Posted in Poor Quality Assurance, Shoddy Security

Google Play: Paradise for malware

Disappointing, but certainly not surprising:

Google Play, the company’s official repository for Android apps, has once again been caught hosting fraudulent and potentially malicious apps, with the discovery of more than 56 apps—many of them for children—that were installed on almost 1.7 million devices.

Tekya is a family of malware that generates fraudulent clicks on ads and banners delivered by agencies including Google’s AdMob, AppLovin’, Facebook, and Unity. To give the clicks the air of authenticity, the well-obfuscated code causes infected devices to use Android’s “MotionEvent” mechanism to imitate legitimate user actions. At the time that researchers from security firm Check Point discovered them, the apps went undetected by VirusTotal and Google Play Protect. Twenty-four of the apps that contained Tekya were marketed to children. Google removed all 56 of the apps after Check Point reported them.

Just inexcusable.

Google execs claim they care about security, but they cannot keep their app store free of malware. This nonsense has been going on for years now, and there seems to be no end in sight.

And if that wasn’t bad enough:

More than 4,000 Google Play apps silently collect a list of all other installed apps in a data grab that allows developers and advertisers to build detailed profiles of users, a recently published research paper found.

The apps use an Android-provided programming interface that scans a phone for details about all other apps installed on the phone. The app details—which include names, dates they were first installed and most recently updated, and more than three-dozen other categories—are uploaded to remote servers without permission and no notification.


Posted in Poor Quality Assurance

Google Calendar crashes and burns, leaving many feeling adrift and angry

Ruh roh

Users around the world can no longer access Google Calendar, with people reporting an error message when they try to access the app and some sharing an overwhelming feeling that they should go home for the day.

“Google Calendar is currently experiencing a service disruption,” said Google’s G Suite Twitter account, instructing users to follow updates through a service Web page. Google directed The Washington Post to the same page, which states: “We’re investigating reports of an issue with Google Calendar. We will provide more information shortly. The affected users are unable to access Google Calendar.”

The outage has become an event on social media. Twitter created an event page with funny GIFs symbolizing the distress many people are experiencing.

If they didn’t store so much of their private data with one company, this wouldn’t be a problem.

Posted in Poor Quality Assurance

Gmail, Google Drive hit with global outage

Ruh roh:

Gmail has been hit by an outage affecting users around the world, with outage reports spiking and Gmail users flooding social media to complain about problems sending emails.

Some users are also reporting issues with Google Drive, including spotty performance and certain file types not opening.

According to a message posted on Google’s GSuite Status Dashboard at 1:53 p.m. ET, both Gmail and Google Drive are experiencing what it describes as a “service disruption.”

People who have trusted Google with their data are naturally not happy that it’s inaccessible. There’s quite a bit of griping on Twitter, which is typical of a service outage.

The moral of the story? Don’t trust Google with your data. Keep a local copy that’s always accessible and choose providers that care about your privacy (unlike Google).

Posted in Poor Quality Assurance

Oops: Google Fiber goes out in Kansas City as World Series starts

Turns out Google is no better at being an ISP than traditional ISPs:

Alphabet’s Internet and TV service Google Fiber went out in Kansas City as the opening game of baseball’s championship series got going.

“Tonight, some Google Fiber customers in Kansas City experienced a service outage,” a Google spokesperson said via e- mail. “We’re working hard to make sure our customers can enjoy the rest of the World Series, and we’ll provide more details as soon as we can. We apologize for this interruption on an important night.”

Ah, the dreaded service outage. Comcast knows a thing or two about those. Are you sure you want to be in the business of providing Internet to firms and households, Google? Sure, that might make it easier to spy on them. But there are tradeoffs. You’ve got to keep the bits flowing… or people get cranky.

Posted in Poor Quality Assurance

Proprietor of leading technology news site: “I No Longer Have Any Trust In The Nest Protect”

Michael Larabel, who runs the well-known free software news and reviews hub Phoronix, has a post up about an awful experience he recently had with Google-owned Nest’s Protect, a souped-up, Internet-connected smoke detector. Larabel writes:

Earlier this year I wrote about protecting our Linux test farm with the Nest Protect. While I own ten of these “high tech smoke detectors” and initially recommended, I no longer trust them after a long night.

In the middle of the night I was alerted to “smoke in the bedroom” by all ten Nest Protects going off with the alert and siren, plus alerts going into mine and Fataima’s phone. Quickly investigating, there was no smoke to be found in the bedroom or any other room… Nor anything resembling smoke or any other causes for concern. The fire alarms tied to the security system also hadn’t sensed any smoke.

The unit continued to malfunction:

At first pushing the Nest button I thought the silencing worked, but nope, it came back to broadcasting across all of the Nest devices that there was smoke — when there was not. I disconnected that particular Nest Protect from the AC power, took it to another room, still reported smoke. Putting the Nest Protect in a kitchen pot with lid still claimed of smoke and produced warnings… This particular Nest unit was bought just earlier this year and was going insane in the middle of the night.

In the end, Larabel says he had to resort to a sledgehammer (literally) to shut the Nest Protect up. He still doesn’t know what caused the Google-made device to go crazy, and is going to let Nest know what happened.  He would be wise to stay away from Nest gizmos in the future.

Larabel is not the only person to have encountered this problem. There is a video on Google-owned YouTube, posted by a Google employee, documenting a malfunctioning Nest Protect. Video creator Brad Fitzpatrick says, “Do not buy a Nest Protect. You will regret it. You can stop or mute this video if it’s annoying, but you cannot stop a Nest.”

Posted in Poor Quality Assurance

CNBC asks: Has Google lost control of its anti-spam algorithm?

