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.

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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.

Security:

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.

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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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1 Comment

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One response to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – October 24, 2016

  1. Marc

    Bill,
    The Motherboard article “Find Out If One of Your Devices Helped Break the Internet” says to look for your current public IP address in Shodan. It fails to point out that your current IP address may not be the one you had yesterday or last week. Your network may be fine but if you just got a new IP address it could belong to someone whose network was bad when Shodan last scanned it. And, suggesting the use of MAC address filtering is further proof that the article is flawed.