David Kirkpatrick

December 4, 2010

History sniffing, one more online privacy issue

I have to admit I had never heard of history sniffing before reading this story. Makes me doubly glad I use Chrome for my browser.

From the link:

The Web surfing history saved in your Web browser can be accessed without your permission. JavaScript code deployed by real websites and online advertising providers use browser vulnerabilities to determine which sites you have and have not visited, according to new research from computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego.

The researchers documented  code secretly collecting browsing histories of  through “history sniffing” and sending that information across the network. While history sniffing and its potential implications for privacy violation have been discussed and demonstrated, the new work provides the first empirical analysis of history sniffing on the real Web.

“Nobody knew if anyone on the Internet was using history sniffing to get at users’ private browsing history. What we were able to show is that the answer is yes,” said UC San Diego  science professor Hovav Shacham.
The  from the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering presented this work in October at the 2010 ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS 2010) in a paper entitled, “An Empirical Study of Privacy-Violating Information Flows in JavaScript Web Applications”.

History Sniffing

History sniffing takes place without your knowledge or permission and relies on the fact that browsers display links to sites you’ve visited differently than ones you haven’t: by default, visited links are purple, unvisited links blue. History sniffing JavaScript code running on a Web page checks to see if your browser displays links to specific URLs as blue or purple.

History sniffing can be used by website owners to learn which competitor sites visitors have or have not been to. History sniffing can also be deployed by advertising companies looking to build user profiles, or by online criminals collecting information for future phishing attacks. Learning what banking site you visit, for example, suggests which fake banking page to serve up during a phishing attack aimed at collecting your bank account login information.


September 7, 2010

Happy second birthday, Chrome!

Filed under: Business, et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:41 pm

Well, belated birthday since last Thursday marked the second anniversary of Chrome’s release. Count me among the very satisfied users of Google’s browser war entry.

From the link:

The first beta of Google Chrome made its debut on September 2, 2008, and most reviewers instantly lauded its streamlined, minimalistic design. PCWorld blogger J.R. Raphael noted, “Calling the design of Chrome’s interface streamlined is an understatement. The program barely looks like a program, and the vast majority of your screen space is devoted to the site you’re visiting — with no buttons or logos hogging space.”

Google’s hallmark is a clean, uncluttered interface — remember what search engines looked like before Google came along? — that many of its search rivals have tried to emulate. Since the launch of Chrome, Google’s browser rivals have tried to copy its minimalistic look, with varying degrees of success. Whether they succeed or not, I applaud the effort — and I thank Chrome for reminding others that we’re browsing the Web in order to look at a Web site, not to look at a browser.

April 2, 2010

Google’s Chrome will auto-update Flash

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:57 pm

I’ve never really been a fan of auto-updates of any sort, but the majority of computer users really need the convenience and out-of-sight/out-of-mind safety of auto-updates. Chrome is the first browser to automatically push updates for Adobe Flash to users. Probably a good thing in the long run, and doesn’t change my thought that Chrome is the best browser by a long shot. If you haven’t tried it, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot — even if you’re a dedicated Firefox user.

From the link:

Adobe’s (ADBE) new partnership with Google will keep Internet users safer because Chrome will automatically update Flash Player without asking users, an Adobe director of engineering said.

On Tuesday, the two companies announced that Google would include Adobe’s Flash Player in downloads of Chrome starting with the rough-around-the-edges builds of the browser’s “dev” channel. Google will also employ Chrome’s auto-updater to push Flash fixes to users without notifying them or asking them to approve the download.

The integration, particularly the automatic updating of Adobe’s plug-in, is a first for a browser maker.

“If you want to have a safe experience, updates should just happen in the background,” said Peter Betlem, senior director of Flash Player engineering.

Unlike other browsers, Chrome updates itself automatically in the background without asking for permission or prompting users that security fixes or new features are available. The practice, which Google (GOOG) debuted alongside Chrome in September 2008 , riled some users initially, but the criticism soon faded.

