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Extra vigilance required to combat growing sophistication of phishing attacks

In this age of cyberattacks and data breaches, most email users are on the lookout for, and understand the potential risks of, messages and attachments coming from unfamiliar sources.

However, that vigilance alone might not be enough to keep you protected, according to new research from Virginia Tech that examines the growing sophistication of phishing attacks.

Along with savvier writing, now enterprising hackers can spoof the email address of a trusted friend, co-worker, or business and send forged emails to victims. With the right amount of social engineering, it’s easy to obtain crucial and sensitive information from an unsuspecting recipient with a simple request.

“These kinds of phishing attacks are especially dangerous,” said Gang Wang, an assistant professor of computer science in Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering. “Technology changes so quickly, and now a hacker can obtain your information easily. This information can be used to commit cyberattacks that run the gamut from being mildly annoying, like having to deal with a checking account that has been hacked, to serious consequences of physical life and death if information, for example, to a hospital’s computer mainframe is obtained.”

One of Wang’s research areas is currently focused on studying how to thwart these attacks. He will present a paper on his recent findings at the 27th Annual USENIX Security Symposium in Baltimore, Maryland, in August.

Phishing attacks have involved nearly half of the more than 2,000 confirmed security breaches reported by Verizon in the last two years. These breaches cause leakage of billions of records and cost millions of dollars to rectify depending on the industry affected and its geographic location.

Spoofing, where the attacker impersonates a trusted entity, is a critical step in executing phishing attacks. Today’s email system has no mechanism to fully prevent spoofing.

“The SMTP system we are using today was designed without security in mind,” said Wang. “That’s something that has plagued the system since its inception.”

Security measures were put into place to guard against spoofing attacks after the fact and rely on email providers to implement strategies using SMTP extensions, such as SPF (sender policy framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication), to authenticate the sender. Measurements conducted by the research team in 2018 indicate that among Alexa’s top 1 million domains, 45 percent have SPF, 5 percent have DMARC, and even fewer are configured correctly or strictly.

For the study, the research teams’ methodology was centered on setting up end-to-end spoofing experiments on popular email providers that are used by billions of users. They did this by setting up user accounts under the target email services as the email receiver and using an experimental server to send forged emails, with a fake sender address, to the receiver account.

The spoofed sender address is the key to the study as this is a critical part of the authentication process. If the spoofed domain has a valid SPF, DKIM, or DMARC record, then the receiver, in theory, is able to detect spoofing.

Spoofing can be done using existing contacts or the same email provider as the intended recipient.

To this end, researchers used five different types of email content for the study: a blank email, a blank email with a benign URL, a blank email with a benign attachment, a benign email with actual content, and a phishing email with content that impersonates technical support to notify and rectify a security breach by being directed to a URL.

In total, the study used 35 popular email services, such as Gmail, iCloud, and Outlook. The researchers found that email providers tend to favor email delivery over security. When an email failed authentication, most email providers, including Gmail and iCloud, still delivered the email as long as the protocol of the spoofed domain was not to reject it.

The researchers also found that only six email services have displayed security indicators on forged emails, including Gmail, Protonmail, Naver,,, and Only four email services consistently display security indicators on their mobile email apps. Human factors still remain a weak link in the end-to-end process, so the research team framed the study to understand users’ email habits.

In Wang’s study, the click-through rate for people who received the email with a security indicator was 17.9 percent. Without a security cue, the rate was 26.1 percent. Because not everyone who received a phishing email opened the email, the team also calculated the click-through rate on all users who opened the email, resulting in higher rates of 48.9 percent and 37.2 percent.

Recommendations from the study include adoption of SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to authenticate emails, and if an email is delivered to an inbox, email providers should place a security indicator, such as Google’s red question mark on the email, to warn users of the potential risks.

The team also recommended consistency among email providers for different interfaces. Currently mobile users are exposed to higher level of risks due to the lack of security indicators. And finally, the study recommended that misleading elements, such as a “profile photo” and email “history,” be disabled on suspicious emails.