Good question:

Google’s search engine is displaying Frankenstein-esque characteristics. Like the fictional scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who created a monster more powerful than its master, Google’s algorithm designed to rid the Internet of spammy links is proving difficult, if not impossible, to control.

In June, reported on a Google algorithm called Panda that crawls the Web to periodically push what the search provider considers lower-quality sites down in the rankings while elevating better pages. The result is that some small Web businesses that rely on Google for traffic can be decimated overnight.

The whole article is worth a read.

Many people consider Google to be synonymous with “search” because it’s all they know. It’s their default. In reality, there are superior search engines out there. Bing, Blekko, and DuckDuckGo all offer a superior experience and better results than Google does. DuckDuckGo in particular has grown in popularity because of its explicit promise not to track its users. There’s no good reason to use Google for search when there are alternatives that do the job better and don’t snoop on you.

Posted in Poor Quality Assurance, Undependable Support

Google fan discovers that Google is not reliable

TechCrunch’s Jon Evans:

Dear Google: What’s wrong?

I ask because last weekend, while in San Francisco, I asked Google Maps for “hot chocolate mission” – and was promptly directed to an ARCO station in Fremont, 40 miles away. Similarly, last month I searched for “coffee” while in the Embarcadero Center, one of the denser coffee hotspots in America, and was sent to a Starbucks more than two miles away. And it hasn’t escaped my notice that you keep highlighting faraway places with Zagat listings over much closer places without.

Now, sure, if you’re thinking “hey, you’re just abusing your position as a highfalutin tech columnist to make anecdotal complaints here!” – well, you’re not entirely wrong. Perk of the position. What can I say? But Google Docs won’t save documents, the new Gmail interface still feels like a big step backwards, Gmail Offline keeps crashing on me, Google Hangouts hangs whenever we try to combine text chat and video…and for what it’s worth, it’s not just me who’s wondering what’s gone wrong:

Pop quiz: name a Google product that existed at this time last year that has improved in the last 12 months.—
Laurie Voss (@seldo) October 15, 2013

What’s wrong is that Google is a company focused on mining user data, not bettering people’s lives. Google is not a nonprofit or a charity. It’s not a force for good in the world. It’s a privacy-destroying, profit-making enterprise.

Evans ought to try out alternative search engines, email providers, and smartphone platforms. He might be surprised to discover there’s a wider world beyond the GoogleNet.

Posted in Poor Quality Assurance, Undependable Support

Google suffers another major outage

Gmail and and many other Google offerings are down, and that’s got people upset:

Google’s Gmail experienced an outage this morning, with some users reporting that the problem extended to the search giant’s Chrome browser as well.

“We’re investigating reports of an issue with Google Mail. We will provide more information shortly,” Google wrote in a 12:30 p.m. Eastern note on its Google Apps status dashboard.

Google categorized the problem as a “service disruption” rather than a “service outage.”

Gmail started experiencing problems around noon Eastern. At PCMag, Gmail failed to load, and then produced a 502 error page. “The server encountered a temporary error and could not complete your request,” the error noted. “Please try again in 30 seconds. That’s all we know.”

This is a disruption *and* an outage. Google can try to sugercoat the downtime all it wants; it’s still downtime.

People who don’t know better and use Google’s Chrome browser have also reported a spike in browser crashes this morning. That actually doesn’t seem strange, because Chrome is tied to Google’s centralized offerings. If Google servers go down and can’t synchronize or communicate with the Chrome client (Chrome could be more accurately called a client than a browser, considering how Google’s aim has been to turn it into a gateway to its offerings) that could cause Chrome to malfunction or quit working.

This outage is a good reminder that there are better alternatives out there. Cut ties with the Monster of Mountain View and switch away if you care about your privacy and the security of your data.

Posted in Poor Quality Assurance

Google’s Autocomplete causing big problems

More trouble for Google in Europe: The Monster of Mountain View is being sued by the spouse of a former German leader who is upset that the search giant’s autocomplete feature suggests demeaning terms like prostitute and escort when her name is typed in. She’s going to court demanding that Google do something about this, and it’s possible she just might win.

Despite Google’s past court victories, this case isn’t necessarily clear-cut, says Thomas Nuthmann, a lawyer at German law firm JBB Rechtsanwaelte. “Under German law, it’s likely that, at the very least, once Google knows that its autocorrect is generating results that present Frau Wulff in a bad light, they become responsible for making changes in her specific case,” he says, adding that, in Germany, famous people have the same protection against defamation as regular people when it comes to their private lives (unless they purposely make their private lives public). “It doesn’t mean [Google has] to shut down its technology altogether—just that it would have to at least disable the results linking words like ‘prostitute’ and ‘Bettina Wulff.’”

It;s unlikely such a lawsuit would ever be filed against Google in the United States. But of course, European law is different. If Google wishes to operate in Europe, it must abide by European law.


Posted in Poor Quality Assurance, Undependable Support

Gmail goes down, again

Whole lotta people inconvenienced this morning:

Google’s e-mail service, Gmail, is being reported as offline for many people this morning.

The extent and cause of the outage isn’t known at the moment. It is not a complete outage, but Twitter is abuzz with reports from users unable to access the Web service.

Users seem to be reporting mostly outages in accounts. Users of Google business e-mail accounts (Google Apps) are also reporting issues. Google’s Apps status dashboard reports, “We’re investigating reports of an issue with Google Mail. We will provide more information shortly.”

Other services, such as Google Docs and Google+, also appear unusable for those who are unable to access Gmail.

Google has tried to encourage the belief that its offerings have rock-solid reliability, but the truth is, they don’t. This isn’t the first Gmail outage, and it won’t be the last. There’s no good reason for anyone to trust the Monster of Mountain View with their email.