Latest on coronavirus disease outbreak

What is COVID-19 and how can I protect myself?

A new virus called the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has been identified as the cause of a disease outbreak that began in China in 2019. The disease is called coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The virus is a type of coronavirus — a family of viruses that can cause illnesses such as the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

Cases of COVID-19 have been reported in a growing number of countries, including the U.S. WHO declared a global pandemic in March 2020. Public health groups, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are monitoring the situation and posting updates, treatment and prevention recommendations on their websites.

How does COVID-19 spread?

The new coronavirus appears to spread from person to person among those in close contact. It is spread by respiratory droplets when someone infected with the virus coughs or sneezes. It’s unclear exactly how contagious the virus is.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

COVID-19 symptoms can be very mild to severe and include a fever, cough and shortness of breath. Some people have no symptoms. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure.

Can COVID-19 be prevented or treated?

A vaccine isn’t currently available for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). No antiviral medication is recommended to treat COVID-19. Treatment is directed at relieving symptoms.

What can I do to avoid becoming ill?

WHO and CDC recommend following these precautions for avoiding COVID-19:

  • Avoid large events and mass gatherings.
  • Avoid close contact (about 6 feet) with anyone who is sick or has symptoms.
  • Keep distance between yourself and others if COVID-19 is spreading in your community, especially if you have a higher risk of serious illness.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the used tissue.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth if your hands aren’t clean.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces you often touch on a daily basis.

WHO also recommends these steps:

  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat or animal organs.
  • If you’re visiting live markets in areas that have recently had new coronavirus cases, avoid contact with live animals and surfaces they may have touched.

If you have a chronic medical condition and may have a higher risk of serious illness, check with your doctor about other ways to protect yourself.

What shouldn’t I do to protect against COVID-19?

CDC doesn’t recommend that healthy people wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. Only wear a mask if a health care provider tells you to do so.

Can I travel internationally?

Maybe. If you’re planning to travel internationally, first check the CDC and WHO websites for updates and advice. Also look for any health advisories that may be in place where you plan to travel.

What can I do if I am or may be ill with COVID-19?

Follow the usual precautions to avoid respiratory illnesses and COVID-19, such as washing your hands often, covering your cough, cleaning commonly touched surfaces and avoiding sharing personal items with others.

If you have symptoms or you’ve been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19:

  • Contact your doctor right away if you have COVID-19 symptoms and you’ve been exposed to the virus.
  • Tell your doctor if you’ve recently traveled to or lived in an area with ongoing community spread of COVID-19 as determined by CDC and WHO.
  • Tell your doctor if you’ve had close contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Call your doctor or clinic before you go to your appointment so they can prepare and make sure others aren’t infected or exposed.

If you have symptoms, you’ve been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 or you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19:

  • Stay home from work, school and public areas if you’re sick, unless you’re going to get medical care.
  • Avoid taking public transportation if you’re sick.
  • Stay isolated in a separate room from family and pets when possible. Wear a mask around other people if you’re ill.
  • Avoid sharing dishes, glasses, bedding and other household items if you’re sick.
  • Use a separate bathroom from family if possible.
  • Stay home for a period of time and follow your doctor’s recommendations.
  • You may need to be treated in the hospital if you’re very ill.


By A. Santiago

Did you know we spend 2.5 billion Euros on research every year are own the rights to 15,000 patents? The great inventors of the past are a constant source of inspiration for all of us at Thales, so we’ve put together our very own list of the Top 10 inventors of all time. Let us know what you think. Did we leave anybody out?

1. Thales of miletus

Call us biased, but we think the top slot goes to Thales of Miletus, who lived in the 6th century BC. He was the father of Western philosophy and one of the first people to explain natural phenomena without reference to mythology—technically making him the world’s first scientist too. He even invented mathematics. How cool is that?

2. Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo was an all-round genius. Not content with being a Renaissance artist and a visionary scientist, he also stands out as one of history’s most brilliant engineers. Long before they were technically feasible, he invented the helicopter and the battle tank. He came up with designs for mechanical looms and hydraulic saws. He drew plans for submarines and robots. The list of his contributions to the world of engineering is virtually endless. 