With so many emails being delivered on a daily basis, it’s surprising that there aren’t more successful phishing campaigns.

“It really only takes one email to cause a security breach,” said Wang.

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Surprise: Asus ZenFone 5Q on sale over a month ahead of schedule

An official image of the Asus ZenFone 5Q.Amazon

  • The Asus ZenFone 5Q was slated for release in July but is available now.
  • Different sites have different pricing and availability for some reason.
  • B&H Photo is the best place to buy the Asus ZenFone 5Q as of right now.

A few weeks ago, we told you that the Asus ZenFone 5Q was available for pre-order, with a ship date slated for the end of July. Well, it appears we were wrong, as multiple retail outlets list the Asus ZenFone 5Q as available to ship today, over a month ahead of schedule.

However, there are some wild pricing discrepancies across various sites, and some of the sites actually list the device as currently out-of-stock. Nonetheless, the phone is for sale, not pre-order, and most of the sites list today as the ship date.

Editor’s Pick

B&H Photo looks to be the best place to buy the Asus ZenFone 5Q because it has the device at its standard retail price of $299 and sells both the black and white variants. If you don’t live in New York or New Jersey, you don’t have to pay any taxes and free shipping is included.

Best Buy is your next best bet if you’re not a fan of B&H Photo. Best Buy carries the ZenFone 5Q for the list price of $299, but only has the black variant for sale.

Amazon also lists the Asus ZenFone 5Q at $299, but is temporarily out-of-stock for both color variants. If you simply must buy from Amazon, you’ll have to wait until it comes back in stock.

Finally, Newegg also sells the Asus ZenFone 5Q, but wants nearly double the list price: $418. We’re not quite sure why it’s asking so much more than other sites, but it’s likely because it’s being sold by a third-party seller, which has jacked-up the price with no connection to Newegg.

Other sites might have the device for sale too, but these are the ones we usually buy from. If you find a better deal, let us know in the comments!

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DVDFab Passkey Lite

DVDFab Passkey Lite is the free version of DVDFab Passkey for DVD & Blu-ray. When the license of Passkey for DVD & Blu-ray is expired, it will turn into Passkey Lite. DVDFab Passkey Lite contains part of functions that Passkey for DVD & Blu-ray has. It can remove some but not all DVD/Blu-ray protections, rip some DVDs/Blu-rays to images or folders and work with other software that Passkey for DVD & Blu-ray can work with.

DVDFab Passkey Lite Features:

Remove Some but Not All DVD/Blu-ray Protections
The DVD protections that can be removed by Passkey Lite are RC, RCE, APS, and UOPs. ARccOS, RipGuard, etc. are not included. For Blu-ray, it can remove AACS lower than V36, RC, BD-Live, and UOPs. It also gives you the power to change the region settings of Blu-ray players Power DVD and TotalMedia Theatre.

Copy or Rip Some DVDs/Blu-rays to ISO Images or Folders
For those DVDs and Blu-rays that Passkey Lite can decrypt completely, Passkey Lite can copy or rip them to ISO images or folders easily.

Work with Other Software to Access DVD/Blu-ray Content
Just like Passkey for DVD & Blu-ray, Passkey Lite can work with software like TotalMedia Theatre, WinDVD, ImgBurn, VLC, etc. to burn, edit, or play back DVDs and Blu-rays.DVDFab Passkey Lite

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J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot to help make mobile, PC, and console games

Bad Robot Games

  • Bad Robot, the film and television production company founded by writer-director J.J. Abrams, has launched a gaming division, Bad Robot Games.
  • The new venture will make original games for the mobile, PC and console markets.
  • Bad Robot Games will work in a partnership with China-based publisher Tencent.

One of Hollywood’s most well-known production companies, Bad Robot, is now apparently going all in to make games as well. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the company is partnering with China-based game publisher Tencent to launch a new division, called simply Bad Robot Games.

