‘Click Farms’ to Inflate Online Popularity Exposed

How do you get a few hundred people to like your “Why are courgettes* so neglected?” page? Paid advertisements? Viral publicity? Trusting in the innate power of that most underestimated of Summer squashes? With the success of such options being variable at best – leaving much to chance – there are some who would rather try to cheat the system, paying for likes, followers, and other quantifiable indicators of popularity.

The “Why are courgettes so neglected?” Facebook is one of many that has been exposed as paying for likes, using companies that hire ‘click farms’ – low-paid workers tasked with clicking on the appropriate button (‘Like’, ‘Follow’, ‘Retweet’), over and over, via a series of fake accounts – to inflate their popularity. This particular page paid a team in Dhaka, Bangladesh for its measly half-a-thousand likes.

Dispatches, a Channel 4 investigative journalism show in the UK, has exposed just how prevalent this underhanded practice really is. The reveal is sure to hurt the veracity of social media platforms and their accidental involvement in misleading their users.

“There’s a real desire amongst many companies to boost their profile on social media, and find other customers as well as a result,” Graham Cluley, an independent security consultant, told The Guardian.

Using ‘click farms’ is not limited to pages about green vegetables, though – Dispatches found an online casino, which had licensed the Monopoly brand from owner Hasbro, was also guilty of the practice. Hasbro ordered that the page be closed following the deception’s reveal, saying that it was “appalled to hear of what had occurred.”

“Potentially, a number of laws are being breached – the consumer protection and unfair trading regulations. Effectively it’s misleading the individual consumers,” Sam DeSilva, IT and Outsourcing Law lawyer for Manches LLP, added.

An undercover sting also exposed the middlemen who act as agents for ‘click farms’, with Dispatches secretly recording its meeting with Sharaf al-Nomani, owner of Shareyt.com, which offers likes, follows, and other indicators of popularity on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube, for a fee.

While the site claims that it is “a crowd-sourcing platform to help you improve social media presence and search engine ranking FREE,” al-Nomani, in meeting with undercover Dispatches reporters, revealed that “around 30% or 40% of the clicks will come from Bangladesh” as part of a deliberate, organised strategy.

*That’s a zucchini to anyone from the Americas.

Microsoft Releases Statement on Xbox neXt Rumor

Yesterday, we reported on a rather interesting development regarding an undisclosed project entitled Xbox neXt. This information was acquired from David Gardner’s LinkedIn profile, the Visual Design Leader at Xbox. Of course, whenever any evidence comes to the forefront, it’s important to not jump to conclusions and wait for official confirmation. This hasn’t taken long and a Microsoft spokesperson told IGN:

“Xbox neXt was an old internal team name for a group that worked on releasing Xbox One and is not related to a future console,”

“We have nothing further to share.”

This clearly debunks any suggestions that the Xbox neXt is a recent phenomenon and Microsoft’s attempt to create an updated Xbox One with enhanced power. Saying that, just because the Xbox neXt refers to an early phase in the Xbox One’s development, it doesn’t mean Microsoft isn’t working on new hardware. Whenever a console is released, research and development starts on designing the next console. Phil Spencer has clarified Microsoft’s intentions to stick with the Xbox One, and release a big update in the form of a brand new system. It’s unlikely that they’ll offer a hardware revision apart from redesigning the fairly clumsy housing and opting for a slimmer frame.

On another note, Sony is apparently producing the PlayStation 4.5K due to the technical demands of virtual reality. The company is really wanting to push PlayStation VR and the current PlayStation 4 isn’t powerful enough. In contrast to this, Microsoft hasn’t really shown any interest in virtual reality technology for this console generation. Perhaps, this is due to the incredible Hololens or they believe it’s going to be a considerable amount of time before VR becomes affordable. Whatever the case, at least Microsoft has clarified the situation in a very clear manner and addressed concerns regarding the Xbox neXt project.

LinkedIn Now Considered as Front Door For Phishing Attacks

A recent web seminar by Computing revealed that LinkedIn now is being considered a front door access for potential phishing attacks in order to encourage careless users to open malicious emails and their links. Now LinkedIn isn’t in itself the issue here, it is more the way people act that is and in combination with already available information.

