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Google Criticised for Spy Apps

Researchers say that Google is ‘cashing in’ by offering spy apps that help stalkers keep track of a victim via their smartphone.

According to a report in The Times, there are more than 3,000 spy apps in Google’s Play Store with subscriptions of up to £30 a month for installing the technology on a target phone.

Google takes between 15% and 30% on all purchases made in Play Store.

The apps reveal the phone’s GPS location, the call logs, text messages and give access to its microphone and camera.

Researchers in the US reveal there are 3,450 apps that are capable of tracking the user’s movements with 500 apps available on Apple’s App Store.

Since the research was published, Google has now stopped adverts appearing when searches for abuse-related terms are carried out and it’s removed a number of apps for violating its policies.

Researchers say there are still nearly 3,500 apps capable of spying that remain.

Football fans warned over World Cup cyber security

With the World Cup starting in Russia, football fans are being warned about their use of public and hotel Wi-Fi and consider how they secure their personal data.

The National Cyber Security Centre says football fans should keep their smartphones on them at all times with fears that Russian agencies may try to access personal data or carry out a cyber-attack.

In a blog, the NCSA says that anti-virus software and all apps should be up-to-date and backed up before heading for the football tournament.

They say that devices should always be protected with passwords and for important accounts have two step of authentication enabled.

Phone-to-phone AR to debut

Industry watchers say that Apple is about to debut the tools that will enable two iPhone users to share augmented reality while limiting the amount of personal data being sent to servers.

Using similar technology to that used in Pokemon Go, the augmented reality would enable the viewer to see a virtual structure being superimposed on their surroundings on a smartphone and other devices.

The market could become big business and Apple last year released tools that enable software developers to create AR apps.

In other mobile phone app news …

Public Health England has launched a new Active 10 app aimed at encouraging adults to become more active. The app encourages users to build a 10 minute brisk walk into their daily routine.

Research from consumer magazine Which? found that Internet connected appliances are collecting huge amounts of data worth a fortune to corporations who are surveilling people in their home. Most of the devices using apps ask for permission to access other items including photos and cameras with questions over some including a smartwatch that wanted to reboot a user’s phone and a vacuum cleaner that wanted to record audio on the user’s smartphone.

Researchers in Australia are calling into question the effectiveness of health apps currently available and point to one Swedish government app that was created to curb drinking among young people but led to them drinking more. The researchers from Queensland’s Bond University found that only one app worked – it’s called Get Happy.

Brits are being urged to tackle the slave trade when they visit a car hand wash by using a free mobile phone app if they have any fears for those working there. The app has been launched by the Catholic Church and the Church of England.

Google Apps Collude to Mine Data

A study has revealed that thousands of apps on Google’s Android system are colluding to share their user’s data without any consent.

In addition, this is leaving the phones vulnerable to hacking.

The researchers at Virginia Tech in the US found that trusted apps were able to communicate with each other and exchange information which creates various implications for phone users.

A spokesman for the research team said: “It’s the first-time real-world evidence has been found that apps are colluding with each other.

“Apps are getting information from each other when they do not have the permissions for doing so.”

One problem is hackers could use a malicious third party app which, when downloaded, will collude with an authentic application which thinks is genuine and enable hackers to access personal data.

These apps are, apparently, accessing data from Google Play, Gmail, Google Photos and Google Docs, among others.

Businesses urged to take mobile security responsibility

A report reveals that businesses should step in to provide mobile security when users are reckless with their devices when downloading apps.

The RiskIQ report highlights that smartphone users often stray from the official app stores when downloading applications which then puts them at greater risk from malware and ransomware.

While the report highlights that the UK’s smartphone users are more conservative than their US counterparts, they are still taking risks.

One of the issues is that mobile users are ‘jailbreaking’ their devices, around 14% of users do so, so they can download apps they would not be able to use otherwise.

The report states: “While jailbreaking allows more choice, it bypasses the security mechanisms put in place by official app stores and carriers.”