According to the story, Bad Robot Games will look to outside game developers to help make new and original games for the mobile, PC and console space. Bad Robot’s own visual artists, designers, and writers will collaborate with the developers on these projects.

Warner Bros. Interactive will also take a minority stake in the new Bad Robot Games, alongside Tencent. The specific financial terms were not disclosed.

Editor’s Pick

Tencent is already a huge company in the Western games industry, as it owns a number of minority stakes in companies such as Glu Mobile and game developer Robot Entertainment. It also owns a majority stake in Clash of Clans developer Supercell, and owns 5 percent of Bluehole, the creators of the hit battle royale game PUBG. Tencent publishes the mobile version of that game, and the company still own a small portion of Epic Games, which has seen a massive resurgence, thanks to the popularity of PUBG’s biggest rival, Fortnite.

Fortnite Mobile

Fortnite Mobile

Bad Robot’s founder is J.J. Abrams, who has been directly or indirectly responsible for some of the biggest TV and movie hits of all time. He’s had a hand in TV shows such as Alias, Lost, Fringe and most recently Westworld. He has also produced, written or directed films like the rebooted Star Trek movie series, Super 8, the Cloverfield franchise and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. His next film project is Star Wars: Episode IX, which he will direct, produce and co-write, and will be released in December 2019.

In a statement, Abrams said he was a “massive games fan” and the new Bad Robot Games, in partnership with Tencent, means that it will be “doubling down on our commitment to the space with a unique co-development approach to game making that allows us to focus on what we do best.”

Abrams said in 2013 he was working with Valve on ways to adapt its game properties into films, like Half-Life and Portal, but those plans have yet to be achieved. In November 2015, Epic Games’ Chair Entertainment announced plans to make the mobile game Spyjinx, in collaboration with Bad Robot. There’s been little to no info on that game since the reveal.

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More Google Pixel 3 XL images leak, confirm all-glass back

  • A new set of credible Pixel 3 XL images surfaced.
  • They show a phone with a matte-finished glass back, which makes wireless charging a possibility.

Google’s new Pixel generation is leaking hard. Following the two images of a Pixel 3 XL prototype that surfaced yesterday, the same source came through with new images that show the phone from every angle.

XDA forum users meraz9000 provided the images below to the XDA-Developers news portal. They show the same device as yesterday, but now we get to see the phone from more angles.

One big new nugget we get from these picture is confirmation that the Pixel 3 XL will have an all-glass back. Meraz9000 confirmed the detail to XDA-Developers.

At first glance, the Pixel 3 XL seems to feature the same metal-back-and-glass-window design as the current generation. But on closer examination, you can see that the back is actually one slab of glass with matte finish on the lower part.

Many users hate glass backs because they are fragile and slippery, but they do make possible an important feature – wireless charging. We don’t know yet if that will be the case with the Pixel 3 XL, but there’s a good chance Google will use the opportunity to go wireless. Unless Google pulls a OnePlus that is, and delivers a glass phone with no wireless charging.

The other pictures reveal a couple of small other details about the Pixel 3 XL, like the size of the protruding camera (still single unit!), the front facing bottom speaker, and the button setup on the right side. And no, the headphone jack is not back from the grave.

For reference, here are the two pictures leaked earlier.

We now also have an explanation for the weird logo on the back of the phone. As spotted by 9to5Google, this is a placeholder logo that Google uses during hardware development – the very same logo can be seen in an image that Google’s head of hardware design Ivy Ross shared in January.

A word of caution: while this leaked Pixel 3 XL unit seems legitimate, it’s still likely just a prototype or engineering sample. The design of the commercial model could be different.

What do you think about the glass back?

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Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge update hub: Is Verizon punking us?

