BSOD from tech support scammers’ malware;  Better safe than sorry: 5 apps for encrypting and shredding files;  10 must-have Android apps for Halloween;  How to watch the World Series online;  IBM Watson: The smart person’s guide;  5 Tools You Need to Finally Go Paperless;  WhatsApp update download brings Video Calls to Beta;  The most common malware, country by country;  November Xbox Live Games With Gold Lineup Revealed – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Microsoft: Beware this fake Windows BSOD from tech support scammers’ malware – Microsoft has sounded the alarm over a fake installer for its Security Essentials, which attempts to trick victims into contacting bogus help centers. Tech-support scammers have stepped up their technical game, prompting a “severe” warning from Microsoft over new Windows malware that mimics Microsoft’s free Security Essentials antivirus, and then displays a fake blue screen of death, or BSoD, with an error message and a suggestion to call a 1800 number that is not a Microsoft support center. The malware, which Microsoft calls Hicurdismos, disables Task Manager to prevent the user from terminating the fake BSoD and hides the mouse cursor to make the user think Windows is not responding.


Microsoft doesn’t call you to offer tech support and does not provide phone numbers to call on its BSoD security warnings. Image: Microsoft

How hackable are your smart home gadgets? – After last week’s massive internet outage, now may be the time for a full audit of your smart home devices. Most of the smart home devices used in last week’s attacks seem to come from lesser known manufacturers with shoddy security practices, including Chinese webcam-maker Xiongmai. But what about those larger platforms? What are they doing to keep your devices and your data secure? Are they at risk, too? Let’s break it down, one at a time.

Better safe than sorry: 5 apps for encrypting and shredding files – If you want to protect sensitive data — especially if you’re sending it via email or via an online service — one of these programs can help.

Tips, tricks and shortcuts: Ed Bott makes Windows 10 work for you – Need help navigating Windows 10? Let Windows pro Ed Bott be your guide.

How to watch the World Series online – Fox will broadcast the games nationally, but you don’t need a TV in order to watch. There are four legal options to watch this historic World Series matchup live online.

5 Tools You Need to Finally Go Paperless – Going paperless doesn’t have to be hard, especially if you know what tools will help you do it. Whether you’re a first-timer or you’ve tried giving up paper before and it didn’t stick, there are at least five tools that are essential to making it work.

10 must-have Android apps for Halloween – From creepy games to costume aides, it’s time again to summon the spirits to your phone for a fun and festive Halloween.

WhatsApp update download brings Video Calls to Beta – WhatsApp has been updated to include video calling for the first time in the messaging app’s history. This functionality was first brought to the Windows Phone version of the app, by some miracle, but is now ready for Android. The update for iOS was just made this past week, but it does not appear as though video calling is quite prepared for the iPhone as yet.


How to access and edit Google Calendar quickly with this must-have extension – If you rely heavily on Google Calendar, check out an extension that makes viewing and adding to upcoming events a snap.

How to repair Windows 10’s Master Boot Record – You should know how to repair your Master Boot Record, because if ransomware or some other disaster bricks your PC, you just might be able to save it. Here’s how.

Use Windows 10’s Battery Saver to squeeze more life out of your laptop – Settings for screen brightness, low-power mode and more will help you last longer on a charge.

Best home security camera: Our favorite tools for keeping an eye on the home front – A boom in wireless security cameras is inspiring a movement in DIY home surveillance. Follow our buying guide and read our reviews to find the best option for you.


Best Bluetooth speakers – There was a time when Bluetooth speakers were like jelly beans: They were cheap, they all looked the same, and they were invariably of dubious quality. Times have changed. Every major audio manufacturer has at least one model on the market today, and most have several. If you haven’t listened to a Bluetooth speaker lately, you’re in for a very pleasant surprise.

IBM Watson: The smart person’s guide – This comprehensive guide covers how the IBM Watson data analytics processor works, and how it helps customers in various industries make critical decisions.

You have one week left to buy a Windows 7 PC – Two older versions of Windows are approaching their mandatory retirement date. If you want a new PC running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, you’ll have fewer options beginning on Nov. 1. Here’s what the end-of-sales deadline means.


How Web Cams Helped Bring Down the Internet, Briefly – While the attack did cause some economic damage, cybersecurity experts say the bigger issue is the way in which the hackers were able to pull off such a feat. They did it not only by co-opting zombie computers—the typical way that hackers push servers off-line—but by leveraging “tens of millions” of addresses on insecure, internet-connected devices that had been infected with malicious software code, according to Kyle York, the chief strategy officer at Dynamic Network Services Inc., the company that came under attack.

Chinese Firm Issues Webcam Recall After Massive Cyberattack – A Chinese electronics maker has recalled millions of products sold in the U.S. following a massive cyberattack that briefly blocked access to websites including Twitter and Netflix. Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology said in a statement that millions of web-connected cameras and digital recorders became compromised because customers failed to change their default passwords.

Physical RAM attack can root Android and possibly other devices – Researchers have devised a new way to fully compromise Android devices without exploiting any software vulnerability and instead taking advantage of a physical design weakness in RAM chips.

ARM builds up security in the tiniest Internet of Things chips – On Tuesday at ARM TechCon in Silicon Valley, ARM will introduce processors that are just a fraction of a millimeter across and incorporate the company’s TrustZone technology. TrustZone is hardware-based security built into SoC (system on chip) processors to establish a root of trust. It’s designed to prevent devices from being hacked and taken over by intruders, a danger that’s been in the news since the discovery of the Mirai botnet, which recently took over thousands of IP cameras to mount denial-of-service attacks.

The most common malware, country by country – Microsoft’s security analysis reveals what kinds of malware are most likely to hit your region.

Company News:

Twitter reportedly planning to cut hundreds of jobs – Twitter is planning to cut hundreds of jobs, with an announcement possibly coming as soon as this week ahead of its third-quarter financial results, Bloomberg reported Monday. The financially troubled company is planning to eliminate about 300 jobs, or 8 percent of its workforce, unidentified people described as familiar with the matter told the media outlet. It’s roughly the same number of jobs cut a year ago after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey returned to the social media company’s helm.

iPhone sales slump. Apple still raking in billions – Apple’s iPhone difficulties were clear for everyone to see on Tuesday, when the company released its financial results for the quarter ended Sept. 24. The company reported its third straight quarter of weaker iPhone sales, marking its first fiscal year of lower phone sales since the blockbuster device was introduced in 2007. Sales and profit for the year were also down. Overall, the company sold 45.5 million iPhones, five percent fewer than the 48 million it sold in the same quarter a year earlier. However, the performance surpassed Wall Street’s forecast of 44.2 million units, according to Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi.

Weak Nintendo earnings show there’s nowhere to go but up for Switch – If last week’s reveal of the Nintendo Switch sparked widespread excitement around the company for the first time in a while, today’s second-quarter earnings release is a reminder that there’s still some way to go. Nintendo reported revenue of 137 billion yen ($1.32 billion), down 33 percent year-on-year, slumping to an operating loss of 5.95 billion yen ($57.1 million) after making 8.98 billion yen operating profit in the same period last year. Nintendo sold just 530,000 Wii U systems between July and September, down 53 percent on 2015, and software sales were also down 33 percent because, well, basically nothing of note was released. Nintendo is winding down production on the unsuccessful console, only expecting to ship 800,000 units for the entire fiscal year.

Sprint’s Q2 revenue grows for the first time in two years – Sprint Corp. posted its first year-over-year revenue gain in more two years as part of its second quarter earnings report released Tuesday. The Overland Park, Kansas-based company reported a net loss of $142 million, or four cents per share, compared to a loss of $443 million, or $0.11 per share, the year prior. Net operating revenue was $8.25 billion, which, at three percent above the previous year, marks Sprint’s first net revenue increase since 2014. Wall Street was expecting a loss of seven cents per share on revenue of $8.03 billion.

Pandora’s latest quarter disappoints investors – In what has become a very competitive landscape for digital music, early pioneer Pandora is trying to remain a leader. The company reported third quarter earnings after the bell on Tuesday, giving a glimpse at the current health of their business. Pandora has seen its revenue grow to $351.9 million, up by 13% from the same period last year. Yet analysts had been expecting $366.1 million. Adjusted earnings per share also missed the mark, with a loss of 7 cents, instead of the 6 cents Wall Street was forecasting. The stock fell about 8% in the initial after hours trading. Advertising revenue came in at $273.7 million, up 7% year-over-year, but beneath the $286.9 million that analysts predicted. Ticketing service revenue was $22.1 million, an area that saw 25% growth, yet also fell slightly beneath Wall Street expectations.

Games and Entertainment:

AT&T prices DirecTV Now at $35 a month – AT&T wants to give you a cheaper alternative to cable TV. The answer: Its new DirecTV Now online video service will cost only $35 a month. The price of the service, expected to launch next month, will include the cost of streaming plus 100 channels of programming, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said on Tuesday at the WSJ.D live conference in California.

Review: ‘Civilization 6’ Fixes Most of the Series’ Biggest Flaws – I love almost everything else about Civilization VI. It’s friendly in a way that belies its complexity. The interface looks busier than it feels, which is to say never convoluted. You can glean all the information you need, without peeping the spreadsheet views hiding under tiny icons (which seem to exist more for the reasons scientists publish their data—so you can double-check the math if you like). It is, in most of the ways that matter, the best-looking, most systemically well thought out, and thereby most fun I’ve had with a Civilization since 1996.


Civilization 6 tips: Succeeding in the early game – You only need to spend a few minutes with Civilization 6 to notice that things have changed since the last time you danced to this song. Civilization 6 presents a number of new features that can be confusing or overwhelming for even the Civilization veteran, let alone newcomers. Using the tips listed here, you should be able to get your civilization off to the start you need to ensure that you remain competitive as the game moves into its middle and ending stages.

November Xbox Live Games With Gold Lineup Revealed – Microsoft just revealed next month’s Games With Gold lineup for Xbox Live Gold members. Like usual, you can expect four free games in October — two on Xbox One and two on Xbox 360. On Xbox One, Live Gold members can download dungeon brawler Super Dungeon Bros for free all month while spooky stealth game Murdered: Soul Suspect will be available as a free download from Nov. 16 to Dec. 15. Both games normally sell for $20 each.

Sonic Utopia fan game revealed – here’s how to download the demo – Those who have been disappointed by Sonic the Hedgehog’s 3D escapades may want to take a look at Sonic Utopia, a new fan-game announced today. Sonic Utopia looks to fix some of the problems 3D Sonic games have, offering players an open world to run, jump, and go fast through. If that has piqued your interest, you might like to know that there happens to be a demo you can download to try Sonic Utopia for yourself.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Microsoft’s graveyard: 8 products Microsoft killed in 2016 – Microsoft has rolled out plenty of new things in 2016, including the latest edition of Windows Server, additions to its Azure cloud platform and increased availability of its futuristic HoloLens mixed reality technology. But as always, the company has had to make room for the new by ditching some of the old. Here’s a roundup of products, services and more that Microsoft rid itself of in 2016.

Watch Uber’s Self-Driving Trucks Make a Beer Run – Otto, the self-driving truck company owned by Uber, recently completed what it claims was the first commercial delivery by a self-driving vehicle. A truck outfitted with Otto’s autonomous driving technology shipped a truckload of Budweiser beer from Fort Collins, Co. to Colorado Springs, a distance of about 120 miles. Otto says the truck drove hands-free from exit to exit, though a human driver was in the cab for local streets and to take over in case of an emergency.


Here are the 10 most — and least — reliable cars according to Consumer Reports – Every year, Consumer Reports ranks all its vehicles based on reliability data. This year’s 10 best (and 10 worst) cover a number of automakers and countries of origin.

Religious people are worse at math, researchers claim – I’m currently moved by a study from the University of Helsinki. As the British Psychological Research Society’s Research Digest reports, the Finns asked 258 respondents to offer up their beliefs. Specifically, the participants were asked about their beliefs in paranormal phenomena, as well as whether they thought “there exists an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving God.” The researchers wanted to measure something they call “physical capability.” This embraces, among other things, an assessment of scientific knowledge, as well as of the ability to solve problems that require a grasp of math and physics. They concluded that those who are religious are less aware of the physical world than those who aren’t. There’s even some similarity, claim the scientists, between religious belief and autism because they both blur the mental and the physical.

Donald Trump launches nightly campaign show on Facebook Live – Starting Monday, the video program will run on Trump’s Facebook campaign page weeknights at 6:30 p.m. ET, the Trump campaign announced on its Facebook page. The program will originate from Trump Tower and be hosted by Trump advisor Boris Epshteyn, conservative political commentator Tomi Lahren, a political news site publisher who is also serving as a Trump advisor.

Something to think about:

“Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.”

–     Mark Twain

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Does privacy exist anymore? Just barely – Privacy is a critical area for IT, and as social media and mobile extend potential privacy invasions into areas once considered safe, reasonable safeguards must be taken. But it has to be acknowledged that many restrictions — you’re not allowed to save this or to track that — are simply not going to work. If data can be accessed, it will be used and retained, and no rules or laws to the contrary will make any difference. Two recent events make it clear how such attempts are futile.

AT&T Is Spying on Americans for Profit, New Documents Reveal – The telecom giant is doing NSA-style work for law enforcement—without a warrant—and earning millions of dollars a year from taxpayers.

French surveillance law is unconstitutional after all, highest court says – The French Constitutional Council has taken another look at a new security law it waved through in July 2015, and found it wanting.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – October 24, 2016

How to Understand Today’s Internet Outage in 4 Words;   How to change your DNS and (maybe) get the internet back;  Find Out If One of Your Devices Helped Break the Internet;  31 Hidden Chrome Features That Will Make Your Life Easier;  3 handy image tools you can use in File Explorer;  AT&T and Time Warner reveal merger to create ISP, TV, and media giant;  Instagram testing live video streaming feature;  20 terrifying PC horror games to play with the lights off – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to Understand Today’s Internet Outage in 4 Words – A massive DDoS attack against a major DNS service likely using a botnet of IoT devices resulted in Internet issues across the eastern United States Friday, making it hard for many users to access their favorite sites. Phew. That’s a lot of acronyms. To better understand what’s going on with the Internet today, let’s unpack that sentence. There are four key terms you should know:

Find Out If One of Your Devices Helped Break the Internet – The attack is a reckoning of sorts for companies selling hordes of poorly-secured IoT products. But it should also be a major wake-up call to the thousands of people putting internet-connected fridges, light bulbs, thermostats, and other appliances in their homes. In other words: If you’ve bought into the Internet of Things, now is the time to make sure your “smart” device isn’t being hijacked by hackers to take down the internet. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to check on this using online tools like Bullguard’s IoT Scanner. The scanner will detect any devices on your home network that are publicly exposed and potentially accessible to hackers using the vulnerability scanning service Shodan, which is kind of like Google for finding unprotected computers and webcams.

How to change your DNS and (maybe) get the internet back – Sometimes, when your favorite websites go “down,” they’re actually still right there. You just can’t see them, because your computer doesn’t know how to get there. What if you could give your PC some better driving directions right now, in just a minute or two tops? To do that, you just need to change your DNS server.

31 Hidden Chrome Features That Will Make Your Life Easier – One of the reasons for Chrome’s popularity is its clean, polished UI and its versatility. While Chrome’s abilities multiply greatly when you consider the near-bottomless library of extensions, there’s a bounty of stock functionality embedded all throughout Chrome’s guts that you may not even know about. Click through our slideshow for a list of 31 hidden tricks hidden inside Chrome that you really need to be using.

3 handy image tools you can use in File Explorer – File Explorer’s Manage tab for photos has some quick-and-easy photo-management tools for Windows 8 and Windows 10 users.

How to Use and Tweak Your Windows 10 Lock Screen – The first item that greets you when you fire up Windows 10 is the Lock screen. Clicking or tapping on it brings you to the sign-in screen where you log in to Windows. Yes, the Lock screen seems unnecessary, but it carries with it some tidbits that can be useful before you even launch Windows. From the Lock screen, you can view information from certain apps. You can chat with Cortana if you’ve installed the new Windows 10 Anniversary update. And you can customize the screen with your favorite background image or slideshow. Here’s how.

15 Secret Gestures Hidden Inside Your Favorite Android Apps – Fifteen cool finger-friendly tricks inside Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more.

Chat App Line Adds Disappearing Posts – Messaging app Line is taking another page from Snapchat’s book by adding disappearing posts. Users can tap the clock icon in the upper-right corner to create a 24-hour post, which is “perfect for expressing how you’re feeling right in the moment,” Line said in a blog post. Line 6.8.0—out now for Android and coming soon to iOS—also includes the ability to search for posts via hashtag and add effects to video calls. Just select an icon during a chat, and watch its effect fill up the screen; also use filters to give calls “that stylish look.”

Apple’s Health App Now Tracks Sexual Activity, and That’s a Big Opportunity – Apple’s update to the Health app is actually a great step forward for sexual health tracking—and, hopefully, for the tech world’s attitude towards sex.

Instagram testing live video streaming feature – Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter’s Periscope — these social networks all have features that allow users to stream or watch live video from their mobile devices, and now it appears that Instagram is joining their ranks. Russian news outlet T Journal has discovered the functionality within the Instagram Stories feature, albeit in an incomplete, non-working state.

How to avoid buying counterfeit Apple cables and chargers – Apple says its investigation found that 90 percent of into Apple-branded goods sold on Amazon are counterfeit. Here’s are some tips on how to avoid being caught out.

Facebook says it will allow more explicit posts if they are newsworthy – Facebook will begin allowing more explicit posts if they are “newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest,” the company said today, following a series of controversies over deleted content. “Our intent is to allow more images and stories without posing safety risks or showing graphic images to minors and others who do not want to see them,” said  Joel Kaplan, vice president of global public policy, and Justin Osofsky, vice president of global operations and media partnerships, in a blog post.

Electronic health records: The smart person’s guide – This comprehensive guide covers all you need to know about EHRs, or electronic health records, the new standard in medical documentation.


That massive internet outage, explained – What even happened on Friday? Your favorite websites were down, and it was all because one company got attacked. Here’s how it happened, and why it’s likely to happen again.

