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Google Now Detecting Viruses, For At Least One Form Of Malware

Google has just announced something pretty interesting, that it is using its own data to detect viruses and will as of today be using Google Search results pages to warn users if their computers are infected with a specific form of malware. Users infected with the virus, which is apparently rerouting traffic to Google and other sites through a proxy, will see the below warning.

From the Google blog post mysteriously titled “Using data to protect people from malware”:

“Recently, we found some unusual search traffic while performing routine maintenance on one of our data centers. After collaborating with security engineers at several companies that were sending this modified traffic, we determined that the computers exhibiting this behavior were infected with a particular strain of malicious software, or “malware.” As a result of this discovery, today some people will see a prominent notification at the top of their Google web search results.”

Google’s Matt Cutts offers more details about the virus on his Twitter account, apparently it only affects Windows computers and hijacks Google results. “That’s how we learned about it,” Cutts says about the “results hacking” thing, without offering many more details. Google is recommending you follow the advice in its Help Center if you do receive the notification.

This is the first time major search engine turns its results pages into what is ostensibly a malware alarm. Of course this is in the company’s best interests; if proxies are intercepting communications they could also potentially access Google accounts, thus creating more headaches for Google.

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Posted by on July 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Twitter Drives 4x as Much Traffic as You Think. Here’s Why …

Most web publishers measure where their traffic is coming from using an analytics package such as Google Analytics, Omniture or Core Metrics.

These were good packages in the pre social media world at helping figure out who was driving your traffic.

Today they’re wrong. Terribly wrong. And figuring out who is referring your traffic is a very important part of determining how you allocate your marketing budgets. It is almost certain that Twitter is driving much more of your referrals than you think.

Possibly up to 4x as much.

Jonathan Strauss is the gentleman who did all the number crunching and has written an excellent post on why this is.

I’ve been a user of awe.sm (his product) before I invested in his company (disclosure) so the understatement of Twitter as a referral source is a problem I’ve known about for a long time. Let me give you the simple explanation.

Take a look at the Google Analytics log for BothSidesofTheTable.com for yesterday. I had 8,502 visitors yesterday of which 1,669 are listed as “direct.” Direct traffic are people who typed in my URL directly. They weren’t “referred” by anybody.

But look at the second line. This says “direct – bothsid.es / bothsid.es – twitter” and shows 1,423 referrals. Line 5 says twitter.com / bothsid.es – twitter” for 712 referrals and line 9 shows twitter.com for 170 people.

What does that mean?

awe.sm tracks all of my social media sharing behavior. What awe.sm does is it allows publishers to be able to track each individual share behavior to a level of granularity that no other campaign tracking tool I’m aware of allows.

In ordinary tracking line 2 would have shown up as “direct” traffic and I would have assumed that I was getting a lot more direct traffic than I really was. I would have assumed I was 36% direct and just 10% via Twitter when the reality is that I’m 20% direct and 27% via Twitter.

In fact, the actual Twitter referrals are generally up to 4x as much as people think is happening. And the same is almost certainly the same for most publishers in terms of understating referrals.

This is a problem because publishers might then under invest in Twitter campaigns relative to others because they don’t get “last mile attribution” right.

This happens with other marketing campaigns, too. Often you hear a radio ad, see a TV ad or read an article in a magazine and you type the results into Google to find out more details about the product or service. The problem is that marketers assume that Google drove the traffic. They did not. So you ramp down your TV or print campaigns and suddenly your search volume goes down.

Doh!

Last mile attribution is very important to understand marketing ROI. For the above problem the best company I know of is called Convertro. I’m not an investor in the company. But Jeff Zwelling is one of the most informed people on last-mile attribution with whom I’ve spoken.

And in social media the problem is even worse than I described. Twitter is an amazing generator of social hooks to websites. Some of that comes from Twitter.com or other Twitter clients. But since many other websites pull in Twitter data, including links, you don’t always know who is referring the traffic to you.

Case in point: LinkedIn. Many Tweets are now being sent to LinkedIn and then the publisher assumes that the source of the referral is LinkedIn. In some ways it is because that’s where your user engaged the content. But get rid of the Tweet and you get rid of the referral traffic in the same way as I described the loss when you cancel your TV commercial.

So when I see MG Siegler announce that LinkedIn is sending more traffic to TechCrunch than Twitter – I’m not so sure. I understand why he would think that – Google Analytics tells him so. But I’ll bet a hefty amount of LinkedIn clicks were originated on Twitter. And I’ll bet a whole lot of TechCrunch “direct” traffic is from Twitter.