Update (06/07/2018): Yesterday, Verizon looked to be rolling out Android Oreo to the Galaxy S7 (version: R16NW.G930VVRU4CRE5) and S7 Edge (version: R16NW.G935VVRU4CRE5), becoming the first U.S. carrier to do so.

But today, Verizon pulled the update and covered it up as it never happened. You can see the new, Oreo-less update notes here and here.

While it’s possible that Verizon could reverse course and offer Oreo to Galaxy S7’s again in the future, it seems that this update is simply doomed. We’re getting close to a year out from when Android Oreo originally launched, so it may be that Verizon will be like all the other U.S. carriers and simply not update the older S7 devices.

Sorry for the bad news.

Original article: Welcome to the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Android update tracker page. This page covers all major U.S. carriers with a quick reference table for each and a log with links to further details. It will be regularly updated with the latest Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge update information.

The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge tend to receive their updates simultaneously – or at least very close together. For this reason, they both appear here on this update page. Also, note that we won’t be covering general security patches in our list, unless they include something particularly relevant.

We recommend you bookmark this page so you can stay up to date with the very latest updates.

Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge Android Oreo update

Both the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge are now receiving Android Oreo. We’re yet to see the update in the U.S., but we’ll let you know when we do.

Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge Update U.S.

Samsung Galaxy S7 / S7 Edge updates – US Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow Android 7.0 Nougat Android 8.0 Oreo
Verizon Yes Yes Yes
AT&T Yes Yes TBA
T-Mobile Yes Yes TBA
Sprint Yes Yes TBA

Android 7.0 Nougat first available: August 22, 2016

First carrier to roll it out for the S7 and S7 Edge: T-Mobile (180 days)

Android 8.0 Oreo first available: August 21, 2017

First carrier to roll it out for the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge: Verizon (290 days) Changed its mind.

Verizon Galaxy S7 (SM-G930V) and Galaxy S7 Edge (SM-G935V) update:

  • June 7, 2018, Verizon removes previously-announced Oreo updates.
  • June 6, 2018, The network launches the Oreo update to its subscribers, complete with April 2018 security update.
  • April 20, 2018, Verizon rolls out OTA that claims to be Android 8.0 Oreo but isn’t. Oops.
  • November 23, 2017, Verizon rolled out an OTA update with build number G930VVRU4BQK2. The new version introduced the November Android security update, including a patch for the recent KRACK exploit.
  • March 6, 2017, Verizon became the last of the four major US carriers to roll out Nougat to the S7 and S7 Edge.
  • September 1, 2016, improved voice calls, FM Radio, Barcode Beaming functionality and NextRadio app added.
  • May 9, 2016, DT Ignite added. Helps Verizon package and install apps on devices. Can’t be removed without root.

Number of days it took Verizon to update to Nougat: 196

Number of days it took Verizon to update to Oreo: ???

AT&T Galaxy S7 (SM-G930A) and Galaxy S7 Edge (SM-G935A) update:

  • December 13, 2017, AT&T is rolling out an update with build number G930AUCU4BQK2 (G935AUCU4BQK2 for S7 Edge). The OTA update includes the November Android security updates, support for new Mobile Hotspot APN, an AirWatch fix for Enterprise customers, call performance improvements, and network performance improvements.
  • July 11, 2017, AT&T provides fixes for calendar and messaging apps, as well as the Samsung Knox security software. Video calling has also been improved.
  • February 18, 2017, AT&T began the Nougat update roll out for the S7 and S7 Edge.
  • July 27, 2016, Wi-Fi calling arrives.
  • April 21, 2016, DTV Widget added, better Wi-Fi performance when using BTLE, home and volume key responsiveness improved, other performance enhancements arrive.

Number of days it took AT&T to update to Nougat: 181

T-Mobile Galaxy S7 (SM-G930T) and Galaxy S7 Edge (SM-G935T) update:

  • February 17, 2017, T-Mobile became the first U.S. carrier to roll out Nougat for the S7 and S7 Edge.
  • November 5, 2016, enabled 256/64 QAM, domestic data roaming improvements, system crash fix.
  • May 4, 2016, FM Radio, power and volume key fix, system improvements.