3. Thomas Edison

Edison was the archetypal inventor and epitomises the American spirit of inquiry and entrepreneurship. A shrewd businessman with unbridled imagination, he is credited with thousands of inventions, including the phonograph, the electric light bulb, the telephone (although Alexander Graham Bell made it to the patent office first on that occasion), the movie camera, the microphone and alkaline batteries. Did you know that Thomson, one of the companies that later became the Thales Group, was set up to exploit some of Edison’s patents?

4. Archimedes

Archimedes was undoubtedly one of the big names of engineering in the 3rd century BC. Although few details of his life are known, he is regarded as one of the leading scientists of classical antiquity. We owe it to Archimedes for inventing the pulley, the lever, the catapult and the cog… not to mention the Archimedes screw. And where would fluid mechanics be today without that original Eureka moment?

5. Benjamin Franklin

As a founding father, Benjamin Franklin was one of the people who invented America! But the man now hailed as America’s first scientist was also a printer, an activist, a statesman and a diplomat—and above all a respected inventor and engineer. His legacy includes the lightning conductor, bifocal lenses, and, according to some, the first experiments in nanoscience.

6. Louis Pasteur and Alexander Fleming

These two tie for 6th place in our list because they both made discoveries that are still saving millions of lives today. Frenchman Louis Pasteur was the first microbiologist. He invented the principles of vaccination and pasteurisation, which turned out to be hugely important for human health. Across the English Channel, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin a few decades later, so he’s the one that made antibiotics possible. They go together because they were both pioneers of modern medicine and the first scientists to declare all-out war on viruses and bacteria!

7. the Montgolfier brothers and Clément Ader

We all know about Pegasus and Icarus in ancient Greece. But in modern times the history of flight was written by three Frenchmen—the Mongolfier brothers with their hot air balloon, and Clément Ader, who invented the aeroplane. Ader’s contraption was the first piloted aircraft to take off under its own steam (literally) and make a brief uncontrolled hop across a field near Paris.

8. Nikola Tesla

No, he didn’t invent the world’s coolest electric car. But Nikola Tesla was arguably the greatest geek who ever lived, always fixing things that weren’t broken and coming up with amazing inventions in the process. We have him to thank for alternating current, the modern electric motor, remote controlled boats and, rumour has it, radar technology and wireless communications. He didn’t get credit for much of it in his lifetime and died alone in poverty.

9. Auguste and Louis Lumière

The Lumière brothers—yet another pair of pioneering Frenchmen—invented the cinema. Seriously! They patented the cinematograph, and their first movie, released in 1894, is considered the first real motion picture in history.

10. Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Timothy Berners-Lee is known as the man who invented the Internet, the biggest breakthrough of the late 20th century. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. The Internet started life at the Pentagon as a distributed computer network designed to withstand a nuclear attack. That system was known as ARPANET and dates back to 1969. Sir Tim took the idea and added the concept of hypertext as a way for researchers at the CERN, where he worked, to share resources more efficiently. He and his team went on to develop HTML, web servers and browsers, making the World Wide Web a reality in 1989 and opening it up to the public in 1991.


A. Santiago
Updated January 12, 2020, 10:15pm EDT

“Don’t do your online banking or anything sensitive on a public Wi-Fi network.” The advice is out there, but why can using a public Wi-Fi network actually be dangerous? And wouldn’t online banking be secure, as it’s encrypted?

There are a few big problems with using a public Wi-Fi network. The open nature of the network allows for snooping, the network could be full of compromised machines, or — most worryingly — the hotspot itself could be malicious. Snooping
Encryption normally helps protect your network traffic from prying eyes. For example, even if your neighbor at home is within range of your Wi-Fi network, they can’t see the web pages you’re viewing. This wireless traffic is encrypted between your laptop, tablet, or smartphone and your wireless router. It’s encrypted with your Wi-Fi passphrase.

