16-Year-Old Anmol Tukrel Claims His Search Engine Is 47 Percent More Accurate Than Google

Anmol Tukrel, a 16-year-old Indian-origin Canadian citizen, has designed a personalised search engine which he claims is 47 percent more accurate than Google.

The young student designed the search engine as part of a high school project and also to submit to the Google Science Fair, pressexaminer.com reported.

Tukrel came across the idea of a personalised search engine during an internship stint in India at Bengaluru-based adtech firm IceCream Labs.

He planned to take it Google’s personalised search engine idea to the next level.

Tukrel said that unlike most search engines that use a person’s location or browsing history to throw relevant results, his engine tries to show the most relevant content by mapping it to a user’s personality.

Tukrel’s search engine is currently restricted to one year’s news articles that appeared in The New York Times.

His development kit included only a computer, a python-language development environment, a spreadsheet programme and access to Google and New York Times

Kaspersky Lab Reportedly Faked Malware to Harm Rivals

Beginning more than a decade ago, one of the largest security companies in the world, Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab, tried to damage rivals in the marketplace by tricking their antivirus software programs into classifying benign files as malicious, according to two former employees.

They said the secret campaign targeted Microsoft Corp, AVG Technologies NV, Avast Software and other rivals, fooling some of them into deleting or disabling important files on their customers’ PCs.

Some of the attacks were ordered by Kaspersky Lab’s co-founder, Eugene Kaspersky, in part to retaliate against smaller rivals that he felt were aping his software instead of developing their own technology, they said.

“Eugene considered this stealing,” said one of the former employees. Both sources requested anonymity and said they were among a small group of people who knew about the operation.

Kaspersky Lab strongly denied that it had tricked competitors into categorizing clean files as malicious, so-called false positives.

“Our company has never conducted any secret campaign to trick competitors into generating false positives to damage their market standing,” Kaspersky said in a statement to Reuters. “Such actions are unethical, dishonest and their legality is at least questionable.”

Executives at Microsoft, AVG and Avast previously told Reuters that unknown parties had tried to induce false positives in recent years. When contacted this week, they had no comment on the allegation that Kaspersky Lab had targeted them.

The Russian company is one of the most popular antivirus software makers, boasting 400 million users and 270,000 corporate clients. Kaspersky has won wide respect in the industry for its research on sophisticated Western spying programs and the Stuxnet computer worm that sabotaged Iran’s nuclear program in 2009 and 2010.

The two former Kaspersky Lab employees said the desire to build market share also factored into Kaspersky’s selection of competitors to sabotage.

“It was decided to provide some problems” for rivals, said one ex-employee. “It is not only damaging for a competing company but also damaging for users’ computers.”

The former Kaspersky employees said company researchers were assigned to work for weeks or months at a time on the sabotage projects.

Their chief task was to reverse-engineer competitors’ virus detection software to figure out how to fool them into flagging good files as malicious, the former employees said.

The opportunity for such trickery has increased over the past decade and a half as the soaring number of harmful computer programs have prompted security companies to share more information with each other, industry experts said. They licensed each other’s virus-detection engines, swapped samples of malware, and sent suspicious files to third-party aggregators such as Google Inc’s VirusTotal.

By sharing all this data, security companies could more quickly identify new viruses and other malicious content. But the collaboration also allowed companies to borrow heavily from each other’s work instead of finding bad files on their own.

Kaspersky Lab in 2010 complained openly about copycats, calling for greater respect for intellectual property as data-sharing became more prevalent.

In an effort to prove that other companies were ripping off its work, Kaspersky said it ran an experiment: It created 10 harmless files and told VirusTotal that it regarded them as malicious. VirusTotal aggregates information on suspicious files and shares them with security companies.

Within a week and a half, all 10 files were declared dangerous by as many as 14 security companies that had blindly followed Kaspersky’s lead, according to a media presentation given by senior Kaspersky analyst Magnus Kalkuhl in Moscow in January 2010.

When Kaspersky’s complaints did not lead to significant change, the former employees said, it stepped up the sabotage.

Injecting bad code
In one technique, Kaspersky’s engineers would take an important piece of software commonly found in PCs and inject bad code into it so that the file looked like it was infected, the ex-employees said. They would send the doctored file anonymously to VirusTotal.

Then, when competitors ran this doctored file through their virus detection engines, the file would be flagged as potentially malicious. If the doctored file looked close enough to the original, Kaspersky could fool rival companies into thinking the clean file was problematic as well.