Number of days it took T-Mobile to update to Nougat: 180

Sprint Galaxy S7 (SM-G930P) and Galaxy S7 Edge (SM-G935P) update:

  • February 21, 2017, Sprint started rolling out the final Nougat build to its S7 and S7 Edge beta testers. The OTA rollout to non-beta users is expected soon after and to conclude on February 27.
  • May 26, 2016, battery life improvements, Wi-Fi calling added.

Number of days it took Sprint to update to Nougat: 184

International Galaxy S7 (SM-G930F) and Galaxy S7 Edge (SM-G935P) update:

  • May 18, 2018: Samsung resumes the Oreo update rollout for the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge.
  • May 16, 2018: Samsung pauses the Oreo update due to bootloops in several cases.
  • March 30, 2018: Oreo began to roll out to Samsung Galaxy S7 devices in the UK.
  • March 12, 2018: Samsung Canada announced that the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge would begin receiving their Android Oreo updates this summer.
  • March 20, 2017: Nougat arrived to Rogers and Telus in Canada.
  • January 17, 2017: Nougat became available for all international unlocked Galaxy S7 and S7 Edges.
  • January 12, 2017: Samsung rolled out Nougat for international unlocked devices enrolled in the beta program.
  • January 4, 2017: Samsung began a limited soak test for the unlocked S7 and S7 Edge.
  • December 21, 2016: Vodafone Australia confirmed that the Nougat version they’re testing for the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge is Android 7.0, not Android 7.1.
  • December 20, 2016: The fourth major beta update has rolled out to the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge for those enrolled in the Galaxy Beta Program. The update removes the Samsung Notes app and a previous mention of the Samsung Experience interface.
  • December 16, 2016, Vodafone Australia lists the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge in its weekly software update wrap-up. States “testing in progress,” but doesn’t provide an ETA.

If you’ve received an update we’ve missed, hit the comments below or Tip us!

Next: Download official Samsung Galaxy S7 wallpapers

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Inexpensive detector is like 'Velcro®' for cancer cells

Researchers have developed a new type of sensor that acts like Velcro® for prostate cancer cells, sticking them to a modified frosted glass slide, like those used in science classes, so that they can be identified from blood samples. The low-cost method, reported in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, could help doctors better diagnose and monitor the disease.

In men with prostate cancer, some tumor cells exit the prostate gland and circulate in the blood. Detecting these cells could enable diagnosis at an earlier stage or help doctors assess whether treatment is effective. However, because circulating tumor cells are present in very small numbers, finding them can be a challenge. Previous sensors have been expensive and difficult to make. So Shudong Zhang and Shutao Wang wanted do develop a simpler, more cost-effective way to monitor prostate cancer cells in the blood.

The researchers based their device on frosted glass microscope slides, commonplace in high school science classes. The frosted area, which is used to hold and label the slide, is a sandblasted surface with tiny depressions. The researchers added a solution to the frosted slides that caused silica nanowires to grow on their surfaces, then they dangled antibodies that recognized prostate cancer cells from the nanowires. After getting captured by the antibodies, circulating tumor cells became trapped in the depressions on the slide and tangled up within the nanowires, similar to the interlocking surfaces of Velcro®. The team could then visualize the cancer cells with microscopy, and found that the device had a capture efficiency on par with other approaches, they say. When the researchers tested blood samples from prostate cancer patients, the devices detected as few as 10 tumor cells in 1 milliliter of blood.

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Materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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Brain structure may predict diet success

Differences in the structure of the prefrontal cortex predict an individual’s ability to make healthier food choices, according to a new analysis of previous research in healthy men and women. The paper, published in JNeurosci, suggests an important role of these anatomical markers in decisions that have long-term effects on health and wellbeing.

