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Twitter needs two-factor authentication

17 Apr 2013

Twitter Logo

Twitter hacking is a serious issue. Take for instance, the recent hack of National Public Radio's (NPR) Twitter account. NPR's account was hacked and erroneous tweets were sent out following the attack.

These types of attacks are now all too common. Last February, Twitter reported that approximately 250,000 accounts were compromised, including high profile incidents at Reuters and Burger King.

The slew of hacks makes it obvious that something needs to be done. Twitter called on its users to create stronger passwords in February, but that isn't enough. The company needs to take action and implement two-factor authentication for those that want to use it.

It's not a ground-breaking idea. Security experts have called on the firm to implement authentication for the last couple of years. Other companies like Microsoft even plan to use multi-factor authentication later this year.

Yet, Twitter has failed to get the memo (tweet?). At a time when more and more businesses begin to use Twitter for PR, something has got to be done. Enterprise can't have hackers getting a hold of their feeds and sullying their names. It's bad for business, both Twitters and the users.

It's becoming clear that something is wrong. Even the words "#IveBeenHacked" have become something of a meme on the micro-blogger site.

Luckily, something may be on the horizon. Earlier this year, a Twitter job posting popped-up calling for a software engineer to build multi-factor authentication.

The job posting looks to be leading to some sort of security update. Hopefully, it comes sooner rather than later.

Facebook plays it safe with Home

05 Apr 2013

Facebook Home group post

Everyone expected a Facebook phone and we all sort of got one. HTC launched the aptly titled HTC First, the mid-level handset with Facebook features front and center.

However, that wasn't really the whole story.

The real news is that Facebook has launched an Android Skin. Mark Zuckerberg and his team just launched Facebook Home, an Android "super-app".

Zuckerberg said Facebook Home is mobile software built around people and not apps (to which Microsoft said this). It's giving users the chance to get Facebook front and center on their mobile device.

So instead of launching a phone, Facebook has launched something phone-esque. It is an Android skin that offers Facebook something different while not offending its friends in the mobile world.

It's a good play from Facebook. They needed to do something to grow and move forward. As a public company they have investors to answer to and needed to show that they have a plan for the mobile market.

A phone may have come on to strong. Giving HTC exclusivity on Facebook would have probably failed in the long run. Too much competition exists in the smartphone arena. Facebook is too big to try to be a disruptive source like Mozilla.

So Facebook did the smart thing and made something that can be used across the world of Android. By doing so, Facebook has the chance to grab some mobile advertising data from all sorts of Android users.

Facebook can now offer location-based data that can be sent to advertisers to offer consumers location-aware ads. The social network can now better monetize mobile advertisements and see improved revenue in the mobile sector, where everybody checks Facebook anyway.

It may not be an amazing announcement, but it's a good one. Slow and steady seems to be Facebook's plan of action. The company is creating something that could branch out into other things but at the moment is pretty simple.

Apple marketing chief slams Android over fragmentation

14 Mar 2013

apple-logo

Apple's marketing chief Phil Schiller has said that Android's biggest issue is the platforms fragmentation.

During a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Schiller said that iOS holds the upper hand in the mobile market because of its streamlined operations. He says even the top-of-line Android handsets get released on outdated versions of the Android OS.

"When you take an Android device out of the box, you have to sign up to nine accounts with different vendors to get the experience iOS comes with," Schiller said.

"They don't work seamlessly together."

Schiller's words come on the eve of the next big smartphone release from Samsung. The Android handset maker is expected to unveil the Galaxy S4 tomorrow in New York.

During his interview Schiller also slammed the impending S4 smartphone for not launching with the most recent Android OS. According to Schiller, the Samsung branded handset will likely drop with an older version of the mobile OS.

"We are hearing this week that the Samsung Galaxy S4 is being rumoured to ship with an OS that is nearly a year old," Schiller later told Reuters.

"Customers will have to wait to get an update."

While Schiller certainly is obviously biased, he may have a point here. A recent study from Trend Micro and F-secure said the prevalence of Android handsets running the outdated Gingerbread OS poses a security risk.

