Tag Archives: Bill Mullins

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – December 5, 2016

‘Guessing Attack’ Bypasses Credit Card Security in 6 Seconds;  WTF is AI?  Find out what your web browser is telling websites about you;  How to shop online and stay secure;  The Best iPad Apps of 2016;  Uber now monitors where you go after a ride, but you can stop it;  Free data platforms: How to choose a good one;  Android Security Bulletin November 2016: What you need to know;  How to reinstall Windows 10 without any bloatware;  Gifts for people who like to fix things – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

‘Guessing Attack’ Bypasses Credit Card Security in 6 Seconds – December is always a very busy time for the banks and credit card companies as we all scramble to purchase presents in time for Christmas. But it’s also a boon period for fraudsters who are trying to steal those precious card details. And now it seems, they can “guess hack” a credit card in mere seconds. A team of researchers at Newcastle University discovered two weaknesses in the way online transactions are verified using the Visa payment system. Neither weakness is of much use alone, but when used together, an attacker can recover a credit card’s security information in as little as six seconds.

How to shop online and stay secure – It’s that time of year again: Soon we’ll begin scouring the internet to find the lowest prices for holiday gifts. As a savvy online shopper, you’ll visit multiple websites to find the perfect deal, usually creating accounts with your credit card and other personal information. But when it’s time for checkout, don’t make the same mistakes I did. Protect yourself and your password.

Find out what your web browser is telling websites about you – Interested in knowing what information a website has access to about you as soon as you visit a page? Here are a couple of websites that will show you what information you are leaking as you browse the internet.

WTF is AI? – These days, AI is a term applied indiscriminately to a host of systems, and while I’d like to say that many stretch the definition, I can’t, because AI doesn’t really have a proper definition. Roughly speaking, we could say that it is a piece of software that attempts to replicate human thought processes or the results thereof. That leaves a lot of wiggle room, but we can work with it. You have AI that picks the next song to play you, AI that dynamically manages the legs of a robot, AI that picks out objects from an image and describes them, AI that translates from German to English to Russian to Korean and every which way. All of these are things humans excel at, and there are vast benefits to be gained from automating them well.

Jim Hillier: What are the Best PC Specs for You – Whenever someone asks me to build a custom machine for them, my first and most important question is always… “what will you be using it for?”. While some users might be financially comfortable enough to be unconcerned about price, most of us are subject to budgetary constraints and there’s not much point in paying a premium for high-end specs which are never going to come into play. So, the first and primary consideration should always be best value for the dollar. However, at the same time, you should, where budget allows, also factor in future-proofing… in other words, make sure your system implements as much of the latest available technology as possible.

The Best External Hard Drives of 2016 – Whether you need a sit-on-your-desk backup solution or a drive you can slip into a pocket to shuttle files, these top-rated external hard drives have your storage needs covered.

Flash’s slow death continues with Chrome 55 – Google is continuing its plan to phase out Flash in favor of HTML5 today by launching Chrome 55. With this new update, many sites around the web will begin defaulting to HTML5 instead of Flash. There are a few exceptions, but Chrome 55 largely implements the measures Google laid out earlier in the year.

The Best iPad Apps of 2016 – According to Apple, more than a million dedicated iPad apps have been released worldwide. The right app can transform the iPad, regardless of its size, into nearly anything you desire. Want to look for a job? Download the LinkedIn app. Want to whip up phat beats during the subway commute? Download GarageBand. Any task you want to do, there’s probably an app for that.

How to reinstall Windows 10 without any bloatware – Windows 10 actually has the ability to install just the OS without any additional software.

How to Turn on Cortana by Voice in Windows 10 – Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant is an integral part of Windows 10. But normally, to pose a question or command, you first have to click on the microphone icon next to Cortana’s “Ask me anything” field just to wake it up. But why bother clicking on something when you can use your voice? Through Microsoft’s “Hey Cortana” feature, you can get the attention of the voice assistant just by saying “Hey Cortana,” and segue into your converation seamlessly. Let’s see how this works.

Microsoft Teams: The smart person’s guide – This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about the chat-based communication and collaboration platform Microsoft Teams.

Windows 10 Creators Update to include new accessibility features for braille, narration – The Creators Update for Windows 10 is still a ways off from its spring 2017 release, but Microsoft continues to share what’s in development and what users can look forward to. The latest blog post from the company details some of the accessibility features that will be included with the update, allowing the Windows 10 OS to be just as easy to use for those with disabilities.

$49 Windows tablets, $1,000 PC discounts, and 50% off Xbox games highlight Microsoft deals – Microsoft’s “12 Days of Deals” contain some hidden gems, including $1,000 off selected PCs, discounts on Groove Music and Xbox Live Gold, as well as sweet stocking stuffers. Here, we tell you what to buy and what to skip.

Report: Microsoft’s Home Hub will chase Amazon’s Alexa and Echo as a software service – A Windows Central report suggests that Microsoft is indeed developing a smart-home solution, though its Home Hub may be a Windows 10 service rather than a device.

5 new tricks for Instagram addicts – Instagram has been rolling out monthly updates that are changing the way you can use the photo-sharing app, including a new live video option that’s already available to some users.

iHeartRadio partners with Napster for on-demand music streaming – The streaming music market is already a crowded one, but that isn’t stopping iHeartRadio, the conglomerate behind over 800 US radio stations, from jumping in. With updates to both its iOS and Android apps this week, the service has debuted two new paid subscription plans that allow users to stream music on-demand, thanks in part to a new partnership with Napster.

Free data platforms: How to choose a good one – Free online tools for understanding data abound, each promising to help your business make sense of its data troves. But how to choose one? Here are the factors to consider.

Google Pixel camera bug: five workarounds that may solve the issue – Google’s newly released Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones are, in some cases, suffering from a serious camera issue that overlays magenta-colored streaks over images. This issue has been reported by Pixel owners over the last several weeks, and though Google is looking into the issue, there’s no solution at this time. However, some Pixel owners report finding troubleshooting techniques, of which these are the five most successful methods.

This Guy Built a Fake News Detector, Then Facebook Blocked It – Last night, TechCrunch ran a story purporting that Facebook was showing certain users red warning labels above fake news links. But as it happens, this wasn’t Facebook’s doing at all, but rather the work of a Chrome plugin called B.S. Detector, made by activist and independent journalist Daniel Sieradski. If that irony wasn’t interview-worthy enough, with the backdrop of an ongoing public crisis over Facebook’s involvement in fake news, the social network appears to have just actually just banned the plugin, according to Sieradski.

2016 Christmas gift guide: Gifts for people who like to fix things – If you’re in the business of repairing PCs, smartphones, or tablets, then you need the tools to help you get the job done in a fast, efficient, and safe way.

The Hottest Tech Toys for Kids – Every year, as the holidays roll around, children’s hearts are filled with joy and anticipation. Adult hearts, in turn, are filled with fear and trepidation. After all, how would you know if that DIY robot is a better buy for your youngster than that hoverboard all her classmates have been talking about? And even as junior yearns for that gizmo with the flashing lights and incessant music, is it really appropriate for their age? The choices are endless, the decisions daunting. Fear not, PCMag has you covered.

Security:

Android Security Bulletin November 2016: What you need to know – How did Android fare in the November Security Bulletin? It may come as no surprise to learn that our old friend the Mediaserver has returned with a critical vulnerability. We also see some new entries in the mix. Let’s dive in and see what’s what.

Jim Hillier: Is Your VPN Leaking – With the dramatic increase in tracking online activity, more and more users are turning to VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) to help mask their identity and whereabouts. The general expectation with VPNs is that they provide absolute privacy/anonymity, however, that is not always the case. Some VPNs will actually leak real IP and DNS addresses which, of course, negates the entire reason for using a VPN in the first place.

Uber now monitors where you go after a ride, but you can stop it – Uber now keeps track of where you go after your ride ends. The tracking spans the first five minutes after you reach your destination. The data gathered from this monitoring is used to improve Uber’s service, including pickups and drop-offs. If you, like many users, aren’t happy about being surveilled by the Uber app, you can disable the feature before your next trip.

Blame the ISPs rather than the routers – That its a new variant of Mirai, makes for sexy for headlines, but is not important. That five million devices may be vulnerable is also not important. And, It’s pretty much irrelevant that the buggy routers were produced by Acadyan and Zyxel. The most important issue in this latest router attack is that most of the blame falls on the Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The routers were attacked on TCP port 7547, which is used by the TR-069 protocol (also known as CWMP or CPE WAN Management Protocol). Leaving port 7547 open would have been a non-issue if the ISPs had made better decisions. Its the network equivalent of not wearing seat belts. No surprise then, that customers were eventually thrown through the front window.

There’s a new DDoS army, and it could soon rival record-setting Mirai – For almost three months, Internet-of-things botnets built by software called Mirai have been a driving force behind a new breed of attacks so powerful they threaten the Internet as we know it. Now, a new botnet is emerging that could soon magnify or even rival that threat. The as-yet unnamed botnet was first detected on November 23, the day before the US Thanksgiving holiday. For exactly 8.5 hours, it delivered a non-stop stream of junk traffic to undisclosed targets, according to this post published Friday by content delivery network CloudFlare. Every day for the next six days at roughly the same time, the same network pumped out an almost identical barrage, which is aimed at a small number of targets mostly on the US West Coast. More recently, the attacks have run for 24 hours at a time.

Remote management app exposes millions of Android users to hacking – Poor implementation of encryption in a popular Android remote management application exposes millions of users to data theft and remote code execution attacks. According to researchers from mobile security firm Zimperium, the AirDroid screen-sharing and remote-control application sends authentication information encrypted with a hard-coded key. This information could allow man-in-the-middle attackers to push out malicious AirDroid add-on updates, which would then gain the permissions of the app itself.

Researchers find a way to bypass the iOS activation lock – The researchers crashed the lock screen by inserting long strings in the Wi-Fi configuration settings.

Company News:

Intel’s silence on Optane SSDs raises questions about launch and focus – There’s a lot of excitement about Intel’s superfast Optane SSDs, but products won’t be on shelves this year as the chipmaker had earlier promised.

In new lawsuit, Instacart shoppers say they were regularly underpaid – The Instacart lawsuit is one of several currently targeting so-called “sharing economy” startups, and they all get at the same question: can workers be accurately classified as independent contractors, or should they properly be designated as employees? In Instacart’s case, customers order groceries online, but those groceries are then picked up and delivered by the company’s shoppers. So, should those shoppers be treated as employees?

Volkswagen launches Moia, a new standalone mobility company – Volkswagen Group is making a significant bet on future mobility services with Moia, a new separate company that will exist under the VW umbrella of brands focused specifically on providing mobility solutions, including fleet-based commuter shuttles and, eventually, autonomous on-demand transportation.

Apple admits what caused your iPhone battery issue – Apple made a statement about the iPhone 6s this morning in China, adding details to a battery issue reported by users in China and the USA. This battery issue has affected a “small number of iPhone 6S devices,” said Apple. In addition to what was reported by Apple earlier, they’ve revealed details on the exact cause of the device switching off as it reaches 40% battery. It would seem that this is not a bug, but a sort of feature – as Apple says: “an iPhone is actually designed to shut down automatically under certain conditions.”

Apple Pay debuts in Spain with support for Mastercard and American Express – Apple Pay officially launched in Spain this week, making it the latest European nation to accept Apple’s contactless mobile payments service. It also comes shortly after similar debuts in Japan, New Zealand, and Russia. Using compatible iPhone models or an Apple Watch, Apple Pay will allow users to make fast and easy payments at 27 Spanish retailers simply by holding their device over an NFC terminal.

Pandora shares up 11% on acquisition report – Internet radio pioneer Pandora, saw its shares jump over 11% on Friday to $12.77, amid renewed acquisition speculation. A report from CNBC indicated that Pandora and SiriusXM are expected to discuss a possible purchase. The story cautions that there is “no assurance” that Pandora will reach a deal with SiriusXM or any other prospective buyers.

Games and Entertainment:

DirecTV NOW vs Sling TV vs PlayStation Vue: Streaming Showdown – The brave new world of live television is upon us, and it comes in three forms: PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, and DirecTV NOW. Having multiple products to choose from is never a bad thing, but it does require more leg work. Which service has the features you can’t live without? Is there some hard-to-find fine print you should know about? Does the service you’re leaning toward offer the best value for your money? We’ve answered all those questions and more.

‘The Last Guardian’ Is a Game About the Only Pure Thing in Life: Dogs – Have you ever seen a dog about to jump into a pool for the very first time? It’s one of life’s great pleasures. The dog’s excited and afraid. It paws at the water hesitantly, preparing to leap in, then backs away at the last minute, because who know knows what the hell is going on in there. Then it’ll come back because the water’s so enticing. This will go on until the dog finally finds the courage to take the leap and discover that the pool is pure ecstasy. I’ve never been as excited about anything in my life as much as a dog can get excited about a pool. The Last Guardian, which after a decade in development is one of the most hotly anticipated games ever, expertly recreates that marvelous sight, only instead of a dog it’s a giant bird-dog-dragon hybrid creature named Trico.

Watch Dogs 2 review: A fresh, interesting rebirth that ditches the stale Ubisoft formula – Watch Dogs 2 is as big a series-defining comeback as Assassin’s Creed II was back in 2009—and it does it by burning away all the worst parts of Ubisoft’s formula.

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WWII fighter pilot game leans on Tuskegee Airmen’s legacy to get Kickstarter aloft – By gameplay concept alone, Iron Wings would be difficult to stand out from the crowd of Kickstarted video games begging for your dollar. It’s an air combat shooter proposed for PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One, and there have been plenty of those, through all periods of history, on consoles and PCs down through the years. What’s eye-catching about Iron Wings, by Messina, Italy-based Naps Team, is the cast: African-American pilots. And women. In World War II. It’s as if the studio — which dates to 1993 — understood how tough it would be to stand out using a bog-standard squadron of Allies, and the gameplay concepts they wish to introduce with Iron Wings wouldn’t be enough to set things apart.

