Google Hit by Record EUR 2.42-Billion Fine for Breaching EU Antitrust Rules

The EU hit Google with a record EUR 2.4 billion ($2.72 billion or roughly Rs. 17,541 crores) anti-trust fine Tuesday for favouring its own shopping service, in a fresh assault on a US tech giant that risks the wrath of President Donald Trump.

Hard-charging European Commission competition chief Margrethe Vestager said Google had “abused its market dominance” as the world’s most popular search engine to give illegal advantage to its Google Shopping service.

“What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate,” Denmark’s Vestager told a news conference.

“And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation.”

Google now has 90 days to “end this conduct” or face further penalty payments, Vestager said.

The fine broke the previous EU record for a monopoly case against US chipmaker Intel of EUR 1.06 billion in 2009.

Google said that it “respectfully” disagreed with the EU decision, which followed a seven-year investigation, and was considering an appeal.

“We respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the Commission’s decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case,” Kent Walker, the company’s senior vice president and general counsel, said in a statement.

Google insisted that it “shows shopping ads, connecting our users with thousands of advertisers, large and small, in ways that are useful for both.”

‘Market dominance’
The decision comes less than a year after Vestager shocked Washington and the world with an order that iPhone manufacturer Apple repay EUR 13 billion in back taxes in Ireland.

Google Hit by Record EUR 2.42-Billion Fine for Breaching EU Antitrust Rules
Crucially for Google, Brussels has demanded that the US tech giant change the business model for Google Shopping to meet the EU’s concerns.

While an EU record, the amount is below the maximum possible of more than EUR 8 billion or 10 percent of Google’s total revenue of 90 billion dollars last year.

Brussels accuses Google of giving its own online service, Google Shopping, too much priority in search results to the detriment of other price comparison services, such as TripAdvisor and Expedia.

“Google’s market dominance has given the company power to decide the fate of all but the biggest online service providers – in other words nearly every company,” said Fairsearch, a lobby of complainants, in a statement.

The case, launched in 2010, is one of three against Google and of several against blockbuster US companies including Starbucks, Apple, Amazon and McDonalds.

In the other Google cases, the EU is examining Google’s AdSense advertising service and its Android mobile phone software.

The cases have stoked tensions with Washington and could now face the wrath of Trump, the real estate tycoon who won office on his “America First” slogan.

The decision come after a long negotiation period with many twists and turns in which the two sides tried to settle the case amicably.

Vestager’s predecessor, the Spaniard Joaquin Almunia, made three attempts to resolve the dispute but in each case intense pressure by national governments, rivals and privacy advocates scuppered the effort.

 

Facebook Celebrates 20 Years of Harry Potter by Letting You Cast Spells

On June 26 1997, J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone hit the bookstores for the first time, which started us on a magical journey that spanned seven books and as many movies that continues to hold a special place for millions of Potterheads around the world 20 years on. Many are proving their love for the series in their own ways, and so is Facebook, which has introduced an interactive new feature that casts spells with status updates.

The way it works is simple enough. Post a status update on Facebook using any of the terms – Harry Potter, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin – and the update will display an animation of a wand casting a spell. It also works on clicking the term on your friend’s status update. The terms are highlighted in colours that signify them. For example, Gryffindor will be highlighted in red while Slytherin will be highlighted in green, and so on. And the feature also works within comments.

Facebook Celebrates 20 Years of Harry Potter by Letting You Cast Spells

But it’s not just Facebook. Twitter too is showing its love for Harry Potter, by launching a special emoji that will show up if you tweet with the hashtag #HarryPotter20. The hashtag will bring up Harry’s iconic rounded spectacles with the ‘lighting bolt’ scar on top.

Google late last year also brought a touch of magic for Android users who could activate certain features, such as turning the flashlight on or off or switching on the silent mode by saying “lumos”, “Nox”, or “Silencio”, respectively to Google Assistant.

Rowling’s Harry Potter series has enjoyed a massive fan base around the world for its magical storytelling and lovable characters. The books span the titular character’s journey over the years in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, facing unexpected evils and challenges with the help of his friends. The world of fantasy that author J.K Rowling created is unlikely to fade away anytime soon, with spin-off movies in the pipeline as well. And this only brings to mind one of the most memorable lines from the series – “After all this time?”

 

Windows 10 Source Code Leak Confirmed by Microsoft; Data Removed by Beta Archive

Microsoft has found itself in an embarrassing position once again with reports that a massive trove of Windows 10 source code has been leaked online this week. Some system builds related to Microsoft’s USB, storage and Wi-Fi drives were posted to Beta Archive’s FTP site, and the Redmond giant has confirmed that the code, which is part of its Shared Source Kit, is authentic.

According to The Register’s initial report, the data uploaded to the Beta Archive was 32TB in size. However, a counter-report by The Verge suggested that the leak was smaller in size and that much of the data had been made available. The Register also updated its report with a statement provided by Beta Archive, saying that the source code has been removed. The site added it was not pressured by Microsoft to remove the code. However, it’s unclear how many have already downloaded the data.

