Tag Archives: tech

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – November 25, 2015

Why citizens need encryption as a fundamental human right;  Here’s how almost anyone can wiretap the internet;  Skype, WhatsApp, and Yelp access your data hundreds of times;  20 Apps To Help Students Power Through;  Thanksgiving tech support survival guide (2015 edition);  8 Gifts For Your Grandparents That They Won’t Just Toss In A Drawer;  Text Fairy is the Android OCR app you’re looking for;  Bing Maps update adds traffic camera video feeds;  Yahoo! locked Adblock users out of their inboxes;  Five free tools for building websites;  Second Dell backdoor root cert found;  World’s most complex cash register malware plunders millions in US;  For privacy and security, change these iOS 9 settings right now;  Hot or Not? Twitter Bot Judges Your Selfies;  Here’s the tech you shouldn’t buy on Black Friday;  Xbox One and Xbox 360 Free Games With Gold for December 2015;  7 features to look for in a home security camera.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Why citizens need encryption as a fundamental human right – Some government agencies use terrorist attacks to justify limiting encryption. TechRepublic spoke with two UN reporters who explained why encryption is critically important for all citizens.

Here’s how almost anyone can wiretap the internet: A lesson in why encryption today is more important than ever – Wiretapping isn’t as difficult as you might think. Kevin Mitnick, a former black hat hacker turned security consultant, can do it in just a few minutes. Using a test-bed setup, Mitnick demonstrates in a video first published earlier this year how to perform a man-in-the-middle attack to get access to your email, your passwords, and even your bank account by tapping into a commonly-used fiber optic connection. Anyone with basic, off-the-shelf equipment can do the same. Using a fiber optic coupler, Mitnick is able to conduct a simple wiretap without breaking into the fiber itself. From there, he’s able to demonstrate accessing emails on the wire, passwords, and other content, highlighting not only how weak our networks are by default but also how important encryption is to everyone. The attack is almost impossible to detect, but it is entirely preventable. Good encryption is the answer, said Mitnick.


Without encryption, anyone wiretapping your connection can read your emails — and worse. (Image: Kevin Mitnick/ZixCorp)

Skype, WhatsApp, and Yelp access your data hundreds of times, but nobody knows why – Skype, WhatsApp, and Yelp have accessed my contacts list data thousands and times, and none of the companies are sure why. Over three days, Skype accessed my contacts list 3,484 times. WhatsApp wasn’t much better, accessing my contacts list a total of 2,449 times. (Both figures were accurate at the time of writing.) Yelp, on the other hand, was far lower, yet still significantly higher than any other app, accessing my contacts list 165 times. Skype, WhatsApp, and Yelp all have wide access to the Android devices they’re installed on, as well as iPhones and iPads — including cameras, microphones, and more — but also crucially, contacts. Your contacts list isn’t just sensitive to you, but it’s also personal information for everyone else on that list. Uploading that data literally thousands of times in just a few days seems more than excessive.

9 ways to keep your Windows computer safe – For today’s criminals, the Internet’s where the action is. Compared to traditional muggers and burglars, cybercrooks make more money with less risk. And that means that us honest folk have to be extra cautious. Protecting yourself in cyberspace is more complex than locking your door or keeping a hand on your bag. I’m concentrating here with protecting your Windows PC.

Thanksgiving tech support survival guide (2015 edition) – Thanksgiving is a time of year which sees “the techies” and “the non-techies” come together, and chances are that you being the techie, the non-techies will spot you and hunt you down — The Walking Dead style, albeit slower thanks to the tryptophan — in search of “help”. With this in mind, I’ve put together what I call a “Turkey Day” tech support survival guide. While I’ve called it a “Turkey Day” guide — I’m certain that it will work just as well at other times of year — this seems to be the time of year when the techie’s superhero skills seem to be in greatest demand.

Here’s the tech you shouldn’t buy on Black Friday – Wait! Before you fight the crowds to plunk down your hard-earned cash, make sure that a Black Friday deal is really a deal.

20 Apps To Help Students Power Through – The second half of the semester is always the most hectic, with exams to study for, papers to write, and partying yet to be done. In order to make your life less stressful, stay healthy and help you finish with strong grades, here are some handy apps to download and sites to bookmark.

Xiaomi Mi Pad 2: Looks like iPad mini, runs either Android or Windows 10 – The 7.9-inch slate with 326 ppi display looks familiar on the outside. Boot it up or look at the internal components and you’ll see the difference which can be had for as little as $156.


Text Fairy is the Android OCR app you’re looking for – This app can scan text from images on your device (previously taken by your camera or from Google Drive) or scan text from photos taken immediately by the camera. The best part is the OCR of Text Fairy is really, really accurate. Top that off with the fact that Text Fairy is free (of price and ads) as well as open source ( download the source), and you have the makings for one of the best OCR apps on the Google Play Store.

7 features to look for in a home security camera – One of the greatest tools in home security is the networked security camera. They come in an array of sizes and shapes, and they have a laundry list of features that can make choosing just one rather difficult. Here is a breakdown of some of the more common security camera features you should consider before biting the bullet.

8 Gifts For Your Grandparents That They Won’t Just Toss In A Drawer – Buying tech gifts for grandparents can be tough, depending on how interested they are in technology in the first place. One of my grandmothers is using the same television she used in 1975, her cable box passing through a crazy series of converters to make it compatible. My other grandmother hits me up on FaceTime about once a week. Some grandparents read TechCrunch every day. With this guide, we’ve tried to find a balance: things that just about anyone would like, but that grandparents on either side of the tech-loving spectrum should love.

Hot or Not? Twitter Bot Judges Your Selfies – The best selfies contain women with over-saturated faces; the worst: low lighting and too many people.

Bing Maps update adds traffic camera video feeds – Microsoft has updated Bing Maps with a new traffic camera option that allows users to view video feeds from one of thousands of traffic cameras located around the globe. The idea is that seeing the actual current conditions beats out any weather and traffic report, and also gives travelers a bit of an idea of what to expect in a region. The feature allows multiple camera feeds to be monitored at once, as well. The update adds more than 35,000 traffic camera video feeds from 11 countries. The feature can be found under the “Traffic” layer on Bing Maps, with the cameras being shown as small camcorder icons on mapped roadways. Clicking one of the cameras pulls up the video feed in a window over the map.


Yahoo! locked Adblock users out of their inboxes – More and more of you are using ad blocking software, and more and more content providers are looking for ways around them. Yahoo’s latest gambit: preventing Adblock users from accessing their inboxes. It all started last week. Around the 19th, a handful of Adblock users began seeing a screen like the one embedded below when they tried to sign in to their Yahoo! Mail accounts. The query string in the address bar (launch?reason=ADBLK_TRAP) made it pretty clear what was going on.

Investigating Sleep states in Windows 10 – What exactly happens when your system takes a snooze? Gain more insight into Windows 10 energy usage by learning about each of the six power states.

Encrypted Messaging App SOMA Launches Group Voice And Video Calling – Users can now use the app to video chat with up to four friends from phones running both iOS and Android. According to the company, it is the only app to offer encrypted group video calling for free. The app already has offered messaging for up to 500 people, making it a communication tool for businesses and even a hospital. Built in the SOMA neighborhood of San Francisco, the name also is an acronym for Simple Optimized Messaging App. The encrypted messaging app launched in July, and its makers claim it is “safe enough for the CIA.” However they don’t market it to the government for one reason — not enough customers.


Five free tools for building websites – With the help of these apps, you can build a topnotch website without spending a dime. And they aren’t just free–they offer a rich assortment of features for both newbies and seasoned web builders.

Windows 10 November update was pulled for forgetting privacy settings; it’s now back – The mystery behind the removal of the Windows 10 November Update, version 1511, has been revealed. Last week Microsoft received reports that, when upgrading from the Windows 10 July release to the November update, four privacy-related settings were getting reset to their default values. Concerned that there might be a significant problem, Microsoft removed the November Update from Windows Update for existing Windows 10 users and also removed the updated Media Creation Tool used to create install media. Microsoft has now fixed the upgrade/installation process to properly preserve these settings, and the November Update has once more been made available to Windows 10 users through Windows Update. The updated Media Creation Tool has also been restored, re-enabling clean installs of version 1511.

YouTube Kids Faces Further FTC Complaints Related To Junk Food Ads Targeting Young Children – According to the new complaints, a number of big-name brand advertisers including Coca-Cola, Oreo, Kellogg, General Mills and more, have broken their pledges to not advertise their products – including Coke, Coke Zero, Pop-Tarts, pizza and Oreo cookies, for example – to young children. YouTube Kids, YouTube’s first app aimed at the preschool set, was initially thought of as a relief for parents who wanted an easier way to keep small children from stumbling upon YouTube’s more adult fare. But the app, which is effectively this generation’s version of TV in terms of its presence in the lives of children, has faced controversy and complaints from consumer advocacy groups, and even U.S. Senators, concerned about the app’s content and its advertising.

WordPress.com Goes Open Source And Gets A Desktop App – First, WordPress.com is now fully separated from the WordPress core. WordPress.com is now an admin interface that interacts with the WordPress core just like any other third-party interface and app out there. It uses a REST API to fetch your posts, publish new ones, upload photos and more. Second, the team behind WordPress.com switched to an entirely new stack. Instead of using PHP and MySQL, the developers built everything using JavaScript and API calls. It means that when you go to the website, the server will distribute a fully working WordPress client that mostly runs in your browser.

3 ways to address looming big data privacy and security issues – Big data privacy and security issues are areas to watch for two reasons: 1) there are many unanswered legal questions, and 2) the law always lags technology. Let’s first take a look at the data privacy issue from the perspective of the consumer.


For privacy and security, change these iOS 9 settings right now – Before you do anything on your new iPhone or iPad, you should lock it down. Here are the important tweaks you need to protect your privacy.


Prevent apps from uploading your data

Second Dell backdoor root cert found – A second root certificate has been found in new Dell laptops days after the first backdoor was revealed. The DSDTestProvider certificate was first discovered by Laptopmag. It is installed through Dell System Detect into the Trusted Root Certificate Store on new Windows laptops along with the private key. Dell has been contacted for comment. The Texas tech titan has called the first certificate gaffe an “unintended security vulnerability” in boilerplate media statements. Carnegie Mellon University CERT says it allows attackers to create trusted certificates and impersonate sites, launch man-in-the-middle attacks, and passive decryption.

What you need to know about Dell’s self-signed certificate blunder – Whoops, said Dell, effectively, we’re going to have to go ahead and remove this bit of software from your computer before it becomes a problem. This week Dell was discovered to have installed a piece of code by the name of “eDellRoot” on a number of Dell computers. This code is a “certificate” inserted by Dell that would allow them to access a Dell computer when it needed to be serviced – when you call tech support, for example. Unfortunate for them, this certificate also left a hole in the security of the computers in which it was installed.

World’s most complex cash register malware plunders millions in US – The world’s most complex sales till malware has been discovered … after it ripped millions of bank cards from US retailers on the eve of post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzies. The ModPOS malware has pilfered “multiple millions” of debit and credit cards from the unnamed but large retail companies incurring millions of dollars in damages. The attackers have operated in a low-key, ultra professional manner since late 2013 and has only come to light after weeks of painstaking reverse-engineering efforts by malware experts. They have kept mum, too. Cybercrime forums are entirely devoid of references to the malware.

Amazon resets some passwords, cites vague ‘issue’ as reason – Some Amazon users have received notifications stating the company has reset their accounts passwords due to a possible issue, the nature of which isn’t clear. Both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk users saw the message appear in the account’s message center, as well as in email. The move was one made out of an “abundance of caution,” according to the email, but the company hasn’t explicitly stated why it decided to act in such a manner.

Tor Turns To Crowdfunding To Lessen Its Dependence On Government Money – Tor, the network that facilitates hidden communications and secure Internet activity, has begun accepting donations in a move aimed at lessening its financial dependence on the U.S. Government. The organization, which The Verge reports as relying on government donations for 80-90 percent of its financial backing, kicked off its campaign with a brief profile of Laura Poitras, the filmmaker behind the documentary on the Edward Snowden-NSA leaks and a leading privacy advocate.

Company News:

Apple Has Acquired Faceshift, Maker Of Motion Capture Tech Used In Star Wars – As the market for virtual reality technology continues to grow, Apple has made an interesting acquisition that could further its role in the space. TechCrunch has confirmed that Apple has snapped up Faceshift, a startup based in Zurich that has developed technology to create animated avatars and other figures that capture a person’s facial expressions in real time.

Two dozen Disney IT workers prepare to sue over foreign replacements – At least 23 former Disney IT workers have filed complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) over the loss of their jobs to foreign replacements. This federal filing is a first step to filing a lawsuit alleging discrimination. These employees are arguing that they are victims of national origin discrimination, a complaint increasingly raised by U.S. workers who have lost their jobs to foreign workers on H-1B and other temporary visas.

HP bows out with a 9 percent drop in sales – It was an inglorious ending but not a surprising one: The former Hewlett-Packard Co. logged an 9 percent drop in sales for its last quarter before the split, perhaps a sign that it’s better off in two pieces.

Microsoft blames layoffs for drop in gender diversity – Microsoft has blamed a drop in its workforce’s gender diversity on the thousands of layoffs it made to restructure its phone hardware business.

Tango, Chat App Unicorn, Lays Off 9% Of Staff Following Failed Move Into E-Commerce – Tango, the mobile messaging unicorn that reached a billion-dollar valuation when Alibaba invested $280 million in it early last year, has laid off around 9 percent of its workforce after it shuttered a brief effort at e-commerce. The Mountain View-based company launched an in-app commerce feature powered by Alibaba and Walmart back in May of this year, initially in the U.S. market, but it has confirmed to TechCrunch that ‘Tango Shop’ was closed down last month, leading to the lay-off off around 30 employees working on it.

Games and Entertainment:

GOG.com sale slashes 50 percent off The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s price – One of the year’s best RPGs is now one of the year’s best sales.


Pixel Enemy

Developer brings unofficial PS4 streaming to Windows – With the latest update, Xbox One owners have been able to stream their games to their Windows 10 PC. This is handy for those times when the TV is tied up by someone else. For PS4 owners, your only real option for streaming is to pick up a Vita, or use a Playstation TV and use another TV. However, one person has been perfecting a method that will allow you to stream your PS4 games to any PC in the house.


Bethesda releases Fallout 4 Beta update for PC – Last week, Bethesda promised that it would roll out updates to Fallout 4 at a more frequent rate than they have with past titles. That’s a promise that was kept. Today, the developer has released a beta for the game’s first patch on the PC. Beta update 1.2.33 will let players remap the number pad keys. In addition, Remapping Activate now works on Quick Container. The fixes this patch brings include:


‘Uncharted: Nathan Drake’ PS4 Bundle Gets Black Friday Discount – Not to be outdone by the Xbox One Black Friday deals, Sony will also be offering a discounted bundle for its PlayStation 4. Starting this Friday, Nov. 26 and lasting until Cyber Monday, Nov. 30, customers will be able to purchase the Uncharted Nathan Drake Collection PS4 Bundle for $299 ($369.99 in Canada) at select retailers. The bundle includes a 500GB PlayStation 4, and the PS3-era Uncharted titles Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Each game has been optimized for the PS4, with 1080p resolution and running at 60 frames per second.


Xbox One and Xbox 360 Free Games With Gold for December 2015 – Microsoft today announced the free titles that will be available to Xbox Live Gold members in December, a list which includes a bonus Xbox 360 game. On Xbox One, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing will be free throughout the month of December. Starting on December 16, Thief will join it as a free download. On Xbox 360, CastleStorm will be free for the first half of the month. On December 16, it’ll be replaced by Sacred 3 and, as an extra gift for the holidays, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising. The full schedule for December’s Games With Gold lineup follows below.

Off Topic (Sort of):

10 Tech Buzzwords And How To Explain Them To Your Extended Family – One of the nice things about living in the Bay Area or another technology hub is that everyone speaks the same language – there’s common jargon. As nice as going home and meeting family is, your language is going to need a bit of a readjustment. Here’s a list of some tech buzzwords that you can explain to your family when you’re not quietly moving your grandparents from Internet Explorer to Firefox.

Biowearables – Biowearables are devices that can be worn by consumers to collect data from their bodies.

Domino’s Easy Order Button is a ninja turtle’s dream come true – In their neverending quest to make the pizza ordering process as painless as possible, Domino’s is willing to try anything. Their latest creation lets you place a delivery order with a single button press. They call it the Easy Order Button, and it’s sort of like an Amazon Dash for Domino’s Pizza. It’s not a standalone device, however. It’s a Bluetooth peripheral, so it needs to be paired with your phone or tablet and you also need to have the Domino’s app installed. Once you’ve got that all squared away, you can tap the button to set the pizza delivery wheels in motion.


Two-thirds of the world can’t pass this basic financial literacy test. Can you? – Two-thirds of people around the world failed a short test of basic financial concepts. The five-question test—created by Standard & Poor’s, Gallup, the World Bank, and George Washington University—was posed to 150,000 people in more than 140 countries last year. It tests understanding of risk, inflation, interest, and compound interest. To pass, people had to demonstrate competency in three out of four topics. Yet just 33% of people were able to do that. See how you fare on this slightly modified version of the quiz. After each question, we’ll tell you how various countries did on it, too.

Google’s soaring piracy link-removal requests hit 65 million last month  – Copyright owners and “reporting organisations” last month requested over 65 million URLs be removed from Google’s search results, up from 30 million a month just over a year ago. And those figures exclude requests concerning copyrighted content on YouTube. Piracy link takedowns in search dwarf the 1.2 million URLs Google has assessed under European privacy law since May and the few hundred URLs targeted by governments each year. The new piracy-link record was documented earlier this week by TorrentFreak, which noted the number of links targeted for removal per day has climbed from a few hundred in 2011 to two million today.


Getting started with a career in cybersecurity – With the ongoing and seemingly never-ending flood of cyberattacks, companies and governments the world over need experienced, skilled professionals to protect, defend, and strike back. But how do you get into the lucrative cybersecurity career? David Gewirtz has some advice.

Kim Dotcom slams ‘dirty ugly bully’ Uncle Sam as extradition hearing ends – The extradition hearing of rotund web baron Kim Dotcom finally ended Tuesday, having taken three times longer than expected. Tweeting on the last day of the ten-week hearing in Auckland, New Zealand, Dotcom railed: “My defense team has shown how utterly unreliable, malicious, and unethical the US case against me is. They have exposed a dirty ugly bully.” Dotcom wasn’t in court for the final day, having limped out the previous day with back pain, but despite a stream of sarcastic and mocking tweets throughout the process, the odds could not be higher for him and three colleagues of the Megaupload file storing service.

NEW Gartner Research: The Top 10 Cloud Myths – To address popular misperceptions that surround cloud, Gartner offers a top 10 list of cloud myths to clarify how the cloud actually works.

Something to think about:

12570 deaths by gun violence in the USA last year 

624 people shot and killed by police (most justifiable) 

And Americans are worried about terrorists?


AdNauseam – As online advertising is becoming more automatic, universal and unsanctioned, AdNauseam works to complete the cycle by automating all ad-clicks universally and blindly on behalf of the target audience. Working in coordination with your ad blocker, AdNauseam quietly clicks every blocked ad, registering a visit on the ad networks databases. As the data gathered shows an omnivorous click-stream, user profiling, targeting and surveillance becomes futile.

dNauseam is a browser extension designed to obfuscate browsing data and protect users from surveillance and tracking by advertising networks. Simultaneously, AdNauseam serves as a means of amplifying users’ discontent with advertising networks that disregard privacy and facilitate bulk surveillance agendas.

AdNauseam joins a broader class of software systems that attempt to serve ethical, political, and expressive ends. In light of the industry’s failure to achieve consensus on a Do Not Track standard, or to otherwise address the excesses of network tracking, AdNauseam allows individual users to take matters into their own hands, fighting back against unilateral surveillance. Taken in this light, the software follows an approach similar to that of TrackMeNot, employing obfuscation as a strategy to shift the balance of power between the trackers and the tracked.

TrackMeNot – TrackMeNot is a lightweight browser extension that helps protect web searchers from surveillance and data-profiling by search engines. It does so not by means of concealment or encryption (i.e. covering one’s tracks), but instead, paradoxically, by the opposite strategy: noise and obfuscation. With TrackMeNot, actual web searches, lost in a cloud of false leads, are essentially hidden in plain view. User-installed TrackMeNot works with Firefox and Chrome browsers and popular search engines (AOL, Yahoo!, Google, and Bing) and requires no 3rd-party servers or services.

TrackMeNot runs in Firefox and Chrome as a low-priority background process that periodically issues randomized search-queries to popular search engines, e.g., AOL, Yahoo!, Google, and Bing. It hides users’ actual search trails in a cloud of ‘ghost’ queries, significantly increasing the difficulty of aggregating such data into accurate or identifying user profiles. TMN serves as a means of amplifying users’ discontent with advertising networks that not only disregard privacy, but also facilitate the bulk surveillance agendas of corporate and government agencies, as documented recently in disclosures by Edward Snowden and others. To better simulate user behavior TrackMeNot uses a dynamic query mechanism to ‘evolve’ each client (uniquely) over time, parsing the results of its searches for ‘logical’ future query terms with which to replace those already used.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

The Encryption Debate Isn’t Taking A Thanksgiving Break – Lawmakers and Congressional staffers may be trickling out of their Hill offices and to the airports, the encryption debate is not taking a holiday this week.

