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Archive for February, 2015

24
Feb

Google buys Softcard; shutdown immiment

The Monster of Mountain View just had another meal:

Google has inked a distribution deal with the biggest wireless carriers in the U.S. to get the Google Wallet payments app pre-installed on their phones. At the same time, Google is buying technology from Softcard, the mobile payments app backed by the same carriers.

The deal will see Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and AT&T pre-install Google Wallet on their Android phones in the U.S. later this year. Google Wallet allows shoppers to tap their phones to pay at checkout in some brick-and-mortar stores in much the same way Apple Pay does. The move also involves Google buying some intellectual property from Softcard, formerly known as ISIS. It doesn’t appear that any Softcard employees are joining Google as part of the deal.

In a blog post, Softcard said its users can use their mobile payments app for now. But I can’t imagine the wireless carriers behind the Softcard joint venture would agree to this deal if they planned to continue to invest in their own app. Sounds like game over for Softcard, a very expensive multi-year initiative that was essentially a flop for the wireless companies involved.

Softcard never really had a future, considering Apple has planned on entering the mobile payment space for sometime. iOS is Apple’s platform, and Apple wants to both control it and monetize it. It wasn’t about to let America’s three largest mobile carriers develop the mobile wallet that would be prevalent among iOS users.

Google feels the same way about controlling Android, of course. The carriers have evidently decided that since Apple doesn’t need or want their technology, they’ll at least recoup some money by selling it to Google. Google will probably shut it down within a few weeks, and that will be the end of Softcard.

POSTSCRIPT: Softcard will be dead by the end of March:

Softcard is dead

 

Goodbye, Softcard.

3
Feb

Avast sounds the alarm about apps on Google Play that pose as games and infect users with adware

A new report from Avast supplies more evidence for the conclusion that Google Android is the least secure major mobile operating system there is.

A couple of days ago, a user posted a comment on our forum regarding apps harboring adware that can be found on Google Play. This didn’t seem like anything spectacular at the beginning, but once I took a closer look it turned out that this malware was a bit bigger than I initially thought. First of all, the apps are on Google Play, meaning that they have a huge target audience – in English speaking and other language regions as well. Second, the apps were already downloaded by millions of users and third, I was surprised that the adware lead to some legitimate companies.

The Durak card game app was the most widespread of the malicious apps with 5 – 10 million installations according to Google Play.

When you install Durak, it seems to be a completely normal and well working gaming app. This was the same for the other apps, which included an IQ test and a history app. This impression remains until you reboot your device and wait for a couple of days. After a week, you might start to feel there is something wrong with your device. Some of the apps wait up to 30 days until they show their true colors. After 30 days, I guess not many people would know which app is causing abnormal behavior on their phone, right? :)

Each time you unlock your device an ad is presented to you, warning you about a problem, e.g. that your device is infected, out of date or full of porn. This, of course, is a complete lie. You are then asked to take action, however, if you approve you get re-directed to harmful threats on fake pages, like dubious app stores and apps that attempt to send premium SMS behind your back or to apps that simply collect too much of your data for comfort while offering you no additional value.

This is awful, but not surprising.

Considering how much control Google wields over its store and branded builds of the Android operating system, you might be tempted to think that apps would be well-screened and that this kind of problem wouldn’t exist. But it does, because Google is synonymous with shoddy security.

The NSA has long considered the Monster of Mountain View one-stop shopping, and it wasn’t until Edward Snowden leaked a mountain of data that Google decided to start encrypting the traffic that flowed between their servers. That’s progress, for sure, but it doesn’t change the fact that Google’s business model is itself built on user surveillance and data mining. Repeated reports like this show us that Android is not for anyone who cares about privacy or security.