Monday, 6 April 2015

Google Unveils Asus Chromebit 'Computer on a Stick' With Chrome OS

A new “computer on a stick” is being launched by Taiwan's Asus and Google, which has the feature of being plugged into a display and turning it out a personal computer. According to the blog posted by Google, the Asus Chromebit can be expected to available in the market around mid of the year with the lowest price tag possible.

Google further added that this device is like a candy bar in size, however, works as a full computer and they have currently priced it at $100. The device can be easily plugged into any display and then convert the same into a full computer. For an existing desktop this device is the perfect upgrade and can very handy for businesses and schools. Even though the blog didn’t emphasize on any other details, but it also focused on the lowest-cost Chromebook laptop computers.

These computers have been currently priced at $149 and have been started in collaboration with Chinese electronic groups Hisense and Haier. The Haier computer has an 11.6 inch display and is currently being sold via Amazon and Walmart has been offering the Hisense personal computer. Google has also produced other Chrome devices by working along with other manufacturers like Dell, Acer, LG, and Lenovo.

Haier Chromebook Vs Hisense Chromebook

The Haier Chromebook comes with an 11.6 inch display and is powered by a 1.8 gigahertz Rockchip RK3288 processor. This is a 3.3-pound package in which the buyers will get 16 gigabytes of eMMC flash storage, 2 gigabytes of RAM and a strong and durable battery. According to the company this battery has the potential of powering the Chromebook 11 for nearly 10 hours.

On the other hand, its competitor, Hisense’s Chromebook can be considered as the image of the Chromebook by Haier. It has similar specifications; however, has a slightly higher Rockchip processor. Its 2.5 gigahertz clock speed reduced the battery life and has been clocked around at 8.5 hours. Both these devices are available at the same price of $149 and available in the market at the same time.

Looking at the competition, Taiwanese manufacturer Asus unveiled their Chromebook Flip, which is convertible laptop and tablet (all metal). Even though technical specifications of the Flip are still not out, rumor mills suggest that the device will be launched later this spring and expected to priced at $249.

Google Chromebit

This device is a part of the newest wave of machines which are using Chrome operating system. Its clear that Chrome operating system has been designed to use internet-based applications like Google Docs word processor, email services apart from minimising our reliance on bulky local software which conventionally run on personal computers.

Now the entire task has been moved to a cheaper hardware and it will improve the security as well. Reports also suggest Intel is planning to start working on a similar kind of device which has been temporarily named as Intel compute stick. With passing time, difference between tablets, phones and television and PCs will no longer be visible.

Getting Started With the Live-Streaming App Periscope

Periscope – Display Broadcast from People

Twitters’ latest live-streaming iOS app Periscope has been upgraded to display broadcast from individuals, who would want to follow it more conspicuously. The latest app tends to display broadcast from people you follow at the top of the feed making it easier to locate from the various streams of other Periscope users. Besides this, follower notifications by default are also turned off.

 The company has informed that they are working on adding more granular control to enable only alerts which could be of importance. Moreover, one also has the option of sharing location before broadcasting and if one discloses the whereabouts, the map display gives a less accurate indication of your location on a zoomed out view on the map.

A confirmation from Periscope has been received that it is working on Android version of its app. Periscope, the newly released live streaming app periscope which was released offers a straight forward means of streaming live video to any user who tends to tune in or only to those who may be invited.

While using Periscope for the first time, should there arise a mishap, it would be mean inviting the others to view a live stream of personal video of home or the bathroom trip and users need to learn a few more details before using the app.

First Visit – Permission to Access Camera/Microphone/Location 

On signing in and following other users, one is taken to the apps feed where you will find current live streams from friends and other users all across the globe. On scrolling to the bottom of the feed, the user will come across older feeds which are hosted by Periscope and when a feed ends, the person streaming could make the choice of leaving the feed for a maximum of 24 hours or it could immediately be removed.

On tapping on a stream in the feed you have the liberty to watch it. When the stream selected is loading, basic information from where the stream originates, list of fellow viewers and buttons to follow the user is provided.

