Source: This article was published bizjournals.com By Sheila Kloefkorn - Contributed by Member:Anthony Frank

You may have heard about Google’s mobile-first indexing. Since nearly 60 percent of all searches are mobile, it makes sense that Google would give preference to mobile-optimized content in its search results pages.

Are your website and online content ready? If not, you stand to lose search-engine rankings and your website may not rank in the future.

Here is how to determine if you need help with Google’s mobile-first algorithm update:

What is mobile-first indexing?

Google creates an index of website pages and content to facilitate each search query. Mobile-first indexing means the mobile version of your website will weigh heavier in importance for Google’s indexing algorithm. Mobile responsive, fast-loading content is given preference in first-page SERP website rankings.

Mobile first doesn’t mean Google only indexes mobile sites. If your company does not have a mobile-friendly version, you will still get indexed, but your content will be ranked below mobile-friendly content. Websites with a great mobile experience will receive better search-engine rankings than a desktop-only version. Think about how many times you scroll to the second page of search results. Likely, not very often. That is why having mobile optimized content is so important.

How to determine if you need help

If you want to make sure you position your company to take advantage of mobile indexing as it rolls out, consider whether you can manage the following tasks on your own or if you need help:

  • Check your site: Take advantage of Google’s test site to see if your site needs help.
  • Mobile page speed: Make sure you enhance mobile page speed and load times. Mobile optimized content should load in 2 seconds or less. You want images and other elements optimized to render well on mobile devices.
  • Content: You want high-quality, relevant and informative mobile-optimized content on your site. Include text, videos, images and more that are crawlable and indexable.
  • Structured data: Use the same structured data on both desktop and mobile pages. Use mobile version of URLs in your structured data on mobile pages.
  • Metadata: Make sure your metadata such as titles and meta descriptions for all pages is updated.
  • XML and media sitemaps: Make sure your mobile version can access any links to sitemaps. Include robots.txt and meta-robots tags and include trust signals like links to your company’s privacy policy.
  • App index: Verify the mobile version of your desktop site relates to your app association files and others if you use app indexation for your website.
  • Server capacity: Make sure your hosting servers have the needed capacity to handle crawl mobile and desktop crawls.
  • Google Search Console: If you use Google Search Console, make sure you add and verify your mobile site as well.

What if you do not have a mobile site or mobile-optimized content?
If you have in-house resources to upgrade your website for mobile, the sooner you can implement the updates, the better.

If not, reach out to a full-service digital marketing agency like ours, which can help you update your website so that it can continue to compete. Without a mobile-optimized website, your content will not rank as well as websites with mobile-friendly content.

Categorized in Search Engine

It’s powerful, it’s shiny, and everyone wants one, including thieves and hackers. Your MacBook holds your world: work files, music, photos, videos, and a lot of other stuff you care about, but is your MacBook safe and protected from harm?  Let’s take a look at 5 MacBook Security Tips you use to make your MacBook an impenetrable and unstealable mobile data fortress:

1. LoJack Your Mac Now So You Can Recover it After it’s Been Stolen

We’ve all heard about the iPhone and the Find My iPhone app, where users of Apple’s MobileMe service can track down their lost or stolen iPhone via a website by leveraging the iPhone’s location awareness capabilities.

 That’s great for iPhones, but what about your MacBook? Is there an app for that? Yes, there is! 

For a yearly subscription fee, Absolute Software’s LoJack for Laptops software will provide both data security and theft recovery services for your MacBook.  The software starts at $35.99 and is available in 1-3 year subscription plans.  LoJack integrates at the BIOS firmware level, so a thief who thinks that just wiping the hard drive of your stolen computer will make it untraceable is in for a real surprise when he connects to the net and LoJack starts broadcasting the location of your MacBook, without him even knowing it.  Knock, knock!  Who’s there?  It’s not housekeeping!

