Welcome to the 312th edition of Android Apps Weekly. Here are the headlines from the last week:
- After months of uncertainty, HQ Trivia is back for the time being. The story is actually fairly interesting. The app shut down in February 2020 after an investor backed out at the last minute. A new, unknown investor showed up, brought the game back, and everything is back to normal. You can download the game for Android and iOS and play again if you need something to do during quarantine.
- The Wall Street Journal says the US government is tracking people through mobile advertising. The effort is apparently a massive collaborative effort between a variety of companies to help track the spread of COVID-19, how well people practice social distancing, and other such metrics. There is obviously an ethical issue here and the conversation is only just getting started. Hit the link for more details.
- Zoom is one of the most popular online video conferencing apps right now and it has a slew of privacy and security concerns. The developers responded by putting a freeze on new feature development for 90 days while it deals with those concerns. It’s a smart move because the service has ballooned from 10 million active users to nearly 200 million. Some changes include a better bug bounty, more transparency about what data it shares, and security audits by third parties. Hit the link to read more about it.
- The app Houseparty by Epic Games became an overnight success in the wake of social distancing and quarantines. However, it too has a slew of privacy issues coming to light. The app apparently collects a hilariously large amount of personal data from users for no specific reason with rumors of hackers compromising account data. Houseparty denies all the claims and is offering up a $1 million bounty to anyone who can prove it. Hit the link for more details.
- Apple purchased the popular Dark Sky weather app this week. Unfortunately, it’s all bad news from here. Apple intends to shut down the app for Android users as well as web users. In fact, even the API is shutting down at the end of 2021. We have no idea why Apple wanted to do it, but a significant portion of our readership liked the app and now has to find an alternative.
Eternal Sword M
Price: Free to play
Eternal Sword M is an action-RPG with some MMORPG elements. The game boasts decent graphics, smooth game play, and a ton of skills and abilities for characters to learn. It plays like a fairly standard ARPG. You build a character, start questing, and you don’t stop until the story is over. The game also includes co-op multiplayer, online PvP, and guilds where you can play with friends or engage in guild wars with other players. There are some flaws, such as a daily level cap to prevent player growth that limits the play of some of the more hardcore player types. However, by and large, this one has a lot of potential.
Removed for reddit
Removed for reddit is one of the more interesting Reddit apps of the recent past. It lets you view comments previously removed by moderators. The app is fairly easy to use. You simply find a removed comment on Reddit, hit the share button, select to share it with Removed for reddit, and the app shows you the original comment. It uses pushshift.io, a Reddit stat tracker website. The app is also free with no advertising and it’s open source. It should be a good tool for Reddit fans.
GRIS is a visually excellent platformer with visual novel and puzzle elements. Players navigate Gris, the titular character, through a variety of painful life experiences cleverly disguised as game obstacles. Gris receives a number of upgrades in the form of clothing and experiences personal growth as you continue through the game. The game also features clean, simple controls, smooth game play, and some visually appealing graphics. There is almost no text or dialog and even the soundtrack is quite good. You can pick it up for $4.99 with no additional ads or in-app purchases to worry about.
One Shade: Custom Notifications
Price: Free / Up to $6.49
One Shade is a custom notifications and custom quick settings app. It basically lets you create your own notification shade and then uses it instead of the one already on your phone. The app includes some decent customization features, including full color customization along with the ability to snooze any notification. There are also more advanced music controls, auto-bundled notifications, and some quick settings layout customizations as well. The pro version adds even more customization options. This app isn’t half bad for the themers out there who want something a little different than Android’s regular notification shade.
Game of Thrones Beyond the Wall
Price: Free to play
Game of Thrones Beyond the Wall is finally out after a lengthy pre-registration period. The game takes place nearly 50 years before the events of the show and novels. A Lord Commander goes missing and it becomes your job to take command of the Night’s Watch. Players can collect various characters from the show and battle them with foes and other online opponents. The game honestly uses a lot of elements from various genres, including adventure, RPG, gacha, strategy, and others. However, the game lacks depth in some game play mechanics and the free-to-play elements come off a little strong early on.
If we missed any big Android apps or games news, updates, or releases, tell us about it in the comments or hit me up on Twitter!
2021 BMW 4 Series Coupe: Nosing Into a New Era – The Truth About Cars
BMW has dropped the curtain on its next-generation 4 Series coupe, the first member of what will become a broad family of revamped right-sized offerings.
To not mention the redesigned 4 Series’ new schnoz would be akin to staying mum on a two-ton elephant scattering canapés at a garden party, so let’s get started with that.
