Earlier today, news broke that a file containing over 400,000 usernames and passwords, apparently stolen from a Yahoo service by a hacker collective, was posted online. The passwords appeared in “plaintext” (or “cleartext”), meaning they were unencrypted.

A security site that analyzed the posted data determined that the accounts were not just with Yahoo but also with other online services, including Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, and others, as well as a number of .GOV and .MIL addresses.

Yahoo has acknowledged the breach and released this statement to TechCrunch:

…We confirm that an older file from Yahoo! Contributor Network (previously Associated Content) containing approximately 400,000 Yahoo! and other company users names and passwords was stolen yesterday, July 11. Of these, less than 5% of the Yahoo! accounts had valid passwords. We are fixing the vulnerability that led to the disclosure of this data, changing the passwords of the affected Yahoo! users and notifying the companies whose users accounts may have been compromised…

For advice on creating strong passwords, read our story “How to create a strong password (and remember it)“. And check the many tips in our Online Security Guide at ConsumerReports.org.

To find out whether any of your accounts’ credentials may have been exposed, you can check here: http://labs.sucuri.net/?yahooleak.

Analysis of Yahoo Voice Password Leak – 453,441 Passwords Exposed. Sucuri Research Blog
Yahoo Confirms, Apologizes For The Email Hack, Says Still Fixing. Plus, Check If You Were Impacted (Non-Yahoo Accounts Apply) TechCrunch

Nikon has issued a recall of rechargeable batteries sold with two models of its digital SLR cameras, the Nikon D800 and Nikon D7000. More than 200,000 of the D-SLR batteries sold with the cameras worldwide may short-circuit and melt, posing a burn hazard to consumers.

According to American and Canadian safety agencies, Nikon has received about seven consumer complaints regarding the digital camera batteries overheating. Of the estimated 5,100 batteries that were sold in the U.S. and 1,100 sold in Canada, no incidents or injuries were reported, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada, respectively.

The batteries were sold with the Nikon D7000—a Consumer Reports recommended D-SLR in its test of digital SLR cameras—and D800 cameras from February to April.

Recent Nikon digital SLR camera buyers should check if they are affected by this battery recall by visiting Nikon’s website: www.NikonUSA.com. Affected owners should immediately discontinue use, remove the flawed batteries from their Nikon cameras, and contact Nikon (toll-free: 800-645-6687) for free replacement batteries.

recall_nikon-DSLR-batteries.jpgThe recalled Nikon DSLR rechargeable battieries have an “E” or “F” as the ninth character of the 14-digit lot number, located on the back of the battery pack.

Nikon Recalls Rechargeable Battery Packs Sold with Digital SLR Cameras Due to Burn Hazard CPSC
Recall: Nikon Model EN-EL 15 Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery Pack Health Canada
Service Advisory: EN-EL15 Rechargeable Li-ion Battery Recall Nikon

It seems like a no-brainer. An electric fan will cool you off in a heat wave, right? But researchers in England say there’s no hard evidence that fans are effective—or safe—ways to beat the heat.

The UK researchers report they were hoping to craft guidelines on fan use during heat waves and at massive public events such as the 2012 Olympic summer games which start in London on July 27.

But as reported in the Cochrane Library, an online database “of high-quality, independent evidence to inform healthcare decision-making,” clinical research has produced a mixed bag. Dr. Saurabh Gupta wrote in the group’s report:

Some medical research studies suggested that fans might reduce health problems, while others suggested that the fans might make things worse.

Of particular concern: Some studies suggest that in some instances, fans may contribute to heat gain. If people feel hotter, they may perspire or sweat more, which may lead to dehydration or other health problems.

Another of the report’s researchers, Katie Carmichael of the UK’s Health Protection Agency, said the group’s report doesn’t “support or refute the use of electric fans during a heat wave and people making decisions about them should consider the current state of the evidence base.”