March 2, 2010

Google Chrome browser gaining market share

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:09 pm

The upward trend has reached 16 straight months. I am a huge Chrome fan and highly recommend this nimble and very fast browser for netizens at all levels of tech savvy.

From the link:

As Firefox slid, Google’s (GOOG) Chrome again boosted its share, although the increase was smaller than in the two months before. Chrome ended February with a 5.6% share, up 0.4 of a percentage point. Chrome has doubled its share in the last six months.

Here’s the browser breakdown according to the web measurement vendor NetApplications.com:

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer   61.2%
  • Firefox                                              24.2%
  • Google Chrome                                5.6%
  • Apple Safari                                      4.4%

February 5, 2010

Google Chrome 4.0 running slow?

Filed under: et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:52 am

After Google recently released the stable 4.0 version of Chrome I noticed a ridiculous amount of lag at times — scrolling was slowed to a crawl and typing into any text boxes (including creating blog posts in WordPress) was torture. The typed text was entering at something like a character per second or so. Just unacceptable.

The fix for me — at least so far so good — was pretty simple. I just cleared the browser cache. If your Chrome browser installation is feeling sluggish, I’d try this before doing anything else too drastic.

(Note: updated 7-2-10, the steps below apply to Chrome 5.0, update 9/11/10, same steps apply to Chrome 6.0. They still hold true for v.7.)

  • Click on the wrench (top right of browser window) and choose “options”
  • Click on “Under the Hood” (the right tab)
  • Click on “Clear Browsing Data”
  • From there you have a checklist of things you can delete — Clear Browsing History, Clear Download History, Empty the Cache, etc. — I unchecked everything but “Empty the Cache” and in the “Clear data from this period:” action menu I chose “Everything.”

Simple and has worked wonders. Chrome is back to its speedy browsing self again.

January 19, 2010

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer flaw behind Google’s security breach

I haven’t been tracking this story closely enough to realize an IE security issue caused the security breach of Google’s corporate network. One pretty simple solution is to change browsers. I was never enamored with Firefox, but finally tried out Google’s Chrome browser in August and have never looked back.

The lesson, as always with online security, is to make sure you have all your patches up to date and do seriously consider capable products to replace known security sieves like IE.

From the first link:

Microsoft (MSFT) is scrambling to patch an Internet Explorer flaw that was used to hack into Google’s (GOOG) corporate networks last month. The attack was used to hack into networks at 34 companies, including Adobe (ADBE), security experts say. Typically such hacks involve several such attacks, but the IE bug is the only one definitively linked to the hacking incident, which security experts say originated in China.

In a security advisory released Thursday, Microsoft said IE 6 users on Windows XP are most at risk from the flaw, but that other users could be affected by modified versions of the attack. Microsoft said it is developing a fix, but it did not say when it expects to patch the issue. The company is slated to release its next set of security updates on Feb. 9. A Google spokesman confirmed Thursday that the Internet Explorer attack was used against Google and that the company then reported the issue to Microsoft.

Google learned of the issue in December and, after discovering the server used to control the hacked computers, notified other companies affected by the hack. Apparently convinced that the infiltration was sanctioned by the Chinese government, Google has threatened to effectively pull its business out of China.

Hit these links for more background on the actual security breach.

October 26, 2009

Happy birthday web browser

Well, technically happy birthday almost two weeks ago on October 13. The browser turns 15. Yep, if the web browser — that digital tool so old it’s losing teeth and has hair growing out its ears — couldn’t even get a driver’s license if it were a person. Innovation is fast and furious and little things like this bring that point home every once in a while.

First came ARPANET back in the late 1960s, which led to the internet leading to the more user friendly subset of the internet known as the World Wide Web and those easy-to-use GUIs and the dawn of the age of the web browser. And now we’re about to be browsing sites written in HTML5.

