Tag Archives: cloud storage

Cloud Storage – Great Idea or Security Risk?

This guest post is contributed by my Aussie mate, Jim Hillier. Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at Dave’s Computer Tips. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele… as well as writing for DCT, of course.


“On no, we’ve lost all of little Johnny’s birthday snaps”, the woman cries as she holds her smashed smartphone aloft. With a knowing smile, her husband responds, “Don’t fret dear, they’re all in the cloud”. All is well, peace and harmony reign again.

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Even less than a decade ago, any mention of “cloud storage” or “data in the cloud” would have almost certainly elicited a puzzled response. Today though, I’d imagine just about everyone would be familiar with the concept. “The cloud”, it’s a rather exotic term which simply means your data is uploaded to and stored on somebody else’s server, essentially on an internet connected hard disk owned and operated by the cloud service provider.

There is no doubt that the advantage of being able to access data from anywhere on any device creates a massive appeal factor, especially for multiple device users. Not to mention the automatic backup element which is clearly demonstrated in the opening paragraph.

It all sounds like a great idea, that is until you start considering what might and can go wrong. Of course, cloud storage providers take the utmost care with your data, at least according to them. They apply top notch security measures including encrypted data transfers. Trouble is, the encryption key is also stored on their machines, which means any of their staff can access those files as can any hacker who manages to break into the system.

I realize every method is susceptible to hackers, whether the data is stored locally or in the cloud. However, which do you think would represent the most desirable target – a local disk containing only your own personal data or a mega database containing data uploaded from thousands (if not millions) of users, all in one place?

Another concern involves the future viability of a chosen cloud storage provider – just ask those who entrusted their data to Kim Dotcom’s Megaupload. What happens to your data if the company is sold, goes bankrupt, or just closes down? Then there’s the scenario where cloud storage providers can simply change the terms of their plans, exactly as Microsoft did recently when the company drastically reduced the amount of data storage available under its free OneDrive plan.

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I guess though, when it comes to data in the cloud, the greatest concern for most people is privacy. While Microsoft OneDrive openly scans all your files – for illegal content of course, most providers will collect data to share with “trusted third parties”. Naturally, many of these providers need to process sensitive information, such as your name, email address, phone number, credit card details and mailing address, in order to “improve their services”. And Santa Claus visits once a year around Christmas.

Despite the cynicism, I do believe that cloud storage can be decidedly useful and I’m certainly not dismissing the practice out of hand. However, as is the case with many situations… everything within reason.

I would not, for example, store any sensitive data in the cloud, whether encrypted locally beforehand or not. Family photos, life-memories, items which are valuable only to the user and serve no purpose for anyone else… sure, no problem.

Regardless, the important thing to remember is that any backup is preferable to no backup at all. If you don’t fancy storing your data in the cloud, dust off that external drive and use that instead. Works for me.

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Filed under cloud storage, cybercrime, Don't Get Hacked, Internet Safety, Privacy, Technicians Advise, Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday Edition – July 10, 2015

Take the time to walk through the new Google Privacy Checkup;  How to make Google Drive more secure;  Install Security, Speed Up Your PC;  Declutter your phone with one of these handy apps;  10 ways to tune up your mobile office;  Two-Factor Authentication: Who Has It and How to Set It Up;  Meerkat live-stream app adds new features;  iOS 9 And OS X El Capitan Are Now Available To All As Public Betas;  Try These Apps and Sites for Selling Your Old Stuff;  Google’s Chromecast gets a hardwired Ethernet adapter;  How to install the iOS 9 public beta;  Adobe Flash exploit that was leaked by Hacking Team goes wild; patch now!  Massive Federal Data Breach Affects 7% of Americans;  Mozilla patches critical bugs in fresh Firefox update;  Windows 10: The end of computing as we know it;  A Social Watchlist App For Finding The Best Movies And Shows on any Service;  Xbox Music app now lets users stream from OneDrive;  Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 multiplayer beta hits PS4 August 19th;  Getting by with pre-post-PC devices in a post-PC world;  Microsoft Worldwide Telescope (free);  Tech and politics clash over protecting your data.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Take the time to walk through the new Google Privacy Checkup – Google has finally introduced a user-friendly means of taking control of account privacy. Jack Wallen thinks the Google Privacy Checkup should go a long way to ease the Fear Uncertainty and Doubt surrounding the juggernaut.

Install Security, Speed Up Your PC – When activities on your PC seem to bog down, do you blame your security suite? Maybe it’s spending too much time scanning files in the background, or sucking up bandwidth exchanging details with its cloud database? Well, maybe you should think again. A new report from AV-Comparatives indicates that installing security can actually speed up your computer’s operation.

How to make Google Drive more secure – If you have a Gmail account, you have 15GB of free cloud storage from Google. It’s pretty handy, because it works across a variety of devices, and desktop users can create a special folder on their computer and drop files into it, and that folder syncs with your Drive account as fast as the file can be sent to the cloud. Of course, convenience isn’t the only concern for cloud backup services, as we explained recently in our review roundup. Our cloud of choice is SOS Online Backup. But because you may have good reasons for sticking with Google Drive, we’ve come up with a few things you can do to tighten its security.

Declutter your phone with one of these handy apps – Like PCs, smartphones can accumulate a lot of clutter in the form of duplicate pictures, temporary files, and unused applications. All this clutter can rob your phone of performance and decrease available storage space. Fortunately, a number of utilities can help you to cut through some of the mess.

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Meerkat live-stream app adds new features, including a new co-host mode – Live streaming video app Meerkat announced two new features designed to bring streamers and viewers a little closer together, including a way for people to jump into streams and a way to store a library of recordings. Meerkat said its new “Cameo” feature will allow stream viewers, once approved by the main broadcaster, to take over a stream and broadcast themselves for up to 60 seconds. The company will also now automatically save and store streams when people finish broadcasting. The library is private, but saved streams can be made publicly available.

Tips to get the most out of Wi-Fi on a train – The author’s local commuter rail offers free Wi-Fi service for riders. Find out how it works and what to expect from similar scenarios.

Try These Apps and Sites for Selling Your Old Stuff – Depending upon what you’re trying to sell, some services are better than others. We scoured online markets big and small, looking for the best ways to help you unload anything from your fridge to your Fendi bag.

Facebook makes it easier to hide annoying posts from friends – Facebook has updated its controls to let users prioritize posts from friends and pages while making it easier to unfollow those whose posts aren’t relevant or interesting enough.

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Pinterest users can now log into other apps with their Pinterest account – Frequent users of social networks know that often you can log into apps and other websites using your credentials from some of the biggest social networks like Facebook. Pinterest has announced that users of its site can now log into other apps with their Pinterest accounts and by doing so users get new ways to pin images to Pinterest to share.

iOS 9 And OS X El Capitan Are Now Available To All As Public Betas – The iOS 9 beta build will allow early adopters to try out upcoming features, including new apps like News and a refreshed Notes, transit directions in Apple Maps, an improved Siri, a smarter search which lets you surface results from inside apps, and much more. Meanwhile, El Capitan offers a variety of improvements to core features like Mission Control, Spotlight, native apps, including Safari, Mail, Maps, Photos, plus performance improvements, and other items.

How to install the iOS 9 public beta – First things first: Yes, Apple has released iOS 9 as a public beta, but that doesn’t mean it’s ready for everyday use. In fact, I’d suggest you stay away if you don’t like troubleshooting issues. And even after you’ve attempted to fix the issue, there are times when you simply have to live with an app not working or a feature you used to rely on crashing your device. It’s a beta for a reason. OK, with that out of the way, you want to test out Apple’s latest and greatest mobile operating system? Good. The more the merrier, as they say.

Windows 10 SDK Preview build 10166 now available – A new build of the Windows 10 SDK Preview is now available for developers that includes bug fixes, API surface level changes and the latest Windows 10 Mobile emulator.

Android M preview update brings a lot of sweet goodies – Google has just announced the first ever update to its developer preview of Android M, which still has to be christened with a name. Continuing the new tradition it set last year. Google is rolling out limited updates in order to let developers prepare their apps in advance as well as report bugs. And while Google is only officially sharing some of the juicy tidbits that are relevant to developers, the update also so has some hidden treasures for end users waiting to be discovered.

Room.me Wants To Prevent You From Getting Stuck With Horrible Roommates – Room.me works by matching potential roommates up with different personality types based on a the kinds of quizzes dating sites use, but tailored to a preferred living situation. It asks the usual questions like if you care if other roommates smoke or have sleepovers with partners a lot, but also things such as if you are a night owl or a morning person and if you prefer living with another night owl, or if you’d rather have a roommate that is a morning person. It also asks if you are looking for new best friends or would rather others stay out of your way – all things that can make a tremendous impact on who you match up with.

