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Although the number of malicious browser extensions has significantly increased in the past year many security products fail to offer adequate protection against them, while others are simply not designed to do so, according to a security researcher.

Last year Zoltan Balazs, an IT security consultant with professional services firm Deloitte in Hungary, created a proof-of-concept malicious extension that could be controlled remotely by an attacker and could steal authentication credentials, hijack accounts, modify locally displayed Web pages, take screenshots through the computer’s webcam, bypass two-factor authentication systems and even download and execute malicious files on a victim’s computer.

And last week the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) warned in its midyear report: “An increase in malicious browser extensions has been registered, aimed at taking over social network accounts.”

Chrome extensions.

Earlier this year Balazs investigated how various security products protect users against malicious browser extensions and presented his findings at the OHM2013 security conference near Amsterdam in August. He performed tests against browser security extensions, sandboxing software, Internet security suites, anti-keylogging applications and financial fraud prevention programs recommended by some banks.

Many of these products either don’t detect and block malicious extensions at all, or their protection can be bypassed, sometimes very easily, he found.

Not all of the tested products claim to protect against malicious extensions, but Balazs said he tested them because some users might believe they do.

BrowserProtect, another Firefox extension, claims to protect the browser against “homepage, search provider, extension, add-on, BHO and other hijacks.” This extension also fails to protect against malicious extensions, the researcher said.

Browser security extensions are not really trying to protect against malicious extensions and they wouldn’t be able to because by design they run with the same privileges as those extensions, Balazs said.

Balazs also tested Internet security suites from five top antivirus vendors that he declined to name. The level of protection they offered against malicious browser extensions varied from none to good.

One of the tested products detected and removed the researcher’s malicious Firefox extension, but he was able to bypass the detection signature by adding a single space character at a specific location in the extension’s code.

A product from a different vendor came with a “safe browser” feature that involved creating a clean Firefox profile with no extensions installed. However, once it had created the profile, it kept using the same one, which meant that a malicious extension installed in the user’s regular browser profile could copy itself to the “safe browser” profile, Balazs said.

Balazs said a third vendor, asked in a forum if its product detects or blocks Firefox keylogging extension Xenotix KeylogX, replied there was no need because “browser add-ons are subject to the same sandbox the browser runs through.” The vendor recommended that users remove any suspicious extensions themselves, he said.

For Balazs, the answer highlights the poor understanding some vendors have of this type of threat, because Firefox doesn’t have a sandbox and malicious browser extensions can be installed silently by malware without users ever knowing.

Some other “safe browser” implementations, such as Avast’s SafeZone and Bitdefender’s Safepay, did block the installation of malicious extensions. These offerings are designed to give users a way to bank and shop securely online using a custom browser based on Chromium, the open source project behind Google Chrome, within a secure environment similar to a sandbox.

Even though Balazs didn’t find a way to install malicious extensions directly into the Avast SafeZone or Bitdefender Safepay browsers, he claims to have found a weakness that could allow an attacker to spy on traffic, even when users access HTTPS websites and their connection is encrypted.

If the victim’s primary browser is Firefox, the attacker could first use social engineering to trick the victim into installing a malicious extension. He could then use that extension to download and execute a piece of malware designed to change the system-wide Internet proxy settings and to install a rogue root CA certificate into the Windows certificate store.

Chromium, along with Internet Explorer, uses the system-wide proxy settings and certificate store, so an attacker could exploit this to pass all traffic from the Avast SafeZone or Bitdefender Safepay browsers though a proxy server he controls and perform man-in-the-middle interception using the new root CA certificate added to the system.

This attack would also bypass Chromium’s public-key pinning protection, which is supposed to detect whether the public keys used for the certificates of some popular websites such as Gmail or Paypal have been changed by a man-in-the-middle attacker, Balazs said.

The user will not receive any certificate warnings inside the browser because Chromium allows user-installed root CAs to override pins, a design decision explained by Google software engineer Adam Langley in a May 2011 blog post.