VirusTotal had no immediate comment.

In its response to written questions from Reuters, Kaspersky denied using this technique. It said it too had been a victim of such an attack in November 2012, when an “unknown third party” manipulated Kaspersky into misclassifying files from Tencent, Mail.ru and the Steam gaming platform as malicious.

The extent of the damage from such attacks is hard to assess because antivirus software can throw off false positives for a variety of reasons, and many incidents get caught after a small number of customers are affected, security executives said.

The former Kaspersky employees said Microsoft was one of the rivals that were targeted because many smaller security companies followed the Redmond, Washington-based company’s lead in detecting malicious files. They declined to give a detailed account of any specific attack.

Microsoft’s antimalware research director, Dennis Batchelder, told Reuters in April that he recalled a time in March 2013 when many customers called to complain that a printer code had been deemed dangerous by its antivirus program and placed in “quarantine.”

Batchelder said it took him roughly six hours to figure out that the printer code looked a lot like another piece of code that Microsoft had previously ruled malicious. Someone had taken a legitimate file and jammed a wad of bad code into it, he said. Because the normal printer code looked so much like the altered code, the antivirus program quarantined that as well.

Over the next few months, Batchelder’s team found hundreds, and eventually thousands, of good files that had been altered to look bad. Batchelder told his staff not to try to identify the culprit.

“It doesn’t really matter who it was,” he said. “All of us in the industry had a vulnerability, in that our systems were based on trust. We wanted to get that fixed.”

In a subsequent interview on Wednesday, Batchelder declined to comment on any role Kaspersky may have played in the 2013 printer code problems or any other attacks. Reuters has no evidence linking Kaspersky to the printer code attack.

As word spread in the security industry about the induced false positives found by Microsoft, other companies said they tried to figure out what went wrong in their own systems and what to do differently, but no one identified those responsible.

At Avast, a largely free antivirus software maker with the biggest market share in many European and South American countries, employees found a large range of doctored network drivers, duplicated for different language versions.

Avast Chief Operating Officer Ondrej Vlcek told Reuters in April that he suspected the offenders were well-equipped malware writers and “wanted to have some fun” at the industry’s expense. He did not respond to a request on Thursday for comment on the allegation that Kaspersky had induced false positives.

Waves of attacks
The former employees said Kaspersky Lab manipulated false positives off and on for more than 10 years, with the peak period between 2009 and 2013.

It is not clear if the attacks have ended, though security executives say false positives are much less of a problem today.

That is in part because security companies have grown less likely to accept a competitor’s determinations as gospel and are spending more to weed out false positives.

AVG’s former chief technology officer, Yuval Ben-Itzhak, said the company suffered from troves of bad samples that stopped after it set up special filters to screen for them and improved its detection engine.

“There were several waves of these samples, usually four times per year. This crippled-sample generation lasted for about four years. The last wave was received at the beginning of the year 2013,” he told Reuters in April.

AVG’s chief strategy officer, Todd Simpson, declined to comment on Wednesday.

Kaspersky said it had also improved its algorithms to defend against false virus samples. It added that it believed no antivirus company conducted the attacks “as it would have a very bad effect on the whole industry.”

“Although the security market is very competitive, trusted threat-data exchange is definitely part of the overall security of the entire IT ecosystem, and this exchange must not be compromised or corrupted,” Kaspersky said.

Google Provides Virtual Tour of India’s Road to Independence

Internet giant Google on Friday said that it was providing a virtual tour of the Indian freedom struggle via the Google Cultural Institute division on the occasion of Independence Day.

The tour will include places like the Cellular Jail in Port Blair; Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar; the Aga Khan Palace in Pune; the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, as well as the Lahori Gate and other sites at the Red Fort in New Delhi. Also accessible is a special collection of images and artefacts from the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.

“The effort will enable people across the country a chance to reminisce India’s historic moments and revisit the nation’s road to independence with a virtual tour. The tour will take the users through some of the iconic landmarks that witnessed India’s independence movement on Google Maps,” Google Maps director Suren Ruhela said in a blog post.

“Trace the footsteps of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, from his oath at Parliament and speech on the country’s ‘Tryst with Destiny’, to the Red Fort, where he unfurled the Tricolor on 15 August 1947; and where each year, subsequent Prime Ministers have followed the tradition of unfurling the national flag and delivering an address to the nation,” said Ruhela.

