May 062017
 

Facebook’s 2017 first-quarter financial report comes packed with a series of very interesting information about how the platform has evolved over the past few months. It seems that the number of social network users is steadily increasing, now reaching a figure equivalent to about 25% of the planet’s population.

Facebook image

Facebook nearly hit the 2 billion users milestone (pic: Facebook)

The company’s revenue amounted to $8 billion in the last three months, a 49% increase over the same period last year, with $3 billion accounting for profit. By comparison, the profit last year was 76% lower. Also during this period, the number of active monthly users increased by 17%, reaching a total number of 1.94 billion. Unlike past reports, Facebook has decided not to share users in terms of devices used to access the social network, which suggests that almost everyone is “mobile”, with the desktop being a secondary took to connect to the network.

The company has also addressed issues that have arisen in recent weeks, when more users have broadcast live video with crimes or suicides. Facebook promises to hire 3,000 moderators to monitor live content, notify authorities or prevent inappropriate videos from being spread. At the same time, the social network starts a more serious campaign to combat “fake news” and state-sponsored propaganda.

Mar 192017
 

An application for mobile phone comes to the aid of those who lose their loved animals. The app, which was launched by three young people from Iasi, Romania, scans all announcements about lost animals and sends alerts to all users in the area indicated by ads’ owner.

lost dog

Lost animal can be found via petfinder app (pic: westmifflinpolice.com)

The application “Găsitorii” ((Pet)-Finders) is free and very easy to use. To announce the loss of a dog for example, the owner must upload a photo of the animal along with some details about its age, breed and name. Within just minutes, the alert goes public.

“Both the picture and information must be ok. After approval, we notify people within a radius of a few kilometers that person X lost an animal in the neighborhood,” says Andrei Nastasiu, one of the developers of the application.

The team rolled out the app after 6 months of volunteering work. The idea came to life after one of the team members lost his dog and looked for it for about two weeks.

For the time being, the app is available only to the IOS users, but an Android version is set to be launched soon.

Feb 212017
 

Security experts discovered a dangerous malware that stole massive amounts of data by hijacking the microphones installed on computers and laptops.

Operation BugDrop microphone

New malware controls PC microphones to steal data (public domain)

More than 600 GB of data from 70 targets in a range of industries and businesses, including those related to infrastructure, media and research, were siphoned by this sophisticated malware which is part of the so-called “Operation BugDrop”.

Security firm CyberX Labs shows that initial infection occurs through Microsoft Word documents which are usually sent via email. After being opened, the Word documents infect the computers through various macro elements attached. Then the malicious sowfware hacks the microphone and gains control of PC / laptop which, once compromised, starts uploading audio files and other data to Dropbox, where they are collected by the hackers.

“Operation BugDrop appears very well organized, uses a complex malware, and is probably supported by an organization with substantial resources,” said the security analysts. They say it takes a well-developed infrastructure to store, decrypt and analyze several gigabytes of data received on a daily basis. In addition, a large team of people is needed to manually sort all stolen data and process them later.

Most of the targets appear to be located in Ukraine and there are some striking similarities between this attack and another from 2015 that left 225,000 people without electricity, although it’s not known whether both hacks were conducted by the same cyber criminals.

Feb 212017
 

Youtube Unskippable Ads Removal: YouTube’s conclusion that websurfers do not respond positively to unskippable 30-second video ads, does not come as a surprise to anyone. Why? Because they are indeed annoying to the human eyes.

youtube unskippable ads

YouTube to remove half-minute unskippable ads (public domain img)

The company announced that the video streaming service will withdraw such ads starting 2018, diverting its efforts on “less intrusive” advertisements.

A Google spokesman confirmed this decision for the British website Campaign, revealing that the company will focus on creative formats providing better user and customer experience.

“We’re committed to providing a better ads experience for users online. As part of that, we’ve decided to stop supporting 30-second unskippable ads as of 2018 and focus instead on formats that work well for both users and advertisers,” a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement.

