Web/Tech

77 posts categorized

October 31, 2014

Defend Yourself from the Attack of the Android Worm

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Android users are facing a new threat in the shape of a worm, ominously named ‘Selfmite.b’. As with most worms, the majority of users will be unaware of the threat, which sends text messages to every contact in a user’s list. Selfmite.b gets into others’ phones via the innocent-looking SMS which appears to be from a friend or other trusted person. Once a user has been tricked into clicking the bogus links contained in the text message, malicious software is installed on their device.

This pernicious virus takes its name from Selfmite, the SMS worm that attacked smartphones earlier this year. But while that worm sent links to the first 20 contacts in an address book, Selfmite.b sends them to every single contact. Not only that, it does this on a loop, meaning victims continue to receive malicious texts until they are blocked.

According to data from AdaptiveMobile, the worm had sent over 150k messages during the first ten days of October. Victims span the globe, with infected phones identified in Canada, China, Costa Rica, Ghana, India, Iraq, Jamaica, Mexico, Morocco, Puerto Rico, Russia, Sudan, Syria, USA, Venezuela and Vietnam. That’s a hundred times more traffic than the first Selfmite generated. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that the people behind the worm can change it remotely using a configuration file. This makes it much harder to stop the infection process.

As inconvenient and embarrassing as having your entire contact list spammed is, the worst upshot for victims is financial. Selfmite.b can generate huge phone bills, and victims even risk having their number blocked as though they were the perpetrators. The worm can even sign users up to expensige online subscriptions.

You can protect yourself. Selfmite.b requires you to manually click a link and manually install the APK file. If in doubt about any such file, don’t install it. Because of the generic nature of the messages containing the links, it shouldn’t be too hard to spot the scam. It will use one of the following texts, or something similar:

Hi buddy, try this, its amazing u know.http://x.co/5****

Hey, try it, its very fine.http://x.co/5****

Unless your friends are in the habit of sending you weird links, alarm bells should already be ringing. The poor syntax is a dead giveaway. And if nobody calls you ‘buddy’ then you’re probably on to Selfmite.b immediately.

The key is to avoid falling into the trap of absent-mindedly clicking links. Always read messages carefully, and if you have any doubts, give your friend a quick call to see if they sent you a text. They will thank you for alerting them to the fact they are being targeted. If your phone has already contracted Selfmite.b, a good anti-virus program will get rid of it.

October 30, 2014

Want a Personal Shopper? You Probably Already Have One

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Always dreamed of having a personal shopper? You probably already have one...in the palm of your hand.

A new survey by Perception Research Services International, a company that specializes in shopper

research, found 76% of smartphone owners use their devices for shopping purposes.

The survey notes “53% of smartphone owners rely on their devices to compare prices, 49%

to read customer reviews, 48% to search for product information, 48% to check for sales or

coupons, 37% to get product information from a manufacturer’s site, 34% to get a friend or

family member’s opinion, 31% to make a purchase, 31% to enter a contest, and 17% to view

a product demonstration.” Out of the 1,450 American adults surveyed, over half owned a

smartphone.

 

Consumers use their smartphones when shopping for a range of products, including electronics,

clothing, computers/software, groceries, cosmetics, furniture and appliances, cosmetics and

personal care products, office supplies, home decor, and pet supplies among other items. QR

codes are among the most popular mobile commerce options, with consumers using codes to

learn more about products and promotions, participate in loyalty programs and receive rewards,

read customer reviews, and obtain store addresses.

 

“Retailers and manufacturers need to adapt to a world in which shoppers are armed with a

tremendous amount of information at their fingertips—about the brand to choose, the price

to pay and the place to buy,” notes Jonathan Asher, executive vice president at Perception

Research Services International. “Retailers know they will continue to lose a certain amount of

sales to online purchases, and they must accept that some showrooming will occur. The key is

to find ways to capitalize on those opportunities in which shoppers are in their store examining

products, and make it compelling for them to make purchases there rather than go online—or to

some other retailer—to do so.”

 

Marketers are therefore encouraging shoppers to buy new products or services based on

previous purchases and shopping patterns. Companies such as shopkick and Paypal are

utilizing Bluetooth-enabled beacons to link consumer in-store data to mobile marketing. Taking

advantage of location-based technologies and tracking buyer history has subsequently made

recommending products and services to consumers easy and efficient. Even third-party

manufacturers can benefit.

