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.

Passwords get hacked — a lot. In an effort to move beyond passwords, big companies are embracing biometric technology: the use of fingerprints, iris scans or voice recognition for user identification.

To heighten security, smartphones are being outfitted with biometric features. But, ditching passwords for biometrics may not make the hackers go away.

Selfie Security

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

About 2 billion people on earth have a smartphone with a decent Internet connection, but 5 billion are largely or entirely offline, according to global figures by the ITU.

That gap is (surprise, surprise) a big opportunity for Silicon Valley. Google and Facebook are already on high-profile campaigns to connect the unconnected. And they're betting they can make billions of dollars getting people without electricity or toilets to pay for the Internet.

Another big health insurance company has revealed it has been the target of a massive cyberattack.

Premera Blue Cross says hackers may have taken up to 11 million customer records. Those records include credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, even information about medical problems. This news is just coming out but Premera issued a statement saying it discovered the breach on Jan. 29. That's about the same date that Anthem, another Blue Cross company, told the FBI that it was breached.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Obama is calling on the government and private industry to work together to take on threats to cybersecurity. He was the headliner at a summit about the issue today at Stanford University.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

President Obama is at Stanford University today, hosting a cybersecurity summit. He and about a thousand guests are trying to figure out how to protect consumers online from hacks and data breaches.

Meanwhile, in the cyber underworld, criminals are trying to figure out how to turn every piece of our digital life into cash. The newest frontier: health records.

I grab a chair and sit down with Greg Virgin, CEO of the security firm RedJack.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

RadioShack has filed for bankruptcy and the company plans to close most of its stores, as NPR's Aarti Shahani reports.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The man arrested for building Silk Road - an online marketplace best known for drugs - has been convicted. A jury found him guilty on all counts, as NPR's Aarti Shahani reports.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

This week, in the lead up to his State of the Union address, President Obama is talking about cybersecurity — how to ensure our safety in the digital world.

As you might imagine, there are smartphones everywhere at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. Tonino Lamborghini [a company not related to the famous car brand] has a new phone out for $6,000. Samsung's Galaxy series is on display in a dazzling showroom.

When your kid's ear is throbbing at 2 a.m., you might want to grab the car keys and head to the emergency room. But now you can pick up your iPhone instead.

A startup called CellScope has built a little ear probe that you clip on top of your iPhone camera. The footage streams into an app where you can view the inside the ear.

The CEO of Sony Pictures has been saying that the cyberattack against his company is "the worst cyberattack in U.S. history." And you can see where he's coming from. An entire feature film got canned — at least for now. And his corporate networks were so damaged, Sony workers had to revert to using fax machines to communicate. That said, "the worst" is a big claim.

If you visit a local strip mall or downtown shopping street, it's not hard to find a store where customers can lease-to-own. That is, you can pay over time and eventually, after some chunky fees, a flat screen TV or living room set is yours.

A lot of computer viruses hide inside your system. Hackers stealing your data go out of their way to operate quietly, stealthily, under the radar.

But there's another kind of attack that makes itself known — on purpose. It sneaks into your network and takes your files, holding them for ransom. It's called ransomware, and, according to cybersecurity experts, this kind of attack is getting more sophisticated.

Stick 'Em Up

As the holiday buying season approaches, retailers remain open to the same attack — called a "point of sale" attack — that hit Target and Home Depot, security experts say. Those analysts say that retailers have their fingers crossed, hoping they're not next.

And leading companies are keeping very tight-lipped about what, if anything, they're doing to protect customers.

Is This Store Hackerproof?

It's easy to spot a scratched face on a watch. It's much harder to tell if the checkout machine that you swipe to pay for that watch is defective.

Tech companies lobbies all the time — for tax reform, patent reform. But usually, it's in the form of big checks and quiet back room meetings.

Immigration was different — the issue where business leaders decided to ally with Latino community groups and labor unions. And now that President Obama has issued an executive action, the tech sector is sorting out its next steps.

Love Song Goes Quiet

For a while, it seemed, Silicon Valley and Washington DC were singing each other a love song.

Microsoft — a company most associated with Word documents and Excel spreadsheets — is getting a makeover.

Under new leadership, the software developer is analyzing vast troves of data about its users to create social tools for the workplace. They've got the goods — just think of all those Office emails that bind us together — but the question is, will customers want to cozy up socially with Microsoft, on and off the job?

Old Data, New Strategy

A group of hackers, allegedly from Russia, found a fundamental flaw in Microsoft Windows and exploited it to spy on Western governments, NATO, European energy companies and an academic organization in the United States.

That's according to new research from iSight Partners, a Dallas-based cybersecurity firm.

Pages