While the 30-second-long ads that users can’t skip are set to be removed soon, other types of advertisements will not be affected at all.

Shorter ads with a length between 15 and 20 seconds are not considered so intrusive, so they will remain on the platform.

The short-form six-second bumper ads, rolled out in 2016, will continue to be a focus. They usually pop up at the beginning and the end of the videos and are not disturbing for the viewers.

Feb 212017
 

Verizon Communications Inc., the largest US mobile operator, announced on Tuesday that has reached an agreement to take over the core operations of the Internet giant – Yahoo! for $4.48 billion, by 350 million dollars less than the initial offer, informs Reuters.

Verizon Yahoo Transaction

Verizon buys Yahoo for 4.48 billion dollars

The deal will combine Yahoo!’s search engine, email and messaging services with Verizon’s AOL division operations. The completion of the transaction, which was first announced in July 2016, is scheduled for the second quarter of this year.

Verizon has been trying for months to convince Yahoo to amend the terms of the initial agreement by taking into account the damage caused by two major attacks on the Internet giant. In the end, both companies made the compromise of sharing the financial burden of any legal action in connection with the cyber attacks.

Yahoo revealed last September that personal information linked to at least 500 million accounts were stolen after a virus attack. Yahoo has warned that stolen information may include names, email addresses, phone numbers, date of birth and passwords for the half a billion accounts.

Yahoo! was founded in 1994 and is currently one of the largest multinational technology companies with approximately 11,000 employees worldwide. Marissa Mayer, who was appointed Yahoo’s CEO nearly 5 years ago to boost company’s business, had announced in February 2016 that she intends to analyze several “strategic alternatives” for the core Internet operations.

Feb 142017
 

WordPress Hack Attack 2017. A security flaw in the main software of the WordPress blogging platform has allowed hackers to attack and vandalize tens of thousands of sites, writes BBC News online.

Wordpress hack attack 2017

Hackers exploited WordPress security breach (public domain)

According to a security firm, about 1.5 million blog pages have been malitiously manipulated by the hackers. Cyber ​​security experts who identified the vulnerability warn that some hackers are already trying to take full control of the sites in addition to tendentiously editing certain pages.

WordPress has meanwhile sent a notification to the webmasters to make quick updates of the CMS / content management software to avoid becoming victims of hacking attacks.

Several vulnerabilities were discovered and one of them was found in an add-on released for WP main software at the end of 2016.

After discovering the “bug”, cyber security company Sucuri informed WordPress team on January 20.

Another security firm told IT news website Bleeping Computer, that 40,000 blogs were compromised by the attack with some groups of hackers still trying to exploit the flaws.

In order to mitigate the extent of the attack, WordPress urged its users to immediately update the management software of their blogs.

Feb 122017
 

Tim Cook, the Chief Executive Officer of Apple Inc., has called for the technology companies and national governments to fights against the public misinformation, saying that fake news are “killing people’s minds.” Increasingly more corporations have implemented various algorithms aiming at detecting and eradicating the false news, especially in the aftermath of the US election campaign, informs The Telegraph.

tim cook fake news

Apple CEO Tim Cook (pic: wikimedia)

Cook explained that tech giants must developed advanced tools to help reduce the flow of false information across the social networks, but without infringing the freedom of expression.

“We are going through a period when, unfortunately, the winners are those who invest their time in getting a large number of clicks but without telling the truth. It’s killing people’s minds in a way,” said the CEO of Apple Inc.

He also added that is imperative for companies to come together and join their efforts for curbing the fake news phenomenon. “We must act without stepping on the freedom of speech and of the press, but we must help the reader as well. There are too many amongst us who complain and yet do not know what to do,” said Tim Cook.

Apple’s boss explained that the campaign to eliminate fake news will help improve quality journalism. “The outcome of that is that truthful, reliable, non-sensational, deep news outlets will win.” “The current boost of false news is a short-term thing. I do not think people want that,” concluded Cook.

