Today HP appeared to make another addition to their Chromebook lineup, but without any announcement. The Chromebook in question is a new alternate HP Chromebook 11 with the design of the HP Chromebook 14. The Hewlett-Packard Chromebook 11, which came out last winter featured a brand-new gloss white and colorfully accented design. The larger HP Chromebook 14, however, has a much more sleek, classy design and comes in models completely of one color, rather than just accents like the Chromebook 11.
The new Chromebook has the latter design, much to the surprise of Youtuber Lachlan, who discovered the alternate Chromebook 11 and posted a video of it. Apparently, Lachlan, who resides in Australia, purchased what was labelled as a “white Chromebook 11″, but soon realized that it was not the same as the other Chromebooks 11, but rather a miniature Chromebook 14.
He immediately began a series of tweets about the “mystery Chromebook”, proclaiming to the world he had found an unannounced HP Chromebook. OMG! Chrome first reported that this was a HP Australia only leaked product, but now the alternate Chromebook 11 is listed on HP’s website. The mysterious Chromebook has not yet appeared on the official Google Chromebook page.
In Muktware’s review of the latest HP Chromebook 14, it was found to have a more premium feel to it than other Chromebooks, like the current HP Chromebook 11. It will not be surprising if HP pursues this classy design rather than the flamboyant feel of the smaller Chromebook, although it fits the carefree spirit of Chromebooks in general. Also, this is not the first time in recent weeks HP has let Chromebook related news slip. Rumor has it that HP may release an Android-powered laptop in a form factor similar to the Chromebooks they already produce. This was also supposedly backed up by listings on their website, although the promotional material for it has been removed.
Whatever the case may be, it looks like HP is committed to tweaking new designs for its Chromebook lineup, which will be expanding again in the coming months following an announcement from Google and Intel.
Three weeks ago, I did an article comparing two very popular cloud based office suites that are cloud based: Office Online by Microsoft and Google Docs by Google. One of the issues that I discussed is that when switching from Google Docs to Microsoft Office, there are formatting issues. Due to Microsoft wanting to keep people locked into their Office suite, they have created a vendor lock, preventing other programs from creating quality documents for their program. This is an issue that has affected many open source products, and forces people to use Microsoft Office for their work.
Teamlab saw the problem here, and formed a solution in Teamlab Personal. For an example of their solution at work, Teamlab created a video comparing their office suite to Office Online and Google Docs by opening a heavily formatted file. The video can be seen below.
As can be seen from the video, Teamlab does the best job at opening heavily formatted Office files. Though they are not perfect, they are constantly working to improve. Nina Gorbunova, Teamlab Office’s marketing manager, has been discussing with me the different features of Teamlab Office. When talking about Teamlab’s ability to open files so well, she said, “[This] is what we’ve been working on very hard and that’s our main technological advantage possible due to the Canvas element (this is our developers’ point of pride!)”
The Canvas element is the HTML coding that they have been working on that allows Teamlab Office to be able to display documents so well. It allows users to use Microsoft Office formatting while having the features and setup of another office program.
Teamlab is available in the Chrome Web Store here as an app, and is definitely something that you will want to look into. For more on the Chrome Web Store, and how to use it to improve your browsing experience, click here.
My First Impression with Teamlab Office
When I saw Teamlab Office for the first time, I instantly recognized how closely it resembled Open Office. Microsoft Office is well known for the tabs and tiles setup along the top of the program, whereas Google Docs and Open Office both use a button and menu setup instead. Teamlab Office is the same, using buttons along the top of the screen to format the file.
The second thing I noticed is that Teamlab tries to make everything universally accessible. They do this by adding support for four of the major cloud storage accounts: Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Onedrive. This was another shock for me, because it was not a feature I would have expected to see. However, I was immediately excited to see what else Teamlab had to offer, because I knew that this was not going to be like other cloud based office suites.
After working through my shock of the above features, I then had to deal with my excitement at seeing the number of formatting options available for files. Every one of their editors provides plenty of features to the average user. Office Online does not come close to what Teamlab has when it comes to features.
Since I am used to using the Office suite of programs, I had some difficulty orienting myself with the program. However, within a day of use I could easily find what I needed to. Google Docs and Open Office users would have no difficulty in using the program, because it is so familiarly setup.
