Miss­ing the mark

We may not be able to go a day with­out our gad­gets, but the tech giants we rely on aren’t above mak­ing mis­takes. Here are some of the blun­ders that made head­lines this year.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By SU­SANNA KHOO and ZAM KARIM bytz@thes­tar.com.my

TO­DAY’S thriv­ing tech scene de­rives a lot of its en­ergy and drive from the fact that ev­ery­thing keeps chang­ing… and re­ally fast too. But one of the prob­lems with try­ing to quickly keep pace with the lat­est and great­est trends or mar­ket de­mands is that you some­times get a lit­tle sloppy in the process and make a bun­gle of things.

Well, ev­ery­one makes mis­takes, the say­ing goes, but some of these blun­ders may turn out to be rather un­for­get­table. Here’s our com­pi­la­tion of what we think are the most out­stand­ing blun­ders made by all our favourite tech names over the course of this year.

But wait. Be­fore you run through them all, do re­mem­ber to take it all in the right spirit. No­body’s per­fect, as we all know, so there are great lessons here for all of us to take to heart as well.

Messed up chats

Google is a name that many of us have come to know and love. How­ever, the com­pany might have un­wit­tingly lost some of the ado­ra­tion of its fans, thanks to sev­eral faults it com­mit­ted through­out 2013.

Al­though most of us are prob­a­bly al­ready aware of the fact that any ex­changes we have on­line may be mon­i­tored by third par­ties, noth­ing could have pre­pared us for the may­hem that en­sued in­volv­ing Google’s GTalk and Hang­out in­stant mes­sag­ing ser­vices.

Users of both ser­vices en­coun­tered prob­lems in Septem­ber where their chat mes­sages were wrongly routed to un­in­tended re­cip­i­ents. There was no in­di­ca­tion given to users that their mes­sages were be­ing mis­de­liv­ered, and most users only dis­cov­ered the is­sue when puz­zled con­tacts of theirs voiced it out to them.

Al­though the prob­lem only lasted for sev­eral hours and was promptly re­solved by Google, it was re­garded as a se­ri­ous pri­vacy breach and many alarmed users took to so­cial me­dia out­lets like Twit­ter to voice their con­cerns.

Re­ports on this mat­ter ob­served that the prob­lem tended to af­fect those on legacy Google Talk clients who were com­mu­ni­cat­ing with con­tacts on the newer Google Hang­outs plat­form. Google Apps for Busi­ness ac­counts were said to have been af­fected as well.

In fact, mem­bers of the Bytz

team faced these very same is­sues too at that time, and the thought of our pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions be­com­ing more pub­lic than they were in­tended to be was not a par­tic­u­larly ex­cit­ing one. Es­pe­cially if the one who ac­ci­den­tally read your mes­sages was in fact a per­son who had been men­tioned in the con­ver­sa­tion it­self.

The cause for this blun­der was never ac­tu­ally re­vealed by Google, but some be­lieve it was due to tech­ni­cal is­sues Google faced when mi­grat­ing users from GTalk to Hang­outs plat­form. This is be­cause a new Hang­outs up­date had been re­leased for the An­droid plat­form around that time.

Oops, that’s not for you

It was called App Ops, and it was a seem­ingly clan­des­tine fea­ture that had some­how made its way into ver­sion 4.3 (Jelly Bean) of the An­droid soft­ware.

Blogs like An­droid Po­lice de­scribed it as “hid­den fea­ture” while in­ter­na­tional non-profit dig­i­tal rights group, Elec­tronic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion (EFF) praised it for be­ing “a huge ad­vance in An­droid pri­vacy” which it felt was “a ne­ces­sity for any­one who wants to use the OS (op­er­at­ing sys­tem)” while “lim­it­ing how in­tru­sive” mo­bile apps could be.

Es­sen­tially, the ben­e­fit of App Ops was that it gave an An­droid user the abil­ity to con­fig­ure the de­sired level of per­mis­sion for each and ev­ery app that had been in­stalled on a par­tic­u­lar mo­bile de­vice.

In or­der to gain ac­cess to the App Ops menu, all that a user would have to do would be to in­stall a third-party app such as Color Tiger’s

App Ops 4.3/4.4 KitKat or Ap­pa­holic’s Per­mis­sion Man­ager.

