Category Archives: Free Security Programs

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving tech support survival kit;  NSA fingered as likely source of complex malware family;  Don’t Get Screwed on Black Friday;  How to shop online safely;  The Best Products of 2014;  Thanksgiving Travel 101: Download These Free E-Books;  How to record your webcam with VLC;  Must-have Android apps for holiday cooking and baking;  How secure is Docker?  Digital Privacy Is “The New Frontier Of Human Rights”;  Why Don’t We Finish Our Favorite Video Games?  Gift Guide For The Childless Who Have To Buy Gifts For Children;  Google Pulls Anti-Gay ‘Ass Hunter’ Game From Play Store.

Thanksgiving tech support survival kit (2014 edition) – Thanksgiving is a time of year which sees “the techies” and “the non-techies” come together, and chances are that you being the techie, the non-techies will spot you and hunt you down — The Walking Dead style, albeit slower thanks to the tryptophan — in search of “help”. With this in mind, I’ve put together what I call a “Turkey Day” tech support survival kit. While I’ve called it a “Turkey Day” kit — I’m certain that it will work just as well at other times of year — this seems to be the time of year when the techie’s superhero skills are in greatest demand.

Digital Privacy Is “The New Frontier Of Human Rights” – The impact of mass, digitally-enabled state surveillance upon individuals’ privacy has been described as “the new frontier of human rights” by Member of the European Parliament, Claude Moraes, who was giving an annual lecture on behalf of the Centre for Research into Information, Surveillance and Privacy at the London School of Economics on Friday.

Regin: The super-spyware the security industry has been silent about: NSA fingered as likely source of complex malware family – A public autopsy of sophisticated intelligence-gathering spyware Regin is causing waves today in the computer security world. But here’s a question no one’s answering: given this super-malware first popped up in 2008, why has everyone in the antivirus industry kept quiet about it until now? Has it really taken them years to reverse engineer it?

Intel and McAfee plan to kill PC passwords with new biometric authentication – Forget typing in passwords, Intel wants you to use your body to log into email and online bank accounts. McAfee software that will use biometric technology to authenticate users will be available for download by the end of the year, said Kirk Skaugen, senior vice president and general manager of the PC Client Group at Intel, last week. “Your biometrics basically eliminate the need for you to enter passwords for Windows log in and eventually all your websites ever again,” Skaugen said.

Don’t Get Screwed on Black Friday – Black Friday is a big shopping day, but don’t rush to swipe your plastic as soon as the doors open on Friday (or Thanksgiving Day). A lot of the deals that seem awesome aren’t that good at all, and the ones that are good probably aren’t the ones meant to catch your eye. These rules can help you get through Black Friday with your money and your humanity intact, and still allow for a little Thanksgiving weekend relaxation.

How to shop online safely – With some simple tips, make shopping online a safer experience this holiday season. Like any transaction, there are security issues to keep in mind when buying online, but with some common sense you can minimize the risk. Even if you consider yourself a seasoned online shopper, it’s always worth a reminder to make sure your experience is the safest it can be.

8 Netflix Tricks You Just Can’t Live Without – One of the main reasons Netflix is so popular is because of its simplicity. It’s painfully easy to queue up a movie on your laptop, video game console or mobile device and start watching in mere seconds. But that simplicity means there are a lot of features to Netflix that the average customer may not be using. Here, we’ve rounded up some useful tips to help you get the most out of Netflix.

The Best Products of 2014 – With more than 1,850 reviews under our collective belts in the PC Labs so far this year—228 of them in October alone—we’re feeling pretty good headed into the holidays. But it’s no time to slack off. Instead, we tapped our expert analysts and editors and asked them to name a single product that kicks major ass in each category we review. The result is before you: The Best Products of 2014.

If Windows virtual memory is too low, you can increase it, but there are trade-offs – Virtual memory can expand your PC’s capabilities, but it will also slow it down. Understanding the swap file will help you make the right decision.

How to record your webcam with VLC – Whether you want to make a few YouTube videos, or you’re practicing a speech, recording yourself with VLC is easy and offers lots of formatting options. The recording function in VLC can be turned on and off at will, or switched to a set and forget mode. This allows you to use the feature for a number of purposes, including studying your own abilities on camera, setting up a temporary security feed (hard drive space allowing), or just making a video for the Web. Check out these steps for recording video from your webcam.


T-Mobile Music Freedom Adds Google Play, Xbox Music – You can now stream music on your mobile devices from Google Play Music and Xbox Music without eating away at all your data. The self-proclaimed “un-carrier” on Monday announced it has added both services to its Music Freedom program, along with SoundCloud and 11 others. The list includes a range of services that should suit all tastes covering everything from EDM, Caribbean, and Bollywood: RadioTunes, Digitally Imported, Fit Radio, Fresca Radio, JazzRadio, Live365, Mad Genius Radio, RadioPup,, RockRadio, Saavn.

Google Pulls Anti-Gay ‘Ass Hunter’ Game From Play Store – Google has removed a highly disturbing anti-gay game from its Google Play app store, but only after thousands of Android users downloaded it. The game, named Ass Hunter, encouraged players hunt and shoot naked homosexual men. A Google spokesperson confirmed that the app is no longer available in the Play store.


Thanksgiving Travel 101: Download These Free E-Books – Lucky for you, there are a number of books available for free on various e-book platforms. Hopefully you won’t be stranded for so long that you have time to read them all, but there should be enough options to keep your mind off the fact that you’re in the middle seat or stuck in a five-mile traffic jam.

Must-have Android apps for holiday cooking and baking – All the recipes and drink suggestions you could ever need can fit on your Android phone, thanks to a plethora of cooking apps in the Play Store. From the many options out there, I’ve uncovered four of the most useful Android apps that can help you prepare a fabulous meal no matter if you’re a pro in the kitchen or barely know your way around a whisk.

Microsoft has pushed out Windows 10 9879 to ‘slow’ ring users – Microsoft has released Windows 10 build 9879 to the ‘slow’ ring which means that all Windows Insider groups now have access to the latest build of Windows 10.

Hush smart earplugs block out unwanted sounds while still letting you hear – There are many reasons that people need earplugs, and not all of them are reasons you might expect. People need earplugs in very loud situations, such as shooting guns or at a loud racetrack for sure, but there are other reasons in the home that people use them as well when it’s important that you still be able to hear sounds around you, such as sleeping. For situations like this, a new set of earplugs called Hush smart earplugs have debuted. Hush smart earplugs are on Kickstarter seeking $100,000 and have raised $191,000 so far with 28 days to go. A pledge of $115 or more will get you a pair of Hush earplugs estimated to ship in May 2015.


Slack now lets employers tap workers’ private chats – Slack, whose chat app aims to help workers get stuff done, might now have them running scared, knowing the boss could access their chats. The company’s upcoming paid Plus plan will include an optional feature called Compliance Exports, announced Monday, which will let administrators access their team’s communications, encompassing public and private messages.

Five Android 5.0 Lollipop annoyances Google should fix immediately – The 5.0 release of Android, dubbed Lollipop, is the biggest thing to happen to Android in years—possibly ever. The design and features have been revamped, and attention to detail is evident throughout. However, even our beloved Google is not perfect, and that means there are some bugs and just plain odd decisions in Android 5.0. Let’s check out five of the most annoying little quirks in Lollipop and see how they might be fixed.

Report: Apple iCloud dogged by ‘organizational issues’ – As far as cloud storage solutions go, Apple’s iCloud is among the oddest. A company with massive resources and deep pockets should be able to provide a clean, cohesive experience for users. They can’t; iCould and iDrive are just not as good as other cloud storage offerings. From layout to syncing — even down to pricing — iCloud is a mis-hit from Apple. They’re sticking with it, though, so a silver lining exists. A new report details why the cloud in front of iCloud is so dark, though.


Sony’s own Backup & Restore app hacked, taken over – When you have a smartphone, you’d like to trust that the apps coming straight form the manufacturer of that phone are secure. More to the point, you’d probably safely assume any software designed to access your information stored in your phone would be something that couldn’t be compromised in any way. A new report suggests Sony’s own backup and restore app has been hacked, but that’s not even the most sensational news. Hackers have taken over the app entirely, even claiming ownership in Google Play.

How secure is Docker? If you’re not running version 1.3.2, NOT VERY – A nasty vulnerability has been discovered in the Docker application containerization software for Linux that could allow an attacker to gain elevated privileges and execute code remotely on affected systems. The bug, which has been corrected in Docker 1.3.2, affects all previous versions of the software. “No remediation is available for older versions of Docker and users are advised to upgrade,” the company said in a security advisory on Monday.

The Most Sophisticated Android Botnet – The botnet, called NotCompatible.C by Lookout’s researchers, has been in the news before. It made their list of the top four Android threats not long ago. However, the current report is a deep dive that reveals exactly what sets this botnet apart.

Hackers shut down Sony Pictures’ computers and are blackmailing the studio – Today, employees across the Sony Pictures offices were greeted with a strange picture as they tried to login to their computers. Since this afternoon, computers at the company have been completely unresponsive, showing a glowering CGI skeleton, a series of URL addresses, and a threatening message from a hacker group that identifies itself as #GOP. Dozens of Sony Twitter accounts were also commandeered to tweet out similar messages, although Sony seems to have regained control of those accounts. Early reports from Sony employees suggest the studio has yet to regain computer access.


Craigslist DNS hijacked, redirected at infamous “prank” site for hours – Many Craigslist visitors found themselves here—before their traffic brought the board down. At least some Craigslist visitors found their Web requests redirected toward an underground Web forum previously associated with selling stolen celebrity photos and other malicious activities. In a blog post, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster said that the DNS records for Craigslist sites were altered to direct incoming traffic to what he characterized as “various non-craigslist sites.” The account was restored, and while the DNS records have been corrected at the registrar, some DNS servers were still redirecting traffic to other servers as late as this afternoon.


