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Anthem Says Nearly 79M Records Were Exposed In Data Breach

February 26, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The Anthem data breach may have exposed 78.8 million records, according to deeper analysis provided in an estimate by the health insurance company, but Anthem is still investigating exactly how many records hackers captured from a database.

Hackers accessed a database at Anthem that contained customer and employee records with names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and member IDs, the health insurance company said on Feb. 4. Some records included employment information and income levels, but no financial information was compromised, it said.

It marked one of the largest data breaches to affect the health care industry, adding to a string of recent attacks that have shaken large companies, including retailers Home Depot, Target and Michaels.

Anthem, formerly known as Wellpoint, runs health-care plans under the Blue Cross Blue Shield, Empire Blue Cross, Amerigroup, Caremore, Unicare, Healthlink, DeCare, HealthKeepers and Golden West brands.

Between 60 million and 70 million of the 78.8 million records belong to current or former Anthem members, the company said in a statement.

The remainder — between 8.8 million and 18.8 million — belong to non-Anthem members who used their insurance in a state where Anthem has operated over the last decade.

Anthem is still trying to identify those people who may have been affected. Part of the problem is that Anthem has found 14 million incomplete records that can’t be linked to a product or line of business. Those records lack data fields that could be used to identify members, though they probably are not active Anthem members.

No information has been formally released on who may have compromised the database. Security firm CrowdStrike, which is not involved in the investigation, said the attackers used infrastructure linked to a suspected China-based state-sponsored group known as Deep Panda.

 

 

 

 

Will nVidia Put AMD Out Of Business?

February 26, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

It would appear that the world is rushing to Nvidia to buy its latest GPU at the expense of AMD.

According to the data, NVIDIA and AMD each took dramatic swings from Q4 of 2013 to Q4 of 2014 with Nvidia increasing its market share over AMD by 20 per cent and AMD’s market share has dropped from 35 per cent at the end of 2013 to just 24 per cent at the end of 2014.

Meanwhile, Nvidia has gonr from 64.9 per cent at the end of 2013 to 76 per cent at the end of 2014.

The report JPR’s AIB Report looks at computer add-in graphics boards, which carry discrete graphics for desktop PCs, workstations, servers, and other devices such as scientific instruments.

In all cases, AIBs represent the higher end of the graphics industry using discrete chips and private high-speed memory, as compared to the integrated GPUs in CPUs that share slower system memory.

On a year-to-year basis, total AIB shipments during the quarter fell by 17.52 per cent , which is more than desktop PCs, which fell by 0.72 percent .

However, in spite of the overall decline, somewhat due to tablets and embedded graphics, the PC gaming momentum continues to build and is the bright spot in the AIB market.

The overall PC desktop market increased quarter-to-quarter including double-attach-the adding of a second (or third) AIB to a system with integrated processor graphics-and to a lesser extent, dual AIBs in performance desktop machines using either AMD’s Crossfire or Nvidia’s SLI technology.

The attach rate of AIBs to desktop PCs declined from a high of 63 per cent in Q1 2008 to 36 per cent this quarter.

So in other words It is also clear that the Radeon R9 285 release didn’t have the impact AMD had hoped and NVIDIA’s Maxwell GPUs, the GeForce GTX 750 Ti, GTX 970 and GTX 980 have impacted the market even more than expected.

This is ironic because the GTX 970 has been getting a lot of negative press with the memory issue and AMD makes some good gear, has better pricing and a team of PR and marketing folks that are talented and aggressive.

Courtesy-Fud

Was Old Code The Culprit For Security Breaches In 2014?

February 26, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Nearly half of all security breaches come from vulnerabilities that are between two and four years old, according to this year’s HP Cyber Risk Report entitled The Past Is Prologue.

The annual report found that the most prevalent problems came as a result of server misconfiguration, and that the primary causes of commonly exploited software vulnerabilities are defects, bugs and logic flaws.

