Displaying items by tag: apps

Facebook’s new app will cover news across 400 US cities

Written on Thursday, 29 November 2018 12:27

Facebook has announced it is expanding its local news alert to 400 US cities, and is testing the feature in Australia. “Today In” includes previews that link to news websites and relevant government pages about top headlines, current discussions, weather and more. A separate section within the app will allow users to receive local updates.

A decline in the number of local news organizations is said to have inspired Facebook’s “Today In” section. It is understood the social network will monitor the app in a bid to remove fake news and biased sensationalism.

"Earlier this year, we started testing Today In after we did research in which over 50 percent of people told us they wanted to see more local news and community information on Facebook -- more than any other type of content we asked about," said product manager Andrea Watson Strong in a blog post.

"The research showed that people wanted both what might be traditionally understood as local news -- breaking news or information about past events like city council meetings, crime reports and weather updates -- as well as community information that could help them make plans, like bus schedules, road closures and restaurant openings.

The app will also feature a First Responder page which could be used to inform citizens in emergencies such as floods or hurricanes. 

"People tell us it is important to receive timely, local updates in situations that directly affect them or that require them to take action, such as major road closures, blackouts or natural disasters," Strong said.

Published in Apps

Facebook under fire from former colleague

Written on Thursday, 29 November 2018 12:10

A former strategic partner manager at Facebook has shared a public memo about Facebook’s failings in regards to their black workforce and users. In a post to his personal profile during his last week at the company, Mark Luckie openly criticised the Californian social network, claiming they have a ‘black people problem’.

 Luckie, who is black, felt he had to resign from his position as he had ‘lost the will and the desire’ to advocate on behalf of Facebook, and felt his authenticity whilst at the company was compromised. He believes the multi-billion dollar service does not hire enough workers from ethnic minorities and carelessly removes positive content from the black community despite adhering to its terms and conditions.   

Luckie states he was one of only a small number of black people at Facebook and is cynical about his inclusion in that he was only hired as a bid for the company to appear diverse. "Facebook's disenfranchisement of black people on the platform mirrors the marginalization of its black employees," He states, “We need black employees, women, and people of colour to feel good about working at this company.”

He shared a personal account, in which a fellow colleague he would pass in the corridor would clutch at his wallet, suggesting that he felt Luckie would steal from him.  He noted that whilst the number of black and Hispanic workforce had increased from 2% to 4% from 2016, he alleges that colleagues would often remark, ‘I didn’t know black people worked at Facebook.’

Luckie also asks that Facebook must do more to provide a ‘safe haven’ for the black community, who - as one of the most engaged demographic - rely on the social media platform heavily to be heard.  He reports that positive material posted is being wrongly interpreted as ‘hate speech’ and reported; despite it not violating any of Facebook policies.  He claims Facebook is removing content and suspending accounts without properly investigating, and that underrepresented voices will be deterred from sharing content on its platform.

Published in Apps

UAE ride-hailing services company Careem has invested $500,000 in a start-up entity which focuses on connecting commuters with private buses in the Egyptian capital city of Cairo. Careem, which is seen as Middle East rival to global ride-hailing colossus Uber, acquired the minority stake in SWVL after weeks of negotiations. It has also been disclosed that in addition to the investment, CEO and co-founder of Careem, Magnus Olsson will also join the board of SWVL.

SWVL is only three-months old, but has already generated the interest of prospective investors after making an immediate impact in the transportation sector in Egypt. Careem, which operates in 12 countries, mainly in the Middle East will look to accelerate SWVL operations, although it declined to disclose the exact size of its minority stake in the organization.

SWVL was founded by a former Careem executive in April, and the company provides a bus transportation service which enables passengers to reserve and pay their fare through SWVL’s mobile application. The application formulates and maps the shortest journey time home based on the passenger’s location and destination by identifying the nearest bus station that travels along fixed routes.

Careem CEO expressed his desire to see the Egyptian start-up develop quickly, and he believes the best way of enabling that is by keeping the entity independent. Olsson said, “We want them to run and learn and develop at a very high pace and high agility and we believe the best way for them to do that is to stay independent.”

Careem announced last month that it had raised $500m from investors such as German car manufacturer Daimler and Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding. It said the investment would help them accelerate their expansion plans. SWVL is unlike Careem and Uber in the sense that it isn’t an on-demand service, but it has a strong foundation of over 50,000 passenger and 200 buses using the mobile application.

