Tag Archives: passwords

PTJ 174 News: Gloom and “DOOM”

No more tunneling to better streams? Netflix has announced it’s going to start blocking viewers using proxy servers and virtual private networks to get around regional restrictions on certain movies and TV shows.  Wired, however, has an article that casts a bit of doubt on Netflix actually being able to block out every type of VPN or proxy service out there. Ever feisty, Netflix also got into a little tussle with NBC over remarks made at a Television Critics Association press event this past weekend. A researcher at NBC Universal threw down the gauntlet by saying Netflix and its little herd of bingeable shows were not a threat to the traditional TV-viewership model and claimed to have ratings data on Netflix taken by a third-party company. Netflix execs, however, gave it right back to NBC, saying its survey was based on “really remarkably inaccurate data.

Also in the world of subscription services, the WhatsApp messenger service is dispensing with the 99-cent annual subscription fee and making itself available for free. And supposedly, without ads.

primeairAmazon has now enabled its voice-commanded Alexa assistant on its tubular Amazon Echo devices to read Kindle books out loud for free. The feature works with a number of Kindle titles, but don’t expect the melodious tones of a professional audiobook narrator here – it’s the Robot Lady Voice reading them to you. Also in Amazon Land: Amazon’s vice president for global public policy recently had a chat with Yahoo’s David Pogue about how Amazon Prime Air, the company’s infamous drone delivery program, is coming along; they at least have new press photos of the drones, as shown here. (Amazon, ever so busy, also announced this week that the first devices that use its Dash Replenishment service to automatically order new supplies for themselves are rolling out. Yo, better keep an eye on that printer so it doesn’t go buck wild with the toner orders.)

Apple bounced out the first beta of its upcoming iOS 9.3 software last week and the update has a lot of new features for something that doesn’t get its own big honkin’ Apple keynote event. Among others, the Macworld site wonders if Apple is perhaps changing its update strategy and just releasing a regular stream of substantial iOS improvements instead of saving them all up and making a big deal about everything at a press conference.

AOL may also be getting some changes — and perhaps even a new name. Verizon, which now owns the former America Online service, is said to be pondering an image makeover that could include a new name for the brand. Hopefully, a better logo will come along, too.

holoMicrosoft is slowly revealing more details about its coming Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality goggles. According to reports from a Microsoft event in Tel Aviv, the HoloLens will have a battery life of 2.5 to 5.5 hours, depending on the task at hand. The headset will also be able to run any universal Windows 10 app and hook up with just about any other gadget with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity.

Google is said to be testing the ability for Android users to install apps directly from the search screen in Google’s own eponymous — without having to go through the Google Play store. Because really, what could go wrong there?

The cable networks are readying their campaign teams for Election 2016, and Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio are banding together and combining their resources to bring their traditional no-nonsense approach to coverage. The PBS-NPR team-up, an early version of which was announced last year, will bring shared digital, video and audio content from the primary debates to election night to whatever happens after that.

In rocket news, SpaceX continues its testing with the Falcon 9 rocket — and getting it to land in one piece so it can be reused. After a successful Falcon 9 recovery from the ORB-COMM mission last month, a mission last week saw the returning rocket fall over and explode on the landing pad. Or, as SpaceX found Elon Musk tweeted, it had a “rapid unscheduled disassembly” event on the deck.

If you want a snapshot of how social media has evolved over the past decade or so, check out “The History of Twitter’s Rules” by Sarah Jeong on VICE’s Motherboard channel.  (Yes, trolls mucked a lot of things up.) Twitter, incidentally, had a service outage earlier this week.

And finally, old school gamers can go back to school now that one of DOOM’s creators, John Romero,  has created another level for the iconic first-person shooter after 21 years. Boom! DOOM!

P.S. Like tidy lists? Don’t miss the SplashData’s 25 Worst Passwords of 2015 and GeekWire’s Worst and Weirdest of CES 2016 observations. Both may boggle your mind, but for different reasons…

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PTJ 172 News: Wake-Up Call

Talk about your Rey of light! The seventh installment of the Star Wars franchise opened last Thursday night and went on to make $247.9 million dollars in its first weekend and broke several other records along the way, Many people stayed off the Internet and social media to avoid spoilers until they saw the film, and Google Trends set up a whole page of Star Wars: The Force Awakens-related lists based on the terms people were using in Google Search. The countdown for Rogue One (December 16th, 2016) and Episode VIII (May 26th, 2017) has begun!

