The Growing Tensions With North Korea Threatens Americans in South Korea

With the election of a new President last May, South Korea has found a leader in liberal candidate Moon Jae-in. A former human rights lawyer, Moon has promised to bring change to the country including the country’s relationship with North Korea. With promises of doing everything he can to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula, the elected President has even talked about the possibility of engaging with its neighbor if the opportunity arises. Moon’s optimism and pro-engagement stance regarding North Korea have shown his ideals as a leader. However, his advocacy is in stark contrast with the view of the US which is pushing for further isolation and more international sanctions on the reclusive country.

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In spite of Moon’s willingness to hash it out with Kim Jong-un, tensions in the Korean Peninsula are higher than ever as North Korea threatens its neighbor with all-out war. Regional experts are also speculating that North Korea is once again preparing for another nuclear missile test. It is estimated that North Korea has already held around 10 missile tests over the past year. Tensions may be arising between the two countries, but it is important to remember that caught in the middle of it all are South Korean allies the United States and Japan.

With the possibility of all-out war in the region, the US and Japan have made efforts in pacifying this difficult situation. Both countries have made efforts to prevent war, but they have also made it clear where their loyalties lie. In fact, earlier this year, the US unexpectedly started deploying the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) to South Korea. THAAD is a US missile defense system with the purpose of defending South Korea against missile attacks from enemies. It works by intercepting and destroying missiles before hitting their target. This move was a preemptive measure in the event of war although many locals opposed it saying it was too early for such a move. China also condemned the deployment of THAAD, seeing it as a threat to the nation as well. US officials are insisting, however, that THAAD is only meant for defensive and not offensive purposes.

With things getting more serious and complicated in South Korea, locals and tourists alike are sure to be on edge with North Korea’s threats. There are an estimated 230,000 Americans living in South Korea today. This is why the US forces in the country are planning to train their soldiers in evacuating Americans in the regions. A drill is planned to take place in June of this year to evacuate civilians to safety via transport planes. These planes will be taking evacuees to places such as Japan. Last year, two drills were also held to prepare citizens in the event of war.

In recent news, American college student Otto Warmbier, who was arrested and detained in North Korea for 17 months, died shortly after his release. Details of his medical condition are still unknown, but according to North Korean officials, he was in a coma majority of the time he was detained. The mystery of his condition has angered many Americans. Trump administration news reports that they are holding the country responsible for Warmbier’sdeath. They have not yet decided on what actions to take after this incident, but there have been American lawmakers pushing for a travel ban to North Korea.

For sure, no one wants war. It is chaotic, risky, costly, and never-ending. All parties involved in a war will definitely have something to lose. However, with all of these things going on in the region, tensions are sure to escalate even more.

Taser rebrands as Axon and offers free body cameras to any police department

Taser is now Axon. The brand has been a household word for years, but the company felt it was time to leave that identity behind and double down on the body camera and digital evidence management side of its business. As part of that move, it’s offering free body cameras and software to any police department that asks. Yes, free as in beer, and yes, any as in any.

I talked with the company’s founder, Rick Smith, about this major change and the shifts in policing and technology that prompted it.

“We started the company in a garage 23 years ago in an effort to make the bullet obsolete,” he said. “But the power of the Taser brand is focused on one thing. Now we do all this stuff with cameras. There’s nostalgia, there was a lot of internal resistance. But ultimately organizations have to change.”

The Taser brand will remain for the stun guns we all know, but the parent company will now be Axon, with the ticker symbol AAXN.

Axon, you may remember, was the division Taser created a few years ago to focus on the wearable camera space; the tech was getting there, and Taser was in the right position to bring it to law enforcement. It’s been a major success, but considering the benefits of deployment (some obvious, some disputed), uptake hasn’t been as fast as pretty much anyone would like. Right now around 20 percent of police have access to body cameras.

“It’s really just inertia,” Smith said. Regulatory holdups, budget limitations, and just plain skepticism have slowed things down. So Axon’s solution is to just straight-up give the product away. At least, for a limited time.

