Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – November 9, 2016

5 key things you need to know about VPNs;  The Best Encryption Software of 2016;  Web of Trust browser extensions yanked;  Google stops AdSense attack;  How to buy a new PC for your parents;  OS X El Capitan: The smart person’s guide;  YouTube adds support for HDR videos;  6 ways to delete yourself from the internet;  What you need to know about 4K TVs;  The best PC hardware we’re using now and why we love it – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

5 key things you need to know about VPNs – A virtual private network is a secure tunnel between two or more computers on the internet, allowing them to access each other as if on a local network. In the past, VPNs were mainly used by companies to securely link remote branches together or connect roaming employees to the office network, but today they’re an important service for consumers too, protecting them from attacks when they connect to public wireless networks. Given their importance, here’s what you need to know about VPNs.

Web of Trust browser extensions yanked after proving untrustworthy – Earlier in November, a report out of Germany claimed the popular Web of Trust (WoT) browser add-on was selling its users’ browser histories to third-parties without properly anonymizing the data, resulting in the personal identification of Web of Trust users. There was also some debate over whether the company behind WoT (WOT Services) properly informed its users of data collection actions performed by the extension. On Sunday, WoT voluntarily pulled down its add-on from the extension libraries of all others browser, including Chrome and Opera. It’s not clear when WoT plans to reintroduce its add-on to all the various browsers it previously supported, including Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari, and others.

Pointing up   A shoutout to Bob at bob3160 who advised me on this several days ago. Thanks Bob.

The Best Encryption Software of 2016 – Just because you have antivirus software installed doesn’t mean a zero-day Trojan can’t steal your personal data. Encryption keeps you safe from malware (and the NSA).

The best PC hardware we’re using now and why we love it – We celebrate 18 great components we couldn’t live without, from fast SSDs to a graphics card that’s just right, and even the perfect toolkit.

How to buy a new PC for your parents – Older computer users have different needs. The big question: Do they actually need a PC at all?

Long-awaited Gmail and Google Calendar iOS updates make apps faster – New updates for Gmail include an ‘Undo Send’ option and faster search capabilities, while Google Calendar offers ‘Spotlight Search’ support and alternate calendars. Here’s how it will help business users.

Now you can use Android Auto without upgrading your car – Android Auto looks set to show up on a lot more dashboards, albeit as a phone clipped to a mount rather than built into the native infotainment system. The interface, which pares back Android into a chunkier, more finger-friendly layout for use while driving, while hiding the more complex features that could prove a distraction, is being released as a standalone system, Google announced today. It’s the closest we’ve got so far to an admission by the Android team that Android Auto adoption among automakers may not have been as swift as they would’ve preferred.

5 things to know about GoPro Plus, the free-to-try backup service – Along with its new lineup of cameras and the Karma drone, GoPro also recently announced GoPro Plus. Every GoPro users is eligible to receive up to 60 days of free GoPro Plus service to test and try it out. Let’s take a look at the finer details of the service, starting with cost.

What you need to know about 4K TVs – Ultra HD, colloquially known as “4K,” is everywhere on TV shelves and online this year. Previously restricted to only high-end models, 4K resolution has become so inexpensive that your next 50-inch or larger TV will probably be 4K. What does it mean? Does it matter? Why should I care? Here are the basics — a cheat sheet if you will — about this advancement in TV technology.

OS X El Capitan: The smart person’s guide – This comprehensive guide includes everything you need to know about Apple’s OS X El Capitan, including features, requirements, upgrade options, software updates, and more.

YouTube adds support for HDR videos – YouTube has added support for High Dynamic Range (HDR) videos, it has announced, opening the door for higher-quality content matching the capabilities of high-end televisions. HDR videos are often more detailed than regular videos, with better contrast and clarity, as well as a wide range of vibrant, highly saturated colors. While the technology is still somewhat rare in terms of consumer video devices, it is becoming more common and YouTube is making sure it keeps pace with the trend.