Following media reports that the terrorists responsible for the Paris attacks communicated via encrypted messaging platforms, both opponents and proponents of backdoors for law enforcement are speaking up. Yesterday Senator Ron Wyden published a blistering Medium post, where he outlined the risks of providing backdoors to encrypted communications:

“I am standing up against these dangerous proposals to ensure we act based on the facts, not fear, in the days ahead,” Wyden wrote. “Some are calling for the United States to weaken Americans’ cybersecurity by undermining strong encryption with backdoors for the government. But security experts have shown again and again that weakening encryption will make it easier for foreign hackers, criminals and spies to break into Americans’ bank accounts, health records and phones, without preventing terrorists from “going dark.”

But proponents of backdoors aren’t taking a vacation either. Today lobbying groups representing both district attorneys and police officers throughout the country released a letter calling for legislation that would enable law enforcement to be able to access encrypted communications when they obtain a proper warrant.

Cyber-terror: How real is the threat? Squirrels are more of a danger – The UK Chancellor George Osborne last week announced that the British government plans to double cybersecurity spending and establish a single National Cyber Centre.

Cybersecurity spending will rise to £1.9bn ($2.87bn) at a time of budget cuts to police and other government departments. More details are expected to come in the Autumn Statement to Parliament on Wednesday.

Speaking at GCHQ last week, Osborne claimed that the extra spending is justified in large part because cyber-jihadists are trying to take down critical infrastructure – power stations, air traffic control systems and more. Daesh, aka the Islamic State, is plotting deadly attacks on computer systems – and is close to achieving the capability, the Chancellor alleged [speech transcript here, press statement here].

“I have made a provision to almost double our investment to protect Britain from cyber attack and develop our sovereign capabilities in cyberspace, totaling £1.9 billion over five years,” Osborne said.

“If you add the spending on core cyber security capabilities government protecting our own networks and ensuring safe and secure online services, the government’s total cyber spending will be more than £3.2 billion.”

Some of the money will go into an Institute of Coding as well as fighting cybercrime. But a major focus of the spending will come in further boosting the capabilities of GCHQ to tackle Daesh killers. Neither Russian nor China (the UK’s most capable cyber-espionage adversaries) merited a mention in the Chancellor’s speech.

Daesh, by contrast, were mentioned eight times. As well as talking about the use of the “internet for hideous propaganda purposes, for radicalization [and] for operational planning,” Osborne claimed the medieval terror mob posed a growing cyber threat.

But what are the capabilities of the self-styled Cyber Caliphate? Russia is now the chief suspect in the most serious network assault ever attributed to the Cyber Caliphate group, the hack on French TV station TV5 Monde back in April. Jihadist propaganda was posted on the station’s website by miscreants who claimed they were affiliated with the Islamic State. The TV network was knocked off air for about 18 hours.

Pretty much everyone took it at face value that the Cyber Caliphate was behind the attack, and it wasn’t until weeks later, once the dust had settled, that experts published evidence that undermined the Daesh-involvement hypothesis and fingered Russians as the likely culprit.

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Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – November 23, 2015

Microsoft cuts thousands of movies and games to 10 cents for Windows 10;  How NSA continued to spy on American citizens’ email traffic; Edward Snowden explains how to reclaim your privacy;  Facebook back in hot water after Safety Check ignores Mali;  Shop more safely on Cyber Monday;  Windows 10 Mobile review;  13 Google Chrome Tips That Will Make Your Life Better;  Now reply to individual story snaps in Snapchat;  How to buy a productivity tablet;  Microsoft yanks Windows 10 November upgrade from download site;  The best cooking apps for the holidays;  The PS4 can now emulate PlayStation 2 games;  A deep dive into the security features of a router;  Only 31% of Preteens Can Distinguish Paid Ads from Real Search Results;  How to try Firefox OS preview on your Android device;  Malware caught checking out credit cards in 54 luxury hotels;  Walmart moves Cyber Monday to Sunday;  EFF Launches Website for Reporting Content Takedowns;  11 ways video games can make you a better person;  10 Small Things You Can Do Every Day to Get Smarter;  Sleeping in on weekends linked to health problems.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

13 Google Chrome Tips That Will Make Your Life Better – There are many extensions and programs that innovative developers have built to make using Chrome more productive and more fun. With them, you can save articles to read anywhere, learn a new language, save money while shopping, and even improve your writing. And the beauty is that they don’t actually require you to put in any extra work. These 13 extensions and apps can help you both streamline your Chrome browsing and help you do things you didn’t even know were possible. Read on to become a Google Chrome pro:

It’s official—NSA did keep its e-mail metadata program after it “ended” in 2011 – Though it was revealed by Edward Snowden in June 2013, the National Security Agency’s (NSA) infamous secret program to domestically collect Americans’ e-mail metadata in bulk technically ended in December 2011.  Or so we thought. A new document obtained through a lawsuit filed by The New York Times confirms that this program effectively continued under the authority of different government programs with less scrutiny from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

How NSA continued to spy on American citizens’ email traffic – from overseas – Newly revealed documents (not from Snowden this time) show that the NSA has continued to collect Americans’ email traffic en masse using overseas offices to get around curbs introduced domestically. To get around the restrictions on operating in the USA, the NSA simply started using its overseas offices to do the collection. Stations like RAF Menwith Hill in Yorkshire were tasked with collecting the metadata and feeding it back to the NSA headquarters in Maryland.

Microsoft cuts thousands of movies and games to 10 cents for Windows 10 – The software giant is kicking off a huge promotion for its Windows Store, with more than a 1,000 movies, songs, apps, and games discounted down to just 10 cents. There’s a wide range of titles available, but you won’t own movies as they’re available to rent for the 10 cents offer. Movies include Jurassic World, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Dark Knight Rises. Songs like Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean” or John Legend’s “All of Me” are just 10 cents, and Microsoft has a variety of Xbox-enabled Windows 10 games available. Hitman Go, Angry Birds Star Wars, Assassin’s Creed Pirates, and Reckless Racing Ultimate are some of the highlights. There’s even applications at just 10 cents, including IM+ Pro, Sticky Notes Pro, and a variety of unnecessary ZIP extractors. To keep track of each daily deal you just need to open the Windows Store on a Windows 10 PC and the home section will list all of the daily movies, games, and app deals. Microsoft’s “10 days of 10 cents deals” runs until Sunday November 29th.

What’s the catch with off-brand prepaid wireless services? – In this edition of Ask Maggie, CNET’s Marguerite Reardon explores whether prepaid brands, which are owned by the major wireless operators, offer a true bargain over traditional services.

Opera Max Now Also Helps You Save Data While Streaming Music – While Opera is best known for its browsers, the company has recently put quite a bit of effort into its Opera Max data-saving app for Android. Opera Max promises that its latest version will allow users to save about 50 percent of the data they would usually use to stream music from YouTube Music, Pandora, Slacker Radio, Gaana and Saavn. The service that’s obviously missing here is Spotify, but if you’re a heavy user of one of the supported apps — and you don’t have an unlimited plan (or are on T-Mobile’s post-paid network), it’s probably worth a try.


You can now reply to individual story snaps in Snapchat – Snapchat quietly dropped an update last night that makes its chat feature a lot more interesting. Now, when viewing a snap in someone’s story, you can swipe upward to send that user a direct chat message. The original poster receives a notification and can hop into a private message thread tied directly to the original snap. The update makes it easier to start a conversation with another user based off something they snap to their story, whereas before users weren’t quite sure which snap any incoming message may be replying to — think of it like quoting someone’s public tweet in a direct message on Twitter.

Facebook At Work Gets Its Own Version Of Messenger With Debut of “Work Chat” – Facebook at Work, the version of Facebook designed for chatting with colleagues on a private social network, now has its own chat client as well. Somewhat like Facebook at Work’s version of Messenger, the new “Work Chat” app, as it’s called, allows coworkers to message each other individually, participate in group chats, share photos and videos, make voice calls, and even use stickers. The application quietly debuted on the Google Play store on Thursday. Facebook tells us the iOS version is in the works, and will arrive soon. However, the company would not provide an exact launch date.

How to try Mozilla’s mobile Firefox OS preview on your Android device, no deep-level tech tricks required – Instead of going through the pain and commitment of re-flashing your phone with Firefox OS, all you have to do is download and install Mozilla’s APK. Then the next time you try to hit the home button on your device you’ll see the option to use Firefox OS as your app launcher. From then on you’ll experience what Firefox OS has to offer without losing your Android apps. If you get tired of Firefox OS as Android launcher you can get rid of it by scrolling downwards to the Android Settings app. Inside Settings, find the “Device” heading, tap Home, and select the standard Android launcher that comes with your device.

Five to Try: Horizon Chase is a rad retro racer, and Dragon Anywhere delivers pro-level dictation – Load up with the latest Android apps and games before Thanksgiving rolls around.

Microsoft yanks Windows 10 November upgrade from download site – Microsoft last week stopped offering Windows 10’s November upgrade as a disk image, shutting down the route many had used to skip the wait as the company slowly rolls out the refresh via Windows Update. The .iso files are still available, but when downloaded using Microsoft’s Media Creation Tool, they now install the original July 29 edition of Windows 10, not the November upgrade as they did earlier.

Five key facts about how Windows 10 search works – You can search for anything and everything from the Windows 10 desktop, but the results may sometimes be confusing. Here is what you should know.

Video: How to buy a productivity tablet – Whether you’re opting for an iPad or a Surface, here are five things to consider before you buy a tablet.

Windows 10 Mobile review: Next-gen Windows Phones focus on unique features to double down on productivity – Microsoft’s Windows 10 Mobile operating system may be a second-tier OS, but it’s not second-rate. With its new smartphone OS, Microsoft has doubled down on the productivity message, crafting a utilitarian OS with occasional flashes of magic—most notably its new PC-like Continuum feature.

Feature phone growth outstrips smartphone sales in India for Q3 – In a bizarre twist, aggressive distribution strategies as well as mistrust of more expensive smartphones have helped feature phones stage an unlikely comeback.

EFF Launches Website for Reporting Content Takedowns  – The website allows visitors to indicate when their content has been removed from various social media sites.

The best cooking apps for the holidays – Whether you’re heading into the kitchen, or are on the hook to bring the drinks to the big meal, these apps will help find the right recipes, cook like a pro and get the right bottle of wine this holiday season.


Facebook back in hot water after Safety Check ignores Mali – Facebook activated its Safety Check feature immediately following the attacks in Paris, representing the first time the social network’s tool was used for something other than a natural disaster. The company was heavily criticized for doing so, not because the tool isn’t useful, but because Facebook didn’t activate it for previous similar attacks elsewhere, such as Lebanon. This highlighted a bias in the company, according to critics, which Facebook dismissed. However, as a harrowing attack took place in Mali, Safety Check remained inactive.


Shop more safely on Cyber Monday – Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is America’s biggest shopping day, but Cyber Monday is catching up. Why camp outside a store for limited-quantity “door buster” deals when you can get goods online, snug on your couch with a cup of cocoa? However, you don’t want to avoid the mall circus only to get your personal or financial info trampled by an insecure site. Here’s how to shop more safely online.

Malware caught checking out credit cards in 54 luxury hotels – Add Starwood – owner of the Sheraton, Westin, W hotel chains – to the ranks of resorts infiltrated by credit card-stealing malware. The luxury hotel chain said on Friday that 54 of its North American locations had been infected with a software nasty that harvested banking card information from payment terminals and cash registers. Starwood said the 54 compromised hotels [PDF] were scattered throughout the US and Canada, and were infected from as early as November of 2014 to June 30 of this year. Malware was found in payment systems in gift shops, restaurants, and sales registers. Data stolen by the software could include customer names, credit card numbers, card security codes, and expiration dates. Starwood said that customer addresses, reservation data, and reward card information were not exposed in the breach.

Security experts: Every business should have a security and encryption policy – Two experts from security firms explain the basics of why your business needs a security and encryption policy.

TrueCrypt is safer than previously reported, detailed analysis concludes – Despite the vulnerabilities, the analysis concluded that TrueCrypt remains safe when used as a tool for encrypting data at rest as opposed to data stored in computer memory or on a mounted drive. The researchers said the vulnerabilities uncovered by Project Zero and in the Fraunhofer analysis should be fixed but that there’s no indication that they can be exploited to provide attackers access to encrypted data stored on an unmounted hard drive or thumb drive. According to a summary by Eric Bodden, the Technische Universität Darmstadt professor who led the Fraunhofer audit team:

It does not seem apparent to many people that TrueCrypt is inherently not suitable to protect encrypted data against attackers who can repeatedly access the running system. This is because when a TrueCrypt volume is mounted its data is generally accessible through the file system, and with repeated access one can install key loggers etc. to get hold of the key material in many situations. Only when unmounted, and no key is kept in memory, can a TrueCrypt volume really be secure. In result, TrueCrypt provides good protection mostly when storing encrypted data offline. If keeping a backup stored offline on a hard drive, for example, or keeping encrypted data on a USB flash drive to be sent via a human carrier, then this can be considered relatively secure.

A deep dive into the security features of a router – This look at the D-Link DIR-860L router is focused exclusively on security, which probably makes it the first review of its kind. My last blog, How secure can your router get?, described a checklist of router security features on my RouterSecurity.org site. Here I employ that checklist to evaluate the security aspects of a random router.


Only 31% of Preteens Can Distinguish Paid Ads from Real Search Results – Well, this is alarming: a new study revealed that only 31 percent of 12 to 15 year-olds could recognize the difference between Google Ads and regular Google search results. In kids ages 8 to 11, the number was much lower, at only 16 percent. The study was conducted by Ofcom, the UK’s regulatory agency in charge of communications, and examined results from several hundred children in each age group. The kids were shown an image of a search for “trainers,” and most either did not identify the paid results or trusted that they were still reflective of the best possible results.

Company News:

Blackphone maker Silent Circle distances itself from criminals – Rampant spying by governments, spates of large scale hackings, and a general atmosphere of vulnerability over the Internet and mobile networks has made many look at heavily encrypted services and devices just to feel safe even while swimming in this digital age. Silent Circle has been one of the loudest voices in that market, putting out not only encrypted communication services but also an encrypted communication device: the Blackphone. Sadly, one of its most recent endorsers is one that the startup could do without, the Islamic State, more notoriously known as ISIS.

Pointing up   In related news – Toyota has taken the unusual step of distancing itself from bank robbery “get away cars.” Expert experts agree, that virtually all manufacturers of consumer goods are now likely to make similar statements disavowing any connection with the criminal class. Knives, hammers, rope…, will receive special attention.

Expert experts also agree that Blackphone’s  announcement is an example of corporate grade political correctness taken to the “stupid” level.     Crying face

Walmart moves Cyber Monday to Sunday because people now have the internet at home – As if starting Black Friday on Thanksgiving evening wasn’t enough to demonstrate Walmart’s flagrant disregard for the meaning of words that end in “day,” the mammoth retailer has now announced that it is choosing to ignore the temporal boundaries of yet another beloved American institution. Get ready to do your Cyber Monday shopping on, well, Sunday instead. The reason? People have the internet at home now, too. “The customers have changed but Cyber Monday hasn’t changed with them,” Walmart.com CEO Fernando Madeira tells Reuters. “Now everyone has Internet.” In other words, there’s no reason why they should have to wait until Monday morning to use their office internet connection for shopping. What an age we live in.

Report: Google Play’s move into China now scheduled for 2016 – A report from Reuters gives us the latest update on Google’s ongoing effort to get Google Play into China. The report says that Google employees are “working hard in China to lay the ground for the app store’s launch” and the store will go live in 2016, sometime after February. With 1.3 billion people, China is the world’s largest smartphone market, but a Google-blessed version of Android isn’t available there. Google is very active in the second- and third-most-populated countries—India and the US—but the company effectively pulled out of China several years ago due to censorship laws.

Coinbase launches their first Bitcoin debit card – One of the biggest hurdles for Bitcoin adoption is the fact that it’s difficult to actually spend the crytocurrency. While people have dreamed of a time where you can go to any store and spend your Bitcoin, it’s just not taken off in a way that’s made it feasible. However, Coinbase has just secured a deal that will let you do exactly that.


Yahoo surrenders all search share gains from Firefox deal – A year after Yahoo struck a deal with Mozilla to make its search engine the default in Firefox in the U.S., Yahoo’s share of search usage share has fallen to levels lower than before the partnership was inked, according to one Web measurement. In the last five months, Yahoo’s U.S. search share as tracked by Irish metrics vendor StatCounter has has been under the 8.9% recorded in November 2014, the month when Yahoo and Mozilla announced the deal. For October, Yahoo’s usage share was 7.6%, a new low. By StatCounter’s tally, Yahoo’s top mark in the past 12 months was the 10.2% in January 2015.

Mobile OS Maker Jolla To Cut Half Its Staff, Restructure Its Debt After Funding Stalls – Finnish alternative mobile OS startup Jolla is facing the situation startups dread the most: running out of financing to keep the business going in the way they’d like. Today the Sailfish OS maker said it is being forced to adjust its operations after failing to close a €10 million ($10.6M) Series C round within the required timeframe to keep up with its outgoings. Negotiations with the unnamed single investor for its Series C have been postponed, according to chairman and co-founder Antii Saaarnio. He tells TechCrunch he hopes the financing negotiations will start up again in December.

Jawbone cuts 15 percent of staff in second round of layoffs this year – A company spokesperson told TechCrunch, “Jawbone’s success over the past 15 years has been rooted in its ability to evolve and grow dynamically in a rapidly scaling marketplace. As part of our strategy to create a more streamlined and successful company, we have made the difficult decision to reorganize the company which has had an impact on our global workforce.” The layoffs will affect every part of Jawbone’s business. No product areas will be closed down as part of the restructuring, though, meaning that the company will still sell Up fitness trackers, Jambox speakers, and Era headsets.

Following The Launch Of Its Ad-Free Tier, Hulu Breaks Into The Top 10 Apps By Revenue – Following a number of big moves to attract subscribers and grow its revenue, including a deal with Epix films and the introduction of a commercial-free paid tier to its service, streaming service Hulu has managed to shoot up the ranks on a number of app store charts this past month. It reached No. 8 on the worldwide iOS Top Revenue chart for October and No. 10 on the worldwide Top Revenue chart for iOS and Android combined. Hulu is also moving up the ranks in terms of monthly active users, according to new data provided by App Annie, though it still has far to go to reach No. 1 Entertainment app Netflix or No. 2 Vine.

Marijuana Startup Incubator “Gateway” Fires Up – Marijuana prohibition is coming to an end, and massive businesses will grow in its place. Gateway wants to seed them. This year Gateway will back two classes of 10 cannabis startups with $30,000 each plus five months of office space in exchange for 6% of their equity. The cash comes from LA’s Marijuana Investment Corporation (now just known as MJIC), and will fund further rounds for top performers after Gateway’s demo days. Applications, in the form of four-minute videos, open today for the first class starting in 2016.

Games and Entertainment:

11 ways video games can make you a better person – Even though video games are one of the most profitable sections of the entertainment industry, they still get a bad rap. Ask most people and they’ll tell you that gaming is a waste of time at best and actively harmful at worst. While that might be true in some cases — nobody is going to argue that playing World of Warcraft until you have to poop in a sock so you don’t stop playing for bathroom breaks is a good idea — there’s a growing body of research that indicates that gaming might actually help you improve yourself. How, though?


Make you morally conscious

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is already breaking sales records – Being a huge Star Wars fan, I’ve been itching to see my favorite franchise break new sales records. While we’re still weeks away from seeing if it breaks opening weekend records, it’s already set one. Which is pretty good for a movie that hasn’t premiered yet.


Valve will reportedly do away with Steam’s Daily and Flash sales – Steam Sales have historically been big deals. I don’t buy many games these days, mostly because I’ve filled up on them in previous years. I’d wake up early to see what was on sale, and continue to check back throughout the day, as some of those would change throughout the day. But for the upcoming Autumn and Winter sales, that might be changing.


Bethesda promises frequent updates to Fallout 4 – “Our process for updating the game will include releasing a beta patch on Steam, followed by full release on PC, then release on the consoles,” said Bethesda in a blog post. “This process has worked well for us in the past and allows us to get more fixes out faster. Expect to see more updates, that are smaller and more frequent, than a few big ones. This allows us to make sure each fix is working right, as any change can have unintentional side effects in a game this huge. We expect the first beta patch to be up next week.”

Pointing up    Let’s hope Bethesda is a little more successful at this than they have been with Skyrim, for example.

Video: Basic kit needed to record YouTube/Twitch gaming “Let’s Plays” – Gaming is as popular as ever, so much so that there are those who now enjoy sharing their gaming experiences on video sharing sites such as YouTube or Twitch. Here’s a tour of some of the basic hardware and software to get you started.


The PS4 can now emulate PlayStation 2 games – If you own a PS4, I have good news: It is now capable of playing PS2 games through emulation. Rather unusually, though, Sony hasn’t actually announced anything officially. The PS2 emulator was discovered by Eurogamer when it was sent a new PS4 Star Wars bundle containing three games that originally debuted on the PS2. Eurogamer entered a PSN download key, their PS4 downloaded all of the old games… and then the classic PlayStation 2 logo appeared “in all its upscaled glory.” Following Eurogamer’s exposé, a Sony spokesperson then confirmed with Wired that the PS2 emulator exists: “We are working on utilising PS2 emulation technology to bring PS2 games forward to the current generation. We have nothing further to comment at this point in time.”

