Google Battles Tricky Redirect Pages

Did you ever wonder how you got tricked into opening a rogue webpage? If you have experienced this – you are not alone. This is a big problem because this nasty trick can land you on a webpage that can install viruses, trojan horses and more.

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The good news is that Google is taking some action to help stop this.

Google is rolling out new security features for Chrome which will make it harder for third-party ads to subvert pop-up blockers or disguise links within a site.

On its Chromium blog, Google admits to getting lots of user feedback saying that sites will randomly redirect to other pages — one in five feedback reports relate to seeing unwanted content. Some pages do it automatically, while others have transparent overlays or deceptive buttons.

Another nifty trick is to change the page you’re currently on to the ad, while opening the link you’re trying to access in another tab. Google calls this “effectively a circumvention” of the pop-up blocker.

Starting in January, Chrome will block these kinds of redirects. Site owners can today access an Abusive Experiences Report which will allow them to see if their site has problems like these. If they do, and the site’s content is not fixed within 30 days, the site won’t be able to open new pages or trigger redirects.

This could be part of Google’s campaign against malicious ads, which it’s been working on since earlier this year. The company has also said advertisers have until next year to clean up their ads or they won’t appear to Chrome users at all.

 

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Googling Restaurant Wait Times

The latest piece of information Google is providing is wait times at restaurants. Most people have their favorite restaurants and favorite foodstuffs, and are willing to wait in line to experience them. But everyone has a limit to how long they’re willing to wait. So Google has stepped in.

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From now on, when you click on a business listing on Google for a restaurant, it will show you a slew of information about wait times. This includes live wait times at that moment, average wait times for specific days of the week, and when the restaurant experiences its peak wait times.

Google is adding wait times for almost 1 million “sit-down restaurants around the world that allow walk-ins”. The company is also planning to add wait times for grocery stores in the future, thereby allowing millenials to decide whether that almost-ripe avocado really is worth the wait.

These wait times are based on “anonymized historical data,” so they may not always be 100% accurate. Still, knowing roughly how long you’ll have to wait to eat is better than not having a clue. This feature is rolling out to Google Search now, and coming soon to Google Maps.

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Booking with Google

Google is now making it much easier to book an appointment for your gym or favourite hair salon.

The search engine is adding an optional bookings button that service providers can integrate into their results page from the Google Business dashboard.

This will allow businesses which already offer booking services to integrate their booking provider directly into Google and let customers choose their services right from the search results page. It’s more convenient and removes the friction between the service provider and their prospective customer much like the Pay with Google service which was itself announced a little earlier today.

It’s worth noting that Microsoft also has a service as a bookings provider with Outlook 365’s Bookings, this lets businesses carry out their bookings through Microsoft’s own custom designed page. While Google currently does not support Outlook bookings, one hopes that this is one area the two tech firms can collaborate on.

This service will be rolling out in the US over the next few days.

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New Google Earth on iOS

Google on Wednesday released its major Google Earth update for iPhone and iPad users.

The new version of Google Earth includes 64-bit processor support, a redesign, and its new Voyager feature for flyover views. Google is including 64-bit processor support just in time for iOS 11, which won’t support 32-bit apps.

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Voyager allows users to interact with guided tours of popular tourist destinations and famous landmarks, providing more context of the location and the ability to virtually fly through it.

Google has included multi-day intineraries for 17 cities under the Travel category, including “Paris with Kids” and “Beyond the Beaches of Rio de Janeiro.” Google said there are more than 140 stories in eight languages available. Knowledge cards also provide interesting facts about a location.

The big Google Earth update was first available on Android and web browsers in April. For iOS users, the update is now available to download on the App Store.

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Google Looks to Block Ads

Earlier this year, Google was rumored to be working on a built-in ad blocker for its Chrome browser. The new ad blocker inside Chrome won’t block every ad you see on the web — instead, it’ll only block ads that are considered intrusive and go against the standards set by the Coalition for Better Ads.

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Google has started testing the new built-in ad blocker for Chrome today on the desktop and Android devices. The latest canary release for Google Chrome includes a new option under Chrome’s Settings where you can enable the new ad blocker inside Chrome. Users can enable the new feature by going to the Content options inside Chrome’s settings page (chrome://settings/content/ads).

