Google Assistant Can Now Read the News to You

Google has added a new way for your Google Assistant to deliver the news. It’s called Your News Update, and it pulls news stories from a number of different sources from around the world. The upshot is a news update personalized to your location and interests.

From News Briefings to Your News Update

As you may already be aware, Google Assistant can already read News Briefings to you. However, the current system makes you choose particular news sources. So, you can hear the hourly news update from NPR, then CNN, followed by The New York Times.

Your News Update pools these resources and more to create a news update which includes stories from a number of different sources. So, you may hear world news from Reuters, then local news from CBS, followed by entertainment news from Billboard.

How to Listen to the News on Google Assistant

Google offers more details on The Keyword. The company states that Your News Update is “a smarter way to listen to the news hosted by the Google Assistant.” And it’s all thanks to collaborative efforts with news publishers over the past two years.

These news publishers are the key to Your News Update, and Google has roped in dozens of them. Participating partners include USA Today, The Washington Post, Fox News Radio, Cheddar, The Associated Press, Politico, Al Jazeera, and The Motley Fool.

To start receiving Your News Update, open Google Assistant and go to your Settings. Then, under the You tab, click News > Change Your Playlist Format. Tick Your News Update and you’re all set. Then you just need to say, “Hey Google, play me the news”.

How to Find News Sources You Can Trust

Your News Update is currently only available in English in the United States. However, Google is promising to expand internationally in 2020. In the meantime, we can at least recommend the best news sites you can trust

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. Because the truth IS out there.

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What Is a Data Breach and How Can You Protect Yourself?

If you follow security news, you’ve likely heard people talking about big companies suffering data breaches. And you might worry about how these breaches can affect you as a user.

So what is a data breach? That’s what we’ll explain below, with advice on how to protect yourself from future breaches.

Security Incident, Security Breach, Data Breach: What’s the Difference?

What is a data breach - security incident

The general term for a company or organization being hacked or attacked digitally is a security incident. This covers a wide range of issues like malware infection, phishing attempts, distributed denial of service attacks, and employees losing equipment or having it stolen.

A security incident may or may not result in the organization’s security being compromised. If attackers are successful in compromising the organization’s security, that is called a security breach.

A data breach is a specific type of security breach. This is where attackers successfully access data that they should not have been able to access. Typically, attackers will achieve a security breach, and then steal data resulting in a data breach.

But there can be other types of data breach too. For example, an organization may accidentally leave sensitive data in an insecure location. If people can access data they shouldn’t be able to, that’s a data breach.

What Are Examples of Some Famous Data Breaches?

One of the biggest data breaches in recent years was revealed in 2018. Hackers had attacked Facebook and were able to steal information about 30 million users. They performed the attack through Facebook developer APIs (application programming interface) and were able to obtain information about users such as their names, genders, and hometowns.

Another famous data breach happened to Equifax in 2017. Equifax is a large credit reporting company and holds data on a huge number of Americans. The hackers were able to gain initial access to the company’s systems through a consumer complaint web portal using a well-known vulnerability.

Then they used the web portal to access other parts of the network. They found usernames and passwords stored in plain text (which is a huge security mistake

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). They then used these passwords to steal data such as names, addresses, Social Security number, and dates of birth. In total, the breach potentially affected up to 145 million people.

Banking and credit card company Capital One also suffered a data breach in 2019. Hackers were able to steal the names, addresses, credit scores, and Social Security numbers of over 100 million customers.

The company had misconfigured a web application firewall, and a hacker was able to exploit this to gain access to the system. The hacker was a software engineer who had previously worked for Capital One’s web hosting company, Amazon Web Services.

How Do Data Breaches Happen?

What is a data breach - how data breaches happen

There are many ways that data breaches can happen. According to a report by Kastle Systems, the most common cause of data breaches is hacking, followed by poor security. Hackers used malware in nearly 50 percent of data breaches. They used social engineering in a quarter of breaches.

Hackers can introduce malware to a target’s computer through techniques such as email spam

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. An email will trick a user into clicking a link which downloads malware onto their device. Another way to hack a system is through social engineering attacks like phishing. This is where hackers set up a fake website and trick users into entering their username and password into the site.

