Opera Browser Vulnerable to Memory Corruption Exploit

In the raging browser wars, features, security and stability are paramount to competing. Opera might want to get a serious handle on things with the next release they push.

There is a memory corruption bug that has been present in Opera 10, 11 and the pre-release of 12 on Windows XP SP3. The vulnerability exists within SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) layout handling. By nesting SVG functions within XML calls, an attacker is able to crash Opera. While crashing a browser might not seem like a huge deal to some, couple it with code injection and you have an exploit that can lead to complete remote code execution, and then it’s game over.

The exploit, which was discovered over a year ago, was reported to Opera but never fixed. Jose Vasquez, the original author, has published full details on the vulnerability as well as written and released a complete Metasploit module. Metasploit is a security framework for penetration testing, allowing a large number of security professional to collaborate on software and service vulnerabilities.

What might seem like a benign crash of your browser, might turn out to be an attacker positioning themselves to take control of your computer and network. Although it’s been previously broken, Jose also indicates it may be possible to bypass DEP, which is an active security feature provided by Microsoft,  specifically made to prevent unwanted code execution.

In an interview, Opera’s co-founder,  Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner indicated their number of users grew from 50 million in 2009 to over 150 million in just one year. There are a lot of users who are potentially vulnerable to exploitation of this bug. When Opera 11.51 was released, major security and minor stability issues were the reason for the update. If we consider that  this bug has been present since 10.50, disclosed to Opera over a year ago, and still left unfixed — many users may want to look at switching to the very popular Chrome  or Firefox 7  until Opera fixes this issue.

Android, Chrome and Google+: Google’s New Stars

Google just reported an excellent quarter with revenues and earnings above expectations. It posted $9.72 billion in revenue, and $2.73 billion in net income in Q3 2011, implying revenue growth of around 33% and income growth of about 25%. Its stock is up nearly 7% in pre-market trading following the excellent results.

During the earnings all, Google’s CEO, Larry Page, revealed some interestng details about Google’s relatively new products: Android, Chrome and Google+.

Android

Android, which is perhaps Google’s greatest success to date after its core business, has been growing tremendously. Google is now seeing close to 600 activations per day. A total of over 190 million Android devices have been activated globally.

We all know that Android has been making a lot of money for Microsoft, but today, we finally have some idea of the impact of Android on Google’s revenues.

Google says that its mobile revenues have grown 2.5X over the past year, to a run rate of over $2.5 billion. Presumably, much of this can be attributed to Android.

Google will be launching the next version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, soon.

Google+

Google, which had largely been a one-trick pony so far, finally seems to have proven its detractors wrong. Google+ is growing rapidly, and now has over 40 million users.

The level of engagement on Google+ is quite high, and over 3.4 billion photos have been shared on it already. Google+ is already the number two social network after Facebook, which is way ahead.

Chrome

Chrome is yet another Google success. It is one of the most popular browsers in the world, which continues to grow its market share every month. Over 200 million users now use Chrome. It is expected to overtake Firefox in terms of market share soon.

Check out the full statement by Larry Page here: Larry Page – Google+

So You Want to Kick the Google Habit? [Editorial]

Google-Logo

 

Google Everywhere

It is hard to go online today without touching one or more Google products or services. If it is not search, it may be email, YouTube, Blogger, Picasa, Docs, or Calendar. Google has truly blanketed us with their web-based app offerings. Heck, even the Google Doodle is a conversation topic!

In this editorial, I shall discuss how you can kick the Google habit, what I am using now as alternatives and why you probably won’t be able to replace certain Google products today. Ready to move away from Google? First, some background.

Why un-Google?