A Bitdefender spokesman said Wednesday that “Safepay is designed as an additional layer of security to protect sensitive activities such as online banking or shopping. Although it has strong self protect mechanisms, Safepay is not a replacement for an AV [antivirus] product nor is promoted as such.”

The product performs a security assessment to identify active malware on the computer before the secure browsing session is initiated, but if malware previously infiltrated the system and installed a rogue root certificate there is a chance that the session could be compromised, the spokesman said. “Nevertheless, this scenario is plausible when users don’t have an antivirus product installed.”

“We have an ongoing project that aims to discover Safepay’s vulnerabilities in different scenarios (system or third-party related) and develop solutions to minimize the risks of compromised user sessions,” he said. “The assessment of installed certificates on the system is at the top of our list.”

Avast did not immediately provide a statement regarding this attack method.

Some security products recommended by banks to their customers and designed to prevent malware-related financial fraud were also found to lack protection against malicious browser extensions. Balazs tested six such products from different vendors, but only one blocked browser extensions in his tests.

Since then, a few more have added protection for this type of threat, but they use different approaches, he said. Some block all extensions while others detect only malicious ones, he said.

Balazs also tested Sandboxie, a program designed to isolate applications from the operating system by running them inside a sandboxed environment and preventing them from making permanent changes to other programs or data on the computer.

The product’s website says that “running your Web browser under the protection of Sandboxie means that all malicious software downloaded by the browser is trapped in the sandbox and can be discarded trivially.”

However, that only stops a rogue browser extension within Sandboxie from writing to local storage outside the sandbox. It can still log keystrokes and store them within the sandbox, capture images with the computer’s webcam, or steal passwords and authentication cookies stored in the browser, the researcher said.

In general, malicious Firefox extensions can modify the settings of other extensions or the browser itself, but they can also indirectly modify the source files of installed extensions by downloading and executing a piece of malware designed to do this when the browser is closed, Balazs said. (The source files are locked while the browser is running.)

During a presentation Saturday at the Hacker Halted USA 2013 security conference, Balazs demonstrated how malware can insert backdoors into legitimate extensions and the effects this can have on the user’s security. For his demonstration he backdoored the LastPass extension for Firefox.

LastPass is a password management service that uses a browser extension to automate form filling and website authentication. This allows users to have strong, separate passwords for all online services they use, while remembering only one master password that unlocks their encrypted password vault.

For increased security, LastPass supports two-factor authentication using the master password and one-time codes generated by physical YubiKey USB authentication devices or mobile applications such as Google Authenticator, Toopher and Duo Security.

LastPass claims on its website that it protects users against phishing scams, online fraud, and malware — in particular key loggers. However, according to Balazs, the extension can’t protect users against malware like financial Trojan programs that hook into the browser process, against other malicious browser extensions, or against local modifications of its own code.

Balazs’ demonstration at Hacker Halted showed how a piece of malware could modify the code of the LastPass extension installed in Firefox so that it sends the user’s master password and a YubiKey authentication code to an attacker, who could then use the information to access the user’s password vault.

He released his proof-of-concept code for backdooring the LastPass extension on GitHub and said that developing it only took two hours.

Most of Balazs’ recent research focused on Firefox because it’s easier to trick users into installing malicious extensions in this browser by using social engineering. Unlike Firefox, Chrome only allows the installation of extensions from the official Chrome Web Store repository and not from third-party websites, which makes it harder for attackers to distribute malicious extensions.

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Ai Bias: A Threat To Women’s Lives?

