Archive for Google

Google Canada Announces Applications For The 2022 Google For Startups Accelerator Canada Cohort

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 17, 2022 by itnerd

Today, Google Canada has announced that applications are open for the 2022 cohort of the Google for Startups Accelerator Canada. The intensive ten-week bootcamp is designed to bring the best of Google’s programs, products, people and technology to Canadian startups that leverage machine learning and AI in their company today or plan to in the future. Up to twelve Canadian technology startups will be selected to participate.

The pandemic has prompted a shift in the ways in which Canada’s talent collaborate, scale and grow – making mentorship opportunities integral. With startups greatly contributing to Canada’s growing tech ecosystem, the program seeks to foster Canada’s growing tech talent through detailed technical training and strategic counsel through one-to-on mentorship opportunities with Google experts.

Past graduates have included Neurescence, a leading optical imaging company for understanding short and long-range brain circuits, ArkAngel AI, a team focused on using AI to quickly detect diseases in order to improve the patient experience. And AccessNow, a mobile and web-based app that allows users to discover accessible locations based on a variety of types of access criteria. The program is open to startups across all sectors, and will kick off the week of July 25th.

Google Changes Course And Lets Lets Personal Users Stay On ‘No-Cost Legacy G Suite’ With Custom Gmail Domain

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 17, 2022 by itnerd

Earlier this year, Google announced that they were going to shut down G Suite Legacy Free Edition and that prompted outrage and had lawyers sniffing around for a big payday. That led to Google flip flopping on that to a degree and announcing that Legacy G Suite Users would be able to migrate to free accounts. But that didn’t calm the waters. Here’s a comment that was left on that story:

The new change offered by Google doesn’t help many… Families that had a family domain still lose that and, importantly, non-profit / volunteer organisations, like Scout Groups etc., who may have been running their organisation’s email on this platform for 15 years will lose all of that functionality. The fact is that for those signing up prior to 2012 or whenever the change was, were all promised that they could have Google for your Domain free FOREVER… Google needs to keep its promises – if they were possibly every going to say years down the track that the situation has changed, then they should not have promised in the first place… once they’ve made the promise they need to stick to it.

Well, it took a few months, but it looks like Google has again reconsidered. You can keep your custom domain, and:

Besides the custom Gmail domain, you will “retain access to no-cost Google services” and “keep your purchases and data.”

  • You will retain access to the no-cost version of Google Workspace services such as Google Drive and Google Meet, and additional Google services such as Google Search, Google Maps, and YouTube
  • You will retain access to paid content such as movie purchases at Google Play and data stored on Google Workspace

However, you must confirm to Google that your usage is “for non-commercial personal use.”

I am once again interested in hearing from people who are affected by this to get their thoughts. This seems like Google is listening and doing what is right. But maybe I am reading this wrong. Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Google releases 2021 Ads Safety Report

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 4, 2022 by itnerd

Today, Google released the 2021 edition of their annual Ads Safety Report. With user safety a top priority, the report showcases the work Google is doing to improve user privacy in digital advertising across Google’s advertising ecosystem – in order to protect users and curb bad practices by malicious actors. In fact, Google tripled the number of advertising  account suspensions in 2021.

The 2021 edition of the annual Ads Safety report provides an overview of the scale of enforcement actions taken by Google on key areas such as fraudulent ads and advertising accounts, misinformation and brand safety for advertisers. 

Key insights from the 2021 Ads Safety Report:

  • Ad takedown and account suspensions – In 2021, Google took down 3.4 billion bad ads and suspended nearly 5.6 million advertiser accounts
  • COVID- 19 – Since the beginning of the pandemic, Google blocked over 106 million ads from running that violated our policies against harmful health claims related to COVID-19. 
  • Responding to the war in Ukraine – Google blocked over 8 million ads in accordance to their Sensitive Events policy and removed ads from more than 60 state funded media sites across our platforms. 

To stay ahead of potential advertising threats, Google continues to evolve their policy development and enforcement strategies to offset the trend of online abuse and to help foster a sustainable ecosystem for businesses that rely on advertising to scale and reach new customers.

Here are links to the Ads Safety Report and blog post for your reading pleasure.

2021 Accounted For 40% Of Zero-Days In The Last Decade

Posted in Commentary with tags , on April 23, 2022 by itnerd

Researchers with Mandiant have released findings on 80 zero-days exploited “in the wild”, a surge in verified zero-day exploits over the course of the last year. Additionally, Google’s Project Zero said Tuesday that they tracked 58 cases of zero-day exploits in the wild last year. 2021 accounted for 40% of zero-day attacks undertaken in the last decade. That’s massive explosion of zero-days which means that users are less safe as a result.

