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Medicine

Researchers Suggest Using Blockchain For Electronic Health Records (hbr.org) 70

The CIO at a Boston teaching hospital and two MIT researchers write in the Harvard Business Review that blockchain "has the potential to enable secure lifetime medical record sharing across providers," calling it "a different construct, providing a universal set of tools for cryptographic assurance of data integrity, standardized auditing, and formalized 'contracts' for data access." An anonymous reader quotes their report: A vexing problem facing health care systems throughout the world is how to share more medical data with more stakeholders for more purposes, all while ensuring data integrity and protecting patient privacy... Today humans manually attempt to reconcile medical data among clinics, hospitals, labs, pharmacies, and insurance companies. It does not work well because there is no single list of all the places data can be found or the order in which it was entered...

Imagine that every electronic health record (EHR) sent updates about medications, problems, and allergy lists to an open-source, community-wide trusted ledger, so additions and subtractions to the medical record were well understood and auditable across organizations. Instead of just displaying data from a single database, the EHR could display data from every database referenced in the ledger. The end result would be perfectly reconciled community-wide information about you, with guaranteed integrity from the point of data generation to the point of use, without manual human intervention.

Crime

Local Police Departments Are Building Their Own DNA Databases (ap.org) 50

Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes the Associated Press: Dozens of police departments around the U.S. are amassing their own DNA databases to track criminals, a move critics say is a way around regulations governing state and national databases that restrict who can provide genetic samples and how long that information is held. The local agencies create the rules for their databases, in some cases allowing samples to be taken from children or from people never arrested for a crime. Police chiefs say having their own collections helps them solve cases faster because they can avoid the backlogs that plague state and federal repositories...

Frederick Harran, the public safety director in Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania...said he knows of about 60 departments using local databases... "The local databases have very, very little regulations and very few limits, and the law just hasn't caught up to them," said Jason Kreig, a law professor at the University of Arizona who has studied the issue.

One ACLU attorney cites a case where local police officers in California took DNA samples from children without even obtaining a court order first.
Programming

Douglas Crockford Envisions A Post-JavaScript World (infoworld.com) 300

JavaScript developer (and JSON proponent) Douglas Crockford recently described "a theoretical post-JavaScript World," according to InfoWorld. Crockford "believes the web development staple needs a successor that can fix multiple programming nuances." An anonymous reader summarizes their report: Despite its status as the world's most popular language, Crockford told an audience at the Oracle Code conference, "It would be sad if JavaScript turns out to be the last language." He complained that JavaScript has two different ways of declaring variables -- let and var -- as well as two different "bottom variables" with no value -- both null and undefined. "There's an argument among language designers, should we have bottom values at all? But there's nobody who thinks you should have two of them."

According to InfoWorld, Crockford "also presented a scenario with JavaScript being turned into a purely functional programming language by getting rid of 'impurities' like date, the delete operation, math.random and object.assign. Afterward, he stressed replacing JavaScript rather than adding functional capabilities to it... The next language also should be better able to deal with multiple cores. Most languages have followed the sequential model of Fortran, executing one operation after another, he said. 'That's not how the world works anymore. We now have lots of cores available to us, which all want to be running at the same time.'"

In other news, Crockford also proposed ending the "spaces vs. tabs" debate by simply eliminating tabs altogether.
Iphone

An 81-Year-Old Woman Just Created Her Own iPhone App (cnn.com) 60

After 43 years working in one of Japan's leading banks, 81-year-old Masako Wakamiya has launched an iPhone app called "Hinadan" that shows users how to stage traditional dolls for the Hinamatsuri festival. From a report on CNN Money: She says she felt compelled to do something after noticing a shortage of fun apps aimed at people her age. "We easily lose games when playing against young people, since our finger movements can't match their speed," Wakamiya told CNN. The retired banker asked a bunch of people to create games for seniors, but no one was interested. So she took matters into her own hands and achieved something many people half her age haven't done. "I wanted to create a fun app to get elderly people interested in smartphones," she said. "It took about half a year to develop." Wakamiya started using computers at age 60 when she was caring for her elderly mother and finding it difficult to get out and socialize with friends.
Software

Software Engineer Detained At JFK, Given Test To Prove He's An Engineer (mashable.com) 553

New submitter mendred quotes a report from Mashable: Celestine Omin, a software engineer at Andela -- a tech startup that connects developers in Africa with U.S employers -- had a particularly unwelcoming reception when he deplaned at John F. Kennedy Airport and was given a test to prove he was actually a software engineer. A LinkedIn post detailing Omin's challenging experience explained that upon landing in New York after spending 24 miserable hours on a Qatar Airways flight, he was given some trouble about the short-term visa he obtained for his trip. According to the post, an unprepared and exhausted Omin waited in the airport for approximately 20 minutes before being questioned by a Customs and Border Protection officer about his occupation. After several questions were asked, he was reportedly brought to a small room and told to sit down, where he was left for another hour before another customs officer entered and resumed grilling him. Omin was instructed to answer the following questions: "Write a function to check if a Binary Search Tree is balanced," and "What is an abstract class, and why do you need it."
Businesses

Programmers Are Confessing Their Coding Sins To Protest a Broken Job Interview Process (theoutline.com) 1001

