Tech News

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

Dave Parrack 05-12-2013

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.

Pony Steals 2 Million Passwords

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


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 Password Management Guide Don't feel overwhelmed by passwords, or simply use the same one on every site just so you'll remember them: design your own password management strategy. Read More .

USB To Be Reversible

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

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 5 Quality Headphones That Cost Less Than $50 Owning a quality pair of headphones is very important for anyone who wants or needs to listen to music by themselves on a regular basis. In fact, they're more important than the device actually playing... Read More ), 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

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

In advance of launching SteamOS and its associated hardware Valve's 3 Big Announcements: Everything You Need To Know Valve has announced its own OS, a new line of Steam Machines, and a controller. What does it mean for gaming? Read More , 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

NSA Tracking, Pony Passwords, Reversible USB, Santa Trackers [Tech News Digest] pop up archive screenshot

PopUp Archive, a new service designed to make it easier for people to find old audio recordings, has been quietly launched Pop Up Archive Transcribes and Tags Sounds, Searches Historical Broadcasts Initially started as a project at University of California, Berkeley, Pop Up Archive is a new tool to help journalists, media, archivists, historians and others easily find and reuse sound. Read More . 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

Related topics: Christmas, Google, Microsoft Bing.

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  1. Ammar
    December 27, 2013 at 5:56 am

    I don't know if any laws are broken but I do know what the NSA is doing is just wrong, mass surveillance is wrong, just read 1984 or watch the movie if you're lazy about it. IMHO Liberty&Privacy aren't negotiable and cannot be surrendered for "security" , even to the point where keeping freedom at the expense of a few deaths is better than to what's happening today. I'm not a U.S citizen but the U.S was a beacon of civil rights and freedom and now people are viewing it as free as Venezuela or Belarus, much speech and no actions. Reacntly NSA start working with RSA. This strengthen NSA surveillance network to spying on General Public. Source:

  2. dragonmouth
    December 6, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    I know it is very fashionable to complain about and bash NSA for "listening in" but it is very naive to think that they are the only ones doing it. Security agencies of every country on the globe are gathering as much data as they can capture. Maybe they are not as efficient at it as the NSA but dollars to donuts that the major players in world politics have similar databases to NSA's. The Chinese, British, Israeli, Germans, French and Japanese probably have the complete blueprints to the NSA's technology and installation and have, or are in the process of, copying them.

  3. Kannon Y
    December 6, 2013 at 4:47 am

    Great roundup. Did you hear the one about the virus that spreads via... sound? I think it has something to do with a fault in various DSPs (digital signal processors). They can be accessed via uh.. vibration? Anyway, they talked about it on Technophilia. The consensus was that the researcher who first reported the problem had lost his mind.

    Well, someone recently published a proof of concept where they actually did manage to infect a machine by attacking a motherboard's DSP - effectively using sound (or perhaps WiFi frequencies) to pass along a virus. It's easily one of the most chilling stories I've heard and I would be there's an NSA tie-in. Sounds absolutely bonkers.

  4. Anonymous
    December 5, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    NSA are partnering with Virginia State Police and local police and are torturing innocent citizens. Read "A Note on Uberveillance" by M. D. Michael. Newport News Police and Virginia State Police had a doctor implant me w/o my knowledge and consent with a biochip. A U. S. Attorney for the NSA/DOJ pretended to be my attorney. It enables torture and thought monitoring. They use it as a sensor and pulse energy projectiles at you. I had a heart attack. It enables voice to skull communication. See LRAD white papers or audio spotlight by Holosonics. See Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence by Springer page 9. See Mental Health and Terrorism by Amin Gadit. See Bio Initiative Report 2012. See Forbes and search Brandon Raub. Law enforcement tases citizens into "excited delirium" (see at nij org) to make them act in ways they normally would not. I believe they are directly responsible for the Virginia Tech massacre. There are 3 reasons to have it implanted 1) mental health, 2) criminal record, and 3) infectious disease. If you don’t meet any of those requirements like me, they’ll falsify your records. All the mass shootings are the work of law enforcement. They want to take away your right to bear arms and make America a police state. People aren’t suddenly going crazy, they're being tortured. I also believe the biochip to be responsible for PTSD. Read Brian Castner's book "A Long Walk". I have the same ambiguous pains, twitches, heart attack, night mares, day mares, gurgling, etc. I never served in the war. What do we have in common? The biochip. Suicide is one way to get relief. Virginia’s suicide rate is higher than the national average and the military suicide rate is unacceptable!