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Google’s Chromecast gets a hardwired Ethernet adapter – Google just started selling a cool little accessory for Chromecast owners with Wi-Fi woes, though: a hardwired ethernet adapter for the Chromecast. The accessory is a power brick that plugs into the Chromecast’s USB port, and—in addition to providing power—embedded in the brick is a full-sized Ethernet port. Just plug in and you can forget about ever having to push bits over Wi-Fi again. The adapter is $15 on the Google Store, and it supports up to 100Mbps.

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Five lightweight Linux desktop worlds for extreme open-sourcers – There are dozens of smaller distros that specialize in lightweight desktops that do the basics – manage windows, and offer file browsers, launchers and sometimes a menu bar of some sort – but otherwise stay out of the way. The point, after all, is the applications. Why waste RAM running a fancy desktop when all you want to do in interact with the apps you’re running? If you have the RAM to spare, well, sure, why not? But not all of us do.

Solar Paper is a paper-thin solar charger – Small solar chargers for your gadgets are nothing new, but the most modern batches are only vaguely similar to the first chargers on the market. Solar Paper is perhaps the best example of this — it is a solar charger ranging from 2.5 watts to 10 watts, and it is thin enough to slip between the pages of a book, hence its name. The charger features a USB port for charging USB devices, and is scarcely larger than a dollar bill. If the Solar Paper catches your fancy, you can back it on Kickstarter where its maker were hoping to raise $50,000 USD (they’ve since exceeded the $97,000 mark). A $69 pledge will get backers a 5W Solar Paper charger, while $99 will get a 7.5W unit, $129 will get a 10W unit, and higher amounts will get different bundle packs. Shipping to backers is estimated to start in September.

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10 ways to tune up your mobile office – If you’re an on-the-go IT pro, your mobile office could be slowing you down. Here are 10 simple tips to help make your workday more efficient.

Six cool accessories for mobile professionals from $20 – From a portable projector to a better gear bag, these six handy accessories can make help your business trips go more smoothly.

T-Mobile offers free calling and data services in Canada and Mexico – T-Mobile today announced a new feature of its Simple Choice wireless plans that adds free roaming services in Canada and Mexico. The new feature, which will be available to all T-Mobile Simple Choice customers starting on Wednesday, July 15th, includes free calling and texting services to and from Mexico and Canada, as well as 4G LTE data service in both countries at no additional charge. The new services for travelers to Mexico and Canada are an expansion of T-Mobile’s free international data roaming that was introduced in 2013.

Two-Factor Authentication: Who Has It and How to Set It Up – By sheer brute force or simple phishing, passwords are, to be honest, a pretty laughable way of authenticating who you are (or aren’t, as the case may be). What you really need is a second factor of authentication. And that’s why many Internet services, a number of which have felt the pinch of being hacked, have embraced two-factor authentication for their users. It’s sometimes called 2FA, or used interchangeably with the terms “two-step” and “verification” depending on the marketing. But what is it?

Security:

Adobe Flash exploit that was leaked by Hacking Team goes wild; patch now! – With the exploit folded into exploit kits that are available on the Internet, users who rely on Flash should install the update immediately (don’t forget to uncheck the boxes Adobe shamelessly checks by default to promote crapware). Readers may also want to experiment with uninstalling Flash altogether. If the results are acceptable, that’s a more secure alternative since it drastically reduces attack surface.

Mozilla patches critical bugs in fresh Firefox update – Mozilla has issued a new Firefox browser update with fixes for four critical vulnerabilities and a number of less severe issues. In Firefox 39, a total of four critical vulnerabilities, two high-level flaws and six moderate bugs have been patched among a total of 13 fixes. According to the Mozilla security advisory, security issues relate to use-after-free vulnerabilities, poor validation processes, buffer overflow problems and a variety of memory problems.

Trackbuster Lets You Remove Those Pesky Email Tracking Beacons – Trackbuster is a nifty little tool that could be useful if you’re paranoid about your privacy. Launching today, this service will analyze your incoming emails in Gmail, identify those that have invisible trackers and remove these trackers. It works with Gmail and it’s not perfect yet, but I can see why someone would use it.

After second hack, OPM confirms more than 22 million affected – The federal agency in charge of vetting government workers for security clearance has been hit by a second breach, leading to the theft of more than 21 million individuals’ records. The figure confirmed Thursday by the Office of Personnel Management includes a portion of the 4.2 million records — including Social Security numbers — compromised in an earlier breach reported last month. The total figure now stands at about 22.1 million individuals affected by the two cyberattacks.

Massive Federal Data Breach Affects 7% of Americans – The U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced Thursday that a massive data breach—one that targeted its security clearance system—compromised the sensitive information of 21.5 million people, including social security numbers for current and former federal workers, contractors, friends, and families, the agency said. As many as 19.5 million of those people had applied for security clearances.

Hacking Team claims terrorists can now use its tools – Hacking Team warned that a devastating data breach it suffered will allow its spying tools to be used by criminals and terrorists. The company’s claim, however, is worth questioning as it isn’t clear why someone would attempt to use software that’s been under extremely close scrutiny in recent days. Hacking Team somewhat undermined its claim as well. Rabe wrote that “we expect too that antivirus companies are upgrading their programs to detect the compromised RCS.”

Company News:

Barnes and Noble nixing Nook store for users outside US and UK – After some troubling signs, Barnes and Noble has made it official: it’s going to be dropping many of its customers, namely those living outside of the United States and the United Kingdom. This concerns the Nook aspect of Barnes and Nobles’ business, and will be taking place early next month. It’s a somewhat surprising move, given that Barnes and Noble previously offered the Nook in 40 countries including most of Europe, Australia, and Canada. Now only those located in the US and the UK will get access beyond August 7.

PC Market Slips 11.8 Percent In Q2 But Apple Keeps Picking Up Steam – According to IDC, the global PC market’s unit volume slipped 11.8 percent in the second quarter of 2015, a slightly larger-than-expected dip. As the company notes, the size of the decline reflects a strong second quarter in the year-ago period, when the death of Windows XP bolstered sales of new machines. Apple performed well in the quarter, seeing its market share rise to a global 7.8 percent, up from 5.9 percent the year before. Of all major PC OEMs, only Apple managed to grow its unit sales in the quarter. That fact mirrors TechCrunch’s prior reporting on Apple’s current PC business. For the rest, it was rough. Here’s the chart:

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IBM reveals first 7nm chips – Moore’s law has spurred improvements in processor architecture for years and Big Blue has just taken the next step, by creating working copies of 7nm transistors. IBM, last year, pledged $3 billion in funding for research into improvements in silicon design and it seems that their investment has paid off. While Intel, Samsung, Nvidia and other manufacturers are just now starting to move from the 28nm processes to 14nm transistors, IBM already has working prototypes of 7nm chips.

IBM inks $180 million cloud deal with energy company Columbia Pipeline – IBM has inked a $180 million cloud deal with Columbia Pipeline Group (CPG). Based in Houston, Texas, the energy company operates roughly 15,000 miles of natural gas pipelines across North America. As part of the deal, IBM will move CPG’s entire IT infrastructure and business applications into a private cloud in IBM’s Columbus, Ohio data center. IBM will manage the infrastructure — which includes human resources, billing and finance, and pipeline operations — for a minimum of five years.

Avast acquires mobile virtualization firm Remotium – Avast has acquired Remotium in a deal aimed at boosting BYOD security in the enterprise. Announced on Wednesday, security firm Avast said virtual enterprise mobility company Remotium’s solutions assist the enterprise to implement bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies more securely and effectively, and therefore can be considered a valuable addition to Avast’s mobile security portfolio.

Judge tosses jury’s $533M patent verdict against Apple, orders new trial – A $533 million jury verdict that would have been the largest ever for a “patent assertion entity” has been struck down four months after a jury granted it. US District Judge Rodney Gilstrap, who oversaw the case against Apple, has ruled (PDF) that the damages verdict must be thrown out because of a faulty instruction to the jury. He has ordered a new trial to be held solely on the issue of damages.

With $10M In New Funding, Lendingkart Helps Small Businesses In India Get Loans – Since launching a year ago, Lendingkart has processed loans from 50 cities and 17 states across India. It will use its new capital to expand into all towns and cities in India, improve its credit scoring technology, and hire more employees. The startup is similar to LendingClub in that it allows businesses to apply for loans online, bypassing banks and other traditional finance institutions. Co-founder and chief executive officer Harshvardhan Lunia explains that Lendingkart’s algorithms use 1,500 data points to score credit application. The site claims that its application process takes just 15 minutes, with most loans approved in a few hours and disbursed within three working days.

