Google is expanding the Firebase Cloud Messaging service to include sending notifications, which feature is currently rolling out to all users, along with deeper integration with Google services and new design for the service.

The in-app notification will allow developers to send contextual messages to users of their apps, while the messaging can be customized to look and feel as the developer deems right, and may only include basic text for iOS users and an additional click_action for Android users.

Firebase Predictions and Google Analytics for Firebase are now integrated for improved Cloud Messaging API, with Predictions support from Google’s AI, and a revamped console for managing projects across the app cycle.

Also, Firebase developers will be able to create JIRA issues based on crash reports in Firebase, thanks to the integration of Atlassian’s JIRA to Firebase, which will be rolling out in the coming week.

And with the Crashlytics support in the Firebase, even as Firebase has become more of a platform, developers will be able to build their app crash reports into workflows.

Firebase Release section now features the live data, albeit the new features which have started rolling out today would be available to all users in the coming week.

Google adds in-app notification to Firebase, JIRA integration, and more nifty features

While Microsoft and Amazon were reported to be working on integrating their respective digital assistants, Alexa and Cortana, now the companies have announced the milestone of the two assistants serving as skills in their respective platforms.

The integration was demonstrated earlier at Microsoft’s Build developer conference earlier in the year, as the company sought feedback from the respective communities before bringing it to live for everyone.

What it means is that users on both platforms can now summon either of the assistant irrespective of platform; and for Amazon customers by the simple phrase, "Alexa, open Cortana” to launch Cortana on any Echo device, and on Windows 10 PCs and other Cortana-powered devices, users can summon Alexa by the phrase, “Hey Cortana, open Alexa” to avail the full functions.

As both Cortana and Alexa will be enabled as a skill on each others platform, it affords users the ability to call upon Cortana from an Echo device and get access to same Windows / Office specific features that are formerly exclusive to the digital assistant.

Albeit, this initial integration is rather too basic, as it assiduously requires that users must summon the respective digital assistant to get through to the specific service.

The cross-platform integration, however holds the possibility that these artificial intelligence agents may someday be smart enough to route requests to the best suitable virtual assistant for a particular task without a specific “Alexa” or “Cortana” command.

Finally, Microsoft and Amazon have integrated their respective digital assistants

Oracle, is playing in an unlikely terrain as the heavily locked-down company has open-sourced its tool created to make the deployment of machine learning models in the cloud easy, GraphPipe.

While popular frameworks like Google's TensorFlow and Amazon's Caffe2 are already leading in the machine learning deployment verticals, GraphPipe aims to make it easier to deploy machine learning models for use on mobile apps and IoT devices, and to serve for internal use within organizations.

According to Oracle, GraphPipe is created to solve three challenges: a standard, high-performance protocol for transmitting tensor data over the network, along with simple implementations of clients and servers that make deploying and querying machine learning models from any framework easy.

It can serve models built on TensorFlow, PyTorch, mxnet, CNTK, or caffe2; and developers don’t need custom APIs to deploy AI models or require popular framework to create a model.

The adoption of machine learning in the enterprise has been rather slower than expected, as organizations find it difficult to manage their own machine learning technology, and the models are often deployed using bespoke techniques, which is difficult to manage across servers in different departments.

This challenge is what Oracle is aiming to solve with the new open source, high-performance standard for transmitting tensor data.

GraphPipe is available on GitHub, with documentation, examples, and other relevant content available at this web address:

GraphPipe, Oracle's open-source standard for deploying Machine Learning models

There's a new report about a wide spread compromise affecting hundreds of users on Instagram, who have reported about their account being hacked.

According to the reports, the victims claim that they were logged out of their account, and their profile details altered by the hackers, with their avatars mostly changed to a Disney or Pixar toons.

As Instagram offers a fun way to explore your creative side in photo shooting and sharing with friends and public alike, it exposes you to a lot of risks around your personal information. The following steps will help you to ensure security for your Instagram account and avoid getting hacked.

Firstly, if you don’t want your account to make the photos you share on the platform public and available to everyone, there's settings for private profile.

Simply go to your Instagram profile window, and click on the three dots in the right corner. Then at the bottom you’ll see the Private Account option, turn this security setting ON, and that's it. Once activated, all media items you share will only been seen by those who follow you online, non will be made available publicly.