A Hacking Group Is Attacking Canadian Government Websites to Exonerate an Alleged Teen Swatter – Over the weekend, the websites belonging to the Toronto Police Service, the Ottawa Police, the Canadian Parliament, the Supreme Court, and the City of Ottawa were all hit with distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks by a hacker group that goes by the name Aerith. According to a press release published by Aerith earlier today, these attacks are meant to call attention to the arrest of a teenage boy in Ottawa, who was charged with 60 criminal acts after being accused of fabricating em​ergencies to get the attention of authorities (otherwise known as swatting). Aerith claims the Ottawa Police have the wrong guy.

E-Cigarettes could be bad for your computer’s health when it’s a vehicle for malware – As if quitting smoking isn’t hard enough already for those who opt to kick the habit, keeping the price down on the expensive e-cigarette alternative can also be bad for your computer’s health and a headache for IT system administrators everywhere too. A user on Reddit posted a strange story in the r/talesfromtechsupport subreddit about an executive at a unnamed “large corporation”, country unknown, suffering from a malware infection on his workstation despite having latest virus and anti malware programs in place, the cause of the infection had them scratching their heads. Finally after exhausting all options the IT worker asked the executive: “Have there been any changes in your life recently”? The executive answer[ed] “Well yes, I quit smoking two weeks ago and switched to e-cigarettes”.


How to create seamless mobile security for employees – Frustrated employees will figure out how to get around disruptive and clunky security procedures. Here’s how three organizations created a secure and seamless mobile experience for end users.

Confessions of a smartphone thief – Almost 2 billion people around the world use smartphones — typically worth hundreds of dollars a pop on the black market. A former smartphone thief explains their allure to street criminals.

Company News:

Bah humbug: Redbox jacks rental prices by up to 50 percent – Redbox’s DVD rental prices are increasing by a full 25 percent on December 2, as the Wall Street Journal first reported. DVD rental prices are increasing from $1.20 to $1.50 per night. Other rental types are being jacked by even higher percentages, with Blu-ray disc rentals going from $1.50 to $2 and video-game rentals increasing from $2 to $3 per night. (The game-rentals price increase goes into effect in January.)

US taxmen won’t say WHY they’re probing Microsoft. So Redmond is suing the IRS – The US Internal Revenue Service has been digging into Microsoft’s tax records from 2004 through 2009, and Redmond has filed a lawsuit against the government to find out why. In documents [PDF] filed with the US District Court of the District of Columbia on Monday, Microsoft alleges that the IRS has failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records related to the agency’s contract with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, a law firm hired to investigate the software giant.

iPhone sales set to PLUMMET: Bleak times ahead for Apple – Ming the Merciless has predicted Apple will face a grim start to 2015 with iPhone sales plummeting by up to a third. Ming-Chi Kuo of analyst outfit KGI Securities has predicted that iPhone sales will surge ahead of Christmas, reaching a height of a total of 71.5 million units for the fourth quarter. Yet after the Christmas crackers have been pulled and Auld Lang Syne has been sung, Cupertino will face a bleak midwinter as predicted shipments dwindle to a comparatively measly 49.4 million units in the first quarter of 2015.

Samsung Ponders Executive Shakeup As Galaxy S5 Sales Fall 40% Short Of Expectations – Samsung is looking long and hard at its top executive team with changes in mind, the Wall Street Journal reports, following Galaxy S5 devices sales that have underperformed company expectations by as much as 40 percent. The total sales for the S5, this year’s Samsung flagship device, are at around 12 million, compared to 16 million for the Galaxy S4.

FCC: T-Mobile to show honest stats on speed tests – With most data plans, throttling is something we all have to live with. At some point in the month, you might hit a threshold that downshifts your downloads, but to what extent? Most are left guessing at why that video won’t load, frustrated by the entire experience. Today, the FCC announces that T-Mobile has agreed to provide a clearer picture on what throttling means for you, and will release accurate details on throttled customer data speeds, rather than potential speeds your device isn’t getting.

Games and Entertainment:

Windows Phone users get Rovio’s Angry Birds games for free for a limited time – Windows Phone users will be happy to know that all of the Angry Birds games are now available for free. This is a limited time offer and perfect timing for the holidays.


Counter-Strike pro players banned for cheating – The world of professional gaming is in a bit of an upheaval, with multiple professional Counter-Strike players finding themselves banned after being discovered cheating. The spat is said to have started when the E-Sports Entertainment Association’s tools banned Simon “smn” Beck for cheating. This caught the attention of Valve, which then received details from the ESEA and used that to upgrade its own anti-cheat tools. That, then, resulted in multiple players being caught, including professionals players.

Activision using copyright notices to take down Call of Duty exploit videos – Over the weekend, popular gaming video network Machinima issued a warning to its creators, telling them that “Activision is being particularly vigilant about their Call of Duty videos lately, issuing strikes on videos showing glitches… please be careful.” Under YouTube’s copyright strike system, accounts start losing certain privileges after a single copyright strike goes through, and could be banned altogether after three such strikes (though strikes can be challenged or expunged by going through Youtube’s Copyright School).


Why Don’t We Finish Our Favorite Video Games? – It hopefully hasn’t escaped your attention that one of the best—if not the best—games of 2013, Grand Theft Auto V, is about to complete its transfer from previous-gen systems to the visual razzle-dazzle of the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC platforms. To those who never played it the first time, who have hung on for these beautiful-looking ports, I promise you: so much fun. GTAV is a deep game of epic exploration, funny dialogue, intense action and frenetic car chases. And so much more. And yet, not everyone who enjoyed the early hours of GTAV stayed for the duration—just as only some 70 percent of those with internet-connected systems actually involved themselves in the game’s separate GTA Online component.

Gamer captains an amazing starship from his living room – Using a custom rig that includes three projectors, this gamer has transformed his gaming space into a full-sized cockpit for Elite: Dangerous.


Off Topic (Sort of):

FAA tipped to require pilot license for commercial drone use – The issue of commercial drone usage is (slowly) nearing an end, and that end could come in the form of fairly severe restrictions. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the Federal Aviation Administration will soon propose regulations on commercial drone usage — including for small and ultra-light drones — by the end of the year, and among the regulations will be a requirement that operators have a license and undergo pilot certification training, which likely includes learning to pilot manned aircraft.

The ‘Brief History Of Graphics’ Video Series – A video series by Stuart Brown of XboxAhoy has created one of the nicest mini-documentaries I’ve watched in a while. The five-part series that looks at computer graphics from Pong to Galaxian to Street Fighter and beyond. The whole series – complete with Brown’s soothing brogue – is a great look at the history of game graphics and the tools that programmers used to build some amazing classics. The series starts with the difference between vector and raster graphics – essentially Star Wars-like line graphics vs. blocky pixel sprites – and how the advent of color pushed the arguably superior vector graphics into the dustbin of history.


A Gift Guide For The Childless Who Have To Buy Gifts For Children – Buying toys for kids is like trying to help a couple of strangers carry a couch up two flights of steps. While your assistance may be appreciated, in theory, you’re probably going to end up doing something wrong. To that end, we present five toys that are, in theory, amazing (and I like all of them and you should, if the child in question is old enough to handle them, buy them) but that will frustrate parents of most children to no end. I present a toy gift guide for the childless!

1,300-year-old book of Egyptian magic deciphered – Researchers have decoded an ancient Egyptian book of spells they are calling an “Egyptian Handbook of Ritual Power.” It contains incantations for everything from attaining success in a businessventure, to love spells, to curing disease. The 20 page illustrated codex is thought to date from the 7th or 8th century, some 1,300 years ago, which seems to have been a pivotal time for the history of mysticism in that area of the world. The codex is written in Coptic and comes from a time before the rise of Islam in the Middle East.


Something to think about:

“He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it – namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain.”

–      Mark Twain“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, Chapter 2

Today’s Free Downloads:

Freebie Notes – Freebie Notes is a great little program for users who just want sticky notes with an alarm timer.

With Freebie Notes you can:

create electronic notes (stickers) – unlimited number of sticky notes!

edit sticky notes in the advanced mode

specify the date and time of reminder

customize the default parameters of electronic notes (their size, text, background and title color, position on the desktop, transparency)

be sure that it is a really free product

be sure that it has no ads, banners and any other spyware programs

save the text of a note to a file


SideSlide – SideSlide is an advanced, portable, unobtrusive, dockable, skinnable, instantly accessible, highly configurable Desktop Extension on Steroids! Clean desktop clutter and make your computer friendlier and faster than ever before. With unique use of containers and various innovative features, SideSlide lets you get instant access to everything you have and much more. The program respects your system and keeps all of its configuration files in a single folder.


Instantly accessible and adjustable workspace that stays out of your way until you need it.

Add multiple shortcuts, commands, URLs, RSS news feeds, pictures, reminders and notes.

Resizable, detachable, foldable and shrinkable containers extend the workspace beyond the limits of the screen.

Mouse & keyboard support with a full-blown keyboard launcher and directory navigator.

RSS news feed functionality allows you to track what you are interested in the most.

Keep your eyes on multiple picture slideshows that are easily added.

Floating, colorful notes are quickly created and adjusted in bulk or separately.

Shortcuts can be tagged for additional functionality and organization.

Various ways of launching multiple shortcuts with a single click.

Link containers to actual folders on disk (launch, move, copy and delete files).

Shortcuts, URLs, text and pictures from Windows or your browser can be dragged & dropped in the workspace.

A growing online library with ready-made RSS news feed and shortcut containers.

Every style and setting in the entire program and for each individual object can be customized.

Fancy special effects that don’t slow you down.

Comes with multiple themes and wallpapers and you can also define your own style.

Supports portable setup and the ability to load objects from a relative path.

