Google+ to be shut down soon

Google has announced that they are closing the consumer functionality of Google+, their social media platform, due lack of adoption and an API bug that leaked the personal information of up to 500,000 Google+ accounts. [Internally Google+ will still be used.]

Google is claiming that the bug [so far] was not misused and shutting the service due to the security complexity [I guess look at Facebook] in addition to what they claimed they has so few users actually used the service for any length of time.

gplusIn a blog statement, they said that “The consumer version of Google+ currently has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds.” I would assume that is an average as it’s almost impossible to be on for 5 seconds.

Or maybe they shut it down because they know they can’t compete against Facebook.

I still remember early on that if you created a Google/Gmail account, they would automatically create a Google+ account for you without telling you. It was possibly [on purpose] their way to catch up to Facebook in the number of accounts. But if you didn’t know you had an account, how could you use it? Google could say they have 500,000 Google+ accounts.

While at it, I wonder if that 500,000 accounts number is legitimate. From previous reports, it wasn’t doing that well.

Another web site said there are 34 million unique visitors per month which is not that impressive for 395 million supposedly active accounts – not 500 million – and two-third are male and a bit more than half are from the US.

If you claim to have 500,000 accounts, why would you shut down the service permanently instead of keeping it alive and fixing the bug? 500,000 accounts doesn’t seem to be “due lack of adoption”.

But according to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the bug in the Google+ API existed between 2015 and March 2018, which was when Google discovered and fixed the bug. So, if fixed, why shut it down? But then they added “disclosing the incident would likely trigger “immediate regulatory interest”

In any case, this is Google’s third social media platform that they have closed up.

Google+ will slowly wind down over the next few months.

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Department of Homeland Security issues Gmail warning

This is interesting. The Department of Homeland Security officials actually have warned that Gmail’s new features called “Confidential” mode could put Gmail users at risk in addition to others because of possible extortion or malware by cyber criminals.

The new feature allows users to send emails that vanish after a period of time. It also requires users to verify their identity by clicking a link.

This could be exploited by “malicious cyber actors”. This could include phishing attacks in emails.

The link itself could require users to give up their Google credentials.

[This in addition to terrorists and criminals who are using the limited life of the email to send out messages.]

Therefore, don’t be tempted to use it or click on any link that wants you to open a “confidential” email.

Google’s Chrome browser isn’t secure

A word of warning when you use the Google Chrome web browser. The browser uses a misleading notification system.

When you see the “Secure” notification in the browser location bar, this means that the connection between the browser and the website you went to is encrypted. But this does not mean that the you should fully trust the web site. It isn’t guaranteed that the web site is safe from phishing, malware, etc.

This is [as I said] because the “Secure” notification only means that there is encryption between your computer’s browser and that site. You can encrypt anything.

If the encryption certificate for the site has been revoked, the Chrome browser will still show it as “Secure”. Google knows about the issue but hasn’t corrected the issue.

In addition, according to year end reports [2016, 2017], Google’s Chrome browser continues to lead all browsers in vulnerabilities making it less secure.

[Note: Both links above may be technical for some. The results appear on page 20 for both reviews and the comparison of web browsers are on page 21. As well, they are external links. View at your own risk.]

Some vulnerabilities are more critical than others. But with the Chrome browser picking up users over the past few years, some vulnerabilities have been aimed at the browsers. Others are from sloppy programming.

This doesn’t mean you should stop using the Chrome web browser. More like you should understand that the browser isn’t 100% secure and Google’s claim that it is, is misleading. But no web browser is secure.

Privacy in technology

Even as we close in on 2 years of Windows 10, we still see so-called “journalists” [or bloggers] who continue to fan the flames when it comes to privacy/telemetry settings in Windows. zdnet.com had one this week.

Microsoft has tweaked the way the settings are over the 2 upgrades in Windows 10 plus they tweaked it again earlier this year [if you bought a new laptop and it had the update].

Even with the tweaking, there has been many third-party tools [such as Safer Networking] that can be used to disable some of this – aside from what Microsoft provides. Some inventive people even wrote scripts to remove some of it.

Note: Some tweaks can actually cause problems as well if you modify them.

And yet, these so-called “journalists” continue to write what is considered mostly a dead issue.

If you are still whining about this privacy/telemetry issue, then I’m not sure if you belong in IT [if you are in that field]. Whining does nothing.

Everything you touch has some privacy/telemetry issues. Your ISP tracks your Internet access. Your carrier tracks your cell usage. If you use a search engine, it’s tracked. You are using an operating system? No matter which one, they are all tracking you.

Question is that do you know how much tracking Google, Apple or others are doing?

