Thursday, October 02, 2014

Big Brother needs to know when agents of Eurasia and Oceania are conspiring against Eastasia.
China may be targeting Hong Kong protesters with spyware, U.S. firm says
The Chinese government might be using smartphone applications to spy on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, a U.S. security firm said.
The apps are disguised as tools created by activists, said the firm, Lacoon Mobile Security. It said that once downloaded, they give an outsider access to the phone's address book, call logs and other information.

Trust no one.
Graham Cluley writes:
… from time to time, firms find themselves in the position of admitting that they have messed up massively with potentially disastrous consequences for their business and their innocent customers.
What makes it even worse, however, is when the company that has fallen woefully short really should have known better.
One such company which can offer no reasonable excuses is iThemes, the “one-stop shop for WordPress themes, plugins and training.”
Read more on State of Security.

For my Computer Security students.
Europol Analyzes Cybercrime Services Industry
The European Cybercrime Center (EC3) at Europol has published its Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (iOCTA) for 2014. The role of the report is to keep decision makers informed on the cybercrime threats affecting governments, businesses and citizens in the European Union.
The iOCTA also focuses on the Crime-as-a-Service business model, which facilitates a wide range of cybercriminal activities. The widespread availability of DDoS, botnet, malware, data theft and password-cracking services has led to the increasing involvement of traditional organized crime groups in cybercriminal operations.
One perfect example is the operation in which a Netherlands-based drug smuggling ring hired hackers to infiltrate the computer systems used to control shipping containers at a port in Belgium. By hacking into the port's systems, the group was able to identify the location of containers loaded with drugs, and had its drivers pick them up before the legitimate hauler got to them.
The complete iOCTA report can be browsed online or downloaded in PDF and ePub formats.

(Related) May have broader implications (e.g. The Internet of Things)
FDA Publishes Cybersecurity Guidance for Medical Device Manufacturers
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a set of recommendations for manufacturers for managing cyber-security risks and protecting patient health and information.
The guidance is titled 'Content of Premarket Submissions for Management of Cybersecurity in Medical Devices' and recommends that manufacturers consider cybersecurity risks as part of the design and development of medical devices and submit documentation to the FDA about those risks and the controls in place to mitigate them. The guidance also recommends manufacturers submit their plans for providing updates to operating systems and software.
"There is no such thing as a threat-proof medical device," said Suzanne Schwartz, director of emergency preparedness/operations and medical countermeasures at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, in a statement.
In particular, medical devices that are capable of connecting to another device or the Internet are more vulnerable to security threats, the guidance notes. In its recommendations, the FDA stresses the importance of authentication controls and detection.

It's a well thought out policy, until someone points out that it's not.
Facebook makes peace with gays over 'real names'
Facebook on Wednesday vowed to ease its "real names" policy that prompted drag queen performers to quit the social network and sparked wider protests in the gay community and beyond.
The huge social network, facing a planned street protest in San Francisco this week, apologised in a bid to quell the simmering dispute over its enforcement of the policy.
Facebook executives and representatives of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender communities said they found a solution acceptable to both sides, allowing people to use assumed names, subject to verification.
"The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life," Facebook chief product officer Chris Cox said in a blog post.
"For Sister Roma, that's Sister Roma. For Lil Miss Hot Mess, that's Lil Miss Hot Mess."
Cox said Facebook would come up with improved tools to "authenticate" legitimate users such as those who sparked the protest.

Is this a joke? I'll need to check their modeling assumptions but I find it difficult to believe that turbines a mere 120 meters tall would do much to reduce storms that top out at 60,000 feet.
Wind Turbines Could Take the Punch Out of Hurricanes
If 78,000 giant wind turbines had been positioned off the coast of New Orleans in 2005, they not only could have provided a lot of electrical power, they also would have sucked so much energy out of Hurricane Katrina that the storm surge would have been cut by 71% and wind speeds would have been reduced by as much as 57%, according to a Wall Street Journal report of a study that relied on computer modeling. Large arrays of offshore wind turbines, although expensive to build, could take enough energy out of the wind to break the “feedback loop” of wind speed and wave heights that makes hurricanes so destructive, the scientists say.
[Supplementary material:

For all my students. (Form good homework habits now, use them on the job later.)
5 Ways to Work from Home More Effectively

For my geeks with a spare computer...
How To Download Windows 10 Now
Windows 10 is now available to download, with Microsoft inviting people to join the Windows Insider Program and help test the new operating system. If you’re technically proficient with a PC then head to to get started. However, as this is only the Windows 10 Technical Preview, a very early version of the OS, you should bear a few things in mind before signing up.
The Windows 10 Technical Preview is likely to be buggy, and prone to crashing your computer. Therefore, back everything up before downloading it. This includes your current Windows install, as rolling back to a previous version of Windows will not be easy. So, ensure you have an installation or recovery disk ready before going anywhere near Windows 10.

Better than PowerPoint?
Microsoft launches Sway, a new tool for composing and presenting ideas
Have a killer idea?
Microsoft wants to make it easy to turn it into a presentation. The company unveiled a new product called Office Sway today that provides users with a canvas to document their ideas and then go on to share them with other people.
It’s a free, web-based app that Microsoft says will work on mobile devices (through a native app) and desktop browsers. Users get started by creating a title for their project, and can then add text, images and video to it. Here’s a video that shows how it all works:
… In addition, the presentation component of Sway encroaches on the territory of Haiku Deck and Jackson Fish Market’s Slide Bureau app, which are both designed to take user information and make it easy for them to build a presentation.
Right now, Sway is in an invite-only preview. People interested in signing up can visit and get their email on the list.

I love lists. (and if I had a Smartphone I'd probably take the time to read this one.)
The App 100: The World's Greatest Apps
There are over 1.3 million apps in Apple's App Store, and another 1.3 million in Google's Play store, so finding your next app can be overwhelming. We live and breathe apps for a living, so we've sifted through them to tell you which are the best.

This could be amusing.
How to Use to Create a Fake Text Message Exchange
Russel Tarr, owner of, has developed and published a bunch of great tools over the years. One of my favorite of those is the Fake SMS Generator. The Classtools Fake SMS Generator is free to use and does not require students to register to use it. In the video below I demonstrate how to create a fictitious text message exchange between historical characters.
As I mentioned in the video, the Fake SMS Generator could also be used to create visuals for lessons on cyber-safety and etiquette.

Now that we've analyzed all that data, how do we present it?
Easily Add Charts to Infographics With Easelly is an online tool for creating infographics. I've reviewed a couple of times in the past on this blog. The latest update to Easelly introduced a tool for creating charts to incorporate into your infographics. The chart creation tool is a drag-and-drop option that can be found in the Easelly toolbar. provides a canvas on which you can build your own infographic by dragging and dropping pre-made design elements. You can use a blank canvas or build upon one of's themes. In addition to using the built-in creation tools you can upload your own graphics to include in your infographic. Your completed infographic can be exported and saved as PNG, JPG, PDG, and SVG files.

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