Much more…


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Secret Malware in European Union Attack Linked to U.S. and British Intelligence – Complex malware known as Regin is the suspected technology behind sophisticated cyberattacks conducted by U.S. and British intelligence agencies on the European Union and a Belgian telecommunications company, according to security industry sources and technical analysis conducted by The Intercept.

Regin was found on infected internal computer systems and email servers at Belgacom, a partly state-owned Belgian phone and internet provider, following reports last year that the company was targeted in a top-secret surveillance operation carried out by British spy agency Government Communications Headquarters, industry sources told The Intercept.

The malware, which steals data from infected systems and disguises itself as legitimate Microsoft software, has also been identified on the same European Union computer systems that were targeted for surveillance by the National Security Agency.

The hacking operations against Belgacom and the European Union were first revealed last year through documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The specific malware used in the attacks has never been disclosed, however.

UK Government Pushes IP-Matching In Latest Digital Counter-Terror Measure – ISPs and mobile operators will be forced to retain information linking IP addresses to individuals for 12 months under U.K. government counter-terrorism plans expected to be detailed next week.

The IP-matching measure will be included in the government’s forthcoming Anti-Terrorism and Security Bill. This follows another failed attempt by the government last year to push through a so-called ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ — aka the Communications Data Bill.

That legislation would have forced companies to retain data about people’s online conversations, social media activity, calls and texts for 12 months but the coalition’s junior partner, the Liberal Democrats, baulked at supporting what they dubbed an “illiberal” bill.

However they are evidently comfortable with IP-matching — describing the measure today as “good news”. The Lib Dems also supported emergency data retention legislation – requiring Internet and phone companies to keep records of customer metadata — which was pushed through Parliament by the U.K. government this July, after the European Court of Justice struck down European data retention powers on the grounds that they were too broad.

That Data Retention and Investigation Powers Bill (aka DRIP) was criticized for being overly broad, vague and Draconian. It was also rushed through Parliament without proper scrutiny, despite the ECJ ruling being handed down months earlier, in April — leading to accusations of a ‘surveillance stitch-up’.

Most people have heard of Snowden, few have changed habits as a result – New worldwide survey results conducted by a Canadian think tank show that most people around the world (60 percent) have heard of Edward Snowden, but just over a third have “have taken steps to protect their online privacy and security as a result of his revelations.”

The study, which was released Monday by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), surveyed over 23,000 people in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United States. The survey did not break out respondents by nationality.

The figures varied widely: 94 percent of Germans surveyed heard of the National Security Agency whistleblower, while only 76 percent of Americans had. Kenya rounded out the bottom of the list at 14 percent. Globally, this resulted in an average of 60 percent.

Have the 14,000 people familiar with Snowden done anything with this knowledge? Some people have tried to learn more about encryption and other ways to improve security online. India led the pack in this area with 69 percent, followed by Mexico and China. Amongst Americans, only 36 percent of people took steps to protect privacy. The worldwide mean came in at 39 percent.

NSA privacy chief defends agency’s surveillance – The U.S. National Security Agency’s surveillance programs are legal and under close scrutiny by other parts of the government, the agency’s internal privacy watchdog said Monday in an online Q&A.

NSA surveillance and data collection programs conform to the U.S. Constitution, Rebecca Richards, the agency’s first civil liberties and privacy director, wrote during an hour-plus Q&A on Tumblr.

The NSA operates under rules that “ensure that its activities fall within the parameters of the Constitution,” Richards wrote when asked why she believes the surveillance programs are constitutional.

“The oversight regime governing NSA is extensive, spanning all three branches of government,” she added. “The fact that NSA created my job highlights the value and importance NSA leadership places on privacy and civil liberties protections.”

Critics have said some NSA surveillance programs violate the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.

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Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – February 12, 2014

EU loses faith in U.S. ability to manage Internet;  House committee passes bill banning in-flight phone calls;  Date online? You’re probably a sexter too;  The 10 Most Disturbing Snowden Revelations;  Search Google anonymously with Firefox add-on Searchonymous;  Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4:  Top Consoles Compared;  How to clean up the mess left by browser toolbars;  Scientists want to track you by your scent;  The ultimate Google Glass app for sports fans;  10 facts on 3D printing;  The new role of HR: Spying on wayward employees;  World’s Most Depressing App;  “Call My Wife”: Android Voice Calling Now Recognizes Relationships.

Wired: How Obama Officials Cried ‘Terrorism’ to Cover Up a Paperwork Error – After seven years of litigation, two trips to a federal appeals court and $3.8 million worth of lawyer time, the public has finally learned why a wheelchair-bound Stanford University scholar was cuffed, detained and denied a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii: FBI human error. Instead of admitting to the error, high-ranking President Barack Obama administration officials spent years covering it up. Attorney General Eric Holder, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and a litany of other government officials claimed repeatedly that disclosing the reason Ibrahim was detained, or even acknowledging that she’d been placed on a watch list, would cause serious damage to the U.S. national security. Again and again they asserted the so-called “state secrets privilege” to block the 48-year-old woman’s lawsuit, which sought only to clear her name. (suggested by Aseem S.)

(Jail, Jail, Jail! It’s time to put each and every one of these knuckle draggers where they belong! Little wonder that the educated world sees the U.S. as a slimy sleazy pretender.)

Report: EU loses faith in U.S. ability to manage Internet – The European Union will push for diminished U.S. influence on Internet governance because of “loss of confidence” in the current U.S.-centric model, according to a news report. The European Commission, the executive arm of the E.U., is set Wednesday to propose a series of steps to globalize Internet governance functions, reported The Wall Street Journal, citing an E.U. draft policy paper. The proposal is sparked by revelations of mass U.S. surveillance activities online, the newspaper said.

For spy court judges, overseeing America’s surveillance efforts is a part-time job – Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts today appointed two currently-sitting U.S. judges to the eleven-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the three-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (which oversees the lower eleven-member court). These are the two closed-door courts that have the responsibility for overseeing domestic national security surveillance requests. What boggles the mind is not the choice of judges (both are competent and seasoned jurists). Instead, it’s that the job is part-time.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to clean up the mess left by browser toolbars – You would think that in 2014, we’d have put all the web shenanigans of the 1990s and early aughts behind us, but you’d be wrong—at least for Windows users. Download a desktop app like AVG, Skype, or Vuze and these programs will try to sneak toolbars onto your system or change your default home page and browser. Yuck. If your browser is loaded down with toolbars or you want to get back to searching with DuckDuckGo rather than Bing, here’s how to do battle against these foes on Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer.

Search Google anonymously with Firefox add-on Searchonymous – If you are set in your ways (and use Firefox as your primary browser), however, and want to search using Google like the rest of the world and want to do so without logging in and out of your account or switching browsers, there is a Firefox extension that promises to keep your Google searches anonymous.

Date online? You’re probably a sexter too – Despite the potential repercussions of exchanging explicit content, sexting is becoming increasingly popular among adults, and online daters are guiltier than anyone of the uncensored behavior, according to the Pew Research Center’s newest report on couples, the Internet, and social media. The research group determined that 9 percent of cell phone owners have sent a suggestive picture or video, while 20 percent have received one. The act of sending a sext is up 3 percent year over year, while being on the receiving end is up 5 percent since Pew’s previous survey in 2012.

“Call My Wife”: Android Voice Calling Now Recognizes Relationships – Calling loved ones with voice dialing has always been a little too robotic on Android phones. You couldn’t say something like “call my wife” unless you used the words “My Wife” in place of her actual name in your address book. Thankfully, that’s starting to change with the latest update to the Google Search app for Android. You can now say things like “call my mom” or “call my brother,” and Google will ask which contact you’re trying to reach. Enter the actual name once, and you’ll forever be able to voice dial using the relationship name instead.

Meet Skybox, the ultimate Google Glass app for sports fans – Google Glass does a great job acting as glance-able display for notifications and driving directions, but as developers push the hardware to its limits we’ll see entirely unique use cases. One such example is Skybox, an app for Google Glass that delivers an entirely unique experience for hockey fans.

House committee passes bill banning in-flight phone calls – The Prohibiting In-Flight Voice Communications on Mobile Wireless Devices Act, sponsored by Representative Bill Shuster, would allow mobile phone and tablet users to surf the Internet and send text messages during flights, but would ban voice calls in most cases. The bill passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee by a voice vote Tuesday and now heads to the full House for a vote.

Get in the games with top apps for Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics – Get the latest news, video highlights, previews, and in-depth stories with this app for iOS and Android. You’ll find the live-stream schedule, TV listings, and results all in one place, from NBC, the official network for this year’s event.

One flap down: 4 other apps we’d like to see join Flappy Bird in oblivion – So long as apps are being culled by their creators, we can think of a handful of other offerings that we’d like to see follow Flappy Bird’s flight into oblivion. And unlike Flappy Bird, where it’s not exactly clear just why the developer pulled the plug, we can give you a reason why we’d like these apps to go the way of the dodo, flapping or not.

The new role of HR: Spying on wayward employees – Human resources is the ideal department to use to investigate employees through computer forensics. These departments are often filled with non-technical staff, so vendors are now offering simplified tools for employee investigations and processing electronic evidence.

Facebook: 200M people have watched their Look Back videos – Facebook Look Back debuted one week ago on February 4, 2014 as a sentimental way for members to relive their history on the social network. Videos were made available to all of Facebook’s 1.23 billion-member audience who had enough available content to pull from. Those with less content received a “thank you” card instead.

Wireless charging alliances teaming up to work toward a cable-free world – Anyone who’s ever had to fumble around for a charging cable—so, everyone—should be interested to know that wireless charging took an important baby step toward ubiquity on Tuesday: The Alliance for Wireless Power and the Power Matters Alliance have agreed to make their two standards work together.

Top spam-killer server program SpamAssasin gets new release – If you really hate spam, and you run your own e-mail servers, you’ll be glad to know that Apache has released a new version of its award-winning, open-source anti-spam program SpamAssassin.