Off Topic (Sort of):

10 Small Things You Can Do Every Day to Get Smarter – You might be under the impression that intelligence is a fixed quantity set when you are young and unchanging thereafter. But research shows that you’re wrong. How we approach situations and the things we do to feed our brains can significantly improve our mental horsepower.

Mark Zuckerberg Will Take Two Months Off From Facebook For Paternity Leave – Mark Zuckerberg, the face of Facebook since the company’s founding back in 2004, will be taking a few months off for paternity leave. It’s hard to imagine Facebook without Zuck, even temporarily — but it’s also not likely that much will change while he’s gone, at least without his stamp of approval. He does control over half of the company’s voting power, after all.


Ford creates a drugged-driving suit to show why you shouldn’t toke behind the wheel – The automaker will use the suit as part of its new-driver education program, in the hopes that motorists will think twice before making a bad decision.


Ford’s drugged-driving suit is the follow-up to its drunk-driving suit, which helped teach new drivers the dangers of mixing alcohol and cars.

How cyber insurance actually works – Having worked for a broker for five years and been involved in a number of client-facing presentations, I can promise you that while cost is a factor, the suitability of cover and quality of the claims service are given at least equal prominence. Insurers recognise that their primary product is the claims service and if you make a habit of stiffing your customers it would probably only take a year for your business to dry up. So what does this tell us about the growth of cyber insurance? Well the products have been around longer than you might imagine, but have been getting a lot more media time in the last couple of years. Mostly this reflects an increase in the board level understanding of the potential risks they are running, although this may also reflect an increase in understanding that traditional policies don’t cover cyber events.

Struggling to understand Docker? Let’s start with a Minecraft demo – Explaining containerisation can be tricky, so Docker has turned to a medium it reckons everyone can understand. Minecraft. The vendor used its EU conference this week to demonstrate how to use Minecraft as an interface to its technology, via Cuberite, a scriptable Minecraft server. Thus Docker containers are visualised as … containers, while according to the Docker blog, “To start or stop a container, you go into the container and hit a switch”. Docker commands can be typed in Minecraft itself. Of course, given the nature of Minecraft, everything looks like it’s made from containers anyway. You’ll need a Minecraft account, though we’d suggest things might be easier if you just have a ten year old handy and just use theirs. After all, it’s you that’s probably had to shell out for the game anyway.


Sleeping in on weekends linked to health problems – Sleeping late on days-off—and other sleep-time adjustments—are linked to metabolic problems, including insulin resistance and a higher body mass index, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. The finding suggests that regular sleep shifts could rouse long-term health problems such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, the authors conclude. Such weekly sleep changes may alone cause trouble by throwing off the body’s internal clocks, putting metabolic cycles out of sync with other circadian rhythms, the authors speculate. For instance, fat accumulation in tissues, food absorption in the gut, and insulin secretion in the pancreas and liver all show tissue-specific circadian rhythms, the authors note.

How to Be a Good Kisser – 10 Tips From Scientific Research – Regular readers might be saying “What the hell is this, Cosmo Magazine?” In all fairness, how to be a good kisser is something no one really gets instruction in. Yet, it can be a huge part of one’s personal life and the sources we do get info from are, well, far from scientific. Let’s tackle it.

Something to think about:


“So we need Silicon Valley not to view government as its adversary. We need to challenge our best minds in the private sector to work with our best minds in the public sector to develop solutions that will both keep us safe and protect our privacy. Now is the time to solve this problem, not after the next attack.”

–       Hillary Clinton


GIMP: The Free & Open Source Image Editor – GIMP is the Free and Open Source, cross-platform image editor available for GNU/Linux, OS X, Windows and more.

You will find information here about downloading, installing, using, and enhancing it. We try to provide as much information about the GIMP community and related projects as possible.

High Quality Photo Manipulation – GIMP provides the tools needed for high quality image manipulation. From retouching to restoring to creative composites, the only limit is your imagination.

Original Artwork Creation – GIMP gives artists the power and flexibility to transform images into truly unique creations.

Graphic Design Elements – GIMP is a high quality application for producing icons, graphical design elements, and art for user interface components and mockups.

Programming Algorithms – GIMP is a high quality framework for scripted image manipulation, with multi-language support such as C, C++, Perl, Python, Scheme, and more!

Key Component in a Desktop Publishing Workflow – GIMP provides top-notch color management features to ensure high-fidelity color reproduction across digital and printed media. It is best used in workflows involving other free software such as Scribus,

Extensibility & Flexibility – GIMP provides extensibility through integration with many programming languages including Scheme, Python, Perl, and more. The result is a high level of customization as demonstrated by the large number of scripts and plug-ins created by the community.


Initial pass with the Crop Tool. Crop Tool options (left), cropping on the canvas (right).

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Edward Snowden explains how to reclaim your privacy – [Opsec] is important even if you’re not worried about the NSA. Because when you think about who the victims of surveillance are, on a day-to-day basis, you’re thinking about people who are in abusive spousal relationships, you’re thinking about people who are concerned about stalkers, you’re thinking about children who are concerned about their parents overhearing things. It’s to reclaim a level of privacy.

The first step that anyone could take is to encrypt their phone calls and their text messages. You can do that through the smartphone app Signal, by Open Whisper Systems. It’s free, and you can just download it immediately. And anybody you’re talking to now, their communications, if it’s intercepted, can’t be read by adversaries. [Signal is available for iOS and Android, and, unlike a lot of security tools, is very easy to use.]

You should encrypt your hard disk, so that if your computer is stolen the information isn’t obtainable to an adversary — pictures, where you live, where you work, where your kids are, where you go to school. [I’ve written a guide to encrypting your disk on Windows, Mac, and Linux.]

Use a password manager. One of the main things that gets people’s private information exposed, not necessarily to the most powerful adversaries, but to the most common ones, are data dumps. Your credentials may be revealed because some service you stopped using in 2007 gets hacked, and your password that you were using for that one site also works for your Gmail account. A password manager allows you to create unique passwords for every site that are unbreakable, but you don’t have the burden of memorizing them. [The password manager KeePassX is free, open source, cross-platform, and never stores anything in the cloud.]

The other thing there is two-factor authentication. The value of this is if someone does steal your password, or it’s left or exposed somewhere … [two-factor authentication] allows the provider to send you a secondary means of authentication — a text message or something like that. [If you enable two-factor authentication, an attacker needs both your password as the first factor and a physical device, like your phone, as your second factor, to login to your account. Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, GitHub, Battle.net, and tons of other services all support two-factor authentication.]

Metadata Surveillance Didn’t Stop the Paris Attacks – Since terrorists struck Paris last Friday night, the debate over whether encryption prevents intelligence services from stopping attacks has reignited. The New York Times and Yahoo reported on vague claims that the terrorists’ use of encryption stymied investigators who might have thwarted their plans. CIA Director John Brennan made equally vague comments Monday morning, warning that thanks to the privacy protections of the post-Snowden era, it is now “much more challenging” for intelligence agencies to find terrorists. Jeb Bush piled on, saying that the United States needs to restore its program collecting metadata on U.S. phone calls, even though that program won’t be shut down until the end of this month.

Following a terrorism incident as shocking as the Paris attacks, it is no surprise that politicians and the intelligence establishment would want to widen American spying capabilities. But their arguments are conflating the forest—bulk metadata collection—and the trees: access to individual communications about the attack. To understand why that’s the case, start with this tweet from former NSA and DHS official Stewart Baker: “NSA’s 215 program”—and by association the far larger metadata dragnet of which the domestically focused phone-metadata program is just a small part—“was designed to detect a Mumbai/Paris-style attack.”

Only it didn’t.

Judge: Stingrays are “simply too powerful” without adequate oversight – A federal judge in Illinois has recently taken the unusual step of issuing three new stringent requirements for the government when it wants to deploy cell-site simulators. The move aims to protect the Fourth Amendment rights of innocent bystanders against unreasonable search and seizure.

Of course, for now, this order only applies to this one judge in the Northern District of Illinois.

These new stingray requirements come just about a month after the Department of Homeland Security imposed its own warrant requirement, following a similar move by the Department of Justice.

Not only can stingrays be used to determine location by spoofing a cell tower, but they can also be used to intercept calls and text messages. Once deployed, the devices intercept data from a target phone as well as information from other phones within the vicinity.

Who’s running dozens of top-secret unpatched databases? The Dept of Homeland Security – The US Department of Homeland Security is running dozens of unpatched databases, some of which are rated “secret” and even “top secret,” according to an audit.

An inspection [PDF] of the department’s IT infrastructure found huge security gaps, including the fact that 136 systems had expired “authorities to operate” – meaning that no one was in charge of keeping them updated. Of the 136, 17 were classified as “secret” or “top secret.”

Unsurprisingly, with so many systems not undergoing active maintenance, the audit found that many did not have up-to-date security patches, leaving them open to hacking efforts. The problems extended from browsers to PCs to databases. It also found a large number of weak passwords.

“We found additional vulnerabilities regarding Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Reader, and Oracle Java software on the Windows 7 workstations,” the department’s inspector general noted in a 66-page report. “If exploited, these vulnerabilities could allow unauthorized access to DHS data.”

The report details a year-long effort to get the DHS to address its security issues, and a seemingly bureaucratic effort to delay a report announcing the flaws in its systems.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – November 20, 2015

Encryption: You can’t put the genie back in the bottle;  Tech Industry Coalition Defies Calls for Weakened Encryption;  Google Play radically updated;  Google Will Pay to Defend YouTubers Against Copyright Claims;  Skype for Android now lets you save video messages;  Free PowerPoint add-in offers integration with Facebook and Twitter;  Facebook Debuts The Digital Breakup;  Instagram doubles its active users in India in a year;  Amazon now allows two-factor authentication;  Number of Web Users in India on Track to Top U.S;  Play all of the Fallout games prior to Fallout 4 for $20;  7 common holiday travel nightmares, solved;  The 10 Best Bluetooth Speakers of 2015;  µBlock, a lean and fast blocker (free):  The 25 Best Inventions of 2015.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Tech Industry Coalition Defies Calls for Weakened Encryption – A coalition of dozens of the largest tech companies in the world is adamantly opposing any form of an official “backdoor” into encrypted devices. The Information Technology Industry Council is a group of more than 60 major tech companies and organizations, including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Intel and Facebook. The tech community isn’t persuaded by the calls for an encryption backdoor: From CEOs and investors to researchers and privacy advocates, many have already spoken out against the idea.

Encryption: You can’t put the genie back in the bottle – Security researchers and executives at Google and Microsoft warn that the rhetoric around encryption, and a back door, is counterproductive — and technologically infeasible.

Keep sensitive data in texts private and screenshot-proof with Confide – Let’s say you send a text message that contains sensitive information. What happens when the recipient takes a screenshot of the text and posts that information on a social forum? While it’s rare, this can (and does) happen. How can you avoid it? One method is to employ an app called Confide. Confide allows you to send messages to a recipient — who either has to be using the same app or must be viewing the messages in a browser via a link — and prevent them from taking a screenshot of the message. For anyone who is seriously concerned about privacy, this could be a must-have app. Let’s dive in and see if it’s right for you. Before you install the app, here’s what you need to know.

Google Will Pay to Defend YouTubers Against Copyright Claims – Google will cover up to $1 million in legal costs for YouTube video creators who are sued for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) but are —in Google’s opinion—actually using that footage legally. The DMCA allows for “fair use” exemptions—criticism, research, teaching, news reporting, etc.—that lets creators use footage without permission from the copyright owner. But copyright holders still issue takedown notices for fair use videos, and many smaller video creators, fearing a pricey legal battle, don’t fight back. That’s where Google comes in.

Skype for Android now lets you save video messages – The Skype app for Android has just been updated with a handy option for users who would like to save and keep video messages of importance. The new version, available now, lets users save received video messages by tapping the thumbnail in the conversation view, and simply choosing the “Save to Gallery” option. Think of it as a way to hang on to video voicemails from loved ones or those with important details needed later.

Google Play radically updated: APK download available now – Those of you wishing to see the new Google Play – wait no longer. The folks at Google responsible for selling you apps and entertainment have done the store a great justice. They’ve split the whole thing in two. Now you’ll be able to decide instantly whether you’re going to be looking for Apps and Games OR Entertainment bits and pieces. Inside Entertainment you’ll find books, movies, and music too. The app file has been released to the public – you can wait, or you can update your device using the APK file.


Google Hangouts activates guest mode for meetings – Google’s latest bid to make their products more instantly-available to users is in “guest” mode in Google Hangouts. This feature allows people with Google accounts to host Google Hangouts meetings in which invited guests can join the conversation without needing a Google account of their own. This system requires joining guests to tap a button or two, write in a name so people know who they are on the call, and begin to chat.

Free PowerPoint add-in offers integration with Facebook and Twitter – A group of Microsoft developers created Social Share, an add-in that integrates Twitter and Facebook into PowerPoint. The possibilities for enterprise communication and social interaction are endless.


Facebook Debuts The Digital Breakup With New Tools For Former Flames – Breaking up is hard enough without having to see your ex’s newfound happiness flung in your face every time you log on to Facebook. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to unfriend or block your ex. There should be some middle ground. Today, Facebook says it will begin to experiment with new tools that will help people better manage these complicated relationships.

Facebook Adds ‘Fundraisers’ Tool for Nonprofits – Facebook on Wednesday announced a new tool, dubbed Fundraisers, which lets nonprofits raise funds on their page for a specific campaign. With this tool, nonprofits can “tell their campaign story, rally supporters, collect donations, and visibly track progress toward a goal,” Facebook explained. Sympathetic social networkers will be able to donate to the cause with a few taps, then brag about their good deed to their friends on the site. When you share that you contributed, the post will also include a Donate button, so your friends can easily follow your lead.

Google Shopping Gets A Mobile Makeover With A Focus On Local Commerce – This is the largest mobile redesign the service has had to date, and it offers a variety of new elements aimed at helping consumers better discover and locate products they’re interested in, says Google. That also now includes more easily checking the availability of products at nearby stores. According to Google, the redesign was prompted by the shift the company has been seeing when it comes to shopping-related searches – that is, as of this fall, more shopping-related searches took place on mobile devices instead of desktop computers.

The 10 Best Bluetooth Speakers of 2015 – Powerful or portable, rugged or stylish, Bluetooth speakers can suit any need and work with nearly any device to stream music wirelessly. Here’s what to look for, along with the top speakers we’ve tested.


Here are 7 common holiday travel nightmares, solved – Some reports suggest this year will be the worst for traveling around Thanksgiving and beyond. That’s because gas prices are low, leading more people to travel, and storms are poised to halt travel in major hubs. To get through the stress of it all, you’ll need to be prepared. Whether you’re heading to the airport to waiting in long security lines or stuck in a car for a few hours to visit friends and family, there are ways to make the experience less awful. CNET’s rounded up the best tools to make traveling a breeze.

How to save Windows Store apps to external storage in Windows 10 – The Window 10 November update brings lots of little tweaks to Microsoft’s operating system including the ability to save your apps to external storage.


Ransomware’s latest threats: What to do about CryptoWall, Chimera and their ilk – In the past, if you had a backup of your files, you could avoid paying ransomware. Malware developers claimed to have added a new twist, threatening to publish the data of anyone who has not paid.

Amazon now allows two-factor authentication – When it comes to securing your financial data and personal information more security is better, or at least the option to use more security. PayPal has had two-factor authentication capability for a while now where you need a password and a special code sent to a mobile or even a portable key device. Amazon is probably the biggest hold out that hasn’t offered two-factor authentication, until now.


Dyre banking malware: Windows 10 and Edge browser now targets – The notorious Dyre banking malware has been updated to take on Windows 10 machines and hook its claws into the Edge browser. Dyre, also known as Dyreza, appeared on the cybercrime scene in July 2014 and has quickly gained a reputation as a nasty piece of malware that aims to steal credentials. It’s been found to target Salesforce users and banking customers, and more recently was discovered to have been adapted to steal credentials from a range of supply-chain businesses, including fulfilment and warehousing, inventory-management software vendors and wholesale computer distributors. Security firm Heimdal has reported that the malware — sold as a cybercrime-for-hire service — has now been updated to support the targeting of Windows 10 and its Edge browser.

Company News:

Tinder parent company Match Group is now public – Match Group, which owns dating platforms like OKCupid, Match, and Tinder, held its initial public offering this morning. Its stock opened at $12 per share and climbed slightly higher to $13.50 by midday. It will trade on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol MTCH. It raised a little more than $400 million, giving it a market cap of around $3 billion. The offering is on the low end of expectations for the company, which had said earlier this month it was looking to raise around $466 million at a value of more than $4 billion. Last year, Match Group generated over $836 million in revenue, up from $788 million in 2013.

Salesforce satisfies Q3 targets, boosts revenue outlook – Salesforce.com published better-than-expected third quarter financial results Wednesday after the bell. The CRM giant reported non-GAAP earnings of 21 cents per share on a revenue of $1.71 billion, up 24 percent year-over-year (statement). Wall Street was looking for earnings of 19 cents per share with revenue of $1.7 billion. Subscription and support revenues increased 24 percent annually to $1.6 billion. Professional services and other revenues totaled $116 million, up 22 percent year-over-year. For the current quarter, Salesforce projects a revenue range of $1.8 billion to $1.9 billion with earnings between 18 and 19 cents per share.

Square is officially a public company – Mobile payments company Square is officially trading on the stock market today, a little over a month after filing paperwork to go public. The company, led by CEO Jack Dorsey, will now trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol SQ. It priced last night at $9 a share, the bottom of its range, a clear sign that investor interest and confidence was lacking. It’s been trading up since opening, rising to $11.20 by midday.

UrbanClap, India’s Largest Services Marketplace, Fetches $25 Million Series B – UrbanClap, which uses a matchmaking algorithm to help consumers find the best service providers in major Indian cities, plans to scale rapidly after landing a $25 million Series B. The round was led by Bessemer Venture Partners, with participation from returning investors SAIF and Accel Partners, and brings UrbanClap’s total venture funding so far to $37 million.

Instagram doubles its active users in India in a year – India is on the cusp of officially becoming the country with the world’s second largest Internet userbase, and that’s great news for Mark Zuckerberg. Instagram, a megapopular photo-sharing platform that in 2012 was bought by Facebook for around $1 billion, doubled its base of monthly active users in India during the period between this and last September, reported the Economic Times.

Spotify Announces Six-Month Parental Leave Policy – Music streaming service Spotify announced it will offer six months of paid parental leave to full-time employees. The paid leave, which would apply to both mothers and fathers, can be taken all at once or broken up, according to a Spotify press release on the policy. New parents can take advantage of the policy until their child’s third birthday.

LG unveils its new ‘G Pay’ mobile payment platform – The service could do well in Korea where LG has large market share, but it will be an uphill battle against Google and Samsung in the U.S.

Games and Entertainment:

Play all of the Fallout games prior to Fallout 4 for $20 – Buying a new Fallout game on launch day is always a risky proposition. The sheer scale of these games (combined with Bethesda’s track record on quality control) means there will be bugs, and they will take weeks to fix. So, with the recent launch of Fallout 4, why not play all the Fallout games that came before it first? That decision has been made a lot easier this week by Bundle Stars. They are offering every Fallout game that came before Fallout 4 on PC for $20.39. Normally such a package would cost you $60, so that’s a serious saving. Included in the bundle are 5 games and all available DLC packs. Here’s the complete list:


Star Wars Battlefront suffers immortal player glitch – Star Wars Battlefront suffers immortal player glitch – According to report from Ars sister publication Wired UK, immortal players have been causing grief in the game’s multiplayer modes. Wired UK played several multiplayer matches earlier this week, and saw at least two instances of players who were impervious to all weapons and melee attacks. Those players racked up 100 kills each in a mere 10-minute round. The appearance of immortal players has lead to accusations of deliberate cheating on social media and Reddit. However, with most of the reports of immortal players coming in from the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game, it makes it highly unlikely that any deliberate hacks have been deployed. Instead, players on Reddit are claiming they inadvertently became immortal after crashing a ship, with others saying it just happened randomly.


Tested: Nvidia GeForce and AMD Radeon graphics cards for every budget – What graphics card within my budget gives me the best bang for my buck? Let us be your guiding light. We’ve tested graphics cards of all shapes, sizes, and price points to nail down exactly what you can expect for your money—from itty-bitty $90 cards to fire-breathing $1000 models to behemoths with not one, but two graphics processors and custom watercooling loops.

Beyond: Two Souls, Heavy Rain Heading to PS4 – Quantic Dream has just announced that PlayStation 3 exclusives Beyond: Two Souls and review of Heavy Rain will see new life on the PlayStation 4. Beyond: Two Souls (pictured) will be the first one out of the gate and is set to be released digitally on the PlayStation Store on Nov. 24. The game will come “complete with graphical improvements and new fan-requested features,” according to Quantic Dream co-CEO Guillaume de Fondaumiere, who announced the game in a blog post. The game will also highlight decisions made by the user and compare them to those of other players. Users will be able to go through the entire game in chronological order once they have finished it.