The built-in ad blocker should automatically block ads that are considered “intrusive”. But Google Chrome also lets you strictly block ads on certain sites, and you can also choose to allow ads on certain sites if you’d like. Here are the types of ads that will get blocked on desktop sites with the ad blocker enabled on Chrome:

Google deciding to integrate an ad blocker right into its own browser in very interesting. Google’s AdSense business will certainly be affected by the ad-blocker as it could potentially block ads provided by Google on sites that could be abusing the ads that result in an intrusive experience. Google also has a service which lets users subscribe to certain sites in order to hide ads, so it will be interesting to see how the new ad blocker works with that. Google is yet to officially announce the new ad-blocker inside Chrome, and we’ll likely have the answers to our questions once it’s officially and available to all Google Chrome users.

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Google Introduces SOS Alerts

Google has added a number of emergency features to Maps and Search. Facebook has been trying to master this service for over a year now to mixed results.

SOS Alerts have been developed with the aim of delivering important updates to users during major disasters.

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These include maps, news reports, emergency phone numbers and translations of local phrases.

The company says “major natural, manmade, or humanitarian disasters” will activate the alerts, but it “can’t guarantee that you’ll see an SOS Alert for every major crisis”.

In Maps, Google’s SOS Alerts will tell you what’s going on in the area, warn you about road closures and point you towards emergency resources, such as helpful numbers and websites.

In Search, SOS Alerts will offer different levels of detail, depending on how close you are to the incident.

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If you’re nearby, it may display a banner notifying you of the ongoing crisis and displaying emergency information and resources.

If you have the latest version of the Google app and have your location turned on, you may also receive a notification on your phone’s home screen.

If you’re not in the immediate vicinity of the disaster, you won’t get a notification but will be able to access SOS Alerts by searching for information about the incident.

Similarly, instead of seeing an emergency phone number, Google may instead show you a link to make a donation.

“In times of crisis, access to timely, actionable information is crucial. Working alongside trained responders and volunteers on the ground, technology plays a vital role in providing information to help keep you and loved ones safe and informed,” said Google.

“We have teams around the world who source content from government agencies, first responders, trusted media outlets, and NGOs. We also aggregate information from other Google products and services, such as Google News, Google Maps, Waze, and more.”

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Google Drive to Offer Hard Drive Backup Service

While Google Drive is already a decent cloud storage tool, it’s about to get a lot more useful. Beginning June 28, the service will let you back up entire folders from your hard drive, and keep them in sync with your account.

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You’ll need to first download the Backup and Sync tool for your PC or Mac when it launches; once you’ve signed in, you’ll be able to choose which folders on your desktop you want to keep backed up, and access them through Drive across your devices. That sounds handy for people who already use Drive extensively – it’d certainly be nice to have a powerful search function for backed up files.

My concern is that unless Google comes up with new pricing plans to support this feature, Drive’s backup will cost you a fair bit more than other services, as it only comes with 15GB of space for free. 1TB of space will set you back by $100 a year.  There are many other cloud backup services like Backblaze which charge about half that price: Backblaze’s unlimited storage and syncing costs $50 annually, and Carbonite as well as small business-focused Crashplan come in at $59 a year.

Would you consider Google Drive for your backup needs, or do you already have a favorite app for that? Although this service may appeal to Google Drive users – even for these users a price job here would make it even appealing.

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New Google Doc Phishing Scam Rises

A dangerous email phishing scam started making the rounds today. Employees at organizations that use Google for email, as well as thousands of personal Gmail customers are all reporting the same scam.

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It starts with an email from a known contact, which says that the person has shared a Google Doc with you. You’re invited to click the link to open, which redirects you to a legitimate Google sign-in page. You’re prompted to select one of your Google accounts (remember: this is all using Google’s normal sign-in system), and then authorize a legit-looking app called “Google Docs” to manage your emails.

That’s how the scam works: the app called “Google Docs,” which requests permission to read, send and delete emails, isn’t really a Google app. Rather, it’s an app controlled by the hackers. It seems that once it has permission to manage your email, it secretly sends out a bunch of emails to all your contacts, with the same phishing link.