Artificial Intelligence is either a silver shot for each issue on the planet or the ensured reason for the end of the world, contingent upon whom you address. The fact of the matter is probably going to be unmistakably progressively unremarkable. Artificial intelligence is a tool and like numerous technological breakthroughs before it, it will be utilized for good and for terrible. However, concentrating on potential outrageous situations doesn’t help with our current reality. Artificial intelligence is progressively being utilized to impact the products we purchase and the music and movies we appreciate; to protect our money; and, dubiously, to settle on hiring decisions and procedure criminal behaviour. Somehow or another, it’s a chicken and egg issue. The Western world has been digitized for more, so there are more records for AIs to parse. What’s more, women have been under-represented in numerous different backgrounds, so there is less information, and what information exists is often of lower quality. If we can’t take care of AIs quality information that is free of bias, they will learn and proceed with the partialities we try to dispense with. Frequently the largest datasets accessible are additionally just of such low quality that the outcomes are erratic and unforeseen, for example, racist chatbots on Twitter. The AI field, which is overwhelmingly male, is in danger of duplicating or historical biases and power imbalances. Examples referred to incorporate image recognition services making offensive classifications of minorities, chatbots adopting hate speech, and Amazon technology neglecting to perceive clients with darker skin colors. The predispositions of systems worked by the AI business can be to a great extent credited to the absence of diversity within the field itself. Over 80% of AI professors are men, and just 15% of AI analysts at Facebook and 10% of AI scientists at Google are women. The cosmetics of the AI field is reflective of “a bigger issue across computer science, Stem fields, and even more broadly, society as a whole”, said Danaë Metaxa, a Ph.D. candidate and analyst at Stanford concentrated on issues of internet and democracy. Women included just 24% of the field of computer and data sciences in 2024, as indicated by the National Science Board. Just 2.5% of Google’s workforce is black, while Facebook and Microsoft are each at 4%, and little data exists on trans workers or other gender minorities in the AI field. There are enormous data gaps with respect to the lives and bodies of ladies,” discovers Prof. Dr. Sylvia Thun, chief of eHealth at Charité of the Berlin Institute of Health. Numerous medical algorithms are, for instance, in view of U.S. military workforce information where women in certain regions just speak to 6%. Short of having the option to radically build the number of women serving in the military (and consequently improve the female sample size), Thun recommends that researchers, experts and policy-makers need to cooperate to guarantee that medical applications are gender-informed and think about important information from women. Men at present make up 71% of the applicant pool for AI occupations in the US, as indicated by the 2023 AI Index, a free report on the industry discharged every year. The AI organization recommended additional measures, including publishing compensation for laborers openly, sharing harassment and discrimination transparency reports, and changing enlisting practices to build the number of underrepresented groups at all levels. To all the more likely serve business and society, battling algorithmic bias should be a need. “By 2023, 85% of AI projects will deliver mistaken results because of bias in information, algorithms or the teams answerable for overseeing them. This isn’t only an issue for gender inequality – it additionally undermines the value of AI” as per Gartner, Inc. We have a chance to address these imbalances by driving a more prominent spotlight on incorporation, empowerment and equality. More women working in the innovation business, composing algorithms and taking care of product development will change how we envision and create technology, and how it sounds and looks.

Deepfake Technology: Is It A Threat Or Not?

Deepfakes already possess a bad reputation as they are used for manipulation, but can we count on it for some benefits?

How would it feel if you could see your great grandmother blinking and smiling in one of her old photographs? It will creep you out, no doubt, but will it also make you nostalgic? Well according to MyHeritage, you might be nostalgic. The genealogy startup MyHeritage has recently introduced a new feature called Deep Nostalgia that allows users to animate the faces in family photos. According to MyHeritage, over 1 million photos were animated in the first 48 hours alone. One of their

How do Deepfakes work?

Deepfake uses

Any Positives By Chance?

Deepfake technology uses AI to simulate human actions to create videos and they are infamous for spreading misinformation. However, some fields can actually benefit from deepfakes. The film industry can leverage deepfake technology to edit videos without reshooting them and also recreate actors who passed away on the screen. Training and educational videos can leverage deepfakes to enable virtual materials without human intervention. Deepfake technology has other benefits and thus can impact positively if used within ethical grounds.