One of the ways Teamlab solves formatting issues is by providing users the ability to download in multiple file formats. Many office programs offer this, but neither Office Online nor Google Docs offer the ability to change a file type, other than converting it to their own proprietary file format (i.e. .docx for Word and .gdoc for Google Docs). When downloading a document for example, you have the choice of downloading it as a PDF, Text, Word Document, Open Office document, or an HTML file.
The program also comes with left and right sidebars, providing users with the ability to change settings. The left sidebar deals with changing the document settings or perform certain functions, and the right sidebar is used to change formatting settings, such as the paragraph and image settings.
One of the functions on the left sidebar is a search function, and it is very useful and simple to use. By clicking on the magnifying glass, then typing in any word or words in the box that pops up, the program highlights that word or words throughout the document. It is very useful when trying to find specific words or topics, and case sensitivity can be toggled on or off before every search.
Like Google Docs and Office Online, files can be edited on with others over the internet using the built in share function. One thing that Teamlab has that Office Online and Google Docs does not have is a chat window. This seems like an obvious feature to have when collaboratively editing a file. However, Teamlab is the first that I have seen to implement this feature into a cloud based office program.
Like other office suites, Teamlab has menus for formatting different elements of files. However, like the new Open Office, these features are placed in a sidebar on the side of the screen. Clicking on one of the icons opens up a window docked into the side of the program showing formatting options.
The options available, I believe, are more numerous than either Office Online and Google Docs. Using the program, I am constantly reminded of Open Office, though Teamlab Personal is cleaner and online oriented, since it is a cloud based office suite.
Problems I had with the program
Since I first learned how to use an office suite as a child, I have used Microsoft Office for everything I do. I do prefer the setup of Microsoft Office, so for that reason I prefer Office Online. However, I do realize that Office Online is very limited in what it can do, and that the paid version is expensive at $100 a year, especially when the competition offers their programs for free.
Thus, I have used both Office Online and Google Docs up to now, depending on my needs. However, I am quickly starting to resent the limitations posed on me by Microsoft through their simple cloud based office suite. Thus, Teamlab is a solution I will consider using to solve my formatting issues, since they have a full team of developers working on the software. However, I do prefer the setup of Microsoft Office, since it is what I am used to.
Another issue I have with Teamlab is a lack of offline support. Google Docs offers offline support, which is one reason why I have been using them more often, because Office Online does not offer offline support either. Deciding between Teamlab and Google Docs will be tough, because they both offer strong reasons to be the preferred office suite. Teamlab has many features, and works better across platforms and solves formatting issues, whereas Google Docs provides offline usage, and is built into Chromebooks.
Though I do not currently use Open Office, I have used it in the past, and Teamlab seems to be the online version of Open Office. This is something that consistent Open Office users would have to determine, but my experience with both programs has convinced me of this. Whether or not this is what Teamlab wanted, I do not know.
However, I believe that the similarities to Open Office are a good thing, because Open Office users have yet to find a online office program that is similar enough to make a switch. Google Docs was similar, but it still does not offer the experience that Open Office users are looking for like Teamlab does. For an example of how Teamlab works when using it, here is a demo video showing the different formatting options in Teamlab Office’s Document Editor.
Despite the number of features available, Microsoft Office users may find the switch more difficult, because the setup is very different from the tiles and tabs that Microsoft has taught us to enjoy. However, the features and cloud integration far outshine Office Online, and makes a convincing case to switch.
Google Docs users could switch much easier, since Teamlab is also fairly similar to Google Docs. However, the lack of offline use could hold many Google Docs users back, that is a sacrifice some could make.
In addition, if losing Open Office was holding you back from getting a Chromebook, take a look at Teamlab Personal and decide if you can make the switch with this office suite available.
Chrome has only allowed the creation of icons in the app launcher by developers for the apps themselves. However, with this new flag available for all versions of Chrome, users could soon be able to create icons in the app launcher for their favorite Chrome bookmarks. When creating icons for the app, Chrome either uses the websites favicon (the image next to the bookmark) or creates one for it.