Consumer Reports’ experts have offered several cooling tips and safety advice for hot weather, including:

  • Take cool baths or showers if possible. (See Stay-cool tips for hot days and nights.)
  • Drink plenty of liquids, but avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages (See: Keep your cool, avoid heat-related illnesses)
  • Air conditioners can effectively cool a room or a home—if the model is appropriate for the room (See Air conditioners that keep you and your wallet cool)
  • All of the room air conditioners recently tested by Consumer Reports did an excellent job at cooling. (See The best air conditioning for the hot summer ahead and Consumer Reports Air conditioner Ratings,)
  • Thermostats should be set to cool a home only when it is or about to be occupied. Many of the newer thermostats tested by Consumer Reports experts can be programmed for various times and days of the week, (See Use a programmable thermostat to keep cooling costs in check)

What are your tips for keeping cool this summer?

Health Protection and Heatwaves: The Need for Systematic Reviews The Cochrane Library
Electric fans for reducing adverse health impacts in heatwaves (absract) The Cochrane Library
The Cochrane Library Podcast (5-minute audio file opens in new browser window)
Cochrane finds no reliable evidence on effectiveness of electric fans in heatwaves Medical Express News

Nearly six out of 10 U.S. parents of children ages 8 to12 (a.k.a. “tweeners” or tweens) have provided those children with cell phones. And many parents are paying more than they expected to for phone service, according to the National Consumers League, which conducted a survey this past June that queried 802 parents.

The survey showed that the top reasons parents had for buying phones for this age group are safety (84 percent), tracking a child’s after-school activities (73 percent), and that the child asked for one (16 percent.) As for what kinds of phones parents are buying for their tweens: A perhaps surprisingly low 4 percent got a basic phone with no Web or texting ability. About half of tweens received a basic phone with texting; 20 percent got a basic phone with texting and Web access. And a lucky 27 percent got a smart phone.

No surprise is that 82 percent of parents said that the price of the cell phone service was an important part of their decision. And 92 percent of parents said they spend less than $75 a month on their tween’s cell phone service.

But this study also found that parents in a third of households earning under $50,000—and a quarter of households overall—were taken by surprise at how much the tweens’ phones are costing them. Some solutions being explored by parents include checking into parental controls offered by carriers to control costs, setting monthly budgets for kids, getting rid of the phone altogether, or switching to prepaid or postpaid unlimited plans.

In a finding that might surprise a lot of parents who are considering getting a phone for their 8-to-12-year-olds, only 16 percent of parents reported conflicts with their kids over phone use. And fewer than one in 10 parents reported that the child’s phone use intruded on family time or distracted from school work. Only 3 percent of parents reported improper use of a cell phone, as in sexting or cyberbullying.

Finally, 89 percent of parents of tweens who bought cell phones for their child have no regrets.

Survey: Majority of ‘tweeners’ now have cell phones, with many parents concerned about cost National Consumers League

If you’re searching for the best phone for your tween or yourself, check our free mobile-phone buying guide at Consumer Reports.org. And be sure to read our story, “Buying a child’s first cell phone: 5 reasons to think prepaid” for more guidance.

How to stop unwanted robocalls


If you answer the phone and hear a prerecorded sales message from a telemarketer, than that is probably an illegal robocall. Today the Federal Trade Commission issued tips for dealing with those annoying robocalls.

What to do:

  • Hang up. Don’t press 1 to get an operator, and don’t press any other number to get off the robocaller’s list. According to the FTC, pressing a number will probably just lead to more robocalls.

  • Consider calling your phone provider and asking it to block the number, but make sure to ask whether it charges for that service. Telemarketers change caller ID information easily and often, so it may not be worth paying the fee, says the FTC.
  • Report the call to the FTC at ftc.gov/robocalls or 877-382-4357.

You can also put your number on the national Do Not Call Registry. There are some 200 million telephone numbers registered already. To sign up call 888-382-1222 from the number you want removed or visit National Do Not Call Registry.

Earlier today we asked our Facebook readers whether they would be less likely to support a politician or give a company their business if they received a robocall from them. The votes overwhelmingly showed that people would be annoyed enough to withhold their support if they got such a call. At last count, 135 out of 155 said they would be less likely to support a politician or company that sent them a robocall. To see the full results, visit our Facebook page.

Check out our cordless phone Ratings to see which models have caller ID, as well as our cordless phone buying guide for other features you may find helpful.

