Google Coronavirus Info Site Launched Overall rating: ★★★★★ 5 based on 23 reviews
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Google Coronavirus Info Site Launched

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google coronavirus info siteLast Saturday, Google launched a website dedicated to providing information to people about coronavirus, in addition to other measures.

Google’s website — google.com/covid19 according to an announcement on Twitter, is designed to provide a wider range of information such as prevention tips, a map of areas affected by COVID-19, links to local health agencies and other resources.

The Google Coronavirus Info Site will be available in more languages in the “coming days” as Google said.

“We are fully aligned and continue to work with the US Government to contain the spread of COVID-19, inform citizens, and protect the health of our communities… Google is partnering with the US Government in developing a nationwide website that includes information about COVID-19 symptoms, risk and testing information.“

“As coronavirus becomes a challenge in more communities and as authorities around the world develop new guidance and tools to address the pandemic, we’ll continue to find more opportunities to connect people with key information to keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe,” Google’s Emily Moxley said in a blog post.

70% of Websites Has Been Moved to Google’s Mobile-First Indexing

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Google Mobile-First Indexing

Image from: Searchenginejournal.com

Back in 2016, Google has first announced about experimenting with mobile-first indexing. Since then, a lot of information about this has been published. Throughout the years, more and more information has been given to us by Google especially on how the mobile-first indexing works and what people can do to prepare for it.

Just recently, Google confirmed that 70% of sites have already made the shift to mobile-first indexing. The remaining 30% will be moved by September at the latest, as Google says that’s when all sites will be officially switched over.

How do I know if my website has been moved to mobile-first indexing?

A sign that your site has been moved is an increase in Googlebot’s crawling, particularly from mobile smartphones user end.

You can also check in Google Search Console also show on the settings page as well as in the URL inspection tool a website’s mobile-first indexing status.

Some things to watch out for when optimizing:

  1. On-page content is the same on mobile and desktop versions
  2. Meta data is the same on both versions
  3. Structured data is the same on both version

Google’s URL testing tool allows site owners to easily check both the desktop and mobile versions of a page. So you can ensure Google (and visitors) can see identical content on desktop and mobile.

Google specifically recommends not using separate mobile URLs (also known as “m-dot”) because they can cause “issues and confusion” for search engines and users. The standard for mobile-first indexing is responsive web design.

Source: Google, Search Engine Journal

New Instagram Feature Will Help You Figure Out Who To Unfollow

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Image by Webster2703 from Pixabay

Instagram has been rolling out a new feature that allows users to group their following list into different categories.

The new “Following Categories” feature groups the accounts you follow into lists such as “Least Interacted With” and “Most Shown in Feed.” The categories use data from your Instagram activity for the last 90 days.  In calculating interactions, Instagram measures user actions such as liking posts and reacting to stories.

You can also sort your followers by the date you followed their account, either from earliest to latest or vice versa.

In a statement to TechCrunch, an Instagram spokesperson says:

“Instagram is really about bringing you closer to the people and things you care about – but we know that over time, your interests and relationships can evolve and change. We want to make it easier to manage the accounts you follow on Instagram so that they best represent your current connections and interests.”

In other words, Instagram users can filter out the noise from their feed by reviewing these new Following Categories.

What it Means for Users

If you are a fan of social media like me, you would have experienced the frustration of the time it takes to unfollow accounts. This new feature makes it easier for users to find accounts that might be clogging up your feed with multiple posts per day.

What it Means for Instagram

This puts Instagram ahead of its competitors such as TikTok and Twitter, which doesn’t have these features.

Impact for Marketers

The impact for marketers is still not clear but people are already talking about the lost of followers. But a good point is made by Search Engine Journal:

Looking at this a more positive way – if users trim down their Following list it could lead to more engagement as well. Users will see more content from the accounts they really care about, and have more opportunities to engage with them.

Whether or not this will be good for marketing, will be known in a few months.

How to access the feature?

To access the feature, go to your profile, then click on “Following”

Now look for the “sorted by” option which may have been set on default.

WordPress 5.4 Lazy-Loading to All Images

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Source: Searchenginejournal.com

WordPress announced that WordPress 5.4 may feature image lazy-loading by default. This feature will enable the “loading” HTML attribute on all IMG elements. WordPress publishers will no longer need to use JavaScript or third party plugins for lazy-loading their images.

Lazy-loading

The lazy-loading HTML attribute tells a browser to either wait before downloading an image or to download it right away. There is no JavaScript need to accomplish this.