In order for Chrome to use the favicon given by the website, it must be at least 32px, according to François Beaufort, who had originally found the flag. However, if the favicon is smaller, then Chrome will create one for the icon. It uses the most dominant color in the favicon given by the website, and uses that as the background. Then, it takes the first letter of the domain name and paints it on the front in either black or white, according to the background color.
You do not have to be running any specific release channel in order to utilise this flag, and it can be accessed on any platform, whether it be Windows running a Chrome browser, or Chrome OS. In order to enable this flag, you must copy and paste or type the following into the omnibox in Chrome at the top of the screen.
After doing this, a page will come up with a list of flags that can be enabled. The one that you want to enable is the highlighted one at the top of your window. After enabling it, you must restart your browser by clicking the restart button at the bottom of the window.
Once Chrome restarts, it is then a simple process to add Chrome bookmarks to your app launcher.
Go to the webpage you want to add
Click on the ≡ (chrome menu)
Go to Tools on Windows/Mac or More tools on Chrome OS
Click on “Add shortcut to this website…”
The chrome bookmarks will then show as an icon in the app launcher, and can be added to the dock for Chrome OS users.
Note to Chrome OS users: After enabling this flag, I could not longer set apps to open as a regular tab, pinned tab, window, or maximized. In my case, this is a feature that became disabled. However, the experience may be different across different Chromebooks and release channels.
If you want to learn more about flags and how to enable them, watch the video below by Christian Cantrell, who does an excellent job explaining how to enable different Chrome Flags, and other advanced features of Chrome.
Caution: Before going through any process of changing what a Chromebook does normally, be ready to get unexpected results. These features are still in development, so sometimes can cause problems with your browser, or cause problems in Chrome OS.
So many options exist for writing on the Chromebook that it can make heads spin. The best way to assess writing tools is to go over their pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses. In this article, let’s take a look at Writer from Big Huge Labs.
In the Chrome Store, they advertise it as “The Internet Typewriter,” but is it justified? Is it unique or another me too product? Writer itself works inside the web browser. Offline capability is advertised, and it appears to work even though it’s used as a perk for a pro account. Speaking of which, a message advertising enhanced features appears when it’s opened in a new tab.
Before going into the proposed perks of a pro account, it’s important to look at the mainstay of this app. As a text editor, is it unique or a me too product?
The default color scheme may remind computer enthusiasts of the 1980’s. A black background and lime green text is most definitely a throwback to the era of personal computers before color monitors became available. So what features are available?
Using cookies on your Chromebook or other computer, documents are saved automatically. Users can create accounts through OpenID, so a Google account can be integrated. By creating an account, documents can be saved and retrieved in the event said cookies are deleted.
Printing can be done as well as direct export to PDF, though Big Huge Labs will automatically place an advertisment for them in your document. Said advertisement can be negated through a pro account.
Speaking of exporting, PDF is not the only option.
Exporting to WordPress, Tumblr, Moveable Type, TypePad, and LiveJournal opens the door for distraction free writing for bloggers. All of that is well and good, but what sets this apart from other online text editors?
The text color and background can be changed. So can line spacing, font, and font size. The one thing that really sets Writer apart is the fact that sounds can be played as the user is typing. Yes, I’m talking about typewriting sounds, whether it’s old fashioned or electronic.
The sounds work by the way, so yes, it is indeed an Internet typewriter.
Though it has the mainstay ability of editing text, it is a unique app that offers plenty of benefits for pro subscriptions:
Real time word count
Cloud storage (Google Drive, Dropbox, and Evernote)
Offline mode (it appears to sort of work despite not having a pro account, though automatic syncing may be an extra feature)
Custom print options (including removal of all Big Huge Labs branding)
Influence on future versions
Guaranteed satisfaction with a refund policy of seven days
So is it suitable? It depends on whether extra features are desired and/or needed. Though they are enticing, if one is too used to having free of cost products all the time, it may be a turn off. The typewriter sounds that are available make the product unique, but could be annoying depending on the situation.
At this point, it depends on personal preference, though the extras do make this text editor worthwhile.
Mother’s Day is Sunday, and most of you are about to run out and buy flowers and chocolates. However, I believe that there is a gift that your mother will be more grateful for: a Chromebook. Your mom has probably been using the same Windows computer for years, so it is outdated and extremely slow. She has needed a new computer for years, but is stubborn and will not go purchase a new one. That leaves your mother’s computing happiness and comfortability up to you.
