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Android

Malicious Apps Get Back on the Play Store Just by Changing Their Name (bleepingcomputer.com) 56

Malicious Android apps that have been previously reported to Google are showing up again on company's marquee Play Store with new names, security researchers are reporting. BleepingComputer: Seven of these apps have been "rediscovered," said Symantec in a report published yesterday. The company's experts say the author of the original malicious apps didn't do anything special, but only changed the app's names, without making modifications to the code, and re-uploaded the apps on the Play Store from a new developer account under a new name. Symantec says it detected seven of these re-uploaded apps on the Play Store, which it re-reported to Google's security team and had them taken down again.
Businesses

ZTE Shuts Down Main Business Operations After US Ban (techcrunch.com) 134

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: ZTE wasn't kidding around when it suggested that a U.S. Department of Commerce order would "severely impact" its survival. It's hard to image a successful path around the seven-year ban on the sale of U.S. products to the company imposed after it reportedly failed to sufficiently reprimand staff for flouting Iranian sanctions. Earlier today, in fact, the Chinese smartphone/telecom manufacturer announced that it had ceased its main business operations as it attempts to figure out the best way forward. "As a result of the Denial Order, the major operating activities of the company have ceased," the company wrote in an exchange filing spotted by Reuters. "As of now, the company maintains sufficient cash and strictly adheres to its commercial obligations subject in compliance with laws and regulations."
Firefox

Firefox Moves Browsers Into Post-Password Future With WebAuthn Tech (cnet.com) 132

Today, Mozilla released Firefox 60 for Windows, Mac, Linux and Android, and with it arrives Web Authentication API for desktop browsers. From a report: Firefox 60 supports technology called Web Authentication, or WebAuthn for short, that can be used to grant you access to websites with a physical authentication device like a YubiKey dongle, biometric identity proof using an Android phone's fingerprint reader or the iPhone's Face ID, and some other alternatives to passwords.

Passwords are a particular problem on the web. Fake websites can coax you to type in credentials that then can be used to steal money from your bank account or snoop your email -- a problem called phishing. Even if you pick hard-to-guess passwords, never reuse them on multiple sites and always remember them, passwords still aren't that strong a foundation for security these days. We're still a long way away from a post-password future, but WebAuthn is an important step, if nothing else, in making sites more secure.

Android

Google Maps Is Getting AR Directions, Recommendation Features (theverge.com) 38

Google Maps is getting a new augmented reality Street View mode to help you follow directions in real time, along with personalized recommendations to help you discover places in your neighborhood. The Verge reports: The new AR features combine Google's existing Street View and Maps data with a live feed from your phone's camera to overlay walking directions on top of the real world and help you figure out which way you need to go. In addition to directions, the new AR mode can help identify nearby places, too, and Google is even testing adding a helpful augmented reality animal guide to lead you along the way.

Maps is also getting a new tab called "For You" that will feature recommendations specifically tailored to you. Google is using a new "match number" system, which will generate a personal score on how much it thinks you'll like the recommendation based on your past likes and reviews, as well as your saved food preferences. Google is also adding more social features to Maps, making it possible to share multiple places to friends with a single action, and vote on them together in real time to decide where to go without having to leave the app.
The AR directions feature has no release date, but the new social and recommendations features will be coming to both Android and iOS later this summer.
Chrome

You Can Now Run Linux Apps On Chrome OS (venturebeat.com) 106

Google today announced Chrome OS is getting Linux support. "As a result, Chromebooks will soon be able to run Linux apps and execute Linux commands," reports VentureBeat. "A preview of Linux on the Pixelbook will be released first, with support for more devices coming soon." From the report: "Just go to wherever you normally get those apps, whether it's on the websites or through apt-get in the Linux terminal, and seamless get those apps like any other Linux distribution," Chrome OS director of product management Kan Liu told VentureBeat.

Support for Linux apps means developers will finally be able to use a Google device to develop for Google's platforms, rather than having to depend on Windows, Mac, or Linux machines. And because Chrome OS doesn't just run Chrome OS-specific apps anymore, developers will be able to create, test, and run any Android or web app for phones, tablets, and laptops all on their Chromebooks. Without having to switch devices, you can run your favorite IDE -- as long as there is a Debian Linux version (for the curious, Google is specifically using Debian Stretch here -- code in your favorite language and launch projects to Google Cloud with the command line.

