Tech shorts: Big-name ad networks serve up malware, and the $9 computer is almost here
The online-ad industry just got creepier
The April 7, 2015, Weekly explained why ad-injecting browser add-ons are dangerous: Not only do they cheat sites out of ad revenue, they deliver malware and otherwise threaten your privacy and security. A May 6, 2015, post on the Google Online Security Blog reports that 5.5 percent of the people visiting Google sites were using a browser that had an ad-injection add-on installed. These programs are ripping off such big-name retailers as Sears, Walmart, Target, and EBay. Even worse, 77 percent of the ad injectors spread by using one of the three major ad networks: dealtime.com, pricegrabber.com, and bizrate.com.
Google's post points out that the company is doing what it can to combat ad injectors, such as removing dozens of extensions from its Chrome Web Store and warning people when they're about to download "deceptive software." However, the real solution requires cleaning up the ad networks the injectors rely on. That doesn't appear to be happening anytime soon.
At the risk of repeating myself, you can protect against malicious ads and other web threats by using the free AdBlock Plus extension and the other security add-ons I described in the September 9, 2015, Weekly, "Three free browser add-ons protect against cyber-crime."
Coming soon: The $9 computer
Someday, maybe, computers will be free. Until then, there's Next Thing's $9 Chip, which has a 1GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, built-in composite output, and the ability to link to VGA and HDMI displays via an adapter. ReadWrite's Brian P. Rubin describes the computer in a May 11, 2015, article.
The Chip even converts to a portable computer by attaching a 2.7 volt lithium-ion polymer battery to its built-in battery power circuit. The device's open-source operating system lets you run the Chromium browser and LibreOffice productivity software. As Rubin points out, while $9 sounds pretty cheap for a general-purpose computer, if you're willing to wait a little longer, you could get an even-better deal. A computer for free? Maybe not. For pocket change? Maybe so.