Thursday Grok: Microsoft and security, Facebook and privacy, Google and social

Haven’t we been here before?

Sometimes you have to ask yourself why Microsoft even bothers. For as long as Grok has being writing about Internet Explorer, Microsoft has been announcing and responding to security vulnerabilities in its browsers.

The latest is another doozy...another doozy. Here’s how ReadWriteWeb described it:

“The vulnerability is considered to be a serious one, both in its scope and in its potential for harm. Basically, as Microsoft notes, ‘an attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the current user”. In other words, the attacker could essentially do what he wanted with your computer: drop a keylogger or other snooping software, crash it, or perform other malicious activities.’”

Microsoft has acknowledged the problem which would allow users to exploit corrupted memory on a PC.

The problem was first discovered by security research Eric Romand, and made public by Rapid7 through its Metasploit project, according to Ian Paul, a blogger for PCWorld.

“The end result is that, if attacked, a hacker would have the same control over your PC that you do. So if you login as an administrative user, which many Windows users do, then the hacker would be able to do everything you can including install or remove programs; view, change, or delete files; and even create new user accounts with full administrative rights.”

All manner of pundits are lining up suggesting users dump IE until Microsoft fixes the problem, which frankly sounds like sensible advice. (Actually, it's been at least seven years since Grok used IE for anything other than testing purposes.)

As it battles to solve the problem, Redmond issued a security advisory with some recommendations for users — you can read those recommendations here if you are lucky enough to speak gibberish. For the rest of us, here's an alternative suggestion: Get another browser or buy a Mac.

Facebook's mobile ad network has the markets excited, but what about privacy?

The great weakness in Facebook's commercial strategy concerns monetising its mobile audience, especially now that the bulk of its users access the social network on their smartphones.

In this regard, Facebook is facing the same dilemma as others in that the form factor on a mobile does not give an advertiser a lot of leeway, and some advertising compromises the user experience.

Facebook's solution — at least partially — is to build a Facebook mobile ad network so that it can serve ads to its customers when they are not using Facebook on their mobile. You can read up on the lowdown over at Business Insider .

On the one hand, that seems like an elegant solution. On the other hand, it involves Facebook knowing where you are on the Web and what you are doing all the time even when you are not using Facebook’s product.

Concept's like "Privacy and are you fracking kidding me?" come to mind. Some might argue that other ad networks already do this so what's the big deal. Here's the big deal — those ad networks, unlike Facebook, know almost nothing about you.

It would be like the Sydney Morning Herald hiring a kid with a chalk board to chase you down a main street yelling at you madly at every opportunity that maybe you should eat at Joes.

Google + claims it has 100 million active users

According to Mashable, Google + has more than 400 million members, including 100 million "active" monthly members — about 10 per cent of Facebook's total, despite giving Zuckerberg a seven -year head start. As the article noted, “That may sound like a big advantage for Facebook, but one also has to take into account that it took Facebook several years to reach 100 million active users, while Google+ managed to do that within 12 months.”

Grok remains sceptical since "monthly active members" is a very opaque concept at both Facebook and Google.

Oracle, Salesforce and the war without end

Finally, Oracle made an interesting acquisition this week — purchasing SelectMinds, a social recruit tool. “SelectMinds specialises in mining current and former employees' networks for job referrals. Oracle plans to tie it into other software products which manage companies' talent.” According to Business Insider, it is one more chapter in the ongoing hostilities between Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and former prodigy Mark Benioff at Salesforces.com. Earlier this year, Salesforce.com bought its own recruitment solution when it acquired Rypple.

Andrew Birmingham is the CEO of Silicon Gully Investments Follow him on Twitter @ag_birmingham.

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