The deal is pretty simple: ask and ye shall receive an Axon Body 2 camera for every officer, the software and infrastructure to handle all the footage, and online training in how to use it. Everything is free with no obligations for a year.

“At the end of the year, they can return the stuff and never pay us a dime,” Smith said. “We thought it was win-win.”

Skeptical they can handle demand? The company has “tens of thousands of cameras on the shelves,” he noted. “We’ve been planning this for a while — we added a lot of support staff last year.”

Now, it hardly need be mentioned that this isn’t being done out of the goodness of Axon’s corporate heart. The company stands to profit immensely by being the de facto default for police camera systems. And it’s worth mentioning that the free offer makes it difficult for departments to resist, and once the benefits are public, it’s going to be even more difficult to give up.

But while in some situations I would characterize this as a sort of Trojan horse, it’s my opinion (and clearly Smith’s) that body cameras are probably the single most beneficial step we can take today to improve the quality of policing.

Not only do body cameras provide invaluable documentation of every interaction, they save a ton of time and money.

“Cops spend two-thirds of their time as a data entry clerk,” Smith said. “And when it comes down to it, no one trusts those reports anyway! We have much better information coming from the camera. It contains everything you would put in the report.”

“We believe we can cut that bureaucratic load, and if we can do that, we’ll effectively triple the world’s police force.”

Big talk, but at least he’s putting his money where his mouth is. The program will be costly to Axon at first, but I can’t picture it playing out any way but positive in the long run. And in the meantime, a whole lot of police departments are going to get the tech they deserve but that tight budgets meant they weren’t going to get for years. If the cost for that is that a single company dominates the field for now, I think that’s a reasonable trade-off.

Of course, in order to replace reports, Axon’s software has to get a lot more sophisticated. Right now body cameras are sort of backup evidence, while laboriously filled out reports are still the standard. But the plan is to automate the extraction of information from the video to expedite things.

For example, the system could automatically transcribe any speech in the video and tag events with GPS and other stats. So when the officer wants to check what a person said during a traffic stop, they don’t have to scrub through 2 hours of video — they can just search for an interaction, or the license plate. AI systems could also intelligently redact videos, blurring out the faces of bystanders so that the video can be released publicly or presented in court.

That kind of data digging can get really creepy real fast, and Smith was quick to downplay the idea that Axon would be poring through millions of hours of footage assembling a kind of meta-surveillance database.

“We’re forming an AI ethics board with experts from outside the company,” he said. “It’s important we’re building the tech with the right considerations.”

It should be a big year for the newly renamed company, and let’s hope it’s equally big for the police departments it’s aiming to equip.

Zen Admire Swadesh With 4G VoLTE, 22 Regional Language Support Launched in India

Zen Mobile on Thursday unveiled a new 4G smartphone, called Admire Swadesh. The company highlights that the new smartphone supports 22 regional Indian languages as well as a dual-WhatsApp feature. It is priced at Rs. 4,990 and will be available in Champagne and Blue colour options. The company says it will be bundling a free screen guard and case along with six months screen replacement warranty as a launch offer.

The dual-SIM Zen Admire Swadesh runs Android Marshmallow 6.0. The smartphone sports a 5-inch HD (720×1280 pixels) IPS display and is powered by a 1.3GHz quad-core processor with 1GB of RAM.

Zen Admire Swadesh With 4G VoLTE, 22 Regional Language Support Launched in India

The Zen Admire Swadesh features a 5-megapixel rear camera with autofocus and flash and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. Internal storage stands at 8GB with the option to expand further via microSD card (up to 32GB).

Connectivity options on the Zen Admire Swadesh include 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, among other things. The smartphone packs a 2000mAh battery that promises up to 30 hours of standby time.

As we mentioned, the most notable highlight is support for 22 regional Indian languages in including Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu and Marathi. A Language lock feature lets you choose the language from the main screen. The dual-SIM smartphone also lets you set up two WhatsApp accounts.