Halo World Championship starting in December – The Halo World Championship is happening this December. Having partnered with MLG, ESL and Gfinity, this event is set to be the biggest Halo eSports competition out there and is centered around Halo 5’s Arena multiplayer mode. Microsoft has just released new details about the HaloWC including when the tournament will take place, the crowd-fund assisted prizepool, and more. The original prize pool of $1 million has grown thanks to the Halo community who has crowdfunded it via the Requisition System in Halo 5: Guardians. Due to their efforts, the prize pool is now $1.7 million and is said to be growing daily.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Number of Web Users in India on Track to Top U.S. – The number of Web users in India is expected to surpass 400 million by the end of the year, according to a new report. That’s a 49 percent increase since 2014, and puts India on a path to eclipse the U.S. as the second-largest online population in the world, according to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and market research group IMRB. China is No. 1 with more than 600 million users. As of October, 375 million people were surfing the Web in India—about 260 million of them going online daily, up 60 percent from last year. About 71 percent are men, and while usage among women is growing at 46 percent, they still have a long way to go before catching up to their male counterparts. Most Internet users in India are ages 18 to 30; 11 percent are under the age of 18, while only 8 percent are 31 to 45 years old.

Windows turns 30: a visual history – The PC revolution started off life 30 years ago this week. Microsoft launched its first version of Windows on November 20th, 1985, to succeed MS-DOS. It was a huge milestone that paved the way for the modern versions of Windows we use today. While Windows 10 doesn’t look anything like Windows 1.0, it still has many of its original fundamentals like scroll bars, drop-down menus, icons, dialog boxes, and apps like Notepad and MS paint. Windows 1.0 also set the stage for the mouse. If you used MS-DOS then you could only type in commands, but with Windows 1.0 you picked up a mouse and moved windows around by pointing and clicking. Alongside the original Macintosh, the mouse completely changed the way consumers interacted with computers.


Reuters bans submission of RAW photos: “Our photos must reflect reality.” – Reuters, the news and photography agency, has issued an outright ban on photographs captured and submitted in RAW format. Instead, freelance contributors must now only submit photos that were processed and stored as JPEG inside the camera. According to Reuters, there are two reasons for this move. First, there’s the matter of alacrity: RAW images need to be processed by the photographer, which takes time—and when you’re reporting on a breaking story, sometimes you don’t have time. The second reason is much more contentious: Reuters wants its photographs to closely reflect reality (i.e. be journalistic), and it’s concerned that some RAW photos are being processed to the point where they’re no longer real.

The 25 Best Inventions of 2015 – Welcome to TIME’s annual round-up of the best inventions making the world better, smarter and—in some cases—a little more fun.

Something to think about:

‘Billions and billions are spent on a Surveillance State that can’t stop the Tsarnaev brothers, even when it’s told where to look, but does know what’s on German Chancellor Merkel’s cell phone !!”

–       Anonymous


µBlock, a lean and fast blocker – Yet another blocker for those who can’t stand micromanaging rules etc., but are yearning for something that doesn’t eat away at their computer resources, it’s easy on CPU and memory footprints. As you may have guessed, pretty much a lot of it was taken from HTTP Switchboard and then reduced to a simple blocker like so many out there. Only one big button in the popup to turn it off or on for specific sites.

Pointing up     This application has been recommended by long time subscriber Keith P. Keith has recommended more than a few apps over the past few years – and, every one has been a winner. Thanks Keith.

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

ANALYSIS: After Paris, there will be no stopping the surveillance state now – An old acquaintance who spent years in Canada’s secret world, where he developed a you-don’t-know-the-half-of-it smile, regularly sends me taunting emails and links.

The general theme is that thanks to all the whinging in the mainstream media about civil liberties, and the cavilling by politicians who disagreed with Stephen Harper about the imminent danger posed by Islamic terrorism to Canadians everywhere, our security agencies are unnecessarily hobbled.

After the mass murders in Paris this week, he passed on an article by the conservative writer Mark Steyn, who wrote that instead of meeting about climate change, “a problem that doesn’t exist,” Western leaders should be doing something about the millions of Muslims who now live in Europe, most of whom “at a certain level either wish or are indifferent to the death of the societies in which they live — modern, pluralist, Western societies.”

My friend the ex-spy — who, like a number of security professionals I’ve met over the years, holds an advanced degree — clearly believes the only sensible remedy is increased powers for state security organs.

And that anyone who refuses to accept that premise, or who wants to debate root causes, is quite simply advocating self-destruction.

John Brennan, the CIA director, used the Paris massacre to make essentially the same point this week, denouncing “a lot of hand-wringing over the government’s role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists.”

Manhattan DA demands Congress require mobile phone backdoors – Cyrus Vance, Jr., the Manhattan district attorney and an outspoken critic of encryption, called on Congress to adopt legislation mandating that mobile phone makers like Apple and Google bake backdoors into their smartphones.

Vance said it is “government’s principal responsibility to keep its residents safe, and that a government cannot fulfill that responsibility if huge amounts of vital information directly related to public safety are inaccessible to the government.”

“Criminal defendants across the nation are the principal beneficiaries of iOS 8.”

The district attorney’s proposal provided data saying that in a span of 12 months ending in October, as many as 111 prosecutions in his office for a variety of crimes like homicide, attempted murder, sexual abuse of a child, sex trafficking, assault, and robbery were hindered because of encrypted mobile phones connected to the cases. He also cited a litany of prosecutions in which evidence obtained from mobile phones helped solve the same types of cases.

“The federal legislation would provide in substance that any smartphone manufactured, leased, or sold in the US must be able to be unlocked, or its data accessed, by the operating system designer. Compliance with such a statute would not require new technology or costly adjustments. It would require, simply, that designers and makers of operating systems not design or build them to be impregnable to lawful governmental searches,” according to Vance’s position paper (PDF) on the topic released Wednesday.

The proposal made clear that the backdoor keys would not be provided to the government. The “keys would be held by the operating system designers,” the paper said.

Our National Encryption Debate, In Quotes – The long-burning debate concerning encryption, its impact on both consumer privacy and the government’s ability to protect its citizens is back with a vengeance.

The dialogue appeared to be dwindling after the White House said it would not require companies to breach the security of their products to provide the government with information. The Paris terror attack has thrust encryption back into the national dialogue. Following a New York Times report that the ISIS terrorists used an unspecified form of encryption, the calls to curtail the cryptography practice are back and louder than ever.

The debate follows two key lines at the moment. The first is that the government must have the capability to either get around or get through encryption when national security is at risk. Some have gone so far to say that the attacks in Paris happened because of the increase in encryption practices. The second is that encryption must remain secure.

Though providing a backdoor to law enforcement may seem at first glance like a compromise that allows us to keep our data secure and law enforcement to obtain the information they need, it’s as effective as having no encryption at all. Providing a key, a backdoor, a front door or whatever the kids are calling it these days to the government, you also provide one to criminals and hackers.

Given the current political climate, national security landscape, geopolitical unrest, nuance can be in short supply. Encryption inevitably will now be a major 2016 election issue, so it will likely only get worse.

The FBI Is Worried About ‘Hacktivists’ Targeting Politicians and Cops – The group of hackers who broke into the CIA Director’s personal email account are still at large, and the FBI is worried there may be more attacks targeting high profile public officials and cops to come.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a multi-agency task force led by the FBI, issued an alert on Wednesday, warning politicians and law enforcement agents of the risk of having their email accounts compromised, and their personal information “doxed” by “hacktivists.”

While the public service announcement doesn’t name a specific person or group, the IC3 is clearly referring to a recent string of high profile hacks by a group of allegedly teenage hackers known as “Crackas With Attitude” or CWA.

In the last month, CWA bragged of breaking into John Brennan’s email account, the email account of the FBI’s Deputy Director’s wife, and also claimed to have gained access to a law enforcement online portal where they found a database of thousands of law enforcement agents’ personal details. The hackers said all these actions were done to support Palestine.

The alert also refers to a “recent threat” where hackers contacted a target’s Internet Service Provider and used social engineering to obtain details about the account. Attackers can use this information to reset the password on the target’s email account and take control, according to the alert.

Congress targets cybersecurity; you’re the victim – We all want the world to be a safer place. We want to be protected from cyberattacks, security breaches and terrorism aided by the Internet. And so, in theory, a piece of legislation wending its way through Congress, called the Cyber Intelligence Sharing Act (CISA) should have plenty of support from the tech industry, academics, citizens and others.

That it instead has been greeted as a dangerous, privacy-endangering proposal that would do little to keep us safe is a testament to just how shallowly Congress understands technology. Our national legislators seem to favor applying simple-minded, even misguided, fixes over paying serious attention to problems.

The idea behind the bill has some merit. It’s stated intention is to encourage private companies and government agencies to share information that could identify potential cyberthreats and cybercriminals. But although that goal sounds good, tech companies, privacy experts and academics warn that the actual bill is a significant privacy invader that will do nothing to keep us safer.

Drone Strikes Fuel the Hatred that Led to Paris Attacks, Ex-Drone Pilots Say – In the past week, hawkish politicians and government officials have seized on the terrorist attacks that killed 129 in Paris in a renewed push for various counterterrorism agendas. Now four former US drone operators who took part in remote assassination missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere are pushing back, describing in intimate detail the inner workings and culture of the US drone program, which they say is fueling the resentment that drives the kind of violence recently seen in Paris.


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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – November 18, 2015

Encryption is not the enemy: A 21st century response to terror;  Why the CIA wanting encryption backdoors is a failure of leadership, not intelligence;  The Best Free Password Managers for 2015;  Benchmark your hardware with one of these five apps;  5 new Windows 10 features worth looking into;  Vizio slapped with two class-action lawsuits over alleged smart-TV spying;  When will your phone get Android Marshmallow?  These Are the Gadgets Everybody Wants This Holiday;  Inside Windows 10’s November update: 3 tips to get started;  Black Friday 2015 tech guide: The best deals so far;  Turn any HDTV Into a Chrome PC for Only $90;  Tumblr’s app can now turn your photos and videos into GIFs;  Google just completely revamped Google+;  NBC streaming service SeeSo to launch free public beta;  This Is the Best Selling Video Game of 2015;  10 Games Every Xbox One Player Needs;  Tor Is Trying to Make Dark Web Sites More Secure.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Encryption is not the enemy: A 21st century response to terror – Whenever terrorists strike, governments respond. It is in the quality and wisdom of those responses that the future of our society rests. David Gewirtz looks at the question of encryption, and how we should think about policy and security in light of the Paris attacks.

Why the CIA wanting encryption backdoors is a failure of leadership, not intelligence – Analysis: The question shouldn’t be if encryption should have backdoors, but why intelligence agencies have begun shifting the blame onto those who push for privacy.

The Best Free Password Managers for 2015 – Remembering strong, unique passwords for every website you visit is too hard to do on your own. Fortunately, there are plenty of free password managers that can help.


Microsoft updates Privacy Statement, addressing concerns from critics – Windows 10 isn’t the only Redmond-based product that got a big update in the past few weeks. Microsoft recently revised its global Privacy Statement, with a few minor changes and some significant additions aimed at cooling overheated privacy concerns. Here are the details.

When will your phone get Android Marshmallow? Here’s what we know so far – Android Marshmallow is here! Well, sort of. You see, Android updates are a tricky affair. Unless you have a Nexus device, where you get the updates directly from Google, it’s a bit of a slog before you can actually get the latest Android operating system on your phone. That’s because there’s a process. Here’s what we know at this point about when your phone or tablet will get Android Marshmallow. We’ll update our list as the carriers or handset makers detail their plans.

Inside Windows 10’s November update: 3 tips to get started – Microsoft’s November update is rolling out now. Here are three tips to help take advantage of the switch and watch out for one minor annoyance.

Pointing up   Upgraded both Win 10 Pro and Win 10 Home yesterday – a very smooth experience on both machines. No issues at all.

5 new Windows 10 features worth looking into – Microsoft has just rolled out the biggest update to Windows 10 for PCs yet. Considering its new practice of flowing updates as they come, it might almost be unusual for Microsoft to dump such a huge update and yet here it is. Of course, this is more than just a maintenance release and if you’ve been following news and hints for the past months, you will most likely be familiar with some of the changes. But in case you’re only jumping in now, here are some of the five most noteworthy changes to your Windows 10 experience.

Benchmark your hardware with one of these five apps – Whether you want to play the latest first person shooter game or perform some hard core data analytics, having the right hardware can make all the difference in the world. That’s where system benchmarking comes into play. Benchmarking allows you to quantify your PC’s performance to make sure it’s up to the task at hand. This article discusses five benchmarking tools.


Passmark PerformanceTest sells for $27.00, but a free trial version is available for download.

These Are the Gadgets Everybody Wants This Holiday – According to research from the Consumer Technology Association, 65% of Americans are planning on buying tech gifts this year, with one in three holiday shoppers scooping up cutting edge devices like drones or smart home gear. So, what should you be on the lookout for while you do your shopping? Here are some of the most popular items that people will hunting down this year.

Turn any HDTV Into a Chrome PC for Only $90 – The Asus Chromebit is no bigger than a flash drive and can turn any HDMI-equipped HDTV or monitor into an all-in-one desktop PC.


Google Voice Search Gets Smarter, Now Understands Complex Questions And Their Meaning – If voice-based assistants are to become the primary way we interact with our devices now and in the future, then Google has just upped the ante in the battle between its own voice search functionality and that of rival mobile assistants like Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana. While Google’s app has historically done a better job at understanding its users and answering queries accurately, the company says today that its app has now gotten better at actually understanding the meaning behind users’ questions, as well. That is, the app has been improved so that it better understands natural language and more complex questions.

Black Friday 2015 tech guide: The best deals so far – What are the best gadgets and tech on sale leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday? ZDNet finds out. [This guide will be updated as new deals appear]


Google Photos can now delete pictures to save space on your phone – After an update to Google Photos on Android today, a new button will appear in its settings tab offering to help “Free Up Space.” Tapping it will delete all local photos that have already been backed up by the app. A similar option has appeared in the past for people who back up photos at full resolution, but Google is now building it into the settings menu for everyone to use. On some Android phones, Google Photos will also be able to delete copies stored on SD cards. With Photos being the default Android gallery app for many, this update really should make it easier to start clearing up space. The feature is coming “soon” to iOS.

Tumblr’s app can now turn your photos and videos into GIFs – The next time you go to post a photo on Tumblr, you may find a bunch of GIFs ready and waiting to be posted instead. Tumblr is updating its iOS app today with a new feature that lets it turn photo bursts and videos into GIFs. It works really well, automatically detecting GIFable moments in your camera roll and presenting them right alongside your other images, nearly ready to post. If you have a long video or burst, Tumblr will ask you to trim the GIF down to about three seconds. You can also choose to speed up or slow down a GIF and whether you want it to restart over and over again or if it should play back and forth endlessly, hiding the cut.

Google just completely revamped Google+ – Google’s update to Google+ includes a redesigned home stream that keeps main controls atop and below the moving river of content. Material Design cues can be seen throughout this complete aesthetic change-up, making the app more spectacularly simple, visually, and in turn making the app faster. The new look for Google+ will be released simultaneously this afternoon on desktop machines (via the web), Android, and iOS devices – iPhones and iPads. The version you’re seeing today is a preview, so you’ll be able to switch to and fro between the new and the old if you do so wish.


How to enlarge display text in Windows – You can easily enlarge the text on your screen by switching to a smaller resolution…but I don’t recommend it. You’ll lose all of the advantages of high-definition (and likely get a soft-focus visual effect), and you won’t be able to put as many windows on your screen. You’d be better off changing the settings in Windows that control the size of your text and other objects, such as icons and the taskbar. Here are instructions for Windows 7, 8, and 10.

12 travel-friendly tech gifts you’ll want to take with you – The travel-friendly tech in this gift guide can save your favorite frequent flier some stress on their next trip. Whether it’s a clip-on camera accessory or a great organizer, it’s all worth taking with you.

Apple Pay Arrives in Canada, Australia This Week – The Cupertino tech giant on Tuesday launched Apple Pay in Canada, but just for American Express customers.


Vizio slapped with two class-action lawsuits over alleged smart-TV spying – Vizio, the company best known for its bang-for-buck TVs, is these days in the news for all the wrong reasons owing to some truly troubling data collection practices. And it doesn’t seem as if the controversy is going to blow over in a jiffy. On the contrary, as first reported by Consumer Reports, it has boiled over into court. While that site only referred to a single lawsuit in its report, turns out the company is facing two different class action complaints.

Disable this feature to stop your Vizio smart TV from spying on you – Vizio is the latest TV maker to come under fire for tracking the viewing habits of its customers. A feature that is turned on by default on more than 10 million Vizio smart TVs can track what you’re watching and then share the data with advertisers. This is similar to programs we have seen in the past from Samsung and LG. While you could disconnect your TV from the Internet to prevent this, it’s not the best solution. You likely bought a smart TV to use built-in apps like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video. Disconnecting the TV from the Internet would mean that you could no longer use a majority of the smart functions. You can, however, manually disable the data collecting feature. Here’s how:

Tor Is Trying to Make Dark Web Sites More Secure – Tor users were reminded about the importance of dark web security recently with news that a university had unmasked both the servers and users of some hidden services—sites that hide their location using the Tor network—and provided that information to the FBI. Tor has since patched the vulnerability that the attackers took advantage of, but there are still concerns with some aspects of its security. With that in mind, the Tor Project is making several security improvements to the infrastructure that allows dark web sites to remain hidden.

Blackhole exploit kit makes a surprising encore appearance – The Blackhole exploit kit has made a surprising reappearance two years after cybercriminals stopped using it, according to security vendor Malwarebytes. About four years ago, the source code for Blackhole was leaked, which led to more cybercriminals using it. But exploit kits require quite a bit of ongoing maintenance, and fresh exploits for new vulnerabilities need to be integrated to maintain high infection rates. For some reason, whoever decided to start using Blackhole recently made a large error and left the server that hosted the exploit kit’s infrastructure open on the Internet, which allowed Malwarebytes to take a look.


Don’t fall for drone registration scams, warns FAA – The Federal Aviation Administration hasn’t revealed its plans for drone registration yet, but that hasn’t stopped at least one company from trying to make a buck from confusion about the rules.

Microsoft touts new, holistic approach to enterprise security – Microsoft combines the attack protection, detection and response features built into Windows 10, Office 365, Azure and the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite to help enterprises improve their operational security posture.

How Cisco is trying to keep NSA spies out of its gear – Cisco’s suppliers have stronger security requirements, and customers will soon be able to inspect products before buying.

Millions of sensitive records exposed by mobile apps leaking back-end credentials – Thousands of mobile applications, including popular ones, implement cloud-based, back-end services in a way that lets anyone access millions of sensitive records created by users, according to a recent study. The analysis was performed by researchers from the Technical University and the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology in Darmstadt, Germany, and the results were presented Friday at the Black Hat Europe security conference in Amsterdam. It targeted applications that use Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS) frameworks from providers like Facebook-owned Parse, CloudMine or Amazon Web Services.

ISIS calls Anonymous ‘idiots,’ offers tips to elude hackers – In a message circulated via encrypted messaging app Telegram, an account allegedly linked to ISIS called Anonymous “idiots” and offered tips to avoid being hacked by the group. The message, which was posted in English and Arabic, was forwarded to multiple ISIS-affiliated Telegram channels, according to Business Insider. In its warning message, ISIS gave supporters a handful of tips to avoid being hacked by Anonymous. The group warned against opening links from untrusted sources and talking to unknown people on Telegram. Supporters were also told to avoid direct messages on Twitter. The message also said supporters should use a VPN, or virtual private network, which can create a secure “tunnel” for Web browsing, so all data sent to and from a browser is encrypted.

Company News:

Microsoft Invests In Affordable Internet Access With Launch Of New Fund – Microsoft is ramping up its efforts to bring affordable Internet access to underserved parts of the globe with the launch of a new fund that will invest in companies that are solving problems associated with bringing the Internet to the 4 billion people worldwide who are still disconnected. The fund will aid in entrepreneurial efforts focused on last-mile access technologies, cloud-based services and applications, new payment mechanisms, and other innovative business models that help get people online.

Pandora To Buy Rdio Assets For $75M In Cash, Rdio Files Ch.11, Will Shutter Service – That was fast: just as soon as it was reported that Pandora was in talks to buy Rdio, the two sides have confirmed that an acquisition is indeed taking place. Pandora has acquired “key assets” from Rdio for $75 million in cash, the company has just announced. But as part of it, the Rdio service as we know it is tanking: the streaming service is filing for bankruptcy.

India’s largest technology incubator ‘T-Hub’ launched – The PPP project aims to assist 800 Indian start-ups, with the first phase offering seed funding, working space, mentorship, and opportunities to network in one place.

Home Services Marketplace Angie’s List Rejects IAC’s $512M Acquisition Offer – Well, it looks like it might be a while yet before you swipe right to find your next bricklayer or painter. Angie’s List, a marketplace for independent contractors, has formally rejected an offer from IAC, owner of Tinder, to buy the business for $512 million. The offer, originally made earlier this month, was for IAC to buy the company at $8.75 per share. Angie’s List trades on the NASDAQ exchange.

Citrix to spin off GoTo, focus on enterprise, cut 1,000 jobs – Citrix outlined its moves to focus on its core business and simplify. The GoTo business, which has about $600 million in trailing 12-month revenue, will become an independent entity.

Nuance tops Q4 targets on revenue of $513 million – Nuance released its fourth quarter and fiscal 2015 earnings report Monday after the bell. The voice recognition software giant posted a net loss of $11 million, or four cents per share (statement). Wall Street was expecting earnings of 35 cents per share on revenue of $508 million. Nuance also acknowledged that it lost $9.2 million of revenue due to “accounting treatment in conjunction with acquisitions.” For fiscal 2015, the company reported net income of $411.6 million, or $1.27 per diluted share, compared to $360.1 million, or $1.12 per diluted share, for fiscal 2014. Nuance also narrowed its GAAP net loss to $115 million, compared to $150.3 million the year prior.

