Equifax breach proves we cant leave it up to businesses to protect us

Equifax gets a cyber security score of zero.
Image: RHONA WISE/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

The Equifax data breach disaster is the last straw.

This can’t go on. 

We can’t let companies flout cyber security best practices and common sense, and we can no longer rely on Social Security numbers as a secure and discrete form of identification. Equifax hasn’t shared its own cybersecurity practices, but it’s fair to say even if they were indeed subpar, it’ll likely survive this storm longterm, even while victims suffer.

It’s time for some changes.

Equifax, a company best known for helping us check our credit scores and protecting consumers from identity theft(!) announced Thursday that it suffered a massive hack impacting 143 million Americans, that’s 44% of the population. The monumental security breach exposed millions and millions of personal data bits to hackers.

I would laugh if it weren’t so horrifying.

Equifax learned of the breach, which apparently came through its website (which is not nearly enough information about the cause), in late July, two months after it started. The company promises that the hackers did not access “core consumer or commercial credit reporting databases,” but they got everything that matters: Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers.

Holy hell.

There is, it seems, no end to these kinds of breaches. Hackers see every company as a target, and they’ve been wildly successful with Yahoo, Target, Sony, the Democratic National Committee, Verizon, HBO, Ashley Madison, and many others. 

Each time, the company (or group) apologizes, promises to fix it, protect their customers and do better. 

“This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do. I apologize to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Richard F. Smith in a statement.

Hahahahahahaha!

Disappointing? The heart of who you are? You’re a freaking identity protection company. Through your credit check business, you have access to much of our most precious financial information and then you ask us to pay more for identity protection. This event should destroy your business. It won’t, but it should.

You know why it won’t? Because these breaches haven’t shut down any of these businesses. Some face civil litigation and pay, some just endure a lot of public shaming. 

None of them face criminal prosecution. 

No one learns anything, certainly not the next company that will be hit. They just look on and breathe a sigh of relief that it’s not them.

Some new rules

Nothing will change here until we have national standards for data security and strong penalties for not applying the necessary technologies, checks, and balances.

Currently in the U.S., only a handful of industries, have federal, mandatory cyber security regulations. These include the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) for healthcare and the 2002 Homeland Security Act, which was enacted in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, for the federal government. Even in finance, which has other strict federal mandates for financial disclosures and internal controls, legislators struggle to implement sweeping cybersecurity rules.

Truth in financial reporting seems like a worthy goal, no less so than safety in data security. And yet there is virtually nothing to encourage general business to clean up its cybersecurity act. By comparison, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which brought sweeping financial management and corporate governance regulation to U.S. businesses in 2002, put in place hefty fines and prison terms for those who don’t follow it. Put simply, Sarbanes-Oxley mandates that company management must certify the accuracy of all financial statements and enact expensive internal controls. 

One reason for the lack of cybersecurity rules is that data security and best practices in business is an intricate web of legacy hardware and software, byzantine practices, and bottom line concerns. 

Companies running old operating systems have long been prime hack targets. Most of them continue running old software because 1) it costs money to upgrade and 2) the vertical industries they serve use old legacy software that doesn’t run on the newest platform or hardware.

It’s not just the software, though. Companies like Equifax, Yahoo, the Democratic National Committee, and others don’t follow best practices when it comes to cyber security. They don’t protect or back up their databases off site, they don’t train their employees to not open unknown emails, click on random links, or how to identify a social engineering attack. 

Cyber-security regulations with the same power as Sarbanes-Oxley and penalties would change that. It would stop companies from sitting back and hoping they can dodge the bullet much like young people avoid the doctor because they believe they can never get sick. 

In 2016, 28 states either had or were considering cyber security legislation, but most of it only considers state-controlled systems and services and doesn’t look at the businesses that manage consumer data.

If you think the idea of force-feeding cyber security to business is draconian, look at Microsoft Windows 10. This platform no longer asks you if it can upgrade, it only allows you to specify when. Why? So, home users can have the most up-to-date and secure systems. Microsoft doesn’t even leave cyber security in the hands of third-party companies any more (you can still buy it if you want). Instead, there’s Windows Defender. It’s free, always up-to-date and running 24/7 on Windows 10 PC.

Ideal legislation to regulate cybersecurity would create the foundation for rating agencies to keep track of companies’ cybersecurity prowess. So Equifax would get an Equifax. The quality of a company’s cyber security across a wide variety of metrics (up to date systems, encrypted data, company wide training) would result in a score, much like one’s credit score; 1 would be the worst and 5 would be the best. Simple.

If I were writing this legislation, I would also tie it to the winding down of the Social Security number as an identity tool. Numbers are flat, discoverable things and the fact that we use a combination of nine digits as the skeleton key for life stuff should be a grave concern to everyone.

