Google Study Finds Phishing a Bigger Threat for Users Than Third-Party Data Breaches

Google Study Finds Phishing a Bigger Threat for Users Than Third-Party Data Breaches

Phishing attacks via fake emails pose the greatest threat to people, followed by keyloggers and third-party breaches as account hacking increases globally, a new Google study has revealed.

Keystroke logging is a type of surveillance software that once installed on a system, has the capability to record every keystroke made on that system. The recording is saved in an encrypted log file.

According to Google, enterprising hijackers are constantly searching for, and are able to find, billions of different platforms’ usernames and passwords on black markets.

A Google team, along with the University of California, Berkeley, tracked several black markets that traded third-party password breaches as well as 25,000 blackhat tools used for phishing and keylogging.

“In total, these sources helped us identify 788,000 credentials stolen via keyloggers, 12 million credentials stolen via phishing, and 3.3 billion credentials exposed by third-party breaches,” Google said in a blog post late on Friday.

Account takeover, or ‘hijacking’, is a common problem for users across the web. More than 15 per cent of Internet users have reported experiencing the takeover of an email or social networking account.

“From March 2016 to March 2017, we analysed several black markets to see how hijackers steal passwords and other sensitive data,” said Kurt Thomas from Anti-Abuse Research and Angelika Moscicki from Account Security teams at Google.

The tech giant then applied the insights to its existing protections and secured 67 million Google accounts before they were abused.

“While our study focused on Google, these password stealing tactics pose a risk to all account-based online services. In the case of third-party data breaches, 12 percent of the exposed records included a Gmail address serving as a username and a password,” the blog post read.

Of those passwords, 7 percent were valid due to reuse. When it comes to phishing and keyloggers, attackers frequently target Google accounts to varying success: 12-25 percent of attacks yield a valid password.

However, because a password alone is rarely sufficient for gaining access to a Google account, increasingly sophisticated attackers also try to collect sensitive data that we may request when verifying an account holder’s identity.

“We found 82 percent of blackhat phishing tools and 74 percent of keyloggers attempted to collect a user’s IP address and location, while another 18 percent of tools collected phone numbers and device make and model,” Google noted.

“While we have already applied these insights to our existing protections, our findings are yet another reminder that we must continuously evolve our defences in order to stay ahead of these bad actors and keep users safe,” it added.

There are some simple steps people can take that make these defences even stronger.

“Visit Google’s Security Checkup to make sure you have recovery information associated with your account, like a phone number, and allow Chrome to automatically generate passwords for your accounts and save them via Smart Lock,” Google cautioned.


Study: 23 Percent Abandon Apps After Single Use

App Retention RateApp Retention Rate

Small business owners are often told they need a mobile app to drive sales, boost brand visibility or just bring potential customers into the door of a brick and mortar store. But do apps really serve their purpose for the majority of businesses? It’s a question that should be on every business owner’s mind as a new study emerges creating a much more nuanced picture of app use.

App Abandonment Findings

According to the new data from analytics firm Localytics, about 23 percent of mobile users abandon an app after their first use, a slight improvement from 25 percent in 2015.

The findings are based on data gathered from Localytics’ user base of 37,000 apps.

App Retention Rate

App abandonment findings aside, the study reveals some interesting data about user retention. It shows user retention has improved to 38 percent, up from 34 percent in 2015.

While the numbers indicate slight improvement, it’s important to remember that businesses still need to do a lot to avoid churn and to convert more users to loyal customers. That’s because a large number of users (62 percent) will use an app less than 11 times, the study found.

Takeaways for Small Businesses

A surprising highlight of the study is that just two years ago, only 20 percent of users were abandoning apps. It’s perhaps not difficult to understand what must have gone wrong.

To begin with, businesses operate in an increasingly competitive marketplace today. In this crowded marketplace, consumers have a shorter attention span and too many options to choose from. To succeed, companies need to focus on customer engagement.

The Localytics study also points in the same direction. Its data shows using push notifications, in-app messages, email or remarketing is helping companies boost customer loyalty. In fact, user retention is as high as 49 percent for users who have push notification enabled.