Google Home shares the Chromecast’s guts, teardown reveals – Google Home doesn’t quite have a Chromecast inside, but the two devices do have a lot in common.

Snapchat just copied the best feature of Instagram stories – It’s been just over three months since Instagram copied Snapchat stories and slapped them on top of its feed. The move appears to be a success: within a few weeks, 100 million people were using the feature every day. (Snapchat’s entire app gets 150 million users a day.) Instagram stories are almost identical to the Snapchat version, but they have an extremely useful extra feature: you can rewind them by tapping on the left side of the story. Well today it’s Snapchat’s turn to copy: you can now rewind stories just as you can on Instagram. The feature is part of an update to Snapchat that also includes “world lenses,” the rear-facing camera version of the app’s famous selfie filters.

5 plugins to help your WordPress site reach mobile nirvana – Is your company or personal WordPress site mobile-friendly? If not, here are five plugins to help you achieve mobile nirvana.

Google is shutting down the tool that let anyone edit Google Maps data – Today, Google announced that its Map Maker tool, which let users edit information and suggest changes in Google Maps, will be shut down in March of 2017. In its place, the same editing and suggestion features will be migrated to the main Google Maps app as part of the company’s Local Guides program, which rewards people for policing and improving local mapping data for their community by granting access to beta features and gifting Google Drive storage. Map Maker initially started in 2008 as a way to crowdsource information from rural areas that Google’s own toolset was ill-equipped at obtaining on its own.

How to make Chrome warn you before closing – Chrome on Windows doesn’t have a built-in warning dialog box before closing the browser. This workaround can help.

Adobe’s wild ‘Photoshop for audio’ experiment can change what you said – Adobe’s Project VoCo lets you edit and change an audio recording as easily as you’d edit text.

Security:

The big day is here and it’s time to decide: Patch Flash, Windows, Office or Android first? – Today is the second Tuesday of the month, and that means a fresh round of security updates from the likes of Microsoft, Adobe and Google. The November edition of Patch Tuesday brings with it fixes for Windows, Flash Player, Internet Explorer, Edge, Office and Android. For Microsoft, the monthly update comprises a total of 14 bulletins:

Microsoft just patched the critical Windows vulnerability revealed by Google last week – As promised, Microsoft today patched Windows to resolve a critical system vulnerability that Google’s security team publicized last Monday. The search giant controversially chose to acknowledge the bug before Microsoft had fixed it, claiming that hackers were already actively targeting it. As noted by ZDNet, the fix is contained in today’s release of monthly security patches. According to Microsoft’s security bulletin, any attacker who tricked a user into running a “specially-crafted application” could successfully exploit the vulnerability and gain the ability to “install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights.” Microsoft believes that Strontium, a Russia-linked group, is responsible for launching “low-volume spear phishing attacks” that took advantage of the flaw, which leveraged vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash and the Windows kernel.

Google stops AdSense attack that forced banking trojan on Android phones – Google has shut down an operation that combined malicious AdSense advertisements with a zero-day attack exploiting Chrome for Android to force devices to download banking fraud malware. Over a two-month span, the campaign downloaded the Banker.AndroidOS.Svpeng banking trojan on about 318,000 devices monitored by Kaspersky Lab, researchers from the Moscow-based anti-malware provider reported in a blog post published Monday. Kaspersky privately reported the scam to Google, and engineers from the search company put an end to the campaign, although the timing of those two events wasn’t immediately clear.

Google to malware sites: We’ll brand you ‘deceptive’ for a month, no reviews allowed – Sites considered repeat malware offenders by Google won’t be able to contest security warnings shown in Chrome for 30 days.

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Android patches fix Drammer RAM attack, but not Dirty Cow exploit – Google released a new monthly batch of security patches for Android, fixing a dozen critical vulnerabilities that could allow attackers to compromise devices. One of the mitigated issues is a bit-flipping attack against memory chips that could lead to privilege escalation, but a more widespread rooting vulnerability in the Linux kernel remains unpatched.

