Monthly Archives May 2017

Malware infects Android phones via Google Play Store

google-play-logoIf you’ve been downloading any new games from the Google Play Store lately, pay attention. According to ZDNet, Security researchers at Check Point Software have just discovered a huge malware campaign infecting some of the apps.

The malware is called Judy, named after the cartoon, doll-like character many of the malicious apps feature. Judy is spread across 41 different apps developed by the same developer, a Korean team called Kiniwini, whose software has been downloaded by around 18 million Android users. Some of these apps have been available for years and are frequently updated. The malware is also infecting apps by other developers on the Google Play Store, but most of those have not seen updates since April of 2016. There is no obvious connection between Kiniwini and the other developers.

Check Point Software says Judy uses Android phones to generate fraudulent clicks on ads, making money for the schemers. There is no telling just how long Judy has been floating around and infecting phones – just that about 18 million users have been compromised.

The Judy apps have gone undetected for so long because they are able to bypass Google Play’s Bouncer protection system. They use a common malware technique in which the malicious code is hidden. But, as reported by ZDNet, once downloaded, Judy apps establish “a connection with a command and control server, which replies with the malicious payload via a JavaScript code, a user-agent string, and URLs controlled by the malware author.”

Kiniwini is registered under the name ENISTUDIO corp, and makes Judy products for iOS as well as Android. Although a scheme like this has not been confirmed for iOS, it might be best to hold off downloading any Judy games on your Apple device for the time being.

Are you ready for Snap drones?

SnapchatSnap, the recently re-branded maker of Snapchat and Spectacles, has announced an ambitious plan which leaves applications and software behind. According to The Verge, after purchasing LA-based drone maker Ctrl Me Robotics in late 2016, Snap looks to be in the midst of developing its own drone.

This isn’t surprising news. Snap looked into acquiring drone maker Lily Robotics before that crowdfunded project recently ended in failure. Back in September, Snap announced its move into hardware with its wearable Spectacles.

In its acquisition of Ctrl Me Robotics, Snap gained some of the company’s equipment and assets, including its founder, Simon Nielsen. Nielsen’s vision behind Ctrl Me Robotics was to create and develop custom drones, focusing mainly on drones that carried cameras for film studios. Lily Robotics also specialized in camera drones.

So what would a Snap drone do? It’s clear it will have to do with camera technology, likely social media based like Snapchat and Spectacles. Can we look forward to drones when we consider the future of internet communication?

Instagram is the least healthy social media platform when it comes to mental health

Instagram_Icon_LargeMental health awareness is a very important topic, and as is turns out, very connected to social media. A study done by London’s Royal Society for Public Health for the Young Health Movement has revealed that Instagram can be detrimental to your well being.

According to PC Mag, the organization surveyed 1,500 people between ages fourteen and twenty-four, asking them to score how each of the most popular social media platforms impacted their feelings of depression, loneliness, anxiety, their sleep, body image, real-world relationships, and more. And as it turned out, in the race between Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and YouTube, only YouTube had a “net positive” impact on young people. Instagram scored the lowest, with Snapchat not far off.

“Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol, and is now so entrenched in the lives of young people that it is no longer possible to ignore it when talking about young people’s mental health issues,” RSPH Chief Executive Shirley Cramer said in a statement. “It’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and well being — both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.”

So if these sites are so addicting and impossible to get rid of, what can we do to make them safer? The RSPH suggests these companies to introduce “heavy usage” warnings that encourage users to take breaks after a certain period of time. Likewise, these companies could highlight digitally manipulated photos to debunk unrealistic body images, as well as identify users who might be suffering from mental health problems, and privately offer them support.

Are iPhone users the most loyal?

apple logoWhether you believe that Apple, Android, Google, or Windows phones are the best on the market, there’s one category where Apple is the clear winner – customer loyalty.

According to a study done by Morgan Stanley for Statista, 92 percent of iPhone owners who plan on buying a new phone within a year say they are “somewhat or extremely likely” to purchase another Apple device. That’s a significant increase from last year, when the number was 86 percent.

In comparison, second place for loyalty goes to Samsung, with 77 percent of users. This is by far the highest for any Android brand, seeing as LG, Motorola, and Nokia all float around 50 percent and below.

So, why do Apple users feel that they couldn’t live with another brand? Business Insider has some helpful explanations.

“The Android market is defined by competition, while iOS is Apple’s alone,” Business Insider suggests.

If you like the way Android works, but are unhappy with your current smartphone make, you have a lot of other options. In contrast, iOS is limited to Apple, so if you want that – it’s your only choice.

Among other rationales, Business Insider also points out that “transitioning away from iMessage is an absolute nightmare.”

And it’s true. Not only is iMessage a great communication tool, but it’s a way around paying for cell service abroad. iMessage has a lot of uses, and Android does not currently offer a great alternative.

Despite a recent dip in iPhone sales, this data implies that, at least when it comes to current customers, Apple is still desirable.

Bell Canada suffers data breach

bellIf you get your wireless, television, or internet service with Bell Canada, be advised – there’s a chance a third-party hacker might have your information. According to Insauga, Canada’s primary carrier announced on May 16 that an anonymous hacker illegally obtained the information of approximately 1.9 million customer. This includes emails, names, and active phone numbers. Luckily no financial or personal information, including passwords, were accessed during the breach.

“We apologize to Bell customers for this situation and are contacting all those affected,” Bell said in a statement. “Please note that if your email address information was accessed, Bell will contact you by email. If your phone number was accessed, we will contact you by phone. If you haven’t been contacted by end of day May 16, your information was not accessed.”