But perhaps most disturbing of all was the news that Internet of Things (IoT) devices and mobile malware have introduced a significant extra security risk.

The entire top 10 vulnerabilities exposed in 2014 came from code written years, and in some cases decades, previously.

The news comes in the same week that HP took a swipe at rival Lenovo for knowingly putting Superfish adware into its machines.

“Many of the biggest security risks are issues we’ve known about for decades, leaving organisations unnecessarily exposed,” said Art Gilliland, senior vice president and general manager for enterprise security products at HP.

“We can’t lose sight of defending against these known vulnerabilities by entrusting security to the next silver bullet technology. Rather, organisations must employ fundamental security tactics to address known vulnerabilities and, in turn, eliminate significant amounts of risk.”

The main recommendations of report are that network administrators should employ a comprehensive and timely patching strategy, perform regular penetration testing and variation of configurations, keep equipment up to date to mitigate risk, share collaboration and threat intelligence, and use complementary protection strategies.

The threat to security from the IoT is already well documented by HP, which released a study last summer revealing that 90 percent of IoT devices take at least one item of personal data and 60 percent are vulnerable to common security breaches.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Should We Really Reach Out To E.T.?

February 26, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

Is it time to take the search for intelligent aliens to the next level?

For more than half a century, scientists have been scanning the heavens for signals generated by intelligent alien life. They haven’t found anything conclusive yet, so some researchers are advocating adding an element called “active SETI” (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) — not just listening, but also beaming out transmissions of our own designed to catch aliens’ eyes.

Active SETI “may just be the approach that lets us make contact with life beyond Earth,” Douglas Vakoch, director of interstellar message composition at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, said earlier this month during a panel discussion at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Jose.

Vakoch envisions using big radio dishes such as the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico to blast powerful, information-laden transmissions at nearby stars, in a series of relatively cheap, small-scale projects.

“Whenever any of the planetary radar folks are doing their asteroid studies, and they have an extra half an hour before or after, there’s always a target star readily available that they can shift to without a lot of extra slough time,” he said.

The content of any potential active SETI message is a subject of considerable debate. If it were up to astronomer Seth Shostak, Vakoch’s SETI Institute colleague, we’d beam the entire Internet out into space.

“It’s like sending a lot of hieroglyphics to the 19th century — they [aliens] can figure it out based on the redundancy,” Shostak said during the AAAS discussion. “So, I think in terms of messages, we should send everything.”

While active SETI could help make humanity’s presence known to extrasolar civilizations, the strategy could also aid the more traditional “passive” search for alien intelligence, Shostak added.

“If you’re going to run SETI experiments, where you’re trying to listen for a putative alien broadcast, it may be very instructive to have to construct a transmitting project,” he said. “Because now, you walk a mile in the Klingons’ shoes, assuming they have them.”

But active SETI is a controversial topic. Humanity has been a truly technological civilization for only a few generations; we’re less than 60 years removed from launching our first satellite to Earth orbit, for example. So the chances are that any extraterrestrials who pick up our signals would be far more advanced than we are. [The Search for Intelligent Life: 4 Key Questions (Video)]

This likelihood makes some researchers nervous, including famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.

“Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they could reach,” Hawking said in 2010 on an episode of “Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking,” a TV show that aired on the Discovery Channel. “If so, it makes sense for them to exploit each new planet for material to build more spaceships so they could move on. Who knows what the limits would be?”

Astrophysicist and science fiction author David Brin voiced similar concerns during the AAAS event, saying there’s no reason to assume that intelligent aliens would be altruistic.

“This is an area in which discussion is called for,” Brin said. “What are the motivations of species that they might carry with them into their advanced forms, that might color their cultures?”

Brin stressed that active SETI shouldn’t be done in a piecemeal, ad hoc fashion by small groups of astronomers.