How security flaws in voting machines could discredit election results – Security experts say voting machines are easy to tamper with, and in several key battleground states ballots will be nearly impossible to verify.

Why are Skype accounts getting hacked so easily? – If you’ve received a weird message on Skype with a link to Baidu or LinkedIn recently, you’re not alone. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve received spam links to Baidu from six of my Skype contacts, one of whom works for Microsoft’s PR agency and another is a former Microsoft employee. All were surprised to see their accounts breached, and some believed they were protected by Microsoft’s two-factor authentication. That wasn’t the case, though. A thread on Microsoft’s Skype support forums reveals this has been occurring to hundreds of Skype users since at least August. Breached Skype accounts are used to send thousands of spam messages before they’re locked and the owners have to regain access. Skype has fallen victim to similar attacks before, and hackers were able to spoof messages on the system last year after using lists of stolen usernames and passwords to gain access to accounts.

Company News:

Apple begins offering refurbished iPhone 6S and 6S Plus models – I frequently point friends and family toward Apple’s refurbished store to get decent deals on Macs and iPads. The selection isn’t comprehensive but it’s pretty good, and once a device has been on the market for a few months it’s usually possible to save a few hundred dollars without really giving up anything. In recent years, though, Apple has never offered iPhones through its refurbished store—something that changed today.

Samsung is really, really sorry about the Galaxy Note 7 and plans to ‘do better’ – Samsung is no doubt eager to put this whole Note 7 situation behind it as quickly as possible. In fact, the company apparently can’t stop talking up the Galaxy S8, even though that device is still a few months over the horizon. But of the seven stages of exploding smartphone grief, Samsung is currently on the apology tour part, issuing an open letter to readers both on its site and through full-page ads in a number of major US newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal on Monday.

Airbnb dealt blow as judge rejects bid to block SF law – Airbnb suffered a loss on Tuesday when a federal judge rejected the company’s plea to change a San Francisco law that requires the home-rental company to block or remove hosts who haven’t registered with the city. Airbnb sued the city of San Francisco in June saying the city law violates federal laws, including the Communications Decency Act, the Stored Communications Act and the First Amendment. On Tuesday, US District Judge James Donato ruled this wasn’t the case, according to Reuters.

Got a Job Listing? Put it on Facebook – Facebook moves in on LinkedIn with an experimental feature available to select Page administrators.

Games and Entertainment:

Review: The NES Classic Edition and all 30 games on it – Nintendo is courting nostalgia for the holidays this year, like pretty much every year — but the NES Classic Edition, a palm-size recreation of the original console with 30 games built-in, rates highly on the nostalgia scale even for a company whose heart is stuck in the 1980s. It’s already a highly coveted item for millions of 30-something gamers, and make no mistake: This is a love letter to Nintendo’s oldest fans.

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Nintendo drops New 3DS to $100 for Black Friday – If you’re considering picking up a New Nintendo 3DS, you may want to wait until Black Friday rolls around. Nintendo has announced a new promotion that will see the 3DS drop to the lowest price it’s ever been – $99.99. While the 2DS is less expensive than that normally, this is the first time we’ve seen the clamshell design drop as low as $100.

PlayStation Vue is losing Comedy Central and other Viacom channels – If you’re a PlayStation Vue subscriber, Sony has some bad news for you: its livestreaming television service is losing Comedy Central, Spike, MTV, and other Viacom channels. Sony does not get into the nitty gritty details about why it is making this decision, but it represents a big blow to what has thus far been a great service. The absence of these channels means many subscribers will be losing their favorite shows, such as the new season of South Park, and many users are already vowing to ditch the service on November 11 when the change takes place.