We have options. Biometric security is growing by leaps and bounds. Facial recognition on the level I have with Windows Hello can’t be fooled with a picture or someone who looks almost just like me. Iris scanning is even more foolproof and now on smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8. We have heartbeat sensors that might eventually be used to recognize the unique rhythm of each heart. 

A new Cyber Security Act, with some real regulatory teeth (read penalties) could set a timeline for retiring Social Security numbers, giving businesses and people five years to change systems and upgrade to biometrics.

Leaving these things to chance and the whims of business, which care more about money than they do about you, is no longer sustainable. 

This must end.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/09/08/equifax-hack-cyber-security-regulation/

The iPhone 8 might cost up to $1,200

The iPhone 8 (or Edition or X, take your pick) could weigh down your bank account.
Image: loris ravera/mashable

Apple is finally slated to reveal the highly-anticipated deluxe anniversary iPhone on Sept. 12, and you will want to buy it immediately — but the sticker price could wind up dampening your excitement for the phone’s next-gen features. 

Rumors claim the iPhone 8 (or Edition or X, depending on who you trust) will be much more expensive than any of its predecessors, pushing the starting cost up to at least the $1,000 mark. That means the top-of-the-line model will cost a whopping $1,200, for anyone who wants more than just the basic level of storage on their deluxe device. 

Leaker Benjamin Geskin tweeted out a pricing tier for the new iPhones, citing information from a friend who has a friend at Apple. 

The sourcing sounds sketchy, but Geskin is far from the first to suggest that the next iPhone will cost more than $1,000. Apple insider John Gruber suggested the deluxe new device would debut at the price point back in July, speculating that Apple could justify the cost by showcasing next-level tech that will be common in future iPhones in a premium device today. 

A New York Times report also backed the idea of a starting price “around $999,” for the iPhone, citing anonymous sources who had been briefed on the device. That’s a much more reliable report than just the whispers of friend of a friend — but others aren’t so convinced that Apple will ask such a high price for a phone.

UBS analysts Steven Milunovich and Benjamim Wilson wrote in an investors note that they “questioned the logic” of Apple putting such a premium on an iPhone. They claim instead that the company will roll out the deluxe device at a $900 starting point for a 64GB model, with a 256GB version eclipsing the $1,000 mark. 

The analysts also noted that Apple typically takes some cues from its competitors, and with Samsung’s latest offerings starting well under $1,000 — the new Galaxy Note 8 starts at $930 unlocked — there’s little incentive for Apple to set the bar any higher.   

None of these projections questioned the features expected in the deluxe iPhone, which include a new edge-to-edge OLED display, a nearly bezel-free screen with no home button, and a new sensor system for facial recognition. 

Speculation over the price of the iPhone is nothing new for the rumor cycle, with reports flying about the extra costs for as long as there have been rumors about a new OLED screen. Now that we’re a week away from the big reveal, however, those projected costs are all the more pressing, since we’re finally closer to getting a shot to put down the cash for one of our own.  

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/09/05/iphone-8-price-tier-rumors-/

Everything we expect to see at Apple’s big iPhone 8 reveal

Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Apple’s next iPhones are almost here.

We’re just days away from what will be Apple’s most anticipated reveal in recent memory. On Tuesday morning, CEO Tim Cook will take the stage at the company’s Steve Jobs Theatre in Cupertino and show off three new iPhones. 

We’ll also get our first look at the next Apple Watch, Apple TV, and hear the latest updates on iOS and macOS High Sierra.

Beyond that, the event carries special meaning for Apple. Not only is it the company’s first public event in the theatre named for its storied founder, it’s also the 10-year anniversary of the original iPhone launch. Given that extra significance, we could be in for a tribute to that original launch or to Jobs himself. 

iPhone 8 or iPhone Edition?

There’s no question this is Apple’s most anticipated iPhone yet. The company’s been trying to keep its exact details under wraps, so of course we have a pretty solid idea of what it’s going to look like, thanks to a never-ending stream of leaks and rumors.

Physically, it’s expected to be about the same size as an iPhone 7, but with an edge-to-edge OLED display that’s bigger than what is currently on the iPhone 7 Plus. It won’t have a home button or Touch ID, and will likely use some kind of facial recognition tech to unlock.

A mockup of a new ‘copper gold’ color Apple is rumored to be introducing for the iPhone 8.

Image: mashable/raymond wong

Wireless and rapid-charging will be supported, and it will have dual rear-facing cameras — likely equipped with a depth sensor to better enable all those new augmented reality apps. It will probably come in a new color and cost at least $1,000, maybe much more

One thing we still aren’t sure of, though, is the name. 

Though most people, us included, have been calling it the iPhone 8, there’s a good chance Apple will eschew its typical naming conventions given that this phone marks the tenth anniversary of the original iPhone. iPhone X, iPhone Edition, and iPhone Pro have all been posited. 