Maintaining a healthy diet requires consistently choosing healthy foods over perhaps more tempting ones that may satisfy an immediate craving but have negative health consequences. People vary in their ability to exercise such self-control, which has been linked to individual differences in real-time brain activity. In this study, Liane Schmidt and colleagues examined whether more stable differences in the anatomy of the brain could account for variations in self-control.

Analyzing data pooled from three previous studies and generalizing their results to a fourth independent dataset, the researchers found that greater volume in the dorsolateral and ventromedial prefrontal cortex was associated with improved dietary self-control across different diet goals and participant groups. Since brain structure, like connectivity, can change over time in response to lifestyle, these brain regions represent key targets to explore in the design of interventions that promote healthy choices.

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Materials provided by Society for Neuroscience. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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New nanoparticles help to detect serious scarring of wounds

A new way of seeing when heavy wound scars are forming, and providing doctors the chance to intervene, has been developed by scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and Northwestern University in the United States.

Clinicians currently find it difficult to predict how scars will develop following surgery or after a burn wound, without resorting to invasive testing.

Using new nanoparticles, the joint research team has shown in animals and human skin samples the potential to quickly and accurately predict whether a wound is likely to lead to excessive scarring as occurs in keloids and skin contractures.

If necessary, doctors can then take conventional preventive measures to reduce scar formation, such as using silicon sheets to keep a wound flat and moist.

In developed countries alone, about 100 million patients will form scars annually, arising from 80 million elective and trauma surgery operations. In Singapore, an estimated 400,000 people (1 in 12 people undergoing procedures) develop scars each year due to surgery.

Excessive scarring can dramatically affect a patient’s quality of life, both physically and psychologically, as the scars can impede movement and activity, and can be painful when stretched

The new technique was developed by a team led by Assistant Professor Xu Chenjie from NTU’s School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, nanoscience expert Professor Chad A Mirkin from Northwestern University, United States, and Dr Amy S Paller, Chair of Dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

How it works

Published last month in the Nature Biomedical Engineering journal, the new detection method uses thousands of nanoparticles called NanoFlares, which have DNA strands attached to their surfaces like a ball of spikes.

These nanoparticles are applied to closed wounds using a cream. After the nanoparticles have penetrated the skin cells for 24 hours, a handheld fluorescence microscope is used to look for signals given out by the nanoparticles’ interaction with target biomarkers inside the skin cells.

If fluorescence signals are detected, they indicate abnormal scarring activity and preventive action can be taken to hopefully avoid heavier scarring.

Pain-free detection method

Currently, apart from the visual examination of mature scars, the only other tool to detect skin diseases accurately is to perform a biopsy, where a skin tissue sample is extracted and sent for laboratory testing.

These biopsies may be painful and inconvenient for patients, as an open wound also risks infections and needs sutures which must be removed later.

Assistant Professor Xu Chenjie said: “When our bioengineered nanoparticles are applied on the skin, they will penetrate up to 2mm below the skin surface and enter scar cells.”

“Upon binding with a specific tell-tale gene released by the scar cells, smaller DNA spikes are knocked loose and light up under the microscope like little light flares. The more flares we see, the more scarring activity there is.”

These NanoFlares are made by coating Northwestern’s patented gold nanoparticles with tiny DNA strands targeting particular genes. It has shown negligible toxicity or side effects when tested on mice, rabbits and on human skin samples.

Dr Amy S Paller, who is also the Director of Northwestern University Skin Disease Research Centre, said: “Beyond clinical observation, the gold standard for both clinical diagnosis and translational research of skin disorders is a biopsy.

“This technology is an exciting first step towards having a non-invasive way to detect increases or decreases in gene expression. NanoFlares may prove to be a new tool to facilitate sub-phenotyping of disease based on expression patterns and leveraging gene expression changes as a sensitive way to detect early treatment responses.”