Drone deliveries get off the ground in Dubai – The United Arab Emirates plans to deliver official documents via 18-inch, four-propeller, unmanned aerial drones that come equipped with fingerprint and eye-recognition security systems.

An Amazon prototype package delivery drone flying through the sky.

(Credit: CBS)

10 facts on 3D printing: Understanding tech’s next big game-changer – As 3D printers are become more affordable and versatile, they are destined to disrupt multiple industries. Here’s what you need to know about this quickly accelerating technology.

World’s Most Depressing App Launches in Lebanon – A new smartphone app in Lebanon lets citizens automatically tweet, with one convenient tap of the finger, “I am still alive! #Lebanon #Latestbombing.” The BBC reports that the creator of the app intended to highlight the country’s deteriorating security situation with an ironic solution. The jarringly upbeat sales pitch on the app’s homepage reads, “Every time there is an explosion, we have to spend a lot of time contacting our loved ones…Not anymore!”


2013 Microsoft Computing Safety Index – The Microsoft Computing Safety Index (MCSI), first released in 2011 by the Trustworthy Computing group, is an annual measure of the actions (or steps) that consumers take to help keep themselves and their families safe online based on self-reports of their own experience. (In 2013, more than 10,000 adults over the age of 18 from 20 countries and regions 1 around the globe participated in the survey.) The Index consists of nearly two dozen protective steps—they vary from year to year as devices evolve and online issues change—organized into three categories.

Record-Breaking DDoS Attack Nears 400 Gbps – Web security company CloudFlare on Monday evening battled a massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that has eclipsed Spamhaus as the largest-ever such assault. The attack, targeting one of CloudFlare’s clients, peaked yesterday “just shy” of 400 gigabits per second, the company’s CEO Matthew Prince told PCMag. In comparison, last year’s record-breaking attack on Spamhaus reached 300 Gbps. A “normal” DDoS attack that might take down a bank website, for instance, is around 50 Gbps.

Microsoft addresses critical IE vulnerabilities for Patch Tuesday – Administrators hoping to slack off a bit for this month’s Microsoft Patch Tuesday will have no opportunity to do so. At the last minute, Microsoft added a slew of Internet Explorer (IE) fixes to its monthly release of software patches, including one patch that fixes a publicly known vulnerability.

Washington Post and Guardian links used to infect malware victims – Kaspersky reveals a “most advanced” cyber-espionage threat — dubbed The Mask. Victims include governments, private equity firms and high-profile activists.

Japan sees record 12.8B cyberattacks – Country detected over 12.8 billion cyberattacks launched against the government and other organizations last year, a record number since such attempts were tracked in 2005.

Catch me if you can: they did – A man banned from the T in 2008 for groping women was arraigned today in Boston Municipal Court on charges he groped a woman on the Green Line Thursday afternoon, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office reports. The report continues that police showed the woman video of passengers leaving through the station fare gates. When she picked out a suspect, police were able to call up his CharlieCard information, which said it was registered to Shin. He was arrested and charged with indecent assault and battery. (suggested by Aseem S.)

Company News:

Mozilla Firefox to show sponsored websites in New Tab boxes – Mozilla has revealed an upcoming change to Firefox that may not sit well with all its users: advertisements. Specifically, according to details given at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s recent meeting, the company plans to point newly-installed browsers to websites and generate some revenue all the while using New Tab ads.

Yahoo acquires diary app maker Wander with an eye toward mobile – Yahoo has acquired Wander, a startup that makes a diary app, as part of the Internet company’s continuing efforts to improve its products on mobile devices. Wander makes an app for the iPhone called Days, which is designed to let its users share photos and animated GIFs in a single package from a daylong period. The idea is to give the images context, as opposed to sharing photos individually, as users do with Instagram.

China’s Alibaba plans US e-commerce push with 11 Main – China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba will soon enter the US with an online-shopping site, according to a new report. Alibaba, through subsidiaries Vendio and Auctiva, will launch an e-retail site known as 11 Main, the company told Reuters on Tuesday. According to the report, the marketplace will feature technology items, jewelry, and fashion goods.

Samsung may introduce three more tablet devices this month – Samsung can’t stop at just one. The alleged hardware specifications for three new Galaxy Tab 4 model numbers have been revealed and it looks like Samsung is adding three more mid-range device to its large arsenal of tablet devices.

Sprint posts $1B in Q4 losses as it ekes out customer gains – Sprint shows the slowest customer growth out of all the carriers as it continues to work through its painful network upgrade process.

Games and Entertainment:

Video game sales grow a measly 1 percent in 2013 – New research published Tuesday by The NPD Group shows that users in the US spent $15.39 billion on video games — which is nothing to shake a stick at, but it’s only 1 percent more than spending in 2012. Breaking down the numbers, gamers spent a total of $6.34 billion on new physical video and PC game software, $1.83 billion on used and rental physical software, and $7.22 billion on digital software. The digital software includes full games, add-on content downloads, subscriptions, mobile games, and social network games.

Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4: Top Consoles Compared – If you want to get a new video game system, these two are the frontrunners of the current generation, with several years of games ahead of them and loads of new hardware and features. We put the Xbox One and PS4 against each other in a variety of categories to determine which system comes out on top.

Far Cry Classic lands today as Far Cry: The Wild Expedition gets delayed – Far Cry Classic is available in the Xbox Games Store for $10 in the US. It is also available in Europe. It will land on the PlayStation Network later today in North American and in Europe tomorrow. In Europe, gamers can also get the Far Cry: The Wild Expedition bundle. That includes Far Cry Classic, Far Cry 2, Far Cry 3, and Blood Dragon. It will hit the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC February 21 for 40 euros.  (I still spin this one up occasionally. GREAT game!)

Microsoft delays February Xbox One update – Microsoft was expected to push out an update for the Xbox One today but it looks like a last minute hiccup has caused a small delay in the release. Major Nelson posted on Twitter that the Xbox One system update will ship this week but it will not be going out today. The update will make it easier for users to manage the storage on their device, manage the download queue and a battery indicator will be added too.

Titanfall Beta sign-up live: gameplay trailer, game archetypes included – This afternoon it was made clear by the folks behind the release of the Titanfall Beta that they’d be opening up sign-ups for the game’s early release (in Beta mode) this evening. Sign-ups for the Titanfall Beta began at 6PM PST on the 11th of February, 2014, and will end on the 14th of February (Valentine’s Day), while the chosen ones will be informed before the 17th of the month.

Minecraft developer kills Kickstarted Minecraft movie – Gaming rock star Notch, the man behind the childhood-devouring mega-smash Minecraft, has pulled the plug on a fan movie based on the game. The film, titled “Birth of Man” was to be crowdfunded. A Kickstarter begging page started off well enough, gathering a little over ten per cent of its $US600,000 goal. But things went downhill quickly once Notch, real name Markus Persson, emitted the following Tweet. We don’t allow half a million kickstarters based on our ip without any deals in place. :/ — Markus Persson (@notch) February 7, 2014. And that, as they say in the funnies, is all folks! With a single Tweet Persson killed off the movie.

PlayStation 3 has “2-4 years” left in it according to Sony – This week at the media event where Sony announced the PlayStation Vita Slim, hardware marketing executive John Koller spoke up on the future of the PlayStation 3. For those of you out there already rolling with this console, not planning on upgrading to a PlayStation 4 any time soon – there’s good news. In Koller’s chat with Gamespot, the PlayStation 3 was said to have two, three, or four years of life left in it, with plenty of games to come.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Kohler Nightlight Toilet Seat Improves Late-Night Aim – Plumbing company Kohler is introducing Nightlight, toilet-seat tech that uses a pair of low-intensity LED lights to illuminate your commode at night. When the toilet seat is down, Nightlight bathes your porcelain with a faint blue glow. Once the seat has been lifted, just the right amount of light fills the bowl. It won’t guarantee the kids’ (and husband’s) aim will always be true, but anything that improves accuracy is welcome at 3AM.

7 Movies to Watch at Your NSA Paranoia Party – Of course, if you’re streaming these movies you might be watching along with the NSA, which might explain why some films, like Enemy of the State, are not available to download. But nevermind that spy in the corner; just immerse yourself in the dystopia. Check out the list for some of our favorites, and where you can find them.

It’s a scientific FACT: Online comment trolls are SADISTS – A group of Canadian researchers has given the imprimatur of social-science recognition to a fact that many of us who spend time in internet comment forums have suspected: there’s a strong correlation between online trolling and sadism. “Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground!” write Erin Buckels, Paul Trapnell, and Delroy Paulhus of the Universities of Manitoba, Winnipeg, and British Columbia, respectively, in a paper to be published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

Sony sells waterproof MP3 player inside a bottle of water – Sony is looking to corner the market on underwater music enjoyment, and released a waterproof MP3 player. However, to prove that the device is truly waterproof, Sony employed the tactic of clever marketing, and is selling the MP3 player inside a bottle of water. Sony’s product was initially released inside special vending machines deployed at pools, showing customers that not only is the device waterproof, but purchasing it is as easy as buying a bottle of water.

iPad is Britain’s most desired Valentine’s gift for 2014 – In a survey of 1000 British adults by, the iPad has beaten flowers and jewellery to become the most wanted Valentine’s gift for 2014. Traditional gifts still rank highly though as flowers came in at second, with jewellery third, but more modern surprises were in store at fourth and fifth with laptops and the Sony PlayStation 4 taking those spots respectively. (Now, why am I having trouble trusting this “survey?)

FBI: New $10,000 reward if you report people who fire lasers at airplanes – On Tuesday, the FBI announced a new program that offers a $10,000 reward “for information leading to the arrest of any individual who intentionally aims a laser at an aircraft.” The program is set to run for the next 60 days, in FBI field offices where “laser strikes against aircraft are prevalent.” Those cities include Albuquerque, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Juan (Puerto Rico), and the Washington Field Office.