The easy, yet thoughtful, Mother’s Day Gift
You first option would be to go over and install Linux on the computer for free, but then you would have the headache of her calling you every time she gets on the computer. Your other option is to purchase a new Windows computer for her, but that could get very pricey, with most good Windows PCs coming in at $400 to $500 (unless you go bargain hunting, which could take even more time and effort than necessary). Instead, give her a mothers day gift that will simplify her life and requires little to no technical support from you.
Chromebooks are an easy switch for Moms
If your mother has already been using the Google Chrome browser, then the switch will be simple and painless. If your mother is not using the Chrome browser, then there has never been a better time to have her switch. Many mothers day gifts are thoughtless and common: flowers, chocolates, gift cards. These are gifts every mom gets. Giving your mom a Chromebook will not only single her out of the crowd as important enough to have thought put into her gift, but also it will give her something to brag about when she gets with her friends on what their children got them. When she explains what you got her, compared to every other mom that got flowers, she will feel like a queen.
Now, after going over the common sense reasons why your mom would want a Chromebook for her day, here are the technical reasons why she would love a Chromebook. Many of you probably found this article looking for ‘mothers day ideas’ or ‘gifts for mom.’ The reason why a Chromebook is the best of all mothers day gift ideas is because they are the perfect combination of a tablet and a PC. Currently, the tablet market is booming, and everyone is buying one. However, past generations do not like the idea of touchscreens and using tablets as their PC, like the current generation does. These people, like your mom, prefer using traditional PCs because they are familiar, and there is no touch screen that will confuse them and perform the wrong function.
Android and iOS can be disorienting to a person who is used to the point and click set-up of Windows. Chromebooks meet in the middle, being fast and simple like a tablet, but in the familiar setup of a laptop. Since Chrome OS is a browser, your mom already knows how to use it. She probably already has used online applications that would work on a Chromebook, especially if she is already using the Chrome browser.
Simple and Speedy
Chrome OS was built around a Linux kernel, meaning that it is a Linux based OS (operating system). This makes the system lightweight and speeding, only needing Intel’s Celeron chip. Majority of the Chromebooks available now run on an Intel processor, the most popular one being a dual-core Celeron processor. Although these processors have created bad names for themselves on Windows machines, they are great for Chromebooks. I use an HP Chromebook 14 as my personal computer, and I find it to be faster than my Intel Core i3 Windows desktop.
In addition, Chromebooks only need 2GB of memory, though many would agree that 4GB leads to a smoother experience. However, I believe that your mother probably would not need more than 2GB of memory, since she will only be using the computer to get on Facebook and look up recipes. However, if you want to future proof the Chromebook, and just get your mom the extra 2GB of memory, manufacturers do offer Chromebooks with 4GB of memory.
Another reason why a Chromebook would be the best gift for your mother is that everything is saved in the cloud. If she takes her Chromebook to the beach, and drops in the water some how, all of her data and settings are saved in the cloud, ready for her when she signs into her replacement Chromebook. With a Windows computer, if they get destroyed, then everything is gone, unless your mother does regular backups (which I doubt). In addition, she can access all of her data on any computer with internet access, since most of her files are saved to Google Drive. All she has to do is log in to her Google Drive through a web browser, and she instantly has access to all of her files.
Since Chrome OS is Linux based, the possibility of your mother getting a virus, malware, or any thing else that destroys computers, is almost nonexistent. In addition, Google has built an anti-virus into the OS, and Google updates it every time they find new bugs or security holes. Lastly, Google designed Chrome OS to only install programs that are downloaded from the Chrome Web Store. These include all of the apps, extensions and themes available for the Chrome browser. This prevents your mom from being able to download something that is actually a virus or anything else that could damage her computer. Although she may not be able to use her favorite print shop program, the Chrome Web Store will more than likely offer an alternative that has everything she needs.