What To Do If You Get a Robocall FTC

SteelSeries has partnered up with Major League Gaming to introduce the SteelSeries Sensei MLG Edition Gaming Mouse, which was designed based on interviews and feedback from visitors at the Major League Gaming (MLG) Winter Championships. This gaming mouse is ambidextrous…

SteelSeries has partnered up with Major League Gaming to introduce the SteelSeries Sensei MLG Edition Gaming Mouse, which was designed based on interviews and feedback from visitors at the Major League Gaming (MLG) Winter Championships. This gaming mouse is ambidextrous…

GameStop is now taking pre-orders on the brand new 16GB Google Nexus 7 tablet featuring the latest Android Jelly Bean operating system. Priced at $249, the Nexus 7 tablet will be available in mid-July, and for a limited time, the…

Verizon Wireless is set to release the new Samsung Galaxy S 3 smartphone in Verizon Wireless Communications Stores and Verizon online this week starting on July 10th in the United States. It has also been reported that the smartphone release…

Thinking of buying a smaller tablet soon? Don’t buy until you take a look at Google’s new 7-inch tablet, the Google Nexus 7, which is scheduled to ship this month. Judging by our preliminary results, this is one of the best small tablets we’ve ever tested.

Based on evaluation on a press sample of this newcomer, we found that it improves in almost every respect upon the performance of others in this class, including the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet—which, like the Nexus 7, are priced at $200.

Here are the pluses to Google’s first tablet, based on our preliminary tests:

  • With a speedy Quad-core processor, the Nexus 7’s display is very responsive when you’re typing on the screen—and notably better than those on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble tablets.
  • Its display suffered from noticeably less glare than those of other 7-inch tablets in bright light with the tablet’s own brightness set to maximum, a plus for outdoor reading.
  • At 0.7 pounds, it’s almost 20 percent lighter than either the Kindle Fire or the Nook Tablet.
  • It ships with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean), a new version of the operating system that’s superior to OSes that other Android tablets ship with.
  • You can customize the Nexus 7’s user interface in many ways. The Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet have proprietary user interfaces that can’t be customized much.
  • We haven’t fully tested the Nexus 7’s battery life, but preliminary tests suggest it’s at or close to Google’s claim of 10 hours when Web browsing. If true, that’s far longer than the roughly 6.3 hours that both the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet ran in our tests.
  • It has access to all the apps in the Google Play store. The Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet have access to a much more limited set of apps. For example, you can’t download Amazon’s Kindle app to the Nook Tablet, or B &N’s Nook app to the Kindle Fire. Both apps are available on the Nexus 7 (along with other e-reading apps, including its own Google Play Books).

We noted several advantages when comparing the Nexus 7 with the Kindle Fire in particular:

  • The Nexus 7’s tapered case is easier to grasp with one hand than the square-edged Kindle Fire.
  • Its power button is nowhere near the USB/power outlet, minimizing the likelihood of accidentally turning the unit off when plugging or unplugging it.
  • When we read a book while holding it in portrait orientation, the Nexus 7 seemed less likely than the Kindle Fire to react to a stray touch either by displaying a dictionary definition of the word we happened to touch or by turning the page.
  • The Nexus 7 comes in a 16GB version, which costs $249, a price well worth paying if you watch lots of video or often need to access content when Wi-Fi isn’t available. The Kindle Fire is available only with 8GB of storage.

That said, the Nexus 7 isn’t flawless. Here are some shortcomings:

  • Like its two main competitors, the Nexus 7 lacks a memory card slot and a rear camera. (Unlike them, though, it does have a front webcam.)
  • Adobe says the Nexus 7 will not support Flash for the version of Android the Nexus uses. But Google says that downloading the generic browser in the Google Play store will allow Flash access. (That browser was not present on our press sample, but we successfully downloaded the Flash app to the device and were able to play Flash videos via the Chrome browser.)
  • The Nexus 7 works only in portrait mode on its home screen, which can be annoying if you want to switch from one landscape app, such as a Web browser, to another, such as a video player, and you have to locate the icon.

Bottom line: The Nexus 7 offers enough performance and design advantages to present a serious challenge not only to the Kindle Fire at the $200 price point but also to the pricier 7-inch tablets from Samsung and others. Check our tablet Ratings for a full assessment of the Nexus 7 shortly after it begins to ship.