The US President Donald Trump benefited the most from the fake news that succeeded in destroying the image of his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Photo credit: By Valery Marchive [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Feb 092017
 

Facebook Lite, the app developed by world’s largest social network and dedicated to entry level terminals and users with a limited data plan, has exceeded 200 million monthly active users after just two years since its debut.

facebook lite

Facebook Lite (caption: youtube)

The information was forwarded by the Chief Operations Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg.

“Today we’re sharing that more than 200 million people are using FB Lite – our low bandwidth version of the Facebook app. We’re committed to connecting people with the things they care about – no matter their connection, device or where they live. In many areas, networks can be slow and unable to support all the functions available on Facebook. FB Lite gives people access to core Facebook experiences like News Feed more quickly and while consuming less data.

In several countries around the world, many people are mobile first or mobile only – and that includes business owners. FB Lite is helping business owners grow and reach customers on mobile even when bandwidth is at a minimum. For example, Sao Paulo-based wedding photographer Altiery Monteiro started using FB Lite to use less data and save money. He soon found that FB Lite sped up the time it took him to upload photos from his mobile device. This was significant for Alriery whose business E29 Foto e Vídeo depends on being able to showcase his work, but also has him constantly on-the-go. He says 30% of his clients come directly through his Facebook Page – something he can now maintain wherever he is using FB Lite,” wrote Sandberg in a post.

The low-bandwidth Lite app was launched in January 2015 and is very much alike Facebook’s main mobile version. However, the application has native support for notifications in the Android operating system.

Facebook Lite has about 2 MB when installed and is compatible with Android 2.3 Gingerbread or any later version.

Although Facebook claims that Lite is the “fastest application” of its portfolio, many users complain in Google Play’s comments section, that the app shows errors and does not work very fast.

However, Facebool Lite has a good rating (four stars out of five possible) in the virtual app store, thus revealing that most people who use it are satisfied with its performance.

Oct 192016
 

Anonymous hackers have delivered a new message to “world’s citizens” in the context of tensions between the United States and Russia over the situation in Syria.

anonymous mask

Anonymous warn: WW3 is imminent (pic: wikimedia)

The famed hacking group revealed that “World War III is imminent” for the Pentagon.

The message comes just a week after former Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev said that “the world has reached an extremely dangerous turn”.

“When a government operates without any limit, militarizes its politics and sees own people as an enemy, all these happening right before you, you should not doubt that both sides have the same interests,” reads part of the message sent by the hackers who condemn both Russia and the US for their acts.

The rise of ISIS and civil war have caused a humanitarian disaster with hundreds of thousands of victims.

Britain called for harsh sanctions against Moscow over its actions in Syria, while the US says it will defeat the Islamic State with its own coalition.

Sep 252016
 

A user decided to sue the Internet giant Yahoo! following a 2014 hack attack that compromised 500 million accounts managed by the company.

yahoo headquarters sunnyvale

Yahoo! headquarters in Sunnyvale, CA (pic: wikimedia commons)

The lawsuit was filed on Friday by the US citizen Ronald Schwartz from New York, who accuses Yahoo of negligence.

Yahoo showed “gross negligence in securing users’ personal data, data which they promised protection for” reads the complaint filed by Schwartz. It also slams Yahoo for its delay in discovering the security flaw, informs The Telegraph.

The unprecedented cyber attack could have been avoided if the US giant, which has historically been the target of hackers, would have taken seriously its promise to protect users’ privacy and would have increased the safety measures, according to documents Schwartz filed in a federal court in San Jose, California.

Schwartz, who is trying to obtain the status of ‘action for action lawsuit, sued Yahoo in the US on behalf of all users whose data were compromised in the attack. The amount of damages demanded was not disclosed.

Yahoo representatives declined to comment on the litigation.
Photo credit: By gaku. (YAHOO in 2001.) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons