Monday, October 15, 2012

Google Street View adds 250,000 miles of roadways

Taroko Gorge, in the Taroko National Park in Taiwan, was part of 250,000 miles added to Google's Street View in an update.
Taroko Gorge, in the Taroko National Park in Taiwan, was part of 250,000 miles added to Google's Street View in an update.

(CNN) -- With fallout still swirling from Apple's decision to replace Google Maps with its own mobile mapping, Google on Thursday announced the biggest upgrade ever to its Street View tool.
The update adds more than 250,000 miles of roadways in 17 countries, said Ulf Spitzer, Google's Street View program manager, in a blog post Thursday.
The Street View feature on Google Maps lets users see a real-world, 360-degree view of locations. Showcasing Google's global reach, the new coverage areas include parts of Macau, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand, Taiwan, Italy, Great Britain, Denmark, Norway, Canada and the United States.
Since launching in 2007, Google Street View had captured 20 petabytes of data in 48 countries. The company uses cars, trikes, snowmobiles and people outfitted with custom cameras to capture 360-degree images around the world.
In the new update, Google also added a spate of "special collections" to the feature, providing virtual tours of attractions around the globe.
"Street View, as you know, is a useful resource when you're planning a route or looking for a destination, but it can also magically transport you to some of the world's picturesque and culturally significant landmarks," Spitzer said.
The new spots include Catherine Palace and Ferapontov Monastery in Russia, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taiwan and Stanley Park in Vancouver.
Google Maps has been on the minds of many since Apple decided to replace it as the default mapping system on iOS 6, the latest version of its mobile operating system. The update coincided roughly with the release of the iPhone 5, meaning millions saw the new product for the first time after getting their new phones.
Early reviews have not been kind. Apple's mapping software has been a spotty mess, missing huge chunks of the globe and, at times, placing notable landmarks in the wrong place, sometimes humorously so.
The release was bad enough that Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a rare apology, saying in an open letter that Apple is "extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused" and promising to improve the feature.
Google has been officially silent on whether it plans to release a new Google Maps app for iOS 6, which runs on iPhones, iPads and iPods. Reports suggest that it's doing so, but there's no guarantee Apple would approve it. In the past, the company has turned down apps that it deemed compete with its own features.
That's a fact Google CEO Eric Schmidt acknowledged Wednesday, speaking at an All Things Digital conference, where he declined to confirm that a new version of maps is in the works for Apple mobile devices.
"Apple should have kept our maps," Schmidt said, according to GigaOM.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

iOS 6 Arrives Today: What to Expect

Adam Mills —  09/19/2012
After announcing the iOS 6 release date earlier this month, Apple will push the new software to iPhone, iPad and iPod touch owners at some point today. For those that are waiting for the update to arrive, we are going to take a look at what you should expect from today’s release date of Apple’s new mobile software.
iOS 6 brings more than 200+ new features to the table which makes it an extremely attractive upgrade for those on iOS 5 and below.
It will be coming to the iPhone 3GS and up, iPad 2 and up and iPod touch fourth generation sometime today and it will be available either through iTunes or Over-the-Air. The installation process should take some time so those who are going to upgrade should set aside sometime to get the ball rolling.
What to expect from the release of iOS 6.
iOS 6 will bring new Maps, Facebook integration, more sharing options, UI changes, and more. And while you already know what to expect from the software itself, lets take a look at some other things iDevice owners should expect from iOS 6′s arrival.

Morning/Early Afternoon Release

Apple tends to release its iOS software in the morning on the west coast and early afternoon on the east coast. It did so with iOS 5 and thus far, we have no reason to believe it won’t do the same thing with iOS 6.
Right now, the release of iOS 6 is pegged for 10AM PST & 1PM EST. This, according to a leaked screenshot. Of course, that evidence could be bogus but it fits right in with what we’ve come to expect from Apple.
In other words, don’t expect iOS 6 to arrive at 11PM tonight.
Expect errors with the iOS 6 installation process.


Last year, the iOS 5 release gave iPhone, iPad and iPod touch owners errors. While much of what Apple does in terms of launch and release is flawless, there are bound to be some errors that pop up with the upgrade to iOS 6.
With iOS 5, Error 3200 popped up for quite a few people trying to make the upgrade to the new software and while it’s possible that a similar error could pop up this time around, we can’t be sure.
Hopefully, Apple has ironed these out ahead of time, but there is no way to tell right now.

