Binayak Dasgupta

Binayak reports on information security, privacy and scientific research in health and environment with explanatory pieces. He also edits the news sections of the newspaper.

Articles by Binayak Dasgupta

Senior UK officials, PMO hacked using Pegasus: New report

Canada-based Citizen Labs, which first uncovered the widespread deployment of Pegasus in 2018, said in its report that “multiple suspected instances” of the spyware’s infection were found within official UK networks in 2020 and 2021.

The NSO Group company logo is displayed on a wall of a building next to one of their branches in the southern Israeli Arava valley near Sapir community centre.(AFP)
Updated on Apr 19, 2022 12:51 AM IST
By, New Delhi

Chinese hackers targeted 7 Indian power hubs, govt says ops failed

The incident is the latest in a string of cyber espionage attributed to groups based in China, with past attacks targeting critical infrastructure such as power plants

Chinese hackers targeted 7 Indian power hubs, govt says ops failed
Updated on Apr 08, 2022 06:43 AM IST

Mumbai Covid-19 case: Why panic over XE is premature

The confirmed Indian infection was in a 50-year-old woman who was asymptomatic and tested positive on March 2, before testing negative a day later. Union health ministry officials separately told HT that the variant sequenced in Mumbai is not XE and may have been misclassified.

The XE appears to be the result of a recombination of the BA.1 and BA.2, the first two Omicron variant lineages that spread widely.(Pratham Gokhale/HT file photo)
Updated on Apr 07, 2022 06:22 AM IST
By, New Delhi:

CAG flags privacy gaps, duplication in Aadhaar

The findings are part of the first performance review by the country’s independent auditor of UIDAI, which was carried out over a four-year period between FY2015 and FY2019 .

The audit found that UIDAI generated Aadhaar numbers “with incomplete documents”, did not establish whether applicants were residing in the country with proper documents, and accepted poor quality biometrics.(HT File Photo)
Updated on Apr 07, 2022 07:26 AM IST
ByNeeraj Chauhan and Binayak Dasgupta, New Delhi:

In Perspective | The years when social media particularly hurts children

According to a new study, these distinct windows of age — 14-15 years and 19 years for boys and 11-13 years and 19 years for girls — are when social media use appeared to relate to reduced life satisfaction a year later.

The findings are significant because adolescence is a particularly sensitive period for social development, self-perception and social interaction. (Shutterstock)
Published on Mar 28, 2022 08:22 PM IST

Two years since lockdown: The journey of India’s Covid response

To understand India’s early lockdown and pandemic policies, it is crucial to first characterise them. India was perhaps the only major country that locked down before Covid-19 took hold.

A deserted view of Marine Drive during lockdown in Mumbai in April 2020. (Pratik Chorge/HT photo)
Updated on Mar 24, 2022 11:23 AM IST
By, New Delhi

Barkha Dutt: The stories behind the numbers

Her new book, To Hell And Back, offers a front-line view of those affected by Covid-19. It’s also a look at how Dutt’s own reporting, mobile, fast, unfettered by TV studios, has transformed

“Television, with all of its scale and all of its resources, did not shine [during the pandemic]. It made me step back and ask, ‘Had I lost touch with why I became a journalist to begin with?” says Barkha Dutt. (Image courtesy Barkha Dutt)
Updated on Feb 25, 2022 11:27 PM IST

In Perspective | Online child safety and the dangers of false equivalence

The solutions being advocated to combat child pornography have to do with weakening or incentivising the weakening of end-to-end encryption, the bedrock of privacy online

End-to-end encryption, or E2EE, is what ensures the messages we send over WhatsApp are not readable by even the company that owns the application. (Shutterstock)
Published on Feb 14, 2022 04:05 PM IST

Entity with spying links behind Indian cyber ops: Report

The experts at California-based Sentinel Labs have named the group ModifiedElephant and found its digital footprints going back to at least 2012 and in the targeting of “hundreds of individuals and groups”, including Rona Wilson, who has been arrested in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case.