“This is something that should be discussed worldwide, and it should involve our peers in many other specialties, such as history,” he said. “The historians would tell us, ‘Well, gee, we have some examples of first-contact scenarios between advanced technological civilizations and not-so-advanced technological civilizations.’ Gee, how did all of those turn out? Even when they were handled with goodwill, there was still pain.”

Vakoch and Shostak agreed that international discussion and cooperation are desirable. But Shostak said that achieving any kind of consensus on the topic of active SETI may be difficult. For example, what if polling reveals that 60 percent of people on Earth are in favor of the strategy, while 40 percent are opposed?

“Do we then have license to go ahead and transmit?” Shostak said. “That’s the problem, I think, with this whole ‘let’s have some international discussion’ [idea], because I don’t know what the decision metric is.”

Vakoch and Shostak also said that active SETI isn’t as big a leap as it may seem at first glance: Our civilization has been beaming signals out into the universe unintentionally for a century, since the radio was invented.

“The reality is that any civilization that has the ability to travel between the stars can already pick up our accidental radio and TV leakage,” Vakoch said. “A civilization just 200 to 300 years more advanced than we are could pick up our leakage radiation at a distance of several hundred light-years. So there are no increased dangers of an alien invasion through active SETI.”

But Brin disputed this assertion, saying the so-called “barn door excuse” is a myth.

“It is very difficult for advanced civilizations to have picked us up at our noisiest in the 1980s, when we had all these military radars and these big television antennas,” he said.

Shostak countered that a fear of alien invasion, if taken too far, could hamper humanity’s expansion throughout the solar system, an effort that will probably require the use of high-powered transmissions between farflung outposts.

“Do you want to hamstring all that activity — not for the weekend, not just shut down the radars next week, or active SETI this year, but shut down humanity forever?” Shostak said. “That’s a price I’m not willing to pay.”

So the discussion and debate continues — and may continue for quite some time.

“This is the only really important scientific field without any subject matter,” Brin said. “It’s an area in which opinion rules, and everybody has a very fierce opinion.”

Courtesy-Space

 

Chrome Browser Now Has Early Warning Alert

February 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google has added an early warning alert to Chrome that appears when users try to access a website that the search giant believes will try to trick users into downloading suspicious software.

The new alert pops up in Chrome when a user aims the browser at a suspect site but before the domain is displayed. “The site ahead contains harmful programs,” the warning states.

Google emphasized tricksters that “harm your browsing experience,” and cited those that silently change the home page or drop unwanted ads onto pages in the warning’s text.

The company has long focused on those categories, and for obvious, if unstated, reasons. It would prefer that people — much less, shifty software — not alter the Chrome home page, which features the Google search engine, the Mountain View, Calif. firm’s primary revenue generator. Likewise, the last thing Google wants is to have adware, especially the most irritating, turn off everyone to all online advertising.

The new alert is only the latest in a line of warnings and more draconian moves Google has made since mid-2011, when the browser began blocking malware downloads. Google has gradually enhanced Chrome’s alert feature by expanding the download warnings to detect a wider range of malicious or deceitful programs, and using more assertive language in the alerts.

In January 2014, for example, Chrome 32 added threats that posed as legitimate software and tweaked with the browser’s settings to the unwanted list.

The browser’s malware blocking and suspect site warnings come from Google’s Safe Browsing API (application programming interface) and service; Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox also access parts of the API to warn their users of potentially dangerous websites.

Chrome 40, the browser’s current most-polished version, can be downloaded for Windows, OS X and Linux from Google’s website.

 

 

Google Acquiring Softcard’s Mobile Wallet Technology

February 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google announced it has reached a deal with three of the country’s major cellular carriers to acquire “technology and capabilities” from Softcard, a competing mobile wallet app created jointly by the telecom operators. But the deal appears to be less about technology and more about branding.

The biggest immediate change is that Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile will begin pre-installing Google Wallet on new Android smartphones later this year — something that had been blocked before in preference for the Softcard app.