Meanwhile, in a galaxy much closer to home, the folks at SpaceX must be breathing a sign of relief after the company was able to launch — and land — a Falcon 9 rocket in Florida this week. The rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, delivered 11 low-earth satellites into orbit for the ORBCOMM company and then returned safely and in one piece about 10 minutes later. After previous mishaps and an explosion earlier this year, SpaceX redesigned the Falcon 9 rocket and the company plans to reuse the booster for another mission. (Let’s hope they clean the crew cabin between flights, unlike some domestic airlines around here.)

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Like tarting up images and then sharing them online? Adobe, maker of Photoshop, has a new free iOS app called Adobe Post. It’s described in detail on an Adobe blog, and yes, the company says an Android version is in the works. As Macworld points out, though, you have to share the app with a friend to get rid of an watermark Post puts on your pictures. Also in picture news, Facebook is adding support for the Live Photos created by Apple’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models. While the new feature is slowly rolling out, only users with the iOS version of Facebook’s app will be able to see the mini moving pictures. Oh, well.

It sounds like Microsoft and Google are talking over each other, at least when it comes to the Cortana assistant app on Android devices. In a recent update to the app for the American version, Microsoft has disabled the voice-activated “Hey Cortana” feature apparently due to microphone conflicts with the “OK, Google” voice command. Microsoft also announced this week it was going to crack down on aggressive adware that makes PC users vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks. As of March 31st next year, Microsoft plans to yank or block adware that defies its policies.

The Nielsen folks have released their list of the top apps of 2015 as measured by the number of users.  Odds are, you’re probably using one or two of the winning apps.

visitorJuniper Networks, which makes firewall for business enterprise customers, had to issue the advisory last week that so company remotely related to online protection wants to release: the Security Bulletin outlining multiple issues with one of its products.  A short FAQ on the incident. patches and workarounds were also posted. Wired reports that researchers now think the National Security Agency was at least partially responsible, and cryptography expert Matthew Green even has a blog post describing how hackers used an existing back door to make one of their own. Also in government snooping news, Apple is pushing back at a bill in the United Kingdom that seeks to expand Parliament’s investigatory powers and could give the government the power to make Apple decrypt its iMessage service.

The Federal Trade Commission has chased down the Oracle Corporation and charged that the company bamboozled customers about the safety of security updates to its Java software.  Thanks to a legal order, Oracle must provide an uninstall tool so users can pry the old Java crapware off their systems and make sure future updates actually provide the promised security.

hellkittyAnother week, another database leak. And another one that involves information about kids — Hello Kitty, of all things. Several sites have reported on the incident, but the one called The Office of Inadequate Security over at www.databreaches.net and the Salted Hash site lay it down: “Database Leak Exposes the 3.3 Million Hello Kitty Fans.”  The issue was discovered by security researcher Chris Vickery, who has been having a banner year of fail-hunting, and appears to be more of a server misconfiguration thing rather than hacker tracks. Sanrio, the company behind Hello Kitty, posted a statement on its site saying credit-card info was not at risk and yes, they fixed the problem.

While passwords can be a pain, especially when they’re hacked, Google is experimenting with a new way of logging in via smartphone notification. Yahoo, which has had its own security problems, updated its Yahoo Mail mobile app last fall that also did away with passwords in favor of a push notification to a mobile device. Just don’t lose your phone.