NY Attorney General Adds Yahoo To FanDuel & DraftKings Investigation, Preliminary Hearing Next Week – While DraftKings and FanDuel await their day in court next Wednesday, the NY Times has reported that Eric T. Schneiderman, NY’s Attorney General, has decided to include Yahoo in his investigation into the daily fantasy sports. While Yahoo has avoided the flashy prime-time ads that are now common in the industry, the site actually added daily fantasy sports to its fantasy offerings in July, and since then has become the third largest DFS provider after FanDuel and DraftKings.

Games and Entertainment:

This Is the Best Selling Video Game of 2015: It earned over $750 million in 24 hours – Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 is no longer the biggest entertainment launch of 2015. Bethesda’s Fallout 4 sold 12 million copies and generated over $750 million in its first 24 hours at retail on Nov. 10. Those numbers obliterate the over $550 million in 72 hours that Activision-owned developer Treyarch earned with Call of Duty: Black Ops 3.


NVIDIA Shield Tablet K1 returns with new $200 price – NVIDIA’s Shield Tablet is back, refreshed post-recall and sweetened with a $100 price cut over the original model. The Android slate was already one of the cheaper ways to get a performance tablet, but now NVIDIA has trimmed both the range and the specifications to a single unit at $199, dubbed the Shield Tablet K1.


NBC streaming service SeeSo to launch free public beta – NBC is preparing to launch SeeSo, its own streaming video service with a focus on comedy TV shows and movies, no ads, and priced at just $4 a month. Basically like a mini Netflix or Hulu service that only offers one specific genre of entertainment. In order to let viewers try out SeeSo, and in turn test the demand for the service, NBC has said it’s launching a one-month free trial in the form of a public beta.

10 Games Every Xbox One Player Needs – The Xbox One games that you’ll find in this list are titles that will let you: engage in hyper-violent combat; race fast cars down beautiful, winding roads; hop inside mechanical behemoths; solve murders; and more. Microsoft’s console has a little something for nearly every type of gamer. If you’re ready to discover what the PCMag staff considers the best Xbox One games, click through the slideshow. You can watch video clips of the games in action, and read our pithy words regarding what makes each title one that’s worth owning.

Xbox One now supports button remapping for standard controllers too – Last week, the Xbox One was treated to a big new software update that not only introduced backwards compatibility with over 100 Xbox 360 games, but also improved the console’s dashboard interface, making it easier to navigate. Even better, however, is that the update introduced a feature that, until now, was exclusive to Microsoft’s new Xbox One Elite controller: total button remapping. This customization option allows users to swap button functions, like switching the X and B buttons, or A with the left trigger, for example, and is now available on the console’s standard controller.


Green Man Gaming under fire for potentially unauthorized sales – In this day and age, when you want the best deal, you don’t need to drive around to multiple stores to check their prices. You just hop online, browse your favorite sites, and in a few minutes, you’ve found the lowest price. Sure, there’s a chance that you’ll stumble onto a site that you’ve never heard of, but as long as you stick to the big names, you won’t have any trouble getting your order filled. However, what happens when one of the big sites starts showing signs of questionable practices.

Off Topic (Sort of):

More than a billion PCs are over three years old, and there’s little reason to replace them – There are over a billion PCs in use today that are more than three years old (according to Intel, I’ve not personally counted them, but I assume they have their finger on the pulse), and around half of those it is claimed are four to five years old. While that sounds like a massive opportunity for the OEMs to cash in on an upgrade wave, the truth is that there’s little reason for people to spend the money to replace a working PC. There’s a dirty little secret that PC makers don’t want you to know, and it’s this – take a middle-of-the-road PC from three years ago and put it next to a brand new middle-of-the-road PC and you’ll be hard-pressed to see any difference.

Anonymous just might make all the difference in attacking ISIS – Anonymous’ key message on Twitter is: “Make no mistake: #Anonymous is at war with #Daesh. We won’t stop opposing #IslamicState. We’re also better hackers.” That last sentence is key. What Anonymous is talking about is a cyberwar against ISIS, one that is not restricted by any of the laws that could hamper a cyberattack undertaken by U.S., French or Russian governments. And, to Anonymous’ credit, they are indeed better hackers. This could be very effective. While governments bomb and soldiers attack on the ground, it’s essential that ISIS’ recruitment and funding be killed. If DDoS and other shutdown tactics make social media useless to the terror group, it will find it far more difficult to fund terror and recruit replacements. Let’s take a look at Anonymous’ prospects for weakening ISIS in these areas.

Thales shows watch app for plainclothes cops at French security show – French defense contractor Thales Communications & Security wants to take the smart watch back to its “Dick Tracy” origins with an app for plainclothes cops and security services.


Grow your own insects at home, then eat them to live – Bugs may very well be the future of food and Livin Farms wants to help you grow your own. The Desktop Edible Insect Hive is a device with a small footprint designed to allow you to raise your own food. However, this food would be mealworms — rich in protein and a sustainable source of food, but mealworms. “Insects give us the opportunity to grow on small spaces, with few resources,” Katharina Unger, the founder of Livin Farms, said in an interview with Fast Co. “With their benefits, insects are one part of the solution to make currently inefficient industrial-scale production of meat obsolete.” This device provides one possible solution to the growing problems surrounding factory farming, which is responsible for around 9 percent of emissions. But until lab-grown meat goes to mass market, insects are a viable option.


Australian Police Are Actively Trying to Arrest Motorized Picnic Table Riders – Australia is known for being pretty chill, as a nation. It’s an outdoorsy, laid-back kind of place. So this group of mates cruising around Perth on two motorized picnic tables is peak Aussie. The Western Australia Police posted a short clip on Facebook of the nine offenders motoring their creations down an alarmingly busy road, and said they are seeking the men for “failure to wear proper protective clothing,” but that they could also be charged with driving an unlicensed vehicle and drunk driving, the last of which is a little preemptive.


A Gift Guide For The Cyclists You Care About – Does someone you care about bike to work even as winter sets in, with all of the associated cold and damp? Upgrade their commute with some great digital technology and plain cool hardware. Show the bike enthusiast or commuter in your life that you really do care – both that they get places in style but also that they do it safely. From turn signals to light-up jackets, make sure that your gift recipients are the coolest and safest bikers on the road. We hope that you’ll bike safe and follow traffic rules. Please remember that as great as smart devices are, they are not a replacement for good common sense and situational awareness.

DJI is updating its drones so they won’t fly in restricted airspace – By default, starting in December, users of DJI-brand drones will not be able to enter into, or take off from, areas like prisons or power plants. The company says the system — called Geospatial Environment Online, and powered by a company called AirMap — will also be constantly updated with new information on restrictions, which will prevent drones from entering zones with shifting security needs, like stadium events or wildfire areas. DJI will be letting people bypass the system if they so choose, but only on one condition: users must have a verified account with the company, including a credit card, debit card, or phone number, although the system will be free. The company says users will not allow the system to be turned off in certain areas with national security concerns, such as Washington, DC.


This Subreddit Captures That Awkward Moment People Realize They’re on Camera – All of us are probably guilty of a photobomb or two, but some of us take this art to the next level. This subreddit captures that really awkward moment that people realize they’ve been caught on live TV. The gif that started it all features a policeman brusquely strolling toward the camera, realizing he’s live on air and freezing like a rabbit caught in the headlights before crab walking out of the frame:

Do IT pros work too much? Survey says ‘Yes’ – More than 600 IT pros made their collective voice heard in a new survey conducted by Spiceworks. You’re working longer hours and there’s no end in sight. The people who work the longest hours won’t surprise you.

Coffee drinking linked to lower mortality risk—again – In a fresh-brewed study involving more than 200,000 people, researchers found that drinking coffee—regular or decaf—is associated with an overall lower risk of mortality. Drinking between three and five cups a day perked up survival rates the most, lowering the risk of premature death by up to 15 percent compared to coffee abstinence, researchers reported Monday in Circulation. Though the study reveals only a correlation—not a potential cause for the life-upper—it follows decades of studies that found specific and general health benefits of coffee drinking, particularly lower risks of cardiovascular disease, liver diseases, diabetes, and overall mortality. Plus, the study’s large size helps parse other health factors, particularly smoking, that may conceal coffee’s protective effects.

Something to think about:

“Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute.”

–       Josh Billings


Windows 10 Threshold 2 – Still waiting for Windows 10 or need to clean install or make a backup copy? You can create your own Windows 10 installation media using either a USB flash drive or a DVD with this download.

This installer will download Windows which is actually about 4 GB.

Before you begin install make sure you have:

Sufficient data storage available on a computer, USB or external drive for the download.

A blank USB or DVD (and DVD burner) with at least 4 GB of space if you want to create media. We recommend using a blank USB or blank DVD, because any content on it will be deleted.

If you will be installing Windows 10 for the first time, you will need your Windows product key.

Editor’s Note: While Microsoft offers a 32 bit and 64 bit download, both will let you choose Home or Pro editions as well as 32 or 64 bit. Be sure to select your language as English is NOT the default. Downloading it and burning it only to see it’s Croatian is a bummer (or so I am told) .

In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Encryption Is Being Scapegoated To Mask The Failures Of Mass Surveillance – Well that took no time at all. Intelligence agencies rolled right into the horror and fury in the immediate wake of the latest co-ordinated terror attacks in the French capital on Friday, to launch their latest co-ordinated assault on strong encryption — and on the tech companies creating secure comms services — seeking to scapegoat end-to-end encryption as the enabling layer for extremists to perpetrate mass murder.

There’s no doubt they were waiting for just such an ‘opportune moment’ to redouble their attacks on encryption after recent attempts to lobby for encryption-perforating legislation foundered. (A strategy confirmed by a leaked email sent by the intelligence community’s top lawyer, Robert S. Litt, this August — and subsequently obtained by the Washington Post — in which he anticipated that a “very hostile legislative environment… could turn in the event of a terrorist attack or criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement”. Et voila Paris… )

Speaking to CBS News the weekend in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks, former CIA deputy director Michael Morell said: “I think this is going to open an entire new debate about security versus privacy.”

“We, in many respects, have gone blind as a result of the commercialization and the selling of these devices that cannot be accessed either by the manufacturer or, more importantly, by us in law enforcement, even equipped with search warrants and judicial authority,” added New York City police commissioner, William J. Bratton, quoted by the NYT in a lengthy article probing the “possible” role of encrypted messaging apps in the Paris attacks.

Congressman: To stop ISIS, let’s shut down websites and social media – US Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) has a plan to stop terrorists: shut down websites, including social media networks.

Barton today asked Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler if the commission can shut down websites used by ISIS and other terrorist groups. Barton didn’t name any specific sites but said that “we need to do something” because of the terrorist attack in Paris.

“ISIS and the terrorist networks can’t beat us militarily, but they are really trying to use the Internet and all of the social media to try to intimidate and beat us psychologically,” Barton said. Addressing Wheeler during an FCC oversight hearing held by the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, Barton continued:

Isn’t there something we can do under existing law to shut those Internet sites down, and I know they pop up like weeds, but once they do pop up, shut them down and then turn those Internet addresses over to the appropriate law enforcement agencies to try to track them down? I would think that even in an open society, when there is a clear threat, they’ve declared war against us, our way of life, they’ve threatened to attack this very city our capital is in, that we could do something about the Internet and social media side of the equation.

Wheeler answered, “I’m not sure that our authority extends to picking and choosing among websites, but I do think there are specific things that we can do,” with Barton interrupting to ask, “Do we need on a bipartisan basis to give additional authority to shut sites down?”

Brandis warns of even less privacy for Australians – Islamic State has declared war and made life harder for liberal democracies, and as a consequence, Australians will have to accept further limitations on their privacy, Australian Attorney-General George Brandis said on Wednesday morning.

Asked if Australia was at war, Senator Brandis told the Nine Network: “Absolutely. ISIL have declared war on us.”

“We would be fools not to take them at their word and to take whatever steps are necessary to protect our civilisation,” he said.

Senator Brandis said Australians may have to “calibrate their attitudes” on privacy.

“There will be occasions in which we will have to accept greater limitations, greater impediments to personal privacy,” he told the Seven Network.

Under Brandis’ tenure as Attorney-General, Australia passed legislation that mandated the collection and storage of call records, assigned IP addresses, location information, billing information, and other customer data stored for two years for warrantless access by law enforcement.

Pointing up    Time for Australia to put the boots to these bastards!


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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Monday – November 16, 2015

How to delete anything from Facebook;  Google, Verizon, and Sprint are Offering Free Calls and Texts to France;  The best non-Instagram photo editing apps;  Google wants to add ‘not encrypted’ warnings to Gmail;  New Chrome exploit threatens Android with complete control hack;  How to securely wipe an Android smartphone or tablet;  The best hidden features in Windows 10’s major update;  Windows 10 disk images let users skip wait for November upgrade;  Snapchat Now Sells Selfie Lenses For $1;  YouTube, YouTube Music, YouTube Gaming, YouTube Kids: What’s the difference?  Walmart’s $10 Smartphone Has Better Specs Than the Original iPhone;  Five Windows 10 privacy settings that have been falsely vilified;  BitLocker encryption can be defeated with trivial Windows authentication bypass;  Gmail Android App Bug Lets You Send Emails Pretending To Be Someone Else;  Badware in the firmware all over the place;  Watch This Guy Explain Bitcoin to Judge Judy;  Video: Repairing stuff with adhesives.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Google, Verizon, and Sprint are Offering Free Calls and Texts to France – A number of brands have royally bungled their responses to disasters, but every so often a company does solidarity right. This is the case with Google and a handful of other telecommunications companies such as Verizon and Sprint, which are all offering free international calling and/or text messaging to France so that families can check in on loved ones in the aftermath of the terror attacks that claimed over 120 lives in the French capital. Google’s timely response was particularly commendable, with the organization tweeting just a few hours after the initial attacks that they had made calls to France on Hangouts and Project Fi free for the duration.

How to delete anything from Facebook – I like to periodically go through my Facebook account and delete everything that’s older than a couple of years. The reason — I just don’t think it’s necessary to keep a running record of the stupid stuff I say in passing on social media, and it seems like more of a liability than a tool I’ll one day use to reminisce. In performing these purges, I’ve found that Facebook makes it (unnecessarily) complicated to find and delete older data from your profile. So here’s a handy guide on how to delete everything from Facebook.

How to securely wipe an Android smartphone or tablet – Getting rid of your current Android smartphone or tablet, but want to make sure that all your data has been securely deleted. Here’s what you need to know.

4 ways to save a web page on an iPhone or Android phone – Instead of bookmarking a URL that might disappear tomorrow, try saving a web page—permanently—to your Android or iOS handset.

Five to Try: YouTube Music and Apple Music put their own unique spin on the streaming formula – Music launches lead the week, but there are other Android app releases worth exploring too.

10 apps that already support awesome Android 6.0 Marshmallow features – Android 6.0 Marshmallow is just starting to show up in the world, but some developers are already busy adding support for the neat stuff in Google’s latest release. Some important Marshmallow features like granular permissions and Google Now On Tap just work without developer action, but that’s not the case for everything. Here are 10 apps that are already updated to take advantage of Marshmallow’s coolest features.

Windows 10 disk images let users skip wait for November upgrade – Microsoft this week posted links to disk image files in .iso format for Windows 10’s first upgrade, giving users a way to install the latest version of the OS without waiting for the company to push the code via Windows Update. With a disk image, users can create installation media — such as a flash drive or DVD — for one-off or multiple-device migrations to Windows 10, or to reinstall the operating system over a corrupted copy. The .iso files — which for the English edition were sized at 2.8GB for the 32-bit version, 3.7GB for the 64-bit version — can also be used to boost Windows 10 from July’s original RTM (release to manufacturing) to November’s 1511, the in-OS label Microsoft has applied using its new yymm release dating identifier.

The best hidden features in Windows 10’s major update – Microsoft’s first major Windows 10 update debuted yesterday with some new features and changes. Most of the additions are obvious, but there are a few hidden away. Here are several Windows 10 features you might not have discovered yet.

The latest Windows 10 update makes activation way easier than before – Activating your copy of Windows 10 has gotten far less tedious in Microsoft’s first major update for the operating system. You no longer have to start by upgrading from a previous install of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 to get Windows 10 properly activated under Microsoft’s free-for-a-year policy. Now, the company will recognize any valid activation key from those prior versions (or Windows 8) and grant you a “digital entitlement” that makes your install of Windows 10 fully legitimate.

YouTube, YouTube Music, YouTube Gaming, YouTube Kids: What’s the difference? – YouTube decided to spin off individual apps dedicated to its popular genres of video, music, gaming and kids, while still keeping the main apps too. All of the apps are free, but with a $10 monthly YouTube Red subscription you’ll get rid of ads and unlock special extra features, which I’ll outline below. And remember, YouTube Red and Google Play Music subscriptions are interchangeable, so if you pay for one service, you get both. Each app has its own tricks and tools for the optimal experience. Let’s break down the differences and why you’d want to use each.

Walmart’s $10 Smartphone Has Better Specs Than the Original iPhone – Walmart is now selling a TracFone-branded LG smartphone that costs $9.82 (it also ships free if your online order total tops $50). Now, there are a few reasons why you may not want such a smartphone—for one, it’s running an outdated version of Android that may make it vulnerable to hackers—but there’s no denying that it represents something pretty special.

You can check out Walmart’s page here  –


The best non-Instagram photo editing apps – Instagram may be the most popular photo-based social network, but it’s not the best app for editing your pictures. Here are five free photo editing alternatives to spruce up your pics — even if they don’t end up on Instagram.

Costco Black Friday 2015 ad includes $230 15.6-inch Acer Chromebook among laptop deals – The warehouse giant emphasizes higher-priced notebook specials over bargain portables and tablets, though it is offering $300 off a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 bundle.


Best Buy adds more Black Friday 2015 PC deals, including $130 Acer Windows 10 laptop – Best Buy is trying a new wrinkle in the fight for Black Friday mindshare. The electronics retailer released its ad earlier in the week, but is now a back with a “wait, there’s more” approach, adding 300 more deals. While none are for Apple Macs or iPads, staples of its Black Friday ads, there are a handful of new PC specials. Most notable is a Windows 10 laptop at a low, low price. The Acer One is a 10.1-inch notebook with Intel Atom processor, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of built-in storage for $129.99, or $70 off today’s price.

Analyze battery usage with Windows 10’s Battery Saver – Battery Saver enables you to drill down on specific apps to determine their impact on battery life. Here’s how it works.

Snapchat Now Sells Selfie Lenses For $1 – Snapchat recently launched selfie lenses after acquiring Looksery. Every day, a new lens is added and an old one is removed from the current lineup of seven. The company now also showcases around 30 other lenses that you can buy for 99 cents and keep forever. As a reminder, here’s how you activate selfie lenses. When you’re using the front-facing camera, long press on your face to turn on selfie lenses. Then, you can press on a lens at the bottom to preview it, and then shoot a snap. Lenses range from rainbow vomit to scary monster faces.


Facebook Ups Its Sticker Game As The First Paid Packs Arrive For Messenger – In a move that may seem trivial, but could be indicative of the future, you can now buy paid-for stickers inside Facebook Messenger. Facebook itself isn’t leading offering stickers directly, but it is working closely with a third-party — Singapore startup PicoCandy — to offer a selection of new emoji and sticker packs, some of which will cost $0.99 or $1.99.


PowerPoint gets ‘Designer’ slides, new Morph tool – PowerPoint presentations aren’t hard to make, but they’re rarely attractive. Microsoft aims to change that, and has introduced two new tools as part of its effort: Morph and Designer. The tools have arrived first for Office 365 subscribers, with Morph offering seamless animation and Designer using smart image analysis to automatically suggest attractive, professional slide designs.


Microsoft’s Office Insider program lets you test tomorrow’s Office today – Insider builds for Windows and Android are now available for Office 365 subscribers, but Mac users will have to wait a few months.

5 Secrets for Writing the Perfect Out-of-Office Email – Heading out on vacation? Writing an effective out-of-office automatic reply is as much an art as it is a science.

Beagle sensors monitor a home’s health quality – Sensors that monitor the inside of one’s home or office are nothing new, but most of them focus on security, not health. While there are indoor health monitoring devices, they usually come as a single device, which needs to be placed in a centralized region in the building or house. Beagle is different, serving as a home quality system composed of a base station and various sensors that can be added on to it. Beagle sensors are able to monitor various aspects of one’s home, including the temperature and air quality (namely, CO2 levels), air pressure, outdoor noise, humidity, light levels, and indoor noise. The sensors are puck-shaped and about router-sized, and can be placed wherever the desired monitoring is needed.


Five Windows 10 privacy settings that have been falsely vilified – Headlines shout about Windows 10 privacy settings as though they’re a matter of life and death. But are they really? Mark Kaelin doesn’t think so.

How to create and deliver tweetstorms the easy way – Want to create a multi-paragraph rant on Twitter, but find the service’s native apps too limiting? Try these web apps instead.

Report: Facebook AI could alert parents when sharing kid pics – Facebook could be working on a feature that would alert parents when they share a photo of their children on the social network. The feature seems to be geared toward safety, making parents aware, when applicable, that anyone can see the shared images of their children. This is part of Facebook’s larger work with deep learning and artificial intelligence, something that has been used to create other photo-centric features.


FBI denies paying $1 million to unmask Tor users – The accusation that the FBI paid university researchers $1m to break the anonymous browsing service is “inaccurate” — but which part, exactly?

