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7
Jan

Florida phishing attack exposes data for 30,000 Medicaid recipients


Large-scale medical hacks are horrible in themselves, but sometimes it’s the ease of the hacks that’s scary — and Florida knows this first-hand. The state’s Agency for Health Care Administration has warned that a phishing attack compromised data for as many as 30,000 Medicaid recipients. One of its staffers fell for a “malicious phishing email” on November 15th, giving hackers access not only to identifying info like names, addresses and Medicaid ID numbers, but also diagnoses and medical conditions. A would-be fraudster would theoretically have almost everything they could want.

The agency claimed there was “no reason to believe” the info had been abused, but that’s not much consolation. It’s not clear who was responsible for the attack or what their motivations might be. At least some previous attacks were conducted by Chinese hackers hoping to learn about American health care, but this could also be the work of private scammers or state-sponsored agents with alternate methods.

The breach illustrates how medical networks continue to be fragile: an email is all it took to directly expose the most sensitive data of thousands of users. The AHCA is taking a step to resolve this by training staff on security measures, but you might not see a lasting solution until private info is further separated from the outside world.

Source: Associated Press

7
Jan

RightEye EyeQ uses eye tracking to test for vision problems, brain injuries


Unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the RightEye EyeQ system hopes to revolutionize vision and brain healthcare. By using a bespoke, ruggedized portable computer with custom eye-tracking hardware and software, it automates the testing procedure, leading to faster analysis and diagnosis. The computer is able perform a multitude of tests in the form of eye-tracking “video games,” each taking only a few minutes to complete. The resulting reports are uploaded to the cloud and provide valuable insight into how a patient’s eyes and brain are functioning.

One of the key benefits of the EyeQ system is that it provides repeatable, realtime tests that replace slower, manual testing performed by a doctor. The tests can be administered anywhere, are derived from established standard practices, and reports are generated instantly. In addition to basic vision testing, which can be used to improve reading comprehension in children, the system also provides tests that can accurately identify Parkinson’s, autism, and various brain injuries, like stroke.

“It’s the first system of its kind that can generate such amazing insights about the state of a person’s health, vision and performance abilities in this kind of rapid, accurate and objective manner,” RightEye CEO and co-founder Adam Gross said in a statement.

There are obvious uses for health care providers, but the system also holds the potential to be a game changer in the world of sports, particularly football and other contact sports where concussions are common. The Brain Health EyeQ test takes just six minutes and could potentially be administered right on the sidelines. The report can be shared with doctors, coaches, and trainers and accessed remotely. For general training, a Sports Vision EyeQ test analyzes various aspects of an athlete’s eye movement and offers up personalized exercise recommendations to improve his or her eyesight.

Beyond the doctor’s office and the locker room, RightEye plans to eventually make the EyeQ system available for in-home use, saving patients time while still generating cloud-based reports that a doctor can access from anywhere.

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7
Jan

Amazon folds its little-known anime service into Prime Video


Amazon has killed off the anime streaming platform it launched merely a year ago, according to Kotaku, and we’re not exactly surprised. Anime Strike required an additional $5 a month on top of Prime Video membership fees, after all, which might have been a bit too much for subscribers already paying $99 a year. Amazon has already incorporated its shows into Prime Video — yes, including its exclusives — and we’ll bet a lot of people would say that that should’ve been the case from the start.

Strike had exclusives (such as Inuyashiki and Re:CREATORS) you couldn’t find on Crunchyroll and Funimation, but they clearly weren’t enough to convince people to sign up. Fans likely spent their five bucks a month on a Crunchyroll subscription, which had more titles to offer, instead. It also didn’t help that Strike was only available in the US, thereby limiting its potential audience.

Amazon told Kotaku that it has decided to “move the curated catalogs of Anime Strike” to Prime Video “so that more customers can enjoy this content as part of their Prime membership.” It’s unclear if Channels, as paid add-ons on top of Prime Video, aren’t doing well as a whole or if some of them simply can’t get enough subscriptions to continue. Either way, Anime Strike isn’t alone: Amazon has also dissolved its Bollywood platform Heera and has made its shows and movies available on its video streaming platform.

