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.

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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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2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – October 19, 2016

  1. Mal

    Hey Bill,

    Re: Malwarebytes acquires AdwCleaner

    I’ve heard of this program before but never used it. I decided to give it a spin after reading your comment about it above.

    It found 21 threats! Mostly from Slimware products I tried out ages ago (I’ve noticed a lot of antimalware programs flag Slimware as PUP’s).

    Anyway, I am impressed, and going to keep it around. Like you said, pretty impressive.


    • Hey Mal,

      Another app for the anti-malware toolbox – seems to be no end to the need for more of this type of tool. Discouraging – to say the least!

      Have a great weekend mate.