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Just *one* Android game infected half a million users

(TECH NEWS) Just one lone Android app was able to infect hundreds of thousands before being pulled – will Google improve security?

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Are you an Android phone user? If so, you could be one of the more than 560,000 users who recently downloaded a malware-filled Google Play app, according to TechSpot. Yep. You read that correctly. On November 19, a security researcher named Lukas Stefanko announced on Twitter that he had discovered 13 Android game apps that were actually carefully disguised malware and that more than half a million users had already downloaded them.

According to Stefanko, all the apps in this particular security breach were car simulator games with names like “Truck Cargo Simulator.” All 13 were developed by someone going by the name of Luiz O Pinto and averaged decent reviews in the Google Play store, which are now assumed to be paid and/or fake.

What users saw when they tried to play these games was a “Made with Unity” logo, followed by the app immediately crashing and the icon seemingly disappearing, making it harder to delete the app from phones. But these apps turned out to be more than just buggy annoyances. Instead, they were surreptitiously downloading an APK (Android application package) called “Game Center” as well as installing additional malware.

According to TechCrunch, there isn’t a consensus among malware scanners on what the malware actually does at this point. However, it says that the malware will launch every time an Android device starts up, allowing the malware creator to have “full access” to its network traffic, which could easily lead to data theft.

The good news: All 13 apps have since been pulled from the Google Play store due to violation of Google’s policies, according to Google spokesperson Scott Westover.

The bad news: This this isn’t the first time Google has had to deal with issues in its Google Play store. According to TechCrunch, more than 700,000 malicious apps had to be removed from the store in 2017.

In response to these multiple security breaches — including the Google+ user-data fiasco, which led to its demise — Google announced that it began an effort dubbed “Project Strobe” earlier this year. According to the company this so-called “root-and-branch” review looked at third-party developer access to Google accounts and Android device data.

The company says it will roll out additional controls and update policies in the coming months.

Staff Writer, Krystal Hagan holds a bachelor of journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. She lives the full-time RV life just outside Austin, Texas, with her musician partner, three dogs, and a six-toed cat. In her free time, she binges TV shows, brandishes her otherwise useless pop-culture knowledge at trivia nights, and tries to become BFFs with every animal she meets.

Tech News

Loopy is the easy tool that helps you explain hard ideas

(TECH NEWS) Loopy is a tool that can revolutionize how we explain anything from personal ideas to business complexities.

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In a world filled with complex systems, Loopy serves as a tool for people to take their time understanding them.

The tool allows users to create interactive simulations to help people explain their ways of thinking.

Loopy has found a way for people to interact with simulations without complicated code or overused drag and drop. You can create your own or collaborate with other simulations already made on the site.

It is a great way to challenge yourself while learning how each system works.

Loopy encourages you to ask hypothetical questions to better understand the systems. The model consists of circles and arrows to remain uncomplicated. When you remix or interact with simulations that were made by other users, it is as if you are having a conversation via the simulations. Loopy describes this as “talking in systems” which makes the entire experience more impactful.

Though Loopy can be used as a fun way to exercise your brain, it also has practical implications. For instance, simulations can be embedded into blog posts, live lectures and presentations. You can also develop videos to further explain complex ideas.

This is especially useful for businesses who want to simplify their models when communicating with investors and consumers.

Simulations can be a fun way to illustrate your thoughts and support your ideas. Businesses can use Loopy to create collaborative activities for their employees to mess around with as well.

The best part is that anyone can try it out for free. On their site, you can develop your own simulations or adjust ones that have already been made.

At its core, Loopy is simulation software.

However, their goal is to give everyone the tools that they need to understand complex systems. This goes for both the creators and the viewers, who are all a part of the process.

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This phishing simulator tests your company’s (lack of) readiness

(TECHNOLOGY) Phishero is a tool which tests your organization’s resistance to phishing attacks. Pro tip: Most companies aren’t ready.

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In the wake of any round of cyberattacks, many organizations question whether they’re prepared to defend themselves against things like hacking or other forms of information theft. In reality, the bulk of workplace data thievery comes from a classic trick: phishing.

Phishing is a catch-all phrase for a specific type of information theft which involves emailing. Typically, a phishing email will include a request for sensitive data, such as a password, a copy of a W-4, or an account’s details (e.g., security questions); the email itself will often appear to come from someone within the organization.

