Posts

Flaw in WhatsApp Security Revealed

A security flaw in WhatsApp could enable a hacker to spy on a private group chat, warn researchers.

The vulnerability means that anyone with access to WhatsApp servers can join a private group or insert someone without the chatroom administrator’s permission.

The findings from researchers at Ruhr University in Germany point out that sensitive conversations including those by women MPs at Westminster discussing sexual harassment could be infiltrated by an outsider.

Also, once a hacker accesses a group they then have the phone number of each group member and will automatically share secret keys and have access to all future messages.

The researchers say that for any users who are looking for absolute privacy in their group chat should sign up with encrypted app Signal or restrict their WhatsApp use to simply sending private messages.

The researchers also called on WhatsApp to introduce a new authentication mechanism for any new invitations to a group.

Mobile app growth is slowing down

Researchers at Flurry say that the growth in global mobile apps is slowing down even though smartphone users are still spending more than five hours every day using their device.

Now the firm says that apps need to build-in daily usage habits in a bid to boost growth.

Flurry has now measured app activity growth and found that in 2016, the number of sessions grew by just 6%. In 2015, growth was 11%.

They have tracked more than 1 million apps across more than 2.6 billion devices for their study.

Also, there are big changes in how people use apps; for shopping, use grew by 54% as consumers continue to move their spending online with media, music and entertainment coming a close second with 43% growth.

The steepest decline was seen by lifestyle apps which fell by 40%. Gaming also fell again with a decline measured at 15%.

‘Open Banking’ sparks security fears

New rules imposed from 13 January mean a revolution is about to hit the finance world.

That’s when we will get more power over the data that banks hold about us.

The aim is to boost competition and help us save more money.

However, industry experts say that the growing use of banking apps is creating a big security concern with crooks able to carry out more bank transfer scams.

The rules have been introduced by the European Union so banks and building societies must now allow developers of web and mobile phone apps to plug into the user’s current account data if the customer gives them permission.

Flashlight apps hit by malware

Researchers have revealed that malicious adware has infected more than 22 flashlight apps which have been downloaded between 1.5 and 7.5 million times.

The malware has been tagged as ‘LightsOut’ and will generate ad revenue secretly for its developers.

The malware will bombard constantly the phone’s user with pop-up ads that must be clicked before they can use their device.

The apps are found on Google’s Play Store and after they have been launched, the app hides its icon on the main screen so it is more difficult to find and then uninstall the app.

Child-friendly apps hide malware

Researchers say they have found more than 60 child-friendly apps that are hiding malware designed to rob mobile phone users or display pornography.

The apps are available from Google Play Store and, security firm CheckPoint says, the apps have child friendly themes including ‘Fidget spinner for Minecraft’. They’ve called the malware AdultSwine and Google now says it has removed the apps from Play.

In other mobile phone app news …

Some of Apple’s biggest investors are calling on the firm to limit how long children can use apps and its smartphones. The call has been welcomed by academics who say that imposing restrictions will help youngsters.

Russian smartphone users are being warned over malware that will access their banking text messages to enable criminals to intercept bank security codes. They can then use the codes to access and reset bank account passwords and empty the bank account itself. The malware is dubbed as ‘FakeBank’.

Global App Downloads Reach Record Levels

The growing popularity of apps has been underlined with news that nearly 26 billion apps were downloaded around the world, a rise of more than 8%, over the past year.

The figures are for new downloads and do not cover app updates or reinstalls.

The worldwide consumer spend for apps for Google Play and iOS has also increased by 28% to reach nearly $17 (£12.9) billion.

The researchers also reveal that app usage is also increasing at ‘significant pace’ and the time people are spending an apps is also increasing to 325 billion hours in the third quarter of 2017.

The growth of apps being downloaded is driven by new smart phone owners with the consumer spend on Google Play is nearly double in the third quarter of this year than that recorded by iOS.

The world’s largest market for spending on apps is China which has just recorded its highest ever annual growth figures.