There is no guarantee that you will get your shiny MacBook back, but the odds are greatly improved if you have LoJack installed versus if you don’t.  According to their website, Absolute Software’s Theft Recovery Team averages about 90 laptop recoveries per week.

2. Enable your MacBook’s OS X Security Features (Because Apple Didn’t)

The Mac operating system, known as OS X, has some great security features that are available to the user. The main problem is that while the features are installed, they are not usually enabled by default. Users must enable these security features on their own.

 Here are the basic settings that you should configure to make your MacBook more secure:

Disable Automatic Login and Set a System Password

While it’s convenient not to have to enter your password every time you boot up your computer, or when the screensaver kicks in, you might as well leave the front door to your house wide open because your MacBook is now an all-you-can-eat data buffet for the guy who just stole it. With one click of a checkbox and the creation of a strong password, you can enable this feature and put another roadblock in the hacker or thief’s path.

Enable OS X’s FileVault Encryption

Your MacBook just got stolen but you put a password on your account so your data is safe, right? Wrong!

Most hackers and data thieves will just pull the hard drive out of your MacBook and hook it to another computer using an IDE/SATA to USB cable. Their computer will read your MacBook’s drive just like any other DVD or USB drive plugged into it. They won’t need an account or password to access your data because they have bypassed the operating system’s built-in file security. They now have direct access to your files regardless of who is logged in. 

The easiest way to prevent this is to enable file encryption using OSX’s built-in FileVault tool.

FileVault encrypts and decrypts files associated with your profile on the fly using a password that you set. It sounds complicated, but everything happens in the background so you don’t even know anything is going on. Meanwhile, your data is being protected so unless they have the password the data is unreadable and useless to thieves even if they take the drive out and hook it to another computer.

For stronger, whole disk encryption with advanced features, check out TrueCrypt, a free, open source file, and disk encryption tool.

Turn on Your Mac’s Built-in Firewall

The built-in OS X Firewall will thwart most hacker’s attempts to break into your MacBook from the Internet.

It’s very easy to setup. Once enabled, the Firewall will block malicious inbound network connections and regulates outbound traffic as well. Applications must ask permission from you (via a pop-up box) before they attempt an outbound connection. You can grant or deny access on a temporary or permanent basis as you see fit.  

We have detailed, step--by-step guidance on how to Enable OS X's Security Features

All of the security features mentioned here can be accessed by clicking on the Security icon in the OS X System Preferences window

3. Install Patches? We Don’t Need no Stinking Patches! (yes we do)

The exploit/patch cat and mouse game are alive and well. Hackers find a weakness in an application and develop an exploit. The application’s developer addresses the vulnerability and releases a patch to fix it.  Users install the patch and the circle of life continues.

Mac OS X will automatically check for Apple-branded software updates on a regular basis and will often prompt you to download and install them. Many 3rd party software packages such as Microsoft Office have their own software update app that will periodically check to see if there are any patches available. Other applications have a manual “Check for Updates” feature often located in the Help menu. It is a good idea to perform or schedule an update check on at least a weekly basis for your most used applications so that you aren’t as vulnerable to software-based exploits.

4. Lock it Down. Literally. 

If someone wants to steal your computer bad enough they are going to, no matter how many layers of defense you put up.

 Your goal should be to make it as difficult as possible for a thief to steal your MacBook.  You want them to become discouraged enough to move on to easier targets. 

The Kensington Lock, which has been around for decades, is a security device for physically connecting your laptop with a steel cable loop to a large piece of furniture or some other object that is not easily moved.  Every MacBook has a Kensington Security Slot, also know as a K-Slot.  The K-Slot will accept a Kensington-type lock. On newer MacBooks, the K-Slot is located to the right of the headphone jack on the left side of the device.  

Can these locks be picked?  Yes.  Can the cable be cut with the right tools?  Yes. The important thing is that the lock will deter the casual theft of opportunity.  A would-be thief who breaks out his lock picking kit and Jaws of Life wire cutters in the Library to steal your MacBook will likely arouse more suspicion than if he just walked away with the laptop sitting next to yours that wasn’t tethered to a magazine rack. 