How massive DDoS attacks are undermining the Internet – On Friday morning, I awoke to find that our company-wide single sign-on and cloud storage was disrupted due to the massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack against domain host Dyn. This attack was big, disrupting consumer services like Spotify and Netflix, all the way to enterprise-grade providers like Heroku and Zendesk. Once the dust has settled, it’s likely that this attack will have impacted more people, in more ways, than any other in memory.

Chinese firm admits its hacked products were behind Friday’s DDOS attack – A Chinese electronics component manufacturer says its products inadvertently played a role in a massive cyberattack that disrupted major internet sites in the U.S. on Friday. Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology, a vendor behind DVRs and internet-connected cameras, said on Sunday that security vulnerabilities involving weak default passwords in its products were partly to blame. According to security researchers, malware known as Mirai has been taking advantage of these vulnerabilities by infecting the devices and using them to launch huge distributed denial-of service attacks, including Friday’s outage.

Using Rowhammer bitflips to root Android phones is now a thing – Researchers have devised an attack that gains unfettered “root” access to a large number of Android phones, exploiting a relatively new type of bug that allows adversaries to manipulate data stored in memory chips. The breakthrough has the potential to make millions of Android phones vulnerable, at least until a security fix is available, to a new form of attack that seizes control of core parts of the operating system and neuters key security defenses. Equally important, it demonstrates that the new class of exploit, dubbed Rowhammer, can have malicious and far-reaching effects on a much wider number of devices than was previously known, including those running ARM chips.

Easy-to-exploit rooting flaw puts Linux PCs at risk – The maintainers of Linux distributions are rushing to patch a privilege escalation vulnerability that’s already being exploited in the wild and poses a serious risk to Linux based servers, desktops and other devices.

Company News:

AT&T and Time Warner reveal merger to create ISP, TV, and media giant – AT&T and Time Warner Inc. have made their rumored merger official, with AT&T to purchase the media company for $85.4 billion in cash and stock. The total transaction value is $108.7 billion when factoring in Time Warner’s debt. AT&T’s announcement Saturday evening listed some of the many media properties the company will own if the merger is allowed by US regulators. Time Warner Inc. has been completely separate from its former subsidiary, Time Warner Cable (now owned by Charter), since 2009.

Microsoft to hike UK enterprise prices after Brexit pounds sterling – On Friday Microsoft quietly released the news of changes to pricing for volume licensing products via its UK TechNet blog for IT professionals — saying it was revising pricing in pound sterling to “ensure there is reasonable alignment across the region”. On-premise enterprise software prices will be rising by 13 per cent, while “most” enterprise cloud prices in British pounds will increase by 22 per cent to — in Microsoft’s words — “realign close to euro levels”. The reason for rising prices is of course the June referendum in the UK on continued membership of the European Union — with the shock no vote sending the value of the pound nosediving. Some analysts are now predicting Sterling will hit parity with the euro and drop to just $1.10 by the end of 2017.

Apple to revive the Mac, as iPad falters and IBM launches biggest Mac rollout ever – Apple’s computers–the trucks of the technology world as Steve Jobs once characterized them–take center stage on Thursday when Apple unveils its latest Macs. The company has been infatuated with the iPhone and the iPad for the past several years, while the Mac has been friend-zoned. But, with the iPad in a prolonged slump and iPhone sales stagnating, it makes perfect sense that it’s time for Apple to shore up the Mac. It also doesn’t hurt that IBM is offering a high-profile assist in the corporate market, where the Mac has only single digit market share and enterprise deployments could turn the Mac into a growth business again.

Airbnb Sues New York Over Restrictive New Law – Airbnb has filed suit against the state of New York after Gov. Mario Cuomo signed into law a bill that restricts how Airbnb hosts can operate in the region. New York law already bans rentals of 30 days or less if the owner of the property is not present. The bill signed by Gov. Cuomo, from Democratic Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, goes one step further and bans New York homeowners from advertising such rentals on Airbnb’s website. Those who do so risk fines of $1,000 for the first violation, $5,000 for a second violation, and $7,500 if caught a third time.

Intel asserts trademark rights against John McAfee – Intel does not object to John McAfee using his personal name in connection with his business, but it objects to the use of the McAfee trade name and trademark in a way that could confuse consumers or dilute the brand.

Games and Entertainment:

CBS signs deal with Google for YouTube’s streaming TV service – YouTube Unplugged, Google‘s subscription-based live television service, has been rumored for several months now, but it appears to have signed its first major content partner in a new deal with the CBS network. The YouTube-branded streaming video service is expected to launch in early 2017, offering users access to several TV channels for a set price between $25 and $40 per month. The Wall Street Journal reported the CBS deal earlier this week, making it the first network to reach an agreement with Google.

DOOM Arcade Mode has arrived: three things to know – The Arcade Mode Bethesda promised for DOOM has arrived, and you can download it now if you haven’t already. There’s a lot to like about this DLC, and it helps flesh what was otherwise a good but not perfect rendition of the classic title. For those unaware, this is Free Update 4 — it also brings a pair of new multiplayer modes, “Possession” and “Bloodrush.” The previous update (#3) brought private matches and deathmatches.

AMD strikes back with lower Radeon RX 460, 470 prices – The graphics card wars on the low-end is heating up. Addressing a gaping hole in its portfolio, NVIDIA last week revealed the new GeForce GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti, both sitting on the lower end of its new Pascal line. Given the price tag, it was easily seen as encroaching on what is traditionally considered to be AMD’s turf. Naturally, the latter isn’t taking things sitting down and, while it hasn’t made much noise about it, prizes for its Radeon 460 and Radeon 470 VR-ready cars are dropping all around.

Skyrim Special Edition trailer released with digital launch info – Skyrim Special Edition is just a week away from release, and Bethesda has unleashed a new trailer that shows off some more footage from this enhanced edition. Bethesda’s timing is impeccable – with today’s releases of Battlefield 1 and Civilization VI, some folks likely forgot that Skyrim Special Edition is nearly upon us. If you’re one of those people, consider this your not-so-subtle reminder.


Skyrim Monopoly Game Coming Next Year – Video game merchandise retailer Merchoid has announced that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will be getting the Monopoly treatment next year. The set will use characters, locations, and lore from Skyrim for its gameboard, tokens, cards, buildings, dice, and of course, money. The game’s product page is light on any additional details, but this themed package will be released in March of 2017 and come in a box that has the Dragonborn on it. You can pre-order the game now for 47.99.

20 terrifying PC horror games to play with the lights off – Horror games are a dime a dozen. Good horror games—well, those are much rarer. We’ve rounded up some of the best horror games ever made, running the gamut from big-budget extravaganzas released this very year to… text adventures. I’m serious. Turn out the lights, put on some headphones, make sure you’ve got a spare pair of underwear nearby, and enjoy these terrifying spine-tinglers.

Off Topic (Sort of):

WTF is machine learning? – While the number of headlines about machine learning might lead one to think that we just discovered something profoundly new, the reality is that the technology is nearly as old as computing.

Pediatricians revise thinking on screen time; ditch ban for kids under 2 – To adjust to our digital world, the American Academy of Pediatrics rebooted its thinking on children’s media use Friday by giving parents considerably looser recommendations than those of the past. “These are the best recommendations at this point in time based on more recent research,” Anne Francis, AAP spokesperson and general practitioner, told Ars. Most notably, the academy ditched its strict ban on screen time for kids under the age of two, which had been in place since 1999. Now, the AAP acknowledges that not all screen time is equal, and even very young kids can benefit from certain types of media if parents and caregivers are involved.

Privacy groups target kids advertising disguised as YouTube content – Marketing companies are targeting children worldwide on YouTube with advertising disguised as other content, an “unfair and deceptive” business practice, three privacy groups said in a complaint to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

Photos: Move over Google Earth, this 3D map shows our world in razor-sharp detail – Researchers have collected five years of imagery from a pair of satellites to create a 3D map of Earth that captures its mountains and valleys with unprecedented precision.

Trump says Comcast and NBC are poisoning the minds of American voters – In a speech today about his first 100 days in the White House, Donald Trump got more specific about how the universe is allegedly rigged against him. Trump, who has routinely called journalists nasty liars for bringing up his own record, blasted the media by turning his ire toward Comcast / NBC Universal. Saying the merged company is “trying to poison the mind of the American voter,” Trump said that the now-five-year-old deal should never have been approved in the first place, and that it’s bad for democracy. Trump is certainly saying this for the wrong reasons, but as AT&T is rumored to be buying Time Warner this weekend, it’s a good time to note that he’s partially — if accidentally — right.

Facebook employees argued Trump’s posts should be banned as hate speech – Some Facebook employees have argued that Donald Trump’s posts on the social network should be designated as hate speech and removed, according to a new report. The internal arguments started after Trump began discussing Muslim immigration last December, the report said. Zuckerberg’s decision not to delete Trump’s posts, as an unspecified number of employees had called for, drew complaints from employees around the world, it said. (It reportedly also generated support for Zuckerberg’s decision.) The Journal’s report comes on the same day that Facebook said it would loosen some of its restrictions on explicit content if the post is deemed newsworthy or in the public interest.

9 Ways Driverless Cars Will Change Your Life – In this article, we take the long view to predict what the shift to self-driving cars will mean for society. Obviously, there’s no way of knowing for sure what the future holds, but dozens of whitepapers and reports allow for educated guesses.

Something to think about:

“To be absolutely certain about something, one must know everything or, nothing about it.”

–      Henry Kissinger

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Al Franken and Mignon Clyburn: How Your Internet Provider Restricts Your Rights – No business should be too big to hold accountable in a court of law

When you are wronged in America, you are supposed to be able to find justice in our legal system. It doesn’t matter who you are—and, importantly, it doesn’t matter who wronged you. No entity is supposed to be too big or too powerful to hold accountable in a court of law.

But communications providers who offer access to the internet in our homes and on our phones have found a way to evade accountability by effectively locking the courtroom doors on their customers.

They do it through the use of what are known as mandatory arbitration clauses, buried deep in the fine print of the contracts you have to sign in order to get internet service. These clauses force you to sign away your right to go to court in the event of a dispute, in favor of a private arbitration process that is inherently biased towards corporations and offers no meaningful appeals process.

Last year, The New York Times reported on the proliferation of these clauses in employment contracts, nursing home contracts, credit card contracts, and other agreements between individuals and corporations, describing the trend as “a far-reaching power play” and highlighting examples of people who were deeply wronged by these corporations, only to discover that they had unwittingly forfeited their constitutional right to hold them accountable in court.

Facebook Accidentally Removes Swedish Breast Cancer Awareness Video – Facebook says it accidentally removed a video about breast cancer awareness posted by the Swedish Cancer Society this week.

“We’re very sorry, our team processes millions of advertising images each week, and in some instances we incorrectly prohibit ads. This image does not violate our ad policies. We apologize for the error and have let the advertiser know we are approving their ads,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

Sweden’s Cancerfonden said earlier Thursday it was disappointed that the social network deemed its video, which featured images of animated women with circle-shaped breasts, “offensive.”

Cancerfonden told TIME it received a message saying their ad violated Facebook’s Advertising Policies. “Your ad can not market sex products or services nor adults products or services,” the message said, according to Cancerfonden. The cancer group said it tried to contact Facebook to appeal the decision to remove its video, but had not heard back from the company.

Once Facebook realized its mistake, it approved the video ads. Facebook came under fire last month when it removed the iconic photo of a young girl running from napalm bombs during the Vietnam War. Although the social network initially defended its decision, it later re-published the photo, saying the “history and global importance” of the image outweighed other considerations.

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Filed under Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – October 21, 2016

Would You Click on These Fake Gmail Alerts?  NFL without cable: A cord cutter’s guide for the 2016 season;  Home networking: Everything you need to know;  Windows 10 tip: Start in Safe Mode;  Free tool protects PCs from master boot record attacks;  The Best eReaders of 2016;  How to Get Free (or Cheap), New Ebooks;  6 ways to delete yourself from the internet;  Weebly hacked, 43 million credentials stolen;  13 super-scary movies to stream for Halloween – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Home networking: Everything you need to know – Did you know that Wi-Fi and internet are two different things? That’s true, Wi-Fi is just a wireless method for devices in a local network to connect to one another using a router and share a single internet connection, if there is one. Then what is a local network, you ask? And what’s a router for Pete’s sake? Advanced and experienced users likely won’t need this, but for the rest, I’d recommend reading the whole thing. So take your time, but in case you want to jump to a quick answer, feel free to search for what you want to know and chances are you’ll find it within this post.

Would You Click on These Fake Gmail Alerts? – The months-long espionage campaign against US political targets allegedly orchestrated by hackers working for the Russian government hinged on a simple, yet effective, hacker trick: booby-trapped emails. In some cases, such as with the hack on John Podesta or Colin Powell, the phishing emails were designed to look like Gmail alerts containing a Bitly link that led to a fake webpage to harvest the victim’s password. Podesta and Powell were fooled, but don’t think only baby boomers aren’t good at spotting malicious emails. In fact, one in two people click on phishing links, according to some estimates. And, of course, some look more credible than others. For example, you probably wouldn’t click on this email I got a few weeks ago, even if it contained the name of your mother, as it’s the case here.

Free tool protects PCs from master boot record attacks – Cisco Systems’ Talos team has developed an open-source tool that can protect the master boot record of Windows computers from modification by ransomware and other malicious attacks. The tool, called MBRFilter, functions as a signed system driver and puts the disk’s sector 0 into a read-only state. It is available for both 32-bit and 64-bit Windows versions and its source code has been published on GitHub.

Windows 10 tip: Start in Safe Mode and use other advanced startup settings – Safe Mode is the most important of the classic Windows troubleshooting tools. In Windows 10 on modern PCs, the old F8 shortcut doesn’t work. Here’s how to get to Safe Mode quickly.

10 beloved PC programs Windows 10 renders obsolete – Windows 10 and its massive Anniversary Update have brought a wide range of improvements designed to eliminate hassles—but several of those upgrades have rendered some of our favorite tools all but obsolete. Rather than mourn these beloved programs and services, let’s rejoice in the fact that they inspired Microsoft to make Windows 10 that much better. (And don’t hesitate to download these gems if you’re still on an older version of Windows!)

Windows users face massive update bloat, tough choices – Windows 10’s cumulative updates have ballooned in size, and a similar bloat will affect the Windows 7 updates Microsoft revamped this month.

Microsoft rescues disheveled lady Skypers with its TeleBeauty virtual makeup app – Microsoft Japan, in conjunction with cosmetics supplier Shiseido, has developed TeleBeauty, an app that applies virtual makeup—with styles ranging from “cool” to “trendy”—over a face. TeleBeauty uses the laptop’s camera to superimpose the makeup scheme as the woman (or a man, though the app seems aimed at women) conducts a Skype for Business call.

Meet your new streaming TV bundlers: Apple, Amazon, Roku, and Google – Aside from lower bills and greater flexibility, one of the many benefits of ditching cable TV is that you’re less dependent on an industry with historically awful customer relationships. The less one has to interact with Comcast or Charter or DirecTV or—well, you name the service provider—the better. But cutting ties with cable TV does have a downside: Instead of dealing with just one company for TV services, you might have to manage multiple streaming accounts. As the number of online video services proliferates, you might wish there was a way to bundle them all together under one bill—kind of like you did with cable.

NFL without cable: A cord cutter’s guide for the 2016 season – Thanks in part to new streaming options for cord-cutters, it’s possible to watch all your local NFL games without cable, along with all nationally televised games on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday nights. With the NFL season just a week away, now’s a good time to run through all the ways that cord cutters can watch or stream NFL games, so you’ll be ready for kickoff:

13 super-scary movies to stream for Halloween – Some of the best horror movies of all time are available for streaming online. Watch them if you dare.

Google adds more productivity-boosting features to G Suite – G Suite, Google’s rebranded and refurbished set of cloud office tools previously known as Google Apps for Work, is getting a little smarter and more helpful. Google announced Wednesday it’s adding a series of new productivity-boosting features to the office suite.

The Best eReaders of 2016 – Whether you’re considering joining the digital book revolution, or just want a new device to replace an older one, here are the best ebook readers on the market today.

How to Get Free (or Cheap), New Ebooks – How do you get the big-name authors in a digital form without it being illegal or waiting forever? Here’s how.

Remix IO takes the Android PC idea to a whole new level – Jide has made a name for itself for pushing Android to the desktop, in places and ways that Google may not necessarily approve of. Although it is hardly the only one to do so, no other startup or project can boast of the hardware, software, and business that Jide enjoys. Spurred by that success, it is taking yet another stab at the Android PC market, but this time with a slightly different bent. One that bundles PC, TV, and console in one small package: the Remix IO, or Remix In One.

Top lesser known messaging apps you should give a try – We’re all familiar with the big messaging options: Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, and iMessage. But what if you don’t have an Apple device, don’t trust Facebook and WhatsApp’s encryption, and balk at the thought of embracing Google? Good news: there are a bunch of great messaging alternatives out there, and your biggest struggle will be convincing your friends to switch. Here are the top options to get you started.

Report: New Instagram Tools Tackle Self-Harm – The social network is rolling out features that let users anonymously flag friends’ troubling photos.

Wearable tattoo tells your smartphone how drunk you are before the cops do – The stick-on tattoo can provide a blood-alcohol level result within eight minutes, compared with hours using other techniques that analyze sweat. The key features of the stick-on sweat-alyzer is that it can be discreetly placed on your arm and provides a readout within eight minutes compared with hours using other techniques that analyze sweat to measure blood alcohol.

Samsung Unveils 10nm, 8GB Memory for Smartphones – The memory in most high-end smartphones today tops out at 4GB, but Samsung envisions a future where devices will carry double that amount without consuming any more power. The company’s 8GB LPDDR4 DRAM memory module, unveiled this week, uses the latest generation 10 nm semiconductor fabrication technology. That process requires extremely pure silicon and is only recently being put into production at Samsung factories.