As we get closer to the reveal, iPhone Edition is looking more and more likely but, as with so many Apple rumors, it’s hard to say with any certainty (my favorite dark horse candidate is still, simply, iPhone.) 

iPhone 7S + iPhone 7S Plus

Again, we can’t be sure of the name as some reports have indicated the iPhone 7’s immediate successor will be called “iPhone 8.” Regardless of what it’s called, this pair of phones will be much closer to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

The iPhone 7S and 7S Plus are expected to look much like the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus .

Image: Aflo/REX/Shutterstock

The displays will likely be the same as the iPhone 7 line — no edge-to-edge display here. Though it’d be tempting to think of these phones as the compromise buy compared with the third ultra-premium iPhone, there will be some noticeable improvements.

The 7S and 7S Plus are expected to ship with the same rapid and wireless charging as the iPhone 8, but other than that it’s unlikely to be a major departure from the iPhone 7. It will have an LCD display, a home button, dual rear-facing cameras, and a starting price similar to that of the iPhone 7. 

It probably won’t come in any new colors, and may not even be available with a rose gold or jet black finish.

Apple Watch Series 3

While the three new iPhones will likely hog much of the spotlight on Tuesday, there’s other new hardware to look forward to, including what is likely a new Apple Watch. While it’s not usually the company’s sexiest product, Series 3 sounds like it’s set to be a big revamp.

Series 3 sounds like it’s set to be a big revamp

Most significantly, Apple is expected to add LTE connectivity to its wearable, marking the first time the Apple Watch can truly be independent of your iPhone. This could also have big implications for its fitness-tracking abilities, which we learned more about when Men’s Health visited Apple’s testing lab.

Apple will launch watchOS 4 alongside its new wearable, and it features a new mode for high intensity interval training. The new OS will even be able to connect directly to some types of gym equipment. 

On the outside, the new Apple Watch could have a new screen design, if Apple-watcher John Gruber’s sources are to be believed (Gruber himself says he “wouldn’t bet the house” on the rumor, so, grain of salt). But if turns out to be correct, it’d be the first major redesign since Apple first launched its watch in 2015.

4K Apple TV

As if a new Apple Watch and three-piece set of iPhones isn’t enough, we’re also due for a new Apple TV. Here, it’s not the design of the set-top box that has us excited (though expect it to at least be slimmer and speedier than the current 4th gen model released back in 2015).

The latest box will finally add support for 4K and HDR content. Given that there’s more 4K content available than ever (and HDR is slowly gaining ground), this will be a very welcome (and, frankly, overdue) update.

macOS High Sierra and iOS 11

Apple’s fall launch isn’t all about the hardware. MacOS High Sierra, which comes with a nicely revamped Photos app and a ton of under-the-hood improvements, will likely make its official debut.

Likewise, it looks like iOS 11 will finally be ready for everyone. We know most of what’s in the update, thanks to months of beta builds, but there are still a few unknowns. Apple has yet to reveal the specifics of its P2P messaging service for its Messages app, beyond what we briefly saw on the WWDC stage. 

Apple’s new P2P payments feature for Messages.

Image: apple

And while we we’ve seen a lot of ARKit-enabled augmented reality apps, there’s still a lot we haven’t heard about yet. Exactly how the new iPhone cameras will enhance iOS’ augmented reality features is also unclear. 

As always with Apple, nothing is certain until Tim Cook steps onto that stage. A few surprises are always on the table. Check back this Tuesday for Mashable’s live coverage from Cupertino.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/09/09/apple-iphone-8-event-what-to-expect/

Why youll probably want the next Apple Watch

The next version of the Apple Watch could be a game changer.
Image: Getty Images

Apple is getting ready to launch a new version of the Apple Watch that doesn’t need to be paired with an iPhone in order to work, according to Bloomberg. The report, published earlier this month, claims the next version of the watch will include an LTE chip for internet connectivity and suggests the watch’s square casing may receive a radical new design.

If true, the next-generation Apple Watch’s features could make it the first truly must-have wearable product, finally offering people the right balance of connectivity, usefulness, and fashion credibility that they’ve been asking for.

The Watch wasn’t a breakout success initially, but over time, Apple has correctly adjusted to consumer sentiment and found a great niche for the product. The first iteration was marketed as a general smartwatch for everyone, but as excitement for the shiny new Apple product wore off, the company pivoted to emphasize health and fitness features, like a built-in GPS and water resistance. That shift led to stronger sales that appeared to put Apple atop the entire wearables market.

The third soon-to-be-released version of the Watch will likely continue this health and fitness focus that much was clear from the preview of watchOS 4 we saw at WWDC earlier this year. But it could also make the Watch even more useful for everyone in their everyday lives, making it a must-have for all of us in the iEcosystem.