The last reason why you should get your mom a Chromebook is their value. Currently, the most expensive Chromebook available for purchase is the HP Chromebook 14 at $299 or $349, depending on which version you get. This is the one I purchased, since it has the largest screen for a Chromebook, and has Intel’s new Haswell Celeron processors. (For more on my thoughts of the HP Chromebook 14, click here). Most other Chromebooks only cost $199 to $299, and that is if you purchase it new. Chromebooks can be purchased used, and still seem like a brand new laptop, as long as they look new cosmetically.
This may seem expensive as a mother’s day gift, but do not think about it as a one time gift, but as a long term investment. Your mother will never have to purchase a new computer again, since Chromebooks are built to last forever and come with free updates. She will never have to purchase antivirus again, nor any other software, since most of the apps on the Chrome Web Store are free. (For a guide on the Chrome Web Store, click here). By purchasing your mom a Chromebook, you save her from ever having to worry about her computer again. This saves both your mom and you time and money.
At the joint Google and Intel event, Google announced that Chrome OS device users should expect a native Google Play Movies and TV app for Chromebook that will allow users to watch their movies and tv shows offline. Google had already offered Google Play app for Chromebooks in the Chrome Web Store, which is the chromebook store for apps and extensions.
However, these were just bookmarks, taking you to the website. With the new Google Play Movies and TV app for Chromebooks, users will have an app designed for Chromebooks and that will allow them to watch the movies offline. With the ability to watch your movies and tv shows offline now available, the question is no longer about how to watch movies on a Chromebook when offline, but, instead, where to put the movies after downloading them.
With almost every Chromebook only having a 16GB SSD, and only some of that actually being open space, Chromebooks will not be able to hold many movies. Can you watch movies on Chromebooks when offline? Sure, but with the space available, users will likely only be able to store two or three Google Play movies on their Chromebook.
So what is the purpose of these new Google Play app for Chromebooks?
Despite the limitations posed by Chromebook’s hardware, features such as these continue to portray Chromebooks as the perfect PC replacement. Especially if they offer services that other devices do not have. For instance, Google does not have a Play Store for Windows app, nor can Windows users download Google Play movies for offline use. In the past, only mobile users could download Google Play movies and tv shows, since there was never a Google Play Store for laptops and desktops available for download.
This move by Google portrays Chromebooks as mobile devices, like tablets and smartphones, even though they often look like a PC. In my eyes, this seems like a political move by Google, both pleasing users and attracting new customers.
Intel has finally joined the Chrome OS bandwagon ensuring it won’t become obsolete in the post PC (Windows) era. The two companies hosted a joint press event on May 6 where they announced quite a lot of Chromebooks powered by Intel chips. Intel enjoyed a monopolistic position during the Windows era and the partnership between Intel and Windows was known as Wintel, which unfortunately was bad for the industry as it led to some anti-competitive business practices that heavily damaged (and almost destroyed) AMD.
While Microsoft is trying to figure out how to survive in the post-PC era, Google is quietly taking over the PC market. More and more Microsoft partners are adopting Google’s Linux-powered Chrome OS as the Windows maker is failing to deliver what the market needs. Today almost all Microsoft hardware partners – from HP to Lenovo – are offering Chromebooks.
Bye bye Wintel, here comes Gootel
Intel obviously doesn’t want to be in the same boat with Microsoft; the company has already lost the mobile space to ARM and is working hard to somehow get some share of the market. Intel would certainly won’t want to lose the fast-growing Chrome OS market.
The fact remains Chrome OS market always was Intel’s. Even if Intel never officially committed or invested in Chrome OS, it has been powering these devices from the very first day – since CR 48. Every Chromebook sold was an Intel chip sold, until Samsung came out with ARM-powered Chromebooks. HP followed and launched its own ARM-powered Chromebook. These Chromebooks had obvious advantage over Intel-powered devices as they offered longer battery life and less heat.
I think Intel was waiting and watching whether Chromebooks will succeed or not before investing in the platform. The way Chromebooks remained the #1 best selling devices on Amazon.com for the last two years was enough reason for the industry to take note of it.
Intel made the move to secure its position in the Chrome OS space before more ARM devices started floating around. But does it change anything? Intel made similar ‘partnership’ for Android, but we still don’t see any presence of Intel in the Android space.
