Monday tech roundupLast week we learnt that Microsoft will no longer offer updates to older versions of Internet Explorers and such a development is said to be leaving millions without patches or security updates. You have just five months to update your Microsoft browser (if you’re on Explorer 10 or earlier) because as of January 12 there will be no more protection against browser vulnerabilities.

Also last week we saw a petition calling for Facebook to change their approach to terrorist posts, learnt of  yet another type of ransomware malware and, on a more positive note, discovered a new way to make your existing watch smarter.

Facebook asked to change approach to terrorist posts

One of the great things about the internet is near total freedom of expression – at least in relatively free countries. One of the bad things about the Internet, however, is that bad guys also get a share of this freedom of expression.

That makes the internet a perfect recruiting tool. In the 80’s, white supremacists used the Web to recruit young knuckleheads. Today, ISIS is using it to great effect to draw in evil-minded young Jihadists to their cause. ISIS is using Hollywood-inspired video production values to create enticing videos, and social media to spread the word.

After the tragedy in San Bernardino, CA, where one of the murderers pledged her allegiance to ISIS, critics wondered out loud about if Facebook allowed too much freedom of speech.

That all led to a petition pressuring the social media giant to stop giving terrorist free reign on what and how they post. At the time of writing, 109,000 people have signed on in support.

Facebook already has policies that attempt to limit Jihadist hate speech, but the openness of Facebook can be easily abused. The petition is short on specific demands, and makes a more general plea for Facebook to develop more tools to restrict the activities of terrorists. One specific, though, is that Facebook should battle ISIS bots that send out hostile messages, especially to those seeking information on ISIS victims.

Malware mixtures hijacks Windows machines, purloins passwords

A somewhat recent style of hack attack involves locking up a user’s files and demanding a ransom for their release.

Two of the most famous forms of this attack are Breaking Bad and CryptoLocker. Like most successful exploits, these are shared with other hackers, modified, and then rereleased.

In the case of the latest hack, multiple exploits have been combined to wreak real havoc. The new tool is in the form of the Angler exploit kit which is being used by hackers to steal users’ passwords, then lock down the system leaving just a message saying that if the user wants their machine to function again, they best pay up. And one little nasty helping power Angler? Good old CryptoLocker, a leader in the emerging world of Ransomware. Meanwhile a password stealing tool called Pony nabs the login info which can be sold or shared with other hackers.

One app that is often compromised and used as an attack vector is Flash, a notoriously insecure tool that is slowly being phased out by users. Read why I decided to say no to Flash a few weeks back – and no I still don’t miss it.

Smart watch on the cheap

Smart watches such as Apple Watch can be mighty expensive – starting at (USD) $300. Plus they aren’t the most stylish of accessories. Oh, and you lose the ability to choose a watch with a truly unique look, but things might be about to change.

A new item, the Chronos pad, solves both problems. It offers some base level smart watch function for around (USD) $100, and it works with existing watches so you can still choose the style and brand you prefer.

The unit is a base that sits under the watch and receives signals from a smart phone. It can then vibrate or light up its circle of LED lights to signal an alert, such as a call or new message.

For me, the most interesting use would be to alert me of an appointment. I might never miss a conference call again!

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