Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – October 23, 2015

Next Windows 10 update to roll out early next month;  Hands-free car systems still distract drivers, study says;  How to log in to Windows 10 with a local account;  Facebook Expands Search To All 2 Trillion Posts;  Five tools to beef up your tech emergency toolkit;  Google Chrome for iOS now supports Split View multitasking;  Instagram releases new app for mini video loops;  Your guide to Wi-Fi Sense – Windows 10’s new Wi-Fi Sense feature;  Send photos and videos straight to the cloud with Camra;  BlackBerry Priv briefly appears for pre-order at a whopping $749;  The Best Headphones Under $50;  YouTube Red: How, When, and Why;  LanDroid: The handiest mobile networking tool ever;  How to get to Android Marshmallow’s hidden file manager;  Microsoft Surface Pro 4 vs. Apple iPad Pro: Battle of the Big Tablets;  For privacy and security, change these iOS 9 settings immediately;  Apple fixes 49 security bugs in iOS 9.1;  Jack Dorsey Is Giving Away Nearly $200 Million of His Twitter Stock to Employees;  New Witcher 3 patch out today;  First Episode of Telltale’s ‘Game of Thrones’ Game Now Free;  Canada: Liberals planning swift overhaul of controversial Anti-terrorism Bill C-51.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Hands-free car systems still distract drivers, study says – Distracted driving is a serious epidemic in the United States. To reduce accidents caused by distraction, many states have laws requiring drivers to use hands-free technology behind the wheel. However, a new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that many current voice-based systems are still a distraction. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, looked at the use of smartphones and in-car infotainment systems while driving.


Facebook Expands Search To All 2 Trillion Posts, Surfacing Public Real-Time News – Facebook is ready to challenge Google and Twitter for control of real-time news search and the news itself. Starting today with a rollout to US English language users, Facebook Search will return anything you’re allowed to see from its 2 trillion posts. That includes public posts by all people and Pages, not just your friends and Pages you Like as before. The personalized results will be broken up to highlight posts from trusted news sources, followed by people in your network, lists of the most popular links or quotes about a topic, and then strangers. Similar to how Twitter Search works, this move unlocks all the news and chatter shared on Facebook around big news stories and live events, but with a more human focus.

Firefox will fight back against intrusive advertisers – With its Firefox Web browser, Mozilla plans to take a significant step in the fight against intrusive online advertising. Firefox for years has had a “private browsing” mode that keeps no record of which websites you’ve visited. When Firefox 42 arrives on November 3, that mode will add a tracking protection option designed to block advertising technologies that record people’s online activity. That means people won’t see the same ad following them around different websites, some ads will disappear altogether and analytics services won’t work for websites trying to understand the demographics of their readers.

How to log in to Windows 10 with a local account – Windows 10 fully embraces its identity as a universal operating system. This includes Microsoft strongly suggesting you use a connected Microsoft account to log in to your computer, so you can fully take advantage of Windows 10’s new connected features (such as settings syncing). But there are some downsides to using a Microsoft account — for one thing, you must use a password, which can be a bit frustrating if you’re the sole user of your PC, and your PC is bolted to your desk. Luckily, Windows 10 does still give you the option of using a local account, which is easy to set up.

Next Windows 10 update to roll out early next month – As PC users have had a few month now to get used to Windows 10, it’s already nearing time for Microsoft to release the first big update to the new operating system. As it turns out, such a release is only a few short weeks away, according to analyst Paul Thurrott. The update is said to be codenamed Threshold 2, and will include a number of bug fixes, as well as some adjustments to the overall user interface that were intended to be included in the initial release of Windows 10. For those already eager to download the Windows 10 Fall Update, Thurrott says it’s expected in early November, likely within the first week of the month. This will give desktop users at least a full month with the latest version of Windows 10 before the recently confirmed Windows 10 Mobile arrives in December.


Your guide to Wi-Fi Sense – Windows 10’s new Wi-Fi Sense feature — which is designed to make it easier to share network credentials without giving up your Wi-Fi password — isn’t my favorite thing. But it can be a convenient way to get credentials around quickly, assuming you trust your Outlook, Skype, and Facebook contacts.

Five tools to beef up your tech emergency toolkit – What applications do you carry with you at all times? I’ve covered this topic once before, but it’s important enough to revisit. Why? Because you can never have enough emergency apps to carry with you in the field. As you might expect, everyone has different needs and every emergency calls for a different tool. That’s why you need to have a variety of tools on hand to cover nearly every issue. In this take on the emergency apps, we’ll examine some tools that, although you may not always use, they will prove irreplaceable when the time comes to fire them up.

LanDroid: The handiest mobile networking tool ever – There are tons of Android tools for network admins, but none are as comprehensive and easy to use as LanDroid. Jack Wallen introduces you to this free must-have tool.

Instagram releases new app for mini video loops – Instagram has launched a new video app called Boomerang, which will produce GIF-style clips at the click of a button. Boomerang takes a one-second burst of five photos to create a mini video loop which can be shared to the main Instagram app and Facebook. Boomerang doesn’t require users to be logged in, or to even have an Instagram account, according to TechCrunch. The controls are simplistic, one shutter button when you open the app, and another screen to share the looping video you’ve just created.


Send photos and videos straight to the cloud with Camra – Sure, you can manually offload images to your computer or a cloud service, but that’s a hassle — and something you rarely remember to do until it’s too late (e.g., your phone is producing “storage low” messages). Enter Camra [Android|iOS], an app that doesn’t save photos and videos to your phone, but rather sends them directly to the cloud. In other words, images shot with Camra don’t take up residence on your device, meaning you don’t have to worry about running out of space. Well, space on your device, anyway: Camra gives you 5GB of cloud storage for free, or 99 cents monthly for 100GB (a pretty competitive rate). There’s also a $9.99 prepay option that nets you a full year.

YouTube Red: How, When, and Why – This morning YouTube revealed a subscription service that’ll encompass not only all of the video content they have to offer, but music from Google as well. With YouTube Red, users will pay a monthly fee to be able to view the vast majority of YouTube content without advertisements, and offline, too. This service ties in with Google Play Music – and YouTube Music Key – as they’ll soon all be offered under the same umbrella, for the same monthly fee, all at once.


Monitor your data usage in Windows 10 – Because Windows 10 is a universal operating system, Microsoft has built in some data-monitoring tools for users with a limited data connection. Desktop users probably don’t need to concern themselves with network data usage, but tablet and laptop users may find these tools helpful.

Google Chrome for iOS now supports Split View multitasking – The feature works best on the iPad Air 2, mini 4, and presumably the upcoming plus-sized iPad Pro; older models let you slide a browser view in temporarily, but you can’t use another app at the same time. This iOS update isn’t only focused on the iPad — it also contains support for Autofill, meaning you’ll be able to use stored information like credit card numbers on mobile as well as desktop. You can get the update right now.


The Best Headphones Under $50 – You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get high-quality sound flowing into your ears. Here’s what to look for in a pair of budget-priced headphones or earphones, along with our top-rated picks.


Twitter Hints That It May Re-Enable Politwoops, The Service That Tracks Politicians’ Deleted Tweets – According to remarks made by Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday, it seems as if Twitter may be reversing its earlier decision to ban Politwoops, a service that tracked politicians’ deleted tweets, holding them accountable for things they wished they hadn’t said on the micro-blogging service. Developed by the Open State Foundation, Politwoops operated dedicated accounts in 30 countries around the world prior to Twitter’s ban, including one in the U.S. run by a government transparency group called the Sunlight Foundation. In May, Twitter banned the U.S. version of Politwoops, then proceeded to shut down the remaining countries later this summer, saying that the service violated Twitter’s developer agreement, and that everyone on Twitter should have the same rights to privacy…even politicians.

BlackBerry Priv briefly appears for pre-order at a whopping $749 – BlackBerry is getting ready to launch its first Android smartphone, the Priv. We now know all the specs and even a possible price with rumors that official pre-orders may kick off on Friday.


(Image: BlackBerry)

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 vs. Apple iPad Pro: Battle of the Big Tablets – When Apple unveiled the iPad Pro, its resemblance to Microsoft’s Surface lineup raised some eyebrows. With Redmond’s Surface Pro 4 now available, we wanted to see how the two devices really compare. Let us count the ways.

How to get to Android Marshmallow’s hidden file manager – Did you know you can browse your phone’s file system on Android Marshmallow without downloading a separate app? We’ll show you how.


Apple fixes 49 security bugs in iOS 9.1; kills jailbreak – The company, which released the software on Wednesday for iPhones and iPads, detailed the flaws in its updated security documentation. Two of the fixes were credited to PanguTeam, a well-known jailbreak team based out of China, which earlier this month released the first jailbreak tool for devices running iOS 9. Jailbreaking (similar to “rooting” for Android phones) allows a user to gain access to more features on a iPhone or iPad, but it comes with additional security risks. It’s not illegal but it will void a user’s warranty.

For privacy and security, change these iOS 9 settings immediately – The minute you download and install iOS 9, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, you should take note of these privacy and security steps to lock down your device. iOS 9 comes with a number of security and privacy improvements. Before you do anything like customizing your phone, loading new apps, or syncing your data for the first time, these settings need to be checked — and if necessary, changed.

Hacker alleges Fitbit smartband could be a malware carrier [UPDATE: Fitbit responds] – PCs, smartphones, and tablets are fair game to hackers these days. And we’ve also started to see cars with sophisticated infotainment systems and controls also getting hacked. But how about the innocent little whose sole purpose is to keep your body healthy? Well, now they’re getting hacked as well. And worse, they might be used to make other computers unhealthy. Fortinet researcher Axelle Apvrille reveals that the Fitbit is one such wearable that easily succumbs to a hack in just 10 seconds and can then spread the malware to computers it syncs with.

German surfers blitzed by widespread malvertising campaign – German surfers are under attack from multiple directions this week because of a widespread malvertising campaign. Users of and subscribers of ISP were confronted with tainted ads after cybercrooks succeeded in pushing malicious traffic through rogue systems. The attacks began after hackers circumvented reputable ad networks, including German ad-serving technology platform MP NewMedia, before assaulting top publishers and ad networks, security firm Malwarebytes reports. The malign ad campaign is being funnelled through doppelgänger systems. “We spotted two bogus ad servers which bear the same structure that was inspired by the legitimate German platform they were abusing:,” Jérôme Segura, a senior security researcher at Malwarebytes, writes in a blog post on the attack.

Attackers hijack CCTV cameras to launch DDoS attacks – We’ve reached a point that security researchers have long warned is coming: Insecure embedded devices connected to the Internet are routinely being hacked and used in attacks. The latest example is a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack detected recently by security firm Imperva. It was a traditional HTTP flood aimed at overloading a resource on a cloud service, but the malicious requests came from surveillance cameras protecting businesses around the world instead of a typical computer botnet. The attack peaked at 20,000 requests per second and originated from around 900 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras running embedded versions of Linux and the BusyBox toolkit, researchers from Imperva’s Incapsula team said in a blog post Wednesday.

Google and Yahoo tighten spam filtering – Google and Yahoo are expanding their use of a successful system for identifying spam. The move is part of years-long effort to implement a series of checks designed to figure out if an email really has been sent by the domain it purports to come from. Email spoofing has long been a problem since its easy to forge the “from” address, making it more likely the receiver will believe it came from a legitimate source.

Company News:

Microsoft reports falling revenues, slowing Surface sales in latest quarter – Microsoft’s revenue was down during the first quarter of its 2016 fiscal year, the company reported today in an earnings release. Revenue came in at $20.4 billion, down 12 percent year over year, while income came in at $5.8 billion, down just 1 percent from the same time last year. Net income was at $4.6 billion, a 2 percent increase. Declines came from a number of categories, but one of the notable dips was in Surface hardware. While Surface revenue had been climbing quickly over the past year, it’s now fallen to $672 million, down from $908 million in the same quarter of 2015.

Amazon earnings beat estimates with huge surge in cloud sales and profit – The company reported net revenue of $25.4 billion and net income of $79 million, or $0.17 a share. That means revenue grew 24 percent compared with the same period last year, while income swung positive from a net loss of $437 million, or $0.95 a share, in the year-ago quarter. AWS reported $2.1 billion in revenue and $521 million in profit. That’s a 78 percent rise in revenue and 432 percent rise in profit over last year. Overall, AWS now accounts for around 8 percent of Amazon’s total revenue, but nearly half of its total profits, which puts it close to matching the performance of its entire North American e-commerce division. The results beat Wall Street estimates, which had Amazon at a loss of $0.13 a share on revenue of $24.9 billion, according to analysts surveyed by Thompson Reuters. Investors responded with enthusiasm, sending shares sky rocketing more than 10.5 percent to nearly $564 a share. Amazon stock has been up more than 80 percent over the last 12 months.

Alphabet Beats Q3 Expectations With EPS Of $7.35 And $18.68B In Revenue, Stock Jumps 9% After Hours – Today following the bell, Alaphabet reported its third-quarter financial performance, including revenue of $18.68 billion in revenue, and adjusted per-share profit of $7.35. Analysts had expected the company to earn an adjusted $7.21 on revenue of $18.53 billion. The company’s revenue ticked up 13 percent compared to its year-ago quarter. Cash flow sits at a strong $6 billion. Up over a point in regular trading, Alphabet is up over 9 percent after hours following its earnings beat. The news that the Alphabet board authorized a repurchase of up to $5.1 billion of its class C shares certainly doesn’t hurt.

Jack Dorsey Is Giving Away Nearly $200 Million of His Twitter Stock to Employees – Dorsey tweeted Thursday that he’s giving roughly one third of his Twitter stock back to the employee equity pool, meaning it can be dispersed throughout the company to employees. Dorsey has roughly 22 million shares of stock, according to an SEC filing, and said in his tweet that he has giving back exactly 1 percent of the company. That’s roughly $200 million in stock. This is also the second week in a row Dorsey has given away millions in stock. Last week, when Square filed documents indicating it plans to go public, Dorsey said that he would donate 40 million shares to charity.


Pandora and record labels reach $90 million settlement over pre-1972 songs – Pandora has reached a $90 settlement with record labels over the music service’s use of recordings created prior to 1972. Specific terms of the settlement are confidential, but it offers “a nationwide resolution for Pandora’s use of the plaintiffs’ pre-1972 recordings.” Those plantiffs are a mix of major and independent record labels including Sony Music Entertainment, Capitol Records, Warner Music Group, UMG Recordings, and ABKCO Music & Records. The Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) sued Pandora last year on behalf of the labels, seeking royalties for Pandora’s use of many classic tracks.

Xiaomi loses top spot to Huawei in massive China smartphone market – Xiaomi has been knocked from the top of China’s smartphone market by Huawei, according to new research, a setback for a company that was often feted as “the Apple of China.” Research company Canalys called it a “remarkable feat” by Huawei, best known outside China for its network equipment, and one that puts Xiaomi under tremendous pressure to maintain its growth rate elsewhere in the world. Xiaomi caught the world’s attention two years ago when it hired Hugo Barra, a former Google executive who managed the development of Android, to help it expand overseas.

Games and Entertainment:

New Witcher 3 patch out today, see full patch notes here – CD Projekt Red is pushing out a new patch for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt that addresses a long list of items across the main game, its new Hearts of Stone expansion, New Game Plus, and more. The patch, 1.11, is scheduled to launch on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 later today. In addition to clearing up bugs, including issues related to the Skellige’s Most Wanted quest, the new Witcher 3 patch improves technical performance in a number of in-game regions across platforms. The full Witcher 3 1.11 changelog is available here [PDF]. Alternatively, you can click through the images in the gallery below to see the complete patch notes.

The new ‘Force Awakens’ trailer, this time with Brooklyn accents – How do you make a great trailer even better? On the latest episode of “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Kimmel’s crew gives the new “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” trailer a New York remix.


NBC SeeSo and the beginning of the end for traditional TV channels – NBC will soon begin doing its part with SeeSo, the comedy-focused streaming service it announced last week. When it launches in January, SeeSo will offer a mix of NBC broadcast shows such as Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, more than 20 original series (Community creator Dan Harmon, for instance, is on board for an “animated adventure”), and syndicated programs such as Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Kids in the Hall. NBC plans to charge $4 per month for the service, with no commercials. An invite-only beta arrives in December.


Rainbow Six Siege hands-on: The most interesting next-gen shooter yet flirts with MOBAs – Rainbow Six Siege was originally supposed to release last week. Instead, Ubisoft delayed the game to December and brought me into their office to play five tense, swearing-filled hours. Seriously, I swore a lot. There’s not much new to look at, given the game’s already gone through both an alpha and beta that were about as open as either could possibly get while still being called closed. We did check out the game’s new “singleplayer” mode, as well as what I think is the full roster of Operators you can play as. Oh, and the game crashed quite a few times, which makes me glad it was pushed back. Here are my impressions.


Activision Blizzard’s new Esports division brings former ESPN CEO on board – There’s no denying that the Esports market is growing, and quickly. Last year’s League of Legends Championship was watched by 27 million people on ESPN. To put that in perspective, the final games of both the World Series, and NBA Finals both drew smaller crowds. (23.5 million, and 18 million, respectively). So when ESPN’s former CEO decides to break into the Esports world, it’s really not a big surprise. Today Activision Blizzard announced that Former CEO of ESPN Steven Bornstein will take on the role of Chairman of the company’s Esports division. What’s more, former MLG (Major League Gaming) co-founder Mike Sepso will serve as the Senior Vice President of this new division.


First Episode of Telltale’s ‘Game of Thrones’ Game Now Free – The sixth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones is still months away, but Telltale has been helping us pass the time with its adventure game based on the beloved television series. Now the game is a little more accessible for everyone. Telltale this week made the first episode of Game of Thrones — Iron From Ice — free to download on all platforms, including PlayStation 4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, iOS, and Android. Each episode is normally $5, so you’re getting a pretty sweet deal, but Telltale is obviously hoping you’ll get addicted to the game and pay to continue.


Ashes of the Singularity hits Steam, letting you benchmark DirectX 12 at home – DirectX 12 is a Windows 10 exclusive and up until today that’s meant…nothing. We’ve heard about DirectX 12. We’ve tested DirectX 12. But there hasn’t been any upshot to your home rig yet, because there weren’t any games built on DirectX 12. Until now. Stardock launched Ashes of the Singularity on Steam Early Access this morning, which makes it the first DirectX 12 game and game-based benchmark to hit the storefront—and thus the first that’s easily accessible by you at home.

Plex overhauls its home theater PC software with new Plex Media Player – Plex is hitting reboot on its software for living room PCs. The new app is called Plex Media Player, and it’s a complete break from the previous Plex Home Theater desktop software. By abandoning its old code, Plex is promising faster development, more features, and better codec support. Plex was previously based on XMBC/Kodi, another popular program for home theater PCs, but is switching to the open-source MPV as its backbone.


As Netflix plans on invading India, Eros stands in its way – For movie-streaming and new-production-house-on-the-block Netflix, India is the holy grail that will allow it to propel its customer base from the existing 65 million to hundreds of millions of movie-crazy customers. Towards this purpose, the company plans on spending a staggering $6 billion this year alone on content. However, there remains one obstacle in its plans for world domination: Eros, a little known Indian company globally, but one that has in just a few decades become the number one distributor and producer of local films in India, especially in Hindi cinema, or Bollywood, as it is often called.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Watch: Tesla on Autopilot Suffers Near-Collision – The vehicle maker last week rolled out a software update that added an Autopilot functionality to newer Tesla vehicles. It’s not completely autonomous, but allows cars to steer, switch lanes, and manage speed on their own. “The driver is still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car,” Elon Musk said during last week’s announcement. One Tesla owner learned that the hard way. Using his hands to film the experience (watch below) instead of holding the wheel of the car as advised, the driver felt his car veer toward oncoming traffic.


White dwarf “Death Star” found destroying a planet – A report from NASA this week shows a star literally ripping a solar system apart. Evidence was found by Andrew Vanderburg of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and crew on the NASA Kepler K2 mission. It would seem that several rocky objects – some the size of Texas – are in “death spirals” a white dwarf star. Data suggests that the largest object spins around the star extremely quickly, reaching a full rotation once every 4.5 hours.


Enjoy 45 minutes of slow-motion Apollo rocket launches – Step back into the ’60s with a video full of gorgeous slo-mo footage of massive Saturn V rockets carrying Apollo missions into space.


ePint mug glows to celebrate your team’s score – It’s football season, and you’ve probably had your fair share of beer to go alongside it. The ePint mug wants to complement those two things, bringing them together at appropriate celebratory times. The ePint is an Internet of Things beer mug designed with a frosted outer shell and integrated lights. It glows a bright colorful color, has a built-in bottle opener, and lights up when your team scores, among other things.


This Warehouse Lab Shows How We Can Grow Plants Underground – Dan Barasch and James Ramsey, the cofounders of the Lowline, have been working since 2011 to build the world’s first underground park inside an abandoned trolley terminal in New York City’s Lower East Side. The Lowline Lab contains an installation of Ramsey’s innovative solar technology, which funnels sunlight from rooftops in the area into the warehouse at an intensity that is strong enough to support plant life. The lab houses some 3,500 plants, including mosses, ferns, herbs, and even strawberries and a miniature pineapple.


Everything to know about the search for extraterrestrial life at a glance – A new infographic from details some of the highlights in our quest to know whether we’re alone in the universe.