“As we prepare to mark the anniversary of India’s independence, there are a range of images, photos and virtual tours you can take with Google Maps and the Cultural Institute, including a special collection of images and artefacts from the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library,” Ruhela added.

40 Million Online Shoppers in India by 2016, Says Study

Online shoppers are expected to increase from 20 million in 2013 to 40 million in 2016, as an additional  200 million Indians will access the Internet in the next  three years, with majority of them coming online through smartphones, indicates a new joint study by Assocham and Grant Thornton.

According to the study, a significantly low (19 percent) but fast-growing Internet population of 243 million in 2014 is an indicator of the sector’s huge growth potential in India. This underlines the potential of Internet use in India and as Internet penetration increases, the potential of growth of the e-commerce industry will also increase, it says.

It also predicts that the Indian e-commerce market is estimated to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 63 percent to reach $8.5 billion (Rs. 54,304 crores approximately) in 2016 on the back of growth in the penetration levels of mobile and Internet and increased consumer demand.

“The number of users making online transactions has also grown exponentially, and it is expected to increase from 11 million in 2011 to 38 million in 2015. Government of India’s plan to rebuild and modernise the Indian postal infrastructure and plan to implement Digital India will also boost the e-commerce sector,” says the study.

India’s current dynamics are similar to what existed in China then – growing broadband penetration, acceptance of online marketplaces, and lack of physical retail infrastructure in many places due to high realty costs, it adds.

The study, titled ‘Law & Technology: Evolving challenges as a result of fraud in e-commerce sector’, says online travel dominates the Indian e-commerce market although online travel contributes a smaller share to the global e-commerce market.

“Online travel accounts for nearly 71 percent of the e-commerce business in India. This business has grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 32 percent between 2009 and 2013. E-tailing, on the other hand, accounts for only 8.7 percent of organised retail and a minuscule 0.3 percent of total retail sales,” the study shows.

The study also showed that the percentage of working women in India grew 43 percent year-on-year in 2013, which constitutes 10 percent of the active online users in India. The women focused share of e-commerce market will increase from 26 percent in 2013 to 35 percent in 2016, it predicts.

NRising umber of SMBs Target of Cyber Espionage: Kaspersky

Not just government agencies and large companies, but small and medium businesses (SMBs) are now becoming targets of cyber-espionage as attackers turn to sectors like education, agriculture, nanotechnologies and mass media, security solutions provider Kaspersky said.

According to Kaspersky, its Global Research and Analysis Team found four cyber-espionage campaigns – CozyDuke, Naikon, Hellsing and Duqu 2.0 – in the June 2015 quarter.

The victim list includes government agencies, commercial companies and other high-level targets, it said in a report.

“The second quarter has also demonstrated cyber criminals’ interest in SMBs – this type of businesses was targeted by cyber-espionage campaign Grabit,” it added.

Cyber-criminals, Kaspersky said, focussed on the economic sector, including the chemical industry, nanotechnologies, education, agriculture, mass media and construction.

Besides, the report also said 2,91,800 new mobile malware programmes emerged in April-June, 2.8 times higher than the first quarter of 2015.

“There were one million mobile malware installation packages in Q2, which is seven times greater than in Q1,” it said.

About 51 per cent of Web-borne attacks blocked by Kaspersky Lab’s products were launched from malicious Web resources located in Russia, followed by the US, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Virgin Islands, Ukraine, Singapore, the UK and China.

Internet Addicts 30 Percent More Likely to Catch Colds and Flu: Study

Spending too much time online can damage your immune function, warns a new study.

People with greater levels of Internet addiction problems are 30 percent more likely to catch colds and flu than those who are less addicted to the Internet, the findings showed.

“Those who spend a long time alone on the Internet experience reduced immune function as a result of simply not having enough contact with others and their germs,” explained one of the researchers Phil Reed, professor at Swansea University in Wales, Britain.

“We found that the impact of the Internet on people’s health was independent of a range of other factors, like depression, sleep deprivation, and loneliness, which are associated with high levels of Internet use and also with poor health,” Reed noted in a statement released by Swansea University.

The study also suggested that those who are addicted to the Internet may suffer from great stress when they are disconnected from the net, and this cycle of stress and relief associated with Internet addiction may lead to altered levels of cortisol – a hormone that impacts immune function.

Researchers evaluated 500 people aged 18 to 101 years old.