The report concludes that businesses should be more proactive in fighting mobile threats since ‘careless users’ lack the relevant mobile security acumen.

Phone distraction causes car crashes

A study in America has revealed that drivers who are distracted by their phone’s apps cause 52% of smashes.

In addition, 25% of drivers will use their phone with a minute of having a crash.

The findings come from Cambridge Mobile Telematics and a spokesman said: “This is a big problem for drivers and pedestrians and it’s a dominant factor in whether you will have a crash.”

In other Miratrix mobile phone app news …

Smartphone users in India are being warned that the mobile apps for seven banks have been infected with malware. The warning comes as users are urged to install a personal security certificate which has been sent by hackers.

To help launch their new album, The Charlatans have turned their popular singles into phone apps. Fans have to guess the song from the icons on their screen.

A researcher says more funding should be provided to help people access digital health services in the UK. Lecturer Siobhan O’Connor said more research is needed to understand the barriers users face which include lack of mobile phone signals and not understanding how health apps can help.

Social media users in the US may be due a pay-out after a judge in San Francisco ruled that the user’s privacy may have been compromised. The ruling will cost eight firms including Kik, Foursquare, Twitter and Yelp more than $5million. The action focused on those who used their smartphone to access the platforms between 2009 and 2012.

A mobile phone app may help users access cheaper electricity from 2020 after an EU ruling. The idea is to use apps to encourage people to use electricity when it is cheap and abundant – usually on sunny days when renewable energy such as solar panels are effective. The move would see flexible prices being introduced to match energy production.

Google Launches Duo ‘Game-Changing’ App

Google has launched its Duo app and some industry watchers are predicting it could be a WhatsApp killer.

The app will enable one-to-one video calls between smartphone users and the calls will be encrypted.

From later this year, users will also be able to use voice calling as well.

Duo has been developed for the Android and iOS platforms which means it can be used by those who use Facetime and Skype.

The app has a feature which enables the person being called to see live video of who is calling before they answer the call.

The app has been designed to be easy-to-use and is available now.

It was unveiled at a Google conference last year and can be used by those who download the app around the world.

It might be time to ditch smartphones, say experts

Security experts say there has been a huge increase for smartphone users suffering with mobile malware infections which are causing greater levels of damage.

A security report from Nokia reveals that there are more security threats than ever before with cyber criminals now targeting mobile devices rather than PCs.

In their latest study, the firm says the number of mobile malware attacks rose by 400% last year compared to previous years.

And, worryingly, 85% of all infections were aimed at mobile devices.

The criminals are mainly targeting Android, they account rate 81% of attacks, but the number of attacks on Apple’s IOS platform are also on the rise.

Indeed, iPhones are being targeted with surveillance software that will track their calls, social media apps, text messages and GPS locations.

The report also highlights that the number of attacks aimed at Windows PC systems has seen a fall in numbers.

Smartphones won’t be able to access Facebook app

The Facebook app is about to stop working for those with older smartphones.

From the end of March, support for the Facebook Messenger app will also come to an end on the devices.

The social media outfit says it’s ending support for those devices running older versions of its apps including v10 of Messenger and v55 of Facebook.

That’s for apps running on Android and Facebook has also announced that the Facebook app for most Windows phones (mainly those with Windows 8 and 8.1) is also coming to an end.

It is possible to migrate to a latest version should smartphone users find the Facebook apps no longer work.

However, should the apps still not work, Facebook says users should access their service through a mobile phone browser.

Health apps ‘might be lying’

New York’s Attorney General has revealed that three health apps for mobile devices have reached a deal over allegations that they deceive consumers.

Two of the apps concerned, Runtastic and Cardio, claimed to measure the user’s heart beat accurately while My Baby’s Beat claimed it could turn a smartphone into a baby heart monitor.

Altogether, the phone apps have been downloaded by users more than one million times.