Off Topic (Sort of):

What the Trump win means for tech, science and beyond: Net neutrality, science-based policy are threatened – Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump will now become the 45th president, succeeding President Barack Obama. “I say it is time for us to come together as one people,” Trump, the president-elect, told supporters in New York, shortly after Clinton called him to concede the election. Here is where Trump stands on the issues near and dear to Ars:

Society Is Too Complicated to Have a President, Complex Mathematics Suggest – Roughly two-thirds of Americans believe the country is going in the “wrong direction,” and Tuesday the country will vote for two of the least popular presidential candidates of all time. Both the left and the right say that the United States’ government is ineffective. One potential reason for this? Human society is simply too complex for representative democracy to work. The United States probably shouldn’t have a president at all, according to an analysis by mathematicians at the New England Complex Systems Institute.

US citizens crash Canadian immigration site after Trump victory – With mop-haired politico octopus Donald Trump beating Hilary Clinton to the White House, the Canadian Immigration website has crashed under the weight of US citizens seeking an escape. As the election neared its conclusion, Google searches for “move to Canada” and “immigrate to Canada” went up. The website for Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) then had a blackout.

6 ways to delete yourself from the internet – Finally ready to get off the grid? It’s not quite as simple as it should be, but here are a few easy-to-follow steps that will point you in the right direction at the very least.

Human ears and eagle beaks: 10 amazing items created by 3D printers – The first thing printed on a 3D printer was rather boring—an eyewash cup printed by the inventor of 3D printing, Chuck Hull, in 1983. Since then, the process has been used to create prosthetics for humans and animals, unique candy designs, musical instruments and even human tissue, such as ears. As you’ll see, people are continually thinking of new and innovative ways to use 3D printing technology. Here are 10 of the coolest.

An investor’s journey to embracing marijuana legalization – While the concept of using cannabis evoked the image of a pothead smoking out of a giant bong, I found the industry had evolved significantly. Licensed doctors can prescribe marijuana in liquid, edible, and pill forms measured out to an exact dosage just like you might take any other prescription.

Something to think about:

“Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.”

–       John Kenneth Galbraith

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

THE NIGHTMARE PRESIDENT – DONALD TRUMP SHOCKED everyone but his own supporters Tuesday as his racist, xenophobic, authoritarian, climate-science-denying, misogynistic, “grab-them-by-the-pussy” candidacy somehow carried him to victory.

Larger than expected turnout among rural and working-class white voters led Trump to outperform polling expectations in almost every battleground state, winning Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which, according to the Associated Press, put him over the required 270 electoral votes early Wednesday morning.

The one-time leader of the racist “birther” movement entered the race calling Mexicans “rapists” and repeatedly refusing to condemn white supremacists, and issued policy proposals that seemed unbound by the limits of executive power or basic human decency.

Trump promised to “bomb the shit” out of Middle Eastern countries, kill terrorist’s innocent families, do “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” and suggested that dipping bullets in pigs’ blood may be sound counterterrorism policy.

Trump had a long history of misogyny and belittling women, but after a decade-old tape surfaced of Trump saying he could “grab [women] by the pussy,” and “if you’re a star, they let you do it,” many were horrified, and numerous women came forward with stories of being victimized by Trump. Forecasts predicted Clinton would win in a near landslide.

We’re Winning The Crypto Wars – This year has been filled with bad news. The world of cybersecurity has been no different, with zombie armies of hacked internet-connected devices taking down the internet, seemingly endless data breaches hitting hundreds of millions of people, and Russian hackers allegedly trying to mess with the US election.

Lost in this deluge of doom-and-gloom, some might have missed the good news: the spread of encryption, the technology that’s used to secure the data on your devices, your chats and sexts, as well as your internet connection, seems to be reaching a tipping point.

It’s true, we’re still in the midst of what some call Crypto War 2.0, a reignition of a 20-year-old conflict between law enforcement authorities and technologists focused on just how much access cops should have to user’s data. But in 2016 alone, encryption has won a crucial court fight, became default for hundreds of millions of people who use popular messaging apps, and spread like wildfire on the web.

