Tag: Google

By Jillian D’Onfro for CNBC 

Google is cracking down on cryptocurrency-related advertising.  The move follows a similar ban by Facebook earlier this year. The company will no longer allow ads about cryptocurrency-related content, including initial coin offerings (ICOs), wallets, and trading advice across any of its ad platforms.

The company is updating its financial services-related ad policies to ban any advertising about cryptocurrency-related content, including initial coin offerings (ICOs), wallets, and trading advice, Google’s director of sustainable ads, Scott Spencer, told CNBC.

That means that even companies with legitimate cryptocurrency offerings won’t be allowed to serve ads through any of Google’s ad products, which place advertising on its own sites as well as third-party websites.

This update will go into effect in June 2018, according to a company post.

“We don’t have a crystal ball to know where the future is going to go with cryptocurrencies, but we’ve seen enough consumer harm or potential for consumer harm that it’s an area that we want to approach with extreme caution,” Scott said.

Google’s hard-line approach follows a similar ban that Facebook announced earlier this year.

While the crypto-currency boom has produced a lot of excitement and wealth, it’s still a largely unregulated space and has spawned countless high-profile scams.

This news comes as Google releases its annual “trust and safety” ads report.

Google said it took down more than 3.2 billion ads in 2017 that violated its policies, which is nearly double the 1.7 billion it removed the year before.

Google parent company Alphabet makes roughly 84 percent of its total revenue from advertising, so convincing advertisers that its ecosystem is safe and effective is critically important.

By Jillian D’Onfro for CNBC 

Google’s numerous safeguards designed to prevent malicious apps from reaching Android users led to the removal of over 700,000 apps from the Google Play Store in 2017, the company said today. That’s a 70% increase over the total removals in 2016.

“Not only did we remove more bad apps, we were able to identify and action against them earlier,” Google Play product manager Andrew Ahn wrote in a blog post.

“99 percent of apps with abusive contents were identified and rejected before anyone could install them.”

Google attributes this success to its improved ability to detect abuse “through new machine learning models and techniques.”

Copycat apps are still a significant problem

Copycat apps designed to resemble popular mainstays remain a popular method of trying to deceive users, according to Ahn. Google removed over a quarter of a million of these impersonating apps last year. The company also says it kept “tens of thousands” of apps with inappropriate content (pornography, extreme violence, hate, and illegal activities) out of the Play Store. Machine learning plays a key role here in helping human reviewers keep an eye out for bad apps and malicious developers.

“Potentially harmful applications” (PHAs) are apps that attempt to phish users’ personal information, act as a trojan horse for malware, or commit SMS fraud by firing off texts without a user’s knowledge. “While small in volume, PHAs pose a threat to Android users and we invest heavily in keeping them out of the Play Store,” Ahn said.

Google Play Protect scans installed apps to monitor for malicious activity. Google
Last year, Google put all of its malware scanning and detection technologies under the umbrella of Google Play Protect. The Android operating system automatically performs scans on installed applications to hunt for anything that’s out of place, and users can also manually trigger scans of their Android smartphones right in the updates section. (I’ve finally managed to stop hitting this button when checking for new versions of apps, but it took some time.)

Still, bad apps do occasionally slip through Google’s defenses. In August, Google discovered and kicked out 30 apps that were secretly using the devices they were installed on to perform DDoS attacks. Just earlier this month, the company removed 60 games from the Play Store — some of them meant for children — that were found to display pornographic ads. Google says it will continue to upgrade its methods and machine learning models against bad actors trying to trick consumers with apps that violate its policies. Those efforts indeed seem to be paying off in helping Android’s security turn a corner.

By Chris Welch for The Verge

What did South Africans google in 2017?

Google has revealed the results of its 2017 Year in Search, offering an overview of the year’s major moments and top trends.

“This year’s trending searches show growing interest in local celebrities and events, with seven of the top 10 trending search terms being local,” said Google.

The results are detailed below.

Top trending South African searches

Dumi Masilela
Cyclone Dineo
Joe Mafela
Karabo Mokoena
Joost van der Westhuizen
Black Friday
Mayweather vs McGregor fight
Fast & Furious 8
Hurricane Irma

Trending personalities

Dumi Masilela
Joe Mafela
Joost van der Westhuizen
Zodwa Wabantu
Mandla Hlatshwayo
Lundi Tyamara
Simphiwe Ngema
Grace Mugabe
Hugh Hefner
Chester Bennington

Top ‘near me’ searches

Pharmacy near me
Dentist near me
KFC near me
Jobs hiring near me
Hardware store near me
Gynaecologist near me
Printing shops near me
Steers near me
Sushi near me
Doctors near me

Top TV show searches

13 reasons why
Games of Thrones
Big Brother Naija
American Gods
Idols SA
Sex in the City
Big Little Lies

Top searched recipes

Oxtail recipes
Sweet potato recipes
Beef stew recipes
Vegan recipes
Creamed spinach recipes
Halal recipes
Prawn recipes
Spaghetti recipes
Cauliflower recipes
Bread recipes

Spat between Google and Amazon heats up

A tit for tat between the two tech giants just reached a new level, with Google announcing Wednesday it is restricting YouTube access on Amazon products, since Amazon doesn’t sell Google’s products.

