NSA Tracking, Pony Passwords, Reversible USB, Santa Trackers [Tech News Digest]

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Today in Tech News Digest, the NSA is tracking us all, the Pony Botnet snags 2 million passwords, next-gen USB is going to be reversible, Beats Music gets a launch date, Valve joins the Linux Foundation, the PopUp Archive is launched, and two Santa trackers — one powered by Google, the other by Bing — go into battle.

The NSA Is Tracking Your Phone

The NSA is likely tracking the location of your phone, along with the phones of everybody else in the United States and beyond. This is according to the Washington Post, which has pulled together various documents leaked by Edward Snowden to demonstrate the extent to which the National Security Agency is collecting data on ordinary citizens going about their daily business.

In total, the NSA is alleged to be collecting 5 billion records a day charting the locations of cellphones used around the world. This is achieved by tapping into the cables which connect the global mobile networks, with the results being a vast database that can be analyzed to detect potentially nefarious activity occurring.

Cellphones broadcast their whereabouts to the world all the while they’re switched on, meaning an individual wouldn’t even have to use their device for the NSA to know its location. Switching them off or using disposable cellphones won’t necessarily work to your advantage either, as this behavior reportedly marks a person out for special attention.

This revelation comes at a time when the editor of the Guardian newspaper, the source for many Snowden leaks, has stated that just one percent of the files have been published so far. The clear implication being that this is just the tip of an extremely large and scary iceberg.

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Pony Steals 2 Million Passwords

A Pony Botnet server containing two million passwords for sites such as Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Twitter, and Linkedin has been discovered. The researchers from Trustwave’s SpiderLabs have disclosed their findings in minute detail, but the most interesting element for the average geek is the list of commonly used passwords. These include ‘123456’, ‘password’, ‘admin’, and ‘111111’. These people would do well to read our guide to creating strong passwords.

USB To Be Reversible

The next generation of USB has been announced, and this time the plug will be reversible. USB 3.1 Type-C is the catchy name of this new USB standard, and according to The Verge it will be around the size of a micro-USB plug and fit your devices no matter which way it’s offered up to them. It’s hoped this new USB form will “enable an entirely new super-thin class of devices from phones to tablets, to 2-in-1s, to laptops to desktops.” Unfortunately its incompatibility with existing connectors means this move will annoy as many people as it excites.

Beats Music Launching January 2014

Beats Music, the music streaming service that emerged from Beats Electronics (makers of the overpriced headphones), is set to launch in January 2014. However, those who are keen to be one of the first to check out this competitor to the likes of Spotify and Rdio can claim their username now. How Beats Music is going to compete in such a crowded market is anyone’s guess but then few of us understand how Beats headphones came to be popular, so what do we know?

Valve Joins The Linux Foundation

In advance of launching SteamOS and its associated hardware, Valve has joined the Linux Foundation. Valve has converted from having no interest in Linux to describing it as “the future of gaming” in the space of just a few years. Joining the Linux Foundation signals a definite commitment to the cause, and allows Valve to help guide the development of the open-source platform in the future.

PopUp Archive Sounds Off

PopUp Archive, a new service designed to make it easier for people to find old audio recordings, has been quietly launched. PopUp Archive contains thousands of hours of radio broadcasts and interviews, all of which can be sifted through using searchable keywords, thanks to the technology as its core. Whether it can remove the crackle from old broadcasts is another matter entirely.

The Battle Of The Santa Trackers

And finally, Christmas is almost upon us, so it’s time to prepare to track Santa as he wings his way around the world delivering presents. Which is something many people have been doing for years now thanks to the wonders of the Internet.

The NORAD Santa tracker has been a staple of the holidays for a long time, and last year NORAD enlisted the help of Bing. That coupling has survived into this year, but the Google Santa tracker is providing some stiff competition with the aid of an Android app and Chrome extension.

This is therefore the battle of the Santa trackers, with Microsoft and Google on opposite sides of the ring. Ah, Christmas, a time of peace and goodwill. Or a fight to the death over who can best track Santa as he speeds about on his sleigh.

Tech News Digest… Breaking News Into Bite-Sized Chunks

Image Credits: Samantha Celera, Teo, Sleighboy

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