Washinton Post: Video shows U.S. abduction of accused al-Qaeda terrorist on trial for embassy bombings – Video obtained by The Washington Post shows the abduction of suspected al-Qaeda operative Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, also known as Anas al-Libi, in Tripoli, Libya, in October 2013. The operation was a joint effort of the CIA, FBI and the U.S. Army’s elite Delta Force. (suggested by Aseem S.)

Smell ya later: Scientists want to track you by your scent – Researchers in Madrid are finding that body odor can help identify people in a crowd more accurately than facial recognition.

Something to think about:

Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger.”

–     Franklin P. Jones

Today’s Free Downloads:

Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2013 – Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2013 is perhaps the most versatile free office suite, which includes free word processor, spreadsheet program and presentation maker. These three programs help you deal with office tasks with ease: Writer – Efficient word processor; Presentation – Multimedia presentations creator; Spreadsheets – Powerful tool for data processing and data analysis. Although it is a free suite, Kingsoft Office comes with many innovative features, including a paragraph adjustment tool, and multiple tabbed feature. It also has Office to PDF converter, automatic spell checking and word count features. The latest free Office 2013 supports saving files as DOCX and XLSX.

Timely Alarm Clock – Timely is the beautiful Alarm Clock for Android, featuring a stunning user experience and revolutionary cloud integration to backup and synchronize your alarms with multiple devices.

Unofficial Windows 98 Second Edition Service Pack – Microsoft has never released a service pack for Windows98 SE but this contains all Windows98 SE updates from Windows Update site and more.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The 10 Most Disturbing Snowden Revelations – The Snowden documents contained serious information. Since June, we have learned about a variety of NSA programs, including PRISM, a multilayered, multiagency program that mines the data of suspected terrorists, as well as that of anyone even marginally associated with them. And the information that has been released is reportedly just a fraction of what exists. Still, we have about eight months worth of data dumps, information that has prompted the promise of action from the White House, bills in the Congress, and today’s “Day We Fight Back” protest, which is calling on people around the globe to protest NSA surveillance on the Web and in person. Below, we look back at some of the most alarming revelations from Edward Snowden thus far.

Dropbox Outlines Its Principles For Handling Government Data Requests – Joining other leading technology firms, Dropbox today detailed the number of national security requests it received in the preceding 12 months for user data of its customers: 0-249. While Dropbox applauded the recent legal change that allows it to disclose that number in increments of 250, it stated in a blog post today that the now allowed for reporting is still too vague. This, it decried, is especially true of company that “receive only a handful of requests or none at all.” The implication here, only obfuscated in the legal sense, is that Dropbox receives very few national security requests, and is irked that it has to report, in essence, ‘no more than 250′ when the actual number is likely far lower. Yahoo, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and Microsoft have also released data regarding the government’s requests for their user date.

NSA protest stirs memories of AT&T spy scandal – An AT&T whistleblower, who leaked documents in 2006 that showed the company opened up its systems to the National Security Agency, took center stage at a “The Day We Fight Back” protest in San Francisco.

Bing Chinese search results raise censorship concerns – In a write up today,, a website that revolves around the issue of China’s Internet censorship, published a report expressing concerns about Microsoft’s Bing search engine, claiming results for Chinese-language searches are filtered for those located outside of China. The discovery was made by Charlie Smith, the man behind the website, who told The Guardian he noticed the issue when checking his website’s index page and finding that it didn’t show up in the search results for Bing, but that it did for Google. This prompted a further contrasting of results.


Filed under Free Security Programs, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – January 22, 2014

The Inevitable ‘Sex With Glass’ App Is Here;  Best Tax Software; How to Delete Accounts From Any Website;  How is LTE-Advanced different from regular LTE?  Never forget ANYTHING ever again with these 11 phone tricks;  Watch the Super Bowl live online;  How to send self-destructing messages on iOS; Bodhi Linux could easily become a desktop distribution contender;  10 things you should know about Google Now;  Bitcoin: Marc Andreessen Explains It All for You;  Cooking with Cannabis: How to Make Weed Butter.

Hollywood will call US HOMELAND SECURITY on suspected pirates – as this Google Glass guy found out in a cinema – An Ohio man is crying foul after he was detained and interrogated by the feds – because he wore a Google Glass headset in a movie theater. The bloke, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he was pulled from a screening of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit at the AMC Easton Town Center in Columbus by men who he claims identified themselves as US government agents. After being told to step outside the theater, he was accused of using the Google Glass headset to record and pirate the film. It’s understood an MPAA representative was at the AMC, spotted the Google Glass wearer, and tipped off the feds.

The Inevitable ‘Sex With Glass’ App Is Here – Want to spice up your sex life? There’s a Google Glass app for that. The salaciously titled Sex with Google Glass does just what its name suggests: Strap the spectacles onto your head, turn on the application, and, well, do your thing. All the while, Glass will record and stream the action.

Snapchat Makes You “Find The Ghosts” To Keep Hackers From Stealing Your Phone Number – Snapchat now verifies new users aren’t robots by making them choose its ghost mascot in images. It’s an attempt to keep out hackers who could steal phone numbers by exploiting a leaked database of details on 4.6 million accounts. A 16-year-old hacker proved he could do just that by finding the number of Snapchat CTO Bobby Murphy, but now he says Snapchat has patched the holes he harnessed.

How to send self-destructing messages on iOS – Confide is a free, simple service that makes it possible to send self-destructing messages to friends and colleagues using an iPhone app. By using your e-mail or Facebook contacts, you can send what amounts to an e-mail through the service. It’s then encrypted and the recipient will receive an alert of the pending message. For those who don’t have an account, the sign up process only requires a few details (e-mail address and password), and downloading the Confide iOS app. Once you have an account and the app is installed, you’re ready to go.

Never forget ANYTHING ever again with these 11 phone tricks – Evernote? Reminders? Calendar? Those are fine, but there are other ways to use your phone to remember stuff.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

How to Delete Accounts From Any Website – Deleting accounts you’ve created on the Internet, from social media to software services, isn’t always easy. Here are the details on leaving several big-name services behind.

Bodhi Linux could easily become a desktop distribution contender – Find out why and how Jack Wallen thinks Bodhi Linux could become one of the most popular desktop distributions on the market.

Watch the Super Bowl live online – The big game is set to take place on February 2 at MetLife Stadium. Here’s how you can watch it live on any device.

EvolveSMS Brings Awesome Design and Plenty of Features to Android – Google added SMS integration to Hangouts a few months ago, and despite some foibles, it’s a fine option for most people. There aren’t really a ton of great Android SMS clients out there anyway, but the new EvolveSMS is something to seriously consider. This new app from Klinker Apps (developer of Talon) uses a more modern aesthetic and a ton of features to make text messages a little more exciting.

10 things you should know about Google Now – If you’re looking for ways to make your days more productive and efficient, Google Now might be able to lend a hand.

How to create and manage multiple user profiles in Chrome – If you share a PC at home, other family members can start searching the web as you by simply opening Chrome. Luckily, Chrome’s multiple profile support can help, providing an easy-peasy way for multiple people to use the same browser without worrying about imposters or having to constantly sign in and out of Google profiles.

Phablets Are Officially A Thing, With 20M Shipped In 2013 – God help us. Phablets are officially a thing. According to Juniper Research, phablets are expected to hit 120 million units shipped by 2018, up from the estimated 20 million phablets shipped last year (2013). Samsung validated the trend with the super-sized Galaxy Note series, which has gone on to be surprisingly successful for the Korean electronics giant.

Location-based services: Controversy at every level – Like it or not, commerce increasingly involves keeping tabs on the customer’s location.

Think Software Keyboards Don’t Work On Smartwatches? Check Out Minuum’s New Video – As smartwatches become a device category that most major hardware makers are turning their attention to, there’s a question of how much smartphone utility we’ll be able to translate to the wrist. One big convenience hurdle is making it possible to reply to texts and emails quickly from the wrist, and that’s where Minuum‘s go-anywhere software keyboard comes in.

Best Tax Software – With new iPad, Android, and iPhone tax-preparation options added to the usual online offerings, you’ve got less excuse than ever for not getting your taxes in early!

Backblaze lists most reliable hard drives based on its massive cloud study – Last November, the company released the first batch of data showing that nearly one our of four (22%) of more than 25,000 consumer-grade hard drives died in their first four years of use. Today, the Backblaze released what is arguably the most important information yet: which vendor’s hard drive products last the longest. The result are based on a study that lasted three years.

FAQ: How is LTE-Advanced different from regular LTE? – Just as many consumers are getting their first taste of speedy 4G LTE connections, carriers around the globe have begun pouring resources into building LTE-Advanced networks, which promise even faster and more reliable mobile access. If you’re finding yourself confused by the alphabet soup of acronyms and technobabble, take heart: You are not alone. Let us help you with your many, many questions.


Hacker accesses 70,000 records, says website is 100% insecure – The website has had its fair share of troubles since launch, and one that has been persistent among them is claims of security vulnerabilities. TrustedSec’s CEO David Kennedy has been vocal about these issues, though little has been done to address them. Perhaps to make a bigger point, he took advantage of the vulnerability in recent times and managed to access 70,000 records over the course of four minutes, saying, “Seventy-thousand was just one of the numbers that I was able to go up to, and I stopped after that.”

Israeli Android researchers demo VPN vulnerability: Malicious app can redirect traffic invisibly – The Ben Gurion University security researchers who tangled with Samsung over its KitKat security implementation have posted a follow-up, in which they demonstrate how a malicious app could bypass some VPN protections in Android.

Syrian Electronic Army hacks Microsoft’s Office Blogs site mere hours after redesign – The attack happened as Microsoft unveiled a new design for the site Monday. The hacker group posted a screenshot on Twitter of what it claims was the site’s old administration panel when it was running on software from Telligent, a developer of online enterprise collaboration and community platforms, and a screenshot of the site’s new supposed admin panel, suggesting that it’s now running on WordPress.

