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A billion or more Android devices are vulnerable to hacks that can turn them into spying tools by exploiting more than 400 vulnerabilities in Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chip, researchers reported this week. The vulnerabilities can be exploited when a target downloads a video or other content that’s rendered by the chip. Targets can also be attacked by installing malicious apps that require no permissions at all. From there, attackers can monitor locations and listen to nearby audio in real-time and exfiltrate photos and videos. Exploits also make it possible to render the phone completely unresponsive. Infections can be hidden from the operating system in a way that makes disinfecting difficult. Snapdragon is what’s known as a system on a chip that provides a host of components, such as a CPU and a graphics processor. One of the functions, known as digital signal processing, or DSP, tackles a variety of tasks, including charging abilities and video, audio, augmented reality, and other multimedia functions. Phone makers can also use DSPs to run dedicated apps that enable custom features. “While DSP chips provide a relatively economical solution that allows mobile phones to provide end-users with more functionality and enable innovative features—they do come with a cost,” researchers from security firm Check Point wrote in a brief report of the vulnerabilities they discovered. “These chips introduce new attack surfaces and weak points to these mobile devices. DSP chips are much more vulnerable to risks as they are being managed as ‘Black Boxes’ since it can be very complex for anyone other than their manufacturer to review their design, functionality or code.” Qualcomm has released a fix for the flaws, but so far it hasn’t been incorporated into the Android OS or any Android device that uses Snapdragon, Check Point said. When I asked when Google might add the Qualcomm patches, a company spokesman said to check with Qualcomm. The chipmaker didn’t respond to an email asking. In a statement, Qualcomm officials said: “Regarding the Qualcomm Compute DSP vulnerability disclosed by Check Point, we worked diligently to validate the issue and make appropriate mitigations available to OEMs. We have no evidence it is currently being exploited. We encourage end-users to update their devices as patches become available and to only install applications from trusted locations such as the Google Play Store.” Check Point said that Snapdragon is included in about 40 percent of phones worldwide. With an estimated 3 billion Android devices, that amounts to more than a billion phones. In the US market, Snapdragons are embedded in around 90 percent of devices. More details are posted on OUR FORUM.

Google Play Music has been given the death sentence by Google, and today the company has announced a bit more detail about how its execution will be carried out. The main message from today's blog post is "back up your music now," as Google says it will wipe out all Google Music collections in December 2020. We've known for a while that the shutdown would be sometime in 2020, but for most regions, Google has now narrowed it down to "October." At the time of the streaming shutdown, the app will have been showing shutdown messages for about five months. If a user has somehow missed all of those, two months with no streaming at all will hopefully be enough to get them to research what happened to Google Music. Saving your music collection from deletion is not difficult; just go to music.youtube.com/transfer and click a few buttons to start the YouTube Music transfer process. The process is actually painless, and your Google Music account will continue to work even after the transfer. If you decide you don't want to use YouTube Music, you'll still have access to a ton of download options later, without the looming threat of the Google Music deletion. A copy of your files isn't hard to get, either. The Google Music Manager is a Windows and Mac application that can upload music or download your entire music collection with a few clicks, but as Google said, it will stop working soon. The other option is Google Takeout, which will wrap your entire music collection in a zip file and send you a download link. The processing for this can take hours. Whichever option you choose, make sure you do something before December because, after that, there will be no way to recover your music. Google Play Music has been around since 2011 and let users upload thousands of songs to the Internet, for free, for streaming playback on most other devices. It's been the primary way to play music on the Google Home smart speakers, and it offered music purchases, monthly streaming radio, and podcasts. Google Music has been neglected for years, though, and like the company often does, Google decided to make a second, competing for music streaming service instead of maintaining the first service. That second service is YouTube Music, which is now Google's favored music app. The merger between the two was originally announced in 2018, and now it's finally happening. YouTube Music places an emphasis on music videos, as you can guess from the name, and the app has a more modern design. YouTube Music awkwardly blends together your entire 15-year YouTube activity history with your music collection, tossing any "liked" videos and subscriptions that have been algorithmically been flagged as "music" into your collection, and mixing together your YouTube playlists and Google Music playlists. There is no way to stop this. YouTube Music seems designed to drive up Google's subscription numbers and really only seems useful for people who want to pay the monthly streaming license fee. The app does away with music purchases and won't even let you stream your own music to your Google Home speakers without paying the monthly fee. It's a big downgrade from Google Music, which offered more functionality to people who purchased music. In 2018, Google told Google Music users "nothing will change" regarding YouTube Music's uploaded music functionality, but now that the feature is actually here, that's... not true. For more turn to OUR FORUM.