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FCC says AT&T, Verizon are violating net neutrality with sponsored data plans – This week the FCC sent letters to both AT&T and Verizon, stating that zero-rated data — plans and services that don’t count against users’ monthly allotment — is a violation of net neutrality rules. For AT&T, this applies to their new DirecTV Now streaming video service, and for Verizon it’s their own Go90 video service. The FCC’s wireless communications chief Jon Wilkins wrote that the telecoms’ practices “inhibit competition, harm consumers, and interfere with the ‘virtuous cycle’ needed to assure the continuing benefits of the Open Internet.”

Ars Cardboard’s 2016 board game gift guide – Whether your giftee is a longtime gamer or a brand new convert, Ars Cardboard is here with a list of games to please players of every stripe. We’ve broken your friends and family into tidy little categories and provided a main pick and some alternatives for each demographic. Our main picks focus on titles released in the last year or two, but we dug into some older titles for our expanded picks. To boot, most games on this list are friendly to tabletop newbies.

Off Topic (Sort of):

The biggest threat to artificial intelligence: Human stupidity – Thoughtless use of artificial intelligence could be much more dangerous than the super-intelligent digital villains of science-fiction.

Another Android update betrayal: when will we learn? – This week another Android device less than 2-years old has been announced to be at its end-of-life for Android updates. It is my opinion that this happens all too often – that while it isn’t necessarily Google’s fault this happens, it should be made more clear. Clarity should be the name of the game when it comes to the promise of a smartphone that’ll last. Clarity should be at the forefront of the presentation of a brand new smartphone – especially when it costs several hundred dollars.

Op-ed: Stop pretending there’s a difference between “online” and “real life” – Sometimes I get into one of those conversations about the Internet where the only way I can reply is to quote from The IT Crowd: “Are you from the past?” I say that every time someone asserts that the online world is somehow separate from real life. You’d be surprised how much this comes up, even after all these years of people’s digital shenanigans leading to everything from espionage and murder to international video fame and fancy book deals. But now that the U.S. has a president-elect who communicates with the American people almost exclusively via Twitter and YouTube, it’s really time to stop kidding ourselves.

How will Silicon Valley respond to Trump? – Capital founding partner Freada Kapor Klein isn’t happy.  Klein, one of technology’s leading social activists and impact investors, has been “deeply troubled” by the election of Donald Trump. She is particularly disgusted by what she calls the “unleashing” of “horrific behavior” since the election, such as what she fears might even be the now acceptable use of the N word on the streets of San Francisco. So what can Silicon Valley do to respond to Trump? We need, Kapor Klein says, to “get out of our bubble”.

Something to think about:

“The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office.”

–      H. L. Mencken    (1880 – 1956)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Snowden says Petraeus shared ‘far more highly classified material than I ever did’ – Edward Snowden blasted the US justice department in an interview with Yahoo News on Sunday, saying “we have a two-tiered system of justice in the United States” that allows the well connected to get off with light punishments.

Snowden, a fugitive and former NSA contractor who revealed the organization’s worldwide spying powers in 2013, pointed to the case of former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus as evidence.

“Perhaps the best-known case in recent history here is General Petraeus who shared information that was far more highly classified than I ever did with journalists,” Snowden told Katie Couric, global news anchor at Yahoo. “And he shared this information not with the public for their benefit, but with his biographer and lover for personal benefit conversations that had information, detailed information, about military special access programs that’s classified above Top Secret, conversations with the president, and so on.”

Couric traveled to Moscow for the face-to-face interview, where Snowden remains in exile. The full interview will be available to view Monday on YouTube.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – December 2, 2016

Top Google Chrome productivity, privacy and security extensions 2016;  NFL streaming: how to watch football without CBS All Access;  How to use a tablet as a second display;  Tech on a Budget: 20 Gift Ideas Under $20;  A beginner’s guide to beefing up your privacy and security online;  The Best SSDs of 2016;  Dusk’s new app lets you live stream anonymously;  How to download, manage Netflix shows on your phone or tablet – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

A beginner’s guide to beefing up your privacy and security online – This is not a comprehensive guide to security, nor should it be considered good enough for professional activists or people who suspect they may be under targeted surveillance. This is for people who use their phones and computers for work and in their personal lives every single day and who want to reduce the chances that those devices and the accounts used by those devices will be compromised. And while security often comes at some cost to usability, we’ve also done our best not to impact the fundamental utility and convenience of your devices.

Top Google Chrome productivity, privacy and security extensions 2016 – If you are a Google Chrome user and you’re not making use of extensions, then you are really missing out. Here are a huge selection of extensions aimed specifically at boosting your productivity and privacy.

NFL streaming: how to watch football without CBS All Access – CBS has announced that its users will be able to stream some NFL games starting this upcoming Sunday. CBS says this is a multi-year deal between it and the NFL; once it kicks off, CBS All Access will offer all the NFL on CBS games, including halftime coverage, Thursday Night Football, and more. If you’re not a CBS All Access customer, though, or if you prefer greater access to NFL content, you’ve got a few other streaming options.

How to use a tablet as a second display – Tablets aren’t just for binge-watching the new Netflix “Gilmore Girls” miniseries or perusing the fake news on your Facebook feed. You can also put that bad boy to work as a second display. Two displays for a single computer give you more space to spread out your documents, spreadsheets and web browsers. If you already own an Android tablet, why not? It’s cheaper than buying an extra monitor and only requires a few app downloads. There are a few apps that let you do this, but for this guide, I’ve chosen iDisplay since it it has options for multiple platforms.

How to download, manage Netflix shows on your phone or tablet – The day has finally arrived! It’s now possible to download shows and movies using the Netflix app to watch when you’re on a plane, or without an internet connection. Heck, downloading Netflix content is a super easy way to save on your mobile data plan while on the go. Before you get too excited, the first thing to do is install the latest version of the Netflix app on your iOS or Android device. According to Netflix, the new feature works on Android devices running Android 4.4.2 and up, as well as iOS 8.0 or later.

Here are Google’s top apps, content for 2016 – The year is about to end, and as is the tradition almost every where, it’s a time for reminiscing and retrospectives. That’s true back in the analog days and still true even in today’s digital age. Being one of the biggest sources of digital content, Google Play has some insight into the hottest trends of the year. So naturally, Google is in the position to reveal what’s hot and what’s not as far as apps, music, and movies go. While some of them are as you would expect, there are others that will have you scratching your head.

Windows 10 tip: Jump through your list of installed apps – The Windows 10 Start menu includes a handy scrolling list of all the apps and desktop programs you’ve installed. It also offers a hidden alphabetical index. Here’s how to make that index visible.

How to restore missing desktop icons in Windows – You’ve lost your Windows desktop icons and you want them back. Here’s how to do it.

The Best SSDs of 2016 – External solid-state drives are faster, more affordable, and more versatile than ever. These are our top-rated SSDs, along with advice on how to shop for the right type of storage.

9 free ways to get the most out of Google’s Play Music app – Even if you don’t pony up $10 a month for Play Music, you can still upload your music collection, create and save “instant” mixes,” tweak your equalizer levels, set a sleep timer, and more.

Dusk’s new app lets you live stream anonymously – Stepping into this controversial space is a new app called Dusk, which lets you live stream anonymously to its online community, while protecting your identity through pixelated video and voice changed audio. The end result is something like an anonymous version of Periscope video, or a live video version of the secret-sharing app Whisper.

Switching from Android to iOS this holiday season? Here’s the guide that doesn’t come with the gift – Apple has made it incredibly easy to leave Android behind, but there are a few catches. Find out how to make the process super smooth for you and your loved ones.

Western Digital releases series of Raspberry Pi disk drives – Western Digital (WD) today introduced a new series of storage devices designed specifically for use with Raspberry Pi, a single-board micro PC. The WD PiDrive Foundation Edition drives include a microSD card preloaded with the custom New Out of Box Software OS installer. The drives are available in three capacities: a 375GB hard disk drive (HDD), a 250GB HDD and a 64GB flash drive. The 375GB and 250GB products include a WD PiDrive cable that ensures optimal powering of the hard drive and Raspberry Pi.

The best Raspberry Pi boards, accessories and alternative boards – The Raspberry Pi might be the name that springs to mind when people think of single board computers for homebrew projects, but there are other boards out there worth considering. Also added are a selection of accessories to help you make more from your project board.

Amid distraction fears, Android Auto gets “Ok Google” voice trigger – Google has enabled “Ok Google” voice triggers to Android Auto, allowing users of the in-car interface to issue commands or dictate messages without having to press a button first. Designed to increase in-car safety while still offering access to smartphone features users have progressively become dependent on, Android Auto relies on a customized interface designed for easier use while on the move. Until now, though, it had required users either press an on-screen button or a button on the steering wheel to actually get the system’s attention.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update: Now ready for business after four months of tweaks – The Windows 10 Anniversary Update that was released to Home users in the summer is now available under the Current Branch for Business servicing option.

How to fix iCloud calendar spam – For the last few weeks, some iCloud users have been experiencing an uptick in spammy Calendar invites to fake events and things like Ray-Ban sales and Ugg discounts. And unlike email spam, simply declining the events may make things worse, since it shows the spammers that your account is active, increasing the odds of getting more spam in the future. In a statement made to iMore yesterday, Apple commented that it is aware of the issue and is working to address it. Until that happens, iCloud spam will continue to be a frustrating situation for many. Fortunately there are a few options to deal with the spam.

Security:

Firefox zero-day: Mozilla, Tor issue critical patches to block active attacks – If the government created this Firefox and Tor Browser exploit, it just endangered all web users, argues Mozilla.

1 million Google accounts compromised by Android malware called Gooligan – Researchers say they’ve uncovered a family of Android-based malware that has compromised more than 1 million Google accounts, hundreds of them associated with enterprise users. Gooligan, as researchers from security firm Check Point Software Technologies have dubbed the malware, has been found in at least 86 apps available in third-party marketplaces. Once installed, it uses a process known as rooting to gain highly privileged system access to devices running version 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, and KitKat) and version 5 (Lollipop) of Google’s Android operating system. Together, the vulnerable versions account for about 74 percent of users.

Find out if your Google account has been hacked – Check to see if your Android device has been hit by Gooligan and what to do if it has.

At least 10 million Android users imperiled by popular AirDroid app – For at least the past six months, a popular remote management app available in the official Google Play Store has opened tens of millions of Android users to code-execution and data-theft attacks when they use unsecured networks, researchers said Thursday.

Legal raids in five countries seize botnet servers, sinkhole 800,000+ domains – A botnet that has served up phishing attacks and at least 17 different malware families to victims for much of this decade has been taken down in a coordinated effort by an international group of law enforcement agencies and security firms. Law enforcement officials seized command and control servers and took control of more than 800,000 Internet domains used by the botnet, dubbed “Avalanche,” which has been in operation in some form since at least late 2009.

Amazon offers DDoS Protection with Shield – Frightened of your site getting blown off the internet with a distributed denial of service attack? Amazon can protect you with AWS Shield.

Company News:

Mozilla puts new money to use fighting for ‘internet health’ – After weaning itself from dependence on Google, the nonprofit plans to expand beyond the Firefox browser. That may clash with Trump administration priorities.

Fitbit is reportedly buying Pebble for $34 million-40 million – A report from The Information states that the fitness tech giant Fitbit is finalizing a deal to buy Pebble. The report suggests the price would be for “a small amount,” and an independent source confirmed to Engadget that Fitbit will buy Pebble for $34 to $40 million.

Nokia-branded Android phones begin arriving next year – Those of you who have a soft spot for Nokia will be pleased to hear that smartphones bearing the company’s name will be making a return next year. Today Nokia and HMD Global Oy announced the terms of their licensing agreement, which was signed six months ago. Perhaps most importantly, this means that Nokia will be entering the realm of Android, a move many fans wanted to see Nokia make before it was bought up by Microsoft.

GoPro lays off 15 percent of workforce, shutters entertainment division – GoPro on Wednesday said 200 employees, or 15 percent of its workforce, will be laid off as the action sports camera company looks to return to profitability. As part of the restructuring, GoPro will also reduce office space, shutter its entertainment division, and cancel seeking candidates for open job positions. The entertainment division was set to be GoPro’s saving grace, putting its cameras’ content on set-top boxes and other media streamers. Operating expenses are expected to drop $650 million after the restructuring.

Apple Is the Latest Tech Giant Reportedly Developing Its Own Drone Fleet – Amazon has drones preparing to deliver our groceries. Google’s Project Wing is preparing to deliver our groceries, too. Facebook has drones working to give us internet, and Microsoft drones are fighting Zika virus. And now Apple has drones for giving us better maps. According to Bloomberg sources, Apple is readying a drone fleet to improve its Maps service in a bid to catch up with mobile map megastar Google. Sources told Bloomberg that Apple will use drones to survey the Earth to update map information much faster and more accurately than its current methods, which involve a Google-like car loaded with cameras.

Games and Entertainment:

5 Games You’ll Want to Buy in December – The year is almost over. December is here, the holiday season is in full swing, and the video game launch flood is receding. With the overwhelming number of releases in October and November, December’s lighter fare is a welcome change of pace, and we’re sure your wallet appreciates it, too. But don’t fret; if you’re on the hunt for a last-minute gift or personal treat, December has a few hot titles that you definitely want to grab.

The big problems with Facebook Messenger Instant Games – In case you missed the news, games are now included on the ever-growing list of Facebook Messenger features. There are a lot of them, too, with arcade classics such as Arkanoid and PAC-MAN joining newer titles like Bust-A-Move Blitz and Words with Friends: Frenzy. It’s frankly an excellent idea that makes Messenger more attractive as a chatting platform, but it’s not without some glaring flaws at this early stage.

