Aarti Shahani

Aarti Shahani is a Tech Reporter on NPR's Business Desk, where she covers breaking news, and does investigative and enterprise reporting.

Since joining NPR's tech beat in May 2014, Shahani has reported from five countries and covered the world's biggest tech events, including the International Consumer Electronics Show.

In her first year, Shahani has shed light on hidden stories, such as the role of cyberstalking in domestic abuse, and the underground world of hackers. Shahani's reports have taken her to unlikely places – including a secretive Hollywood film set using drone cameras.

Before coming to NPR as a Kroc Fellow in 2011-2012, Shahani started a non-profit in her native New York City to help immigrant families facing deportation after September 11th. She notes she first met NPR as a source, pitching NPR a story about a detainee who'd died because of deliberate medical neglect. Of her unusual path to journalism, she notes, "Basically, I spent my 20s with prisoners. I'm spending my 30s with billionaires in Silicon Valley. And I've learned: People are just people."

Her reporting has been honored with a regional award from the Society of Professional Journalists for "Finding Hidden Genius"; a regional Edward R. Murrow Award for "On Immigration, High Tech and Ag Don't Meet, Literally"; and an Investigative Reporters & Editors Award for "Post Mortem: Death Investigation in America" with ProPublica, NPR, and Frontline.

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.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

When President Obama held his year-end news conference today, cyber security jumped to the top of the agenda, a result of the recent cyber attack on Sony Pictures.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

This week's historic agreement between the U.S. and Cuba to reinstate diplomatic relations after decades of silence could launch a digital revolution in the island nation.

According to the White House, only 5 percent of Cubans have access to the open Internet, comparable to North Korea. As part of the deal, that could change overnight.

Status Check

Maribel Fonseca, a teacher in Miramar, Cuba, has never seen the Internet. A few of her more privileged students have been online.

NPR has confirmed from U.S. intelligence officials that North Korea was centrally involved with the recent attacks against Sony Pictures. And the company says it is pulling its comedy film The Interview from the box office. It was supposed to debut on Christmas. These are major developments in what we may now call cyberwarfare.

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

Somewhere around the world, someone is trying to breach the security system of a large company. These attempted intrusions happen all the time.

Some experts say that to defeat the bad hackers, you've got to partner with the good ones. Recruit them to find holes and bugs in software and, when they do, pay them for it.

Apple CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday spoke with officials in China about data security and privacy. This meeting comes on the heels of a reported attack against users of Apple's iCloud service in China. Hackers allegedly were able to get hold of users' data by intercepting traffic on the Internet. They did not break into Apple servers.

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.

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