From the very first link:

The Web browser turns 15 on Oct. 13, 2009 — a key milestone in the history of the Internet. That’s when the first commercial Web browser — eventually called Netscape Navigator – was released as beta code. While researchers including World Wide Web inventorTim Berners-Lee and a team at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications created Unix browsers between 1991 and 1994, Netscape Navigator made this small piece of desktop software a household name. By allowing average users to view text and images posted on Web sites, Netscape Navigator helped launch the Internet era along with multiple browser wars, government-led lawsuits and many software innovations

October 23, 2009

HTML5 = compatibility

Part two of two posts (find part one here)

CIO.com has an informative article on “Five New Technologies That Will Change Everything.” I’m breaking this particular link into two posts because two of those techs deserve individual attention because of the sea-change they are going to create in your computing and browsing experience respectively.

This post is on the latest HTML version — HTML5. The idea behind HTML5 is creating a standard that allows every web page to look essentially the same regardless which browser, or platform (computer, mobile device, etc.), the user is viewing the page with/on. A lofty goal considering how the browser wars have been fought since IE and Navigator tussled way back in the last century, but here’s to the success of HTML5.

From the link:

Web browsers

Web pages built with HTML5 will display the same on any browser–desktop or mobile.

Hulk VI was great, but what should you watch this evening? Before heading off to work in the morning, you click to some trailers on a movie Website, but you don’t have time to watch many. So you use your mobile phone to snap a picture of the 2D barcode on one of the videos; the phone’s browser then takes you to the same site. On the commuter train to the office, you watch the previews over a 4G cell phone connection. A few of the movies have associated games that you try out on your phone, too.

Remember when every Website had a badge that read “optimized for Netscape Navigator” or “requires Internet Explorer 4”? In the old days, people made Web pages that worked best with–or only with–certain browsers. To some extent, they still do.

The new flavor of the HTML–the standard program for writing Web pages–is called HTML5 (Hypertext Markup Language version 5); and HTML5 aims to put that practice to bed for good.

Specifically, HTML5 may do away with the need for audio, video, and interactive plug-ins. It will allow designers to create Websites that work essentially the same on every browser–whether on a desktop, a laptop, or a mobile device–and it will give users a better, faster, richer Web experience.

Instead of leaving each browser maker to rely on a combination of its in-house technology and third-party plug-ins for multimedia, HTML5 requires that the browser have built-in methods for audio, video, and 2D graphics display. Patent and licensing issues cloud the question of which audio and video formats will achieve universal support, but companies have plenty of motivation to work out those details.

In turn, Website designers and Web app developers won’t have to deal with multiple incompatible formats and workarounds in their efforts to create the same user experience in every browser.

This is an especially valuable advance for mobile devices, as their browsers today typically have only limited multimedia support. The iPhone’s Safari browser, for example, doesn’t handle Adobe Flash–even though Flash is a prime method of delivering video content across platforms and browsers.

“It’ll take a couple of years to roll out, but if all the browser companies are supporting video display with no JavaScript [for compatibility handling], just the video tag and no plug-in, then there’s no downside to using a mobile device,” says Jeffrey Zeldman, a Web designer and leading Web standards guru. “Less and less expert users will have better and better experiences.”

Makers of operating systems and browsers appear to be falling into line behind HTML5. Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Opera, and WebKit (the development package that underlies many mobile and desktop programs), among others, are all moving toward HTML5 support.

For its part, Microsoft says that Internet Explorer 8 will support only parts of HTML5. But Microsoft may not want to risk having its Internet Explorer browser lose more market share by resisting HTML5 in the face of consensus among the other OS and browser makers.

HTML5 is now completing its last march toward a final draft and official support by the World Wide Web Consortium.

September 18, 2009

Chrome 3.0 is out

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:32 pm

Actually it’s been out for a few days. I downloaded Google’s Chrome 3.0 browser immediately and I like it. I did a Chrome experiment a few weeks ago and haven’t looked back. Within the first week I made it my default browser, and yesterday had to get into IE for to troubleshoot some tech problems I was having with WordPress and realized I’d already become completely comfortable with the stripped-down and very fast Chrome interface.