Remember when Siri from Apple first came out? Apple stored what you asked [voice recording] plus all your metadata [Apple ID, date, time, IP, etc.] for at least 6 months. After 6 months, they still kept your voice sample [and probably a subset of the metadata] for another 2 years. Apple claimed it was because they needed sample voices to improve Siri’s understanding. You are still being tracked with Siri.

When you visit a web site [that you are registered on], ever get an Email following a visit asking you if you are still interest in what you were looking at or something similar?  Staples and Best Buy are among the numerous sites that do that.

So the first thing you do when buying something with an OS is to go into the setting thoroughly – every section – and disabled or modify what you don’t want. You then research to see what else can be disabled or modified.

The same goes for web sites that you visit. Go in and turn off or modify what you don’t need.

The other alternative is to dump anything that connects yourself to the internet, the Cloud, etc. [Not even a dumb cell phone.]

 

Warning about Google’s Allo app

Google’s Allo is new chat app launched today for the iOS and Android platforms. It inserts AI into your conversations and is the equivalent of state surveillance. According to whistleblower/hero/traitor Edward Snowden, it should be avoided.

“Free for download today: Google Mail, Google Maps, and Google Surveillance” is how Snowden tweeted it.

Earlier this summer, the app was unveiled by Google, Eric Kay, Google’s director of engineering of communications products, said that all messages would only be stored on Google’s servers briefly and not stored permanently. But this will only be true for the “incognito mode”. The default of normal messages will see them stored. On Googles’ servers.

Theoretically the messages can be opened by the police with a warrant or maybe a simple request made to Google for the messages.

Google is claiming that storing conversations helps its servers’ algorithms learn how to be more helpful in conversations [but knowing Google they also may be used for advertisements like when they admit they read your Email electronically to aim relevant ads at you]. Google says that all the participants in the chat will see Google search results in the chat.

“And our [Google’s] approach is simple — your chat history [all or part] is saved for you until you choose to delete it.”

 

A slippery slope between Apple and the FBI

The US government are at odds with Apple. The FBI got a judge in the Federal District Court for the District of Central California to order Apple to bypass security functions on an iPhone 5c used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who was killed by the police along with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, after they attacked Mr. Farook’s co-workers at a holiday gathering in December 2015.

The judge ordered Apple to build special software that would essentially act as a skeleton key capable of unlocking the phone.

But Apple CEO Tim Cook announced Apple’s refusal to comply citing to protect the privacy of its users – even terrorists. [You can’t cherry pick them.] First there will be this issue, then there will be others. When will it stop.

The FBI says that by withholding access to the phone’s information, it is hampering the continuing investigation. Police and prosecutors want the companies to build what would be considered a master key that can be used to get around the encryption.

The Justice Department had secured a search warrant for the phone, owned by Mr. Farook’s former employer, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health.

Blackberry was in the same dilemma but with foreign countries such as Pakistan where Pakistan wanted a master key to unencrypt any conversation or mail between two parties.

One needs to wonder whether Pakistan would go after solely what they would describe as terrorists or maybe even after those the government consider subversive such as protesters.

The same could apply in this Apple case – but hopefully at least the US government can be a bit more open.

In 2014, Apple and Google announced that they had re-engineered their software that encrypts the devices used by their operating systems, and therefore could no longer unlock their own products as a result.

[I had this issue with my Android phone about a month ago. Don’t ask me why, but my boot encryption password didn’t working after 2+ years. I had to force a device wipe.]

Not surprising, Republican Presidential nominee is in favor of the master key concept. [Wonder how he would like it if the FBI investigated him and asked for his phone.]

Known treason tech guy, Edward Snowden, has asked why Apple is policing something the FBI should be doing.

This is going down a slippery slope. If Apple is forced to hand the FBI the keys to the castle, when will it stop? Clearly Mr. Farook was a terrorist, but can a warrant be issued to look at the phone of a politician? A celebrity? The person across the street?

If Apple [and Google] are forced to put something in future operating systems, will consumers ignore upgrading to the operating systems that the government can access?

 

Google pulls Chrome Browser support for Windows XP in April

For the fewer and fewer who are still running Windows XP, Google will drop support for the Chrome browser for Windows XP in April [and don’t be surprised when Vista retires that Google will stop support on the same day as Microsoft].

Those who are using a recent version of the Chrome browser will have noticed by now the bar at the top of the browser window when the Chrome browser is opened.

Right now, the next alternative is Firefox. For now, Mozilla is still supporting Firefox and Windows XP.

This brings me to something which you may already know: The support by companies that support Windows XP is dwindling.