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Thousands of Android Apps Are Silently Accessing Your Data




More than 4,000 Google Play apps silently collect a list of all other installed apps in a data grab that allows developers and advertisers to build detailed profiles of users, a recently published research paper found.

The apps use an Android-provided programming interface that scans a phone for details about all other apps installed on the phone. The app details—which include names, dates they were first installed and most recently updated, and more than three dozen other categories—are uploaded to remote servers without permission and no notification.


Android’s installed application methods, or IAMs, are application programming interfaces that allow apps to silently interact with other programs on a device. They use two methods to retrieve various kinds of information related to installed apps, neither of which is classified by Google as a sensitive API. The lack of such a designation allows the methods to be used in a way that’s invisible to users.


This story originally appeared on Ars Technica, a trusted source for technology news, tech policy analysis, reviews, and more. Ars is owned by WIRED’s parent company, Condé Nast.

Not all apps that collect details on other installed apps do so for nefarious purposes. Developers surveyed by the researchers behind the new paper said the collection is the basis for launcher apps, which allow for the customization of the homescreen and provide shortcuts to open other apps. IAMs are also used by VPNs, backup software, notification managers, anti-malware, battery savers, and firewalls.

But the data grab can also be used by advertisers and developers to assemble a detailed profile of users, the researchers reported in their paper, titled “Leave my Apps Alone! A Study on how Android Developers Access Installed Apps on User’s Device.” They cited previous studies such as this one, which found that a single snapshot of apps installed on a device allowed researchers to predict the user’s gender with an accuracy of around 70 percent. Follow-on findings by the same researchers expanded the demographics that could be deduced to traits such as religion, relationship status, spoken languages, and countries of interest. A study by different researchers said user demographics also included age, race, and income. The research also found that a user’s gender could be predicted with an 82 percent accuracy rate.

“As other privacy-sensitive parts of the Android platform are protected by app permissions, forcing developers to explicitly notify users before attempting access to these parts, [it] begs the question on why IAMs are treated differently,” the researchers, from the University of L’Aquila in Italy, Vrije University in Amsterdam, and ETH in Zurich, wrote in the latest paper. “Indeed, the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), generally regarded as the forefront in privacy regulations, considers ‘online identifiers provided by their devices, applications, tools, and protocols’ […] as personal data, for all purposes and means.”


The new report said that Google is considering several changes to Android that have already been added to a beta version of version 11 (general release has been scheduled for the third quarter, but it’s not clear if that timeframe will be pushed back as a result of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic). Under the considered change, for an app to interact with other apps, the developer must either (1) explicitly declare in the app manifest—a file that describes essential information about the app—the apps they want to inspect or (2) require a new permission called QUERY_ALL_PACKAGES, whose precise function remains unclear to some developers.

The change, the researchers said, still doesn’t address one of the chief shortcomings of the IAMs abuse, which is the lack of notice to users that an app requires a potentially privacy-invading permission. Under the considered change, apps still wouldn’t be required to disclose their collection of details about all other installed apps. Google representatives didn’t respond to an email inquiring about planned changes in Android and requesting a more general comment for this article.

App Spying

The researchers studied 14,342 free Android apps in the Google Play Store and 7,886 open source Android apps and analyzed the apps’ use of IAMs. The researchers found that 4,214 of the Google Play apps, representing slightly more than 30 percent of those studied, used IAMs. Only 228 of the open source apps, or a little less than 3 percent, collected details of other apps. With more than 3 million apps available in the Google-hosted service, the actual number of prying apps is almost certainly an order of magnitude higher than the 4,214 found in the study.


The Boys Season 2 Release Date, Cast, Plot, Trailer And Everything You Need To Know




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Hooray, The Boys are here! Amazon original science-fiction live-action series, The Boys aired back in 2019.

Before even the first season made it on the Amazon platforms, it was renewed for a second installment. The success of the show is a massive one, seeing the eccentric portrayal of superheroes.

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The pilot is more than enough to keep you hooked, and you can barely see the time pass as you watch the first eight episodes of season one.

It is a story loaded with sarcasm and skepticism, rather than to win over the viewers with identification or emotions. The inspiring characters show the dark side of superheroes credibly and surprisingly.

