Android app with 100 million users spread malware

However, a recent influx of negative reviews pointed to problems with the app’s user experience which prompted Kaspersky to investigate the software …

Google has pulled the popular CamScanner app from its Play Store after it was discovered that it was spreading malware.

Kaspersky discovered that the app – which was installed more than 100 million times – contained an advertising library with a malicious dropper component.

The component was detected as “Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Necro.n” and was designed to download and launch a payload from malicious servers.

CamScanner was a popular app among Android users which allowed them to scan documents with their smartphone camera and save the content to a PDF document.

The app had 1.8 million reviews, most of which were positive. However, a recent influx of negative reviews pointed to problems with the app’s user experience which prompted Kaspersky to investigate the software.

Now read: Apple patches flaw that allowed iPhone jailbreak

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Android warning: Google fans told to delete popular Play Store app right now

Android is one of the most used pieces of software in the world, with over two … Kaspersky said: “Official app stores such as Google Play are usually …

“Unfortunately, nothing is 100 per cent safe, and from time to time malware distributors manage to sneak their apps into Google Play.

“The problem is that even such a powerful company as Google can’t thoroughly check millions of apps. Keep in mind that most of the apps are updated regularly, so Google Play moderators’ jobs are never done.

“CamScanner was actually a legitimate app, with no malicious intensions whatsoever, for quite some time.

“It used ads for monetisation and even allowed in-app purchases.

“However, at some point, that changed, and recent versions of the app shipped with an advertising library containing a malicious module.”

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A Google Engineer Accused of Stealing Trade Secrets Sold to Uber

A former Google engineer has been accused of stealing trade secrets from the company, which he then sold to Uber, the Associated Press reported.

A former Google engineer has been accused of stealing trade secrets from the company, which he then sold to Uber, the Associated Press reported.

The charge filed by the San Jose, California prosecutor’s office is related to a case filed in 2017 by Google’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle division, Waymo. Uber agreed to pay $ 245 million to settle the case, but the federal judge in charge of the case made an unusual recommendation to launch a criminal investigation.

It’s important for Uber to have self-driving car technology

Anthony Levandowski, a pioneer in the development of robotic cars, has been accused of stealing trade secrets. He could be sentenced to 10 years in prison and a fine of $ 250,000 for each of the 33 counts or a total of 8.25 million, the BTA reported.

According to the prosecution, months before his abrupt departure in 2016, Levandowski downloaded numerous files from Google’s self-driving car program and used the information to create his Otomotto company, which was later acquired by Uber for $ 680 million.

Prosecutors have indicated that the investigation is ongoing, but will not specify whether Uber and company founder Travis Kalanik are the subject of the investigation.

“He didn’t steal anything, from anyone,” the statement reads. “This case rehashes claims already discredited in a civil case that settled more than a year and a half ago. The downloads at issue occurred while Anthony was still working at Google—when he and his team were authorized to use the information. None of these supposedly secret files ever went to Uber or to any other company.”, Tech Crunch reported.

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Google parent’s investing arm battles suspicions in profit quest

… investing arms have done more deals in the last two years than any other corporate venture investor, according to industry tracker CB Insights.

CapitalG, a private investment arm of Google parent Alphabet Inc., has been in all the right places lately, generating billions of dollars in gains. The success is raising questions about the company’s strategy and sprawling influence over the technology industry.

In the last year and a half, four of CapitalG’s 36 portfolio companies have gone public, including Lyft Inc. and Crowdstrike Holdings Inc. Airbnb Inc. plans to do the same. Another four have been acquired. One of them, cloud analytics provider Looker, was bought by Google itself for $2.6 billion. At the end of June, Alphabet’s stakes in privately held companies were worth almost $11 billion, with unrealized gains of almost $3 billion.

The company’s private investing arms have done more deals in the last two years than any other corporate venture investor, according to industry tracker CB Insights. Last year, CapitalG made a record nine “unicorn” investments in companies worth more than $1 billion. In second place? GV, Alphabet’s venture capital unit, which bought stakes in three unicorns among its industry-leading 70-plus deals.

Google struggles to make big acquisitions in its main areas of business, partly due to concern over antitrust regulation. Its last huge deal was Motorola almost a decade ago. If the company can’t buy promising tech firms outright, the next best thing is investing in them. This helps Google keep tabs on the latest innovations bubbling up in Silicon Valley, and means Alphabet shareholders benefit if the creations turn out to be hits.

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Still, there’s so much scrutiny of large technology companies that even this strategy sows suspicion in Silicon Valley and could come under the regulatory microscope.

“Deal flow gives you a lot of insight into what other people are doing in the market,” said Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Open Markets Institute, which studies and recommends competition policies. “It’s just one more tool that they have to exert power.”

Google’s clout was so much of a concern for one financial technology company that it ended up rejecting money from an Alphabet investment arm, according to Pascal Bouvier, who is now managing partner of MiddleGame Ventures.