Businesses need to focus on mobile engagement to create more value for their users. The first step is to formulate a clear mobile marketing strategy. Is there a real need for an app? How soon can it be launched? What kind of content will be used to make the most of it? These are some of the questions that businesses must answer before developing an app.

Boston-based Localytics supports more than 6,000 customers and reaches 2.7 billion devices and 120 billion data points monthly.

Image: Localytics


What You Post on Instagram Can Reveal How Old You Are: Study

What You Post on Instagram Can Reveal How Old You Are: Study

How old are you? Your Instagram behaviour may give you away.

Researchers have found that teens and adults do, in fact, live in pretty distinct worlds when it comes to social media – specifically on Instagram. A study published this week from the Pennsylvania State University has found one of the greatest differences between the ways that teens and adults use Instagram is in the frequency of posts.

But it may not be in the way you’d expect. Teens are more likely to have fewer posts than adults, though each of their posts has far more engagement in terms of likes and comments.

Why? Teens are likely deleting posts that don’t do well on Instagram – a phenomenon that my colleague Jessica Contrera has previously reported. For teenagers, social media accounts are the public display of their lives, and it’s common for many to delete posts that don’t show off their very best.

Dongwon Lee, an associate professor in the school’s College of Information Sciences and Technology who co-authored this research, told the Atlantic, “Teens want to be very popular so they’re very conscious of the likes they’re getting.”

Teens also reply to comments far more quickly than adults, with an average response time of 7.2 minutes to adult users’ 30 minutes.

Lee has co-authored several studies about Instagram and the way it is used by different age groups. A May study found notable differences in the content of pictures that teens and adults were posting, after looking through 20,000 posts from teens and adults. (Sidenote: Among the ways they identified people’s ages? Usernames with birth years in them.)

The things that the two age groups took pictures of were starkly different, with teens tending more toward selfies with a lot of tags about how they feel. Adults, ages 30-39 for purposes of this study, were far more likely to post about their location or nature. Adults also tended to post from a greater variety of locations – which makes a certain amount of sense if you think about it.

Of course, these age distinctions aren’t set in stone – an adult may delete a post, or a teen may be fine with letting an unliked shot stay up. But they do suggest an interesting divide in the way Instagrammers behave on the network.

Researchers have several recommendations for what Instagram could do to improve its product based on this research. For example, the researchers suggest that Instagram stop suggesting recommendations based quite so heavily on location, but instead look at users’ activities for suggestions of whom to follow. They also think that the company could provide users with a more comprehensive look at their likes and comments, perhaps in a graph, so that all users can track their Instagram lives.

© 2016 The Washington Post

Tags: Apps, Instagram, Social

Playing Action Video Games May Boost Driving Skills: Study

Playing Action Video Games May Boost Driving Skills: Study

Playing action-based video games may boost the players’ ability to coordinate visual information with their motor control – a skill critical to many real-world behaviours including driving, says new research.

The findings showed that playing some types of video games can confer benefits for specific visual abilities such as sensitivity to contrast and visuo-spatial attention.

“The research shows that playing easily accessible action video games can be a cost-effective tool to help people improve essential visuomotor-control skills used for driving,” said lead researcher Li Li, Associate Professor at New York University in Shanghai, China.

Experienced action gamers showed much greater precision in keeping to their lane and showed less deviation from centre in the face of increasing headwinds, when compared to the participants with little to no action video game experience.

To establish a causal link between action video games and visuomotor control skills, the team recruited participants who had no action video gaming experience to take part in a training study.

They then compared the visuomotor abilities of players who had played at least 5 hours per week over the previous 6 months to participants who had negligible action video game experience.

The participants were randomly assigned to either an action video game group or a control group, and they completed a total of 10 1-hour training sessions.

The data showed that playing “Mario Kart,” a fast-paced action video game, improved participants’ visuomotor control skills on the target dot task after five hours of training.

Those who played “Roller Coaster Tycoon”, a non-action strategy game, showed no such improvement over time.

For novice drivers, training with driving video games may be more helpful, the researchers suggested in the work published in the journal Psychological Science.

Tags: Apps, Gaming, Science, Video Games