The basic Kensington Lock comes in many varieties, costs about $25, and is widely available at most office supply stores.

5. Protect Your Mac’s Gooey Center With a Hard-shell Configuration

If you are really serious about security and want to delve way down deep into your settings to make sure your Mac’s security is as bulletproof as possible, then surf on over to the Apple support website and download the OS X security configuration guides. These well put together documents detail all the settings that are available to lock down every aspect of the OS to make it as secure as possible.

Just be careful that you balance security with usability. You don’t want to lock your MacBook up so tight that you can’t get into it yourself.

Source: This article was published lifewire.com By Andy O'Donnell

Categorized in Internet Privacy

One tool shows how a site stacks up against the competition on mobile. The other aims to drive home the impact mobile speed can have on the bottom line.

Google has focused on getting marketers and site owners to improve mobile site experiences for many years now. On Monday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the search giant announced the release of two new mobile benchmarking resources to help in this effort: a new Mobile Scorecard and a conversion Impact Calculator.

Both tools aim to give marketers clear visuals to help them get buy-in from stakeholders for investments in mobile site speed.

The Mobile Scorecard taps Chrome User Experience Report data to compare the speed of multiple sites on mobile. That’s the same database of latency data from Chrome users that Google started using in its PageSpeed Insights Tool in January. Google says the Mobile Scorecard can report on thousands of sites from 12 countries.

As a guideline, Google recommends that a site loads and becomes usable within five seconds on mid-range mobile devices with 3G connections and within three seconds on 4G connections.

To put the Mobile Scorecard data into monetary perspective for stakeholders, the new Impact Calculator is designed to show just how much conversion revenue a site is missing out on because of its slow loading speed.

The conversion Impact Calculator is based on data from The State of Online Retail Performance report from April 2017 that showed each second of delay in page load on a retail site can hurt conversions by up to 20 percent.

The calculator shows how a change in page load can drive revenue up or down after marketers put in their average monthly visitors, average order value and conversion rate. Google created a similar tool for publishers called DoubleClick Publisher Revenue Calculator.

Source: This article was published searchengineland.com By Ginny Marvin

Categorized in Search Engine

As a follow up to our recent article on how to spot and stop phishing attempts, we’re now going to focus on the difficulty of recognising phishing and email spoofing attempts on mobile devices and how to overcome this.

img src="https://www.beaming.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/SamPhone1-370x312.png" alt="Email spoofing: Mobile spoof email can be hard to detect" width="432" height="364" srcset="https://www.beaming.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/SamPhone1-370x312.png 370w, /

Beware the email address

Sometimes a spoof email seems to be from someone famous or well known, to attract the attention of the recipient.  Otherwise, it may be a trusted brand name. More sophisticated scams will appear to be from someone the user knows, usually through work. Email spoofing addresses tend to be a mixture of letters, numbers and meaningless words. Depending on the type of device and app you are using, this may be more difficult to spot on a mobile device as they often just display the sender’s “Friendly name” and the email address itself is more difficult to find.

To display the sender’s email address you’ll need to open the email. At the top, underneath the “From” and “To” lines, you should find a link entitled “Details” or “View detail.

img src="https://www.beaming.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Samphone2.png" alt="Email spoofing: How to view a sender's email address on mobile" width="236" height="430" srcset="https://www.beaming.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Samphone2.png 236w, /
Once clicked, this will expand the “From” and “To” details so that you may view the email address of the sender and details as to when the message was received.

Watch what they ask for and how they ask for it

Spoof emails will be asking for something from you, this may include money, passwords or sensitive information. Legitimate banks or companies will never ask for personal credentials over email so don’t give them up.  High-end brands are extremely cautious with their spelling, punctuation, and grammar so if an email has many spelling mistakes, it’s likely that the email is trying to spoof you.