Connectivity, everywhere

The most exciting rumor about the next-generation Apple Watch is, without question, standalone internet connectivity. Many market analysts believe that the addition of LTE connections will finally convince consumers that wearables are worth their time (and more importantly, money), giving them the ability to use their devices as more than a glorified extension of their smartphone. The feature could be the key for the market’s growth as it enters a “new phase,” in which sales are projected to double by 2021.

The new Apple Watch won’t be the first smartwatch to have standalone internet connectivity, however; the Samsung Gear 3 offered a mass-market 4G LTE-connected smartwatch and was launched last year.

But introducing LTE connectivity to the best-selling device on the market from the most visible company in the world will instantly bring the feature to a wider audience, letting Apple play off its image as an innovator even if Samsung was there first. This happens with the iPhone nearly every product cycle, and the gigantic base of Apple fans eat it up. There’s little reason to believe the Watch would be much different.

There are some concerns about how functional Apple’s standalone wearable could be in its first iteration. Screen size, battery life, and memory are already concerns for such a small device adding LTE chips and giving it even more processing power could make those problems even worse.

The Watch won’t ever be used for major tasks, though. It’s more likely to be used when production is secondary, like, say, when wearers’ hands are otherwise occupied. Runners and other exercisers will be relieved to ditch their phones and retain the ability to send texts, download apps, and stream music online. And a more general audience will be interested in boosting productivity, like when they first started using an iPhone.

LTE-connection will make the Watch all the more attractive to those of us who can’t spend a moment without being connected, which is one of the most important requirements of a gadget these days.

A fresh new look

The rumored new form factor for the Watch shouldn’t be taken lightly as a majorly attractive feature that could make it a must-have device. There’s even a rumor that Apple could introduce microLED screen technology with the new Watch, which could make it even brighter and better looking than the current OLED setup.

Smartwatches have previously fallen in the middle of a strange space between fashion and function, but the scales could be tipping toward looks as a potential determining factor for general consumers. Android Wear devices from major tech companies have largely struggled since the OS was updated earlier this year but fashion companies haven’t been deterred from using the platform, since their customers are worried about looks first, performance second.

If Apple, a famously design-centric company, begins to really treat its Watch like the fashion plate it has the potential to be, its general appeal could go through the roof as hypebeasts and fashionistas lust after the new form factor.

That type of sentiment doesn’t apply to most gadgets, where one generation replaces the last because it works better but in fashion, where aesthetics are the most important quality, consumers can justify buying a new model on looks alone. There’s more of an incentive to upgrade to the new redesigned Watch to go along with your Series 2 for Apple fans, too, giving them an opportunity collect them all and cycle between looks.

Some might be leery of Apple’s movement toward a fitness and fashion focused wearable (Mashable tech editor Pete Pachal chief among them), but the company will find a more receptive general audience by crafting a sexy, always-connected Watch.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/08/14/apple-watch-3-must-have/

Let this fitness tracker motivate you to get moving

Just to let you know, if you buy something featured here, Mashable might earn an affiliate commission.

Theres nothing better than being in shape. It prolongs your life, it makes you feel better, and it can even boost your mood. Unfortunately, its really hard to get in shape, and even harder to maintain it.

Luckily, there are some great fitness trackers that can help you achieve your goals like the Moov Now Personal Coach & Workout Tracker. This award-winning tracker actively monitors your bodys motion to ensure that you get the most out of every workout. It even gives you personalized feedback to correct your form and help minimize your risk of injury.

But what really separates Moov Now from the competition is its coaching. Moov Now features a real-time audio coach that gives you positive feedback throughout your workout so youre always pumped to conquer that next hill or set a new personal record. Its the perfect training tool for high-intensity workouts like circuit training, running, cycling, swimming, and cardio boxing.

Moov Now also shows you how to work in proper intervals so you can recover safely, gain results faster, and gradually level up to more intensive workouts. Plus, it constantly changes your workouts so you stay motivated and dont plateau.

With a tracker like this, its much more likely that you’ll actually get your butt off the couch.Moov Now normally costs $79.95, but you can get it for just $49.95, a savings of 37 percent. Buy it here.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/07/29/a-fitness-tracker-thats-also-a-personal-trainer/

TrueFace.AI is here to catch the facial recognition tricksters

TrueFace.AI knows if it's looking at a real face or just a photo of one.
Image: ian waldie/Getty Images

Facial recognition technology is more prevalent than ever before. It’s being used to identify people in airports, put a stop to child sex trafficking, and shame jaywalkers.

But the technology isn’t perfect. One major flaw: It sometimes can’t tell the difference between a living person’s face and a photo of that person held up in front of a scanner.

TrueFace.AI facial recognition is trying to fix that flaw. Launched on Product Hunt in June, it’s meant to detect “picture attacks.”

The company originally created Chui in 2014 to work with customized smart homes. Then they realized clients were using it more for security purposes, and TrueFace.AI was born.

Shaun Moore, one of the creators of TrueFace.AI, gave us some more insight into the technology.