From the first link:

HTML5 Support

image of iPassConnect for BlackBerry Icon

Google Chrome 3.0 offers support for HTML5 capabilities, including the “video” and “audio” tags for integrated embedding of multimedia elements. With those options, multimedia content can be featured and played in pages without the need for any plugins or external utilities.

Ready to give the new Chrome a whirl for yourself? If you have an older version of the browser already installed, you should be prompted to update soon. Or, you can visit the official Chrome page to download it manually now.

September 3, 2009

Sony Vaio’s pre-loaded with Google Chrome

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:37 am

Not just pre-loaded, but set as the default web browser. I’m deep into a week-long Chrome test run and I have to say I’ve been very, very impressed. So impressed unless something really wonky happens Google Chrome is going to be my default browser going forward.

From the Technology Review link:

Sony Corp. is giving Google Inc.’s fledging Chrome browser a boost by installing it as the primary browser on Vaio-brand computers sold in the United States and Europe.

The Sony devices continue to provide Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer — the world’s most widely used Web browser — allowing users to have a choice between the two. But many users stick with the browser that is preset as the default, meaning they are likely to experience Chrome as their primary — perhaps only — gateway to the Web.

Sony is the first PC maker to sell computers with Chrome pre-installed. Sony said Wednesday it has been doing so on Vaio computers in the U.S. and Europe since May.

August 28, 2009

Google Chrome mini-review

Filed under: Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:30 pm

Finally broke down and actually tried out Chrome.

The quick reaction? I like it.

It’s pretty spare and not totally user friendly for this particular user, but it feels agile, websites look good, no Flash problems (hint go the Chrome features page and get the auto-download for the plug-in there) and feels a little quicker than my current IE install.

Update 8/29/09 — It’s definitely more quick and might end up my default browser. All in all I’m very impressed with Mountain View’s entry into the browser wars.

September 12, 2008

Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 sneak peek

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:09 pm

Here’sa CIO.com article on the latest iteration of Microsoft’s IE8.

From the link:

A lot’s riding on IE8. Microsoft’s share of the browser market continues to slip. Last month, it fell by nearly a percentage point, to 72.2%, according to data from Net Applications Inc. A year ago, IE accounted for 79% of all browsers.

Clearly, IE isn’t going away. But the newest beta, likely the last before Microsoft declares IE8 ready to ship, will be a crucial test. Naturally, we have questions, and the answers, needed to get you going with this latest browser out of Redmond.

Where do I get IE8 Beta 2? You can download the beta from Microsoft’s IE8 page, which sports separate links for Windows XP, Vista, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008.

IE8 will not be offered for versions of Windows older than XP, nor for non-Microsoft operating systems.

September 1, 2008

Google restarts browser war

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:24 pm

Interesting move from Mountain View:

Google Inc. plans to launch its own Web browser, people familiar with the matter said, in the latest twist in a battle with Microsoft Corp. over key Internet technologies.

The browser, called Google Chrome, is likely to be announced soon, according to these people. They say software is designed to make it easier and faster to browse the Web, by offering enhanced address-bar features and other elements that are very different from those on other browsers. The product will be open-sourced, meaning others can modify the code.

News of the project spread after an unconventional leak. Google Blogoscoped, a blog that follows the company, reported Monday that Google had sent it a comic book outlining the specifications of the browser – which include a new format for “tabs” and the ability to view Web pages as thumbnails.

The launch is a risky move for Google, which competes against Microsoft’s search service but has has so far refrained from taking on the near-monopoly of its Internet Explorer browser. While there has been speculation for years that Google has been working on a browser, the Internet company has preferred to focus on Web applications and supported other browsers trying to compete indirectly.

For the record, this move should not affect Google’s involvement with Mozilla/Firefox. The two groups recently extended their agreement to 2011.