Both companies sell rival television streaming devices and voice-activated speakers — and one of the big selling features of its Echo Show, which is equipped with a screen, was the ability to watch YouTube videos.

​“We’ve been trying to reach agreement with Amazon to give consumers access to each other’s products and services. But Amazon doesn’t carry Google products like Chromecast and Google Home, doesn’t make Prime Video available for Google Cast users, and last month stopped selling some of Nest’s latest products,” a statement from Google said. “Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and FireTV. We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon.”

So, for now, Amazon’s Echo Show and its Fire TV can only access YouTube via its existing website, not through the app.

“Google is setting a disappointing precedent by selectively blocking customer access to an open website,” said Amazon said in a statement. “We hope to resolve this with Google as soon as possible.”

Amazon users have been greeted with a message letting them know they won’t be able to access YouTube on their devices, effective Jan. 1, 2018.

By Alyssa Newcomb for NBC News

Your phone is tracking your every move

Your phone can reveal all of your physical activities to Google and the apps you use.

The sensors inside it can monitor, understand and disclose your real-world movements, based on what’s happening to the phone itself.

It can tell, for instance, if you’re standing up, or if you’ve just lifted your phone off a desk, or if you’ve started

An Android permission called “Activity Recognition”, which was discussed on Reddit and highlighted by DuckDuckGo last week, makes it much easier for developers to work out what you’re doing at any one time.

Shazam and SoundHound request the permission, but it isn’t completely clear why.

Though Activity Recognition isn’t new, the reaction to the Reddit and DuckDuckGo posts suggests a lot of users are unaware of it.

“The Activity Recognition API is built on top of the sensors available in a device,” says Google.

“Device sensors provide insights into what users are currently doing. However, with dozens of signals from multiple sensors and slight variations in how people do things, detecting what users are doing is not easy.

“The Activity Recognition API automatically detects activities by periodically reading short bursts of sensor data and processing them using machine learning models.”

Activity Recognition can tell developers when your phone is: in a vehicle, such as a car; on a bicycle; not moving; being tilted, due to its angle “relative to gravity” changing; on a user who’s walking or on a user who’s running.

It can even tell when you’re doing more than one thing at once, such as walking while being on a bus.

The API automatically gives its findings a likelihood rating out of 100. The higher the number, the more confident it is that you’re actually doing what it believes you’re doing.

This information is fed to the apps you’ve granted the Activity Recognition permission to.

“A common use case is that an application wants to monitor activities in the background and perform an action when a specific activity is detected,” says Google.

For instance, an app can automatically start monitoring your heartbeat when you start running, or switch to car mode when you start driving.

Though it can prove useful, it also sounds somewhat creepy.

The fact that Google categorises buries it in the “Other” category of permissions and doesn’t let you deny or disable it doesn’t help matters.

Google keeps a complete list of almost everything you’ve looked at, and what’s more, the company has made it difficult to find out which apps ask for the permission.

Right now, the only way to find out is by checking out each of your apps’ permissions one-by-one, by going to Settings, Apps, tapping an app, hitting the menu button and selecting All Permissions. It’s a slow and laborious process.

If you’re particularly concerned about Activity Recognition, it’s worth going through the effort and uninstalling any of you apps that request the permission, for peace of mind.

What can you do about Activity Recognition?

  • Read app permissions closely when you install a new app
  • Go into settings on your phone and read each existing app’s permissions
  • Delete apps that require Activity Recognition permissions

By Aatif Sulleyman for The Independent 
Image credit: Reuters

Google is warning users that Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates purchased from Symantec, VeriSign, GeoTrust, Thawte, Equifax and RapidSSL are not secure – raising questions for businesses using them.

SSL certificates are small data files that digitally bind a cryptographic key to an organisation’s details. When installed on a Web server, it activates the padlock and the https protocol and allows secure connections from a Web server to a browser.

Browser developers, including Google, have raised questions about the way Symantec issued SSL certificates, and have threatened to stop recognising them, a move that could hurt Symantec’s customers and worry visitors to the Web sites using the affected certificates.

Improper issuances
In March, Google accused Symantec of misusing at least 30 000 such certificates, potentially allowing attackers to masquerade as legitimate Web sites.

The Internet giant expects root certificate authorities like Symantec to validate domain ownership before issuing certificates and to secure their operations and infrastructure against signs of improper issuances as well as auditing logs to review issuance activity.

Google stated Symantec had not met these standards and had allowed outside access to their certificate infrastructure without proper oversight.

Symantec SSL certificates – estimated to make up one in every six SSL certificates currently deployed online – include certificates issued by VeriSign, GeoTrust, Thawte, Equifax and RapidSSL because Symantec bought their certificate authorities and they were subsequently added to the Symantec root.