Now, back to the business of securing your Instagram account against hacking. The two-factor authentication system offers extra layer of protection to your account, in any case hackers somehow cracks your password, your account will still be inaccessible, as it will need a second factor of authentication before granting them access.

The second factor could be any of these: a one-time code send to your mobile, or a notification to confirm you via Android system. And you’ll be required to confirm it any time you want to login to your Instagram account from a new location or device.

To turn on two-factor authentication from the mobile app, simply click on the Options icon and from the menu on your profile, you’ll see a shortlink for “Two-Factor Authentication” to turn it on and set up using your phone.

It also offer alternative requirements, should you lose your phone or don’t have access to your the mobile number, you can use the Backup Codes. With each Instagram account having five unique codes, which can be accessed in the same settings where you activated the Two-Factor Authentication.

Asides this, it’s still essential to set a strong, unique password for your Instagram account, and to desist from allowing access to apps that are not trustworthy as these apps can have access to your personal information, so could be a potential risk.

Instagram Hack: How you can ensure that your account is safe from hackers

The initial web surfing experience was built on uncharted territory whereby people could spontaneously discover topics online, now Mozilla wants to bring it back to Firefox browser.

The idea is akin to ‘forward button’ which will serve to improve the way content is discovered, and the experiment is dubbed "Advance" - bringing the concept of the recommendation system back to life.

According to Mozilla, Advance is coming at a point where people no longer go backwards in search to move forward to discover new, and relevant content.

The feature brings a two-part recommendations of "Read Next" and "For You" to Firefox window, with the later been recommendation of pages based on a user's browsing history, while the former highlights sites that complement the content of the user's current tab.

Mozilla hopes to recapture those serependitious moment of discovery, which opens people’s eyes to greater awareness of topics they sought after and the idea of a ‘forward button’ is to improve the way content is discovered.

The recommendations will be purely driven by relevance, which is the primary goal of the experiment to give users the best and most timely information.

Albeit, Advance isn't Mozilla's first attempt to bring browsing recommendations to Firefox, as the initial Test Pilot in Context Graph feature, resulted the "Activity Stream" feature, which made debut with Firefox Quantum browser that shipped in November last year.

Mozilla's plan to return the concept of recommendation system to Firefox browser

DeepMind, is an artificial intelligence research firm owned by Google's parent company, Alphabet, and self-described as on a mission to push the boundaries of artificial intelligence (AI) in developing programs that can learn to solve complex problems.

It's specialty ranges from climate change to the need for radical improvements in healthcare; while many such problems are saddled by slow progress, with AI as a multiplier for human ingenuity, the solutions may become more feasible.

The science journal Nature reports that DeepMind, in partnership with Moorfields Eye Hospital in UK, has developed AI that can detect over 50 sight-threatening conditions with the same accuracy as expert clinicians.

DeapMind AI is also quite capable of correctly recommending the appropriate course of treatment for patients and singling out the conditions that require urgent care.

While DeepMind's AI was trained using a particular type of eye scanner, the researchers claim it is compatible with any model and can be used without any hardware restrictions.

According to the report, Google's DeepMind AI diagnoses were accurate for about 94.5 per cent of the time in a trial with Moorfields Eye Hospital, and going by these feats, it could potentially be used to transform how eye examinations are carried out around the world.

And perhaps, DeepMind will eventually cut down the amount of time spent by doctors in diagnosing with OCT scans, being able to recognize 50 common eye problems, which includes three of the most critical: age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

Google's DeepMind AI is now able to diagnose several eye problems

Facebook has introduced extra layer of authorization for Pages with large US audiences, following its influence in the last U.S. election, with Russian meddlers buying ads that focused on divisive social and political rhetoric.

Now, If you're an admin of a Facebook Page that has a large US audience, you will be required to complete extra authorization process to be able to post and manage the page; to ensure such pages are managed by real people, and not imposters or fake accounts.

Under the new authorization, administrators of Facebook pages will have to enable two-factor authentication in order to secure their account and also confirm their primary home address.

And Facebook will show more information about Pages as part of its effort to stamp out fake news; while ensuring authentic information on its platform, the company will also inform followers when a Page they follow has merged with another Page.

With more details in the Info and Ads section of Pages, Facebook will show the primary country locations where Pages are managed and these requirement will also be enforced in its other platforms such as Instagram.

Albeit, these changes will only apply to Pages with a large US audience, but there's the likelihood that Facebook may roll it out to the rest of the world soon.