“Admire Swadesh is yet another brilliant 4G VoLTE device which will be a true delight for the consumers who are looking at upgrading to 4G-enabled smartphones. We at Zen Mobile, aim to offer a perfect combination of high end features and experience at a great value to consumers across Tier II and Tier III markets,” Sanjay Kalirona, CEO, Zen Mobile, said.

“Regional languages are becoming increasingly important, specially, in a country like India where multiple languages are spoken. Keeping that in mind, we have introduced 22 regional language support feature in Admire Swadesh to serve the unique needs of Indian consumers, and to overcome communication hindrance. We, at Zen Mobile are poised to drive the next step smartphone evolution by offering a comprehensive Zeneration 4G portfolio of quality devices. Going forward, we will continue focus on strengthening our 4G portfolio in 2017, by launching exciting new devices at the most competitive price points,” he added.

Starling Bank, a digital-only UK challenger bank, launches beta

Starling Bank, one of a number of digital-only or so-called “challenger” banks in the U.K., is launching a beta of the app that powers its current account, the first time it has been available beyond a very small group of private testers close to the company. Those already on the beta waiting list will begin being invited into the app as of today.

Initially available for iOS, with an Android beta to follow at the end of the month, the Starling Bank app lets you sign up to a full current account, thanks to the restricted banking license it was issued in July. Upon approval of your account, which involves things like photographing your passport or driving license via the app, you are issued a Starling Bank MasterCard debit card that can be used in the U.K. and abroad.

You also are able to set up regular payments (i.e. Direct Debits using an account number and sort code), and make one-off payments in and out of the account, including via the Faster Payments network.

And, similar to a plethora of other nascent challenger banks or neo-banking apps (that is, fintech startups that offer a current account experience without actually operating a bank/holding a banking license), the Starling Bank app lets you view your current account activity in real time, something most legacy banks fail or fall over trying to do. This takes the form of push notifications and the “Starling Pulse,” a real-time feed that displays all your account activity.

Another interesting aspect of the Starling Bank UI, which I’ve already had a short time playing with, is the way you secure the app. In addition to being asked to provide a 6-10 digit passcode, you are asked to record a short video message of you reading out a specific phrase. This, the startup tells me, is then used for the purpose of “biometric identification” in case you find yourself locked out of the app.

“We decided to go straight to build the full current account rather than go on a side trip to build a pre-paid card first,” Starling Bank founder Anne Boden told me in a call yesterday when I made the obvious comparison to rival Monzo, which launched its app in public beta last March but won’t launch a current account till later this summer.

“We wanted to put all our energies and creativity into producing something that provides all the services you need, not just a card,” says Boden. “Plus lots more things we can do because we built our technology ourselves.”

The staggered beta launch also comes a day after Starling Bank announced a partnership with currency exchange company TransferWise as part of the challenger bank’s broader strategy to offer a marketplace of additional financial services within the app. That’s an idea that is also being pursued by Monzo and a host of other fintech startups that want to be the hub for your financial life by letting you connect one app to all of the financial services and products you use or require.

“I think I started talking about marketplaces and banking three years ago,” says the Starling Bank founder with a chuckle. “I’ve had a career in banking and I’ve worked in lots of banks that felt they were the best provider of all the products for all of their customers… ‘sell a current account and cross-sell this service or that service.’ But customers are much more sophisticated now-a-days, they like to make their own decisions and have a whole range of products to choose from.”

Instead, Starling decided that it wanted to do one thing “really, really well,” which is to offer a current account, a product heavily reliant on technology. “And we are going to co-exist with other products, other providers,” she says. In addition to currency exchange, for example, this could include mortgages.

“The world is changing, there’s an ecosystem out there of innovative and creative fintech organizations. We are going to be the center of that ecosystem, linking customers to the right products from the right partners.”

The startup is also embracing so-called “open banking,” which the European Union and the U.K. government have legislated to force all banks to eventually do, something Boden supports. To get on the front foot, Starling Bank is holding its first hackathon next month based on its soon-to-launch current account open API.