Pointing up     There are lessons from Toronto’s infamous ex-Mayor Rob Ford’s school of truth in this one – I’m telling you the truth – you’re just not asking the right questions. 

New Chrome exploit threatens Android with complete control hack – A security researcher, speaking at the PacSec conference in Tokyo, has revealed his discovery of a critical exploit in the latest version of Chrome for Android that could allow an attacker to gain total control of a user’s device. Even the latest phones running the most up-to-date version of Android can fall victim to the hack, which is carried out when a user visits a website that has a line of malicious code.

BitLocker encryption can be defeated with trivial Windows authentication bypass – Domain-joined Windows computers that use BitLocker should be patched as soon as possible. When domain-based authentication is used on Windows, the user’s password is checked against a computer that serves as domain controller. However, in situations when, for example, a laptop is taken outside of the network and the domain controller cannot be reached, authentication relies on a local credentials cache on the machine.

CoreOS open sources Clair, the vulnerability scanner for your containers – Container-friendly Linux vendor CoreOS has spent the last six months developing a scanning tool that checks for vulnerabilities in containers, and it’s open sourcing the code for the whole community. Dubbed Clair, the software analyzes each container layer for known vulnerabilities in Red Hat, Ubuntu, and Debian. The code creator then receives a report if a flaw is spotted, along with a link to the latest software database(s) where a fix can be found. The need for such a tool is clear, Polvi said. The firm’s own data showed that well-known vulnerabilities like Heartbleed were found in 80 per cent of the Docker images stored on Quay, CoreOS’ hosted container repository service.

Gmail Android App Bug Lets You Send Emails Pretending To Be Someone Else – An unusual bug in Gmail’s Android app allows anyone to make their email look like it was sent by someone else, and might open the door to dangerous phishing emails. The flaw was discovered by independent security researcher Yan Zhu, who reported it to Google at the end of October. The bug only works within the regular Gmail Android app. To take advantage of it, you simply change your display name in the account settings, then your real email address will be hidden, and the receiver won’t be able to reveal it.

Beware of ads that use inaudible sound to link your phone, TV, tablet, and PC – Privacy advocates are warning federal authorities of a new threat that uses inaudible, high-frequency sounds to surreptitiously track a person’s online behavior across a range of devices, including phones, TVs, tablets, and computers. The ultrasonic pitches are embedded into TV commercials or are played when a user encounters an ad displayed in a computer browser. While the sound can’t be heard by the human ear, nearby tablets and smartphones can detect it. When they do, browser cookies can now pair a single user to multiple devices and keep track of what TV commercials the person sees, how long the person watches the ads, and whether the person acts on the ads by doing a Web search or buying a product.

Intel Security’s 2016 Threat Prediction report flags ransomware as biggest emerging security risk – IMAGINE a hacker stealing your personal information or taking over your computer and holding it ransom until you deliver them a requested amount of money. This is the harsh reality many Australians will face next year with the growing cybersecurity threat known as ransomware gaining momentum. The warning comes as part of Intel Security’s 2016 Threat Predictions report, which reflects the insights of 33 cyber security leaders from within the company. (recommended by Mal C.)

Conficker is back – and it’s infecting police body cams – A US IT security company says it found copies of the Conficker malware infecting police body cameras. Florida-based iPower reports that body cameras it received from supplier Martel Electronics were loaded with 2009’s baddest botware. Researchers Jarrett Pavao and Charles Auchinleck found that when plugged into a PC, the Martel cameras attempted to execute the Worm:Win32/Conficker.B!inf variant. While any PC running an even remotely up-to-date antivirus package would be able to detect the Conficker attempt, unguarded machines could still be infected. What’s worse, iPower says the malware was present in the cameras before it received the units.

Badware in the firmware all over the place – This is really no surprise: embedded system vendors aren’t good at carrying out quality assurance on their firmware images, and their embedded Web server software is what you’d expect from something written in the last 20 minutes of Friday afternoon. And it’ll be no surprise to The Register’s readers that the bugs land in all sorts of stuff, from SOHOpeless broadband devices to CCTV cameras and VoIP phones.

Pointing up    I don’t mean to discourage you – but, these few news items above don’t begin to touch on the reality of the current security nightmare. For additional information take a look at the The US-CERT Cyber Security Bulletin – Vulnerability Summary for the Week of November 9, 2015.

Company News:

Hulu reportedly in talks to sell a chunk of itself to Time Warner – The rumored discussions are focused on the possibility of Time Warner investing $1.25 billion in Hulu in exchange for a 25-percent stake.

Evernote’s Freshly Minted COO Linda Kozlowski Is Leaving The Company – Evernote made a name for itself as the platform where you could store your ideas and notes for life, and beyond. But the same permanence does not apply to the people who work there. We’ve confirmed through multiple sources that Linda Kozlowski, Evernote’s COO, has put in her notice and will be leaving the company by the end of this year. It’s the latest in a series of recent twists and turns at the popular startup: this year has seen Evernote appoint a new CEO, face layoffs, close offices, and kill off products.

Tim Cook insists Apple is ‘open’ after black teens asked to leave store, report says – CEO says it’s unacceptable that the teens were asked to leave an Apple store because they “might steal something,” according to a memo published by Buzzfeed.

Apple’s App Store Gets A Smarter Search Engine – A number of mobile app developers and industry observers recently noticed a significant change in the way the Apple App Store’s search algorithms are returning results. Developers say that, following a series of shifts that took place beginning on November 3, app search results now appear to be more intelligent and far more relevant – especially among the top results – than in previous months. This new change is focused more on how apps are returned when users type in keywords to find an app – something that’s becoming a more common way to find apps in a crowded app store featuring over a million mobile applications. According to studies, at least half of iOS apps are found through search.

FanDuel And DraftKings Fight Back, File Lawsuits Against NY Attorney General – After NY’s Attorney General ordered DraftKings and FanDuel to cease and desist all operations in the state, the two companies have responded, filing lawsuits seeking an injunction against the order.

Apple Confirms It Will Open A Retail Store In Singapore, Its First In Southeast Asia – Apple has confirmed that it will open its first retail store in Southeast Asia, located in Singapore, as the U.S. phone maker begins to increase its efforts in the region’s fast-growing smartphone market.

Facebook to use Safety Check feature more often in wake of criticism – The social network’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the status tool will be used more often during human disasters, following outcry over the company not activating it during the bombings in Beirut.

Games and Entertainment:

SteamOS gaming performs significantly worse than Windows, Ars analysis shows – With this week’s official launch of Valve’s Linux-based Steam Machine line (for non-pre-orders), we decided to see if the new OS could stand up to the established Windows standard when running games on the same hardware. Unfortunately for open source gaming supporters, it looks like SteamOS gaming comes with a significant performance hit on a number of benchmarks.

Fallout 4 shipped $750 million worth of copies at launch – Ever since Destiny showed that modern day, big budget games can make an obscene amount of money during launch day, we’ve come to expect popular titles to help construct Scrooge McDuck-style money vaults for game developers and publishers. Fallout 4 is obviously a popular, bid budget title, and it was no surprise that Bethesda would make out like bandits when the game finally hit tangible and digital shelves. It turns out Bethesda made out not like bandits who robbed a bank, though, but bandits that robbed a chain of them. Bethesda’s nuclear post-apocalyptic opus shipped a staggering $750 million worth of copies on launch.

Welp, It Took a Whole Day to Get ‘Fallout 4’ Nude Mods – Welp, Fallout 4 has only been out for three days, but the game already has its first nude mods. Believe it or not, it’s not unusual for modders to create nude mods for games soon after or even on the day of release. If you want to find out how they do that, and why, in April we interviewed the owner of Lustful Illumination, who creates nude mods for many video games. Sadly, all the nude mods here are for the women in the game only. Modders: please step it up and allow me to play as a naked dude. It’s only fair.


Watch ABC streaming app said to be getting exclusive series – With more of the US’s major TV broadcasters getting serious about their future in the world of streaming media, it seems one strategy that’s starting to surface is offering original shows and content exclusively for subscribers and/or mobile apps. CBS just recently announced such a move, with a brand-new Star Trek series coming exclusively to their All Access digital subscription service in 2017. Now, according to Variety, ABC is looking to do something similar, with a new show planned for their Watch ABC app.


Halo 5 drives Xbox One to the top selling spot in October – While Sony continues to lead the overall sales battle with Microsoft, the power of big exclusives was apparent in October. According to Microsoft’s Aaron Greenberg, who leads the Xbox games marketing team, the Xbox One outsold the PlayStation 4 in the US in October. While we don’t have concrete sales figures—NPD doesn’t publicly publish the data that Greenberg references—Microsoft says that Xbox One sales were 81 percent higher than in the same month last year. The reason, of course, is Halo 5.

AMD’s Radeon Fury graphics cards claw back marketshare from Nvidia’s GeForce lineup – AMD is still playing catch-up with Nvidia, but in trying times like these any gain still counts as a gain over its more dominant rival.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Video: Repairing stuff with adhesives – In this quick video I address some of the most commonly asked questions with regards to adhesives.


The best places to install smoke detectors (and how to make them less annoying) – Installing fire detectors in your home is vital to home safety. But chances are you don’t have enough smoke detectors in your home. The one-and-done approach isn’t enough for the typical family household. Find out how many smoke detectors you need, where to place them and what kinds are available.

Microsoft Invented Google Earth in the 90s Then Totally Blew It – Terraserver could have, should have been a product that ensured Microsoft would remain the world’s most important internet company well into the 21st century. It was the first-ever publicly available interactive satellite map of the world. The world’s first-ever terabyte-sized database. In fact, it was the world’s largest database for several years, and that Compaq was—physically speaking—the world’s largest computer. Terraserver was a functional and popular Google Earth predecessor that launched and worked well before Google even thought of the concept. It let you see your house, from space. So why aren’t we all using Terraserver on our smartphones right now?


Steam Controller configured to allow disabled gamer play Skyrim with one hand – The Steam Controller, as well as the new Xbox One Elite controller from Microsoft, are truly revolutionary for disabled gamers in that they allow complete button re-mapping and customization, letting those who don’t have full use of their hands reach and use the controls necessary to play a game. The Steam Controller especially allows levels of customization never seen before, and one user demonstrates this by creating a layout for playing the hit game Skyrim with one hand, fulfilling a request from another disabled player.

Watch This Guy Explain Bitcoin to Judge Judy – Hey, did you watch Judge Judy on Thursday? No? First of all, what the hell, because Judge Judith Sheindlinis a salty, problematic treasure and you should cherish every moment of 90s daytime TV detritus before she retires. Secondly, you missed a spiky-haired dude mumble his way through an explanation of Bitcoin while testifying. On a show that thrives on petty criminality and outsized drama, this was an inevitable occurrence. Because, just like Judge Judy itself, those two things encapsulate a lot of what goes on in the world of Bitcoin pretty much every every day.


Screengrab: YouTube

World’s first floating wind farm will be near Scotland – While Morocco busies itself with building the largest concentrated solar farm in the world, Scotland is focusing on a similar record of its own — the world’s first ever floating wind farm will be located off the Scottish shores, using ocean winds to generate power for those in the nation. The wind farm will be located 25 kilometer offshore, with production being slated to start in 2017.


Ford’s Active Noise Control works like noise-canceling headphones – Ford has detailed its Active Noise Control system, likening it to conventional noise-canceling headphones in its functionality. The system, which will debut in the Ford Mondeo Vignale, uses sound waves to cancel out other intrusive sounds, such as noise coming from the engine or wind. In due time, the auto maker will roll out this technology in some of its other models, though the company did not elaborate on those plans.


Doctors Could Use Snot Instead of Blood for Diagnostics—Why Don’t They? – Nasal mucus carries many substances that are also used in blood and urine tests, sometimes in greater concentrations.

Something to think about:

“Where facts are few, experts are many.”

–     Donald R. Gannon


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License: The license associated with this product allows for free personal use only. Use on multiple PCs in a corporate, educational, military or government installation is prohibited. See the license agreement for details.

The personal system screenshot below, shows only a small portion of the data collected by this excellent application. Just purchased a new computer? Then, run Belarc Advisor to make sure you got what you paid for.


In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

A Look at France’s New Surveillance Laws in the Wake of the Paris Attacks – After the Charlie Hebdo massacre in January, France passed its controversial “Intelligence Bill,” allowing it to increase its surveillance powers. Now, in the wake of the devastating terrorist attacks that have left Paris in mourning for the second time this year, it’s worth re-examining how the law might be put into action as intelligence-gathering accelerates.

The legislation, which was passed by French parliament in May, drew such strong opposition from the public that France President François Hollande referred it to the nation’s Constitutional Council, which finally gave it the go-ahead in July. It has been likened to the US Patriot Act, and though French Prime Minister Manuel Valls chafes at the implication, it’s easy to see the basis for the comparison.

Like the Patriot Act, the French law allows the government to monitor phone calls and emails of terrorism suspects without obtaining a warrant. It also requires internet service providers to collect metadata, which is then processed by an algorithm to detect strings of suspicious activity—a page taken right from the NSA’s playbook.

Google wants to add ‘not encrypted’ warnings to Gmail – Google is getting ready to alert Gmail users when messages are received in the clear instead of encrypted, in response both to slow adoption of encryption by some hosts, and apparent hostility to encryption in some countries.

Seven countries – Tunisia, Iraq, Papua New Guinea, Nepal, Kenya, Uganda and Lesotho – should be regarded as dangerous places to send e-mails to, according to Google’s research.

In all of those cases, “STARTTLS stripping” – forcing the sending machine to skip encryption and degrade the communication to plain text – results in more than 20 per cent of messages arriving without protection.

Most of them are in the twenties, from Lesotho (20.25 per cent) to Iraq (25.61 per cent), but Tunisia is a standout: it degrades e-mail communications back to clear text in 96.13 per cent of cases.

As readers will remember, the world is just catching up with the idea that e-mail security is lagging far behind our use of encryption for other services.

Google’s multi-year project, published by the Association for Computing Machinery, comes to a similar conclusion: there’s a long tail of servers managed that aren’t keeping up with the need to encrypt.

If You Want Tech Freedom, Congress Needs To Change A Law – Freedom is critical to the economic engine of Silicon Valley, but laws are not often written to preserve it.

A federal decision in October let consumers unlock cell phones, tinker with their tablets and hack into some aspects of their connected vehicles’ software — as long as they don’t break other laws.

Unfortunately, this decision has to be renewed every three years, through a long and arduous process. It’s time for that to change.

Thanks to the aging Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), consumers can’t “circumvent” software or other “technological measure[s]” in devices they have already purchased, even to diagnose or repair the software, unless the Librarian of Congress, upon the recommendation of the Register of Copyrights and after an enormous public rulemaking, blesses that category of software and devices with a DMCA exemption. If not, even innocuous hacking of software in your cell phone, connected car, connected tractor, medical device or tablet could make you a criminal.

Where cops can track your location without a warrant – Cell site location data can provide police with a rough idea of a suspect’s location during a given time period, or even in real time, and its use in cases like Davis’ has become a rallying cry for activists around the country. Multiple robbery cases have already turned into major circuit court battles over such data, resulting in a range of decisions governing how it can be used. And that broad legal patchwork has turned into something even more complicated, as various lower courts across the country have also made rulings governing how and when the data can be obtained. The result is that a Texas cop doesn’t need a warrant for some data, while a Montana cop does; Indiana police need the information in certain circumstances, but there are no protections for the information in Wisconsin.


Turkey blocks access to Reddit under controversial censorship law – The Turkish government has officially blocked access to Reddit. Users first reported last night that they were unable to access the social media site, and as of Saturday the ban still appears to be in effect. It’s not clear how long the block will remain in effect.

An official government site confirms the ban with a generic message that reads, “After technical analysis and legal consideration … administration measure has been taken for this website.” The note is dated November 13th.

According to the statement, Reddit was taken down under Turkey’s controversial internet censorship law, known as Internet Law No. 5651. Under the law, Turkish Supreme Council for Telecommunications and IT (TIB) can ban websites and block internet content for a handful of reasons, including anything involved with pornography, prostitution, drugs, terrorism, illegal file sharing, sexual abuse of children, and “crimes against” Mustafa Atatürk, the first president of Turkey. The TIB doesn’t require court authorization to ban sites on these grounds, and it can do so even if it has just a “suspicion” that such activities are occurring.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Friday – November 13, 2015

The Edward Snowden guide to practical privacy;  Firefox finally comes to iOS;  Battery myths that need to die;  Microsoft building data centers in Germany that US government can’t touch;  Five super-easy IP traffic monitoring tools;  Hobbled Cortana arrives in Canada, Australia, Japan, and India;  First Impressions Of YouTube’s New Music App;  Google’s new About Me page helps you control how your personal info is shared;  Who makes the best home-security camera?  Appeals court allows NSA bulk phone spying to continue unabated;  Roku is Launching a New Streaming TV Box That Will Only Cost $25;  Apple Apologizes For Alleged Racist Incident;  10 Games Every Sony PlayStation 4 Player Needs;  Hack to cost UK’s TalkTalk up to $53 million;  Google Input Tools (free);  From Australia to Mexico, 34 Countries Ranked on Quality of Life;  Windows 10 November Update: features, fixes.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

The Edward Snowden guide to practical privacy – If you want to limit how much governments and companies know about you and your private life, then use Tor, download specific apps and plug-ins, encrypt your hard drive, and use a password manager. Those are among the tips provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in an interview with “digital bodyguard” Micah Lee. The interview, published on The Intercept, is interesting in that it provides a practical guide for protecting your privacy from the very mass surveillance that Snowden revealed in his huge leak of US government documents. The guide covers everyone from the typical concerned citizen to someone who may be handling highly sensitive documents. Here are the highlights:

These Are the Governments That Request (and Block) the Most Facebook Content – The requests for user data and the blocking of content by governments have increased significantly since last year. Facebook on Wednesday released its biannual Global Government Requests Report for the first half of 2015, detailing the number of times governments have asked the company for information on its millions of users and also asked for certain content to be blocked. The report, which covers 93 countries and encompasses the period from January to June this year, shows the U.S. far outstripping the others with 26,579 requests for user data — of which Facebook provided 17,577 or just under 80%. India and the U.K. were second and third in that regard, with 6,268 and 4,489 requests, respectively.

Windows 10 November Update: features, fixes, and enterprise readiness – The Windows 10 November update is available now to everyone running Windows 10. This first major update has a handful of visible features, a variety of bug fixes, and even some enterprise features. Microsoft’s message to businesses is that if they were following the traditional policy of waiting for the first Service Pack or major update to Windows before deploying it, this is it: time to take the plunge. It’s also the time for gamers to make the switch too—in parallel with this release, Microsoft is rolling out the new Xbox Experience, which is based on Windows 10, and gives the dashboard a big shake-up.


Hobbled Cortana arrives in Canada, Australia, Japan, and India – Users of Windows 10 in Canada, Australia, Japan, and India will be able to make use of Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana, from today. However, Cortana will not be as capable in these geographies as it is in Microsoft’s native US, and for Canadian and Indian users, Cortana will only be available in English.

Microsoft admits Win 10 tries unauthorized install on Win 7/8 pcs – Microsoft says that the fault lies in a bug in the automatic update codes that went out to Windows 7 and Windows 8 users back in August. This issue left error code 0×80240020 in the log files when the attempts failed. Microsoft says that the bug has now been fixed. This is the second issue that cause upgrades to Windows 10 that users didn’t specifically approve. A previous update ticked the upgrade to Win 10 box and Microsoft called that an accident.

Google’s new About Me page helps you control how your personal info is shared – People concerned about how much information is out there about them on Google have a new way to control what everyone can see. Without any fanfare, Google has begun rolling out an About Me page to make it easier for people to control what others can see about them across Google services.

Mac App Store authentication error causing ‘damaged’ software – An increasing number of Mac users are getting messages today when trying to open apps purchased from OS X’s App Store that the software is “damaged” and can’t be opened. It seems the issue started appearing as early as Wednesday evening, and can affect a range of popular apps, including Acorn, Tweetbot, 1Password, and Byword. As the error message states, users are getting around the issue by deleting and re-downloading the apps, but it doesn’t seem to work for everyone.


Patch Tuesday Windows security update rendered Outlook unusable for many – Users of Microsoft Outlook for Windows reportedly ran into numerous problems on Wednesday, after Microsoft issued a buggy—but critical—security patch. As noted by ZDNet, users reported that the program became crash-prone after installing update KB3097877, particularly when loading HTML messages. In some cases users would see only a black screen when trying to log in. The problems reportedly occurred in all versions of Outlook on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, but Windows 10 appeared to be unaffected.

Let Disk Usage & Storage Analyzer zero in on what’s eating up your Android device’s space – Every once in awhile you come across an app and wonder, “Why haven’t I been using this all along?” That’s what happened when I discovered Disk Usage & Storage Analyzer for Android. This tool will easily keep track of what is gobbling up precious space on your mobile device. Anyone that has found their smartphone dangerously full knows how helpful an app like this can be. Yes, Android has a built-in tool for this purpose, but it’s not exactly helpful. If you want to really get granular and interact with files, you need Disk Usage & Storage Analyzer.

Five super-easy IP traffic monitoring tools – For system admins, one of the most important tasks is keeping an eye on the network. When things go bad in your world, a rogue ne’er-do-well could be the cause. Whether that malicious entity is a hacker, a compromised system, or a bad piece of hardware, it’s essential to sniff out the issue. To that end, you need the right tools. One of the first tools you might turn to is an IP traffic monitoring tool. The good news is that there are tons of these tools ready to serve you. The bad news… some of them are a bit complex. That’s why I thought I’d find the easiest IP traffic monitoring tools and list five of them for your network monitoring pleasure.