Spy photos, as well as a heavily foreshadowing concept coupe, told us we’d be in for a surprise when the new 4 Series debuted. Well, consider us rattled. Not since Jennifer Grey went under the knife has there been this much ink spilled about a new beak. It’s big, and it’s tall — so tall, in fact, that the lower air opening is forced to partial wrap itself around it, making for a partial grille-within-a-grille. On either side are aggressive (and large) side vents.
If BMW’s plan was to make sure the new 4 Series gets noticed, its designers certainly did their job. And it may very well be the right thing to do, given the need for any passenger car still on the market to attract the attention of buyers.
Overall, the 4 Series coupe grows in every direction. Compared to the outgoing model, the new car grows 5.2 inches in length, 1 inch in width, and boasts a 1.6-inch longer wheelbase. Front and rear tracks grow 1.4 and 1.2 inches, respectively. The roofline now reaches four-tenths of an inch closer to heaven. Beneath it all, a new CLAR platform lends the model additional stiffness.
Despite the larger footprint, the 4 Series coupe slips through the air with more ease, what with a coefficient of drag lowered from .29 to .25.
Out back, L-shaped LED taillights share fascia room with slits designed to mimic (mock?) the breathable front gills. This styling flourish was more impressive before it showed up on the Toyota Camry. Of course, choosing the M Sport Package will increase the presence of mesh both front and rear.
Regardless of whether you opt for the four-cylinder 430i or six-cylinder M440i xDrive, you’re in line for more power. The base turbocharged 2.0-liter four now makes 255 horsepower and 294 lb-ft of torque, up from 248/258. The 3.0-liter turbo inline-six now sports a 48-volt mild hybrid system and an output of 382 hp and 369 lb-ft — up from 320/330.
Offered with standard rear-drive or optional xDrive all-wheel drive in 430i form, the 4 Series coupe will be joined by a convertible and gran coupe (sedan) before long, while the upcoming i4 will ditch internal combustion altogether. All 4 Series coupe models carry an updated eight-speed automatic, with M440i xDrive variants donning an M Sport rear differential for even torque distribution to the rear wheels during quick takeoffs.
As seen on the recently revealed 5 Series, the six-cylinder’s mild hybrid system will shut the engine off at 9 mph when braking to a stop. Under hard acceleration, the starter-generator can add 11 hp to the fray. Fuel economy for either engine is TBD.
Inside the cabin, drivers will be greeted by an analog gauge cluster, assuming they haven’t sprung for the 12.3-inch digital display. Found as standard fare in all 4 Series models are a healthy list driver-assist features; among them, lane departure warning with steering correction, pedestrian warning with braking function, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, rear collision preparation, and automatic high beams.
The rear seat is still a two-person affair, now with a threesome of pass-throughs for hauling large objects in the trunk.
Hitting global markets in October, the 2021 4 Series carries a U.S. base price of $45,600 (before destination) for the 430i Coupe, $47,600 for the 430i xDrive Coupe, and $58,500 for the M440i xDrive Coupe.
[Images: BMW AG]
Cyber Security Today – A new ransomware threat, a warning for GitHub users and Apple security updates. – IT World Canada
A new ransomware threat, a warning for GitHub users and Apple security updates.
Welcome to Cyber Security Today. It’s Wednesday June 3rd. I’m Howard Solomon, contributing reporter on cybersecurity for ITWorldCanada.com.
For an organization being infected with ransomware is scary. Ransomware scrambles corporate data, with the criminals demanding money to get the decryption key. But a hacking group has found a new weapon to add to it: The threat of auctioning off stolen data to other criminals. So pay up to get the decryption key or not only won’t you get access to your data, any data we also copied will be sold to others. Then you’ll look really bad to customers. One of the first victims is a Canadian agriculture services company. To convince the company the crooks really have stolen data they released a couple of documents. One is a loan application with the customer’s name, address, social insurance number and date of birth. That information can easily be used for impersonation. Organizations used to be able to protect themselves with data backups. No more. With this evolution there’s more pressure on victim firms to pay up. Ransomware has emerged as one of the biggest threats to companies and governments. The best way to fight it is by regularly training employees to slow down and think before clicking on attachments. Malicious attachments can carry ransomware. Another defence for firms to make sure employees use multifactor authentication on top of usernames and passwords for logging into systems and applications.