What Do We Know About The Release Date?

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According to an Instagram post of November 6, 2019, by Karl Urban, playing the lead role of Billy Butcher, the filming of the show was all done with it:

Cut and print!🤪 That’s a wrap for Billy Butcher on season 2 of @theboystv. Massive thanks to our awesome Crew n cast, love you all. 💥The Boys 2💥 On yer telle Mid 2020 #gonefishing🎣 😎💗

Eric Kripke, showrunner of Supernatural and The Boys, wrote on his Twitter handle regarding on the update on the upcoming season:

And, I’m hard at work (remotely) on #Season2. Here are a few shots! @KarlUrban @antonystarr @TheBoysTV #TheBoys #SPNFamily

— Eric Kripke (@therealKripke) March 22, 2020

Seeing the completed filming, we can expect the second part to hit our screens in mid-2020. The show is currently in its post-production stage.

Any Trailer Yet?

Yes, thankfully, an official trailer was released on December 6, 2019, on the official YouTube account of Prime Video UK. And, since then, it has scored a total of over 3 million views.

There are no updates regarding the admission of fresh faces. But, here is a list of a line-up based on the previous season:

  • Karl Urban as Billy Butcher
  • Jack Quaid as Hughie Campbell
  • Anthony Starr as Homelander
  • Erin Moriarty as Annie January 
  • Dominique McElligott as Queen Maeve, and so on

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Originally posted 2020-05-04 03:47:50.

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Spider-Man actually solved time travel in Avengers: Endgame




Spider-Man might have been a pile of dust for most of Avengers: Endgame, but he actually played a bigger role than you’d think.

After the movie’s surprise five-year time jump, the remaining Avengers start to look to time travel to bring everyone back. Smart Hulk doesn’t have the knowledge though, so they need Tony Stark’s help and he doesn’t seem to want to do it.

Marvel Studios

Related: Avengers: Endgame theory makes it even more heartbreaking

He’s left the superhero life and living peacefully with Pepper and their daughter Morgan, so Tony doesn’t want to potentially mess it up by playing around with time – something he doesn’t think is possible anyway.

And yet, over one night, Tony manages to create time travel, but really, we should be thanking Spider-Man instead.

tom holland as spider man in avengers endgame

Marvel Studios

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Before Tony solves the time travel problem (and after he bizarrely dries plates before putting them on the washing-up rack), he looks at a picture of himself with Peter Parker and a fake Stark Industries certificate.

Shortly after this, Tony decides to have one last try at the time travel simulation, seemingly because of the guilt he felt over Peter’s death in Avengers: Infinity War.

But there’s a key detail you might have overlooked.

avengers endgame, peter parker, tom holland, spider man

Marvel Studios

ScreenRant suggests that the fact that Peter is holding the Stark Industries certificate upside-down is the reason why Tony is able to solve the timey-wimey conundrum.

“I’ve got a mild inspiration. I’d like to see it if checks out. So, I’d like to run one last sim before we pack it in for the night. This time in the shape of a Möbius strip, inverted please,” Tony tells Friday after this moment.

He says a few other science-y bits, but the main change is inverting the Möbius strip like Peter did for his certificate.

And given the timing, it seems that the “mild inspiration” could well be that certificate. Lo and behold, turning it upside-down worked and the rest is history.

iron man avengers endgame, snap

Marvel Studios

Related: A major Avengers plot hole about Thanos has finally been resolved

We’re sure time travel is more complicated than just looking at it upside-down, but they did have a time heist to get on with.

So, technically, this also means that Spider-Man is inadvertently responsible for Tony’s eventual sacrifice to save the world.

Sorry about that.

Avengers: Endgame is out now on DVD, Blu-ray, 3D, 4K and digital download, and is available on Disney+.

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Looking for more TV recommendations and discussion? Head over to our Facebook Group to see new picks every day, and chat with other readers about what they’re watching right now.

Originally posted 2020-05-01 06:05:44.

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Rhode Island Comic Con Panel Recap: Choose Your Realm, Westeros or Hogwarts?




Courtesy of Co-director, Lindsey DeLuca.