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) today has published guidance on how to expose as little location information as possible while using mobile and IoT devices, social media, and mobile apps. As the agency explains, protecting your geolocation data can be the difference between being tracked wherever you go or knowing that your location can't be used to monitor your movements and daily routine. "Location data can be extremely valuable and must be protected," the NSA explains [PDF]. "It can reveal details about the number of users in a location, user and supply movements, daily routines (user and organizational), and can expose otherwise unknown associations between users and locations." However, as the NSA adds, "[w]hile the guidance in this document may be useful to a wide range of users, it is intended primarily for NSS/DoD system users." Devices like smartphones and tablets use a combination of methods to determine a user's location including Global Positioning System (GPS) and wireless signals such as wireless Wi-Fi, cellular, and Bluetooth. Disabling these radios can drastically reduce the exposed location data by blocking devices from sharing real-time geolocation information with cellular providers or rogue bases stations when powered on or during use. This can also prevent threat actors from determining your device's location with the help of wireless sniffers which calculate it based on signal strength. However, even if disabled, when some device radios are re-enabled they may still transmit saved location information. IoT devices also add to the location data exposure risks since they can store location information about other devices in their range, info that can later be exposed when accessed and viewed by unauthorized third-parties. Using apps with permissions to use your location also increases the risk of exposing your geolocation data, just as photos with embedded location data shared on social media. "Apps, even when installed using the approved app store, may collect, aggregate, and transmit information that exposes a user’s location," the NSA adds. Depending on the risk level of exposing their location that users are comfortable with, the NSA shared a number of measures that should lower the risk of exposing one's location while using mobile devices and apps. However, "[p]erhaps the most important thing to remember is that disabling location services on a mobile device does not turn off GPS, and does not significantly reduce the risk of location exposure," the NSA explains. "Disabling location services only limits access to GPS and location data by apps. It does not prevent the operating system from using location data or communicating that data to the network." The NSA says that those who want to prevent location data collection from their devices can take these mitigation measures to limit their exposure For more complete details visit OUR FORUM.

Fine-tune your browser settings to keep trackers off your trail. Privacy is now a priority among browser makers, but they may not go as far as you want in fighting pervasive ad industry trackers on the web. Here's a look at how you can crank up your privacy settings to outsmart that online tracking. Problems like Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal have elevated privacy protection on Silicon Valley's priority list by showing how companies compile reams of data on you as you traverse the internet. Their goal? To build a richly detailed user profile on you so that you can become the target of more accurate, clickable, and thus profitable advertisements. Apple and Google are in a war for the web, with Google pushing aggressively for an interactive web to rival native apps and Apple moving more slowly in part out of concern those new features will worsen security and be annoying for users. Privacy adds another dimension to the competition and to your browser decision. Apple has made privacy a top priority in all its products, including Safari. For startup Brave, privacy is a core goal, and Mozilla and Microsoft have begun touting privacy as a way to differentiate their browsers from Google's Chrome. It's later to the game, but Chrome engineers have begun building a "privacy sandbox" despite Google's reliance on ad revenue. For all of the browsers listed here, you can give yourself a privacy boost by changing the default search engine. For instance, try DuckDuckGo. Although its search results may not be as useful or deep as Google's, DuckDuckGo is a longtime favorite among the privacy-minded for its refusal to track user searches. Other universal options that boost privacy include disabling your browser's location tracking and search engine autocomplete features, turning off password autofill, and regularly deleting your browsing history. If you want to take your privacy to the next level, consider trying one of the virtual private networks CNET has reviewed which work with all browsers. In the meantime, though, here are some simple settings you can change in your current browser to help keep a good portion of advertising trackers off your trail. For complete details visit OUR FORUM.

