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.

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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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