BlackBerry and Google team up to make Android business-friendly – BlackBerry has announced a new partnership with Google to develop new enterprise security standards for Android and improved device management tools for businesses.

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Uber Files Opposition To Case That Could Make All Drivers Employees Instead Of Independent Contractors – Uber filed a briefing in court today that opposes a class-action lawsuit attempting to label drivers as Uber employees instead of as independent contractors. Drivers in both Lyft and Uber also filed class-action lawsuits in March alleging both ride hailing companies had misclassified them as independent contractors instead of employees. And both claim that Uber and Lyft were depriving them of certain rights and benefits. Uber refutes the claim that drivers should be employees and says the lawsuit does not reflect the desires of most of its drivers to remain independent.

Logitech to rebrand as “Logi,” dropping “tech” from its name – Speaking at the launch event, Logitech company representatives explained that the “Logi” brand will be used for “future-facing stuff,” and consumers will soon see it begin to appear in striking colors on new Logitech products, especially in the “Internet of Things” categories (which in this context realistically means small connected devices). The full “Logitech” branding will continue to stick around for more established legacy products, like keyboards and mice.

Games and Entertainment:

Legit Debuts A Social Watchlist App For Finding The Best Movies And Shows On Any Service – Today, an app called Legit is launching with hopes of becoming the go-to watchlist for finding any movie or TV show across service, streaming or otherwise. It even helps you figure out if movies are worth seeing in the theaters, or if you can wait for the digital release. Currently, Legit focuses on content that can be found on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube or iTunes, as well as in theaters. At first launch, the app asks you about favorite genres, movies, and the platforms you use, in order to customize the experience. You can then dive into Legit to find things to add to your watchlist, track friends’ ratings, and more. You can even quickly poll friends about their likes on the app or on its Apple Watch counterpart.

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Xbox Music app now lets users stream from OneDrive – The soon to be re-branded Xbox Music apps for iOS and Android have received a big update from Microsoft this week. The main new feature allows users to stream songs they’ve stored on OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service. This has already been available to those who use Xbox Music on Windows since earlier this year, but now it’s available to mobile users for the first time.

Survey: Most people don’t care about the sex of a game’s protagonist – It’s a common stereotype that boys like games where sexy images of women are present. However, a survey has revealed that most gamers don’t care about the sex of the protagonist.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 multiplayer beta hits PS4 August 19th – The latest entry in gaming’s biggest FPS franchise, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, will soon be upon us, and these days that can only mean one thing: a multiplayer beta test to get fans pumped up. Call of Duty players won’t be disappointed, as developer Treyarch has just announced the beta will be available for PlayStation 4 on August 19th. Keep in mind that date is only for players on the PS4, as a beta will be available on Xbox One and other platforms, but just at a later date.

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Paramount movies get in-home streaming just 17 days after theatrical release – To get this done, Paramount struck up a deal with the US’s second largest chain, AMC Theaters, and the Canadian giant Cineplex by offering a percentage of digital rental sales to the theater owners up to 90 days after the movie debuts in movie houses. AMC and Cineplex were reportedly the first two outlets Paramount went to, but now that they’re on board, the studio is seeing if other chains want to get in on the action.

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10 Hidden Roku Tricks for Streaming Success – Whether you just got a Roku or you’ve had one for years, there’s more to know beyond the basics of watching Netflix and catching up with “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” on Crackle. We’ve put together 10 ways for you to get more out of your Roku.

GOG.com’s old-school PC games will be ready for Windows 10 – The entire existence of GOG.com (and DOSBox, et cetera) is predicated on the fact that eventually our computers outgrew—for a number of reasons—some of our most beloved games, from SimCity 2000 to Dungeon Keeper to Syndicate. Which should make today’s news from GOG.com a relief: “Windows 10 is coming on July 29th and we are as ready as can be!”

Off Topic (Sort of):

Windows 10: The end of computing as we know it – IT leaders considering a Windows 10 migration as a cornerstone initiative risk having a focus that is a decade behind. Patrick Gray explains why.

Getting by with pre-post-PC devices in a post-PC world – Even though many three and four-year old devices still work, they’ve reached obsolescence by virtue of the changing nature of computing. Here’s a story every ZDNet reader can identify with. A late-night “please fix my computer” call from a friend.

Just say no to connected cars – Around 5% of new vehicles already include some form of embedded technology inside. But have you thought about the consequences?

Mount Fuji will be a free Wi-Fi zone for 3 months – Imagine reaching the end of an exhilarating but also tiring mountain climb. You reach for your phone to take a selfie or tweet to the world about your accomplishment. But alas, you have no Internet connection. Big problem, right? Well, not if you’re on top of Japan’s highest peak. That’s right, the iconic Mount Fuji is going to have free Wi-Fi hotspots, eight of them, in fact, and they are being placed exactly so that you can share to the world your wonderful hiking experience.

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Solocam Is A Selfie Stick That Isn’t Completely Insufferable – Solocam is a selfie stick that may actually provide value (bear with me here) by letting journalists shoot video from the field without lugging around an entire camera crew. The device is a selfie stick attached to a high-definition bluetooth microphone, just like the pros use. While the entire setup looks ridiculous, the video it helps create looks surprisingly professional. The device also comes with an app for your mobile device which lets you record while using features like a teleprompter or special effects. The camera is set at an angle to avoid the dreaded flesh beard under all of our chins. The most basic version will set you back $50, while the pro is selling for $149.

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Read the first chapter of Harper Lee’s first book since To Kill A Mockingbird – It’s been a long, 55-year wait, but Harper Lee, the author of the seminal To Kill A Mockingbird, is about to release her second book. Go Set A Watchman is out on July 14th, and courtesy of The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal, you can read the first chapter now. The book follows Scout, the protagonist of To Kill A Mockingbird, now grown up and traveling from New York to Alabama to visit her sick father. The chapter joins Scout on a train traveling south.

Something to think about:

“The problem is humans can’t keep up with all the technology they have created. It’s becoming unmanageable by the human brain. Our best hope may be that computers eventually will become smart enough to maintain themselves.”

–      Avivah Litananalyst at Gartner

Today’s Free Downloads:

VirtualBox – VirtualBox is a general-purpose full virtualizer for x86 hardware. Targeted at server, desktop and embedded use, it is now the only professional-quality virtualization solution that is also Open Source Software.

Features:

Modularity. VirtualBox has an extremely modular design with well-defined internal programming interfaces and a client/server design. This makes it easy to control it from several interfaces at once: for example, you can start a virtual machine in a typical virtual machine GUI and then control that machine from the command line, or possibly remotely. VirtualBox also comes with a full Software Development Kit: even though it is Open Source Software, you don’t have to hack the source to write a new interface for VirtualBox.

Virtual machine descriptions in XML. The configuration settings of virtual machines are stored entirely in XML and are independent of the local machines. Virtual machine definitions can therefore easily be ported to other computers.

Guest Additions for Windows and Linux. VirtualBox has special software that can be installed inside Windows and Linux virtual machines to improve performance and make integration much more seamless. Among the features provided by these Guest Additions are mouse pointer integration and arbitrary screen solutions (e.g. by resizing the guest window).

Shared folders. Like many other virtualization solutions, for easy data exchange between hosts and guests, VirtualBox allows for declaring certain host directories as “shared folders”, which can then be accessed from within virtual machines.

A number of extra features are available with the full VirtualBox release only.

Virtual USB Controllers. VirtualBox implements a virtual USB controller and allows you to connect arbitrary USB devices to your virtual machines without having to install device specific drivers on the host.

Remote Desktop Protocol. Unlike any other virtualization software, VirtualBox fully supports the standard Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). A virtual machine can act as an RDP server, allowing you to “run” the virtual machine remotely on some thin client that merely displays the RDP data.

USB over RDP. With this unique feature, a virtual machine that acts as an RDP server can still access arbitrary USB devices that are connected on the RDP client. This way, a powerful server machine can virtualize a lot of thin clients that merely need to display RDP data and have USB devices plugged in.

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Microsoft Worldwide Telescope (WWT) 5.2.9 Beta / 3.1.52 Legacy – The WorldWide Telescope is a rich visualization environment that functions as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground- and space-based telescopes to enable seamless, guided explorations of the universe. WorldWide Telescope, created with Microsoft’s high-performance Visual Experience Engine, enables seamless panning and zooming across the night sky blending terabytes of images, data and stories from multiple sources over the Internet into a media-rich, immersive experience. The WorldWide Telescope experience scales from a web browser all the way to multi-channel full dome in some of the world’s most advanced planetariums.

You can research and import your own data and visualize it, then create a tour to share with others.