Do you need to buy a Core i9 for gaming, and is a Core i3 sufficient for general desktop work? How about upgrading to a Core i5 if it's only $50 more, and how much faster is that going to be? Generally speaking, our CPU reviews provide more than enough data to answer those questions and then some. In addition, TechSpot's easy to follow Best CPUs guide is regularly updated, so you simply get what you need to know to make an informed buying decision. With that said, this review will serve as a great reference for those wanting to compare Intel Core i3, i5, i7, and i9 processors directly, and what you get on each jump. It’s rare for us to feature all these processors in a single review since they aim at different market segments and budgets. For example, when reviewing the Core i3-10100, none of the Core i7 or i9 processors were included, as $400+ parts aren’t usually relevant when reviewing an entry-level $100 CPU, so we opt to remove them in an effort to declutter the graphs. Having recently provided a similar overview for AMD's 3rd-gen Ryzen range, it was only logical we did the same for Intel, considering the 10th-gen CPUs have only been out for a few months. Intel lists 17 individual ‘standard power’ 10th-gen Core desktop processors, though in reality there’s just a handful of unique models. For example, there are two distinct Core i9 models, the 10900 and the 10900K, but each has an alternate version without the integrated graphics -- dubbed the 10900F and 10900KF. But let’s start from the bottom and work our way up. The 10th-gen Core i3 range is quite interesting, all models feature 4 cores and 8 threads thanks to Hyper-Threading support. The base i3-10100 model operates at a base frequency of 3.6 GHz with a max turbo of 4.3 GHz and packs a 6 MB L3 cache. Then there’s the Core i3-10300 which gets a 100 MHz frequency bump plus a larger 8 MB L3 cache. Finally, the most powerful Core i3 model available right now is the 10320, which runs at even higher clock speeds, boosting the base to 3.8 GHz and the max turbo to 4.6 GHz. To represent the Core i3 range today we'll be using the Core i3-10100. The 10th-gen Core i5 series consists of the 10400, 10400F, 10500, 10600, 10600K, and the 10600KF as shown in the table below. The six models feature 6 cores, 12 threads, and a 12MB L3 cache. The non-K models are rated with a 65-watt TDP while the unlocked K SKUs pack a 125-watt TDP. The difference between the 10400, 10500, and 10600 is 200 to 300 MHz, that’s it, and since they’re locked parts you won’t be able to change that. The 10600K and its F variant are fully unlocked, provided you’re using a Z-series motherboard, they can be overclocked. Complete details, along with images, and benchmarks can be found on OUR FORUM.

Unlike Windows 10 desktop PC, every Windows laptop keyboard has special keys we know as the Function Keys or the F1, F2, …F12 keys on the top row that lead to different shortcuts to certain features or functions. But what if you don’t aren’t a frequent user of such features or functions and you just want to use them as the regular function keys? Want to use the function keys without pressing the Fn button? There’s a whole lot of things you can do with the function keys, you can change the brightness, control the volume, control the music using the dedicated media playback keys, toggle Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connection, and so on. These keys are just fine and come handy at times, however, the function keys on your Windows 10 PC comes with a specific Fn key that temporarily gives you access to the standard Fn keys such as F1, F2, …F12 keys and disables these features. What if you don’t want to press the double keys (F1, F2… keys along with the Fn key) to work with the actual F1, F2, …F12 keys? You can disable the special features that your laptop offers via the function key and simply gain access to the regular F1, F2, …F12 keys on Windows. However, altering the function keys on Windows 10 isn’t as easy as you see on Mac. Use Of The Keyboard Shotcut is a method for those who have a Windows laptop with the Fn lock key on the keyboard. The quickest way to disable the Fn key and use the standard function keys instead of the special features, no need to enter the BIOS settings for changing it. Although this shortcut is pretty much handy, not all laptops come with the Fn lock key, notice the Fn lock icon or lock/unlock symbol on the F1, F2… keys or Esc key. Once you find it, press the Fn Key + Function Lock key simultaneously to enable or disable the standard F1, F2, …F12 keys. Voila! You can now use the functions keys without pressing the Fn key. Your laptop manufacturer offers you either software for disabling the function key features or you do it through the BIOS or UEFI settings. Your laptop needs to boot into the BIOS mode or UEFI settings which can be accessed before starting the Windows. Whenever you restart your laptop or start by pressing the power button, a quick screen with a logo at the start comes by and this is where you can access the function key and the rest of the system settings. Look for the shortcut like Press F2 or F10 for BIOS settings. The shortcut isn’t the same across the manufacturers, you may press the shortcut given to your Windows laptop. In some cases, the shortcut can be F1, F9, or F12 too, but before pressing these keys, make sure you look at your laptop’s start screen carefully for the shortcut mentioned below. You can try for F2 if the screen doesn’t show at the start. Once you enter the BIOS or UEFI settings, locate to the function keys option in the system configuration or advanced settings, once you find it, enable or disable the function keys as desired. For detailed instructions navigate to OUR FORUM.