The group ‘ModifiedElephant’, the Sentinel Labs report said, carried out “long-term surveillance that at times concludes with the delivery of “evidence” — files that incriminate the target in specific crimes — “prior to conveniently coordinated arrests”. (HT Photo)
Updated on Feb 11, 2022 03:32 AM IST
By, New Delhi:

Covid-19 linked with key cardiovascular risks: Study

Covid-19 puts people at a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease up to a year after infection and the chances are higher if the disease was more severe, according to an analysis involving the records of over 150,000 people who were infected by the coronavirus in the United States

Representative image(Pixabay)
Published on Feb 08, 2022 11:36 PM IST
By, New Delhi

In Brazil state, a sign of Omicron’s key advantage

The earliest theory that sought to explain this originated from lab studies that showed the virus to multiply more readily in parts of the respiratory system known as the bronchus, and thrive more widely in upper air passages.

The study found no differences between monkeys receiving a conventional booster or one specifically targeting the Omicron variant(Matt Slocum/AP Photo/picture alliance )
Published on Feb 08, 2022 12:09 AM IST
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

In Perspective | The only answer to India vs Big Tech on moderation

While India must defend itself from adversaries that will exploit social media for information warfare, it must, at the same time, protect free speech; all while social media companies have to do much more

For companies, they can start with upholding the Santa Clara principles — to which they are all signatories. (Shutterstock)
Updated on Feb 07, 2022 08:39 PM IST

Study with deliberate infections uncovers new Covid clues

A controlled clinical study in the UK, the findings of which were made public on Wednesday, now offers more concrete insights, some of which are new.

The study found that such trials were safe, and they now provide a basis for larger such experiments including different variants,(Reuters file photo. Representative image)
Updated on Feb 04, 2022 12:50 AM IST
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

BA.2 likely drove 3rd wave in some states

The first real-world analysis of infection trends split by BA.2 and the other Omicron lineages offers several insights. These findings are based on the latest variant technical briefing by the UK Health Security Agency released over the weekend.

BA.2 is one of the offshoots of the Omicron variant and has recently been seen displacing its predecessor, the BA.1. (Image used for representation)
Updated on Jan 31, 2022 04:32 AM IST
By, New Delhi

‘Censorship’ in India, 5 other nations pose risk to business: US trade panel

USITC, an independent and non-partisan US federal agency, compiled the report based on a request by the Senate Committee on Finance.

Some of the instances cited by the report included “threat of arrest” of Twitter executives and increase in takedown orders sent to the microblogging service as well as Google.
Updated on Jan 30, 2022 04:43 AM IST
ByPrashant Jha and Binayak Dasgupta, Washington/new Delhi

Why fears of ‘deadly’ NeoCoV may be greatly exaggerated

There are other factors to consider as well. NeoCoV is not a new coronavirus, and it – along with Mers – belongs to a distinctly different genera (a type of subclassification) of coronaviruses known as merbecovirus.

One of the most key factors to remember is that the Chinese scientists themselves find that the NeoCoV does not infect human ACE2 at present, which means it cannot infect humans yet. (PTI)
Updated on Jan 29, 2022 04:40 AM IST
By, New Delhi

Omicron likely to make vaccine update inevitable

On January 12, a coalition of medical regulators from 37 countries and regions (including all of EU, UK, US and India) agreed that there was now a need to reconsider the current vaccine design.

Representative Image
Published on Jan 28, 2022 12:01 AM IST
By, New Delhi

Omicron offshoot now under watch

The Omicron variant comprises four sister lineages. The earliest, detected in South Africa, was the B.1.1.529. Then came BA.1, which is now globally the predominant one, followed by BA.2 and BA.3.

What makes BA.2 different from BA.1 is 28 unique mutations, including 12 in what is known as the receptor binding domain (RBD) – a portion of the virus that has a key role in infection.(AFP)
Updated on Jan 25, 2022 01:52 AM IST
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Few admissions during 5th wave question need for ongoing curbs

In Delhi, the peak of recorded cases came on January 12, and that of the test positivity on January 14. Since then, the number of people in the hospital have remained in the 2,600-2,700 range, even in fact dipping slightly in the last three days.

The Covid-19 care centre at the Shehnai Banquet hall.(HT Photo)
Published on Jan 22, 2022 03:08 AM IST
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Variant watch: What Omicron means for future immunity

Three recent studies now come to similar conclusions on post-Omicron immunity: the protection is different in people who were infected for the first time, had a repeat infection, or had a repeat infection after vaccination.

