Google Alerts accidentally circulating malware among users

Fraudsters are using black SEO, Google Sites and spam pages to push fake data breach notifications impersonating big name companies in an effort to distribute malware and scams.

As reported by BleepingComputer, Google Alerts help to spread these fake notifications as the service monitors search results looking for user-defined keywords. To spread their malware, the scammers either created pages or used compromised websites to combine the term data breach with well-known brands.

The news outlet has seen fake breach notifications for many companies including EA, Dropbox, Hulu, PayPal, Target, Mjoang and more. However, what ties all of these companies together is the fact that they have all fallen victim to a data breach in the past.

If a user clicks on any of the links picked up by Google Alerts, they end up going to pages with fake giveaways, download offers for unwanted extensions and malware. The fraudsters have made it harder to detect their malicious behavior though by making it so that these pages don't directly reveal the true nature of their campaign. Instead, users may see a “page not found” error or a text-filled page created to promote a fake data breach.

Ranking higher in search results

BleepingComputer also discovered a hacked website containing a directory with around 2,000 text files which contain specific keywords in order to promote a topic in Google's search results. The information inside these blobs of text was copied from public sources and covers a wide variety of subjects. When a user searchers for a certain topic online, the scammer's results rank higher in search results and are more likely to be clicked on.

In addition to using compromised websites, the scammers may also set up their own pages and in many cases they used a free tool from Google called Google Sites to do so. When a user clicks on a Google link for one of these fake pages, the link actually redirects them through multiple addresses before the final site is reached.

The scammers also used fake Adobe Flash update notifications to spread their malware. These fake alerts popped up in both Google Chrome and in Mozilla Firefox. Fake giveaways were also used by the scammers to lure potential victims.

To prevent falling victim to these scams, users should remain alert online, especially when clicking on links in search results, and remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Via BleepingComputer

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Google Pixel 4a release date, price, specs, news and leaks

The Google Pixel 4a is starting to look like the Pixel 4 device you may actually buy, and it could be such a good value that it ends up as one of 2020's best affordable phones

But it's been weeks since we first expected Google to officially announce the Pixel 4a and it still hasn't been unveiled. While we'd last expected it to come out alongside the Android 11 beta, now that that's officially launched, we aren't sure when we'll see Google's next mid-range device.

In any case, it's long past the time last year when Google surprised everyone by releasing the Pixel 3a and 3a XL in the middle of 2019 as affordable versions of the Pixel 3 and 3 XL retaining some of the best perks of the premium devices at a mid-range pricetag. In short, consumers could once again get the famed Pixel photography at an affordable price.

Leaks have started flowing in since the beginning of 2020, so it looks like a budget Google Pixel 4a could be coming at some point soon – although we've heard that the phone will be released alone without its larger XL sibling. That might make sense, though we'd hope the regular 4a wouldn't retain the standard Pixel 4's battery issues.

The Pixel 4 and 4 XL were popular devices, but didn't land with quite the fanfare of the Pixel 3 handsets. The cheaper Pixel 4a phones could be Google's opportunity to win back consumers, especially those who have been reducing their phone budgets amid the current outbreak.

Below we've put together everything we know so far about the upcoming phones including details on when to expect it and the first images of the upcoming handsets.

Latest story: It looks like the Pixel 4a might not go on sale until October now, though we're still crossing our fingers for an announcement about the phone on July 13.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? An affordable variant of the Pixel 4 smartphone
  • When is it out? We should find out on July 13
  • How much will it cost? Around $ 399 / £399 / AU$ 649 or less

Google Pixel 4a release date

Google Pixel 4

The Google Pixel 4

Originally, we had expected to see Google introduce its next affordable devices at Google IO 2020, which was expected to take place between May 12-14, but that event has now been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL were announced at last year's Google IO, but in its absence, we'd heard a rumor that the Google Pixel 4a could release on May 22. That date has come and gone.

A subsequent rumor suggested a later date of June 5. Why? Probably to coincide with the Android 11 public beta launch – but that itself got pushed back, and we still haven't seen the Pixel 4a.

According to those in the know, Google will now reveal details about the Pixel 4a on July 13, though the handset won't go on sale until October. It might even be renamed the Pixel 5a and go on sale with the Pixel 5.

Yet another rumor, however, claims the Pixel 4a launch will get delayed until July 13, though we're not sure why. It will be announced without an XL model, the rumor states – and it won't be 5G-capable.

Google Pixel 4a price

The Pixel 3a cost $ 399 / £399 / AU$ 649 at launch, while the Pixel 3a XL cost $ 479 / £469 / AU$ 799. In terms of how much you'll pay for the 4a, the Google Pixel 4a price could actually be lower than the Pixel 3a price. That could be due to regional price differences – or because Google might intentionally lowball the phone's pricetag amid a more competitive mid-range market.