First Impressions Of YouTube’s New Music App – Today YouTube launched an official music app. With YouTube Music, you’ll get a new experience, designed to make discovering music on YouTube easier. This doesn’t come as a huge surprise, considering the popularity of music videos on the site, which boasts access to a potential audience of over 1 billion people around the globe.


Twitter Doing More With GIFs, Introduces Feature Called “ScratchReel”– Twitter tweeted out a new toy for you to play with for video called “ScratchReel.” Basically, it lets you scrub a short GIF back and forth for cool effects.

Who makes the best home-security camera? We test 6 new models to find out – A boom in wireless security cameras is inspiring a movement in DIY home surveillance. Follow our buying guide and read our reviews to find the best option for you.


Firefox finally comes to iOS – At long last, Firefox has come to iOS. Rather unusually, this is the first version of the Firefox browser that does not use the Gecko layout engine, instead using iOS’s built-in WebKit-based layout engine. The app is available as a free download from the App Store.

Walmart Black Friday 2015 ad includes $29 Android tablet, $399 iPad Air 2  – The retailing giant will also have plenty of bargain Android tablets available for as little as $29, along with a $199 Windows 10 laptop.

Office Depot, OfficeMax Black Friday 2015 ad includes $90 Windows tablet, $95 Chromebook deals – The office superstore chain will be selling a Toshiba Windows 10 laptop for as little as $119.99 and a Lenovo desktop as low as $169.99.

Bluetooth to Get Significant Speed, Range Boost in 2016 – The leading Bluetooth organization tipped four times better range and a 100 percent increase in speed.


Hack to cost UK’s TalkTalk up to $53 million – TalkTalk Telecom Group in the U.K. expects the financial impact of a recent cyber attack to be up to £35 million (US$53 million) but said the people affected may have been far less than had been earlier expected.

Gmail Will Soon Warn Users When Emails Arrive Over Unencrypted Connections – Gmail already defaults to using HTTPS for the connections between your browser and its servers, but for the longest time, the standard practice for sending email between providers was to leave them unencrypted. If somebody managed to intercept those messages, it was pretty trivial to snoop on them. Over the last few years (and especially after the Snowden leaks), Google and other email providers started to change this and today, 57 percent of messages that users on other email providers send to Gmail are encrypted (and 81 percent of outgoing messages from Gmail are, too). Gmail-to-Gmail traffic is always encrypted.

Now cybercriminals are using video ads to plant malware – Cybercriminals have been delivering malware through online display ads for years, but they appear to be making headway with a new distribution method: video advertisements. Both methods of attack, known as malvertising, can have a broad impact and are a major headache for the ad industry. A single malicious advertisement, distributed to several highly trafficked sites, can expose tens of thousands of computers to malware in a short time. Some ad networks and publishers have taken steps to vet their ads more thoroughly, but criminals are constantly on the lookout for weaknesses. An attack detected about two weeks ago shows how cybercriminals are showing more interest in creating malicious video ads.

Mac ransomware is nothing to worry about—for now – Security researchers say a second experiment showing how easy it is to write ransomware for Apple Macs isn’t surprising, so it’s likely that hackers will eventually target Apple computers with it.

India triples content banning on Facebook as governments increase user data requests – Facebook’s transparency report for the first six months of the year has seen India restrict more than 15,000 pieces of content, as globally, governments continue to increase requests for user data.

Self-encrypting drives are hardly any better than software-based encryption – If a laptop using a self-encrypted drive is stolen or lost while in sleep mode, the security of its data can’t be guaranteed.

Company News:

Alibaba Hit $14.3B In Total Sales On Singles’ Day, With 69 Percent Made On Mobile Devices – Alibaba Group reaped $14.3 billion in sales during Singles’ Day, a 54 percent increase from last year’s tally of $9.3 billion. The most significant number from yesterday’s annual shopping bonanza, however, is not how much Chinese consumers spent, but what devices they used to make purchases from Alibaba’s marketplaces. According to the company, which runs China’s largest e-commerce marketplaces, more than half, or 69 percent, of gross merchandise volume (or total sales) were made on mobile devices like smartphones, compared to 42.6 percent last year.

HomeAdvisor parent company IAC makes bid to acquire Angie’s List – IAC said the combination of Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor would create a home services platform with more than $700 million in revenue. But Angie’s List has rebuffed the offer.

Apple Apologizes For Alleged Racist Incident – Apple has apologized for an alleged incident of racism at an Australia store. Footage from a store in Australia made the rounds on social media Tuesday, BBC reports, showing six black school children being asked to leave the store for fears of shoplifting. In the video, a staff member at the Apple store says, “”These guys are … just a bit worried you might steal something…I need to ask you to leave our store.” The store manager reportedly apologized to the boys and to their school.

Fossil to buy fitness band maker Misfit for $260 million – Fossil Group on Thursday said it will acquire Misfit, a wearable-tech startup focused on fitness trackers, for $260 million. The deal weds Fossil’s fashion and watch-making know-how with Misfit’s technology, and underscores the growing importance of wearable products. It’s an area that has drawn heavy hitters from both sides, including tech giant Apple and luxury watchmaker Tag Heuer. Fossil could tap into Misfit’s resources to build fitness trackers that are more aesthetically appealing.

Will GM be the first US automaker to import a car built in China? – According to sources close to General Motors, the domestic automaker giant is planning on bringing a new midsize Buick crossover to the US market. Unlike other crossovers, though, this one will be a direct import from China, making GM the first American manufacturer to import a car from the Middle Kingdom. The Wall Street Journal reports that Buick will import between 30,000 and 40,000 units of the Buick Envision to the United States each year.

Games and Entertainment:

Roku is Launching a New Streaming TV Box That Will Only Cost $25 – Roku’s new device will be the among the cheapest streaming TV devices yet—if buyers snag it before it sells out during Black Friday weekend. The company unveiled the Roku SE on Nov. 11, a limited-edition set-top box that will cost $25 on the shopping holiday. The box officially launches on Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 26, and will be available through the weekend while supplies last.


Fix New Xbox One Experience issues with this guide – Today, Microsoft released the New Xbox One Experience, and while it seems to be going smoothly for most, there are some people that are plagued with issues ranging from voice controls not working to being unable to sign into your account. Don’t worry though, Microsoft is already addressing these issues. To go along with the update, Microsoft has published a page of troubleshooting tips for the New Xbox One Experience. Thankfully most of the issues that the troubleshooting tips address are relatively minor, and the fixes are pretty easy.

Minecraft tipped to make Wii U debut – It looks like the mega-popular game Minecraft is about to make its debut on a new platform: Nintendo’s Wii U. A listing for the game has been found on the website for PEGI, the video game ratings association for Europe, complete with a release date of November 12th, which happens to be today. While it’s not clear if the latest version of Minecraft really will be available in the next few hours, what is scheduled for today is a Nintendo Direct livestream announcement.


‘Fallout 4’ Released Yesterday, But Modders Are Already Making Cool Stuff – Judging by the mods that are already out there, Fallout 4 is likely to get the same kind of support from the modding community. It’s only been out for a day, and modders are making little tweaks to the wasteland. Cruising through the modding website and community NexusMods, these are the Fallout 4 mods that caught our eye so far:


10 Games Every Sony PlayStation 4 Player Needs – “Greatness Awaits” has served as PlayStation 4’s tagline since Sony launched the console in late 2013, but little did the gaming populace realize that it also referred to the long, long wait for high-quality, next-generation titles. That’s not to say that PlayStation 4 has a bad library, but many of the console-exclusive games that people desire—Street Fighter V$59.96 at Amazon, Uncharted 4: Thief’s End—are slated to appear next year. That said, if you plan to buy PlayStation 4 this holiday season, there are a handful of excellent titles worth picking up.

The failure of the Xbox One’s backwards compatibility – The Xbox One has received the “New Xbox One Experience” today with a huge system update that overhauls the interface, puts the system on a Windows 10 backbone, and adds backwards compatibility for Xbox 360 games. Adding backwards compatibility is great news (that sort of started with the release of Rare Replay, not the system update). The list of backwards compatible games isn’t. The list blows. Let’s look at exactly why.

Off Topic (Sort of):

True or false? Battery myths that need to die – Battery technology may not have changed much in the last couple decades, but common knowledge is even worse. Many people believe the limitations of nickel-based batteries that were prevalent in the early ’90s still apply to the more modern lithium ion and lithium polymer technologies we use today. Here are some common battery myths.

Google Self-Driving Car Pulled Over For Going Too Slow – The internets lit up today when someone posted a photo of a cop talking to someone in a self-driving car. Yep, it got pulled over. Why? According to Google, it was going too slow. According to the original poster, the Mountain View police officer didn’t get the memo on these things patrolling the streets, so of course wanted to know why the thing was going so damn slow:


4 ways humans will live and collaborate with robots – Humans and robots have a precarious yet unavoidable relationship. This was one idea underpinning Minds and Machines, the opening topic of the Next: Economy event on Thursday in San Francisco. The set of talks covered automation and how it will or won’t affect various aspects of our lives. Here are four takes on the relationship between humans and robots.

Chattanooga just discovered the dark web, and it is freaking out – It must be sweeps week in Tennessee, because Chattanooga’s WTVC pulled out all the stops for a series about why you should be afraid of the internet. “Computer gurus say there is a place they can go to dig up some of the internet’s oldest websites,” says WTVC’s Calvin Sneed, and — wait. What is this story about? “And visit chat rooms you cannot access through a normal Google search.” Old websites? Exclusive chat rooms? Co-anchor Kim Chapman steps in to raise the stakes even higher. “Chattanooga police say that part of the internet can also be a crime-ridden place that many people don’t even know exists.” Hope you’re sitting down, Tennessee, because the internet exists, and your children might be using it. Take it away, WTVC reporter Hannah Lawrence!


From Australia to Mexico, 34 Countries Ranked on Quality of Life – The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), makers of the Better Life Index (not to be confused with the World Happiness Report) have put together an interactive chart showing how 34 countries fare against each other across 11 categories. The categories, deemed essential by the OECD for measuring quality of life, are housing, income, jobs, the quality of the country’s community, education, environment, civic engagement, health, life satisfaction, safety, and work-life balance. Unsurprisingly, Scandinavian countries rank highly on the chart. Australians, however, have beaten pretty every country for providing the best balance across all categories, save for work-life balance and income.


Dubai firefighters get jetpacks to battle skyscraper fires – Being a firefighter in Dubai just got a lot more interesting. The city is home to many skyscrapers, and battling fires that result high up in these skyscrapers is not easy when you’re on the ground. To remedy that situation, the city will equip its firefighters with jetpacks, enabling them to get to upper levels much more quickly than they would using traditional methods. The jetpacks can handle weights up to 265lbs, and are able to take off and fly vertically, meaning they’ll take a firefighter up to the higher level, but there won’t be any zipping around like Iron Man. Operation can be performed using a remote control or a pilot.


Dumb Cuneiform preserves your fleeting tweets in ancient symbols – Some tweets deserve to live forever. A new service translates your best Twitter compositions into characters from thousands of years ago to be preserved on tablets. Not the iPad kind, the clay kind.


20 unusual things you can clean in the dishwasher – If your dishwasher is just cleaning dishes, then it isn’t living up to its potential. There are many things you can safely wash in a dishwasher. Any of these listed items can go through a “normal” wash cycle, unless otherwise noted. And, of course, use common sense when cleaning nonconventional items in the dishwasher — if you plan to clean an item on this list, inspect it for any plastic components that might not withstand the heat of a normal wash cycle.

Something to think about:

“There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.”

–     Booker T. Washington    (1856 – 1915)


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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

Appeals court allows NSA bulk phone spying to continue unabated – The nation’s only successful challenge to the National Security Agency’s bulk telephone metadata surveillance program lasted just one day, as a federal appeals court is allowing the constitutionally suspect program to continue unabated.

The day-long constitutional victory Monday impacted a handful of American lawyers but was blocked Tuesday by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The government said it would have to shutter the entire program because it was technologically incapable of immediately sifting out the lawyers from the hundreds of millions of people the NSA was routinely spying on. So instead of shuttering the program altogether, the appeals court acquiesced to the government’s concerns and blocked enforcement (PDF) of the lower court’s Monday order.

The outcome means that not a single person has successfully convinced the US court system to halt the surveillance program NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden divulged in the summer of 2013. There were plenty of constitutional challenges, too, but none resulted in a decision like Monday’s where a federal judge had ordered the NSA to immediately cease spying on the plaintiffs in a lawsuit.

NSA whistleblower: No software is ‘safe from surveillance’ – William Binney doesn’t have a membership card to the small group of which he’s a part — people who have spoken out against the National Security Agency, and been left relatively unscathed — but at least he has the next best thing, a valid passport.

The former National Security Agency official, who spent three decades of his life in espionage — and is said to have been one of the reasons why Edward Snowden took and handed thousands of classified documents to journalists two years ago — still talks about his time in the intelligence community.

“The biggest threat to US citizens is the US government,” said Binney in a Reddit “ask me anything” session on Wednesday.

Which in itself would be a bold claim if it weren’t for the most recent revelations, which we can thank his whistleblowing “successor” for.

Canada: Edward Snowden speaks to Queen’s students via Skype – Receiving astounding applause, Edward Snowden appeared on screen at Queen’s University stage via Skype as the keynote speaker for the Queen’s Model United Nations Invitational on Thursday night.

The security-agency whistleblower, who now lives in exile in Russia, first thanked the professors and students involved with organizing the conference, moderated by Dr. David Lyons, who directs the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queens. Then he thanked the online Twitter community for ensuring that he received the invitation to speak at Queen’s — something he had missed at first — as an example of the importance of public opinion.

“Too often, when we are engaging in society we don’t get to seem to get the right response. By working together, and if we amplify our voice… we can get results.”

Snowden, a hero or a criminal depending on your point of view, began to lay down a brief history of the “growing up in the shadow of the NSA (National Security Agency)” and coming from a family with deep roots in the U.S. military. “When I started working for the government, I was really a true believer,” said Snowden. “I swallowed propaganda entirely.”

Microsoft building data centers in Germany that US government can’t touch – Microsoft has launched a new kind of cloud service in Germany where user data is controlled by a “data trustee” operating under German law. Microsoft is unable to access user data without the permission of the data trustee or the customer, even if it is instructed to do so by the US government. If permission is granted by the data trustee, Microsoft will still only do so under its supervision. The idea behind the new data trustee-based cloud services is presumably to address European concerns that the NSA and other US agencies could demand access to any user data stored using Microsoft’s current cloud services.

According to Microsoft’s press release, the data trustee for the new German cloud offerings is T-Systems, a subsidiary of the giant telecom company Deutsche Telekom. Timotheus Höttges, Deutsche Telekom’s CEO, is quoted as saying: “Microsoft is pioneering a new, unique, solution for customers in Germany and Europe. Now, customers who want local control of their data combined with Microsoft’s cloud services have a new option, and I anticipate it will be rapidly adopted.”

Two new data centres are being built: one in Frankfurt am Main, the other in Magdeburg. Both will offer Azure, Office 365, and the Dynamics CRM Online cloud services from the second half of 2016. The two locations will be connected by a private network, separate from the Internet, in order to ensure that data never leaves Germany as it moves between them—for example, to provide automatic backups. Microsoft says the new offering is aimed particularly at European companies and organisations working with sensitive data, such as those in the finance and health sectors.

Tor Project: US government paid university $1m bounty to hack our networks – The Tor Project is claiming that researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) were paid a hefty bounty by the FBI to stage an attack last year aiming to unmask the operators of the network’s hidden servers.

“We have been told that the payment to CMU was at least $1 million,” the group said in a blog post.

In July 2014 the Tor Project revealed that it had been the victim of a six-month hacking campaign which sought to flood the network with relays that modified Tor protocol headers to track hidden servers. Within a week Tor updated its software and pushed out new versions of code to block similar attacks in the future.

The attack was limited in that it didn’t monitor entry and exit nodes to the Tor network, but could have been used to trace traffic patterns to hidden sites by the academics-for-hire. But the Tor Project is fuming that the FBI used the university to circumvent federal hacking laws.

“Such action is a violation of our trust and basic guidelines for ethical research. We strongly support independent research on our software and network, but this attack crosses the crucial line between research and endangering innocent users,” said the group.

“This attack also sets a troubling precedent: civil liberties are under attack if law enforcement believes it can circumvent the rules of evidence by outsourcing police work to universities. If academia uses ‘research’ as a stalking horse for privacy invasion, the entire enterprise of security research will fall into disrepute.”

The UK’s international snooping plan is probably going to end in failure, again – The UK government is making a dramatic expansion of its internet surveillance efforts, in the space of less than 18 months trying to bring international tech companies firmly under the remit of its spy legislation.

But the attempt is unlikely to succeed, like its other attempts to make overseas companies hand over their customers’ data and communications.

Because millions in the UK now use services like Apple’s iMessage and Whatsapp — which are based outside of the UK and use strong encryption — the UK government says there is a large, and growing gap, in the ability of law enforcement to intercept and read communications.

It has been trying to close this gap with updates to its internet surveillance regime.

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

Tech Thoughts Net News – Wednesday – November 11, 2015

7 ways hackers can use Wi-Fi against you;  All Windows users should patch these two new ‘critical’ flaws;  Apple Music is available on Android right now;  10 cost-effective ways to quickly beef up your company security;  NSA: We Disclose 91 Percent of Security Bugs We Find;  Google giving away goodies to Chromecast, Chromebook, and Android TV owners;  Don’t Freak Out When a Smartphone App Asks for Permission;  Get more out of Android Marshmallow with these tips and tricks;  This free fix will stop Cryptowall 4 from holding your PC hostage;  Periscope Gets Better Maps, Skip Ahead And 3D Touch Shortcuts;  Trim Will Find Your Subscriptions, Cancel Those You No Longer Want;  Own a Vizio Smart TV? It’s watching you;  Here are the first 100+ backward-compatible Xbox 360 games;  10,000 historic phonograph cylinder audio recordings hit the web for free;  Zemana AntiLogger Free.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

All Windows users should patch these two new ‘critical’ flaws – Out of the dozen patches, four of the security vulnerabilities are considered “critical” and should be patched immediately.

7 ways hackers can use Wi-Fi against you – Wi-Fi — oh so convenient, yet oh so dangerous. Here are seven ways you could be giving away your identity through a Wi-Fi connection and what to do instead.


Image courtesy Thinkstock

Don’t Freak Out When a Smartphone App Asks for Permission – A study from the Pew Research Center published Tuesday found that Android apps in the Google Play store make 235 different types of permission requests between them. The knowledge that apps request permission to access your phone and, in some cases, personal data, isn’t a new revelation. But Pew’s study is a reminder of how important it is to read an app’s permission requests before installing it. If a simple app like a calculator is asking for something it shouldn’t need, like access to your location or contacts list, that’s a red flag it’s doing something it shouldn’t be doing.

Chrome to end support for Windows XP, Vista, and OS X 10.8 on April 2016 – If you use Chrome on an older operating system, your browser could stop getting updates in just a few months. Google’s official Chrome Blog announced that it will be ending support for Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Mac OS X 10.6, 10.7, and 10.8 in April 2016. Chrome browsers on those operating systems will continue to work, but they will stop getting updates from Google.

Google giving away a batch of goodies to Chromecast, Chromebook, and Android TV owners – The rewards just keep on coming if you’ve bought into Google’s ecosystem. Here’s a roundup of the latest deals.

Get more out of Android Marshmallow with these tips and tricks – Learn how to mute notifications, change your default Web browser, customize the Quick Settings tray, and more on Android Marshmallow.

Apple Music is available on Android right now – It’s the day that Apple Music fans and Android users have been waiting for: Apple’s new streaming music service is now available to download from the Google Play store. This is Apple’s first major service to arrive on Android as an app, but the third overall, following the release of Move to iOS earlier this year, and the recent launch of the companion app for the Beats Pill+ speaker.

Google Maps is adding offline navigation and search starting today – Offline search and navigation was one of the biggest announcements at I/O this May — and now, nearly six months later, that feature is finally reaching users. Today, Google Maps will roll out a new offline mode allowing for driving directions and search. It’s designed to fit seamlessly alongside the online version of Maps, allowing data connection to drop in and out without interrupting the app itself. The new features will begin rolling out to Android users later today, and Google says the iOS rollout will follow “soon.”

Pre-Order the $99 Oculus-Powered Samsung Gear VR Now – The device works with Samsung’s flagship Galaxy phones, including the Note 5, S6 Edge+, S6, and S6 Edge.


Periscope Gets Better Maps, Skip Ahead And 3D Touch Shortcuts Including ‘Teleport’ – Some pretty notable updates for Periscope, the live broadcasting service owned by Twitter, just dropped today. Included among the new goodies for users of Periscope for iOS is teleporting, a feature courtesy of 3D Touch support that will transport you to a random part of the world and drop you right into a broadcast from there. In line with making the experience more global, Periscope’s world map for locating broadcasts has been updated to include more livestreams — it was previously capped at 250 — and also replays of streams from within the past 24 hours. That’ll massively ease discovery, and allow you to look back at breaking news events to get a more local, eyes-on-the-ground perspective.

Trim Will Find Your Subscriptions, Cancel Those You No Longer Want – Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Birchbox, Spotify, HBO NOW, newspapers, box of the month clubs, meal services, and more: The rise of subscription-based commerce means consumers now pay for a number of items on a recurring basis. But even a few dollars spent here and there have a way of adding up, and eating into your household’s budget. A new startup called Trim wants to help you better track all the subscriptions you pay for, and easily cancel those you don’t need. And it does all this over text messaging.