With proper social media attribution you need to generate a unique URL for EACH share behavior. So if you click on a “Tweet this” button on a website to send an article to your friends, that link needs to be individual to you and to that exact share instance. By making the URL link unique to its point of generation you can then track it better as it spreads to other sites

And importantly when anybody else then shares the link to this site it maps out a “parent / child” link relationship. So if the original Tweet was on Twitter and then somebody builds a “Tweet this” from a product like LinkedIn, you can still tell that the original source of the the story was Twitter. Call it, “last mile social media attribution” and when you’re a brand spending money on products & marketing you need to know this.

They also cookie users so that we can better track who it was that drove viral adoption of campaigns. It could be that one influential person send a Tweet but he doesn’t have a lot of followers. If Ashton Kutcher follows that person and suddenly shares if with his 7 million followers it would start to snowball.

So there you have it. The story is never quite as simple as the data might lead you to believe.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Facebook facial recognition draws ire of Connecticut Attorney General

Facebook‘s facial-recognition feature for automatically tagging uploaded photos with the names of those pictured sparked a backlash from privacy advocates. Now it’s coming under scrutiny from Connecticut‘s attorney general, who sent a letter to company officials this week requesting a meeting.

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said he has “deep concerns” about Facebook’s choice to make the tagging feature opt-out, not opt-in.

“The potential uses of facial recognition on this scale remain unclear but concerning,” Jepsen wrote. “This important privacy issue needs to be addressed promptly. There may be some fairly simple changes that can be implemented to make certain that consumers are fully aware of the implications of ‘Tag Suggestions.'”

Facebook first introduced its “Tag Suggestions” tool in December, but it has recently accelerated the feature’s worldwide roll-out to the site’s 500 million members. Four privacy advocacy groups, including the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), banded together last week and filed a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. They asked the FTC to require Facebook to cease using facial recognition technology without users’ explicit, opt-in consent.

A Facebook representative said the company is in contact with Jepsen’s office and is “eager” to explain more about how Tag Suggestions works. However, Facebook is standing behind the tool and its widespread deployment.

“Since last December, we’ve been gradually rolling out the feature and millions of people have used it to add hundreds of millions of tags,” Facebook said in a written statement. “This data, and the fact that we’ve had almost no user complaints, suggests people are enjoying the feature and are finding it useful.”

Facebook members who don’t want their name to come up in the suggestions tool can disable it in their “privacy settings” panel. Facebook offers instructions for how to do that in its blog and in its “help” pages. Members can also un-tag themselves from a photo at any time.

But EPIC and other critics say those tools are too difficult to use, and that the onus should be on Facebook to expressly confirm users’ consent — not the other way around.

That issue is also at the heart of Jepsen’s gripe.

“In Facebook’s desire to promote photo sharing and tagging among its users, it appears to have overlooked a critical component of consumer privacy protection — an opt-in requiring users to affirmatively consent,” Jepsen wrote in his letter.

Government regulators and policymakers are growing increasingly concerned about how tech companies handle user privacy

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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GOOGLE ANDROID VS GOOGLE CHROME

Mike Cleron, a Google software engineer for the Android operating system, made an ambitious pronouncement onstage at the company’s annual conference last week.

“We want one OS that runs everywhere,” Cleron said, referring to the popular system for smartphones and tablets.

The next day at the conference, Sundar Pichai took the very same stage to stake a very similar claim. Except Pichai was referring to a completely different Google operating system.

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“Chrome OS can be applied to a variety of form factors,” said Pichai, who is a senior vice-president for the division that makes Google’s brand-new operating system, which will be deployed in a line of laptop computers (sometimes referred to as notebooks). “We have chosen initially to focus on notebooks because that’s where most of the Web usage is today.”

Can Google support both operating systems?

“Chrome OS is a thought experiment rather than a viable product on any form factor,” said Sarah Rotman Epps, a consumer-electronics analyst for Forrester Research, in an e-mail to CNN. “Google should invest its resources to improve an imperfect Android before supporting a second fledgling OS.”

The first laptops running the Chrome software, called Chromebooks, are scheduled to hit stores June 15. An Android laptop already exists. Motorola Mobility‘s Atrix 4G smartphone can transform into a laptop using a peripheral and built-in software. There are also tablet-laptop hybrids that rely on Android.

On Android, the Web browser is just one application. Chrome OS is, put simply, a browser.

