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.

The Apple Watch is making quite a splash with its launch Friday, but most of us have never thought about this new gadget, the "smart watch." Is it a luxury item, or is the smart watch destined to be the next great essential, something we don't know we'll need but will.

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

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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.

If you're trying out for a job in sales, the person who judges your pitch may not be a person — it could be a computer.

Job recruitment is the newest frontier in automated labor, where algorithms are choosing who's the right fit to sell fast food or handle angry cable customers, by sizing up the human candidates' voices.

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.

Cockroaches are widely despised. They're attracted to filth. They frighten people, even give them nightmares.

But for a team of scientists at Texas A&M University, the roach is a hero: the first animal that humans might successfully transform into a robot, a hybrid of insect and machine that we can send anywhere to be our eyes and ears.

The Perfect Roach

Professor Hong Liang opens the door to a small laboratory with hundreds, maybe thousands, of cockroaches. It's not for the faint of heart.

Almost a third of Americans have taken steps to hide or shield their information online since Edward Snowden publicized National Security Agency surveillance practices.

But as a country, we're deeply divided — nearly 50-50 — over whether to be concerned about massive government surveillance. And while there are signs that privacy is a partisan issue, it's not partisan in the way you might think.

All that is according to the latest privacy study by the Pew Research Center.

The Department of Homeland Security has become the unlikely hero of the new White House campaign to stop cybercrime -- this, despite a history of mismanagement and the looming cutoff of its funding. To succeed, the big bureaucracy will have to inspire trust and compete against similar efforts by the tech industry.

Cybercrime is just too easy. Often, hackers don't have to be innovative. They can take an attack — copy and paste it.

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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.

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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.

Imagine this: You just got home from work and, instead of doing the usual kale salad and lean steak for dinner, you grab a bag of chips and lie down in bed.

The sensors — in your cabinets, in your room, on your wrist — can tell that you're not yourself. The data across devices can talk to each other and infer: You're sad. And so, out pops an alert to recommend a movie to lift your mood. Or a latte at just the right strength.

The International Consumer Electronics Show came to a close Friday in Las Vegas — and with it: the end of a performance. The show is meant to be a happy time: party hard. Put your best face forward — even if you're not sure about the future of your company. The CEO of Intel, the chipmaker, is in just that awkward position.

The Performer

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.

Within days of the hack against Sony Pictures, the U.S. government came out and said, in no uncertain terms, the attacks originated from North Korea — and the nation-state of North Korea was involved. Well, both claims have raised eyebrows among private security researchers. Many just don't believe it.

Circumstantial Evidence

The FBI says the attack came from IP addresses — unique computer addresses — that trace back to North Korea.

Perhaps no single company has stirred so many emotions this year — across so many continents — as Uber.

In 2014 Uber became more — much more — than a car service: The Silicon Valley startup became a symbol for capitalism itself.

The company's value soared from under a billion to about $40 billion, making it one of the most valuable private companies on Earth. But it also has become mired in turf wars, legal battles and scandal.

Hypergrowth And Backlash

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.

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.

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