Source: Kotaku

7
Jan

Key CRISPR gene editing methods might not work for most humans


At first glance, CRISPR gene editing looks like the solution to all the world’s ills: it could treat or even cure diseases, improve birth rates and otherwise fix genetic conditions that previously seemed permanent. You might want to keep your expectations low, though. Scientists have published preliminary findings indicating that two variants of CRISPR Cas9 (the most common gene editing technique) might not work for most humans. In a study, between 65 percent and 79 percent of subjects had antibodies that would fight Cas9 proteins.

The potential reaction isn’t shocking. Both Cas9 variants are based on common bacteria, S. aureus and S. pyrogenes, that tend to infect humans. However, that could also produce reactions that would be… unpleasant. At the least, they could “hinder the safe and effective use” of CRISPR to treat disease. And in the worst cases, they could result in “significant toxicity” for patients.

It’s important to stress that the research hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet. Geneticists might not need to go back to the drawing board just yet. But if they do, it gets complicated. While alternatives to Cas9 already exist, scientists would have to find CRISPR approaches that either use bacteria human bodies don’t recognize or else extract cells from the patients themselves. This isn’t the end of the gene editing dream, to be clear — it’s just that there could be much more work to do before human testing goes forward.

Via: MIT Technology Review

Source: BioRxiv

7
Jan

Google is also running customer surveys inside Android Messages — and not just on Pixels


User feedback or user annoyance?

A few days ago we pointed out that Google is running customer surveys in the Pixel 2 XL’s settings page, which turned out to be a pretty polarizing subject. Though it doesn’t seem like many Pixel 2 owners are seeing the settings page survey, some are seeing a very similar one pop up in other Google apps — in this case, the Android Messages SMS client. And not just in Pixels — this particular example is on a ZTE Axon 7.

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Somehow a survey inside an app you chose to download is a bit more natural than one in your phone settings.

Unsurprisingly, the dialogue box looks near-identical to the one from the settings page on the Pixel 2 XL, with a similar prompt of a few questions about your satisfaction with Google’s app. On one hand, it feels somehow more … expected to see a survey inside an app that you chose to download, whereas it feels a bit more forced when it pops up in the settings page on your phone.

In either case, I think there could be a more graceful way to ask for feedback than putting a banner in either place — perhaps a regular app notification, or since we’re talking about Google, an email to your registered Gmail account. Regardless, it could easily be seen as a positive that Google’s soliciting feedback on its products and is working to improve them.

Are you seeing customer satisfaction surveys in any other Google apps? Whether you have or not, let us know in the comments how you feel about Google running them!

7
Jan

Epic pins ‘Fortnite’ server woes on Meltdown patches


The Meltdown vulnerability is bound to have far-reaching effects on the computing industry, but it’s having a very tangible effect right now: it’s causing chaos for multiplayer gaming. Epic Games has blamed Meltdown patches for login problems and downtime in Fortnite, pointing to the increased processor use at the third-party cloud services the battle royale game needs to run. There may be other “unexpected issues” over the next week as other services are updated, Epic said.

The company has promised to do whatever it can to “mitigate and resolve” problems as they come up.

Like virtually every other internet-dependent firm, Epic doesn’t have much choice but to patch Meltdown and accept slowdowns. Even if it were in full control of Fortnite’s cloud services, it wouldn’t want to leave its systems vulnerable to serious attacks. However, this suggests that online game providers (and really, online service providers as a whole) may have to scramble if they want to avoid connection problems and other headaches that come with servers suddenly stretched beyond their limits.

Via: The Verge

Source: Epic Games Forum

7
Jan

LG Display delivers a 65-inch rollable OLED


Four years ago LG Display showed us an 18-inch OLED screen capable of rolling up like a newspaper and promised larger versions in the future. Now it’s delivering, with a 65-inch OLED that’s flexible enough to roll up and store when not in use. Besides this TV and its 88-inch 8K OLED, it’s also back with an upgraded version of its Crystal Sound tech (seen in Sony’s OLED TVs) that embeds speakers directly into the screen. Not only is it ready to embed speakers in LCDs used for desktop monitors and laptops, it’s also going to show off an OLED TV that upgrades over the original’s 2.1 channel audio to 3.1 — no extra speakers necessary.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2018.