There are three kinds of lazy-loading attributes but only two that really matter:

  1. Lazy
  2. Eager

Lazy, which will be enabled in WordPress 5.4 by default, means to wait until the user’s browser viewport is within a certain distance before downloading the image. This behavior will speed up users’ experience on WordPress sites.

The “eager” attribute tells the browser to immediately download the image.

WordPress 5.4 Release Date

WordPress 5.4 is currently set to release on March 31, 2020. That date is subject to change depending on how ready the release is. But WordPress has been very good about meeting their deadlines.

According to the WordPress comments, the lazy-loading attributes will be implemented in a manner that makes it easy to remove them. This is important in case future browsers begin lazy-loading all images by default, without the need for a loading attribute.

Google has indicated via Web.dev that there are plans to automatically enable lazy-loading to all images when a browser in the Lite mode (formerly known as Data Saver mode).

Test Drive WordPress Lazy-Loading

The WordPress team has officially released a WordPress lazy-loading plugin designed for testing purposes. Publishers who want to test it and give feedback are welcome to download the plugin and give it a try.

Read the official WordPress announcement here:

Lazy-Loading Images in WordPress Core

Google Launches SOS Alert For Coronavirus in Search Results

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Google has teamed up with the World Health Organisation to launch and activate an SOS alert in search results for searches related to the coronavirus outbreak.

Introduced in 2017, Google’s SOS alerts are activated during crisis events where public safety might be at risk.

The search engine will prioritise information on the virus from the WHO, including safety tips and WHO Twitter updates on the spread of the virus and how to stay safe.

Anyone searching for information related to the coronavirus, an SOS Alert box with resources from WHO at the top of the results page will be shown.

Google SOS Alert Coronavirus

Source: Dailymail.co.uk

Where does Google get content for SOS Alerts?

According to this help document by Google:

We have teams around the world who source content from government agencies, first responders, trusted media outlets, and NGOs. We also aggregate information from other Google products and services, such as Google News, Google Maps, Waze, and more.

 

Plugin flaw puts over 200,000 WordPress sites at risk of attack

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Over 200,000 WordPress sites have been warned they may have been exposed to a bug that allows hackers to take over the website easily.

The affected sites were all found to be running an unpatched open-source plugin that puts them at risk of attack.

This high severity cross-site request forgery (CSRF) bug has impacted a plugin called Code Snippets which is used to run PHP code snippets offering a graphical user interface that looks similar to the plugins menu.

Attacked

The bug, first tracked by security firm Wordfence, allowed attackers to inject a PHP code on behalf of the administrator and execute malicious codes remotely. It also allowed hackers to create new administrator accounts, extract sensitive data, and even infect site users.

Wordfence researchers pointed out that though the developers had followed all the security measures however, the import function in the plugin had a flaw that could be easily compromised.

The vulnerability has been fixed on 25th January, a couple of days later it was reported, with the latest release of the Code Snippet plugin now version 2.14.0. Any admins running an older version of the plugin have been told they must update to the patched version.

As per a WordPress plugin download data of the latest update, approximately 58,000 users have downloaded the updated plugin while over 140,000 users are still on the older version and are vulnerable to hack.

 

Source: TechRadar

Shopify Offering Startup Loans to Merchants – No Sales or Credit Checks Required

Business Advice, E-Commerce, What's New No Comment

Shopify is looking to spur entrepreneurship and boost its merchant count by removing a fundamental barrier to launching a business: startup capital.

The Ottawa-based e-commerce giant announced an expansion of its Shopify Capital program Tuesday that will see the company provide initial loans of $200 to qualifying applicants looking to test out entrepreneurship.

In its most recent earnings report last fall, Shopify highlighted how its existing Shopify Capital program issued $141 million in merchant cash advances and loans in the third quarter of 2019, an increase of 85 per cent year-over-year. Until now, the program’s financing terms have typically been tied to a business’s sales history on the platform.

These early-stage loans, on the other hand, can be approved without any sales or a credit check. In a release, the company positioned the idea as an alternative to dipping into savings, borrowing from friends and family or racking up credit card debt.

Kaz Nejatian, vice-president of Shopify’s financial solutions division, wrote on Twitter that the new program was aimed at entrepreneurs struggling to get started with a business idea, such as recently landed immigrants who haven’t built up a financial foundation yet or a founder targeting non-traditional industries.

