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Terrence O'Brien

Staten Island - http://blog.terrence-obrien.com

I write words. Sometimes I get paid for it. Usually they're about technology.

Latest Posts from Switched

Swedish File Sharers Get Religious About Stealing

Missionary Church of Kopimism
Swedish philosophy student Isaac Gerson thinks that file sharing is sacred. The 19-year-old leader of the Missionary Church of Kopimism believes that stealing and sharing are signs of appreciation, and has compared closed-source software to slavery. Last year, Sweden rejected the church's application to be recognized as a religion, but Gerson isn't giving up so easily. He'll be reapplying after meeting with government officials.

As Expected, Smartphones and Social Networks Targeted by Malware

Facebook App
As security firms have been warning for some time, malware attacks are now more frequently focused on social networks and mobile devices. In Symantec's latest Internet Security Threat Report, the company noted that the number of malware attacks delivered through the Web practically doubled from 2009, with 65-percent of malicious links on Facebook arriving in the form of shortened URLs. The company also took special care to highlight the growing field of smartphone-based attacks, in particular those targeting Android. Many of the pieces of Facebook and Android malware rely on the laziness of users. Apps must specifically request permissions, but many people simply click through the notifications without reading them carefully. And as time passes, the attacks will only become more sophisticated.

For now, attacks seem focused on harvesting personal data from profiles and sending text messages to premium services, which earn a commission for the scammer. But as users start turning to their cell phones for mobile banking and shopping more frequently, they're likely to become a much bigger target for digital crooks.

West Bank Settlers Spread Propaganda Using Violent Video Games

Israeli Propaganda Games
Using video games as propaganda is nothing new. The U.S. has been doing it with 'America's Army' for some time, while Hezbollah has employed 'Special Force' to spread its message. But those games might seem quaint and diplomatic in the face of a series of games from Residents' Councils of Samaria and Binyamin, an advocacy group for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. The organization has released a trio of violent shoot-'em-ups with Biblical roots and a pro-Israeli bent. The first, 'Judah Maccabee,' puts players in the role of a Maccabee soldier (a rebel army that took control of Judea from the Greeks around 167 B.C.) as he infiltrates a Greek camp. The second, 'Ahab in Samaria,' has players defending Israel from invading soldiers. 'Ammunition Hill,' the most recent game, puts players in the boots of a soldier during the invasion of East Jerusalem during the Six-Day War.

The games are rough-looking by American standards, with simplistic play reminiscent of 'Doom.' They were developed by Virtual 3D, a company that primarily traffics in archaeological software, using Shockwave (a relative of Flash). The games aren't going to win any converts to the settlers' cause, and will probably further put off those who are already unsympathetic. But propaganda will always have its place, and in the digital age that place is online games.

Switched's Comprehensive Guide to Video Game Emulators

emulator guideThe video game emulator -- the bit of software that allows nostalgic button-mashers to mount an NES on their PCs in order to relive halcyon "HADOUKEN!" days -- is one of the most misunderstood elements of modern computing. But we're here to tell you exactly what they are, how they work, and even offer a comprehensive directory of the best ones for your favorite platform. Read on for our indispensable manual for the contemporary gamer looking back to a time when finally figuring out Kitana's "Babality" was a day's work well done.

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Ghana's Email Scammers Work Hard, Pray Harder

Here's a fascinating look at the world of Sakawa, a unique blend of e-mail fraud and African religious tradition that has become a cultural force in Ghana. The young and unemployed people who use scavenged computers and Juju priests for their scams also drive a thriving music and movie scene centered on the lives of e-mail conmen. The video above is 20-minutes long, so if you're working,...

Latest Scam Claims Facebook is Deleting Accounts

Facebook Closing Account Scam
Haven't you ever heard the old adage, "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is"? Well it doesn't just apply to things that are "good" -- it works for just about anything that sounds a bit unbelievable, like that Facebook is going to close all user accounts. It's not gonna happen. That hasn't stopped a new scam from spreading via a rogue app that posts the following message to your wall:
Facebook is closing all accounts today. They can't handle so many accounts. Most of the old accounts are not active, so they are deleting everything. If you want your account alive please confirm your activity. This is the final notice!
At the end of the wall post is a link that asks you to install an app called 'Confirm your activity - Official Application' with the Facebook logo as its icon. If you grant it permission to access your information and post to your wall (which you obviously shouldn't do), it will immediately begin posting links to itself on your wall while distracting you with a scam survey that earns a commission for the conmen (or conwomen) behind it.