Chief executive of SWVL, Mostafa Kondil said its primary objective is to really improve the product and disclosed that it is targeting 300,000 monthly trips by the end of 2017. Analysts have suggested that SWVL will utilize the investment made by Careem in order to increase its workforce, develop new app features and expand into other cities beyond Cairo, and to Middle Eastern and Asian countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Pakistan next year.

Published in Apps

Facebook announced it will be rolling out new apps for Apple TV, Amazon’s Fire and Samsung Smart TV. The apps will allow people to view videos posted on Facebook via their smart televisions. Ultimately, the apps will provide a more convenient way to view Facebook videos on a large screen.

Some analysts suggest that Facebook could be moving to compete against Google-owned YouTube or even with streaming services like Netflix to become a premium source of online content for both small screens and large screens. But for now, the apps will simply make it easier to view and share user-generated video.

“Last year we rolled out the ability for you to stream videos from Facebook to your TV, and today’s announcement expands this capability,” said product manager Dana Sittler and engineering manager Alex Li in a blog post. “With the app, you can watch videos shared by friends or pages you follow, top live videos from around the world, and recommend videos based on you interests.”

The new apps should be available “soon” according to Facebook, for users of Apple, Amazon and Samsung, with additional platforms likely to be added in the future. The social media giant also indicated it was modifying video playback for users, with sound to play automatically unless users silence their devices.

Published in Apps

Aetna, a major U.S. health insurance firm, recently confirmed that it will help people to buy Apple Watches in a move to integrate smartwatches into health management programs. Aetna will be the first company to subsidize “a significant portion” of the cost of an Apple Watch, making it an option for large employers and individual customers.

As one of America’s leading diversified health care benefit firms, serving an estimated 46.3 million people, Aetna said it will let customers pay off the balance of an Apple Watch purchase using a monthly payroll reduction plan. The company also said it plans to give each of its employees an Apple Watch if they partake in its wellness program which involves use of the gadget.

“We are incredibly excited to use iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch to create simple, intuitive and personalized technology solutions that will transform the health and wellness experience for our members,” said Aetna CEO, Mark Bertolini in a press release. “This is only the beginning – we look forward to using these tools to improve health outcomes and help more people achieve more healthy days.”

Aetna is said to be working with Apple to devise health initiatives exclusively tied to Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, which is used in the Apple Watch. It will include health apps tailored for the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. Features in the apps, which are planned for release early in 2017, will include assistance with understanding illnesses or remembering when to take medicine. Apple released its second generation smartwatch this month, with strong emphasis on supporting healthy lifestyles.

Apple Wallet will also play a role with its digital billfold which will be incorporated into the Aetna apps, enabling users to pay their medical bills or prescription costs remotely. The Apple Watch has built-in software features that make it a powerful and personalized tool for individual health, as well as broader medical research.

“We are thrilled that Aetna will be helping their members and employees take greater control of their health using Apple Watch,” said Apple CEO, Tim Cook. “Aetna’s new initiatives will be a powerful force toward creating better customer experiences in health care.”

Gartner research shows that smartwatch shipments steadily increased by five million units in 2014 to 40.3 million in 2015. But the pace of growth has since slowed, with 60.4 million watches to be shipped this year, and 66.3 million in 2017.

Published in Apps

Indonesian mobile platform GO-JEK gets $550m boost

Written on Sunday, 07 August 2016 06:56

A consortium of global investment firms has pumped $550m into 18 month old Indonesian mobile platform GO-JEK. The consortium includes KKR, Warburg Pincus, Farallon Capital and Capital Group Private Markets, existing shareholders and other international investors. Previous investors include Sequoia India, Northstar Group, DST Global, NSI Ventures, Rakuten Ventures and Formation Group.

GO-JEK’s services include motorcycle ride-hailing, online food delivery, instant courier deliveries, lifestyle services, e-wallet and car ride-hailing. It is claimed to be the first Indonesian mobile platform that touches across socio-economic classes and verticals at a high transaction frequency that includes transportation, food delivery, same-day delivery, grocery shopping, household cleaning, beauty and health and ticket sales.