 

Beacon hardware manufacturer Roximity is developing marketing technology that leverages

beacons. For instance, a supermarket using Roximity’s technology could allow a third-party

brand, such as Dole, to utilize its beacon network for a particular promotion.

Startup companies are quickly getting on board with location-based technology, using mobile

not only to help consumers find their businesses, but to add understand what products

customers like and how to incentivize greater purchases.

October 27, 2014

Integrity of Whisper App Questioned

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The firm behind social media app Whisper is tracking the location of its users – despite claiming to be ‘the safest place on the internet’ in terms of anonymity. The company is also sharing information from phones known to be used in military bases with the US Department of Defense, according to a recent Guardian expose.

Whisper users currently publish around two-and-a-half million messages a day. Their principal selling point is anonymity, but the Guardian report alleges the company has developed an in-house mapping tool allowing them to locate users to within 500 meters. The British newspaper also claims Whisper has been handing user locations to the Department of Defense. 

According to the Guardian, Whisper has been storing data since their 2012 launch. At that time, much of their brand image was predicated on a policy of holding data only for ‘a brief period of time’ and allowing those who don’t wish to be tracked to opt out of geo-location.

But the Guardian claims Whisper has been storing data even on users who specifically opted out. The news will be particularly alarming to military personnel who have used the platform to unburden themselves of traumatic events witnessed or experienced in the line of duty. Many soldiers use the app to share suicidal feelings and symptoms of PTSD and to discuss other topics they wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about on social media outlets like Facebook. 

The Guardian says Whisper has shared user data with law enforcement agencies, the FBI and MI5, a practice Whisper contends is standard in the tech industry – and only in situations where there is evidence of criminal behavior or imminent suicide.

Whisper has denied the allegations, saying it ‘does not follow or track users’ and dismissing the suggestion they were monitoring people without consent as ‘false’. CEO Michael Heyward issued a ten point riposte to the Guardian and suspended his editor-in-chief when the allegations came to light. He insists Whisper is only sharing information with the DoD when there is an investigation into frequent mentions of self-harm, adding “[We] are proudly working with many organizations to lower suicide rates.”

Heyward has been summoned to appear before the Senate Commerce Committee to answer questions about the app’s privacy policy.

Whisper has experienced rapid growth over the past two years and is now valued at more than $200m. The app tapped into a growing demand for private, confessional platforms which purport to foster more candid public discussions about sensitive issues like suicide.

Whisper has updated it’s terms and conditions since the story broke. 

October 23, 2014

Smalltown America: The Tech Industry’s New Home?

 

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The internet revolution has worked wonders for entrepreneurs with big ideas and small wallets. And while the tech giants are still keen to project a certain cache by basing themselves in huge economic centers like Tokyo and California, start ups are finding fewer financial impediments to realizing their dreams in less illustrious surroundings.

One of the tech industry’s new suburban outposts lies to the far west of Chicago, in and around the Fox Valley. Towns like Naperville, Aurora and Elgin are fostering the new bright young things of software development, web marketing and business.

These places have a centralized support network designed specifically for tech workers, mimicking the ‘all in it together’ mentality of their Silicon Valley counterparts.

If the spirit of technological collaboration is alive and well in Illinois, it’s positively thriving in Colorado. The state’s tech industry employed 162,600 people in 2012 (according to a TechAmerica Foundation report). That’s 8.7% of the private sector workforce, making Colorado the third biggest contributor to the national tech economy. In 2012, Colorado’s tech payroll amounted to $15.8 billion.

Tech wages are 98% higher than the average private sector wage, and the industry is the 7th-best paid in the United States. This skilled workforce is generating solutions to everything from the energy deficit to space travel. The further out of the big industrial centers tech companies base themselves, the lower the overheads - and the higher the potential wages. No wonder talented tech workers are eschewing the glamor of Silicon Valley in favor of better paid jobs in surroundings that are perhaps less illustrious - but also less cut-throat.

This tech diaspora has been facilitated in part by SEO campaigns that are increasingly targeting niche markets for highly specialized - and regionalized - products and services. Most tech companies are no longer aiming for world domination; they simply want to maximise their ROI by advertising only to those people with a high likelihood of purchasing their product.

