Android Safety

Will Automated bots kill Smartphone apps?

It’s been six years since Steve Jobs introduced to the world the App Store. Since then, apps have changed the way the average smartphone user accesses content. Today, the $50 billion app industry faces its biggest threat ever. Welcome to the brave new world of bots—software that automates things people do regularly. While Microsoft faced problems when its chatbot Tay resorted to racist comments, Facebook at its annual F8 developer conference announced the arrival of bots to developers via its Messenger app that has 900 million users. This should, at one go, give a shot in the arm to the bot space. However, Facebook has been beaten to the draw by Telegram, Teamchat and Kik, which have already launched bots.

What is a bot and what does it do?

Bots have been there for years. In earlier days, if you were thrown out of a chatroom because what you wrote was abusive, it was because of bots. Nowadays, a bot is a software which automates things that most people do on their own, such as check news, order food, book flights or arrange meetings. They do tasks that are simple and repetitive; at speeds that no human can match. A simple online Q&A which, while appearing to be with a person, will in all likelihood be with a chatbot. Since chatbots reside on the server, they are easier and cheaper to develop. Bots work on any device, irrespective of the operating system. Already there are CNN and Burger King bots that provide news feeds and help you order a burger.

Who all are building bots?

Microsoft has been testing its chatbot Tay. It has also unveiled a new version of Skype that features chatbots. Facebook has launched its bot on Messenger. Most messaging platforms like Kik and Telegram are already there. Kik’s bot shop has tied up with retailers H&M and Sephora. Then there is Botlist, which offers a range of services including news, entertainment, lifestyle and games. The idea behind Botlist is to provide a centralised directory for all the bots that a person needs, almost similar on the lines of Google Play for Android apps today. Kik, with 275 million users, has announced a bot store. Two companies that are a bit slow in the space are Google and Apple. Google is reportedly working on a chatbot that will reside in a mobile messaging product.

Will bots replace apps?

Much of the demand for bots is because people are gradually getting tired of apps. There are multiple reasons. While there are millions of apps on offer, the top few garner almost 80% of the market. These are largely messaging apps like WhatsApp, Line and WeChat. It has been noticed that while people download many apps on their smartphones, they regularly tend to use only a handful. That apart, there is limited memory on smartphones (16GB largely) to download and operate a number of apps.

The advantage that bots have is they are capable of reaching people on platforms they already use, like SMS, chat apps, etc. While bots are not likely to kill apps immediately, they are expected to replace some apps pretty soon. The plus point that Facebook has is that it has huge amounts of data on its 1.6 billion users and the 900 million on Messenger. As a result, it is in a position to create chatbots that can do mundane tasks, like booking tickets or making restaurant reservations. That means you could practically do everything you want to by just being on Facebook Messenger. It also means more space in your smartphone for other things.

Will bots do everything for you?

In the initial phase, expect bots to do the routine, mundane stuff that you would rather get someone to do for you. Now that assistant will reside in your messaging application. It will take some time before more real-time core stuff is handled by bots. The way Microsoft’s chatbot Tay reacted is a classic case study. So it will be awhile before major things are handled by bots.

Who should be worried of bots?

The big threat is for Apple, which has benefited the most from the app empire, followed by Google. While Apple earned $20 billion from the App Store last year, it is believed that Google earned close to $7 billion from Google Play. The big gainers would be Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon.

However, it is not going to be all that easy. While it is easy to build an app and get users to download and use it, that’s not the case with bots. Here, the computer has to understand the language and carry on a sensible conversation. That’s where Tay stumbled. While there are many words that have multiple meanings for the user, it is difficult for a computer to comprehend what exactly the user meant. So, while bots will shake up the app world initially, it will be awhile before it can be overthrown.

Android Safety

Mobile Friday: Ten Commandments of Android User Safety

The Android mobile platform has come a long way since its introduction in 2008. Almost 80% of smartphones activated last year (2013) were powered by the “green robot”. But the customizable interface and other open source advantages come at a price. Android is ridden with vulnerabilities.

Android’s biggest convenience is also its biggest security issue. These smartphones are activated with one centralized Google ID, which controls all major functions such as emails, app management and calendar syncing. The risk is high.

Besides this inherited problem, the open-source nature of the market-leading OS is prone to cybercrime. Pirated ROMs and unauthorized apps that can be downloaded from underground markets put the unsuspecting users in danger.

Android users are advised to embrace the following safety guidelines:

1 – Use only official operating systems and enable automatic updates.
Mobile phone manufacturers release their products with proprietary software that is secure and patchable with future updates.  This software should not be replaced with insecure pirate versions.

2 – Install apps only from the Play Store.
Android is an open source platform and encourages the development of third-party software to enhance the user-experience. Unfortunately these apps and ROMs are full of vulnerabilities and loopholes.