“We saw an opportunity to expand our reach further and support use cases from ATM identity verification to access control for data centers,” said Moore. “The only way we could reach scale across industries would be by stripping out the core tech and building a platform that allows anyone to use the technology we developed.”

“We knew we had to focus on spoof detection and how we could lower false positives.”

TrueFace.AI can detect when a face or multiple faces are present in a frame and get 68 raw points for facial recognition. But its more unique feature is spoof detection, which can tell real faces from photos.

“While working on our hardware, we tested and used every major facial recognition provider. We believe that doing that (testing every solution available) and applying facial recognition to a very hard use case, like access control and the smart home, allowed us to make a better, more applicable solution,” said Moore. “All of these steps led us to understand how we could effectively deploy technology like ours in a commercial environment.”

They made their final product by using deep learning. They trained classifiers with thousands of attack examples they collected over the years, and liked the results.

A “freemium” package is available to encourage the development community that helped TrueFace.AI come up with a solution. Beyond that, the Startup Package is $99 per month while the Scale Package is $199 per month. An Enterprise Plan is available via a custom agreement with TrueFace.AI.

While Moore couldn’t divulge exactly which companies are using the technology, he did say some of them are in the banking, telecommunications, and health care industries.

It’s a service that could become increasingly valuable as companies turn to facial recognition technology.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/07/07/trueface-ai-facial-recognition-photo-attack-detection/

North Korean hackers blamed for worldwide WannaCry cyberattack

Image: mashable

North Korean hackers are allegedly behind the widespread ransomware attack that hit the UK’s National Health Service, affecting computers and hospitals and doctors’ offices last month, according to the BBC.

The hackers belong to a group known as Lazarus, who is believed to have targeted Sony Pictures in 2014 as it planned to release the movie The Interview.

They used a ransomware program called WannaCry which hit multiple countries across the globe, locking up computers and ransoming access in exchange for large Bitcoin payments.

The NHS wasn’t specifically targeted in the attack and the attack affected organisations from across a range of sectors.

The claim that the ransomware attack originated from North Korea was originally made in May by Google security researcher Neel Mehta, who posted a cryptic set of characters on Twitter together with the hashtag #WannaCryptAttribution.

Kaspersky Lab researchers explained that Mehta has posted two similar code samples, one from an early version of WannaCry, and one originating from Lazarus.

Mehta allegedly found evidence that a variant of WannaCry shares code with the 2015 version of Cantopee, a backdoor used by Lazarus Group.

Moreover, WannaCry’s code contained a kill switch a way to stop the malware from spreading indicating that whoever is behind the attack is not (purely) financially motivated.

Another cybersecurity expert, Adrian Nish, who leads the cyber threat intelligence team at BAE, also noticed the overlap with previous code developed by Lazarus.

“It seems to tie back to the same code-base and the same authors,” Nish told the BBC. “The code-overlaps are significant.”

Lazarus Group is highly sophisticated and very active, according to Kaspersky, who in a blog post called the scale of the group’s operation “shocking”.

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), who is part of the GCHQ, led the international investigation.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/06/16/wannacry-ransomware-attack-north-korea-lazarus-group/

Apple continues to push into healthcare, this time with developers

Developers working on healthcare will be involved at WWDC this year.
Image: christian BRUNA/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

Working with Apple every day, as Apple sees it, could help keep the doctor awayor at least well informed.

Apple’s push into healthcare is readying its second gear, and this week’s Worldwide Developers Conference is just the start.

Apple started its push into healthcare when it introduced the Apple Watch in 2015. The wearable device made fitness, and then health software, and then medical research, more central to Apple’s mission.

Since then, Apple introduced ResearchKit in 2015 and CareKit in 2016. The two open-sourced platforms, both included under Apple’s HealthKit category, let nontraditional developers without total coding expertise build apps for both medical research and consumer health. Projects so far have included an app from Penn Medicine for the rare disease Sarcoidosis, an app from researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study postpartum depression, and even end-to-end encryption tools available to health apps on the platform.

This year, more of them than ever could be developers working in healthcare, helping to build Apple’s toolsand its growing reputationas a platform for medical research, health management, and caregiving.

There could also be something big in store for this year’s WWDC. Last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook was spotted wearing a wearable device that tracked blood sugar a sign of Apple’s continued interested in the healthcare space.

Apple likes to talk up its developer community. The tech giant claimed last month that it had created 2 million jobs1.5 million of which were jobs in the “App Store ecosystem,” aka not exactly working for Apple. A few days ago, Apple touted that developers had earned $70 billion through the App Store.

Apple won’t provide those kinds of numbers just for its HealthKit apps just yet. The company says that “millions of people” have used “hundreds of ResearchKit apps.”

But moving into healthcare certainly has an upside for Apple. Wearables and health apps give the company a foothold on a $2.8 trillion industryand access to more data from millions of consumers. It also helps Apple sell more of Apple’s core products.