Features:

Navigate seamlessly through 3D spherical environments: the Sky, Planets and our Solar System

Access to hundreds of terabytes of sky, earth and planet data

View, create, and edit guided tours

Experience the 3D Solar System view with moon orbits, asteroids, and more

Access billions of objects in a web-based astronomical catalog

Use touch controls for touch-screen navigation

Travel 2,000 years forwards and backwards in time

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Tech and politics clash over protecting your data – How far can government surveillance reach, and how protective are we allowed to be of our personal communications? On Wednesday, the director of the FBI said he thinks the government should be able extend its powers and break tools that keep information private.

It used to be that Internet and phone communications were easy to intercept, hack and read. That was before Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, revealed information showing the US government has been snooping on citizens far more than most of us expected. Now tech companies are fighting back.

Their weapon: encryption, or technology that disguises communications and files so that only the intended recipient can read them.

It’s quickly becoming the standard way people communicate. Apple’s iMessage text message program uses encryption, as does Facebook’s WhatsApp. Google, Yahoo and a bunch of other tech companies have begun scrambling information being sent between their servers, all with the goal of keeping prying eyes from seeing what’s going on inside.

Surprise: The US and UK governments don’t like it, and are trying to stop the practice from becoming pervasive. FBI Director James Comey told a committee of US senators on Wednesday that encryption could be a godsend to criminals and terrorists.

This is the most outrageous government tirade against iOS 8 encryption – Following the leaks by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden that began in the summer of 2013, encryption and encryption backdoors have become hot-button topics of discussion.

That’s because many companies, including Apple and Google, have been going out of their way to encrypt products after the public learned that the US had embarked on a massive, legally and morally suspect electronic spying operation against its own citizenry and the global community at large. Fearing encryption is undermining their surveillance capabilities, government officials from the US and across the pond in the UK have been increasingly decrying encryption or at least demanding a government-accessible backdoor to unlock said encryption.

FBI Director James Comey complained to a Senate panel that companies, like Apple, are building products in which the keys necessary to decrypt communications and electronic devices are being left “solely in the hands of the end user.” In a joint statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey and a Justice Department official essentially told lawmakers that we’re all doomed unless companies bake encryption backdoors into their products to allow for lawful access by the government. Comey said the problems backdoor-less encryption presents to law enforcement “are grave, growing, and extremely complex.”

FBI chief tells Senate committee we’re doomed without crypto backdoors – James Comey, the director of the FBI, told a Senate committee Wednesday that the government should have the right to lawfully access any device or electronic form of communication with a lawful court order, even if it is encrypted.

Comey and another Justice Department official briefed the Senate Judiciary Committee and complained that keys necessary to decrypt communications and electronic devices often reside “solely in the hands of the end user”—which they said is emblematic of the so-called “Going Dark problem.” Companies should bake encryption backdoors into their products to allow lawful access, they said.

“We are not asking to expand the government’s surveillance authority, but rather we are asking to ensure that we can continue to obtain electronic information and evidence pursuant to the legal authority that Congress has provided to us to keep America safe,” read the joint prepared remarks (PDF) of Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates. “Mr. Chairman, the Department of Justice believes that the challenges posed by the Going Dark problem are grave, growing, and extremely complex.”

Canadian Senators Want to Target Radicalization by Training and Certifying Imams – Canada’s senators are calling on the government to ramp up its efforts to thwart terrorism and radicalization by getting involved with the training and certification of imams in the country.

In a new report on security threats facing Canada released Wednesday, the Standing Committee on National Security and Defense offers the federal government 25 recommendations on how it can better deal with terrorist threats.

“The committee heard testimony from members of the Muslim community and others that some foreign-trained imams have been spreading extremist religious ideology and messages that are not in keeping with Canadian values,” the report says.

It urges the government to “work with the provinces and the Muslim communities to investigate the options that are available for the training and certification of imams in Canada,” but doesn’t say whether the government should carry out the training process.

Pointing up   Another hair-brained attempt by the Stephen Harper “boys in short pants brigade” to challenge the Constitution and Canadian Bill of Rights. Current challenge score –

The Constitution – 8

The Harper troglodytes – 1

ASIO, NT Police, NSW Police named in Hacking Team emails – The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) was allegedly interested in using products from surveillance software company Hacking Team as recently as November last year, according to emails leaked from the Milan-based company.

Hackers on Monday uploaded a 400GB torrent file containing the sensitive documents, tweeted a link to the file using Hacking Team’s own Twitter account, and also posted screenshots of internal company emails and secret deals with governments around the world.

Early assessments of the company’s receipts and client lists only linked Hacking Team to the Australian Federal Police (AFP). However, on Thursday, WikiLeaks made Hacking Team’s entire email archive searchable, revealing a number of other links to Australian government organisations.

One email from Hacking Team’s Singapore salesperson representing the company in the Asia-Pacific region, Daniel Maglietta, said Canberra-based surveillance firm Criterion Solutions was interested in products from Hacking Team for ASIO as recently as in November last year.

How to take over the accounts of UK politicians using public Wi-Fi hacks – An experiment using public Wi-Fi networks to break into accounts belonging to UK politicians has highlighted a distinct lack of understanding basic security principles.

In the UK, the new currently budget dominates the news, but last week, comments made by the UK Prime Minister David Cameron caused uproar in the technology space. We know the US and UK have a fondness for surveillance and collecting data en masse, but following Edward Snowden’s leaks to the media concerning government spying programs, tech firms began ramping up encryption efforts to make spying more difficult.

This has not sat well with the PM. Cameron, following in the steps of the US FBI director James Comey, wants to ban strong encryption to “ensure that terrorists do not have a safe space in which to communicate.”

In other words, encryption protocols which would force officers of the law to go directly to a device owner instead of companies to demand data are not a popular idea for law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Security professionals slammed the demand as outrageous and portraying a lack of basic understanding of how security works.

The results of a recent test conducted by F-Secure suggest this lack of training and understanding trickles down the parliamentary chain.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 18, 2014

The Best Free Antivirus for 2015;  Why You Need Antivirus Software;  How to get the most free online storage;  Five mobile apps to help you run down key info;  Five tips for managing your money with Mint.com;  Hands-on with the free Mailbox and Carousel apps;  Facebook Groups testing ‘Sell Something’ button;  Snopes debunks Elf on the Shelf as NSA spy;  Professor: Elf teaches kids spying is OK;  Up close with the BlackBerry Classic;  How to sell your unwanted gift cards;  Smartphone comparison chart could help you find your next phone;  Amazon employees strike in Germany;  Fixing Assassin’s Creed: Unity requires a 6.7GB patch;  Bing predicts the trends for 2015.

Why You Need Antivirus Software – These days, “antivirus” is just a word for a tool that protects your data and your PC against viruses, Trojans, botnets, rootkits, rogue security software, ransomware, and all types of malicious software. Actual viruses are the least of your worries, since they lay low to avoid detection. “But I only use my PC to surf the Web,” you may say. “I don’t keep any personal information on it. Who cares if a virus or some bad program goes along for the ride?” Well, it’s not as simple as that.

The Best Free Antivirus for 2015 – Going without antivirus protection isn’t an option. Even if you don’t care about your own computer, leaving it unprotected could let cyber-crooks turn it into a zombie minion and force it to participate in DDoS attacks. If you have any computers without antivirus software, you need to install protection. Right now. Don’t worry; it doesn’t have to cost you a penny.

How to get the most free online storage – With the market for cloud storage services starting to get crowded, we take a look at how to get as much storage from the different providers as possible.

Five mobile apps to help you run down key info – One thing that’s boosted the popularity of smartphones and tablets is the way they put information at your fingertips right when you need it. Yes, you can find almost anything you’re looking for by using a Web browser and a little patience. But a number of reference apps can make it easier to track down all sorts types of information. Here are five apps I’ve found to be particularly useful.

Google Drive gets Gmail attachment capabilities, Open Doc Format support, and more – For two years you’ve been able to share links to Drive documents with just one-click. Now, you can send actual attachments. Drive for Android, meanwhile, is getting Google Now integration, which lets you use an “Ok Google” voice command to search for Drive documents. And users of iPhone and iPads are getting the ability to upload content from other apps on their device.

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Dropbox users, try these: Hands-on with the free Mailbox and Carousel apps – Dropbox does more than stash stuff now. The email and photo-sharing apps are bonus features well worth exploring.

Five tips for managing your money with Mint.com – It’s around this time of year — after more-than-intended gift spends and holiday travels — that bank statements get a brow-raise. Mint.com, a free personal finance site, is one of the most popular choices for budgeting and record-keeping, thanks to its clean interface and long-standing reputation. Whether you’re new to the service out want to get more out of it, here are some best practices.