Layoffs are a fact of life in the tech industry and Toshiba is taking a hit now. The company, which claims to have released the world’s first mass-market laptop back in 1985 and affordable models in the 1990s, has been steadily losing ground to rival companies in Asia. The company, which also had a major accounting scandal this summer, said Monday it plans to cut about five percent of its workforce .

rosieThe Consumer Electronics Show is still about three weeks away, but the advance press releases are already starting to trickle out. Cleaning fans take note, LG plans to reveal what it calls “the world’s first augmented reality vacuum cleaner” at CES next month. The company’s HOM-BOT Turbo+ uses three camera sensors to record its surroundings to keep track of where it has already cleaned — and  to transmit a real-time feed to its owner’s smartphone. The human just needs to tap an area of the room displayed on the screen to have the HOM-BOT go over there and clean it. Because the vacuum has motion sensors along with its cameras, it can also be used to keep an eye on the place, but the HOM-BOT doesn’t quite sound like its up to a Terminator level of protection . . . yet.

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PTJ 104: Internet Security? No Such Thing.

This week cybercriminals made off with billions of usernames and passwords from hundreds of thousands of websites around the world and El Kaiser was, not surprisingly, more than a little upset about it.  Sensing Pedro’s imminent panic attack, J.D. cheers him up with a segment on how to buy a new gadget at its peak of freshness.

In other news,  the Rosetta probe from the European space agency has caught up with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko; The Shaknado sequel is a hit on TV and on social media networks;  it is once again legal to unlock your mobile phones; the Department of Transportation considers banning cellphone voice calls on commercial flights; Google helps law enforcement apprehend a pedophile; researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology develop an algorithm that constructs an audio signal from a video based on vibrations; and concerned Facebook users called 911 and the Los Angeles’s Sheriff’s Department after the social media behemoth suffers a short outage.

No, we are not kidding.

PTJ 104 News: Hack ‘n’ Sack

Here we go again — Internet Security Freakout! The New York Times reported late on Tuesday that a Russian gang of cybercriminals made off with 1.2 billion usernames and passwords from 420,000 websites around the world, (as well as 500 million email addresses), all with botnets and malware. The Milwaukee-based company Hold Security discovered the stolen data, but wouldn’t say which websites were affected due to confidentiality agreements with its clients. (Not helpful to the rest of us, Hold Security.)

Although snagging credentials off compromised websites was one big way the infohaul was reeled in, a few online observers have suggested that the Russian gang may have also bought chunks of the stolen data from other hackers. This may mean some of the information may be old and out of date, especially after the Heartbleed panic earlier this year when responsible folk went and changed all their passwords then, too. Other sites, like The Verge, The Wall Street Journal and Forbes have noted Hold Security was awfully quick to capitalize on the heist. (The Washington Post took a look at Hold Security itself and had some interesting observations.)

So what can you do to protect yourself? No one knows yet exactly which websites were affected, so let’s just assume it was All of Them. The Times posted some tips for dealing with the breach, so start there. And it may be time to break down and get a password-manager programs like LastPass or 1Password,  as this sort of Massive Data Protection FAIL  is unfortunately starting to become a regular occurence.

For happier news, we go to outer space, where the Rosetta probe from the European space agency has finally caught up with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko after a 10-year chase. Rosetta is now orbiting the comet and sending back photos, and yes, the pictures are on its Facebook page — or rather the European Space Agency’s Facebook page. Good hunting, Rosetta!

sharknado2Sharknado 2: The Second One, the sequel to last year’s unexpected pop-cult powerhouse, grabbed 3.9 million viewers on its original airing last Wednesday on the SyFy Channel and dominated trending topics lists. The film reportedly delivered one billion mentions in Twitter conversations throughout the day of its broadcast. The cameo-filled sequel was set in New York City and another sequel is on the way.

Some more good news: It’s now perfectly legal once again to unlock your mobile phone from the carrier you bought it from, so you can use it with another company’s compatible network after your contract runs out.  President Obama signed the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act on August 1st.  In other government-and-phones news, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Department of Transportation is considering a rule to ban cellphone voice calls on commercial flights to, within and from the United States. Here’s hoping!

In other law-enforcement matters, Google recently alerted authorities to illegal images in the account of a particular Gmail user after illegal child-pornography images were detected during an automatic scan. Google had discussed its efforts in stopping child porn with London’s Daily Telegraph last year, but the news of the arrest got some privacy advocates worried about what companies can do with your mail. (Google said this is the only crime it scans for in Gmail.) In addition to its own VideoID software, Google and other companies also use Microsoft’s PhotoDNA and Friend MTS’s Expose F1 forensic programs to scan for photos and videos depicting abuse.