Similar approaches include emailing a link which acts as a login page for a familiar site (e.g., Facebook) but actually stores your account information when you sign in.

Luckily, there’s a way for you to test your business’ phishing readiness.

Phishero, a tool designed to test employee resistance to phishing attacks, is a simple solution for any business looking to find any weak links in their cybersecurity.

The tool itself is designed to do four main things: identify potential targets, find a way to design a convincing phishing scheme, implement the phishing attack, and analyze the results.

Once Phishero has a list of your employees, it is able to create an email based on the same web design used for your company’s internal communications. This email is then sent to your selected recipient pool, from which point you’ll be able to monitor who opens the email.

Once you’ve concluded the test, you can use Phishero’s built-in analytics to give you an at-a-glance overview of your organization’s security.

The test results also include specific information such as which employees gave information, what information was given, and pain points in your current cybersecurity setup.

Phishing attacks are incredibly common, and employees – especially those who may not be as generationally skeptical of emails – are the only things standing between your company and catastrophic losses if they occur in your business. While training your employees on proper email protocol out of the gate is a must, Phishero provides an easy way to see how effective your policies actually are.

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Artificial Intelligence is marketing’s new frontier, here’s your crash course

(TECHNOLOGY) Marketing is rapidly evolving, and the knowledge required to dominate in the future is changing just as quickly. Time to get up to speed!

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Back in the day, the idea of interacting with robots and computers seemed out of an episode of The Jetsons. But fast-forward to today, and some of the most far-fetched ideas back then have become our reality, and you know what? It’s awesome.

In Back to The Future II, they used tablets to get Marty to sign up to save the Clock Tower, and then this massive shark pops out of a sign, which freaked 1984 Marty out. The only thing is – do you remember how pixelated the shark was? Magic Leap is augmenting reality to look like a whale can literally crash into a gymnasium, without so much as a drop of water.

Our cars have precise navigation systems (still can’t fly, though), radio stations from around the world stream into our stereos, our phones can control every aspect of our lives down to how much sleep we get a night. And while it was once thought to be nothing more than fantasy from the pages of a Spielberg script, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has embedded itself into our daily lives, too.

For marketers, there’s much to love about AI: it’s redefining the industry because we can move the chess pieces in ways that previously, we’ve only imagined. AI will change how people interact with data, but also impact how consumers get information much like television commercials and traditional advertising in the analog heyday.

If you’re unaware of what Artificial Intelligence is, it’s the study of making machines super intelligent, and giving them the capability to problem solve. Machine learning creates constantly evolving systems that teach computers to learn organically. Google Photo is a prime example of how machine learning works: photos are fed into Google’s AI and eventually after seeing so many photos of a face, it will eventually recognize the person in the picture.

Artificial Intelligence is marketing’s new frontier

Think about Netflix, how it knows what shows we want to watch, or when a site can predict a new pair of shoes that are exactly your style – that’s AI at work. All of the world’s premier brands are investing in AI. One of the strongest reasons why, is simple – targeted suggestions.

Because of AI’s data collecting capabilities, marketers can collect and analyze swaths of data to enable predictive strategies at every stage of the funnel. We can find ways to move the needle in terms of what a customer wants, and provide different strategies to ensure they’re empowered to make a choice they may have not known about.

All of tech’s biggest players are investing heavily into AI right now. Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Atlassian are all competing against one another, and then against the biggest companies in China, Japan, and Europe – all for the world’s top talent to understand how we make machines do more for us.

But, don’t forget, Target, Walmart, and Zappos are all investing in AI, too.

Everyone is.

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai said in January that AI was “one of the most important things that humanity is working on” and also went on to double down its importance, stating, that it was “more profound than electricity or fire.”

ROI is everything

When you talk to a marketer, the term ROI (Return On Investment) comes up A LOT.

Running campaigns is somewhat of a science, but with the right data, you can take the ‘somewhat’ out of the equation.

By relying on AI, taking the guesswork on what will hit regarding a campaign becomes clearer, thanks to having a defined understanding of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), social data, and analytics. Machine Learning makes it easier for marketers to identify trends.