“Their participation in the market is still fringe. It’s mostly about trying to make devices more attractive to people,” said Andy Hargreaves, an Apple analyst at Pacific Crest Securities.

Penn Medicine’s Sarcoidosis app represents exactly how Apple hopes its platform will work. Dan O’Connor, a medical student at Penn at the time, developed the app in partnership with Misha Rosenbach, an assistant professor of dermatology at Penn Medicine. O’Connor had taught himself a few programming languages and developed apps in the healthcare space before using ResearchKit for this project.

The app has had about 900 downloads and drawn about 500 consented participants for a study. Those numbers might sound miniscule compared to the reach of Apple, but it’s already one of the largest studies ever for the rare disease, O’Connor said. Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory condition that affects the lungs, skin, eyes, heart, and brain, and is diagnosed in 11 to 36 of every 100,000 Americans each year.

Through the app, researchers are studying both whether a digital study of a rare disease with patients spread throughout the country and the worldcan even work, as well as the disease itself. The app provides its users information about Sarcoidosis that their local doctors might not be able to give them and then asks them to take surveys about their condition and general health.

“ResearchKit, compared to what we were envisioning initially, enabled us to do more than we ever imagined we could do,” O’Connor said (in what is probably Apple’s dream blurb for the ResearchKit website). “Our initial vision of the app was very simpleto do mostly mobile and web-type programming, simple pages with information and a survey or two. ResearchKit enabled us to tap into data.”

Apple hasn’t revealed any of its specific healthcare plans before WWDC starts on Monday. Most of the conference probably won’t focus on medical research… unless it convinces more people watching to buy a new Apple Watch.

“The data is important, but it’s not important in the way it would be to Google, Facebook, or Amazon,” Hargreaves said. “The Apple business is built around making devices and software.”

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/06/05/apple-healthcare-wwdc-apps/

The teenage developer who quit school to focus on coding

Image: getty images/

Like many developers about to attend their first major developer conference, Amanda Southworth is looking forward to the week-long event. Besides Monday’s keynote, when Apple will unveil the next version of iOS, MacOS and maybe even some new hardware, there will be deep dives into new developer tools and countless networking opportunities.

That’s enough for any developer to get excited about, but Southworth is not like most other developers.

At just 15 years old, Southworth has the distinction of being among the youngest to attend Apple’s developer conference, which awarded her one of its WWDC Scholarships a program that helps “talented students and STEM organization members,” travel to and attend the event.

Though she’s been teaching herself to code for the better part of six years she says it wasn’t until the seventh grade when she really began to throw herself into her coding projects and other “nerd stuff.” Soon, she was spending as much as 30 hours a week to her various projects: first building robots and programming micro-controllers; then picking up web and iOS development.

She was 12 and working on all this on top of her schoolwork. So after about two years of a lot of coding and far too little sleep she decided to leave public school and take up home schooling, which would allow her to spend more time on coding without sacrificing her health.

“Now I do coding about five hours a day and schoolwork for about two hours of the day,” she says.

Much like her, Southworth’s apps are not what you may expect from a young developer. Her first app, AnxietyHelper, is entirely devoted to providing resources for young people facing mental health issues. It has information about conditions like anxiety and depression, guidelines for dealing with anger and panic attacks, as well as links to crisis hotlines.

Image: courtesy amanda southworth

Amanda Southworth was once of the recipients of Apple’s WWDC Scholarships this year.

Image: courtesy amanda southworth

“Basically it’s just to make your life easier because dealing with mental illness as it is sucks,” she says. “This app is kind of reaching out and saying ‘hey, I’m sorry you’re in this predicament but I want to help make this better.’

It’s a message that’s resonated with her peers. The app has around a thousand users and the app’s Tumblr page, where she regularly posts tips on self-care, uplifting memes and words of encouragement, and the occasional baby animals photo, has more than 3,500 followers.

I’m very open and I want to help people

Southworth, who describes herself as a kind of “motherly figure” to her friends and social media followers, says she regularly talks on the phone and exchanges messages with her Tumblr followers and those who use her app.

“I’m very open and I want to help people,” she says of the interactions.

It’s this drive of helping those around her that lead her to create her second app, Verena. Like AnxietyHelper, it’s also focused on supporting young people who may be in distress. But instead of mental health, Verena offers tools for people in the LGBT community who need help feeling safe a kind of “security system for the LGBT community.”

A poster for Anxiety Helper.

Image: courtesy amanda southworth

A diagram Amanda made to help her plan out how her app will work.

Image: courtesy amanda southworth

Seeing her friends many of whom are part of the LGBT community worry the day after the presidential election in November 2016 inspired her to create the app. “That day I saw all of my friends crying and it was really upsetting, you know, when people you love are scared,” she says. “So I decided, I’m going to make something so that I know they’re safe.”