“If Google decides to get into that line, all of a sudden you may have a formidable competitor,” said Bouvier. He worked at another VC firm when the deal was spurned and declined to name the fintech firm involved.

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These are questions that CapitalG executives have gotten before. They say they’re not a tool of Alphabet to corner digital markets and insist their mission is the same as traditional private tech investors: generate a return on investments.

David Lawee, the 53-year-old startup veteran who heads CapitalG, recalled a dinner in 2017 with a group of entrepreneurs and Google co-founder Larry Page, at which someone asked what CapitalG’s purpose was.

Page turned to Lawee, who responded: “Make money.”

“That’s it!” Page said.

Dealing with a company the size of Alphabet, though, it’s hard to ignore potential conflicts. Lawee is on the board of Lyft. GV bought a large stake in rival Uber Technologies Inc. And Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving technology unit, could compete with both one day.

To avoid the appearance of conflicts, Lawee said CapitalG is careful about where it invests while maintaining strict firewalls to protect trade secrets and intellectual property.

“There’s a few areas we’ve decided not to be as forward-leaning — self-driving cars as an example,” he said during an interview at CapitalG’s eighth-floor offices with postcard views of the San Francisco Bay. “We’re not sharing any data back with Google. But we don’t want anyone to have that perception.”

CapitalG is independent from Google, added Laela Sturdy, a veteran Google worker who along with former TPG Capital executive Gene Frantz make up the trio of partners running the unit. It is also run separately from GV, which invests in early-stage startups and shares the same building. “We operate like any other investment fund,” Sturdy, 41, said.

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Still, scrutiny is intensifying. Some powerful people in Washington think Google is too big, and to them, nothing the company does is outside the realm of potential anti-competitive behavior.

Last month, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who is leading an antitrust investigation of Google and other big tech companies, asked about Alphabet’s venture capital fund.

“Unlike many other corporate venture funds, our funds are not designed to create a pipeline for future strategic acquisitions,” Kent Walker, Google’s chief legal officer said in a written response. “These funds run independently of Google and there are strict boundaries between the funds and Google to prevent confidential information about any of the funds’ portfolio companies from being shared with Google or any other Alphabet entities.”

Lawee’s position on Lyft’s board is one place where lawmakers might cry foul, said Michael Kades, director for markets and competition at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a progressive think tank. A board seat could make it look like Google has influence on Lyft’s business, even if CapitalG is officially independent from Google, Kades said.

CapitalG executives disclose few financial details. Unlike other private equity or venture firms, they have only one partner — parent Alphabet — and don’t need to raise outside money or return cash to investors on a deadline. They typically invest in only a half-dozen startups a year, among more than 5,000 on their radar.

Lawee’s pitch, when he started CapitalG as Google Capital in 2013 with the blessing of Page and a top Google lawyer, David Drummond, was to help younger companies grow by matching them with Google experts in areas such as artificial intelligence, marketing and human resources. Lawee knew the value of that expertise, having spent five years overseeing more than 100 acquisitions for Google, including DoubleClick and AdMob.

CapitalG has delivered on that access, according to officers at several portfolio companies.

“They’ve connected us with probably dozens of people,” said Luis von Ahn, CEO and co-founder of language-learning app Duolingo. At one point, his startup wanted to start creating its own instructional videos, Von Ahn said. “Within two days, we were talking to the head of original content on YouTube.” (In 2009, Google acquired Recaptcha, another company he co-founded.)

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Daniel Dines, CEO of automation technology startup UiPath, said he didn’t need CapitalG’s money when the firm approached him. But the chance to work with Google AI experts piqued his interest. In a presentation at a borrowed office in Manhattan, CapitalG’s Sturdy clinched the deal.

“I got the sense her allegiance is with UiPath and not with Google,” Dines said.

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Hello, This Is Artificial Intelligence. How Can I Help You? Eye on AI

People who call companies to ask questions about their cable bills or complain about their Internet service being out are increasingly talking to …

People who call companies to ask questions about their cable bills or complain about their Internet service being out are increasingly talking to artificial intelligence.

Natural language processing, a subset of A.I. that helps computers understand speech, has become good enough that it’s being used to listen and respond to basic customer questions.

Over the past year, Google, Amazon and business software firm Twilio have all ramped up their marketing of A.I.-powered software for call centers. Their sales pitch is that the technology can handle customer service calls more quickly while freeing human agents to handle more complicated questions.

Less discussed publicly, at least, is that A.I. will also likely let companies save money by reducing the number of call center workers that they need.

In fact, customer service, which includes call center technology, is one of the most common arenas for using A.I., tech publisher O’Reilly Media said in a report earlier this year. Only research and development ranked higher.

The path to this point hasn’t exactly been smooth. Three years ago, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google started touting voice-based digital assistants and online chatbots.

They said that their A.I. could handle complex tasks, like reading users’ calendars, identifying their travel schedules, and then proactively booking them hotel rooms for those dates. But the technology failed to live up the hype.