The move to ease the on-boarding of new users comes amid a broader push to continue growing the number of merchants using Shopify’s platform.

Though the company passed a sizeable milestone with its one-millionth user in 2019, the company’s year-to-year growth in merchant base has showed signs of slowing in recent years. This has pushed Shopify to increase expansion efforts outside its core North American market; CFO Amy Shapero said during the company’s most recent quarterly earnings call that it was seeing its most rapid growth in international markets.

Shopify itself has been having a strong start to 2020 with its shares hitting new highs on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges. The firm’s shares on the TSX were trading at $576.25 on Tuesday, an increase of nearly nine per cent since the start of the year.

Source: Ottawa Business Journal

Cyber Security Trends 2020 – How Unprepared Are We?

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Spending on cybersecurity is on an explosive rise. When new ransomware attacks occur every 14 seconds followed by infiltration attempts on large volumes of data putting millions of people at risk, cybersecurity ought to be discussed. As we usher into 2020, the scope of discussion has gone beyond the upcoming security products & services to new innovations in hacking. If you haven’t woken up to combat such attacks, you could be the next target.

Before 2019 ends, the US alone would have had spent USD 45 billion and that’s not just any other market cap figure. As per IDC, global spending on cybersecurity will touch USD 103 billion.

Increased Router-based attacks

Being positioned at the heart of the network operations, Routers monitor all the devices and hence, are low hanging fruits for hackers. Since they aren’t updated as frequently as recommended, Routers are prone to a series of attacks. Moreover, there is a swathe of models from different brands which makes it complicated for the manufacturers to upgrade or offer replacement to the older devices.

Such attacks are targeted to retrieve configuration files by exploiting commands such as SNMP and SMI. As per a report from Akamai, flaws in UPnP implementations empowered hackers to inject NAT rules while affecting 65,000 routers and 4.8 million more at risk.

Last year, Kaspersky reported a similar attack wherein systems in Russia and Iran were left with an ASCII rendition of the American Flag followed by a message ‘Don’t mess with our elections’.

Given the increase of routers under attacks, users, at homes, agencies and offices must take essential steps to ensure basic security. More than just changing the default router password in settings, it’s high time that users act proactively and learn about the security of their routers. They can access the router settings via the default IP 192.168.1.1 which is pre-specified by the router companies.

Henceforth, enabling WPA2 encryption, updating the router, using VPN and other 3rd party services can help to cut down the risks by 70%. In certain cases, changing the default IP altogether can curb the vulnerabilities.

Growth of 5G & increasing threats in the cloud

With impressive infrastructure deployments already in progression, 5G is prepared to grow in major markets such as India. In fact, IoT device manufacturers are experimenting with devices connecting directly with the 5G networks while not depending upon the Wi-Fi routers anymore. However, eliminating the central point of controlling networks at homes and small offices has raised the fears of making devices prone to more attacks. Routers are helpful in monitoring all the devices in the network and their absence means screening each one of them manually.

Following up with abundant data streaming capacities provided by 5G networks, cloud storage may not be the securest of all anymore. Given such bandwidth efficiency to back-up, upload and download huge volumes of data, hackers have already discovered their newer targets. At the enterprise level, this gets scarier as on-premise migration to the cloud continues to grow explosively. However, by 2020, 80% of such deals will attach network firewalls and secure web gateways to cloud-based access security brokers (CASBs).

Increasing use of mobile as an attack vector

By the end of 2018, mobiles had already topped the list of potential gateways to infiltration and hacking attempts. Since all our communications, whether personal or professional have moved to the mobile, we are inching towards a greater risk of exposing ourselves to the unknown, unintentionally. As per the RSA’s Current State of Cybercrime Whitepaper, 70% of fraudulent transactions were triggered by a mobile device in 2018. Not to miss, the 680% rise in frauds from mobile apps since 2015.

Phishing is back – stronger & scarier

Phishing may be old yet practiced full throttle. In fact, it has expanded into different versions such as smishing (phishing through SMS) or vishing (phishing through live calls). As per Verizon’s Data Breach Investigation Report 2019, phishing accounts for 32% of data breaches and 78% of cyberespionage incidents. These actions across emails, SMSs, social media posts and IRS phone calls lure the victim to give up personal information such as login credentials, or OTPs including transactions. Despite aggressive awareness campaigning, impersonating a reputed brand and extracting valuable information from the customer hasn’t stopped and it doesn’t look like stopping in 2020.