Something to think about:

“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”

–      Muhammad Ali


Farbar Recovery Scan Tool Download: BLEEPINGCOMPUTER REVIEW -Farbar Recovery Scan Tool, or FRST, is a portable application designed to run on Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 in normal or safe mode to diagnose malware issues. It is also possible to run FRST in the Windows Recovery Environment in order to diagnose and fix boot issues.

If you are using Windows XP and have boot issue, the system should boot to the Recovery Environment using a PE Boot CD and then you can run FRST

This program will display detailed information about the Windows Registry loading points, services, driver services, Netsvcs entries, known DLLs, drives, and partition specifications. It will also list some important system files that could be patched by malware.

Note: There are both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Farbar Recovery Scan Tool available. Please pick the version that matches your operating system’s bit type. If you don’t know which version matches your system, you may try both of them. Only one of them will run on your system.

Firewall 3.0 – Firewall extends the default Windows embedded firewall behavior, allowing you to handle outgoing connections, and displaying (almost) real-time information about the current connections.

This enables your firewall protection and will make your Windows Firewall very easy to use, you can reset firewall rules and add rules by clicking shields on the main interface. You can use the buttons as well such as Webcam Monitor etc.

Firewall Features:

Elevates UAC Protection

No PayPal Donations SPAM

Easy To Use 100% FREEWARE

100% Spyware Free

Very Lightweight

Patches embedded Windows Firewall with Security fix

Disable any Webcam Hardware

Added Windows Firewall skin

Icons & Sound Effects plus Taskbar

All Software Bugs fixed Auto Activation – New Feature!

Webcam Driver Immunizer

Windows 10 Pro Full Compatibility

Detects hidden UAC Security risks which can bypass Windows firewall

Web Protection for Firefox

Blocks most Zer0-day exploits such as Webcam access etc.

Sets the firewall to block both inbound and outbound connections

Firewall Monitor

Enables the Windows firewall outbound connections logging (disabled by default)


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Canada: Liberals planning swift overhaul of controversial Anti-terrorism Act, or Bill C-51 – The controversial security bill rammed through Parliament by the Conservative government in the spring is expected to be overhauled without delay by the new Liberal government, say party officials and other sources.

Proposed legislation to add new measures and repeal some existing parts of the law, now known as the Anti-terrorism Act of 2015, or C-51, is already being drafted and is to be tabled early in the new parliamentary session. Consultations with the public and various experts are planned before the replacement legislation is put to a final House vote.

Apple to Feds: Good Luck Breaking Into a Locked iPhone – Accessing data on a locked iPhone running the latest version of iOS would be “impossible,” according to Apple.

Following a U.S. Justice Department request for access to a seized, but locked, iPhone, Cupertino told a judge that the request “would be impossible to perform” on newer devices, Reuters said.

That’s because Apple beefed up security starting with iOS 8, turning encryption on by default. So if a phone running iOS 8 or 9 is locked, even Cupertino can’t get in.

“On devices running iOS 8 and later versions, your personal data is placed under the protection of your passcode,” Apple says on its website. “For all devices running iOS 8 and later versions, Apple will not perform iOS data extractions in response to government search warrants because the files to be extracted are protected by an encryption key that is tied to the user’s passcode, which Apple does not possess.”

“It’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession,” according to Apple.

CISA blowup: ‘Web giants sharing private info isn’t about security – it’s state surveillance’ – There were sharp words on the floor of the US Senate on Wednesday as lawmakers debated the controversial Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) and its amendments.

The bill, proposed by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), would allow internet giants and other companies to share people’s personal information with the US government so it can be analyzed for signs of lawbreaking – be it computer related or not.

In return, the companies would get legal immunity from angry customers, although legal action is unlikely because the businesses and the government don’t have to reveal what they have shared, even with a freedom of information request.

The proposed legislation has been criticized by internet rights groups, and also by technology firms. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and others published an open letter calling for the legislation to be rewritten, and since then Apple,, Yelp, and Wikipedia have joined them in opposing the draft law.

Feinstein said organizations won’t be forced to reveal citizens’ private lives to Uncle Sam: it won’t be mandatory for businesses to hand over people’s private records, she claimed.

“If you don’t like the bill, you don’t have to do it,” Feinstein said.

“So it’s hard for me to understand why we have companies like Apple and Google and Microsoft and others saying they can’t support the bill at this time. You have no reason, because you don’t have to do anything, but there are companies by the hundreds if not thousands that want to participate in this.”

Her colleague Burr said on the floor that he couldn’t understand the opposition to CISA. Businesses against the new law will put their users at risk, he said, because by not sharing people’s personal information, they will not be given intelligence and heads up on attacks from the Feds.

“When the companies who are against this get hacked, they are going to be begging to cooperate with the federal government,” he opined.

Security researchers face wrath of spy agencies – Researchers tasked with revealing attacks by intelligence agencies are being harassed, locked out of tenders, and in some cases deported, Kaspersky researcher Juan Andrés Guerrero-Saade says.

Retaliation by the unnamed agencies is in direct response to news of prominent advanced-persistent threat campaigns that have coloured information security reporting over recent years.

Those reports are forcing researchers to reveal malware attacks by government spy agencies.

Specific details on the harassment is tightly-held, although some may occur in Eastern Europe and Asian nations.

Guerrero-Saade told Vulture South researchers have spoken about their ordeals in private information security circles. Other stories circulate as industry rumour.

“In many places intelligence services tend to be more civilised than in others — you would be lucky to deal with them in the US versus wherever else, Latin America, Asia, or Eastern Europe where they take very different tactics, ” Guerrero-Saade says.

“You can definitely see these threats to livelihood[s] where it can be as simple as patriotic notions … all the way to ‘you have already made it clear where you stand and it’s going to be next to impossible for you to get a security clearance’ and to work in a large sector of countries where a large amount of anti-malware work is being done.

“I think it is easier to imagine situations where blackmail, compromise, and threat of livelihood is an issue, and it has been an issue for certain researchers for obvious reasons aren’t going to speak up.”

WikiLeaks Publishes Dozens of CIA Director’s Alleged Email and AIM Contacts – As promised, the secret-spilling organization led by Julian Assange released more information obtained by the teenage hackers who allegedly broke into the email account of CIA Director John Brennan on Thursday.

The new release consists of two documents, a preface and an executive summary report on the US government’s strategy in Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as a long list of Brennan’s email and AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) contacts.The list has almost two hundred AIM handles, and more than 1,000 email addresses.

On Wednesday, WikiLeaks published a first batch of documents from Brennan’s account, none of them classified. The group, however, also published an unredacted draft of Brennan’s Standard Form 86, a form that every government employee with a security clearance has to fill. The form contains loads of personal data on the applicant, as well as his family. In this case, the form contained Brennan’s social security number, as well as that of some of his family members.

Some have questioned the value of publishing such personal details.


Filed under Free Software Downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – October 21, 2015

AVG reveals Top 10 performance-killing Android apps;  Researchers find 256 iOS apps that collect users’ personal info;  How to back up Gmail to your computer or local drive;  Irish privacy watchdog to investigate Facebook over spying allegations;  Clean out junk files in Windows 7, 8.1, and 10;  7 super-quick Windows 10 tricks you probably didn’t know about;  Hackers sweet talked their way into the CIA director’s email account;  Chrome now lets you mute individual tabs;  5 Reasons to Replace Your Router Right Away;  Dell Black Friday 2015 ad leaks with $149 Windows 10 laptop, $99 desktop deals;  Plan Your Pit Stops on Google Maps;  Facebook now notifies you if you’re the target of a state-sponsored attack;  HTTPS errors: What to do when your PC freaks out;  Halo 5 comes with 9GB day 1 patch;  The Best Tune-Up Utilities for 2015;  Assassin’s Creed Syndicate has two day one patches;  Spybot Anti-Beacon (free);  What you say on Twitter pinpoints how much money you make;  A short, crucial explanation of the USA Patriot Act and USA Freedom Act.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Irish privacy watchdog to investigate Facebook over spying allegations – Ireland’s High Court ordered the data protection commissioner to investigate allegations that Facebook gave US intelligence agencies bulk access to users’ personal data

Hackers sweet talked their way into the CIA director’s email account – The hackers who found their way into CIA Director John Brennan’s personal email account didn’t use sophisticated coding skills. They just wheedled their way past his service providers’ customer service agents to take command of all his accounts. It’s a striking reminder that even high-ranking members of the US government’s intelligence community are only as secure as their weakest safeguards.

Researchers find 256 iOS apps that collect users’ personal info – Researchers said they’ve found more than 250 iOS apps that violate Apple’s App Store privacy policy forbidding the gathering of e-mail addresses, installed apps, serial numbers, and other personally identifying information that can be used to track users. The apps, which at most recent count totaled 256, are significant because they expose a lapse in Apple’s vetting process for admitting titles into its highly curated App Store. They also represent an invasion of privacy to the one million people estimated to have downloaded the apps. The data gathering is so surreptitious that even the individual developers of the affected apps are unlikely to know about it, since the personal information is sent only to the creator of the software development kit used to deliver ads.

AVG reveals Top 10 performance-killing Android apps – Android devices run on a wide gamut of hardware configurations, ranging from the humble “basic” call and text handset to the flagship powerhouse. But despite even the biggest of computing muscle available, Android smartphones and tablets are still beset with performance problems, from using up too much CPU, eating up too much storage space, or draining your battery faster than you can charge. Security firm AVG has just revealed which apps are guilty of those crimes for this year’s second quarter and the results are rather surprising.


How to back up Gmail to your computer or local drive – Over the years, your email collects a lot of important information you don’t want to lose. And that means you may not want to trust it to a big corporation in the cloud.


Chrome now lets you mute individual tabs – Last year, Google updated Chrome to show you which of your tabs was making noise by displaying a small speaker icon. Taking it a step further, the latest version of Chrome (version 46) will let you mute those pesky tabs individually.


Clean out junk files in Windows 7, 8.1, and 10 – Software has a way of accumulating on your Windows machine, and for the sake of security, system performance, and disk space, it’s a good idea to clear out junk files every so often. Sometimes Windows may make you do an in-place upgrade (which happens frequently for members of the Insider program). This means that the operating system is completely re-installed, but you keep your files and installed programs. A side-effect of this process is a lot of leftover files that you may never use again, including an archived copy of the old Windows build that you just upgraded from. If you find yourself doing one of these upgrades, or if you just want to check for stuff you can get rid of, there are a few easy things you can do that don’t require installing special software.

More Quick-Loading ‘Instant Articles’ Coming to Facebook – Get ready for more Facebook Instant Articles in your News Feed. The social network today rolled out the feature more broadly on iOS and said it will arrive on Android later this year. Look for the lightning bolt in the top right corner of stories in your News Feed; these are Instant Articles and should load much faster than links taking you to third-party sites.

Google for Work to woo more businesses with freebie offer – The deal especially puts Microsoft Office 365, ​arguably the biggest threat to Google Apps, in the crosshairs as the war between the two gets more heated.

Plan Your Pit Stops on Google Maps – Heads up, drivers: Google Maps for Android is getting a handy new navigation feature aimed at helping you save time and money. Rolling out over the next few weeks, the feature lets you check out gas prices and add detours to your route without having to exit the navigation screen. When you’re in driving navigation mode and you need to find a gas station or restaurant, just tap the magnifying glass at the top right corner of the screen.

Google Photos Hits 100 Million Monthly Active User Milestone – Google Photos broke free of Google+ in May, and in the five months since, it has amassed 100 million monthly active users, the team shared today. That puts it on par with Snapchat, which was around 100 million the last time it shared numbers. During its hardware event last month, Google shared that 50 billion photos had been uploaded already, which is equally impressive. The idea is that Google wants to store every photo and video you’ve ever taken and let you manage them in an easy way.


Cortana will let you send texts from your Windows 10 PC – Microsoft is unifying its mobile and PC platforms with Windows 10, and now we’re starting to see new features that really take advantage of the new operating system. Microsoft is releasing a new preview of its Windows 10 Mobile software today that allows Cortana to send texts from your PC. If you use a Windows 10 Mobile device then Cortana will notify you of any missed calls, and you can reply straight from your PC. The actual message will be sent as a text from your phone, but this integration means you don’t have to pick up your phone to send messages each time. You can type or speak “text” into Cortana and you can send a text to any contact as you would normally do from your phone.

15 simple, yet powerful Excel functions you need to know – Power users love to talk about how powerful and awesome Excel is, what with its Pivot Tables, nested formulas, and Boolean logic. But many of us barely know how to find the Autosum feature, let alone use Excel’s functions to create powerful formulas. If that’s you, here are 15 handy Excel functions that will get you well on your way to spreadsheet mastery.

FoxType checks your writing for a polite tone – Whenever you write an email or IM to someone you don’t know very well, you want to be as polite as possible. This will help keep the lines of communication open while you get to know their etiquette preferences and sense of humor. To help you out, the Politeness Web tool from FoxType Labs can be used to check the tone of the language you’re using, and point out any trouble areas.  Here’s how:


FoxType Politeness tool. Screenshot by Nicole Cozma/CNET

7 super-quick Windows 10 tricks you probably didn’t know about – You might think you know all the Windows 10 tricks by now, but you’re wrong — partly because Microsoft is continuing to drop new builds (Build 10565 went out to Windows 10 Insiders on Monday), and partly because most of Windows 10’s little tricks haven’t been publicized. Here are several ultra-fast tips that you probably didn’t know about:

Dell Black Friday 2015 ad leaks with $149 Windows 10 laptop, $99 desktop deals – Last year, Dell was the first major tech company to see its Black Friday ad leaked. That was on November 3. This year, Dell is again the first major tech company to see its ad surface online, but the leak has come two weeks earlier than in 2014. With the shopping “holiday” more than a month away, and Halloween still more than a week away, we already have a taste of the type of computer deals yet to come.


HTTPS errors: What to do when your PC freaks out – The other day a curious thing happened to me. I booted up my PC as usual, fired up my browser, and tried to login to Gmail. Instead of looking at my inbox, I saw a warning that my attempt at an HTTPS secure Internet connection had failed. It wasn’t just a single browser or website problem either. Every browser on my system was affected—even the Dropbox and OneDrive desktop utilities wouldn’t connect. Uh-oh! Was I being targeted by bad guys or government snoops? Of course not. This problem is quite common and can usually be fixed with a few simple strategies. If it ever affects you, or is affecting you right now, here’s what to do.

Giphy launches a super simple GIF creator for the web – As a denizen of the internet, I frequently find myself wanting to turn YouTube videos into GIFs, but I’ve never been very good at doing it on my own. Fortunately, the internet’s overwhelming love for GIFs has resulted in the creation of some pretty simple GIF creators, and Giphy is releasing a brand new one this afternoon.


The Best Tune-Up Utilities for 2015 – Computers have changed the way that the world works and plays, so when our machines no longer let us use Word and Netflix with the same speed and efficiency to which we have become accustomed, we often ponder buying new hardware. Fortunately, you can get often that fresh-out-the-box performance without plunking down several hundred dollars, thanks to a relatively inexpensive tool: a PC tune-up utility.


Google encroaches on Microsoft turf with “free” Apps for Work promo – Who can resist the allure of free? Especially when you consider enterprise deployments that ultimately involve hundreds if not thousands of dollars per annum. Knowing too well that line of thinking, Google has cooked up a way to entice businesses away from their pricey Microsoft and IBM enterprise agreements (EA). Google will allow such customers to use Apps for Work for free while they are bidding their time for the EA to run its course, giving users some time to get familiar with the new Google work environment at no extra cost.

5 Reasons to Replace Your Router Right Away – When emails don’t send, websites won’t load, or videos stutter, people are first to point their finger at their Internet provider. If a lengthy call to tech support doesn’t fix things, their poor computer catches the blame next. But in many cases, their wireless router may have been the offending device all along. The best way to fix your ailing wi-fi is to learn the basics of how wireless Internet works, then apply those lessons to your personal setup. But if you’re using an older router, it might be time for an upgrade.


Facebook now notifies you if you’re the target of a state-sponsored attack – Facebook is now issuing warning messages to users if it strongly suspects that an account is being targeted by a hacker working for a nation state. The message (pictured above) also recommends that users turn on “Login Approvals,” which means accounts can only be accessed using stronger two-factor authentication. “These types of attacks tend to be more advanced and dangerous than others,” reads a message from Facebook security chief Alex Stamos. “We strongly encourage affected people to take the actions necessary to secure all of their online accounts.”


F-Secure launches stress test to detect security holes in enterprise networks – F-Secure has launched the Cyber Security Stress Test to assist businesses in organizing their security strategies and finding weak points which can be plugged before cyberattackers have the chance to exploit them. Announced on Monday as part of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, the security firm said the free questionnaire could help “companies and employees learn more about the kinds of weaknesses that can expose them to costly data breaches and other risks.” The 20-page questionnaire is aimed at IT professionals and covers a range of topics including endpoint protection, network security as well as company roles and policies.

Western Digital’s hard drive encryption is useless. Totally useless – The encryption systems used in Western Digital’s portable hard drives are pretty pointless, according to new research. WD’s My Passport boxes automatically encrypt data as it is written to disk and decrypt the data as it is read back to the computer. The devices use 256-bit AES encryption, and can be password-protected: giving the correct password enables the data to be successfully accessed. Now, a trio of infosec folks – Gunnar Alendal, Christian Kison and “modg” – have tried out six models in the WD My Passport family, and found blunders in the software designs.

Support scams that plagued Windows users for years now target Mac customers – For years, scammers claiming that they’re “calling from Windows” have dialed up Microsoft customers and done their best to trick them into parting with their money or installing malicious wares. Now, the swindlers are turning their sights on Mac users. Researchers at antivirus provider Malwarebytes spotted a Web-based campaign that attempts to trick OS X and iOS users into thinking there’s something wrong with their devices. The ruse starts with a pop-up window that’s designed to look like an official OS notification. “Critical Security Warning!” it says. “Your Device (iPad, iPod, iPhone) is infected with a malicious adward [sic] attack.” It goes on to provide a phone number people can call to receive tech support.


With goal of universal HTTPS, Let’s Encrypt reaches important milestone – A nonprofit effort aimed at encrypting the entire Web has reached an important milestone: its HTTPS certificates are now trusted by all major browsers. The service, which is backed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla, Cisco Systems, and Akamai, is known as Let’s Encrypt. As Ars reported last year, the group will offer free HTTPS certificates to anyone who owns a domain name. Let’s Encrypt promises to provide open source tools that automate processes for both applying for and receiving the credential and configuring a website to use it securely.

Privacy watchdogs give EU, US three months to negotiate new Safe Harbor deal – European data protection authorities have given the European Commission and national governments three months to come up with an alternative to the Safe Harbor agreement swept away two weeks ago by a ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Ex-US federal agent to spend over 6 years behind bars for Silk Road Bitcoin theft – As reported by Reuters, ex-agent Carl Bates admitted to charges of extortion, money laundering and the obstruction of justice which has landed him a sentence of six and a half years. Force was accused of secretly soliciting payment during the US government’s investigation of Silk Road. Silk Road, once the premium underground marketplace for the illegal purchase of products including weapons and drugs, was closed down by federal agents in 2013. Ross Ulbricht, the mastermind behind the trading post, was sentenced to life imprisonment in May for operating the website.

Company News:

Yahoo enters deal to display Google search results – Yahoo disclosed the details of a new search deal it’s formed with Google after releasing its third-quarter earnings results today. Under the terms of a new arrangement effective October 1st and lasting until the end of 2018, Google will provide Yahoo with search ads, algorithmic search, and image search services for both desktop and mobile. And according to a regulatory filing, Yahoo will also get to decide which search queries to send to Google and will not have to meet a minimum requirement of queries.

Yahoo Shares Fall On Q3 Profit Miss, Recover Mildly On News Of Google Search Deal – Today following the bell, Yahoo reported its third quarter financial performance. Not discounting traffic acquisition costs (ex-TAC), Yahoo’s revenue for the period totaled $1.23 billion. The company earned $0.15 per share during the quarter, using adjusted metrics (non-GAAP). Yahoo’s aggregate revenue grew 7 percent from $1.15 billion in its year-ago quarter. Discounting for traffic acquisition costs, Yahoo’s revenue fell from $1.09 billion a year ago to $1.00 billion in its most recent quarter.

VMWare Beats Expectations With $1.02 EPS, $1.67B In Revenue – At a time when there are a lot of questions about the company’s future, VMWare beat analyst expectations with $1.02 in non-GAAP earnings per share compared to expectations of $1. The company reported $1.67 billion in revenue, up 14 percent year-over-year, beating expectations of $1.66 billion. The numbers were about in line with what the company reported when the Dell/EMC deal was announced.

Google acquires panoramic imaging startup Digisfera – Digisfera, a company that specializes in panoramic image technology, has been acquired by Google. Digisfera announced the acquisition on its website, and Google has likewise since confirmed that it bought the startup, though it hasn’t disclosed the terms of the acquisition. Says Digisfera, it is “excited” to join Google’s Street View team, hinting at Google’s planned uses for the team.


Tesla shares drop after Consumer Reports raises reliability questions – Issues include squeaks and rattles (something that may be more noticeable thanks to the car’s lack of engine noise) as well as problems with the clever door handles, but more serious problems include electric motors that have to be replaced. Overall, Consumer Reports found reliability was down compared to 2014. Older cars in particular appear to be having the most problems. This was enough to make Consumer Reports remove its coveted recommendation from the Model S, news of which had immediate impact on Tesla’s share price.