Manual Installation

For those that want to install the software themselves without relying on Apple, you have the option of downloading the iOS 5 update directly, bypassing the stagnant iTunes servers.
All it’s going to take is for someone to post the files online, which they will, and iTunes. Once the file is downloaded, the installation process is a cinch.


While many of you will likely be able to download and install iOS 6 right when it’s released, again, Apple’s servers crumbled last year under the weight and many had to wait several hours and some, even until the next day to install.
You might be better off just waiting a few hours after the initial release to try and install the software as trying right at release time may prove to be extremely frustrating.

In any event, expect a delay, that way, if everything goes smoothly, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

We never talk any more: The problem with text messaging

Americans age 18-29 send an average of almost 88 texts per day, and that number is rising.

Americans age 18-29 send an average of almost 88 texts per day, and that number is rising
(CNN) -- You do not want to talk to me on the phone. How do I know? Because I don't want to talk to you on the phone. Nothing personal, I just can't stand the thing.
I find it intrusive and somehow presumptuous. It sounds off insolently whenever it chooses and expects me to drop whatever I'm doing and, well, engage. With others! When I absolutely must, I take the call, but I don't do a very good job of concealing my displeasure. A close family member once offered his opinion that I exhibit the phone manners of a goat, then promptly withdrew the charge — out of fairness to goats.
So it was with profound relief that I embraced the arrival of e-mail and, later, texting. They meant a conversation I could control — utterly. I get to say exactly what I want exactly when I want to say it. It consumes no more time than I want it to and, to a much greater degree than is possible with a phone call, I get to decide if it takes place at all. That might make me misanthropic. It surely makes me a crank. But it doesn't make me unusual.
The telephone call is a dying institution. The number of text messages sent monthly in the U.S. exploded from 14 billion in 2000 to 188 billion in 2010, according to a Pew Institute survey, and the trend shows no signs of abating. Not all of that growth has come out of the hide of old-fashioned phoning, but it is clearly taking a bite — particularly among the young.
Americans ages 18-29 send and receive an average of nearly 88 text messages per day, compared to 17 phone calls. The numbers change as we get older, with the overall frequency of all communication declining, but even in the 65 and over group, daily texting still edges calling 4.7 to 3.8. In the TIME mobility poll, 32% of all respondents said they'd rather communicate by text than phone, even with people they know very well. This is truer still in the workplace, where communication is between colleagues who are often not friends at all. "No more trying to find time to call and chit-chat," is how one poll respondent described the business appeal of texting over talking.
The problem, of course, is what's lost when that chit-chat goes. Developmental psychologists studying the impact of texting worry especially about young people, not just because kids are such promiscuous users of the technology, but because their interpersonal skills — such as they are — have not yet fully formed. Most adults were fixed social quantities when they first got their hands on a text-capable mobile device, and while their ability to have a face-to-face conversation may have eroded in recent years, it's pretty well locked in. Not so with teens. As TIME has reported previously, MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle is one of the leading researchers looking into the effects of texting on interpersonal development. Turkle believes that having a conversation with another person teaches kids to, in effect, have a conversation with themselves — to think and reason and self-reflect. "That particular skill is a bedrock of development," she told me.
Turkle cites the texted apology — or what she calls "saying 'I'm sorry' and hitting send" — as a vivid example of what's lost when we type instead of speak. "A full-scale apology means I know I've hurt you, I get to see that in your eyes," she says. "You get to see that I'm uncomfortable, and with that, the compassion response kicks in. There are many steps and they're all bypassed when we text." When the apology takes place over the phone rather than in person, the visual cues are lost, of course, but the voice — and the sense of hurt and contrition it can convey — is preserved.
Part of the appeal of texting in these situations is that it's less painful — but the pain is the point. "The complexity and messiness of human communication gets shortchanged," Turkle says. "Those things are what lead to better relationships."
Habitual texters may not only cheat their existing relationships, they can also limit their ability to form future ones since they don't get to practice the art of interpreting nonverbal visual cues. There's a reason it's so easy to lie to small kids ("Santa really, truly did bring those presents") and that's because they're functional illiterates when it comes to reading inflection and facial expressions. As with real reading, the ability to comprehend subtlety and complexity comes only with time and a lot of experience. If you don't adequately acquire those skills, moving out into the real world of real people can actually become quite scary. "I talk to kids and they describe their fear of conversation," says Turkle. "An 18-year-old I interviewed recently said, 'Someday, but certainly not now, I want to learn to have a conversation.'"
Adults are much less likely to be so conversation-phobic, but they do become conversation-avoidant — mostly because it's easier. Texting an obligatory birthday greeting means you don't have to fake an enthusiasm you're not really feeling. Texting a friend to see what time a party starts means you don't also have to ask "How are you?" and, worse, get an answer.
The text message is clearly here to stay and even the most zealous phone partisans don't recommend avoiding it entirely. But mix it up some — maybe even throw in a little Skyping or Facetime so that when you finally do make a call you're actually seeing and interacting with another person. Too much texting, Turkle warns, amounts to a life of "hiding in plain sight."
And the thing about hiding is, it keeps you entirely alone.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