Half of young Brits use banking apps

Banking apps are proving increasingly popular with more than half of British ‘Millennials’ regularly using their mobile phone for their financial affairs, says a survey.

The findings from Visa reveal that 38% of Brits are using banking apps regularly while for 18 to 34-year-olds, the figure rises to 53%.

However, 31% of millennials confessed that they have never used a banking app before.

Of the financial activities, most are using the apps for making payments securely and the users are increasingly keen to use biometric technology for authenticating their identity.

A spokesman for Visa said: “The retail banking industry has been revolutionised with mobile technology and until recently conducting simple transactions meant visiting a bank branch.

“Now banks are embracing the flexibility being offered by apps to enable customers to stay on top of their finances while they are on the move. Anyone with a tablet or smartphone can now take their bank branch with them.”

Dating apps have hacking vulnerabilities

A number of dating apps have been found to have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers, says Kaspersky Lab.

The Russian firm says the vulnerabilities enable a user’s location to be accessed easily while the Android versions of some apps enable a user’s messages to be accessed.

Hackers can also, in some cases, log into a person’s profile.

The researchers say that the apps, including Zoosk, Tinder, WeChat and Happn, can have their location data hacked.

In separate research, Kaspersky also points out that growing numbers of us prefer to use mobile devices rather than computers for our online activities.

However, they add that there is a blasé attitude from users about their device’s security with online threats increasing.

In other Miratrix mobile app news …

An app unveiled by Facebook which is aimed at making users be more productive is now available as a desktop version. Workplace Chat, which is similar to Slack, could only previously be accessed via a mobile phone and, Facebook claims, around 30,000 organisations are now using the app.

Security experts at Check Point are warning that the Reaper botnet has now infected more than one million organisations and their computers and mobile devices. The firm says that those behind the network may be gearing up to wreak havoc soon.

Travel firm Booking.com says that in 2018 travellers will increasingly use technology and apps when arranging their travelling experiences. They also want to use technology to better understand their accommodation and destination before booking.

Amazon has unveiled a new Kindle app which will, the firm claims, encourage people to read more e-books using their mobile phones. They say the new app has been inspired by books and so the app has the ‘look and feel’ of reading a real book with larger book covers and new fonts. There’s also a new community tab for readers to access the Goodreads community.

App Developers Look at Web and Hybrid Apps

A new survey has revealed that software developers have little interest in creating apps for smart TVs or wearables but are increasingly keen on hybrid apps and those for use on the web.

The survey by Ionic, a maker of an app development framework, questioned more than 13,000 developers to find that app developers are finding it harder to get attention for their native apps in app stores.

Essentially, it appears that the market for apps has now turned full circle with apps for the web making a comeback.

The findings, published in The Register, reveal that for developers who are not working for Google, Facebook or Snapchat are finding it increasingly difficult to develop apps.

Controversial gun app hits the headlines

A new app that utilises augmented reality to enable users to shoot someone has been condemned.

Developers in India behind the app say it’s a ‘bit of fun’ but critics say the level of violence could lead to a real incident.

Essentially, the app uses the phone’s camera and captures the real world but then overlays the special effects onto the user’s screen.

Its users can opt to use a pistol, sniper rifle or an assault rifle and even a rocket launcher to attack who they point the camera at.

There is on-screen blood and the option of sound effects to boost the overall effect.

New system could change the way people digest local news

A Google-funded trial has seen beacons being installed in Manchester to beam local news to users’ phones.

The experiment has seen 10 beacons being installed with news providers, public bodies and businesses able to beam targeted news as well as information directly to a mobile phone within 100 metres.

Developers say this ability to pinpoint an audience could transform the way local news is distributed.

The service is free of charge and will work on most mobile devices with Bluetooth and does not require the downloading of a specific app.

It’s part of Google’s Digital News Initiative and content partners include Manchester Evening News, the city council as well as Greater Manchester Police.

