New use for ransomware: Security experts say a recent attack on an Austrian hotel appears to be a novel example of an increasingly malicious and prevalent type of modern-day piracy. The weapon? A type of software known as ransomware. The electronic key system at the picturesque Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt had been infiltrated, and the hotel was locked out of its own computer system, leaving guests stranded in the lobby, causing confusion and panic. The email demanded a ransom of two Bitcoins, or about $1,800, and warned that the cost would double if the hotel did not comply with the demand by the end of the day, Jan. 22. Hotels should guard against copycat crimes by reinforcing their digital security. READ MORE

A new phishing scam: Security researchers have identified a “highly effective” phishing scam that’s been fooling Google Gmail customers into divulging their login credentials. The attacker, usually disguised as a trusted contact, sends a boobytrapped email to a prospective victim. Affixed to that email, there appears to be a regular attachment, say a PDF document. Rather than reveal a preview of the document when clicked, that embedded image links out to a fake Google login page—where you’re expected to enter your login credentials. This is just one of many reasons why corporate employees should be discouraged from using their Google account for corporate business.  READ MORE


New weapon against superbug? An artificial cell has been created which is so lifelike it can communicate chemically with living cells. These man-made cells mimic natural cells and trick them into thinking they are no different from each other. The researchers who designed the cells hope that they could be used to attack disease-causing bacteria in the future. READ MORE

Don’t skip breakfast! Skipping breakfast or eating late in the day could raise the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, according to a new study. Writing in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, researchers from Columbia University said both meal timing and frequency are linked to risk factors for a variety of conditions including heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, blood glucose levels, obesity, and reduced insulin sensitivity. READ MORE

USDA ARS plans symposium: The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is sponsoring its fourth International Biosafety and Biocontainment Symposium on Feb. 6-9 in Baltimore. READ MORE


Robotics comes to the coffee shop: Baristas, cheery or otherwise, are nowhere to be seen at a new café in San Francisco. Customers at Cafe X Technologies, which opened this week, get their caffeine fix from a robotic arm that prepares coffee like it would assemble a car on a factory floor. READ MORE

Starbucks tweet storm: Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz says his company plans to hire 10,000 refugees in the next five years in the 75 countries where it does business. The predictable result was a tweet storm. As usual with a divisive topic, a group of Twitter users are pledging to stop supporting Starbucks, while those supportive of the refugee hiring news say they will buy coffee and food from the restaurant chain to support the move. Read more  HERE and HERE.