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Upper Deck Evolution 'Cards' Use LCD Screens to Play Highlight Reels

We thought collecting baseball cards went out with grunge, but apparently we were wrong. Upper Deck (one of the card companies that isn't Topps) is still clinging to life and pushing the envelope of what can legitimately be called a "card." The half-inch thick Evolution Series holds a battery and a small LCD, which loops a 60-second highlight real of one of four NFL players. Check out the...

Pandora Provides Detailed Data, Including GPS Coordinates, to Advertisers

PandoraAfter it was revealed earlier this week that several smartphone app makers, including Pandora, were being targeted by a federal grand jury in New Jersey for illegally gathering and distributing user information, security firm Veracode decided to do its own analysis.

It took a look at the Android version of Pandora's streaming music app, and found that it was feeding data to five different advertising platforms: AdMarvel, AdMob, comScore, Google.Ads, and Medialets. It appears the Pandora is feeding GPS coordinates, as well as the user's birthday, gender, postal code and Android ID, to AdMob. The other ad networks received similar data -- with comScore pulling in Android IDs, and Medialets receiving very detailed GPS data, including bearing and altitude, as well as information about model and version of Android.

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With Schools Turning to the Web for K-12 Education, Quality is a Concern

Children Learning Online
Online courses have become an accepted fact of college life. But more and more school districts are turning to Web-based learning for lower grade levels, especially as a way for struggling high school students to make up courses they've failed or missed. The online classes aren't only for those who have fallen behind, though. Due to budget constraints, some schools are using them to offer advanced placement classes and expand elective offerings. For example, Reza Namin, the superintendent of schools in Westbrook, Maine, told the New York Times that, while she couldn't justify paying a Chinese language instructor in the face of a $6.5 million budget deficit, she was able to continue offering the course by turning to the online, non-profit Virtual High School Global Consortium.

The increasing reliance on digital education programs has drawn criticism from teachers and unions who claim the shift towards online learning is purely budgetary and an effort to pay fewer teachers' salaries. The argument could gain particular traction in Idaho, where a recent bill raided a fund used to pay educators to purchase laptops for every student in the state. The U.S. Department of Education has also expressed skepticism, saying there is little "scientific evidence of the effectiveness" of online classes for K-12 students.

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Geminoids Meet Their Meaty Doppelgangers


Which ones are the humans and which are the robots? We're not even sure the participants in this terrifying photo op know the answer to that question. Three nightmarish Geminoids were brought together with the flesh bags they were modeled after, presumably so the 'bots could learn a bit more about their human counterparts before murdering them and taking their place in life.

Elderly Woman Takes Out Armenian Internet, Faces Jail Time

A 75-year-old woman in the Democratic Republic of Georgia is facing criminal charges after she damaged a fiber-optic cable responsible for providing Internet service to neighboring Armenia. The elderly woman was scavenging for copper on March 28th when she managed to cut the connection for the entire country. All three of Armenia's major providers were unable to connect citizens to the Web for... Read more »

Anonymous' Latest Target: Itself

It appears that the hacktivists at Anonymous are struggling to cope with the group's expansion. The list of organizations, companies and individuals targeted by the collective has started to grow out of control. That's mainly due to its decentralized nature, allowing any member to pick a target so long as they can rally the troops to the cause. This has not only led to the group's efforts being... Read more »

Twitter's New Homepage Signals a Maturing Service

Twitter is rolling out a new homepage, which suggests a subtle shift in focus for the service. The new landing page asks you to "follow your interests," with a strip of suggested accounts that lean heavily toward news services and "industry experts." Overall, the design is cleaner and more mature, making it clear that Twitter wants to see itself as a serious destination for information.... Read more »

David Bowie's 'Golden Years' to be Rereleased as Remixable iOS App

David Bowie's 'Golden Years,' from his classic album 'Station to Station,' is coming to the Apple App Store on June 6th. You'll have the ability to remix the song by manipulating eight of the original instrument tracks, including vocals, guitar and percussion. Users will even be able to export their mixes as MP3s and share them with friends. Bowie released a similar edition of 'Space... Read more »

Gucci IT Employee Faces Serious Jail Time for Hacking Former Employer

A former Gucci IT worker is facing a 50 count indictment and a wide range of charges (including computer tampering, identity theft, falsifying business records, computer trespass and unauthorized use of a computer) after he broke into the company's systems and wreaked havoc. While an employee at Gucci, Sam Chihlung Yin created an account with a remote-access security token for a fictional... Read more »
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