Aarti Shahani | KERA News

Aarti Shahani

Aarti Shahani is a Tech Reporter on NPR's Business Desk. Based in Silicon Valley, it's her job to cover the biggest companies on earth. In her reporting, she works to pinpoint how economies and human relationships are being radically redefined by the tech sector.

Shahani has an unconventional path. Journalism is her second career. Before it, she was a community organizer in her native New York City, helping prisoners and families being deported from the U.S. She loves learning from brilliant, intense people — be they the engineers who are building self-driving cars, or the jailhouse lawyers filing laser-sharp habeas petitions.

Shahani received a Master in Public Policy degree from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, with generous support from the University and the Paul & Daisy Soros fellowship. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago. Her reporting has been honored with awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, a regional Edward R. Murrow Award, and an Investigative Reporters & Editors Award.

She finds Northern California to be a beautiful and jarring place — and she hopes one day to understand its many contradictions.

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A gunman in Virginia murdered two television journalists, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, as they conducted a live on-air interview on Wednesday. The suspect, Vester Lee Flanagan, apparently had a camera.

Flanagan didn't just want to shoot the victims. He wanted to film himself in the act of committing murder.

Here's an awkward situation. You're in Hawaii with your spouse, vacationing. And you find out you've been exposed as part of an adultery website. Your email is in the Ashley Madison data that hackers leaked. This is precisely the situation in which Casey Corcoran found himself.

An Awkward Moment

Over the weekend, Corcoran and his wife were in a hotel room overlooking the ocean. It was about 6:30 p.m.

Here's an experience some of us have had. The phone rings. You pick it up and say "Hello. Hello. Helloooo." But nobody answers.

It turns out there could be someone on the other end of the line: an automated computer system that's calling your number — and tens of thousands of others — to build a list of humans to target for theft.

Build A List

Vijay Balasubramaniyan, CEO of Pindrop Security, a company in Atlanta that detects phone fraud, says that in any number of ways, the criminal ring gets your 10 digits and loads them into an automated system.

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Google is restructuring. In a blog post today, CEO Larry Page announced a new firm called Alphabet. Alphabet will become the parent company atop all of Google's many ventures. NPR tech reporter Aarti Shahani joins us now to explain. Hi, Aarti.

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Cars have become computers on wheels. Crash the computer, and you could crash the car.

Two hackers decided they wanted to try doing that with a car that's considered pretty strong in terms of software, not just hardware. They chose the Tesla Model S. And — guess what — they broke in. But that's not the surprising part. The surprising part is how Tesla responded.

The Hack

This post was updated at 4:14 p.m. ET.

Google is making big promises to fix its Android operating system. The company recently came under sharp criticism after researchers found a major flaw in Android would let hackers take over smartphones, with just a text message.

The continent of Africa has long been seen as the place where humanitarian aid and World Bank loans go — to attempt to save lives or to dictate how countries should grow.

Now there's a new movement underway — a technology movement. Young entrepreneurs from the continent are protesting the old ways by launching startups that, they say, will put Africans in the driver's seat. But not everyone agrees that technology is the solution to Africa's problems.

Android is the most popular mobile operating system on Earth: About 80 percent of smartphones run on it. And, according to mobile security experts at the firm Zimperium, there's a gaping hole in the software — one that would let hackers break into someone's phone and take over, just by knowing the phone's number.

Just A Text

Long gone are the days when you could pass off all your computer issues to an expert — IT support or the broadband 1-800 number. Today, in this always-connected, mobile world, regular people find themselves in a challenging situation.

On our own, we have to manage security on our devices, patch software and update passwords. And according to a new survey by Google, we're not prioritizing well.

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Federal regulators are looking to place tighter controls on the export of cyberweapons following the megabreaches against the Office of Personnel Management and countless retailers.

The Commerce Department wants to ensure that software that can attack a network — the kind that can break in, bypass encryption and steal data — can't be shipped overseas without permission. But the cybersecurity industry is up in arms.

We've heard a lot about how people get ugly online — abuse others and bully because they don't have to stand behind their words. But there's an upside to anonymity on the Internet, too: Good things can happen when you don't have to say your name.

On the app Yik Yak, for example, college students are asking for help when they're feeling desperate or even suicidal — and the anonymous crowds are responding with kindness.

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The smartphone has become a staple of life. But what about the personal assistant inside that phone? Not so much.

Maybe you turn to Apple's Siri or Google Now for a quick search or a snarky answer to a question. But imagine a world where your phone actually gets you. You, personally. Turns out two tech giants — Google and Apple — disagree on whether that's a worthy goal.

Introducing 'Now On Tap'

Fitness trackers — the wristbands or watches you can wear to track your heart rate, steps, sleep — are getting a shot in the arm. The most popular brand, Fitbit, is going public on Thursday. It's the first startup in the burgeoning wearable tracker industry to begin trading on Wall Street. It plans to raise more than $600 million.

Fitbit recently got a shout out, sort of.

As cyberattacks continue, analysts are seeing a new pattern: Hackers are focused on stealing personally identifiable information. That includes the security clearances of U.S. intelligence officers, with the reported theft of background information. It also includes information that's less sensitive but far-reaching — like Social Security numbers.

Reason, the popular libertarian magazine, has been touched by the long arm of the law. The Department of Justice wants Reason to turn over information on the identities of six users who posted certain comments online.

Reason has since deleted the comments from its site but is declining to say whether it will comply with the federal order.

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The new USA Freedom Act prevents the bulk collection of phone call metadata by the NSA. AT&T, Verizon and other carriers will keep phone call metadata on their servers, and give it to the National Security Agency if subpoenaed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, often called the FISA Court.

To be clear, phone companies do not have a new mandate to collect or store metadata — the numbers called and time and length of those calls.

The chipmaker Intel is buying a company that makes ... chips. Altera will cost about $16.7 billion in cash.

It would be the largest acquisition in Intel's 47-year history, and it's part of an effort to secure business. While Intel is an undisputed leader in chips for personal computers, its got competition in the mobile, wireless age.

As candidates hit the campaign trail, NPR looks at four major issues the next president will face from Day 1 in office.

When President Obama took office back in 2009, "cybersecurity" was not a word that everyday people used. It wasn't debated. Then, mega-breaches against consumers, businesses and the federal government changed that.

In recent years, Twitter has become the go-to destination for news junkies. Now, Facebook is entering a deal with nine news organizations, including The New York Times, NBC News and Buzzfeed, to run some of their in-depth articles, photos and videos inside Facebook. No need to leave the app!

The drought across much of the Western U.S. is now in its fourth year. In California — where it's the most intense — farms are not under the same strict orders to conserve as cities are.

And inside the agriculture industry, farmers are quietly debating how best to respond to the drought. Given uncertainty around pending state regulations, some say there may be an incentive to not invest in water-saving technologies right now.

If you can live stream movies, why not live stream medical care?

Insurance company UnitedHealthcare will start covering visits to the doctor's office — via video chat. Patients and physicians talk live online — on smartphones, tablets or home computer — to get to a clinical diagnosis. This move to cybermedicine could save insurers a ton of money — or have unintended consequences.

The rules of War 2.0 (or 3.0) are murky. Experts and pundits say that cyberwarfare is happening. And it makes sense. But it has been very hard to prove.

A new report adds to the body of evidence, charging that the Russian military is waging a sustained cyber campaign against Ukrainian military and law enforcement agencies, and the purpose is to extract a steady stream of classified documents that can aid violence and on-the-ground combat.

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