Amazon Is Hiring an Insane Number of Workers for the Holidays – Amazon will hire 100,000 workers this holiday season, the Associated Press reports. This is a 25% increase from last year, when the company hired 80,000 new employees for the holidays. Retailers Walmart, Target, and Macy’s are all adding about the same amount of jobs as they did in 2014 — 60,000, 70,000, and 85,000 respectively. Others, including Kohl’s, J.C. Penney, and Toys R Us, are hiring fewer holiday workers.

Jawbone wins injunction in legal battle with rival Fitbit – In latest round between the wearable tech rivals, judge rules that five Fitbit workers must return data they took from their former employer Jawbone.

Games and Entertainment:

Xbox wireless controller adapter for Windows 10 now available for $24.99 – Microsoft first revealed its Xbox wireless adapter for Windows earlier this year, and now the company is releasing it worldwide today. It’s designed primarily for Windows 10 PCs, tablets, and laptops, and it simply lets you use up to eight Xbox One controllers with your machine wirelessly. If you dislike cables then it might be worth the $24.99, but Windows 10 also supports Xbox One controllers using a Micro USB cable. Microsoft also packages the adapter with a new Xbox One controller which features a 3.5mm stereo headset jack in a separate $79.95 bundle. The new wireless adapter is perfect for Windows 10 as Microsoft is allows the bundled Xbox app to stream games from an Xbox One console to your PC or laptop. Microsoft’s Xbox wireless adapter is available today for $24.99.

Halo 5 comes with 9GB day 1 patch – There’s no doubt that Halo 5 is one of the most highly-anticipated titles of the year. If you’re excited about picking it up, popping in the disc, and playing straightaway, though, you’re in for a little disappointment. As is the trend these days, Halo 5 is getting a day 1 patch, and it’s a doosey: according to 343 Studio’s Josh Holmes, you can expect a 9GB download once the game drops. So what’s in the patch? Holmes states that the download includes multiplayer map content. Specifically, for the Arena multiplayer mode and 12v12 Warzone modes.


Assassin’s Creed Syndicate has two day one patches – Assassin’s Creed Syndicate will have two day one patches, but they aren’t anywhere close to as large as rumors say they are. Community manager Gabe Graziani confirmed on Reddit that the upcoming action-adventure game will have two launch patches, together totaling just over 1 GB. We actually have two patches that will be available on Day 1,” he wrote. “The first patch (titled 1.10) will be 541MB, the second (titled 1.11) will be 534MB.” Garziani’s comments came in response to rumors that Syndicate’s launch update would weigh in at a whopping 18 GB. But this won’t be the case. “Not sure where 18 GB came from,” he said. “Neither of the patches you will need to download are anywhere near that big.”


The PS4 finally has an official Twitch app – Given how Twitch has become the go to platform for broadcasting game playthroughs and viewing such, you’d think it would be one of the first things the latest gen PlayStation 4 would have in its roster. While the PS4 did have the basic ability to broadcast and watch PS broadcasts, that was the full extent of Twitch’s presence. Now, owners are finally freed from the shackles of the PS web browser with the new Twitch PS4 app that will allow them to watch any Twitch stream at their convenience.

What’s new at Amazon for November 2015 – A new season of “Vikings,” plus Amazon’s original series “The Man in the High Castle” arrive on Amazon Prime alongside a bunch of other titles. Check out the full list right here.

Off Topic (Sort of):

New York Times giving away Google Cardboard ahead of VR app – Consider this news something we never thought we’d read about in 2015: The New York Times, as in the newspaper, is going to release it own virtual reality app in the coming weeks. The content itself will be made up of documentary-style short films, but in order prepare readers for the new experience, the NY Times will be shipping Google Cardboard to subscribers who have the paper delivered to their homes. The app itself is called NYT VR, and is set to launch on both iOS and Android on November 5th. Over 1 million NY Times print subscribers will receive their free Google Cardboard headset during the weekend of November 7th and 8th.

This new Star Wars: The Force Awakens poster captures grand galactic decay – If you managed to snag tickets to a Sunday AMC IMAX 3D screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens last night, you’re going to be rewarded for your diligence with a poster that transcends convention. The theater chain is giving specific groups of customers Star Wars prints designed by British illustrator Dan Mumford, and it revealed the first print of four on Twitter this afternoon. It’s a gorgeous, distinctive piece of work, one that suggests just how much the galaxy has changed in the years between The Force Awakens and the other films in the series. Daisy Ridley’s Rey and adorable droid-ball BB-8 gaze out at a grand, ruined ship embedded in the sand, cast in red and orange light.


(AMC Theaters / Dan Mumford)

New Indian tech could help rural communities bridge digital divide – The Pruthvi chip, made by Bangalore-based Saankhya labs, can make use of unused TV bandwidth to provide long-range Internet access to rural areas.

What you say on Twitter pinpoints how much money you make – Scientists analysed almost 11 million tweets from different job titles across Twitter. They analysed Twitter users with jobs such as factory cleaners and packers, earning approximately $27,679 per year, through to production managers and directors earning over $78,000 per year. The scientists mapped Twitter users to their income based on their use of certain types of language. Users perceived as ‘religiously unaffiliated and less anxious’ appeared to have higher earnings. These higher income users were found to have “significantly more followers” and get retweeted more often.

Something to think about:

“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, however, if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

–      Maya Angelou


Spybot Anti-Beacon  – Spybot Anti-Beacon is a standalone tool which was designed to block and stop the various tracking (telemetry) issues present in Windows 10. It has since been modified to block similar tracking functionality in Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 operating systems.

Anti-Beacon is small, simple to use, and is provided free of charge. It was created to address the privacy concerns of users of Windows 10 who do not wish to have information about their PC usage sent to Microsoft. Simply clicking “Immunize” on the main screen of Anti-Beacon will immediately disable any known tracking features included by Microsoft in the operating system.

If any issues occur with your PC while using Anti-Beacon, undoing the changes made can be done by clicking the “Undo” button in the main window. This will re-enable all tracking services. If you experience any issues using Anti-Beacon or have any suggestions/recommendations, please be sure to let us know on the forum thread relating to this tool.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

CISA Sponsors Hope to Pass Controversial Anti-Hacking Bill ‘In a Matter of Days’ – The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, the most important and sweeping cybersecurity bill ever considered by Congress, was introduced on the Senate floor Tuesday and will move forward, with a vote expected sometime later this week.

We posted a brief rundown of CISA here (and have covered the bill in depth over the course of the last year), but essentially it encourages private companies to share “cyber threat” information with the federal government. The information can be passed to local and federal law enforcement, and can be funneled to the National Security Administration “in real time,” according to the bill’s language. Companies that participate would have liability protections, meaning that if they pass information to the government they aren’t supposed to, you cannot sue them.

“Sharing information about cybersecurity threats is clearly a worthy goal and I would like to find ways to encourage more of that responsibly,” Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, one of the few outspoken critics of the bill, said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “Yet if you share more information without strong privacy protections, millions of Americans will say ‘That is not a cybersecurity bill, it is a surveillance bill.'”

Canada: ‘We’re back,’ Trudeau tells allies abroad – Justin Trudeau, fresh off confidently guiding his Liberal party to a convincing election win, delivered a message Tuesday to those who may have felt the country has lost its way after a decade of Conservative rule.

“Many of you have worried that Canada has lost its compassionate and constructive voice in the world over the past 10 years,” Trudeau told a boisterous rally in Ottawa.

“Well, I have a simple message for you: on behalf of 35 million Canadians, we’re back.”

Both at home and abroad, Trudeau faces several pressing priorities and a raft of longer-term promises.

The immediate issues for the prime minister-designate include a major international conference on climate change, a military mission in the Middle East he has pledged to end and the still-churning refugee crisis enveloping Europe.

On the horizon domestically loom keystone promises from his party’s successful campaign: lower taxes for the middle class, the legalization of marijuana, and a slate of democratic reforms including a new electoral system to replace the venerable first-past-the-post regime under which he swept to power.

Tech-Backed Bill Expanding Privacy Rights To EU Citizens Sails Through House – Tech companies today are celebrating the passage of a bill in the House of Representatives that will expand privacy rights to non-U.S. citizens.

The bill, known as the Judicial Redress Act, sailed through the House on a bipartisan, voice vote. If passed by the Senate, the measure will expand some of the privacy rights enjoyed by American records to citizens in allied nations, mostly in the European Union.

The Judicial Redress Act would allow EU citizens to seek records certain government agencies have on them and, as its name implies, seek redress if those companies misuse that information. American citizens already have these rights in all countries where citizens would gain new protections under this bill.

U.S. law provides little privacy rights for non-citizens, and the landmark vote comes under heavy pressure from the EU. The European Court of Justice recently struck down the 2000 “Safe Harbor” agreement that has allowed  companies like Facebook to use personal data from EU citizens. If Congress does not pass this bill, the EU will not pass a new safe harbor agreement and it will be increasingly difficult for American tech companies to operate in those countries.

The vote comes as tech companies face criticism abroad for their compliance with American surveillance agencies. In the wake of the disclosures about the NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the companies have increasingly pressed lawmakers to pass substantial reform to surveillance.

“Today, the House took one small step toward repairing America’s tarnished image on data privacy,” said Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom. “Since the Snowden disclosures, our government’s inaction on surveillance reform has provoked an international crisis — one that could lead to a European blockade of American Internet companies.”

In Hacking Team’s wake, FinFisher spyware rises in popularity with government users – The notorious FinFisher spyware is rising in popularity with government agencies across the world and 32 countries have been identified as users.

FinFisher is a sophisticated spyware suite sold exclusively to government agencies and police forces. The user-friendly software is able to remotely control any computer it infects, copy files, intercept Skype calls and log keystrokes, among other functions.

Developed by Munich-based FinFisher Gamma Group, the software is touted as a way to “help government law enforcement and intelligence agencies identify, locate and convict serious criminals.”

However, a data breach which took place in August last year placed scrutiny on the secretive firm’s business practices and clients. Stolen files placed on the web suggested FinFisher was being used for activities beyond tracking criminals — such as spying upon high-profile Bahraini activists. It is believed that dissidents, law firms, journalists and political opposition in Bahrain and from Ethiopia have also been monitored through FinFisher.

Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary laboratory based at the University of Toronto, is well-known for research into global security and human rights issues. In a fresh investigation tracking users of the spyware suite, Citizen Lab said 32 countries contain at least one government entity who is “likely” using FinFisher.

A short, crucial explanation of the USA Patriot Act and USA Freedom Act – A little over a month after the events of September 11th, 2001, an Act of Congress called the USA Patriot Act was signed into law by then President George W. Bush. Despite its controversial expansion of government power pertaining to domestic surveillance, law enforcement, and border security, President Obama signed an extension of what were key provisions in 2001. That extension expired this past summer, but parts of the extension were renewed for another four years under a new name, the USA Freedom Act.

Arguments for the continuation of the Patriot Act typically pivot on the belief that citizens who aren’t committing crimes have nothing to fear, but the role and impact of national government surveillance is more complex. With the USA Freedom Act in its first year, I invited The Verge’s Colin Lecher to explain the original law, how it has evolved, and in what ways it could effect the average person, like you and me.


Filed under Free Software Downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – October 19, 2015

9 reasons why users still struggle with online security;  Five portable antivirus and antimalware tools to carry with you at all times;  10 (mostly free) must-have Windows 10 apps for power users;  13 phone behaviors that are totally inappropriate in the workplace;  11 Reasons to Stop Looking at Your Phone;  Turning a crappy old Windows PC into a full-fledged Chromebook;  How to disable Windows 10 Start menu ads;  20 New Ways Facebook Is Eating The Internet;  Google removes Chrome’s instant voice search;  How to build a PC: A step-by-step, comprehensive guide;  Get the Android Marshmallow Quick Start Guide free;  Flash’s latest critical vulnerability has been patched;  Malicious adware’s latest trick is replacing your whole browser;  Court rules Uber’s app legal in London;  Court rules that Google book scanning is fair use;  Online ad industry, battling ad blockers, admits it messed up;  Alan Turing: The man behind the myth;  5 Thought Experiments That Will Melt Your Brain;  CyberLink PhotoDirector 5 (free).

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

9 reasons why users still struggle with online security – When it comes to online security, experts and users don’t always agree on the most effective ways to stay safe, according to a new report from Google. The company surveyed 294 users and 231 security experts (participants who worked five or more years in computer security) to better understand the differences and why they exist. Here’s what they found.

Five portable antivirus and antimalware tools to carry with you at all times – Let’s face it: One of the primary Windows admin tasks is keeping machines free of infection. It’s inevitable. End users will open files, install cutesy apps, and go to sites they shouldn’t go to. When they do these things, their machines get infected. When their machines get infected, you could wind up fighting a losing battle—unless you have the right tools. But sometimes the antivirus tools installed on the machine just aren’t enough. When that time comes, you’ll be glad you have one (or more) tools on your USB drive to help you out. I’ve found five such tools that could certainly get you out of a serious pinch. All these tools are portable and work like champs.

13 phone behaviors that are totally inappropriate in the workplace – You might work in a casual, trendy, millennial-laden office where hoodies and Birkenstocks are the definition of business casual, but that doesn’t mean you should add your boss on Snapchat. Even the “cool” offices have to decide who (and who not) to promote, so you can be sure somebody is taking note of how often you text during meetings. Here are 13 breaches of smartphone workplace etiquette that could end up costing you your job:

10 (mostly free) must-have Windows 10 apps for power users – Apps not only make using your Windows 10 device easier by giving you better ways to do the things you want to do, they can also make the experience a lot more fun. While there are plenty of built-in apps on Windows 10 devices, there’s a whole host of free or almost-fee apps that are guaranteed to make you more productive. These essentials tools will allow you to work with, share and annotate documents; back up your important data; organize and personalize your desktop; work with photos and text, and socialize and stay in touch with coworkers, friends and family.


How to disable Windows 10 Start menu ads – The latest “Fast Ring” Windows 10 build features ads in the Start menu. If you’re not into such things polluting your Start menu, here’s how you can make them go away.

If you forget your Windows admin password, try this – That Windows admin password is pretty important. If you lose track of it, though, all is not lost. You just have to wiggle in through the virtual back door.

Turning a crappy old Windows PC into a full-fledged Chromebook with CloudReady – CloudReady is a fork, of sorts, of Chromium OS, the open source code that Chrome OS is based on, and it promises to turn old PC hardware into nearly fully functional Chromebooks, complete with the features of Chrome OS’ management console. It’s not the first distribution of Chromium OS aimed at regular old PC hardware, but it certainly appears to be the best supported, and it’s actually being tested against hardware that real schools and businesses buy. Cloudready is primarily aimed at those schools and businesses, but, as of earlier this month, individuals can take it for a spin for free. We installed it on an old Dell Latitude E6410 to see what it was like and to talk about what a real Chromebook gives you that CloudReady doesn’t.


Dell’s old Latitude E6410 becomes a modern Chromebook. Andrew Cunningham

How to build a PC: A step-by-step, comprehensive guide – Want to build a huge, hulking full tower PC with unrivaled top-of-the-line hardware? Go for it! (If you can convince your significant other to OK the expense, that is.) Or maybe you prefer a smaller PC you can tuck under your desk or next to your home entertainment center? That’s possible too, and you can customize your itty-bitty rig with no-compromise components or aim for a more affordable small-form-factor system that’s still capable of playing games just fine. When you’re building your own PC, the choice is yours.


The raw components may look like a mess, but turning them into a neat, clean build doesn’t take much extra time at all.

11 Reasons to Stop Looking at Your Phone – The science is in. Spending too much time staring down at your phone can inflict very real physical, social, and intellectual damage.

Get the Android Marshmallow Quick Start Guide free from the Play Store – Google just published its Quick Start Guide, a free eBook that anyone can grab from Google Play. The 62-page guide details the new features in Marshmallow, such as Google Now On Tap. It also has standard advice about how to connect your Google services, share content, and the latest accessibility features. You’ll need to have the Google Play Books app to read it on your phone or tablet.

20 New Ways Facebook Is Eating The Internet – Facebook never, ever, ever wants you to leave. That’s why it’s replicating features from other apps and pulling content like videos and news articles inside its app. The more time you spend on Facebook, the more it accomplishes its “open and connected” mission, and the more money it makes by showing you ads. Here’s 20 new ways it’s assimilating the Internet, in GIFs and photos.

Not always listening: Google removes Chrome’s instant voice search – One of the most useful hands free features in Google’s Chrome browser is gone: You’ll have to hit a button to do an “OK Google” voice search.

Facebook fixing the app that drains your iPhone’s battery – Assuming you’re an iPhone user who uses Facebook, chances are you’ve had some relatively sizable battery drain going on. The app has been discovered to be a large drain on iPhone users’ batteries, particularly those that are using iOS 9 as of this month. Reports from several sources suggest that Facebook’s app isn’t becoming inactive properly, thereby continuing to drain the device of power as it would when called upon to be active as normal. According to Facebook, this battery drain problem should be resolved soon.

iPhone 6S, 6S Plus land in fast-growing India market – Apple’s new iPhones will now battle for consumers in the world’s fastest-growing smartphone region. Starting Friday, the iPhone 6S is available in India with a starting price of 62,000 rupees ($955). The iPhone 6S Plus starts at 72,000 rupees ($1,109). The new iPhones kicked off with a midnight sale at an Apple Store in Mumbai. A late Thursday tweet by Apple CEO Tim Cook thanked “all our customers in India who queued at midnight for the new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus!”


Malicious adware’s latest trick is replacing your whole browser – On Friday, infosec celebrity Swift on Security pointed out a new piece of adware called the “eFast Browser.” It does the kind of malicious crap that we’ve all seen quite often over the years: throwing pop-up and pop-under ads on your screen, putting other ads into your web pages, pushing you towards other websites with more malware, and (of course) tracking your movements on the web so that nefarious marketers can send more crap your way. But what’s nefariously intriguing about this software is that it isn’t trying to hijack your current browser, it’s straight-up replacing it. According to PCrisk, eFast and its ilk try to get on your computer by burrowing themselves into the installers for free software from dubious sources on the web. It should be relatively easy to avoid installing it and, fortunately, should also be relatively easy to uninstall if you’ve found it on your computer.

Report: Dow Jones suffered second, more serious hack – On October 9, Dow Jones revealed that it had been hacked and data belonging to about 3500 customers had been compromised as a result. According to a new report, a Russian hacking collective has breached Dow Jones in what appears to be a separate attack; the information comes from unnamed sources “familiar with the matter.” The hackers’ intent was to steal data for trading purposes, according to the sources. Three federal agencies are reportedly investigating the matter.

Flash’s latest critical vulnerability has been patched – Yesterday, Adobe issued a new security bulletin warning of a new vulnerability in Flash, this one affecting the latest version of the plugin. The vulnerability left Flash open to exploits through which hackers could gain access to a machine, or that could cause the computer to crash. As with some other recent Flash vulnerabilities, the issue affected Linux, Windows, and Mac users, spreading the risk all around.

Company News:

Appeals court rules that Google book scanning is fair use – It’s legal to scan books—even if you don’t own the copyright—the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit held today. The Authors’ Guild sued Google, saying that serving up search results from scanned books infringes on publishers’ copyrights, even though the search giant shows only restricted snippets of the work. The authors’ group said that Google’s book search isn’t transformative, that the snippets provide an illegal free substitute for their work, and that Google Books infringes their “derivative rights” in revenue they could gain from a “licensed search” market.

Court rules Uber’s app legal in London – London’s High Court ruled Friday that Uber’s app is not a fare meter and therefore does not break the law, a significant victory for the ride-hailing service facing legal challenges around the globe. Uber has long argued its GPS-reliant app isn’t the same thing as a “taximeter” that black cabs use to dictate the cost of a journey based on distance and wait time. Only licensed black cab and minicab drivers are permitted to use the meters to calculate fares in Britain’s capital.

University of Wisconsin-Madison wins $234 million from Apple in patent suit – A jury has decided that Apple must pay the University of Wisconsin-Madison $234 million for infringing one of its patents, Reuters reports. The final figure is much lower than the maximum damages set for the trial, and also lower than the $400 million the university had asked for, but it’s still one of the largest sums Apple has been ordered to pay in a patent trial. Apple is a big target for patent lawsuits, but cases are volatile and can drag on for many years through appeals. Earlier this year, for example, Apple lost a $532.9 million judgement to a patent licensing company, but the award was later voided. Even when Apple wins, its awards are not guaranteed. The company’s high-profile case against Samsung still isn’t over; in May, a federal court downsized Apple’s $930 million victory.

Steve Ballmer says he’s made investment in Twitter – The former Microsoft CEO opens a new, verified Twitter account and reveals he’s acquired a 4 percent ownership stake in the microblogging company. This would make him the third biggest investor in Twitter, with a greater stake than new Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who owns around 3 percent. The San Francisco-based microblogging company’s biggest shareholder is co-founder Evan Williams, who owns around 6.8 percent.

Tinder Owner Match Group Files To Go Public – Match Group, a spinoff of IAC that owns properties like Tinder and OKCupid, has filed to go public. The Dallas-based company is reporting trailing twelve months revenue of $1 billion ending June 30 this year, and revenue of $483.9 million for the first half of 2015. It had net earnings of $49 million in the first half of 2015, and trailing 12 month net earnings of $177.5 million. In 2014, it generated $888.3 million in revenue and $148.4 million in net earnings — so the company isn’t necessarily growing that quickly. The company says it has 59 million monthly active users, and about 4.7 million paid members, using its dating products as of the end of the third quarter this year.

