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Researchers discover malicious add-on on Google’s Chrome browser with over 32 million downloads 

The problem of deceptive extensions has lingered for years, starting out as unwanted advertisements.

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Researchers discover malicious add-on on Google’s Chrome browser with over 32 million downloads 

Researchers at Awake Security have discovered a far-reaching malicious add-on on Google’s Chrome web browser.

The spyware, according to the research company, comes as free extensions to the Chrome web browser and has had over 32 million downloads.

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Most of these free extensions, they said, claims to convert files from one format to the other, or to warn users about questionable websites, but ends up siphoning users’ browsing history and data that provide credentials for access to internal business tools.

This spyware could pose a huge risk to internet users, both individuals, and corporate organisations. Speaking to Reuters, former National Security Agency engineer Ben Johnson said “anything that gets you into somebody’s browser or email or other sensitive areas would be a target for national espionage as well as organized crime”.

Johnson, who is also founder of security companies Carbon Black and Obsidian Security, notes that this shows a security weakness, although it is still unclear who could be behind the efforts to distribute the malware.

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READ MORE: All Tech Companies eventually became Fintechs- Google to launch new debit card

According to Awake co-founder and chief scientist Gary Golomb, the number of downloads shows that this might be the most far-reaching malicious Chrome store campaign to date.

He added that the extensions appeared to be designed to avoid detection by antivirus companies or security software that evaluates the reputations of web domains.

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Google responds

Alphabet Inc’s Google said it has removed more than 70 of the malicious add-ons from its official Chrome Web Store after being alerted by the researchers last month.

“When we are alerted of extensions in the Web Store that violate our policies, we take action and use those incidents as training material to improve our automated and manual analyses,” Google spokesman Scott Westover told Reuters.

Westover, however, declined to discuss the extent of damage caused by this latest spyware, how it compares with previous spywares, or why it did not detect the bad extensions on its own despite having a team dedicated to that purpose.

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READ MORE: Google Maps to alert users about travel restrictions related to COVID-19

The problem of deceptive extensions has lingered for years, starting out as unwanted advertisements which stole users data once they clicked on it; before progressing to malicious programs which when installed, track users and what they do on their systems.

Just in February 2020, independent researcher Jamila Kaya and Cisco Systems’ Duo Security uncovered a similar malware that stole data from about 1.7 million users. Google joined the investigation and found 500 fraudulent extensions.

Google has always promised to improve security through regular sweeps.

 

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Patricia

Ruth Okwumbu has a MSc. and BSc. in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Delta state university respectively. Prior to her role as analyst at Nairametrics, she had a progressive six year writing career. As a Business Analyst with Narametrics, she focuses on profiles of top business executives, founders, startups and the drama surrounding their successes and challenges. You may contact her via [email protected]

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3 startups to get N3 million grant each in the COVID-19 virtual hackathon 

The hackathon hopes to identify accessible and cost-effective E-Learning solutions for public schools.

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3 startups to get N3 million grant each in the COVID-19 virtual hackathon 

The Nigerian Communications Commission has announced that 3 finalist startups will get a grant of N3 million each at the end of the COVID-19 virtual hackathon 

These three startups will be selected from submitted entries that meet all the criteria and provide adaptable digital solutions for addressing the present and future impacts of pandemic and epidemic diseases 

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The solutions must be novel, clearly explained, with proof of concept  

NCC announced this through a statement published on its Twitter handle.  

The grant, it said, will enable the three startups with the most promising digital solutions to produce a prototype within 2 months of receipt.  

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READ ALSO: Commissioner urges youths to explore World Bank’s $200 million grant 

According to the statement, submitted entries are expected to provide solutions in sectors such as health, digital communications, education, transportation.  

For those in health, the solutions should find a way to empower frontline healthcare workers or prevent, trace, and contain the spread in Nigeria.  

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Solutions in digital communications are expected to aid the sustenance of economic activities and people-to-people communication while encouraging social distancing without compromising productivity. 

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The hackathon also hopes to identify accessible and cost-effective E-Learning solutions for public schools, as well as improved safety measures in public transportation in Nigeria.  

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Interested tech hubs, startups and innovative digital SMEs can still submit entries on or before July 17, 2020.  

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Hushpuppi extradited to the United States

Hushpuppi and Woodberry were arrested along with ten other African suspects in an operation tagged “Fox Hunt 2”.

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Hushpuppi extradited to the United States

Alleged Nigerian fraudsters, Raymond Igbalode Abbas (Hushpuppi) and Olalekan Jacon Ponle (Woodberry) have been extradited to the United States, according to a statement by the Dubai police.