TeachPitch Helps Educators Around The World Share Learning Resources – Creating lesson plans, learning about teaching methods, and finding new educational material are all part of a normal workday for teachers, but it can be difficult because most educators have extremely tight schedules. TeachPitch.com wants to help by bringing teachers around the world closer together so they can find and share the best resources on the web. The site, which launched officially in October, now has around 2,000 teachers from 55 countries on its platform, most from the U.S. and Asia.

Facebook Groups testing ‘Sell Something’ button – Facebook Groups is a strange (but cool) little app. You can exist within your own group, or join a new one blindly based on a common interest.. A new feature might hint at why Facebook created Groups, though, or at least something they had in mind when launching it. A “Sell Something” button has popped up next to the “Write Post” button for some users, which brings up a very Craigslist-like posting window. Users can add a picture of the item they’re trying to unload, along with pickup or delivery options.

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Microsoft’s Xim app now shares photos to Apple TV, Chromecast, and Xbox One – Xim is Microsoft’s take on photo sharing and slideshows. A group Xim allows up to 50 photos to be shared between friends via their mobile number or email address, and Microsoft creates non-permanent cloud-based groups that are viewable in a browser and are synchronized across all users that are invited to a particular Xim. While there are a number of photo sharing services available, Microsoft’s Xim is shaping up to be a simple and unique cross-platform app that the company is clearly invested in. It joins a number of other apps that Microsoft has developed for iOS and Android recently.

Windows 10 Tech Preview: 1300 bugs fixed, 1.5 million registered Insiders – In a blog posting made today by a Microsoft employee, Gabe Aul reveals improvements to Windows 10, along with usage statistics that show a lot of promise for the platform.

Snopes debunks Elf on the Shelf as NSA spy; Professor: Elf teaches kids spying is OK – Even as Snopes debunked the claim that Elf on the Shelf is spying for the NSA, a digital technology professor claimed the elf is changing children’s expectation of privacy; it’s teaching kids that it is “cool for the NSA to watch them, to report back to the government.”

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This smartphone comparison chart could help you find your next phone – So you need a new phone, but there are probably a zillion options out there with different screen sizes, memory configurations, and prices. It can be kind of overwhelming, right? There’s a neat tool you can use to help narrow down the search. The Gnod smartphone comparison chart lets you filter phones by size, price, resolution, and more. Then it slaps all the matching phones on a handy scatter plot.

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Up close with the BlackBerry Classic – BlackBerry is returning to its roots. Today the company announced the release of the BlackBerry Classic, its latest smartphone with a full QWERTY physical keyboard and an optical trackpad, bringing back the best thing about the company that once dominated the smartphone market. The Classic isn’t for everyone, and with a $449 price tag, it won’t be cheap to pick up either. But for those who miss tapping on the physical keyboard made famous by BlackBerry in the mid 2000s, it doesn’t get much better than this.

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MPAA wants DNS filtering even if it breaks the Internet – In a Sony leaked document, MPAA lawyers discussed using the Domain Name System (DNS) to block traffic to websites which hosts illicit or pirated content. MPAA wants to be able to delete records from the DNS which would make a website completely unreachable via its domain. The tactic was first proposed as part of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in 2011, however, the law failed to pass Congress due to a worldwide backlash.

How to sell your unwanted gift cards – Did you know you can sell or trade your unwanted gift cards? Most people don’t even know such an option is possible, when in fact it is, and can come in really handy around the holiday season when almost everyone gets at least one gift card. Below you will find a rundown of a few Web sites that facilitate the buying and selling of unwanted gift cards as well as an ingenious way of dealing with those Visa/Amex gift cards.

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How to use your dSLR as a PC webcam – Maybe your webcam is broken. Or maybe, you just want to try something fun with your dSLR. Here’s how to turn your dSLR into a webcam for PC. First, you will need to check that your camera is compatible with the software for this tutorial. It’s called SparkoCam, and works with most Canon and Nikon dSLRs. Check the list at the bottom of this page for your particular model.

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Priest jams cell phones in church – Fed up with his services being disrupted by technology, an Italian priest installs a jamming device. As the Daily Mail reports, phones even went off during funerals. So, instead of merely praying for a pestilence to descend upon these disrespectful phone-obsessives, Father Madonna found a technological solution. He bought a jammer, which reportedly cost him around $60. Peace and love now reign in his pews.

Security:

Everything We Know About Sony, The Interview and North Korea – Sony Pictures Entertainment said late Wednesday that it’s pulling The Interview, a comedy about two journalists tasked with killing North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un. Sony’s move came a day after a cryptic message appeared online threatening attacks against theaters that played the film, and several weeks after hackers first breached Sony’s system and posted troves of private emails and other data online. Shortly after Sony decided to scrub The Interview, a U.S. official confirmed to TIME that American intelligence officials have determined North Korea was behind the Sony hack, though no evidence has been disclosed. Here’s everything we know for sure about the Sony hack, up until now.

Google Hangouts: Too smart for privacy? – “Google’s Hangouts is gaining a handy, but slightly creepy new feature today. The popular chat app will now act as a digital spy-slash-valet by eavesdropping on your conversations to offer ‘smart suggestions.’ For instance, if a pal asks ‘where are you?’ it’ll immediately prompt you to share your location, then open a map so you can pin it precisely.” It’s sad that this sort of thing still gets meekly labeled as “creepy”. The privacy implications are serious and pretty easy to see in objective terms.

Business interrupted: Telstra reveals Australia’s security breach impact – Nearly a quarter of Australian organisations have suffered an interruption to their business due to an IT security attack or breach over the past 12 months, according to new research by Telstra.

TorrentLocker ransom rampage encrypts 285 million files and counting – Slovakian security wizards ESET have delved deep into the guts of the TorrentLocker ransom malware and pulled out some interesting details of its destructive life story starting with the number of files it has encrypted—a misery-inducing 285 million to date. Although TorrentLocker is nowhere near the scale of the infamous CryptoLocker, and will likely never acquire the latter’s notoriety, that sort of file scrambling still adds up to 39,670 infected PCs by ESET’s calculation.

Forensic software gets around Apple’s iCloud security features – A Russian software company has updated its forensic software to work-around the security features Apple recently added to iCloud and increased what information can be extracted from the cloud storage service. The catch to using the software, which pulls files including photos, calendar information and call logs from iCloud, is that some information about the account is required to access the storage service, according to information on the company’s website. Either an Apple ID, password and the second form of authentication or a binary authentication token are needed to use Phone Breaker.

Company News:

FCC expected to fine Sprint $105 million for overcharging customers – The Federal Communications Commission is reportedly on the verge of fining Sprint $105 million for cramming charges that brought complaints from tens of thousands of customers. The $105 million fine would match one levied on AT&T, which was accused of the same illegal practice. The US government has also sued T-Mobile over cramming charges.

Netflix shuts the door on offline playback: ‘It’s never going to happen’ – The position makes perfect business sense. Consumers have plenty of other options for downloading movies and TV shows to watch when they’re away from an internet connection. There’s iTunes. There’s Google Play. There’s Vudu / UltraViolet. And Amazon lets Kindle Fire tablet owners download some Prime Instant Video content for offline viewing as well. Adding offline support could further muddy Netflix’s already-complex licensing deals and introduce potential new headaches for subscribers.

Uber says they’ll invest in better background checks – Fun fact: Uber drivers don’t pass a rigorous background check before picking you up and (hopefully) dropping you off at your desired location. Seems a bit off that Uber doesn’t thoroughly vet their drivers, right? The company is pretty fastidious about what car you have and your driving record, but as for what crimes you might have been convicted of in the past — they’re not so worried. In China, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said his company would start checking the background of those working for his service in an attempt to better protect passengers.

Amazon employees strike in Germany – Amazon employees at German warehouses have gone on strike over better pay and conditions until at least December 20, but the company has promised it will deliver Christmas orders on time. In the long-running dispute which started in May 2013, the union has demanded that Amazon pay the same wages as employees in the mail order and retail industries. Amazon rejected the demands, saying it regards warehouse employees as logistics workers who receive above-average pay.

Oracle posts stronger-than-expected Q2 earnings, revenue results – Oracle’s last quarterly earnings announcement dropped with news of the biggest leadership shuffle in the company’s history. This quarter, things aren’t quite as dramatic down in Redwood City, Calif., but the pressure was still on given Oracle has missed revenue targets five out of the last six quarters. Not so this time.

Games and Entertainment:

Fixing Assassin’s Creed: Unity requires a 6.7GB patch – As for what the patch does, it’s a bit of everything to try and get Unity to the state it should have originally shipped in. The reason for the large size is because Ubisoft has had to replace large sections of Paris to resolve performance issues. Once applied, players can expect many of the navigation, world collision, HUD, framerate, save games, NPC behavior, and lock picking issues to be fixed. There should be a noticeable improvement in overall game performance, and a much improved online multiplayer experience. The full patch notes have all the details.