By combining AI and marketing fundamentals, teams can create multi-layered strategies that offer customized messages to the user.

According to Adobe, “Forty-seven percent of digitally mature organizations, or those that have advanced digital practices, said they have a defined AI strategy.”

Search like never before

Think about what we used to consider as “search” – yes, we still type a word or phrase into Google and see what pops up, but that’s changing. Search engines are smarter, thanks to AI-infused digital marketing.

AI tracks searches, remembers what you were looking for, what you’ve recently ordered, what sites you’ve visited in the past few months, and then compile all of that data into one powerhouse when it comes time to buy that next fridge or find a new pair of boots.

Because of the continual development, Google’s ability to predict keywords is getting crazy. Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) generates keywords semantically related to a main keyword, which offers a fine tuned search result.

Alexa and Siri might considered “home assistants,” but both can order toilet paper for you or tell you when you need to change the air filter in the house. We use them for everything from asking the simplest way to make an alfredo sauce, to asking what the weather looks like.

While some detractors aren’t too keen on the idea of a robot listening to our personal conversations, the facts are simple – more and more houses will integrate AI into their construction and remodels thanks to their demand and proven ease of use.

But, for marketers, these machines are active ways to search something without touching a keyboard, and an effective way to market an idea, if the user is open to new products when it comes time to tell Alexa to buy a certain brand of dish soap, and another is on sale.

User experience drives everything

If you’re looking for support for a product, most sites have a chatbot ready to answer questions. Instead of a human having to find a query and search endlessly through knowledge bases for an answer, a chatbot can recognize patterns in questions and hone in on a few keywords to make a suggestion that’s based on data versus a human’s best guess.

Chatbots are based on the AI principle of storing information and self-learning.

Tools like Wit.ai, IBM Watson, and Api.ai, incorporate language processing and learning faculties.

But, aside from customer support or online ordering, we can also tailor websites and the buyer journey to what a user’s needs are. Because of the collected data, website personality can hone in on a specific product type or suggest things based on a past history of browsing.

This is an opportunity for a marketer to run specific campaigns based on someone who’s looking for old-school Adidas and see if they’d be interested in a new streetwear magazine that’s launching this fall. The partnership opportunities are endless thanks to a fluid AI-based UX experience.

Social media giants Facebook are all in when it comes to investing in artificial intelligence, too. Yann LeCun, Facebook’s chief AI scientist, and an early machine-learning architect, told the Washington Post that boss, Mark Zuckerberg told him to press down on the gas pedal and make Facebook more AI-inclusive.

“AI has become so central to the operations of companies like ours, that what our leadership has been telling us is: ‘Go faster. You’re not going fast enough,’” LeCun said.

What else will AI drive in marketing?

For marketers, AI is a massive win, we can track, improve upon, and watch AI evolve. According to TowardDataScience, marketing’s next significant trend is consumer personalization (29 percent), and then AI (26 percent) – data via BrightEdge.

We’ll soon be able to offer deeply personalized website experiences, change how we use PPCs (Pay Per Clicks), and we’ll start seeing data collection for traffic, and budget in ways we never thought considered.

Because of how we concentrate PPCs, AI will help target ads with thousands of variations on ad copy or swap out a photo for greater impact, based on user data.

Writers will create boilerplate copy and then updated snippets that will automatically move in and out or rearrange, depending on the user.

We’ll also have a clearer idea of when to run specific ads for a high click through based on emotional data and reactionary times, which will calibrate the fight against lowest priced clicks for lead conversion.

MemSQL surveyed 1,600 marketing professionals, and 61 percent, regardless of company size, named machine learning and AI as their most significant investment for next fiscal year. These numbers will only increase as in-house teams and agencies alike will adopt AI as a new tool to get the customer excited and clicking.

Artificial Intelligence is like the wild west in marketing – there’s so much to explore, and to experiment with. We could see gains like never before because we’re dedicating the experience to the customers’ wants and needs, which is a new tactic. We’ve always tried, but armed with this level of data, we can now be precise in regards to the the buyer’s journey.

The future is bright for AI and marketing. We’re standing at the forefront of a technology that will change the world. Talking houses are a slice of the next wave, and it’s exciting. Personally, I’m waiting for a robot best friend or a Delorean – I’ll take either.

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