In an announcement on Thursday afternoon, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Christopher Wray praised the “exceptional effort exerted by the United Arab Emirates”, in fighting transnational organized cybercrime including the arrest of Hushpuppi and Woodberry taken down in the operation Fox Hunt 2.

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Director Wray also praised Dubai’s police for their cooperation in extraditing the “unwanted criminals”, who committed money-laundering and multiple cybercrimes to the United States”.

Hushpuppi and Woodberry were arrested along with ten other African suspects in the special operation “ Fox Hunt 2”.

READ MORE:  U.S. publishes names of 6 Nigerians charged with internet fraud against Americans

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The suspects are accused of committing crimes outside the UAE, including money-laundering, hacking, criminal impersonation, cyber fraud, banking fraud and identity theft.

The Dubai CID, Brigadier Jamal Salem Al Jallaf said incriminating documents were found of planned frauds worth a total of $435 Million.

Also seized in the arrest were $40.9 million in cash, 12 luxury cars valued at $6.8 million, 21 Computer Devices, 47 Smartphones, 15 memory sticks and five hard disks containing “119,580 fraud files as well as addresses of 1,926,400 victims.”

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Tech News

Facebook bans racist ads, in response to ad boycotts by big brands

Nearly 100 brands resolved to pull their ads in support of the #StopHateForProfit movement.

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COVID 19: Facebook provides free Ads to help WHO combat Misinformation, Facebook to change Libra unveiling plans, Facebook launches new messaging app, 'Tuned', just for couples, Facebook bans racist ads, in response to ad boycotts by big brands

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has announced a change in the company’s policies to now prohibit hate speech and racist content in its advertisement.

Speaking over the weekend, Zuckerberg explained that the new policy will ban advertisements “that claim people from a specific race, ethnicity, nationality, caste, gender, sexual orientation or immigration origin are a threat to the physical safety or health of anyone else”

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Also, Facebook will do more to protect immigrants, migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers from ads that suggest they are inferior to other groups of people or from ads that express contempt, dismissal or disgust directed at them.

In a Bloomberg interview, the CEO had noted that the company will ensure that Facebook remains a place where everyone can use their voice to discuss important issues, but that any attempt to incite violence, suppress voting, or discriminate a group of people, will be checked.

Why the policy change?

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This change in policy comes after a weeklong tussle with advertisers with nearly 100 brands resolving to pull their ads from Facebook for the month of July or longer, as part of the #StopHateForProfit movement.

READ MORE: Facebook takes on Zoom with its new video chat feature

The movement is being backed by organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Sleeping Giants, Color of Change, Free Press and Common Sense.

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Although Zuckerberg made no mention of these boycotts, it would appear that this is a move to pacify advertisers, and prevent competitor platforms like Pinterest, Amazon and —- from swooping in to take advantage of the situation.

That movement protests “Facebook’s repeated failure to meaningfully address the vast proliferation of hate on its platforms.”

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The brands boycotting the platform includes big spenders like Unilever, Coca-cola and Verizon, as well as some other smaller companies like Patagonia, REI, Lending Club and The North Face, according to a running list from Sleeping Giants.

It is not certain how much impact this would have on the company’s finances, given that Facebook has over 8 million advertisers on its platform, the bigger brands may soon influence more companies to join the movement.

The companies had explained during the week that Facebook was not the target of the movement but to drive home a message on the moderation of bigoted and prejudiced contents.

There is yet no hint as to whether the brands are pleased with Facebook’s new move, but it is clear that if the boycotts continue, the brands will likely shift their ad spending to other companies.

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While announcing its decision to stop ads on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the U.S. for the rest of the year, Luis Di Como, EVP of Global Media, said in a statement;

“We are actively engaging with all digital platforms to make meaningful change and impact trust and transparency,” the statement said. “We have made substantial progress, and we acknowledge the efforts of our partners, but there is much more to be done, especially in the areas of divisiveness and hate speech during this polarized election period in the U.S.”

He added that the company will explore other media options for its ads in the U.S. in a bid to discourage “divisiveness and hate speech during this polarized election period in the U.S.”

According to marketing analytics firm Pathmatics, Unilever has spent more than $11.8 million in the U.S. this year on Facebook ads alone .

Coca-Cola CEO and Chairman, James Quincey, said in his statement that the company was not joining the official boycott like other big brands, but was only pausing ads on all social media platforms globally for the month of July.

“We will take this time to reassess our advertising policies to determine whether revisions are needed. We also expect greater accountability and transparency from our social media partners” he said.

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