Sample Focus lets you create block-rocking beats with DRM-free samples – Does your ghost need more “Oooooo?” Does your zombie need a foot scraping against a dirty floor? Do you need some ambient sounds to cover up the screams of the damned? Sample Focus has what you need for free. The interface is simple: you look for a sound – baby, drumbeat, crickets – and download it. You’ve got normal sounds like this one and then weird sounds like this one. All of the samples are coded by keywords and musical key, allowing you to mix and match samples at will.


Weebly hacked, 43 million credentials stolen – The web design platform Weebly was hacked in February, according to the data breach notification site LeakedSource. Usernames and passwords for more than 43 million accounts were taken in the breach, although the passwords are secured with the strong hashing algorithm bcrypt. Weebly said in an email to customers that user IP addresses were also taken in the breach. “We do not believe that any customer website has been improperly accessed,” Weebly said in the notice to users.” The company also said that it does not store credit card information, making fraudulent charges unlikely.

This ransomware is now one of the three most common malware threats – The threat of ransomware attacks continues to grow. One particular strain of the cryptographic file-locking malicious software has now risen to become one of the top three most prevalent forms of malware used by hackers and cybercriminals. It’s the Locky family which is currently most prevalent family of ransomware. The malware infamously took down the network of a high-profile Los Angeles hospital in February, and its notoriety has led to it entering the top three most common forms of malware. According to the latest Global Threat Index by cybersecurity researchers at Check Point Software, Locky accounted for 6 percent of all recognised malware attacks during September, while the total number of ransomware attacks across the globe rose by 13 percent.

Flaw in Intel chips could make malware attacks more potent – Researchers have devised a technique that bypasses a key security protection built into just about every operating system. If left unfixed, this could make malware attacks much more potent. ASLR, short for “address space layout randomization,” is a defense against a class of widely used attacks that surreptitiously install malware by exploiting vulnerabilities in an operating system or application. By randomizing the locations in computer memory where software loads specific chunks of code, ASLR often limits the damage of such exploits to a simple computer crash, rather than a catastrophic system compromise. Now, academic researchers have identified a flaw in Intel chips that allows them to effectively bypass this protection. The result are exploits that are much more effective than they would otherwise be.

Prosecutors say contractor stole 50TB of NSA data – The contractor, Harold T. Martin III, is also accused of stealing thousands of highly classified documents, computers, and other storage devices during his tenure at the agency. It’s not known exactly what Martin allegedly stole, but a report from The New York Times on Wednesday suggests that the recently leaked hacking tools used by the agency to conduct surveillance were among the stolen cache of files. Prosecutors will on Friday charge Martin with violating the Espionage Act. If convicted, he could face 10 years in prison on each count.

Russia-linked phishing campaign behind the DNC breach also hit Podesta, Powell – The spear-phishing e-mail received by Clinton campaign staffer William Rinehart matches messages received by both former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. The breach of personal e-mail accounts for Clinton presidential campaign chairman John Podesta and former Secretary of State Colin Powell have now been tied more closely to other breaches involving e-mail accounts for Democratic party political organizations. Podesta and Powell were both the victims of the same form of spear-phishing attack that affected individuals whose data was shared through the “hacktivist” sites of Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks.

“Most serious” Linux privilege-escalation bug ever is under active exploit – A serious vulnerability that has been present for nine years in virtually all versions of the Linux operating system is under active exploit, according to researchers who are advising users to install a patch as soon as possible. While CVE-2016-5195, as the bug is cataloged, amounts to a mere privilege-escalation vulnerability rather than a more serious code-execution vulnerability, there are several reasons many researchers are taking it extremely seriously. For one thing, it’s not hard to develop exploits that work reliably. For another, the flaw is located in a section of the Linux kernel that’s a part of virtually every distribution of the open-source OS released for almost a decade. What’s more, researchers have discovered attack code that indicates the vulnerability is being actively and maliciously exploited in the wild.

Company News:

Microsoft reports rising revenues thanks to Office, Surface, and cloud services – Microsoft posted its first quarter of its 2017 fiscal earnings today, reporting revenue of $20.5 billion and net income of $4.7 billion. The highlights of Microsoft’s latest earnings come in the form of Office and Cloud. Office commercial revenue grew 5 percent, while Office consumer revenue was up 8 percent in the latest quarter. Revenue in what Microsoft describes as “intelligent cloud” rose 8 percent, with Azure revenue up 116 percent, and server revenue up 11 percent. On the Windows side, OEM revenue was flat year-over-year, but phone revenue decreased a massive 72 percent. Considering Microsoft has given up on phone hardware, that’s hardly a surprise, and it’s likely we’ll see this decrease further in future quarters. Gaming revenue declined by 5 percent, and Microsoft blames “lower Xbox console revenue” for the dip. Despite the Xbox hardware sales, Xbox Live active user count has risen to 47 million in the recent quarter, up from 39 million a year ago

AMD beats Q3 expectations – Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) posted solid third quarter earnings on Thursday, reporting earnings of three cents a share on revenue of $1.307 billion. For Q3, Wall Street was expecting flat per-share earnings on $1.21 billion in revenue for the quarter. The company’s revenues were up 23 percent year over year, primarily because of its record semi-custom SoC and higher GPU and mobile APU sales. That, however, was partially offset by client desktop processor and chipset sales.

Samsung is refusing to pay for property damage caused by its exploding Note 7 phone – When Samsung began recalling the Galaxy Note 7, we praised the company’s quick action and willingness to address the problems caused by its device. The need for a second recall and the complete cancellation of the Note 7 was a bit harder to compliment, but at least the company hadn’t tried to hide from its own problems… until evidence surfaced that the company was definitely trying to sweep its problem under the rug. Now, adding insult to injury, Samsung is trying to get out of paying for the property damage its devices caused.


Comcast customers sue over fees that push price above advertised rate – A proposed class-action lawsuit accuses Comcast of falsely advertising low prices and then using poorly disclosed fees to increase the amount paid by cable TV customers. Comcast’s “Broadcast TV Fee” has increased from $1.50 a month to $6.50 since 2014, while its “Regional Sports Fee” has gone from $1 to $4.50 since 2015, according to the complaint filed last week in US District Court in Northern California (PDF). These fees are in addition to the advertised rates.

PayPal ramps up mobile payments business – PayPal reported third quarter earnings after the bell on Thursday. The global payments company reported an 18% increase in revenue at $2.67 billion, when analysts were expecting $2.65 billion. Adjusted earnings per share stood at 35 cents, in line with Wall Street expectations. However, some investors were disappointed to see that PayPal missed on total payment volume, a metric of total transactions on its platforms. The company brought in $87 billion in TPV, below the expected $88.3 billion. PayPal revealed that it expects full year revenue to be somewhere between $10.78 billion and $10.85 billion.  Shares first dipped and then traded up about 3% in early after-hours trading, following the earnings release.

China overtakes the U.S. in iOS App Store revenue – China has now overtaken the U.S. to become the largest market in the world for App Store revenue, according to a new report out this morning from app intelligence firm App Annie. The country earned over $1.7 billion in Q3 2016, which puts it ahead of the U.S. by over 15 percent. The U.S. had been the number one iOS market since 2010, the report notes. Today, Chinese consumers spend more than 5 times the amount they were spending compared with just two years prior. In addition, the report predicts that China will drive the largest absolute revenue growth for any country by 2020.

Apple claims more than 90 percent of ‘genuine’ Apple chargers sold on Amazon are fake – Apple has filed suit against a company it accuses of falsely representing that its products are genuine Apple cables and adapters when they absolutely aren’t. Up to 90% of the “genuine” Apple cables and adapters sold on Amazon are estimated to be fake.

Games and Entertainment:

Everything we know about the new Nintendo Switch – The Nintendo Switch — known before its announcement as the NX — is one of the weirdest and most interesting pieces of major gaming hardware we’ve seen for a while. It’s a modular device that can be used as a portable console or placed in a dock for living room gaming. But Nintendo packed a lot more detail than that into its three-minute trailer for the Switch, so here’s everything we’ve just learned.

It’s not your imagination: the US and UK Netflix libraries suck – Netflix users were up in arms when the service banned VPNs, and for good reason: depending on where you live, the Netflix library may be pretty crappy. The complaints are most common among US and UK users, and we now know why — the libraries available to both those regions have the lowest number of top movies. A study looking into the numbers found the UK has the lowest among them all. Any U.S. users who fired up a Canadian VPN can tell you about the land of milk and honey that lies just over the border. As it turns out, you get the most top movies if you look further south to Mexico or Brazil instead, the latter boasting 85 of the top 250 movies as selected by IMDB. In comparison, the UK’s Netflix movie library only has 28 of them and the US is slightly better at 33.

Pointing up  “Any U.S. users who fired up a Canadian VPN can tell you about the land of milk and honey that lies just over the border.”

Utter balderdash! As a Canadian subscriber to Netflix, I can assure you that there is no end to complaints from Canadian subscribers regarding the overall lack of quality programing on Netflix – particularly movies and TV shows.


Netflix has 1,000hrs of original content for 2017: 5 shows to watch now – In a recently released letter to shareholders, Netflix paints a picture of good fortunes surrounding its original content, something it plans to ramp up greatly in coming months and years. In its recent third financial quarter, Netflix saw its streaming revenue from around the world pass the $2 billion mark for the first time. The company directly cites original content as being a large reason for that growth, and so it’s no surprise Netflix has 1,000 hours of original content planned for 2017.

Amazon’s new Fire TV Stick is the most affordable way to bring Alexa home – Amazon today officially launched the updated version of its $40 Fire TV Stick, which now includes the power of Alexa, thanks to the included voice-controlled remote. This is the most notable addition to the new streaming TV dongle, which also sports upgraded internals, like a quad-core processor and faster Wi-Fi. With Alexa built-in, you can search across not only Amazon’s own video library, but also third-party services, like Netflix, HBO Now, and Hulu, as well as control the playback of Amazon’s video content.

Osmo’s new Pizza Co. game uses augmented reality to teach kids about running a business – With its latest title, educational game-maker Osmo is tackling a subject that’s close to CEO Pramod Sharma’s heart — entrepreneurship. Co-founded by Sharma and Jérôme Scholler (both former Googlers), Osmo makes iPad games that combine touchscreen gameplay with real-world objects and physical activities in front of the screen. Past games have covered topics like coding, drawing and math. Sharma compared the new game, Pizza Co., to the lemonade stand that many kids have operated in the past. (Sadly, I never had one.) The goal is to give players a fun way to understand what goes into running a business, and also help them practice skills like arithmetic and pattern recognition.


Spotify launches new Samsung smart TV app for free users (For 2015 and 2016 TVs only) – Spotify is launching a new-and-improved app for Samsung smart TVs, promising both paid and free users a better way to access music. The app itself isn’t that interesting, but the fact that Spotify’s making it available to free users is. Spotify, of course, is available on all sorts of devices, including phones, tablets, and streaming sticks like Roku, Google’s Chromecast, and others. However, it often limits access to apps on TVs to paid Premium subscribers only. Now users on the free-tier can get in on the action too — if they have a Samsung smart TV from 2015 or 2016. They’ll still have to put up with ads and all the other limitations placed on free users, but hey, you can get decent music on your TV now.

Off Topic (Sort of):

6 ways to delete yourself from the internet – If you’re reading this, it’s highly likely your personal information is available to the public. And by “public” I mean everyone everywhere. And while you can never remove yourself completely from the internet, there are ways to minimize your online footprint. Here are five ways to do it. Be warned however; removing your information from the internet as I’ve laid it out below, may adversely affect your ability to communicate with potential employers.

Macs are up to $543 cheaper than PCs, claims IBM – Still living under the illusion that Macs are more expensive than PCs, so that’s why you’re sticking with Windows? According to IBM, this is just not the case. According to data released by IBM (and reported by Recode’s Ina Fried), the company saves between $273 and $543 when an employee opts for a Mac over a PC, over a four-year period. This isn’t the first time IBM has praised Macs. Back in October 2015, Apple reported that IBM had over 30,000 Macs deployed within the company, with 1,900 more being added each week, and that each Mac was saving the company $270 compared to a PC.

Watch this autonomous Tesla drive from home to work on its own – Tesla announced Wednesday evening that all Tesla cars made from now on will have all the hardware they need on board to achieve full self-driving (though autonomous software will rollout later, with a cross-country demo planned for the end of 2017). Tesla’s already doing its own early testing, of course, and the video above shows a vehicle with fully autonomous capabilities navigating city and freeway streets with apparent ease.


Tech’s gender gap is getting worse, not better, report says – The number of women in the US computing workforce will drop from 24% to 22% by 2025 if tech leaders and others don’t intervene, according to a new report from Accenture and Girls Who Code.

Trump, Clinton get ugly in debate; social media is sick of it – The two presidential candidates spar over foreign affairs, gun control and other issues in Vegas as social media viewers get set to roll the dice on one of them.

Developer finds a one-handed keyboard hidden in iOS code – A developer has found a hidden gem inside the iOS code base, by hacking the iOS Simulator: a one-handed iPhone keyboard. Designed to improve reachability – something that’s often an issue on larger-screened phones – the keyboard is activated by either left-swiping or right-swiping from the edges of the standard iOS keyboard. The gesture shifts keys to the side, reduces the width of the keyboard’s buttons, and places dedicated cut, copy and paste buttons within easy reach, as well. The bad news: nope, you can’t use it.

Scientists are unlocking the mystery of how marijuana makes us get high – How exactly does marijuana make us high? We’re a little closer to knowing now that scientists have figured out the structure of the brain receptor that interacts with the drug. The discovery will help us understand how to better use marijuana for medical purposes — and solve the mystery of why synthetic marijuana is so dangerous, but nobody dies from the natural stuff.

‘Alan Turing law’ to give posthumous pardons to 59,000 men for ‘gross indecency’ – The government is set to extend the posthumous pardon given to Alan Turing for gross indecency to all of those men who were convicted for homosexual acts under legislation which has since been repealed. Back in 2009, Gordon Brown, as Prime Minister, apologised for the appalling persecution of Alan Turing, which involved a conviction for gross indecency under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, applied to Turing after he acknowledged his sexual relationship with another man.

Something to think about:

“Anarchism is founded on the observation that since few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough to rule others.”

–       Edward Abbey(1927 – 1989)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Anti-Defamation League sees sharp rise in anti-Semitic tweets – In a report Wednesday, the Anti-Defamation League said anti-Semitic hate that targeted journalists had mushroomed on Twitter with much of the activity fueled by the divisive presidential campaign.

A total of 2.6 million tweets used anti-Semitic speech between August 2015 and July 2016, the ADL said. Those tweets achieved an estimated 10 billion impressions, a measure of reach.

The ADL found that more than 19,000 of the tweets were directed at journalists, though the actual number could be higher. Roughly 800 journalists were sent anti-Semitic tweets with the top 10 targeted individuals receiving more than 80 percent of the tweets.

The journalists targeted worked for a range of publications, including The New York Times, the Atlantic, CNN and Tablet, a Jewish publication.

ACLU Wants 23 Secret Surveillance Laws Made Public – THE ACLU HAS identified 23 legal opinions that contain new or significant interpretations of surveillance law — affecting the government’s use of malware, its attempts to compel technology companies to circumvent encryption, and the CIA’s bulk collection of financial records under the Patriot Act — all of which remain secret to this day, despite an ostensible push for greater transparency following Edward Snowden’s disclosures.

The opinions were written by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. On Wednesday, the ACLU and the Yale Law School Media Freedom Clinic filed a motion with the court requesting that those opinions be released.

“The people of this country can’t hold the government accountable for its surveillance activities unless they know what our laws allow,” said Patrick Toomey, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project. “These secret court opinions define the limits of the government’s spying powers. Their disclosure is essential for meaningful public oversight in our democracy.”

Some of the opinions identified by the ACLU offer interpretations of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a controversial provision that allows the government to conduct mass surveillance on American’s transnational communications. The authority is set to expire in December 2017.

Yahoo “demands” feds confirm secret mass snooping order “if it exists” – Yahoo’s top lawyer published an open letter on Wednesday, “demanding” that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence “provide clarity” about whether the company was ordered to perform mass spying on all of its users.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Yahoo “complied with a classified US government directive, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said two former employees and a third person apprised of the events.” It is not clear what data, if any, was handed over.

If such an order exists, Yahoo would almost certainly be forbidden from discussing it publicly lest it face legal sanctions.

The letter, written by Ron Bell, Yahoo’s general counsel, was addressed to James Clapper, the head of the ODNI. It continues:

Cops Monitoring Social Media Is Much More Than Just Collecting Tweets – It’s not just your friends following you on Facebook or Twitter. The cops are, too.

Law enforcement agencies around the world have used social media monitoring software to keep tabs on populations en masse, sweeping up their posts and tweets, giving police a bird’s-eye view of what, say, Twitter users are broadcasting in a specific area, or about a particular topic. Tweeting from an Olympic stadium? Sharing a post with a hashtag supporting Black Lives Matter? Police may be watching that, in real time.

On the face of it, you might not have a problem with cops reading public social media posts or tweets: individuals presumably took the decision to put the information out there themselves. But law enforcement’s monitoring of social media is not that simple.

“Social media monitoring is so much more than it first appears. Programs to monitor social media are rarely about manual review of public information,” Amie Stepanovich, US policy manager at activist group Access Now, told Motherboard in a Twitter message.

Instead, these programs are often about learning new, and qualitatively different information from an individual’s or communities’ postings. That might be the ‘mood’ of a population, which can then be used to predict any upcoming instability, or if a group may start to protest, for example.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – October 19, 2016

Lust for public Wi-Fi trumps security concerns;  Two-Factor Authentication: Who Has It and How to Set It Up;  Walmart launches a free streaming service, Vudu Movies on Us;  How to Watch Tonight’s Presidential Debate Online;  How to find out what Facebook knows about you;  15 tips every Mac user should know;  How to Delete Your Facebook Account;  Half of U.S. adults are profiled in police facial recognition databases – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Lust for public Wi-Fi trumps security concerns – When it comes to security, we are so, so stupid. So before you laugh at Trump’s use of hopelessly insecure mail servers, consider that 89 percent of surveyed business users use public Wi-Fi sites. Xirrus, a leading enterprise Wi-Fi networks company, polled more than 2,000 business users, including executives and IT professionals. They found that while 91 percent of respondents do not believe public Wi-Fi is secure — believe it or not — 89 percent use it anyway. In short, while these networks offer convenience, they rarely encrypt data, leaving passwords exposed and sensitive data vulnerable to hackers. How bad is it really? Really, really bad. Xirrus found:

India is mainly using free public Wi-Fi to watch porn – Data collected from the country’s most used train station Wi-Fi hotspot shows that porn was among the most common searches.