The hackers can then copy those usernames and passwords and use them to access secure systems.

Sometimes, affected organizations make mistakes which result in data breaches. For example, an employee may lose their company computer or have it stolen. If cybercriminals get their hands on that computer, they can use it to access the company’s systems.

Or, as seen in the case of Equifax, an organization may have poor security practices such as storing passwords in plan text. That makes it easier for hackers to steal data.

Affected by a Data Breach? Here’s What to Do

With so many companies suffering data breaches, the likelihood is high that you may be affected by one. Therefore, a great resource to find out if your information has been part of a breach is the website You can enter your email address into this site to see if you have been affected by a data breach.

If your information has been included in a data breach, don’t panic. Firstly, check which sites are responsible for the breach. Now, go to each of those sites and change your password straight away. This should be enough to protect you in most cases.

Sometimes, you’ll need to take more drastic action. This would be if the breach has affected your bank, for example, or if very sensitive data such as your Social Security number has been leaked. In these cases, you may want to freeze your credit

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, start using a credit monitoring service, and/or check your credit reports to ensure no one is doing anything suspicious under your name.

If you believe someone else has opened an account under your name, contact the institution’s fraud department and let them know.

How Can You Protect Yourself From Data Breaches?

What is a data breach - how to protect yourself

In order to protect yourself from data breaches, there are a number of steps you can take:

  • Use strong passwords. Your passwords should ideally be a mix of numbers, letters, and special characters. Also, you should never reuse the same password for multiple sites or logins. Finally, never share your passwords with anyone.
  • Use HTTPS when browsing the web. Using HTTPS ensures you connect to sites securely

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    . This makes it harder for hackers to intercept your data.
  • Be on the lookout for spam, phishing, and other suspicious communications. Be careful what you click on, especially if you received an unsolicited email message or are browsing a less-than-reputable website.
  • Keep your devices and software up to date. Updating operating systems and other software can be a pain. But it’s a vital way to protect yourself from attacks. When a security vulnerability is disclosed, companies will update their software to protect against the vulnerability. If you don’t update, you leave a big hole in your security.
  • Check your credit reports regularly. If you think someone might have stolen your data, they could use it to take out a credit card in your name. So you might want to use a credit monitoring service. This will send you alerts if the company detects suspicious activity on your accounts.

Take Steps to Protect Yourself From Data Breaches

With this information, you can be ready for the possibility of a data breach. And by following the steps outlined above, you can make it less likely you’ll be a victim of a data breach in the future.

If you work with data as part of your job, you should also consider how hackers could target your organization. To learn more, see our data handling tips to avoid security breaches at work

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How to Change the Netflix Playback Speed

Have you ever wanted to change the Netflix playback speed? Allowing you to watch films and TV shows more quickly? YouTube offers variable playback speeds, but Netflix doesn’t officially support this feature.

Netflix HAS experimented with variable playback speeds, but given the reaction from filmmakers it’s unlikely to be rolled out to a broader audience anytime soon. So, in this article we’ll show you how to watch Netflix faster.

Netflix Experiments With Variable Playback Speeds

Netflix has been testing variable playback speeds. This allows consumers to view content slightly faster (1.2x) or much quicker (1.5x). It also offers slower options (0.5x and 0.7x), perfect for those who love analyzing their favorite media. Audio pitch is altered to suit the new speed you’re watching at too.

This feature has only been tested as an experiment, confined solely to some viewers using the Android Netflix app. However, it has caused a lot of controversy.

Directors and writers argued that they craft their products a certain way, and they don’t want viewers messing with that. Peyton Reed (Ant Man), Brad Bird (The Incredibles), and Judd Apatow (Girls) have all spoken out about the idea, agreeing that it takes away from the filmmakers’ intentions.

As such, Netflix assures users that it’s “sensitive to creator concerns”. And it won’t be rolling the feature out to anyone else until it’s received feedback on the experiment.

Netflix’s experiment into variable playback speeds allowed users to watch Netflix faster and slower, depending on their needs. Netflix cited films with subtitles as one reason why people may want to watch content more slowly.

There are also valid reasons why people may want to watch content more quickly. For example, maybe you want to watch slow TV (check out our guide to slow TV

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) but not quite as slowly as other people.