Android

Google Details New Android P Features, Including iPhone X-Like Gesture Controls (arstechnica.com) 36

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A public beta for Android P, as it's still known, is out today for those who want to try the software for themselves. The usual caveats with installing unfinished software still apply. Notably, however, Google has made the beta available on devices beyond the company's own Pixel smartphones. Google says those who own the Essential Phone, Nokia 7 Plus, Sony Xperia XZ2, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, Vivo X21, Oppo R15 Pro, and the OnePlus 6 (when it comes out) can access the early build alongside those with a Pixel or Pixel 2 phone. Google is crediting its Project Treble updating initiative for making this expansion possible.

As for the update itself, the biggest news in Preview 1 was a new design style that was applied to the notification panel, main settings screen, and some system UI bits. Android VP of Engineering Dave Burke recapped a couple of features that had already been announced in that earlier preview, including a simplified volume control widget and the option to change the screen orientation even when you've locked the device in portrait mode. Perhaps the most immediately noticeable new feature, however, is a new set of gesture controls that trade Android's traditional home and recent apps buttons for a setup similar to what Apple does with its iPhone X. Swiping up from a flatter button at the bottom of the screen will now display a horizontal (not vertical!) list of your recent apps, with icons for five "predicted apps" placed underneath them. Swiping up a second time from there will display the all apps screen, effectively allowing you to access it from anywhere on the phone. You can also slide the home button sideways to start scrolling through recent apps. The icons for those recent apps appear to be larger than before, and Google showed off the ability to highlight text within them. The back button is still there, but not as a global key; it instead appears to only show up in certain contexts, such as the new recent apps screen.
Also available in Android P is an "adaptive battery" feature that improves battery life, an "adaptive brightness" feature that uses AI to ensure the phone screen's brightness is more appropriately set for your surroundings, and an "app actions" feature that will surface shortcuts for frequently used apps within the app drawer and Search. Google is also including a "digital wellbeing" Dashboard app that will detail how much time you've spent in particular apps, how often you've unlocked your phone, and how many notifications you've received. There will even be an "app timer" to help you limit your time on a particular app, and a "shush" gesture that will make is so the phone automatically goes into Do Not Disturb mode. Finally, there's a "wind down" mode that will turn on Do Not Disturb until the morning and set your phone screen in a grayscale mode, which will intentionally make content on your phone appear less stimulating to ultimately help you put it down.
Software

Google Says Android Things is Finally Ready For Smart Devices (theverge.com) 34

Ahead of its developer conference I/O, Google said Monday Android Things, a platform for smart devices that the company announced in 2016, is ready for shipping with consumer devices. From a report: Android Things is hitting its 1.0 release today after launching to developers at the end of 2016. Google says the first devices -- which include speakers from LG and iHome, and smart displays from LG, Lenovo, and JBL -- will be released over the next several months. Android Things is a development platform that's meant to make it easier for hardware companies to start building a gadget. It lets Google handle some of the software and intelligence features, while allowing hardware companies to code for it using the Android tools they're likely already familiar with. It's not clear exactly how much easier this makes things, but it probably simplifies development particularly for gadgets that are going to end up with Google Assistant features or Cast capabilities in them.
Google

Google To Launch a New Set of Android Controls To Help You Manage Phone Use, Report Says (washingtonpost.com) 11

Google plans to wade into the debate over whether technology -- and the time spent on devices -- is harmful to people's health, The Washington Post reports. From the report: At its annual developer conference, scheduled to kick off in its hometown of MountainView, Calif., on Tuesday, Google is set to announce a new set of new controls to its Android operating system, oriented around helping individuals and families manage the time they spend on mobile devices [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], according to a person familiar with the company's thinking.

In his keynote address on Tuesday, chief executive Sundar Pichai is expected to emphasize the theme of responsibility, the person said. Last year's keynote was more focused on developments in artificial intelligence. The anticipated shift in tone at the event reflects increased public skepticism and scrutiny of the technology industry as it reckons with the negative consequences of how its products are used by billions of people.

Windows

Microsoft's New Mobile Strategy: Create Windows-like App 'Experiences' For Smartphones (pcworld.com) 74

Microsoft is investing in Windows experiences on mobile devices, with a new app called Your Phone; a migration of Windows 10's Timeline productivity feature to phones; and an update to its launcher app for enterprises. The app, available on Android and iOS, is designed to provide a mirror of a phone straight to a desktop PC, and it will let Windows 10 users access texts, photos, and notifications from their machines. Features will vary depending on iOS and Android. From a report: While Microsoft is also expected to discuss some of the features of its next Windows 10 update (code-named "Redstone 5") at Build, the company indicated that it will be emphasizing cross-platform apps instead. Microsoft will discuss some of these in a Tuesday presentation by Joe Belfiore, who leads Windows "experiences" as the corporate vice president in the Operating Systems Group at Microsoft.