Adobe to undo Lightroom change after customer wrath – It’s rare for major software companies to perform such abrupt U-turns, but Adobe decided to heed the advice of customers who didn’t like a significant new alteration.

Games and Entertainment:

Watch: Live-Action Fallout 4 Trailer – In preparation for next month’s launch of Fallout 4, Bethesda has released a live-action game trailer. With elements of the original computer-animated preview released in June, the new clip features a real Pip-Boy (personal information processor) wearing a Vault 111 jumpsuit, and his German Shepherd sidekick. In a post-apocalyptic world darkened by nuclear war, the pair wander a ravaged Boston, where survivors face angry zombies, armored soldiers, and the occasional android.


‘Minecraft: Story Mode’ Arrives on iOS, Android – Episode One of the new adventure game, dubbed The Order of the Stone, is now available for all platforms except Wii U. That includes PC, Mac, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Android, and iOS. Mojang says the Wii U version is coming at some point “later on.” Set in the world of Minecraft, Story Mode “is like a playable television show based on your favorite game, where YOU are the star, and your choices and actions decide how the story is told,” according to the game’s description.


Yoshi’s Woolly World reviewed: A warm, woolly platforming hug – Don’t let the cutesy visuals deceive you: Yoshi’s Woolly World is as challenging a platformer as anything to have come from Nintendo. This is a game that unashamedly plays on nostalgia, almost tricking you into thinking that maybe, just maybe, there’s not a lot new to see or do within its delightfully bright and fluffy world. And sure, some occasionally obtuse level design and frustrating checkpoints mean that it doesn’t quite reach the glorious heights of its genre-defining forebears. But even with its problems, Yoshi’s Woolly World is so cute, and so mechanically refined—in that way only Nintendo platformers can be—that it’s so very hard not to be taken in by its charms.


Tales from the Borderlands: Finale shown off in trailer – In a trailer released today, Telltale Games showed off Tales from the Borderlands – Finale: The Vault of the Traveler, the final installment of its game series. The game won’t be arriving for download until October 20, at which point it will drop for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3, Mac OS X, and PC. The next day, October 21, it will be released for the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One. Finally, on October 22, the game will be released for Android and iOS, covering the gamut of gaming devices.


Revisiting ‘Pirates of Silicon Valley’, the original Steve Jobs movie – This 1999 TV movie about the rivalry between Apple and Microsoft starred Noah Wyle as Jobs and Anthony Michael Hall as a calculating Bill Gates. Does it hold up today?


Noah Wyle is an uncanny Steve Jobs (left) and Anthony Michael Hall is a steely Bill Gates in 1999’s “Pirates of Silicon Valley”. Turner Network Television.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Online ad industry, battling ad blockers, admits it messed up – After years of stuffing Web pages with ads, Web surfers are increasingly blocking them with free tools. The Internet Advertising Bureau is calling for better practices to stop alienating Web users. From one perspective, it could be argued that the online advertising industry is getting what it deserves. After years of having Web pages stuffed with ads, surfers are increasingly blocking them with free tools. The other perspective is that ads, like them or not, pay people to create content, which other people like on the Web. Since finding paying subscribers is hard, ads are a key source of online revenue for publishers. In a frank post on Thursday, a senior executive of the largest online advertising trade group admitted that the surge in online ads over the years—and the accompanying performance issues—have alienated many.

Amazing shot of pollen-covered honeybee eye wins Nikon competition – The Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition lets us see the world up close. This year’s winner turned his lens on the eye of a honeybee.


US government will reportedly require all drone purchases to be registered – The US government plans to make it a mandatory requirement that all drone purchases, including those made by consumers, be formally registered. NBC News reports that the Department of Transportation will announce the new plan on Monday, with hopes to have this drone registry implemented by the holidays, when drones will likely prove a popular gift. The Obama administration and DoT have yet to announce any such press conference for Monday.

Scoot Unleashes New Four-Wheeler Quad Cars On San Francisco Streets – Scoot, the San Francisco-based electric scooter ride share network, has teamed up with Nissan to create a four-wheeled two-seater enclosed vehicle onto the streets of San Francisco. Starting today, Scoot members have the option to rent one of these adorable little cars to get them anywhere in the 7×7. Known as the Scoot Quad, this is an all-electric vehicle that you can turn on with the push of your smartphone. Just 10 of these little vehicles are ready to hit the road – a paltry amount compared to the 400 some odd scooters in the network.


Usher releases an interactive video on Tidal targeting police brutality – In an effort to show the stark realities of police brutality, Usher has created a visual experience called “Don’t Look Away” that details multiple high-profile incidents of police abuse against minorities in recent years. Centered around Usher’s new single “Chains” featuring Nas and Bibi Bourelly, the video uses your webcam to automatically stop playing if you look away or switch tabs that show the details of the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, and others.


This cheap camera can see details the naked eye can’t – A team of researchers from both the University of Washington and Microsoft Research have managed to build a camera capable of hyperspectral imaging, or photography that can capture parts of the electromagnetic spectrum that humans can’t see with the naked eye, such as near-infrared light. This kind of technology isn’t new, but to find it in a camera means it’s going to be very, very expensive. But the researchers have managed to build it as a smartphone accessory that costs no more than $50.


Alan Turing: The man behind the myth – The nephew of Second World War codebreaker and father of computer science Alan Turing on what he discovered about his uncle when writing a new biography.

5 Thought Experiments That Will Melt Your Brain – Thought experiments help scientists find which questions they should be asking, even if they don’t yet have the tools to answer them. Many thought experiments delve into things like advanced physics principals (Schrödinger’s famous cat, for example), but there are also several which don’t require a PhD. Here are five mostly math-free thought experiments to melt your brain just a little (some of which science has caught up with, some of which still prompt debate). They may be fun to opine on, but keep in mind that these bits of rhetorical whimsy may have very real ramifications should science ever catch up.

Something to think about:

“A human being has a natural desire to have more of a good thing than he needs.”

–    Mark Twain


CyberLink PhotoDirector 5 – PhotoDirector 5 is a unique photo editor that provides a streamlined photography workflow – efficient photo management, complete adjustment and creative editing tools, PhotoDirector lets you adjust your images in a non-destructive environment and provides all you need to turn your RAW images to works of art.

Photo Editing Redefined: PhotoDirector is the only modern photo editor that delivers editing, collection management and high-quality adjustments, fast import and export, HighDPI support, 2K and 4K video slideshows


Manage Photos with Ease: Rich 16-bit color depth and faster decoding of RAW files, intelligent tagging, Auto-stack groups of shots, 64-bit display technology

Pro-Quality Adjustments: Adjust white balance, tone, curves, levels, hue, saturation and sharpness and more, use a brush, selection tool or gradient masks for regional adjustments

Creative Photo Editing: Get the perfect look with tools to smooth skin, whiten teeth and brighten eyes, take off extra pounds with the Body Shaper, remove unwanted people or objects from your photos with Content-Aware removal

The Most Creative Way to Manage, Adjust and Edit Photos in One Intuitive Application

PhotoDirector is a unique application that combines all the features you need for photography in a single workflow – efficient photo management, complete adjustment and creative editing. With native 64-bit support, PhotoDirector enhances your photos in a non-destructive process, and RAW support for popular DSLRs and 4K Ultra output, PhotoDirector is all you need to turn your photos into works of art.

Intuitive and easy to use for Windows, Mac and Tablet

PhotoDirector presents a simple UI design that beginners to advanced users will enjoy. NEW HighDPI support for PC and Mac version ensures PhotoDirector looks great on today’s new high resolution monitors. The FREE PhotoDirector Mobile companion app lets you snap photos everywhere & edit anytime on Windows 8 tablets.

Nondestructive Editing Environment

PhotoDirector provides a nondestructive editing environment for you to experiment without the fear of damaging the original image. All adjustments that you make are actually simulations, so the original image is completely preserved.

In this time limited offer, this free application is available through

From the site: is your software discount provider. You will find the best deals at the lowest prices. We feature top rated products on a regular basis as well as software giveaways.

By downloading this software you will be automatically registered to our free newsletter, you can unsubscribe at any time.

There’s a bit of a process involved – all leading to this.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

How Much of Your Data Is Microsoft Sharing With the Feds? – What type of data is Microsoft handing over—or refusing to hand over—to law enforcement and the feds? Check it out for yourself on Redmond’s new Transparency Hub.

There you’ll find law enforcement requests, national security orders, and content removal demands; it currently has data covering the first six months of 2015.

Based on its analysis, the company said little has changed in the number of requests for customer data since the second half of last year: The total number of law enforcement requests grew from 31,002 to 35,228. But only 3 percent of those resulted in the disclosure of content.

“Microsoft does not disclose customer content without a court order or warrant,” the tech titan said, adding that the volume of requests rejected for not meeting legal requirements doubled to 4,383.

For the first time, Microsoft is publishing its content removal requests—most of which involve the removal of links from its Bing search engine.


Germany will make telcos share customer data with the police – Even as the European Union attempts to tighten privacy laws, law-enforcement interests have won a battle in Germany: A new law forces communications service providers there to once again make data about their customers’ communications available to police.

On Friday morning, the German parliament approved a law requiring ISPs and mobile and fixed telecommunications operators to retain communications metadata for up to ten weeks.

The country has had an on-again, off-again affair with telecommunications data retention, first introducing a law requiring it in 2008 to comply with a European Union directive.

The German Federal Constitutional Court overturned that law in March 2010 after finding it conflicted with Germany’s privacy laws, prompting the European Commission to take the country to court in May 2012 to enforce the directive.

Google, Facebook and peers criticize CISA bill ahead of Senate consideration – A trade group representing Facebook, Google, Yahoo and other tech and communications companies has come down heavily against the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015, a controversial bill in the U.S. that is intended to encourage businesses to share information about cyberthreats with the government.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association claims that the mechanism CISA prescribes for the sharing of cyberthreat information does not adequately protect users’ privacy or put an appropriate limit on the permissible uses of information shared with the government.

The bill, in addition, “authorizes entities to employ network defense measures that might cause collateral harm to the systems of innocent third parties,” the CCIA said in a blog post Thursday.

CISA, which would give businesses immunity from customer lawsuits when they share cyberthreat data with the government, is due for consideration by the U.S. Senate in the coming weeks.

Critics of the bill are concerned that the provisions of the bill could be used by companies to hand over customers’ personal data to government intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency. Cyberthreat information-sharing may not have prevented several recent attacks on government agencies, according to experts.

A personal note:

If you are a Canadian, like me, please get out and vote today in the most important election in generations. It’s time to put a stop to the “Lost Decade” forced on this country by the criminal gang who refer to themselves as the Harper Government.


Filed under Free Software Downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – October 16, 2015

10 tips for spotting a phishing email;  How to set up Google’s Chrome browser the right way;  New free movies available in November;  Skype Now Lets Anyone Join A Chat Even If They Don’t Have An Account;  5 Tech Tips To Keep Your Digital Identity Safe While Traveling;  Five tools for working with text files;  5 Steps to Charge Your iPhone Faster;  Yahoo updates email apps with third-party account support, no passwords;  Amazon Trade-In: Fair value for your iPhone or scam?  Hands on with Paper, Dropbox’s answer to Google Docs;  Why do websites take so long to load?Microsoft will pay $200 for your old laptop, or $300 if it’s a MacBook;  New zero-day exploit hits fully patched Adobe Flash;  JetBlue adds free Wi-Fi, says it can handle streaming video;  Blizzard’s Overwatch Beta Begins Oct. 27;  Radio wave gun zaps drones out of the sky – and it’s perfectly legal;  Avast Free Mobile Security;  Cybercrime bazaars: What’s for sale in the online underworld?  Acer’s first Windows 10 smartphone ships with a keyboard and mouse.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

10 tips for spotting a phishing email – Every day countless phishing emails are sent to unsuspecting victims all over the world. While some of these messages are so outlandish that they are obvious frauds, others can be a bit more convincing. So how do you tell the difference between a phishing message and a legitimate message? Unfortunately, there is no one single technique that works in every situation, but there are a number of things that you can look for. This article lists 10 of them.

Skype Now Lets Anyone Join A Chat Even If They Don’t Have An Account – Microsoft announced today, detailing a new feature that will allow users to invite anyone – even those who don’t have a Skype account – to use the service via the Skype for Web interface. Invitees won’t have to create an account or download an app, but can instead join a chat as a guest simply by clicking a link. As a part of this rollout, Skype is introducing unique links that can be used to invite others to chats. The links can be shared however you choose – in email, via apps like Facebook, Messenger, Twitter or WhatsApp, or anywhere else that makes sense. In the case of those without Skype accounts, they’ll be able to sign in to a chat as a guest by typing in their name then clicking “Join.”


5 Gmail helpers that make your inbox more productive – The best intentions for a productive workday are usually derailed by email. The pervasiveness of the problem has even prompted some nations to call it an “epidemic.” But it email doesn’t have to be the enemy. With Gmail’s built-in features and some assistance from third-party tools, you can not only get your workflow back on track but transform your inbox into a productivity powerhouse. Here are five you should start using with your Gmail account immediately.

5 Steps to Charge Your iPhone Faster – Constantly tethered to a wall, trying to give your iPhone extra juice? Here are some tricks that will speed up the charging process.

Amazon Trade-In: Fair value for your iPhone or scam? – I mailed in a mint condition iPhone 6 for Amazon credit only to see the value degraded by the online retail giant. And it’s happened more than once and with increasing frequency.

Acer’s first Windows 10 smartphone ships with a keyboard and mouse – Open the box for just about any smartphone on the market, and you’ll generally find a charger, a charging cable, some reading material, and maybe a set of earbuds. Acer’s Jade Primo, on the other hand, comes with a keyboard and mouse. A full-sized keyboard and mouse, just like the ones you’d receive in the box with one of Acer’s Revo or Aspire desktop computers. Why would they bother including PC accessories with a smartphone? Because the Jade Primo runs Windows 10, and it’s powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor that can handle that slick Continuum feature we’ve told you about before.


Five tools for working with text files – Although text files are undoubtedly useful, they are somewhat limited when it comes to function. Thankfully, a number of utilities can convert, edit, or manipulate them. This article lists five such tools.

How to set up Google’s Chrome browser the right way – Google Chrome is one of the most popular browsers in the world, second only to Internet Explorer by most measures. Why? Lay credit at the feet of Chrome’s vibrant extension catalog, popular app platform, and deep integration with Google services. It’s a fantastic browser, but just as with Firefox there’s an ideal way to get the most out of Chrome. Here’s how to set up Chrome the right way.

Yahoo updates email apps with third-party account support, no passwords – Yahoo has just announced a big update to its email apps on all platforms, including desktop, iOS and Android. Among the changes are a refreshed user interface, the ability to use multiple email accounts, including non-Yahoo services, brand new mobile apps, and the elimination of passwords for more secure sign-ins. The new iOS and Android apps are rolling out globally to their respective app marketplaces, and Yahoo says today’s changes are about making email easier and faster to use.


Online ad industry, battling ad blockers, admits it messed up – From one perspective, it could be argued that the online advertising industry is getting what it deserves. After years of stuffing Web pages with ads, Web surfers are increasingly blocking them with free tools.

Hands on with Paper, Dropbox’s answer to Google Docs – Today Dropbox took the wraps off of Paper, its new collaborative editing software. It builds on the company’s acquisition of Hackpad, which led to the introduction earlier this year of a beta product it then called Notes. After we wrote about Paper earlier today, a person with early access to the web app invited us into the beta. We’ve spent the past few hours making documents, adding comments, and trolling each other with animated stickers, and have some early thoughts to share.


Microsoft will pay $200 for your old laptop, or $300 if it’s a MacBook – Microsoft has launched a promotion called Easy Trade Up designed to get people to switch to new Windows 10 machines. If you buy a qualifying computer from the Microsoft Store for over $599 until October 20th, the company will give you a rebate after you send in your old laptop or all-in-one — you’ll get $200 for a Windows computer, and $300 for a MacBook. Your trade-in computer has to be under six years old and in working order with a minimum display size of 11.6 inches. The offer is running in the US, UK, Canada, India, Brazil, France, Germany, and Taiwan.

There’s a new Popcorn Time-like free music streaming site, and RIAA sues – That didn’t take long. The Recording Industry Association of America is suing a new music piracy site for the truly lazy only days after its debut. Aurous is a Popcorn Time-like player that allows pirates to stream from an overseas library of pirated music. Popcorn Time, on the other hand, performs a similar service for movie pirates—and its users are in the crosshairs of the movie industry. The recording industry is asking (PDF) a federal judge to shutter the Aurous service.


Why do websites take so long to load? – There are a few obvious reasons why a page might be slow to load. It could be graphics-heavy or bogged down with animation, auto-loading videos, or other bells and whistles. Ads, particularly those of the auto-play video variety, can slow down load time considerably. Or hey, it might even be a problem with your internet connection. But there’s a hidden issue that may be causing delays. The JavaScript code might be outdated, unnecessarily bulky, or even gaming the analytics.

Live GIF Turns iPhone 6s Live Photos Into Shareable GIFs – It was only a matter of time — and frankly not that much time — before a developer stepped in to make it super simple for iPhone 6s/6s Plus users to spread their Live Photos all over the Internets as animated GIFs. After all, what’s the point of having clips of your cat/kid doing cute stuff if they’re mostly languishing on your camera roll, rather than helping populate Giphy et al? Live Photos, for those in need of a quick primer, is a photo feature specific to Apple’s latest smartphones which let users snap a picture and simultaneously record a short video clip.

These jailbreak hacks will make your iPhone 6 more like an iPhone 6S – If you want the iPhone 6S’s new features but aren’t buying the new phone, you’re kind of in luck: a jailbreak was released for iOS 9 this week, and some of the first hacks for it bring 3D Touch and Live Photos to all iPhones.

California launches site to help victims of revenge porn – California is ramping up its war on revenge porn by giving victims new tools for fighting back. State Attorney General Kamala Harris said Wednesday that her office has partnered with tech companies and law enforcement agencies to create an online resources hub to help people remove unauthorized explicit photographs or videos of themselves from the Internet. The hub will also help tech companies develop policies to prevent posting of exploitative images, as well as educate local law enforcement on how to investigate and prosecute revenge-porn cases.


New zero-day exploit hits fully patched Adobe Flash – Adobe officials have confirmed this vulnerability affects Flash version, which was released on Tuesday. The vulnerability has been cataloged as CVE-2015-7645. The company expects to release a fix next week. Attackers are exploiting a previously unknown vulnerability in fully patched versions of Adobe’s Flash Player so they can surreptitiously install malware on end users’ computers, security researchers warned Tuesday. So far, the attacks are known to target only government agencies as part of a long-running espionage campaign carried out by a group known as Pawn Storm, researchers from antivirus provider Trend Micro said in a blog post published Tuesday.

Hackers siphon off $31 million from British bank accounts – Crime agencies from across Europe partner with the FBI to investigate and shut down the spread of Dridex banking malware.

Cyberattacks will cost U.S. health systems $305 billion – Cyberattacks over the next five years will cost U.S. health systems $305 billion in cumulative lifetime revenue. Accenture estimates that one in 13 patients – roughly 25 million people – will have personal information, such as social security or financial records, stolen from technology systems over the next five years.

Perch turns phones, tablets, laptops into home monitors – Even before houses started getting smarter, home monitoring systems were already a thing, at least for those with something worth keeping an eye on. Whether for keeping an eye on the kids to keeping watch over valuables, such systems usually required some camera and computer combo to be installed, either by professionals or DIY. Today, however, most households have spare smartphones or tablets lying around unused. With Perch, you can put them to work again, to create an easy to use, and cheaper, home monitor.


Researchers use Siri and Google Now to silently hijack phones from a distance – You may already be aware that allowing Siri or Google Now to run on your lockscreen is a security risk. A pair of researchers have just shown why: they can hijack your phone from a distance thanks to your virtual assistant. The duo who developed this incredible new attack work for France’s National Agency for the Security of Information Systems (abbreviated ANSSI in French). It’s an incredibly novel approach: they exploited the wire in earbuds/headphones and turned it into an antenna that could receive silent transmissions and feed instructions to Siri and Google now.

5 Tech Tips To Keep Your Digital Identity Safe While Traveling – Every few weeks it seems there is another major security breach that makes its way to front-page news. In the wake of these increasing security breaches, more consumers have been looking for ways to protect their online privacy and security. One area that specifically presents a whole host of security concerns (both physical and digital) is travel. You aren’t just a prime target to get your wallet stolen, but you’re also at risk to have your online identity compromised. Fortunately, there are myriad methods to keep you safe and secure while traveling.

Company News:

AMD announces quarterly loss of $197 million, its fourth straight loss – On Thursday, the ever-struggling AMD announced its fourth straight quarterly loss—at $197 million—putting total losses for the first nine months of 2015 at $557 million. Over the last 17 years, the company has sustained a total net loss of nearly $8 billion. As part of the earnings release, the company also announced a new joint venture with Nantong Fujitsu Microelectronics for assembly and testing. The Chinese company has acquired an 85 percent share in AMD’s two facilities Penang, Malaysia, and Suzhou, China facilities, which will net AMD around $371 million. The new venture seems like yet another desperate move on the part of the chipmaker that once saw itself as a scrappy underdog to Intel.