DirecTV Now FAQ: All the details on AT&T’s new streaming TV service – After months of hype with little substance, AT&T has launched DirecTV Now, a bundle of streaming channels that will compete with Dish Network’s Sling TV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue. While AT&T bills its new service as “TV beyond your wildest dreams,” on paper it’s not markedly different from its competitors. We’ll have more to say about how well the service performs in the coming weeks. For now, here are all the details we’ve gleaned from from AT&T’s public statements and a little bit of hands-on time:

Here are the 53 launch titles that will be available for the Oculus Touch controllers – The Oculus Rift’s motion controllers come out on December 6th, and Oculus just announced the list of over 50 Touch-compatible games and apps that will be available on the Oculus Store at launch. There are 53 launch titles in all, ranging from smaller indie games to major studio productions. Some of these titles were already in the store and are just getting updated with Touch support, while others are completely new and specifically designed to take advantage of the motion controllers.

Plex embraces Kodi as Plex Media Player becomes available to all – For the past year or so, popular media home server software Plex has been working on a new version of the Plex Media Player (PMP) client software for Windows. Now that client software is free for anyone to use, eliminating the need for a premium Plex Pass subscription. Plex Media Player is just one part of the Plex puzzle for playing content across your devices. The idea is to have the media player software installed on the PC hooked up to your TV, while another PC or NAS device runs the central Plex server software in another room.

You can finally watch Netflix offline now – Netflix wants to make your trip back home this holiday season a little merrier. The company announced on Wednesday that select TV shows and movies were available for download on Android and iOS. In other words, Netflix now enables offline viewing. It’s not for everything, though. Most of Netflix’s original programming will be covered by the new feature, but some titles may not be due to licensing restrictions.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Tech on a Budget: 20 Gift Ideas Under $20 – Sometimes it pays to remember that you don’t always have to spend big to get a big thank you.

Inside the black box: Understanding AI decision-making – Artificial intelligence algorithms are increasingly influential in peoples’ lives, but their inner workings are often opaque. We examine why, and explore what’s being done about it.

Study: iPhone users may be less honest than Android users – Researchers claim your phone really does say a lot about who you are as person, and if you’re an iPhone owner what it says is not flattering.

How to Pick the Right Drone for You – Drones are among this year’s hottest holiday gifts. But there’s a big difference between the less expensive models — which are basically toys — and the more powerful and pricey units. So how do you pick the right model for your needs?

French man sentenced to two years in prison for visiting pro-ISIS websites – A man in France was sentenced to two years in prison this week for repeatedly visiting pro-ISIS websites, even though there is no indication that he planned to stage a terrorist attack. The 32-year-old, whose name has not been released, was convicted by a court in the department of Ardèche on Tuesday under a new law that has drawn scorn from civil liberties groups. The man had been regularly consulting jihadist websites for two years, police said.

Five essential cybersecurity audiobooks – A curated list of cybersecurity audiobooks to help you better understand the history of computing, who hacks and why, and the future of cyber-defense.

The Golden Age of Texas Instruments Consumer Gadgets – Despite its military and industrial forays, TI’s consumer business perhaps had the most effect on the average person. Between 1972 and 1983, Texas Instruments released a string of products that revolutionized educational electronic toys, calculators, wristwatches, and to some extent, personal computers. In the slides ahead, we will explore this period in TI’s history.

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TI-99/4A (1981)

Magic mushrooms help cancer patients cope with fear and depression – Magic mushrooms, once associated mostly with Phish concerts, may lead to better end-of-life care for cancer patients. One dose of the active ingredient, psilocybin, can help terminal cancer patients experience less depression and anxiety even six months later. Two studies from New York University and Johns Hopkins University confirm a recent wave of research suggesting that hallucinogenic drugs are an important mental health tool.

FDA’s OK on trial opens possibility of prescription ecstasy in five years – The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved the first large-scale, phase 3 clinical trial of ecstasy in patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the New York Times reported. The regulatory green-light follows six smaller-scale trials that showed remarkable success using the drug. In fact, some of the 130 PTSD patients involved in those trials say ecstasy—or 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)—saved them from the devastating impacts of PTSD after more than a decade of seeing no improvement with the other treatment options available.

Something to think about:

“In the fight between you and the world, back the world.”

–    Frank Zappa   (1940 – 1993)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Game over: New US computer search law takes effect Thursday – “By sitting here and doing nothing, the Senate has given consent to this expansion of government hacking and surveillance.”

Those were the words Wednesday of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) as he failed to convince fellow senators to even hold a floor vote that could block changes to what is known as Rule 41 from taking effect Thursday.

Wyden was referencing an amended Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure, which originated from an unelected advisory committee and was signed by the Supreme Court in April. By rule, it becomes effective December 1. The measure clarifies the law allowing judges to sign warrants that let authorities hack into computers outside a judge’s jurisdiction. The rule also gives federal judges the authority to issue a warrant to search multiple computers—even without knowing who is the targeted computer owner. Previously, some judges had practiced this, while others did not.

Wyden, a handful of fellow lawmakers, and civil rights groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation oppose Rule 41. They say that under the measure, a warrant would not have to say with any particularity whose computer the authorities are searching. Wyden said Congress should vote on whether to allow this instead of the measure taking effect without any congressional approval.

The Department of Justice, meanwhile, said Wyden’s fears are overblown.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – November 30, 2016

The Internet Archive is building a Canadian copy to protect itself from Trump;  $89 Linux laptop? Check out the new Pinebook;  Protect Yourself With a Free VPN Service;  How to watch Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services offline with PlayOn Cloud;  The best Facebook Messenger games to play right now;  Five To-Do apps that got a lot smarter this month;  The state of malware: 4 big takeaways from AV-TEST’s 2016 report;  7 best PC games to play over winter break – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The Internet Archive is building a Canadian copy to protect itself from Trump – The Internet Archive, a digital library nonprofit that preserves billions of webpages for the historical record, is building a backup archive in Canada after the election of Donald Trump. Today, it began collecting donations for the Internet Archive of Canada, intended to create a copy of the archive outside the United States. “On November 9th in America, we woke up to a new administration promising radical change,” writes founder Brewster Kahle. “It was a firm reminder that institutions like ours, built for the long-term, need to design for change. For us, it means keeping our cultural materials safe, private and perpetually accessible. It means preparing for a web that may face greater restrictions. It means serving patrons in a world in which government surveillance is not going away; indeed it looks like it will increase.”

Protect Yourself With a Free VPN Service – Very little in life is truly free, but as far as virtual private networks (or VPNs) are concerned, you can get quite a bit for nothing. Though you’ll likely have to pay to get all the features of the best VPN services, there are many free options available. If it’s the price tag that has prevented you from using a VPN, you should definitely try one of these services.

$89 Linux laptop? Check out the new Pinebook from Raspberry Pi rival Pine – The makers of a popular Raspberry Pi challenger, the $20 Pine A64, have returned with two sub-$100 Linux laptops, called Pinebooks. With an Allwinner quad-core ARM Cortex A53 64-bit processor, the A64 board could run Ubuntu, Debian, or Android Lollipop 5.1. The same processor is powering the 11-inch and 14-inch Pinebook notebooks, which at $89 and $99 respectively, could become some of the cheapest laptops available. The displays on both models have a 1,280 x 720-pixel resolution, and besides the A64’s ARM processor, the Pinebooks include the basics needed for a functional laptop, including display, keyboard, touchpad, storage, memory, and ports.

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The sub-$100 Pinebook runs on an ARM CPU and Linux. Image: Pine

Fedora 25 makes Linux easy enough for anyone to try – The Fedora community created one of the smoothest Linux Installation experiences ever.

How to watch Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services offline with PlayOn Cloud – The free PlayOn Cloud iOS app is a ‘streaming digital video recorder’ that lets you watch offline video from Netflix, Hulu and other services.

Facebook is bringing games like Pac-Man to Messenger and your News Feed – Facebook wants you playing games just about everywhere, and today the company is introducing a new initiative called Facebook Instant Games that it hopes will do just that. Instant Games is an HTML5 gaming platform that lets Facebook users play games on Messenger and in the Facebook News Feed, without the need to download anything. Instant Games are cross-platform, so they’ll work on both the web and mobile. The service launches today in a closed beta with a total of 17 games, including the likes of Pac-Man, Galaga, Space Invaders, and Words With Friends.

The best Facebook Messenger games to play right now – Starting today you can play games inside Facebook Messenger and News Feed, but which should you try? There are old classics like Pac-Man and Space Invaders, as well as modern titles like EverWing and Words With Friends you can play by tapping the game controller icon in a Messenger thread. Click or scroll through to see our quick reviews and scores out of 10 for all 17 of the launch titles, plus our three favorite picks at the end.

Yahoo brings its Q&A site to mobile via a new app, Yahoo Answers Now – Yahoo has quietly launched a native mobile app for Yahoo Answers, one of the web’s largest Q&A sites which attracts over 3.1 million U.S. monthly visitors. The app, which was previously being tested under a different name, Yahoo Hive, was rebranded to Yahoo Answers Now at the beginning of the month. Like the web version, Yahoo Answers Now lets you view, ask, answer and track questions posed by the online community.

A new rating system will tell you if SD cards are capable of running mobile apps – The SD Association announced a new “app performance class” that will give buyers more knowledge about what to put inside their phones.

Five To-Do apps that got a lot smarter this month – The holiday season doesn’t just usher in the shopping season, it also signals the count down to a new year. Which means that, in addition to trying to work off all that holiday food, people will obsess over resolutions, plans, and goals. Yes, it’s the perfect time to be a todo list app or a productivity app. And as if warming up the engines for the holidays, a handful of such apps and services have stepped up their game to deliver just a bit more smartness to their list of features. Here are five of the best known todo apps that have just made your productivity even more productive.

How to download Windows Store apps with a local account – Microsoft didn’t want you to use the Windows Store without signing in with a Microsoft Account. That no longer appears to be the case.

SnipBack: The best audio recording Android app you’ve never heard of – There’s a new Android audio recorder in town, and it’s making its competition look bad. Find out why SnipBack should be your go-to mobile recording app.

AMD will sneak-peek its high-end Zen CPU in December, starting a new CPU war – AMD’s Zen chips are supposed to be as fast as Intel’s fastest, and they may also be a lot cheaper. If the rumors come true, Intel will finally have some competition in high-end gaming CPUs.

Why you should start using Google Keep right away – Artificial intelligence is transforming Google’s yellow sticky note app into an indispensable peripheral to your own mind.

It will soon be illegal to punish customers who criticize businesses online – Congress has passed a law protecting the right of US consumers to post negative online reviews without fear of retaliation from companies. The bipartisan Consumer Review Fairness Act was passed by unanimous consent in the US Senate yesterday, a Senate Commerce Committee announcement said. The bill, introduced in 2014, was already approved by the House of Representatives and now awaits President Obama’s signature.

Cyber Monday hauls in $3.45B of online purchases, smashing the single-day sales record – As people continue to hunt for bargains online, we are more seeing more record-breaking marquee online sales days. Cyber Monday — coming the first day after the long Thanksgiving break — racked up $3.45 billion in sales in the U.S., pipping past the previous record of $3.34 billion spent on Black Friday just a few days earlier. Sales were up 12.1 percent compared to Cyber Monday a year earlier. Both figures come from Adobe, which said it tracked 23 billion anonymised visits to retail websites, covering 80 percent of all online transactions for the top 100 U.S. retailers. Earlier in the day, Adobe had said it expected $3.36 billion in sales.

Apple has a Calendar and Photos spam problem and it better fix it soon – There’s a nasty new kind of spam hitting Apple users across the Internet. We show you what’s happening, point you to some fixes, and call on Apple to make fixing this loophole a top priority.

Security:

Tech support scams evolve, borrow tricks from ransomware creators – If cold calling, fake alerts, and screen lockers aren’t enough, potential victims now face a new threat born from ransomware.

Firefox 0day in the wild is being used to attack Tor users – There’s a zero-day exploit in the wild that’s being used to execute malicious code on the computers of people using Tor and possibly other users of the Firefox browser, officials of the anonymity service confirmed Tuesday. According to security researchers who analyzed the code, it exploits a memory corruption vulnerability that allows malicious code to be executed on computers running Windows. The malicious payload it delivers, according to an independent researcher who goes by the Twitter handle @TheWack0lian, is almost identical to one that was used in 2013 to deanonymize people visiting a Tor-shielded child pornography site. The FBI ultimately acknowledged responsibility for the exploit, which was embedded in Web pages served by a service known as Freedom Hosting.

Newly discovered router flaw being hammered by in-the-wild attacks – Online criminals—at least some of them wielding the notorious Mirai malware that transforms Internet-of-things devices into powerful denial-of-service cannons—have begun exploiting a critical flaw that may be present in millions of home routers. Routers provided to German and Irish ISP customers for Deutsche Telekom and Eircom, respectively, have already been identified as being vulnerable, according to recently published reports from researchers tracking the attacks. The attacks exploit weaknesses found in routers made by Zyxel, Speedport, and possibly other manufacturers. The devices leave Internet port 7547 open to outside connections. The exploits use the opening to send commands based on the TR-069 and related TR-064 protocols, which ISPs use to remotely manage large fleets of hardware. According to this advisory published Monday morning by the SANS Internet Storm Center, honeypot servers posing as vulnerable routers are receiving exploits every five to 10 minutes.

The state of malware: 4 big takeaways from AV-TEST’s 2016 report – The new report details increased risks to Android and Apple products and the top 10 Windows malware programs of 2016. Here’s what your business needs to know to stay safe.