The idea, Belfiore said in a briefing in advance of the show, was that Microsoft needs to know what users are working on, across any device. "Whether you look at a Word doc on Android, iOS, or Windows, is irrelevant," Belfiore said. Belfiore was talking about Timeline, the feature that tracks your work in the Office apps or Edge, recording your activity in what Microsoft calls the Microsoft Graph. But Belfiore could have been talking about any hardware platform. Microsoft sounds like it wants to elevate Microsoft mobile applications to the level of importance of a PC -- making the actual hardware, and operating system, irrelevant.

Android

Phone Maker BLU Settles With FTC Over Unauthorized User Data Extraction (threatpost.com) 26

lod123 shares a report from Threatpost: Android phone-maker BLU Products agreed to a proposed settlement on Tuesday with the Federal Trade Commission, over allegations it allowed the third-party firm Adups Technology to collect detailed consumer data from users without their consent. In an administrative complaint filed earlier this week against BLU and the company's co-owner and president Samuel Ohev-Zion, the FTC accused the firm of sharing with China-based Adups the full contents of their users' text messages, real-time cell tower location data, call and text-message logs, contact lists, and applications used and installed on devices.

Ultimately, the FTC is alleging Ohev-Zion and BLU violated the FTC Act's section pertaining to "deceptive representation regarding disclosure of personal information." The proposed settlement will be made final after a 30-day public comment period. In its proposed complaint, the FTC said Florida-based BLU contracted with Adups to issue security and operating system updates to millions of phones sold by the firm through Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart. In addition to allegedly failing to protect consumer privacy, the FTC asserts that BLU failed "to adequately assess the privacy and security risks of third-party software installed on BLU devices" resulting in "common security vulnerabilities that could enable attackers to gain full access to the devices."
Security researchers at Kryptowire first reported in 2016 that several models of BLU phones actively transmitted user and device information to Adups.
AI

Westworld's Scientific Adviser Talks About Free Will, AI, and Vibrating Vests (sciencemag.org) 138

Science magazine has interviewed David Eagleman, the scientific adviser for HBO's Westworld. Eagleman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, spoke with the publication about how much we should fear such an AI uprising. From the story, also spoiler alert for those who have not watched the show: Q: Has anything on the show made you think differently about intelligence?
A: The show forces me to consider what level of intelligence would be required to make us believe that an android is conscious. As humans we're very ready to anthropomorphize anything. Consider the latest episode, in which the androids at the party so easily fool the person into thinking they are humans, simply because they play the piano a certain way, or take off their glasses to wipe them, or give a funny facial expression. Once robots pass the Turing test, we'll probably recognize that we're just not that hard to fool.

Q: Can we make androids behave like humans, but without the selfishness and violence that appears in Westworld and other works of science fiction?
A: I certainly think so. I would hate to be wrong about this, but so much of human behavior has to do with evolutionary constraints. Things like competition for survival and for mating and for eating. This shapes every bit of our psychology. And so androids, not possessing that history, would certainly show up with a very different psychology. It would be more of an acting job -- they wouldn't necessarily have the same kind of emotions as us, if they had them period. And this is tied into the question of whether they would even have any consciousness -- any internal experience -- at all.

Google

Design Commentary on Google's New To-Do Tasks App (pxlnv.com) 85

On the sidelines of Gmail's big refresh push, Google also released a new app called Google Tasks. It's a simple app that aims to help users manage their work and home tasks. But it's being talked about for one more reason. From a blog post: Unlike most of their other apps, though, Tasks uses an inconsistent mix of Roboto, their old brand typeface, and Product Sans, their new one. The two faces don't look good together -- it's like when Apple shipped apps that used both Helvetica and Lucida Grande. According to their announcement of Product Sans and their new logo, the typeface was supposed to be used in promotional materials and lockups, but there's no mention of it being used for product UIs. In fact, the only other product I can find that has this same inconsistent mix is the new Gmail.com, also previewed today.

It isn't just about what these typefaces look like, either, but how they're used. For example, when entering a new task, the name of the task is set in Product Sans; when it is added to the list, it becomes Roboto. Tapping on the task takes you to a details view where, now, the name of the task is in Product Sans. There are three options to add more information: if you want to add details, you'll do it in Roboto, but adding a due date will be in Product Sans. The "add subtasks" button -- well, text in the same grey as everything else except other buttons that are blue -- is set in Product Sans, but the tasks are set in Roboto.

