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Google to open its own retail stores in US this year: report

Walking into a store full of Google Products such ChromeBooks, Nexus Phones and tablets might soon be for real. 9to5Google is quoting ‘an extremely reliable source’ in saying that Google is planning to launch its own retail stores in the US.

The report states that the Google hopes to have its first set of flagship store open for the holidays in major metropolitan areas.

The report adds, The decision to open stores came when drawing up plans to take the Google Glass to the public. The leadership thought consumers would need to try Google Glass first hand to make a purchase. 

AP

Google logo in this file photo. AP

Of course these stores would also be about ensuring that users can get their hands on other latest Google products such as Nexus phones, tablets, Chromebooks, and other upcoming products.

Remember both Apple and Microsoft have their own retail stores.

Google Glass is still in developer mode, but it doesn’t come cheap and the developer edition costs nearly $1500. Google sold  these glasses, known as Project Glass, developers at its annual conference I/O conference in San Francisco in June last year.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin has also been spotted wearing these at fashion events and in the New York subway. For Google, the smart glasses is the big future project and it makes sense for the company to open stores to allow users to get their hands on these.

Have images of Samsung’s smartwatch been leaked?

Samsung is all set to launch its new smartphone, the Galaxy S IV, this year. According to reports, the device could be out as early as mid-March. However, recent rumours have indicated that Samsung could also launch a smartwatch and a Samsung S IV mini along with the device.

The smartwatch, in particular has garnered a lot of interest, given that the New York Times also reported that Apple was working a similar device.

Now according to this report on SlashGear, screenshots of what the Samsung watch’s OS looks like have been leaked online on a Korean message board.

Screengrab of one of the leaked photos.

Screengrab of one of the leaked photos.

The report states that the screen-grabs include the name GALAXY Altius, the rumoured name for the Samsung Galaxy S IV . The report highlights thatthe device has SKT and SKTelecom on several shots, indicating that it will be carried with a data plan on that particular South Korean mobile service.

However a post on Sammobileargues that the bunch of screenshots are clearly fake. For starters, the codename Altius is there in the device, which is most likely for the Galaxy S IV. Also why did Samsung use the codename on the device itself?Sammobile also points out that the UI doesn’t meet Samsung’s UX guidelines.

Facebook working with FBI to probe hacking attack

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation is collaborating in the investigation of a “sophisticated attack” by hackers on Facebook last month, which, according to the social network, has not compromised users’ data.

The daily San Francisco Chronicle said Saturday that the FBI is working with Facebook to determine the origin of last month’s hacker attack that hit the computers of some workers at the California company.

Getty images

Getty images

According to the newspaper, the social network said that “malware was installed on laptops used by Facebook employees when they visited a mobile developer’s web site”.

“As soon as we discovered the presence of the malware, we remediated all infected machines, informed law enforcement, and began a significant investigation that continues to this day,” Facebook said Friday on its blog.

“We are working continuously and closely with our own internal engineering teams, with security teams at other companies, and with law enforcement authorities to learn everything we can about the attack, and how to prevent similar incidents in the future,” Facebook said.

The attack on Facebook came soon after Twitter said early this month that data of 250,000 users had been obtained by hackers, and that this operation “was not the work of amateurs, and we do not believe it was an isolated incident”.

Privacy violation: Google Play Store handing out user info to developers

San Francisco:
Google Inc’s privacy practices are drawing heat after an Australian software developer said the company was providing him with personal information, including email addresses, of everyone who purchased his mobile app.

The information that Google shared, which included customers’ full names, email and some postal code information, was not the result of a glitch with its software. Rather it appears to be in accordance with Google’s existing policies for its app store and its Google Wallet payment service — though some privacy advocates believe Google has not been clear enough in informing consumers about the practice.


Google has “buried” the notice about how it shares users’ personal information in fine print rather than obtain the express consent of users, said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

“Meaningful consent is about people understanding what they’re getting into. It’s about not tricking them,” said Rotenberg. “In a situation like this, where people just don’t know what information is being transferred or who it’s going to or for what purpose, it seems ridiculous to say that Google has consent.”

The Google Play Store logo.
The episode represents the latest privacy flare-up for Google, the world’s No 1 search engine. In August, Google agreed to pay a $22.5 million fine to settle charges that it bypassed the privacy settings of customers using Apple Inc’s Safari browser. Google also settled a privacy investigation by the Federal Trade Commission 2011 related to its rollout of the now-defunct Buzz social networking service.