7 Ways to Dress Up Your Company's Facebook Page

PCWorld's Facebook page without custom tabs (upper left) and with tabs added (lower right)PCWorld's Facebook page without custom tabs (upper left) and with tabs added (lower right)Facebook can be a great marketing tool and communications outlet, but there is only so much that you can say in brief status updates and plain-text fields on your About page. If you really want to put Facebook to work for your business, you'll need to explore the option of adding tabs—clickable images of extra pages—to your profile. Done creatively, tabs encourage visitor engagement and showcase your content. They let you post quizzes and polls, and they can display your content from other social networks, such as Twitter and Pinterest.

1. Iframe Apps
If you lack the coding skills to create custom tabs using Facebook's development platform, the following Facebook apps can help. Some enable you to apply fully customized Web pages as additional tabs—a great way to add content about your products, services, and company culture.
The IFrame App is among the simplest for dressing up your Facebook presence.The IFrame App is among the simplest for dressing up your Facebook presence.Iframe Apps is one of the simplest custom tab wizards, letting you add two tab pages to your Facebook Page. You can either specify an existing URL or insert text and HTML to display on your custom tab, and define a specific frame height to fit the length of your content. The "fan gate" feature lets you display an image or custom text to encourage visitors to “like” you before viewing the main content.
Keep in mind, though, that to insert HTML code with images or videos you’ll need to upload the files elsewhere since Iframe Apps doesn’t offer online storage.
The free service displays its logo on your page footer. The premium services, starting at $9.90 per month after a free 7-day trial, allow you to remove ads.

2. FanBuildr

Hosted iFrame offers a WSIWYG editor.Hosted iFrame offers a WSIWYG editor.FanBuildr is a more advanced app that lets you add up to ten tab pages to your Facebook Page. The free service is available to all pages with 25,000 fans or less, and shows a small promo on the footer of your custom tab page. Its premium services, starting at $5 per month, remove ads and let you create unlimited tabs.
When inserting your text or code for the custom tab, you can define different content to display to visitors, depending on whether they "like" your page. A WYSIWYG editor lets you format text and add links or images, with both code and visual views. You can upload up to 25MB worth of files per page—or 250MB and beyond if you subscribe to the premium services. You can also enter your Google Analytics code to track traffic to your Facebook tab.

3. Static Iframe Tab

Check out Static Iframe Tab for adding 20 or more tabs.Check out Static Iframe Tab for adding 20 or more tabs.The Static Iframe Tab from Wooboxlets you add over 20 tabs to your Facebook page. The basic functionality is free, and free of Woobox branding.
What do you want to display on a tab? You can choose a URL, an image, or HTML code. You can also specify a nonfan page source. A WSIWYG editor enables formatting and edits, letting you switch between the code and visual view. The free service includes visitor analytics to display stats for page views, visits, and likes, segmented both by fans and nonfans who view your tab.
Their premium services, starting at $10 per month, allow you to limit access to the tab page—for instance, you can require users either to fill out a form or to have a certain number of Facebook friends who like your page.

4. Extended Info

Extended Info lets you add a tab that’s similar to and alongside the usual About page, but with more details—so you can display things, such as products, with text, HTML code, or videos. You can organize the content via bulleted, numbered, or paragraph lists, each with a custom heading name.