Web CCTV cams can be hijacked by single HTTP request – An insecure web server embedded in more than 35 models of internet-connected CCTV cameras leaves countless devices wide open to hijacking, it is claimed. The gadgets can be commandeered from the other side of the world with a single HTTP GET request before any password authentication checks take place, we’re told. If your camera is one of the at-risk devices, and it can be reached on the web, then it can be attacked, infected with malware and spied on. Network cameras typically use UPnP to drill through to the public internet automatically via your home router. Proof-of-concept code to exploit the vulnerable web server in the cameras can be found right here on GitHub.

Thousands of xHamster login credentials surface online – Members of the porn site xHamster should be changing their passwords today after a set of nearly 380,000 usernames, emails and poorly hashed passwords appeared online. The subscription-only breach notification site LeakBase has published the set of login credentials, which Motherboard reports were being traded online. It’s not clear exactly where the database originated, but it contains information for only a small subset of xHamster’s 12 million registered users. While xHamster doesn’t require viewers to register with the site, those who do can comment and make video playlists. Still, the leaked information has the potential to embarrass users — several of the accounts are linked to U.S. Army and other government email addresses. If xHamster’s subscribers reused their passwords on other sites, their accounts on those sites are at risk of compromise, as well.

Uber begins background collection of rider location data – Imagine you’re on your way to a therapy appointment in a downtown high-rise. You hail an Uber and enter a nearby coffee shop as your destination so you can grab a snack before the appointment. In the car, you scroll through Instagram and check your email. You get out, buy your coffee, and walk around the corner to your therapist’s office. If you installed the latest app update, Uber has been tracking your location the entire time.

Company News:

Samsung Electronics considers restructure following pressure from shareholders – Samsung Electronics has revealed that it is considering splitting the company into two following pressure from investors. Stakeholder Elliott Management last month criticized the Korean firm’s structure which it believes prioritizes the Lee family, which owns the Samsung Group, over its shareholders. In a statement released Monday, Samsung Electronics said it is assessing whether to implement a new corporate structure — which could see the establishment of a holding company — and the potential to list on additional stock exchanges worldwide. Samsung Electronics is working with “external advisors” to look over the possibilities, it said.

Report: Intel plans to make the Core i7 the brains behind self-driving cars – Sixteen years ago, a small low-power chip startup called Transmeta forced Intel to retool its desktop PC processors to meet the demands of notebooks. Today, Intel is adapting its PC processors to an entirely new market: self-driving cars. Intel has joined forces with Mobileye—the former brains behind Tesla Motors’ autopilot system—and auto parts maker Delphi, according to several reports.

Adblock Plus wins its 6th court case, brought by Der Spiegel – In the US, blocking online advertisements might land you in a heated debate. In Germany, you might have that debate in front of a judge. Eyeo GmbH, the company that makes Adblock Plus, has been through no fewer than six court cases by publishers who say blocking online ads violates German law. The ad-blocking company has now won all of its cases at the district level, and one case has been through an appeal. Other cases continue through the German appeals courts. The final lawsuit was brought by Germany’s best-known media brand, Spiegel Online, run by the same company that owns the newsmagazine Der Spiegel. Yesterday, Eyeo disclosed that its lawyers were contacted by telephone to be told that the case against them has been dismissed. The judge’s reasoning won’t be known until a written decision is released later this week.

Uber to European Court: We’re Not a Transportation Company – If the court rules that Uber is more than just an app, it will be subject to the same regulations as its taxi competitors.

Report: Google on pace to sell 3 million Pixels by the end of the year – A Morgan Stanley estimate says Google should sell another 5 to 6 million next year, though Samsung remains the smartphone sales king.

Games and Entertainment:

AT&T launches streaming TV service to compete with Vue, Sling – If you’re looking to cut cable TV, a new video streaming service from AT&T will be available starting Wednesday. DirecTV Now is a flexible pay-as-you-go streaming service that starts at US$35 per month. DirectTV’s conventional satellite service is the foundation, but the content will be streamed over the internet. Traditionally, users needed a two-year commitment and credit check to get DirecTV, but those requirements are not needed for the new service. The streaming service will work on the Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Amazon Fire TV streaming devices, as well as mobile devices with Android and iOS and PCs. There are four pricing bundles, AT&T said at a press event in New York City. Users will be able to get more than 60 channels for $35, more than 80 for $50, more than 100 for $60, and more than 120 for $70. As an introductory promotion, AT&T will offer 100 channels for $35.

7 best PC games to play over winter break – With winter break quickly approaching for many students in the US, a lot of you might be thinking about how you’re going to spend your time. More specifically, you might be wondering what games out there are worthy of a playthrough while you have some time to burn. We’ve already covered seven console games that are worth a look during your time away from school, but here are seven more for those of you playing on PC.

7 best console games to play over winter break – Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, some form of winter break is on the horizon for many students in the US. For high school students, winter break can last around two weeks, while colleges and universities usually break for three or four. If you’re in parts of the country that actually see snow and cold, spending any significant time outside may not be possible, so what’s a student with nothing but time to do? Play video games, of course – here are seven console-based games you should consider spending your winter break with.

The hottest games of winter – This time of year brings all kinds of reasons to stay in and play a video game, whether you prefer console or computer. As the nights grow longer, we’ll be firing up the hottest games of the season: Here are the four you won’t want to miss this month and next, three more coming at the top of 2017, and the holiday deals and discounts to watch for.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Google Earth Timelapse update shows Earth from 1984-2016 – Google Earth Timelapse is a really awesome project that lets you turn back the clock on Planet Earth. In 2013, Google worked with the US Geological Survey (USGS), NASA, and TIME to compile a history of satellite imagery from 1984 to 2012. Today, Google updated the project with “four additional years of imagery, petabytes of new data, and a sharper view of the Earth from 1984 to 2016.” The new data isn’t just “new” data—Google also managed to compile better older images of Earth thanks to the Landsat Global Archive Consolidation Program. Google says it sifted through 5 million satellite images from five different satellites, taking the best of the “three quadrillion pixels” to create 33 images of Earth (one for each year). Thanks to the plethora of data and Google’s cloud-computing algorithms, you get all of this without any clouds blocking the view.

A Google Earth Timelapse of a community in Canada.

Why Fake News Is So Incredibly Effective – If you get your news from social media, as most Americans do, you are exposed to a daily dose of hoaxes, rumors, conspiracy theories and misleading news. When it’s all mixed in with reliable information from honest sources, the truth can be very hard to discern. In fact, my research team’s analysis of data from Columbia University’s Emergent rumor tracker suggests that this misinformation is just as likely to go viral as reliable information.

Homeopathic solutions now have to be labeled to disclose that there’s no science behind them – The FTC is playing whack-a-mole with pseudoscience again, and this time it’s targeting homeopathy. Their latest comments contend (PDF) that the standard disclaimer isn’t enough to dissuade consumers from buying this crap, so now not only do homeopathic products have to carry the standard disclaimer, they also have to say there’s no science behind them.

FDA approves large-scale trials of ecstasy to treat PTSD – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of MDMA in large-scale clinical trials, The New York Times reports, amid emerging evidence that the illegal party drug could be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Phase 3 research will involve at least 230 patients, the Times reports, and will be funded by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), an organization that advocates for the medical use of marijuana, LSD, and MDMA (also known as ecstasy). MAPS has already funded six Phase 2 studies of MDMA, involving 130 PTSD patients in total. In one study involving 19 PTSD patients, 56 percent said their symptoms declined in severity after receiving three doses of MDMA; by the end of the study, two-thirds didn’t meet the criteria for having PTSD.

Ex-Watergate investigators urge Obama to show leniency to Edward Snowden – President Obama has been urged to show leniency to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden by 15 intelligence experts, who were part of a 1970s congressional committee that investigated the CIA during the Watergate era.

Something to think about:

“When one admits that nothing is certain one must, I think, also admit that some things are much more nearly certain than others.”

–       Bertrand Russell     (1872 – 1970)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

THE UK NOW WIELDS UNPRECEDENTED SURVEILLANCE POWERS — HERE’S WHAT IT MEANS – The UK is about to become one of the world’s foremost surveillance states, allowing its police and intelligence agencies to spy on its own people to a degree that is unprecedented for a democracy. The UN’s privacy chief has called the situation “worse than scary.” Edward Snowden says it’s simply “the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy.”

The legislation in question is called the Investigatory Powers Bill. It’s been cleared by politicians and granted royal assent on November 29th — officially becoming law. The bill will legalize the UK’s global surveillance program, which scoops up communications data from around the world, but it will also introduce new domestic powers, including a government database that stores the web history of every citizen in the country. UK spies will be empowered to hack individuals, internet infrastructure, and even whole towns — if the government deems it necessary.

Although the UK’s opposition Labour Party originally put forward strong objections to the bill, these never turned into real opposition. The combination of a civil war between different factions in Labour and the UK’s shock decision to leave the European Union means the bill was never given politicians’ — or the country’s — full attention. Instead, it will likely inspire similar surveillance laws in other countries. After all, if the UK can do it, why shouldn’t everyone else? And there will be no moderating influence from the US, where the country’s mostly intact surveillance apparatus will soon be handed over to president-elect Donald Trump.

With this global tide of surveillance rising, it’s worth taking a closer look at what exactly is happening in the UK. Here’s our overview of what the Investigatory Powers Bill entails:

Senators plan last-ditch push to curb U.S. law enforcement’s hacking power – Unless Congress takes 11th-hour action, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies will gain new authority this week to hack into remote computers during criminal investigations.

Proposed changes to Rule 41, the search and seizure provision in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, would give U.S. law enforcement agencies the authority to cross jurisdictional lines and hack computers anywhere in the world during criminal investigations.

The rules, in most cases, now prohibit federal judges from issuing a search warrant outside their jurisdictions. The changes, approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in April at the request of the Department of Justice, go into effect on Thursday unless Congress moves to reverse them.

Lawmakers opposed to the changes are planning a last-minute push to roll them back. Senators will attempt to bring the issue to a vote on Wednesday, said a spokesman for Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat.

Wyden and four other senators are sponsors of the Stop Mass Hacking Act, a bill to reverse the proposed changes. A similar bill in the House of Representatives has 12 co-sponsors. Two other bills, introduced earlier this month, would delay the proposed changes to give Congress more time to debate them.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – November 25, 2016

Ten desktop PCs that fit in your pocket;  The Best Media Streaming Devices of 2016;  The Ultimate Apple MacBook Buyer’s Guide;  8 Best Health or Fitness Apps for Android and iOS;  22 Tips Every Amazon Addict Should Know;  Telegram launches Telegraph, an anonymous blogging platform;  Hackers Are Using MailChimp to Spread Malware;  Are iPhone owners really less honest than Android users?  The best graphics cards for PC gaming;  Just How Big Has the Internet Become? – and much more news you need to know.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Buying a PC on Black Friday? Here are five trends to watch out for – Based on this year’s ads, things are a little different than in the past if you’re looking to purchase a laptop, desktop, or tablet. Here’s how.

The Ultimate Apple MacBook Buyer’s Guide – Apple recently added three new MacBook Pros to its lineup, making the company’s notebook selection more diverse than ever. There’s the feature-packed new Pros, the still-worthwhile old Pros, the critic-favorite MacBook Air, and the ultra-portable 12-inch MacBook. Meanwhile, the iPad Pro is increasingly a worthy laptop replacement. So which MacBook is right for you? Here’s a breakdown of how Apple’s laptops compare that can help you make a decision, whether you’re buying for yourself or a loved one:

Ten desktop PCs that fit in your pocket – Today it’s not just phones you can slip in your pocket, it’s full desktop PCs. These portable desktops range from stick PCs to credit card-sized single board computers, such as the bestselling Raspberry Pi. Here are your go to gadgets if you want a full desktop machine you can take with you.

5 burning questions about AMD’s next-gen Zen processors – AMD’s Zen chip is just around the corner; it’ll first come to gaming systems any day now. There’s a lot of excitement about Zen, which AMD believes is its most important chip this decade.

The Best Media Streaming Devices of 2016 – We pit the highest-rated media-streaming devices against one another to find out which one is your best bet for streaming TV, movies, music, and more to your television.

22 Tips Every Amazon Addict Should Know – Here’s how to best take advantage of Amazon’s deals, shipping, payments, and more.

Check out our Thanksgiving tech support survival guide (2016 edition) – Get some down time over Thanksgiving (and the holiday season as a whole) by preparing in advance for the inevitable tech support requests.

8 Best Health or Fitness Apps for Android and iOS – Ever wondered why there is usually a surge of interest and sales in health-related products and apps around February. By now it’s probably obvious that it’s usually a guilt-induced urge brought about by months of binging on holiday treats. Of course, staying healthy is a year-round commitment and you don’t have to wait for next year to get started. Heck, you don’t even have to enroll in a gym. To help get the ball rolling, here are 8 apps, available on both Android and iOS that are not just meant to keep you healthy, they can be pretty fun too.

How to see Wi-Fi passwords on an Android phone – What do you do when all you see is a sea of asterisks? (Hint: Rooting required.)

How to Customize Your Default Apps in Windows 10 – You can control which particular app or browser launches when you open a program in Windows 10. Here’s how.

Are iPhone owners really less honest than Android users? That’s what this study says – Researchers claim your phone really does say a lot about who you are as person, and if you’re an iPhone owner what it says is not flattering.

How to get more from Windows Defender by using its command-line tool – Windows Defender’s command-line utility lets you automate basic tasks and handle certain advanced operations. Here’s a look at how to use the tool and examples of ways it can come in handy.