If one intends to leave a stream, they could either tap on the X in the upper right hand area or swipe down just like the pull to refresh gesture. You could start a stream on tapping on the camera button placed at the bottom of the screen.

On the first visit to this section of the app, users are asked to permit Periscope access to the camera, microphone as well as the location and on granting permission, user could start streaming.

End Stream Button 

The first step is to give the stream a title and then decide if one would want to include the location of the stream and permit everyone to see your stream or else you would only want to invite a selected few to view it. Finally the user can have Periscope send a tweet on behalf of the user publicising your stream.

One can view comments as they come along, while on air together with the viewer count and with a double tap on the screen it will toggle the active camera. If the back camera is being utilised, a double tapping on the screen could change to the front facing camera and you have the liberty of switching back to the rear camera with another double tap.

To end a stream you could do with the same downward gesture used to leave a stream and tap on the End Stream button.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Year-Old Android Security Flaw Puts Millions at Risk

When it comes to Android phones, nearly fifty percent are still prone to security bug which provokes the attackers to either replace or modify these apps by using malware without the knowledge of the users. The same information was reported by the researchers at Palo Alto Networks.

Even though the security flaw was discovered a year back, the Android 4.3 distributed by some of the vendors are still vulnerable to the flaws. Vendors have already been altered by the Palo Alto Networks research team about the potential flaw and its vulnerability which includes Amazon, Google and Samsung handsets. Nearly 89% of the Android devices were prone to the exploit when it was first discovered in Jan 2014. As if now Android 4.4 has managed to get a fix to this flaw through proper upgrading.

Malware distribution with Arbitrary Permissions: 

Phones which are still running on older Android versions are still at risk. According to the security researchers they were able to duplicate the attack on the Samsung’s Galaxy S4 phones and calling this as the Android installer hijacking. According to the researchers from the Palo Alto Networks, they have ensured that an app has been available on Google Play that will help the people to scan their phones to check out for potential risk and vulnerability. The team has ensured that this app is on open source and the code is available on a GitHub repository.

Companies who are concerned can take actions to mitigate these risks. Researchers state that companies should withhold permissions from new apps that seek access to their log-cat making space for potential exploitation. Companies can stop further risk by avoiding employees from using any kind of rooted devices.

Even though exploit does not rely on any kind of rooted devices for causing any harm they make these devices more susceptible. The exploit is based on the susceptibility in the Android OS which makes the hijackers to take over the Android APK installation process. They can spread the malware with illogical permissions.

Application developers need to be beware: 

These vulnerabilities can be used in different ways by an attacker. Simple example is the prompting of a person to install an application that is false but might seem legitimate. The main reason being the app does not require any special kind of permissions.

Whenever a user downloads an app from a third part app store, it opens up the chances of attackers to use malware while the permission screen is still being displayed. Application developers are required to get cautious about these attacks. Since mobile ads and apps do not rely on Google play making to save apps in an unprotected storage.

This will allow the attackers to replace the current apps with malware. There are instances where in the first app might be prompted to advertise about another app in itself. When the user will try to download the second app, the first app will modify itself and potentially open up the space for malware attacks.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

CAPTCHAs May Do More Harm Than Good

If you have been presented with the choice- CAPTCHAs or Password, I am pretty sure passwords will take the cake and emerge as winners as the most preferred choice of internet users. CAPTCHA also known as the “Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart” was created with the aim of foiling bots from their attempts of creating mass accounts on the websites.

After account creation, these can potentially lead to the exploitation of the accounts for malicious works like spewing spam by some of the online lowlifes. But the recent technological advancements also highlighted that the highly acclaimed use of letters for differentiating between human and machines might have become old school.

According to the study conducted by Distil Networks, whenever a user visiting a website is offered with a CAPTCHA, statistics indicates that nearly 12% of these visitors tend to discontinue with the main purpose of visiting these websites.

