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Free Up Disk Space on Your Windows 10 PC;  Apple MacBook Pro 2017: The smart person’s guide;  Apple MacBook Pro swaps outdated function keys for Touch Bar;  Twitter is shutting down Vine;  Pornhub offers to buy Vine;  8 easy ways to make a GIF;  Windows 10 quick tips: How to protect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.

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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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