16 million email addresses and passwords in Germany exposed by malware attack – Hot on the heels of the massive credit card cyber attacks that affected U.S. retailers such as Target, Neiman Marcus and others in December, the German government has announced it found criminals used malware to get the email addresses and passwords of as many as 16 million of its citizens.

Scientists detect “spoiled onions” trying to sabotage Tor privacy network – That means operators of these servers can see traffic as it was sent by the end user. Any data the end user sent unencrypted, as well as the destinations of servers receiving or responding to data passed between an end user and server, can be monitored—and potentially modified—by malicious volunteers. Privacy advocates have long acknowledged the possibility that the National Security Agency and spy agencies across the world operate such rogue exit nodes.

Top executives resign over massive data leak – Top executives of KB Financial Group, NongHyup Card, and Lotte Card — all three companies involved in the recent financial data breach — said they would step down to take responsibility for the leak. The move came after the nation’s chief financial regulator called on the CEOs to shoulder responsibility for the leak. (suggested by Aseem S.)

Most CEOs clueless about cyberattacks – and their response to incidents proves it – Despite an onslaught of devastating high-profile cyberattacks, four in five CEOs aren’t regularly informed about potential threats to their organizations and only 14 percent of top executives play an active role in the incident response process.

Company News:

LogMeIn Kills Its Eponymous Free Service As New Users Decline; Existing Users Irate – Another day, another free service goes to the dogs — or logs as the case may be. LogMeIn, a provider of remote connectivity services, 10 years ago made a name for itself by offering easy-to-use, free services to access other computers and files remotely — with the idea being the company could upsell them to paid services. Today, however, the company took a turn away from its legacy product, announcing that it is discontinuing LogMeIn Free. New users can no longer sign up, and existing users are being asked to sign up for a paid tier, which appears to begin at $49/year for two computers.

Verizon to purchase Intel’s Media division – Intel’s OnCue TV service may finally see the light of day. The chipmaker has announced that Verizon will acquire its Media division, taking with it the division’s intellectual property, products, and employees. In a press release, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam laid out plans to incorporate the product into its FiOS TV services while also offering an over-the-top experience that might allow Verizon to expand its reach—without incurring the expense of expanding its fiber optic network.

BlackBerry Soars 10% On Pentagon Order, Shares Now Up 34% In 2014 – BlackBerry has an almost uncanny ability to not die when it’s been written off again and again. Today, the Pentagon has announced that it will install 80,000 BlackBerry handsets on its network by the end of January. According to Fox News, the new phones are part of the Pentagon’s “new mobile program for unclassified work.” BlackBerry’s shares soared 10% in midday trading on the news.

Candy Crush developer wins trademark for “Candy” – One of the most popular mobile games in the world is Candy Crush Saga from Limited. The company field for a trademark about a year ago for the very generic word “Candy.” That trademark has now been granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Instagram Is The Fastest-Growing Social Site Globally, Mobile Devices Rule Over PCs For Access – Pinterest may have passed Twitter in popularity in the U.S. according to new figures out last month from Pew, but globally the social network to watch may be Facebook-owned Instagram. According to research published today by the Global Web Index, Instagram is growing the fastest of all social media sites worldwide, increasing its active user base by 23% in the last six months.

Toshiba has bought OCZ Storage – OCZ will continue to operate independently and be based in San Jose, California. Toshiba is a major manufacturer of flash-memory chips, so it should be able to supply OCZ’s SSD manufacturing operations with enough silicon. The acquisition brings Toshiba OCZ’s enterprise and client SSD customers, both markets it intends to keep serving, the company said in a statement.

Games and Entertainment:

Call of Duty: Ghosts Review – With a Call of Duty game coming out at least once a year for what seems like forever, it’s not easy always seeing the newest title for what it’s worth, especially when it comes to multiplayer. With Call of Duty: Ghosts, you’ve got the first title to be released to the next-generation consoles PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Because of this, we’re able to take on a new era regardless of the changes Infinity Ward has made – but is it enough?

Dead Rising 3′s 13GB patch includes DLC content even if you don’t want it – The patch isn’t 13GB due to fixes the game requires, though. Capcom has instead decided to bundle in content for episodes 3 and 4 of forthcoming DLC. If you intend on purchasing that DLC then this probably sounds fine to you, but for those that don’t want it, why are they being forced to download it?

Resident Evil 4 Ultimate HD Edition headed to PC with 60FPS of terror – There’s a bit of bonus content here, but for the most part, users will be rolling out with the same environment as before, this time prepared for the newest in new graphics processing power. This title also has a few bits and pieces to add on for those that wish to pre-order it in the weeks before it hits digital shelves.

Your brain on video games: lucid dreaming, POV changes, resistance to nightmares – Regular gamers have likely, at one point or another, noticed a pronounced video game-esque feel in a dream here or there, maybe finding themselves caught up in the dream world of the last game they binge played or, conversely, transforming an ordinary dream into something akin to a preferred type of video game. If you’re one of those gamers, you’re not alone.

Assassin’s Creed IV Companion App Sails into Google Play and the App Store – We’re still a long way from being able to reliably run a console or PC-level game on a mobile device, but the new Assassin’s Creed IV Companion app at least adds something to the traditional gaming experience. This app is available on iOS and Android. It acts as a second screen while you’re playing the full game, but also offers some interesting gameplay options.

Something to think about:

“By any of the major criteria of harm – mortality, morbidity, toxicity, addictiveness and relationship with crime – cannabis is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco.” Report of the British Police Foundation March 2000

“Estimates suggest that from 20 to 50 million Americans routinely, albeit illegally, smoke marijuana without the benefit of direct medical supervision. Yet, despite this long history of use and the extraordinarily high numbers of social smokers, there are simply no credible reports to suggest that consuming marijuana has caused a single death. By contrast, aspirin, a commonly used, over-the-counter medicine, causes hundreds of deaths each year.” – DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young

“I now have absolute proof that smoking even one marijuana cigarette is equal in brain damage to being on Bikini Island during an H-bomb blast.” – Ronald Reagan

“Mistrust those in whom the urge to punish is strong.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher (1844-1900)

Off Topic (Sort of):

Google Glass Explorer developing apps for firefighters – Google Glass Explorers come in all varieties and Glassware of many sorts is in development, all of it aiming to augment our existence in a new and functional way. One of the more altruistic developments-in-progress are the apps being created by developer and firefighter Patrick Jackson, who sees a future in the technology for his fellow firefighters.

Australia has floated a plan to regulate social media at a federal level – The idea’s not new: the Liberal/National coalition took it to the nation’s 2013 election as a policy that, in part, it used to show that someone was thinking of the children, especially in the context of cyber-bullying and youth suicides felt to have been brought about by online interaction. The coalition parties have since won government and have now released a discussion paper, Discussion Paper – Enhancing Online Safety for Children (PDF) outlining its proposed regime. (Poor Australia – governed by fringe element lunatics.)

Three words you won’t see on Facebook, Google, Twitter ads: ‘Wanna get high?’ – Despite the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Colorado and Washington, it turns out that you still can’t advertise with the online super giants.

Cooking with Cannabis: How to Make Weed Butter – Getting your daily dose of THC shouldn’t require coughing and hacking through bong hits or dropping hundreds of dollars on vaporizers. Here’s how to give your cooking a dash of psychedelic deliciousness. (Suggested by Michel F. On a side note, I consume medicinal Marijuana edibles every day. In fact, I have been a Marijuana consumer for over 40 years. Much to the disappointment of Big Pharma, I expect.)

Emoticons turn terrifying for child safety campaign – The usually endearing emoticon gets super creepy for an eye-catching French campaign aimed at making parents aware of who their kids may be talking to online.

Bitcoin to be accepted for food and lodging in two Las Vegas hotels – Bitcoin has been making waves across the world, and now the cryptocurrency craze has reached the good city of Las Vegas. Starting Wednesday, two hotels in Las Vegas, including the The Golden Gate, the city’s oldest casino, will start accepting Bitcoin payments but only for hotel expenses.

Bitcoin: Marc Andreessen Explains It All for You – A web visionary makes the case for virtual currency having world-changing implications.

World’s 85 richest people own nearly half of global wealth: Oxfam – “Wealthy elites have co-opted political power to rig the rules of the economic game, undermining democracy and creating a world where the 85 richest people own the wealth of half of the world’s population,” Oxfam claimed. It also said that since the late 1970s, tax rates for the richest have fallen in 29 of the 30 countries for which data are available, meaning that in many places the rich not only get more money but also pay less tax on it.

Bill Gates releases annual letter, says there won’t be ‘poor’ countries by 2035 – Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has issued his 2014 annual letter from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, predicting that by 2035 there will be almost no “poor” countries in the world.

Phablets Are Officially A Thing, With 20M Shipped In 2013 – God help us. Phablets are officially a thing. According to Juniper Research, phablets are expected to hit 120 million units shipped by 2018, up from the estimated 20 million phablets shipped last year (2013). Samsung validated the trend with the super-sized Galaxy Note series, which has gone on to be surprisingly successful for the Korean electronics giant.

Grind this: Onewheel electric skateboard balances itself – The Onewheel electric skateboard rolls ahead with the idea that you don’t need four wheels or a good sense of balance to ride.

Today’s Free Downloads:

Wondershare Video Converter Pro Giveaway – Wondershare Video Converter Pro is a powerful video converter for Win (Windows 8 supported) to help you convert videos and extract audio. What’s more, you can easily download and convert wonderful web videos like YouTube etc to iPhone (the latest iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c available), iPad (iPad Air, iPad mini 2 included), iPod and more for enjoyment on the go. (Free offer expires 2/25 – registration required.)