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Dish becomes first big US TV provider to offer Netflix through your set-top box – Dish Network customers who are tired of switching inputs on their TV to move between satellite TV and online streaming will be happy to hear they can now sign into their Netflix accounts right from their Hopper set-top box. This makes Dish the first pay-TV provider in the U.S. to provide Netflix streaming through its DVR. Netflix service won’t come for free, of course; Dish subscribers will still need a Netflix subscription.

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Microsoft’s 12 Days of Deals soldiers on with a 4GB Xbox 360 and free game for $149.99 – While today’s deal is different to that which was leaked last week for this day, it’s still quite a steal, offering both a discount on the Xbox 360 as well as a free game, while stocks last.

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Cities: Skylines is more like SimCity than SimCity – It’s an ambitious title, for sure. I’d go so far as to say it’s the SimCity I thought I was getting from EA. It’s not as pretty, but I’ll trade a tilt-shift effect for a deeper simulation any day. And as a bonus: The game will have Steam Workshop support, and Colossal Order really means it. You’ll be able to model your own buildings and all sorts of other wild things, so if you really want to make that one-to-one scale replica of Manhattan? Well, you could. That’s the opposite tack from EA’s DLC-heavy approach to SimCity.

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Controversial shooter Hatred reinstated on Steam Greenlight – Just over a day after it was taken down from Steam Greenlight, Hatred reappeared on the fan-voting section of Steam late Tuesday night. Valve has yet to publicly comment on the reversal, but Destructive Creations’ Facebook page includes a screenshot of an e-mail purportedly from Valve cofounder Gabe Newell, ostensibly apologizing for the mistaken removal. Hatred, from unknown Polish developer Destructive Creations, was first announced back in October. Its trailer seemed to revel in the massacre of civilians with a kind of gruesome glee. The video drew comparisons to ultra-violent game franchises like Postal and Manhunt for its apparently amoral focus on gunning down innocent bystanders in violent detail.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Bing predicts the trends for 2015 – The Bing team has done a wonderful job in 2014 predicting FIFA World cup match results and the US midterm elections with an almost unblemished record, correctly predicting that Scotland will remain a part of the United Kingdom and is also currently being used to speculate the outcomes of NFL games. Now the team is pushing its luck a bit more by envisioning the trends of 2015:

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Judge keeps Steve Jobs video testimony from public release – A California judge has denied a request from a trio of media outlets to make video deposition of late Apple CEO Steve Jobs available to the public. The request was filed by the Associated Press, Bloomberg, and CNN during this month’s trial over security measures Apple added to iTunes and iPods nearly a decade ago, where 27-minutes of the deposition was shown in court. In a ruling today, US district court judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said that the video should be treated just like any other testimony in that particular federal circuit, and thus unable to be made public as a recording.

You Can Now Buy Tony Abbott Condoms – Stuck finding that special someone a Christmas present? Look no further! The long wait is over Australia! You can now buy Tony Abbott condoms, or Budgie Smuggler Condoms.

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Watching a music video can tell doctors if you have a brain injury – Researchers at New York University’s Langone Medical Center have just published the results of a study that showed that a subject’s eye movements could be used to determine not only whether or not a brain injury was present, but also to pin down the exact location of the injury. All it takes is having a patient watch a short (around a 3.5 minute) video clip. Eye movements get tracked as the patient views the clip, and the ratio of horizontal movements to vertical movements is calculated.

Hummers sold in government auction for first time ever – It’s time for the US government to finally, at long last, put their hummers up for sale. This will be the first time in the history of the Humvee that the US government military has allowed their custom vehicles to go on sale after they’ve been used in the field. Previous rounds of HMMWVs have gone to scrap. You won’t be able to drive these beasts on the road, and there are no guns attached to any of them – but you can bet they’ll sell like hotcakes.

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Texas plumber’s truck somehow ends up in Syrian civil war – If you’re in Syria and a Mark-1 Plumbing truck rolls by, don’t bother calling the number. Mark-1 absolutely, definitely does not service your area. As bizarre as it is, it’s no laughing matter: as the picture has spread on social media, KHOU reports that Mark-1 has received angry phone calls from individuals wondering why they’re supporting a bloody war worlds away. The company traded in the truck last year, which ended up going to auction; fast forward a few months, and the vehicle — Mark-1’s contact information and all — somehow shows up in Syria, modified to create problems rather than solve them. Always remove your phone number from your truck before you sell it.

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Oto HOME otoscope iPhone case makes ear exams mobile – Mobile devices are becoming increasingly useful in the medical field, something demonstrated by devices like the Peek Retina, which makes eye exams mobile. Oto HOME is similar to Peek Retina, but rather than imaging eyes it is used as an otoscope to get a look at ears. Parents can use the Oto HOME to take videos of their child’s inner ear, for example, and then send it off to a physician who will remotely decide whether there is an ear infection.

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Something to think about:

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Today’s Free Downloads:

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The Christmas gift pack contains the installers, license keys and register information for Video Converter Factory Pro & WonderFox Video Watermark and a freeware WonderFox DVD Ripper Speedy. Please activate the programs before Jan. 1st, 2015.

Video Converter Factory Pro – Do you always like to record the wonderful moments in holiday with the digital video camera? Here’s our gift for your digital life, to help you deal with the DV/MTS/M2TS video files.

License key: VC-VCFB-D0E2D00780-0066A88E9B-759641FFA4

Version: 8.5

WonderFox Video Watermark Pro – Do you always like to share the videos you made in holiday on the social network sites? Here’s our gift for your social life, to help you protect your copyright from unauthorized using.

Registration code: VC-VWPB-D0E2D00780-53287AFECE-1F79D0F8C5

Version: 3.3

WonderFox DVD Ripper Speedy –  Do you always like to watch movies to enjoy the happy time in holiday with your beloved family? Here’s our gift for your entertainment life,to help you rip any DVDs for family sharing.

Free license, just install.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

UK cops caught using 12 MILLION Brits’ mugshots on pic database – The legality of uploading of millions of photographs to the Police National Database for automated facial recognition tech searches has been called into question by the UK’s Biometrics Commissioner.

In his first annual report Alastair MacGregor QC said some 12 million custody photographs had been uploaded to the PND by the beginning of April 2014, with an automated searching mechanism having also gone live around the same time.

He said: “I have real doubts as to whether it can be wise at this stage – and without wider consultation and specific legal advice – to continue with the proposed operational use of the new system.”

In the report MacGregor said concerns arose around the inclusion and processing on that database of images of hundreds of thousands of individuals who have never been charged with, let alone convicted of, an offence.

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

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – October 28, 2014

Use Google Maps and GPS offline on your Android device;  Dashboard tech the worst part of car ownership says Consumer Reports;  Keep your tiny goblins safe on Halloween with these apps;  4 Products That Will Save You Hundreds On Your Utility Bills;  How to recover deleted photos from a memory card;  Stay connected without a connection?  How to score the $3 Camera+ iPhone app for free;  Amazon takes on Chromecast with new $39 Fire TV Stick;  10 steps to erase your digital footprint;  Unlimited OneDrive storage for Office 365;  Here is how to get an Xbox One for $332.50;  Solid Concepts Announces Another 3D-Printed Metal Gun;  The Rise of Mobile Ransomware;  Credit card fraud can be stopped. Here’s how;  Glary Utilities (free);  Here’s what happens to your body when you die;  IceCream Slideshow Maker (free);  Panty raid: MLB, Homeland Security, and the great undercover underwear sting;  US Senate calls Whisper in for serious questioning.

Dashboard tech the worst part of car ownership says Consumer Reports – Complex, confusing, and frustrating car dashboards are now the most disappointing part of car ownership, a new survey suggests, with wonky infotainment coming in for renewed criticism from owners. Navigation, multimedia, and social networking features are spreading across many new vehicles, but lackluster user experiences – especially in brand new systems – are not only driving owners crazy but having a meaningful impact on their overall ratings.

Use Google Maps and GPS offline on your Android device – Maybe your carrier has tight data caps. Or perhaps you’ll be driving (or hiking) in an area with no coverage. Either way, you’ll want maps and GPS that aren’t dependent upon immediate Internet access.

4 Products That Will Save You Hundreds On Your Utility Bills – If you’re looking to save money every month, your family’s home electric bill is a good place to start. Smart, green tech updates will save a lot of electricity — and money — over the course of a year. Even small changes add up quickly. From home heating to lighting, I’ve compiled a list of four simple tech upgrades for your home that will save you a combined $225 per year on your utility bills. Most can be installed yourself with a little bit of handyman knowhow. And, once they’re installed, these devices are smart enough to take care of racking up the savings.