5. Twitter Tab App

Extend your tweets to Facebook with Woobox.Extend your tweets to Facebook with Woobox.Need to publicize your Twitter presence to your Facebook fan base? This free app from Woobox adds a tab to your Facebook Page displaying your Twitter Profile and Tweets, with a small ad link on the bottom of the tab.
In the Twitter tab settings you can choose to display all tweets or only those containing a given search term. You can also optionally hide Tweets that start with @ and hide your Twitter profile background. Additionally, you can enable the fan gate so only Facebook users who “Like” you can see your Twitter tab.

6. Pinterest Tab

Here's a great way to share your Pinterest content to Facebook users who aren’t on Pinterest. This free app, also from Woobox, puts a tab on your Facebook Page showcasing your Pinterest boards and pins, with only a small ad on the bottom. Facebook visitors can browse your Pin boards, and click on them to view your Pins inside your Facebook tab page. When they click on a Pin it opens a new browser window to the Pin on Pinterest.
You can choose to have your Pin tab show all or only select Pin boards—and enable Facebook Like & Send buttons on Pins, to encourage visitors' sharing to their Facebook friends. The Fan Gate feature allows only Facebook users who "like" you to see your Pinterest tab.

7. Fan Appz

This free platform helps you add content and analyze your Twitter and Facebook traffic. Fan Appz lets you post updates to both social sites at once, target specific countries and languages, schedule posts in advance, and create and publish quizzes and polls. Image-based polls let you give users a list of images—maybe of your products—and they can share their preferred top five.
The premium services, designed for larger fan pages, let you create and publish promotions, including special offers, sweepstakes, challenges, and rewards. You can create a gift store and games, and manage your Places and Events. You’d also be able to view the analytics of your posts, engagements, and promotions—all with support for Google Analytics.
Eric Geier is a freelance tech writer. He’s also the founder of NoWiresSecurity, which provides a cloud-based Wi-Fi security service for businesses, and On Spot Techs, which provides on-site computer services.

Monday, August 27, 2012

True/False: Never Sell Your Old Phone

By Becky Worley | Upgrade Your Life – Wed, Aug 22, 2012

I recently read an article that proclaimed you should never sell or recycle an old cell phone. It was based on a security researcher who said it is incredibly easy to get personal information off of a phone, making identity theft and credit card fraud a snap. But when you can get upwards of $100 for an old smartphone, and the environmental impact of recycling is so positive, I wasn't so sure this was a security mantra that made sense. So I did a little experiment of my own.
The standard recommendation for getting rid of an old phone is to do a factory reset first. This restores all the original controls, deletes added apps, and supposedly wipes the phone clean of data. But is this good enough? To find out, I started with three old phones: my own iPhone 3GS, a used Droid, and a used Samsung feature phone. I did a factory reset on the Droid and the iPhone (you can find this option under Settings). The feature phone we used didn't offer that option, so instead I tried to manually delete as much info as I could.
At this point, I mailed the phones to forensic computer analyst Steve Burgess. He used a variety of programs to try and pull info off each phone — and the results were mixed.
On the iPhone, all the personal data was unrecoverable, Steve explained: "With an iPhone, when you do a factory reset, it removes all of the encryption keys, which is the same as wiping it, unless you have something like a supercomputer." Steve says he tried a number of programs to get around the encryption, but was unable to extract anything.
Blackberries also possess superior security features, and Steve says that once reset and left for 30 days, the data is definitively gone.
Android Phones
For the Droid phone, the data was much easier to access. Hitting the factory reset on phones running the Android operating system doesn't technically remove or write over data stored on the phone. It just masks the location of that data. Steve explained that with forensic software or some basic hacking skills, that data could be accessed. One other security issue is the SD card in many of these phones; the card is the most vulnerable point for information harvesting. These cards can be erased, but widely available software can easily pull up much of the 'erased' data. At a minimum, Steve recommends pulling the SD cards from any phones you sell or recycle.
Feature Phones
For feature phones, the issues are a little more complex. To access deleted data, the phone has to be physically connected to a computer. As anyone who's tried to do this can tell you, many feature phones have proprietary cables, so finding the right one is the first complication. Sure, a thief could scour eBay to find the correct cable, but this extra hurdle may make it less likely for identity thieves to bother.
But if the new owner of your feature phone is successful connecting it to the computer, Steve tells us that extracting data with forensic software is usually possible. On the other hand, feature phones often hold much less data — just contacts, call duration, and texts. These are not the treasure troves of mobile banking info, passwords, and email that today's smartphones are.
Forensic Expert's Bottom Line
"If you've got a million dollar credit limit, and Homeland Security information, and naked pictures of your girlfriend or boyfriend, then you may not want to get rid of that phone." But for the rest of us… "I'd say if you do a factory reset on your phone and take out the SIM card and take out the SD card, that you're probably fine. The guy on the other end is probably not going to find much of anything. He's probably not going to be a forensics guy. And even if he is a forensics guy, it can be pretty tough to get stuff off of phones because there are such a variety of them."