 Treat all links as suspicious

 Malware and ransomware can be spread when victims unwittingly click on an untoward download link. Phishers will also send links that take the user to a convincing looking corporate website where they are encouraged to enter personal information such as credit card details.

If you’re on a PC, you can use your mouse to hover over any link in an email to view the destination web address. As with the email address, if the destination web address is a random mixture of numbers and letters, be wary of it. Likewise, if the website address is mis-spelled this is a red-flag that can be easily missed eg http://www.micorsoft.com. On a mobile device, you won’t have a mouse, but you can still check the link by holding your finger down on it. Unlike a short tap, which would open the link, holding your finger on it will cause a new dialogue window to pop up, showing you what the destination web address is but without actually following the link.

As is always our advice, if you are in any doubt, check! Don’t put your personal details or business in jeopardy. By making sure that everyone is aware of tactics used in email spoofing and know how to verify the original source of an email, you can save wasted time, effort and resources in the future.

Source: This article was published beaming.co.uk By Beaming Support

Categorized in Internet Privacy

Check your log files to see if you see an increase in smartphone Googlebot activity, it may be a sign your site is now on the Google mobile first index.

Google has posted on the webmaster blog more advice around getting ready for the mobile-first index.

Google confirmed it has rolled out the mobile-first index “for a handful of sites” and said the search team is “closely” monitoring those sites for testing purposes.

You will know when your site moved over by checking to see a significantly increased crawling rate by the Smartphone Googlebot in your log files and the snippets in the results, as well as the content on the Google cache pages, will be from the mobile version of your web pages. Again, Google said only a small number of sites have migrated.

Gary Illyes from Google posted several tips to get ready for the mobile-first index:

  • Make sure the mobile version of the site also has the important, high-quality content. This includes text, images (with alt-attributes), and videos — in the usual crawlable and indexable formats.
  • Structured data is important for indexing and search features that users love: It should be both on the mobile and desktop version of the site. Ensure URLs within the structured data are updated to the mobile version on the mobile pages.
  • Metadata should be present on both versions of the site. It provides hints about the content on a page for indexing and serving. For example, make sure that titles and meta descriptions are equivalent across both versions of all pages on the site.
  • No changes are necessary for interlinking with separate mobile URLs (m.-dot sites). For sites using separate mobile URLs, keep the existing link rel=canonical and link rel=alternate elements between these versions.
  • Check hreflang links on separate mobile URLs. When using link rel=hreflang elements for internationalization, a link between mobile and desktop URLs separately. Your mobile URLs’ hreflang should point to the other language/region versions on other mobile URLs, and similarly link desktop with other desktop URLs using hreflang link elements there.
  • Ensure the servers hosting the site have enough capacity to handle potentially increased crawl rate. This doesn’t affect sites that use responsive web design and dynamic serving, only sites where the mobile version is on a separate host, such as m.example.com.

Source: This article was published searchengineland.com By Barry Schwartz

Categorized in Search Engine

Searches for events will now surface a list of activities that include location and date details.

Google announced a new search feature today that will make it easier to find events.

Google app and mobile web searches for events will now surface a listing of activities pulled from Eventbrite, Meetup and other sites across the web.

Google product manager Nishant Ranka writes:

To try it, type in a quick search like, “jazz concerts in Austin,” or “art events this weekend” on your phone. With a single tap, you’ll see at-a-glance details about various options, like the event title, date and time, and location. You can tap “more events” to see additional options. Once you find one that’s up your alley, tap it to find more details or buy tickets directly from the website.

Rolled out today in the US, Google shared the following image highlighting how its latest search feature works:

Event results include filters that let you drill down by dates or look for specific events happening “today,” “tomorrow” or “next week.”

Google provided the following link to its developer guidelines for creators so that they can make sure their event listings show up in within the new search feature: Google Search Events guide.

