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PBS NewsHour

Could the celebrity photo hack happen to you?

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JUDY WOODRUFF: The latest Internet data breach, this time of intimate celebrity photos, is setting off concerns once again, now involving popular online storage systems known as the cloud.

A cache of nude photos, including of Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence and others, were posted to online bulletin boards over the weekend. It’s not clear who hacked the photos of the celebrities or who posted them.

Today, Apple said the attacks were not from a general breach of its cloud or phone systems.

Instead — quote — “Celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions.”

So, for more on all this, we turn to Dmitri Alperovitch. He’s co- founder and chief technology officer of CrowdStrike. That is a cyber-security firm. And Sean Gallagher, he is the Internet technology editor at Ars Technica. That’s a Web site for tech news and information.

And we welcome you both to the program.

Dmitri Alperovitch, to you first. What do you think happened here, in this instance?

DMITRI ALPEROVITCH, CrowdStrike: Well, we know a couple of things.

We know that those celebrities were taking pictures and videos with their phones, for their iPhones, and they were using iCloud to back up that data through Apple servers. And what we now know is that someone was able to breach those iCloud accounts and download all the intimate photos and other information that was stored on those accounts, which may also include text messages, e-mails, contact information, voice-mails, and lots of other data.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Sean Gallagher, what would you add to that in terms of how this was pulled off?

SEAN GALLAGHER,Ars Technica: Well, this is the same sort of hack that’s happened frequently with celebrities’ devices.

There have been a number of attacks over the last few years, including one in 2011, when Scarlett Johansson’s phone was hacked, where the attacker has used personal information to sort of get access to the security questions that are associated with the account, so that they can take over the account and get access to the contents of it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And staying with you, Sean Gallagher, so what questions does this raise about the so-called cloud?  And, by the way, remind everybody what the cloud is. It’s not actually a cloud. What is it?


Well, the cloud is computers in a data center attached to the Internet. In this case, they were computers at a data center owned by Apple. Also, there was data stolen from devices that were on Amazon — pardon me — on Google’s cloud.

And they are basically connected to your device through the Internet, shielded from direct access from the Internet, other than through specific application interfaces. So they’re basically just computers sitting in a data center that are accessible from the Internet from your device.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Dmitri Alperovitch, are these — so should this — should we have expected that whatever’s in the cloud is secure and can’t be reached by somebody else?

DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Well, the problem really is the password that you use to protect that data.

So, in the case of those celebrities — and we work with a number of them here at CrowdStrike — we know that the passwords they use sometimes make you wonder what they’re thinking. It’s names of their dogs that they then reveal in their interviews. It’s their birthdays, things that are really easy to guess. Once you have that password, you can access all the data and download it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So what does that mean for everybody else who — we’re all downloading and putting things, storing things — or not all of this, but many of us — storing things in the cloud. Does this mean that nothing is secure?

DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Well, again, it depends on how you use it.

And what’s important about this hack is that information that was leaked was about those 100 celebrities. But, in realty, we know that for several months you have individuals on these forums that were trading information about private individuals, ex-wives and girlfriends and other people that stalkers may want to get access to their data.

And we know that, if you’re not using a secret password, someone can get access to that data.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Sean Gallagher, what is the — what are some of the lessons for the rest of us?

And I just want to say that, today, there was another data breech announced. Home Depot announced that it has seen…


JUDY WOODRUFF: … a credit card breach last week. One of the major banks announced a breach. What are we seeing?  This is becoming a regular occurrence.

SEAN GALLAGHER: Well, these are two different types of things happening for essentially the same reason.

The attacks on Home Depot and on J.P. Morgan were very sophisticated attacks. They took a very long period of time to carry out, and they were targeting where the money was. In the case of Home Depot, it’s similar to what happened with Target. They went after their point-of-sale systems to get access to credit card information.

What — the similarity between these two things is that both these systems have unexpected connections to the Internet. People who use their cell phones don’t expect necessarily for the data on their cell phones to be replicated up to an Internet-connected device. It’s something that a lot of people don’t think about when they use these things.

With point-of-sale systems, you don’t expect them to be connected to the Internet either, but those networks that those systems hit on, they’re all connected to the Internet.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And this is something I think some of us are learning.