This was un­doubt­edly a fea­ture worth re­joic­ing over when it was dis­cov­ered ear­lier this year, but un­for­tu­nately, that joy was short lived.

Just re­cently, on Dec 13, Reuters re­ported that Google has taken this ex­tremely use­ful fea­ture out from the lat­est ver­sion of its An­droid soft­ware, ver­sion 4.4.2 (KitKat).

Calling it an ac­ci­dent that it had been in­cluded in the first place, Google has now left users in the lurch. They are forced to choose be­tween ei­ther fore­go­ing the up­date and miss­ing out on se­cu­rity patches (the lat­est up­date in­cludes fixes to se­cu­rity and de­nial-of­ser­vice bugs) or up­grad­ing to ver­sion 4.4.2 and in so do­ing, lose the App Ops fea­ture al­to­gether and no longer be able to con­trol pri­vacy set­tings at a more gran­u­lar level.

“We are sus­pi­cious of this ex­pla­na­tion, and do not think that it in any way jus­ti­fies re­mov­ing the fea­ture rather than im­prov­ing it,” Peter Eck­er­s­ley, tech­nol­ogy projects di­rec­tor at EFF had said via the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s Deeplinks blog.

We can’t help but agree with him, ac­tu­ally. The most that An­droid users can hope for is for the fea­ture to make a come­back in a later it­er­a­tion, prefer­ably a sooner one. But, at this point, there aren’t any guar­an­tees that this might hap­pen at all.

Data­base dilemma

In yet another ex­am­ple of the con­se­quences of lax pass­word en­cryp­tion, Adobe be­came the lat­est vic­tim of a mas­sive data breach in Oc­to­ber af­fect­ing up to a whop­ping 150 mil­lion users.

In a sce­nario rem­i­nis­cent of Sony’s PlayS­ta­tion net­work se­cu­rity fi­asco just two years ago, hack­ers man­aged to gain ac­cess to a vast amount of Adobe cus­tomers’ ID and en­crypted pass­words.

Se­cu­rity ex­perts be­lieve that this is be­cause Adobe — which makes the pop­u­lar Pho­to­shop and Flash, amongst oth­ers — had en­crypted the ac­counts’ pass­words but not their user­names or pass­word hints.

That open­ing was enough for hack­ers, as the vis­i­ble in­for­ma­tion could be eas­ily used to crack cus­tomers ac­counts be­cause most tend to grav­i­tate to­wards easyto-guess pass­words like “Adobe123”, “123456” and even “pass­word”.

Real­is­ing that the same Adobe cus­tomers could prob­a­bly be us­ing the same lo­gin and pass­word when ac­cess­ing ac­counts on other web­sites, com­pa­nies like Face­book and Ama­zon took charge of their own user base and warned those to change their pass­words too.

How­ever, in Adobe’s case, what re­ally an­gered cus­tomers was the fact that the com­pany didn’t start send­ing out e-mail mes­sages to peo­ple af­fected by the hack un­til close to a month af­ter the news first came to light.

In what may be seen as a belated move, Adobe is now re­set­ting the pass­words of af­fected cus­tomers as well as no­ti­fy­ing those whose credit or debit card in­for­ma­tion was com­pro­mised.

The soft­ware gi­ant has also pledged to to of­fer these cus­tomers the op­tion of en­rolling in a one-year com­pli­men­tary credit mon­i­tor­ing mem­ber­ship, where avail­able.

Blun­ders ahoy: The year 2013 saw plenty of gaffes com­mit­ted by our favourite tech and so­cial me­dia giants.

The re­place­ment of the block­ing fea­ture with a mute func­tion an­gered users.

GTalk and Hang­outs users had their chat mes­sages wrongly routed to un­in­tended re­cip­i­ents in Septem­ber, lead­ing to much em­barass­ment.

adobe was hit by a mas­sive data breach that af­fected 150 mil­lion users, made worse be­cause the com­pany didn’t en­crypt the user­names or pass­word hints.

Google has taken the ex­tremely use­ful app ops fea­ture out from the lat­est ver­sion of its an­droid soft­ware, ver­sion 4.4.2 (KitKat).

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.