Since then, A.I. has improved, explained Olive Huang, a vice president of research for analyst firm Gartner. Although it still has room for improvement, the technology is now good enough for some simpler tasks like booking a hotel room when asked.

Companies are increasingly ready to give A.I. another chance, Huang said. That’s particularly true, she said, because customer call volume is rising quickly and increasing staffing to handle it is expensive.

Still, natural language processing has its limits. For instance, the technology often fails to understanding people with certain accents.

“My accent has always been impossible for Amazon Alexa,” said Huang, who described her voice in English as a blend of Singaporean Chinese and German.

Additionally, companies are still figuring out how to smoothly transition callers from digital assistants to human operators. People invariably speak differently based on who or what they’re talking to.

“If I know I’m talking to a human, then I will talk like a human,” Huang said. “If I know I’m talking to a virtual agent, then it’s like talking to a five-year old—I will be precise.”

And while some voice technologies are increasingly sounding more human-like by incorporating “umms” and pauses, people can find this “creepy,” she said. When a virtual assistant sounds too human, “then you don’t know how to talk to it,” Huang said.

Jonathan Vanian

@JonathanVanian

jonathan.vanian@fortune.com

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A.I. IN THE NEWS

Facial-recognition goes public. Megvii, a Chinese startup specializing in facial-recognition technology, plans to go public in Hong Kong, according to a CNBC report. The company, whose main rival is Chinese tech firm Sensetime, recently raised $750 million in funding at a valuation of over $4 billion, the report said.

Scanning faces in Uganda. Huawei is supplying facial-recognition and other data-crunching technologies to law enforcement in Uganda, The Financial Times reported. A Uganda police spokesperson told the newspaper, “The cameras are already transforming modern day policing in Uganda, with facial recognition and artificial intelligence as part of policing and security.”

DeepMind co-founder is taking a “time out.” DeepMind, the high-profile A.I. research lab that’s part of Google, has placed co-founder Mustafa Suleyman on leave for unspecified reasons, Bloomberg News reported. A spokesperson told the news service that “Mustafa is taking time out right now after 10 hectic years,” but did not say when he would return.

Even Xbox? Microsoft contractors listened to audio recordings of Xbox players in order to use the data to improve Microsoft’s A.I.-powered voice technologies, tech publication Motherboard reported. Several other big tech companies like Amazon and Google have also faced criticism for using contract workers to listen to audio recordings.

AFRICA’S A.I. HOPES

Wim Delva, acting director of the school for data science and computational thinking at Stellenbosch University, in South Africa, writes in Quartz (per The Conversation) about universities debuting data science and A.I. research initiatives in Africa, and how they may differ from projects in other countries. Delva writes: “It is human nature to focus on immediate, locally perceived problems before venturing into fixing more remote ones. So people and organizations from elsewhere in the world may not always identify and try to tackle the African continent’s problems. These issues include improving access and equity in health care; improving road safety and bolstering food security.”

EYE ON A.I. TALENT

Recursion Pharmaceuticals has hiredImran Haque as vice president of data science. Haque, who specializes in machine learning and drug discovery, was previously the chief scientific officer of genomics company Freenome.

Breather, a startup focusing on office rentals, pickedPhilippe Bouffaut to be chief technology officer. Bouffaut was previously the vice president of products and engineering at public relations software company Cision.

EYE ON A.I. RESEARCH

Electrochemical A.I. action. Researchers from New York University’s school of engineering published a paper about using deep learning to improve the process of electrosynthesis, an environmentally-friendly chemical synthesis technique. Miguel Modestino, an NYU assistant professor and co-author of the paper, said in a statement that his team believes “this is the first time AI has been used to optimize an electrochemical process.”

A.I. to predict ozone concentrations. Researchers from the University of Toronto, Carnegie Mellon University, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, National Center for Atmospheric Research, and University of Science and Technology of China published a paper about using deep learning to predict ozone concentrations during the summer in the U.S. Although the A.I. system was effective, the researchers said “other modern machine learning algorithms have the potential for even greater gains in performance.”

FORTUNE ON A.I.

Huawei Launches New A.I. Chip As Company Enters ‘Battle Mode’ To Survive – By Eamon Barrett

No Humans Needed: Chinese Company Uses AI to Read the News, Books – By Alyssa Newcomb

How Amazon and Silicon Valley Seduced the Pentagon – By James Bandler, Anjali Tsui , and Doris Burke

BRAIN FOOD

I guess we’ll find out how dangerous this really is. Two young graduate students have created A.I. software that can generate convincing prose that they said was based on similar technology created by the high-profile OpenAI research group, Wiredreported. What’s noteworthy about the research is that OpenAI originally said it wanted to keep the secret sauce behind its technology private, because it was worried it would be used by bad actors, like for creating realistic fake news. The graduate students created the language-generating tech to show that its possible for many people to create these kinds of complicated systems, not just well-funded research groups.

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