These are two competing methodologies for Google, a company that made 96% of its revenues from advertising last year. Only a sliver of that comes from ads shown on phones (or to let Google tell it: “Mobile advertising is still in relative infancy”). Google doesn’t derive any income directly from Android.

As Google often says, the company benefits from people using the Internet more. And that’s what Chrome OS facilitates.

“We wanted to rethink the entire (computing) experience and distill it down to nothing but the Web, and that’s what Chrome OS is,” Pichai said. “The software experience is very unique,” unlike Windows computers, which he said are “really, really complicated.”

Since throwing a coming out party for Chrome OS at Google I/O last year, the company has sent out thousands of prototype laptops to testers around the world. So far, the effort hasn’t been a resounding success.

But Pichai said his team has fixed various bugs with the hardware and software, and so Google will test next month whether a Chromebook is something people will be willing to pay for. If it strikes a chord, Pichai is apparently poised to wedge Chrome into “a variety of form factors,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Android team is boasting about the flexibility of its operating system. Cleron said: “We have phones in every size and shape, phones with keyboards that slide, phones with keyboards that flip, phones with built-in game controllers, tablets in every size from 7 inches to 10 inches, even tablets that transform into laptops, and who knows what else is coming.”

Google is welcoming one more electronics category to the greater Android family this summer. The Google TV software will be based on the same version of Android that’s used on tablets and will include the Market for downloading apps.

“If I had to pick one word to explain Android’s phenomenal growth over the past year, that word would be ‘choice,'” Cleron said. “Consumers really like choices.”

Pichai said the two Google divisions don’t currently compete but instead appeal to different audiences. Separately, they’ve found success. The Chrome browser has 160 million active users, and Android has activated 100 million devices.

“We share common code, common infrastructure, but the final expressions are two different visions. And we provide choices to users,” Pichai said. “The potential of competition or collision that you’re talking about in the future — we don’t think about it that way internally at all.”

Microsoft makes a distinction between Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7. So, too, does Apple between Mac and iOS.

For Google, the line between Chrome OS and Android may be only temporary.

Google says it is in the early stages of building a version of Chrome OS for tablets but has no formal product to announce. In an interview with reporters on Wednesday, Pichai downplayed that project, saying, “Chrome OS on a tablet, that’s not what we’re working on.”

“All of these systems are designed to scale and run across a set of devices over time,” Pichai said. “You want to design a computing experience, an operating computing experience, to run everywhere.”

For the launch of Chrome OS, Google has signed on two manufacturers: Acer and Samsung Electronics. Three dozen electronics makers already use Android.

But asking these partners to support an unproven system with their development and financial resources will be a tough sell, said Rotman Epps, the Forrester analyst.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Attackers Using Google Image Search to Distribute Malware

Attackers are now using Google’s image search to distributed malware, security experts say. Thousands of sites have reportedly been compromised by code injection–the malicious code redirects users to fake antivirus applications.

Internet Storm Center researcher Bojan Zdrnja writes that the attackers are mostly targeting WordPress sites, and are injecting PHP code that generates pages with images based on highly-searched content. Google then indexes these pages, and the images show up on Google’s image search.

Image hack is widespread and effective

Image searchers can be redirected to these fake antivirus sites, thanks to Google displays images when clicked, Zdrnja wrote in a blog post this week. At least 5,000 sites have been compromised, and Google could be serving as many as 15 million hits a month to these malicious pages.

Russian security researcher Denis Sinegubko said that, in about 90 percent of the compromised image searches, results from malicious websites appear on the first page.

“The main problem is not that cybercrooks managed to seriously poison Google Image search results but the fact that many people do click on such results results and get exposed to malicious content,” Sinegubko wrote to the Unmask Parasites blog on Thursday.

Google in the process of improving detection

Google says it is aware of the problem, and is making an effort to detect malicious pages. It would not detail its plans out of fear that attackers may adjust their methods to get around the company’s efforts. Sinegubko is also in the process of developing an add-on for Firefox that will alert users to these links.

Efforts are already underway to protect Google users on the web search side: Google added alerts to potentially hacked sites in December of last year, and Google’s Chrome browser blocks potentially dangerous downloads. For whatever reason, Google’s image search remains unprotected.

What can you do in the meantime to protect yourself if you feel that you have visited a malicious site via Google Images? Security experts recommend not trying to click your way out of it. Instead, quit the browser application using Ctrl-Alt-Delete.(pcworld)

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Posted by on May 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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NEWLOOK OF MY BLOG GREAT THEME

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Posted by on April 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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