The study also suggested that when it comes to mobile users, nearly 27% of them abandon their task when they are presented with CAPTCHAs. As per Rami Essaid, Distil CEO and co-founder, if these CAPTCHAs are creating problem when carrying out any transactions then eventually it will lead to loss of money or even the user for the website.

Evolution of the Bots: 

According to Distil the idea behind the study was initiated by their customers. One their customer was looking into the fraud problem when they identified that using their CAPTCHA decreases the conversion by nearly 20%.

The results indicated that the people are starting to get too much annoyed by the CAPTCHAs online that they prefer to abandon the websites rather than carrying out the specific transactions. Essaid highlighted that there is a wide gap between mobile and desktop abandonment and this is mainly attributed to usage. He further added that these CAPTCHAs were meant for desktops and there is nothing which has been fully formed.

The purpose of blocking the bots itself has created a problem. Bots have now evolved and able to solve CAPTCHAs which might have been difficult in the past.

Bad certification: 

A rogue certification being used for spoofing the company’s live services was already issued by Microsoft. Even though this certificate cannot be used for issuing or impersonate another domain or sign code but it can certainly be used for spoofing content, phishing and middle attacks.

According to Kevin Bocek, vice president for security strategy, cybercriminals are increasing using certificates as their main targets. Fraudulent tricks are being used for acquiring these certificates. With nearly 200 public Certificate Authorities being trusted around the world, it is easy to get hands on a valid certificate. Even though Microsoft has been taking stern action against these but the solution is only applicable to their products.


Freak was another vulnerability that was discovered earlier this month. Through this an attacker can stop using the128-bit encryption by forcing SSL and then start using 40-bit encryption, which is easily crack able. Even though initial studies highlighted the impact of Freak on the browser communication but the latest studies highlights its significant impact on mobile apps as well.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Bee Behaviour Mapped By Tiny Trackers

The new tracking device

Ecologists have now come up with a new and improved tracking device in order to monitor bee behaviour. The new device can cover upto a range of 2.5 meters (8.2ft) unlike the previous devise used which had a restricted range of reach to 1 centimetre (0.4 inch).

As per Dr Mark O’Neill this new device has been created from off-the shelf technology and it is ideally based on equipment used to track pallets in warehouse. This tracker comprises of a specially designed aerial and a standard radio frequency identification also commonly known as RFID which as per Dr Mark O’Neill is much thinner and lighter than the previously used models to track small insects. This allows Dr O’Neill to widen the range. Readers which are connected to Raspberry Pi Computers pick up the signals from the kit and log the readings.

The technical director from Newcastle-based tech firm Tumbling Dice who is also the engineer is trying to patent the invention. He said that he wanted to make a lot smaller optimised aerial components and the first stage was to make raw pre-production tags utilising components that could be easily purchased.

He added by saying that he felt like he was doing a surgery while soldering them at his desk and he has made 50 of these as of now. As per Dr O’Neill a worker bee on an average spends 20 minutes on forage time which eventually would work around 1km which is equivalent to 0.6 miles on the forage time.

Specimens used: 

This device has been fitted only the worker bees which do not mate. As per Dr Mark O’Neill most worker bees die of old age and the attrition field of these bees are very low. He also added that if any animal ate one of these worker bees then there would be a tracker in its stomach. He said that that the minute trackers are just 8mm which is 0.3 inches high and 4.8 which is 1.9 inches in width and take 5 to 10 minutes to attach to the bees with superglue. These bees are chilled to make them passive first before they are fitted with the device.

Also being concerned about the bees, Dr Mark O’Neill informed British Broad Casting (BBC) that he only hopes that the trackers which weigh less than the bees are attached to the centre of gravity which apparently would not affect their flight and also would be attached to the bees for their expected life span of three months. While commenting the same Dr Mark O’Neill also acknowledges that these bees make a lot of noise.

A restoration ecologist from Kew Gardens, Dr Sarah Barlow was a part of testing these trackers which is yet to be named. She informed that these are all a huge leap forward in radio technology and as of now there is no one with a decent medium to long range tag yet which is suitable for flying on small insects. She added that this new leap forward will help scientists to track bees in the landscape.