Advanced Uninstaller Pro – The program is especially designed to be very clear, fast, pleasant and intuitive. Easy to read information and help is readily available throughout the program, guiding you every step of the way. Advanced Uninstaller PRO helps your PC run at full speed by taking good care of the Windows registry and services. It also helps you free disk space by detecting and removing duplicate files and helping you turn on the Windows file compression if needed. (This is a CNET download so the usual warnings re: crapware, applies. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this app.)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to hold Q&A Thursday – Edward Snowden is expected to offer his opinion of President Obama’s NSA reforms during a Webcast question-and-answer session on Thursday. It will be Snowden’s first live chat since he began releasing classified internal documents last June that revealed the agency’s surveillance programs, according to, the support site hosting the hour-long Q&A. Snowden, who is currently living in exile in Russia, was charged with espionage after reportedly stealing 1.7 million classified documents from US government computers.

Microsoft legal chief seeks global rules on spying, data – As the World Economic Forum kicks off, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith calls for an international convention to create surveillance and data-access rules across borders to protect privacy and businesses.


Filed under Free Security Programs, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

Ransomware! – How A Layered Security Approach Can Defeat It

My Australian mate, Mal Cowan, steps into the breech when his good friend gets infected with one of the most difficult to remove pieces of malware currently ripping up the Internet – ransomware. Follow Mal, in this guest writer article, as he spins up his skill set and puts the hammer to a ransomware payload cybercrime.

imageRecently, I received a frantic call from a good friend.  He informed me that when he booted his computer, there was a message supposedly from Australian Law Enforcement, stating that his PC had been involved in illegal activity and, distributing pornographic material.

Freak-out time – The malware had taken a photo of him via his webcam and placed it in the top  middle of the Law Enforcement notice.

Note: This scam is not restricted to Australia. The graphic below provides ample evidence that this type of ransomware is a global issue.

Graphic courtesy of F-Secure.

Immediately, I knew what this program was – Ransomware.  Tech and blog sites have been full of news of this scourge in the past few months.

At first look, there was a full screen message – complete with an official looking logo from the Australian Federal Police.  The computer’s IP address had been logged, and there was indeed a photo of my friend, along with the messages outlined above.

The clincher? The message stated that he had to pay a fine to unlock his computer.

First, I tried to start Task Manager to stop the malware process.  That did not work – it simply would not load.  The computer was well and truly locked.

Next, I tried to restart the computer in Safe Mode.  No luck.  The message appeared again.  Still frozen.

Then, I inserted Kaspersky Rescue Disk (a fantastic Linux based recovery disk made for just this type of situation), and restarted the computer.

Selecting boot options before Windows started, I loaded Kaspersky and updated the malware database via the Internet.  The wonderful thing about Kaspersky is, it scans the infected machine without Windows running, so anything nasty cannot hide.

After a three hour scan, Kaspersky came up with 50 Trojan detections (one of the biggest I have ever seen).  It was able to eliminate all but one of them.

I crossed my fingers and restarted Windows.  Instead of the message, there was just a big white screen – still locked.  Kaspersky had obviously made a dent, but I needed something more.

Before leaving for my friends house, I had loaded up a USB stick with Hitman Pro Kickstart.  Hitman Pro is a wonderful true cloud antivirus scanner using multiple AV engines, with an excellent detection rate.

Recently, it also added a feature in which one can create a bootable USB stick that can bypasses the infected boot process.  The catch is – this must be done on an uninfected machine (which is why I used my personal computer to create it).

I inserted the USB stick into the slot, restarted the machine, and went to boot options (the F12 key on the infected machine) and selected “Boot from USB”.

Hitman Pro Kickstart came through.  It booted straight into the Windows environment without a hitch, and then proceeded to run a scan (an Internet connection is required).  I was a bit dismayed when the scan came back clean, as I knew Kaspersky had not been able to eliminate one threat.

But now, I was past the ransomware Trojan and able to start other antimalware applications.  Malwarebytes was next.  I updated it and proceeded to run a full scan.  Bingo.  It nailed a few more Trojans that had got past Kaspersky and Hitman Pro, and after deleting these nasties and rebooting the computer normally again, a further scan with Hitman Pro, Malwarebytes and AVG, the computer came up clean.

The point of my story really is quite simple.  NOBODY can rely on one antivirus/antimalware application to catch all malware.  The ransomware obviously got past the onboard, realtime antivirus (which was not AVG, I installed that afterwards).  Kaspersky detected most of the infections, Hitman Pro helped me boot into the Windows environment, and Malwarebytes cleaned up the rest.  AVG came up with a clean scan after I uninstalled the old antivirus.

How did my friend get infected?  Who knows.  There are so many exploits that this Trojan could have used that I don’t have a clue.  The computer is a family machine, used mostly by children for online games and such.

Just visiting a family friendly site can get your computer infected these days. It could have been worse.  It might have been an infection that actually encrypted the contents of the whole computer.  That’s a nightmare I am glad I didn’t have to deal with.

Thanks Mal.   Smile


Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Free Security Programs, Guest Writers, Malware Removal

Microsoft Security Essentials – Breaking Up Is Hard To Do – But, It’s Over; You’re Gone

imageSadly, Microsoft Security Essentials and I have had a falling out. We’re through – it’s over – that’s it. It’s broken the cardinal rule I’ve long established for all my applications – trust that it will perform as advertised.

It’s been replaced in my affection by another – one that lives up to its billing –  AVG AntiVirus Free 2013. Microsoft Security Essentials no longer does.

Frankly, I’ve avoided AVG’s products for years – with good cause I think. Applications that are slow, cumbersome, updates that crash systems ….. have a way of ending up in file 13 (the garbage), around here. In the past, AVG’s products were known for all of that, and more. It had its defenders of course, but I was not one of them.

As MSE has slowly lost its touch, AVG has bounded ahead. It’s sleek; it’s fast; it’s free – and, in the latest’s (see’s full results here), it pummels MSE – again.

In fact, for the second testing cycle in a row – Microsoft Security Essentials has failed certification as an effective security application.

Quick overview of AVG AntiVirus Free’s salient score points. Click graphic to expand.


Courtesy –

I’ve been running with AVG AntiVirus Free 2013 on a primary home system (a Windows 8 machine), since September 5, of last year. The verdict? I’m impressed – very impressed.

As you can see from the following screen shot, AVG AntiVirus Free offers substantial protection – not quite up to the standard of the company’s paid applications – but, more than enough (in my view), that an aware user should feel comfortable.

Keep in mind, that an educated user understands the limitations of relying on a single security application and, is conversant with the principal of layered security.

Windows 8 users will notice that the GUI (as shown below) owes a little something to Windows 8’s Metro (or whatever MS is calling it these days) GUI.


Multiple choices are available in the settings menu so that users can tweak and massage the application to meet their specific needs. I must admit – that was a major positive for me.


Running a scan: As is my practice – I run a complete scan on my machine’s boot drive every day. And a full scan on all attached drives, weekly.


Running a scan: 60 GB SSD – particulars as shown below.



Scanning time – just under 5 minutes with “High Priority” set.


Slip in a USB device – and….


System requirements: Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP.

Download at: AVG

A Major Bonus – From the site:

It’s not just the software that’s free. So too is phone access to our team of support experts 24/7, 365 days a year (USA, UK, Canada). Kudos to AVG!!

You’ll notice a basket-full of additional free AVG products on the download page – you just might find something that fills a gap in your overall security plan.

Whether you’re an experienced user, or you consider yourself “average”, I recommend that you spend some time scouting around the application’s GUI – there’s lots to be discovered here. All of it good.  Smile


Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Antivirus Applications, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Security Programs, Freeware

Best Free Security Applications – An 18 Month Review

imageWithout a doubt, the most popular question that comes my way, in one form or another is – which antivirus application(s) would you recommend?

The question comes up so often, I’ve chosen to post the answer every six months, or so. Here’s round 3 – regular readers will notice I’ve stuck with the “tried and true” applications – applications which continue to maintain a strong presence in their specific class.

My response:

Let me answer this by telling you what I run on my principal home machine. But, before I do, let’s talk a bit about Host Intrusion Prevention Systems (HIPS) since, as you’ll see, more and more security applications are including HIPS – or a combination of HIPS, and behavior based blocking components.

There’s not much point in reinventing the wheel, so I’ll go with this description of HIPS/behavior blocking, from

A host intrusion prevention system (HIPS) monitors each activity a program attempts and (depending on configuration) prompts the user for action or responds based on predefined criteria. Conversely, behavior blockers monitor and profile whole program behavior. When a collection of behaviors tips the scale, the behavior blocker will (depending on configuration) alert the user or take action against the entire program based on predefined criteria.

Though they sound similar, HIPS is application-level control (i.e. this program is allowed to do X but not Y), whereas behavior blocking is more cut and dry – the entire application is either good (allowed) or it is not.

Fortunately, many of these types of products combine both.

Got that? Good.   Smile

Despite the fact that I’m provided with a free license for all the security applications I test, I have chosen to run with the following applications.

Microsoft Security Essentials (free) – an all-in-one antimalware application.

Immunet FREE Antivirus – a free Cloud based companion antimalware application.

ThreatFire (free) – this application is built around a Host Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS), and behavior based blocking combination.

WinPatrol (free) – another HIPS application with considerable additional functionality. WinPatrol is the elder statesman of this application class and, it just keeps on getting better. A must have application.

PC Tools Firewall Plus (free) – PC Tools Firewall Plus is advanced Firewall technology designed for typical users, not just experts.  The “plus” refers to a HIPS component. Generally, if the ThreatFire HIPS component is triggered on my machine, PC Tools Firewall Plus is triggered as well.

Commercial application:

Zemana AntiLogger – In my view simply the best keylogger defense available.  AntiLogger includes a System Defense module that works similarly to HIPS – to protect the whole system.

Each of these applications has been reviewed (some several times), on my site. You can follow the links below to specific review articles.