Turks Are Flocking to Tor After Government Orders Block of Anti-Censorship Tools – Turkish internet users are flocking to Tor, the anonymizing and censorship-circumvention tool, after Turkey’s government blocked Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Usage of Tor inside of Turkey went up from around 18,000 users to 25,000 users on Friday, when the government started blocking the popular social media networks, according to Tor’s official metrics. To prevent Turks from doing exactly that and connecting to the blocked sites through censorship-circumvention tools such as Tor and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), the government took a step further and ordered internet providers to block those too.

This move seems to have affected the number of people connecting to the Tor network, as the numbers of reported users went down after Friday. But Tor offers an alternative method of connection precisely made for cases like this, called “bridge relays” or simply bridges. These make it harder for internet providers to know you’re using Tor, making it also harder, in turn, to stop you from using it.

Facebook-WhatsApp data sharing now on pause in UK at regulator’s request – A controversial decision this summer by Facebook-owned messaging giant WhatsApp to share data on its users with its parent company — including for advertising purposes — continues to attract the ire of European regulators.

Now Facebook has agree to pause data sharing in the UK, following an investigation by data protection watchdog, the ICO. Although TechCrunch understands this pause only applies to sharing user information for products/ads purposes; WhatsApp user data is still being shared with Facebook for fighting spam and other business intelligence purposes (such as deduplicating the number of users across different Facebook-owned services).

In a strongly worded blog post detailing how its probe has been progressing, UK information commissioner Elizabeth Denham writes: “I had concerns that consumers weren’t being properly protected, and it’s fair to say the enquiries my team have made haven’t changed that view. I don’t think users have been given enough information about what Facebook plans to do with their information, and I don’t think WhatsApp has got valid consent from users to share the information. I also believe users should be given ongoing control over how their information is used, not just a 30 day window.”

“We’ve set out the law clearly to Facebook, and we’re pleased that they’ve agreed to pause using data from UK WhatsApp users for advertisements or product improvement purposes,” she adds.

Denham also hits out at “vague terms of service” for generally failing to give consumers “the protection we need”.

Unsealed Court Docs Show FBI Used Malware Like ‘A Grenade’ – In 2013, the FBI received permission to hack over 300 specific users of dark web email service TorMail. But now, after the warrants and their applications have finally been unsealed, experts say the agency illegally went further, and hacked perfectly legitimate users of the privacy-focused service.

“That is, while the warrant authorized hacking with a scalpel, the FBI delivered their malware to TorMail users with a grenade,” Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told Motherboard in an email.

The move comes after the ACLU pushed to unseal the case dockets in September. The Department of Justice recently decided to publish redacted versions of related documents.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – November 9, 2016

  1. Vince

    stop the political rhetoric!  Vince Greco 

    From: Bill Mullins’ Weblog – Tech Thoughts To: we11z-4@yahoo.com Sent: Wednesday, November 9, 2016 7:47 AM Subject: [New post] Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – November 9, 2016 #yiv9299095804 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv9299095804 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv9299095804 a.yiv9299095804primaryactionlink:link, #yiv9299095804 a.yiv9299095804primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv9299095804 a.yiv9299095804primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv9299095804 a.yiv9299095804primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv9299095804 WordPress.com | Bill Mullins posted: “5 key things you need to know about VPNs;  The Best Encryption Software of 2016;  Web of Trust browser extensions yanked;  Google stops AdSense attack;  How to buy a new PC for your parents;  OS X El Capitan: The smart person’s guide;  YouTube adds suppor” | |

    • I suggest that you start your own blog Vince – then, you can ignore pertinent and newsworthy data as you see fit.

      In the meantime, I will continue to post content here that has political significance relevant to technology.

      Frankly, I find your comment offensive.

      Bill