7
Jan

Why is Google taking over Vegas for CES 2018?


Google doesn’t usually have a big presence at CES, but that’s changed in a big way this year. You can’t help but notice that the monorail circling the Las Vegas Convention Center bears huge letters saying “Hey Google!” Just below, Google has set up a huge, multi-story monument to the Google Assistant booth in convention center parking lot. It’s still under construction so it’s hard to say exactly what’s going on in there. (Also, there’s a superfluous spiraling slide on the side of the booth and a weird Google Assistant ball pit game near the convention center’s main entrance.)

Even though Google hasn’t done much at CES in recent years, it makes sense for it to make a big splash this year. (We’ve reached out to the company to ask about its showy CES display this year and will update when we hear back.) Earlier this week, the company announced that it has sold “more than one” Google Home device per second since the Home Mini launched in October. That works out to about 6.4 million Home devices in the last few months — and that’s not including the original Home speakers that’ve been sold since it arrived in the fall of 2016. In fact, Google says it has sold “tens of millions” of Home devices so far.

Google doesn’t typically release hardware sales numbers, but it’s not a stretch to imagine that Google Home is the company’s best-selling hardware product ever. And they’re also in heated combat with Amazon and Alexa for voice assistant dominance. Amazon is still in the lead, but the low-priced Home Mini has undeniably made the Google Assistant a serious competitor to Alexa — not to mention the fact that it’s baked into most modern Android phones now.

With a successful 2017 behind it, Google is using CES to keep the pressure on Amazon going forward. The company probably won’t announce new hardware this week; instead, we’ll hear about new partnerships with third-party hardware makers. Amazon has been doing that with Alexa for a while now, but it’s relatively new territory for the Assistant. Given the huge range of companies here in Vegas, it’s a sure bet that many of them will be highlighting how they’re putting Google’s smarts into their new products.

More smart speakers is a certainty, but CES is above all else a TV show — it wouldn’t be surprising to see TV sets with the Google Assistant built in. Not from Samsung, who will likely continue to push its lesser Bixby voice assistant, but it might make sense for other companies like Hisense, TCL or Vizio to offer a voice assistant built right into their TVs. Some of Sony’s TVs already have the Google Assistant, and LG just announced that some of its 2018 sets would as well. (LG in particular appears to be making a big push on AI and virtual assistant features, judging by the ads up at the convention center, even if Google isn’t mentioned by name.) Google has tried many times to get its software onto the biggest screen in your house (remember the mess that was the original Google TV?), and it seems the Assistant might be the best way to achieve that.

Headphones are another likely area where we’ll see the Google Assistant expand this year. Thus far, there haven’t been too many headsets beyond Google’s own flawed Pixel Buds, but the company did make a big deal out of the Assistant showing up in Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II Bluetooth headphones this fall. We’ll have to wait a few more days to see if any others bake the Assistant into their products — but with Alexa making its way to more headsets, you can be sure Google wants its voice assistant there too.

We can’t forget that every year, CES becomes a bigger showcase for automakers, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Google Assistant show up there as well. Hyundai has already announced it would put the Assistant in its connected cars, and plenty other automakers are using Android Auto. An update to that core software could likely bring forth the full power of the Assistant for drivers.

Having the Google Assistant on more hardware is important, but it’s just as important that it can work with all the other “smart” devices that are making their way into people’s homes. Google says that the Assistant now works with more than 1,500 devices from 225 brands — enough that the average consumer won’t have a hard time finding what they need when upgrading their home. And if there’s one trend that’s been everywhere at CES the last few years, it’s connected home devices. There’s no doubt that many of the ones worth paying attention to will work with Google.

Given that many companies big and small will be talking about the Google Assistant at CES this year, the company probably didn’t need to build a huge playground in the middle of the CES parking lot, or cover the monorail with ads. But, after a 2017 that saw the Google Assistant emerge as a the first real contender to Alexa, the company could start out the year by grabbing all the CES attention for itself. Many of the biggest names in tech don’t go all-in at CES anymore — if Google Assistant (or its bizarre but intriguing edifice in the parking lot) can steal the show, it’ll be the talk of Vegas for the next week.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2018.