How would it feel if you could see your great grandmother blinking and smiling in one of her old photographs? It will creep you out, no doubt, but will it also make you nostalgic? Well according to MyHeritage, you might be nostalgic. The genealogy startup MyHeritage has recently introduced a new feature called Deep Nostalgia that allows users to animate the faces in family photos. According to MyHeritage, over 1 million photos were animated in the first 48 hours alone. One of their blogs says, “Users have responded with wonder and emotion: some were awed to see ancestors they’d never met — some from over 100 years ago — move, blink, and smile, while others were moved to tears witnessing their lost loved ones in motion after so many years with only still photos to remember them by.” The website in its FAQs admitted that it is possible for people to find these videos creepy. Although, the feature has now become the new trend and many are using it to witness their long-lost loved ones moving. According to MyHeritage, they licensed the technology from D-ID, an Israeli company specializing in video reenactment using deep learning. The startup revealed that they did not include speech to prevent abuse of this technology to create deep fakes of living people. Although, they have already created a promotional video with speech and audio wherein they reanimated Abraham Lincoln. Is it not to be considered a deepfake? Deepfake technology has garnered so much negative attention and concern with regards to spreading fake news. Thus, their boundaries need to be set properly to decide whether it is a threat or not.Deepfake uses AI-based technology to manipulate images, audio, and video to make them seem authentic and real. This technology uses machine learning systems to synthesize videos and audio quickly at a minimal cost. Neural networks like Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) are used to train data sets with real footage to make them understand a person’s actual voice, behavior, and expressions. Two separate machine learning models are used, one to train on the provided datasets and fabricate images, the second one for monitoring these fabrications and grade the synthesis. These days deepfakes are created by both AI and non-AI-algorithms and do not involve GANs. Deepfakes are a threat in many ways like the use of deepfake audios in money extortion, fraudsters targeting celebrities and politicians to spread fake news, creating non-consensual pornography, etc. Back in 2023, a video of Nancy Pelosi, speaker at the United States House of Representatives, took rounds on social media, wherein she was speaking unusually slow and high pitched. This video was later identified as fake since it was altered from the original speed to make her speech seem slurred. The video was aimed at throwing negative light on her and this is not the first-ever incident. There have been many such incidents where manipulated videos went rounds.Deepfake technology uses AI to simulate human actions to create videos and they are infamous for spreading misinformation. However, some fields can actually benefit from deepfakes. The film industry can leverage deepfake technology to edit videos without reshooting them and also recreate actors who passed away on the screen. Training and educational videos can leverage deepfakes to enable virtual materials without human intervention. Deepfake technology has other benefits and thus can impact positively if used within ethical grounds. For example, the new feature launched by MyHeritage can be appealing for many people but until it crosses the boundaries. If it creates misinformation in any way it might come under strict scrutiny since there are already regulations on deepfake technology and many legislations are planning to criminalize non-consensual deepfakes.

How Serious Is Your Hypertension?

Hypertension, also known as the higher side of blood pressure, is a common medical condition that affects a significant number of people globally, including Indians. Hypertension occurs when the force of blood against the arterial walls is consistently high, which can lead to serious health complications if left untreated. Given the high prevalence of hypertension among Indians, it is crucial to understand how severe the condition can be and the potential risks it poses.

Hypertension as a Medical Condition

This reminds us of the health check camps we usually have at our workplace and how most of us turn out patients of hyper tension without even knowing about it. Again, the reasons could be many including lifestyle changes, stress, anxiety, medications or perhaps the disturbance in blood sugar levels. The question most of us ended up asking each other was “How serious is your hypertension” and those that were nowhere near the threshold walked off so cool!

Hypertension is a prevalent medical condition that affects nearly one-third of the population. A study conducted in India found that around 33% of adults aged 25-64 years had hypertension. Furthermore, the prevalence of hypertension is higher in urban areas than in rural areas, with prevalence rates of around 40% and 25%, respectively. Thus, hypertension is a significant health concern across India, and its consequences can be severe.

High blood pressure levels can lead to several serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and vision loss. Hypertension can have severe consequences due to several factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and diet.

