SciTech Briefs

Josh Andah Apr 17, 2017

Breakthrough made in Zika detection

Scientists recently developed SHERLOCK, a new and more robust diagnostic system. SHERLOCK, a variation of CRISPR, is better at detecting diseases and distinguishing the Zika virus from its close variant Dengue.

Until now, CRISPR has been used to edit genomes. Scientists noticed its potential to detect viruses, but this functionality was not exploited until now. SHERLOCK is one million times better than the current means of Zika detection, ELISA, which searches for specific proteins. SHERLOCK works with RNA, which is found in a virus’ cell nuclei.

Overall, SHERLOCK means faster and more accurate detection of the Zika virus. The scientists who designed it are planning to commercialize it, making it widely available. They are even thinking of launching a startup around their newfound product; how- ever, before any of this can happen, SHERLOCK will have to be approved for use.

Source: Science Magazine

New leak exposes NSA hacking tools

In what seems like an episode of Mr. Robot, a hack- ing group TheShadowBrokers somehow obtained and released sensitive National Surveillance Agency (NSA) tools on hacking Windows computers and nancial net- works. The tool includes security breaches for older versions of Windows and the SWIFT banking network used for transferring money internationally.

The les are still available online on GitHub. Microsoft quickly released a patch to eliminate the vulnerability the hack revealed. A patch doesn’t solve the problem entirely, since users who do not install it are still at risk.

TheShadowBrokers group emerged in August last year. It’s unknown who the hackers are, but rumors link them to Russia. Their hacks are accompanied by purposefully broken English with vague messages; one such message reads, “Is being too bad nobody deciding to be paying theshadowbrokers.”

Source: The Verge

Oceans found on gas giants’ moons

NASA recently announced that Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus may be the best bets for life outside of Earth in our solar system. The announcement was made at NASA’s head- quarters in Washington D.C.
The Cassini probe analyzed the composition of water plumes rising out of Enceladus’ surface cracks.

Large amounts of hydrogen were found, suggesting that oceans of liquid water lie beneath the icy surface. “Now Enceladus is high on the list in the solar system for show- ing habitable conditions,” said Hunter Waite, leader of the Cassini Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer team at the Southwest Research Institute.

Plumes composed of salty water were found on Europa’s surface, albeit not as ubiquitous as is the case on Enceladus. The data Cassini sent back suggests that a pocket of warm water lies beneath the surface at the location of the plumes, ripe conditions for life.

Source: CNN