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Saturn’s moon Enceladus harbours chemical energy for life: NASA



Saturn's moon

Washington, April 14: Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus has a form of chemical energy that life can feed on, researchers with NASAs Cassini mission to Saturn have revealed.

“Confirmation that the chemical energy for life exists within the ocean of a small moon of Saturn is an important milestone in our search for habitable worlds beyond Earth,” said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

In a separate study, scientists also reported additional evidence of water vapour plumes erupting from Jupiter’s moon Europa.

Together, the findings suggest that these active ocean worlds in our solar system are worth more exploration in our search for life beyond the Earth.

The study from researchers with the Cassini mission, published in the journal Science, indicates hydrogen gas — which could potentially provide a chemical energy source for life — is pouring into the subsurface ocean of Enceladus from hydrothermal activity on the seafloor.

The presence of ample hydrogen in the moon’s ocean means that microbes — if any exist there — could use it to obtain energy by combining the hydrogen with carbon dioxide dissolved in the water.

This chemical reaction, known as “methanogenesis” because it produces methane as a byproduct, is at the root of the tree of life on the Earth, and could even have been critical to the origin of life on our planet.

Life as we know it requires three primary ingredients: liquid water; a source of energy for metabolism; and the right chemical ingredients, primarily carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous and sulphur.
With this finding, Cassini has shown that Enceladus — a small, icy moon a billion miles farther from the Sun than the Earth — has nearly all of these ingredients for habitability.

Cassini has not yet shown phosphorous and sulphur are present in the ocean, but scientists suspect them to be, since the rocky core of Enceladus is thought to be chemically similar to meteorites that contain the two elements.

The Cassini spacecraft detected the hydrogen in the plume of gas and icy material spraying from Enceladus during its last, and deepest, dive through the plume on October 28, 2015.

Cassini also sampled the plume’s composition during flybys earlier in the mission.

From these observations scientists have determined that nearly 98 per cent of the gas in the plume is water, about one per cent is hydrogen and the rest is a mixture of other molecules including carbon dioxide, methane and ammonia.

At the same time, NASA scientists have also reported additional evidence of water vapour plumes erupting from Jupiter’s moon Europa.

The paper detailing new Hubble space telescope findings, published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, reports on observations of Europa from 2016 in which a probable plume of material was seen erupting from the moon’s surface at the same location where Hubble saw evidence of a plume in 2014.

These images bolster evidence that the Europa plumes could be a real phenomenon, flaring up intermittently in the same region on the moon’s surface.

Researchers speculate that, like Enceladus, this could be evidence of water erupting from the moon’s interior.
NASA’s will send a probe called Europa Clipper mission, which is planned for launch in the 2020s, to search signs of life on the Jupiter’s moon by flying through those plumes.

“If there are plumes on Europa, as we now strongly suspect, with the Europa Clipper we will be ready for them,” said Jim Green, Director of Planetary Science, at NASA Headquarters.



Researchers locate Android spyware that can steal WhatsApp messages




London, Jan 17: Researchers from Russian cyber security company Kaspersky Lab have found an Android spyware that has the ability to steal WhatsApp messages via Accessibility Services and connect an infected device to Wi-Fi networks controlled by cybercriminals.

Dubbed as “Skygofree”, the malware is claimed to have been found on malicious websites in Italy and is most likely an offensive security product sold by an Italy-based IT company that markets various surveillance wares, Kaspersky wrote in its official blog Securelist late on Tuesday.

Kaspersky said that on the basis of the observed samples and the signatures, it found that the early versions of this Android malware were developed by the end of 2014 and the campaign has remained active ever since.

According to tech website Arstechnia, the malware has undergone continuous development since its creation with the latest version having 48 different commands.

“High-end mobile malware is very difficult to identify and block and the developers behind “Skygofree” have clearly used this to their advantage: creating and evolving an implant that can spy extensively on targets without arousing suspicion,” The Telegraph quoted Alexey Firsh, Malware Analyst at Kaspersky, as saying.

The discovery is concerning because of its ability to record encrypted WhatsApp messages. It is able to do this by tricking an Android feature that was designed to help users with disabilities by making apps more accessible.

The spyware can read messages displayed on the screen through the Android Accessibility feature, including messages a victim sends on WhatsApp, Kaspersky said.

The spyware relies on several other exploits to gain privileged root access that allows it to bypass key Android security measures.

“Skygofree” is capable of taking pictures, capturing video and seizing call records, text messages, geolocation data, calendar events and business-related information stored in device memory.

It also includes the ability to automatically record conversations and noise when an infected device enters a location specified by the person operating the malware. The spyware also comes with an ability to recording Skype conversations.


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Now backup, restore Truecaller contacts to Google Drive




New Delhi, Jan 15: Popular communication app Truecaller on Monday launched “Truecaller Backup” feature for Android devices which allows users to backup and restore their contacts, call history, block list and settings to Google Drive.

“‘Truecaller Backup’ has been one of the most requested features by its users and will simplify a user’s transition to a new phone or SIM card by securely backing-up their contacts and settings and stored on your Google Drive, the company said in a statement.

The backup file will only be available for Google Drive users to start with but the feature will be expanded to other backup storage in future.

Users can also customise the frequency of backup between daily, weekly, monthly and on demand.

The upgrade enables the recovery of any lost data from Google Drive which the app can restore to its last saved state.

Another feature named “Truecaller Contacts” will let users search for contacts whose details they have not been saved but they have previously communicated with.

The feature contains all the contacts users have called or texted which makes it for them to recall and communicate with temporary contacts without saving them in their phonebook.


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Airtel join hands with Amazon to offer free Prime subscription




New Delhi, Jan 12: Bharti Airtel on Friday joined hands with e-commerce platform Amazon India to offer one year subscription of Amazon Prime free of cost to its postpaid subscribers.

The telecom giant said the offer will be available for its new and existing postpaid subscribers with an “Infinity plan” of Rs 499 or above.

“This move enables seamless access to Amazon Prime for Airtel Postpaid customers, providing a world of new video streaming content and more,” Akshay Sahi, Director and Head, Amazon Prime India, said.


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