Lastly, I asked why Starling needed to be a bank, when so much innovation is — and will be — possible by simply building on top of existing banking rails. The answer? It’s the business model, stupid.

“We can respond to all of the great things happening out there in the fintech market, but we also have a revenue model that’s sustainable… we’ll take in deposits and lend out a portion as overdrafts,” Boden says. “We’re not going to punish you for going overdrawn [with hidden charges]. It’s all about being transparent and fair.”

Smart diabetes management service Livongo Health raises $52.5M and looks to new markets

Glen Tullman doesn’t like it when someone tells him he’s sick when he’s feeling fine.

It’s something he thinks his customers probably don’t want to hear, either. Tullman runs a startup called Livongo Health, which offers a blood glucose monitor accompanied with a service designed to intervene and help coach people through managing diabetes. Livongo Health helps with best practices, but is also designed to intervene before things start to get bad. And Tullman hopes that by collecting enough data and applying the right technology, they can create a tool that will be able to figure out the right touch for getting people to manage — and care about — their chronic conditions.

To do that, Livongo Health has raised an additional $52.5 million in a round led by General Catalyst and Kinnevik. The actual product is a cellular-connected blood sugar monitor, which takes your blood sugar readings and then sends that information to Livongo Health’s monitoring services. If the reading falls outside of normal bounds, the company will flag that person and offer some kind of recommendation — like drinking a glass of fruit juice, or going for a walk. If it strays too far out of the norm, they’ll get a call from a specialist who will walk them through what to do next.

“Person using it has to love it,” Tullman said. “They can’t just like it, otherwise they won’t use it. We can help them, but only in the moment. Context matters. If I called you up and said, ‘I can be there in 15 minutes to fix a flat tire,’ you’d say why are you bothering me. But if you had a flat you’d be like, ‘that’s awesome,’ and you wouldn’t ask how much it costs.”

That last part is meant to be one of the big selling points of Livongo Health, because Tullman said the service aims to get a call to the person within 90 seconds after the reading comes through. The company seeks to reduce the barrier to getting people to use the devices as much as possible. For example, strips for blood sugar tests are also free, and all the data is stored and is easily accessible so the users don’t have to constantly take notes on what their current status is.

At the moment, Livongo Health is focused on diabetes management. But given that the company has been able to wedge itself into the budgets of payers and into the minds of consumers, it seems natural that it would treat it as a launch point. Tullman said the next step, in addition to trying to expand internationally, is to also grow into management for other chronic diseases. Many people who manage diabetes might also deal with other chronic conditions, Tullman said, like hypertension or depression.

Livongo Health works with self-insured employers and pharmacy benefit providers to offer the company’s products to prospective patients as an option. While the company is only a little more than three years old, Tullman says it’s already collected enough data to demonstrate that Livongo Health is able to save as much as $100 a month for payers in the long run.

Early on, it might be difficult to get a profile of what a patient may be like. Further down the line Livongo Health could let a user know that their blood sugar doesn’t typically change that much in the afternoon, but early on the company still needs to capture as much as they can about the person. But starting off, Livongo Health is able to get some basic information from the payer and then will ask simple questions while they’re waiting for their blood sugar tests to complete to help build that profile.

From a purely market perspective, it’s clearly an important one given the amount of activity. There are multiple different kinds of startups — like Siren Care, which weaves sensors into fabrics for tracking problems associated with diabetes — trying to help build products for managing diabetes. There are also other startups working on diabetes management like One Drop. Still, this amount of financing gives a company like Livongo Health a robust budget in order to continue expanding beyond just creating a good hardware and on-the-spot experience for managing diabetes.

“[Tullman] and I sketched this business out on a piece of paper and we have been involved from the start,” General Catalyst partner Hemant Taneja said. “[The] core thesis was that technology could make a difference in the lives of millions of consumers with diabetes and other co-morbidities and our customers are finding that to be the case. Consumers are enrolling in large numbers and saving on healthcare costs for their insurance companies and employers.”