GO-JEK’s motorcycle transport service, GO-RIDE, is the biggest service of its kind in Indonesia with more than 200,000 drivers. GO-FOOD is the second largest on-demand food delivery service in the world outside of China with over 15 million meals delivered since inception. GO-PAY, launched in April 2016, is a fast-growing e-wallet solution. With credit card penetration in Indonesia at less than two percent and online payment nascent, GO-PAY is essential to enable a seamless transaction experience on GO-JEK services.

According to KKR, GO-JEK’s mobile applications have been downloaded more than 20 million times and in June 2016 only, there were over 20 million bookings on the GO-JEK platform, translating to roughly eight bookings per second throughout the month.

KKR, said: “GO-JEK will additionally leverage the new investors’ investment experience in the telecommunications, media and technology (TMT) space as well as their global network of partners to deepen its offerings in Indonesia and potentially across the region.”

KKR Asia director, Terence Lee, said: “GO-JEK is unique in its ability to be the number-one service provider across almost all key categories and the company has a real opportunity to strengthen its position as a leading mobile platform in Indonesia. The foundation of GO-JEK’s success is its focus on providing innovative, convenient and cost-effective online solutions that improve its customers’ everyday lives.”

The head of Southeast Asia for Warburg Pincus, added: “With a rapidly expanding middle class, increasing urban density and a young demographic [in Indonesia] that is internet savvy, GO-JEK is well positioned to become the ‘go to’ platform for high frequency daily services including transport, food, logistics and payment.”

GO-JEK co-founder and CEO, Nadiem Makarim, said: “GO-JEK is poised to build on its initial success to become the largest on-demand application of choice for all Indonesians and improve the daily lives of more than 200,000 motorcycle and car driver partners, more than 35,000 GO-FOOD merchants whose businesses we helped grow and more than 3,000 service providers on our other on-demand services.”

The company currently operates in 14 cities: Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Bali, Makassar, Medan, Palembang, Semarang, Yogyakarta, Balikpapan, Malang, Solo, Manado and Samarinda.

With more than 250 million people Indonesia has the world’s fourth-largest population and is rapidly becoming a digital nation. The country has 88.1 million active internet users and 36 percent of the population carry smartphones.

 

Published in Telecom Operators

Pokémon Go, a new gaming app launched last week, has skyrocketed to success, boosting Nintendo’s share price 24.52 percent on Monday, June 11, to ¥20,260 ($193) which is the highest single day surge the company has seen since 1983. The surge singlehandedly added $7.5 billion to Nintendo’s market value. But how long will the sweet taste of success last for the new app?

Topping app download charts in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, Pokémon Go, according to researchers cited by The Verge, has already been installed on 5 percent of all Android smartphones in America. It’s a massive boost for Nintendo, but unfortunately the game isn’t exclusive to the Japanese company. In fact, Pokémon Go was created by Niantic, an augmented reality game-maker which branched off from Google in October 2015. The game was built in collaboration with Nintendo.

Nintendo has invested in both Niantic and the Pokémon Company, receiving about 30 percent of Pokémon Go’s revenue, according to the Financial Times. Since the app is free to download, profits are generated by “in-game micro-transactions.” To truly impact Nintendo’s overall profits, analysts say Pokémon Go will need to create around $140 million to $196 million in turnover each month. The game is already estimated to have made $3.9 million to $4.9 million on the day of its release. In order to make significant profits, the app will need to maintain its position as one of the top apps.

It is really a matter of whether Pokémon Go is able to remain popular or fade away. Comparing the launch of Pokémon Go to the launch of the Nintendo Wii in 2007, Bloomberg’s Tim Cuplan has pointed out that the Wii contributed to Nintendo’s stock price increase to a high of ¥67,600 before levelling out two years later. He believes that the release of a new hardware ecosystem will ensure sustained growth for Pokémon Go.

The game is currently straight forward to use and appeals to users because of its similarity to the original, beloved television show and hit Nintendo games before it. Pokémon is one of the most well-know gaming franchises in the world. The game has proven to be so popular that its launch in countries like the UK has been postponed because the app is experiencing difficulty keeping up with heavy usage. It proves how much potential there is in the mobile market, with more people engaging with gaming, content and interaction via their phones. The question is: will Nintendo see Pokémon Go users stick around, or will its popularity diminish? 

Published in Apps

Intel Security just released its McAfee Labs Threats Report: June 2016, which explains the dynamics of mobile app collusion, where cybercriminals manipulate two or more apps to orchestrate attacks capable of exfiltrating user data, inspecting files, sending fake SMS messages, loading additional apps without user consent, and sending user location information to control servers.