Microsoft teams up with PC makers to launch ‘PC Does What?’ campaign – Microsoft is partnering with Intel, HP, Dell, and Lenovo in a big marketing push to get consumers to buy new PCs with Windows 10. All five companies are contributing to a new campaign called “PC Does What?,” that’s designed to target consumers who have four- or five year-old computers. Intel claims there are around 500 million old machines out there, and naturally all of the companies involved want consumers to upgrade. The marketing campaign will launch initially on October 19th in the US and China, which is around 50 percent of the entire PC market.

iOS App Store Revenue Now 80 Percent Higher Than Google Play, Thanks To China – The move to larger-screened iPhones has led to China becoming Apple’s most important market, according to a new report from App Annie analyzing the impact the country has had on App Store revenues in the region since the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus last year. According to the analytics firm’s findings, China led all countries in absolute growth in the third quarter of this year versus the prior quarter, in terms of both iOS app downloads and revenue. Meanwhile, Google Play still leads in sheer number of downloads thanks to growth in emerging markets like India and Southeast Asia, though iOS is still tops when it comes to revenue. In other words, the Asian app economy is impacting both the iOS App Store and Google Play, but it’s pushing the two down different paths.

JetBlue adds free Wi-Fi, says it can handle streaming video – In-flight Wi-Fi has a reputation for being painfully slow and overpriced, but JetBlue says its new Wi-Fi service is both fast and free. As of this week, JetBlue’s “Fly-Fi” satellite Internet service is installed on all 150 Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft. The airline aims to install Fly-Fi on 60 E190 planes—the rest of its fleet—by the end of 2016.

Games and Entertainment:

New free movies available in November – There’s a service out there that’s free and legal and has lots of awesome movies including “Glory” and “King Kong.”

Blizzard’s Overwatch Beta Begins Oct. 27 – Almost a year after its unveiling, Blizzard’s Overwatch beta officially begins on Oct. 27. Interested gamers can sign up online. “We’re aiming to accomplish two primary goals with our public beta test,” Blizzard said in a blog post: get “tons of top-notch feedback” on the gameplay, and “hammer the heck out of our tech” by stress-testing the server infrastructure and measuring system variety. In an effort to cover as many bases as possible, Blizzard will split participants into two factions, each with different objectives and deployment schedules. A Closed Beta group forms the core crew, while a number of Beta Test Weekends will include wider teams of players “when it’s time to break out the big guns.”


Amazon’s 2015 Fire TV: Finally, Amazon gets the streaming box right – A year and a half later, well after the launch of the simpler, cheaper, and more modest Fire TV Stick, the Amazon Fire TV returns with new hardware and new features. And the whole package once again revolves around the same trifecta of promises: voice, power, and gaming. This time, at least, two of those promised boosts are backed by more than numbers, with the “voice” part receiving some Alexa-flavored love and the “power” part being proven by some incredible streaming-content speeds, not to mention 4K compatibility. These boosts all come for the same price as last year’s model: $99. Still, any Fire-branded device comes with the caveat of Amazon’s weird app universe and Fire OS’ interface design. This year’s Fire TV is no exception, but for once, something with the “Fire” brand finally offers some clear advantages compared to the competition. Are its interface and connectivity tradeoffs worth it?


Cord cutters will be disappointed with the New Xbox Experience – Microsoft is preparing to introduce a major revamp to its Xbox One software, and they’ve made a preview version available to garner feedback about the changes. The company has made lots of positive user-interface improvements on the gaming side, but I can’t say the same about the video side. To its credit, Microsoft is doing lots of great stuff for cord cutters on the Xbox One, including an official over-the-air TV tuner, a broadcast DVR (coming next year), and a solid app selection. But the so-called New Xbox Experience makes navigating these TV features needlessly complicated.

NBCU Debuts “SeeSo,” A New Subscription Streaming Service For Comedy Fans – The number of niche video streaming services continues to grow in the shadow of major players like Netflix, Amazon, HBO and Hulu. Today, NBCUniversal tossed its hat into the ring with the debut of “SeeSo,” an over-the-top, ad-free subscription based streaming service that will focus exclusively on comedy. The service, which will soon be available on the web, on mobile, and other connected devices and streaming media platforms, will cost $3.99 per month. It will feature shows like “Saturday Night Live,” the U.S. and U.K. versions of “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” “30 Rock,” NBC’s late night shows with Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers, “The Kids in the Hall,” “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” plus stand-up specials and over 20 original series.


YouTube Gaming debuts Android gameplay streaming, paid subscriptions – Just as was promised last month at the Tokyo Game Show, the YouTube Gaming service has been updated with the impressive new feature of allowing gameplay from Android devices to be broadcast live to viewers. This is the latest move in YouTube’s attempt to keep up with rival game broadcasting service Twitch, which is most popular on PC and consoles. The best part is that YouTube Gaming doesn’t require any additional hardware or apps, as Android device users can simply start broadcasting with a single tap.


NVIDIA GeForce Experience splits from standard GPU drivers – Starting on December 1st, 2015, NVIDIA’s GeForce Experience will require that you provide an email address to download game-ready drivers. For the less enthusiast-based crew of gamers out in the wild, standard drivers will still be available through the GeForce Experience website from NVIDIA. In addition to this, GeForce Experience will have a big jump in quality for GameStream experience – straight up to 4K.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Science Points to the Single Most Valuable Personality Trait – Research is pointing to conscientiousness as the one-trait-to-rule-them-all in terms of future success, both career-wise and personal. What is it? Basically, it’s being “efficient, organized, neat, and systematic”: Conscientiousness is the state of being thorough, careful, or vigilant; it implies a desire to do a task well. Conscientiousness is also one trait of the five-factor model of personality, and is manifested in characteristic behaviors such as being efficient, organized, neat, and systematic. It includes such elements as self-discipline, carefulness, thoroughness, self-organization, deliberation (the tendency to think carefully before acting), and need for achievement.

Cybercrime bazaars: What’s for sale in the online underworld? – Intel Security has published a study that aims to shed light on the business deals, negotiations and pricing involved in the hidden underworld of the cybercrime economy. The Hidden Data Economy report (PDF), follows years of close work with law enforcement and ongoing monitoring of online platforms, communities and marketplaces where stolen data is hidden and sold. The report contains details of what is available on the cyber black market, including PayPal accounts, credit/debit card data and more. Bank log-in details prices vary from $190 (£120) for an account worth $2,200 (£1,500) to $1,200 (£800) for one worth $31,000 (£20,000). Average estimated price for stolen credit and debit cards ran at between $5 and $30 in the United States; $20 and $35 in the United Kingdom; $20 and $40 in Canada; $21 and $40 in Australia; and $25 and $45 in the European Union.

Radio wave gun zaps drones out of the sky – and it’s perfectly legal – US biz Battelle boasts it has found a way to rid our skies of annoying drones without breaking the flying machines’ hardware. And here’s the solution: DroneDefender, a shoulder-mounted weapon that sends pulses of radio waves to disrupt communications between the drone and its operator. The electro-magnetic cannon, which has a range of about 400 metres, causes the flying bot to enter a manufacturer-set safety mode, which typically either lands it or returns it to its starting point. “We were very adamant about not doing damage,” Alex Morrow, technical director on the product, told The Register. “The device uses proprietary electronics to create a signal that’s disruptive to the drone and breaks the link between the drone and its controller. There’s no damage to the drone.”


16 Oct 2015 at 00:55, Iain Thomson

China to consume nearly 30% of the world’s flash, 21% of DRAM – Chinese domestic DRAM and NAND flash consumption is dramatically increasing with the rise in popularity of Chinese PCs and smartphones, according to a new report from TrendForce. China this year will purchase $12 billion worth of DRAM and $6.67 billion worth of NAND flash, representing 21.6% and 29.1% of the global revenues for those markets, respectively. According to TrendForce’s smartphone shipment report for the third quarter of this year, seven of the world’s top 10 smartphone vendors hail from China. Chinese smartphone vendors also need greater amounts of memory as the majority of them produce Android devices, which require more mobile DRAM than Apple’s iOS devices, the report states.

Mind your analytics – or get ready for ethical hot water – It’s no secret that the implications of big data extend far beyond organizational benefits into the societal and ethical realm, but market researcher Gartner predicts that the improper use of big data analytics will cause half of all business ethics violations by 2018. Organizations could suffer loss of reputation, wasted resources, competitive weakness and even legal sanctions as a result, Gartner said. The best-known example in this area may be the oft-told case of Target’s pregnancy-prediction algorithm, which led the retail giant to deduce that a 15-year-old girl in Minnesota was expecting a baby. It wasn’t until the girl began receiving coupons for baby-related items that her family caught on.

Evolve Heated Hoodie keeps wearer warm with USB battery – Winter is coming, and for those in the colder regions of the land, that means snow and ice and layers upon layers of clothes. Depending on where you live, the temperature might get exceedingly cold, but piling on a sweater and then a hoodie and then a winter jacket is cumbersome, uncomfortable, and looks ridiculous. Enter the Evolve Heated Hoodie, which is a simple hoodie that uses a battery power bank to warm up from the inside out. The heated hoodie has a single flexible heating panel built into the back, and another panel built into the chest region. They are powered by a standard power bank with a 2.1a output over USB…meaning that portable battery you picked up for emergencies could probably keep your jacket warm.


Watch This Self-Steering Tesla Model S Drive Itself (And Us) Down The Highway – For months now, Tesla has been saying that their cars would soon pick up a whole new trick: autopilot. Later this week, the first of those features will hit Tesla’s fleet — but we’ve already taken them for a spin. We went hands-on (hands-off?) with a pre-release version of the autopilot software, letting the car steer itself down the highway at 70 miles per hour. One big thing to make clear: these features don’t turn the Model S into a full blown self-driving car. You won’t be punching in your destination and laying back for a nap; instead, these features are meant more to make your long highway commutes less painful. Elon Musk says he sees full automation coming within about 3 years; this is just a big first step. So what can it do for now?


Online US fantasy sports wagering is booming, but it’s at a crossroads – The major topic that stood out at the gambling industry’s biggest trade show—the G2E Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas over two weeks ago—was the future of online fantasy sports wagering. It’s a $3.7 billion-a-year business already and is expected to reach nearly $18 billion in wagering by 2020, Eilers Research says. But because so much money is being made—and there are so many questions about its authenticity—many leaders in the betting industry and politicians are questioning the legality of the fantasy sports wagering business.

Something to think about:

“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”

–      Franklin D. Roosevelt


Avast Free Mobile Security – Much of your life is on your mobile devices – banking information, private messages and photos – so protect everything for free with Avast.

Security for data and devices – Not only do you get world-class hacker protection, but you’re also protected against privacy loss and identity theft. With Avast Free Mobile Security, you can back up personal data and track your phone or sound an alarm if it’s lost or stolen.

Lock specific apps – Add an extra layer of security by locking personal apps like Amazon, Facebook, or WhatsApp.

Filter incoming calls and SMS – Block specific numbers from calling or messaging you.

Remote lock and wipe – If your phone can’t be found, lock it and completely wipe it clean so thieves can’t take advantage of you.

Pointing up   The list of features is so extensive that it would take 3 full pages just to list them all. I encourage you to check this one out.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

How the NSA can break trillions of encrypted Web and VPN connections – For years, privacy advocates have pushed developers of websites, virtual private network apps, and other cryptographic software to adopt the Diffie-Hellman cryptographic key exchange as a defense against surveillance from the US National Security Agency and other state-sponsored spies. Now, researchers are renewing their warning that a serious flaw in the way the key exchange is implemented is allowing the NSA to break and eavesdrop on trillions of encrypted connections.

The cost for adversaries is by no means modest. For commonly used 1024-bit keys, it would take about a year and cost a “few hundred million dollars” to crack just one of the extremely large prime numbers that form the starting point of a Diffie-Hellman negotiation. But it turns out that only a few primes are commonly used, putting the price well within the NSA’s $11 billion-per-year budget dedicated to “groundbreaking cryptanalytic capabilities.”

“Since a handful of primes are so widely reused, the payoff, in terms of connections they could decrypt, would be enormous,” researchers Alex Halderman and Nadia Heninger wrote in a blog post published Wednesday. “Breaking a single, common 1024-bit prime would allow NSA to passively decrypt connections to two-thirds of VPNs and a quarter of all SSH servers globally. Breaking a second 1024-bit prime would allow passive eavesdropping on connections to nearly 20% of the top million HTTPS websites. In other words, a one-time investment in massive computation would make it possible to eavesdrop on trillions of encrypted connections.”

Google, Facebook and peers criticize CISA bill ahead of Senate consideration – A trade group representing Facebook, Google, Yahoo and other tech and communications companies has come down heavily against the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015, a controversial bill in the U.S. that is intended to encourage businesses to share information about cyberthreats with the government.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association claims that the mechanism CISA prescribes for the sharing of cyberthreat information does not adequately protect users’ privacy or put an appropriate limit on the permissible uses of information shared with the government.

The bill, in addition, “authorizes entities to employ network defense measures that might cause collateral harm to the systems of innocent third parties,” the CCIA said in a blog post Thursday.

CISA, which would give businesses immunity from customer lawsuits when they share cyberthreat data with the government, is due for consideration by the U.S. Senate in the coming weeks.

Critics of the bill are concerned that the provisions of the bill could be used by companies to hand over customers’ personal data to government intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency. Cyberthreat information-sharing may not have prevented several recent attacks on government agencies, according to experts.

Fallout from EU-US Safe Harbor ruling will be dramatic and far-reaching – In the wake of last week’s dramatic judgement by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which means that transatlantic data transfers made under the Safe Harbour agreement are likely to be ruled illegal across the EU, there has been no shortage of apocalyptic visions claiming that e-commerce—and even the Internet itself—was doomed. Companies are already finding alternative, if imperfect, ways to transfer personal data from the EU to the US, although a very recent data protection ruling in Germany suggests that one approach—using contracts—is unlikely to withstand legal scrutiny. But what’s being overlooked are the much wider implications of the court’s ruling, which reach far beyond e-commerce.

The careful legal reasoning used by the CJEU to reach its decisions will make its rulings extremely hard, if not impossible, to circumvent, since they are based on the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. As the European Commission’s page on the Charter explains: “The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU brings together in a single document the fundamental rights protected in the EU.” Once merely aspirational, the Charter attained a new importance in December 2009: “with the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the Charter became legally binding on the EU institutions and on national governments, just like the EU Treaties themselves.”

By anchoring its ruling in the principles underlying the Charter, the CJEU has cleverly ensured that it cannot be overturned simply by bringing in new laws, since those laws must themselves comply with the Charter.

No change in US law, no data transfer deals – German state DPA – The data protection authority at the German federal state of Schleswig Holstein has declared that any and all data protection workarounds for the transfer of data to the US after the European Court of Justice’s Schrems v Facebook judgment are going to be illegal.

In its first declaration on the post-Schrems legal landscape, the influential DPA says in a written opinion (in German) that only a change in US law can make US companies compliant with European legislation and has advised companies to adjust their business relationships accordingly.

It has warned businesses and governmental bodies that they may be fined up to €300,000 for the transfer of personal data to the US “without a legal basis”.

UK refuses Assange safe passage to hospital – The UK government on Wednesday denied WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange safe passage from Ecuador’s embassy in London to a nearby hospital to diagnose shoulder pain. The 44-year-old Assange has been granted asylum from Ecuador, and he has been holed up at the embassy there since 2012 as Swedish authorities wish to question him about an alleged sexual-assault.

The British decision, announced by the Public News Agency of Ecuador and South America, came as Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño told state TV that the UK should honor the request to enable Assange to “benefit from the right of asylum that we have granted him, as should be done in a respectful international relationship.” Assange has been at the embassy for three years because he fears he eventually could be sent to the United States and face charges related to the secret-spilling site WikiLeaks if he were to leave the embassy’s grounds.

Security service access to personal data? Sure, why not? says Romania – Amid intense global debates about surveillance and online privacy, Romania has decided to give its state authorities access to personal data, such as phone-call metadata, equipment IDs, and localization.

Under a controversial new law, dubbed ‘Big Brother’ by the local media, state authorities in Romania will soon have a right to access citizens’ data stored by telecoms and internet providers.

The act was signed by Romanian president Klaus Iohannis last week, after being successively passed by the two chambers of the country’s parliament in September. Now, it just needs to be published in the Official Journal of Romania to come into effect three days later.

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Filed under Free Software Downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – October 14, 2015

The Best Antivirus for 2015;  10 things you didn’t know about the Dark Web;  17 Android Antivirus Apps Set Perfect Scores;  Facebook paid £4,327 in UK corporate tax in 2014;  How to mute multiple noisy Chrome tabs at once;  Xbox One bundles available for the 2015 holiday season;  PS4 bundles available for the 2015 holiday season;   7 Periscope Tips for Live-Stream Fans;  7 super-quick Windows 10 tricks you probably didn’t know about;  32 iOS 9 tips you should know (pictures);  What’s The Value Of Your Data?  Facebook Now Helps You Get Rid Of ‘Memories’;  Aurous is a free and questionably legal way to stream music;  Windows 10 Insider dawdlers face blank screens Oct. 15;  These Are the 5 Best Android Phones;  Angler exploit kit targets up to 156 million UK Daily Mail readers;  Android Marshmallow update: every phone announced so far;  Pepsi to launch a smartphone in China;  Study finds 87% of Android devices are insecure.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The Best Antivirus for 2015 – Despite being called “antivirus,” these utilities aren’t limited to protecting against computer viruses. They actually handle Trojans, rootkits, adware, spyware, ransomware, and all kinds of malicious software, and some of them do a very good job. PCMag has reviewed over 30 different commercial antivirus utilities, and that’s not even counting the many free antivirus tools. Out of that extensive field we’ve named four Editors’ Choice products. Six more of the premium editions proved effective enough to earn an excellent four-star rating. More than a dozen others earned at least three stars.

17 Android Antivirus Apps Set Perfect Scores – How well do you know your Android antivirus app? If you have one, you probably installed it and then forgot about it. Thankfully, the AV-Test Institute evaluates many Android antivirus apps to keep developers honest and to shed light on how well these apps work. This time, a whopping 17 out of 25 nabbed perfect scores.

Google records your voice searches. Here’s how to listen back to them – Users of Google’s voice search and Google Now, the search giant’s voice-activated assistant and search feature, have their searches stored to turn up relevant ads and improve the feature — just as you would expect from using the regular search. But what many don’t realize is that after those voice searches are recorded and stored, users can listen back to exactly what they said and how they said it. Even as a security reporter, I know these things and yet it still sends chills down my spine when I can hear myself drunkenly asking my phone six months ago, “Are you giving all my data to the government?” (To which the answer is most likely: “not willingly.”)

What’s The Value Of Your Data? – On September 18, 2015, Comcast reached a $33 million settlement over claims that it published personal information of more than 75,000 customers — even though those customers had specifically paid a fee for their information to be kept private. As a consequence, the company will pay a $100 compensation to each victim. This settlement is a turning point in our technological history. This case is particularly interesting because, for the first time, it puts a price tag on the amount victims should receive when their personal information is illegally published.

7 super-quick Windows 10 tricks you probably didn’t know about – You might think you know all the Windows 10 tricks by now, but you’re wrong — partly because Microsoft is continuing to drop new builds (Build 10565 went out to Windows 10 Insiders on Monday), and partly because most of Windows 10’s little tricks haven’t been publicized. Here are several ultra-fast tips that you probably didn’t know about:

How to set up Mozilla’s Firefox browser the right way – Mozilla Firefox is a great choice for your default browser no matter what operating system you’re running, but it’s especially handy if you’re running Windows 10 since it takes control of Cortana’s Bing addiction with no effort on your part. Beyond that, the browser’s doing a lot of interesting pro-user privacy things these days, such as instituting a truly private Private Browsing mode that blocks tracking ads, and rolling out ads that actually respect user preferences. Firefox also offers many of the advantages that Chrome does, including cloud-based capabilities that sync your bookmarks, browsing history, and open tabs across devices.

How to mute multiple noisy Chrome tabs at once – Sometimes you run across a tip that’s just so awesome you must share it with the world as soon as possible. The other day, I came across a Chrome extension (via Ghacks) that lets you use a keyboard shortcut to mute all browser tabs at once. A combination of Chrome audio controls and keyboard shortcuts? Sign. Me. Up.

When a deleted Windows file won’t go away: 3 ways to move or erase it – Moving or erasing a file should be easy. But sometimes Windows just won’t let go.

Line messaging app updated with end-to-end encryption – Line, the dominant mobile messaging app in many parts of Asia, has just announced that it’s updating its service on all platforms to take advantage of end-to-end encryption. This protects the privacy of conversations between two users, and brings Line up to speed with other popular messaging services, including Apple’s iMessage and the Facebook-owned WhatsApp. The new security feature, which Line has dubbed “Letter Sealing,” is now available on its updated iOS and Android apps.

7 Periscope Tips for Live-Stream Fans – If you’re a Periscope fan or just looking to learn more about it, there are some things you might find helpful. Read on to learn.

32 iOS 9 tips you should know (pictures) – Apple’s latest mobile software is chock full of new features, from the long-awaited public transit direction in Apple Maps to a refined Notes app. Here’s what you need to know.


Ready for your closeup: You’ve always been able to pinch and zoom on photos, but now you can pinch and zoom on videos, as well.