I have two comments from industry experts. The first is from Saumitra Das, CTO and Cofounder, Blue Hexagon:

“Zero-day exploits and variants of malware that go after them have been on consistent rise as attackers invest in automation and research. Many of the zero-days discovered in old software like print spooler (print nightmare) are being discovered by overseas research teams. These can then be weaponized at scale and quickly by attackers using mutated malware to get in. In many cases, attacker use an existing foothold and simply try out a new POC at a victim.”

The second comment is from Chris Olson, CEO, The Media Trust:

“Not only is the number of zero-day attacks rising, but malicious actors are exploiting them faster than ever before. In December, Chinese actors were targeting the Log4Shell vulnerability only hours after its initial disclosure. With the cybersecurity landscape dominated by increasingly sophisticated threat actors, we can expect the incidence of zero days to rise in 2022, especially with heightened political tensions around the world.”

“In response, organizations should be particularly vigilant against underemphasized attack surfaces such as websites and mobile apps if they want to protect their customers. Based on our observations, we expect a rise in attacks based on polymorphic and obfuscated code, rapid URL shifting and other advanced techniques to deliver ransomware and other malicious executables.”

Zero-days are now the new normal, which means that organizations need to hunt down these threats make sure your ensure their defences are on point. Because the bad guys are out there hunting for zero-days that they can exploit. Which means that you are under threat as a result.

Definity Leverages Google Cloud’s Data analytics, AI and ML Capabilities

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 13, 2022 by itnerd

Definity Financial Corporation today announced that its subsidiary Definity Insurance Company has established a new relationship with Google Cloud that will allow the two companies to collaborate and leverage Google’s advanced data, analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) technology with a view to accelerating the development of innovative personalized insurance solutions within a highly secure cloud environment. Combining the extensive insurance expertise of Definity’s family of companies with Google Cloud’s leading technology services will provide the opportunity to create a smoother, more intuitive insurance experience for customers and brokers.

Definity’s family of companies has made significant investments to develop market-leading digital capabilities, including Sonnet, Vyne, and Vyne Commercial. Launched in 2016, Sonnet is Canada’s first coast-to-coast fully online home and auto insurance company, while Vyne and Vyne Commercial provide brokers with a simplified and fully integrated digital offering to better support the needs of personal and commercial customers in real time.

Definity Financial Corporation is the parent company to some of Canada’s most long-standing and innovative multi-channel, property and casualty insurance companies and distributors, including Economical Insurance, Sonnet Insurance, Family Insurance Solutions, and Petline Insurance.

Google & iFixit Team Up To Make Pixel Displays, Batteries And Other Parts Available…. Are You Paying Attention Apple?

Posted in Commentary with tags , on April 8, 2022 by itnerd

Clearly the announcement by Samsung that it was teaming up with iFixit to make parts and tools available for their phones, Google clearly felt that they had to do the same thing. Which leads me to this announcement that caught my attention:

We’re delighted to announce that we are working with Google to sell genuine parts for Pixel phones, starting later this year.  You can learn more about it in Google’s blog post.

We will be continuing to write our step-by-step Google Pixel phone repair guides, which are comprehensive going all the way back to the original Pixel. Repair guides are live for every Pixel through the Pixel 5, and we are writing guides for the 5a6, and 6 Pro right now.

Our parts selection will include everything you need for the most common Google Pixel repairs—batteries, displays, cameras, and more. We will sell them both individually and as part of Fix Kits, which include all the tools you need to fix your Google Pixel, from screwdriver bits to spudgers. 

Starting later this year, genuine Pixel spare parts will be available for purchase at ifixit.com for Pixel 2 through Pixel 6 Pro, as well as future Pixel models, in the USUKCanadaAustralia, and European Union countries where Pixel is available.

This is great news for people who want to be able to fix their own phones. And it’s way better than Apple’s announcement/non-announcement where they say that they want to give customers the ability to repair their own stuff but so far hasn’t delivered on that. So the question is, with both Samsung and Google embracing the ability for customers to repair their own devices, will Apple get serious about doing the same thing rather than paying lip service to it? I guess we’ll have to see.

Guest Post: Introducing Topaz — The First Subsea Cable To Connect Canada And Asia

Posted in Commentary with tags on April 6, 2022 by itnerd

By Bikash Koley, VP and Head of Google Global Networking and Head of Technology and Strategy, Google Cloud for Telecommunications

There’s a new subsea cable in town: Topaz, the first-ever fiber cable to connect Canada and Asia.

Once complete, Topaz will run from Vancouver to the small town of Port Alberni on the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, and across the Pacific Ocean to the prefectures of Mie and Ibaraki in Japan. We expect the cable to be ready for service in 2023, not only delivering low-latency access to Search, Gmail and YouTube, Google Cloud, and other Google services, but also increasing capacity to the region for a variety of network operators in both Japan and Canada.