Tumblr launches instant messaging on Android, iOS, and the web – Tumblr users can finally carry on real time conversations with one another. Today the company announced that instant messaging launches today across Android, iOS (assuming you’ve got the latest versions of each app), and the web. But it’s not immediately available to everyone; Tumblr says it’s taking a “viral” approach to rolling out messaging. It’s giving the new feature to 1,500 users to start. Everyone those people message will also gain the new function, and the chain goes on from there. “You’ll receive the messaging feature when a friend who has it already messages you, passing it along,” reads a new support page with more specifics on messaging.

Fb Messenger’s Facial Recognition “Photo Magic” Reminds You To Send Friends Photos Of Them – We are busy and lazy, so we forget to send friends the photos we take of them. But Facebook Messenger‘s newest feature Photo Magic scans your newly taken photos with facial recognition, and immediately notifies you with an option to send pics to friends that are in them. The test is rolling out in Australia today on Android and later this week on iOS, before reaching other countries if people enjoy it. Chief Messenger David Marcus says it will be available in the US soon.


Try these 15 PowerPoint keyboard shortcuts for masterful slide creation – A good PowerPoint presentation has a lot to do with what you see on that deck, and how it was put together. These keyboard shortcuts will make it all easier.

Easily share a web page on your next tech support call with Shove for Chrome – No matter how little you think you know about computers, if you read tech news sites you inevitably become somebody’s PC support line. The worst calls are the remote ones where a family member on the other side of the country regularly needs help. With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, here’s a tool you can install on your friend or family member’s PC to make remote help easier.


Amazon Echo to be sold at over 3,000 US retail stores – With Black Friday quickly approaching in the US, and thus the onslaught of the holiday shopping season, Amazon has just announced that its Echo, the internet-connected speaker and digital assistant, is making a formal move from the online marketplace to the physical retail environment. Amazon says that in the near future over 3,000 stores will begin selling the Echo, including Home Depot, Staples, Sears, BJ’s, P.C. Richard & Son, Brookstone, RadioShack, and Fred Meyer locations.

T-Mobile’s Binge On frees Netflix and Hulu from data caps, but not YouTube – T-Mobile USA will exempt a list of video streaming services from monthly data caps with Binge On, a feature that could let some subscribers watch more clips and shows without buying a more expensive plan.


So You’ve Been Breached – Breaches happen the way Hemingway said you go bankrupt: gradually then suddenly. There is no telling where and when a hacker can enter your servers and there is no telling when or where all of your customer’s private information will appear – whether neatly packaged for sale on the dark web or splashed on a torrent site. All that is clear, however, is that breaches affecting millions of people are now commonplace and smart companies are getting hit all the time. We are getting punched full of holes as surely as if we were orbiting the Earth through a field of space debris. And, according to experts, the pace is not letting up.

10 cost-effective ways to quickly beef up your company security – Is your company security a bit on the lean side due to a budgetary shortfall? Here are some affordable ways to prop up that weak security and protect your data.

This free fix will stop Cryptowall 4 from holding your PC hostage – Known as Cryptowall 4, the ransomware infects Windows machines, encrypts files, and demands users cough up crypto-cash to unlock their documents. The new variant, thought to have been developed by Russian hackers, emakes it even harder to crack the files by scrambling file names. Romanian antivirus firm Bitdefender said Monday it has developed a “vaccine” that can prevent a user from becoming infected with the malware. The tool, which can be downloaded for free from its site, does not undo the damage if the malware has already infected a machine, and only applies to the latest Cryptowall 4 malware.

Apple and Google remove third-party Instagram app that stole hundreds of thousands of passwords – Third-party app InstaAgent was found to be storing users’ Instagram usernames and passwords in an unencrypted form, before sending them on to unknown servers by iOS developer David L-R, who posted his discovery on Twitter late last night. Google responded quickly to the revelation, removing the app from its Play Store, but Apple took a little longer to kill any mention of InstaAgent from the App Store, finally removing it a few hours after the first tweets indicated its malicious intentions. While Instagram warns against using third-party apps to access your profile for precisely this reason, InstaAgent promised extra features for its users, including the ability to see who was viewing your profile.

Official Premier League Fantasy Website Pushes Malvertising – Soccer, or rather football aficionados in the UK may have had their computers infected whilst browsing the Premier League’s official fantasy website fantasy.premierleague.com. A malicious advert displayed on the sports portal which draws in over 16 million visitors per month according to SimilarWeb automatically redirected unsuspecting soccer fans to the Nuclear exploit kit. The Flash-based ad for a British yacht company was hosted on a highly suspicious server and distributed over https, making detection at the firewall or gateway much more difficult because it would encrypt the content of the page.


Own a Vizio Smart TV? It’s watching you – Vizio’s Smart TVs track your viewing habits and share it with advertisers, who can then find you on your phone and other devices. The tracking—which Vizio calls “Smart Interactivity”—is turned on by default for the more than 10 million Smart TVs that the company has sold. Customers who want to escape it have to opt-out. In a statement, Vizio said customers’ “non-personal identifiable information may be shared with select partners … to permit these companies to make, for example, better-informed decisions regarding content production, programming and advertising.”

Comcast resets passwords after logins posted to dark web, but denies breach – Comcast will reset passwords for about 200,000 customer accounts, after some valid user accounts were posted online. About 590,000 purported login and password combinations were put up for sale on a dark web marketplace over the weekend. But about one-third of those were active, working logins, the company confirmed. The broadcast and media giant denied it had fallen victim to a data breach. It’s not clear where the data came from. With a sizable minority of valid information taken, it’s possible that a third-party company may have suffered a data breach, leading to the leak of some valid information.

USB Killer ruins your computer in the name of security – Want to make your desktop or laptop more secure? There’s a new gadget you can buy that will help — by frying all of its USB ports. That’s the pitch for USB Killer, though the description is a bit more colorful on the IndieGogo campaign page. It’s billed as “an entirely new concept in the field of data security” that can “permanently stop data theft on any computer.” Well, any data theft that’s done through a USB port, anyway. It can’t do a damn thing to prevent wireless attacks, it can’t stop a remote attacker from breaching your system, and it doesn’t permanently scramble the contents of your hard drive. What USB Killer will do is permanently cook any port you plug it in to. Oh, and there’s a slight chance that it might also damage your system’s mainboard, but apparently that’s the price you pay for the ultimate in security.


New encryption ransomware targets Linux systems – The antivirus software company Doctor Web has issued an alert about a new form of crypto-ransomware that targets users of Linux-based operating systems. Designated as “Linux.Encoder.1” by the company, the malware largely targets Web servers, encrypting their contents and demanding a ransom of one Bitcoin (currently about $500). Many of the systems that have been affected by the malware were infected when attackers exploited a vulnerability in the Magento CMS. A critical vulnerability patch for Magneto, which is used to power a number of e-commerce sites, was published on October 31. Doctor Web researchers currently place the number of victims in the “at least tens” range, but attacks on other vulnerable content management systems could increase the number of victims dramatically.

With just a password needed to access police databases, the FBI got basic security wrong – Someone in the FBI’s own IT department is probably having a very bad week. Hackers earlier this month were able to access a US law enforcement arrest database, and posted screenshots to Twitter — including some high-profile arrestees, like hacker Jeremy Hammond, convicted for his part in the Stratfor leak. It wasn’t just that arrest database. The hackers, according to Wired, also gained access to a police file transfer service, and an instant messaging service for police, and a real-time intelligence-sharing platform, among others.

Three Men Indicted In U.S. Over Last Year’s Massive J.P. Morgan Hack – Three men were charged in a 23-count indictment in connection with the 2014 hacking of J.P. Morgan Chase and multiple other financial institutions. Gery Shalon and Ziv Orenstein were first arrested in Israel in July. The third man, Joshua Samuel Aaron, is a U.S. citizen who attended school in Florida and then lived in Tel Aviv and Moscow. The charges, first reported by Reuters, include computer hacking and wire fraud. 83 million household and business accounts were jeopardized in the J.P. Morgan breach last year. According to the indictment, the victims of the hack were in New York, Boston, Omaha, St. Louis and Charlotte.

Company News:

Alibaba sales hit $5B in first 90 minutes of ‘Singles Day’ promotion – An annual sales promotion on China’s biggest online shopping site is off to an spectacular start with $5 billion of goods sold in just 90 minutes. That’s equal to more than half of last year’s total sales volume of $9.3 billion for the entire day and close to the 2013 all-day total of $5.8 billion. Alibaba’s “Singles Day” is an attempt to get customers who are single to buy themselves gifts and has taken place for several years on Nov. 11, chosen for its numeric date of 11/11.

Microsoft Goes For Another Israeli Security Firm Buying Secure Islands – Israel is a small country with a thriving security startup industry, and Microsoft appears to be have a taste for them. Today it announced an agreement to buy Secure Islands, its third Israeli security firm in the last year. While Microsoft did not reveal a specific price, various reports peg the deal at between $77 million and $150 million. Microsoft made the announcement official in a company blog post this morning. Secure Islands gives Microsoft a way to secure data across services, including its Office 365 and Azure cloud products. It’s not exactly a big secret that security is top of mind for everyone these days with high profile breaches coming on a regular basis.

Overstock.com Down 6% On 3rd-Quarter Earnings – Overstock.com reported third quarter earnings after the bell Monday. The Utah-based discount e-tailer reported a quarterly loss of 8 cents per share or $2.1 million, down from $1.6 million in profit last year. Overstock brought in $391.2 million in revenue, an 11% increase year-over-year, but beneath the Yahoo Finance analyst estimate of $401.6 million. A 9% increase in total orders coupled with a 2% in order size, contributed to the rise in sales. In a statement, CEO Patrick Byrne cited a change to Google’s search algorithm, which is negatively impacting growth. “While we work to adapt to Google’s changes, we are increasing our emphasis on other marketing channels, such as sponsored search and display ad marketing, which are generating revenue growth but with higher associated marketing expenses than natural search,” said Byrne.

Qualcomm details Snapdragon 820: Phones, drones and VR — There’s a lot riding on the Snapdragon 820; it’s fair to say Qualcomm hasn’t had the home-run success with the Snapdragon 810 that it might have hoped for. Questions about the chipset’s heat output, not to mention some high-profile defections from flagship device makers like Samsung, cast a shadow over the 810’s roll-out.


Google Offers Up Its Entire Machine Learning Library as Open-Source Software – Via its research blog, Google announced on Monday that it was releasing the second generation of its machine learning framework as an open-source library called TensorFlow. “The most important thing about TensorFlow is that it’s yours,” write Google Technical Lead Rajat Monga and Google Senior Fellow Jeff Dean. “We’ve open-sourced TensorFlow as a standalone library and associated tools, tutorials, and examples with the Apache 2.0 license so you’re free to use TensorFlow at your institution (no matter where you work).”

Uber And Lyft Join Forces With The White House To Offer Free Rides To Veterans – Just before Veterans Day, Uber and Lyft are teaming up with the U.S. government to offer free transportation to former military men and women who lack a way to get to jobs and interviews. Lack of adequate transportation is one of the major problems affecting the veteran population, particularly homeless veterans.

Games and Entertainment:

Here are the first 100+ backward-compatible Xbox 360 games – The full list, copied below, is dominated by downloadable Xbox Live Arcade titles and classic re-releases from even older systems. There are a few high-end retail best-sellers on there, though, including Fallout 3, Fable II, and the entire Gears of War series. Microsoft also promises that Xbox One support is “on the way” for more “fan favorites,” including Halo Reach, Halo Wars, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Bioshock, Bioshock 2, Bioshock Infinite, and Skate 3. Newly compatible titles will be announced “on a regular basis” starting in December, and users can send in specific requests for games they want added to the list using Microsoft’s online form.


Pixar’s going back underwater with first ‘Finding Dory’ trailer – There will undoubtedly be lots of swimming in “Finding Dory,” the highly anticipated upcoming sequel to the Oscar-winning 2003 animated feature “Finding Nemo.” Pixar released an official new trailer for “Finding Dory” on Tuesday, giving a sense of the adventures that Dory and company face this time around in the deep blue sea.


The new Tomb Raider lets Twitch viewers influence the gameplay – The just-launched Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox One may be a largely single-player experience, but if you stream it on Twitch other people will be able to get in on the action as well. As part of a new feature, the new Tomb Raider will allow Twitch viewers to interact with the game they’re watching, influencing the gameplay at specific points.


Ultra-addictive space dots game Auralux returns with “Constellations” – One of the most addicting games on any platform, Auralux, is about to get a sequel. This game will be called Auralux: Constellations, and it’ll have the same gameplay mechanics at its base, but will work with ever-so-slightly modified graphics and the ability to play multiplayer. Therein lies the key to the expansion of this already-excellent game. Another completely separate game, this time coming with the ability to battle your buddies.


10 upcoming indie games you should be most excited about – The quality of indie games continues to skyrocket, and these are the ones you should be most excited about.


The Time Project

Fallout 4 review: Won’t set the world on fire, but might start a (tiny) flame in your heart – Fallout 4 goes down easy, but only because we’ve already played this exact game twice before.

Off Topic (Sort of):

10,000 historic phonograph cylinder audio recordings hit the web for free – Over 10,000 audio recordings from over 100 years ago have recently been digitized by the University of California, Santa Barbara since they began hosting their Cylinder Audio Archive online. And for the first time, all the recordings have been made available for easy search and download to us average non-collegent Joes and Janes.


Surgical simulators get Hollywood special effects – What’s creepy to one person can be lifesaving to another: Boston Children’s Hospital teamed up with Hollywood special-effects artists to create lifelike simulators to train surgeons on complex, high-stakes operations. Two new trainers are under development and were unveiled at the hospital’s Pediatric Innovation Summit in Boston. These will join Surgical Sam and other simulators.


Jawbone user data shows Indians sleep less than most westerners – The US-based wearables company has been compiling data on the sleeping and walking habits of its Indian Jawbone Up users, reporting that they rest and walk less than many westerners.

Overcoming our auto-petulance – We all are asked to do things we don’t want to do at work. If your reaction is to just not do them, you are in danger of harming more than just your career.


Sony Says Farewell to Betamax Cassettes – Yes, you read that right. Sony this week said it will finally stop producing Betamax cassettes in March 2016. Sony, which has been selling Beta cassette tapes in Japan for the past four decades, announced Tuesday that it will finally stop producing them in March 2016. So, this means if you’re still in possession of the vintage VCR, and a compatible video camera, you better stock up on some of the remaining cassette tapes pretty soon if you ever want to produce new content for your Betamax again.


10 reasons why IT support will cause you to lose your hair – Working in the world of PC support isn’t like working the average job or career. Yes, it’s incredibly rewarding. But it’s also challenging on numerous exhausting levels. During your career in IT or PC support, you will experience situations that might make you want to run straight for the unemployment line. What situations could do this? Let me lay out a few and see if some of them don’t send stripes of white cascading through your hairline.


The ITC does not have authority over the internet, according to Federal Circuit – The internet has one less regulator, thanks to a ruling passed down this morning from The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. According to the decision, the United States International Trade Commission does not have the authority to regulate information on the internet, blocking what many advocates saw as a major threat to the open web. Thanks to its broad powers, the ITC has become an increasingly popular venue for patent and copyright disputes, but its jurisdiction traditionally only extends to physical goods as they pass over borders. This latest case looked to change that, with potentially profound implications for data as it crosses international borders.

Foil vs. parchment vs. wax paper: Here’s when to use them – You probably know that foil is silver and parchment paper and wax paper are, well, waxy, but does your knowledge about them end there? These three kitchen staples have a variety of uses that can make cooking time much simpler. Here’s the difference and tips on how you should use them.


Something to think about:




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In Pursuit of Freedom – The Pushback Continues:

NSA: We Disclose 91 Percent of Security Bugs We Find – The good news: the National Security Agency (NSA) says it discloses more than 90 percent of the harmful, Web-based bugs its discovers. The bad news: the agency likely waits until it has used those vulnerabilities to its advantage before disclosing them.

In an infographic made public recently, the NSA shares how it collects security information and ultimately disseminates it to those affected. The government agency says it performs regular security checks on products like smartphones, tablets, computers, and other devices, and reveals 91 percent of the vulnerabilities it discovers. The remaining 9 percent are either fixed in the time since the issues are discovered or are not disclosed for “national security reasons,” the agency says.

But as Reuters pointed out, that’s probably not the whole story. It cited current and former U.S. government officials, who said the NSA likely exploits these bugs as much as it can before making them public.

UN privacy head slams ‘worse than scary’ UK surveillance bill – The United Nations’ new privacy head has slammed the UK’s draft surveillance bill, calling it “worse than scary.”

Speaking at the annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Brazil, special rapporteur on privacy Joe Cannataci referred to the Investigatory Powers Bill as the “Snooper’s Charter” and accused the UK government of an orchestrated campaign to get hold of new mass surveillance powers that the evidence shows will not prevent terrorism.

The outspoken chief also accused “father of the internet” Vint Cerf of being “dumb” by claiming that modern privacy “may be an anomaly.” The claim that anonymity only occurred in modern time with the move to big cities was “pure, undiluted rubbish,” said Cannataci.

Giving a presentation at an open forum on the Right to Privacy in The Digital Age, Cannataci was highly critical of a number of recent efforts by countries to expand surveillance, including France’s new law created following the attack at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, but he focused in on the UK and the surveillance bill currently going through Parliament.

Tim Cook: UK crypto backdoors would lead to ‘dire consequences’ – IPB Apple boss Tim Cook has once again warned of what he says would be the “dire consequences” of opening up backdoors to allow spies to access our data.

He said it would be wrong for the UK government’s latest super-spy bid – the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, which landed in Parliament last week – to weaken cryptography.

Cook was speaking to the Daily Telegraph during a visit to London on Monday.

“It’s not the case that encryption is a rare thing that only two or three rich companies own and you can regulate them in some way. Encryption is widely available,” he told the newspaper.

“It may make someone feel good for a moment but it’s not really of benefit. If you halt or weaken encryption, the people you hurt are not the folks that want to do bad things. It’s the good people. The other people know where to go,” Cook added.

Facebook must stop tracking Belgian users in two days or be fined – $267K daily – A Belgian court yesterday gave Facebook 48 hours to stop tracking Internet users who do not have a Facebook account. If the US company refuses to comply, it faces fines of up to €250,000 (£177,000 or ~$267,500) per day.

“Today the judge… ordered the social network Facebook to stop tracking and registering Internet usage by people who surf the Internet in Belgium, in the 48 hours which follow this statement,” the Belgian court said according to AFP.

The judgment is a result of Belgium’s independent Privacy Commission taking Facebook to court for failing to comply with the country’s privacy laws, as Ars reported back in June. The Privacy Commission wanted Facebook to implement a number of changes to its operations, including refraining from “systematically placing long-life and unique identifier cookies with non-users of Facebook.” The commission always wanted Facebook to stop collecting and using user data through the use of cookies and social plug-ins unless it obtained an unambiguous and specific consent through an opt-in.

The demands were prompted by research carried out for the Privacy Commission, which found that Facebook tracked all visitors, even those who did not have an account or who had explicitly opted out of tracking. The court has now confirmed that the tracking cookie “is personal data, which Facebook can only use if the Internet user expressly gives their consent, as Belgian privacy law dictates.”

Weeks before NSA bulk phone spying ends, US judge (kinda) reins in program – US District Judge Richard Leon of the District of Columbia ruled Monday that a challenge to the program “will likely succeed in showing that the Program is indeed an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment.” But in that decision, the judge said the program, because of the legal posture of the lawsuit, could continue unabated—but with a caveat. The authorities have to stop scooping up the telephone metadata on J.J. Little, a Los Angeles trial lawyer, and his boutique firm of a handful of lawyers now at the center of the case that is as old as the Snowden disclosure.

All of which means that, nearly 2.5 years following Snowden’s revelation, a handful of Americans have beaten the NSA’s spy program. But it would be foolhardy to suggest that it’s anything close to a victory. That’s because the program, which has successfully beaten multiple court challenges, has been spying on hundreds of millions of people, has been modified by Congress, and will expire in its original form on November 29.

Nevertheless, Judge Leon talked a tough game in his 43-page ruling in a case that ping-ponged to the appellate courts and back.

Supreme Court declines to decide whether you need a warrant to get cell site data – On Monday, the Supreme Court allowed the nationwide legal confusion to continue regarding a bread-and-butter privacy topic in the digital age: whether the constitution demands that the authorities need a probable cause court warrant to obtain cell-site location data records of suspects under investigation.

That’s because the justices, without comment, declined (PDF) to consider the case of Florida man Quartavious Davis who got a life term for several robberies in a 2010. Prosecution in that trial built its case with Davis’ mobile phone’s location data, which the police obtained without a warrant from mobile provider MetroPCS. The data linked the man to several crime scenes. The government’s position on the topic is that Americans’ mobile devices can be tracked without the Fourth Amendment’s probable case standard being met.

For the moment, there is no clear legal standard on whether a warrant is required. Two federal appellate courts have ruled that no warrant was necessary (PDF), but a third appeals court said that warrants are required. That divergence of views normally is enough to create a so-called “split” in the appellate courts, which would necessitate Supreme Court intervention to resolve the conflict. But the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of privacy, set aside (PDF) its decision two weeks ago and agreed to rehear the issue.


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