At their heart, both apps are based on the same contactless payment technology as Apple Pay and a new generation of payment cards from banks and credit unions. They use NFC (near-field communication) to complete a transaction once a payment card or phone is brought within a few centimeters of a terminal.

Apple Pay brought the technology widespread recognition when it launched late last year, but Google Wallet has been around since 2011. However a lack of support from carriers, retailers, card issuers and Google itself had relegated the technology to the sidelines.

While Google Wallet and Apple Pay share a technology base, there are key differences in how they work. Perhaps the biggest is that in Google Wallet, all transactions are routed through Google before being charged to the customer’s credit card.

That gives Google even greater insight into the lives of its users. In contrast, Apple doesn’t see any details of purchases made on its system.

Getting the Google Wallet app in front of more consumers could help reduce confusion over the different brands — an important consideration when the biggest Android phone maker is making moves of its own in mobile payments.

 

 

 

Are Health Companies Tracking You?

February 25, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

US sites which offer medical advice are tracking queries, sending the sensitive data to third party corporations, even shipping the information directly to the insurance brokers who monitor credit scores.

Tim Libert, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, custom-built software called webXray to analyze the top 50 search results for nearly 2,000 common diseases (over 80,000 pages total). He found the results startling: a full 91 percent of the pages made what are known as third-party requests to outside companies. The highly ranked “Cold Sores Topic Overview WebMD” link, passrd your request for information about the disease along to one or many other corporations.

According to Libert’s research, which is published in the the Communications of the ACM, about 70 percent of the time, the data transmitted “contained information exposing specific conditions, treatments, and diseases.”

Other issues are connected to the fact that sites like the Centers for Disease Control has installed Google Analytics to measure its traffic stats, and has, for some reason, included AddThis code which allows Facebook and Twitter sharing, the CDC also sends a third party request to each of those companies.

Apparently the request looks something like this—http://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/STDFact-Herpes.htm—and makes explicit to those third party corporations in its HTTP referrer string that your search was about herpes.

The vast majority of health sites, from the for-profit WebMD.com to the government-run CDC.gov, are loaded with tracking elements that are sending records of your health inquiries to the likes of web giants like Google, Facebook, and Pinterest, and data brokers like Experian and Acxiom.
Companies receiving the requests can use other data mining techniques to identify you and your illness.

According to Motherboard the CDC example is notable because it’s a government site which should be free of a profit motive.

Profit health sites are often much worse. WebMD, for instance, is the 106th most-visited site in the US, according to Alexa, and figures prominently in search results for most commonly searched diseases. It sends third party requests to a whopping 34 separate domains, including the data brokers Experian and Acxiom.

“WebMD is basically calling up everybody in town and telling them that’s what you’re looking at,” Libert said. Seeing as how there’s a good chance that’s a sensitive disease, users would likely not be pleased.

Courtesy-Fud

ARM and IBM Join Forces On IoT

February 25, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

ARM has joined forces with IBM to launch its Internet of Things (IoT) mbed Device Platform as a starter kit with cloud support, offering developer tools with cloud-based analytics.

ARM’s mbed tool was announced last year and is primarily an operating system built around open standards to “bring internet protocols, security and standards-based manageability into one integrated tool” and make IoT deployment faster and easier and thus speed up the creation of IoT-powered devices.

ARM has launched the mbed IoT Starter Kit – Ethernet Edition today to coincide with the opening of Embedded World in Nuremberg. Partnering with IBM means that ARM’s mbed tool can channel data from internet-connected devices directly into IBM’s Bluemix cloud platform.

The IoT Starter Kit consists of an ARM mbed-enabled development board from Freescale, powered by an ARM Cortex-M4 based processor, together with a sensor IO application shield.

It also support standards such as Bluetooth Smart, 2G, 3G, LTE and CDMA cellular technologies, Thread, WiFi, and 802.15.4/6LoWPAN along with TLS/DTLS, CoAP, HTTP, MQTT and Lightweight M2M.

