Opinion: Android Hacks and the Stagefright from Hell

Stagefright, Creative Commons, Gresham College via Vimeo

You may have read about the multiple-hack affecting Stagefright, the code in Android that plays back media in MMS (multimedia messages). An enterprising hacker (allegedly) needs only send an MMS containing the exploit to the phone number of an Android 2.2 or later device and Stagefright will write code to any part of that device for which it has permissions – with the potential to affect 950 million, yes million, Android phones.

Whilst it is in theory quite easy to upgrade your phone to the latest Android (off-brand Chinese phones excepted), the question is how many users of those 950 million (that are still in use) are actually capable of doing so? Even if you go to the right website to get the latest phone software, there are many obstacles to making those phones secure again.

Find the right site, identify your phone, download the software, read, study, backup your data (yes, you!) then cross your fingers as you flash the firmware and wait for the rising smoke from your handset. But don’t even attempt it until you’re absolutely certain you understand the instructions and follow them to the letter.

Easy. Continue reading

Opinion: Goodbye Google Plus

Google Plus: image Creative Commons by West McGowanIt’s true: Google is breaking it’s heavily embedded but failed social networking product Google Plus into separate products – Streams and Photos, new head of Social Bradley Horowitz announced on Google+ earlier this month.

It was telling that Horowitz didn’t specifically mention Google Plus, which pretty well signals the end of Google’s foray. Google Plus was supposed to be a one-stop shop for interactiing across all products and all users. Clearly the vision has changed. Continue reading

News: Numbers Prove Nobody Uses Google Plus

Tumbleweed Rolling By Jez Arnold [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia CommonsAs we all thought, nobody uses Google Plus. The unwanted and unloved social network foisted on us by the advertising machine masquerading as a search engine has been revealed as Tumbleweed Central.

Of course, ‘nobody’ is a relative term. Google made Plus accounts a mandatory add-on to all it’s Google sign-ons from Gmail to YouTube to Picassa and Drive, which means there’s around 2.2 BILLION Plus accounts belonging to users around the world.

But as researcher Edward Morbius has shown, only around 4-6 million people interact and post publicly on Google Plus. Continue reading

How-to: Avoid Fake and Insecure Apps

Google Play store frontDo you assume that anything in the Apple and Android app stores has been vigorously tested, vetted and proven 100% legit?

Don’t.

We’ve been telling users for decades now to be extra careful when downloading PC software to avoid common scams by crackers, fraudsters and pirates: so it is with tablet and smart-phone apps. Even though most Android malware comes from apps ‘side-loaded’ or installed from outside Google Play, be sceptical of cheap, free and trial apps even in the store. These may be perfectly legitimate, they may also be cloaks for nefarious activities such as financial and identity theft. Continue reading

How-to: ChromeOS Desktop Part 2 – All in the Apps

Chrome Store Offline AppsThe second part of our look at the ChromeOS desktop.

On paper, ChromeOS gives you a very flexible working environment; within the browser, you have access to all the Google Apps, a huge selection of extensions to enrich the browser itself, and the Chrome Store sitting on top of that, providing a vast array of third party apps and games.

Such is the selection of apps – tens of thousands of Chrome-optimized applications, including “hundreds” of off-line apps – I find it difficult to find what I want. The home page displays a bottomless list of apps, in a jumble of tiles of various sizes. You’re better off using the search in the top left or select from one of the app categories listed down the left-hand side, including ‘popular’ and ‘trending’ and a heading for the apps you’ve installed. Continue reading