Scientists Find a Way to Reveal Your Viral Past With Just a Drop of Blood

During our lifetime, we get exposed to dozens of viruses, but luckily our bodies are well equipped to deal with it. Our immune system produces antibodies to deal with foreign agents and make us well again. However, the antibodies tailored for these viruses tend to linger in our bodies prolonged periods of time.

A team of researchers from Harvard, MIT and Howard Hughes Medical Institute got a brilliant idea of making use of the above-mentioned antibodies and came up with a new method of revealing what viruses your body was exposed to. The method is called VirScan and it can reveal your entire viral history with just a drop of blood.

The method involves mixing a patient’s blood with a set of known human viruses. Each virus carries a unique protein signature that the antibodies are trained to identify and attack. This means that dropping a blood sample filled with antibodies in a pool of viruses will ‘activate’ the antibodies and tell the researchers which virus strains were targeted.

To test their theory, the researchers performed tests on 569 patients. The results revealed that, on average, we are exposed to 10 viral species, with some even being exposed to up to 84 viral species. VirScan has also proved to be a cheap testing method, allowing doctors to perform a variety of tests at once for about $25.

The researchers say that VirScan is not only about identifying your past viruses. The method can also be used for early detection of viruses such as hepatitis C and HIV, as well as give doctors more insight on some viruses we don’t quite understand yet.

Thank you Newsweek for providing us with this information

Uber Launches Business Feature, Lets Companies Pay for Your Business Travels

Uber, the app that lets you hail a cab from your smartphone, has announced the addition of a new Business feature aimed at employees who are travelling on business trips a lot.

The app is said to now allow companies pay for their employees’ travel expenses by adding the option to pay with a company card, instead of having them pay for the trip and expense it on their own.

Employees whose company uses Uber are said to already have noticed a second payment option inside the app, allowing them to quickly switch between the personal and business payments on the fly. Uber is also said to be teaming up with Concur, the expensing service, to automatically file receipts for those who use the service.

The Uber for Business feature is said to work best for small companies, since the app requires each employee to be added to an account manually. However, Uber has stated that it will add a feature this summer which will help activate business expensing company-wide.

It is said that various analytic features are included in the app in order to help companies see how many trips are being taken and how much they are spending, as well as allowing companies view the information for each employee’s individual trip.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information

Nvidia Researcher Discovers a Way to Quadruple Future VR Headset Resolution

A researcher from NVIDIA has apparently discovered a new manufacturing technique which could quadruple the perceived resolution of virtual reality gear in the future. The technique in question is called ‘display cascading’ and uses cascade displays (of course).

Nvidia is said to already have produced a prototype of a headset using the above mentioned technique. A report from MIT is said that the new technique improves the perceived resolution of virtual reality displays. Senior director of research in visual computing at NVIDIA, David Luebke, is said to be the man behind the new technology. He has been stated to use a cascaded display system made up of two modified ‘off-the-shelf’ liquid crystal display panels.

A layer of tiny shutters (one per pixel) which can block off or allow light through, called the spatial light modulation panel, is said to be removed from one LCD and placed over a second panel, offset from its own. This method is said to split each pixels into four individually addressed areas, thus quadrupling the effective resolution at a cost of a decrease in brightness.

Luebke states that along with some driver optimizations, a cascade display should provide both improved resolution and a double perceived framerate, achievable by having both panels run in perfect synchronization. Also, the NVIDIA researcher stated he will unveil the manufacturing technique at a conference in August. For those interested, the research is currently available over at NVIDIA’s website.

Thank you Bit-Tech for providing us with this information

New Techniques Show iPhone Data Extraction

Previously unpublicized techniques show how personal data including text messages, contact lists and photos can be extracted from iPhones through trusted devices.

Researcher Jonathan Zdiarski showed in a presentation at the Hackers on Planet Earth conference this week, how the services take a surprising amount of data for what Apple says are “diagnostic services meant to help engineers”.

The users are not notified that the services are running and can not disable them. There is no way for iPhone users to know what computers have previously been granted trusted status via the backup process or block any future connections.

The same techniques to circumvent the backup encryption could however also be used by law enforcement or others with access to the “trusted” computers to which the devices have been connected.

In a video demonstration where Zdiarski showed what he could extract from an unlocked phone and a trusted computer, he also told us that the only way to un-pair your iPhone is to wipe it. The NSA collaboration rumors started right away, but Apple denied creating any “back doors” for intelligence agencies.

”We have designed iOS so that its diagnostic functions do not compromise user privacy and security, but still provides needed information to enterprise IT departments, developers and Apple for troubleshooting technical issues,” Apple said. “A user must have unlocked their device and agreed to trust another computer before that computer is able to access this limited diagnostic data.”

Zdziarski said he did not believe that the services were aimed at spy agencies, but that they do extract way more information than needed, with little to no disclosure.

Security industry analyst Rich Mogull said Zdziarski’s work was overhyped but technically accurate. ”They are collecting more than they should be, and the only way to get it is to compromise security.”

Mogull also agreed with Zdziarski that since the tools exist, law enforcement will use them in cases where the desktop computers of targeted individuals can be confiscated, hacked or reached via their employers.

For all the attention to the previously unknown tools and other occasional bugs, Apple’s phones are widely considered more secure than those using Google Inc’s rival Android operating system, in part because Google does not have the power to send software fixes directly to those devices.

Thank you Reuters for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Apple.