Since the two companies also announced that more and more Chrome OS features will go offline including movies and games, these devices will become the #1 threat to Windows PC. That would mean people will start doing a lot of resource-hungry stuff such as image and video editing which would need more powerful and power-efficient processors.
“As users do more with Chrome, they’ll expect more from the hardware that surrounds it,” said Google VP Caesar Sengupta.
There are a lot of GNU/Linux users who are buying these devices to wipe Chrome OS and install their favourite operating system on them. There OSes are not as conservative as Chrome OS.
Intel needs to create powerful, energy-efficient chips
There are two pressing issues with Intel-powered Chromebooks, same issue that’s there with mobile devices – balance between power and battery life. Ironically while Android devices are getting more and more powerful CPU, GPU, longer battery life and crisper screen the trend in Chromebooks is opposite. Most Chromebooks are using low-end processors, don’t have a decent battery life and displays are reminiscent of Windows era.
A plethora of new Intel-powered Chrome OS devices were announces at a press conference hosted Wednesday by tech giant Google and chip manufacturer Intel. The event, which featured Caesar Sengupta from Google, and Navin Shenoy, vice president and general manager of mobile computing at Intel, announced, among other things, Chromebooks powered by Intel’s low-energy Bay Trail chipset, which will enable the lightweight computers running the Linux-based, web-centric operating system from Google to reportedly have 11 hours of battery life. Other devices announced include Intel’s Haswell and Core i3 chips.
The Chrome OS devices powered by the Celeron Bay Trail-M chipset include computers from manufacturers Acer Asus, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, LG, and Toshiba. ASUS will be producing an 11-inch C200 Chromebook and 13-inch ASUS C300 Chromebook. The upcoming refresh of the existing Acer Chromebook and Toshiba Chromebook will feature the Bay Trail chip, and Lenovo’s recently announced Chromebooks, including the new 11e YOGA will utilize this chip as well.
Other devices will run the chipmaker’s Core i3 processors, including the Dell Chromebook 11 for a yet-unknown cost, and the Acer C720 Chromebook, coming for $349 late this summer.
The newest addition to the Chrome OS family is the LG Chromebase had new details released as well, it is now known that the all-in-one Chrome OS desktop will be available on May 26 for $349 and will run on the Intel Haswell processor. The upcoming HP Chromebox use this processor, and will be available in June, it was announced.
This event marks a monumental shift in manufacturers attitudes towards Google’s Chrome OS, with more and more PC makers previously devoted to making Windows-powered units now producing Chromebooks, Chromeboxes, and Chromebases. Intel’s cooperation with Google will make these devices more powerful than ever, and surely more alluring to consumers looking for an inexpensive, lightweight laptop or desktop.
The LG Chromebase, the first all-in-one Chrome OS PC, has been announced to be made available to US customers on May 26. With 2 GB of memory, a 16GB SSD (solid state drive), and a dual-core Intel Haswell CPU, LG has followed the usual specifications found on most Chromebooks. For those unfamiliar with Chromebooks, these specifications would probably be seem insufficient. However, what makes Chromebooks and the Chromebase stand out, is that they run Google’s Chrome OS. Chrome OS is based upon Linux, so is very light and does not need many resources. In addition, since it only runs internet applications, it does not need many resources.
The Chromebase, though, stands out from the crowd of Chromebooks, because it is the first all-in-one PC running Chrome OS. With a 21.5 inch screen that has an IPS full HD display, it is a great all-in-one, and it only costs $349.
The device will be available for preorder on May 12, and will begin shipping on May 26. It will be available for preorder on Amazon, Newegg, and Tiger Direct, and includes a wired keyboard and mouse that have been customized for Chrome OS.
The device has 3 USB 2.0 ports on the back, and 1 USB 3.0 and headphone jack on the side. The bottom is lined with a MENU button for the display, the SD card reader, and power button. In addition, the back has an HDMI in port, so the PC can also be used as a second display. The PC also has built in speakers, and the usual 100 GB of Google Drive storage for two years is also included.
Over the past few months, users have seen a change in the way Chrome displays security warnings. Adrienne Porter Felt, one of the people who work on the Chrome security team, did a presentation showing the effect that warnings on Chrome affect people’s browsing experience. In the presentation, she uses data that they have collected to show the CTR (click through rate, or the rate at which users ignore warnings and continue to a webpage). She describes some of the challenges they face, and the solutions they have implemented to prevent users from downloading malicious files, and the effect these solutions have had.