Telegram launches Telegraph, an anonymous blogging platform – Telegram now has a blogging platform to go along with its popular messaging app. It’s called Telegraph and, according to VentureBeat, offers fast publishing and anonymous posting — without requiring you to register an account or sign in through social media. The app’s user interface looks very similar to Medium and allows for easy embeds. You can also embed images from your computer by clicking on the camera button. In comparison to Medium, the loading time for embeds is relatively fast. Publication is instantaneous upon hitting “publish.” Posts are shareable on social media platforms but are designed to work best on Telegram’s new Instant View layout, which works similarly to Facebook’s Instant Articles feature.

SD Association unveils App Performance Class SD cards – The SD Association has announced a new type of memory card that users of smartphones and tablets that need more space for their favorite apps will want to know about. The new App Performance Class is part of SD Specification 5.1 and establishes technical and market requirements to run and store apps on SD cards. The specification still supports storage of images, video, music, documents, and other data as well.

Vivaldi web browser can directly control Philips Hue bulbs – Philips Hue bulbs can already be controlled through various means and there are most likely web apps that can accomplish that as well. Vivaldi, however, prides itself for having that feature built right into the browser, no add-ons needed. As long as the bulb and the browser use the same Wi-Fi network, a bridge between the two can be made.

Google Cast branding dropped in favor of Chromecast built-in – The Google Cast brand hasn’t been around that long, but Google is already phasing it out. The branding, which marked speakers and other things compatible with Google’s casting technology, will disappear and be replaced with the ‘Chromecast built-in’ designation. The company’s Google Cast website already mentions this change, though it seems to be happening slowly rather than in one big sweep.

New federal guidelines seek to lock out apps on drivers’ phones – “Distracted driving” has been getting more attention because the government calculates that it is prevalent and is causing more car crashes. Today, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration published guidelines calling on smartphone makers to create a “Driving Mode” that shuts down app-use while a car is in motion. The 96-page voluntary guidelines (PDF), intended to reduce “driver distraction,” also call for cars to be more easily “paired” with mobile devices so that drivers can access them through an in-vehicle interface.

Windows 10 snooping: Microsoft gets more time to tackle ‘excessive’ data collection – Microsoft has been granted more time to change how Windows 10 collects data about users in order to comply with the French data protection act.

Security:

Make companies pay full cost of breaches to restore trust in the internet, says ISOC – Fake news, online banking thefts and data breaches: It’s no wonder that trust in the internet is at an all-time low. But don’t worry: The Internet Society has a five-step plan for restoring faith in the network of networks.

Google warns journalists and professors: Your account is under attack – Google is warning prominent journalists and professors that nation-sponsored hackers have recently targeted their accounts, according to reports delivered in the past 24 hours over social media. The people reportedly receiving the warnings include Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, Stanford University professor and former US diplomat Michael McFaul, GQ correspondent Keith Olbermann, and according to this tweet, Politico, Highline, and Foreign Policy contributor/columnist Julia Ioffe; New York Magazine reporter Jonathan Chait; and Atlantic magazine writer Jon Lovett. Reports of others receiving the warnings are here and here. Many of the reports included banners that Google displayed when account holders logged in. Ars spoke to someone who works for a well-known security company who also produced an image of a warning he received. The person said he was aware of a fellow security-industry professional receiving the same warning.

Madison Square Garden Suffered Year-Long Credit Card Breach – The Madison Square Garden Company this week disclosed a massive credit card breach at four of its New York venues. Payment cards used to purchase merchandise, food, and drinks between Nov. 9, 2015 and Oct. 24, 2016 at Madison Square Garden, the Theater at MSG, Radio City Music Hall, or Beacon Theater—as well as Chicago Theater in Illinois—may have been affected. That means, for example, anyone who picked out a Billy Joel T-shirt or ordered popcorn and a beer during the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular could be a victim of identity theft.

US Navy warns 134,000 sailors of data breach after HPE laptop is compromised – A data breach at the US Navy has exposed the social security numbers and names of more than 130,000 current and former sailors, officials confirmed late on Wednesday—adding that “unknown individuals” had accessed the sensitive information. Hewlett Packard Enterprise told the US Navy that one of its laptops operated by a contractor had been “compromised,” however it didn’t provide any further information about how the breach—affecting 134,386 sailors—had occurred.

Hackers Are Using MailChimp to Spread Malware – You probably know MailChimp either as an email newsletter service, or the company that seems to have adverts on every single podcast you’ve ever listened to. Hackers recently jumped on that popularity, and managed to send out emails containing malicious links to subscribers of various different companies. The incident shows that hackers will likely use whatever distribution channels they can in an attempt to spread their malware and turn a profit.

Security researchers can turn headphones into microphones – Security researchers at Israel’s Ben Gurion University have created a proof-of-concept exploit that lets them turn headphones into microphones to secretly record conversations. The PoC, called “Speake(a)r,” first turned headphones connected to a PC into microphones and then tested the quality of sound recorded by a microphone vs. headphones on a target PC. In short, the headphones were nearly as good as an unpowered microphone at picking up audio in a room. The hack is fairly ingenious. It essentially “retasks” the RealTek audio codec chip output found in many desktop computers into an input channel. This means you can plug your headphones into a seemingly output-only jack and hackers can still listen in.

Tech Giants: IoT Security Is Terrible, Here’s How to Fix It – A report calls for future Internet of Things devices to have stronger encryption and allow less Internet access by default.

Company News:

Microsoft starts shipping Surface Studio orders early, offers dedicated support line – Microsoft has started shipping some Surface Studio orders a little early. The software giant originally planned to ship units to customers in mid-December, but Microsoft has been emailing the first people to preorder the $3,000 device, letting them know the Studio will arrive this week. Microsoft is still accepting “preorders” for the Surface Studio, but new devices won’t ship until “early 2017.”

Amazon makes good on its promise to delete “incentivized” reviews – Amazon is making good on its promise to ban “incentivized” reviews from its website, according to a new analysis of over 32,000 products and around 65 million reviews. The ban was meant to address the growing problem of less trustworthy reviews that had been plaguing the retailer’s site, leading to products with higher ratings than they would otherwise deserve. Incentivized reviews are those where the vendor offers free or discounted products to reviewers, in exchange for recipients writing their “honest opinion” of the item in an Amazon review. However, data has shown that these reviewers tend to write more positive reviews overall, with products earning an average of 4.74 stars out of five, compared with an average rating of 4.36 for non-incentivized reviews.

Facebook slapped with racial discrimination suit – Facebook was struck with a racial discrimination lawsuit after two black employees at the social network’s North Carolina data center alleged the company didn’t respond promptly to repeated complaints of harassment. The suit, filed Tuesday in US District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges Facebook allowed “retaliation against the employees reporting discrimination to fester and continue” at the facility despite their continued complaints. Robert Baron Duffy, a former employee, and Robert Louis Gary, a current employee, allege a facility manager used racial slurs when referring to black employees. They also say they were paid less than white colleagues.

Games and Entertainment:

The best graphics cards for PC gaming – In the market for a new video card? These are the best graphics cards that PC gamers can buy today.

2016 is saved as Microsoft Solitaire hits iOS and Android – Microsoft is bringing one of its most popular products to iOS and Android, and if you needed the perfect distraction from Trump talk at the Thanksgiving dinner table, this is it. The Microsoft Solitaire Collection brings some of the mainstays of Windows distraction from the PC to the smartphones most of us have in our pockets. Best of all, it’s a free download.

Rocket League Game of the Year Edition drives onto PS4 and PC – If you’ve yet to play Rocket League, you may want to have a look at the Game of the Year Edition, which has arrived on PC and PlayStation 4. Interestingly enough, Xbox One isn’t included in this launch, despite the fact that there’s an Xbox version of Rocket League. Perhaps such a release is coming at some point in the future, but for now, Xbox One owners are being left out in the cold.

Minecraft introduces flying Elytras, cartoon textures – Holiday season isn’t just shopping season. It’s also gaming season. Which is why game makers usually go all out during this time to ensnare bored or willing victims into their choice of escape from reality. And nothing says “escape from reality” more than Minecraft. Appropriately, Mojang has just announced some holiday treats for everyone, both on consoles and mobile, though not everyone is getting the exact same gifts. Console gamers will have adventures and misadventures in the air, while those on mobile can make goofy faces instead.

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Titanfall 2 free DLC arrives starting November 30 – Gamers who preordered Titanfall 2 will be able to download the game’s first free DLC starting on November 30. If you didn’t preorder the game, you’ll still get access to the DLC, but you’ll have to wait until December 3 to get it. Once you do, though, you’ll get access to the Angel City map from Titanfall 1, perhaps the most anticipated part of the DLC, as well as a new pistol and more.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Just How Big Has the Internet Become? – Wrap your mind around this: the average website today is now roughly 2.3MB—the size of the original Doom PC game, as noted in a study released in April by software engineer Ronan Cremi, CTO of DeviceAtlas. And the overall page size is “increasing inexorably,” Cremin stated in his report. Now consider the fact there are over 1 billion of these websites and counting clogging up the net, an increase of over 1,000 percent in the last decade. In other words, websites are getting bigger and bigger, and at the same time, more and more of them are being launched. But when you take into account all of these websites and their text, photos, animated ads, videos, and everything else that goes into them, just how big is the internet as a whole? And does it really matter?

Facebook is unlikely to succeed in China, even if it compromises on free speech – Facebook may have laid some of the early groundwork for a potential entry into China, but the U.S. social network’s chances of making a dent in the world’s most populous country are remote.

Google WiFi mesh networking crushes the competition in new test – Mesh networking is the future, and Google thinks it has a winner with Google WiFi. It’s backed up by a new test showing Google WiFi putting the competition to shame.

These 4 Things Kill Relationships – John Gottman can listen to a couple for 5 minutes and determine, with 91% accuracy, whether they’ll divorce. Gottman’s researched marriage for over 40 years and couples that attend his workshops have half the relapse rate that standard therapy provides. How can he tell who will split up? There are a number of indicators but at the core of Gottman’s research are ” The Four Horsemen.” These are the four things that indicate a marriage apocalypse is on its way:

Australia: Census reports highlight government IT incompetence – Inquiries by the Australian Senate and the PM’s special advisor on cybersecurity highlight ‘significant and obvious oversights’ by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which ‘couldn’t handle a predictable problem’.

The Small Business Holiday Season Survival Guide – Experts from Balboa Capital explain how small to midsize businesses (SMBs) can prepare for and capitalize on the upcoming holiday shopping season.

Reddit CEO admits he secretly edited comments from Donald Trump supporters – Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has admitted that he modified comments about him left on the site from supporters of Donald Trump. Huffman said he changed mentions of him in some of the messages inside the site’s largest forum for the President-elect, but not the messages themselves. But, in doing so, he dredges up past concerns that Reddit remains unable to work with its community.

Something to think about:

“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”

–       Franklin D. Roosevelt    (1882 – 1945)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Tweets aren’t tools for surveillance: Twitter pushes back against law enforcement – Just because your tweets are public, doesn’t mean that law enforcement can use them to track your activity, Twitter clarified in a blog post on Tuesday. The post came after the company received reports of the service being used for surveillance on its users, the post said.

“As a company, our commitment to social justice is core to our mission and well established,” the post said. “And our policies in this area are long-standing. Using Twitter’s Public APIs or data products to track or profile protesters and activists is absolutely unacceptable and prohibited.”

Twitter’s public API makes tweets and some of their data available to developers worldwide, to be used in a variety of applications. In the post, the company said that the APIs were built using “content that people choose to share publicly,” and noted how that can be leveraged to help respond to natural disasters.

UK Cops Are Trying to Remove Spy Gear Records from the Web – UK police forces have long shrouded their use of IMSI catchers in extreme secrecy. In October, a report in the Bristol Cable uncovered new evidence that several forces had bought such technology, which UK police refer to as “covert communications data capture,” or CCDC.

But, that doesn’t mean police forces are going to break with tradition: some agencies have tried to remove evidence of their spending on IMSI catchers from the web, even though the publication of some of these documents is supposed to provide more transparency into the police and how it uses public funds.

“Their insistence on secrecy is in stark contrast to shallow political promises around accountability. There is no question that these devices raise serious data protection issues for the thousands of innocent people who have their personal data collected by these mass surveillance systems,” Richard Tynan, a technologist from activist group Privacy International, told Motherboard in an email.

Tynan added that UK police force’s stance on IMSI catchers “reveals their contempt for transparency.”

Germany is worried about fake news and bots ahead of election – Angela Merkel this week warned that fake news and bots may influence Germany’s national elections next year, days after she announced plans to seek a fourth term as the country’s chancellor. In a speech to parliament on Wednesday, Merkel said that fake news and bots have “manipulated” public opinion online, adding that lawmakers must “confront this phenomenon and if necessary, regulate it,” the AFP reports.

“Something has changed — as globalization has marched on, [political] debate is taking place in a completely new media environment. Opinions aren’t formed the way they were 25 years ago,” Merkel said. “Today we have fake sites, bots, trolls — things that regenerate themselves, reinforcing opinions with certain algorithms and we have to learn to deal with them.”

UK ISPs may be forced to block porn sites that snub age checks, sex acts face ban – Late on Wednesday, the government’s planned amendment to the Digital Economy Bill—which, if unopposed by parliament, will force ISPs to block porn sites that refuse to provide adequate age verification mechanisms—was published online. The tabled tweak to the draft legislation states that, where ISPs fail to act, they will be found guilty of an offence and hit with a fine.

As part of its mission creep, the government is also pushing for the BBFC regulator to have the power to tell ISPs to block content that isn’t pornographic. It states:

The steps that may be specified or arrangements that may be put in place under subsection (2) (c) include steps or arrangements that will or may also have the effect of preventing persons in the United Kingdom from being able to access material other than the offending material using the service provided by the Internet service provider.

However, the government’s amendment doesn’t nail down what it defines as “other material”—making it arguably a sweeping demand for all sorts of content to be censored.