For instance, one price rumor puts the Pixel 4a at $ 349 (roughly £285 / AU$ 540) for 128GB of storage – so you'd be paying less and getting twice as much storage. And it's always possible there would be an even cheaper 64GB model. But Google might be thinking of a baseline lower price: the company allegedly surveyed consumers to see if they'd buy a non-premium Pixel phone for $ 349 (around £246 / AU$ 535).

Having said that, an older price rumor points to $ 399, which is exactly the same as the Pixel 3a, so we're not sure right now.

Google Pixel 4a design and display

Google Pixel 3a XL

The Google Pixel 3a XL

We're going to start with a rumor that might disappoint some of you: word is that Google might not put out a Pixel 4a XL, only focusing on the smaller device. 

Apparently this is so people looking for a bigger phone stick with the Pixel 4 XL, as supposedly the Pixel 3a XL stole sales from the Pixel 3 XL.

While that rumor is seemingly backed up by the relative lack of Pixel 4a XL rumors, we've heard there could be three Pixel 4a devices, including a 5G model. This comes from Android code which refers to three different devices, presumably consisting of a main device as well as an XL and 5G phone, although they aren't named as such.

Those devices have appeared again in subsequent Google code, and this time two of them were alongside the phrase ‘pixel_20_mid_range’, all but confirming that they're unannounced mid-range Pixel phones, though the source speculates that the third code name might refer to a circuit board rather than a device.

As such, we'd say there might well be a Pixel 4a XL, but either way there's almost certainly at least going to be a Pixel 4a. So what will the base Pixel 4a look like? We think it'll be like the below, which we don't believe are hands on shots of the phone and are instead doctored image of the original Pixel.

We've left these images here though as they show what other sources believe the device may look like. It may have a punch-hole selfie camera in the top left of the screen, which would be a first for a Pixel phone.

Some unofficial renders of the device as well as a leaked case render show a similar design to the fake photos above too, and it's likely these were where the design was taken from.

Elsewhere, we've also seen leaked images seemingly showing retail boxes for the phone, which match the design above.

Google Pixel 4a specs

We've also seen a full specs leak for the Pixel 4a, claiming that it will have a 5.81-inch 1080 x 2340 OLED screen, a mid-range Snapdragon 730 chipset, 6GB of RAM, a 3,080mAh battery, 128GB of storage, a 12.2MP main camera, an 8MP front-facing one (in a punch-hole), a 3.5mm headphone port, and that it will come in Just Black’ and ‘Barely Blue’ shades.

There's also said to be no Soli chip, which allowed you to navigate the Pixel 4 hands-free (well, in theory). This is unlikely to be available on the Pixel 4a in order to keep the price as low as possible.

What is powering the Google Pixel 4a? That's currently a little uncertain as while the leaks above points to a Snapdragon 730, an investigation run by XDA Developers dug up prototypes of the phone that run both the Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 and the Snapdragon 765.

The Snapdragon 765 prototype may be a 5G-ready version of the phone as that chipset is designed to power 5G hardware. We've heard conflicting rumors on whether there will be a next-gen internet version of the Pixel 4a, but consistent rumors suggest it may be a reality.

A leaked benchmarks score also suggests the phone will be more powerful than the Google Pixel 3a but won't be as capable about the Pixel 4 series. It scored 6,366 in Geekbench 4 testing, which is quite impressive.

Based on a leaked image posted to the web, we're looking at 6GB of RAM (as leaked above) and faster UFS 2.1 flash storage when the Pixel 4a finally appears, with 64GB being one of the storage options. When we say faster, it's an upgrade on the flash storage used in the Pixel 3a. 

Google Pixel 4a camera

Then we have the camera to talk about. We're expecting it to be similar to the Google Pixel 4's shooter – one of the best smartphone cameras around – but it's unlikely to have all the bells and whistles of that device's tech.

Someone with an early piece of hardware has provided the below camera samples with the Google Pixel 4a. It seems the shooter works well at color reproduction, but there's no gurantee this sort of tech will make its way onto the final device.

The tweet adds more evidence to the suggestion we'll see a 12MP main shooter on the Google Pixel 4a.

What we want to see in the Google Pixel 4a

The Google Pixel 4 was an innovative flagship feature, but when it comes to adapting this feature to a budget price tag, there are a few things we'd like it to consider. Here's what we want to see:

1. Bring back the fingerprint scanner

Google Pixel 4

The Google Pixel 4

The Google Pixel 4 has no rear-mounted fingerprint scanner like the Pixel 3, not does it have an in-screen one like many premium smartphones around. Instead, it relies on facial recognition unlocking for you to access your phone.