We mostly see DDoS and similar attacks make the headlines, but phishing is now considered to be the top threat to businesses and it is constantly increasing in severity. The attacks use novel methods to make potential victims feel comfortable before they send their malicious payload. LinkedIn is now being used in a big fashion as that entry point. This is where hackers make the first contact with potential victims. After an initial trust has been built, it is far more likely for a victim to click a malicious link without double checking what it will do. Another reason that phishing has grown as a method of attack is that it doesn’t take any skill at all to do so. Anyone with bad intentions can do it.

One of the examples given at the seminar was from the law firm BLM that continuously is a target of phishing attempts. For example, they have had both email and phone calls attempting to extort money by someone purporting to be the CFO, and they very often originate from LinkedIn contacts.

Not all phishing attacks are as sophisticated, but they’re still very effective because people have developed a click mentality for their inbox. An example for this was given too. In one day they received 2500 copies on the same email in 10 minutes that seemed to come from the department of motor vehicles, and people just clicked the included link, no questions asked. Even though the email had a specific registration number listed, people still clicked it despite not being one they own. One person even clicked it not owning a car at all. Luckily BLM runs everything in a sandbox and these things are caught, but there are still a lot of companies that don’t take this threat seriously.

In most instances phishing can be combated with common sense, but in a world as busy as ours, common sense is often turned off in exchange for productivity.

Personally, I’ve seen a big rise in SMS fishing lately and I regularly get suspicious messages from numbers and names that appear to be genuine – but on close inspection they never are.

Image courtesy of Hotspot Shield

Knack II is Reportedly in Development

Knack is a platforming beat ’em up directed by Mark Cerny, who famously worked on iconic games including Crash Bandicoot, and Spyro the Dragon. As a result, the initial E3 showing was designed to showcase the PlayStation 4’s capabilities and unique experiences possible on Sony’s latest console. However, the game received a fairly mixed response on release and currently has a Metascore of 54. Typically, launch titles act as a technical demo and lack an engaging story. From a visual standpoint, Knack is very impressive but this wasn’t enough to hold people’s interests.

You have to give credit to Sony for creating a new IP, but there aren’t that many people who remember Knack in a fond way. Despite this, according to NeoGAF, a sequel is being developed! The information comes from Mindy Lang’s LinkedIn page which lists her employment and role for Knack II. On the other hand, since this went public, Mindy Lang has removed the job posting from her professional profile. Perhaps Sony wanted its development to remain a secret and announce it during this year’s E3 conference.

Honestly, I’m surprised to see the revival of Knack, providing the listing is correct, because it really didn’t manage to excite many people or help system sales. Hopefully, the studio has been given a greater time frame to work on the gameplay mechanics and story. It’s possible this could restore Knack’s reputation and provide consumers with an experience the original was designed to be. Nevertheless, it’s going to be an extremely difficult task because the gaming community is already hostile towards a sequel. I would like to see it do well, because a large part of my childhood revolved around quirky platformers from Sony.

On another note, if Knack II is apparently in development, this also might suggest that The Order: 1886 is turning into a franchise. I mention this because it received quite poor reviews, and became known for its absurdly short story, padded out with QTEs and mundane cover shooting.

LinkedIn Forced to Pay Millions Because of Its Add Connections Service

Two years ago, LinkedIn was accused of “hacking” into its own users’ email accounts, and now the company is facing another class-action lawsuit related to its Add Connections service.  LinkedIn sent an email to several users not too long ago, in which it informed them that they are eligible for a class-action settlement concerning email marketing. So how much will LinkedIn have to pay for its mistakes this time? It looks like no less than $13 million, and while this many seem like a huge number in the grand scheme of things, nobody’s actually going to get rich from these payouts.

The problem with LinkedIn’s Add Connections program was that it allowed users to import their own personal contacts into the system and then asked them to agree to let the company send out invitations on their behalf. The thing is, if the targeted contact failed to reply to the invitation within a certain timeframe, the system would send out two more follow-up emails without the user’s consent. The payout aims to cover all of these email activities that took place between September 17, 2011 and October 31, 2014, and if you are sure that you were affected by Add Connections during this time span, you could go ahead and claim your piece of the $13 million. However, you should know that LinkedIn will ask you to swear that you were a user of Add Connections under penalty of perjury.

Thank you Mashable for providing us with this information.

Is Apple Planning An iCar?