The study found that over 44 percent of Android users are running the older Gingerbread version of Google's OS. F-secure and Trend Micro say the longevity of the outdated platform means hackers have more time to find exploits in older versions of Android.

For Android handset makers, the biggest issue in bringing out OS updates quickly is the use of company specific skins on the operating system. Most OEMs put their own special twist on the Android OS which forces them to do extensive Q&A before releasing updates.

One of the few Android handsets to use a "vanilla" OS is the Nexus line of smartphones. Google co-authors the development of the Nexus branded handsets as a way to create a baseline offering for Android.

It's also important to note that Schiller has never been one not to speak his mind. Earlier this year, the marketing exec quickly dismissed rumours of a more-affordable iPhone for use in the developing world.

At the time, Schiller said cutting corners to reduce prices is not part of the Apple's business model.

Going green makes Salesforce warm and cosy for companies

05 Mar 2013

concept-of-solar-panel

Software-as-a-service provider Salesforce has begun to tout the cloud as an energy efficient place to store a company's data. The firm's energy efficiency flaunting proves that going green is good news for businesses.

In its recent sustainability report, the Marc Benioff-led company heralds the cloud as producing 95 percent less carbon emissions than on-premise servers. Even more surprising, Salesforce says its cloud is 64 percent more energy efficient than the average company's private cloud.

Following the release of the sustainability report, the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace came out and said, "Good going Salesforce". The news shows that not only are cloud solutions proving to be an eco-friendly storage option; they are also showing the publicity boon one gains by going green.

As the debate over climate change quickly moves from discussion to fact, the world is becoming ever more aware of things like a carbon footprint. World governments are starting to focus on ways to push out excessive energy expenditures and consumers are starting to make purchase decisions with emissions in mind.

Last year, Apple gushed about its solar powered datacentre. Even the EU reported they cut £1.3m in expenditures by going green last July.

The other side of the "green advantage" is that you can avoid negative headlines too. If you're a firm that refuses to develop its green options you should expect a lot of criticism from the likes of the aforementioned Greenpeace.

So by going green not only have firm's like Salesforce helped the environment, they've also helped themselves.

By way of free advertising from Greenpeace, Salesforce just pointed out its better for the environment than Skydrive and Google Drive without ever making the comparison. That type of endorsement is a big deal in the mind of the consumer. In this ever increasing world of technological parity getting a leg up through good deeds is no small feat.

Consumers want to know they are doing their part for the environment. By investing in a pro-green firm like Salesforce they are saying, "Hey, we are doing our part". So as the world becomes more green focused so should technology companies. If not for the environment, than at least do it for the publicity.

Microsoft winning back "cool" status with young adults

22 Feb 2013

surface-pro

Over 50 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds think Microsoft has become cooler over the last two years, according to a recent Reuters Poll.

Reuters suggests that Microsoft's new found popularity is based on its marketing push for the Surface tablet. For those haven't who haven't seen them, Surface RT TV ads show off the devices ability to be used as a dance prop.

Josh Johnson a 24-year-old media arts student told Reuters that he thinks the Surface is cool because it's customisable and has free ringtones.

"[The Surface tablet is] more customizable, and not as rigid as an Apple phone, where you have to buy all the products from Apple," Johnson said.

"If you want a ringtone, you don't have to pay iTunes."

Johnson admitted that Microsoft hasn't quite caught up to Apple in the cool department, but says the Steve Ballmer led firm is well on its way.

News of young folk's love of the Surface tablet comes in spite of the fact that the device has only received "modest" sales figures. The tablets struggling sales could mean that coolness and sales don't correlate. However, that idea would kill Apple's entire business model.

Another interesting factoid from the poll is that Microsoft has never had much luck with its attempts to build a cool product. Instead, the firm has always succeeded on the back of workhorse-styled tools like Windows 98.

Fortunately for Redmond, most 18-year-olds are probably too old to remember Windows 98. So instead, they have nostalgia for more recent, and "cooler", Microsoft products like Windows Vista.