McAfee Labs has observed such behaviour across more than 5,000 versions of 21 apps designed to provide useful user services such as mobile video streaming, health monitoring, and travel planning. Unfortunately, the failure of users to regularly implement essential software updates to these 21 mobile apps raises the possibility that older versions could be commandeered for malicious activity.

Widely considered a theoretical threat for many years, colluding mobile apps carries out harmful activity together by leveraging inter-app communication capabilities common to mobile operating systems. These operating systems incorporate many techniques to isolate apps in sandboxes, restrict their capabilities, and control which permissions they have at a fairly granular level. Unfortunately, mobile platforms also include fully documented ways for apps to communicate with each other across sandbox boundaries. Working together, colluding apps can leverage these inter-app communication capabilities for malicious purposes. McAfee Labs has identified three types of threats that can result from mobile app collusion:

  • Information theft: An app with access to sensitive or confidential information willingly or unwillingly collaborates with one or more other apps to send information outside the boundaries of the device.
  • Financial theft: An app sends information to another app that can execute financial transactions or make financial API calls to achieve similar objectives.
  • Service misuse: One app controls a system service and receives information or commands from one or more other apps to orchestrate a variety of malicious activities.

Mobile app collusion requires at least one app with permission to access the restricted information or service, one app without that permission, but with access outside the device and the capability to communicate with each other. Either app could be collaborating on purpose or unintentionally due to accidental data leakage or inclusion of a malicious library or software development kit. Such apps may use a shared space (files readable by all) to exchange information about granted privileges and to determine which one is optimally positioned to serve as an entry point for remote commands.

“Improved detection drives greater efforts at deception,” said Raj Samani, VP & CTO, EMEA, Intel Security. “It should not come as a surprise that adversaries have responded to mobile security efforts with new threats that attempt to hide in plain sight. Our goal is to make it increasingly harder for malicious apps to gain a foothold on our personal devices, developing smarter tools and techniques to detect colluding mobile apps.” 

The McAfee Labs report discusses forward-looking research to create tools, initially used by threat researchers manually, but eventually to be automated, to detect colluding mobile apps. Once identified, colluding apps may be blocked using mobile security technology. The report suggests a variety of user approaches to minimize mobile app collusion, including downloading mobile apps only from trusted sources, avoiding apps with embedded advertising, not “jailbreaking” mobile devices, and most importantly, always keeping operating system and app software up-to-date.

This quarter’s report also documents the return of the W32/Pinkslipbot Trojan (also known as Qakbot, Akbot, QBot). This backdoor Trojan with worm-like abilities was initially launched in 2007 and quickly earned a reputation for being a damaging, high-impact malware family capable of stealing banking credentials, email passwords, and digital certificates. The Pinkslipbot malware re-emerged in late 2015 with improved features such as anti-analysis and multi-layered encryption abilities to thwart malware researchers’ efforts to dissect and reverse engineer it.

The report also provides details about the Trojan’s self-update and data exfiltration mechanism, and McAfee Labs’ effort to monitor Pinkslipbot infections and credential theft in real-time. Finally, McAfee Labs assesses the state of mainstream hashing functions, and urges organizations to keep their systems up to date with the latest, strongest hashing standards.

Q1 2016 Threat Statistics:

  • Ransomware. New ransomware samples rose 24% this quarter due to the continued entry of relatively low-skilled criminals into the ransomware cybercrime community. This trend is the result of widespread adoption of exploit kits to deploy the malware.
  • Mobile. New mobile malware samples grew 17% quarter over quarter in Q1 2016. Total mobile malware samples grew 23% quarter over quarter and 113% over the last four quarters.
  • Mac OS malware. Mac OS malware grew quickly in Q1, primarily due to an increase in VSearch adware.  While the absolute number of Mac OS samples is still low, the total number of samples has increased 68% quarter over quarter and 559% over the last four quarters.
  • Macro malware. Macro malware continued on the growth trajectory begun in 2015 with a 42% quarter over quarter increase in new macro malware samples. The new breed of macro malware continues to attack corporate networks primarily through sophisticated spam campaigns that leverage information gathered through social engineering to appear legitimate.
  • Gamut botnet. The Gamut botnet became the most productive spam botnet in Q1, increasing its volume nearly 50%. Prevalent spam campaigns offer get-rich-quick schemes and knockoff pharmaceutical supplies. Kelihos, the most prolific spamming botnet during Q4 2015 and a widespread malware distributor, slipped to fourth place.
Published in Apps

WhatsApp, the instant messaging app owned by Facebook, recently introduced a full encryption for its services as a means of ensuring that only the sender and the receiver can view the messages being sent via the app. The new privacy feature, known as ‘end-to-end encryption', applies to everything that is uploaded within a WhatsApp chat, including photos, videos and group messages. The app is used in more than 50 languages around the world, including Brazil, India, and all of Europe, the U.S., Asia Pacific and the Middle East.