Meanwhile, campaigners are increasingly vexed by the government’s decision to appoint the BBFC to police online porn blockades where sites fail to bring in age checker systems—even though the regulator is yet to explicitly state what fruity online material would be placed on its banned list.

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No Tech Thoughts Net News – November 14 to November 18

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Just a quick note to let you know that I will not be posting Tech Thoughts Net News this week. Today, I’m scheduled for the next – and hopefully the last – of the skin cancer surgeries I’ve been faced with this past year. This one is more complicated than previous and will require a 3 to 4 day hospital stay.

I’m not looking forward to 3 or 4 days of being unhooked from the web, and my machines, but I am looking forward to getting rid of this nasty business.

I’ll be back.

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Filed under Personal Perspective

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – September 9, 2016

Should You Upgrade to an iPhone 7?  How to securely wipe your iPhone for resale;   The top Dark Web search engines;  How to stay online when traveling the world;  This USB stick will fry your unsecured computer;  Here’s how Box has redesigned its entire offering;  Catch all the Jaws movies and other flicks now online;  Stealing login credentials from a locked PC or Mac just got easier  – and much more news you need to know.

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Windows 10 tip: Create a perfect background for your desktop or lock screen – Personalizing your desktop background or lock screen has always involved a guessing game: Will your favorite personal photo fit the screen, or will it be stretched and distorted? A hidden feature in the new Photos app guarantees success.

The top Dark Web search engines – Though the Dark Web can be a haven for illicit activity, the encrypted internet is also home to innovative startups and creative technologists. There’s also a ton of fascinating, and legal, content on the Dark Web, including Facebook’s Dark Web site, The New Yorker’s source protection site Strongbox, and tons and tons of cats. Dark Web sites, like those in this list, require the Tor browser to access, but just like the clearnet, thousands of sites are indexed by and accessed using search engines. Some search engines, like Grams and Helix, have slick design. Others, like Torch, are bare bones and return a variety of URLs, some legal and useful, some broken, some clearly illicit. This is a list of the most useful, popular, and interesting Dark Web search engines.

Apple iPhone 7: The smart person’s guide – The rumors are true. There is no headphone jack on Apple’s iPhone 7 and 7 Plus smartphones. But, there are some new features worth noting. Learn the pros and cons.

How to securely wipe your iPhone for resale – If you’re planning on reselling – or giving away, if you’re a generous soul – your old iPhone now that Apple has announced the new iPhone, you need to do it in such a way that you’re not giving away your data to the next owner. Here’s how to do that.

Apple to release iOS 10 on September 13, macOS Sierra on September 20 – The latest version of iOS, available for iPhone 5 and up, promises a number of significant updates, including Siri’s integration with third-party apps for payments and messaging, better natural speech recognition and image search. The update will roll out to existing iPhone, iPad and iPod models next Wednesday, just ahead of the Friday retail launch of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

Here’s how Box has redesigned its entire offering – Box’s web interface is getting a complete redesign, with new organization, search and preview capabilities. The company is launching a new desktop app to help Windows and Mac users access their files, and a desktop app for users of its Box Notes collaborative document editing service.

Cruising connected: How to stay online when traveling the world – Skyroam is a mobile hotspot with global Wi-Fi for travelers. But how does it stack up against carrier plans and other options? Read Teena Maddox’s hands-on review.

Google Adds Lyft, Gett Fare Estimates to Maps – About to order up an Uber, but curious if Lyft or another ride-sharing service is cheaper? Google can help you with that. In March, the Web giant added a ride services tab to Maps offering Uber fare estimates and pickup times, and now it’s showing two more options for those in the US: Lyft and Gett. This means you’ll easily be able to compare prices without having to download and open a bunch of different apps.

Raspberry Pi sales hit 10 million, on track to pass Commodore 64’s record – The $35 Raspberry Pi has sold 10 million units, putting it on track to usurp the Commodore 64 as the third best-selling personal computer in the world. Despite the co-creator of the British computer thinking they would sell no more than 1,000, the Raspberry Pi Foundation announced today it has sold 10,000 times that figure. On average, more than two million Pi boards have been sold each year since the credit card-sized machine launched in February 2012, putting the system on course to pass the sales record of the 1980’s home computer, the Commodore 64 (C64), some time next year.

Setting up the Raspberry Pi just got a lot easier, thanks to PiBakery – While the credit card-sized Raspberry Pi computer can be carried in a pocket, when the board is used outside the home it’s often necessary to hook it up to a screen and keyboard. Given that lugging a flatscreen display around with you isn’t an option, one enterprising teenager has created a tool for easily setting up the Pi from a laptop. The PiBakery software simplifies the process of setting up a Rasperry Pi, for instance to use nearby Wi-Fi networks or to allow a laptop remote access to its desktop.

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PiBakery’s simple drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to customize the Pi’s Raspbian OS. Image: Raspberry Pi Foundation

10 most productive tips for working with Google Keep – If you’ve been testing the waters of Google Keep and find it lacking, try out these ten productivity tips from Jack Wallen that will bring more power and efficiency to the Google note taking tool.

The 15 highest-performing PC components you can buy today – One of the PC’s greatest strengths is its extreme flexibility. There’s a vast selection of hardware out there, of all different shapes and sizes and makes and models—so much so that even if your budget’s not a concern, buyer’s paralysis very well could be. Fear not, fellow enthusiast. We’ve got your back. These are the 15 highest-performing PC components you can buy today. We’ve even done the homework to ensure they all work fine together if you’re looking to really splurge. (If, on the other hand, your means are a bit more modest, be sure to check out our guide to 10 killer PC upgrades that are shockingly cheap.)

Security:

Stealing login credentials from a locked PC or Mac just got easier – Snatching the login credentials of a locked computer just got easier and faster, thanks to a technique that requires only $50 worth of hardware and takes less than 30 seconds to carry out. Rob Fuller, a principal security engineer at R5 Industries, said the hack works reliably on Windows devices and has also succeeded on OS X, although he’s working with others to determine if it’s just his setup that’s vulnerable. The hack works by plugging a flash-sized minicomputer into an unattended computer that’s logged in but currently locked. In about 20 seconds, the USB device will obtain the user name and password hash used to log in to the computer.

This USB stick will fry your unsecured computer – A Hong Kong-based technology manufacturer, USBKill.com, has taken data security to the “Mission Impossible” extreme by creating a USB stick that uses an electrical discharge to fry an unauthorized computer into which it’s plugged. “When the USB Kill stick is plugged in, it rapidly charges its capacitors from the USB power supply, and then discharges — all in the matter of seconds,” the company said in a news release. To do that, the USB stick discharges 200 volts DC over the data lines of the host device. This charge/discharge cycle is repeated many times per second, until the USB Kill stick is removed. The company said its USB Kill 2.0 stick was created to test against “power surge attacks” and to prevent data theft via “juice jacking.”

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Printers now the least-secure things on the internet – BitDefender’s senior threat analyst Bogdan Botezatu despairs of IoT security

Sophisticated Mac OS X backdoor uncovered – Security researchers have discovered a sophisticated strain of malware which has shifted across platforms in order to target Mac OS X users. This week, Kaspersky Lab security experts revealed the existence of Backdoor.OSX.Mokes, an OS X-based variation of the Mokes malware family which was discovered back in January. According to the team, the malicious code is now able to operate on all major operating systems including Windows, Linux and Mac.

Google Chrome Will Start Shaming Unencrypted Websites in January – Starting in January of 2017, Google’s Chrome browser will start flagging some websites that don’t use web encryption as “Not Secure”—the first step in Google’s eventual plan to shame all sites that don’t use encryption. In the last couple of years, the web has seen a tremendous rise in the number of websites that use encryption, which is displayed by that little green lock next to the site’s address and an extra “s” at the end of HTTP. The increase in the use of HTTPS web encryption has been part of a collective effort to improve security and privacy on the web, often under the banner of the campaign “Encrypt All The Things.”

Porn Sites Feel Exposed by Flash, Get It on With HTML5 – On Tuesday, porn site Pornhub said it would be ditching all Flash content from its site, opting instead for HTML5, the most recent version of the web language that offers more support for multimedia content. Since hackers have had a number of successes at compromising porn sites, it’s notable that one of the largest is taking this step, albeit when Flash is already on its last legs.

Company News:

Google given until September 20 to respond to EU Android antitrust charges – Google has been given another extension to respond to European Union charges its Android mobile operating system is in breach of the region’s competition law. The company must now send its response to the EC’s formal Statement of Objections by September 20 (via Reuters). The EC originally gave Google until July 27 to respond to the charges it issued back in April, but extended that deadline to September 7 after Google asked for more time. The company has now received a second extension although this is the final one, according to a commission spokesperson.

Google will acquire Apigee for $625 million – Google announced today that it intends to purchase Apigee, an API management platform that went public last year, for $625 million or $17.40 a share. The company, which helps customers build digital products with open APIs, has an impressive customer list including Walgreens, AT&T, Bechtel, Burberry, First Data and Live Nation.

Apple won’t disclose first weekend iPhone 7 sales — but claims it will sell out – Apple announced the forthcoming iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus yesterday, revealing two new iPhones without a 3.5mm headphone jack but with some light new design elements, as well as water and dust resistance; beefed up storage and battery life; a dual-lens rear camera; a reworked home button; stereo speakers; and the customary CPU upgrade. Pre-orders for the two new iPhones start on Friday, with store availability from September 16. But, unlike in previous new iPhone release cycles, come Monday Apple won’t be saying how many handsets it’s shifted.

Wells Fargo fined $185 million for creating 2 million fake bank accounts – Employees at Wells Fargo created millions of fake bank accounts and credit card numbers over the past five years, federal regulators announced this week, in an illegal bid to boost their sales figures. The bank was fined $185 million for the practices on Thursday, including a record $100 million by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Wells Fargo has fired at least 5,300 employees who were involved in the scam, according to The New York Times. According to the regulators, employees created more than 2 million accounts that may not have been authorized by Wells Fargo customers, and covertly transferred funds to them from authorized accounts, racking up fees and other charges.

Pointing up Sure – as usual, low level employees hatched this whole scheme – \sarcasm

Games and Entertainment:

Nvidia’s faster, better GeForce Experience 3.0 launches with mandatory registration – Between the PlayStation 4 Pro reveal and all the iPhone news on Wednesday, Nvidia quietly rolled out a major upgrade of its own. The company pushed out GeForce Experience 3.0 yesterday—a comprehensive redesign of the popular software found on “tens of millions” of GeForce graphics card-equipped PCs, but one sure to rile some nerves at the same time. Let’s start with the good stuff first.

Sling TV’s streaming service for cord cutters hits Windows 10 – Dish Network’s streaming service for cord cutters, Sling TV, has made its way to Windows 10. The company announced today the launch of its on-demand TV service for Windows 10 PCs and tablets, through a new application live now in the Windows App Store. While Sling TV’s legacy PC software will continue to be supported, the new Windows 10 application has been designed to take advantage of features unique to that operating system. This includes support for touch, a vertical main menu on Sling TV, and Windows’ Live Tiles, which will now show “Favorites” and “Continue Watching” ribbons when Sling TV is pinned to the Start Menu. The new, responsive app can also adapt to different screen sizes and can be snapped to use only half the screen. And it works with Cortana, Windows 10’s built-in assistant. That means you can search for specific shows or channels by voice.

Catch all the Jaws movies and other flicks now online – Violence, struggle, and revenge—with a side of comedy—are all on the menu this week.

Your first look at the PlayStation 4 Pro hardware – Before I go off to try out the new HDR and 4K gaming capabilities of the just-announced PlayStation 4 Pro, we at Ars thought you might want to see the hardware itself that is being shown off here at the PlayStation Theater. Here’s a quick gallery of the new box that will be sitting underneath many of your entertainment centers this November—if you’re willing to shell out $400, that is. Click through for a good look at the width and height of the new hardware compared to other systems, along with a surprise refresh of the PlayStation Camera, which is now more cylindrical and less like Short Circuit’s Jonny 5.

Elder Scrolls Online gets 4K treatment on PS4 Pro – When it was announcing the PS4 Pro yesterday, one thing Sony focused on was the fact that some existing PlayStation 4 titles will be receiving updates to make them compatible with the Pro’s 4K and HDR technology. There are a few games slated to receive such updates, and Zenimax Online Studios has announced that The Elder Scrolls Online will be one of those titles making the jump to 4K when the PS4 Pro launches in November.

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Pokémon Go becomes the fastest game to ever hit $500 million in revenue – Pokémon Go has achieved a number of records since its debut – the most downloaded app in its first week ever and the fastest to reach 50 million installs on Google Play, for example – but now you can add one more to the list: the fastest game to reach $500 million in revenue. According to a new report from App Annie, Pokémon Go has now surpassed $500 million in worldwide customer spending across iOS and Android, and is on track to hit a billion in revenue by year-end. The game reached the new milestone in just over 60 days, App Annie says.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Consumers have no right to buy a PC without an OS, European court rules – Bare metal buyers beware: PC makers have no obligation to offer you a machine without an OS, the European Union’s highest court has ruled.

When your driverless car crashes, who will be responsible? – The answer remains unclear – In the era of self-driving cars, insurance will be radically transformed, shifting to cover the tech that powers the vehicles. But when a driverless car gets in a wreck, who’s at fault?

Oculus VR animated short film ‘Henry’ wins an Emmy – Oculus Story Studio, the Facebook-owned unit crafting computer-generated short films for the social-networking giant’s VR headset maker Oculus, has won its first Emmy Award. The studio’s animated short film “Henry,” a nine-minute piece about a cute porcupine whose spiky exterior threatens to make his birthday party a lonely affair, won an Emmy for Outstanding Original Interactive Program, the company said Thursday.