How to remove a phone, tablet, or PC from accessing your Google account – This is an important security step to go through whenever you sell off a device or just no longer plan to use it with Google services.

Half of U.S. adults are profiled in police facial recognition databases – Photographs of nearly half of all U.S. adults—117 million people—are collected in police facial recognition databases across the country with little regulation over how the networks are searched and used, according to a new study.

How to find out what Facebook knows about you – Facebook uses your online activity to build an advertising profile about you. Here’s how to look at (and edit) some of that information.

How to Delete Your Facebook Account – Sick of the world’s leading social network? Say good-bye to all those “friends” by following these instructions.

How to Juggle Multiple Windows 10 Apps With Virtual Desktops – You launch your email and then open a couple of messages. From there you kick off your Web browser and check out a few different websites. Then you remember that Word document you need to finish, so you open up Microsoft Word. Your Word doc ties in with an Excel spreadsheet, so you open Excel. Now you need to scan a paper file to add to your Word doc, so you launch your scanner software. In the meantime, you receive a couple more emails you want to check out. Well, you don’t have to work this way, not if you’re using Windows 10, which has a feature called Virtual Desktops. New to Windows 10 but old hat on the Mac, Virtual Desktops let you open and switch among multiple desktops in a single session so you don’t have to struggle with a dozen different windows on a single screen. Let’s give it a whirl.

The best programs to run Android apps on your Windows PC – From time to time you’ll hear about yet another effort to bring Android to the desktop. Yes, there’s an official effort to do this straight from Google by bringing the Play Store to a select number of Chromebooks. I looked at several software choices that offer this, and came away with four solid options that will have you up and running with Android on your Windows PC rather painlessly.

How to Watch Tonight’s Presidential Debate Online – The final presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton starts at 9 p.m. ET. Here’s how to watch.

Action Launcher 3 brings must-have features to Android – Action Launcher 3 comes with a number of amazing features. Jack Wallen highlights two features that will pique your curiosity and have you installing the latest iteration of this home screen launcher.

Facebook now lets verified users schedule Live broadcasts – Facebook Live is starting to come into its own as a broadcasting platform, but it’s still missing a few key features that its competitors have. Facebook is moving to fix at least one of those missing features by announcing today that streamers can schedule broadcasts using the Live API. At the moment, this feature is only available to verified accounts, but will be going live to all other accounts soon. Users can schedule a Live broadcast up to a week in advance. When they do, an announcement will appear in their followers’ News Feeds, letting them know when the broadcast will begin. Once they’ve viewed the announcement, followers can elect to be notified shortly before the stream goes live.

You can endorse your preferred presidential candidate on Facebook now – Here’s how it works: You can go onto any candidate’s Facebook page — yes, this includes third-party candidates like Jill Stein and Gary Johnson; no one is getting left out — click “Endorsements” in the left-hand column and add your own endorsement. Facebook’s Help Center has detailed instructions on how to make endorsements. You can choose to make your endorsement public to everyone who visits the candidate’s page (and surely no one will abuse this to shitpost on the page of a candidate they oppose), or you can make your endorsement only to your friends and family, if you haven’t blocked them all already for posting racist memes.

10 Salesforce apps every new business should have – Salesforce is a powerful CRM tool, but in its most basic form it’s lacking. In order to get the most out of Salesforce you need to customize it. Robust reports and all sorts of dashboards are available, but unless you already know Salesforce you’re going to have a hard time discovering them. Salesforce CRM Dashboards is an app filled with custom dashboards for a variety of roles: salespeople, executives, marketers, and other employees will all find the right tools in the Dashboards app, and they’re all ready to go.

Amazon launches “Family Vault,” a way for families to share Prime Photos’ free storage – One of the perks of Amazon Prime membership is free, unlimited photo storage via Prime Photos. Today, Amazon is extending that benefit to the family members of the main account holder, with the launch of a new Prime Photos feature called “Family Vault.” With Family Vault, an Amazon Prime member can invite up to five family members or friends to join their online account, in order to combine photos and take advantage of free photo storage, as well as another 5 GB for videos and other files. The idea with the upgraded service is to make it easier for families or close friends to combine their photos and videos in a single destination, so everyone in the group can see them on their own devices.

PBS enters electronics space with Playtime Pad tablet – PBS KIDS might have solved the dilemma of putting your child in front of a screen too often with its new Playtime Pad. Announced today, the Playtime Pad is the result of a partnership with Ematic, which will be producing the device. Like most kid-friendly tablets, the Playtime Pad ships with parental controls and a host of educational apps for kids to use.


Google Flights tackles travel fears: Here’s 5 other ways to fly smarter – The holiday travel season is nearly upon us, and Google Flights is looking to make it a little less stressful. Google announced today that Flights will now let you know when prices are expected to go up for some routes and flights. This will happen when you select a specific flight – now, you’ll be presented with a new card that tells you how many days or hours you have left until the price is expected to increase, and how much the price is expected to jump.

15 tips every Mac user should know – There are so many different ways to get things done using a Mac and I hope this selection of useful tips will offer most Mac users at least one or two features you may not have encountered before: Premium arrives — get your personalized email now – For the rate of $50 a year, Outlook email service users can subscribe and get rid of those annoying ads, as well as register a personalized email address. This removes the need to have ‘’ as part of your email, and makes the service a tiny bit more attractive to some users. The Premium version of the service has surfaced at “” with the designation of “preview,” indicating this may not be the finalized form of the service. It touts itself as a way to ditch advertisements and get personalized email for $19.95 per year to start with, though it will go up to $49.99/yr later on as its regular rate.

Samsung is setting up Note 7 exchange booths at airports around the world – Samsung is setting up Galaxy Note 7 exchange booths in airports around the world, hoping to stop customers taking the dangerous device onto flights at the last minute. The first of these new “customer service points” appear to have been introduced in South Korean airports, but Samsung has confirmed the booths are opening in airports across Australia, with reports of the desks appearing in the US as well. The booths are located in “high-traffic terminals” before security screening, says Samsung, and allow Note 7 owners to swap their phone for an unspecified exchange device.


Millennials most likely to lose money from tech support scams, says Microsoft – A new report from Microsoft details the victim demographics of tech support scams, and some of the findings may surprise you.

Security startup Malwarebytes acquires AdwCleaner to nip adware in the bud – After raising $50 million earlier this year from Fidelity, security startup Malwarebytes said that it would use some of the funding for acquisitions, and today comes some related news. The company is acquiring a startup out of France called AdwCleaner, whose product specifically tackles and removes adware and has seen a total of 200 million downloads across Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10 in 32 and 64-bit platforms. Malwarebytes will keep the AdwCleaner brand for now. Over time the plan is to gradually integrate its software into Malwarebyte’s wider product set, which currently addresses malware, ransomware and exploits that fall under the radar of many of the bigger antivirus solutions.

Pointing up    This passed weekend I had an opportunity to run AdwCleaner on a messed up PC following a tech support scam (the Deputy Mayor’s wife, no less  Surprised smile ).  All in all, a pretty impressive little application.

Two-Factor Authentication: Who Has It and How to Set It Up – Everyone is concerned about online safety these days. Keep your services secure with two-factor authentication.

Critical flaws found in open-source encryption software VeraCrypt – A new security audit has found critical vulnerabilities in VeraCrypt, an open-source, full-disk encryption program that’s the direct successor of the widely popular, but now defunct, TrueCrypt. Users are encouraged to upgrade to VeraCrypt 1.19, which was released Monday and includes patches for most of the flaws. Some issues remain unpatched because fixing them requires complex changes to the code and in some cases would break backward compatibility with TrueCrypt. However, the impact of most of those issues can be avoided by following the safe practices mentioned in the VeraCrypt user documentation when setting up encrypted containers and using the software.

Republican donor site malware skimmed credit cards for six months – There’s bad news if you donated to Senate Republicans in the past six months: criminals have likely skimmed your credit card. The storefront of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) contained malware that siphoned off every credit card number that was entered since March. The NRSC website was just one of 5,900 ecommerce sites targeted by the same criminal group. News of the malware was first reported by Dutch security researcher Willem de Groot, who detailed on his blog how the attackers used vulnerabilities and weak passwords to inject the malware into the thousands of sites.

Trump Organization uses really, really insecure e-mail servers. Sad! – Hillary Clinton isn’t the only one who may have had an e-mail security problem. A security researcher has discovered that the Trump Organization’s mail servers all run on a version of Microsoft Windows Server that has been out of support for years, with minimal user security. The e-mail servers for Trump’s hotels, golf courses and other businesses run on an unpatched version of Windows Server 2003 with Internet Information Server 6—making them a vulnerable target for anyone who might want to gain access to the organization’s e-mails. Security researcher Kevin Beaumont posted the finding on Twitter at 6:00pm on Monday:

Company News:

Cisco CEO Robbins: There are no backdoors in our products – Security has become a core value and a major business driver for Cisco. At Gartner Symposium, CEO Chuck Robbins explained what that means for IoT, open architecture, and the way it builds products.

Intel posts solid Q3 with record revenues in IoT and data center – Intel posted solid third quarter results on Tuesday, with growth in its client computing group as well as record revenues in strategically important areas like its Internet of Things group and data center group. The company reported non-GAAP earnings of 80 cents a share, on revenue of $15.8 billion. Wall Street was looking for earnings of 72 cents a share on revenue of $15.58 billion.

Yahoo, after massive hack, still pulls in profit – The internet giant has trudged through a lot of bad press recently, but CEO Marissa Mayer can take comfort in better-than-expected financial results.

Samsung Hit With Class Action Lawsuit Over Exploding Galaxy Note 7 – The suit has three initial plaintiffs, who say that they were left without a phone for the several weeks between when Samsung and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission originally issued a recall and told consumers to “power down” their devices (September 9), and when the company began offering replacement devices (September 21). It also notes that Samsung didn’t make enough replacement devices immediately available—which is probably a good thing considering that the company ultimately had to recall those as well.

Microsoft tries, fails to crush ‘gender bias’ lawsuit brought by its own women engineers – Microsoft has failed in a bid to shoot down a lawsuit alleging that its employee rating system was biased against women. A US district court in Washington has tossed out [PDF] the Redmond giant’s motion to dismiss a complaint lobbed at it by three women engineers, who allege the system for evaluating engineering and technical positions unfairly penalized them. At issue is the Windows giant’s much-maligned “stack ranking” process for evaluating employee performance, and the “Connect” system that replaced stack ranking. The engineers allege that the review system relies on manager and peer input from a group that is overwhelmingly male and, as a result, the female employees they evaluated may have missed out on raises and promotions.

Razer buys THX: This is why – Razer has bought THX, the latter company’s CEO Ty Ahmad-Taylor announced in a statement this evening. THX will continue to operate largely as it has been, doing so with goals to grow its certification business while continuing along with both THX Live! and THX Inside. However, the company says that things are changing a bit for partners: THX is now offering more certification lines like Bluetooth speakers, set-top-boxes, and more.

Games and Entertainment:

Walmart launches a free streaming service, Vudu Movies on Us – Who’s copying Amazon? Everyone! But especially Walmart. Speaking of which, the retailer giant announced today the launch of its own video streaming service, called Vudu Movies on Us. The service at launch will include thousands of titles, which will be available in HD and can be streamed for free. To generate revenue, Vudu Movies on Us will be ad-supported. While Amazon’s Prime Video is a perk that comes with an Amazon Prime membership, then offers a variety of commercial-free movies and TV shows, including originals, Vudu Movies on Us will not have new releases. Instead, it will more narrowly focus on distributing free blockbuster titles and other classics, the company says.

The GeForce GTX 1050 is Nvidia’s $109 answer to AMD – Nvidia has cleared out the high-end graphics card competition with its new 10-series of cards. At each price point above $200, AMD struggles compete with the price, performance, or efficiency of Nvidia’s more modern Pascal architecture. Now Pascal is coming to the budget category with the new GeForce GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti cards. They have a starting price of $109 and $139, respectively. That $30 difference is important: the Ti version has 4GB of DDR5, while the 1050 has half that. The 1050 Ti also has 768 CUDA cores, while the 1050 has 640. For comparison, Nvidia’s 1060 cards come in 6GB and 3GB flavors, with a faster memory speed, faster clock speed, and many more CUDA cores. It’s also important to note that the 1050 is the first Pascal card not labelled “VR ready,” although it’s likely it will match the new minimum spec Oculus just published.


Survey finds gamers prefer discs: 4 reasons they’re better than downloads – Buying a game disc or buying the digital download: it’s a decision gamers face with nearly every game purchase. There are upsides and downsides to both, as with most things in life, but the trend isn’t split equally between one and the other. A new consumer survey out of the UK has found the vast majority of gamers (at least among those surveyed) prefer to buy physical game copies over downloads, and for good reason.

CBS is turning “Candy Crush” into a game show – In what’s surely one of the early signs of the end times, Candy Crush is soon to be a live action game show over on CBS. Yes, the mobile game. A TV show. With contestants. And prizes. And some giant, interactive game boards. And candy, apparently. CBS isn’t divulging a lot of specifics at this point about how the game will work, or what teams will win – prizes? cash? – after they crush all the candy. Instead, the network is only saying that teams of two people will compete over the course of an hour, using their wits and physical agility to progress on “enormous, interactive game boards featuring next generation technology.” Whatever that means.

Off Topic (Sort of):

25 things you don’t actually need to keep in the fridge – There is probably a bunch of things in your fridge that doesn’t need to be there. Removing these items from your fridge can free up space and improve the taste and quality of items that should be stored at room temperature. Take a look at this list and then go rummage through your fridge.

Horrified by Trump, Silicon Valley Leaders Debate Cutting Ties to Peter Thiel – On Monday, Silicon Valley diversity initiative Project Include officially cut ties with influential startup incubator Y Combinator, citing YC’s continued employment of venture capitalist and prominent Donald Trump supporter Peter Thiel as a part-time investor. “We agree that people shouldn’t be fired for their political views, but this isn’t a disagreement on tax policy, this is advocating hatred and violence,” co-founder Ellen Pao wrote in a blog post. Thiel’s support of presidential candidate Donald Trump has been highly public. In July, Thiel gave a speech at the Republican National Convention, where Trump officially became the party’s nominee. In an email, Pao said that the breaking point was Thiel’s intended $1.25 million donation to Trump, which the New York Times reported Saturday. Pao called the donation “a direct contribution to creating hate and instilling fear.”

Ecuador says it disconnected Julian Assange’s internet because of Clinton email leaks – The government of Ecuador disconnected the internet access of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at its Embassy in London because of his site’s publishing of documents that could affect the US presidential election, the government said in a statement today. WikiLeaks announced early on Monday that Assange’s internet link had been severed, saying that it had “activated the appropriate contingency plans.” In that statement, shared by Politico reporter Eric Geller, the Ecuadorian government says it “respects the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states” and that it “exercised its sovereign right to temporarily restrict access to some of its private communications network within its Embassy in the United Kingdom.”

Tim Cook and Bill Gates were on the list of potential Hillary Clinton VP’s – Hillary Clinton was considering several tech leaders among a list of potential running mates, according to leaked emails supposedly from Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta. In an email sent March 17, 2016, Podesta mentions a “first cut” of those Clinton might consider as her vice president. In one section of that list, organized into “food groups” is Tim Cook, Bill and Melinda Gates, GM’s Mary Barra and Xerox’s Ursula Burns. Wikileaks started releasing thousands of what it says are Podesta’s emails in early October and has said it will continue to release more of them daily up until election day. While Podesta has not verified whether or not the content in the Wikileaks emails are real, he has acknowledged his emails have been hacked; pointing the finger at Trump aide John Stone and accusing him of aiding Wikileaks founder Julian Asange.

This horrid Presidential election has 52% of voters stressed out – According to an annual poll on the stress levels of the country, the American Psychological Association reports that 52 percent of adults are “somewhat” or “very” stressed by the battle for the Oval Office. That mental anguish is felt about equally across party lines, with 59 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats registering as stressed. Women and men are also equally stressed, at 52 and 51 percent, respectively. Data from the online poll, conducted between August 5 and August 31, 2016, offer a few hints at the factors that are ratcheting up election anxiety.

7 things to consider before mounting your TV – On the surface, mounting a television to your wall seems like a good idea. It saves floor space and lifts the screen up to where the whole room can easily see it. There are some important things to consider, though, before you mount up.

Porn Sites Go Dark in Calif. to Protest Condom Ballot Measure – Some sites are threatening to continue the California blackout indefinitely if the measure passes.

Something to think about:

“That’s right, I am the most fabulous whiner — I do whine, because I want to win, and I’m not happy if I’m not winning. I am a whiner, and I keep whining and whining until I win.”

–      Donald TrumpAugust, 2015.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Feds serve warrant demanding fingerprints from all home residents to unlock their phones – Biometric authentication is often positioned by companies like Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft as the Next Big Thing in personal device security. But it offers absolutely no protection against the government, and can be compelled from suspects without raising any Fifth Amendment concerns. This was driven home with a vengeance over the weekend, when a May 2016 warrant application surfaced. The warrant in question seeks permission to:

[D]epress the fingerprints and thumbprints of every person who is located at the SUBJECT PRESMISES during the execution of the search and who is reasonably believed by law enforcement to be a user of a fingerprint sensor-enabled device that is located at the SUBJECT PREMISES and falls within the scope of the warrant. The government seeks this authority because those fingerprints, when authorized by the user of the device, can unlock the device.

The document was discovered by Forbes and constitutes a massive fishing expedition — a move admitted to in the warrant application itself, which states the government doesn’t know the identity of the devices or fingerprints it hopes to seize, but that evidence might exist at the target location. According to the Forbes investigation, this warrant was executed and the information in question was seized.