The search-engine giant indicated last month that it has added a new feature under the “Developer Tools” menu item in the latest version of its Web browser, Google Chrome, alerting users that Symantec, VeriSign, GeoTrust, Thawte, Equifax and RapidSSL SSL certificates issued before 1 June 2016 will be considered distrusted from next March.

The core of the issue surrounding Symantec certificates – the business operates under brand names such as VeriSign, Thawte, Equifac, RapidSSL or GeoTrust – is that Symantec “entrusted several organisations with the ability to issue certificates without the appropriate or necessary oversight,” says Google.

The latest version of Google Chrome – the world’s most popular browser – called version 62 is scheduled to go live between 22 and 28 October. According to Net Market Share, Chrome dominates the browser market with a 59.61% market share.

The next big upgrade, called Chrome 66, is expected mid-April 2018 and visitors to Web sites using Symantec certificates issued before 1 June 2016 will receive warnings that the sites are “untrusted”.
Google has also indicated that Chrome 70 – estimated for roll-out in October 2018 – will distrust any certificate issued by Symantec’s old infrastructure, including those sold after 1 June 2016.

DigiCert deal
Following the impasse, Symantec has since entered an agreement with identity and encryption solutions provider DigiCert, which will acquire Symantec’s Web site security and related public key infrastructure solutions.
Under the terms of the agreement, Symantec will receive approximately $950 million in upfront cash proceeds and approximately a 30% stake in the common stock equity of the DigiCert business at the closing of the transaction.
However, Lauren Collier, SSL sales manager at cyber security firm LAWtrust, says while DigiCert – which is buying Symantec’s certificate authority business – is promising to issue replacement certificates from December this year, businesses should think carefully about how to proceed.

“One of the important parts of the SSL ecosystem is trust. If a certificate authority neglects to properly verify the legal existence and identity of an entity before issuing SSL certificates for domains, as Symantec has been accused of doing, this breaks the chain of trust,” she says.

Serious concern
For Jon Tullett, IDC’s research manager for IT services for Africa, SSL certificates are absolutely fundamental to modern Internet security. “They’re far from perfect – as this incident shows – but they are used to secure a tremendous amount of online activity.”

He explains that when a browser like Chrome removes a certificate, users will get a warning before they visit a site which uses that certificate to validate its identity.

“Google’s Chrome team has indicated serious concerns with a large number of the certificates in question, prompting this action, so it’s likely quite a number of sites and services may be affected – many thousands, potentially,” says Tullett.

Meanwhile, Manuel Corregedor, COO of information security company Telspace Systems, says digital certificates allow for the communication between the user’s machine and the Web site (server) to be encrypted.
“This makes it difficult for an attacker to intercept communications between the user’s computer and/or to masquerade as the authentic Web site.”

He notes organisations will have to replace their certificates or face potential reputational or financial harm.
“However, this is easier said than done especially for organisations that make use of certificates on devices or terminals that are hard to get to. In such cases, organisations will find it very difficult to update the certificates before the imposed deadline by Google,” says Corregedor.

By Admire Moyo for ITWeb

Google goes down

Google scrambled to fix an issue which caused its search engine, YouTube, Gmail and Drive to crash on Tuesday night.

The tech giant posted updates to say issues on each of its products have been resolved on the G Suite Status Dashboard.

“We apologise for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support. Please rest assured that system reliability is a top priority at Google, and we are making continuous improvements to make our systems better,” the company said as an update to each of the affected products.

Gmail, YouTube, Drive, Google Maps and other services were reported to have experienced issues around the world.

South Africans also experienced problems, with 176 issues reported on the local DownDetector from 18:00 on Tuesday evening.

Other DownDetectors from around the world reported issues from around the same time.

Google said all services have since been restored, but had not indicated what had caused the problem in the first place.

By Kyle Venktess for Fin24

Google Chrome to block video ads

Google has developed a tool that lets you permanently mute Web sites that automatically play videos with sound.

It’s an extremely irritating problem, and the new option will be welcomed by the majority of internet users.

Videos – often ads – that play with sound can be distracting, especially if you’re trying to watch or listen to something at the time.

To turn one off, you usually need to stop what you’re doing, figure out which background tab it’s playing from and then scroll down the page to actually find it.

Google is only experimenting with the feature right now, according to Chromium evangelist François Beaufort, so it’s not currently available to Chrome users.

“This will give you more control about which website is allowed to throw sound at you automatically,” he said in a Google+ post.

You can, however, try it out in Chrome Canary, an experimental and unstable version of the browser.

By Aatif Sulleyman for The Independent 

The “Google Effect”, which is the impact on our memory of being able to find information online, has extended to include important personal information and mobile devices. A new study by Kaspersky Lab reveals that the majority of connected consumers across Europe can’t recall critical phone numbers from memory, including those of their children (53%), children’s schools (90%) and place of work (51%). Around a third could not remember their partner’s number – yet just four in 10 have forgotten their home phone numbers from when they were aged 10 to 15.

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