According to a Beta Archive statement received by The Verge, the source code leaked was in fact only 1.2GB in size and was voluntarily removed by the site. In a statement to The Verge, a Microsoft spokesperson says the entire source code was not stolen, “Our review confirms that these files are actually a portion of the source code from the Shared Source Initiative and is used by OEMs and partners.”

Windows 10 Source Code Leak Confirmed by Microsoft; Data Removed by Beta Archive
The Shared Source Kit is shared with Microsoft’s partners, enterprises and licensees through the Shared Source initiative.

Apart from this, Microsoft’s Windows 10 Mobile Adaption Kit, Windows 10 Creators Update builds, and some ARM-based versions of Windows 10, were also reportedly included in the leak. Furthermore, the leak comes ahead of reports that two men in the UK were arrested over unauthorised access to Microsoft’s network. According the the report, the two men collected confidential Windows 10 builds, but it is unknown as to whether the two cases are linked.

While the leak is now deemed as minor, it is still substantial in that the source code could provide information for security vulnerabilities, which could be used to hack Windows systems around the world. This is something Microsoft would want to avoid post the recent WannaCry ransomware attacks.

CIA Reveals It Was Hacked by an Insider Network of Snack Thieves

The Central Intelligence Agency admitted this week that it had been compromised for months in 2013 by a network of high-tech snack thieves.

A report released this week shows the premier US intelligence body discovered that insider hackers had stolen more than $3,300 worth of potato chips, chocolate bars and other snacks from its vending machines.

The culprits weren’t undercover agents or veteran Al-Qaeda chasers, but instead “contractors” – of which the CIA has thousands, doing everything from terror analysis to servicing the machines that answer American spies’ junk food needs.

A CIA Inspector General’s report on the candy cabal was released following a Freedom of Information Act request by BuzzFeed journalist Jason Leopold.

Unsurprisingly for the CIA, the report is heavily redacted – no names, or sources and methods behind the investigation. But it shows that an unidentified contractor figured out how to get snacks without paying.

The machines took stored value payment cards from the FreedomPay company.

CIA Reveals It Was Hacked by an Insider Network of Snack Thieves

The contractor figured out that if you disconnect the cable that connects the machines with FreedomPay’s cloud-based payment systems, they would accept a card that has no more funds.

The culprit told friends who also disconnected the machines’ cords to download snacks for free.

But, of course, the agency finally caught up. After suspicions were raised, CIA officials put surveillance cameras on the machines, and figured out the scam.

The main perpetrator “admitted to originating the idea of how to effect the thefts based on his knowledge of computer networks,” according to the report.

Members of the cabal were rounded up, interrogated and then escorted from the building and fired by their employers.

 

Pokemon Go to Curb Cheating by Flagging Creatures Caught Using Third-Party Tools

Niantic recently introduced several additions to Pokemon Go including raid battles, new gym features, and a slew of new items. Now, the company has announced that it will not be tolerating any cheating tactics within the game and will start flagging the Pokemon caught with third-party services and that these marked creatures will stop behaving in their natural manner.

In a strongly-worded post on The Silph Road forum on Reddit, Niantic said that it wants to ensure that Pokemon Go remains a fun and fair experience for all Pokemon trainers.

“Starting today, Pokémon caught using third-party services that circumvent normal gameplay will appear marked with a slash in the inventory and may not behave as expected. We are humbled by the excitement for all the new features we announced yesterday. This is one small part of our continued commitment to maintaining the integrity of our community and delivering an amazing Pokémon GO experience,” Niantic said.

Pokemon Go to Curb Cheating by Flagging Creatures Caught Using Third-Party Tools

While the “slashing” of Pokemon can already be seen in the images shared by users whose Pokemon were flagged, it still remains to be seen what the company means by saying that they “may not behave as expected.” According to a report by Kotaku, players have discovered that the marked Pokemon do not provide the players with candy on being transferred to the Professor but also that the mark is lost once the Pokemon evolves.

Since its launch last year, Pokemon Go has been plagued by issues that revolve around the cheating techniques that make the game extremely easy for the players. The cheating tools, provided by third-party sources, allow users to fool the GPS, find the location of different Pokemon, and even allow bots to catch the Pokemon for them.

As these techniques can often impact the experience of players who play the game fairly, the company previously issued permanent bans as well as restricted users into catching just non-rare Pokemon. Despite not maintaining the same user-base as it did right after its launch, Pokemon Go is still a popular game and we will have to see if the new implementation will stop cheaters from fooling the game.

 

Apple Top IT Vendor in 2016, Followed by Samsung and Google: Gartner

Apple was the largest vendor in 2016 with over $218 billion (roughly Rs. 14,05,658 crores) in IT revenue – approximately $79 billion larger than Samsung (with $139 billion or roughly Rs. 8,96,203 crores) at second spot, Gartner said on Tuesday.

Google with $90.1 billion (roughly Rs. 5,81,641 crores) was third, Microsoft with $85.7 billion at fourth spot, and IBM with $77.8 billion was at fifth position when it came to IT revenue in 2016.

“The needs of IT buyers are shifting. CEOs are focused on growth and are more focused on realising business outcomes from their IT spend,” said John-David Lovelock, Vice President and Distinguished Analyst at Gartner.