Here’s why the Fifth Amendment offers no protection for your fingerprints. The Fifth Amendment is generally viewed to provide security against something you know, but not something you are, or something you have. For example, you cannot suppress factual evidence about your weight, build, or physical description simply because those attributes might be used to tie you to the scene of a crime (and you cannot practically refuse to provide those measurements to an investigator). On the other hand, you can refuse to testify as to the contents of a locked safe or to provide the combination lock if doing so would constitute incriminating evidence against you.

But because fingerprints are simply something you have, like a key, they do not constitute protected information and can be gathered using methods like this. What’s more striking is that the warrant simply asserts information relevant to the investigation of a crime must exist on the smartphone in question, and that this gives the federal government the right to seize it.

U.K.’S MASS SURVEILLANCE DATABASES WERE UNLAWFUL FOR 17 YEARS, COURT RULES – FOR NEARLY TWO decades, British spies unlawfully maintained vast troves of people’s private data without adequate safeguards against misuse, a tribunal of senior judges has ruled.

Between 1998 and 2005, electronic surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters and domestic spy agency MI5 began secretly harvesting “bulk personal datasets” containing millions of records about people’s phone calls, travel habits, internet activity, and financial transactions.

On Monday, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a special court that handles complaints related to British spy agencies, found that access to the datasets had not been subject to sufficient supervision through a 17-year period between 1998 and November 2015. The tribunal said that due to “failings in the system of oversight” the surveillance regime had violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to privacy.

The case was brought in June 2015 by the London-based human rights group Privacy International, which challenged the legality of the surveillance after the British government publicly admitted using an obscure provision of the 1984 Telecommunications Act to harvest the data.

STUDY: FACE RECOGNITION SYSTEMS THREATEN THE PRIVACY OF MILLIONS – A BROAD COALITION of over 50 civil liberties groups delivered a letter to the Justice Department’s civil rights division Tuesday calling for an investigation into the expanding use of face recognition technology by police. “Safeguards to ensure this technology is being used fairly and responsibly appear to be virtually nonexistent,” the letter stated. The routine unsupervised use of face recognition systems, according to the dozens of signatories, threatens the privacy and civil liberties of millions — especially those of immigrants and people of color.

These civil rights groups were provided with advance copies of a watershed 150-page report detailing — in many cases for the first time — how local police departments across the country have been using facial recognition technology. Titled “The Perpetual Lineup,” the report, published Tuesday morning by the Georgetown Center on Privacy & Technology, reveals that police deploy face recognition technology in ways that are more widespread, advanced, and unregulated than anyone has previously reported.

“Face recognition is a powerful technology that requires strict oversight. But those controls by and large don’t exist today,” said Clare Garvie, one of the report’s co-authors. “With only a few exceptions, there are no laws governing police use of the technology, no standards ensuring its accuracy, and no systems checking for bias. It’s a wild west.”


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Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – October 17, 2016

It’s a world wide web of lies (but facts strike back);  How to Clean Up Windows 10 With the Refresh Windows Tool;  Chromebooks: The smart person’s guide;  Windows 10 tip: Pin your favorite folders to the Start menu;  5 great Android app alternatives to Gmail;  These 10 widgets belong on your iPhone’s lock screen;  WTF is a container?  Browse faster and safer with Brave – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

It’s a world wide web of lies (but facts strike back) – The internet is overrun by urban legends, hoaxes and politicians who make up their own ‘facts.’ Here’s help.

How to Clean Up Windows 10 With the Refresh Windows Tool – Microsoft’s Refresh Windows tool can rid your Windows 10 PC of junkware and return it to a clean, pristine state.

Windows 10 tip: Pin your favorite folders to the Start menu – Windows 10 includes a well-hidden option that gives you quick access to common folders. This secret shortcut list appears on the left of the Start menu. Here’s how to customize that list.

Chromebooks: The smart person’s guide – This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about Google’s Chromebooks and Chrome OS.

The Best Backup Software of 2016 – Nobody likes taking the time and effort required to back up their PC’s system, document, and media files, but doing so can save you a world of hurt. These apps can take care of it for you.

These 10 widgets belong on your iPhone’s lock screen – Along with many of Apple’s stock apps, third-party apps are allowed widgets on the lock screen. Options abound; I tried many. After roughly a month with iOS 10, here are the 10 widgets that currently occupy a spot on my iPhone.

Five must-have iOS apps for freelancers, independent contractors, and the self-employed – Independent people know that every penny, mile, and minute on a project count. Here are five apps for iOS that make working solo just a bit easier.

Browse faster and safer with Brave – The new Brave browser automatically blocks ads and trackers, making it faster and safer than your current browser.

Jim Hillier: Create Customized Word Cloud Art for Free – Word clouds are a fun and innovative way to transform a collection of ordinary words into an illustration. It works by using combinations of font sizes and colors to arrange a group of words into an image which can then be used to illustrate a website, letterhead, signature, logo, homework, whatever. No specialized software required – Tagul Word Cloud Art is a website which allows you to create your own fully customized word cloud online for free (personal use only). Simply visit, click the CREATE NOW button, and away you go.

The one mistake people make when asking for tech support – If you’re ever seeking tech help for computer issues, here are some tips: Be specific, take screenshots, explain what is happening and not what you think is happening.Whether you’re asking a tech-savvy friend (like me!) for advice or calling AppleCare support or the Geek Squad, using this tip will get you the help you need in the fastest way possible. So what do I mean by “be specific”?

How to use Windows PowerShell: A beginner’s guide – PowerShell is an enormous addition to the Windows toolbox, and it can provoke a bit of fear given that enormity. Is it a scripting language, a command shell, a floor wax? Do you have to link a cmdlet with an instantiated .Net class to run with providers? And why do all the support docs talk about administrators—do I have to be a professional Windows admin to make use of it? Relax. PowerShell is powerful, but it needn’t be intimidating. The following guide is aimed at those who have run a Windows command or two or jimmied a batch file. Consider it a step-by-step transformation from PowerShell curious to PowerShell capable.

Windows 10 Is Still Free – July 29th has come and gone. That was the anniversary of the official Windows 10 release in 2015 and this year marked the day that Windows 10 would no longer be available as a free upgrade to Windows 7 and Windows 8.x systems. Well, I’ve got news for you—you can still get Windows 10 at no cost if you can satisfy certain requirements. There is no guarantee that any of the following methods will remain applicable for any specific amount of time. One may work today and not work tomorrow.

5 great Android app alternatives to Gmail – Gmail is great, but there are several other solid alternatives for consolidating all your email accounts into one app.

Yahoo email forwarding is back – The company caught major flak for disabling automatic forwarding after the revelation of a major data breach.

WTF is a container? – You can’t go to a developer conference today and not hear about software containers: Docker, Kubernetes, Mesos and a bunch of other names with a nautical ring to them. Microsoft, Google, Amazon and everybody else seems to have jumped on this bandwagon in the last year or so, but why is everybody so excited about this stuff? To understand why containers are such a big deal, let’s think about physical containers for a moment.


Microsoft: ‘Apple can no more secure your iPhone than Google can secure Android’ – Given the recent discovery of the Trident malware for iPhones, Microsoft thinks it’s time businesses rethought their unwavering trust in iOS as a controlled ecosystem.

Your Android smartphone might still be vulnerable to ancient Ghost Push Trojan – Researchers have warned that over half of Android devices are still susceptible to Ghost Push malware.

Android Security Bulletin October 2016: What you need to know – For the first time in a long time, there are zero Critical issues affecting the MediaServer in the Android Security Bulletin. Get the highlights of the October 2016 bulletin.

Mirai DDoS botnet powers up, infects Sierra Wireless gateways – Sierra Wireless is warning customers to change their default access credentials on AirLink gateway products after discovering the wireless products are being compromised by Mirai malware. Mirai, a malware and botnet combination recently publicized after a 620 Gbps distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on the prominent security blog Krebs on Security, enslaves thousands — if not millions — of vulnerable Internet of Things (IoT) devices, including DVRs, CCTV surveillance cameras, and routers. Now, it seems the malware’s operators could be scanning the web for Sierra Wireless gateway devices vulnerable to exploit.

Company News:

Yahoo shies away from investor questions, cancels earnings call – We can only speculate the unusual move has something to do with the firm’s security breach.

Salesforce officially walks away from Twitter acquisition for real this time – Salesforce wants to make things super clear for everyone — no, the company won’t buy Twitter. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff gave an interview to the FT and said that the company ruled out the acquisition. “In this case we’ve walked away. It wasn’t the right fit for us,” Benioff told the FT. If you were looking for an official confirmation, it can’t get more official than that.

40 percent now say they won’t buy another Samsung phone – My default is generally not to believe what people tell me. It makes for lovely surprises and relatively few disappointments. I therefore wonder about a new survey that suggests a large proportion of Samsung customers will never buy another Samsung phone again. Or at least they say they won’t. Conducted with 1,000 people by e-commerce platform Branding Brand, the survey mined respondents’ feelings on October 11 and 12. A fulsome 40 percent said they were done with Samsung phones, after the company managed to turn a problem into a debacle.

Peter Thiel is putting his money on Donald Trump – The PayPal cofounder and Silicon Valley billionaire is getting ready to invest $1.25 million in the Republican candidate’s campaign for president, the New York Times reported Sunday. Thiel will make the donation in a series of super PAC contributions, the Times reported, citing an anonymous source described as close to the billionaire. Representatives for Thiel and Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Games and Entertainment:

Netflix said to offer offline viewing before the year’s end – As the competition between streaming video services continues to heat up, one of the distinguishing features is quickly turning out to be offline viewing, or the ability for users to temporarily download media for watching in situations where an internet connection isn’t available, such as along airplane flights. Netflix, the reigning king of streaming video, has long balked at offline viewing, with CEO Reed Hastings previously stating that it was “never going to happen.” However, we’re hearing from more sources that things could soon change.

‘Shadow Warrior 2’ Is One of the Dumbest, Best Games of the Year – Shadow Warrior 2 is one of the dumbest, most entertaining games I’ve played this year. Earlier this year, Doom proved that there’s a lot to be gained by stripping the first-person shooter genre back to its 90s-era form, which focuses on constant movement and constant shooting and barely anything else. Story? Go read a book. Puzzles? No thanks, nerds. Shadow Warrior 2 doubles-down on that design philosophy. It’s as if Polish developer Flying Hog Games asked what if it made a game with psychopathic focus on shooting and killing things, realized that it wasn’t the most inspiring idea, and did it anyway.


Shadow Warrior 2 developers say DRM is a waste of time – In our recent review, we praised Shadow Warrior 2 for its varied weapons, random level generation, and over-the-top shooting. Apparently, the game has another feature that’s sure to draw praise from many gamers: a complete lack of piracy protection or digital rights management, which the developers apparently think is a waste of time. “We don’t support piracy, but currently there isn’t a good way to stop it without hurting our customers,” Flying Wild Hog developer Krzysztof “KriS” Narkowicz wrote on the game’s Steam forum (in response to a question about trying to force potential pirates to purchase the game instead). “Denuvo means we would have to spend money for making a worse version for our legit customers. It’s like this FBI warning screen on legit movies.”

18 Slick Xbox One Tips and Tricks – You probably have an Xbox One of your own (why else did you click into this story) and wonder how you can squeeze every last drop of digital delight out of the console. That’s why we put together this list of Xbone (does anyone call the console that but me?) features you may be missing out on.

Future Samsung TVs will include Steam Link streaming game support – Samsung has announced it will integrate Steam Link support in future televisions, improving support for PC gaming. For those of you who aren’t aware, Steam Link is a $50 product from Valve that plugs into your television and attaches to your home network (wired networking is strongly recommended). It scans for computers already on your network, joins them, and can stream games directly from your PC to your living room television. This works particularly well if you want to game on the couch via controller, though it obviously depends on how well the title supports that control scheme.

Off Topic (Sort of):

USA! USA! Canadians give Americans an online pat on the back – This election season has been tough on Americans, what with the contentious debates, disturbing news stories, and friendships divided along party lines. Could almost be enough to give a young country an insecurity complex. But our neighbors to the north have come to the rescue. The Garden, a creative agency based in Toronto, decided to pass on some much-needed praise to Canada’s southern neighbor with its Tell America It’s Great initiative

22,000 London police to be issued body cameras – More than 22,000 police officers in London will be issued body cameras by summer 2016. The wide-scale deployment of the devices follows years of trials and evaluations, with the UK’s police force claiming that the cameras will help deliver “speedier justice for victims.” The cameras are built by Taser, worn on the front of an officer’s uniform, and activated manually. Police have to inform members of the public when they turn the camera on “as soon as practical,” with a red light on the front of the device turning on when in use. When returned to its charging dock, the camera automatically uploads its footage to a police server. If police don’t expressly ask to retain the footage for evidence then it’s deleted in 31 days. Anyone can request to see footage taken of them by the cameras under data protection laws.

Social winners and losers in the US Presidential debates – The two US Presidential debates have caused a lot of online activity and some huge spikes in searches and commentary. Here is a look at what was happening online as Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump discussed the issues.

Thanks to Facebook, voter registrations surge – Facebook dove into the voter registration process this fall. On Sept. 23, Facebook sent reminders to its U.S. users, who were at least 18 years old, about registering to vote. The effort, which ran through Sept. 26, provided a link to voter registration sites at the top of Facebook’s News Feed. According to Padilla, it caused a “major surge” in online voter registrations in California.

Google adds ballot information to search results – Google is again stepping up its efforts to provide U.S. voters with all the information they need ahead of Election Day with the addition of ballot information to Google Search results. Web users who search for a query like “who’s on my ballot,” will now be presented with detailed information about the candidates, as well as information on your own state’s referenda.

Cocaine Bust Shows How Close the Dark Web and Street Crime Really Are – When police arrested Benjamin Bricker at his house in Lubbock, Texas in June, they found cocaine, a 9mm semi-automatic pistol, a shotgun, counterfeit currency, and indications of a modest drug-peddling operation. Those discoveries might not really have stood out by themselves, but what made Bricker’s case different is that investigators suspected he purchased drugs from the so-called dark web, to then sell for a profit on the street. Although academic research has found that much of the dark web drug trade is likely between vendors rather than sold directly to users, it’s not often that a case so starkly demonstrates the close relationship between marketplaces on the Tor network and more traditional drug crime.

Every day carry pocket tools and gadgets – I do like to have a few tools and gadgets with me to help me fix things and otherwise get things done during the day. Here’s my every day carry (EDC) pocket gear. I always like to have a decent multitool, a pen, and a flashlight with me at all times, as well as a charging cable and a portable power pack (especially if I’m going to be away from a mains outlet for a while).

The 24 deadliest animals on Earth, ranked – The prospect of being fatally attacked by an animal is a gruesome one, but do you know which species are most likely to kill you? We’ve culled data from sources ranging from the Gates Foundation to National Geographic to provide a comprehensive list of the 24 creatures that kill the most humans each year.

Something to think about:

“It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.”

–      Joseph Heller – Catch-22

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

U.S. lawmakers want answers on Yahoo email surveillance – A bipartisan group of 48 U.S. lawmakers wants two government agencies to explain a surveillance program in which Yahoo reportedly scanned all the messages of its email users on behalf of the FBI.

After recent news reports of the email scanning program, the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence need to brief Congress about the efforts, the lawmakers said in a letter to the two agencies.

The first news reports about the program contained “conflicting reports about which legal authority was used” for the email scans, said the letter, organized by Representatives Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican, and Ted Lieu, a California Democrat.

“There is a significant confusion regarding the existence and nature of the program described by these reports and the legal questions implicated by the accuracy of specific details,” the letter added.

The DOJ and ODNI should provide a briefing to lawmakers “as soon as possible … to resolve the issues raised by these reports,” the letter said.

US renews fight for the right to seize content from the world’s servers – The US Department of Justice isn’t giving up its fight to access content stored in overseas servers. Federal prosecutors in New York late Thursday asked a federal appeals court to reconsider its July decision that allowed Microsoft to successfully claim that authorities had no legal right to access data stored on its servers outside the country, even with a warrant from a federal judge.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that federal law, notably the Stored Communications Act, allows US authorities to seize content in US-based servers, but not in overseas servers—in this case, Dublin, Ireland.

The dispute is an outgrowth of a years-long battle over whether Microsoft must hand over e-mails to New York prosecutors in a narcotics investigation. But the case has broader implications far beyond the drug probe. The case touches on consumer privacy, international relations, and the government’s desire to investigate criminal activity.

The government said (PDF) the decision by the appellate court, one stop short of the US Supreme Court, was “unmoored from any precedent.” Federal prosecutors urged the court to reconsider its decision and said Microsoft doesn’t have the legal right to stand up for one of its e-mail customers. The decision by Microsoft to do so, the government said, was “profit-driven.”

George Orwell never dreamed of advertising as invasive as Yahoo’s proposal – Yahoo wants to take advertising to the next level—that is, the Orwellian level—bombarding people in public places with targeted advertising served up by the surveillance society. That’s according to a Yahoo patent application recently published by the US Patent and Trademark Office. According to Yahoo, the time has come to move outdoor and public-facing advertising into the digital age—and get there by deploying more intrusive techniques than how it’s now done online.

Introducing “Smart Billboards,” as Yahoo calls them. These digital billboards—which Yahoo envisions being placed along freeways and in bars, airports, planes, ferries, buses, trains, and other public spaces—might rely on video cameras, satellites, drones, microphones, motion detectors, and “biometric sensors” such as fingerprint, retinal, and facial recognition devices. Combined, these “sensor systems,” as Yahoo calls them, analyze their surroundings to determine a common theme to serve up ads, in what Yahoo describes as “grouplization.”

Yahoo’s patent proposal notes that “the sources of data and information that may be used to enable the techniques described herein are virtually limitless.”