"Every day we see stories about sensitive records being improperly accessed or stolen," the company said in a statement on a blog post. "And if nothing is done, more of people's digital information and communication will be vulnerable to attack in the years to come. Fortunately, end-to-end encryption protects us from these vulnerabilities," the post concluded.

News of WhatsApp introducing end-to-end encryption was received with loads of optimism from users all over the world. However, it does put the company in a sticky situation regarding privacy – the ever-increasing gap between tech companies like Apple and Google and law enforcement officials over access to sensitive digital data, one that pits Silicon Valley's civil libertarian ideals against the federal U.S. government's concerns over national security. With no access to people's messages, it will make it increasingly difficult, perhaps even impossible, for authorities to intercept WhatsApp messages when conducting investigations.

In February 2016, controversy surrounded Apple when a federal court in the U.S. ordered the Californian tech company to allow the FBI to hack into the iPhone of a gunman linked to the San Bernardino rampage in 2015. Timothy Cook, CEO of Apple, tried to protect his customers' privacy rights by refusing to allow the FBI to do such a thing. Meanwhile FBI Director, James Comey, believes that allowing encryption rights to the public is a hindrance and could accommodate terrorism.

In the past, WhatsApp has clashed with law enforcement regarding its digital information. Law enforcement officials in Brazil reportedly arrested a Facebook executive for refusing to release information from a WhatsApp account regarding a drug-trafficking case. The executive was later released, but it certainly brings up concerning questions about digital privacy, and whether or not law enforcement officials should be able to access private information at a whim.

Since United States President Barack Obama pledged his support for encryption rights, the U.S. Justice Department soon eased off and dropped its demand to Apple to turn over the iPhone information, but only because they had found another way into the device without Apple's help. Considering WhatsApp's massive subscriber base, end-to-end encryption will continue to be a concern for authorities, especially because the encryption is on default, therefore users do not have to enable the encryption mode themselves.

Aside from security issues, WhatsApp has made a beneficial move in terms of customer growth. With ensured security when using the app, more and more people are likely to join WhatsApp knowing that the information they share will be secure. The announcement made the OTT (Over-The-Top) service even more desirable to use compared with regular forms of communication, especially in a digital age where personal data is constantly at risk of being hacked.

The OTT movement is changing the way people communicate all around the world. More and more people are using OTTs for travel, entertainment and socializing, cutting out traditional means of communication like regular telephone lines.

"An Over-The-Top service allows users to access content directly over the internet on any device and any internet network from any provider without restricting access to particular telecommunication networks," says Arun Prakash, COO at Vuclip, a leading premium mobile video on demand service.  "Understanding and managing the consumption, content, and competitive dynamics of the market are the key challenge facing all players looking to win in the OTT market."

There are always positives and negatives when a technology transformation takes hold, and we are only just beginning to witness the impact that OTTs like WhatsApp will have on modern society, especially in terms of security. In the meantime, people can enjoy sending whatever they like to their friends via WhatsApp, knowing that their content is safe from peering eyes.

Published in Apps

The sheer scale of mobile apps

Written on Monday, 29 February 2016 08:00

It was no less than ten years ago when people were just getting used to the phenomenon of texting. No longer did people have to make a phone call, or even speak for that matter, to contact someone. It introduced a new era of quick, convenient instant messaging. But mobile evolution didn't stop there. Today, with the astonishing efficiency of LTE networks, texting has taken a back seat to apps: self-contained programs or a piece of software designed to fulfill a particular purpose, downloaded by a user to a mobile device. Apps have opened the door to an unprecedented level of connectivity thanks to smartphones, tablets and other smart devices. Welcome to the interactive world of Snapchat, Instagram, Google Maps and mobile commerce.

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