Google is spearheading construction of the project, joined by a number of local partners in Japan and Canada to deliver the full Topaz subsea cable system. Other networks and internet service providers will be able to benefit from the cable’s additional capacity, whether for their own use or to provide to third parties. And, similar to other cables we’ve built, with Topaz we will exchange fiber pairs with partners who have systems along similar routes. This is a longstanding practice in the industry that strengthens the intercontinental network lattice for network operators, for Google, and for users around the world.

Illustration of a map of Japan and the west coast of Canada with a subsea cable line connecting the two countries.

The width of a garden hose, the Topaz cable will house 16 fiber pairs, for a total capacity of 240 Terabits per second (not to be confused with TSPs). It includes support for Wavelength Selective Switch (WSS), an efficient and software-defined way to carve up the spectrum on an optical fiber pair for flexibility in routing and advanced resilience. We’re proud to bring WSS to Topaz and to see the technology is being implemented widely across the submarine cable industry.

While Topaz is the first trans-Pacific fiber cable to land on the West Coast of Canada, it’s not the first communication cable to connect to Vancouver Island. In the 1960s, the Commonwealth Pacific Cable System (COMPAC) was a copper undersea cable linking Vancouver with Honolulu (United States), Sydney (Australia), and Auckland (New Zealand), expanding high-quality international phone connectivity. Today, COMPAC is no longer in service but its legacy lives on. The original cable landing station in Vancouver — the facility where COMPAC made landfall on Canadian soil — has been upgraded to fit the needs of modern fiber optics and will house the eastern end of the Topaz cable.

Traditional and treaty rights, and local communities, are deeply important to our infrastructure projects. The Topaz cable is built alongside the traditional territories of the Hupacasath, Maa-nulth, and Tseshaht, and we have consulted with and partnered with these First Nations every step of the way.

“Tseshaht is very proud of this collaboration and our partnership with Google, who has been very respectful and thoughtful in its engagement with our Nation. That’s how we carry ourselves and that’s how we want business to carry themselves in our territory.“ – Tseshaht First Nation – Elected Chief Councillor-Ken Watts

“The five First Nations of the Maa-nulth Treaty Society are pleased that we have concluded an agreement with Google Canada and have consented to the installation of a new, high-speed fiber optic cable through our traditional territories. This agreement, in which both Google Canada and our Nations benefit, is based on respect for our constitutionally protected treaty and aboriginal rights and enhances the process of reconciliation. We would also like to acknowledge the sensitivity that Google Canada expressed during our talks in regard to the pain and trauma experienced by our people as a result of residential school experience. We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Google Canada.” – Chief Charlie Cootes, President of the Maa-nulth Treaty Society

“Google’s respect towards our Nation is appreciated and has good energy behind it.” – Hupacasath First Nation – Elected Chief Councilor – Brandy Lauder

With the addition of Topaz today, we have announced investments in 20 subsea cable projects. This includes Curie, Dunant, Equiano, Firmina and Grace Hopper, and consortium cables like Blue, Echo, Havfrue and Raman — all connecting 29 cloud regions, 88 zones, 146 network edge locations across more than 200 countries and territories. Learn about Google Cloud’s network and infrastructure on our website and in the below video.

Update Google Chrome ASAP To Avoid A Zero Day That Has Been In Exploited By North Koreans Hackers For Weeks

Posted in Commentary with tags , , on March 28, 2022 by itnerd

Now would be a very good time to update Google Chrome to version 98.0.4758.102 for Windows, Mac, and Linux because North Korean Hackers have been using this exploit for weeks to do semi-targeted attacks:

The flaw, tracked as CVE-2022-0609, was exploited by two separate North Korean hacking groups. Both groups deployed the same exploit kit on websites that either belonged to legitimate organizations and were hacked or were set up for the express purpose of serving attack code on unsuspecting visitors. One group was dubbed Operation Dream Job, and it targeted more than 250 people working for 10 different companies. The other group, known as AppleJeus, targeted 85 users.

This is bad. And fortunately it’s patched. Marcus Fowler, SVP Strategic Engagements and Threats at Darktrace had this comment:  


“Hackers backed by North Korea’s government exploited a critical zero-day, attempting to infect hundreds of computers. We should be very cautious about assuming this is tied to rising geopolitical tensions. While North Korea may be trying to take advantage of the US turning its attention to mainly focus on Russia, the two separate North Korean hacking groups who exploited the flaw seem to go back much further. Both Operation Dream Job and AppleJeus have focused on monetary gain — frequently the top priority with North Korean cyber operations.
 

Previously, Operation Dream Job used spearphishing emails to target specific employees with fake job offers from high-profile organizations. This timing is fascinating given the “Great Resignation” context and employees seeking more flexible jobs and leaving the workforce in droves. The other group, AppleJeus, targeted a cryptocurrency exchange. We have observed an increase in crypto mining attacks over the last few years, so this is also in line with broader hacking trends, not geopolitical happenings.” 