The mbed OS also features the mbed Device Server, a licensed software product that provides the server-side technologies to connect and manage devices in a more secure way. It also provides a bridge between the protocols designed for use on IoT devices and the APIs used by web developers.

“The combination of a secure sensor environment by ARM with cloud-based analytics, mobile and application resources from IBM will allow fast prototyping of new smart products and unique value-added services,” explained ARM.

Krisztian Flautner, general manager for IoT business at ARM, said that securely embedding connectivity into devices from the start will allow for cloud-connected products that are far more capable than we see today.

“Smart cities, businesses and homes capable of sharing rich information about their surroundings will be critical in unlocking the potential of IoT,” he said.

“The ARM IoT Starter Kit will accelerate the availability of connected devices by making product and service prototyping faster and easier.”

The first products developed using the kit are expected to enter the market later this year.

Future versions of the kit will run the new ARM mbed OS and use ARM mbed Device Server software to deliver a wider range of efficient security, communication and device management features.

Prototypes have been given to a few early adopters, including the Science and Technology Facilities Council which said that the kit and its connection to the IBM IoT Foundation will help businesses realise the value during the development and production phases of any venture.

The mbed software also comes with its own community, Mbed.org, a focus point for a more than 70,000 developers around the platform.

The website provides a database of hardware development kits, a repository for reusable software components, reference applications, documentation and web-based development tools. It is already up and running, ARM said.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Visa Europe Announces New Mobile Payments Method

February 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Visa Europe has announced a new, more secure way for consumers to pay retailers usinng their mobile phones,a move that could set the stage for Apple’s  Apple Pay and rival mobile payment services to be introduced into Europe in the coming months.

Visa Europe said on Tuesday it would introduce to member banks by mid-April a “tokenization” service which substitutes random numbers for a user’s credit card details when a merchant transmits transaction data, reducing the risk of online theft.

Similar security from Visa Inc ,the former parent of Visa Europe, and rival card issuers MasterCard and American Express has been key to the success of Apple Pay since it was introduced in the United States last year, according to industry experts.

Apple Pay allows iPhone users to store their credit card details on their phones, then pay at the tap of a button. In its first three months, more than $2 out of every $3 which U.S. consumers spent using speedy new “contactless” systems at the three major credit card networks was done via Apple Pay, the company said last month.

Visa Europe’s move is one of several new services the London-based credit card giant is unveiling as it battles to retain its role as a middleman connecting banks and consumers in a fast-moving payments landscape being shaken up by major technology firms including Apple, Google  and eBay’s PayPal, as well as scores of ambitious start-ups.

These include a way for card customers to send money overseas to other Visa users via their social media profiles on sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Steve Perry, Visa Europe’s chief digital officer, said in an interview his association’s plan for secure credit card data transmission parallels what Visa Inc offers in the United States. But he declined to comment on whether Apple Pay had agreed to use his organization’s version in European markets.

 

Lenovo Hit With Lawsuit Over Superfish Adware

February 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Lenovo admitted to pre-loading the Superfish adware on some consumer PCs, and now outraged customers are dragging the computer maker to court on the matter.

A proposed class-action lawsuit was filed late last week against Lenovo and Superfish, charging both companies with “fraudulent” business practices and of making Lenovo PCs vulnerable to malware and malicious attacks by pre-loading the adware.

Plaintiff Jessica Bennett said her laptop was damaged as a result of Superfish, which was called “spyware” in court documents. She also accused Lenovo and Superfish of invading her privacy and making money by studying her Internet browsing habits.

The lawsuit was filed after Lenovo admitted to pre-loading Superfish on some consumer PCs. The laptops affected by Superfish include non-ThinkPad models such as G Series, U Series, Y Series, Z Series, S Series, Flex, Miix, Yoga and E Series.