Source: This article was published searchengineland.com By Amy Gesenhues

Categorized in Search Engine

Mobile has changed everything, but it's only Act One. Machine learning in marketing is set to drive the industry's next revolution. Google's Senior Vice President of Ads & Commerce, Sridhar Ramaswamy, reflects on the implication of this change and how leading brands will navigate the shift.

What's the next big thing? What comes after mobile? Where is marketing headed?

I often get asked these types of questions. Many of us who work in ad tech do. And while fortune teller is a job title most of us wouldn't claim, I am increasingly confident about what the future will hold because it's coming so clearly into view.

Here's why: The future coming into view is an acceleration of what we see today. It's unfolding before our eyes. And if we press pause and reflect for a moment on what's happening, it's as exciting as anything I've witnessed or worked toward during my 14 years at Google.

For consumers and marketers alike, mobile has forced a rewriting of the rules.

Reflecting on the big picture reveals—in an equally obvious and striking way—just how much of a game-changer mobile really is. For consumers and marketers alike, mobile has forced a rewriting of the rules. Consumers have become more empowered than ever to get what they want, when they want it. Waiting has become a thing of the past. That translates into today's pervasive micro-moment behavior—immediately turning to a device to know, go, do, and buy. To capitalize on that behavior and win over consumers, marketers have been forced to rewrite the rule book. You've had to double down on addressing the needs of consumers in the moment, committing to being there and being useful each and every time you can help advance the journey. In short, marketers have had to start being a lot more assistive.

But mobile isn't just an epic game-changer. It's a prerequisite, Act One. Just one critical leg of the journey. Pick your analogy, but I like to think of mobile as the force that's accelerating a train we're all now aboard. It's critical to get it right—because strategic shifts made today lay the groundwork for what's coming.

As new smart devices continue to emerge and as consumers embrace new, more natural ways to interact with those devices (like voice commands), the micro-moment behaviors mobile kick-started will only multiply. And as data and machine learning become more sophisticated in enhancing everyday consumer experiences, the expectations for relevant, personalized, and assistive experiences will continue to skyrocket. We're heading toward an age of assistance where, for marketers, friction will mean failure, and mass messages will increasingly mean "move on."

We're heading toward an age of assistance where, for marketers, friction will mean failure, and mass messages will increasingly mean "move on."

In this new age, it won't be enough just to be present across more micro-moments. We'll all be expected to stay a step ahead of consumers—to know their needs even better than they do. Successful marketers will have a much deeper understanding of their customers at every encounter. They'll focus on acquiring a detailed, data-driven view to really know them and help them along their individual journeys. That's the assistive mindset that will be required to win.

If I didn't believe so much in the role of technology, I might get worried. How can we as marketers possibly scale relevant messages and experiences across all devices at all moments? How can we possibly deliver smart marketing that recognizes each customer is unique, while simultaneously driving the bottom line? But I'm not worried. I'm thrilled. It is precisely technology—specifically the promise of data and machine learning—that will enable us to get this right.

Some organizational change will be required. And it will be necessary to embrace new standards for business as well as invest for the future. Here are three things to focus on as we navigate this shift together:

Raising the bar on mobile: To delight and be useful, we need to deliver fast, relevant, assistive experiences. It's important to lay the groundwork early with incredible mobile experiences.

Being smarter with data: A better understanding of consumers, coupled with smart automation, will enable personalization at scale. The ability to connect first-party data to media execution will be foundational to success.

Embracing omnichannel assistance: Leading brands will bridge online and offline, delivering seamless experiences throughout the consumer journey.

There's much work to be done. But in many ways, this future is what we at Google have been building toward for the last 18 years with Search. We can apply our data, intelligence, and scale to help marketers deliver the most useful messages for each and every micro-moment. I'm no fortune teller, but I believe the future is going to be pretty exciting, and I'm thrilled to be on this ride with all of you.