Indians are at a higher risk of hypertension due to factors such as high salt intake, physical inactivity, stress, and obesity. These factors, coupled with genetic predisposition, make the Indian population more prone to developing hypertension and its complications.

Moreover, hypertension is not typically diagnosed or treated at an early age, leading to more severe complications. Hypertension is usually identified in the later stages when organ damage has already occurred. This can lead to a decline in the quality of life, increased healthcare costs, and increased mortality rates.

Managing Hypertension

There is hope for managing hypertension. And, it lies here in the below points −

Early detection and proper management of hypertension can reduce the severity of the disease’s effects.

Lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and stress management can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of developing complications.

It is critical to raise awareness among the Indian population about the importance of regular blood pressure screenings and the need for lifestyle modifications to reduce hypertension’s impact.

Conclusion

Hypertension is a prevalent medical condition among Indians, and its consequences can be severe. High blood pressure can lead to several serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and vision loss.

Indians are at a higher risk of hypertension due to several factors, such as genetics, lifestyle, and diet. However, early detection and proper management of hypertension can reduce the severity of the disease’s effects. Therefore, it is crucial to raise awareness among the Indian population about the importance of regular blood pressure screenings and the need for lifestyle modifications to prevent and manage hypertension effectively.

10 Best Password Manager Extensions For Chrome

10 Best Password Manager Extensions for chrome in 2023

Yes, there are various tools available that protect your sensitive information like passwords, credit & debit card details, bank account information, etc and you can get all this information with just a single master password.

In this blog, we will discuss top password manager extensions that are extremely useful to protect and save your credentials.

Best Password Manager Extensions: 1. TweakPass Password Manager

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This is one of the best password managers that help safeguard all the sensitive information stored in your computer and browser. To protect your data, the password manager uses the world’s strongest AES encryption technology. Not only this, to use TweakPass password manager and access all the stored passwords you just need to remember a master password, This means instead of remembering multiple passwords, you can memorize just one and access all other passwords and other confidential information. Using the TweakPass Password Manager extension, you can easily save login details and auto-fills the credentials every time you visit the site for which you have saved the details. Moreover, you can add card details, social security numbers, and other details in the secure vault and access them anytime from anywhere.

It is used by all the major browsers like Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera.

Features of TweakPass Password Manager:-

Generates strong and unique passwords to stay protected

Saves credentials and uses it in filling forms

AES encryption technology for protection from cyber threats

SSL secured to protect your data

Sync stored passwords across every device

 Read Full Review of TweakPass Password Manager

2. 1Password

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Trusted as the world’s most loved password manager 1Password is the easiest way to store all your passwords. It gives you an alert when you enter a weak password or a duplicate password so that you can use a unique password all the time for all sites. 1Password also has a special feature that allows you to hide your important passwords when you travel outside the country so that there is no breach in security.

What makes 1Password the favorite of all users is its zero-knowledge policy under which all your credentials are kept safe and no one can store or track your data.

Features of 1Password:-

Two-factor authentication (2FA) give a double-layer security

Password strength monitoring allows you to make strong passwords

Travel mode allows you to hide credentials when you travel

With a zero-knowledge policy, all the credentials are safe and can not be shared with anyone

It masks your card credentials when you make an online purchase

3. LastPass

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LastPass is another great password manager that tops the list of best free password manager extensions. Once you have installed LastPass, then it will automatically fetch the data stored in the browser and will keep it safe. All these passwords are stored in a vault under the name items. You can fetch all the credentials from there whenever you need them to enter. Apart from this, you can also add a note to each password so that you remember that the password is for which particular site and where to be used.

A master password prompt is an additional security feature that allows you to remember only one password instead of all the passwords.

Features of LastPass:-

In addition to passwords, you can also store notes, bank credentials, card credentials, addresses, etc

Autofill function allows you to autofill the data on sites

You can decide the max length of a password and create a password at your convenience

Built-in password generator helps you to make a strong password

Import all the previously saved credentials on the browser

4. Dashlane

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Similar to any other great password manager, it also comes with a  vault where you can add and manage your passwords. It allows you to import existing passwords and give them a safe room to protect them from intruders. Dashlane allows you to check your password strength in case you have not created a strong password so that the password can not be cracked by anyone.