FAA ‘strongly advises’ passengers not to bring Samsung Galaxy Note 7 on planes – In response to reports of explosive battery malfunctions in Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7, the Federal Aviation Administration has issued a statement advising airplane passengers not to use, or even pack the smartphones during air travel. “In light of recent incidents and concerns raised by Samsung about its Galaxy Note 7 devices,” the statement reads, “the Federal Aviation Administration strongly advises passengers not to turn on or charge these devices on board aircraft and not to stow them in any checked baggage.”

Google’s Project Wing drones will deliver Chipotle burritos at Virginia Tech – Domino’s is already launching a drone delivery service in New Zealand, but in the US, the commercial drone delivery industry is still in its trial phase. We’ve already seen a drone deliver a Slurpee in Nevada. Now, Google’s Project Wing will test out delivering Chipotle burritos at Virginia Tech. The temporary, experimental service will begin this month, Bloomberg reports. With a human pilot standing by to observe, the self-guided, unmanned aircrafts will take food from a Chipotle food truck to volunteer customers and lower it down with a winch.

Europe’s top court rules linking can infringe copyright if done for profit – Europe’s top court has ruled that knowingly posting links to copyrighted material can be an infringement of rights holders’ rights — even though the copyrighted material in question is being hosted elsewhere. People posting links in a for-profit scenario also have an obligation to have checked they are not infringing copyright, in the court’s view. The ruling pertains to a specific case involving a Dutch news website, GeenStijl, which repeatedly posted links to Playboy photos of a local TV presenter.

Hillary campaign gets $20M from Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz – It’s no secret that Hillary Clinton is well ahead of her presidential opponent Donald Trump when it comes to fundraising from Silicon Valley — but the second-largest donation of the election season just pushed her financial lead even further. The $20 million infusion comes from Asana and Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna. Several funds, PACs, and Democratic organizations supporting Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign have received a combined donation of $20 million. In a post titled “Compelled to Act”, Moskovitz explains the donation, saying, “If Secretary Clinton wins the election, America will advance much further toward the world we hope to see,” which is one that of “increased tolerance, diversity and interdependence in the name of mutual prosperity.”

Something to think about:

“If you want to be free, there is but one way; it is to guarantee an equally full measure of liberty to all your neighbors. There is no other.”

–   Donald Trump   Carl Schurz    (1829 – 1906)

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Fighting ISIS, One YouTube Ad at a Time – Those pesky ads—they get in the way of your marathon YouTube sessions, not to mention they’re a drain on your computer’s resources. But thanks to Google, they may also be stopping ISIS.

A scrappy Google subsidiary called Jigsaw—more think tank than tech company—is experimenting with ads that redirect people searching for pro-ISIS content to YouTube clips of Muslim clerics pointing out ISIS’s hypocrisy, among other footage that paints ISIS in a negative light.

Jigsaw has more than 1,700 keywords that trigger the ads leading to anti-ISIS YouTube playlists, according to Wired. It ran a test campaign earlier this year that went swimmingly by online advertising standards: click-through rates surpassed 9 percent, compared to the average 2 or 3 percent that’s common for Google keyword ads.

Jigsaw, formerly known as Google Ideas, doesn’t promote its anti-ISIS effort. On its website, it instead highlights other projects, like a system that helps journalists analyze YouTube footage captured in conflict zones. But that under-the-radar approach is likely part of what makes it successful: unlike most Google ads, which are clearly labeled, the anti-ISIS campaign relies on authentic footage, the antithesis of propaganda.

The “plain hearing” doctrine now dictates when cops must hang up on wiretaps – The use of US court-sanctioned wiretaps is on the rise. According to the most recent figures available, the number of taps increased 17 percent last year over the previous year.

The latest federal Wiretap Report shows there were 4,148 non national security related wiretaps authorized in 2015. Not a single application was denied, the report notes. Of that total, 3,297 were granted an extension over the original time period authorized by the warrant.

Given all the access, just when should the cops hang up on the call they’re bugging? A federal appeals court recently provided the answer—introducing the “plain hearing” principle.

This guidance concerns when the cops know, or reasonably know, that the speakers on a call are outside the scope of the original warrant. The plain hearing principle is similar to the well-known “plain view” doctrine, which allows authorities to seize physical evidence unrelated to a warrant if it’s in plain view of the police during a search.

Canada-EU counter-terror data exchange is illegal, says top EU judge – An agreement to send Canadian authorities passenger name record (PNR) data for flights from the European Union cannot be entered into in its current form, a top European Union judge has said.

That’s because parts of the draft agreement are incompatible with EU citizens’ fundamental privacy rights, according to Paolo Mengozzi, Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the EU, in a legal opinion issued Thursday.

His opinion, on a case brought by the European Parliament, is only advisory, and it still remains for the CJEU to make a final ruling on the matter.

But if the court follows his advice, it could disrupt the European Commission’s plans for a new directive on the sharing of PNR data among EU member states and with other countries.

Watchdog Finds UK Cops Snooped on Journalists’ Sources Without Approval – UK police acquired data to identify or determine journalistic sources without seeking judicial approval four times in 2015, according to a report from an independent oversight body published on Thursday.

In March 2015, a change was made to the law requiring all UK law enforcement agencies to seek authorisation when applying for communications data to identify or determine a journalistic source. But since that time, the Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office (IOCCO) found four cases where no authorisation was sought.

“In some of these cases the conduct took place on the day after the Code of Practice came into force or shortly thereafter,” the annual report, which scrutinises UK public bodies’ interception and acquisition of communications data, reads.

IOCCO is a body responsible for oversight of the UK’s interception powers, and is independent from the government and parliament. After IOCCO published a separate investigation into UK police forces’ acquisition of communications data to unveil journalists’ sources in February 2015, a provision to the Code of Practice was added, designed to protect the confidentiality of journalistic sources.

“In all but one of these cases the Commissioner determined that although the conduct was serious it was not wilful or reckless and it did not adversely affect any individual significantly,” the report continues.

The case determined as reckless was Police Scotland’s surveillance of a journalist investigating a botched murder case. In August, former police officer turned journalist Gerard Gallacher was awarded £10,000 in damages, after detectives collected the phone records of Gallacher and two police officers suspected of leaking information.

Mark Zuckerberg Has Been Blasted Over Facebook’s Censorship of the ‘Napalm Girl’ Photo – “Dear Mark Zuckerberg,” read the headline on the cover of Aftenposten, Norway’s largest newspaper by circulation.

It was an open letter from Espen Egil Hansen, the paper’s editor-in-chief and CEO, accusing the Facebook founder and CEO of abusing power and threatening the freedom of speech.

It follows an uproar over Facebook’s decision to delete the iconic photo of a crying young girl running from napalm bombs during the Vietnam War, taken by Nick Ut. The photo was a part of a Norwegian author’s Facebook post about significant historical photos documenting the history of military conflicts.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – September 7, 2016

These second-screen apps make NFL games even more fun to watch;  How to control your privacy in Chromebooks vs. Windows 10;  The 20 best free PC games;  HacBook Elite is an unofficial Mac laptop for $329;  How much it costs to charge a smartphone for a year?  Galaxy Note 7 recall costs expected to top $1 billion;  4 mind-mapping tools for better brainstorming;  Warner Bros. flags own site for piracy, orders Google to censor pages – and much more news you need to know.

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It’s football season! These second-screen apps make NFL games even more fun to watch – We’ve rounded up six of the best second-screen apps to enhance your football viewing. Take them for a spin when the season kicks off Thursday, September 8, and we’re sure you’ll be reaching for them along with your remote every week until the end of Super Bowl LI.

The Best Free Antivirus Protection of 2016 – Did you grab your free Windows 10 upgrade before the deadline expired? Or maybe you even paid for one. If so, you probably noticed that it boasts built-in antivirus protection in the form of Microsoft Windows Defender. If you stuck with Windows 8, you still have the same Windows Defender. But just because it’s included with the OS doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it. The best free antivirus products outperform many commercial competitors. We’ve collected them here to help you choose which is right for you.

The Best Printers of 2016 – Picking the right printer can be tough, with so many features to choose from, and individual printers with almost any possible combination of those variations available. Here are some pointers to help you find both the right category of printer and the right model within that type, along with our top-rated reviews.

How to control your privacy in Chromebooks vs. Windows 10 – By default, both platforms collect a variety of data about your usage, but the way they go about it is often different. While Microsoft presents users with a long list of privacy-related toggles, Google’s controls are less granular. Both companies, however, make you jump through additional hoops to disable the kind of personalized ads that help them turn a profit. PCWorld recently broke down all the ways Microsoft grabs at your data in Windows 10, so it’s only fair we compare that to Google’s computing platform. Here’s how Chrome OS and Windows 10 measure up on privacy and data collection.

How much does it costs to charge a smartphone for a year? – How much does the electricity needed to charge a smartphone over the course of a year cost? Under a dollar? A few dollars? Tens of dollars? Hundreds of dollars? Let’s find out.

It’s Microsoft’s fault cheap Windows laptops don’t use better hardware – If you look at the low-end ($200-$300) Windows laptop market in 2016 you’ll notice that the hardware spec is mostly the same regardless of which brand name is on the casing. We get the same low-end processors, RAM limited to no more than 4GB (but usually 2GB), and those infuriating 32GB SSD/eMMC drives that are quite slow and way too small to be useful. You may think the spec is so limited because manufacturers have to hit a target price to retain a profit margin while still being able to sell in the $200 range. While that’s true, it’s actually Microsoft who is imposing a strict upper limit on the hardware available in this category of laptop.

iPhone 7: Why do we even care? – With tomorrow’s big Apple event about to use up more worldwide bandwidth than Netflix, David Gewirtz asks the one brave question we’re all afraid to utter: “Why do we even care?”

Facebook tests a Twitter-like feature to encourage more conversation – Facebook makes a habit of borrowing features from Twitter such as hashtags, a live feed, verification badges, and followers. Now, the company is testing a new feature that is about as close as Facebook could get to creating a version of Twitter. The new feature is currently dubbed “What friends are talking about” and is being tested with a small subset of users. It was first spotted by Mashable on Friday in Facebook for Android.

4 mind-mapping tools for better brainstorming – Mind mapping is a technique for visualizing and developing ideas. Unlike linear note taking, mind mapping mimics the way our brain radiates ideas and connects them through natural associations. That makes them ideal for brainstorming, planning complex projects, and writing everything from business plans to novel plots. In the pre-digital world, you had to do this on paper with colored pencils. But today there a many fantastic computer and web apps that do the heavy lifting for you. Here are four of our favorites.

HacBook Elite is an unofficial Mac laptop for $329 – Apple does not look kindly on any company attempting to copy their hardware, just look at how long Samsung has been in court facing off against Apple’s lawyers. But when a company decides to develop a laptop that runs OS X without first getting Apple’s approval, which we all know they’d never give… well, don’t expect that company to be around for very long. The creators of the HacBook Elite must know what’s going to happen, but they either know something we don’t or they simply don’t care. Whatever the case, you can now pre-order a HacBook Elite, which promises to run OS X out the box, and for as little as $329. That’s $570 cheaper than a MacBook Air, and nearly a $1,000 cheaper than the entry level MacBook or MacBook Pro.

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About.com launches The Balance, a personal finance website for everyone – In a quest to dismantle itself and become more relevant in the 21st Century, IAC-owned About.com is launching another standalone vertical in the form of The Balance, a personal finance website tailored to today’s millennial. The Balance is focused on making personal finance easy to understand, no matter where you are in life. The site will launch with more than 34,000 pieces of content written by 70 writers, all organized under the topics of personal finance, investing, money hacks, career advice, and small business tips.

ComScore: Half of All Smartphone Time is Spent on Apps – There’s an app for everything, and it seems that more people are turning to their smartphone apps for information and fun versus their tablets or their computers.

Are you too fat? Samsung’s WELT smartbelt will have the answer when it hits waistlines in Jan – Samsung’s WELT has reached its Kickstarter funding target and will now ship to backers in January.

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The WELT smart belt is designed to monitor your girth, steps taken, and time spent sitting. Image: WELT/Samsung

Google’s Fuchsia OS is out in the open and shrouded in mystery – Because Fuchsia is open-source, anyone can take a look at its code, even though Google isn’t saying much about its new operating system.

The Ultimate Guide to Car Connectivity – Whether it’s Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, or another infotainment system, getting the right tech in your new vehicle is key. Here’s what you need to know.

Small businesses are fleeing to cloud computing and mobile apps, says new study – The mobile revolution has reached mom-and-pop shops. According to a new Intuit study, 64% of small businesses across the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK now run their operations in the cloud—up from just 37% in 2015. And 68% of these enterprises use mobile or web-based apps in their day-to-day business, compared to just half last year.

Why the advertising industry needs to embrace AdBlock – The advertising industry is wringing its hands and shaking its fist at the use and growth of ad-block technology, but I am not above temptation. I installed it. I love it and probably won’t ever fully abandon it. So instead of excoriating people for using them, it’s time we reflect on how we got here, what its inevitability means and whether this might even be a trend worth embracing.

Security:

Sophos Windows users face black screens after false positive snafu – Users of Sophos’s security software were confronted with a black screen on starting up their Windows PC over the weekend as the resulted of a borked antivirus update. The botched update meant that the Windows 7 version of winlogon.exe was incorrectly labelled as potentially malicious, resulting in chaos and confusion all around. The problem was limited to users running a specific version of 32-bit Windows 7 SP1, according to Sophos.

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Russian internet giant Rambler.ru hacked, leaking 98 million accounts – Russian internet portal and email provider Rambler.ru has become the latest victim in a growing list of historical hacks. Breach notification site LeakedSource.com, which obtained a copy of an internal customer database, said the attack dates back to February 17, 2012. More than 98.1 million accounts were in the database, including usernames, email addresses, social account data, and passwords, the group said in a blog post. Unlike other major breaches, those passwords were stored in unencrypted plaintext, meaning anyone at the company could easily see passwords. The last time a breach on this scale was found using plaintext password storage was Russian social networking site VK.com, which saw 171 million accounts taken in the breach.