Dr Hong Liang Tey, Dermatologist and Head of Research at National Skin Centre, Singapore, who is not involved in this study, said: “This technology (NanoFlares) that can provide non-invasive biopsy for different types of skin disease, can potentially be very helpful in clinical practice and its applications should certainly be further explored.”

The NanoFlares took two years to research by the joint team, which included NTU research fellows Dr David Yeo and Dr Christian Wiraja, who conducted the laboratory experiments.

Future applications

In other recently published or accepted peer-reviewed journal articles, such as in a SLAS Technology commentary, Dr Yeo further elaborates on the potential applications of NanoFlares for other skin diseases such as skin cancer, since the DNA sequences on the nanoparticles are interchangeable.

This new method could be a supplementary tool to monitor and analyse other skin diseases which conventionally rely heavily on biopsies for detection.

Now that the NanoFlares are proven to be able to bind to a target biomarker and give easy visual detection, in theory, different DNA spikes could be engineered to target biomarkers abundant in other common skin diseases.

The team has filed a patent application based on this technology through NTU’s innovation and commercialisation arm, NTUitive, and plan to license out the technology for commercialisation.

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Study tracks Title IX use across US colleges and universities

Title IX — the U.S. civil rights law passed in 1972 that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs — has been widely recognized as a crucial step toward gender equality in America. A new Yale study tracks the changing use of Title IX over time in response to perceived gender disparities, and for the first time, systematically analyzes how the law has been mobilized at the federal level through complaints filed against four-year non-profit colleges and universities.

Published in the journal Social Problems, the study drew from a new data set that was constructed using information acquired through the Freedom of Information Act. The data include all resolved postsecondary Title IX complaints filed with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) against allegedly noncompliant schools from 1994 to 2014.

“Since the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare first defined Title IX compliance requirements for intercollegiate athletics in 1975, this law has been under constant debate, which necessarily affects how it can be mobilized,” says Celene Reynolds, graduate student in the Department of Sociology and author of the paper.

“Title IX has been at the forefront of national debates in part because there was an effort to further specify and clarify its requirements under President Barack Obama as well as a growing social movement around campus sexual assault. Now we are in the midst of another moment of change under Betsy DeVos, [the U.S. secretary of education appointed by President Donald Trump],” says Reynolds.

“This study is important to the future of Title IX because there is an ongoing effort to change the way we put the law into action — with DeVos’s withdrawal of Obama-era guidance — but we don’t actually really know how it has been used,” she says.

Reynolds traced the use of Title IX since 1994 and found that Title IX has been mobilized in response to different issues over time. She also discovered that Title IX complaints have increased substantially over the past 15 years. “Complaints citing discrimination in academics were the most common type filed for nearly all of the last 20 years, while athletics complaints were the least commonly filed. Complaints alleging schools violated the law by mishandling sexual harassment began to rise in 2006, skyrocketing in 2009, and nearly equaling athletic and academic filings by 2014,” says Reynolds.

According to Reynolds, this new research fills an important gap in the sociological literature and illuminates a pressing social transformation affecting campus life across America. “This study shows how a powerful legal tool is employed in response to perceived gender inequality in higher education and illustrates the specific kinds of disparities that elicit legal mobilization.

The mobilization of Title IX is institutionally uneven relative to student enrollment, with the study’s findings showing that more complaints are filed against private schools that are highly selective,” says Reynolds.

“This article has significant policy implications in that it shows that certain types of schools tend to face higher numbers of specific kinds of complaints. The analysis suggests that the problem of sex discrimination in higher education may look different in different institutional settings,” says Reynolds. “It is important that top-down efforts to modify Title IX allow schools some autonomy to implement the law in ways that address the idiosyncrasies of local institutional cultures.”

Reynolds says the paper also shows how important this legal tool is for those who experience discrimination. “More people are turning to Title IX and to the OCR complaint process as tools to address sex discrimination in education. It’s important that this remains a viable and fair process.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Yale University. Original written by Bess Connolly Martell. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.