When you connect to an open Wi-Fi network like one at a coffee shop or airport, the network is generally unencrypted — you can tell because you don’t have to enter a passphrase when connecting. Your unencrypted network traffic is then clearly visible to everyone in range. People can see what unencrypted web pages you’re visiting, what you’re typing into unencrypted web forms, and even see which encrypted websites you’re connected to — so if you’re connected to your bank’s website, they’d know it, although they wouldn’t know what you were doing.

This was illustrated most sensationally with Firesheep, an easy-to-use tool that allows people sitting in coffee shops or on other open Wi-Fi networks to snoop on other people’s browsing sessions and hijack them. More advanced tools like Wireshark could also be used to capture and analyze traffic.

RELATED: What Is a VPN, and Why Would I Need One?

Protecting Yourself: If you’re accessing something sensitive on public Wi-Fi, try to do it on an encrypted website. The HTTPS Everywhere browser extension can help with this by redirecting you to encrypted pages when available. If you frequently browse on public Wi-Fi, you may want to pay for a VPN and browse through it when on public Wi-Fi. Anyone in the local area will only be able to see that you’re connected to the VPN, not what you’re doing on it.

Compromised Devices
RELATED: Keep Your Windows Computer Secure on Public Wireless Hotspots

Compromised laptops and other devices may also be connected to the local network. When connecting, be sure to select the “Public network” Wi-Fi option in Windows and not the Home network or Work network options. The Public network option locks down the connection, ensuring Windows isn’t sharing any files or other sensitive data with the machines on the local network.

It’s also important to be up-to-date on security patches and use a firewall like the one built into Windows. Any compromised laptops on the local network could try to infect you.

Protecting Yourself: Select the Public network option when connecting to public Wi-Fi, keep your computer up to date, and leave a firewall enabled.

Malicious Hotspots
Most dangerously, the hotspot you connect to itself may be malicious. This may be because the business’s hotspot was infected, but it may also be because you’re connected to a honeypot network. For example, if you connect to “Public Wi-Fi” in a public place, you can’t be entirely sure that the network is actually a legitimate public Wi-FI network and not one set up by an attacker in an attempt to trick people into connecting.

Is it safe to log into your bank’s website on public Wi-Fi? The question is more complicated than it appears. In theory, it should be safe because the encryption ensures you’re actually connected to your bank’s website and no one can eavesdrop.

In practice, there are a variety of attacks that can be performed against you if you were to connect to your bank’s website on public Wi-Fi. For example, sslstrip can transparently hijack HTTP connections. When the site redirects to HTTPS, the software can convert those links to use a “look-alike HTTP link” or “homograph-similar HTTPS link” — in other words, a domain name that looks identical to the actual domain name, but which actually uses different special characters. This can happen transparently, allowing a malicious Wi-Fi hotspot to perform a man-in-the-middle attack and intercept secure banking traffic.

The WiFi Pineapple is an easy-to-use device that would allow attackers to easily set up such attacks. When your laptop attempts to automatically connect to a network it remembers, the WiFi Pineapple watches for these requests and responds “Yes, that’s me, connect!”. The device is then built with a variety of man-in-the-middle and other attacks it can easily perform.

Someone clever could set up such a compromised hotspot in an area with high-value targets — for example, in a city’s financial district or anywhere people log in to do their banking — and attempt to harvest this personal data. It’s probably uncommon in the real world, but is very possible.

Protecting Yourself: Don’t do online banking or access sensitive data on public Wi-Fi if possible, even if the sites are encrypted with HTTPS. A VPN connection would likely protect you, so it’s a worthy investment if you find yourself regularly using public Wi-Fi.

If you use public Wi-Fi connections regularly, you may want to invest in a VPN. As a bonus, a VPN will allow you to bypass any filtering and website-blocking in place on the public Wi-Fi network, allowing you to browse whatever you want.


Chris Hoffman is Editor in Chief of How-To Geek. He’s written about technology for nearly a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami’s NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than 500 million times.

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