Keep your tiny goblins safe on Halloween with these apps – Create a digital Halloween safety kit that will keep you in the loop of where everyone is and add some light to your haunted path through the neighborhood.

How to recover deleted photos from a memory card – Just deleted an important batch of images from your memory card? Never fear, here’s how to undelete them for Mac and PC users.

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Stay connected without a connection? – Meet the tools that let you transfer files and send messages on your smartphone without the Internet.

How to score the $3 Camera+ iPhone app for free – iPhone users looking for a more versatile and powerful camera app than Apple’s default one can now grab a good one for free. Camera+ normally sells for $3 in Apple’s App Store. For a limited time, though, Apple is offering the app for free through its Apple Store app, as spotted by the folks at RazorianFly on Monday. Camera+ provides a variety of controls beyond the basic ones outfitted into the built-in Camera app.

SUSE Linux Enterprise 12: new features and extensions – SUSE Linux Enterprise 12 is available today. And with it SLES 12 brings several significant new features and extensions to the desktop and to the datacenter.

Amazon takes on Chromecast with new $39 Fire TV Stick – Amazon is finally taking on the Chromecast. This morning it’s introducing the Fire TV Stick, a streaming device that exists entirely in a small dongle that plugs into a TV’s HDMI port. It can play games and is able to stream from the major services that you’d expect: Watch ESPN, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and, of course, Prime Instant Video. The Stick goes on sale for $39 beginning November 19th and is currently available for preorder. Prime subscribers can get it for $19 for the next two days.

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Microsoft targets Dropbox and Google with unlimited OneDrive storage for Office 365 – Microsoft is removing its OneDrive storage limits for Office 365 subscribers. If you’re an Office 365 Home, Personal, or University subscriber then OneDrive storage will be unlimited in the coming months as Microsoft rolls out its changes to every account. OneDrive for Business customers will also get unlimited storage as part of Microsoft’s Office 365 roadmap. While Microsoft’s unlimited OneDrive storage is rolling out to all Office 365 accounts in the coming months, you can opt-in to be upgraded early over at Microsoft’s OneDrive preview site.

Microsoft offering unlimited cloud storage — and a free copy of Office — for $7 a month – Technically, they’re offering unlimited free OneDrive space to Office 365 users. That’s where the $7 per month comes in — it’s the base rate for a 365 Personal subscription when you pay annually. So not only is their no ceiling on how many gigs of data you can store in the cloud, you also get access to the entire Office suite — Word, Excel, OneNote, Powerpoint, Publisher, and even Access and Outlook — on both your main computer and your tablet.

License+ from Automatic could actually make teens better drivers – If you’re a parent of a teen, driving can be a scary proposition. Not only is your child operating a massive machine capable of high velocity, but they’re inexperienced. You can teach them all you like, but sometimes it’s helpful to have some actual data to back up your passenger seat cringing. with an update to Automatic called License+, you can get that info. You also get a little peace of mind that your teen is driving safely even when you’re not there.

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Smiley faces take on whole new meanings as Bing adds emoji search – Bing now supports searches with emoji, meaning you can insert or paste a range of emoji icons like hearts, smiley faces, food graphics, or any combination thereof, for some interesting, though not always useful, results. It’s a novelty feature, yes, but still fun. And one that could help Bing draw at least some attention away from Google. Google at the moment does not give results for emoji searches, though its auto-complete technology does recognize them. Yahoo, meanwhile, does support emoji searches.

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Free and cheap ways to learn about network administration – Though you might have the Network+ or CCNA cert, for instance, have you actually configured or played around with a network? Even if you already have held a network technician or administrator position, you might not have experience with all aspects of networking yet. Fortunately there are ways to get hands-on network administration experience, even at home — and most don’t cost anything.

One week later, Google algorithm change hits streaming, torrent sites hard – Video streaming and torrent sites have dropped precipitously in Google rankings after the company altered its algorithm last Monday, according to reports from Searchmetrics. One of Project Free TV’s main operating domains, free-tv-video-online.me, fell 96 percent in Searchmetric’s rankings, one of the biggest drops alongside torrentz.eu and thepiratebay.se.

The end of an era: Windows 7 consumer PCs halt production this Friday – It’s the end of an era, as OEMs will soon end production of PCs with Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium and Ultimate pre-installed.

Security:

10 steps to erase your digital footprint – Summary: How do you vanish online? Follow these 10 steps to get started.

Zero-day in Samsung ‘Find My Mobile’ service allows attacker to remotely lock phone – NIST warned that if an attacker exploits the zero-day vulnerability in Samsung’s ‘Find My Mobile’ service, then the hacker can remotely lock, unlock and ring the phone.

The Rise of Mobile Ransomware – If Man on Fire or Taken has taught us anything, it’s that one of the greatest fear for parents is learning that a criminal kidnapped their child. These days, however, children aren’t the only ones who can be held for ransom as more malware is encrypting user data for payment. The newly released F-Secure’s Threat Report H1 2014 stated that the number of ransomware threats, which remotely locks computers or mobile devices, is increasing on Android phones.

Facebook and Yahoo team up to block account hijackings via recycled accounts – Facebook and Yahoo have figured out how to undo the mess Yahoo made when it decided to recycle old email addresses.

Credit card fraud can be stopped. Here’s how – After $4,000 of fraudulent charges from Brazil on my AMEX, I’m chasing down all my auto-payment accounts and frequently used commerce sites. Again.

US Senate calls Whisper in for serious questioning on user tracking – Following serious allegations brought up by the Guardian, the US Senate has a few privacy-related questions it would like to ask the people in charge over at Whisper, the self-proclaimed “safest place on the internet”.

Company News:

Tim Cook says that Apple Pay is already the leader in contactless payments – It’s only been a week since Apple Pay made its debut, but apparently the launch has been successful thus far. Speaking at the WSJD Live event, hosted by The Wall Street Journal, Cook said that Apple is already the leader in “contactless” payments, “more than the total of all the other guys.” Within 72 hours, Apple apparently activated one million cards, and we presume it’s only gone up significantly since then. Customer response, has been positive, as well.

ARM Intros New Trio of Mali GPUs – ARM on Monday introduced three new Mali graphics processors for mobile devices and a pair of additional GPU instruction sets designed for video processing and displays. The Mali-T820, Mali-T830, and Mali-T860 succeed Mali T700-class GPUs licensed by ARM to makers System-on-a-Chip (SoC) products for mobile devices such as Samsung, MediaTek, Broadcom, Realtek, and LG.

Twitter doesn’t have explosive growth, and investors aren’t happy – Twitter reported its third quarter earnings today, and despite robust performance, the company’s stock continues to struggle. Twitter’s booked $361 million in revenue over the last three months, more than double what it did for the same period in 2013. It also hit its marks on profit — $7 million, which is exactly what investors were expecting. But the stock is down more than 10 percent in after-hours trading, as investors flee a stock that hasn’t shown the upside they were looking for in a young, high-flying social network.

Amazon snaps up Rooftop Media to boost online entertainment services – The online retail giant is purchasing Rooftop Media in order to promote the firm’s plans to step outside of e-commerce and tap into other revenue streams. Amazon has already dabbled in the mobile sphere — bringing out the disappointing Fire Phone, as well as e-readers, and is well-known for Amazon Web Services (AWS). However, the Seattle, Wash.-based company also wishes to provide media and entertainment content, and has already begun doing so through Amazon instant video and the Amazon App store.

Games and Entertainment:

Microsoft starts the holiday sales early with $50 off Xbox One – The Kinect-less Xbox One is getting even cheaper from this Sunday as Microsoft starts up its Season of Xbox discounts for the holidays. A new $349 price ($50 less than the current $399) will kick in from the 2nd of November through to the end of the year for several console bundles, including the Special Edition Sunset Overdrive white console. This will be across most major US retailers and there’ll be similar deals for the rest of the world, though Microsoft hasn’t yet detailed them in full.

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Here is how to get an Xbox One for $332.50 from the Microsoft store – Earlier today, Microsoft announced that they would be cutting the price of the Xbox One to $350 but if you want to get it even cheaper, here is how you can save a further 5% at the Microsoft Store.

PlayStation 4 upcoming Share Play feature explained – Excited for the big two-point-oh update for your PlayStation 4? Looking forward to changing your console’s home screen themes? The awaited major update for the console will be landing on eager users’ hands, or rather on their devices, starting October 28 but the update isn’t just about themes, of course. Lest you forget, there are also other interesting additions that await you, like the totally new Share Play feature. And to make sure that you don’t forget indeed, Sony has published a video and a blog post detailing what Share Play really is.