Lenovo has since issued fixes to remove Superfish applications and certificates from PCs. Microsoft’s Windows Defender and McAfee’s security application also remove Superfish since Friday.

Lenovo earlier admitted it “messed up” by preloading Superfish on computers. The software plugs product recommendations into search results, but can hijack connections and open major security holes, thus leaving computers vulnerable to malicious attacks.

The first complaints of Superfish on Lenovo’s laptops emerged in September last year, but it became a real security issue when a hacker Marc Rogers pointed it out in a blog post.

Bennett, a blogger, purchased a Yoga 2 laptop to conduct business and communicate with clients. She noticed “spam advertisements involving scantily clad women” appearing on her client’s website when writing a blog post for the customer. After seeing pop-ups on other websites, she assumed her computer had spyware or had been hacked, but then scoured the forums to notice similar behavior on other Lenovo laptops. She then rooted out the problem to be Superfish, which could intercept secure communication and leave computers vulnerable.

Superfish also used memory resources and took up Internet bandwidth, according to the court document.

Damages from Lenovo and Superfish are being sought as part of the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

 

 

 

Android Malware Fake Shuts Down Phones To Steal Data

February 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Next time you turn switch off your Android mobile phone, you might want to pop the battery out as an extra precaution.

Security vendor AVG has spotted a malicious program that fakes the sequence a user sees when they shut off their phone, giving it freedom to move around on the device and steal data.

When someone presses the power button on a device, a fake dialog box is shown. The malware then mimics the shutdown animation and appears to be off, AVG’s mobile malware research team said in a blog post.

“Although the screen is black, it is still on,” they said. “While the phone is in this state, the malware can make outgoing calls, take pictures and perform many other tasks without notifying the user.”

The malware requires an Android device to be “rooted,” or modified to allow deep access to its software. That may eliminate a lot of Android owners who don’t modify their phones.

But some vendors of Android phones ship their devices with that level of access, potentially making it easier for the malware to get onto a device.

This malware is unlikely to show up in Google’s Play Store, since Google tries to block applications that have malicious functions. But it could be a candidate for one of the many third-party app stores with looser restrictions.

 

Apple Wants In On Car Batteries?

February 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

A year and a half ago, Apple Inc applied for eight patents related to car batteries. Recently, it has added a slew of engineers, just one of whom had already filed for 17 in his former career, according to a Thomson Reuters.

The recent spate of hires and patent filings shows that Apple is fast building its industrial lithium-ion battery capabilities, adding to evidence the iPhone maker may be developing a car.

Quiet, clean electric cars are viewed in Silicon Valley and elsewhere as a promising technology for the future, but high costs and “range anxiety”, the concern that batteries will run out of power and cannot be recharged quickly, remain obstacles. Those challenges could also be seen as opportunities to find solutions to take the technology mainstream.

The number of auto-related patents filed by Apple, Google Inc, Korea’s Samsung, electric carmaker Tesla Motors Inc and ride-sharing startup Uber tripled from 2011 to 2014, according to an analysis by Thomson Reuters IP & Science of public patent filings.

Apple has filed far fewer of these patents than rivals, perhaps adding impetus to its recent hiring binge as it seeks to get up to speed in battery technologies and other car-building related expertise.

As of 18 months ago, Apple had filed for 290 such patents. By contrast, Samsung, which has been providing electric vehicle batteries for some years, had close to 900 filings involving auto battery technology alone.

The U.S. government makes patent applications public only after 18 months, so the figures do not reflect any patents filed in 2014.

Earlier this month, battery maker A123 Systems sued Apple for poaching five top engineers. A search of LinkedIn profiles indicates Apple has hired at least another seven A123 employees and at least 18 employees from Tesla since 2012.

The former A123 employees have expertise primarily in battery cell design, materials development and manufacturing engineering, according to the LinkedIn profiles and an analysis of patent applications.

A123, which filed for bankruptcy in 2012 but has since reorganized, supplied batteries for Fisker Automotive’s now-discontinued hybrid electric car.