Bad news for software developers who use the GitHub website for open source projects: Some have been infected with malware. For those who don’t know GitHub is a place where developers can use open source tools for honing software code. Some developers also allow others to collaborate on projects in an open source process. But this week GitHub’s security team issued a warning that 26 open source projects using a development environment called Netbeans had been compromised. The malware that had been installed is called a backdoor. It would have allowed hackers to secretly get into whatever company had installed the final version of each software application and copy data. The application developers didn’t know their projects had been hacked. One problem with GitHub is some developers allow all or parts of their projects to be copied by others. If their code is infected, that spreads to other projects. So GitHub — which is now owned by Microsoft — scans code to warn of vulnerabilities. But GitHub developers also have to use security scanning tools of their own to make sure their code hasn’t been tampered with.
Police in New York City have charged a man with conspiracy to engage in computer hacking, trafficking in stolen payment card numbers and money laundering. This comes after his arrest in March after flying into the city from Ukraine carrying computers and other digital media with hundreds of thousands of stolen credit and debit card numbers. It is alleged the man was part of a gang that hacked into systems to steal data and sell it on criminal websites.
Finally, Apple device owners including those with iPads, iPhones, Mac computers, Apple TVs and Apple Watches should make sure they’re receiving security patches. A big one was released this week that plugs a big hole that can be created if users jailbreak their operating system. Jailbreaking allows users to install custom tweaks and apps not sold in the Apple store. However, they can also create security vulnerabilities. This patch also erases any jail breaking that has been done. Also recently fixed is a problem with the ‘Sign in with Apple’ capability that allows users to sign into websites with their Apple devices. Skilled owners of Android devices can also jailbreak their smart phones and tablets. It’s a dangerous activity on any platform that should be avoided.
That’s it for Cyber Security Today. Links to details about these stories can be found in the text version of each podcast at ITWorldCanada.com. That’s where you’ll also find my news stories aimed at businesses and cybersecurity professionals. Cyber Security Today can be heard on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or add us to your Flash Briefing on your smart speaker.
Lawsuit accuses Google have tracking people in Chrome's Incognito mode – MobileSyrup
A proposed class-action lawsuit has been filed against Google for tracking users while they browse in Chrome’s Incognito mode.
Specifically, the lawsuit accuses Google of violating U.S. federal wiretapping laws by tracking users’ online activity, even in Incognito mode. Further, the complaint cites Google tools like Analytics, Ad Manager, smartphone and PC applications and website plugins, saying Google leverages them to monitor uses, even if they don’t click on any Google ads.
The lawsuit also says that “millions” of users who went online using Incognito mode since June 1st, 2016 have likely been affected.
The plaintiffs say that Google tracks and collects browsing data “no matter what safeguards” people use to protect themselves. Additionally, they argue that by tracking users in Incognito mode, Google intentionally deceives users into thinking they have control over the information they share with the company.
The lawsuit seeks $5 billion USD (roughly $6.76 billion CAD) in damages or at least $5,000 USD (about $6,758 CAD) per affected user for violations of the U.S. wiretap and California privacy laws.
In a statement to The New York Times, Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesperson, disputed the claims. You can read the statement in full below:
“Incognito mode in Chrome gives you the choice to browse the internet without your activity being saved to your browser or device. As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity during your session.”
Is Incognito really that private?
It’s worth noting that Chrome does, in fact, warn users when they open an Incognito session in Chrome. When you open an Incognito tab, Chrome lists what it won’t save while you’re using Incognito and what websites can still see. That includes:
Chrome won’t save the following:
- Your browsing history
- Cookies and site data
- Information entered in forms
Your activity might still be visible to:
- Websites that you visit
- Your employer or school
- Your internet service provider
You can also read more about how Incognito mode works on Google’s support site.
Further, Chrome’s Incognito mode has long been the subject of privacy concern. In 2018, a report detailed how Google could de-anonymize collected data from Incognito browsing if users signed into their Google accounts after visiting a site with a Google tool like DoubleClick.
At the time, a Google spokesperson said that the company doesn’t de-anonymize data like that. However, the possibility for Google to do so remains a concern, even if it doesn’t.
More recently, Google had to fix a loophole in Chrome’s Incognito mode that allowed websites to determine if a user was browsing in Incognito mode. Web pages that use a paywall feature, such as a free article limit, tended to use it to prevent Incognito users from bypassing the cap.
However, in fixing the loophole, Google created more ways for websites to determine if someone was in Incognito.
Ultimately, this lawsuit is something to keep an eye on, but I’m not sure it has merit. It’s hard to claim that Google intentionally misled users when it clearly states the limits of the Incognito feature. However, that’s not to say that Google and Chrome’s privacy issues shouldn’t be investigated. The search giant has long used its apps, ad systems and more to track users’ browsing data. However, specifically targeting Incognito mode may not be the best way to go about it.
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