How to Send an Automatic Vacation Response in Gmail

Setting an automatic vacation response

Going on vacation? No access to the Internet? No problem! Use Gmail's vacation responder to let people know you won't be able to get back to them right away.
You can set up a vacation response in your Gmail settings that will automatically reply to anyone who emails you. While the vacation responder is enabled, Gmail will send a response to anyone who contacts you.*
If that person contacts you again after four days and your vacation responder is still enabled, Gmail will send another vacation response to remind the person that you're away from your email.
Here's how to set up a vacation response:
  1. Click the gear icon  in the upper right, then select Settings.
  2. From the General tab, select Vacation responder on in the Vacation responder:section.
  3. Enter the subject and body of your message in the Subject: and Message: fields.
    • If you've enabled a personalized signature in your settings, Gmail will automatically append it to the bottom of your vacation response.
  4. Check the box next to Only send a response to people in my Contacts if you don't want everyone who emails you to know that you're away from your mail. If you use Google Apps, you'll also see an option to only send a response to people your domain. If you check both of these boxes, only people who are in your contacts and your domain1 will receive the automatic response.
  5. Click Save Changes.
While the vacation responder is enabled, you'll see a banner across the top of any Gmail page, displaying the subject of your vacation response. To stop Gmail from automatically sending the response, click end now within the banner. Or, if you'd like to edit the response, click vacation settings.
Your vacation response will start over each time you edit it -- if someone receives your initial vacation response, and then emails you again after you've edited the subject or body of the message, he or she will receive the edited response, too.
* Messages classified as spam and messages addressed to a mailing list you subscribe to will not receive a vacation response.
  1. domain: A domain is a name for an IP address and is more commonly recognized as a website or web address. For example, is a domain.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Is Zuckerberg to blame for Facebook's slumping stock?

(CNN) -- Mark Zuckerberg is not in danger of losing his job, but that doesn't mean he can brush off recent criticism of his leadership.
Facebook has had a rough first three months as a public company. The social network's stock has performed poorly since going public in May, and on Monday morning it dropped to an all-time low of $18.75 -- less than half of the company's initial share price of $38.
Investors are looking to place blame for the disappointing performance, and the obvious target is Zuckerberg, the company's founder and chief executive. The 28-year-old casual-wear enthusiast built Facebook from a dorm-room project into a publicly traded company with 900 million monthly users that saw $3.7 billion in revenue and $1 billion in profits last year.
But since the stock slumped again this week, some critics have openly questioned whether Facebook's boy-wonder CEO has the maturity necessary to navigate the corporate world. In a much-repeated quote that reflected the divide between buttoned-down Wall Street and laid-back startup culture, one analyst wondered if Zuckerberg "is in over his hoodie."

"He is a brilliant guy. He is the visionary behind this company. But ... what he is not is CEO material," Newsweek columnist Joanne Lipman told CNN this week.