Those who reported problems with over-using the Internet also reported having more cold and flu symptoms than those people who did not report excessive use of the Internet.

Previous research has shown that people who spend more time on the Internet experience greater sleep deprivation, have worse eating habits and less healthy diets, engage in less exercise, and also tend to smoke and drink alcohol more.

John Oliver’s Must See Takedown of India’s Porn Ban

John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight is one of the funniest shows on television to tackle extremely serious subjects with a lot of focus on technology related issues such as net neutrality and the right to be forgotten. But there’s also a strong India connection – the first episode of Last Week Tonight was on India’s General Election in 2014.

It was pretty inevitable therefore that the porn ban from the last weekend would become the topic of one of his segments. The result is a hilarious two-minute clip that brings out the absurdity of the ban.

In the segment, Oliver joked about some of the websites that were listed in the order by the government; he laughed that if the government wants to ban pornography, it shouldn’t try and ban these sites, but make viewing them mandatory, which makes a lot of sense when you consider at least some of the sites on the list. Here’s the whole clip:

The comedian also saw his first clip of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who, in a discussion about online porn on an Indian channel stated, “You might get corrupted and become a sex maniac,” when asked how porn was harmful.

Wi-Fi in Connaught Place, Khan Market Losing Speed

The ambitious Wi-Fi project of New Delhi Municipal Council launched in Connaught Place and Khan Market seems to have lost its popularity among visitors and traders who claim the service is not functioning seamlessly.

The civic body and the service providers, however, claim that no formal complaints have been received in this regard. “When the service was launched initially it used to work fine though the network connectivity was limited to inner circle but it was seamless. But for past 6-8 months, there is no signal and users have to log in multiple times to get connected if at all it is successful,” Atul Bhargav, President of New Delhi Traders Association, said.

NDMC had partnered with Tata Teleservices to provide the service in inner and outer circles of Connaught Place, one of the significant business and leisure centres in the city. The civic body claims that the service which was launched in November last year is the largest in India.

At a time, the service can be availed by 5,000 people with a speed of 512 Kbps. The first 20 minutes (within a 24 hour period) are entirely free after which scratch cards can be purchased in various denominations in the market. The password for the Wi-Fi will be sent to users via SMS once they login to the hotspot from the Wi-Fi settings. But the people seem to be disappointed with the service.

“There are no fixed hotspots where network is better or low. To log in once you have to keep on trying for twenty minutes and by that time you have moved to another location. I frustratingly switch to my cellular data usage only,” said a visitor, Rishika. Similar complaints were raised by those operating from and frequenting Khan Market. The Wi-Fi service in Khan Market was launched in August last year in association with Firefly networks.

“Almost all the shops here have their own Wi-Fi inside but the moment you step out from one restaurant or store, there is no signal. The service has been bad for over eight months now,” said Sanjeev Mehra, President of Khan Market Traders Association.

Both NDMC officials and service providers claim that the consumers have not reported any formal complaint to them. “We are proud to be associated with NDMC to provide this service to a large number of users everyday. We have not received any specific complaint from any of our customers so far. Our customer care @ 1800-266-121 can be contacted 24×7 for any assistance the customer may require,” a Tata Docomo spokesperson said.

NDMC had in March announced that all the areas under its jurisdiction will soon be a Wi-Fi zone. The civic agency had joined hands with Indus Towers Limited to replace 18,500 street-light poles in its areas with ‘NextGen digital poles’ which will be fitted with Wi-Fi access points, LED bulbs and CCTV cameras which, it claimed, to be the first-of-its-kind initiative in the world.

However, the project has taken a back seat now with the Delhi High Court directing NDMC to not sign contract for award of tender till it hears a plea filed by Reliance Jio challenging the tender process.

China’s Alibaba to Take $4.6 Billion Stake in Retailer Suning

Chinese Internet giant Alibaba is to pay CNY 28.3 billion ($4.6 billion or roughly Rs. 29,108 crores) for a nearly 20 percent stake in consumer electronics retailer Suning, the two companies said in a statement Monday.

At the same time, the Chinese shopping chain will invest up to CNY 14 billion (roughly Rs. 14,400 crores) for just over one percent of Alibaba, the statement said, bringing the total value of the deal to nearly $7 billion (roughly Rs. 44,715 crores).

It will make Alibaba the second-largest shareholder in Suning, the statement said, adding the two firms would embark on a “strategic collaboration” that “signals the further integration of digital and offline retail”.