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – October 14, 2016

5 privacy settings to change in Windows 10;  3 great cloud managers for keeping track of all your files;  12 Ways to Secure Your Wi-Fi Network;  7 Augmented Reality Apps to Help You Avoid Buyer’s Remorse;  Google Photos can now turn videos into GIFs;  The Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans You’ve Never Heard Of;  Facebook now lets cast videos to your TV;  This is the newest tactic cybercriminals are using to deliver ransomware – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

5 privacy settings to change in Windows 10 – Windows 10 is running on over 400 million devices, but it still has all sorts of privacy issues — including mandatory diagnostic and usage data reporting to Microsoft, and a troubling amount of ads sprinkled throughout the platform. Not all of Windows 10’s problems can be fixed, but there are some things you can do to reclaim your privacy. Here are five privacy-related settings you can change for a less invasive and more secure Windows 10 experience.

12 Ways to Secure Your Wi-Fi Network – If you’re worried about the security of your home network, and by extension your personal data—especially from hackers who could casually sit in a car outside and get access to your systems—then you need to put a padlock on that wireless. You may also want to prevent others from using your network, hackers and freeloaders alike. So what do you do? Follow these tips and you’ll be well ahead of most home Wi-Fi users. Nothing will make you 1,000 percent safe against a truly dedicated hack. Crafty social engineering schemes are tough to beat. But don’t make it easy on them; protect yourself with these steps.

Instagram arrives on Windows 10 PCs and tablets, still not on iPad – As you’d expect, the familiar Instagram features are all supported in Instagram for Windows 10, including access to Instagram Stories, Direct, and Explore. You can also capture, upload, and edit photos, but you’ll need a Windows 10 tablet or PC with a touchscreen to be able to actually upload images. It’s a bizarre restriction, but devices like Microsoft’s Surface Pro and Surface Book work fine for uploading. You can download Instagram for Windows 10 PCs from Microsoft’s Windows Store.

3 great cloud managers for keeping track of all your files – Chances are you’ve got more than one cloud storage account. Maybe you’re using Google Drive for your personal files and Box for work stuff. Or you might use two or three different services to keep redundant backups of your most critical files. Whatever your system, juggling multiple cloud drives can be daunting. What you need is a cloud storage manager. These tools enable you to search, sync, and transfer files between all your accounts from one central hub. Here are three of the best.

7 Augmented Reality Apps to Help You Avoid Buyer’s Remorse – Augmented reality-enhanced shopping apps lessen the likelihood that you’ll be disappointed by letting you try on and try out objects on your phone or tablet before you buy them, thanks to on-screen overlays. There’s an aspect of the surreal in pieces of furniture popping in and out of your living room or instantly swapping out a lipstick. But these apps are as entertaining and addicting as their AR cousin, Pokemon Go. Check out some of our favorites in the slideshow.

Google starts highlighting fact-checks in News – Today Google added a new “fact-check” tag to its popular Google News service. The site aggregates popular timely news from multiple sources and has traditionally grouped them with tags like “opinion,” “local source” and “highly cited.” Now readers can see highlighted fact-checks right next to trending stories. ClaimReview from will be used to compile and organize stories offering factual background. The Schema community builds markups for structured data on the internet. The group is sponsored by Google but also has support from Microsoft, Yahoo and Yandex.

Google Photos can now turn videos into GIFs, fix sideways photos & more – Google Photos was already one of the smartest cloud photo services available today, thanks to its search technology and built-in assistant that automatically creates collages, animations and more from your uploads. Now, the company is upgrading its service again, with a bevy of new features aimed at helping you revisit your memories and generally better enjoy your photos. This update includes tools that help orient pictures correctly as well as extract shareable animations from your videos, among other things. Before, the service was capable of turning a collection of photos from the same moment in time into a looping animation, and it could turn your Live Photos on iOS into GIFs, too. Now the company is extending that same support to your videos.

How to get your Galaxy Note 7 recall $100 credit (to get another phone) – In case you missed it, a second recall for the Galaxy Note 7 has now been made official, with Samsung working alongside the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to get defective devices out of the hands of consumers. It should be noted that this second recall applies to both original and replacement phones, meaning if you own a Galaxy Note 7, it’s being recalled regardless of variety. As an added incentive to get customers to turn in their potentially dangerous Note 7 devices, Samsung is offering a range of bill credits – here’s how to figure out which credit you qualify for and how to secure it.

Apple is now selling unlocked iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus handsets in the US – Apple is now selling unlocked iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus smartphones in the United States. The SIM-free versions of the latest models will work with any US network, Apple says, with prices starting at $649 for the iPhone 7, and $769 for the larger iPhone 7 Plus. The unlocked devices come in the full range of iPhone 7 colors and storage capacities, but are only available from Apple’s online store at the moment, and there’s no option for in-store pickup yet. Device stocks appear to be low, too, with delivery expectations of three to four weeks for most models, and six to eight weeks for the jet black version

The Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans You’ve Never Heard Of – There are a lot of smartphone options beyond the big four carriers in the US. If you’re looking to save money, these lesser-known plans might be the ticket.

Facebook now lets cast videos to your TV – Facebook wants you to lean back and watch its News Feed videos on your television with a new feature that lets you stream clips via Apple TV, AirPlay devices, Google Chromecast, and Google Cast devices. The move could help Facebook generate more video ad revenue, and increase usage time by giving people the richest possible viewing experience while at home. The feature is now available on iOS and will come to Android soon. To use it, just find a video in the feed on your phone or desktop, tap the TV button in the top right, and then select the device you want to stream through.

Twitter launches Periscope Producer to enable TV-quality videos – Twitter is expanding beyond amateur videos captured on smartphones by enabling its brand partners to broadcast high-quality TV-like content through Periscope Producer. Producer allows brands to use external cameras, VR headsets, and streaming software to broadcast professional-quality videos. Producer cannot professionalise a video itself; it simply captures higher-resolution videos.

Best color LED smart bulbs – Color LED bulbs aren’t quite a commodity yet, but they are getting close to maturity as far as the market goes. Today’s bulbs are more compact, much brighter, have better color representation, and, for the most part, feature control apps that do more than ever, and are easier to set up. Prices have also come down, with some no-name color-tunable bulbs now available for less than $10 each. (Buyer beware: You get what you pay for.) We’ve tested just about every A19 color LED smart bulb on the market. You’ll find links to all of our reviews at the bottom of the page, and we’ll update this story as new models are introduced.

Why you should try Linux today: 6 compelling reasons – Windows works just fine for hundreds of millions of people, and—sorry, Linux lovers—there’s little to suggest Linux usage will ever be more than a rounding error compared to Microsoft’s behemoth. That said, there are some pretty compelling reasons you might want to consider switching to Linux on your computer, or at least give it a hassle-free trial run.

Windows 10’s next major update to debut in March – Microsoft is planning at least two major updates to Windows 10 next year, and the first (codenamed Redstone 2) will likely arrive in March. Twitter user WalkingCat has discovered several references to “Windows 10 Version 1703” in the latest test versions of Microsoft’s operating system. These references refer to the year and month of a release, and Microsoft has previously used the same codes for its Anniversary Update (1607) released in July, and a November update (1511) last year. Microsoft is expected to detail what the company is planning to include in its next major Windows 10 update at a special Surface PC event later this month.

Microsoft’s Windows Server 2016 is now generally available – Microsoft’s Windows Server 2016 is now generally available and rolling out to customers. Presales for Server 2016 started on October 1 and Microsoft always said that customers would get access to the actual bits in mid-October. Now that it’s mid-October and the leaves are falling, the company is living up to this promise. In addition, System Center 2016, Microsoft’s data center management solution for deploying and managing servers and desktops, has now also hit general availability.

How to shut down your PC at a set time – Two simple programs make it easy to shut down your PC at a specified time.


The real reason companies don’t take security seriously: Their money isn’t on the line – Every other day there’s yet another security breach. Yahoo’s announcement that 500 million accounts had been compromised is the most recent, and largest, but even that can barely raise more than a yawn from investors. The reason, according to professors Shiva Rajgopal (Columbia Business School) and Suraj Srinivasan (Harvard Business School), is that a gaping chasm exists between the costs of security breaches and the amount a company’s investors must pay to remediate them. In short, markets are failing to properly price security breaches, causing companies to grow lax in their security procedures.

This is the newest tactic cybercriminals are using to deliver ransomware – Email remains very much the main delivery method of ransomware but over the last three months there’s been a shift in tactics, with cybersecurity researchers at Symantec spotting a sudden surge in Windows Script Files (WSF) used to distribute ransomware. WSF files are opened by Windows Script Host (WSH) and are designed to allow a variety of scripting languages to mix within a single file. What makes files with the .wsf extension appealing to cybercriminals, hackers, and other ransomware pushers is that they’re not automatically blocked by some email clients and can be launched like a standard executable file.

Thousands of online shops compromised for credit card theft – Almost 6,000 online shops have been compromised by hackers who added specially crafted code that intercepts and steals payment card details. These online skimming attacks were first discovered by Dutch researcher Willem de Groot a year ago. At that time, he found 3,501 stores containing the malicious JavaScript code. However, instead of getting better, the situation is increasingly worse. By March the number of infected shops grew by almost 30 percent to 4,476, and by September, it reached 5,925. More than 750 online stores that were unwillingly skimming payment card details for attackers in 2015 are still doing so today, showing that this type of activity can go undetected for months, the researcher said in a blog post.

Cisco patches critical authentication flaw in conferencing servers – Cisco Systems has patched a critical vulnerability that could allow attackers to gain access to Cisco Meeting Server deployments, which are used in enterprise environments for video and audio conferencing.

Tor Project and Mozilla Making It Harder for Malware to Unmask Users – Generally, the Tor network provides a high level of protection and anonymity for its users. So much so that law enforcement agencies, instead of attacking the network itself, have opted to hack individual users’ computers, or end-points. This way, investigators have learned Tor users’ IP addresses. But the Tor Project, the nonprofit that maintains the Tor software, and the team behind Mozilla’s Firefox, have quietly been working on improvements that, they say, should make such attacks more difficult. By tweaking how the browser connects to the Tor network, malware designed to unmask users may have a harder time doing so.

Clinton campaign chief’s iPhone was hacked and wiped, photos suggest – Unconfirmed evidence builds a strong case that an Apple iCloud account belonging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief, John Podesta, was accessed and possibly erased by hackers less than 12 hours after his password was published on WikiLeaks. So far, Clinton campaign officials have confirmed only the compromise of Podesta’s Twitter account after it was used to urge followers to vote for Republican nominee Donald Trump. Several screenshots circulating online, however, strongly suggest that the iCloud account tied to Podesta’s iPhone was also illegally accessed by people who tried—and possibly succeeded—to wipe the device of all its data.

GlobalSign security certificate foul-up knocks out secure websites – If you can’t get to some of your favorite websites today, it’s may not have a thing to do with your browser or ISP. The blame likely goes to GlobalSign, a Belgium-based security certificate provider. The company fouled up a clean-up of some of their root certificates links. This resulted in many “secure” websites showing up as being insecure and, depending on your web browser, unavailable.

Facebook’s bug bounty: Now it’s paid out $5m for security flaws to 900 hunters – Facebook has paid out $5m to researchers over five years for reporting bugs in its social-media, messaging, and hardware platforms. It kicked off its bug bounty program in 2011, which now, in its fifth year, pays researchers for reporting bugs not just in Facebook sites and apps, but also on Instagram, Oculus Rift, Free Basics, and as of this year WhatsApp. According to Facebook, the program has paid out $5m to over 900 researchers in that time. Over $610,000 of that went to 149 researchers in the first half of 2016, mostly to researchers in India, the US, and Mexico, according to Joey Tyson, a security engineer on the Facebook Bug Bounty team.

Company News:

HP Inc to cut up to 4,000 jobs by 2020 – The US computer giant confirmed it will be cutting 3,000 to 4,000 staff company-wide over the next three to four years.

The Note7 debacle will cost Samsung another $3 billion in profit – The fallout from the Note 7 debacle, which is expected to take a big chunk out of Samsung’s third-quarter profit, will keep hurting its business into next year, the company said.

After Yahoo data breach, Verizon hints that it could pull out of $4.83B deal – Verizon’s top lawyer told reporters Thursday that Yahoo’s September announcement of a data breach of more than 500 million e-mail accounts constitutes a potential material impact that would allow for the mobile powerhouse to pull out of the $4.83 billion deal. That arrangement, which was announced in July 2016, has yet to formally close. “I think we have a reasonable basis to believe right now that the impact is material and we’re looking to Yahoo to demonstrate to us the full impact,” Craig Silliman said, according to Reuters. “If they believe that it’s not then they’ll need to show us that.” Silliman declined to respond to questions about whether Verizon was trying to negotiate a lower price.

Facebook tells IRS it won’t pay billions over Irish tax maneuver – Apple isn’t alone in taking advantage of the US tax system. Facebook also established an overseas subsidiary in Ireland largely for tax purposes—using what is known as the “Double Irish” technique—and named Dublin its base for business outside North America. But the Internal Revenue Service claims Facebook undervalued the move, and the IRS wants the California company to pay $1.7 million in taxes, plus interest, for the year 2010 and possibly subsequent years—an amount that Facebook says could reach billions. Facebook, however, told the IRS late Tuesday in a court filing that it shouldn’t have to pay. It’s a tax fight likely to fuel the debate over tax loopholes, which have become a hot-button topic in the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

AWS, VMWare announce strategic partnership, new hybrid cloud service – Once rivals, Amazon Web Services and VMWare announced a new service running VMware’s software-defined data center on the AWS cloud.

Games and Entertainment:

The 5 best PlayStation VR games to buy on day one – As release day for the Sony PlayStation VR is almost upon us, we’ve put together a list of the 6 best games available on day one. This PlayStation 4 PlayStation VR games list includes games that are both never-before-released and released on other platforms previously. It includes a game originally released on Sega Dreamcast and a game that’ll throw its user into space. This is a list of the best of the best on Sony’s PlayStation VR virtual reality headset, a deciding list on whether or not this console can beat the PC rigs.

Gears of War 4 runs beautifully on Xbox One, even better on PC – Digital Foundry examined both the Xbox One and PC releases, and there’s not much to complain about. The Xbox One version uses resolution scaling to hit 30fps at almost all times, and still manages to stay at 1080p for most of the campaign. Better yet, the anti-aliasing solution, lighting effects, and texture filtering in Unreal Engine 4 come together here to make one of the best looking console games of this hardware cycle. On the PC side, you can customize nearly anything you can think of. So whether you’re rocking a brand new GTX 1080 or an older GTX 750 Ti, you should be able to tweak enough knobs to get it running smoothly. Eurogamer tested the game on both a GTX 970 and a R9 290X, and the game seems to scale with relative ease. With that in mind, you should be fine with midrange gaming cards. Just know going in that only top-of-the-line hardware will be able to run Gears of War 4 at 2160p60. Older hardware should stick with 1080p.


You can now claim your cash in the PS3 “Other OS” settlement – If you bought an original “fat” PlayStation 3 before April of 2010, you can now claim some cash from Sony as part of the settlement of a long-litigated case over the removal of the system’s “Other OS” feature. Using an online claim form, all early PS3 owners in the United States can receive $9 from Sony (with proof of purchase or evidence of a PSN sign-in from the system). Users that can provide evidence that they actually used the “Other OS” feature to install Linux on their PS3 can receive $55. Claims are due by December 7, and payments should be sent out early next year pending final approval of the settlement.

Cult classic Beyond Good & Evil is free for a month – Are you a gamer? Have you played Beyond Good & Evil? If not, now’s a pretty good time to do it. Developer Ubisoft has made the 2003 video game free for PC gamers for the next month. Beware though, it’s the original version and not the 2011 remaster. The game, directed by Rayman creator Michel Ancel, is a cult favourite, despite not breaking the bank for Ubisoft. A sequel, Beyond Good & Evil 2, has been in development on and off since 2008.

Off Topic (Sort of):

The Ultimate Virtual Reality Buyer’s Guide – So which VR headset is right for you? That decision will likely come down to how much you’re willing to spend, and what kind of hardware you already own. Most of these headsets cost hundreds of dollars, while some require expensive, high-end computers to help power them. Here’s a closer look at how today’s VR offerings compare — and which headsets we recommend.


Tyler Essary for TIME

US National Archives launches new collection of free historical GIFs – The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is getting into GIFs. The agency in charge of preserving the nation’s most significant documents, images, and video, has started a new channel on Giphy, and is filling it with a mix curious and historical content. So far, NARA has only uploaded around 150 GIFs, but the channel will be updated continually.

US National Archives animated GIF

Waving hello in Yosemite Valley in 1924

Yelled at your phone yet today? Of course you have – Technically Incorrect: A study claims that technology is making us completely mad. You will have more than 40,000 tech rage incidents in your life.

Report: Aussie Apple Staff Fired Over Customer ‘Photo Ring’ – Four male retail workers were sacked for sharing explicit images of women and stealing pics from clients’ iPhones.

Here are the best (and fastest) ways to register to vote – As this year’s presidential election gets closer, here’s what you need to know in order to make sure you’re registered to vote.

How electric Bob Dylan made it OK to rock the folk – No matter how the years pass, one historic event will forever follow Bob Dylan, who was named a Nobel laureate Thursday. Let’s revisit that fateful moment at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island. It was 1965, and Dylan strolled on stage with a Fender Stratocaster guitar and dropped an electric bomb on the acoustic folk movement. It was a critical juncture in music history. It set the tone for cross-genre musicians like me and the folk/rock/country/blues band I play in. It made it OK to be a troubadour without being defined by whether you needed an electrical outlet.

Something to think about:

Knowledge and timber shouldn’t be much used till they are seasoned.

–       Oliver Wendell Holmes

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Google’s latest Transparency Report sets more records in government request numbers – Google has added the data from the first half of 2016 to its ongoing Transparency Report page, and the changes are pretty much what you’d expect: more requests. Some frivolous, some legit, some top secret.

Requests for user information jumped to a record total of 44,943 (up from the previous six months’ 40,677), with the U.S. leading the pack, as usual, with 30,123 of those — second place goes to Germany, then France a distant third, with India and the U.K. at her heels.

New to the board: Algeria, Belarus, Cayman Islands, El Salvador, Fiji and Saudi Arabia. Welcome! None produced more than a handful of requests, though.


The U.K. overtook India, but other than that, the top 5 are unchanged.

An average of 64 percent of those requests were granted, though Google doesn’t (and in most cases can’t) give details of which accounts and data were requested.