“Looking at the people Apple is hiring from A123 and their backgrounds, it is hard not to assume they’re working on an electric car,” said Tom Gage, Chief Executive of EV Grid and a longtime expert in batteries and battery technology.

Apple is building its own battery division, according to the A123 lawsuit. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

 

Star Explosions Help Solve Lithium MysteryOf The Universe

February 23, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Around The Net

An explosion on the surface of a dying star has is helping to clear up a mystery behind copious amounts of lithium seen in the universe.

By studying Nova Delphini 2013 (V339 Del), astronomers were able to detect a precursor to lithium, making the first direct detection of the third lightest element whose abundance had long remained in the theoretical realm.

“There have been no direct observational evidence for lithium production in novae before our result,” lead author Akito Tajitsu, of the National Observatory of Japan, told Space.com via email. “But many scientists made predictions about it.”

When V339 Del was spotted by an amateur astronomer on Aug. 14, 2013, it was just beyond the limit of being visible to the naked eye, though it was visible in binoculars and telescopes. Within two days, it had brightened enough to be seen without instruments in regions without too much light pollution, the first naked-eye nova since 2007.

Novae form when material from one star in a close binary surface is dumped onto the surface of its white dwarf companion. The runaway thermonuclear reaction causes the surge in brightness, which in turn creates more complex elements than the hydrogen and helium that dominate the inside of most stars.

One element predicted to form in the outburst is the most abundant isotope of lithium, lithium-7 (Li-7). While most heavy elements form inside of stars and through supernovae, lithium-7 is too fragile to withstand the high temperatures found within most stellar cores.

“Lithium is one of the so-called ‘light elements,’ together with beryllium and boron. These elements are much less abundant in the Milky Way and in the Solar System than their neighbors on the periodic table,” Margarita Hernanz, of the Institute of Space Sciences in Spain, told Space.com by email. Hernanz, who studies the late stages of stellar evolution, including explosions, was not part of the research project.

“They are not formed only inside of stars like the others. Their synthesis relies on processes less efficient than nuclear reactions inside the stars.”

Some of the lithium in the universe formed when the universe first got started, during the Big Bang. Cosmic rays interacting with stars and interstellar matter may have formed more. But these events do not provide enough lithium to equal the amount of the element present today.

In the 1950s, scientists suggested that an isotope of beryllium (Be-7) could form near the surface of the star. If the fresh Be-7 was transported to the cooler outer regions before it decayed into Li-7, the temperatures would not destroy the new element. But the difficulty in observing lithium from the ground made it a challenge to verify observationally — until now.

Tajitsu and his team used Japan’s Subaru Telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Its lofty altitude, large aperture and high sensitivity allowed the team to examine the composition of the material expelled from V339 Del at four points after the explosion. During the first three epochs, they were able to identify a significant quantity of Be-7 ejected from the nova at a high velocity.

By the end of their observations, however, no beryllium was visible; the team is still investigating the reason behind the complete disappearance. Continuing studies of V339 Del may help answer lingering questions such as this.

Beryllium-7 has a half-life of 53 days. Every eight weeks or so, the amount of beryllium is reduced by half as it decays into lithium-7, which is even more difficult to detect. In order to observe the rapidly shifting beryllium before it transitions into lithium, scientists must observe the new nova quickly, which can create scheduling challenges with large telescopes.

By studying lithium in the galaxy, scientists can understand how it evolves chemically over time.

“In general, all the chemical elements play an important role in galactic evolution, because they determine the chemical composition of the galactic gas from which stars form,” Hernanz said.

“The study of the so-called chemical evolution of the galaxy determines how this chemical composition evolves along the history of the galaxy.”

Tajitsu and his team hope to repeat their observations for many other classical novae, confirming how they might contribute to the evolution of lithium in the current universe.