However, all three apps have been found not to have carried out sufficient testing that would prove their claims.

Now the developers have agreed to undertake more testing, change their ads and pay $30,000 in fines.

The apps will also alter their privacy policies and deliver more protection to consumers and reveal whether they collect and share any information that could identify the user.

In other Miratrix mobile phone app news …

A major update for the eBay app on iOS and Android platforms has now been rolled out. For avid users of the website there are lots of new features though some depend on the mobile device being used.

Smartphone users in the US can use Walmart’s on demand video streaming service to turn their DVD discs into digital titles by using a mobile app. The Vudu function is in place now and costs $2 for converting a DVD and $5 for Blu-ray.

Scammers are moving from the internet and using mobile apps for selling cars to fleece money out of unsuspecting car buyers, particularly in the US. Apparently, the crooks are increasingly moving from Craigslist to apps such as LetGo and Facebook’s Marketplace.

There’s a new NSPCC Childline app available to help children looking for support and counselling. Developed by four teens, ‘For Me’ will deliver support and advice in confidence.

Bank Available Only as a Phone App Continues Success

A fast-growing bank that is only available as a smartphone app has announced its now available in 17 European countries and the number of customers has risen to 200,000.

The German-based Number26 bank only offers accounts to people living in the euro zone and now has its own banking licence from German regulators.

The bank offers users an online account for cash withdrawals, insurance services and savings with everything being managed on a smartphone.

This means there are no branches and there’s no computer infrastructure so the bank is able to offer better rates on savings and borrowing.

Those behind Number26 told a London conference about tech disruption that they have created a truly European bank that is also the continent’s most modern mobile bank.

Users warned to be aware of free Android apps

A study by a university of 18,000 free apps in the Google Play Store has revealed many are sharing the user’s information without their knowledge.

The researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say that half of the apps they surveyed did not have a privacy policy.

Also, most of the free apps that did not have a privacy policy were also less than honest about how they were using personal information collected from the user.

Researchers say that 41% of Android apps they checked made no mention of their gathering of identifiable data in a privacy policy and 17% also failed to disclose that the information is shared.

With millions of Android users now using free apps from the Google Play Store means many of them will be unaware of whether their data is being collected and shared.

However, the apps are violating Google’s guidelines for posting apps to the Play Store.

One critic said the automated system used by the researchers may not prove a problem exists since checking apps for their privacy requirements may be an inconsistent.

Mobile apps help boost the gig economy

Apps for mobile phones are helping to fuel the rocketing ‘gig’ economy in London, suggests research.

The New Economic Foundation says that the gig economy in the capital has risen by 72% since 2010 and the number of those employed within it have rocketed from 38,000 to 65,000.

It’s the application of app technology as well as new business models that has led to a big rise in workers undertaking the casual short-term work and helped to create companies such as Deliveroo and Uber.

The think tank says that the next rapid growing gig economy will be in DIY trade and cleaning.

The government says around 5 million people are currently working in the UK’s gig economy which is expected to grow further over the coming years.

In other Miratrix mobile phone app news …

Microsoft has announced that it is effectively going to turn a mobile phone into a PC by delivering a full suite of desktop apps to ARM chipsets. The Windows 10 platform will also have desktop app support.

The users of health apps are being warned not to rely on them in an emergency. A survey in the US has revealed that despite a proliferation of health apps, the ones that are designed to help those with serious ongoing health problems do not live up to expectations.

P-Plate drivers in New South Wales, Australia, are now officially banned from using their mobile phone behind the wheel and this includes using navigation apps. The ban also extends to the device being inserted safely in a dashboard mount.

Blame Pokémon Go but Sony has unveiled plans to release six games for smartphones in the coming year in the hope of recreating the success seen by Nintendo’s Pokémon Go. Among the titles will be popular PlayStation hits such as Arc The Lad and Everybody’s Golf with the games launched in Japan and then rolled-out to other Asian countries.