Tech companies used to be very much specialized to their own field, from the standard PCs and Software to advanced medical equipment. Over the last few years, these same companies are now beginning to challenge the established status quo of many other industries, such as the automotive industry. The rumours of Apple designing a vehicle have become stronger after hiring a senior engineer from electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc

Apple have been looking to build a team of automotive design experts with the aim of producing a car for market and now James Carlson has been appointed after leaving Tesla. How do we know of these secret plans? He placed his new job on his LinkedIn or course, this is along with at least 6 others which have experience developing self-driving technology and systems which have also advertised their new position in the same way.

Sources for Reuters have also stated that Apple are actively developing a car and studying self-driving technology, but it is yet unclear if the iPhone maker is designing a vehicle that could drive itself.

When you view the hirings which Apple have made, it is clear the plans are very much in motion, below is a list of recent appointments along with each individual’s previous jobs.

  • Megan McClain – A former Volkswagen AG Engineer
  • Vinay Palakkode – Graduate researcher at Carnegie Mellon University specializing in automated driving research
  • Xianqiao Tong – Engineer who developed computer vision software for driver assistance systems at microchip maker Nvidia Corp
  • Paul Furgale – Former deputy director of the Autonomous Systems Lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

Other Apple appointments since September 2014 with similar experience have worked at automakers BMW, Volkswagen and Ford Motor Co, automotive suppliers Delphi Automotive and Robert Bosch GmbH.

One thing is clear, Apple looks almost certain to be developing an automotive vehicle in some capacity with the aim of competing with similar manufacturers. The tech giant would have an excellent chance of succeeding considering the wealth and investment which has underpinned its performance in the last decade.

Thank you reuters for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of digitaltrends

News Corp CEO Lashes Out At Google and Others at Event

Robert Thomson, who is the News Corp CEO and right hand man to dark lord Murdoch has lashed out at Google for “piracy, zealotry and kleptocracy” Let me for a moment check Google for definitions of these words, Piracy is well-known so I won’t be checking that.

Zealotry – right wing fanatical and uncompromising pursuit of religious, political, or other ideals;  

Kleptocracy – is a term applied to a government seen as having a particularly severe and systemic problem with officials or a ruling class.

I can see where he is coming from with the term Zealotry, after all, Google is extremely uncompromising in its business model towards privacy, competition and other interests. Kleptocracy? Google has a problem paying taxes and to some extent has disobeyed the ideals of the ruling class, but in others has assisted by sharing data of consumers etc. It depends how you define the relationship between state and tech companies.

Finally piracy, again, Google is perceived to rip news corporations off by offering free news, but should consumers pay for the right to educate themselves on world events. Google has also taken steps to delete millions of links to pirated content in the last few years, I am not defending Google, but I don’t believe everything should be behind a paywall, as is News Corp’s vision.

Robot Thompson went on to say that Google and LinkedIn among others “redistribute the content created by others, they would argue that such redistribution is a natural extension of their role as social networks. I would argue that much of the redistribution is an unnatural act” Before stating “the digital age has been hostile to investment in reporters and reporting” I would argue this is a speech from a Republican dilutionist who lost his audience at “unnatural act.”

News Corp and many other avenues are facing challenges of monetizing their content effectively, the old days of buying a newspaper is fading fast and it’s up to these companies to strategize a future whereby consumers are more inclined to pay for content, instead of knocking the search engines that after all, link to their content in the first place. This also highlights what consumers actually want from their news, if you had the choice of paying for a news article which basically tells you the same as a free article, which one would you choose?

News is news, the US or some other company being hacked again is the same whether it’s paid to read or free. It will be interesting to see how you monetize news when there is a saturation of sources available.

Thank you mUmBrella for providing us with this information.

Image Courtesy of Forbes

Smartphone Wi-Fi Will Be Smarter Than Ever Before With This New Tech

Up until now, Wi-Fi devices on your smartphones were able to connect to saved access points and act as a means of connecting you to the Internet. Sure, there are some apps that let you stream over Wi-Fi, but essentially it was not used to its full potential.

The Wi-Fi Alliance now came up with a new technology by the name of Wi-Fi Aware, which lets your smartphone do even more with its wireless power. The tech is said to allow your smartphone to communicate with nearby devices and exchange information. Think of it as a heartbeat, letting devices know it is present in the vicinity and gathering what other devices have to ‘say’ if they are near you.

Wi-Fi Aware is an alternative to low-powered Bluetooth connectivity and yes, this means it’s even better at saving power than just having your Wi-Fi always on. So how can this help you? It’s simple. Let’s say you have something you like on Facebook and can find in a store. Once you enter a mall and a store has the items you want on sale, Wi-Fi Aware will send you a notification about it once you get near the store. Have a friend you haven’t seen in a long time? No problem. If he is in town and near you, Wi-Fi Aware will tell you and ask if you would like to send him a direct message.

