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How your phone may be spying on you

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New Delhi, July 7: Some popular apps on your Android phone may be actively listening to you, monitoring your habits and even secretly taking screenshots of your activity and sending them to third parties, a new study has found.

These screenshots and videos of your activity on the screen could include usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, and other important personal information, the researchers said.

“We found that every app has the ability to record your screen and anything you type,” said David Choffnes, a Professor at Boston’s Northeastern University.

The findings will be presented at the Privacy Enhancing Technology Symposium Conference in Barcelona.

For the study, the team analysed more than 17,000 of the most popular apps on the Android operating system, using an automated test programme written by the students.

In all, 9,000 of the 17,000 apps showed the potential to take screenshots.

“There were no audio leaks at all. Not a single app activated the microphone,” said Christo Wilson, Professor at the varsity.

“Then we started seeing things we didn’t expect. Apps were automatically taking screenshots of themselves and sending them to third parties.” Although these privacy breaches appeared to be benign, they emphasised how easily a phone’s privacy window could be exploited for profit.

“This opening will almost certainly be used for malicious purposes. It’s simple to install and collect this information. And what’s most disturbing is that this occurs with no notification to or permission by users,” Wilson noted.

Although the study was conducted on Android phones, there is no reason to believe that other phone operating systems would be less vulnerable, the researchers said.

Another study, published in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, found that apps developed to help people track their migraine pain often share information with third parties, posing privacy risks partly because there are few legal protections against the sale or disclosure of data from medical apps to third parties.

“In 2018, it is estimated that nearly half of 3.4 billion smartphone users will use health related apps, and currently, there are a wide range of apps on the market for various neurologic and pain conditions,” said lead author Mia Minen, from the New York University Langone Medical Center in the US.

“We think our study may have widespread implications for people suffering from various chronic conditions,” Minen added.

IANS

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Heart-health behaviour helps reduce diabetes risk

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If you are suffering from diabetes, then following some lifestyle and health factors may prove to be good for your heart and can help prevent disorders, says a new study.

The study showed that individuals who were in the recommended, ideal ranges for at least four of Life’s Simple seven health factors had a 70 per cent lower risk of developing diabetes over the next 10 years.

The Life’s Simple seven health factors include maintaining healthy blood pressure, glucose levels and cholesterol, eating a healthy diet, exercising at least 150 minutes per week, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight, said the paper published in the journal Diabetologia.

“This research adds to our collective understanding about how physicians can help their patients prevent a number of serious diseases, including heart disease, cancer and now diabetes,” said K. Craig Kent, at The Ohio State University College in the US.

In addition, those in normal blood glucose levels who attained four or more guideline factors had an 80 per cent lower risk of developing diabetes, whereas those who were already diabetic or prediabetic and met four of the factors had no change in lowering their risk for diabetes, said Joshua J. Joseph, Assistant Professor at the varsity.

For the study, the researchers included 7,758 participants and used the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple seven as a guide for measuring heart health among the group.

“Healthy people need to work to stay healthy. Follow the guidelines. Don’t proceed to high blood sugar and then worry about stopping diabetes. By that point, people need high-intensity interventions that focus on physical activity and diet to promote weight loss and, possibly, medications to lower the risk of diabetes,” said Joseph.

Community outreach is essential to educating people about prevention and helping them start healthy habits.

Furthermore, getting help to quit smoking or finding physical activities and healthy foods can be key to maintaining them long-term and preventing future health problems, the study noted.

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How fasting can improve your overall health

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Fasting may not be just a religious or political practice. It may actually protect you against age-related diseases and improve your overall health, researchers say.

The study, led by a team from the University of California-Irvine (UCI), found that fasting affects circadian clocks in the liver and skeletal muscle, causing them to rewire their metabolism, which can ultimately lead to improved health and protection against age-related diseases.

The circadian clock operates within the body and its organs as intrinsic time-keeping machinery to preserve homeostasis in response to the changing environment.

And, while food is known to influence clocks in peripheral tissues, it was unclear until now how the lack of food influences clock function and ultimately affects the body.

“We discovered fasting influences the circadian clock and fasting-driven cellular responses, which together work to achieve fasting-specific temporal gene regulation,” said lead author Paolo Sassone-Corsi, Professor of Biological Chemistry at UCI.

“Skeletal muscle, for example, appears to be twice as responsive to fasting as the liver,” Sassone-Corsi added.

The research, detailed in the Cell Reports journal, was conducted using mice, which were subjected to 24-hour periods of fasting.

While fasting, the mice exhibited a reduction in oxygen consumption (VO2), respiratory exchange ratio (RER), and energy expenditure, all of which were completely abolished by refeeding, which parallels results observed in humans.

“The reorganisation of gene regulation by fasting could prime the genome to a more permissive state to anticipate upcoming food intake and thereby drive a new rhythmic cycle of gene expression. In other words, fasting is able to essentially reprogram a variety of cellular responses,” Sassone-Corsi said.

“Therefore, optimal fasting in a timed manner would be strategic to positively affect cellular functions and ultimately benefiting health and protecting against age-associated diseases.”

This study opens new avenues of investigation that could ultimately lead to the development of nutritional strategies to improve health in humans.

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Scientists decode different ways human face conveys happiness

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While disgust needs just one facial expression to get its point across throughout the world, happiness has 17 — a testament to the many varied forms of cheer, delight and contentedness, finds a study.

On the other hand, to convey fear humans use three expressions, four to convey surprise, and five each to convey sadness and anger.

The researchers explained that the differences in how our faces convey happiness can be as simple as the size of our smiles or the crinkles near our eyes.

“This was delightful to discover, because it speaks about the complex nature of happiness,” said Aleix Martinez, Professor at The Ohio State University.

“Happiness acts as a social glue and needs the complexity of different facial expressions; disgust is just that: disgust,” Martinez said.

The study showed that humans can configure their faces in thousands and thousands of ways to convey emotion — from anger to sadness to riotous joy — but only 35 expressions are actually similar across cultures.

For the study, published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing, the team assembled a list of 821 English words that describe feelings and then used those words to mine the Internet for images of people’s faces.

The words were translated into Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Farsi and Russian, and plugged into search engines popular in 31 countries across North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia to download an equal number of images.

They found approximately 7.2 million images of facial expressions across a variety of cultures.

Based on computer algorithms, the team found that the human face is capable of configuring itself in 16,384 unique ways, combining different muscles in different ways.

The researchers took the 7.2 million images their searches yielded and sorted them into categories, looking for those that expressed emotion across cultures. They found only 35.

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