Once the hackers have control of your Gmail account, the possibilities are scary. Personal and business email accounts are commonly used as the recovery email on a number of digital accounts, which means that hackers could potential get control over your Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter or personal Google account. Anything linked to a compromised Gmail account is potentially at risk.

Protecting Yourself From This Scam

To protect yourself, the most obvious thing to do is to delete any email about a shared Google Doc, unless you can personally verify with the sender that it’s not a phishing email. If you already clicked on the link, you should set up two-factor authentication, using a cell phone number, on any critically important account.

You can also remove permissions for the fake “Google Docs” app from your Google account. Go to myaccount.google.com, Sign-In and Security, and Connected Apps. From there, look at the list of connected apps, and ensure that anything you don’t recognize is deleted.

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Google Earth Receives a Major Update

Image result for google earth logo pngIn the first major update for over two years, Google Earth has added several new features in addition to updating the satellite imagery for a significant portion of the globe. The update also adds 3D maps of specific locations, facts about random places, and guided tours. Also you no you no longer need to download and install the application. Google Earth now loads in-browser, with all of its features ready to go. This improvement alone will probably intice many more people to check it out.

The Whole Wide World

The Google Earth redesign introduces some very cool new features.

First up is the Knowledge Graph. Knowledge Graph is the technology behind the bite size bits of information displayed directly in Google search. Meaning that each time you search Google Earth for a specific location, an informative snippet will display with details of the particular place.

Google Earth Just Received A Massive Global Update Google Earth Penzance

The next feature is “interactive guided tours,” created by scientists, non-profits, and other “storytellers.” The feature, called Voyager, showcases different aspects of the world around us. For instance, you can tour the Tanzanian Gombe National Park, led by primate expert Jane Goodall. There are several different habitats on offer, as well as interesting partners to assist with content creation, such as the BBC and Sesame Street (for child-specific experiences).

The addition of 3D view is excellent. Instead of the flat satellite imagery we are used to, you can now explore almost any location in 3D.

And there is more. Google Earth now has a “I’m feeling lucky” button. It works just how you would expect: one-click takes you to a random location. Additionally, Google Earth users can now directly share locations with a simple link.

Exploring with Google Earth

Google Earth’s massive update really brings some great improvements to what was already a great service. Check it out.

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Google Patches New Chrome Bug

Last week Google updated Chrome to patch several recently discovered vulnerabilities, including a bug in the browser’s JavaScript engine that a Chinese team tried to exploit at a recent hacking contest.

The update to version 57.0.2987.133 contained fixes for five vulnerabilities, one marked “Critical” — the most serious rating in Google’s system — and the others tagged “High.”

Of the four vulnerabilities ranked High, one was attributed to “Team Sniper,” one of five groups from Chinese company Tencent Security that participated in this year’s edition of Pwn2Own, one of the world’s best-known hacking contests. Pwn2Own ran March 15-17 alongside the CanSecWest conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Google noted that the bug used by Team Sniper was an “out-of-bounds memory access [vulnerability] in V8,” Chrome’s JavaScript engine. As is Google’s practice, it did not divulge any other information about the flaw. After several weeks, or even months — enough time for most users to update the browser — Google usually lifts the embargo on the bug report and its technical data.

No other individual researcher or team of hackers attempted to crack Chrome at Pwn2Own. Several successful attacks were conducted against other browsers during the contest, however, including five that compromised Microsoft’s Edge, four that broke Apple’s Safari and one which hijacked Mozilla’s Firefox.

Make sure you update your Chrome browser today. Here’s how:

Normally updates happen in the background when you close and reopen your computer’s browser. But if you haven’t closed your browser in a while, you might see a pending update:

  1. On your computer, open Chrome.
  2. At the top right, look at More More.
  3. If an update is pending, the icon will be colored:
    • Green: An update’s been available for 2 days.
    • Orange: An update’s been available for 4 days.
    • Red: An update’s been available for 7 days.

To update Google Chrome:

  1. On your computer, open Chrome.
  2. At the top right, click More More.
  3. Click Update Google Chrome. If you don’t see this button, you’re on the latest version.
  4. Click Relaunch.

The browser saves your opened tabs and windows and reopens them automatically when it restarts. If you’d prefer not to restart right away, click Not now. The next time you restart your browser, the update will be applied.

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