Now Zuckerberg is tasked with rebuilding confidence among investors and employees. And some analysts said they think he should start by speaking up about what, exactly, Facebook is up to.
"It's his responsibility; it is his obligation to deal with investors," said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities. "I'm not sure he cares enough, and I think the management is going to do what the CEO tells them to do."
The shift from coder to investor-relations manager might not come naturally to Zuckerberg, who has repeatedly emphasized that Facebook was not started as a company, and its goal is to focus on the product before profit.
"We don't build services to make money; we make money to build better services," he said in a letter to investors before going public.
But since its initial public offering, the company has been slow to introduce major new products.
One cause of the company's stock troubles, according to Pachter, is that it changed its strategy between its IPO and the first earnings call, significantly increasing operating costs. The vast majority of Facebook's revenue comes from advertising, but the company hasn't explained in detail what it's spending its new revenue on, and how or when those investments will translate into increased profits.
A lack of transparency can create uncertainty, which causes people who own the stock to sell and people who are inclined to buy the stock to wait until they have more information, Pachter said.
"Investors don't know how to think about Facebook, most likely because they don't use it," said Brian Solis, an analyst at Altimeter Group, who speculates that typical investors are more likely to be on LinkedIn. He agrees that more communication from Zuckerberg is needed to give investors faith.
Even shareholders who fully understand Facebook's business model are jumping ship. The company's morale was dealt a huge blow this week when venture capitalist Peter Thiel, a board member and early Facebook investor, unloaded the majority of his shares, bringing the amount of money he's made off the company to more than $1 billion.
Loss of confidence by shareholders exacerbates Wall Street's other major concern -- that Facebook issued too many shares to begin with. Facebook's lockup periods -- rules that prevent early investors and employees from selling stock for a set amount of time following an IPO -- are starting to expire, allowing people such as Thiel to sell.
"The lockups are expiring too soon; the market is just not prepared to absorb this many shares," Pachter said.
Facebook employees aren't able to sell their stocks just yet, but if Zuckerberg can't instill confidence in Facebook soon, they could add to the problem by selling off their shares as soon as it's allowed later this year. For now, they are powerless to do anything but watch while the value of their stock tumbles.
Sagging morale can have a negative impact on every aspect of running a business, including employee recruiting and retention. According to The Wall Street Journal, Zuckerberg addressed employees' concerns in a meeting in August, saying he understands it may be "painful" for them to watch the value of the stock drop.
"He focuses on shipping and user experience. He gives his employees a mission to believe in," said Solis, who favorably compares Zuckerberg's strategy to that of Steve Jobs, another tech-company founder who focused on products above investors. That leadership approach turned out pretty well for Apple.
But Zuckerberg is not leading the company on his own. He has surrounded himself with experienced Silicon Valley and business veterans, including Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who previously worked at Google and for the U.S. Treasury Department.
Publicly, Zuckerberg is keeping his head down while Facebook works to address other issues, such as its challenges making money on mobile users. On Thursday, the company rolled out updates to its mobile iPad and iPhone apps, which are significantly speedier than the previous versions. Also, the company's purchase of Instagram was approved by the Federal Trade Commission this week, which will allow Facebook to focus even more on mobile products.
Despite some speculation in the media about whether he might step down, Zuckerberg's job is safe. He has job security primarily because he smartly owns 20.7% of Facebook's stock and has a 57% voting stake in the company. Many investors also recognize how integral his image and leadership are to the Facebook brand, and they are still willing to give him a chance.
"He has not proven his lack of ability and he has not yet proven his ability," Pachter said. "So let's give him a few more quarters and see what he does."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Microsoft Uses New Logo for First Time in 25 Years

According to the company's blog, it has been 25 years since the logo has been changed.
"This is an incredibly exciting year for Microsoft as we prepare to release new versions of nearly all of our products. From Windows 8 to Windows Phone 8 to Xbox services to the next version of Office, you will see a common look and feel across these products providing a familiar and seamless experience on PCs, phones, tablets and TVs," Microsoft's General Manager of Brand Strategy, Jeff Hansen, said in the post.

Gone is the wavy Windows logo and italicized font. Now there's a square, made up of smaller colored squares, like a Rubik's Cube of sorts. The square will find its way into other Microsoft brand logos, including Microsoft Office.
Microsoft has begun to use boxes or tiles across its product line, including its Windows Phone and Windows 8 operating systems. The clean design was once referred to by Microsoft as its Metro UI. Earlier this month Microsoft began referring to the design as its "Modern UI design."
Microsoft will release its Windows 8 operating system for tablets, laptops, and desktops on Oct. 26. The new version of its webmail,, was released late last month. The next version of its Windows Phone 8 operating systemis expected to debut this fall as well.

Can You Trust Your Browser With Your Passwords?