Slow TV programs generally happen in real-time and offer a range of beautiful vistas. But if you want to watch the train journey from Bergen to Oslo without needing to set aside seven hours of your life, it makes sense to speed Netflix up.

How to Change Video Playback Speeds on Netflix

To change the Netflix playback speed, your best option is to install a plug-in on Google Chrome. Just click Add To Chrome then Add Extension. So which plugins do we recommend?

1. Video Speed Controller

variable netflix playback google chrome plug-in extension

Video Speed Controller is the best option on offer because it allows you to vary speeds by tiny increments. Normal 1.0 speed is the default. By hovering over the left-hand corner of your screen, you can click the plus or minus buttons to increase or decrease the playback speed of Netflix.

If you’re not sure you can watch content at much higher speeds, try 1.1x speed. On a 60-minute video, you’ll save 6 minutes.

Video Speed Controller controls the speed of any HTML5 video and has handy shortcuts to rewind or fast-forward content.

Download: Video Speed Controller

2. Video Speed

google chrome variable netflix playback plug-in extension

Only interested in speeding up videos? Then this extension is the one for you. Its options range from 1.25x speed to 2x speed. The latter is a good option if you’re studying a film you’re not especially interested in. It’s not a particularly nice experience, but it could be useful in some situations. It’s good for viewing documentaries too—though only if you’re a fast learner.

Video Speed also works on HTML5, so it’s great for YouTube or Vimeo tutorials and online courses that use Wistia.

Download: Video Speed

3. SpeedUp

Netflix variable playback google chrome extension plug-in

This is a similar add-on which gives you control over videos on all websites. You’re not confined to Netflix; SpeedUp can also be used on other streaming platforms like Hulu and Amazon Prime.

Contrary to what its name implies, SpeedUp can also slow down content. It’s less intensive than Video Speed Controller, so to vary playback speed, it presents you with nine buttons, ranging from 0.75x to 2.25x. Once again, the 1.10x option is a good way to save time without compromising quality.

Download: SpeedUp

Why Would You Change Netflix Playback Speeds?

When discussing its experiment, Netflix revealed that it was testing the feature because variable speeds “has been frequently requested by our members”. But why would anyone want to watch a movie or TV show faster—or slower—than it was intended to be consumed?

There’s controversy, but other services offer this already. Few creators criticize YouTube for allowing viewers to speed content up. Similarly, DVD and Blu-ray players typically have this functionality. You can listen to podcasts on some podcast players too, meaning you can fit a whole episode in during your commute.

watch streaming platform TV shows films faster slower

Playing Netflix content at faster speeds makes more sense for TV shows rather than movies. Netflix is synonymous with binge-watching, so speeding up content means you can power through a season in record time. So, if you’re desperate to watch the next episode of Daredevil, changing the Netflix playback speed to 1.5x means you can watch it during lunch.

Is the difference that significant? Just divide the episode or film length (in minutes) by the speed. At 1.5x speed, you can watch a 60-minute show in 40 minutes. A 10-episode series, with each episode consisting of 60 minutes, saves you 100 minutes when viewed at 1.2x speed. The difference in viewing experience between normal speed and 1.2x speed is virtually unnoticeable.

And we all experience movies differently. Intentions can differ even between writers and directors; of course consumers will interpret a production in juxtaposing ways. So variable playback speed can also be seen as a way of making content more accessible.

The ability to change the playback speed on Netflix can aid those on the autistic spectrum, who may find that variable speeds makes watching content more fun and fulfilling.

Should You Change Netflix Playback Speeds?

If you’re reading this you’ve clearly decided to explore the possibility of changing the playback speed on Netflix. And while Netflix currently doesn’t offer this feature, we’ve shown you how to do it using browser extensions.

As to whether you should, it’s up to you. There is a risk of ruining a great movie by rushing through it, but if you have a genuine need to speed up or slow down Netflix, go ahead. We’re not here to judge.

Just remember than whatever Netflix playback speed you settle on, you should take regular breaks. After all, streaming movies can be bad for you

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Spotify Launches Your Daily Podcasts Playlist

Spotify has launched another personalized playlist in the same vein as Discover Weekly and Release Radar. It’s called Your Daily Podcasts, and, unlike all of the previous personalized playlists Spotify has released, this one is all about podcasts.