In other mobile phone app news …

A walker who fell 60 ft in the Lake District has praised a mobile phone app for saving his life. The man suffered a head injury and rescuers found him via Apple’s ‘Find My Friends’ app.

Waze, an alternative to Google maps, is now available for use on Android Auto.

With growing numbers of youngsters now having a smartphone, parents are being warned to monitor the apps they install. The findings from a Citizens’ Advice survey reveal that parents are being left with hefty bills being run-up by their children – one parent complained of a £300 bill after their 12-year-old son signed up to a games app.

Users of the Uber app are being warned that divorce lawyers are increasingly using the data from the app to catch out cheats. That’s because the mobile phone app logs all journeys as well as pickups, locations and drop-offs so people can be tracked easily. Also, the data cannot be hidden or deleted and is providing a treasure trove of information for divorce lawyers.

It looks like Amazon is about to add its Alexa function into its Android shopping app. The Alexa addition will work in the same way as it does on the Echo platform and can check for things like traffic, weather and news.

The number of complaints from people using banking apps rose again last year, according to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). Complaints rose from 305 in the year before to 360 over Internet and phone banking problems. Complaints include issues of security and the bank’s failure to carry out a customer’s instructions.

App Will Help Concert-goers

A mobile phone app developed by Ticketmaster could see queues at concerts and gigs becoming a thing of the past.

The app uses ‘smart tones’ to check people into the event rather than scanning a barcode or a QR code from a paper ticket.

The app also enables concertgoers to skip the queue by showing a green ‘approved’ screen on their smartphone.

Gig-goers will need to download an app and open it as they get closer to the venue where microphones will detect a unique signal from the phone and it’s this signal which is then checked against the database of ticket buyers.

It’s also thought the technology will reduce fraud since the ticket will be tied to a particular mobile device.

Growing numbers rely on banking apps

Data has revealed that growing numbers of people in the UK are setting up their savings accounts online and managing their bank account with their mobile phone.

Homeowners are also managing their mortgages this way too.

According to the British Bankers Association, nearly 20 million people in the UK logged into their mobile banking app last year – an impressive 4.9 billion times.

And, while using their app, 932 million transactions were completed.

Research reveals that the shift from branch banking to online banking is gathering pace with 86% of people now using an app to access their bank’s services.

CopyCat hits more than 14 million Android devices

Security researchers say there’s a new malware strain entitled CopyCat which has infected 14 million Android devices.

The malware will hijack apps to create fraudulent ad revenue and generate millions of dollars as a result.

Check Point says most of the victims are located in Asia and around 280,000 Android users in the US have also been hit.

They say that Google has been tracking the malware for two years and has updated Play Protect in a bid to block CopyCat.

However, millions of those who are affected have been using third-party app downloads and have been victim to phishing attacks as well.

Meanwhile, Russian security firm Group-IB has also highlighted a new virus attacking Android phones which will use their mobile banking app to attack the victim’s bank account.

Apparently, the virus is spreading quickly and masquerades as a text message from a contact in the user’s phone book.

In other Miratrix mobile phone app news …

Industry experts say Google is facing another massive anti-trust fine from the European Commission (EC) in relation to its Android operating system. European regulators say that Google is denying consumers a wider choice of mobile services and apps and is preventing innovation by third parties. Part of the problem is the preloading of Google apps, says the EC.

The growing number of apps for smart phones is leading to the death of the compact camera with sales declining quickly, says CIPA. The most popular five cameras for those who are uploading to photo sharing site Flickr are versions of the Apple iPhone.

Microsoft has announced it is closing Windows App Studio for those who use the Windows app building tool and instead users will need to use Windows Template Studio.

A new law in China means bloatware, or pre-installed apps, on mobile phones must have software available for these apps to be uninstalled and no apps can pass on the user’s data without their permission.

Guests at Hilton Hotels in future will be able to use a mobile phone app as a key to open their room’s door. Rival groups say they remain wary of technology like this because of their security concerns but the system has been trialled at more than 1,700 hotels in North America without problems.