<IT WORLD> Bad apps target Android
By Martin J Young
HUA HIN, Thailand - Google has begun to pull applications from its Android
Market after discovering some contain fraudulent software. The apps, 22 of
which have already been removed, pose as legitimate programs such as the
popular Angry Birds and Tetris games. Apple's App Store has very stringent
enforcement as to what gets into it, Google's doesn't, which is why spammers
and hackers are starting to target Android users.
Google is stepping up its efforts to protect Android users against fraudulent
apps after security firm Lookout alerted the search giant to the scam, dubbed
RuFraud, which they believe originated in Russia. Once installed, a spurious
app will instruct the handset to send premium rate SMS text messages.
Android is not the only platform open to fraud, which usually relies
on duping victims rather than circumventing technology; a bogus e-mail or text
message prompting users to click on or install something is the most common way
of swindling them out of money or infecting their device with malware.
Apple and Microsoft wasted no time in attacking Google's mobile operating
system for being too open and not secure enough. Software giant Microsoft
jumped on the opportunity to plug its Windows Phone 7 operating system by
offering free smart-phones to disgruntled Android users.
A Twitter campaign initiated by Windows Phone "evangelist" Ben Rudolph was
adopted by Microsoft to drum up more interest in its own handsets by appealing
to those that have been hit by malware on Android.
Microsoft should exercise more caution before using such marketing ploys - the
company does not have the best track record when it comes to software security
and is responsible for Internet Explorer, which tops the list for security
flaws and allowing web nasties into people's computers.
According to Lookout, the number of malicious mobile apps has doubled in the
past six months, with Russia and China leading the pack for the most attacks.
Third-party app stores and alternatives to Google's official Android Market are
responsible for most of the malware, so users would be well advised to avoid
downloading anything from them. The likelihood of clicking a malicious link on
an Android handset rose to 36% globally.
Research firm NPD Group reported that Android, despite its flaws, captured 53%
of the US mobile-phone market in 2011. Apple claimed 29% and Research In Motion
declined to 11%. Windows Phone 7 has failed to secure more than 2% market share
since its launch at the end of 2010.
Google has been using its Street View technology to create a digital memorial
and record of the devastation that was caused by the tsunami that hit the
northern coastline of Japan in March. The new website called "Memories for the
Future" (in Japanese "Mirai e no kioku" - www.miraikioku.com) allows viewers to
compare images before and after the killer waves struck the country.
When Google first attempted Street View in Japan in 2009, the company met
opposition from local authorities concerned over privacy issues. This latest
incentive has, however, been welcomed. According to Google, the primary aim of
the project is the preservation of images and videos that would otherwise be
lost in the natural disaster.
Company senior product manager Kei Kawai said: "In the case of the post-tsunami
imagery of Japan, we hope this particular digital archiving project will be
useful to researchers and scientists who study the effects of natural
disasters," indicating that there is a broader scope to the efforts.
Google began recording digital imagery of the worst affected areas in July. The
results were published on the new website this week.
The gaming industry enjoyed a long overdue boost this week when Activision
announced that its latest first-person shooter, Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3,
racked up US$1 billion in sales within its first 16 days. The impressive sales
figures emphasize that the gaming industry is now on a par with Hollywood's
movie business, with the shooter just eclipsing James Cameron's blockbuster Avatar,
which took 17 days to generate a billion dollars at the box office.
Online retailer Amazon has declared COD MW3 the top selling game of 2011. The
past year or so has seen sluggish performance in the fragmented gaming
industry, as economic woes hit wallets and usually good seasonal sales fell
flat. The news from Activision could spell a return of confidence and spending
in an industry that is still in its infancy when compared with movies and
Even so, the global video-game market was worth around $56 billion last year -
more than twice the size of the recorded-music industry, The Economist reported
this month, citing PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
"Hints" of the Higgs boson, the missing ingredient in the understanding of the
universe, have been found, according to researchers at CERN (the European
Organization for Nuclear Research), who met this week to discuss their findings
from atom-smashing experiments that have been going on at the Large Hadron
Collider in Switzerland this year.
The two sets of independent results have narrowed down the energy range,
measured in giga-electron-volts, that the elusive particle is likely to be
found in. Scientists are confident that its mass resides in the 116GeV to
130GeV range as an increase in sub-atomic activity was found around the 125GeV
The data will be refined over the coming months but conclusive evidence of the
existence of what has also been termed the "God particle" remains
insubstantial. The experiments will continue into 2012, providing that the
world doesn't end.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.
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