Social Networks

Instagram Launches 'Data Download' Tool To Let You Leave (techcrunch.com) 15

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Two weeks ago TechCrunch called on Instagram to build an equivalent to Facebook's "Download Your Information" feature so if you wanted to leave for another photo sharing network, you could. The next day it announced this tool would be coming and now TechCrunch has spotted it rolling out to users. Instagram's "Data Download" feature can be accessed here or through the app's privacy settings. It lets users export their photos, videos, archived Stories, profile, info, comments, and non-ephemeral messages, though it can take a few hours to days for your download to be ready. An Instagram spokesperson now confirms to TechCrunch that "the Data Download tool is currently accessible to everyone on the web, but access via iOS and Android is still rolling out." We'll have more details on exactly what's inside once my download is ready.
Google

Google Accused of Showing 'Total Contempt' for Android Users' Privacy (bleepingcomputer.com) 100

On the heels of a terse privacy debate, Google may have found another thing to worry about: its attempt to rethink the traditional texting system. From a report: Joe Westby is Amnesty International's Technology and Human Rights researcher. Recently, in response to Google's launch of a new messaging service called "Chat", Westby argued that Google, "shows total contempt for Android users' privacy."

"With its baffling decision to launch a messaging service without end-to-end encryption, Google has shown utter contempt for the privacy of Android users and handed a precious gift to cybercriminals and government spies alike, allowing them easy access to the content of Android users' communications. Following the revelations by CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden, end-to-end encryption has become recognized as an essential safeguard for protecting people's privacy when using messaging apps. With this new Chat service, Google shows a staggering failure to respect the human rights of its customers," Westby contended. Westby continued, saying: "In the wake of the recent Facebook data scandal, Google's decision is not only dangerous but also out of step with current attitudes to data privacy."

Google

Who Has More of Your Personal Data Than Facebook? Try Google (wsj.com) 151

Facebook may be in the hot seat right now for its collection of personal data without our knowledge or explicit consent, but as The Wall Street Journal points out, "Google is a far bigger threat by many measures: the volume of information it gathers, the reach of its tracking and the time people spend on its sites and apps." From the report (alternative source): It's likely that Google has shadow profiles (data the company gathers on people without accounts) on as at least as many people as Facebook does, says Chandler Givens, CEO of TrackOff, which develops software to fight identity theft. Google allows everyone, whether they have a Google account or not, to opt out of its ad targeting, though, like Facebook, it continues to gather your data. Google Analytics is far and away the web's most dominant analytics platform. Used on the sites of about half of the biggest companies in the U.S., it has a total reach of 30 million to 50 million sites. Google Analytics tracks you whether or not you are logged in. Meanwhile, the billion-plus people who have Google accounts are tracked in even more ways. In 2016, Google changed its terms of service, allowing it to merge its massive trove of tracking and advertising data with the personally identifiable information from our Google accounts.

Google uses, among other things, our browsing and search history, apps we've installed, demographics like age and gender and, from its own analytics and other sources, where we've shopped in the real world. Google says it doesn't use information from "sensitive categories" such as race, religion, sexual orientation or health. Because it relies on cross-device tracking, it can spot logged-in users no matter which device they're on. Google fuels even more data harvesting through its dominant ad marketplaces. There are up to 4,000 data brokers in the U.S., and collectively they know everything about us we might otherwise prefer they didn't -- whether we're pregnant, divorced or trying to lose weight. Google works with some of these brokers directly but the company says it vets them to prevent targeting based on sensitive information. Google also is the biggest enabler of data harvesting, through the world's two billion active Android mobile devices.