So, Dmitri Alperovitch, Apple says that it’s now fixed this weakness in its security. So, does that mean people should be reassured?  And we have talked about Google’s cloud. What are we really dealing with here in terms of how much more conscious all of us need to be about what we put online?

DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Well, it’s important to understand that what Apple fixed is the ability for someone to try as many passwords as they possibly wanted to for an individual account randomly, and then ultimately guess the right password. So now you can only try a few before you lock down — locked out of the account and can’t find anymore.

But if you use a weak password, and someone can guess it on the first try because it’s going to be your dog’s name or your birthday, that doesn’t necessarily fix the problem. So, you want to use secure passwords. The other thing that you can do with iCloud and a lot of these other systems…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Secure password meaning what?

DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: A long, random password, ideally, that you use a password manager for. You’re not going to remember it, but you store it in a secure location and use a different one for every service.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Where would you store it?  What would you consider a secure location to store a password?

DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: So, there are free tools out there, password managers, they’re called, where you can randomly enter a long password, and store it in an encrypted fashion on your machine.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is that advice you would give, Sean Gallagher?

SEAN GALLAGHER: I would suggest that as an initial step.

I think it’s really important to not use dictionary words, words that are in the dictionary, as part of your password, even when they’re obscured using numbers to substitute for letters. Those things are in databases of passwords that hackers have access to, to try and guess your password.

So, I would go with that first, but I would also recommend using two-factor authentication, which is a service available for most of these cloud services, where you need to have physical access to your device to gain access to your account.

It will send a pass code to you, and you need to enter that to prove that you’re who you claim you are. Or if you use your device, you need to use a recovery key. That’s what Microsoft — that’s — pardon me — that’s what Apple is pushing people to do right now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, how would that work?  Dmitri, how would that work in…

DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: So, everyone should do that right now. If they’re using iCloud, they should go into their settings for iCloud and turn on two-factor authentication, which just means that…

JUDY WOODRUFF: Factor authentication.

DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Two-factor authentication.


DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: Just a setting on iCloud which means that when you try to log in, it’s going to ask you for a password. And then it’s going to text message you a unique code, a one-time code that you also need to enter along with your password. And that code changes every time you log in.

JUDY WOODRUFF: This means people need to plan, Sean Gallagher, to spend more time when they’re putting information away, right?

SEAN GALLAGHER: Right. That’s true.

Another thing that you should do, if you’re not using two-factor authentication right now — and Apple has a three-day delay on activating two-factor authentication to prevent people from taking over your account — what you should do is change your security questions to something that isn’t easily attainable about your personal information.

So, for example, you may want to lie for some of those questions in a way that is easily remembered by you, but not by people you know.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And it has to be something you remember.

DMITRI ALPEROVITCH: That’s right. If it’s your ex-boyfriend who is trying to get access to that information, he probably knows your mother’s maiden name.


JUDY WOODRUFF: Dmitri Alperovitch, Sean Gallagher, we thank you both.



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A map of every device connected to the internet on the planet


John Matherly, founder of internet search engine Shodan, created a map that shows the location of internet-connected devices across the globe.

Matherly used his search engine, which he developed to identify connected devices, to gather the data. On August 2nd, he sent ping requests, which tests the reachability of devices on an internet network, out to IP addresses across the globe and recorded those that acknowledged receipt. The red hot spots depict the highest concentration, green the moderate and blue the lowest. Remote areas with no computers or smartphones on a wireless network are colorless. Locations were noted with dots.

As expected, the United States and Europe depict the highest concentration. The single dot in Greenland represents the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration observatory. Matherly wrote on Reddit, where he engaged in active discussion about the map, “I would expect certain areas (especially in Africa) to become brighter, but the only way to know for sure is to gather empirical data and keep track of it that way.”

Matherly claims it took him five hours to gather the data and 12 hours to build the map.

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Multinational corporations take action on water scarcity


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HARI SREENIVASAN: For more we are joined by Pilita Clark, environment correspondent for the Financial Times and author of the recent series, a world without water. So, let’s just set the stage a little bit. How significant of a problem is water scarcity?

PILITA CLARK: Well, water scarcity, it’s an interesting term. I mean, often there’s not so much a problem with a physical shortage of water around the world, but increasingly what there is, is a real problem of competition for supplies of available water and that’s happening for a range of reasons but fundamentally the drivers are a growing population, an increasingly wealthy population and to some extent climate change as well is playing a part in it.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And so in your reporting you’re saying some of the CEOs are actually starting to say, you know climate changes almost takes up all the oxygen in the room, water scarcity is far more pressing. Well, what are companies doing about it?