If you haven’t already heard from Bell, your information is likely safe. Bell has also clarified that this was in no way connected to the recent WannaCry global malware attack, and that the customers involved face little to no risk. However, Bell reminds customers to never give sensitive information (such as credit card numbers) over e-mail, and to beware of unsolicited or suspicious communications.

Android, make room for Fuchsia

GoogleGoogle has been working on a new operating system for smartphones and tablets, which has the potential to be released as early as this summer. According to TechNewsWorld, the project is called Fuchsia and has been handled very discreetly.

Fuchsia is moving away from Google’s long-time association with Linux. The project is supposed to have an entirely Google feel, achieved by doing away with the Linux kernel that was integral to past operating systems, as well as the General Public License under which most operating systems function.

The OS is the brainchild of Travis Geiselbrecht – who has worked in the past on the Danger Hiptop smartphone, NewOS, Jawbone, and BeOS among others – and Brian Swetland, who collaborated with Geiselbrecht on Danger and BeOS. Both of them have worked on Android software before.

There is a lot of speculation as to why Google has decided to innovate Fuchsia, when Android is still wildly popular. One of the main theories is that Fuchsia is a reaction to the four year, $9 billion lawsuit between Google and Oracle.

“As the Oracle case revolves around the copyright of Oracle APIs used in Android, it could be a contributing factor in Google’s decision to build another platform,” William Stofega, program director for mobile phones at IDC, told LinuxInsider. Despite Google winning the case, it’s likely that the trouble was enough to make Google want to distance itself from Linux.

Google announced new cloud platform, Cloud IoT Core

GoogleOn May 16th, Google announced a new cloud platform to help enterprises collect data from a vast network of Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

It’s called Google Cloud IoT Core, and according to Google’s cloud product manager, Indranil Chakraborty, it connects globally distributed devices to Google’s Cloud Platform, where they can be centrally managed and integrated with Google’s data analytics services.

According to Computer World, Google has been testing the new service with Energyworx, an American company of 40 workers, and loyal users of Google’s cloud services since 2014. Energyworx provides data analytics to utility companies to help them optimize performance. Energyworx founder Edwin Poot says his company has been using Cloud IoT Core to get real-time data readings from thousands of solar inverters and electric vehicle charging ports. Poot says he would like to expand the use of Cloud IoT Core to collect data from millions of smart utility meters for water and gas.

According to Poot, Google’s cloud services have cost only a tenth of what it paid Amazon Web Services prior to 2014. With Cloud IoT Core, Energyworx only has to pay Google for the IoT devices it uses to receive data.

“We’re seeing the power of cloud will grow fast and this [Google IoT] approach will be scalable,” Poot said. “We don’t install anything and don’t maintain anything. We just program it and use it and don’t worry about anything else.”

T-Mobile is giving away Galaxy phones in its new deal

tmobilesquareAccording to BGR, in the battle to win customers from carriers like Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint, T-Mobile has started throwing Samsung Galaxy S8 phones at potential new sign-ups.

Since May 12, T-Mobile has launched a buy-one-get-one-free on Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ devices. The deal is contingent on the customer activating at least one new line, and the purchased Galaxy must be on an installment plan. This means that pre-existing T-Mobile customers can take advantage of the deal as long as they add a new line.

How do you get the second device free? Well, if you activate this promotion, then you will end up paying taxes for both devices in store, and then charges will be added to your monthly bill for the next two years to pay off both phones. However, you will also receive a rebate MasterCard, loaded with the full value of the second Galaxy S8. That’s more or less a gift card to everywhere, starting around $750.

If you don’t want to commit to two years, don’t worry; you can cancel the wireless service at any point. However, the balance left on the phone would then become due immediately.

The best way to take advantage of this offer seems to be if you’re already with T-Mobile, and you have the option to add another line for a few extra dollars a month.

Waterloo Region phone scammers impersonate hydro companies

scam-alertWaterloo Region, Ontario is in the midst of a tricky phone scam, which has forced local hydro companies to reach out to its customers. According to The Record, hydro companies are warning that scammers may call and pressure the customer into immediately paying off an overdue electricity bill or their services will be disconnected.

Four hydro companies, Energy+ Inc. (Cambridge and Brantford), Guelph Hydro, Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro, and Waterloo North Hydro, have recently released a joint statement warning about the calls. They say the scam call includes a toll-free number that customers are encouraged to call. They also promise that disconnecting hydro is a last resort, and that customers would always be given written notice at least ten days and 48 hours in advance. The companies will never ask for credit card or bank account information over the phone, nor accept gift cards as payment.

The Waterloo Region hydro companies advises that anyone who receives a similar call not give any information, hang up right away, and notify their hydro provider.

Chinese TV maker TCL to sell smartphones in the United States

tclTCL, one of China’s biggest electronics makers, has ambitions in the U.S smartphone market. The company wants to sell devices, under its own brand, and hopefully establish a presence in the West. According to Chris Larson (vice president of TCL North America) in an interview with Business Insider, the phones should be available later this year.

What’s interesting is that these smartphones will be TCL branded. The company, namely a television manufacturer, already has a foothold in the market using the Alcatel brand and a recent line of BlackBerry branded devices. TCL also owns the Palm brand, but has not pushed any devices under that name.

TCL has already established its smartphone brand in China, Europe, and a handful of other global markets. In fact, the devices sold there are the ones re-branded and sold under a different name in the United States. As explained by Business Insider, the high-end TCL 950 phone was sold in the U.S as the BlackBerry DTEK60.

Larson says the phones will feature a “whole new design” compared to its existing devices overseas, and that they will likely be “mid-to upper-mid-range” devices.