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Alienware’s new graphics amplifier and laptop make portable high-end gaming possible – The dream for many PC gamers has always been to have a portable machine that can also handle the latest graphics-intensive releases, and Alienware has come up with a solution that moves that dream closer to reality with the Alienware Graphics Amplifier. Released alongside the Alienware 13 — the company’s newest gaming laptop — the near-8-pound, $299 box is meant to live on your desk, ready to be plugged into any time you feel the need for that extra GPU boost that a laptop just can’t provide.

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27 Streaming Horror Movies for a Truly Creepy Halloween – Click through our slideshow for 27 insanely frighteningly films that are only a few taps and clicks away. We’ve provided a trailer preview as well as links to where the entire film can be found online (legitimately). We’ve noted where the films that can be streamed for free via monthly subscription services, but in most cases they can be digitally “rented” for under $4.

AMD’s flagship Radeon R9 290X graphics card prices cut to an insanely compelling $300 – Prices for AMD’s Radeon R9 290X graphics card plummet even further in the wake of the Nvidia GTX 980’s release–and yes, the dirt-cheap cards are eligible for AMD’s offer of three free games of your choice.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Drone nearly hits plane, may have been on purpose – Over the weekend, it was revealed that a drone had a near collision with an passenger aircraft in the UK. A 74-seat ATR 72 was flying over county Essex in route to London Southend Airport when it had the near collision with a quad-copter drone, which was flying at roughly 1,500 feet and came uncomfortably close to the right wing of the craft. According to the report, this was no accident, either.Whoever flew the drone seems to have been aiming for the plane.

Peeping teen in shower: I was checking if phone was waterproof – A UK teen found guilty of filming a woman in a shower insisted that he was merely a fascinated cell phone tester.

Flight cancelled when “Al-Quida” Wi-Fi network became available – A Los Angeles International Airport flight bound for London was cancelled Sunday when a passenger’s phone picked up the Wi-Fi signal “al-Quida Free Terror Nettwork” (sic) that was emanating from a fellow flier’s hotspot minutes before the United Airlines flight was set to liftoff. After a concerned passenger notified a flight attendant of the network at about 9:30pm, the plane taxied to a remote section of the Los Angeles airport and was held there for three hours. The plane was searched as passengers of Flight 136 were ordered to power off electronic devices, local media said.

Solid Concepts Announces Another 3D-Printed Metal Gun – Solid Concepts, a company that specializes in 3D printing in metal and now owned by Stratasys, as announced their second 3D-printed metal gun, the Reason. Their first gun, the 1911, as well as this one were made by sintering – melting – metal powder with a laser. However, from the detail on the barrel and handle it’s clear the company has improved the technology immensely over the year.

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We didn’t expect Kim Kardashian to love BlackBerry so much – Of all the people who could be the savior of BlackBerry, Kim Kardashian probably wouldn’t have been our first guess, but it turns out the reality TV star turned mobile app kingpin could end up single-handedly propping up the second hand market. The controversial star was expected to discuss social saturation and the surprise hit game Kim Kardashian: Hollywood at the Code/Mobile 2014 conference, but she took an interesting detour via ailing BlackBerry and her ongoing collection of devices.

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Here’s what happens to your body when you die – The good folks who produce the American Chemical Society’s “Reactions” series have created short YouTube videos about a variety of important topics like why bacon smells so good, how pot gets us high and how fireworks work. This week — being that it’s the week in which we celebrate ghouls, zombies, vampires and other deadish things — they’ve turned their science eyes toward a really big question: What happens when you die?

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Panty raid: MLB, Homeland Security, and the great undercover underwear sting – On Tuesday, undercover agents from the Department of Homeland Security entered a tiny boutique lingerie store in Kansas City called Birdies. The shop was selling cotton panties that bore the phrase “Take the Crown” and an artistic rendering of the Royals logo designed by one of its co-owners, Peregrine Honig.

Something to think about:

“The arts must be considered an essential element of education… They are tools for living life reflectively, joyfully and with the ability to shape the future.”

–      Shirley Trusty Corey

Today’s Free Downloads:

Glary Utilities – Glary Utilities is a smart and reliable application that offers numerous powerful and easy-to-use system tools and utilities to fix, speed up, maintain and protect your PC.

It allows you to clean common system junk files, as well as invalid registry entries and Internet traces. You can manage and delete browser add-ons, analyze disk space usage and find duplicate files.

You can also view and manage installed shell extensions, encrypt your files from unauthorized access and use, split large files into smaller manageable files and then rejoin them.

Furthermore, Glary Utilities includes the options to optimize memory, find, fix, or remove broken Windows shortcuts, manage the programs that start at Windows startup and uninstall software. Other features include secure file deletion, an Empty Folder finder and more.

All Glary Utilities tools can be accessed through an eye-pleasing and totally simplistic interface.

Features:

Disk Cleaner – Removes junk data from your disks and recovers disk space

Registry Cleaner – Scans and cleans up your registry to improve your system’s performance.

Shortcuts Fixer – Corrects the errors in your startmenu & desktop shortcuts

Uninstall Manager – Uninstalls programs completely that you don’t need any more

Startup Manager – Manages programs which run automatically on startup

Memory Optimizer – Monitors and optimizes free memory in the background

Context Menu Manager – Manages the context-menu entries for files, folders…

Tracks Eraser – Erases all the traces,evidences,cookies,internet history and more

File Shredder – Erases files permanently so that no one can recover them

Internet Explorer Assistant – Manages Internet Explorer Add-ons and restores hijacked settings

File Encrypter and Decrypter – Protects your files from unauthorized access and use.

Disk Analysis – Shows you the disk space usage of your files and folders

Duplicate Files Finder – Searches for space-wasting and error producing duplicate files

Empty Folders Finder – Finds and removes empty folders in your windows

File Splitter and Joiner – Splits large files into smaller manageable files, and then rejoin them.

Process Manager – Monitors programs that run on your PC and stop spyware and Trojans.

Windows Standard Tools – Provides direct access to the useful windows default functions.

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IceCream Slideshow Maker – Meet IceCream Slideshow Maker, a free software that you can use to create beautiful slideshows from your favorite photos. Breathe life into them by adding fancy transition effects and background audio. You don’t need to be tech savvy to create a multimedia slideshow with music in a few minutes: just add photos, configure slides transitions and durations, add a suitable mp3 file, preview the project and simply press the “Create” button to enjoy the end result!

Surprise your family and friends with a high quality video slideshow about your vacation or any special event.

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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Canada, At War For 13 Years, Shocked That A Terrorist Attacked Its Soldiers – In Quebec on Monday, two Canadian soldiers were hit by a car driven by Martin Couture-Rouleau, a 25-year-old Canadian who, as The Globe and Mail reported, “converted to Islam recently and called himself Ahmad Rouleau.” One of the soldiers died, as did Couture-Rouleau when he was shot by police upon apprehension after allegedly brandishing a large knife. Police speculated that the incident was deliberate, alleging the driver waited for two hours before hitting the soldiers, one of whom was wearing a uniform. The incident took place in the parking lot of a shopping mall 30 miles southeast of Montreal, “a few kilometres from the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean, the military academy operated by the Department of National Defence.”

The right-wing Canadian government wasted no time in seizing on the incident to promote its fear-mongering agenda over terrorism, which includes pending legislation to vest its intelligence agency, CSIS, with more spying and secrecy powers in the name of fighting ISIS. A government spokesperson asserted “clear indications” that the driver “had become radicalized.”

In a “clearly prearranged exchange,” a conservative MP, during parliamentary question time, asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper (pictured above) whether this was considered a “terrorist attack”; in reply, the prime minister gravely opined that the incident was “obviously extremely troubling.” Canada’s Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney pronounced the incident “clearly linked to terrorist ideology,” while newspapers predictably followed suit, calling it a “suspected terrorist attack” and “homegrown terrorism.” CSIS spokesperson Tahera Mufti said “the event was the violent expression of an extremist ideology promoted by terrorist groups with global followings” and added: “That something like this would happen in a peaceable Canadian community like Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu shows the long reach of these ideologies.”

The FBI thinks it has found Glenn Greenwald’s second leaker – As Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept continues to publish secret government documents, some of which go beyond the initial NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden, speculation has grown concerning a second leaker smuggling classified documents to the publication. After a recent law enforcement raid, that speculation seems to be confirmed. Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff reports that the FBI has identified a contractor who may be responsible for leaking documents about abuses in the government’s terrorist tracking system, as detailed in this Intercept report. According to Isikoff, the suspect’s home has been searched and federal prosecutors in northern Virginia have opened a criminal investigation into the matter.

The initial leaks revealed that more than half of the people identified in the FBI’s terrorist tracking database had no clear affiliation with a terrorist group, suggesting real problems for the database as a law enforcement tool. As a result, many have viewed the source as whistleblower acting in the public interest.

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