Pornhub makes it easier to report revenge porn – Pornhub, one of the world’s largest adult entertainment sites, has introduced a new feature that it hopes will make it easier for people to identify revenge porn and request its removal. In a press release published today, the site announced a new online submission form (NSFW) that revenge porn victims can use to flag any explicit videos or images that were published without their consent. Previously, revenge porn takedown requests could only be filed through email. Pornhub, which sees around 60 million visitors a day, declined to disclose the volume of revenge-porn related requests it receives, though it says complaints have fallen by 38 percent over the past two years.

Facebook Now Helps You Get Rid Of ‘Memories’ – The daily reminder of stuff that’s happened on that day in the past can be awesome. It can also suck serious ass and trigger you into depression. I’m not kidding. I’ve had things pop up about events or people that made me shed a tear. Today, Facebook has launched controls to let you filter out some of those bad memories. Simply go to your “On This Day” page and then click on “preferences.” Then you can enter a date or person to have content filtered out the next time that date or person is about to be shoved into your unsuspecting face.


Facebook Video testing YouTube-like features for expansion – This week Facebook has released a barrage of updates for their Video initiative, bringing the world up to speed with their goings-on behind the scenes. In addition to the bits and pieces we’ve already seen, Facebook Video is set to be a fully integrated service, aiming to compete – albeit indirectly – with services such as YouTube. Earlier this year Facebook revealed 360-degree video with brands like Lucasfilm for Star Wars – and that’s just the start. Live video is also beginning to take hold on Facebook.

Aurous is a free and questionably legal way to stream music – Aurous is like Apple Music, Spotify, and Rdio, in that it offers a selection of songs available to stream direct from dedicated apps. But unlike Apple Music, Spotify, and Rdio, Aurous is totally free with no ads. Where those other streaming services have negotiated expensive deals with record labels and artists to feature their music, Aurous has sidestepped that hurdle, pulling music instead from a variety of third-party sources. But while its library is still small, and its model not as obviously illegal as torrenting tracks directly, Aurous will nonetheless upset record labels and rights holders.


The Electric Jukebox: For music lovers who think Apple Music and Spotify are too expensive and too complicated – British startup has developed a music streamer that plugs into your TV (and only your TV).


Credit: The Electric Jukebox Company

Windows 10 Insider dawdlers face blank screens Oct. 15 – Windows 10 users who have not updated their Insider preview since early July have until Thursday to get the latest code or face staring at a blank screen because the PC won’t boot. All builds issued between Jan. 23 and July 9 — there were 11 builds during that period, numbered 9826 through 10166 — will refuse to boot after Thursday, Oct. 15, according to a revised message posted by a Microsoft support engineer on the company’s discussion forum.

Microsoft’s latest Windows 10 Insider build offers alt activation approach – Microsoft today shipped the latest Windows 10 preview to its Insider testers, with improvements to the Cortana assistant and the default Edge browser, and betas of the “universal” Skype apps for messaging, audio calling and video conferencing. Monday’s build, tagged as 10565, was the first issued by Microsoft to the Insider ring — the public preview of all Windows 10 changes — since Sept. 18. Build 10565 also made significant changes to how Windows 10 is activated, Microsoft’s term for proving that it’s a legitimate license.

Microsoft finally delivers on Skype messaging promises with new Windows 10 beta – Microsoft released Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 10565 for Windows 10 on Monday that includes the Skype messaging apps the company promised during the run-up to the operating system’s launch.

Sell It Easy Offers A Hassle-Free Alternative To eBay And Craigslist, Including A Pick-Up Service – A new startup called Sell It Easy is offering an alternative to larger marketplaces like eBay or Craigslist with a new service that handles the entire selling process for you, from item pricing to posting online to shipping to buyers and more. In San Francisco and, eventually, other markets as the service expands, Sell It Easy will even come pick up the items you want to sell, saving you the hassle of having to package them yourself. Elsewhere, it offers a prepaid shipping label you use to send items you want the company to sell on your behalf.


Apple debuts 21.5-inch Retina iMac, new Magic Mouse, Trackpad, Keyboard – As has been expected for the last few weeks, Apple today announced the addition of a 21.5-inch Retina iMac to its desktop lineup, offering a 4K display and a starting price of $1,499. Along with this new model, the 27-inch lineup of iMac now all feature 5K Retina displays. As for the new 21.5-inch model, the desktop offers a resolution that is 4.5 times that of Full HD, and the same pixel density as the 5K model.


These Are the 5 Best Android Phones – he latest Android operating system, Android 6.0 Marshmallow, has begun shipping on Google’s Nexus devices. It should begin arriving on other makers’ handsets soon, too. But this kind of high-powered mobile computing won’t work on just any old Google handset. Here are the five best Android phones available today, all of which are either rumored or confirmed to get Marshmallow.

Sorry, ad blockers: German news site Bild says nein – Popular German-language site Users is blocking the ad-blockers. Users who try to access the with ad blocking browser extensions enabled.are rerouted to a page that offers a subscription.


University of Cambridge study finds 87% of Android devices are insecure – It’s easy to see that the Android ecosystem currently has a rather lax policy toward security, but a recent study from the University of Cambridge put some hard numbers to Android’s security failings. The conclusion finds that “on average 87.7% of Android devices are exposed to at least one of 11 known critical vulnerabilities.” With 87% of devices flagged as insecure on any given day, the study really shows how far the Android ecosystem has to go to protect its users. Google and some OEMs have committed to a monthly security update program, but that is usually for devices that are less than two years old (Google recently bumped Nexus devices to three years) and only for flagship devices. The vast majority of Android sales are not flagship devices. Until Google rearchitects Android to support centralized, device-agnostic updates, we just don’t see a solution to Android’s security problems.

Android Marshmallow update: every phone announced so far – Today we’re having a peek at the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update list – every smartphone whose maker has given the thumbs up so far. This includes phones from Samsung, HTC, and Sony, as well a Google’s own Nexus smartphones – and a few tablets, too. LG and Motorola are here as well. This bit of comprehensive Marshmallow update comes courtesy of our previous reports as well as updates released by manufacturers and/or wireless carriers (the former more than the latter) over the past week or two.

These cloud-connected devices are totally spying on you (or just letting others do it) – Worried that one of your devices may be spying on you? You should be. It sounds like a cool toy: a talking Barbie doll that uses voice-recognition software to “listen” to kids’ conversations and respond appropriately. The downside critics say: It records children’s conversations to the cloud, where they could be hacked — or the data could be exploited by the toy’s maker.


Angler exploit kit targets up to 156 million UK Daily Mail readers in malvertising spree – The Angler exploit kit has compromised the Daily Mail’s online domain, potentially exposing up to 156 million readers a month to malicious advertising. Malvertising is a persistent problem for online domains who rely on advertising revenue to stay afloat. In order to increase the click-through rates of ads — increasing revenue for domain owners — third-party networks often tailor advertising you see based on data such as search history or topics of interest. These advertising networks are commonly used by popular websites which reach millions of users a month, making them a potentially lucrative attack vector for cybercriminals looking to compromise your systems.

Uber accidentally leaks personal data for hundreds of drivers – Uber accidentally exposed the personal data of hundreds of its drivers last night, revealing social security numbers, pictures of driver licenses, vehicle registration numbers, and other information. Drivers registered with the ridesharing company first noticed the leak on Tuesday evening, reporting the news on Reddit, and dedicated Uber message boards. Speaking to Motherboard, one driver said that he was presented with thousands of confidential documents from other drivers when he tried to upload a document of his own, saying that he saw “a lot of taxi certification forms and livery drivers licenses” in addition to “W-9 forms with Social Security numbers for taxi cab companies.”

Your business has suffered a data breach. Now what? – Mandiant executives offer insight into how the enterprise can minimize the impact of a data breach both before and after a cyberattack.

Company News:

Facebook paid £4,327 in UK corporate tax in 2014 – The social network’s UK branch paid less in corporation tax than the country’s average worker pays in income tax, following a trend of Silicon Valley behemoths avoiding the taxman.

Intel Beats In Q3 With $14.5B In Revenue, Despite Falling PC Market – Today following the bell, Intel reported its third-quarter financial performance, including revenue of $14.5 billion and earnings per share of $0.64. Following its earnings beat, shares in the chip giant initially rose. Analysts had expected Intel to report a $0.59 per-share profit, off revenue of $14.2 billion. Those expectations represented a 10.6 percent decline and a 2.3 percent fall, respectively. To round out the raw numbers, Intel reported third-quarter net income of $3.1 billion and gross margin of 63 percent. The firm spent $1.1 billion on dividends during a three-month period, and repurchased 36 million of its own shares at an expense of $1.0 billion.

Apple loses patent case over A7 chip, faces $860M in damages – A jury on Tuesday decided that Apple’s A7 smartphone chip infringes a patent owned by the University of Wisconsin, and the iPhone maker could now be on the hook for as much as $862 million in damages. The lawsuit was filed early last year and accused Apple of using a processor technology developed by university researchers in Apple’s A7 chip, which was used in its newest products at the time, including the iPhone 5S and iPad Air. The jury began hearing the case last week, and on Tuesday it found Apple liable for infringement of all six patent claims, the verdict form shows.

Oracle awarded $50M damages against Rimini Street – Oracle has won $50 million in damages against Rimini Street in a lawsuit that revolved around third party support and copyright infringement. A jury in Las Vegas came back with its decision Tuesday. The trial was five years in the making. As noted previously, Rimini’s future could have rested on the trial. In any case, the verdict is likely to be appealed. As of March 31, 2014–the last date of Rimini Street’s regulatory filings for an IPO–the company had $12.4 million in cash and equivalents.

Qualcomm says its new chip will make high end drones cheaper than flagship smartphones – Enter Qualcomm, the chip maker whose Snapdragon processors power the vast majority of today’s high-end smartphones. It recently announced that it will produce a modified version of this chipset optimized for drones, the Snapdragon Flight. Raj Talluri, the engineer and executive in charge of the project, says it could be the first step toward making high-quality drones as mainstream as digital cameras used to be. “We believe that, with this chip, we can cut the price of the average 4K camera drone from $1,200 down to $300 or $400. And we think we can extend the battery life from 20 minutes to 45 to 60 minutes,” says Talluri. “That will open them up to a much broader audience and a whole new range of applications.”


Pepsi to launch a smartphone in China – Yesterday, a report surfaced claiming PepsiCo would be releasing its own smartphone in China. Now, a day later, that news has been confirmed, with PepsiCo announcing that it is working with an unnamed “licensing partner” to produce its own-branded smartphone and related accessories. The phone will only be available in China, which will reportedly have a formal announcement made in Beijing on October 20.


IBM bolsters India footprint, lands $700 million Etihad Airways cloud pact – IBM said Tuesday that it will open another public cloud data center in India, this time in Chennai. IBM also formed a partnership with NASSCOM, the Indian outsourcing group, to bolster the developer ecosystem in the country and expanded a relationship with Accenture. For Big Blue, India is a key end market as one for talent.

GameStop bucks the trend, will close on Thanksgiving – There tends to be two camps when it comes to stores being open on major holidays: those who feel it is wrong and want to be home with their friends and family, and those who need the holiday pay more and would rather work. The former of the two tends to win out, at least among the vocal, and now GameStop has decided to listen. The gaming retailer has announced that it will not be open on Thanksgiving this year.

Games and Entertainment:

Xbox One bundles available for the 2015 holiday season – Don’t buy an Xbox One this holiday season without checking out all of the bundles available. Odds are there’s a bundle that’s right for you. Best of all, the pricing wars between Sony and Microsoft have really heated up, so getting a bundle is almost like getting a game for free.

PS4 bundles available for the 2015 holiday season – Thanks to a $50 price drop, the PS4 is more affordable than ever. Double down your savings with a PS4 bundle this holiday season. While there aren’t as many options as there are for an Xbox One, there’s likely a PS4 bundle that’s right for you.

Steam Sale begins in Stealth Mode – The Stealth Game Steam Sale begins as a lead-up to whatever spooky bits Valve will reveal for Halloween. This push will include just over 60 games, each of them living inside the “Stealth” genre – one way or the other. This includes games such as Thief (more than one version), the Assassin’s Creed series, and Ghost Recon. This is apparently the first “Stealth” Steam event that Valve has ever held, starting this morning and running until October the 16th, 2015.


Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 campaign missions to be unlocked from the start – November 6 marks the day that Treyarch will launch the latest game in the Call of Duty series called Black Ops 3. Traditionally the campaign missions in the game are locked from the start meaning after you install the game you have to start with mission one and progress through the missions in order unlocking them as you go. This is changing in Black Ops 3 with Treyarch announcing that all of the campaign missions will be unlocked from the start. That means gamers will be able to jump right in at the end of the game if they want to. It also means that missions that prove frustratingly hard for some gamers won’t leave them walking away from the game altogether.


Microsoft adapter lets you use Xbox wireless controller with Windows 10 – Get ready to use your Xbox One wireless controller to play video games on Windows 10 tablets and PCs.

Off Topic (Sort of):

15 Accurate Predictions Bill Gates Made About the Future in 1999 – In 1999, Bill Gates wrote a book titled Business @ the Speed of Thought. In the book, Gates makes 15 bold predictions that at the time might have sounded outrageous. But as business student Markus Kirjonen pointed out on his blog, Gates’ forecasts turned out to be “eerily prescient.”

10 things you didn’t know about the Dark Web – There’s a difference between the “Deep Web” and “Dark Web.” While the “Clear Web” is the surface area which is indexed by search engines such as Google and Yahoo, the Deep Web is an area search engines can’t crawl for or index. Plunging in further, the Dark Web is a small area within the Deep Web which is intentionally hidden from discovery.


Robo-bulldozers guided by drones are helping ease Japan’s labor shortage – As Japan ramps up new construction in preparation for hosting the 2020 Olympics, experts believe it will face a serious obstacle. “The labor shortage in the construction industry could reach a crisis level in the next few years,” Martin Schulz, an economist at Fujitsu Research Institute in Tokyo, told Bloomberg. To get around this problem, Komatsu has begun creating a new service it calls Smart Construction. A team of robotic vehicles scoops rock and pushes dirt without a human behind the wheel. They are guided in their work by a fleet of drones, which map the area in three dimensions and update the data in real time to track how the massive volumes of soil and cement are moving around the site.

skycatch drone gif 2

Photos: Ten glimpses into the future of 3D printing – While consumer 3D printers may be squirting out plastic models, the technology has the potential to create far more complex and useful objects. From machines that can print 100 times faster than is typical today to fabricators that create objects from 10 materials at once – here’s what the future of 3D printing has in store.


Scientists control a fruit fly’s heart with laser pulses – Scientists from Lehigh University have successfully controlled a fruit fly’s heartbeat, but unlike past techniques, this didn’t require any invasive surgeries or implants. All they needed was a laser. Thanks to some genetic modification, the fruit flies in this lab have photo-sensitive heart cells. It’s like having a built-in pacemaker.


Playboy Ditches the Nudes, Because Softcore Is Dead – The middle cannot hold. Playboy is kicking itself into full safe-for-work mode, because frankly, there’s nothing special about boobs anymore. Now we can all read Playboy solely for the articles. You may think this is a sad win for puritanism or political correctness, but it’s not. There are now far more lady parts and dick pics available for the average American’s viewing pleasure than in Playboy’s heyday. Rather, it’s the collapse of the middle ground in our fragmented cultural market and the death of softcore.


Here’s how Volkswagen plans to redeem itself – Volkswagen may still be reeling from dieselgate, but when life gives you lemons you serve them as a garnish for your new strategic roadmap. More electrification, hybrids with increased range, and of course cleaner diesels are all on the cards as the German automaker aims to redeem its reputation and steer its fortunes back into the black.

Something to think about:

“When you say I don’t care about the right to privacy because I have nothing to hide, that is no different than saying I don’t care about freedom of speech because I have nothing to say or freedom of the press because I have nothing to write.”

–     Edward Snowden


WPS Office 10 Free – WPS Office 10 Free is the most versatile free office suite, which includes free word processor, spreadsheet program and presentation maker. These three programs help you easily deal with office tasks:

Writer – A versatile word processor inside Kingsoft Office Software. With Writer, you can adjust paragraphs within seconds and insert table easily just by dragging it.

Presentation – An easy but effective slide show maker inside Kingsoft Office Software. Helps you quickly create impressive multimedia presentation to convince your audience.

Spreadsheets – A flexible and powerful spreadsheet application. Helps you fulfill both personal data analysis needs, and those more professional data processing tasks.

Mobile Office – Efficient mobile office solution on android and iOS platform. Help you handle Word, Excel and Presentation files on the road. Sharing made easy with Email & cloud storage.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

From fingerprints to facial scans: Why the French want biometrics on all EU travellers – France wants to collect biometric data from all EU nationals and foreign travellers crossing the outer borders of the Schengen area. Under the French proposal, travellers would supply fingerprint or facial biometric data.

The French proposal could mean that everyone, including EU citizens, will need to supply fingerprint or facial biometric data to support Europe’s Smart Borders systems.

EU civil liberties watchdog Statewatch published the French proposal, which outlines a call to the EC to broaden “the scope of the Smart Borders package for all travellers, also including European nationals”.

The letter dated 25 September was sent to the EU’s Working Party on Frontiers and was, according to EUobserver, discussed at an interior ministers meeting in Luxembourg on October 8.

The EC proposed the Smart Borders package in 2013 to improve control at the external borders of Schengen member states, which includes most EU states, some non-EU states such as Norway and Switzerland, but not the UK.

As the EC outlines, Smart Borders in conjunction with an entry-exit system and registered traveller programme, would aim to stifle irregular immigration and help flag overstayers and facilitate border-crossing for pre-vetted frequent non-EU nationals travelling to the region.

A subsequent technical study on Smart Borders looked at the potential use of facial image recognition as a standalone biometric or in combination with fingerprints. It also noted issues with the conditions imposed on law-enforcement agencies governing access to biometric data.

The French proposal comes as the EC’s Smart Borders public consultation draws to a close on October 29 and coincides with the country’s proposed new national-security laws, aimed at boosting government surveillance powers.


Filed under Free Software Downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – October 12, 2015

10 Ways to Protect Against Hackers;  Windows 10 on an old PC: When it comes to specs, how low can you go?  How to cut your Facebook stress to zero;  65% of Adults Now Use Social Media;  Stop hoarding: How to clean up your digital life;  iOS Podcast App Overcast Adds Streaming, Drops Price To Free;  Master Windows processes for better performance;  How to fix five known issues affecting OS X El Capitan;  Digital voyeur spied on women’s webcams 5-12 hours a day;  Dow Jones hacked: customer data compromised;  LogMeIn buys LastPass for $125 million;  Yahoo, NHL Ban Employees from Fantasy Sports Contest Sites;  Adobe to brick eight Acrobat, Reader flaws next Tuesday;  The Final Leaked TPP Text is All That We Feared;  You can change drive letters, but know the risk of doing so;  10 enthralling visions for the future of computing;  Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit BETA.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

10 Ways to Protect Against Hackers – It’s pitch black. You peer into the backseat of your car. There’s no one there. Still, you can’t shake an uneasy feeling as you slip into the driver’s side. Turning your key in the ignition, you glance one last time into the backseat, and there he is…the hacker trying to kill your computer. Hackers are a scary bunch—whether working as part of a criminal syndicate or an idealist with a political agenda, they’ve got the knowledge and the power to access your most precious data. So instead of sitting back and waiting to get infected, why not arm yourself and fight back? Bad guys, beware. We’ve got 10 ways to beat you.


Windows 10 on an old PC: When it comes to specs, how low can you go? – The days of Windows being a system hog are gone. So modest are the requirements for Windows 10, you may be able to run it on machines that shipped with Windows Vista eight years ago. But just how low can Windows 10 go when it comes to PC specs? Since Microsoft released the OS for testing last year people have been loading Windows 10 onto hardware dating back to 2003 – eons ago on the PC refresh timescale. Here are the low-end and long-in-the-tooth machines that proved capable of running Windows 10.

Master Windows processes for better performance – Does your Windows computer seem slow, or does it seem to be running a number of mysterious processes like svchost.exe? If you’ve looked at your list of running processes in the Windows Task Manager (press Ctrl-Shift-Esc on your keyboard and click the Processes tab), you’ve probably seen a lot of things that you don’t recognize. These can eat up system RAM, which can affect functionality, like how many applications and browser tabs you can have open at once. It’s a good idea to check the Processes list regularly for suspicious activity, but if you don’t know what you’re looking at, it can create needless anxiety. So let’s explore what the common processes do and how to manage them correctly.

Report: 65% of Adults Now Use Social Media (From 7% in 2005) – In a bit of news from the shouldn’t-surprise-anyone department, a lot of people use social media. (That’s kind of why it has that name—social media.) What might come as more of a surprise is just how many people use social media and who, exactly, they are. To that, the Pew Research Center analyzed 27 different national surveys it has conducted between 2005 and 2015 (excluding 2007, for whatever reason). In doing so, the organization found that just around 65 percent or so of all adults use social media right now. And that number has jumped from a very, very meager seven percent back in 2005.