Scaling the educator network might be one of the more difficult parts. The human touch at the end is one of the most important parts of the experience, Tullman said, but it still has to intelligently divvy up the limited number of educators it has among the thousands — or, in the future, potentially millions — of customers in order to ensure that experience blankets its entire user base. That could easily spiral into a problem of just getting enough bodies into the door, but Tullman said a lot of the development being done is on ensuring that those coaches are able to figure out what are the highest-priority patients.

“Only when you go out of range, really high or low, does a human intervene and talk to you, and because of that for about every 2,500 members we have a coach,” Tullman said. “It’s a bit like Uber, they work from home and have very sophisticated software they’re running to tell who they’re talking with and what they need. And, they still need to respond in 90 seconds. We know that if you think about it, for a million people, we need 400 coaches. If you think about 30 million, that’s 12,000 coaches — the American Association of Diabetes Educators has more members than that.”

Snap is already more valuable than these 9 companies

Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, had a stellar first day in its public debut on the New York Stock Exchange, popping 44 percent. The self-proclaimed camera company that began its roots as an ephemeral photo-sharing app first priced its IPO at $17 per share on Wednesday. The stock opened at $24 and closed the day at $24.51. The company’s market cap is being reported as $34 billion (fully diluted).

Many questions still remain for the future of Snap, like how it plans to grow its user base and ultimately become profitable. But investors are betting big on 26-year-old Evan Spiegel and the company’s promise of innovation. While it’s too early to know exactly what will happen to Snapchat, going public is a significant milestone. Here are nine public companies that Snap is more valuable than on its first day as a publicly traded company.

1. Twitter (Market cap $11.20 billion)

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A worst-case scenario for Snap would be to mimic Twitter’s highly anticipated 2013 IPO. The company was off to a soaring start, but struggled to grow its user base over the years.

2. Ferrari (Market cap $12.46 billion)

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Snap is more valuable than Italian sports car manufacturer Ferrari ($RACE), which went public in 2015 after separating from Fiat Chrysler.

3. Best Buy (Market cap $14.08 billion)

Curbside Best Buy

Consumer electronics and entertainment retailer Best Buy went public way back in 1985, but today is less valuable than the photo-sharing app that has only been around for six years.

4. Seagate (Market cap $14.44 billion)

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Seagate, best known for its hard drives, has seen revenue fall over the past few years. The data storage solution company went public on the NYSE in 2002, but has been eclipsed by other, sexier cloud storage providers.

5. Hershey (Market cap $16.57 billion)

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Snap is about twice as valuable as The Hershey Company, which went public in 1978. To put this into perspective, Hershey owns more than 80 brands, including Reese’s, Jolly Rancher, Kit Kat and Twizzlers.

6. Viacom (Market cap $16.73 billion)

 

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On its first day as a public company, Snap was more valuable than a media conglomerate that split from CBS in 2005. Viacom is one of the world’s largest broadcasting and cable companies, with brands including MTV, BET and Paramount Pictures.

7. Hilton (Market cap $19.18 billion)

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Snap is more valuable than Hilton Worldwide, the hospitality company. Hilton owns a network of more than 4,000 hotels, resorts and timeshare properties.

8. United Continental (Market cap $23.06 billion)

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Snapchat is more valuable than the combination of two major airlines, United and Continental, which merged in 2010.

9. American Airlines (Market cap $23.05 billion)

Boeing American Airlines

American Airlines is a popular airline brand, but it has struggled financially in recent years, at one point even filing for bankruptcy. The company has been able to turn things around and has improved its position on the stock market.

The FBI’s new online FOIA portal is now live

It’s March, and beyond seasonal allergies and college basketball, that means the FBI’s controversial changes to its FOIA request system are now fully implemented.