For some, this is a useful feature to help them get into their phone quickly and easily; others find this an unsecured and frustrating experience. For the Pixel 4a, we'd like Google to drop this feature, and instead have a physical or screen-mounted fingerprint sensor.

It's likely Google will make this change, as the tech involved in efficient face unlocking adds quite a bit of price to the phone, so if the company wants to slash the price of the new device, it'd make sense to remove face recognition first.

2. Improved battery life

Google Pixel 3a XL

The Google Pixel 3a XL

A recurring problem with Google Pixel smartphones is that their battery lives always leave a lot to be desired, and plummet quicker than competing devices. Saying that, the Pixel 3a solved that problem with a bigger battery capacity and a weaker processor, which meant it drained battery less.

Since most normal people need smartphone batteries that'll last them a day, even in a pinch, the more affordable and accessible Pixel 4a needs a battery that'll last it this long, which means a bigger capacity than the 4 as well as tools in place to keep it going longer, like canny optimizations.

3. Drop the 90Hz screen

This is bound to be a pretty controversial suggestion, but if Google is looking for features to cut to keep the Pixel 4a price down, we'd argue the 90Hz screen is an unnecessary luxury that could be lost without making the device worse.

While some people really love 90Hz screens in phones like the Pixel 4, as it makes the viewing experience a little smoother, many more people struggle to notice the difference, especially people who aren't huge tech fans who don't know the feature is in place.

That means it's not a vital feature, and when there are aspects of the Pixel 4 that we would like to see in the 4a, we'd say the 90Hz screens are expendable.

4. Keep the telephoto camera

Google Pixel 4 camera

The Google Pixel 4’s main camera

The Google Pixel 4 smartphones bumped the number of cameras on Google's devices from one to two, adding a telephoto snapper for optical zoom.

The Pixel 3a devices saw the cameras slightly downgraded from the Pixel 3 line, but that was purely in terms of software post-processing, and the hardware was exactly the same. 

A telephoto lens in a camera is really useful, so you can take better pictures of a subject without dropping the quality dramatically, and we'd love to see it kept in the Pixel 4a. We'd be surprised if this wasn't the case, as the telephoto lens really ties the rear design together. And talking of Pixel 4a design…

5. Stick with the weird design

Google Pixel 4

The Google Pixel 4 XL (left) and Google Pixel 4

The Google Pixel 4 smartphones are weird looking devices, there's no getting around that. They're bare on the back except for a pretty sizeable camera bump (no fingerprint sensor, like in previous Pixels), with a glass back but a rubber frame around the edges. Yep, you read that right, rubber in a smartphone!

On the front, there's a notch the likes of which you barely see in modern smartphones, with a sizeable chin at the bottom of the screen. All in all, the Pixel 4 devices are far from 'conventional' Android phones, for better or worse.

Well, we kind of like the design. It's unique, and the Pixel 4 feels distinct in hand when you're using it. We'd like to see the Pixel 4a retain the 'weird' design, especially the rubber frame, as we found it great for protecting the phone. 

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Google Cloud wants to help you detect security threats

As part of its efforts to better cater to enterprise customers, Google Cloud has announced a number of new security capabilities including a new way to utilize Chronicle's security analytics platform to detect threats.

The cybersecurity company Chronicle may have started out as part of Alphabet's moonshot X unit but last year it was folded into Google Cloud. Now customers will be able to use the company's security analytics platform to detect threats using a new rules language called YARA-L which has been built specifically for modern threats and behaviors.

YARA is a popular, open source language used for writing rules to detect malware and the Chronicle team created a new version of it to apply to security logs and other telemetry such as EDR data and network traffic. 

YARA-L provides security analysts with the ability to write rules which are better suited for detecting modern threats and according to Google, it allows for scalable, real-time and retroactive rule execution.

New data structure

Google Cloud also revealed that Chronicle is introducing a new data structure which combines a new data model with the ability to automatically link multiple events into a single timeline. This will certainly make things easier for security analysts who will no longer have to manically collect logs following a security incident.

Palo Alto Networks Cortex XSOAR will be the first Google Cloud partner to integrate with this new structure and the firm's VP of Product Strategy, Rishi Bhargava explained how Chronicle's new detection capabilities have enhanced its response in a blog post, saying:

“Cortex XSOAR offers automated enrichment, response and case management to enterprise-wide threats. The integration with Chronicle’s new detection capabilities and event timelines, across months or years of data, enhances that response and enables comprehensive threat management for our mutual customers.”