The statistics for content removal requests are more detailed, but that data is still from late 2015; I’m sure we can expect updated numbers there soon.

Euro politicians are hyping the terror threat to steal your privacy – European politicians are using a bogus terror threat to coerce their populations, says Open-Xchange founder Rafael Laguna. It’s a year since we caught up with the always-quotable CEO, and he hasn’t mellowed.

“Privacy Shield is a band aid on a wound that won’t heal,” he said. “It’s just a Band Aid on a wound – the wound is still there. The wound is that the privacy laws in the US and Europe are very different”.

If only Governments were as keen on reining in their own robber barons, he added.

“It’s a crazy world we live in. The internet has been taken over by private companies that make their own rules. They ignore local laws.”

The Yahoo! hack illustrated this, he told us in an interview at Open Exchange’s Frankfurt summit.

The fundamental problem, Laguna suggests, is that Americans can’t understand European privacy concerns.

“Privacy is a basic right in European law. It is not in US law. In the US, companies cannot access their people’s [employees] In fact, we find that idea appalling. It’s like walking into your bedroom. But in the US, I don’t hear any complaints.”


Filed under Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – October 12, 2016

Spying is the new hacking: Here’s how to fight back;  Crypto Wars: Why the Fight to Encrypt Rages On;  How to Back Up, Restore Your Documents in Windows 10;  Yahoo now accused of locking users into Yahoo Mail ;  Dropbox gets a ton of nifty iOS 10 features;  Five Galaxy Note 7 alternatives;  Baidu Made a Bot to Help You When You’re Sick;  Like it or not, here are ALL your October Microsoft patches – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Spying is the new hacking: Here’s how to fight back – Once upon a time it was much easier to stay safe online; as long as you used an up-to-date antivirus package and were careful how you acted on the internet, you could expect to stay safe. But now things have changed: new forms of malware and viruses appear every single day. Meanwhile the rise of social media means everything from your pet’s name to what you did at the weekend is online and could be exploited by cybercriminals to hack your devices and services. Increasingly cybercriminals are using spying techniques better associated with intelligence agencies to identify relevant information about you and your life and turn that around to attack you.

Crypto Wars: Why the Fight to Encrypt Rages On – Spies use encryption to send secrets, generals use it to coordinate battles, and criminals use it to carry out nefarious activities. Encryption systems are also at work in nearly every facet of modern technology, not just to hide information from criminals, enemies, and spies but also to verify and clarify basic, personal information. The story of encryption spans centuries, and it’s as complicated as the math that makes it work. And new advances and shifting attitudes could alter encryption completely. We talked to several experts in the field to help us understand the many facets of encryption: its history, current state, and what it may become down the road. Here’s what they had to say.

Encrypted communications could have an undetectable backdoor – Researchers warn that many 1024-bit keys used to secure communications on the Internet today might be based on prime numbers that have been intentionally backdoored in an undetectable way.

Five surprises in the latest Windows 10 Insider build and what they mean – Most of the changes in the latest Windows 10 preview release, build 14942, look like minor tweaks. But they point the way to more significant changes to come next year. Here’s what to look out for.

How to Back Up, Restore Your Documents in Windows 10 – Uh, oh. That incredibly critical file you were working on the other day is lost or won’t open. Are you in trouble? Not if you’ve been using Windows 10’s File History. This feature, around since the Windows 8.0 days, automatically saves specific file folders to backup devices, thus allowing you to recover a prior version of a file should it go missing or become corrupted and unusable. Let’s see how it works. First, make sure you have a viable external drive connected to your PC. This could be a USB stick, a full-fledged USB drive, or a network location on a NAS (Network Attached Storage) drive.

Yahoo now accused of locking users into Yahoo Mail – The year is ending terribly for Samsung, but it won’t be alone. Yahoo is on the same boat after it admitted to have “assisted” the US government in spying on its Yahoo Mail users. Matters have gotten so bad that Verizon, who is acquiring Yahoo, is looking into slashing its price by more than half. It isn’t surprising that there would be users eager to jump ship, but reports are coming in claiming that Yahoo is making it nearly impossible to do so. How? By “temporarily” disabling Yahoo Mail’s auto-forwarding feature.

Baidu Made a Bot to Help You When You’re Sick – If you’ve ever tried to diagnose yourself using websites and other online resources, at some point, you’ve probably also fallen into a digital rabbit hole so deep and so terrifying that you might have felt compelled to book the earliest appointment with your doctor. Baidu, the company behind China’s largest search engine, wants to do away with that terror in real-time. Starting today, it’s offering a new, free smartphone app (iOS and Android) that uses artificial intelligence to try and discern whether you’re actually sick or not. If so, it can quickly connect you with a doctor. While it could have a huge impact in China, experts are less certain that the app would catch on in the US, where Baidu eventually plans to launch an English-language version.

Duolingo now has chatbots to help you learn new languages – It’s common advice to new language learners to practice speaking with native speakers of that language. But not everyone might have the luxury of having such people around. In the absence of real humans, popular language learning platform Duolingo is offering the next best thing: chatbots. It is definitely an interesting, and perhaps more useful, twist to an increasingly popular trend that is putting chatty artificial intelligence “persons” inside almost any app that accepts typed or spoken input.

The best Android photo filtering and creative editing apps – Want to go above and beyond simple photo touchup? These apps will put powerful editing tools right on your smartphone or tablet.

Which apps and services work with Google Home? – Google Home is part of a new batch of new hardware that’s all tied together with Google services and the Google Assistant. So while the underlying technology is interesting, it’s how much you can do that will determine how compelling this will be for everyday use. Here’s the current list of supported apps, which Google of course hopes to grow as more third-party developers and services jump on board.

Dropbox gets a ton of nifty iOS 10 features – When Apple formally started rolling out iOS 10 to users, dozens of apps rode the wave to take advantage of the hype and craze. Dropbox, however, bid its time and for good measure. Now it is unleashing a flood of new features taking advantage of the latest iOS version, from being able to share files directly from inside iMessage to, amusingly, being able to watch a video stored on Dropbox while you try to be productive at work.

Amazon Music Unlimited debuts with discounts for Prime members, cheap “Echo-only” plan – Rumors have been swirling around Amazon’s plans to launch its own, standalone music streaming service, and now those reports have been proven out: the company is today announcing the launch of Amazon Music Unlimited. This new, on-demand streaming service offers access to tens of millions of songs, and is available for $7.99 per month for Prime members, or $9.99 per month for non-Prime members. Amazon has also launched a “for Echo” subscription plan that lets you listen only on its connected speakers for just $3.99 per month.

4 little-known streaming music services you should try right now – Believe it or not, Pandora and Spotify aren’t the Internet’s only music sources. Like indie radio stations, these smaller services fly under the radar — but often deliver something truly special.

Netgear Arlo Pro is a smart, wireless and weatherproof HD security camera – Netgear has introduced a new security camera called the Arlo Pro, an offering the company bills as the ‘world’s most advanced” wireless, weatherproof and high-definition smart security camera for homes. That’s a lot of promises to pack into a small device, but Netgear appears to do so gracefully, offering a robust set of features in a relatively small and attractive package. Among its many features is total wireless functionality, as well as two-way audio support, night vision, advanced motion detection, and more.

Samsung sending out fireproof return boxes for the Note 7 – XDA-Developers reports that Samsung has begun sending out the return kits to customers who have gotten in touch about returning their phone. The return kit includes three boxes and a static shielding bag. The Note 7 is supposed to be slipped into the bag and then enclosed in box after box. It’s the outermost box that’s most interesting: it’s lined with ceramic fiber paper, which is capable of handling extreme heat.

Five Galaxy Note 7 alternatives – It would seem that the Galaxy Note 7 just can’t put its problems behind it. With Samsung rumored to be halting production on the handset after reports of a fresh round of battery problems and all of the major US carriers now offering to swap the phone out for something different, Galaxy Note 7 owners are in a tough spot when it comes to selecting a new phone. To help make the transition a little smoother, here are five handsets (in no particular order) you can pick to replace your Galaxy Note 7.

Sprint to Offer 1M Low-Income Students Free Devices, Data – The Internet is a blessing to many a school-aged kid trying to get through the night’s homework assignment, but what if your home has no Internet access? It happens all too often in poorer neighborhoods, but Sprint’s new initiative will provide 1 million high school students with free devices and wireless connections. The 1Million Project is a multi-year plan to connect low-income US high school students lacking a reliable source of Internet access at home. The pilot program is set to launch in January in seven to 10 markets, where students will receive a free smartphone, tablet, laptop, or hotspot device and 3GB of high-speed LTE data per month—for up to four years.

Facebook launches Workplace, targets business users with new look – After an 18-month beta program, Facebook officially launched Workplace, in hopes of changing how professionals collaborate online.

3 ways to dashboard-mount your smartphone – If you’re driving a car, you shouldn’t be using your phone. There, I said it. Unfortunately, almost no one heeds this advice, myself included. Because maps must be viewed, podcasts must be played, text messages must be glanced at (but never responded to, unless it’s by voice) and so on. But let’s face it: that’s insanely dangerous. It’s really hard to not use your phone while driving. But it’s not hard to be a little smarter about it, which starts with mounting your phone on your dashboard or windshield.


Odinaff Trojan attacks banks and more, monitoring networks and stealing credentials – New Trojan is suspected to be linked to the Carbanak hacking campaign — and is potentially very lucrative for criminals, warn Symantec researchers.

Second group of hackers found also targeting SWIFT users – A second hacking group is also trying to rob banks by exploiting the SWIFT money transfer system, following an $81 million heist in February that used a similar approach.

Internet of Things Malware Has Apparently Reached Almost All Countries on Earth – The malware that powered one of the worst denial of service cyberattacks of the last few years has infected internet-connected devices all over the world, reaching as many as 177 countries, according to security researchers. At the beginning of this month, a cybercriminal released the source code of the malware that powered one of the worst-ever zombie armies, or botnet, made of Internet of Things. The release of the malware, known as Mirai, gave cybercriminals with minimal skills a new tool to launch cyberattacks. It also gave internet defenders and security researchers a way track down the bad guys’ activities and map their armies of hacked devices.

Adobe on patch parade to march out 83 bugs – Adobe has patched 83 vulnerabilities in its Reader, Acrobat, and Flash offerings including remote code execution holes. The former apps soaked up 71 patches centred on use-after-free, memory corruption, and buffer overflow vulnerabilities that lead to code execution. A dozen remote code execution flaws are plugged in Flash. “These updates address critical vulnerabilities that could potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system,” Adobe says in its bulletin. Windows and Mac apps are affected by the largest patch run from Adobe since May when it dropped patches for 91 vulnerabilities.

Like it or not, here are ALL your October Microsoft patches – Microsoft is kicking off a controversial new security program this month by packaging all of its security updates into a single payload. The October security release introduces Redmond’s new policy of bundling all security bulletins as one download. While more convenient for end users, who now get just one bundle, the move will irk many administrators, who had preferred to individually test and apply each patch to avoid compatibility problems. In total, ten bulletins have been bundled into the Patch Tuesday payload:

2017 cybercrime trends: Expect a fresh wave of ransomware and IoT hacks – This year companies were rocked by over 90 million cyberattacks. In 2017 the number could double. Cybersecurity expert Sameer Dixit explains how new innovation leads to increased vulnerability.

Cyberattackers hack UN nuclear power plant – The successful hacking attempt was followed by an attempt to steal ingredients for dirty bombs.

Company News:

Amazon is planning to open grocery stores for its Amazon Fresh customers – The grocery stores — which the company has been rumored to be working on for over a year —would be an expansion of Amazon’s existing Fresh grocery delivery service. The stores would be exclusive to Fresh customers, which is available for Prime members in select cities at a monthly fee of $15 on top of the annual $99 Prime cost. In addition the the actual grocery stores, Amazon is also reportedly planning drive-in curbside locations where Amazon Fresh customers can pick up their online deliveries.

Samsung slashes profit forecast by a third following Galaxy Note 7 debacle – Samsung issued earnings guidance last week that suggested the calamitous Galaxy Note 7 recall wouldn’t have a major impact on the company’s bottom line, but the company just released a statement adjusting its forecast significantly. Operating profit for the third quarter of 2016 is now estimated to come in at 5.2 trillion won ($4.6 billion), down 33 percent from the previous figure, while revenue expectations have been slashed by 2 trillion won to 47 trillion ($41.8 billion). Earnings of 5.2 trillion won would represent the first year-on-year profit decline for Samsung in a year.

FCC hits Comcast with record cable company fine over billing practices – Comcast is being fined $2.3 million for billing customers for products that they never ordered. The fine was announced this morning as part of a settlement with the Federal Communications Commission, which says this is “the largest civil penalty” it’s ever issued a cable operator. Most of the issue arose over a practice called “negative option billing,” where Comcast would begin charging customers if they didn’t actively decline or cancel a service. The commission says this occurred with premium cable channels and DVRs, among other products; in some cases, customers said they were billed despite specifically declining the product or service.

Twitter said to still be in buyout talks with Salesforce – The cloud computing company hasn’t bowed out yet, according to the New York Times, despite investors’ apparent disapproval.

Games and Entertainment:

The 20 best free Android games to play right now – It’s increasingly rare to see a new Android game with a price tag, but not all free games are built alike. The Play Store has a ton of great games you can snag without spending a penny, and we’ve collected our 20 current favorites within. Some of these may have ads or limitations, but those small annoyances don’t disguise the immense fun you can have without being forced to pay a thing. Grab a bunch of them!

Gears of War 4 is now out on Xbox One, Windows 10 – It’s not yet be the season for gaming or buying new games, but, for a true-blooded gamer, there really are no seasons. Heralding that season, Microsoft Studios and The Coalition, not Epic Games, have pushed the button to launch Gears of War 4 into the hands of fans. Technically the fifth installment in the acclaimed franchise, Gears of War 4 takes players 25 years past Gears of War 3. And the storyline isn’t the only future thing either, with a gameplay that embraces Microsoft’s shiny new cross-play feature.


Halloween is coming! Stream these gems to get an early start on your monster mash – October has arrived. Monster month is here. And there’s no shortage of horrific movies to stream, to celebrate, and to scare away unwanted spirits. To start, we have one of the scariest vampire movies ever made—despite its being nearly a century old—as well as one of the spookiest and most underrated ghost movies of recent years. We have a monster movie from the early 1980s, a restored, creepy-crawly classic from the mid-1980s, a 1990s effort by an acclaimed horror author, and then a trilogy devoted to horror films watched on videocassettes during that time period. For those looking for lighter-hearted fare, we have a gory, ultra-smart spoof of “dead teenager” movies, as well as a warmhearted romantic comedy with ghosts.

COD: Infinite Warfare, Modern Warfare Remastered need 130GB of free space – Last week, a tidbit of info surfaced suggesting gamers will need 130GB of free hard drive space to install Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered. Some, understandably, have balked at the figure, hoping it is incorrect. Put simply, it’s not. At least not according to a new FAQ page Activision has published for the two games, which says the 130GB requirement is a high-end estimate, one that covers future map releases and game updates as well as the games themselves.

Skyrim Special Edition PC requirements revealed – We’re just a couple of weeks out from the release of Bethesda‘s Skyrim Special Edition, and like clockwork, the company has released a list of minimum and recommended PC requirements. Obviously, since this version is getting something of a graphics overhaul, it’ll require a fair amount more power than its predecessor, despite the fact that the original version of Skyrim was at least somewhat friendly to those playing with lower-end hardware.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Google is running home page ads pushing people to get registered to vote – Google is upping its efforts at getting its U.S. users registered to vote, via a pop-up ad that now appears directly on the desktop home page. The company has historically made an effort to help web users get registered to vote and find answers to their voting-related questions by placing instant answers in its Search results. That has continued this year, as voter searches were redirected to answers about the registration process, deadlines, poll hours and more. However, adding a pop-up on the home page is a much more forceful effort on the search giant’s part in terms of increasing the number of registered voters.

Behold, the first drone with Intel outside – The Falcon 8+ system is a complete package designed for “industrial inspection, surveying, and mapping,” and is built around an octocopter manufactured by Intel subsidiary Ascending Technologies. The drone’s rotors are arranged in AscTec’s patented V-formation, and the craft can reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour — faster than most amateur drones. Its makers promise all sorts of features designed to appeal to professional pilots, including back-up batteries and communication systems built into the drone itself. The system also ships with the Intel Cockpit, a weatherproof controller with twin joysticks and an integrated Intel tablet, with the whole system ready to fly right out of the box.



Five years of observations from tandem satellites produce 3D world map of unprecedented accuracy – A pair of satellites operating in tandem for five years have produced a depth map of the planet so exact you could theoretically zoom down to street level and tell an adult from a kid, or spot a breaking wave at Malibu. The immense database — some 2.6 petabytes — is available for free to researchers.

2,200 years ago in Turkey, this disturbing rental agreement was inscribed in stone – Carved into a 1.5 meter-long marble stele, the document goes into great detail about the property and its amenities. We learn that it’s a tract of land that was given to the Neos, a group of men aged 20-30 associated with the city’s gymnasium. In ancient Greece, a gymnasium wasn’t just a place for exercise and public games—it was a combination of university and professional training school for well-off citizens. Neos were newbie citizens who often had internship-like jobs in city administration or politics. The land described in the lease was given to the Neos by a wealthy citizen of Teos, in a gift that was likely half-generosity, half-tax writeoff. Because the land contained a shrine, it was classified as a “holy” place that couldn’t be taxed. Along with the land, the donor gave the Neos all the property on it, including several slaves.


Here’s the 58-line rental agreement, written literally in stone.

Nightingale blankets your bedroom in customized white noise – A new product called Nightingale aims to eliminate your nighttime disturbances using a ‘blanket’ of sound that drowns out unwanted ambient noises and things like tinnitus without disturbing your sleep. The company behind the product, Cambridge Sound Management, bills the device as a smart home sleep system — one that involves two components, each that plug into a wall outlet in your bedroom. The devices can produce 15 different sound ‘blankets’ for different scenarios.