Source : This article was published thinkwithgoogle.com by Sridhar

LOS GATOS, Cali. — As Netflix continues to produce billions of dollars’ worth of original content, it’s easy to forget that the company’s business model is firmly rooted in the delivery of digital content, served with as little friction as possible.

For Los Gatos, California-based Netflix Inc., frequent improvements to how all of its content is delivered — both original and licensed — is not just for subscriber convenience or benefit.

Retaining the company’s 94 million paid subscribers is crucial, but growth is the name of the game and — when reading between the lines of its latest technology improvements — the company has its sights set on emerging markets.

Netflix uploads multiple versions of shows or movies to its cloud servers, encoded in different file sizes. When a subscriber starts watching content, Netflix will know which file to serve, based on the device being used.

A big screen TV on fast home internet service will be served a higher bitrate — the number of bits transmitted per second — more information makes the picture quality better, while someone watching on a cellphone will get a lower bitrate to reduce the amount of bandwidth being used.

Netflix has been trying to refine the way they encode their videos to push significantly better quality video at a lower bitrate, so as more people move to mobile devices, the video they consume won’t take up as much of their bandwidth limits.

But, more importantly, it also means the company can grow its subscriber base in emerging markets where smartphones and data plans are more common than home Internet service. 

“I’m originally from the Philippines, where the main access to the Internet is actually people’s cell phones,” Anne Aaron, Netflix’s director of video algorithms, told a small group of journalists at the company’s headquarters. 

“Every bit counts. So the role of my team is to make sure every bit actually adds to the video quality of what people watch, and our main goal is to have a great viewing experience where you enjoy the TV show or movie at any bit rate.”

Part of the way this is achieved is through efficiency. Netflix’s encoding process was once done on a per-title basis, meaning its algorithms would look at scenes with the most action and use that as a basis for how much to compress the quality of the video.

But Aaron’s team has moved the encoder algorithms to a “per chunk” basis, which would look at one-to-three minute segments at a time, which means they can compress higher quality into smaller bitrate because action moments often aren’t as frequent and the threshold is lower. 

“But why stop there? Let’s go even further and optimize per shot of the video,” Aaron said, adding that Netflix has brought in experts from around the world, including two professors that specialize in encoding, to help make their algorithms even more efficient. 

So now video looks equally as good at half the bitrate — and in some cases, it’s even lower. That drives down the bandwidth costs for subscribers, and potential new users in emerging markets are more likely to be attracted to video that looks good on any device, even at slower speeds.

Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

“Every bit counts”

Language accuracy

Quality video that doesn’t take up a lot of bandwidth is half the battle. Netflix is also innovating when it comes to localization — the subtitles and dubbing done in other languages.

“In 2012, we launched Lilyhammer… in seven languages and 96 language assets,” said Denny Sheehan, Netflix’s director of content localization and quality control. “Cut to (this year) where we’ve launched Iron Fist in 20 languages and we have 572 language assets. And by language assets, I mean subtitles, audio dubs and audio description.” 

For Netflix and Sheehan’s team, the way to nail localization is by focusing on context. In some cases, the company bypasses local companies that offer people for hire and hires translators directly, in case there are questions on things like cultural jokes, voice inflection and other contextual elements that might be missed in a straight translation.

Netflix also uses style guides and glossaries of terminologies or key phrases to make sure there is consistency across shows or movies as well as in the marketing materials and elsewhere in the company. All departments can access an internal Wiki with the up to date style guide.

“To achieve the highest quality we also have to have really high bar for quality control, and so for our originals this is a very through and rigorous approach,” said Sheehan.

“Every subtitle event is gone through by the same quality control evaluator that has done every episode of every season of a series, so the person working on House of Cards season five for Japanese also worked on season one and that way we know that nothing is going to be lost season-to-season.”

To expand into more languages and markets with a high level of accuracy, Netflix launched its own translator program in March called Hermes. Anyone can register and choose a language they speak, then take a quick test.