Essentially, Wi-Fi Aware is a smart way of keeping aware of what is near and of interest to you. This means that all information received is tailored to you specifically based on your interests, so it won’t tell you about what shoes are on sale early in the morning when all you want to know is where you can get the best deal on coffee.

We are not aware of any Wi-Fi Aware-enabled apps at the moment, but Wi-Fi Alliance officials say that the tech could land in social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn sooner than expected.

Thank you TechCrunch for providing us with this information

USA Freedom Act, the NSA Reform Bill, Blocked by US Senate

The USA Freedom Act, designed to restrict NSA powers to collect user data, has been blocked by US Senate Republicans in a vote on Tuesday. The bill, supported by tech business coalition Reform Government Surveillance, did not achieve the 60 votes required to become legislation, losing out by two votes, 58 to 42 for consideration. Only four Republicans voted for the bill to be considered.

The group Reform Government Surveillance – comprised of Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Aol, Evernote, Dropbox, Linkedin, and Twitter – strongly supported the bill and implored the US Senate to make it law earlier this week. One of the bill’s more outspoken opponents was Senator Mitch McConnell, who argued that the move would hamper the NSA’s capacity to fight terrorism. Before the vote, he said “This is the worst possible time to be tying our hands behind our backs.”

The Vermont Democrat who drafted the bill, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, accused opponents of fearmongering to defeat the bill, saying, “Fomenting fear stifles serious debate and constructive solutions. This nation deserves more than that.”

Source: New York Times

Facebook, Google, and Apple Support USA Freedom Act

A coalition of nine tech groups – comprised of Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Aol, Evernote, Dropbox, Linkedin, and Twitter – under the banner Reform Government Surveillance, have petitioned the US Senate to adopt the USA Freedom Act, designed to restrict the NSA’s power to collect user data.

In an open letter to the Senate on their blog, Reform Government Surveillance had this to say about the USA Freedom Act: “The legislation prevents the bulk collection of Internet metadata under various authorities. The bill also allows for transparency about government demands for user information from technology companies and assures that the appropriate oversight and accountability mechanisms are in place.”

A statement from the White House affirms its strong support for the USA Freedom Act. The US Senate could vote on the bill later this week.

Source: TNW

LinkedIn Made to Pay $6 Million to Underpaid Employees

Big blow for LinkedIn this week as the social network is forced by the US Department of Labor to pay a total of $6 million back to its employees that have been underpaid. linkedIn have been found guilty of breaking federal wage laws in several states across the USA. California, Illinois, Nebraska and New York were the states where LinkedIn have been found guilty. Very naughty indeed, LinkedIn have received some positives from this though, the company was praised on how honest it was with the courts during the process. LinkedIn admitted that did owe employees money and agreed to pay every cent back and would ensure that something like this never happens again, at least they’re paying it back without arguing about it.

The pay back is split into two sections, $3 million back in unpaid wages and over $2.5 million back in damages to 359 people including former employees and employees who are still working at LinkedIn.

“Talent is LinkedIn’s number one priority, so of course, we were eager to work closely with the Dept. of Labor to quickly and equitably rectify this situation,” a spokesperson for LinkedIn said to CNET. “This was a function of not having the right tools in place for a small subset of our sales force to track hours properly; prior to the DoL approaching us, we had already begun to remedy this.”

Thanks to Tweaktown for supplying us with this information.

Image courtesy of Tweaktown.


LinkedIn Facing Lawsuit over Access of Email Accounts

LinkedIn has been ordered to stand trial by a U.S Federal judge over allegations from users that they have been sending and accessing emails without consent.

LinkedIn has been found to be accessing users email accounts, copying their address books and using this information to solicit business. This is seen as a loophole by some as users do agree upon sign up to allow LinkedIn to use their contacts to send an initial recruitment email – but give no authorization to send further reminder emails.

US district Judge, Lucy Koh (San Jose, California) stated:

“This practice could injure users’ reputations by allowing contacts to think that the users are the types of people who spam their contacts or are unable to take the hint that their contacts do not want to join their LinkedIn network.

“In fact, by stating a mere three screens before the disclosure regarding the first invitation that ‘We will not … email anyone without your permission,’ LinkedIn may have actively led users astray.”