Suning is one of China’s biggest consumer electronics retailers, while Alibaba’s Tmall.com site is believed to command more than half the Chinese market for business-to-consumer transactions. ItsTaobao platform holds more than 90 percent of the country’s consumer-to-consumer market.

(Also see:  China’s Alibaba Picks Former Goldman Executive as President)

Alibaba’s founder and executive chairman Jack Ma said: “Over the past two decades, e-commerce has become an inextricable part of the lives of Chinese consumers, and this new alliance brings forth a new commerce model that fully integrates online and offline.”

Suning chairman Zhang Jindong said the deal would “help transform China’s manufacturing industry and broaden the global horizons of Chinese brands”.

It is the latest in a string of acquisitions by Alibaba as Ma seeks to diversify the huge New York-listed company, which is facing domestic competition from Internet giants Baidu and Tencent and remains relatively unknown outside China.

Two weeks ago Alibaba announced it would invest $1 billion (roughly Rs. 6,388 crores) in its cloud computing arm to expand its international presence.

IIMB Considers Digital Courses for Masses

An elite institution like the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), which pioneered in making online management courses available internationally to a broader spectrum of students, can leverage this experience to help develop the massive skilled workforce required for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” programme, according to IIM-Bangalore Director Sushil Vachani.

More than 40,000 students from 180 countries have registered for the four specialised digital education programmes known as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) developed by IIMB that are featured on edX, a platform developed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Vachani said here. Seven more MOOCs are to be added in the coming months in the programme called IIMBx.

MOOCs harness the Internet to present academic courses using the best teachers from top institutions to reach a mass audience of students at very little cost thus making the best education affordable.

While the IIMBx MOOCs programme caters to the specialised higher end in education, he said the same techniques can be extended to meet the needs of India’s economic development by the IIMB partnering with other universities that have a wider reach.

“What we want to do is use our capability of using technology to have massive social impact,” Vachani told IANS in an interview here. The IIMB, which he called a “national asset”, has been very successful in its mission, so now “we have to give back to society”.

“For the ‘Make in India’ programme you need to have large numbers of workers whose skill level has to be raised,” he said. Improving the skill levels of an enormous mass of people would be very expensive and difficult and the institutions that have to undertake the task lack adequate faculty or expertise, he added.

Where the IIMB would come in, he said, would be to create MOOCs that are made available to lots of colleges and universities to reach the large numbers of people who have to upgrade their skills. And teachers can also be trained to create other such programmes, he said. “These have to be targeted courses developed for different industries by people who are experts in those areas,” he said.

While launching the Skills India Mission last month, Modi said that 40 million to 50 million more youth would have to develop their skills in the coming decade to enable India to reach his vision of the nation becoming the world’s human resource capital. For this, Modi added, the industrial training institutes (ITIs) had the vital role.

The other massive area of the Indian economy where IIMB can have an impact is micro-enterprise, he said. There are millions of people who basically are entrepreneurs out of because they have no choice but to be entrepreneurs and run little business like kirana (grocery) shops, village foundries and handicraft operations, he said.

Their economic performance can be greatly enhanced by improving their business skills through MOOCs, he said. Like any enterprise, “they also use business principles”, he said. “They have to deal with inventory, and cash flow and marketing and sales.”

“Now we couldn’t teach them the way we do in our normal classrooms where we do case studies about big companies and so on,” Vachani said. “But somebody could create programmes that could help microenterprises understand their business better, be more efficacious and that’s were we can help.”

“We would like to think about creating courses for micro-enterprises, micro-entrepreneurs and provide training for them partly using MOOCs and partly using association with large universities, large technical universities which have hundreds of thousands of students as partners,” he added.

Given India’s limited Internet reach, some of the courses would have to developed to work on smart phones, he said.

As for the IIMB’s core mission, “we will, of course, continue to educate MBAs who will go and join the top companies in the world,” Vachani said. “We are very good at that. But there is no reason why the same institution cannot use its expertise in management to create special courses for the microenterprises.”

The first MOOC from IIMB,” Statistics for Business I”, started on edX on July 7. It is being followed by courses in innovation, information technology management and operations management.

Vachani said that students can take these MOOCs as well as others from institutions like the MIT and Harvard University to develop their skills. Ultimately, he said, it may be possible to combine courses from these universities to create packages for specific needs.