Industry analysts are convinced that towns like Naperville have the capacity to become key tech hubs. Tech workers are starting to see the benefits of working in smaller towns, where they can commute quickly to and from work - without sacrificing their resume or salary. And why not? After all, their products and services are opening up a global village in which everybody can be a major player, irrespective of geographical location. To sell this new reality without believing in it is a contradiction too big for the bright young things of tomorrow’s technology industry.

 

October 15, 2014

Mobile Marketing Mushroom in Ireland

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Mobile marketing campaign managers in Ireland are flush with success right now. The country is undergoing a mobile device boom, as consumers increasingly turn their attentions away from desktop and towards smartphones and tablets.

A study compiled by marketing company ZinMobi looked at some of the country’s leading retail, restaurant and fast food brands and found mobile marketing tactics were the most effective way of delivering the biggest ROI. ZinMobi’s boss, Brian Stephenson, said the results were indicative of a growing awareness of mobile marketing tactics, and a concurrent drop off in use of conventional methods. Says Stephenson:

“What excites me about these results is the way that brands have recognised mobile as the instant marketing channel with campaigns quicker to deploy, and delivering instant results.

“We believe that every business knows enough about its customers... to deliver highly-targeted and trackable campaigns,” he added.

The study also found that mobile marketing tactics were regarded as the quickest to set-up, and 61% of respondents said they delivered the fastest results. The research found only 10% of companies did not plan to be using some form of mobile marketing campaign by this time next year; right now, 26% of Irish companies do not use some kind of mobile marketing strategy. These figures clearly show a growing awareness of mobile marketing among firms who are late to the party.

Companies with a well-established mobile marketing strategy are expanding their current campaigns in order to better engage with consumers. Mobile coupons and special offers are proving highly effective methods of retaining and nurturing existing customers.

These trends reflect an overall swing towards mobile in Ireland. Mobile web access is up 59% on last year according to a report from StatCounter. The more consumers move towards mobile devices, the more we’re likely to see marketers follow suit and creating mobile-specific campaigns. Ireland, like the rest of the world, knows which way the wind is blowing.

 

October 07, 2014

iBeacon Goes Mainstream in Mobile Marketing

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According to CMO.com, iBeacons and geomarketing are quickly becoming mainstream tools for marketers.

The iBeacon is defined by Apple as "a new class of low-powered, low-cost transmitters that can notify nearby iOS 7 devices of their presence.” It relies on Bluetooth low-energy proximity sensing to” transmit universally-unique identifiers”picked up by compatible apps or operating systems. These identifiers may be looked up via the internet to determine the device's physical location, or result in action, such as a push notification or check-in on social media.

Geomarketing involves geographic information used in the planning and executing of marketing strategies. It allows marketers to target advertising campaigns and subsequently appeal to consumers based on where they live or shop.

A U.S.-based team researching mobile marketing found some 18 percent of mobile marketers are utilizing Apple iBeacons, which is expected to double in 2015. Additionally, 49 percent of marketers noted they would use device positioning to deliver content, while 48.8 percent plan to add such capabilities to their mobile marketing strategy over the next year.

The Adobe Digital Team Index recently found 33 percent of average mobile users look to their mobile devices for help when shopping in-store, and 9 percent have used mobile wallets over the past three months. This percentage rises to 22 among “mobile elite” users. Adobe also discovered bounce rate referrals from social networks are higher on mobile devices than desktops at 61 and 53 percent, respectively.

Adobe’s digital team researched other mobile dynamics and trends as well, including social channels. They discovered Pinterest is the “most mobile” social network, with 64 percent of its referred traffic coming from either smartphones or tablet devices. Twitter is at 62 percent in terms of mobile use, and Facebook at 41 percent. Tumblr has the highest revenue per visit from mobile devices--$2.57--with Facebook coming in second at $1.85.

The company’s Mobile Benchmark Report was based on aggregate data from some 18 billion visits to retail, media, entertainment, financial services, and travel websites in June 2014. Behavioral data from companies using Adobe’s Marketing Cloud solution, Analytics and Mobile Services platforms was also studied. The report researched, in total, 700 million mobile app use sessions, 3,000 mobile users, and over 10,000 U.S. websites and apps.