FTC shuts down bogus news sites

08 Feb 2013

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has put an end to a group of websites that improperly masqueraded as health news sites.

FTC officials have shut down 10 diet product websites that falsely promoted themselves as health news sites. According to the FTC, the sites also claimed false endorsements from the likes of CNN and Consumer Reports in a bid to push the Acai Berry diet programme.

The sites in question would promote their products with headlines akin to "News Alert" or "Health News Health Alerts" in a bid to swindle customers into thinking they were reading something other than an advertisement.

While reading the sites consumers were reportedly tricked into thinking the Acai Berry diet was endorsed by reputable news outlets like CNN. Meaning, in essence, that consumers were tricked into caring about magical weight-loss fruit because it was promoted by the same network that employs Piers Morgan.

Acai Berry, for those who are not following "Health News Health Alerts", is a South American fruit that purportedly aids in weight loss.

Following the FTC ruling the operator of the sites will pay a $1.6m fine and be forced to close shop on the bogus websites.

This isn't the first time Acai Berries have spammed the internet. In 2010, a large number of Twitter users were tweeted spam about the diet product.

Users who shared a Twitter password with a Gawker account were inundated with Acai Berries following a hack on Gawker servers.

Commercial spots dominate online traffic on Super Bowl weekend

05 Feb 2013

M&Ms and Beyonce were the most searched terms during this year Super Bowl.

Sport related terms "Baltimore Ravens" and "San Francisco 49ers" were ranked third/fourth in Google's rankings, while 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick also rounded out the top five.

"This year's big game was filled with action - brothers battled on the field and a 34-minute-long power outage nearly turned the tide of the game," wrote Google software engineer Jeffrey Oldham in a blog post.

"With all the excitement on the field, we looked online to see what fans across the US were searching for during the game."

In between commercials, a power outage, and a Destiny Child reunion concert, it was easy to forget the Super Bowl was actually played. And that's exactly what most Super Bowl viewers/Google searchers did.

M&Ms took the crown for most searched key word last Sunday. Spurred on by a commercial about the candy, web searches for the chocolate peaked during the most important American Football game of the year.

The chocolate candy was followed up by an increase in search traffic for pop-star Beyonce. Searches for the singer peaked during her halftime performance.

The top five most searched words were rounded out by game related queries like the names of the teams involved. We assume they were something akin to "What is a 49er?" "Or what is a Baltimore?" (Hint: It's the place the show The Wire took place).

Rounding out Google's search rankings were searches for Colin Kaepernick. According to Google's numbers, the 49ers quarterback was most searched for when the lights at the stadium he was playing at were on.

Surprisingly, Google reported that YouTube searches for "Gangnam Style" also picked up during the game. However, it's probably safe to assume that had nothing to do with the Super Bowl and had more to do with the fact that it was a Sunday.

Facebook beats books for memorable musings

18 Jan 2013

People memorise Facebook posts one and a half times better than they remember a books text, according to a new university study.

The findings come following an extensive study on human memory from the University of San Diego and the University of Warwick. Research from the two school's study was recently published in the Springer Journal Memory and Cognition.

"We were really surprised when we saw just how much stronger memory for Facebook posts was compared to other types of stimuli," said Laura Mickes of the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick.

"These kinds of gaps in performance are on a scale similar to the differences between amnesiacs and people with healthy memory."

According to the study, the huge gap in memory cognition comes from the fact that books are much more mentally intensive and isolating. The study reported that because Facebook posts comes from people you know and are short they are easier to remember.

Because people share rewards and news of potential threats with each other it makes sense that you'd remember a Facebook post, at least from an evolutionary standpoint.

"Facebook is updated roughly 30 million times an hour so it's easy to dismiss it as full of mundane, trivial bits of information that we will instantly forget as soon as we read them," continued Mickes.

"But our study turns that view on its head, and by doing so gives us a really useful glimpse into the kinds of information we're hardwired to remember.

If nothing else, the new information should peak marketers interest. Knowing people are more adept at remembering Facebook posts means sponsored stories ads may actually be valuable.

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