I would run and update your copy of Chrome ASAP to make sure that other threat actors don’t exploit this now that it is public.

Google Collects Data From Google Dial And Messages Without Your Consent Or Ability To Opt Out…. WTF?

Posted in Commentary with tags , on March 23, 2022 by itnerd

People have said to me that I am such an Apple Fanboy because I tend to gravitate towards Apple products. The reality is that while I don’t trust any company completely, I trust Apple more than Google. And this story is a clear reason why I feel that way:

According to a research paper, “What Data Do The Google Dialer and Messages Apps On Android Send to Google?” [PDF], by Trinity College Dublin computer science professor Douglas Leith, Google Messages (for text messaging) and Google Dialer (for phone calls) have been sending data about user communications to the Google Play Services Clearcut logger service and to Google’s Firebase Analytics service.

“The data sent by Google Messages includes a hash of the message text, allowing linking of sender and receiver in a message exchange,” the paper says. “The data sent by Google Dialer includes the call time and duration, again allowing linking of the two handsets engaged in a phone call. Phone numbers are also sent to Google.” The timing and duration of other user interactions with these apps has also been transmitted to Google. And Google offers no way to opt-out of this data collection.

So in short, Google is unsurprisingly harvesting user data. Something that they don’t exactly confirm. But they don’t exactly deny either:

Google confirmed to The Register on Monday that the paper’s representations about its interactions with Leith are accurate. “We welcome partnerships – and feedback – from academics and researchers, including those at Trinity College,” a Google spokesperson said. “We’ve worked constructively with that team to address their comments, and will continue to do so.”

The paper raises questions about whether Google’s apps comply with GDPR but cautions that legal conclusions are out of scope for what is a technical analysis. We asked Google whether it believes its apps meet GDPR obligations but we received no reply.

Hopefully politicians in both the US and Europe are paying attention because this is something that merits an investigation. And perhaps some form of punishment.

Google Canada Announces Second Cohort For Google Cloud Accelerator For Startups

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 22, 2022 by itnerd

In January, Google put a call-out to startups across the country to participate in their second Google Cloud Accelerator Canada cohort. Today, Google is pleased to announce a new class of groundbreaking startups for the Google Cloud Accelerator Canada. This 10-week virtual accelerator brings the best of Google’s programs, products, people and technology to startups doing interesting work in the cloud. Google is offering these startups cloud mentorship and technical project support, along with deep dives and workshops on product design, customer acquisition and leadership development for cloud startup founders and leaders. 

Here are the eleven startups that make up the 2022 Google Cloud Accelerator Canada class: 

  • Ad Auris (Vancouver, BC): An end-to-end audio creation platform. Used by digital publications to convert their written work into great-sounding audio, instantly.
  • Booxi (Montreal, QC): Booxi is an appointment scheduling software designed for retailers. Their mission is to Make Commerce More Human and help retailers offer a personalized experience to every customer.
  • Cadence (Saskatoon, SK): Cadence is a digital executor assistant, supported by Certified Executor Advisors. Their web app automates Estate Settlement tasks.
  • f8th (Toronto, ON): f8th’s continuous authentication transparently and passively authenticates users and detects fraudsters in real-time without impacting the user experience.
  • IRIS (Burlington, ON): IRIS is a smart cities infrastructure technology company. They help urban and rural communities extend the life of their public infrastructure.
  • Origami XR (Toronto, ON): Origami is a spatial computing company that makes it easy to scan a physical environment using the LiDAR in your phone, and create a 3D digital twin that rivals output from professional scanning equipment.
  • Pharmaguide (Richmond Hill, ON): PharmaGuide specializes in equipping healthcare providers with solutions to increase efficiency and improve patient outcomes. Through direct integrations with multiple health platforms, they can intelligently analyze data and flag patients that could benefit from treatment modifications.
  • Schoolio (Toronto, ON): Schoolio OS aims to bridge teachers, parents and tutors into a single ecosystem, focusing on education transparency, inclusive curriculum and a holistic approach to success measurement.
  • Shaddari Inc. (Montreal, QC): Shaddari Inc. is a precision medicine company that has developed an A.I. that can tell instantly whether a vaccine will be efficient against a new variant of a virus.
  • SmartONE Solutions (Markham, ON): SmartONE creates smart communities, by connecting the smart homes in multi-family residential developments over a common network to transform community living.
  • Tiggy (Vancouver, BC): Tiggy is a 15-minute grocery delivery service on a mission to forever change the way we buy everyday essentials.

It’s an exciting opportunity for Google to work with these founders and startup teams to help grow and scale their business. Programming for the Google Cloud Accelerator Canada begins April 11.