For reporters and government transparency advocates, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is an essential tool. Enacted in 1966, the act requires the government to provide answers to specific requests for information, and as any FOIA requester knows, the more specific the better chance of getting what you’re after. As the Columbia Journalism Review observed in a FOIA retrospective, the information gleaned from FOIA requests can be the seed of much larger investigations — “everything from nuclear tests in Alaska to vice-president Spiro Agnew’s resignation, from the last moments of the space shuttle Challenger to the attacks on September 11.”

For the FBI, a popular target for FOIA requests, the new online portal replaces the standard email system. According to the bureau, the new online portal transitions the agency from a manual system to an automated system that will help it handle its large volume of requests, though detractors argue that the new web portal creates additional barriers to those seeking information from the FBI and makes tracking the paper trail more difficult.

Some significant changes have been implemented as the FBI’s Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts (eFOIA/eFOIPA) system exited the beta and went live at the beginning of March. The major changes from beta testing include dropping a requirement for the requester to provide a phone number, removing a cap on how many requests may be submitted per individual and shifting to a 24/7 availability schedule.

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To request information using the new eFOIA system, you’ll need to enter and confirm your email address, complete a recaptcha check and agree to a surprisingly bare bones terms of service:

Please read before continuing…

The eFOIPA system allows all types of Freedom of Information/Privacy Act (FOIPA) requests; to include requests on first parties (Privacy Act requests), deceased individuals, policies and procedures, events, organizations, and any other topic.

FOIA responses will be electronically transmitted. Privacy Act responses will not be electronically transmitted. These responses will be sent to you via standard mail.

A valid e-mail address will be required for authentication. The combined file size of all attachments may not exceed 30 megabytes.

The system will then send an automated verification email with a link for filing an eFOIA request. The new online portal requires the filer to provide their organization name, as still requires a mailing address, though as we noted before, phone number is now optional. An FAQ page with some additional basic guidance appears to clear up at least some of the questions that Oregon Senator Ron Wyden posed in an open letter to the FBI last month.

Afraid of change? If you feel more comfortable doing things the really old-fashioned way, you can just file your FBI FOIA request by fax or mail, though we wouldn’t exactly recommend it.

The best free security software 2017

The best free security software

Reliable antivirus is essential for any internet-connected PC, but it isn’t always enough. Your security software should also protect you from malware – programs that don’t behave like viruses, but are nevertheless a nuisance and a threat to your security. All it takes is forgetting to uncheck a box when you download an otherwise legitimate program, and your PC is compromised.

Your main security software must provide real-time scans to help you avoid an infection in the first place, but on-demand scanners also have their place, identifying  and removing any malicious software if your PC has started to behave strangely.

Your online accounts are a particularly juicy target for criminals too, so it’s also wise to use a password manager to create strong logins and store them in a secure vault.

We’ve ranked the best free security software in order of priority, starting with strong general purpose packages, through to preventative tools for specific threats. Combining several of these will enable you to create your own free security software suite, but bear in mind that you should only install one antivirus tool at a time.

1. Avast Free Antivirus

The best free security software, Avast safeguards your PC from threats the moment they appear

Avast Free Antivirus has millions of users, which helps it identify threats as soon as they appear. It scans your PC in real time, and if it comes across a piece of code that looks suspicious, it’s sent to Avast’s labs for testing. If it’s found to be malicious, Avast creates a ‘vaccine’ to eliminate it, which is then sent to every user worldwide.

Avast Free Antivirus can remove unwanted browser extensions and toolbars, which are easy to accidentally install if you often download free software, and there’s also a program updater to patch any recently discovered vulnerabilities in your installed software. It even includes a password manager to keep your logins secure.

Avast Free Antivirus the most powerful and comprehensive free security software suite around, and the perfect foundation for your online safety toolkit.

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware was one of the first tools to successfully remove the infamous Locky ransomware that appeared last year

2. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

Supplement your core security software with on-demand malware scans

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware runs in tandem with your main security software, providing specific protection from threats other than viruses.

The free edition of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware gives you reliable protection for malware and spyware, as well as rootkits, which give software access to crucial parts of your system without your permission.

