Will Google Revolutionize Online Privacy?

A woman's hand is touching screen on tablet computer iPad pro at night for searching on Google search engine. Google is popular Internet search engine

Your online privacy matters, even if you don’t think you have anything to hide. Over the last few years, this has become more and more evident as we watch tech giants profit off of understanding the people who use their services. Facebook, Amazon, and Google are among them. Google in particular has made some recent policy changes that are worth understanding.

Google isn’t a Search Engine, They are an Ad Platform

We all know and use Google as a search engine every single day. A majority of us use their Android smartphones, surf the web with the Chrome browser, use their Gmail email service, watch television through a Google Chromecast, and a whole lot more. Fundamentally, however, Google makes their money by serving relevant ads to people who do Google searches.

Whenever you are on the Internet, you are being watched. Not by human beings necessarily, but by the constantly learning and changing algorithms that power Google and many other similar entities.

It’s how services like Google can get so good at giving you the answers you are looking for. For example, if you search for “chinese takeout near me” Google will give you results based on your location. It collates those results based on reviews and tons of other metrics to try to give you the best possible experience.

Google custom tailors all of its search results for you like that. Gather a few of your colleagues and have them search for hot-button issues and compare results. Google is more likely to deliver content that it thinks is relevant to you and your search behavior. Some of that content might be ads that individuals and companies purchase and pay money for, hence how Google has become such an affluent global enterprise.

What’s New for Google Involving Your Online Privacy

Google plans on dropping some of the methods it uses to track an individual’s online behavior across the web. This is actually pretty surprising, considering that they built their entire business around that sort of thing. For the record, Google has been, for the most part, pretty trustworthy about how they use this type of data, especially compared with how some other entities (we’re looking at you, Facebook) have done some pretty shady stuff with this wealth of information.

Google isn’t eliminating their data-gathering altogether, but they are shifting away from using cookies. Cookies are tiny files that your web browser stores that track your online activity. They are meant to be helpful, mostly. They make it so your browser can remember where you are logged in, they help your website track the number of hits it receives, and a lot more. Most cookies are pretty benign, and often they make your online experience better.

Instead of using cookies, Google is going to start watching trends amongst groups of similar users, as opposed to building individual profiles of each individual user. This builds a sort of “privacy sandbox” that lets a user be a little more anonymous, but should still deliver a good experience overall online. It sounds good on paper, but there has been some scrutiny.

For instance, if a user signs into a website with their Google account, that information is still passed over, and the entity that controls the website (or their partners) can glean any information about your time on that site. The UK, which is often first in line to question privacy issues online, are currently investigating these new tools to find any anticompetitive features.

It’s probably a good step in the right direction for Google, as the world becomes increasingly conscious about how an individual’s data is used, and how other entities can use this information for their advantage.

In general, we have faith that Google has the best intentions, but it’s still up to each of us as people to be careful about what we do and post online. It’s important to stay safe and vigilant, and to take the time to understand what online entities can learn about you.

What are your thoughts? Do you like how convenient websites and search engines can be when they know who you are, or would you rather give up that convenience for more online privacy? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below and be sure to contact us if you have any questions!

BlackRock Trojan: Aggressive Viral Menace For Android Device Users

blackrock trojan aggressive viral menace for android device users

A new attack on android applications known as the BlackRock trojan has already targeted over 300 applications on the android operating system, including banking, social media, and dating applications. Any application with payment features, which is most nowadays, has been targeted and users credit card information has been compromised. How does this all work though, and what implications will it have for the future of the android operating system?

The Mechanics of BlackRock

The essential approach that BlackRock takes to get access to your information is it sends out a false Google Update and requests accessibility privileges. After it is granted these privileges it develops its own autonomy and no longer needs further interaction from the user to operate, it does this through granting itself further permissions afterwards. 

Some abilities BlackRock has, are traditional of trojan attacks, and some are quite problematic. It can collect device information, it can perform overlay attacks, but even more concerning, it can prevent antivirus software and even prevent uninstalling, leading to a longer lifespan than most hacks and more damage being done to your device and more of your information being compromised.

The Network and History of BlackRock Malware

Information from the site ThreatFabric has concluded that BlackRock is based on banking malware known as Xerxes, which itself is a version of Lokibot malware, discovered in 2019. Lokibot is part of an underground network of rented malware which circulated in 2016 and 2017. What really caused it to be a ubiquitous problem is when the source code got leaked. 

Android tried to get out in front of the older malware by pushing their newer devices which, with their new hardware, had a natural adaptation curve for implementing the attacks on the new systems. This, unfortunately, didn’t last long. In 2018, MysteryBot dropped, which was an update on the Xerxes system to work with new Android systems. 

The ancestral history of BlackRock is inundated with Lokibot variants. Parasite was a brief problem, although after disappearing from the malware space, Xeres was the direct parent of BlackRock, with the former appearing in 2019 and now, here in 2020, we have BlackRock.

Top Apps That Have Been Threatened

Numerous applications have suffered the injection and compromise of BlackRock, but the most notable are:

  • Gmail
  • Google Play
  • Netflix
  • Wells Fargo
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Facebook

Many others have been targeted as well, leading to an entire suite of applications being at risk. Millions of users could have been affected and had their financial and contact information now in the hands of hackers, which could be numerous themselves seeing as the above mentioned malware network is vast and diverse.

Implications for Android

Android, being a more open operating system, runs the risk of more of these said attacks if they don’t take a new approach to how they monitor their application base. Two futures exist for android after this latest breach.

