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WhatsApp, Messenger may still put user information at risk

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New York, Aug 11: Do you know that despite the end-to-end encryption provided by popular messasing platforms like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Viber, your sensitive information is vulnerable to hacking?

A new research has highlighted the importance of what is called an ‘authentication ceremony’ to help mitigate the risk.

Researchers from Brigham Young University (BYU) at Utah in the US found that most users of popular messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Viber are leaving themselves exposed to fraud or hacking because they are unaware of important security options like an ‘authentication ceremony’.

The ‘authentication ceremony’ is a security practice to ensure the members involved in a communication are authentic. It is done by identifying the message recipient before sending out any sensitive or confidential information.

But because most users are unaware of the ‘ceremony’ and its importance, “it is possible that a malicious third party or man-in-the-middle attacker can eavesdrop on their conversations”, said Elham Vaziripour, Computer Science student at BYU who led the study.

The researchers conducted a two-phase experiment in which they prompted participants to share a credit card number with another participant. Participants were warned about potential threats and encouraged to make sure their messages were confidential.

Only 14 per cent of users in the first phase managed to successfully authenticate their recipient. Others opted for ad-hoc security measures like asking their partners for details about a shared experience.

In the second phase, after researchers emphasised the importance of ‘authentication ceremonies’, 79 per cent of users were able to successfully authenticate the other party.

However, the participants averaged 11 minutes to authenticate their partners.

“Once we told people about the authentication ceremonies, most people could do it. But it was not simple, people were frustrated and it took them too long,” noted Daniel Zappala, Professor, Computer Science, BYU.

Most people don’t invest the time and effort to understand and use these security measures because they don’t experience significant security problems. But there’s always a risk in online communications.

The researchers are now working to develop a mechanism that makes the ‘authentication ceremony’ quick and automatic.

“If we can perform the authentication ceremony behind the scenes for users automatically or effortlessly, we can address these problems without necessitating user education,” said Vaziripour.

IANS

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Facebook Messenger app crash? Try new update

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San Francisco, June 16: Facebook’s latest update for its Messenger app can fix the app that was crashing constantly among many iOS users, the media reported.

Version 170.0 was the buggy release, and the company has already submitted a fix (170.1) to Apple, The Verge reported on Friday.

The users can now identify the version by tapping “more” in the updates tab of the App Store.

According to The Verge, many people noticed that the app was crashing frequently after updating the previous update (170.0). The users found Messenger opens well initially. But when they switch to another app and come back to the messenger, it fades to black and crashes to the iPhone home screen.

According to a spokesperson, Facebook was aware of the issue and working on a new update.

Facebook has now confirmed that the new update should solve the issue, CNET reported.

IANS

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Google Doodle remembers famous glass chemist Marga Faulstich

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New Delhi, June 16: Google on Saturday remembered the famous German glass chemist Marga Faulstich on her 103rd birthday with a Doodle. She was the first woman executive at global glass manufacturer Schott AG.

Born on June 16, 1915, Faulstich worked with Schott AG for 44 years.

During this time, she worked on more than 300 types of optical glasses and 40 patients were registered in her name.

Faulstich began her training as a graduate assistant at Schott AG after graduating in 1935 from high school, according to Google.

In her early years, she worked on the development of thin films.

Her findings are still being used in the manufacturing of sunglasses, anti-reflective lenses and glass facades.

Faulstich received international recognition for the invention of the lightweight lens “SF 64”, for which she was honoured in 1973.

She died in 1998 in Mainz at the age of 82.

IANS

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Google needs to do more on bridging gender gap: Report

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San Francisco, June 15: Although the percentage of women in leadership roles at Google has increased from 20.8 to 25.5 per cent in the last four years, women still make up only 30.9 per cent of its global workforce while men 69.1 per cent, the tech giant has revealed.

In its annual diversity report released on Thursday, Google said it has made some progress in leadership ranks by gender and ethnicity.

“The data in this report shows that despite significant effort, and some pockets of success, we need to do more to achieve our desired diversity and inclusion outcomes,” said Danielle Brown, VP-Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

In 2017, women hires in tech positions rose to 24.5 per cent, although overall hiring of women dropped from 31.4 per cent to 31.2 per cent.

“Since 2014, women hires in tech have increased from 20.8 per cent to 24.5 per cent, which shows that our focus on hiring more women into technical positions is having impact,” said Brown.

The diversity report came after a year when an employee named James Damore sent out a long anti-diversity memo and was later fired.

Damore’s memo, titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber”, claims that when it comes to technology, there is a biological difference between men and women.

In February this year, the US National Labour Relations Board (NLRB) said that Google did not violate labour laws when it fired Damore.

According to the new diversity report, in terms of race and ethnicity (US data only), 2.5 per cent of Google’s workforce is Black, 3.6 per cent is Hispanic/Latin, 36.3 per cent is Asian and 53.1 per cent is White.

“Our gains in women’s representation have largely been driven by White and Asian women. Representation of Asian women increased considerably to 12.5 per cent of Google’s workforce, up from 10 per cent overall in 2014,” the report noted.

This is lower than the increase for Asian men who make up 25.7 per cent of Google, up from 21.4 per cent in 2014.

Attrition rates in 2017 were highest for Black Googlers followed by Latin Googlers, and lowest for Asian Googlers.

“Black Googler attrition rates, while improving in recent years, have offset some of our hiring gains, which has led to smaller increases in representation than we would have seen otherwise.”

“We’re working hard to better understand what drives higher attrition and taking focused measures to improve it,” Brown added.

IANS

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