Most current Web browsers include some kind of password management. But can you trust your browser? We take a look.

Can You Trust Your Browser With Your Passwords?Having your Web browser remember your passwords and/or credit card details can be convenient, but it poses some security risks. How much of a risk depends on which browser you’re using, whether you sync with other devices, and whether you’re using any of the browser's extra security features. Here are the main vulnerabilities in some of the most popular browsers—Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox—and ways you can protect against those weak spots.

Common Security Risks

The biggest problem with having your browser save your passwords involves prying eyes. Not only can other users who have access to your computer log in to your accounts and see your actual passwords or credit card details, but so can a thief if your computer, smartphone, or tablet gets lost or stolen. And the same risk applies if you haven’t properly erased your data from your PC when you get rid of it; whoever ends up with it next might be able to recover your information. Also, some viruses and malware can steal your saved passwords or credit card details.
As you’ve may have noticed, banking sites—and many others that deal with highly sensitive information—don’t let your browser save your password. However, if you use the same or a similar password on sensitive sites that you do on less-secure sites, someone else may be able to easily guess your banking password, for example.
Some browsers let you (or, potentially, thieves) view a list of your saved login credentials, including the site, username, and password. And for those that don’t, utilities like WebBrowserPassView can easily let you compile a list of them. This is handy if you forget a password or you want to evaluate all your passwords, but it's problematic if an intruder uses such software on your computer. Another way you (or thieves) can recover saved passwords is by using a utility like BulletsPassView to reveal the password behind a masked password field on a webpage or window.
In the next sections, we’ll take a look at three popular browsers—Internet Explorer 9, Chrome, and Firefox— to evaluate their credential-saving features, and discuss some tips for better securing them.

Internet Explorer 9

Internet Explorer 9 offers the most basic password-saving functionality of the three browsers we’re covering. Its AutoComplete feature can also remember your name, address, and other data you type into Web forms or search fields. It doesn’t provide a way for you to view saved passwords from within the browser settings: It only allows you to change the main settings and delete all AutoComplete history.
Can You Trust Your Browser With Your Passwords?
Not being able to view a list of the passwords can help prevent casual snooping. And even though you can still log in to sites the browser saved the password for, you can’t by default view the password itself. As mentioned before, however, a determined hacker can use a utility to see a list of all your saved passwords or to reveal the actual characters behind the password field on a login page.
Unfortunately, Internet Explorer 9 doesn’t offer a native synchronization feature to keep your settings and saved data synced across multiple computers or devices, but, from a security standpoint, at least that’s one less security risk you have to worry about.
Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8 will provide new password saving and syncing features, but it’s not yet clear if they will be available when you use Windows 7. When I tested the Release Previews of Internet Explorer 10 and Windows 8, I found that you can view and manage saved browser passwords using the improved Credential Manager in the Control Panel. And for security, before you can view the actual saved passwords you must reenter your Windows account password, which can help prevent casual snooping by others.
Can You Trust Your Browser With Your Passwords?
Windows 8 will also offer a new synchronization feature that lets you sync passwords for apps, websites, and networks—in addition to Windows settings and preferences—across your other Windows 8 computers and tablets. For security reasons, before you sync your passwords with a new computer or tablet, you must log in to a Microsoft site and approve the new device. And if you’ve specified a mobile number on your Microsoft account beforehand, you'll get a confirmation code texted to your mobile phone that you must enter on the Microsoft site before the trust is granted and passwords are synced.