Those who score in the highest percentiles will be contacted by Netflix and interviewed to become a paid translator. If eventually accepted, they’ll get a unique ID in the system and their history (including accuracy) can be seen both by Netflix or exported to show other companies if someone is looking for a full-time position in the field. 

“Everybody in the process (including quality control) is measured,” said Chris Fetner, Netflix’s director of media engineering partnerships. “If we start to see a trend where we feel like that person is not performing we’ll either coach them up to a new level, up to the level that we expect or we’ll discontinue using them.”

With Netflix’s eyes on new markets to keep its subscriber base growing, these kinds of technological innovations and focus on localization will already be in place during expansion to help bring new countries on board.

“Even if you think about India and places in Latin American, there are places that either the fixed line bandwidth is quite constrained,” said Ken Florance, Netflix’s vice president of content delivery.

“In Africa, India, parts of Asia, parts of Latin America where there wasn’t this huge build out of fixed lines to people’s homes, in a lot of cases some cellular networks are substituting for the last mile. So any of the benefits from a 200 kilobits stream looking great on a cell network in New York City will also be seen and look fantastic on an old copper DSL in Bogota (Colombia).”

Author: Josh McConnell
Source: business.financialpost.com

Categorized in Science & Tech

Research from Newcastle University in the U.K. has shown how malicious websites can use the motion sensors in mobile phones to uncover PINs and other information. (Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)

New research reveals hackers can use sensor technology to gather all kinds of data

A new study has revealed just how easy it is for hackers to use the sensors in mobile devices to crack four-digit PINs and to access a wide variety of other information about users.

Cyber-security experts from Newcastle University in the U.K. found that once a mobile user visits a website, code embedded on the page could then use the phone's motion and orientation sensors to correctly guess the users' PIN. This worked on the first attempt 75 per cent of the time, and by the third try 94 per cent of the time.

The study, published in the International Journal of Information Security this week, also found that most people have little idea of what the sensors in our phones can do and the security vulnerabilities they pose.

The researchers identified 25 different sensors that are now standard on most phones. Yet websites and apps only ask for permission to use a small fraction of these — GPS and camera, for example.

Downside of fitness tracking

"A lot of these sensors came to help people have a better experience when they work with these devices, and they bring a lot of advantages to our lives," said Maryan Mehrnezhad, a research fellow in Newcastle's school of computing science and lead author of the paper.

track fitnessThe sensors that enable popular fitness-tracking apps contribute to security risks. (Getty Images)

Examples of these include the accelerometer and gyroscope sensors that enable the fitness-tracking apps so popular with cellphone users.

Yet the sensor technology is well ahead of any regulatory restrictions pertaining to our privacy, said Mehrnezhad in an interview with CBC News.

She and her colleagues mimicked what's known as a "side channel attack" on Android mobile phones using a website embedded with JavaScript code.

The results show that the attack site could learn details such as the timing of phone calls, whether the user is working, sitting or running, as well as any touch activity, including PINs, she said.

Underestimating risk

The second part of the study evaluated people's understanding of these risks.

Interviews with around 100 mobile users found that most people are not aware of the sensors on their mobile devices, said Mehrnezhad, and that there is "significant disparity" between the actual risk and perceived risk of having a compromised PIN.

In fact, as the sensors were being developed, even the phone manufacturers didn't have a clear understanding of the risks associated with them, said Urs Hengartner, an associate professor in computer science at the University of Waterloo.

"Everybody thought that accelerometer data and gyroscope data is not sensitive, so there's no need to ask for permission. Now research shows that it is an issue," said Hengartner in an interview with CBC News.

"These are security researchers that figured this out, and so nobody else seems to have known, not the browser vendors, not the operating system vendors and definitely not the general public."

Solving the problem is "a big research challenge," he said, in part because users may not understand the implications of what they're being asked by an app or website and may simply default to saying yes.

Decision fatigue

Research has shown that when people get tired of being asked for permission, they default to saying yes so they can access the website they want to visit or use the app they need, said Hengartner. 