How to cut your Facebook stress to zero – The most important pull-down menu on the entirety of the world’s most used social network sits right up front and center of your best friend’s profile page. This menu hides under the “Following” button, and inside you’ll find the most excellent option Facebook has ever offered. The menu item you’re looking for is “Unfollow.” With this option you’ll retain your friendship 100% without having to see your friend’s posts in your news feed. You have the power to sort out what you want to see and what you’re tired of seeing on Facebook without any negative repercussions. All tapping the “Unfollow” button does is take your contact’s endless blabbering out of your main news feed. With this one button you can cut out every person that ever posted an image like the following:


Stop hoarding: How to clean up your digital life – Clean the clutter, improve your productivity and stay safer.

Kibo iOS App Lets You Hide Messages In Your Messages – Just when you thought the wonderful world of digital messaging couldn’t get any more rich and layered, along comes another app to prove there are more ideas in the digital sphere than can be contained within the average web user’s philosophy… Just don’t call Kibo a messaging app. It is in fact an iOS keyboard app for sending hidden messages within other messaging apps’ messages — be that WhatsApp or iMessage or Facebook or whatever.

Here are the details of the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 chips, and why they matter – Microsoft has confirmed the details of the CPUs inside the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book computers, as well as some details of the GPU, too.

iOS Podcast App Overcast Adds Streaming, Drops Price To Free – Marco Arment just released a major update to its popular podcast app for iOS, Overcast. This update brings many under-the-hood improvements as well as a few new major features. Arment is also switching its pricing model entirely as the app is now completely free with an optional patronage subscription. I’ve been using Overcast for more than a year now, and there are many unique features that make it my favorite podcast app. You won’t find these features in any other podcast app. For instance, Smart Speed speeds up the silences — it makes podcasts shorter without making the podcasters sound weird. Voice Boost fix badly mixed podcasts by leveling the voices.


Let Server & Website Monitor keep you sane – Having the ability to easily monitor websites and servers from your Android device can help save your sanity. Jack Wallen introduces you to a great app just for that purpose.


The Windows Control Panel will eventually be killed, says Microsoft – Better get used to the Settings app now, because it could completely replace Control Panel in the future.

How to fix five known issues affecting OS X El Capitan – Latest OS X got you down? Jesus Vigo reviews five of the known issues affecting El Capitan and discusses how to go about fixing these problems.

You can change drive letters, but know the risk of doing so – You can easily change drive D: into drive F:. But if Windows expects a file to be on drive D:, this is going to cause a problem.


Dow Jones hacked: customer data compromised – The Dow Jones has revealed that it recently suffered a data breach, with its customer data being targeted. About 3500 customers have been affected as a result of the hack; the compromised data includes contact information and bank card details. Says the company, it does not have evidence that the data was stolen, only that it was compromised. Customers potentially affected by this will receive a letter in the mail with further information.

Digital voyeur spied on women’s webcams 5-12 hours a day – A young woman contacted me last week after reading some of my previous reporting on Remote Access Tools (RATs) and how they can be used to spy on people through the webcams and microphones in their computers. The woman had seen an image in one of the articles that, despite being blurred, looked almost exactly like her and her home. She felt worried and violated—and wondered what else may have been seen by her voyeur. Her story is typical. Few victims even know they are victims, sometimes finding out only years later when a security scan turns up RAT malware on their machines or when law enforcement contacts them after arresting a digital voyeur.

The FBI warns of weaknesses in chip-and-sign credit card systems – The FBI has a stern warning for the credit card industry’s latest security measure, the EMV chip. In a statement today, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center warned that the new chips don’t prevent against online fraud or point-of-sale compromises of the type seen in the Target hack. The underlying weaknesses in the warning were already known to much of the industry, but it emphasizes the frustration many feel with the current deployment. “The FBI’s alert should be a wake-up call to the banks and card networks that continue to stand in the way of making PIN authentication the standard in the US just as it has been around the world for years,” said Brian Dodge, executive vice president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, in a provided statement.

Adobe to brick eight Acrobat, Reader flaws next Tuesday – Adobe will be brick over eight holes in a patch run next week. Acrobat will receive the lion’s share of fixes; these include Acrobat DC, Reader DC, and XI. Adobe Reader X and XI will each receive a patch for versions 10.1.15 and 11.0.12 respectively. All patches apply to Windows and Mac offerings. The advanced notification of the fixes does not elaborate on the vulnerabilities given that doing so will help attackers brew exploits ahead of patch time, but it does award a ‘critical’ severity rating of two that indicates each bug is likely to be exploited when those details drop. It will be a busy Tuesday (or Antipodean Wednesday) for system administrators since Redmond is also scheduled to drop its monthly load of patches on the same day.

Company News:

LogMeIn buys LastPass for $125 million – Remote computer-access company LogMeIn has acquired popular password-management company LastPass for $125 million, LogMeIn says in a statement today. The company says the deal is “expected to close in the coming weeks.” According to the statement, LogMeIn is planning to merge LastPass with another password-management company, Meldium, which was bought last year by LogMeIn. Eventually, Meldium and LastPass will go under the LastPass brand.

Yahoo, NHL Ban Employees from Fantasy Sports Contest Sites – Sorry, fantasy football fans—or fans of Microsoft Excel who charge their fantasy football-loving friends a portion of their winnings for access to an ultra-complicated database of player statistics and predictions. If you work at Yahoo or the NHL, you’ve been cut off from the growing trend that’s profitable (if not very profitable) for some, and quite frustrating for everyone else. The move by Yahoo and the NHL follows reports from this past week that an employee of one of two of the larger fantasy sports sites around, FanDuel and DraftKings, used insider information from one to win a not-so-insignificant amount of money in fantasy sports leagues on the other: $350,000.

NVIDIA’s patent case against Samsung and Qualcomm stumbles – NVIDIA’s hopes to tie up Samsung and Qualcomm in an expensive sales ban over mobile graphics chips has hit a roadblock. The company had sought an injunction from the United States International Trade Commission, alleging that rival chipmakers were infringing on its graphics patents with silicon found inside – among others – the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy S5. However, in a ruling issued on Friday last week, ITC judge Thomas B. Pender decided that neither Samsung nor Qualcomm had, in fact, infringed on anything that NVIDIA had patented. In fact, justice Pender suggested that one of the patents NVIDIA was using for its case was, in fact, invalid, since further examination suggested the technologies it described were already included in previous patents.

More chipmakers to join AMD with heterogeneous designs – AMD is the only chipmaker to have released a processor based on the Heterogeneous Systems Architecture. But this week MediaTek, Imagination and ARM announced that they plan to adopt HSA, which should lead to more efficient systems and more powerful apps.

Dell Files IPO for Cybersecurity Unit – Dell Inc. has filed confidentially for an IPO for its SecureWorks cybersecurity unit, TechCrunch has confirmed. The IPO is anticipated to happen before the end of the year. First reported by the Wall Street Journal, SecureWorks could be valued at up to $2 billion. The report said that SecureWorks is working with Bank of America and Morgan Stanley to manage the IPO. Dell acquired SecureWorks for $612 million in 2011 for its security software and consulting businesses, in an effort to expand beyond its computer hardware focus.

Games and Entertainment:

New trailers: The Hunger Games, The Good Dinosaur, Spectre, and more – Movies are coming now. They’re coming fast. And they’re not gonna stop. You have to start watching keep watching never stop watching and also there are big tentpoles like The Hunger Games and Spectre mixed in with all of the emotional dramas like Trumbo and probably you’re going to want to see a lot of them. So yeah. Pick a few and start watching. Mockingjay seems like a good start. You were gonna see that one no matter what, right?


NVIDIA driver ready for Star Wars Battlefront Beta – This morning NVIDIA released their game-ready GeForce GPU driver made to optimize gameplay for the Star Wars Battlefront Open Beta. This driver will come via users’ GeForce Experience software and will be downloaded in moments – it’s not particularly large. Settings will allow users to view the game Star Wars Battlefront in the most spectacular fashion available to them given their chosen graphics processor power. NVIDIA has also offered up an SLI profile for those that wish to roll with multiple GPUs at optimum efficiency whilst playing the Star Wars Battlefront Open Beta.

The following screenshots taken from a personal machine running with the new driver. Verdict? Meh!



EA wants to show you its softer side – Unravel is a game that stars a tiny character made out of yarn. He’s pushes around apples like they’re giant boulders, and when he walks through flowers he might stop to idly chase a butterfly. At one point in the game he grabs on to a kite, for a brief, exhilarating sequence that feels like you’re riding a hang glider. I’ve only played 20 minutes of Unravel, but it’s already one of the most charming video games I can think of. It’s also a product from EA, the monolithic publisher that everyone loves to hate.


Xbox One USB Wireless Adapter for Windows Arrives Oct. 20 – According to multiple reports, Microsoft is finally releasing a wireless USB dongle that you can plug into your laptop or desktop for wireless gaming with an Xbox One controller. Said dongle officially launches on October 20, and it’ll cost you $25. That feels a wee expensive given that the controller itself costs $60, putting the total package for a PC user looking for some wireless console gaming at $85 (assuming you’re buying a separate controller for your office or bedroom, unless you really want to walk one controller between your living room and wherever it is you keep your PC).


Microsoft’s New Xbox One Experience brings Windows 10 onto the console—with Cortana – The New Xbox One Experience began touching down on testers’ consoles this week, including ours. Here’s our first look, together with a hidden feature: Cortana.

Asus GX700 deep-dive: Here’s what’s inside the world’s first water-cooled gaming laptop – Sure, the GX700 has an overclockable, quad-core Skylake Core i7-6820HK CPU, Nvidia’s bad-ass GeForce GTX 980, a buttery-smooth G-Sync panel, and up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM, but the real story on this laptop is the water-cooling. Yes, a water-cooled laptop. We’ve known about the water-cooling existence since the laptop’s first unveiling, but Asus is starting to finally spill some details on how it works.


The water-cooling dock contains two 90mm radiators, fans, a pump and reservoir.

Off Topic (Sort of):

NASA offers 1,200 patents to startups, with no upfront licensing costs – As part of an initiative to grow some new high-tech businesses, NASA is providing startups the opportunity to license its technologies without paying any up-front costs. Businesses will be able to choose from a portfolio spanning over 1,200 patents, which in turn is divided into 15 categories. This includes technologies such as multi-purpose humanoid robots, handheld laser torches, and even collapsible aeroplanes. “The Startup NASA initiative leverages the results of our cutting-edge research and development so entrepreneurs can take that research — and some risks — to create new products and new services,” said NASA’s chief technologist David Miller in a press release.


The Final Leaked TPP Text is All That We Feared – Today’s release by Wikileaks of what is believed to be the current and essentially final version of the intellectual property (IP) chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) confirms our worst fears about the agreement, and dashes the few hopes that we held out that its most onerous provisions wouldn’t survive to the end of the negotiations. Since we now have the agreed text, we’ll be including some paragraph references that you can cross-reference for yourself—but be aware that some of them contain placeholders like “x” that may change in the cleaned-up text. Also, our analysis here is limited to the copyright and Internet-related provisions of the chapter, but analyses of the impacts of other parts of the chapter have been published by Wikileaks and others.

The Emissionary Position: screwing the motorist the European way – Feature: Everyone has heard about the diesel emissions scandal surrounding Volkswagen, but finding out what really went wrong and who is to blame is not so clear cut. John Watkinson considers the culprits: mechanical, political and virtual.


Wait! Don’t give your filthy VW the push, the trail hasn’t ended yet. Source: Woody Allen’s Sleeper (1973), United Artists

Aerial video and photography is growing ever more popular as UAVs — Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, better known as “drones” — become easier to control and fly. These days, drone come in all shapes, sizes, and configurations, with most designs falling under the quad-copter format. Most UAVs worth their money pretty much fly themselves, unlike radio-controlled aircraft and helicopters — both of which actually require a lot of practice and skill to fly. That’s because the latest drones are armed with gyroscopes, barometers, GPS systems and other hardware that work together to keep them in the air, balanced and stable.


Computerworld contributing writer Michael deAgonia shows off two of the latest drones from DJI.

Astronauts on Mars: NASA details 3-phase plan – NASA details the three phases in reaching Mars with human astronauts, including Earth Reliant, Proving Ground, and Earth Independent. The first of these, Earth Reliant, requires that we make certain we’re capable of existing outside of our own atmosphere for long periods of time. This includes astronaut missions aboard the International Space Station. Part of NASA’s plan requires that we extend ISS operations until at least the year 2024. NASA also suggests that they’ll need to pursue an evolvable SLS via Exploration Upper Stage before advanced solid rocket boosters if they’re ever to make a craft that’ll bring humans to Mars AND be able to bring them back to Earth.


10 enthralling visions for the future of computing – For years, our personal computers were made up of monitors, keyboards, and a big beige box. Then laptops came along and changed everything—until a small, flat plate of glass encased in metal, dubbed the iPhone, showed up and changed everything again, followed shortly thereafter by an even larger plate of glass called the iPad that changed things even more. As exciting as the iPad was, the original came to us five years ago. Today, we once again face major shifts in for computing. What will that future look like, both in the near term and the slightly further-off future?


Turnbull: Don’t assume government email is more secure than private email – Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull responded to concerns over the use of his own private email server by saying politicians use insecure communication all the time.

Something to think about:

“It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations.”

–     Sir Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965), My Early Life, 1930


Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit BETA – Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit BETA is cutting edge technology for detecting and removing the nastiest malicious rootkits


    Download Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit

Run the file and follow the onscreen instructions to extract it to a location of your choosing (your desktop by default)

Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit will then open, follow the instruction in the wizard to update and allow the program to scan your computer for threats

Click on the Cleanup button to remove any threats and reboot if prompted to do so

Wait while the system shuts down and the cleanup process is performed

Perform another scan with Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit to verify that no threats remain. If they do, then click Cleanup once more and repeat the process

If no additional threats were found, verify that your system is now running normally, making sure that the following items are functional: Internet access, Windows Update, Windows Firewall

If there are additional problems with your system, such as any of those listed above or other system issues, then run the ‘fixdamage’ tool included with Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit located within the ‘Plugins’ folder and reboot

Verify that your system is now functioning normally

If you experience any problems running the tool or it hasn’t fully resolved all of the issues you had, please contact support

Disclaimer (partial)

While we encourage and invite participation, Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit BETA users run the tool at their own risk. Malwarebytes bears no responsibility for issues that may arise during use of this tool. However, all reasonable efforts will be made by Malwarebytes to assist in recovery should the need arise.

The following screen shots taken from a personal system.




CopyTrans Manager– The free iTunes Alternative to manage iPhone, iPad and iPhone without iTunes.

Use CopyTrans Manager to add songs, videos, apps and more to your iPhone. Add and manage playlists, lyrics and artwork, or change ID3 Tags such as artist, album, ratings etc. The best of all? CopyTrans Manager is portable, a 100% free and supports all iPhones, iPads and iPods.

Add music to iPhone, iPod, iPad on the go

CopyTrans Manager allows you to quickly drag and drop music and videos from PC directly to your iPhone, iPod or iPad. A lightweight iTunes alternative.

You can use CopyTrans Manager on multiple PCs to transfer apps and ringtones to iPhone or any other iOS device without the need for iTunes sync.

Edit track titles and artwork

CopyTrans Manager is a powerful iPhone, iPod, or iPad companion. Edit iPhone music and video titles. Change iPod track album names and genres in a few clicks and without iTunes. You can also edit other meta-data such as track ratings and song lyrics.

Manage iPhone or iPod playlists

Create new playlists or edit already existing iPhone playlists with ease. Use CopyTrans Manager to add or remove songs and videos to your customly created iPhone playlists. You can also change the order of songs within playlists via drag and drop.

CopyTrans Manager does not require installation and makes organizing iPhone playlists, and tracks easy on one or on different PCs without the need for iTunes.

The following screen shots taken from a personal system.



In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Partial Victory: Obama Encryption Policy Rejects Laws Mandating Backdoors, But Leaves the Door Open for Informal Deals – Obama’s position on encryption is now public, as reported by the Washington Post. According to Ellen Nakashima and Andrea Peterson of the Post, Obama “will not —for now—call for legislation requiring companies to decode messages for law enforcement.”

Instead, the Post reports, the “administration will continue trying to persuade companies that have moved to encrypt their customers’ data to create a way for the government to still peer into people’s data when needed for criminal or terrorism investigations.”

While eschewing attempts to legislatively mandate that tech companies build backdoors into their services, the president is continuing the status quo – that is, informally pressuring companies to give the government access to unencrypted data.

Basically, it’s a partial victory for those of us fighting for strong, secure, private communications online.

The coalition—representing more than 50,000 people and over 30 nonprofits and companies—has called on Obama to stand strong against attempts to undermine encryption. Specifically, the coalition states that no “legislation, executive order, or private agreement with the government should undermine our rights.”

Obama is taking a step in that direction, and that’s a victory for the technology rights activists across the globe who have come together during this campaign.

Where Do Major Tech Companies Stand on Encryption? – There’s a major battle brewing over encryption right now.

Law enforcement agencies are trying to demand “backdoors” to our sensitive data and communications, while civil liberties groups are fighting back through a new campaign called SaveCrypto. And President Obama seems to be trying to find a middle ground, eschewing legal mandates but continuing to informally pressure companies to provide unencrypted access to data.

So where do the tech companies stand?

Tech companies are in a unique position to know about and resist unofficial pressure from the government to provide access to user data. We hand over huge amounts of sensitive data to these companies while trusting them to keep it safe. Which companies are willing to go on the record as opposing backdoors?

We rounded up the public policies of 21 of the major tech companies so you can compare them.1 Some of the statements are from our annual Who Has Your Back report, and some from from company blogs and transparency reports.

Apple reportedly blocks access to Apple News in China – It appears Apple is choosing to outright block its news app in China rather than implement a system to censor stories that would earn it the ire of Beijing. A source has confirmed to The New York Times that the company has blocked users in China from accessing Apple News, which offers an iOS-optimized way to read stories from around the web.

China has proven to be a difficult market for many tech companies partly due to the Beijing’s restrictions on content available to people in the country. Companies are typically required to censor the media available in their apps to hew to China’s demands. If not, they risk being cut off by the so-called Great Firewall of China, like Facebook and Twitter. In this case, Apple, which sees China as a massive market for new iPhone sales, is itself blocking people in the country from accessing Apple News.


Filed under Free Software Downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – October 9, 2015

12 irritating Windows 10 installation issues, and how to fix them;  Your computer is an office spy;  Top tips to stay safe on public Wi-Fi networks;  27 iPhone Tricks You Should Know About;  Paramount puts up 100+ films YouTube, streaming for free;  Android devices will soon run Windows software;  Free tool to remove YiSpecter iOS malware;  17 Things You Didn’t Know Your Chromecast Could Do;  Mozilla to boot all plugins from Firefox … except Flash;  Back Up Your WhatsApp Chat History to Google Drive;  Beware of Tech Support Impersonators;  Roku gets support for HBO Now;  Netflix Just Raised The Price Of Its Most Popular Plan;  Google Releases ‘Experimental’ Public Transport App For Delhi, India;  Adidas to 3D print custom insoles in sneakers;  Widely used SHA-1 algorithm could succumb to attack;  Makerbot Lays Off 20% Of Employees;  Amazon takes aim at Etsy with its own marketplace for handicrafts;  Snows of Hoth turn red in Star Wars Battlefront’s beta;  California cops, want to use a stingray? Get a warrant, governor says;  The Next 10 Years Of Automation And What It Might Mean For The Job Market.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

12 irritating Windows 10 installation issues, and how to fix them – With Microsoft saying that 110 million PCs run Windows 10, you’ve no doubt encountered a problem or two or three, either with your upgrades or with those of your colleagues, family, or friends. Here’s my attempt to address the most frequent Windows 10 installation problems, including initial setup problems. Hopefully the advice and pointers will help ease the pain, should you find yourself trapped between the offal and the impeller.

Top tips to stay safe on public Wi-Fi networks – There are a number of quick and easy ways to improve your personal privacy and safety when using public Internet services.

27 iPhone Tricks You Should Know About – Even though we use our iPhones all day every day, there are still a handful of features that are relatively unknown. Some of these features are buried in the Settings menu while others are hidden in plain sight. Plus, there are a few things Siri can do for you that you may not know about.

Paramount puts up 100+ films YouTube, streaming for free – While video streaming is the hot thing these days, not all studios, especially the big ones, are always keen on following the trend. Perhaps more than anything, they fear the likelihood of increased piracy. So when Paramount Pictures makes puts more than a hundred films up on YouTube and makes them available absolutely for free, you might think it’s some late/early April Fools’ prank. And yet that is exactly what the studio did on its verified The Paramount Vault, giving free access dozens of content on the world’s largest video streaming service.


Your computer is an office spy – Ever think your boss is trying to own every second of your life? You may be right. In general, employees have a healthy, get’er’done relationship with office computers. But studies show most units are notoriously unfaithful. Behind your back, the boss can legally penetrate your computer to monitor every move you make on any business machine. After all, the network data from most company-owned computers is systematically logged and archived and available remotely to the boss and I.T. But your paranoia shouldn’t end there …

Android devices will soon run Windows software thanks to CrossOver and Wine – Android devices will soon be able to run Windows applications thanks to CodeWeavers’ CrossOver for Android, which will debut before the end of 2015. Wine for Android was first shown off a few years ago, and work has been ongoing since then. You can run Android apps on Windows, and soon the reverse will be true, too!

Facebook Reactions is as close to a Dislike button as we’ll get (for now) – Today Facebook begins rolling out their Dislike button – only it’s not just about disliking something, this button is all about sending more emotion in your “Likes”. This system takes the form of “Reactions”, including a number of different icons, including one for Love, another for laughing out loud, and another for showing extreme happiness. An Open Mouth emoji can describe surprise with this system, while a sad face can describe dislike – or more likely Empathy. There’s also an Angry Reaction – a red face with eyebrows looking distraught.