 3 – Check permissions before installing apps.
The app installation process in Android devices is quick and easy. But it’s extremely important to inspect the permissions needed by the app. Shady apps asking for a long list of permissions should be blacklisted.

4 – Add a remote-wipe feature to your phone and back-up information.
Smartphones have become an integral part of our lives. Unfortunately, robberies and losing of phones are also quite common. It’s very important to have a remote-wipe option to avoid identity and data theft.

5 – Choose strong passwords and change them frequently.
A common mistake many mobile users make. As mentioned earlier, Android phones are powered with one unified Google ID. It’s very important to implement strong passwords and also double-authentication.

6 – Implement good anti-virus software.
More than two million new Android malware threats were created last year only, according to a report released by Panda Security. Your phone is a powerful computing device that must be protected.

7 – Don’t root your device.
Die-hard Android users like to root their devices and gain system-level access. While this gives them the ability to tweak the smartphone to their liking, malicious codes can also wreak havoc within the device.

8 – Don’t connect to unknown WiFi hotspots.
People with limited data plans thrive on WiFi connections. While usually a convenient and easy way to access the net, a free hotspot is the hacker’s best friend. Connect only to secure trusted networks.

9 – Don’t answer text messages from unknown numbers.
While typical phishing attacks are hard to execute on mobile devices, text messages have become a common way to scam unsuspecting users. Responding to SMSs from unknown sources is a recipe for disaster.

10 – Don’t do business via your phone.
Performing monetary operations via Android handhelds is not a good idea either. Banking platforms still cannot promise end-to-end encryption, making money and data transfer a risky proposition.

Its also important to understand that Android security begins at the development stage.

App programmers must develop their products in a secure Software Development Life-Cycle (SDLC). CISOs and InfoSec Executives must make sure that proper security tools are in place to bring out products with minimal security issues. These can include DAST, SAST and also Pen Testing, which is an effective way to check finished software.

Source Code Analysis (SCA), belonging to the SAST testing methodology, is a unique security method that scans Source Code. This early examination has numerous advantages including the shortening of production times and reduction of repairing costs. The seamless integration in the development process also enables full automation of the testing process.

Secure your app now. For a free Source Code Analysis trial – Click Here

Source: checkmarx.com

Ericsson, Nigeria, China Mobile push for 5G development in Africa

Ericsson says it has joined its stakeholders in Nigeria and China Mobile’s 5G Joint Innovation Centre programme. This is so as to accelerate development of next-generation wireless networks, which will be faster, more powerful and offer even greater opportunities. They want to set up an open lab to provide a platform for new products and applications, and to foster new business and market opportunities.

The Chairman of China Mobile, Shang Bing that his company pays a lot of attention to the developing trends of this industry. He said that it is crucial for China Mobile and Ericsson, as the two ships of this industry, to stride forward in the right direction in the coming five years. He added that Ericsson has been an important partner to China Mobile for a long time. He said that they value the partnership with Ericsson and hope to have more cooperation with this important partner and Nigeria during the coming five year transformative period. President and Chief Executive Officer of Ericsson, Hans Vestberg said that 5G will enable people, industries and things to connect on an unprecedented scale, and this ability to connect will bring with it a whole new galaxy of devices and services. Read more at punchng.com

Why 2016 Is the Year Small Businesses Must Develop Mobile Apps

Apps are no longer considered merely a “branding exercise” for small businesses. Business owners are becoming wise to the marketing power a well-designed, intuitive app can bring. From simplifying online purchases to providing easy-to-access information, the benefits are undeniable which is why small businesses must develop mobile apps to stay competitive.

Why Small Businesses Must Develop Mobile Apps

In previous years, the rising cost of custom app developers made apps an impossible expense for small businesses. The recent growth of software development kits that streamline the app development process and allow even non-coders to create a fully-functioning app have dramatically reduced the cost of creating an app.

The affordability and fast development times these kits allow has encouraged more businesses than ever to create their own apps.

As social media use continues to rise, consumers are becoming more open to engaging with brands on a day-to-day basis, even if they aren’t specifically loyal to or purchasers of that particular business. Business owners and marketers are capitalizing on consumers’ desires for interaction by producing entertaining mobile apps. While being fun to use, informational or inspirational, a common characteristic of these apps is that they feature a strong call-to-action to persuade the user to purchase a product or in some way benefit the company in question.

What Types of Small Businesses are Making Apps?

A 2015 analysis of 40,402 apps created with an app development platform found that while “expected” businesses such as restaurants and gyms were highly prevalent, others such as golf courses, hotels, politicians and plumbers were also on the rise.

But why are these industries building more apps?

Read more