All the major browsers support the Dashlane extension where all the credentials will be imported to Dashlane. Except for Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer if you use any other browser then you will have to manually export the passwords that will be saved as CSV files to import in the tension.

Features of Dashlane:-

Dashlane includes autofill that helps fillcredentials on-site

All the credentials can be shared with any family member by using password sharing feature that sends a link to the recipient

Password generator helps you to generate a strong password that can not be compromised

You can share the passwords with an unlimited number of devices with the Pro plan.

In the free version, you can add up to 50 passwords

5. Keeper

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Another excellent choice to keep your passwords safe and secure from any type of intrusion is Keeper. With Keeper, you can keep a track of all the passwords, bank account details, payment card credentials, address, etc, and can use them all in the autofill function to fill any form online. All the credentials are properly arranged in folders and are used automatically while filling out any online form.

The vault password can be imported to browsers like Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Opera, making Keeper one step ahead of the other password managers.

Features of Keeper:-

Two-factor authentication enables double-layer security to the credentials

Self-destruct feature erases all the data after 5 continuous failed attempts

You can store unlimited passwords in the free version but limited to one device only

Keeper BreachWatch feature scans all the sites that have been exposed by a data breach

The security audit feature helps you to create a strong password (not duplicate) every time or every site.

6. RoboForm

Get it Here

Features of RoboForm:-

Password generator allows you to create unique and strong passwords

In free version, you can store unlimited identities and passwords

Allows to share your login with other people

Audit your passwords

It is simple to use with easy navigation

7. Avira Password Manager

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This is another Password Manager that comes with an extension for Google chrome. It has an inbuilt password generator that helps create strong passwords and save them for future use. Avira Password Manager has all the important features of Avira that provides security to data. You can get the facility to store unlimited passwords across unlimited devices therefore you need not have to export the data. What’s more, it comes with a 30 days moneyback guarantee.

Features of Avira Password Manager:-

Biometric logins for mobile users for easy access

Password vault auditing

2FA authenticator provides double-layer security

Data breach scanning saves the data to be shared on a particular site.

Unlimited passwords can be stored

8. Sticky Password

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It comes with a 30 days free trial and another 30 day money back guarantee.

Features of Sticky Password:-

Allow you to sync over a Wi-Fi instead of the Sticky Password sync

Portable version of Sticky Password can be saved on a USB flash drive

Two-factor authentication

Cloud and Wi-Fi syncing

9. Password Boss

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Coming in last in the list does not make Password Boss less competitive. Password Boss can generate new passwords and use themautofill forms. Also you can save new login-in credentials that are used to get easy and fast aces on desired sites. All the features like password sharing, emergency access, secure file storage are very promising and make Password Boss unique. Available for free for 30 days.

Features of Password Boss:-

Comes with two-factor authentication

Identity and payment info storage provide a safe passage to enter into any site.

Fast and easy save and fill passwords

Password generator helps you generate strong passwords.

Password Boss family edition covers up to 5 users

10. Bitwarden

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Bitwarden is an open-source password manager that saves your passwords and identities and protects them. It saves all your information, including personal and financial and adds a layer of security to them so that whenever you need then it will be present without any breach of security. Bitwarden is one of the cheapest password managers and can do the job for you.

Features of Bitwarden:-

Comes with 30 days money-back guarantee

Bitwarden Family version allow unlimited sharing and upto 5 users

Self hosting on a local server instead of cloud

Two-factor authentication

Data breach report and password strength

Are password managers worth it in comparison to Google Smart lock?

Passwords managers work at par with Google Smart Lock and in some cases, Passwords managers are ahead of the Google Smart Lock.

Password managers are great tools that give you some additional features like military-grade security and also you get the option to generate the password of your choice as well as the tool to generate complex passwords that can not be cracked. The privacy policy of Passwords managers is very stringent and can not be compromised in any scenario. Passwords managers are also of great help if any zero-day This makes the Passwords managers the first choice of the users.