Other Web companies, including Facebook Inc , have also drawn scrutiny over their privacy practices and entered into settlements with regulators.

Google said in an emailed statement that “Google Wallet shares the information needed to process transactions, and this is clearly stated in the Google Wallet Privacy Notice.”

EPIC’s Rotenberg said he believed that Google may be violating its 2011 settlement with the FTC.

Developer Dan Nolan broke the issue online in a blog post on Tuesday: “This is a massive oversight by Google. Under no circumstances should I be able to get the information of the people who are buying my apps unless they opt into it and it’s made crystal clear to them that I’m getting this information.”

Nolan’s app, which automatically generates insults in the style of a well-known Australian politician, has been a best-seller on Apple Inc iPhone. Nolan recently released a version of the app for smartphones that rely on Google’s Android operating system.

He told Reuters that Google acts as a marketplace when an app is purchased, hence the transactions occur directly between developer and the purchaser.

“The way the system is designed, it (the information) is not what a user would expect to hand over,” said Nolan. “If you buy something on the iOS app store, you purchase it off Apple, and they pass the money to the developer.”

The Google Wallet privacy notice states that Google will share users’ personal information with other companies “as necessary to process your transaction and maintain your account.”

That’s different than the way Apple’s App Store works. According to an Apple spokesman, the company only shares general information about the number of downloads with third-party app developers. Apple does not pass along personal information, such as email, except with publications available through its Newsstand store, if customers agree to it.

Barry Schwartz, an app developer and editor for the online blog Marketing Land, said he was pleased with Google’s policy of passing along customer information to developers, since it made it easier for developers to directly handle customer service issues, such as refunds.

“I want to be able to service my customers, and yes, they are my customers, not Google’s and not Apple’s customers. They download our products,” Schwartz wrote.

But Joel Reidenberg, Director of the Center on Law and Information Policy at Fordham University School of Law, said Google and other online and mobile services needed to be more transparent about what personal information was being shared with third-party firms.

“When you buy an app, you could have a pop-up that tells you this is the information that’s going to the app developer,” he said

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How was Facebook hacked? All you need to know

he victim of a sophisticated hack attack last month which affected the computers of some employees. However, the company assured users that the attack was quickly discovered and that no user data was compromised or stolen from its servers.

The blogpost said that the attack took place when some employees visited the website of a mobile developer which had been infected.

The post reads

,

This website in turn allowed and hosted an exploit which then allowed malware to be installed on these employee laptops. The laptops were fully-patched and running up-to-date anti-virus software. As soon as we discovered the presence of the malware, we remediated all infected machines, informed law enforcement, and began a significant investigation that continues to this day.

Facebook has called in the FBI to investigate the attack on its servers.

So how did the attackers gain access to the laptops of Facebook employees?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in this file photo. AFP
According to an interview in Ars Technica, Facebook Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan said, that “The attack was injected into the site’s HTML, so any engineer who visited the site and had Java enabled in their browser would have been affected, regardless of how patched their machine was.”

Facebook’s blogpost also pointed out that the company had flagged a suspicious domain in our corporate DNS logs and tracked it back to an employee laptop.

The attackers used a “zero-day” (previously unseen) exploit to bypass the Java sandbox (built-in protections) to install the malware. The malware was also able to install itself on both Apple and Windows machines, states the report in Ars Technica. Facebook also reported the bug to Oracle, and they provided a patch for the same on 1 February, 2013.

Facebook also pointed out that they were not the only ones who were attacked. As the Ars report points out, Facebook discovered traffic coming from several other companies and it also notified those companies of the attack and the report also points out that the attack took place in the same period as the attack on Twitter.

Earlier in this month, Twitter too had claimed that over 250,000 accounts were affected in the attack, although it did not specify any details or methodology of how the attack was orchestrated.

The attack on Facebook raises a lot of privacy fears for users, especially as the site has over a billion users, each with their personal photos, data, etc. As this post on TechCrunch points out, Facebook has a lot more to lose from getting hacked.

One also can’t forget that the hacker exploited Oracle’s Java to launch the attack. Security experts have already warned that Java isn’t secure and that users should disable the software on their web-browsers.