Some browsers have begun asking for permissions for things like location data, but there is no uniform standard for doing so, he said.

As study author Mehrnezhad notes, tech companies also don't want to sacrifice the convenience and functionality we've come to expect of our mobile devices.

"It's a battle between security and privacy on one hand and usability issues on the other hand," she said — and it's only going to get more important.

"Sensors are going to be everywhere. The problem will get more serious when smart kitchens, smart homes and smart cities are connected via the internet of things," she said.

Preventive measures

It sounds obvious, but the first step users should take to protect themselves is to choose more complex passcodes. Previous research has found that 27 per cent of all possible four-digit PINs belong to a set of 20 that include dead-easy combinations such as "1111" or "1234," said Mehrnezhad.

"I know people hate it because it's not convenient," she said, but it's also critical to change your passwords regularly.

In addition, keep your operating systems up to date, only download apps from trusted sources like Google Play or the App Store, delete apps you're not using, and close both apps and browser tabs when you're done using them, she said.

Source :  cbc.ca

Categorized in Science & Tech

Aside from this, many smartphone users aren't keen on constantly jumping from one site to another, especially when many sites still haven't been optimized for mobile devices. And even jumping from app to app can feel inconvenient. All of this gives apps like Google Search and Facebook's (FB)  core app, which act as core utilities for hundreds of millions of smartphone users, an incentive to integrate basic content that users typically rely on other apps and sites to get.

Facebook's attempts to go in this direction have included launching its Sports Stadium, trending topics features and weather report features, as well as a service (Instant Articles) that lets users view full articles from select publishers within Facebook's app. Google's efforts, in addition to the company's aforementioned moves, include its support for "Instant Apps" that at least partly load from search result pages without any need for installation. There's also its AMP initiative to enable mobile web pages that load almost instantly when accessed via Google Search and News.

The top-line incentives for Google/Facebook to further hook smartphone users on the well-monetized Google Search and Facebook apps are of course pretty big. But there's also another incentive for Google: The company has to give Apple  (AAPL) a large revenue cut when iOS users click on search ads seen on Apple's Mobile Safari browser. It doesn't have to do this if they click on such ads via the Google Search app, or through the iOS Chrome browser. Google said last August it's getting about 60% of its searches via mobile devices.

In tandem with its mobile search page changes, Google unveiled a developer preview for the next version of Android, which is codenamed O. Though not containing any earth-shaking new features (at least for now), the OS delivers several useful nuts-and-bolts improvements.

Battery life, that universal headache, is improved by placing restrictions on what apps can do while running in the background. And those Android users who feel swamped by mobile notifications (that's a lot of them) will be pleased to know an app's notifications can be grouped and collapsed into "channels," with users able to control how the content from individual channels is shown. In addition, users can snooze notifications for 15, 30 or 60 minutes (they could already silence them indefinitely), and are promised "new visuals and grouping to notifications that make it easier for users to see what's going on when they have an incoming message or are glancing at the notification shade."

Google is also creating an autofill programming interface (API) meant to spare users the trouble of repeatedly entering the same personal info by letting them select an autofill app that can do it for them. Other Android O features include support for picture-in-picture video viewing and notification "badges" that can be attached to home screen icons (iOS says hello), and a streamlined Settings interface with a much shorter home page.

None of these features are going to make the average Android user leap for joy. But collectively, they show Google has been paying close attention to what frustrates many consumers about their current smartphone experiences, and what kind of improvements would lower that frustration. Just as its mobile search app/site enhancements show that it grasps how differently many consumers prefer to access information content on smartphones, and as some of the changes recently made to YouTube's features and ad formats point to an understanding of how different mobile viewing habits are.

The impact of some of these moves on Google's bottom line is much more indirect than it is for others. Regardless, with Google either on its way to getting over half its revenue via mobile devices or already there, investors certainly can't complain.

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Author : ERIC JHONSA
Categorized in Search Engine
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