Some of the reasons I personally decided to look for alternatives:

  • Google became a part of virtually everything I did online. I used GMail, Google Reader, Google Finance, Blogger, Picasa, Picasa Web, Google Docs, Google Search, Google Calendar and Google Maps. I felt uncomfortable putting such a large portion of my online life in Google’s hands.
  • Google morphed from the cool little startup building fun stuff for consumers, to a dominant public company whose revenues essentially came from just one product. That’s the key most (96%) of its revenues (and profits) came from search advertising. In other words, it needed other ways to make money. The most obvious way to do so would be to extend the arm of advertising, their main revenue-generating product, into other products. I realized I was the merchandise.
  • Google seemed to get Apple and Facebook envy. Apple was growing rapidly across all their product lines and at very high profit margins, and Facebook was taking eyeballs and key talent away from Google. This led to some bad attempts to mock Apple and Facebook publicly, which of course delighted the Google developer and enthusiast community but came off as being negative to me. If you make a great product, you don’t need a negative campaign.
  • Aside from philosophy, some of the competing products started becoming better, and Google’s products started getting worse (more on that within my descriptions) prompting me to start Project Un-Google which was an effort to use fewer and fewer Google products, hopefully reaching a point where I did not depend on any Google product at all.

Whether it is for philosophy, or hedging your web app bets, it is good to know there is life outside Google when it comes to products and services online and offline. There is usually a strong resistance to change, especially if you have a long history with a product. There is a high cost for transferring the old stuff, and learning your way around a new product/service. However, these challenges are not insurmountable, and I hope you take a look at some or all of the products I list here as an alternative to Google. If you have ideas of other products I may not have mentioned, please let me know!

Popular Google products

Here are some of the Google products/services I will be comparing to competition:

  • Search
  • Picasa
  • GMail
  • Calendar
  • Documents
  • Groups
  • Finance
  • Blogger
  • Chrome
  • Maps/Directions
  • Talk/Chat/Voice

I realize Google has many more products, appsand services, but I did not look at products like Book Search which are very niche. My attempt here is to look at the commonly used products and services only.

Internet Explorer Popular Among People with Low IQ, Study Suggests

Aptiquant, a Vancouver based Psychometric Consulting company, which specializes in helping organizations objectively assess applicants and employees, has released the results of its study in which it correlated the IQ (Intelligent Quotients) of users with the browser they were using. The results aren’t all that surprising.

On an average, Internet Explorer users were found to have the least IQ, while Opera users had the highest. Camino users and Internet Explorer users with Chrome Frame plugin were also found to have higher than average IQ. The results are pretty much what you would expect. The dominance of Internet Explorer has long been attributed to its bundling with Windows. A sizeable portion of users tend to just use what Windows ships with instead of looking for alternatives. Heck, many people don’t even know what is a web browser. On the other hand Opera, which has remained the niche browser, is often dubbed as the browser for geeks and power users.

Browser-User-IQ

In order to collect the data Aptiquant relied on the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (IV) test, which is available on its website. The gender, geographic location, and browser of netizens taking the test were recorded along with their test results. The scores of more than 101,326 individuals were analyzed.

Aptiquant also compared their recent dataset with the data they had collected in 2006. The older dataset paints a significantly different picture. The mean IQ of Opera users drops significantly, and Internet Explorer (6 and 7) gets a significant boost. Clearly, over the last five years, Internet Explorer has lost its share of intelligent users, as power users have migrated elsewhere.

Aptiquant also divided the users into IQ groups based on their percentile ranks. Once again, Internet Explorer users dominated the lower percentile groups, while Firefox, Opera, Chrome and Safari users dominated the higher percentile groups.

Aptiquant’s study reinforces that stereotype that Internet Explorer is a dumb user’s browser. It also demonstrates that Microsoft has simply not been able to stay abreast with its competitors. Even though Internet Explorer 7 and 8 users have a higher IQ score than Internet Explorer 6 users, Microsoft has failed to stop the flow of power users to third-party alternatives. Internet Explorer still has a healthy market share. However, masses often follow the early adopters and power users. Microsoft will need to come up with something pretty brilliant if it hopes to reverse Internet Explorer’s fortunes.

Hat tip: @Opera

Google+Facebook: Get Going with Facebook Without Leaving Google Plus

google-plus-facebook-iconUPDATE: This plugin has been reported as spam and the links are disabled till further updates. Refer the comments section for more details.

ight from the launch of the new social network, there has been huge buzz around Google Plus. Now that Google has opened doors to everyone, it would be worth watching the public response. With Google Plus giving Facebook a run for their money, here is something that can make things even worse for the latter. Here is a browser extension that will let you access Facebook from within Google+. So you won’t have to miss out on your already over-burdened social-life (thanks Facebook) while being on Google Plus.