One, they stay with the same approach they have now and hope that they can rely on a numbers game, praying that the majority of their apps stay solid with their own individual protection protocols, and hoping the majority of their users stay safe.

The other is they radically change how they monitor their operating system, implementing much more rigorous analysis of their potential apps and making the approval process contain much more scrutiny in their security requirements. 

Either way the future for android will remain risky if they simply ignore the growing underground network of malware. They desperately need to engage in research of this growing corner of the hacking world if they have any hope of maintaining a safe and secure user base.

Get more news, tips and tricks at our blog here.

Why Choose Office 365 Over G Suite Google Apps

why choose office 365 over g suite google apps

Google is known the world over for their search engine, free email, Android smartphones, along with a host of other technologies such as AI and self-driving vehicles. So it might seem natural for companies to assume that Google’s G Suite is in some way superior to Microsoft’s Office 365 line of productivity tools. After all, if Google is everywhere, they must be the best, right? Not necessarily.

In this post, we will outline several factors companies will want to consider before deciding which set of productivity tools will work best for their particular needs.

Scalable and Reliable

Companies want productivity tools they can count on and they want those same tools to scale along with their business. Microsoft is so committed to delivering just such a product, they are willing to prove it. If any of their on-demand services drops below a virtually perfect 99.9 percent availability level of service, Microsoft covers it with their comprehensive service level agreement. In contrast, Google does not acknowledge service downtime until at least 5% of a company’s user base is affected.

Consistent and Familiar  

The use of Office’s products remains consistent, regardless of device and whether a user is online or offline. Consistency breeds familiarity, which leads to a shorter learning curve and an increase in user productivity. Google’s G Suite products are not as user intuitive, meaning employees will spend more time trying to learn how to use their products rather than actually producing. Google’s capabilities are not as robust offline as when online, thus reducing the number of convenient “anytime, anywhere” access opportunities.  

Better Security

When it comes to security, Google simply adheres to their standard, one-size-fits-all privacy policy for both business and personal users. While robust, this security policy may not necessarily address all the security and regulation requirements needed for a variety of industries. Microsoft provides their business users the higher level of security required in many industries. Microsoft’s commitment to business security includes state-of-the-art data centers, multi-factor authentication, encrypted data access, and premium antivirus, anti-spam protection.

A Stronger Commitment to Productivity Innovation 

While it is clear in a broad sense that Google is a strong leader in technology innovation, unlike Microsoft’s commitment to their Office 365 apps, Google’s commitment to productivity tools is more of an afterthought. Microsoft’s approach to their productivity tools is different. They are fully committed to supporting their current business customers through their Office 365 line of products, along with committing real investment dollars for future innovation.

If you would like to know more about the differences between Office 365 and Google’s G Suite, please contact us.

Tech Terminology: Chromebook

tech terminology chromebook
Tech Terminology Chromebook

Chromebooks are a pretty common device at this point, and this popularity only makes sense. For many, the Chromebook offers basic features that serve their purposes well, but there are those who wouldn’t be satisfied with their capabilities. This week, our Tech Term is Chromebook, so let’s take a closer look to gain a deeper understanding of them.

Comparing Laptops and Chromebooks

While they might look similar in structure, there are a few considerable differences between the Chromebook and the conventional laptop computer. Overall, the Chromebook will be generally more limited than many laptops, based on the make and model of each. This can vary, though, so it is important to completely understand your requirements for the device before you decide on one option over another.

Generally speaking, there are three differences that will most likely shift your decision one way or another.

Available Operating Systems and Software

Based on the manufacturer of the device, a conventional laptop will either have Windows or Mac OS installed on it. Once in a blue moon, you may come across a laptop with Linux installed. As for Chromebooks, it should come as no surprise that they exclusively leverage the Chrome operating system – after all, that is where they get their name. Depending on your requirements, this could be a pro or a con.

For instance, consider how much you rely on third-party applications to accomplish your business’ goals. As the Chrome OS doesn’t play nice with most of them, a Chromebook may not be the best choice for a third-party heavy workflow, as tempting as the cost savings over a Windows laptop may be. On the other hand, if you more or less only use web applications and Google’s offering, a full-powered laptop may not be the most cost-effective option for you when compared to a Chromebook.

Also, today’s newest Chromebooks allow the use of mobile apps and Google Play integrations, providing users the freedom to choose between Chrome OS-specific apps or their mobile counterparts.

Available Storage

While both of these devices usually feature an SSD, or solid state drive, their storage capacity is typically dramatically different. A laptop can be scalable in terms of its storage, making it a more flexible option, but this also impacts the cost of the device. Alternatively, Chromebooks frequently have no on-board storage beyond the small SSD that holds the device’s operating system, relying on cloud storage to store files. This tends to lead to both reduced prices for the simple Chromebook, as well as a much faster boot time than one would find in a regular laptop.

Price

Of course, if you’re trying to supply a business with equipment, one of your first concerns will be how much that equipment is going to cost that business. As one might expect, the minimalist Chromebook has a much lower price-point than a comparable laptop, especially if the full functionality of a laptop isn’t required. This often makes them a great solution for business purposes.

Having said that, it is important to remember that you get what you pay for. If there is a chance that you will need a device to do more in the near future, it may be a better strategy to proactively purchase the laptop, as it will be capable of keeping up with your shifting usage.

If you still can’t pick which device is best suited to your circumstances, reach out to the professionals at AE Technology Group. We have the experience to make the right call for your needs. Give us a call at (516) 536-5006.