Google

Google Is 'Pausing' Work On Allo In Favor 'Chat,' An RCS-Based Messaging Standard (theverge.com) 146

An anonymous reader shares an exclusive report from The Verge about Google's next big fix for Android's messaging mess: Instead of bringing a better app to the table, it's trying to change the rules of the texting game, on a global scale. Google has been quietly corralling every major cellphone carrier on the planet into adopting technology to replace SMS. It's going to be called "Chat," and it's based on a standard called the "Universal Profile for Rich Communication Services." SMS is the default that everybody has to fall back to, and so Google's goal is to make that default texting experience on an Android phone as good as other modern messaging apps. As part of that effort, Google says it's "pausing" work on its most recent entry into the messaging space, Allo. It's the sort of "pause" that involves transferring almost the entire team off the project and putting all its resources into another app, Android Messages. Google won't build the iMessage clone that Android fans have clamored for, but it seems to have cajoled the carriers into doing it for them. In order to have some kind of victory in messaging, Google first had to admit defeat. Some of the new features associated with Chat include read receipts, typing indicators, full-resolution images and video, and group texts. It's important to keep in mind that it's a carrier-based service, not a Google service. It won't be end-to-end encrypted, and it will follow the same legal intercept standards. The new Chat services will be switched on in the near future, but ultimately carriers will dictate exactly when Chat will go live. Also, you may be persuaded to upgrade your data plan since Chat messages will be sent with your data plan instead of your SMS plan.
Android

ZTE Exports Ban May Mean No Google Apps, a Death Sentence For Its Smartphones (arstechnica.com) 139

New submitter krazy1 shares a report from Ars Technica: The U.S. government is going after another Chinese Android device maker. After shutting down Huawei's carrier deals and retail partners, the government is now pursuing ZTE. The U.S. Department of Commerce has banned U.S. companies from selling parts and software to ZTE for seven years. ZTE was caught violating U.S. sanctions by illegally shipping telecommunications equipment to Iran and North Korea. The company then made things worse by "making false statements and obstructing justice, including through preventing disclosure to and affirmatively misleading the U.S. Government," according to the Department of Commerce.

The latest news from Reuters raises even bigger issues for ZTE, though. A source told Reuters that "The Commerce Department decision means ZTE Corp may not be able to use Google's Android operating system in its mobile devices." Android is free and open source and will probably remain free for ZTE to use without Google's involvement. Reuters' source is probably referring to the Google apps, which aren't sold to device makers but are carefully licensed to them in exchange for other concessions. The Google apps package includes popular services like Gmail and Google Maps, and it also unlocks the Play Store, Google Play Services, and the entire Android app ecosystem. For a market-viable Android device, the Play Store is pretty much mandatory in every country other than China. So while ZTE could conceivably source hardware components from non-U.S. sources, being locked out of the Play Store would devastate ZTE's smartphones worldwide.

Microsoft

Microsoft Drops OneNote From Office, Pushes Users To Windows 10 Version (venturebeat.com) 72

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft is making big changes to OneNote for Windows: The desktop app will no longer be included in Microsoft Office. Instead, OneNote for Windows 10, the UWP app, will be the default OneNote experience for both Office 365 and Office 2019. OneNote for Mac, Android, iOS, and the web are unaffected. The move shouldn't be a huge surprise for those paying close attention to OneNote's development. Back in February 2015, Microsoft made OneNote for Windows completely free by removing all feature restrictions. This untethering of OneNote from Office meant users could download OneNote 2013 for Windows 7 and Windows 8 without having to pay for Office 2013.
The Internet

Chrome 66 Arrives With Autoplaying Content Blocked By Default (venturebeat.com) 88

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Google today launched Chrome 66 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. The desktop release includes autoplaying content muted by default, security improvements, and new developer features. You can update to the latest version now using the browser's built-in silent updater or download it directly from google.com/chrome. In our tests, autoplaying content that is muted still plays automatically. Autoplaying content with sound, whether it has visible controls or not, and whether it is set to play on loop or not, simply does not start playing. Note that this is all encompassing -- even autoplaying content you are expecting or is the main focus of the page does not play. YouTube videos, for example, no longer start playing automatically. And in case that's not enough, or if a page somehow circumvents the autoplaying block, you can still mute whole websites.
Android

Google Appears To Be Testing iPhone X-Style Gesture Navigation In Android P (androidpolice.com) 18

A new screenshot that Google recently shared (and since deleted) is stirring up theories about a possible iPhone X-like gesture navigation interface for Android P. Android Police reports: What we see is a decidedly odd navigation layout, with this short little bar in place of the expected home button, a back arrow that's now hollowed-out, and an app-switcher that seems utterly absent. So how would Google's presumably screen-only implementation work? Well, not only does that home bar look like a narrower version of the bar you'll find on the iPhone X, but we hear that the Android version may function in a quite similar way, with users swiping up to access their home screens. While we still haven't heard any details about how app switching might work with this new regime, the back button will reportedly only appear when needed, disappearing on the home screen, for example. As to other controls we can only speculate, like how you would gesture to conjure up the Google Assistant.

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