Google Chrome 21

Google Chrome provides a more feature-rich password-saving feature than Internet Explorer does, as well as an autofill feature that can also keep track of your credit card details. But while these can be great time-saving features, they also pose more security risks.
Chrome lets you—or a thief for that matter—browse through the list of saved usernames and passwords (alphabetized by site name) or enter the site name into the search field to filter the list.
Can You Trust Your Browser With Your Passwords?
For privacy, Chrome masks each saved password with asterisks, but you can click the entry and press the Show button to reveal the actual password. You can also change the password, but unfortunately Chrome doesn’t sense password changes, so it won't prompt you when you log in to a site with a new password. You must go to the saved password entry and update it manually.
You can view a list of all saved addresses and credit card details, including the name on card, the account number, and the expiration date. Chrome partially masks your credit card numbers with asterisks, but you can click the entry and then click Edit to reveal the full number. The only card detail not saved is the card's security code, which is often—but not always—required to make purchases.
Can You Trust Your Browser With Your Passwords?
Unfortunately, Chrome doesn’t offer a master password feature like Firefox does in order to protect all your passwords and credit card details. Thus, anyone who’s logged on to your Windows account can view all the saved passwords and credit card details.
Chrome offers a syncing feature to keep most of your settings and saved data (including passwords, but not credit card details) synced across multiple computers and devices, but this creates another security vulnerability. By default, Chrome only requires you to enter your Google account password to set up a new computer or device to sync your browsing data. This is a great convenience; but if your Google account password is hacked, the intruder can potentially access a list of all your passwords unless you set a syncing passphrase, as we’ll discuss.
Can You Trust Your Browser With Your Passwords?Chrome's sync settings.To keep your saved passwords secured during syncing, Chrome encrypts them when they travel from your computers or devices to Google's servers (and vice-versa). You can also set the browser to encrypt all other synced data.
By default, Chrome uses your Google account password to encrypt and decrypt the synced data, but you can enter another passphrase if you want to add an extra layer of protection to your synced data. When you set up Chrome to sync on a new computer or device, you'll need to sign in with your Google account password and then also enter your encryption passphrase.

Firefox 14

Firefox offers advanced password-saving features that are even better than Chrome's. But while Firefox doesn’t natively support saving credit card details, at least that's one less security issue you need to worry about. As with Chrome, you can browse, search, and remove saved passwords via the Firefox settings.
Can You Trust Your Browser With Your Passwords?Saved passwords in Firefox.
Though you can’t change the passwords in the settings, Firefox automatically senses password changes you've made elsewhere and asks if you want to update your password when you log on to a site with a password that’s different than what’s saved on your PC.
Unlike Chrome, Firefox lets you set a master password to encrypt and password-protect the saved password list.
Can You Trust Your Browser With Your Passwords?Firefox lets you set a "master password" to add an extra layer of security.
You must enter the master password the first time you use a saved password, once per browser session. Additionally, even though you enter the master password the first time, you must always enter it before you can view saved passwords via the list in the Firefox settings. This is a great feature to help prevent casual snooping of your passwords, and it even prevents most third-party utilities from recovering them.
Firefox can also sync your passwords, settings, and other saved data among multiple computers and devices.
This is similar to what Chrome provides, but by default Firefox encrypts all synced data instead of just your saved passwords. Additionally, there’s more security when you add a new computer or device to your Firefox Sync account. You can either enter a passcode from the new device into one that you've already set up, or take the recovery key from a device you've already set up and input it into the new device after logging in to your Firefox Sync account.


Internet Explorer 9 helps prevent casual snooping—there’s no list of saved passwords in the settings—but it doesn’t provide any advanced security features to prevent someone on your Windows account from using third-party utilities to recover your passwords.
Google Chrome 21 allows anyone on your Windows account to view your list of saved passwords and credit card details, so be careful who you let on. And if you sync your browsing data across multiple computers and devices, consider turning on encryption of all data and setting a custom passphrase for double-protection.
Firefox 14 also by default allows anyone on your Windows account to view your list of saved passwords, but you can create a master password to encrypt and protect them. And if you use the browser syncing feature, Firefox offers great security.
Of the three browsers we reviewed, I’d choose Firefox for the best password security thanks to its master-password feature, but I’m also eager to see the final version of Internet Explorer 10 for both Windows 7 and 8.
I’ll leave you with some additional tips to help you boost the security of your passwords:
  • Never save passwords or sync browser data on other people’s computers.
  • Try to use different passwords for each site—at least for banking and other sensitive accounts.
  • Password-protect your Windows account.
  • Create separate Windows accounts for each user, or at least for those you don’t fully trust.
  • For extended family or friends, utilize the Guest Windows account.
  • Use a good antivirus program and keep it updated.
  • Think about fully encrypting laptops, netbooks, and mobile devices.
  • Look into third-party password-management services like LastPass or KeePass.
Eric Geier is a freelance tech writer. He’s also the founder of NoWiresSecurity, which provides a cloud-based Wi-Fi security service for businesses, and On Spot Techs, which provides on-site computer services.