The new art of war: How trolls, hackers and spies are rewriting the rules of conflict – Cyberwar isn’t going to be about hacking power stations. It’s going to be far more subtle, and more dangerous.

Something to think about:

“The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from.”

–      Andrew S. Tanenbaum

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

ACLU exposes Facebook, Twitter for feeding surveillance company user data – The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday outed Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for feeding a Chicago-based company their user streams—a feed that was then sold to police agencies for surveillance purposes.

After the disclosure, the social media companies said they stopped their data firehouse to Chicago-based Geofeedia. In a blog post, the ACLU said it uncovered the data feeds as part of a public records request campaign of California law enforcement agencies. Geofeedia touts how it helped police track unrest during protests.

In one document, Geofeedia hailed its service because it paid for Twitter’s “firehose” and because it is the “only social media monitoring tool to have a partnership with Instagram.”

“Geofeed Streamer is unique to Geofeedia and has numerous uses (Ie: Live Events, Protests—which we covered Ferguson/Mike Brown nationally with great success, Disaster Relief, Etc),” said one document (PDF) that Geofeedia sent to a police agency, which was then forwarded to the ACLU.

Following the ACLU post, Twitter tweeted, “Based on information in the @ACLU’s report, we are immediately suspending @Geofeedia’s commercial access to Twitter data.”

Nicole Ozer, an ACLU civil liberties director in California, said, “The ACLU shouldn’t have to tell Facebook or Twitter what their own developers are doing. The companies need to enact strong public policies and robust auditing procedures to ensure their platforms aren’t being used for discriminatory surveillance.”

The ACLU said that “after we reported our findings to the companies, Instagram cut off Geofeedia’s access to public user posts, and Facebook has cut its access to a topic-based feed of public user posts.”

Geofeedia, which did not respond for comment, says it has more than 500 customers, including the Denver Police Department. That agency recently signed a $30,000 annual deal with the company. The money came from the agency’s “confiscation” fund. The department’s intelligence agency’s top brass wrote that it would allow cops to analyze and respond in real time to “social media content from anywhere in the world.”

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter Block Tool For Cops To Surveil You On Social Media – On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California announced that, after the organization obtained revealing documents through public records access requests, Facebook and Instagram have cut off data access to a company that sells surveillance products for law enforcement. Twitter has also curbed the surveillance product’s access.

The product, called Geofeedia, is used by law enforcement to monitor social media on a large scale, and relies on social media sites’ APIs or other means of access. According to one internal email between a Geofeedia representative and police, the company claimed their product “covered Ferguson/Mike Brown nationally with great success,” in reference to to the fatal police shooting of a black teenager in Missouri in 2014, and subsequent protests.

“Our location-based intelligence platform enables hundreds of organizations around the world to predict, analyze, and act based on real-time social media signals,” the company’s website reads.

According to the ACLU, Instagram provided Geofeedia access to its API; Facebook gave access to a data feed called the Topic Feed API, which presents users with a ranked list of public posts; and Twitter provided Geofeedia, through an intermediary, with searchable access to its database of public tweets. Instagram and Facebook terminated Geofeedia’s access on September 19, and Twitter announced on Tuesday that it had suspended Geofeedia’s commercial access to Twitter data.

Cory Doctorow says fight against DRM laws is more important than his blogging – Cory Doctorow, the popular science fiction author and journalist blogger, says he will be writing a lot less in order to focus on his digital activism work in fighting Digital Rights Management (DRM) laws alongside the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

He was speaking at a recent event at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) Artist Talks series, on the topic of how museums and libraries can “shape conversations about civic participation and cultural citizenship.”

He said that museums and libraries employ lots of highly skilled archivists and that they should be taught some software engineering skills to help take their work into digital realms.

Much of his SFMOMA talk, however, was about current copyright laws and the danger they pose to democracy and to basic rights such as expectations of privacy and protection from government surveillance.

He warned that the Internet of Things and new electronics products such as a connected smart rectal thermometer would allow the government to spy inside our bodies.

He says government surveillance is tightly linked with DRM laws. People can be jailed for five years for disabling DRM systems, and can be prosecuted if they share such information. This bars researchers from discovering security holes that could be exploited by criminal organizations or or foreign states.

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Filed under Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – October 10, 2016

Why an unhackable mobile phone is a complete marketing myth;  How to stop failing Windows Updates from bothering you;  Infographic: How to identify and avoid phishing attacks;  How to encrypt your Facebook messages;  Google Pixel phone: The smart person’s guide;  What To Do If Your Smartphone Battery Is Overheating;  The Best Tablets of 2016;  These 5 SMART errors help you predict your hard drive’s death – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Why an unhackable mobile phone is a complete marketing myth – Consider this: The smartphone in your pocket is 10 times more powerful than the fastest multi-million dollar supercomputers of just 20 years ago. There are tens of millions of lines of software in that phone of yours. There are hundreds of apps written by more than one million developers, some of whom are hackers, and some of whom are just incompetent at security. And then there are chips in your phone that run sophisticated software, from companies located in countries all around the world, all of which have security bugs. The complexity is mind-boggling — and so are all the security vulnerabilities that exist and will be found in the future. In short, anyone who claims to sell an “unhackable phone” is either ignorant or lying.

Google Pixel phone: The smart person’s guide – Our comprehensive guide covers the origin of the Google Pixel phone, its specifications and features, and what it means for Google’s mobile strategy.

Google Assistant: The smart person’s guide – This comprehensive guide covers the history behind Google’s AI-powered Google Assistant, its features, and what it means for the future of Google’s business.

Microsoft’s new Windows 10 beta build improves touchpads, updates Photos, and stabilizes your PC – While Windows 10 is designed for a range of hardware, more modern, powerful PCs will benefit from reliability improvements in the new Windows 10 Insider build 14942, released Friday. The new Insider build for the Fast ring includes a laundry list of tweaks and new changes, but the most important are some under-the-hood improvements that Microsoft promises will help improve the reliability of PCs with over 3.5GB of memory. Microsoft’s other updates include an extension of the Active Hours period, improving the touchpad, and an update to the Photos app.

How to stop failing Windows Updates from bothering you – Microsoft’s show or hide updates troubleshooter is a handy tool for those times when you need to say “no” to Windows 10’s mandatory updates.

How to Use and Tweak Your Windows 10 Lock Screen – The first item that greets you when you fire up Windows 10 is the Lock screen. Clicking or tapping on it brings you to the sign-in screen where you log in to Windows. Yes, the Lock screen seems unnecessary, but it carries with it some tidbits that can be useful before you even launch Windows.


Windows 10’s big Microsoft Paint refresh: Now you get 3D objects, stickers, new tools – Details of a new Windows 10 Paint app have leaked ahead of Microsoft’s supposed all-in-one Surface launch later this month.

How to encrypt your Facebook messages with Secret Conversations – Facebook’s new encrypted messaging feature, Secret Conversations, is now live for everyone on Android and iOS.

Samsung halts production of the Galaxy Note 7 – Following reports that replacement models of the Note 7 also suffered from the battery flaws that led to the initial recall, Samsung reportedly has stopped production of its latest phone.

What To Do If Your Smartphone Battery Is Overheating – As Samsung works to replace millions of Galaxy Note 7 devices amid reports of overheating and exploding batteries, we were curious: What should you do if your smartphone starts to overheat, smoke, or, worse, actually catch fire? So we reached out once again to battery expert Dr. Donald R. Sadoway, the John F. Elliott Professor of Materials Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for an answer. Sadoway previously us helped explain the science behind exploding batteries.

The Best Tablets of 2016 – Whether you’re looking for an Android, Apple, or Windows tablet, here’s what to consider, along with our top-rated slates.

Prisma Now Lets You Turn Videos Into Works of Art – The Prisma app arrived this summer to turn your photos into works of digital art, and now it’s doing the same for your videos. With the latest version of the iOS app, users can choose a saved file from the gallery, or shoot up to 15 seconds of content through the Prisma camera. Then watch as your clip is transformed using any of the nine available artist filters. “Turn your memories into moving artworks using unique video styles,” the App Store description says.


Five budget and bookkeeping apps to help SMBs make the most of the new fiscal year – It’s October, and that means it’s already 2017 for a lot of businesses. It can be hard for SMBs to manage finances, but it doesn’t have to be: Here are five apps that can help make FY2017 a breeze.

These 5 SMART errors help you predict your hard drive’s death – Online backup service Backblaze frequently provides interesting storage analysis based on hard drive statistics gathered from its data center. Now the company’s talking about how it determines if a hard drive is likely to die, another return to a topic broached in 2014. If you’re not familiar with SMART it stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology. It’s a self-analysis feature built into modern hard drives. The catch is you usually need third-party software to retrieve your hard drive’s SMART report—though you can also fetch the report via the command line. The five key SMART errors Backblaze tracks are the following:

The Windows weakness no one mentions: Speech recognition – Microsoft has buried dictation capabilities within Windows for a decade. Isn’t it time that Microsoft put speech recognition front and center as a productivity assistant for Microsoft Office?

Google Chrome soon won’t be such a burden your computer – New version of the browser won’t take up as much memory, especially on mobile devices, Google programmers promise.

22 Hidden Facebook Features Only Power Users Know – Facebook has been around for awhile, but there are probably a few tricks you don’t know about.


Infographic: How to identify and avoid phishing attacks – A recently-published infographic from Digital Guardian can help your employees recognize and steer clear of phishing, spear phishing, and social media attacks.


Australians fail to keep their smartphones secure despite dramatic rise in mobile malware – AUSTRALIANS are targeted by up to 100 malware threats per hour on their smartphones and yet two thirds admit they do not have any security software on their phones. New research released today shows that 14 million Aussies do not bother with extra security steps on their smartphones despite five per cent having had their phones infected by malicious malware in the past quarter. The national survey conducted by Intel Security to launch Stay Smart Online Week found that 60 per cent of Australians view their smartphones as “priceless” and more than a third would rather have their wallet stolen than have a thief take their smartphone. The survey found particular risks for those who use their work phones at home, with nearly four in ten parents admitting they hand over their work devices to their kids to play with. (recommended by Mal C.)

Remove ransomware infections from your PC using these free tools – A how-to on finding out what ransomware is squatting in your PC — and how to get rid of it.

Serious security: Three changes that could turn the tide on hackers – The state of tech security is currently so dire that it feels like anything you have ever stored on a computer, or a company or government has ever stored about you, has already been hacked into by somebody. So where did it all go wrong? Building secure systems is hard, especially when the security is being bolted on afterwards, as is often the case. And security is expensive and hard to justify as it doesn’t come with a visible return on investment, making it easier to skimp on when times are hard.

Russia deliberately interfering with election, US says – It’s official: The White House says Russia has been conducting a broad campaign to interfere with US elections. This included hacking into the computers of the Democratic National Committee and other agencies and political officials. “These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security said in a joint statement Friday. “Such activity is not new to Moscow — the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there.”

U.S. could use sanctions to punish Russia for election hacking – The U.S. response to election-related hacks that the Obama administration now blames on the Russian government could include sanctions against that country. The administration has said that it has a range of options, including economic sanctions, to respond to Russian cyber attacks. On Friday, a Republican lawmaker said he would propose legislation to move those sanctions forward.

We’re not going to beat cybercrime in our lifetime says ex-FBI cyber chief – But we still need to proactively hunt down attackers or risk a “failure for future generations” says Shawn Henry.

Company News:

Apple v. Samsung heads to Supreme Court: What you need to know – The biggest patent case to hit the modern tech world is back again. Apple and Samsung will appear before the US Supreme Court on Tuesday to argue why their opponent was wrong when it came to a patent case from 2012. This is the first time a design patent case has been examined by the Supreme Court since the 1800s. A decision by the court could have a ripple effect across the technology industry and ultimately affect the gadgets you buy. What’s at question is how much money one company has to pay for copying the designs of another. Samsung says an Apple victory would stifle innovation. Apple argues that a Samsung win would weaken the protections afforded to new creations.

Three Law Firms Join iPhone 6 Plus ‘Touch Disease’ Lawsuit Against Apple – There is increasing pressure on Apple to explain why it’s ignored the fact that touchscreens on thousands of iPhone 6 Plus devices have stopped working, leaving consumers on the hook to replace devices that have a fundamental engineering flaw. Lawyers who filed a class action lawsuit against the company in California earlier this fall have signed on three additional law firms to support their case, and an additional class action lawsuit related to the issue has been filed against Apple in Utah.

Microsoft schedules its Fall hardware event for October 26 – The invitations are out: Microsoft will hold its Fall hardware launch on Oct. 26 in New York City. Expect Windows 10, Surface, and some gaming news.

Oracle says it’ll walk from NetSuite deal if shareholders balk – T. Rowe Price is one institutional shareholder that wants a higher price for NetSuite. Oracle is extending its tender offer for NetSuite until November 4, or it’ll walk.

Tesla to unveil “unexpected” new product October 17 – Tesla will unveil something on Monday October 17, according CEO and founder Elon Musk. It’ll be a new product, he said in a Tweet on Sunday, which will be “unexpected by most,” and which will be separate from a Tesla/SolarCity product unveiling on the 28th. Musk previously teased the October 28 event, saying it would include the unveiling of joint products from both the electric car and the solar energy companies, including a solar roof, along with an integrated second generation of the Tesla Powerwall energy storage solution, and a Tesla EV charger.

Games and Entertainment:

Halloween is coming! Stream these gems to get an early start on your monster mash – Here’s a fine collection of chilling monster and ghost movie recommendations, as well as a few favorites for the non-witching hour.

Gears of War 4 (PC) review: Passing the torch – The long time Xbox flagship finally lands on PCs.


EVE: Valkyrie arrives for PlayStation VR on October 13 – CCP Games has announced that EVE: Valkyrie will be available for the PlayStation VR starting on October 13. Following that launch, the studio will hold a double experience points weekend from October 14 to October 17, giving existing players and those new to the game the opportunity to level up quickly. The double experience points will be available to PC gamers, as well, not just those playing the PS VR version of the title.

Off Topic (Sort of):

6 biological strategies to help your business last for 100 years – Businesses are disappearing faster today than ever before. Here are some resilience and adaptivity tricks you can adopt from biology to help your business achieve long-term success.

Is sitting really the new smoking? An in-depth discussion with the experts – A new advisory from the American Heart Association reveals that anyone who sits for hours each day is at risk of developing a variety of health issues. Find out just how dangerous it can be.

Electronic stick-on notes make paper Post-its obsolete – Post-it and other sticky notes that you can quickly scribble a note on are great, and that’s probably why they’re not obsolete yet. Yes, you can set a reminder on your phone or tablet; it’s easy to sweep those notifications away, though, and they’re just not the same as a piece of yellow paper on your display or fridge. This could all change soon enough, though, thanks to the recent showcasing of an electronic sticky note powered by solar.

Something to think about:

“Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

–      Charles Mackay

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

FCC Moves to Let You Control How ISPs Use Your Data – FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today formally circulated a proposal intended to give Internet users more control over how ISPs use their personal information.

ISPs are “collecting information about us every time we go online,” Wheeler said in a blog post. “The problem is, there are currently no rules in place outlining how ISPs may use and share their customers’ personal information.”

Wheeler first floated a plan for stricter oversight of ISP customer data in March, and today’s proposal takes into account the public comments the agency has received on the subject since then.

“Based on the extensive feedback we’ve received, I am proposing new rules to provide consumers increased choice, transparency and security online. I have shared this proposal with my colleagues and the full Commission will consider these proposed privacy rules at our upcoming monthly meeting on October 27,” Wheeler said.

Probe cops’ Stingray phone masts, senators tell US comms watchdog – A group of US Senators has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate concerns that police stingray devices are causing illegally high levels of interference to wireless networks.

In a letter addressed to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, Senators Bernie Sanders (I‑VT), Ron Wyden (D‑OR), Al Franken (D‑MN), Sherrod Brown (D‑OH), Elizabeth Warren (D‑MA), Ed Markey (D‑MA), Jeff Merkley (D‑OR), Tammy Baldwin (D‑WI), Tom Udall (D‑NM), Chris Coons (D‑DE), and Martin Heinrich (D‑NM) all asked the commission to determine whether the use of the phone tower simulators is preventing local communities from being able to properly use their phones.

The concern, say the senators, is that by relying on Stingrays for long-term surveillance, police are violating FCC provisions on harmful radio interference.

“Reliable access to telecommunications services is vital to Americans’ ability to communicate and successfully engage in today’s economy, and it is the FCC’s responsibility to ensure that communications services are available to Americans of all backgrounds,” the letter reads.

The interference issue has been noted in the past by community groups. Because Stingrays impersonate functioning cell phone towers, nearby devices – both those of the targeted individuals and law-abiding citizens – connect to the fake towers. This, critics argue, can create a service disruption when the fake towers are used for a prolonged period.

The senators go on to note that minority communities in particular are suffering from the problem, as police have been more likely to use stingrays in those areas.

Thanks To Encryption, Governments Need Companies Like Yahoo To Spy on Users – Last year, the US government asked Yahoo to scan all its customers emails to look for the digital “signature” of certain method of communication used by a terrorist group.

The secret scanning tool rocked the tech world and that of privacy and anti-surveillance activists this week, shocked by how broad the request was, and the fact that it had kept under wraps. Until Reuters reported its existence this week, the tool remained a secret not just to the public, but also to most people at Yahoo, including the security team, which caught it and thought it was a sophisticated and dangerous piece of malware installed by hackers, as reported by Motherboard on Friday.

In an age where the FBI asked Apple to unlock the iPhone of a dead terrorist, and countless top secret documents revealed the vast surveillance powers of the NSA, asking Yahoo to use a scanning tool that former employees defined as a “buggy” and a “poorly designed” “backdoor” or “rootkit,” was an unusual request as it wasn’t targeted—Yahoo was essentially looking through the whole haystack looking for a few needles—and the company apparently didn’t fight back.

But such a request is a perfect example of how the rise of encryption technologies have changed the face of government surveillance. Before large tech companies such as Google and Yahoo turned on default encryption across their services, including email—in the process protecting their customers data as it travelled from their computers to the company’s servers, as well as when the data travelled through the internet—the NSA could’ve gone through users’ data without having to knock on Yahoo’s door.


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