Facebook's extra layer of Authorization for Pages with large US audience

Kryptowire, a US based security firm has uncovered 38 different vulnerabilities in some Android devices shipped by popular OEMs that can allow for spying and malware reload on the affected devices.

While the US military vetted security firm, Kryptowire specializes in mobile security analysis tools, app marketplace analytics, anti-piracy technologies and Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solutions, and was jumpstarted by the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency ) and the Department of Homeland Security.

The vulnerabilities are such that hackers can leverage it to take screenshots, factory reset a device or steal personal information and potentially access the logs of what a person is typing or reading at any given time through the malicious applications.

It's quite alarming that lots of Android users fall victim to malicious apps that pose as harmless tools such as flashlight or battery savers, albeit these apps can't get access to protected files themselves, but they can leverage the flaws in pre-installed applications for access.

According to the researchers, the vulnerabilities were tied to devices from ZTE, Asus, LG and Essential Phone, which are distributed by carriers like Verizon and AT&T in the United States.

These malware are supposedly bundled out of the box, not that it is downloaded and installed by the user, nor is it a flaw in the Android operating system itself, but third party code running on the devices.

Since there's so many different Android phone makers involved, the vulnerabilities are different across the devices, as they come with different pre-installed apps, making it pretty hard for Google to keep track of all the pre-installed malicious apps.

The researchers, however noted that there could be more infected devices out there, outside the named OEMs, considering that not all Android devices were tested, and given that over 24,000 different types of devices were logged in 2015 alone; to run vulnerability scans on every single device will indeed be a herculean task.

How Android devices from popular OEMs come pre-installed with malware

The point of sale (POS) system which typically includes a debit/credit card reader, has brought a lot of convenience to the brick and mortar stores, as customers now pay for goods and services without the need for cash.

While these card readers are often attached to another device, such as smartphone or tablet, fraudsters are specifically targeting the inexpensive card readers, which are rampant in small businesses outlets like local grocery stores which use them to accept payments.

The trend of cashless payment is growing at an alarming rate, but then, outside the convenience are lurking serious security threats, as cybercriminals can steal financial data owing to weak security on these terminals.

At the recent Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, Leigh-Anne Galloway and Tim Yunusov of cybersecurity company Positive Technologies revealed that Point-of-sale terminals, such as credit card readers, are increasingly a target for fraudsters.

According to the researchers, the cheaper payment systems may cost less, but businesses could end up costing their customers more.

They examined how much security were in the cheap mobile readers that cost way below $50 and their finding showd that the cheap readers have flaws that could allow dishonest merchant to change the displayed amount on the screen, and also the device could show that a transaction failed when it actually didn't and compel customers to pay twice.

Also, the display could be adjusted to require customers to use the magnetic stripe, instead of the more secure chip on the credit card.

A fraudulent merchant could change the transaction value to make it a higher value than the displayed amount on the reader, and that's significantly realistic, as the attack vector can be carried out via swiping.

The vulnerabilities, however haven't been exploited in the wild, but for those concerned, it is best to stay away from swiped transactions and stick to security chips, at least for better protection.

How Point of sale terminals and Card readers are increasingly targeted by fraudsters

While Google had earlier endorsed Kotlin for Android apps development, the internet giant has gone ahead to release a new Android SDK with capabilities for development in Kotlin language.

Kotlin, the open-source general purpose programming language for JVM and Android, that combines object-oriented and functional programming features is now fully supported in the Android SDK, with nullability annotations for frequently used APIs to ensure that newly annotated APIs are compatible with existing code.

And the nullability annotations can also benefit developers using Java, the traditional language of Android development, as the Android Studio IDE can show nullability contract violations.

Google plans adding more nullability annotations to existing Android APIs in future versions of the SDK and also ensure new APIs are annotated. The annotated APIs result in warnings instead of errors from the Kotlin compiler, and requires the use of Kotlin 1.2.60 or later version.

The aim for the newly added nullability annotations is to produce warnings, which Google hopes will give developers time to update their code by the error messaging.

To get started, download Android Studio from the project website and then Android SDK can be downloaded by selecting Tools > SDK Manager in Android Studio and then, Android SDK on the left menu. Check for Android 8.+ and install Android SDK Platform 28 revision 6 with the compile SDK version set to API 28.

Google debut Android SDK with capabilities for development in Kotlin language