Felt’s presentation shows three case studies on different warnings given on the Chrome browser: malicious downloads, malware interstitial, and non-fatal SSL interstitial.
Currently, Google experiences a CTR of 5% for malicious downloads, which is much lower compared to the 30% they used to see before implementing these new changes. According to Felt, “Whenever a Chrome user downloads an executable, Chrome checks to see if the executable matches a blacklist of known bad hashes or URLs. If it matches, we have high confidence that the executable is really bad.” The Google security team has done this for a while, but the CTR was too high, at 30%. In order to bring down the CTR, the security team implemented many changes.
Felt says that, “First, we made the warning statement more aggressive.” This aggressiveness is shown by making users have to now go to the Chrome downloads page to be able to keep the file. However, even getting the downloads page is a process, because you have to tell Chrome to retrieve the file, then again answer a pop up asking if you for sure want to risk keeping the file. This process, and the multiple warnings has helped to lower the previously high CTR.
In addition, PDFs are a common way for hackers to access a user’s computer. As a way to counteract this, Chrome now automatically opens PDFs in the browser, instead of downloading them, so a user is protected due to Chrome’s own built precautions.
Although it seems like a complicated topic, malware interstitial is just malware that is downloaded to your computer when viewing an infected web page, called “drive-by downloads.” Currently, Google is recording a CTR of 18%, which is, according to Felt, “OK but still higher than we’d like.”
When doing their case study on this warning, they realized that the CTR was higher if a user had already visited the site in the past, or if they considered it a safe website. “To dig into this further, we ran a Mechanical Turk experiment,” says Felt, “we asked people what they would do about warnings on high- and low-reputation websites… We used a little-known blog as an example of a low-reputation site, and YouTube as an example of a very popular, family-friendly website.” The results held up with their data, where only 5% of the people who took the survey said they would still go to the blog, but 38% still continued through to YouTube.
During the same study, they asked people why they continued through to the website. Some of the answers included, “I frequent youtube.com a lot and I have never gotten any malware,” “I would still proceed knowing I have an anti virus,” and “I use Linux, I’m not afraid of anything.” With this data and people’s answers as to why they would continue to the website, Felt says that, “Overall, we need to figure out how to override normal indicators of trustworthiness like prior experience and brand reputation because even “good” sites can be compromised.”
Non-Fatal SSL Interstitial
This is a full page warning that shows when Chrome suspects a “man in the middle” attack, when there is an HTTPS authentication error. Felt has this to say about this warning. “We show a ton of these — more than a hundred million a month. We don’t know exactly how many of these are real attacks, but likely very few of them are. The remainder are server misconfigurations or captive portals. So it shouldn’t be too surprising that this is the least effective warning in the set, with people clicking through nearly 70% of the warnings.”
This attack occurs once a webpage has loaded, which is why Chrome shows the warning has even loaded. However, Firefox does the same, showing this warning to its’ users, and they have a recorded CTR of 33%, less than half of what Chrome experiences, with a recorded 68%. The security team ran another study, by using the Firefox SSL warning in the Chrome browser, and seeing what the CTR is then.
Here is the comparison of the differnet control standards:
Chrome warning 68%
Firefox warning in Chrome 56%
Firefox warning in Firefox 33%
As can be seen, the Firefox warning is better, but majority of Chrome users still ignored it, at a 56% CTR for the Firefox warning being used in Chrome. Felt explains that, “We think this is possibly because of some demographic difference between the two browsers, or because Chrome users see the SSL warning more… We’re now experimenting with new layouts, strings, etc. to try to improve the SSL interstitial.”
In addition to improving the way they display the warning, Felt also says that they have changed their focus, “Our focus is on improving comprehension. We’re finding that this is a difficult task: non-technical people find it hard to conceptualize a man-in-the-middle attack to begin with, and it’s even harder when most people will only read the headline before making a gut decision.”
These changes have definitely caused an increase in security for the average user in the Chrome browser, since a user will be less likely to ignore these warnings because of the changes in the way they are displayed, and the process used to ignore the warnings.