I decided I’m going to make something so that I know they’re safe

Verena, which takes its name from a German name that means “protector,” allows users to find police stations, hospitals, shelters, and other places of refuge in times of need. They can also designate a list of contacts to be alerted via the app in an emergency.

Conscious that some of the app’s users may not be able to be open with their families or those around them about their identity, Southworth included some clever features that help users disguise the app on their phones lest they be caught with an app for LGBT people on their phone.

Go into “incognito” mode and and the app transforms into an app that looks like it’s meant to provide help with math homework (users can get back to the real app by logging back in.) And should somebody need help while in incognito mode, they can hold down the log-in button to automatically send an alert to their contacts.

Image: verena

Though she says Verena is her main priority right now she’s working with translators to make the app available in 10 different languages her ultimate goal is to work in the space industry. SpaceX is her number one choice

“I relate strongly to Elon Musk,” she says of the notoriously hyper-focused CEO.

But with college still two years away she’s content to focus on AnxietyHelper, Verena and her other projects for now in between studying for finals and the rest of her schoolwork.

Even though she sees herself as ultimately having a career in embedded systems, rather than iOS development, she sees WWDC as something of a turning point for her.

“I’m looking forward to meeting people who do the same thing as me because everybody tells me I’m really crazy for like just dropping school and going for this with all of my might.

“But I know there’s other people who do this and I want to meet those people. I want to be inspired and I want to make my app better, so I guess this will help me.”

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/06/04/amanda-aouthworth-wwdc-profile/

How a Silicon Valley veteran created an app that 400 nonprofits use to help refugees

Image: Mashable Composite; RefAid / Trellyz

Shelley Taylor calls herself a Silicon Valley veteran. Veteran, she tells me, “means old.”

Raised in Palo Alto, Taylor has an extensive tech background. She isn’t an engineer, but she wrote the “bible of user interface” back in 1995 at the dawn of website creation, inventing a lot of the language still used to this day to describe websites and ecommerce. She’s launched a bevy of startups and advised companies like AOL, Cisco, Microsoft, and Yahoo in their early days.

“My approach to being a technology founder, which I pretty much have always been, is starting with the user experience and then using that to do product design development,” she says.

That’s exactly what she’s doing with her latest project, albeit with a more humanitarian twist. Taylor is behind the Refugee Aid app, or RefAid, which connects refugees with crucial services when and where they need them most. More than 400 of the largest aid organizations in the worldfrom the Red Cross to Save the Children to Doctors of the Worldall use it.

In many cases, they even rely on it.

Through a simple, easy-to-use interface, the free mobile app uses geolocation to show migrants, refugees, and aid workers a map of the closest services for food, shelter, health care, legal help, and more. Aid organizations can communicate with each otherand touch base with the refugees they’ve helpedthrough a web-based content management system, as well as update and keep track of the services they offer.

The app began as Taylor’s passion project in early 2016. It’s an offshoot of her company Trellyz, formerly known as Digital Fan Clubs, which launched four years ago to help people manage their brands and monetize their fans on Facebook. But about 18 months ago, Taylor, who has lived in Europe on and off for the last 25 years, felt compelled to do something a bit different.

“I was impacted by the horrible images, and just felt a sense of frustration. I just thought, ‘What can we do?'”

“I was struck, like many other people, by the refugee crisis,” she says. “In Europe, it’s much more prominent. Where I am in Italy, just looking out over the sea where I am, there are people who have been drowning trying to get to Europe, to safety. And so I was impacted by the horrible images, and just felt a sense of frustration. I just thought, ‘What can we do?'”

Since Digital Fan Clubs already created geolocation-based apps with real-time data, Taylor wondered how they could adapt that technology for refugees, who she knew were already using smartphones. So she asked a number of large organizations like the UNHCR and the British Red Cross if an app like RefAid would be helpful. They all had the same answer: “That would be great.”

Over the course of just one weekend, Taylor and her team created RefAid using the company’s app creation platform technology. It launched in February 2016, first in the UK and Italytwo countries where refugees can have very different needs. In the UK, many refugees have already reached their destination, and are focused more on integrating into a new society. Many refugees in Italy, meanwhile, are just arriving off boats after extremely harrowing, dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean.

Image: RefAid / Trellyz

Image: RefAid / Trellyz

Nel Vandevannet, director of Belgian projects at Doctors of the World, and Mark Forsyth, refugee support services coordinator at the British Red Cross, both say RefAid has proven extremely useful for their organizations. Spreading awareness of their services has been difficult, but the app has streamlined the entire process.

“I think the application is perfect for very vulnerable groups of people.”