Rhode Island Comic Con was held at the Rhode Island Convention Center and Dunkin’ Donuts Center this year from November 1-3. Nerds and Beyond joined the large crowds of people that were in attendance for an amazing time at the biggest show in the smallest state.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the variety of celebrity Q&A panels that were available for attendees to sit in on. Keep reading for our recap of two of the panels that were not to be missed!

Courtesy of Rhode Island Comic Con.

Winter is coming (really), and what better way to usher in the White Walkers’ favorite season than a chat with Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy) and Kristian Nairn (Hodor)? The Game of Thrones panel, aptly titled “One More Trip to Westeros,” was an excellent and insightful journey.

The panel began with a question about how the actors felt now that Game of Thrones is over. Nairn reflected on Hodor and explained that he initially wondered how much he could bring to the character, as he wanted him to be real, not a ridiculed laughing stock. He then realized that he was able to convey something beautiful and human with Hodor, which was very apparent on-screen. Allen, meanwhile, said that he had a specific and unique journey because his character was initially hated and ridiculed (before Theon’s big comeback!). He feels that it’s interesting to look back on it objectively now and is ultimately eternally grateful to have been a part of the show.

Because of what his character went through on the show, Allen discussed how he has a lot of conversations with people now about mental health. He went on to say that in regards to being able to talk about it, being honest, and being a symbol for it, he “can’t think of anything better.”

When asked if there was a character on Game of Thrones that they wish their own character had gotten a chance to have a scene with, Nairn replied that he would have liked to have worked with Charles Dance (who portrayed Tywin Lannister). They were then asked if they would like to have played any other character, and Allen said Ramsey (because there’s a lot of license to do what you like in that role), and Nairn said Varys or Brienne.

Allen, when someone inquired as to which scene in Game of Thrones that they were most proud of, referred back to the scene in season 6, episode 1 where Brienne and Pod show up to save Sansa and Theon. Allen described a moment (which he said was small but important to him) where Theon had been staring at Sansa, but turns his gaze to the ground when she looks over at him. He explained that this small reaction was not planned, he just naturally did it because it felt right, and he really liked how the scene turned out.

Nairn, of course, referred to the infamous door scene. He laughed as he reflected on how many doors were involved throughout various takes, and also explained that there were a lot of emotions because filming fell on his birthday, and those were his last few days on set.

Allen was asked what made him say yes to the role of Theon Greyjoy. He explained how big of a deal it was at the time for someone to have a chance to work with HBO, especially in England! He said that it didn’t seem real to him that he could potentially be a part of an HBO show, as he was actually watching HBO’s The Wire at the time. Interestingly enough, Allen actually auditioned for the roles of Jon Snow and Robb Stark before eventually taking on the role of Theon.

The topic of off-camera moments was brought up, and Allen launched into a tale about a time when he, Richard Madden (Robb Stark), and Kit Harington (Jon Snow) went out to a club (which Nairn was DJing at!) and found themselves in a bit of trouble. Trouble being defined as Allen inviting himself up on stage to do his own “routine” amongst the ladies that were up there performing. Unsurprisingly, he was quickly removed from the establishment.

Nairn, meanwhile, went on to discuss how one of his first days of filming ended up being one of his toughest days on set. As he was new to the acting world, he didn’t really know what to expect. He specifically referenced the scene in which Tyrion presents Bran with his newly fitted saddle, and Hodor then has to carry Bran. Nairn quickly learned about how difficult the repetition of filming scenes can be — eight times!

When asked about their previous knowledge of Game of Thrones before working on the show, Nairn stated that he knew nothing about the book series and hadn’t even heard of it. However, when he told his mother he was auditioning, she “freaked out” and told him to say yes if he got the part. She was the one that encouraged him to take on what ended up being his first professional acting role!

Allen had not read the books, and when he later asked if he should, he was told that they would leave that up to him. Though he did start reading them, he eventually stopped because the direction of the story changed as the show took on a life of its own. He also laughed as he remarked how he looks nothing like the book version of Theon.

Overall, Allen and Nairn’s panel was an absolute delight. It was a pleasure to hear about their experiences working on such a huge and epic series that has meant so much to so many people. 

Courtesy of Rhode Island Comic Con.