Microsoft Security Essentials

Immunet Protect



PC Tools Firewall Plus

Zemana AntiLogger

Finally, additional Browser protection is a critical ingredient in overall system protection. I recommend that you read the following article here – Updated: An IT Professional’s Must Have Firefox and Chrome Add-ons.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Browser add-ons, downloads, Free Security Programs, HIPS, Windows Tips and Tools

Best Free Security Applications – The Hot Naked Truth!

imageWithout a doubt, the most popular question that comes my way, in one form or another is – which antivirus application(s) would you recommend?

This question is asked so often; I think it’s probably a good idea to answer it in a post every six months, or so.

My response:

Let me answer this by telling you what I run on my principal home machine. But, before I do, let’s talk a bit about Host Intrusion Prevention Systems (HIPS) since, as you’ll see, more and more security applications are including HIPS – or a combination of HIPS, and behavior based blocking components.

There’s not much point in reinventing the wheel, so I’ll go with this description of HIPS/behavior blocking, from

A host intrusion prevention system (HIPS) monitors each activity a program attempts and (depending on configuration) prompts the user for action or responds based on predefined criteria. Conversely, behavior blockers monitor and profile whole program behavior. When a collection of behaviors tips the scale, the behavior blocker will (depending on configuration) alert the user or take action against the entire program based on predefined criteria.

Though they sound similar, HIPS is application-level control (i.e. this program is allowed to do X but not Y), whereas behavior blocking is more cut and dry – the entire application is either good (allowed) or it is not. Fortunately, many of these types of products combine both.

Got that? Good.   Smile

Despite the fact that I’m provided with a free license for all the security applications I test, I have chosen to run with the following applications.

Microsoft Security Essentials (free) – an all-in-one antimalware application.

Immunet Protect – a free Cloud based companion antimalware application.

ThreatFire (free) – this application is built around a Host Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS), and behavior based blocking combination. I’m currently testing a new HIPS application – NoVirusThanks EXE Pro – and I’ve been more than impressed to see ThreatFire step in and prevent any system changes by NoVirusThanks – until I approve those changes.

WinPatrol (free) – another HIPS application with considerable additional functionality. WinPatrol is the elder statesman of this application class and, it just keeps on getting better. A must have application.

PC Tools Firewall Plus (free) – PC Tools Firewall Plus is advanced Firewall technology designed for typical users, not just experts.  The “plus” refers to a HIPS component. Generally, if the ThreatFire HIPS component is triggered on my machine, PC Tools Firewall Plus is triggered as well.

When the NoVirusThanks EXE Pro review is posted shortly, you’ll see screen capture evidence of this.

Zemana AntiLogger (paid) – In my view simply the best keylogger defense available.  AntiLogger includes a System Defense module that works similarly to HIPS – to protect the whole system.

As an illustration, the following screen capture shows the System Defense module blocked NoVirusThanks EXE Pro (the application I’m currently testing), until I gave permission.


Each of these applications has been reviewed (some several times), on my site. You can follow the links below to specific review articles.

Microsoft Security Essentials

Immunet Protect



PC Tools Firewall Plus

Zemana AntiLogger

Finally, additional Browser protection is a critical ingredient in overall system protection. I recommend that you read the following article here – Updated: An IT Professional’s Must Have Firefox and Chrome Add-ons.

Yes, the title of this article is more than a little off the wall. My blogging buddy TechPaul, made the point not too long ago, that manipulative key words like hot, naked, sex, boobs, nudity …….. well, you get the point – unfairly capture readers attention. I’m testing that theory.  Smile

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under Anti-Keyloggers, Anti-Malware Tools, Cyber Crime, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Anti-malware Software, Free Firewalls, Free Security Programs, Freeware, HIPS, Malware Protection, Online Safety, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

Microsoft’s Free On-Demand “Safety Scanner” Released

From the better late than never department:

imageIt seems everyone has gotten into the – one shot – one time – malware scanner market – including Microsoft (finally), with the release of the Microsoft Safety Scanner.

Sophisticated computer users know, that depending on a single security application to provide a reliable “all clear- no malware” signal just doesn’t cut it – not with the huge number of new malware threats we’re exposed to every day.

Part of the layered security process (stacking security solutions, one on top of the other, to cover the gaps that exist in the protection capabilities of even the most sophisticated security applications), consists of supplementing the primary AV application with an on-demand scanner.

Since the Microsoft Safety Scanner is an on-demand application (it’s not designed to replace your installed AV), you’ll have no problems running it with your existing antivirus software. In fact, since Microsoft Safety Scanner is a stand-alone application and does not require installation, you can easily run it from a portable drive.


Here, I’ve chosen to run a full scan. As indicated, a quick scan and a user selected specified folder scan, are also available.


I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the progress bar – it’s not particularly accurate. Mind you, I’ve never seen an AV progress bar that was.


Full scan on 900,000+ files completed in 1 hour and 19 minutes.


Note: The Microsoft Safety Scanner expires 10 days after being downloaded. To rerun a scan with the latest anti-malware definitions, download and run the Microsoft Safety Scanner again.

System Requirements: Windows 7; Server 2003; Vista; XP.

Download at: Microsoft

Recommended free alternatives:

SUPERAntiSpyware: The free version of SUPERAntiSpyware despite it’s lack of real-time protection deserves its reputation as a first class security application, and it’s definitely worth considering adding to your security toolbox as a secondary line of defense.

BitDefender Free Edition is an on-demand virus scanner with powerful scan engines which ensures detection and removal of all viruses in the wild every time you need it. Best used in a system recovery or forensics role.

Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware: Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware has an excellent reputation (shared by me), as an outstanding security application, for its ability to identify and remove adware, Trojans, key-loggers, home page hijackers, and other malware threats.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, BitDefender, downloads, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware, Microsoft, Portable Applications, Software, SUPERAntiSpyWare, USB, Windows Tips and Tools

Take 10 Seconds And Have BitDefender QuickScan Add-on Audit Your System For Malware

BitDefender’s QuickScan (last updated April 7, 2011), is a Firefox, and Chrome add-on, built around cloud based technology (a continuously updated malware database and scanner, hosted on remote servers), making it FAST! FAST! FAST!

Following installation of the add-on, QuickScan sets a quick launch Icon in the Browser Toolbar for easy access. (Firefox 4 shown)


The following screen shots show QuickScan in the process of scanning critical files and modules, on my Win 7 machine.



Elapsed time 10 seconds!!!! That meets my definition of FAST! I run QuickScan daily, and a 10 second scan completion is fairly typical.

My Internet connection speed is – 16 Mbps (download), and 1.5 Mbps (upload). Your results may vary, depending on your connection speed.

Following the scan, you’ll have access to a full report. The following screen capture is only a partial representation of the report, (it’s just too big to insert in this article). Click on image to expand to original.


Fast facts:

Very fast scanning

Runs online from any Internet connected Windows PC

Based on BitDefender anti-malware technologies

Detects running malware

Detects hidden threats (rootkits) and keyloggers



Network activity

Autoruns and critical files

Browser plug-ins


This add-on is not a replacement for active antimalware protection.

No cleaning capabilities are included in QuickScan, so if you encounter a positive indication of a malware infection, use your onboard antimalware application to clear it.


Today’s malware is quite capable of shutting down onboard antimalware applications, while allowing the user to believe the application/s are fully functional. A simply scan with QuickScan can provide an early warning of such activity.

Download: Firefox

Download: Chrome


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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, BitDefender, Browser add-ons, Chrome Add-ons, Cloud Computing Applications, Don't Get Hacked, Firefox Add-ons, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Google Chrome, Online Malware Scanners, Software, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

SpywareBlaster – Still Worthwhile After All These Years

spywareblaster_largeSpywareBlaster was one of the first free antimalware applications I installed on Windows 95; it’s been around that long. You might wonder if an application which was released when I was running a system with 6 MB of memory (versus 4 GB today), has value as an effective antimalware application – but it does. Perhaps less so if you’re a high level user, but for casual users, it can be an important addition to a layered security approach.

SpywareBlaster prevents ActiveX-based spyware, adware, dialers, and browser hijackers from installing on a system by disabling the CLSIDs (a method used by software applications to identify a file or other items), of spyware ActiveX controls.


SpywareBlaster, once installed, doesn’t use any services, or drivers, and does not use memory or processing time. You just open SpywareBlaster, set your protection, close it – you’re protected. SpywareBlaster continues to provide protection without the need for user interaction.


A secondary, but equally important function offered by SpywareBlaster is its ability to block spyware/tracking cookies and restrict the actions of spyware/adware/tracking sites in Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Netscape, Seamonkey, Flock and other browsers.


Since SpywareBlaster doesn’t scan for, or clean spyware, but as stated earlier, prevents installation only, you should use it in combination with your active malware protection applications.

SpywareBlaster is definitely low maintenance and the only thing you need to remember is to update the database, which contains information on known spyware Active-X controls, regularly. Automatic update is also available for an annual fee of $9.95 USD.

A bonus feature included with SpywareBlaster is – System Snapshot. You can take a snapshot of your computer in its clean state, and later revert to this state, undoing any changes made by spyware and browser hijackers that have infected your system despite the security in place. I recommend that you take advantage of this important feature – just in case.


Fast facts:

Prevent the installation of ActiveX-based spyware and other potentially unwanted programs.

Block spying / tracking via cookies.

Restrict the actions of potentially unwanted or dangerous web sites.

Unlike other programs, SpywareBlaster does not have to remain running in the background. It works alongside the programs you have to help secure your system.

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7 (32 bit and 64 bit).

Browser compatibility: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Netscape, Seamonkey, Flock, K-Meleon, and browsers that use the IE engine.

Download at: Javacool Software

Need answers? Visit the SpywareBlaster Forum

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.


Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Browsers, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Internet Safety Tools, Malware Protection, New Computer User Software Tools, Software, System Security, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools