Jackie Ferrentino for NPR
Before I became a reporter at NPR, I worked for a few years at tech companies.
One of the companies was in the marketing technology business — the industry that’s devoted in part to tracking people and merging their information, so they can be advertised to more effectively.
That tracking happens in multiple senses: Physical tracking, because we carry our phones everywhere we go. And virtual tracking, of all the places we go online.
The more I understood how my information was being collected, shared and sold, the more I wanted to protect my privacy. But it’s still hard to know which of my efforts are actually effective and which are a waste of time.
So I reached out to experts in digital security and privacy to find out what they do to protect their stuff – and what they recommend most to us regular folks.
Here’s what they told me.
1. To protect your accounts, practice good security hygiene.
There are some steps that make sense for almost all of us, says Eva Galperin, the director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Those include using strong passwords, two-factor authentication, and downloading the latest security updates.
She and other experts make a distinction between privacy and security when it comes to your data. Security generally refers to protecting against someone trying to access your stuff — like stealing your credit card number or hacking your accounts. Privacy is more often used to talk about keeping your movements from being tracked for purposes of advertising or surveillance.
It turns out that the steps to protect your security are more clear-cut than those for privacy — but we’ll come back to that.
Use strong passwords or passphrases for your accounts. Longer than a
Cryptographers are in the business of being paranoid, but their fears over quantum computers might be justified. Within the next 10 to 15 years, a quantum computer could solve some problems many millions of times faster than a classical computer and, one day, crack many of the defenses used to secure the internet.
“The worst-case scenario is quite bad,” says
, associate professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Michigan, who has been studying cryptography for two decades.
That is why Dr. Peikert and hundreds of the world’s top cryptographers are involved in a competition to develop new encryption standards for the U.S., which would guard against both classical and quantum-computing cyberattacks.
This summer, federal officials announced the 15 algorithms that will be considered for standardization, meaning the winners would become a part of the architecture of the internet, protecting people’s sensitive data.
Next, researchers will spend about a year trying to break them to see which ones hold up, and test them to get the best balance of performance and security.
computers are still in the early stages of development. The machines harness the properties of quantum physics, including superposition and entanglement, to radically speed up complex calculations related to finance, health care and manufacturing that are intractable for today’s computers. These machines are being built by startups and technology companies such as International Business Machines Corp. and
Google. They are still several years away from being fully commercialized.
While traditional computers store information as either zeros or ones, quantum computers use quantum bits, or qubits, which represent and store information as both zeros and ones simultaneously.
PS5’s Demon’s Soul’s remake won’t be easy, and experiencing a power outage right before the next checkpoint could be downright catastrophic. Isn’t that game already hard enough as it is?
This past week, power protection leader Schneider Electric announced the imminent release of its new gamer-focused interruptible power supply, the APC Back-UPS Pro Gaming UPS. The upcoming gadget seeks “to protect gaming gear and maintain [players’] connection through power irregularities”, this according to the official press release.
In typical gamer aesthetic fashion, the device will feature 12 customizable RGB LED lights. Sinewave battery backup power, coupled with AVR (Automatic Voltage Regulator), promises to supply a silky smooth electrical current to your Xbox Series X, PS5 or PC gaming rig during dangerous power irregularities and outages.
Even routers and modems will be protected. For those unfamiliar with this sort of technology, after the power goes out, a UPS will essentially keep the juice going for a short time, allowing you the crucial opportunity to save progress and shut everything down properly. This avoids an abrupt loss of current, which can lead to hardware damage, or possibly worse, data corruption.
A status indicator on the APC Back-UPS Pro Gaming UPS, or “reactor circle” as Schneider Electric is calling it, will keep gamers in the know as far as outages, surges, dips and remaining power are concerned. User-replaceable batteries are integrated and also hot-swappable.
The device will have 10 total outlets for consoles and PCs, which will include 6 battery backup outlets and 4 surge-protection-only outlets. 3 USB charging ports will adorn the front of the UPS (two Type-A and one Type-C) that can be used for charging controllers, phones and the like.
For a closer look, you can check out the stylish trailer below:
A self-appointed Facebook watchdog group formed by academics and advocates claim the company has not done enough to clamp down on misinformation and protect democracy ahead of the 2020 election.
The “Real Facebook Oversight Board” claimed at a virtual press conference on Wednesday that the platform has “actively and knowingly facilitated the flow of poison into the population.” The group said it was formed as an emergency intervention aimed at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his employees to protect the integrity of the general election.
“We demand comprehensive action to ensure Facebook cannot be weaponized to undermine the vote and with it American democracy,” said Shoshana Zuboff, a member of the board, author and professor emeritus at Harvard Business School. “History is watching.”
The 24-person board called for Facebook to take three immediate steps in order to protect U.S. democracy. First, it is calling for a ban on all paid advertising mentioning presidential election results in the critical period when the ballots are being counted. It said the ban should run from election night until one candidate is declared president-elect and the other concedes, adding this could prevent violence from breaking out if the results are contested.
MORE: Facebook hit with lawsuit over Kenosha protest deaths
Secondly, the group said there should be “strict oversight” of all posts that mention the presidential election results in the same period, including the labeling of posts about election results as untrue until one candidate is declared president-elect.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the board said Facebook should “enforce its own policies” to remove content that incites violence. It cited a recent example in a Facebook campaign ad when
At a Glance
- Researchers designed “miniproteins” that bound tightly to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and prevented the virus from infecting human cells in the lab.
- More research is underway to test the most promising of the antiviral proteins.
The surface of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is covered with spike proteins. These proteins latch onto human cells, allowing the virus to enter and infect them. The spike binds to ACE2 receptors on the cell surface. It then undergoes a structural change that allows it to fuse with the cell. Once inside, the virus can copy itself and produce more viruses.
Blocking entry of SARS-CoV-2 into human cells can prevent infection. Researchers are testing monoclonal antibody therapies that bind to the spike protein and neutralize the virus. But these antibodies, which are derived from immune system molecules, are large and not ideal for delivery through the nose. They’re also often not stable for long periods and usually require refrigeration.
Researchers led by Dr. David Baker of the University of Washington set out to design synthetic “miniproteins” that bind tightly to the coronavirus spike protein. Their study was funded in part by NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Findings appeared in Science on September 9, 2020.
The team used two strategies to create the antiviral miniproteins. First, they incorporated a segment of the ACE2 receptor into the small proteins. The researchers used a protein design tool they developed called Rosetta blueprint builder. This technology allowed them to custom build proteins and predict how they would bind to the receptor.
The second approach was to design miniproteins from scratch, which allowed for a greater range of possibilities. Using a large library of miniproteins, they identified designs that could potentially bind within