Koh has given customers the green light to pursue their claims that LinkedIn has violated their right of publicity. She has dismissed other claims however, such as violation of federal wiretap laws.

Crystal Braswell declared on behalf of LinkedIn:

“We are pleased that the Court rejected plaintiffs’ unfounded “hacking” claims and found that LinkedIn members consented to sharing their email contacts with LinkedIn. We will continue to contest the remaining claims, as we believe they have no merit.”

View the full information on the class action lawsuit here.

Image courtesy of Ben Scholzen


New Block Security Feature Added To the LinkedIn Social Networking Website

LinkedIn has finally added a feature which users wanted to see for a long time, namely blocking other LinkedIn users. The addition of this particular feature adds a new privacy control to the service, giving you complete control upon restricting access to your profile, direct interactions and network activity from other members who you don’t want snooping around.

While the blocking feature represents a simple tool to block spammers and other uninteresting messages which users receive monthly or even daily, it also adds more serious safety measures, such as the case of users who are victims of stalking or domestic violence. In addition to the blocking feature, LinkedIn also mentions some additional tools which can be very helpful in terms of security, such as tools to disconnect from existing connections, tools to control your activity broadcasts, as well as profile and photo visibility settings.

It is stated that after a user is blocked, you won’t be able to access each other’s profiles, message each other, and if you had been connected before blocking, you won’t be anymore, along with removing any endorsements and recommendations from that member and neither user will ever be recommended to the other again in the “People You May Know” or “People also Viewed” sections of LinkedIn.

Thank you TechCrunch for providing us with this information

Cue Acquired By Apple To Take On Google

It is nothing new for Apple to acquire new companies, therefore personal assistant ‘Cue’ is the latest “victim” that the Cupertino giant has targeted, and this is to be good news for iOS users. The good news comes is due to many of the features offered by ‘Cue’ mimic those of Google Now. Nothing is sure if the features provided by ‘Cue’ will be implemented into the new Apple tech, but anything is possible, we need only see it in time.

Cue essentially aggregates data from social networks and otherwise (Gmail, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) to present relevant information at the relevant time for you. Flight bookings and hotel reservations are also included, and Cue has been offering these features before Google Now was officially introduced. You might soon see your daily calendars get populated automatically in iOS 7, but that’s far away from now.

On its website, Cue said it is shutting down its service and issuing refunds to paid customers, but did not offer much in the way of explanation. Cue began life as mobile search company Greplin, before changing names and shifting to the personal assistant arena.

“We appreciate all of the support from you, our users, as Cue has grown over the last few years,” Cue said. “However, the Cue service is no longer available.”

It also said no data was being transferred to another party and that all information it had has been deleted.

“We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause you,” the company said.

The deal value is said to be upward of $40 million, up to around $60 million, though that figure may include earnouts or other incentive pay.

Thank you NextPowerUp and AllTHingsD for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of NextPowerUp.

LinkedIn Being Sued For Allegedly Hacking Users’ Email Accounts

Bloomberg reports that some LinkedIn users have filed a class action lawsuit against the social media giant for violating various data protection and privacy laws. The lawsuit accuses LinkedIn of hacking into users’ third part email accounts (such as Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo mail etc) and harvesting email addresses of non-LinkedIn members. LinkedIn are then alleged to have used these email addresses to send out multiple marketing emails to get more people to join the service.

“The wrongful conduct by LinkedIn that is the subject of this complaint arises from Linkedln’s practice of breaking into its users’ third party email accounts, downloading email addresses that appear in the account, and then sending out multiple reminder emails ostensibly on behalf of the user advertising LinkedIn to non-members”

The lawsuit also claims that the owners of those harvested email addresses will receive numerous marketing emails from LinkedIn with no way of unsubscribing from them. More controversy was raised by the fact principal software engineer at Linked in, Brian Guan, described his role at LinkedIn as:

“Devising hack schemes to make lots of $$$ with Java, Groovy and cunning at Team Money!”

LinkedIn is accused of violating several major laws including the California Invasion of Privacy Act, the Comprehensive Data Access and Fraud Act, the Wiretap Act, and the Common Law Right of Publicity. LinkedIn responded to the extensive accusations with the following response:

“LinkedIn is committed to putting our members first, which includes being transparent about how we protect and utilize our members’ data”

Full details of the lawsuit can be seen here.

Image courtesy of LinkedIn