Spotify Adds Podcasts to the Music Mix

Spotify is obviously full of songs you can listen to whenever you want. However, sometimes you don’t know what music you want to listen to. Which is where Spotify’s capacity to surface music you’re likely to enjoy comes into play.

The streaming service aids music discovery in a number of ways, but it’s now keen to help you discover new podcasts as well. In June 2019, Spotify launched Your Daily Drive

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, with a mix of music and podcasts. And now it’s launching a playlist dedicated solely to podcasts.

How to Listen to Your Daily Podcasts

Your Daily Podcasts is a personalized playlist packed full of podcasts. As with the music playlists, Spotify will analyze your listening habits. Then, based on your streams and follows, Spotify will make recommendations accordingly.

You’ll see classic episodes of podcasts you follow, the next episodes of podcasts you listen to, plus new podcasts based on your listening habits. And with so many great podcasts around these days, finding the best new podcasts is half the battle.

As detailed on For The Record, Your Daily Podcasts is available to Spotify listeners who have “listened to at least four podcasts in the past 90 days”. It’s available in the US, UK, Germany, Sweden, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

How to Add Podcasts to Spotify Playlists

Spotify has invested heavily in podcasts in recent years. So it’s no surprise to find the streaming service trying to get more people to listen to more podcasts. Whether this strategy will work as well as it does with music remains to be seen.

Even if none of the podcasts Spotify recommends to you through Your Daily Podcasts appeal, you can also add podcasts to Spotify playlists

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yourself. Which means you can create the perfect blend of music and podcasts to suit any occasion.

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Røde’s Most Versatile Shotgun Microphone Ever: The VideoMic NTG

The Røde VideoMic range has been a favorite of DSLR videographers and amateur filmmakers for over a decade, producing great quality sound in a compact and affordable package. The newly announced VideoMic NTG brings the broadcast-quality audio technology of Røde’s profession NTG line into a versatile and convenient VideoMic package.

It’s available today initially in the US for $249, with other regional pricing and availability to follow.

High Specs

What can you expect from the Røde VideoMic NTG? Here are some of the standout features:

  • The same Annular Line Tube Technology from the newest NTG5 microphone and low self-noise; providing highly directional pickup and near-flat frequency response for as natural-sounding audio as you can get.
  • Auto-sensing TRS and TRRS 3.5mm output, eliminating the need for adaptors when switching between DSLR and mobile devices.
  • USB output, with optional headphone monitoring.
  • Built-in rechargeable battery for 30+ hours of use.
  • Lightweight and rugged aluminum body (94g), enabling it to be comfortably used on any size camera or a boom pole.
  • Infinitely variable gain control, enabling you to precisely match audio levels to the input characteristics of any camera.

Of course, the VideoMic NTG also retains the features that make the rest of the VideoMic range so useful. This includes a switchable high-pass filter (75/150Hz) to remove low-end background noise, and a high-frequency shelf boost to counteract the effects of using foam and furry windshields.

If that wasn’t enough, the user favorite -20dB safety channel feature from the VideoMic Pro+ has been integrated, which turns your stereo channel recording into a dual mono recording, with one channel at 20dB lower volume than the other. This works as a backup, ensuring you’ll always have a clean audio channel if the other experiences clipping from unexpected high volumes.

Røde's Most Versatile Shotgun Microphone Ever: The VideoMic NTG R DE VM NTG PACKAGING PROFILE RGB

Lastly, the real quality of life improvement might be the auto power-on and off feature, which syncs to your camera’s power. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve forgotten to turn off my VideoMic, only to come back next to time to a dead battery; or worse, forgotten to turn it on and been left with no audio at all!


For mobile devices, DSLRs, or even connected to your laptop or desktop over USB, the VideoMic NTG delivers professional sound quality at an affordable price. It can be mounted on-camera with the included shock absorber, attached to a boom, or held on a pistol grip. Whether it’s for podcasting interviews, live streaming, or filmmaking, the VideoMic NTG looks set to be Røde’s most versatile mic yet. We can’t wait to get our hands on one.

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