Google unveils new Android software in India to power cheap smartphones

This file photo shows logos of US technology company Google displayed on computer screens on November 20, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 05 December 2017
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Google unveils new Android software in India to power cheap smartphones

MUMBAI: Alphabet Inc’s Google launched a stripped-down version of its Android software in India on Tuesday, as it attempts to woo millions of basic phone users in the fast-growing wireless services market.
The Android Oreo Go operating system can work on entry-level smartphones with the memory of as low as 512 megabytes, Google said on Tuesday, adding it expects devices running on the software to start hitting store shelves in the coming months.
With 1.2 billion mobile phone subscribers, India’s wireless services market is second only to China’s. But, only about a third of these subscribers currently use smartphones, leaving a vast market for Google, handset, and telecom firms to further tap.
Although prices of smartphones have fallen sharply in the last few years with Chinese and local phone-makers flooding the market with cheaper handsets, they remain out of reach of a section of customers who are also concerned about a smooth user experience in low-priced phones.
“The new lighter operating system, if it works well, will likely attract first-time smartphone buyers to devices retailing in the $30 to $75 range,” said Shobhit Srivastava, an analyst at technology researcher Counterpoint, adding that it would also give Google the opportunity to cross-sell other services like its local payments application Tez that launched in September.
Phones running on the new Google mobile operating system will also have access to a special version of its Google Play application store, the company said, highlighting the apps designed to work best on the low-memory smartphones.
Google, which has increased its focus on the Indian market in recent years with initiatives including providing free wifi services at railway stations, is competing with the likes of Facebook and its WhatsApp messenger services for the attention of hundreds of millions of new Internet users.
Even for those 400 million or so already connected to the Internet in India, consumption of mobile data has seen a huge spurt following the entry of a new carrier Reliance Jio, backed by the country’s richest man Mukesh Ambani.
Jio up-ended the market with initially free and later cut-priced offerings that forced established rivals to slash their prices. Jio currently offers plans that allow users to download up to 1 gigabyte of data per day for less than $3 a month.
Among other products, Google announced on Tuesday a version of its Google Assistant for JioPhone — a low-cost 4G-enabled device marketed by Jio.
It also unveiled a version of Google maps tailored for two-wheeler users.


Saudi Arabia in the crosshairs as cyber-raids target Gulf

More than 90 percent of malware is distributed by email with hackers seeking to trick users with fake invoices and other scams. (Shutterstock)
Updated 15 February 2019
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Saudi Arabia in the crosshairs as cyber-raids target Gulf

  • Cyberattacks were ranked as the second most important risk after an “energy shock” in these three Gulf states, according to the WEF’s flagship Global Risks Report 2019
  • Criminal phishing attacks rising sharply, cybersecurity experts warn

RIYADH: Online phishing attacks are on the rise with experts warning of increasing numbers of cyber-raids targeting Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.
Phishing is a type of fraud where criminals target online victims, using deception to acquire users’ credentials, ranging from passwords to credit card and bank account details, and other financially sensitive information.
Cybersecurity experts say the numbers of attacks worldwide have risen dramatically, increasing from over 2 million in the first two weeks of February last year to more than 4.3 million in the same period this year.
Mohammed Khurram Khan, a professor of cybersecurity at King Saud University (KSU), told Arab News: “Saudi Arabia, due to its strong position in political, social and economic spheres, has been a key target for cyber-intrusions by state and nonstate actors aiming to compromise its national security.
“Various types of malware and scams, especially phishing, are used to target critical information infrastructure, which serve as the backbone of the economy,” he said.
More than 90 percent of malware is distributed by email with hackers seeking to trick users with fake invoices and other scams, said Khan, who is also the founder and CEO of the Global Foundation for Cyber Studies and Research, a Washington-based cybersecurity think tank.
“Computer users in Saudi Arabia have been confronted with more than 30 million phishing emails in recent years,” he said.
Khan said that awareness, training and “cyber-hygiene” were important to protect users and organizations from phishing scams.
KSU has developed a pioneering cybersecurity awareness product, “Rawam,” which helps organizations train employees to deal with malicious hacking, malware, ransomware, phishing and cyberattacks.
The bilingual tool has been used to train 100,000 staff in 40 different organizations, he said.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) last month warned of the growing likelihood of cyberattacks in the Gulf, with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar particularly vulnerable.
Cyberattacks were ranked as the second most important risk after an “energy shock” in these three Gulf states, according to the WEF’s flagship Global Risks Report 2019, released ahead of the annual forum in Davos.
Cybersecurity experts from the Kaspersky Lab, a multinational digital security provider, detected a sharp increase in phishing activities on the eve of the Valentine’s Day.
The overall number of user attempts to visit fraudulent websites detected and blocked by Kaspersky Lab in the first half of February exceeded 4.3 million.
“The spike offers a reminder that we should be cautious when surfing the web, even if we are just buying flowers for our loved one,” said Andrey Kostin, a senior web content analyst.