 

It’s the height of summer and the hackers are gathering in Las Vegas for their annual Black Hat and DEF CON conventions. Black Hat started last weekend, and in addition to a demonstration about how USB devices have huge security issues, another consultant was preparing to show how the satellite communications gear on passenger gets could be hacked by going through the aircraft’s in-flight entertainment and onboard WiFi systems.

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Meanwhile, another presentation at the conference dealt with spoofing signals in wireless key fobs to unlock cars. Corporate America, please pay attention, okay? That includes you, Wearable Computing Developers. That’s because the security firm Symantec got itself a $75 Raspberry Pi computer and wrote up a blog post describing how easy it is to track people with fitness monitors and other wearable tech through wireless protocols and other security holes in the apps and software.

Prawn-CocktailAlgorithms are everywhere. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology just announced that some of its researchers, along with scientists from Microsoft and Adobe, developed an algorithm that accurately reconstructs an audio signal from a video based on vibrations. In one experiment, the researchers were able to reconstruct intelligible speech from a potato-chip bag filmed 15 feet away from the camera and through soundproof glass.

The CEO of Verizon Wireless threw shade at the chairman of the FCC over a letter the agency sent to Big Red expressing concern over treatment of customers with unlimited plans. In a blog post, Verizon had outlined what it calls its Network Optimization policy, in which bandwidth for heavy users is scaled back during peak times on overcrowded sites. Verizon 3G hogs have been “optimized” for years, but the FCC only spoke up when the company recently announced it was also going to start throttling 4G LTE users this fall. Among other points in its rebuttal, Verizon said its practices were consistent with the reasonable network management definitions laid out in the 2010 Open Internet Order and other companies were doing the same thing. So there.

Comcast, which has not had a lot of good press lately, announced this week that it will be providing up to six months of free Internet access to low-income families as part of its Internet Essentials program. Requirements for the program include being in an area where Comcast has service and having at least one child eligible for the National School Lunch Program.

Let the frothing begin: the Re/Code site is now reporting that Apple’s iPhone 6 event will be on September 9th.  

And finally, as millions noticed last Friday, Facebook suffered a major site outage. During this time, some concerned Facebook users called 911 and the Los Angeles’s Sheriff’s Department. Others took a more thoughtful approach and used the outage as an opportunity to study  Web traffic. The Chartbeat blog found that Web traffic to news sites dropped 3 percent and showed how social media drives visitors to other sites. The countries affected by the outage included the United States, India and Chile, so it did not seem to be a worldwide crash.

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That may seem like a big dent, but compare it to last year when Google took a dive: experts said world Internet traffic dropped by 40 percent. So in addition to keeping your password-manager program at the ready these days, you may also want to pack a book for those times when various parts of the Net are down. And don’t pester 911 because Facebook or Google crashing IS NOT AN EMERGENCY. Just think of it as an offline disco nap and take a break.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Creating Hard-to-Crack Passwords

Thievery and hacking never go away, and tech nerds like us always advise coming up with “strong,” hard-to-guess password for your computer or other accounts. But many people don’t exactly know what exactly constitutes a strong password. Fortunately, you can get some password-creation advice on your computer — right there in the control panel where you go to change your password in the first place. Isn’t that convenient?

In Windows, just go to the Start menu to Control Panel to User Accounts and Family Safety to User Accounts. Click on Change Your Password. This opens up the box where you type in your old and new passwords. If you need some help with the strong stuff, look closer. Right in the box is a link called “How to create a strong password” (circled below). Click there for advice. Microsoft also has a site that checks the strength of your chosen password.

On a Mac, just pop open the System Preferences box from the Dock or Apple menu and click on the Users & Groups icon. Make sure your user account is selected on the left side of the box and then click the Change Password button. Here, you also get the familiar Old Password/New Password box, but look on the New Password line. As circled below, there’s a key icon there. Click that icon to call up the Mac OS X Password Assistant, which offers a strength indicator and can even generate strong passwords for you so you don’t have to burn the brain cells thinking them up yourself.

There. You now have no excuse for still using password as your password. It’s time to show your strength!