7
Jan

XRP’s value rises amidst rumors that Western Union may adopt the blockchain


The cryptocurrency XRP saw a surge in its price following rumors that Western Union is considering using the blockchain as the basis for its money transfers, Business Insider reports.

Following the news, XRP saw its value rise by 20 percent. Western Union’s stock closed out the day on a five percent rise. However, both companies have declined to confirm the rumors. That being said, Ripple, which owns XRP, and Western Union have worked together in the past. In 2015, the two companies worked to develop a program for distributed payment protocols.

While the collaboration between Western Union and Ripple could not be confirmed, Ripple’s official Twitter account did send out a tweet saying that three major financial firms intended to make use of XRP in 2018. The tweet appears to be in response to a New York Times journalist, who said they were having trouble verifying some of Ripple’s customers.

3 of the top 5 global money transfer companies plan to use XRP in payment flows in 2018. Even more in the pipeline. https://t.co/5JOlxe20Ur

— Ripple (@Ripple) January 5, 2018

If Western Union does go through with its rumored partnership with Ripple, it would be a massive boon to the emerging cryptocurrency. In addition to Western Union, a group of Japanese banks are currently testing Ripple’s blockchain technology for use in money transfers. Meanwhile, England’s Standard Chartered owns part of Ripple.

XRP has been in the spotlight since the end of December, when the coin saw a massive surge in value. While a single XRP only costs $3.10, it remains the second most valuable cryptocurrency, right behind bitcoin, in terms of market capitalization. It is currently worth more than $120 billion. In terms of value for a single token, it still trails behind several rivals including Bitcoin Cash, bitcoin and Ethereum.

Right now, the coin appears poised to continue its upward trajectory particularly given the volatility of bitcoin. However, it remains to be seen whether or not XRP can become a sustainable alternative to traditonal currencies and money transfers.

The currency’s increased fortunes have been particularly good for Ripple co-founder Chris Larsen. He reportedly owns 5.19 billion XRP tokens making his net worth roughly $14 billion.

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7
Jan

Hundreds of robot realtors are helping Bay Area renters find new homes


Some potential renters in California meet an unusual assistant when they show up for a tour of their new dream home — a robot realtor named “Zenny” that gives a tour of the house, wirelessly connected to high-tech property management startup Zenplace.

The Mercury News recently followed one prospective buyer as he checked out a place in Santa Clara. “I wasn’t expecting a robot,” chuckled Gilbert Serrano as he arrived at the two-bedroom rental house. The three-foot-tall robot had an iPad mounted at the top, connected to real estate agent Rabia Levy in her Sunnyvale office. “I’m a person too!” she responded.

Zenplace has hundreds of robots in the Bay Area, and using them for home tours can reduce much of the time agents coordinating and scheduling visits with prospective buyers.

As Forbes notes, rentals have surged in recent years, with 45 million households now tenants. But owning a rental property can be an enormous hassle, with time-consuming challenges such as finding reliable tenants, setting a suitable rent, background and credit checks, leasing paperwork, as well as ongoing property maintenance.

Rahul Mewawalla, the CEO of Zenplace, wants to change all that. He says renting or buying a home should be as easy as scheduling a ride with Uber.

The company is backed by Bay Area investment tycoons, and it uses the latest technology to streamline the process of property management. A.I. machine learning can predict potential problems with rental properties, letting owners be proactive with repairs. The machine learning A.I. can also quickly assess available vendors, both locally and across the nation, to find the most capable and competitive for a specific job.

So, for instance, not only can it tell you a tenant’s dishwasher is likely to fail within the next three months, it can also find a top-rated replacement and a local contractor who will install it.

On the tenant side, Zenplace offers a phone app and supports connected devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. Tenants can pay rent, manage utilities, and report issues they’ve encountered.

Not surprisingly, other area realtors are less excited about welcoming their robot overlords. Rick Smith, a real estate broker for more than 30 years, prefers face-to-face interactions. “When you’ve been in the business as long as I have, you often get a gut feeling about someone when you’re sitting across the table from them,” he said.

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