The free edition of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware gives you a two-week taster of its premium features, including real-time scans, and protection from malicious sites, exploit attacks and ransomware (which it differentiates from other malware).

Once that trial period is up, you’re left with a no-frills on-demand scanner that’s ideal for removing unwanted software and identifying the cause of strange browser behaviour or taking back control of your browser if it’s been hijacked by adware.

Keepass shows the strength of your account passwords, and can generate stronger ones. They’re all stored in a securely encrypted central vault

3. Keepass

Free security software that keeps your logins under lock and key to protect your online accounts

With so much of our data now stored online – including work, photos, emails, bank account details – strong passwords have never been more important. Unfortuantely, the sheer number of online accounts necessary for everyday life means it’s hard to think up and memorize a different strong password for every service.

Keepass does the hard work for you, and stores the resulting strong passwords in an encrypted vault protected by a master login or key file.

Keepass encrypts usernames, passwords and notes using the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and Twofish algorithms, and they remain encrypted while the program is running so they won’t be cached to disk. Unlike Avast Free Antivirus’s built-in password manager, Keepass is portable, so you can carry it on a USB stick and it won’t save anything to your Windows registry.

Best of all, because it’s open source, it’s in constant active development and any security vulnerabilities can be patched the moment they’re discovered.

If you have to deal with an infected PC, Emsisoft Emergency Kit can identify the virus and isolate it to prevent it doing further damage

4. Emsisoft Emergency Kit

Emergency security software to save your bacon if your PC is already infected

If your antivirus software has failed and your PC’s security has been compromised, you need Emsisoft Emergency Kit .

Like Keepass, Emsisoft Emergency Kit can be saved to a USB stick and run on any PC without being installed (somewhat confusingly, it does have an ‘installer’, but this just extracts the necessary files and saves them to a location of your choice).

Not only does Emsisoft Emergency Kit check for viruses, trojans and worms, it also looks for malware on your PC, including adware, spyware and keyloggers. Bear in mind that these threats are constantly changing, so you’ll have to wait a minute for the security software to update its database of definitions before you can begin scanning.

Emsisoft Emergency Kit won’t conflict with any existing antivirus software on your PC, making it a great little tool to keep on hand. Even if you never need to use it yourself, it might be a lifesaver for a friend or family member who’s a little less cautious about their online security.

It’s all too easy to accidentally install toolbars and browser plugins when you download free software that’s supported by ads. As its name implies, Unchecky automatically unchecks boxes in software installers so you don’t get any surprises

5. Unchecky

Uncheck tick boxes to catch sneaky malware and toolbars before they install themselves

Unchecky won’t detect or remove malicious programs, but it can help you avoid installing them in the first place by automatically unchecking the boxes in software installers and alerting you if the app you’re installing is bundled with something else.

As security software, Unchecky isn’t perfect – it doesn’t pick up all unwanted programs, and some installers try to catch you out by taking an unchecked box as consent – but it’s nevertheless a useful tool in your PC security arsenal.

Combined with a common sense approach (only download software from a source you trust, select a ‘custom install’ option if it’s offered, and read each step of software installers carefully), it will help protect you from unwanted extras that pose a threat to you online.

XCOM 2’s eagerly anticipated Long War 2 total conversion mod released in Steam Workshop

The Long War mod for the original XCOM: Enemy Unknown is legendary, and for damned good reason. The vanilla XCOM reboot was a long, complex, and outstanding tactical game, and Long War made it longer, more complex, and even more outstanding with new classes, equipment, items, and features. It was so delectably great that Firaxis worked closely with the team behind Long War to prep official mods for the launch of the even-better XCOM 2—which wound up being one of the 10 best PC games of 2016.xcom 2 tactical

But those day-one mods didn’t include a new Long War. Today, nearly a year after XCOM 2’s launch, Pavonis Interactive released Long War 2. Hallelujah.