“The ‘Nexus of Forces’ has been the focus of attention for many years. However, the impact of digital business is giving rise to new categories,” he added.

‘Nexus of Forces’ refers to the convergence of social, mobility, cloud and information that drive new business scenarios.

This is for the first time that Gartner published a ranking of the top 100 largest tech companies in the world based on estimates for their revenue across IT (excluding communication services) and component market segments.

Apple Top IT Vendor in 2016, Followed by Samsung and Google: Gartner

“The top three vendors (Apple, Samsung Vendor Group and Google) can attribute much of their size to their solid alignment with the ‘Nexus of Forces’,” the report added.

As enterprises increasingly digitalize their products and services, digital giants (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) can become involved in, or even take over, the digital experience.

Gartner predicted that by 2021, 20 percent of all activities an individual engages in will involve at least one of the top seven digital giants.

“Digital giants effectively become gatekeepers for any business that delivers digital content and services to consumers,” Lovelock added.

The focus of the digital giants has mainly been in the consumer, citizen and employee world.

Because the digital giants have not yet been as focused on business to business (B2B), there is opportunity for other companies to take the lead.

 

Pokemon Go to Curb Cheating by Flagging Creatures Caught Using Third-Party Tools

Niantic recently introduced several additions to Pokemon Go including raid battles, new gym features, and a slew of new items. Now, the company has announced that it will not be tolerating any cheating tactics within the game and will start flagging the Pokemon caught with third-party services and that these marked creatures will stop behaving in their natural manner.

In a strongly-worded post on The Silph Road forum on Reddit, Niantic said that it wants to ensure that Pokemon Go remains a fun and fair experience for all Pokemon trainers.

“Starting today, Pokémon caught using third-party services that circumvent normal gameplay will appear marked with a slash in the inventory and may not behave as expected. We are humbled by the excitement for all the new features we announced yesterday. This is one small part of our continued commitment to maintaining the integrity of our community and delivering an amazing Pokémon GO experience,” Niantic said.

Pokemon Go to Curb Cheating by Flagging Creatures Caught Using Third-Party Tools
While the “slashing” of Pokemon can already be seen in the images shared by users whose Pokemon were flagged, it still remains to be seen what the company means by saying that they “may not behave as expected.” According to a report by Kotaku, players have discovered that the marked Pokemon do not provide the players with candy on being transferred to the Professor but also that the mark is lost once the Pokemon evolves.

Since its launch last year, Pokemon Go has been plagued by issues that revolve around the cheating techniques that make the game extremely easy for the players. The cheating tools, provided by third-party sources, allow users to fool the GPS, find the location of different Pokemon, and even allow bots to catch the Pokemon for them.

As these techniques can often impact the experience of players who play the game fairly, the company previously issued permanent bans as well as restricted users into catching just non-rare Pokemon. Despite not maintaining the same user-base as it did right after its launch, Pokemon Go is still a popular game and we will have to see if the new implementation will stop cheaters from fooling the game.

Google Play Hit by More Ztorg-Based Android Malware, Says Kaspersky Labs

In a bid to increase security on its Android platform, Google has reportedly removed more Android apps from its Google Play store for the second time this month. Google has taken strict action against two malicious apps – Magic Browser and Noise Detector – acting as conduits for attackers to remotely ‘root’ control the infected devices after a researcher from Kaspersky Lab pointed out the threat in his report. The Android malware carried by these apps belongs to the Ztorg Trojan family, which is notoriously known for bypassing Google’s safety controls to root infected Android devices.

In a report published on Kaspersky Lab’s Securelist website, senior researcher Roman Unuchek presents extensive analysis on the new Ztorg-based malware. Kaspersky Lab says Ztorg malware bypassed Google’s malware checks almost 100 times since September last year, and the malware family is best known for gaining ‘root’ privileges of infected devices to completely control them. Ztorg apps like Privacy Lock and a false Pokemon Go guide raked in huge download numbers before they were recognised as malicious and deleted from Google Play.

Coming to the current batch of apps, the first one is Magic Browser that pretended to be a Chrome browser alternative in Google Play. It was published on May 15 and had been downloaded over 50,000 times before it was finally removed. The other app is Noise Detector that was meant to allow users to measure the decibel level of sounds and had more than 10,000 downloads before its removal.

Google Play Hit by More Ztorg-Based Android Malware, Says Kaspersky Labs

Both the apps, as we mentioned, belonged to the Ztorg Trojan family, but didn’t root affected devices before their removal. Unuchek says the app had the Ztorg digital fingerprint, and speculates that the developers may soon have added the root ability if the apps hadn’t been removed.

Unuchek says the Magic Browser app was being used by developers to either test or use malicious text messaging functions. The Magic Browser could send premium text messages to infected phone numbers and leave no traces behind by even deleting the incoming messages and muting the notification sound. “In total, the Magic browser app tries to send SMS from 11 different places in its code. Cybercriminals are doing this in order to be able to send SMS from different Android versions and devices. Furthermore, I was able to find another modification of the Trojan-SMS.AndroidOS.Ztorg that is trying to send an SMS via the “am” command, although this approach should not work,” reads Unuchek’s report.