Wands at the ready? To end off this phenomenal weekend, RICC brought us back to Hogwarts with “Avada Kedavra! Wizarding 101” featuring Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley), and Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood). Before we launch into the panel’s details, we wanted to commend RICC on their organization for this massive panel. It was clear as we queued that not everyone who had lined up would be getting to the panel, and RICC handled it flawlessly with only allowing a certain amount of fans into the ballroom at once, the staff communicating effectively on how many more seats were available before sending another group in.

It’s no secret that Lynch had been a Potter fan before her casting — and that Luna Lovegood had been her favorite — but it’s still always wonderful to hear her talk about that love she still holds for her character. She retold a story of how just the year before her casting as Luna, she dressed as her for Halloween, even hand-making her own set of radish earrings. The designers over at WB loved her version so much that they purchased the pattern from her and replicated them for the film and memorabilia later on. “She had a mature mindset,” Lynch reminisced about Luna, “I found solace in her character. Her self-acceptance made it so she didn’t judge other people.”

The Harry Potter cast across all the films feature some true masters of their craft. When asked which of their veteran cast mates they enjoyed working with most, the Phelps landed on Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), and Wright enjoyed David Thewlis’ portrayal of Remus Lupin, her favorite professor from the books, so much she asked him to star in her directorial debut, Separate We Go. Lynch recalled as an actress new to filming the ease and playfulness of Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange) and Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), and how watching them taught her that acting really, truly is about playing and having fun.

What would a celebrity panel be without one the most classic questions at a fan Q&A: what was the funniest moment from set? The group laughed as they told a few silly stories, one of which being when Dumbledore’s Army is discovered in the Room of Requirement in The Order of the Phoenix. Straight faces were limited, they remembered, with each take getting progressively funnier the more it was shot.

Harry Potter also breaks the hearts of its readers with some fan-favorite character deaths, and the Phelps, despite one of their characters dying in the books, mentioned Harry’s trusty owl Hedwig’s shocking demise as one of the most impactful deaths of the series. Lynch had to tell her mom to take the book and hide it after Dumbledore’s death in The Half-Blood Prince. Wright thought Sirius’ death packed the most punch, and that’s definitely up there for us, too. Speaking of the books, James Phelps loved Prisoner of Azkaban, Oliver Phelps thinks Goblet of Fire is the best of the bunch, and both Lynch and Wright agreed that Order of the Phoenix is number one.

This series is important to a lot of people, and gaining more fans every day, and this panel made it clear it was just as important to the actors in the films. James Phelps felt fortunate to have worked with such a fantastic crew and set that was fun to go to everyday. It gave Wright the inspiration to go to college and study film, the knowledge of the craft of filmmaking enrapturing her. Lynch was amazed by the creativity involved, and she learned that imagination really is a magic power — the ability to see something in your head and then turn it into a work of art.

Lynch also volunteered herself for a role in the films when they get rebooted — she’d love to play Trelawney! And in the same token, she hoped that they would consider an entire series of one episode per chapter, and the crowd certainly agreed. But the question flipped from who they’d like to play to how the characters defined them as actors. The Phelps both agreed that Fred and George were very saturated versions of themselves, while Wright noted there was a blurred line where Ginny ended and Bonnie began. She remembered it took a few years to process the whole experience and realize how significant and formative it was, and to celebrate it. Lynch commended that the characters were so well written and developed, it made the job easier. She wanted to find more individuals like Luna who inspire her and make her want to be better.

The panel ended with the actors revealing their own Hogwarts houses. Oliver Phelps wanted to remain a Gryffindor, but it turns out that the ever-popular Pottermore revealed them both to be Hufflepuffs! Wright mirrored her on-screen character with a sorting into Gryffindor, where she was joined by Lynch per the quizzes, who was happy with her sorting (although she sometimes wished it was Ravenclaw).

It was so great to see these old cast mates together once again, the love for their Potter characters still abundantly clear. It was just like going back to Hogwarts, even if only for an hour.

The Nerds and Beyond team was at Rhode Island Comic Con all weekend, and we had a blast. You can read about our take on RICC as a whole here!

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Originally posted 2020-04-28 15:16:15.

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