Other than the first detection of beryllium-7, V339 Del has nothing to make it stand out from other novae. It appears to be a typical explosion on a carbon and oxygen dwarf. This means that classical novae could easily contribute a substantial amount of lithium to the galaxy.

The research, along with Hernanz’s accompanying News & Views article, was published online today (Feb. 18) in the journal Nature.

Courtesy-Space

Samsung Moving Toward Mobile Payments With LoopPay Acquisition

February 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd has acquired U.S. mobile wallet startup LoopPay, signaling its intention to launch a smartphone payments service to compete with rival Apple Inc.

Mobile payments have been slow to catch on in the United States and elsewhere, despite strong backing. Apple, Google, and eBay Inc’s PayPal have all launched services to allow users to pay in stores via smartphones.

The weak uptake is partly because many retailers have been reluctant to adopt the hardware and software infrastructure required for these new mobile payment options to work. These services also fail to offer much more convenience than simply swiping a credit card, Samsung executives said on Wednesday.

LoopPay’s technology differs because it works off existing magnetic-stripe card readers at checkout, changing them into contactless receivers, they said. About 90 percent of checkout counters already support magnetic swiping.

“If you can’t solve the problem of merchant acceptance…, of being able to use the vast majority of your cards, then it can’t really be your wallet,” said David Eun, head of Samsung’s Global Innovation Center.

Injong Rhee, who is leading Samsung’s as-yet-unannounced payments project, said the Asian giant will soon reveal more details of its envisioned service. He would not be drawn on speculation the company may do so during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

He said new phones such as the upcoming, latest Galaxy would support the service.

Apple Pay, launched in September, allows iPhone users to pay at the tap of a button. Executives have lauded its rapid rollout so far, including the fact that more than 2,000 banks now support it and the U.S. government will accept Apple Pay later this year.

But Apple Pay requires retailers to install near-field communication and some have been reluctant. In addition, many retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc and CVS Health Corp, back their own system, CurrentC.

Samsung had invested in LoopPay, along with Visa Inc and Synchrony Financial, before its acquisition. Terms of the deal, which Samsung negotiated over several months, were not disclosed.

It’s unclear how else Samsung could differentiate its service versus Apple’s or other rivals.

 

 

Cox Communications Developing Digital In-home Health Service

February 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Cable TV and internet service provider Cox Communications Inc, working alongside the Cleveland Clinic medical center announced a new venture to develop in-home healthcare services, stepping into a market that is poised to grow as medical care goes digital.

The joint venture in Atlanta called Vivre Health is designed to help Cox expand its reach into healthcare beyond its current services such as providing broadband for hospitals.

The plan is to foster in-home monitoring and treatment, such as video consultation via broadband and home use of equipment to monitor and manage recovery from surgery, Cox executives said. That could cut down on costly in-person visits to doctors and hospitals.

The Cleveland Clinic, a world-renowned academic medical center based in Ohio, will offer expertise to help create new services for patients.

Cox also made an investment in HealthSpot, a company that provides walk-in kiosks where patients can interact with doctors through videoconferencing and take measurements with medical equipment such as blood pressure cuffs. The kiosks are being tested in several states at pharmacies and retailers. The amount of the investment was not disclosed.

“Home health is an area that will see tremendous growth over time,” Asheesh Saksena, chief strategy officer for Cox Communications, said in an interview. “It will require more and more broadband capability.”

Cable TV providers such as Cox are seeking new revenue in areas such as healthcare and home security as their traditional business of selling TV services to residential clients matures.

Cox, the third-largest broadband and cable provider in the United States with about 6 million customers, already provides Internet and other capabilities to hospitals as part of its business services.

Healthcare customers represent about 10 percent of Cox’s business services clients. Business services are the company’s biggest growth engine with more than $1.8 billion in annual revenue.

With its investment in HealthSpot, Cox hopes to get patients used to the idea that they do not always have to visit a doctor, clinic or hospital for treatment.