Get it: Google’s latest free Android wallpaper shows useful phone, battery metrics – Google’s Creative Labs makes it easy to see real-time battery life, wireless signal strength and notifications with a live wallpaper that shows info at a glance.

17 Things You Didn’t Know Your Chromecast Could Do – Part of its appeal lies in its pure portability, but there’s also the price: just $35 to wirelessly stream Netflix, Spotify, HBO GO, Hulu, and more from your mobile device or PC to the TV. Not to mention apps for music, working out, and catching up on sports. While the ultraportable device is pretty much plug and play, there are a few tips and tricks that can make casting more magical. Check them out in the slideshow.

How to part with Pinterest and move to Google+ Collections – Andy Wolber shows you how to move from Pinterest pins and boards to Google+ Collections in five easy steps.


Back Up Your WhatsApp Chat History to Google Drive – Ever worry about what might happen to all your WhatsApp photos, videos, and chats if your phone suddenly died? Now you don’t have to — if you use Android, at least. That’s because WhatsApp for Android now plays nice with Google Drive, letting you create a private online backup of all your data from the Facebook-owned chat service. The app will let you back up your entire WhatsApp chat history, including voice messages, photos, and videos, to Google Drive, giving you peace of mind that your data is safe if your phone goes kaput.

Adobe Monument Mode erases annoying people walking into your scenic photos – Adobe’s MAX conference saw the company demonstrate some of its still-in-development technology and software yesterday, and one of the most impressive was the feature called Monument Mode. Meant to run on smartphone cameras, the technology automatically removes walking people and moving objects from photos of landmarks and other scenes in real-time. The idea is the opposite of the kind of post-processing done in programs like Photoshop, instead removing obstructions before the image is even captured.


Cat Phones announces Cat S40 rugged Android smartphone for the US market – As a professional engineer and ship designer, I often find myself out on shipchecks crawling through dirty tanks, bilges, and other nasty places. When I am out in the field, a rugged phone or a rugged case is highly desirable. In the past, ruggedized phones tended to be priced much higher than standard phones, but with the new Cat S40 we see it launching lower than all the existing flagships and in line with the new crop of sub-$450 Android smartphones. The Cat S40 will be available for $399.


Google Releases ‘Experimental’ Public Transport App For Delhi, India – Google describes the Delhi Public Transport app, which was created by the Google Maps team, as “experimental” and “designed from the ground up to make it easier for Delhi residents to get around on public transit.” The app aggregates public transport information from Maps, and other Google services, and packs them into a dedicated app that lets you look up Metro and bus timetables and directions, plan routes, check schedules and receive news updates about service issues.


How to save specific Windows File Explorer searches for fast future queries – Here’s an entry level power user tip that will save you time if you’re constantly searching for the same thing on your PC. Since Windows Vista, File Explorer/Windows Explorer lets you save a specific search for quick access later. For our example, we’ll be using Windows 10, but this tip will work for Windows 7 and up.

Mozilla to boot all plugins from Firefox … except Flash – As Mozilla explains, burgeoning native web support for the kinds of things plugins used to do is the reason it’s confident a plugin-free Firefox is the way to go. “Plugins are a source of performance problems, crashes, and security incidents for Web users,” the outfit argues. And users are happy to avoid all three of those issues. Publishers, Mozilla suggests, need to suck it up and give users the experience they deserve.

Verizon grandfathered unlimited data users face $20 price increase – As most of the US’s major wireless carriers have long stopped offering unlimited data plans, those companies must uphold the plan for users who entered contracts before they were discontinued, otherwise known as grandfathered users. Most of these carriers would certainly prefer these customers switch to one of their tiered plans, often trying to lure them with cheaper prices in exchange for low data caps, but it seem Verizon has another plan altogether: increase their bill by $20.


Android adware wields potent root exploits to gain permanent foothold – Researchers have uncovered yet another Android-based adware campaign targeting people who download what they believe are trusted titles from websites and other third-party app stores. The apps use repackaged icons to disguise themselves as popular titles and are offered for download through pop-up ads on visited websites and in-app promotions, according to a blog post published Wednesday by researchers from security firm FireEye. Once installed, the apps exploit as many as eight separate Android vulnerabilities that allow the apps to gain deep root access privileges. From there, the apps launch code libraries mimicking legitimate Android services, such as com.facebook.qdservice.rp.provider and, to gain a permanent foothold on infected phones.


In-the-wild samples of Kemoge impersonating well-known apps. FireEye

Free tool to remove YiSpecter iOS malware – Zimperium has released a tool to help iOS users that have been infected with the recently spotted YiSpecter advertising malware remove the threat from their devices. The tool is called zYiRemoval. It’s a command line tool that needs to be installed on a computer (an OS X and a Windows version are available, and will be updated regularly). After connecting the infected iOS device to the computer, the tool needs to be executed from the terminal. The tool then searches for the malicious apps associated with the threat: HYQvod, DaPian, NoIcon, ADPage, NoIconUpdate, and others.

Beware of Tech Support Impersonators – In the sea of tech support scams we come across, we sometimes forget how unscrupulous the people behind them can be. They have no shame in defrauding victims for imaginary computer problems and could not care less about ripping off legitimate companies in the process. Take this latest example, where fraudsters went as far as stealing all of our company’s logos to create a Twitter account and website in order to advertise for their ‘tech support’ services. Does this company actually provide a helpful service to save them from ‘only’ ripping our brand but at least not tarnish it? The answer is no.


The fake LinkedIn recruiter network hackers are using to reel in business users – Hackers known to use Zeus malware to hack critical infrastructure targets have developed an elaborate network of fake recruiter profiles for phishing on LinkedIn.

Widely used SHA-1 algorithm could succumb to attack, researchers warn – The SHA-1 hashing algorithm, still used to sign almost one in three SSL certificates, can now be attacked for as little as $75,000, and should be urgently retired, researchers say

Company News:

BlackBerry calls out Apple on security while touting Android – A new promotional spot from BlackBerry suggests that the company will be aiming their new phone “Priv” directly at Apple’s iPhone users. According to the company’s advertorial text, “we at BlackBerry are happy to see Apple is now taking your privacy seriously.” The full-page text spot goes on to suggest that because BlackBerry has built their reputation by “creating the most secure device in the market,” they’ll be naming their “next generation secure smartphone” BlackBerry Priv. “In recognition of our long history of valuing our customers privacy,” said BlackBerry.


Dell said to be in talks with EMC over possible huge merger – Dell is reportedly in talks to buy all or part of enterprise storage powerhouse EMC, which would mark a bold and unexpected new chapter in the PC maker’s history. A total merger would be one of the biggest deals ever in the technology industry, with EMC holding a market value of about $50 billion. It would also bring together two of the most important vendors to enterprise IT departments. The report about the deal Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal cited unnamed sources, and cautioned that the the companies might not finalize any agreement.

Makerbot Lays Off 20% Of Employees, Restructures Brooklyn Offices – Makerbot CEO Jonathan Jaglom has announced that they are laying off about 20% off the company’s 400 staff or about 80 people. The move follows a previous round of layoffs that dropped 20% of the original workforce and closed the company’s three retail stores. The company is also closing one of its office spaces in Industry City and is relocating the software and sales teams to its headquarters in downtown Brooklyn.


Lyft partners with Hertz so drivers can use rentals – Lyft announced the new partnerships in a statement today. Under the Hertz partnership, approved Lyft drivers will have the option to rent a Hertz car for either a day, a week, or a month at “special affordable” rates; they’ll then use those cars to drive around Lyft users rather than their own. What kind of rates drivers will be facing isn’t specified, so it is hard to say whether this is a good opportunity. On the surface of things, there are some obvious benefits — if you need to make some cash but your own personal car doesn’t pass the Lyft requirements, you won’t be entirely out of luck. Likewise, the wear and tear will be on the rental, not your own vehicle…but whether that works out financially is yet to be seen.

Amazon takes aim at Etsy with its own marketplace for handicrafts – In a bid to challenge Etsy — the online artisanal juggernaut for vintage homespun goods and handicrafts — Amazon on Thursday launched Handmade at Amazon, its own incarnation of an arts-and-crafts marketplace that gives a major injection of scale to otherwise obscure, one-of-a-kind products. The handmade goods category is entirely new for Amazon, but the strategy behind it is a familiar one. Amazon aims to sell everything to everyone, and over the years that’s required the Seattle-based company to pick up new e-commerce skills along the way in order to meet consumer demands.


Qualcomm enters server CPU market with 24-core ARM chip – Qualcomm has revealed its plans to enter the server CPU market with a custom processor based on a design from U.K. chip company ARM. Qualcomm becomes the latest vendor to build a server chip using the ARM architecture, which is widely used in smartphones and tablets. Some believe ARM can challenge x86 in the data center because of its low-power characteristics. It’s aiming the chip at hyper-scale customers such as Facebook and Google, as well as service providers and large enterprises. It says the chip will be suitable for cloud workloads including big-data mining, machine learning, and Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service offerings.


Qualcomm’s ARM server chip – Credit: James Niccolai

IBM chases Intel with new Power-based Linux servers sold over the Web – IBM is gunning for a slice of Intel’s x86 server chip business with a new family of Power systems that run Linux and will be sold directly to customers over the Web. The LC family of servers, which went on sale Thursday, is aimed at organizations deploying clustered or cloud environments, particularly for running Hadoop, Spark and other workloads that involve crunching large volumes of data. IBM already sells Power servers running Linux, but these new boxes differ in a number of ways, and mark the latest effort by IBM to expand its Power platform into new markets, said Stephanie Chiras, director and business line executive for scale-out Power systems.

Games and Entertainment:

Roku gets support for HBO Now – HBO Now is the network’s somewhat new Internet streaming service that gives cable-cutters and non-HBO subscribers a way to (legally) enjoy HBO shows without having a compatible cable subscription. If you subscribe to the service, you have numerous ways to enjoy the content, but Roku hasn’t thus far been one of them. Fortunately, that has now changed. Roku is one of the most popular set top box product lines out there, offering several models including the slim and inexpensive Roku Streaming Stick. Despite its popularity, it was largely ignored on the HBO Now front, leaving its users with less options to watch the HBO content. That changed today, with HBO Now adding Roku to its supported list.


Netflix Just Raised The Price Of Its Most Popular Plan – Surprise! Netflix just got more expensive. The service’s most popular plan now costs $9.99. Existing customers will have a grace period, but the price is effectively immediately for new subscribers in U.S., Canada and parts of Latin America. Netflix quietly raised prices for Europeans in late August. The price increase raises its Standard plan to $9.99 a month. This is the plan that streams high-def content and can support multiple streams at once. This comes as Netflix is trying to expand its original programming. The service’s shows recently won four Emmys. But Amazon did better and won its first Emmy for “Transparent,” where Jeffrey Tambor won for lead actor in a comedy for his role in the critically beloved series.

‘Risk’ board game is getting a big redesign next year – The board game Risk, a popular game that has been around for many years and has, at times, undergone facelifts, will soon be reintroduced with a new design. This latest design change brings with it a fairly drastic update, eclipsing the more minor tweaks we’ve seen over the decades, and will include changes to the game tokens and other peripherals. New illustrations, changes to the topography, and more are all inbound.


Snows of Hoth turn red in Star Wars Battlefront’s beta – The reboot of Star Wars Battlefront arrives next month, but players can get an early look at it starting today with a public beta. We got some early hands-on play with several of the missions available in the beta, including the Survival Mode on Tatooine, the Drop Zone, and a gruesome look at the Walker Assault, which recreates the Empire’s attack on the Rebel base on Hoth. This mode left the ground soaked in Rebel blood.


Disney, EA removes a ton of mobile games from iOS, Android – With Apple’s recent gaming push on the new Apple TV, you would think that gaming is the next hottest thing in mobile. And indeed, analysts have pointed out how lucrative that market has become. Sadly, that has also made it all the more crowded and oversaturated, edging out some titles, including big but older ones. That is probably what led Disney and EA, two of the largest game publishers on iOS and Android, to officially pull the plug on dozens of their games, regardless of how popular they may have been.


Witcher 3’s biggest-ever 1.10 update detailed, includes 600 changes – CD Projekt Red has officially revealed Patch 1.10 for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and they weren’t kidding when they said it would be “massive.” The update represents the largest collection of fixes, improvements, and enhancements introduced to The Witcher 3 to date. There are 600 PC/console changes in all, which are spread across quests, stability, inventory management, and additional fan-requested romance options.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Senate bill aims to make it a federal offense to fly drones recklessly – A bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday that will make it a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine or imprisonment for up to a year, for individuals who knowingly operate a drone within 2 miles of a fire, an airport or any other restricted airspace.

The Next 10 Years Of Automation And What It Might Mean For The Job Market – After decades of subtle developments that largely went unnoticed by much of the working world, artificial intelligence (AI) has taken center stage in the last 2-3 years as a “hot” technology. From Google’s surge of acquisitions (DeepMind, Boston Dynamics, etc.), to increased venture capital attention, to the safety concerns of Elon Musk and Bill Gates about potentially super-intelligent AI, the field is undeniably back in the spotlight. One of the most pressing concerns for those of us in the working world is the effect of automation on job security — in both blue-collar and white-collar work. Though more far-out considerations are difficult to predict, many experienced computer science researchers feel reasonably comfortable speaking about AI’s influence in the coming 5-10 years.


Adidas to 3D print custom insoles in sneakers – Adidas has announced a new performance running shoe line called Futurecraft 3D, which will offer consumers a custom-formed and 3D-printed midsole. The midsole can be tailored to the shape and the cushioning needs of an individual’s foot. Linked with existing data sourcing and foot-scan technologies, it opens unique opportunities for immediate in-store fittings, Adidas said in a statement. “Imagine walking into an Adidas store, running briefly on a treadmill and instantly getting a 3D-printed running shoe – this is the ambition of the Adidas 3D-printed midsole,” the company said.


The 3D printed Adidas midsole. Credit: Adidas

This is what Bang & Olufsen’s $40,000 speaker looks like – Serious audiophiles are notorious for spending absolutely obscene amounts of money on cables, speakers, tuners, and anything else that might help them reach the zen of perfect sound. Whether or not that’s all the placebo effect is up for debate, but there’s something new audiophiles can spend all their cash on. Bang & Olufsen’s premium Beolab 90 speakers are $40,000… each.


New Kodak surveillance camera rivals Nest Cam with a lower price – While Google’s Next Cam is arguably the most popular connected home surveillance camera around, that doesn’t stop other camera makers from trying to compete with their own solutions. Take for instance Kodak and their new CFH-V20 camera, part of their Connected Family Home series. The camera not only has a 180-degree field of view, but can stream HD video, act as a two-way intercom, and has night vision. The camera itself is priced at $150, making it an attractive alternative to the $200 Nest Cam.


The best hidden GPS trackers for covert monitoring and protection – Protect your assets with these hidden GPS trackers to make sure your possessions stay safe and easy to locate.


Australian Prime Minister runs private email server – Australia’s newly minted prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has admitted to running a private email server. Previously communications minister, a role in which he credits himself with having turned around Australia’s national broadband network, Turnbull has a long history with and deep enthusiasm for the technology industries. The new PM famously invested in OzEmail, which went on to become Australia’s dominant internet service provider in the dialup age, blogs, tweets, wears an Apple Watch and has admitted to use of self-destructing and metadata-free instant messaging service Wickr.

Something to think about:

If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read “President Can’t Swim”.

–      Lyndon B. Johnson (1908 – 1973)


Stinger – McAfee Stinger is a standalone utility used to detect and remove specific viruses. It is not a substitute for full anti-virus protection, but a specialized tool to assist administrators and users when dealing with infected system. Details on new or enhanced signatures added with each Stinger build are listed in the Readme details.

Stinger now includes Raptor – a real-time behavior detection technology that monitors suspicious activity on an endpoint. Raptor leverages machine learning and automated behavioral based classification in the cloud to detect zero-day malware in real-time.

Periscope – Periscope lets you broadcast live video to the world. Going live will instantly notify your followers, who can join, comment and send you hearts in real time. The more hearts you get, the higher they flutter on the screen.

Other features:

• REPLAY: When your broadcast is over, you can make it available for replay so viewers can watch later. Viewers can replay your broadcast with comments and hearts to relive the full experience.


• MAPS (finally!): See live scopes from around the globe with the new map! The map is available to devices with Google Play Services.

• INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT: We’ve translated the app in 32 languages, including right-to-left languages.

• SHARE INFO: You’ll now see who has shared a broadcast to you on the main list.

• Video stability improvements and bug fixes.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Microsoft: Forcing us to share data will harm US-EU relations – Forcing a US company to hand over data it stores overseas back to the US government for law enforcement purposes would further harm relations between the US and Europe.

In a written submission to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, Microsoft’s outside counsel Joshua Rosenkranz argued that cross-border data transfers are “fraught” and “easily gives rise to international discord.”

The letter, seen by ZDNet and also posted Tuesday to the appeals court, was submitted following the software giant’s supplemental earlier oral arguments in September.

Microsoft has been fighting the US government for the past two years in a case that threatens to unravel trust in the US tech industry. The case centers on a US search warrant which federal prosecutors are applying to foreign data stored by Microsoft in its Dublin datacenter — the first such extraterritorial warrant of its kind.

Prosecutors argue Microsoft, a US-based company, holds the data, while the software giant says the warrant goes beyond the means of a traditional warrant because it forces the company to hand over data it stores in another country, which in itself is subject to different laws and regulations.

In refusing to comply with the warrant, Microsoft agreed to a contempt of court charge a year ago.

ACLU: Orwellian Citizen Score, China’s credit score system, is a warning for Americans – Gamer? Strike. Bad-mouthed the government in comments on social media? Strike. Even if you don’t buy video games and you don’t post political comments online “without prior permission,” but any of your online friends do….strike. The strikes are actually more like dings, dings to your falling credit score that is.

Thanks to a new terrifying use of big data, a credit score can be adversely affected by your hobbies, shopping habits, lifestyles, what you read online, what you post online, your political opinions as well as what your social connections do, say, read, buy or post. While you might never imagine such a credit-rating system in America, it is happening in China and the ACLU said it serves as a warning for Americans.

Big data is sucking in everything about citizens as algorithms evaluate that data, but the Chinese government is leveraging that data and “smart data” analysis that “reveals even casual relationships” in order to create a comprehensive credit score system which “determines your opportunities for life.” Yes the score does measure the ability to pay, but “this is the most staggering, publicly announced, scaled use of big data I’ve ever seen,” said Silicon Valley entrepreneur Michael Fertik; he is also the author of The Reputation Economy. “It certainly feels about as Orwellian as your nightmares would have it be.”

California cops, want to use a stingray? Get a warrant, governor says – On Thursday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that requires police get a warrant to use a stingray during investigations. The devices, which are also known as cell-site simulators, are usually used to locate a phone but can also in some cases intercept calls and text messages.

The law, known as the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act, imposes other sweeping new requirements to enhance digital privacy, and imposes a warrant requirement before police can access nearly any type of digital data produced by or contained within a device or service.

“Governor Brown just signed a law that says ‘no’ to warrantless government snooping in our digital information. This is a landmark win for digital privacy and all Californians,” Nicole Ozer, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of California ACLU, said in a statement. “We hope this is a model for the rest of the nation in protecting our digital privacy rights.”

The ACLU of California was one of the organizations, in addition to tech companies including Google, Airbnb, Apple, Facebook, that co-sponsored the bill.

I showed leaked NSA slides at Purdue, so feds demanded the video be destroyed – On September 24, I gave a keynote presentation at Purdue University about the NSA, Edward Snowden, and national security journalism in the age of surveillance. It was part of the excellent Dawn or Doom colloquium, which I greatly enjoyed. The organizers live-streamed my talk and promised to provide me with a permalink to share.

After unexplained delays, I received a terse e-mail from the university last week. Upon advice of counsel, it said, Purdue “will not be able to publish your particular video” and will not be sending me a copy. The conference hosts, once warm and hospitable, stopped replying to my e-mails and telephone calls. I don’t hold it against them. Very likely they are under lockdown by spokesmen and lawyers.

Naturally, all this piqued my curiosity. With the help of my colleague Sam Adler-Bell, I think I have pieced together most of the story.

It turns out that Purdue has wiped all copies of my video and slides from university servers, on grounds that I displayed classified documents briefly on-screen. A breach report was filed with the university’s Research Information Assurance Officer, also known as the Site Security Officer, under the terms of Defense Department Operating Manual 5220.22-M. I am told that Purdue briefly considered, among other things, whether to destroy the projector I borrowed, lest contaminants remain.

UPDATE: Just after posting this item I received an e-mail from Julie Rosa, who heads strategic communications for Purdue. She confirmed that Purdue wiped my video after consulting the Defense Security Service, but the university now believes it went too far:

In an overreaction while attempting to comply with regulations, the video was ordered to be deleted instead of just blocking the piece of information in question. Just FYI: The conference organizers were not even aware that any of this had happened until well after the video was already gone.

BOX _ I’m told we are attempting to recover the video, but I have not heard yet whether that is going to be possible. When I find out, I will let you know and we will, of course, provide a copy to you.

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Filed under Free Software Downloads, Internet Security Alerts, Latest Tech News