It’s easy to see that the time it took was well spent. Long War 2 expands the already widened scope of XCOM 2 dramatically. Expect to deploy on more than 100 missions during the campaign now, including eight new mission types ranging from jailbreaks to defending your resistance Havens. You’ll need to oversee those Havens more directly now, too, sending resources to sniff out supplies, intel, or recruits, and even directing your precious engineers and scientists to augment local efforts.

Pavonis Interactive
A Haven management screen in Long War 2.

 

The entire Geoscape map layer has been overworked for this deeper complexity, with an Advent AI trying to counter you every step of the way.

You’ll have extra firepower on your side for this grueling slog. Long War 2 starts you off with a much larger pool of recruits and the ability to field up to 10 soldiers in some battles. You’ll have the ability to “infiltrate” locations with squads before formally deploying, potentially lightening the load you’ll face once your boots hit the ground. Your team also receives a level-up at the tactical level with new laser and coilgun weapon types and a total of nine—nine!—specialized solider classes. The original game only had five.

But the Advent forces have been bolstered as well. You’ll face new unit variants that pack enhanced firepower and capabilities, and the Advent forces will have the ability to call in endless reinforcements in some missions. Making things even more tense, if you have to call in the Skyranger for a hot extraction when things go pear-shaped, you’ll now need to wait for your aerial rescue to actually fly into the battleground.

While the first Long War required XCOM’s premium Enemy Within expansion, you don’t need any of XCOM 2’s DLC to run this—just the base game. Pavonis says all of its previous XCOM 2 mods are already integrated directly into Long War 2, though it can’t guarantee that other mods work with this total conversion.

All in all, Long War 2 looks to bring a healthy dose of 4X-like strategy and even more battlefield complexity to XCOM 2’s tactical brilliance. Modding is a major factor in PC gaming’s greatness and this mod goes much, much deeper than most. Long War 2 looks like just the excuse I’ve been waiting for to fire up XCOM 2 yet again. I guess I know what I’m doing tonight. And tomorrow night. And the night after….

Assange seeks to discuss his US extradition with the feds

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said he stands by an earlier pledge to face trial in the U.S., but he is first urging federal investigators to name the exact charges against him.assange on balcony

“I stand by what I said,” Assange stated during a webcast on Thursday. “We look forward to having a conversation with the DOJ (U.S. Department of Justice) about what the correct way forward is.”

Assange previously made his pledge on the condition that President Barack Obama grant clemency to Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. soldier who was jailed for disclosing sensitive documents to WikiLeaks back in 2010.

On Tuesday, Obama commuted Manning’s sentence. She’ll now be released in May, after service nearly seven years behind bars. However, Obama said his decision had nothing to do with Assange’s offer, even as the U.S. may be building a case against the WikiLeaks founder for publishing government secrets.

Assange is currently hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy in the U.K., where he’s been granted asylum. Swedish officials have attempted to extradite him over alleged sexual offenses, and the FBI has suggested in court documents that it’s pursuing a case against Assange for his involvement with WikiLeaks.

However, the DOJ on Wednesday declined to comment on the matter and wouldn’t say whether the U.S. government is even seeking Assange’s extradition from the U.K.

On Thursday, Assange said the U.S. is deliberately hiding details of the charges against him to prevent his lawyers from effectively fighting back.

“I am confident about winning any U.S. case that is respecting the law in the United States,” he said. “WikiLeaks is a publisher, and as a publisher our activities are protected by the First Amendment.”

Despite his earlier pledge to travel to the U.S., Assange noted that Manning won’t be released until May. Before that time, he hopes to have “many discussions” with the Justice Department.

“I’ve always been willing to go to the United States, provided that my rights are respected,” he said. “Because this is a case that should never have occurred. It’s fundamentally unjust.”

However, Assange called Manning’s release a “strategic victory” when the Obama administration has cracked down on journalists and whistleblowers circulating sensitive information.

“If it takes me going to the United States to somehow flush out this case … then we are interested in looking at that as well,” Assange said.