In Belgium, where many refugees are quickly passing through to get to the UK and other parts of Europe, Vandevannet says the app has helped Doctors of the World explain to them their rights. And, in many cases, it helps point them in the direction of life-saving health care. It’s not always easy to translate this kind of vital information and convince refugees of what they need, but tapping into their smartphoneswhich Vandevannet calls “their compasses”has helped develop more trust between aid workers and refugees.

“I think the application is perfect for very vulnerable groups of people, who, because of bad experiences, repression, violence they had through their traveling … don’t really go to services,” she says. “The application is something they can control. If the police would give information, [refugees] would never go. Because they would think that it’s controlled by police, you would have to give your identity, and so on.”

The app protects refugees’ identities by only requiring an email address, not names or other personal information. There’s also a double-login function that protects their accounts, in case they ever lose their phones.

According to Forsyth, the British Red Cross has mainly used RefAid as a directory of relevant services across the country. It enables them to search for up-to-date information about services, such as locations and opening times.

“It’s not uncommon for refugees and asylum seekers to be moved all around the country,” he says. “So it’s really useful that RefAid covers the whole country, so we can contact services in other cities and refer people on.”

RefAid is now available in 14 countries: Greece, the UK, Ireland, Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Malta, Turkey, and the U.S.

They weren’t planning to launch the app in the U.S.at least not so soon. But as one of his first acts as president, Donald Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 27 to create a 90-day travel ban for citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, as well as a 120-day suspension of the U.S. refugee program. (The ban was ultimately blocked by lower courts, a ruling that a federal appeals court upheld just last week.)

“Because I’m an American, I was so upset by the Trump [travel] ban,” Taylor says. “I’m an expat living in Europe, and I’m so proud of our American history of welcoming immigrants. I thought about it all weekend, and I thought, ‘Well, we just have to do it.'”

She invited her team and a group of friends to her house on the following Monday, and they all got on their phones and called as many organizations with real-time legal services as they could. They wanted to make sure that people who were being detained had access to essential phone numbers. Even though the ACLU and others had set up free legal resources at international airports, many people couldn’t even get out of customs to reach them.

“I thought, if we could at least make this available to people so that they can make phone calls, that would be a great start for RefAid in the U.S.,” Taylor says.

In just that one day, RefAid went live in 21 U.S. cities, focusing on legal services in areas with big international airports.

RefAid isn’t the only app on the market helping refugees and immigrants at various stages in their journeys. But it’s especially novel because of the unexpected problems it solves for nonprofits overall: managing their resources.

What Taylor and her team didn’t realize is that most of these organizations didn’t have centralized databases of the services they were offering. Information on the different categories of aid they provided and what satellite offices offered was all in aid workers’ heads, or on pieces of paper filed away in drawers.

“Because it’s on my phone, it’s available wherever, whenever, even if I’m not in the office.”

“The first organization that said they would love to use our system said, ‘We’ll get back to you when we’ve collected all of the services.’ I asked, ‘Well, how many are there?’ And they said, ‘We don’t really know,'” Taylor says.

That same organization, which Taylor didn’t name, had 60 offices in the UK. It took them two-and-a-half months to compile everything and give her an Excel spreadsheet with 300 lines of services.

Forsyth says it’s been a similar case for the British Red Cross.

“Services are changing all the time, especially these days, so paper and PDF directories are virtually obsolete from the second they are made,” he says. “RefAid is updated regularly, and because it’s on my phone, it’s available wherever, whenever, even if I’m not in the office.”

It was a revelation, and Taylor saw a market opportunity. She dropped everything else, changed the name of Digital Fan Clubs to Trellyz, and pivoted toward exclusively helping nonprofits manage their resources.

Now, the company is applying RefAid’s technology to a new app called LifeSpots, in which all nonprofits can compile their services by location, helping people find the assistance they need as well as local volunteer opportunities. It’s expected to launch within the next month. Trellyz also plans to do the same thing for cities, offering another app for local governments to list and manage the public services they offer.

RefAid is updated every few weeks or couple of months, as more nonprofits use it and provide feedback. Even governments are starting to hop on board Washington State uses the app to help distribute information about local services available to refugees, as well as the UK’s National Health Service and cities across Europe.

Doctors of the World is also working with Trellyz to integrate a “medical passport” into RefAid, allowing refugees to put their own medical histories in the app. It’s all secure, staying in the hands of users, and solves the problem of not being able to keep such important paperwork with them as they’re traveling.

Ultimately, it all comes down to what Taylor said about focusing on user experience understanding who’s using the app and then developing it to maximize the impact. And with RefAid, that human-centered approach is clear as soon as you register. You immediately get a short, two-sentence email sent to your inbox.

“Thanks for registering for the RefAid app,” the email reads. “We all hope that you find some support near you, and that you have a safe journey.”

With that attitude and the technology behind it to create real, positive change, RefAid is quickly becoming a must-have addition to any refugee’s phone.

WATCH: This is what refugees face when coming to America

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/29/refaid-refugee-aid-app-shelley-taylor/