With so many companies jumping on the iBeacon and geomarketing bandwagons, mobile ad campaigns will only become more and more location specific. 

October 02, 2014

How Smartphones Are Helping the Fight Against Drug Addiction

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Can smartphones help users overcome drug addiction? 

Research says Yes! Back in 2011, an 80-person study by the National Institutes of Health found smartphones highly beneficial to those overcoming drug addiction. The study was based out of East Baltimore, Maryland and featured smartphones programmed to let addicts track when they craved and used drugs. Phones were set up to beep randomly three times each day, and ask questions such as “Where are you?”, “What are you doing?”, and “How are you feeling?”.

"We want to know the events surrounding that," lead researcher Dr. Kenzie Preston said at the time. "We're really interested what's triggering drug use, relapse."

Phones were partially disabled to lower their street value; however, associate scientist David Epstein noted no issues with phones becoming lost or getting stolen.

"We tell them, if you lose or break one of these, we'll replace it and that's fine," he said. "But if you lose or break a second one, we're going to detox you from the methadone and you can't be in the study anymore. And we hardly ever have to do that. People know that they'd rather stay with us."

The study was meant to pinpoint the precise moments addicts decided to use, as Epstein remarked on the difficulty addicts have recalling the specifics of their relapses. This isn’t to say addicts lie about their relapses; rather it’s more about how the brain functions.

"People, whether it's someone who's addicted to drugs or anyone else in the world, make up stories that sort of explain their behavior," he said during the study. "But if you could've been monitoring them in real time, you would see that things didn't happen quite the way they remembered."

Smartphones allowed researchers to obtain data in real time. The study also included addicts carrying pager-sized GPS monitors to track their movements, which made it easy to log where addicts go. For example, an addict could be sober for weeks, then visit a certain block or neighborhood and have a relapse. Knowing where addicts were hanging out helped researchers understand what type of environments encouraged drug use.

Epstein said the study could lead to new smartphone-based treatments.

"A sort of clinician in your pocket," he said. "You can give them on the spot feedback... and that does seem helpful."

 

 

September 17, 2014

What to Expect from the iPhone 6

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This week Apple unveiled a triad of new devices: the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 plus, and the iWatch. The anticipation mounting over the new technology has the blogging world abuzz, but most of the talk is about the oversized iPhone 6 plus (which many iPhone users scoff at), or the iWatch (which nobody seems to take seriously). Unfortunately for the iPhone 6, the blogosphere seems to have failed to represent what she has to offer.

LARGER

The iPhone 6 has undergone a major revision in its latest release. Perhaps the most interesting thing we noticed about the new iPhone – it is a little larger than the last generation, the iPhone 5S, by about a half an inch. It appears that the designers of the latest iPhone have been interpreting the data about the competition: a little more than one-third of mobile users prefer to use a smartphone that has a larger screen. The smartphone is also heavier than its previous incarnation, weighing in at about 4.5 ounces.

SLEEKER DESIGN

The design of the body has been altered as well. The iPhone 6 has veered away from square edges, and now has a more rounded yet significantly slimmer shape (a little bit thicker than a quarter inch). This makes it one of the thinnest devices on the market. The power button has also been moved from the top of the phone to the right edge.

In the weeks leading up to the unveiling, Apple claimed that the glass in their screens will be upgraded to handle many more bumps and scrapes before shattering – good news for any mobile user who’s dropped their iPhone before. Also with the new Retina HD screen, the iPhone 6 has received a significant upgrade from its cousin, the iPhone 5S. When compared to other models though (like those of Samsung’s line of phones), many would argue that the screen designers could have gone further in creating a better display.

UPDATED HARDWARE & SOFTWARE

The camera has been upgraded in the new iPhone 6 to one with a wide-angle lens. Called the iSight lens, it incorporates a 2.2 aperture with noise reduction and an autofocus that’s twice as fast. The rear camera also has a slo-mo video mode to enhance slow motion recording. The front facing camera is much better too, now an HD camera with a 2.2 aperture that allows in more than 80% more light.

But there’s one big question about the operating system. Will Apple update its iOS – yet again – for the newer available iPhones? The answer is no. Apple is running the new iPhone 6 on the same platform it unveiled earlier this year, the iOS 8.