Google Smart Lock provides the security feature of saving the passwords and security codes in chromebooks and chrome browsers and on android devices. Google Smart Lock has all the essential features that a user may want to protect the passwords but not all the features of Passwords managers are included in it. However, if you do not have much sensitive data and want to protect only the mobile apps’ data, then Google Smart Lock is indeed the best choice.

Conclusion:-

It is not easy to remember and memorize all the passwords by a human. Every time we log in to an app that is rarely used we tend to remember the passwords and end up entering the wrong password and later reset it. This is undoubtedly time-consuming and we might create a duplicate password also. Here comes the role of Password manager extension that saves your sensitive data and allows you to autofill the data when needed. These Password managers come with a military-grade security feature that gives you overall protection from any type of intrusion.

Password managers allow you to create a strong and unique password of your own and also suggest to you some system based passwords that are very complex and cannot be compromised. Using Password managers is a great step in ensuring privacy and security to our data and helps in developing a safe internet environment.

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Gartner: Saas Contract Language Regarding Security Is Lacking

The large majority of people working in IT procurement are “significantly dissatisfied” with the way SaaS (software as a service) vendors define contract language related to security, a feeling likely to persist through 2024, according to a Gartner report.

“Contractually, very little security language appears in the body of SaaS contracts,” Gartner analysts Jay Heiser and Alexa Bona wrote in the report. “Typically the security section contains little more than platitudes, stating that the provider will use ‘commercially reasonable efforts to establish and maintain security safeguards.’ These are often declared to be ‘in line with industry standards,’ which are mostly never defined.”

SaaS vendors also tend to give themselves the right to change security language at will, rather than adhere to a specific version, according to Gartner.

Gartner reviewed more than 100 SaaS vendors’ “master service agreements or service contracts and [service level agreements]” for the report, and found that providers “are extremely vague about the forms of service, and especially the levels of it.”

“They accept little or no financial responsibility for fulfillment of these vague commitments, so even if it is determined that these obligations were not met, the buyer has no recourse,” the report adds.

Guidelines needed

While a set of standards for SaaS vendor transparency are emerging, “they cannot be considered adequately mature,” Gartner said.

For example, there’s no consistent opinion regarding what constitutes a service-level agreement, according to the report. Generally, SLA contract terms refer to application uptime and the speediness of support call responses, which lend themselves readily to hard numbers. But other measures, such as “recovery time objectives,” are “not common across the industry,” Gartner said.

Customers signing SaaS deals should seek to include an array of protective language, including the ability to conduct periodic audits of the vendor’s security measures; vulnerability testing; “ongoing background checks for administrative personnel”; and the classification of security incidents or service losses “according to severity with differing response and notification requirements according to the level of security,” according to Gartner.

In addition, customers should ask SaaS providers to maintain liability insurance policies that name the customer as a beneficiary, Gartner said.

“Nearly all contracts have a force majeure clause that excludes several forms of catastrophic incident,” the report states. “If a failure simultaneously affected 1,000 customers, and each was entitled to $2 million of compensation, it would amount to a total payout of $2 billion. Ask service providers what their total liability would be in the case of a failure impacting all of their tenants, and demand evidence of adequately underwritten insurance.”

Gartner’s recommendations reflect a discussion that’s been ongoing in the software industry for some time as SaaS becomes mainstream.

Spending on SaaS totaled more than $14.5 billion in 2012 and is expected to top $22 billion by 2024, according to figures Gartner released last year.

Those numbers are being driven not only by growth in pure-play SaaS vendors such as chúng tôi but also due to the ongoing shift by traditionally on-premises software vendors like SAP and Oracle to SaaS delivery models.

The nature of SaaS buying is also changing. Procurement is increasingly occurring at the departmental level, such as in marketing or human resources, rather than as part of a centrally planned IT strategy, a trend that could exacerbate the contract risks cited by Gartner.

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