PILITA CLARK: Well companies are doing a range of things. I mean, the chairman of Nestle, Peter Brabeck, said that to me and his company has spent more than 40 million dollars alone in the last year on trying to figure out ways of using less water in their factories, making sure whatever water they do use when it is returned to the environment it’s discharged in a reasonably clean fashion. Coca-Cola has spent more than, or close to 2 billion dollars since 2003 making sure that all of its bottling plants around the world adhere to those sort of strictures and a number of companies actually in other sectors are doing some even more interesting things, more expensive things.

BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, two of the world’s biggest miners last year agreed to approve a 3 billion dollar desalination scheme in Chile for one of their copper mines that they jointly operate there. And it’s going to desalinate water from the coast of Chile and then pump it up around 10 thousand feet up to their copper mines. And the reason they are doing that is because they don’t want to be competing with local towns and farmers for fairly scarce water supplies up there. They’re also potentially getting in ahead of legislation in that country because law makers have been looking at making it mandatory for miners to do this sort of desalination work before they can operate.

And that’s the sort of a pattern that we are seeing across the world where regulation to try to ameliorate this competition for water supplies or to try to ensure that competition between the biggest users, who are often farmers, they global take up around or use around 70 percent of water, make sure that competition between farmers and industry stays at a minimum.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So some of these local communities who are pushing back say that it is a race to privatize water. Here was a, what was a ubiquitous resource was and now it is becoming more expensive. It was almost a resource that we thought of as absolutely free.

PILITA CLARK: Well that’s right, that’s certainly been the case for companies. And they have been able to use it largely for free or for very little cost. It raises some interesting points because farmers are even able to use it at lowers costs. In fact SABMiller which is one of the companies that I spoke to, they are one of the world’s biggest brewers and they made a point that, you know, they’re not really worried about the physical cost of water.

But the point they make is that farmers can often use water for a fraction of that cost and so what happens is because they are able to do that they use so much of the available resources, often ground water resources, which are not always replenishable. And that puts more pressure on companies and other users around, in the surrounding areas. And, you know, it is a very difficult situation. Countries want to be, want to have independent sources of food. They also want to make sure that they have a flourishing farming sector, so they don’t want to remove subsidies or make it any more difficult for farmers that might be the case than normally.

They find it very difficult to address this situation where, to make it more expensive for farmers to operate and that’s why we see these, this competition for water supplies growing in a lot of parts of the world.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Alright, Pilita Clark of the Financial Times, thanks so much.

PILITA CLARK: Thank you.

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Scientists can now see what cocaine does to your brain’s blood flow

The image on the left shows the mouse brain blood vessels before cocaine. The image on the right shows the blood vessels
         after, revealing that many of the vessels are now darker, which signifies lower blood flow. Photo from Biomedical Optics Express.

The image on the left shows the mouse brain blood vessels before cocaine. The image on the right shows the blood vessels after, revealing that many of the vessels are now darker, which signifies lower blood flow. Photo from Biomedical Optics Express.

Researchers unveiled a breakthrough imaging technique Thursday that show what blood flow in the brain looks like on cocaine.

For the first time, researchers have been able to prove “cocaine induced microischemia,” a precursor to stroke that arises when blood flow shuts down. The experiment was conducted on mice via cocaine injections. The results were published in the journal Biomedical Optics Express.

The method means that we can finally see tiny vessels called capillaries, which form the brain’s circulation network.

The new technique grew out of optical coherence Doppler tomography, or ODT, which previously revolutionized imaging for the eyes. Originating in the early 1990s, ODT works by hitting moving blood cells with lasers and then measuring the frequency of the light that bounces back. It essentially quantifies blood flow through recording speed and volume.

The methodology was developed by biomedical Engineers at Stony Brook University and the National Institutes of Health. According to co-author of the report Yingtian Pan, ODT now incorporates “a new processing method called phase summation” that makes the equipment able to detect very low blood speeds and visualize capillaries.

We know that cocaine can cause “aneurysm-like bleeding and strokes,” but the exact mechanism that leads to this is still fuzzy because of the current imaging tools available. The new technology has the potential to better understand how drug abuse affects the brain and help with treatment options for addicts.

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