Nearly 800,000 Brazzers Porn Site Accounts Exposed in Forum Hack – Nearly 800,000 accounts for popular porn site Brazzers have been exposed in a data breach. Although the data originated from the company’s separate forum, Brazzers users who never signed up to the forum may also find their details included in the dump. Motherboard was provided the dataset by breach monitoring site Vigilante.pw for verification purposes. The data contains 790,724 unique email addresses, and also includes usernames and plaintext passwords. (The set has 928,072 entries in all, but many are duplicates.)

Hacker takes down CEO wire transfer scammers, sends their Win 10 creds to the cops – The director of SEC Consult’s Singapore office has made a name striking back at so-called “whaling” scammers by sending malicious Word documents that breach their Windows 10 boxes and pass on identity information to police. Whaling is a well-oiled social engineering scam that sees criminals dupe financial controllers at large lucrative organisations. Whalers’ main method is to send emails that appear to originate from chief executive officers, bearing instructions to wire cash into nominated bank accounts. It works. The FBI estimates some $2.2bn (£1.7bn, A$2.9bn) in losses have arisen from nearly 14,000 whaling cases in the seven months to May this year. Some $800m (£601m, A$1bn) in losses occurred in the 10 months to August 2015.

Company News:

Galaxy Note 7 recall costs expected to top $1 billion – Just as things were looking really good for Samsung with the launch of its popular Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, it all went wrong. Reports of Note 7 smartphones catching on fire while charging started coming in and then Samsung officially announced a recall on all of the Note 7 smartphones that had been sold. Analysts are now chiming in on what the recall is expected to cost Samsung, and the number is massive at $1 billion.

Intel is buying the computer vision company that powers Tango and DJI’s drones – You might not have heard of Movidius — even though we said it was a chipmaker to keep your eye on back in March. It makes computer vision chips that allow devices to see and respond to the world around them. It’s a capability that Intel is increasingly interested in, so Intel purchasing the company for an undisclosed amount. In a post about the acquisition, Movidius CEO Remi El-Ouazzane says that plan is combine his company’s expertise in on-device hardware with Intel’s cloud computing and AI. He also says that Movidius will “remain focused,” and a spokesperson for Intel tells us that all of Movidius’ 180 employees will be “integrated” into Intel’s Perceptual Computing group.

Dell Technologies posts Q2 results – The company reported revenue of $13.1 billion, an increase of 1 percent year over year, with a non-GAAP operating income of $752 million — up 32 percent from the previous year. Cash flow from operations for the quarter came to $1.9 billion. On a trailing 12-month basis, it was $3.2 billion, an improvement of 50 percent.

PayPal expands partnership with MasterCard – PayPal on Tuesday announced it’s expanding its partnership with MasterCard, positioning the digital payments provider to compete against other point-of-sale payment options. The deal, similar to one that PayPal struck with Visa in July, will make MasterCard a payment option within PayPal and allow Braintree merchants to use Masterpass. Additionally, consumers and small businesses will be able to instantly transfer funds from a PayPal account to a MasterCard debit card.

Google switches on new undersea cable for faster internet speeds in Asia – Google is speeding up its internet services in Asia once again. Fresh from expanding its data centers in the region — which are located in Singapore and Taiwan — last year, the company said today that it has switched on a new undersea cable that will quicken services like YouTube and its cloud computing platform. The cable connects Google’s facility in Taiwan with a location in Japan, which itself is connected to the U.S. via an undersea cable from the FASTER Consortium which has the honor of being the planet’s fastest fiber optic undersea cable. Google said the Japan-Taiwan cable supports speeds of up to 26 terabits per second.

Truckin’ USA: Volkswagen buys up stake in Navistar – The German automaker will supply engines to Navistar International Corporation, formerly known as International Harvester Company, Reuters reports. In exchange for those engines, Volkswagen will receive a 16.6 percent stake in the company. At VW’s purchase rate of $15.76 a share, the deal will be worth about $256 million.

Games and Entertainment:

The 20 best free PC games – There are innumerable free-to-play games available for the PC, and with that comes positives and negatives alike. The large selection means that there’s something to fit just about any taste, but the signal-to-noise ratio is truly atrocious. Instead of trudging through dozens of clones and halfhearted cash grabs, let us separate the wheat from the chaff for you. Today, we’re highlighting 20 of the best free games on the PC. There’s a lot to cover, so follow along, and something here is bound to strike your fancy.

Watch the evolution of stop-motion film in this 3-minute video – Stop-motion animation has been a mainstay in cinematic special effects for almost as long as movies have been around. Filmmaker Vugar Efendi recently posted a video that charts the history of the technique, and shows just how far it has come since it was first introduced over a century ago. Starting with 1900’s The Enchanted Drawing and running all the way up through 2016’s Kubo and the Two Strings,short video is a fascinating look at how the technique has evolved over the years, and include some of cinema’s best-known moments, from King Kong atop the Empire State Building to the AT-AT attack in The Empire Strikes Back.

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FOX Sports Go app arrives on Roku – Following its arrival on Apple TV on August 26, FOX Sports has announced the availability of FOX Sports Go on Roku devices, saying it is now available on both the set-top-boxes and Roku smart TVs. FOX Sports Go provides access to FOX Sports’ “full slate” programming, which amounts to more than 3,000 live events plus access to original content and studio content. All of this depends, though, on whether you have a pay-TV subscription already.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Warner Bros. flags own site for piracy, orders Google to censor pages – Warner Bros. ordered Google to remove several of its own Web pages from search results on the grounds they infringed the media giant’s copyright. A posting on the Lumen database of cease and desist letters revealed the bizarre requests, which were sent by monitoring company Vobile on behalf of Warner Bros. It asked for the official pages of Batman: The Dark Knight and The Matrix films to be censored by Google under the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA.) A few days earlier,  according to TorrentFreak, Warner Bros. had requested that the official Web page for movie The Lucky One should be removed from Google’s search results in the same way. The takedown demands from the company went beyond erroneously targeting itself. It also told Google to remove legit movie streaming links from Amazon, Sky, and IMDb.

The UK Wants Swarms of Drones for Defence Missions – The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has launched a public competition this week to evaluate how swarms of tiny drones could be used in future warfare. The “Many drones make light work” competition, in partnership with government agency Innovate UK, calls for proposals on how lone drone operators could command UAS (Unmanned Air Systems) swarms in “contested environments.” The swarms would be tasked with jamming enemy communications, tracking targeted individuals, and area mapping.

Finally, a map of all the Knobs in Australia – Yes, Australia may be filled with such antipodean delights as several of the most venomous animals on Earth, but it’s hard to take the country seriously sometimes. Especially when you look at what places there are called. British mapmaker Strumpshaw, Tincleton & Giggleswick has designed a carefully curated map of ridiculous Australian place names. Expect to find such locations as Misery Knob, Yorkeys Knob, Big Knob and Wallaby Knob. Yes, they’re all real.

Take a digital dive into the grisly sunken remains of Henry VIII’s flagship – 3D technology is doing amazing things for archaeologists and palaeontologists. As we’ve seen, it allows precious and fragile artefacts to be scanned, recreated and shared so that others can study them all around the world. Now Swansea University, the Mary Rose Trust and Oxford University in the UK are getting in on the action, with a new website that shares artefacts salvaged from Henry VIII’s sunken flagship, the Mary Rose.

Something to think about:

“I have a new philosophy. I’m only going to dread one day at a time.”

–      Charles M. Schulz (1922 – 2000), Charlie Brown in “Peanuts” 

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Watch How Government Spyware Infects a Computer in This Leaked Demo Video – Just like any regular tech company, vendors such as Hacking Team or NSO Group, which sell software designed to spy on computers and cellphones, have to convince potential customers that their product is worth the thousands of dollars, or sometimes millions, that it costs.

For that, companies often set up controlled live demos, showing the potential buyers, usually police departments and intelligence agencies, how their technology works and just how great their spyware is. Unless you are a police agent, a middleman who resells this type of software, or you’ve worked in one of these companies, you’ve probably never seen one of these demos—until today.

Motherboard has obtained a never-before-seen 10-minute video showing a live demo for a spyware solution made by a little known Italian surveillance contractor called RCS Lab. Unlike Hacking Team, RCS Lab has been able to fly under the radar for years, and very little is known about its products, or its customers.

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The video shows an RCS Lab employee performing a live demo of the company’s spyware to an unidentified man, including a tutorial on how to use the spyware’s control software to perform a man-in-the-middle attack and infect a target computer who wanted to visit a specific website.

German spies violated law, must delete XKeyscore database—watchdog – Germany’s spies seriously violated the country’s laws multiple times, according to a secret report from its federal data protection commissioner, Andrea Voßhoff.

The legal analysis, leaked to Netzpolitik, was made in July 2015 following a visit by data protection officials to Bad Aibling in southern Germany in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about surveillance activities there. Bad Aibling is jointly run by Germany’s intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), and the NSA.

As well as listing 18 serious legal violations and filing 12 formal complaints—the German data watchdog’s most severe legal instrument—the secret report said that the BND created seven databases without the appropriate legal approval. As a result, commissioner Voßhoff said that all seven databases should be deleted, and could not be used again.

Significantly, one of the illegal databases used the XKeyscore software, sometimes called the NSA’s Google. As Ars reported last year, it was known that the BND had a copy of this program, but the Netzpolitik leak appears to provide details of the huge scale on which it was used:

Activists to FBI: Show Us Your Warrant for Mass Hack of TorMail Users – Mass hacking is now one of the FBI’s established tactics for fighting crime on the dark web. In February 2015, the agency hit at least 4,000 computers all over the world in an attempt to identify visitors of a child pornography site.

But questions remain about another FBI operation from 2013, in which the agency may have hacked users of a dark web email service called TorMail even if they weren’t suspects of a crime. Now, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is trying to unseal the court docket sheet containing the search warrant used to deploy malware against users of the service. If the ACLU were then to get access to the warrant itself, it may reveal the true scale of the FBI’s controversial hacking campaign.

TorMail was a site based on Freedom Hosting, a web host that provided easy-to-set-up Tor hidden services. In 2013, the FBI seized Freedom Hosting; according to media reports at the time, anyone visiting a Freedom Hosting site was met with a “Down for Maintenance” message. Researchers soon found that that page contained malicious code designed to de-anonymise users of the Tor Browser. The error page was also displayed to users of TorMail, one former user previously told Motherboard.

“The sealing of docket sheets with warrants authorizing the use of malware prevents … critical public debate from happening”

The Washington Post recently confirmed that the FBI used a “network investigative technique” or NIT—the agency’s term for a hacking tool—on the TorMail site. According to the article, the FBI had obtained a warrant to hack the owners of certain email accounts suspected of being involved in child pornography, and anonymous sources claimed that, with this approach, only suspects who had been linked to child pornography would be hacked.

But journalists, dissidents, and other individuals used TorMail too, and it seems that the error page was presented to every TorMail user—raising questions about how broad the operation really was.

Automated systems fight ISIS propaganda, but at what cost? – The spread of ISIS propaganda online has put social media companies in a tough position. Governments are urging Facebook, Twitter, and Google to more aggressively remove extremist content, in the hopes of reducing the terrorist group’s influence. But the companies’ self-moderation systems have struggled to keep pace, and terrorist material continues to spread online.

Now, a nonprofit organization has developed an algorithm that it says can automate the removal of terrorist-related content. But there are concerns that it could infringe on freedom of speech, and some question whether automated content removal would mitigate radicalization.

The algorithm, called eGLYPH, was announced in June by the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), a New York-based nonprofit organization that tracks extremist groups. eGLYPH uses so-called “hashing” technology to assign a unique fingerprint to images, videos, and audio that have already been flagged as extremist, and automatically removes any versions that have been uploaded to a social network. It will also automatically delete other versions as soon as users attempt to upload them.

Twitter may be cracking down on ISIS, but white nationalists are still thriving – Twitter has publicly touted its efforts to suspend accounts linked to ISIS, but according to a new study, white nationalists and neo-Nazis continue to use the social network “with relative impunity.” The study, published last week by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, found that major white nationalist groups have seen a surge in Twitter followers since 2012, while ISIS has seen its influence decline on the social network. The findings were first reported by Reuters.

The report analyzed 18 Twitter accounts operated by prominent white nationalist groups and leaders, with followers mostly based in the US. The analysis found that self-identified Nazi sympathizers and white nationalists had “substantially higher follower counts than ISIS supporters, and tweeted more often.” The median follower count for Nazi-linked accounts was nearly eight times higher than ISIS-affiliated handles, and their average count was more than 22 times greater.

“On Twitter, ISIS’s preferred social platform, American white nationalist movements have seen their followers grow by more than 600% since 2012,” reads the study, which was authored by J.M. Berger. “Today, they outperform ISIS in nearly every social metric, from follower counts to tweets per day.”

Last month, Twitter announced that 360,000 accounts have been suspended for promoting terrorism since mid-2015, including 235,000 suspensions since February. Authorities in Europe and the US have called on Facebook, Twitter, and other major tech companies to crack down on ISIS propaganda and online recruitment, raising concerns that their efforts may infringe on free speech. Germany, in particular, has pressured social networks to more swiftly remove xenophobic content and other hate speech directed toward refugees. But Berger’s report says that policing white nationalist and Nazi content is more challenging, because the communities are “less cohesive than ISIS networks, and less concentrated on Twitter.”

“While the extreme violence of ISIS has understandably elevated concerns about the threat the organization presents, other extremist groups are able to watch its success and learn from its tactics, both on social media and offline,” the report says. “Studies of ISIS activity, while useful, examine only a fraction of the violent extremist landscape.”

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