Going forward – hacking will get more innovative

Before you thought of deploying AI to predict attacks, hackers had already implemented strategies to dodge your preparations. Besides using automation for phishing (sending emails, social media messages), it could scan millions of systems, identify the ones most vulnerable and launch mass data infiltration attacks. Therefore, such abusive use of Artificial Intelligence deserves superlative defense such as – 50% of enterprises pledge to utilize AI tools to secure their systems.

 

Source: Business2Community

Google plans to give slow websites a new badge of shame in Chrome

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Google is experimenting with a badge of shame for websites that load slowly in Chrome. “In the future, Chrome may identify sites that typically load fast or slow for users with clear badging,” explains a blog post from the Chrome team. “This may take a number of forms and we plan to experiment with different options, to determine which provides the most value to our users.”

A new badge could appear in the future that’s designed to highlight sites that are “authored in a way that makes them slow generally.” Google will look at historical load latencies to figure out which sites are guilty of slow load times and flag them, and the Chrome team is also exploring identifying sites that will load slowly based on device hardware or network connectivity.

Google is experimenting with having a loading screen (splash screen) to warn Chrome users, or a loading progress bar that would appear green if the site is fast and, presumably, red if it’s slow. “We are building out speed badging in close collaboration with other teams exploring labelling the quality of experiences at Google,” explains the Chrome team. “We are being very mindful with our approach to setting the bar for what is considered a good user experience and hope to land on something that is practically achievable by all developers.”

It’s not clear exactly when this new badging system will appear in Chrome, but Google unveiled its plans at the company’s Chrome Dev Summit in San Francisco today. The company has carefully worded its announcement with lots of “may” hedges, so it’s likely Google is looking for immediate feedback from web developers before it progresses.

Google also unveiled its vision for the future of Chrome today, and it appears the company is focusing on WebAssembly, powerful capabilities, and Progress Web Apps (PWAs). Hopefully this will mean even more powerful web apps soon, and ones that feel a lot more like native apps.

Source: The Verge

Magento Warns E-Commerce Sites to Upgrade ASAP to Prevent Attacks

E-Commerce, What's New No Comment

The popular e-commerce platform Magento is urging web administrators to install its latest security update in order to defend against malicious attacks in the wild that could exploit a critical remote code-execution vulnerability.

While the company didn’t specify what kinds of potential attacks that websites should be concerned about (Threatpost reached out for comment on this), Magento is a common target for the Magecart association of threat groups, which compromise websites built on unpatched e-commerce platforms in order to inject card-skimming scripts on checkout pages. The scripts steal unsuspecting customers’ payment card details and other information entered into the fields on the page.

The vulnerability (CVE-2019-8144), which carries a severity ranking of 10 out of 10 on the CVSS v.3 scale, could enable an unauthenticated user to insert a malicious payload into a merchant’s site through Page Builder template methods, and execute it. Page Builder allows websites to design content updates, preview them live and schedule them to be published. The bug specifically exists in the preview function.

The flaw affects Magento 2.3, and was patched in in Magento Commerce 2.3.3 and with the security-only patch 2.3.2-p2, released in October. The company warned that patching will have the side effect of “blocking administrators from viewing previews for products, blocks and dynamic blocks’; but, it said it will re-enable the preview functionality as soon as possible.

“We recommend that all merchants, even those who have already upgraded to 2.3.3 or applied security-only patch 2.3.2-p2, review the security of their Magento site to confirm that it was not potentially compromised before upgrade,” Piotr Kaminski of the Magento security team wrote in a posting on Monday. “Applying this hot fix or upgrading…will help defend your store against potential attacks going forward, but will not address the effects of an earlier attack.”

The same update patches several other critical emote-execution flaws with a CVSS v.3 score of 9 and above, as well as cross-site scripting (CSS) issues.

The warning comes as Magecart activity and infrastructure continues to saturate the web. According to analysis from RiskIQ last month, there are now 573 known command-and-control (C2) domains for the group, with close to 10,000 hosts actively loading those domains. In all, RiskIQ has detected almost 2 million (2,086,529) instances of Magecart’s javaScript binaries, with over 18,000 e-commerce hosts directly breached.

“It is unfortunate that this kind of attack is still succeeding even though a mitigation is quite straightforward,” said Mounir Hahad, head of Juniper Threat Labs at Juniper Networks, via email. “As a last resort, website owners should periodically check the integrity of their script code, which can be as simple as calculating a checksum every few minutes to look for an unexpected change.”

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