Additionally, Google is making its Web Risk API and reCAPTCHA Enterprise services generally available in an effort to help organizations protect user accounts from fraudulent activities online. The reCAPTCHA Enterprise service helps protect against scraping, credential misuse and automated account creation while the Web Risk API helps organizations identify known bad sites, warns users when they click on a bad link and prevents users from posting links to known malicious pages.

  • Keep your devices protected with our top picks for the best antivirus software

Via ZDNet

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Google Cloud is now able to store all your secrets

Google Cloud has announced a new tool aimed at helping users securely store their API keys, passwords, certificates and other data online.

Secret Manager provides the company's customers with a single tool to manage their data as well as a centralized source of truth.

In a blog post announcing the new tool, Google developer advocate Seth Vargo and product manager Matt Driscoll provided further insight on the kinds of problems Secret Manager will help solve, saying:

“Many applications require credentials to connect to a database, API keys to invoke a service, or certificates for authentication. Managing and securing access to these secrets is often complicated by secret sprawl, poor visibility, or lack of integrations.”

Secret Manager

Google already provides an open-source command-line tool for managing secrets called Berglas. With the launch of Secret Manager, both tools will work together and users will even be able to move their secrets from the open-source tool to Secret Manager. Berglas can also be used to create and access secrets from Secret Manager.

Google's Key Management Service (KMS) provides users with a fully managed system to handle their keys. However, KMS does not actually store the secrets but instead encrypts the secrets you store elsewhere. Secret Manager on the other hand, provides users with a way to easily store and manage these secrets in Google Cloud.

Secret Manager includes the tools needed to manage secret versions and audit logging. The secrets stored in the tool are also project-based global resources which sets it apart from competing tools which often manage secrets on a regional basis.

Google Cloud customers can begin using Secret Manager today as the new tool is currently in beta and available to all.

Via TechCrunch

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Looking for Google Pixel 4 deals? These EE tariffs blow everything else away right now

The Google Pixel 4, the latest phone from the search engine giant, has been around for a good few months now. In that time we've seen prices shoot up, down, left, right and just about every direction imaginable but now, costs seem to have settled…at least for one network.

Currently, the EE network seems to have secured all of the cheapest Google Pixel 4 deals. That means currently there are options ranging from £23 a month (with lots of upfront costs, of course) through to free upfront plans on EE giving you plenty of choice.

However, when there is so much choice, picking the perfect plan can be daunting. That's why we've analysed a heap of Pixel 4 plans and picked out the top three available on EE right now.

We've listed these three plans below so you can find your perfect contract. And if you find them all lacking in the data department, try this 100GB data Three plan out for size.

The Google Pixel 4 offers a number of innovative features and major upgrades. It's the first phone to fully implement motion sense features, allowing you to use the phone with gestures.

The processor has gotten a major upgrade, finally bringing the Pixel range up to competitive standards of RAM, and the OLED screen has seen major improvements, now capable of 90HZ refresh rates and offering ambient EQ technology that lets you adjust the screen to your environment.

Read our full Google Pixel 4 review and Pixel 4 XL review

Read more:

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Google makes datasets easier to find online

Researchers and academics searching for datasets online will now have an easier time doing so as Google's Dataset Search is now out of beta and includes new tools to better filter searches with access to close to 25m datasets.

Dataset Search first launched in 2018 as part of the company's goal to put an end to the fragmentation of open-access data. 

While many universities, governments and labs publish their data online, it is often difficult to find using traditional search engines. However, by adding open source metadata tags to their web pages, these groups can have their data indexed by Google's Dataset Search.

Although the search giant did not share an specific usage figures for Dataset Search, the company says that “hundreds of thousands of users” have tried it out since its launch and that the tool has received positive support from the scientific community.

Dataset Search

The Verge spoke with a research scientist at Google AI who helped create the tool named Natasha Noy who said that “most [data] repositories have been very responsive” and that Dataset Search has even encouraged older scientific institutions to take “publishing metadata more seriously”.

Now that the tool is out of beta, Google has added new features to it including the ability to filter data by type (tables, images, text, etc), whether it is free to use and also the geographic area it covers. Dataset Search is also now available on mobile and it has expanded dataset descriptions.

According to Google, the tool's search engine covers almost 25m datasets, though this is only a “fraction of datasets on the web”. The largest topics indexed by Dataset Search include geosciences, biology and agriculture with education, weather, cancer, crime, soccer and dogs being the most common queries.

Making data available to users is what Google does best and the company plans to continue to add more datasets to Dataset Search.

Via The Verge

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