1. Head over to the Google+Facebook download page and get the extension for your browser. Use the Google+Facebook button.

get-google-plus-facebook

2. Allow the download to start if your browser (most likely Firefox) blocks it. Install it as you do for other add-ons or extensions.

3. Now log into your Google Plus account and you will notice a Facebook button to the left of the Home button in the top navigation. Click on it.

access-facebook-on-google-plus

4. You will now need to use the fConnect button to connect your Facebook account.

5. Once prompted, allow the request for permission to access your Facebook data.

access-facebook-on-google-plus-2

Voila! you will now be able to check your Facebook wall feed from right within Google Plus. You can also update Facebook using this added functionality.

update-facebook-from-google-plus

The extension is available for Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.

Techie-Buzz Verdict:

Users of both the service will naturally love the added usability of Google Plus. However there are limitations to the extension currently. You cannot comment or like any of your friend’s activities or updates the Facebook way unlike any other popular apps. Well that would mean I’m too demanding. Whatsoever, it definitely is a good attempt to bring things together specially when socializing is the word of the day.

NOTE: You can also try and get a Facebook lookalike Google Plus and vice versa with a little help.

Mark Shuttleworth: “Real Possibility of Google Chrome Replacing Firefox In Future Ubuntu Release”

During the Ubuntu Developer Summit Oneiric, we reported that there were discussions about Chrome (or rather, its open source version, Chromium) replacing Firefox as the default browser in Ubuntu 11.10 Oneiric Ocelot. That did not happen and Firefox remained as the default browser for Oneiric.

In an interview with Network World, Mark Shuttleworth confirmed that Canonical is looking to replace Firefox with Chrome in Ubuntu. Shuttleworth said that he is a big fan of the browser from Google and confirmed that there was discussion on the feasibility of Chrome (or Chromium) replacing Firefox in Ubuntu 11.10. That did not happen and the switch will, in all  probability,  not happen in Ubuntu 12.04 as well because it is a Long term Support (LTS) Release.

MarkShuttleworth460x276

So, it may take one year for Chrome to replace Firefox, but Shuttleworth said that it is a real possibility that we may see Firefox being replaced in Ubuntu 12.10. However with the pace of Chrome’s development and Mozilla adopting an accelerated development cycle for Firefox recently, thing could change a lot in a year.

Shuttleworth said that one of the best thing to have happened for Chrome on Linux has been Chrome OS. Because Chrome OS is basically Chrome running on a Linux, Google has invested a lot in optimizing the performance of Chrome on Linux. That has resulted in Chrome on Linux outperforming the other platforms Mac and Windows.

Whatever the default browser is, users are free to install the browser that suits their need, just like Chrome users do today. So, in essence choosing Chrome/Chromium as the default browser will not affect anything. It will simply be an acknowledgement of the progress that Google Chrome (or Chromium) has made in the last two years.

Which browser do you prefer? Firefox or Chrome/Chromium?

[image credit]

Angry Birds Attack the Chrome Web Store!

Google I/O 2011 started yesterday, but the focus was almost completely on Android. You can check out the highlights of the Google I/O 2011 keynote here. Today, however, Google also showcased other stuff like the Chrome Web Store and Chrome OS laptops by Samsung and Acer.

Today, Peter Vesterbacka, CEO, Rovio Mobile announced that Angry Birds has now been launched for the web, on the Chrome Web Store. Angry Birds for the web has been built using WebGL and Canvas. It runs at 60 FPS, thanks to improvements in browser graphics. You can download Angry Birds Beta via the Chrome Web Store for free, and play it offline as well. It’s available in both, SD and HD versions.

Rovio will be launching some exclusive levels, available only in Chrome. It will also support in-app payments, so you can easily buy the Mighty Eagle to obliterate the pigs.

You can download and install Angry Birds on Chrome from the Chrome Web Store. Here’s the link:

Angry Birds – Chrome Web Store

Angry Birds

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