In those who got a repeat infection but were unvaccinated, the antibodies were somewhat better at neutralising other variants.
Updated on Jan 21, 2022 03:18 AM IST
By, New Delhi

Variant watch: Why symptom link is key to Omicron

The researchers found that during the Omicron wave, close to 30% of the people who turned up had an asymptomatic infection.

Viral load is often seen as a proxy for how infectious someone is.
Updated on Jan 20, 2022 07:22 AM IST
By, New Delhi

Variant watch: Even mild cases may leave a mark on brain

The finding holds implications for rehabilitation of people with even mild cases and those suffering from so-called long Covid symptoms, which are still not properly understood.

A healthworker collects a nasal swab sample for Covid-19 test at a hospital in Amritsar. (PTI)
Updated on Jan 19, 2022 03:19 AM IST
By, New Delhi

No-vax? What the sceptics get wrong

In Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic’s 2010 book, Serve to Win, he writes about how he improved his performance by removing gluten from his diet

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic walks in Melbourne Airport before boarding a flight, (File image)(REUTERS)
Updated on Jan 18, 2022 03:14 AM IST
By, New Delhi

Variant watch: Updated UK data shows efficacy drop after 6 months

The UK Health Security Agency, in its Technical Briefing 34, said that it found vaccine efficacy against hospitalisation remained at around 64% till 24 weeks, but the protection dropped if the second doses were taken more than 24 weeks ago.

Over 700,000 Omicron cases were taken into account for the analysis.(AFP)
Updated on Jan 15, 2022 12:09 AM IST
By, New Delhi:

240mn Covid-19 vaccine doses in rich nations to expire by March

The report, released by science analytics company Airfinity, came on a day when Unicef officials told Reuters that 100 million doses were rejected last month by poorer countries because they were nearing their expiry date.

Vials of Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine against the coronavirus disease Covid-19 in a social center of La Gavotte Peyret popular neighbourhood, in Septeme-Les-Vallons, near Marseille.(AFP)
Updated on Jan 14, 2022 12:39 AM IST
By, New Delhi

New study shows how coronavirus loses infectivity once exhaled

It also suggests that most infection happens when transmission is at a shorter range. This is why outdoor spaces have consistently proven to be safer.

If the person is talking loudly or singing, they are consistently spewing out more viral particles, which increases the chances of someone getting infected.(Bloomberg)
Updated on Jan 13, 2022 04:52 AM IST
By, New Delhi:

Variant watch: Omicron likely evolved in mice, say Chinese researchers

The Omicron variant of the Sars-CoV-2 virus may have evolved within mice and jumped back into humans, according to new research by scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences

A person gets tested for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) amid a potential third wave of infections caused by the spread of the Omicron variant. (REUTERS / Representational Image)
Published on Jan 12, 2022 12:09 AM IST
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Variant watch: Ending isolation after Omicron

Now, a study from Japan, albeit with a small sample size involving 21 people, suggests people can in some cases remain infectious up to 9 days after their symptoms begin.

A person gets tested for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) amid a potential third wave of infections caused by the spread of the Omicron variant. (REUTERS / Representational Image)
Updated on Jan 11, 2022 12:03 AM IST
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

India’s true Covid toll could be over 3 million: Study

The new report, published by the journal Science early on Friday, estimates the true toll in this period was between 3.1 million and 3.4 million, with roughly 2.7 million of these happening in the April-July period, when the second wave tore through the country.

COVID-19 infected patients getting treatment at COVID care centre, Common Wealth Games Village Sports Complex, in New Delhi.(ANI/Representative image)
Published on Jan 07, 2022 11:52 PM IST
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Omicron variant watch: Scientists detect key antibodies to neutralise mutations

In a study published almost exactly a year ago, scientists at the Rockefeller University found that memory B cells, which churn out antibodies, mature over time.

Healthcare workers wait for the next vehicle at a Covid-19 testing clinic as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in Sydney, Australia. (Reuters file photo)
Updated on Jan 07, 2022 12:36 AM IST
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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