All in all, the new iPhone 6 will be exciting to see in action, due to the attention the designers have paid to the model. It may not be exactly what the critics would’ve asked for, but it will certainly prove to be an excellent addition to the Apple line of products. Due to hit the shelves on September 19th, the price will be comparable to previous versions (about $650).

(More Than) Texting From Your Computer

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As many iPhone users know, it can be a breeze to respond to iMessages whether you have your phone or not. Due to the fact that Apple has designed the iMessage platform to run on Mac, tablet, and smartphones alike, users have the benefit of sending and receiving messages from a computer if they want to. But what if you don’t have this luxury? Perhaps you are using another type of smartphone or you prefer PCs. Well, now you have an answer.

A new platform called Pushbullet serves to mirror all of the content on your android device, sending it to the computer of your choice. And yes, this includes text messages.

Many will argue that they don’t need to send or receive texts from their computer, but note all of the powerful benefits. First of all, mobile phones have much smaller interfaces with tiny on-screen keyboards that can be difficult to navigate. When you attempt to type on them, they autocorrect your every word. Were you to type the text message from your computer, you could type the whole text message on your regular keyboard – some without even looking at the screen.

When you work on a computer all day long (as most people do these days), isn’t it easier to send and receive text messages without having to look down at your phone every few seconds. Sending and receiving SMS messages from your computer is easier on the eyes and the neck. Also, you can turn off the loud text alert in the office without worrying about missing texts due to silent mode.

The Pushbullet platform also provides messaging history. If you have more than one mobile device, you can review all of your messages at once, along with any documents currently on the mobile device.

Pushbullet technology allows users to send a variety of items from their computers to their phones, save SMS attachments on a computer’s hard drive, and seamlessly transfer links between computer and phone. Essentially, Pushbullet has a variety of options for Android/PC users that can increase productivity immensely, which is arguably even more significant than sending a text messages from a computer.

September 12, 2014

Facebook is Converting 100m Africans Per Month

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The African continent is signing up to Facebook in droves, with 100 million users joining the social network every month. Most exciting for mobile marketing campaign managers is the fact that 80% of those users are joining via smartphones. This is indicative of a rapidly expanding mobile marketplace in emerging economies, as smartphone adoption in many African nations outstrips desktop adoption.

In part, this explosion has been driven by a deal inked between Facebook and cellular networks which ‘zero rates’ the service. This means data used by accessing Facebook does not count towards bills or data limits. Despite drawing some criticism from net neutrality advocates, the move has undoubtedly helped emerging economies in countries like Nigeria and Kenya compete; companies across Africa are reaching new, global audiences that were hitherto tough to crack.

This is just the beginning of what looks set to be a connectivity revolution in a continent historically beset with infrastructural problems. Some researchers are predicting mobile web use will increase 20-fold over the next five years. That’s double the predicted rate of growth in the rest of the world.

The relative affordability of, say, an iPhone compared to an Apple desktop computer is allowing citizens of developing countries to engage with the online world, and businesses to grow more quickly as their local audience builds. The declining cost of data, alongside faster transmission speeds, is improving communication in some of the remotest parts of the world, with sub-Saharan Africa undergoing a mobile digital revolution. 

It’s not just the low cost of recent generations of smartphone that suits these markets. Smartphones don’t need to be physically connected - either to network or electricity cables – to the same degree as desktop computers. This convenience and portability is allowing a whole new kind of mobile consumer to take advantage of internet access. 

Recent research from mobile tech firm Ericsson predicts voice call traffic in the region will double over the next five years. By the end of this year, there are expected to be more than 635 million mobile subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa. The report also says that 70% of users in the countries studies browse the web on mobile devices, compared with just 6% who use desktop computers.

Analysts say the Ericsson research confirms mobile’s dominance. In a recent TED talk on technology in Africa, the editor of South Africa’s Stuff magazine said:

"Africa is a mobile-only continent. There never was a landline infrastructure to begin with, apart from urban areas. Mobile has allowed anyone to have a phone in places that were previously impassable and uncontactable. It has also been enabled, from a business perspective, by prepaid payments that handily remove the equally widespread legacy problem in that very few people have banks accounts. It really is that technology leapfrog the industry likes to talk about."