A number of programmers have taken it Twitter to bring it to everyone's, but particularly recruiter's, attention about the grueling interview process in their field that relies heavily on technical questions. David Heinemeier Hansson, a well-known programmer and the creator of the popular Ruby on Rails coding framework, started it when he tweeted, "Hello, my name is David. I would fail to write bubble sort on a whiteboard. I look code up on the internet all the time. I don't do riddles." Another coder added, "Hello, my name is Tim. I'm a lead at Google with over 30 years coding experience and I need to look up how to get length of a python string." Another coder chimed in, "Hello my name is Mike, I'm a GDE and lead at NY Times, I don't know what np complete means. Should I?" A feature story on The Outline adds: This interview style, widely used by major tech companies including Google and Amazon, typically pits candidates against a whiteboard without access to reference material -- a scenario working programmers say is demoralizing and an unrealistic test of actual ability. People spend weeks preparing for this process, afraid that the interviewer will quiz them on the one obscure algorithm they haven't studied. "A cottage industry has emerged that reminds us uncomfortably of SAT prep," Karla Monterroso, VP of programs for Code2040, an organization for black and Latino techies, wrote in a critique of the whiteboard interview. [...] This means companies tend to favor recent computer science grads from top-tier schools who have had time to cram; in other words, it doesn't help diversify the field with women, older people, and people of color.
Security

Severe SQL Injection Flaw Discovered In WordPress Plugin With Over 1 Million Installs (bleepingcomputer.com) 61

According to BleepingComputer, "A WordPress plugin installed on over one million sites has just fixed a severe SQL injection vulnerability that can allow attackers to steal data from a website's database." The plugin's name is NextGEN Gallery, which has its own set of plugins due to how successful it is. From the report: According to web security firm Sucuri, who discovered the NextGEN Gallery security issues, the first attack scenario can happen if a WordPress site owner activates the NextGEN Basic TagCloud Gallery option on his site. This feature allows site owners to display image galleries that users can navigate via tags. Clicking one of these tags alters the site's URL as the user navigates through photos. Sucuri says that an attack can modify link parameters and insert SQL queries that will be executed by the plugin when the attacker loads the malformed URL. This happens due to improper input sanitization in the URL parameters, a common problem with many WordPress and non-WordPress web applications. The second exploitation scenario can happen if website owners open their site for blog post submissions. Because attackers can create accounts on the site and submit a blog post/article for review, they can also insert malformed NextGEN Gallery shortcodes. Sucuri says the plugin's authors fixed this flaw in NextGEN Gallery 2.1.79.
Databases

CloudPets IoT Toys Leaked and Ransomed, Exposing Kids' Voice Messages (androidpolice.com) 64

"According to security researcher Troy Hunt, a series of web-connected, app-enabled toys called CloudPets have been hacked," reports Android Police. "The manufacturer's central database was reportedly compromised over several months after stunningly poor security, despite the attempts of many researchers and journalists to inform the manufacturer of the potential danger. Several ransom notes were left, demanding Bitcoin payments for the implied deletion of stolen data." From the report: CloudPets allow parents to record a message for their children on their phones, which then arrives on the Bluetooth connected stuffed toy and is played back. Kids can squeeze the stuffed animal's paw to record a message of their own, which is sent back to the phone app. The Android app has been downloaded over 100,000 times, though user reviews are poor, citing a difficult interface, frequent bugs, and annoying advertising. Hunt and the researchers he collaborated with found that the central database for CloudPets' voice messages and user info was stored on a public-facing MongoDB server, with only basic hashes protecting user addresses and passwords. The same database apparently connected to the stored voice messages that could be retrieved by the apps and toys. Easy access and poor password requirements may have resulted in unauthorized access to a large number of accounts. The database was finally removed from the publicly accessible server in January, but not before demands for ransom were left.
Open Source

GitHub Invites Contributions To 'Open Source Guides' (infoq.com) 54

An anonymous reader quotes InfoQ: GitHub has recently launched its Open Source Guides, a collection of resources addressing the most common scenarios and best practices for both contributors and maintainers of open source projects. The guides themselves are open source and GitHub is actively inviting developers to participate and share their stories... "Open source is complicated, especially for newcomers. Experienced contributors have learned many lessons about the best way to use, contribute to, and produce open source software. Everyone shouldn't have to learn those lessons the hard way."

Making a successful first contribution is not the exclusive focus of the guides, though, which also strives to make it easier to find users for a project, starting a new project, and building healthy open source communities. Other topics the guides dwell on are best practices, getting financial support, metrics, and legal matters.

GitHub's Head of Open Source says the guides create "the equivalent of a water cooler for the community."
Security

Java and Python FTP Attacks Can Punch Holes Through Firewalls (csoonline.com) 18

"The Java and Python runtimes fail to properly validate FTP URLs, which can potentially allow attackers to punch holes through firewalls to access local networks," reports CSO Online. itwbennett writes: Last weekend security researcher Alexander Klink disclosed an interesting attack where exploiting an XML External Entity vulnerability in a Java application can be used to send emails. At the same time, he showed that this type of vulnerability can be used to trick the Java runtime to initiate FTP connections to remote servers. After seeing Klink's exploit, Timothy Morgan, a researcher with Blindspot Security, decided to disclose a similar attack that works against both Java's and Python's FTP implementations. "But his attack is more serious because it can be used to punch holes through firewalls," writes Lucian Constantin in CSO Online.
"The Java and Python developers have been notified of this problem, but until they fix their FTP client implementations, the researcher advises firewall vendors to disable classic mode FTP translation by default..." reports CSO Online. "It turns out that the built-in implementation of the FTP client in Java doesn't filter out special carriage return and line feed characters from URLs and actually interprets them. By inserting such characters in the user or password portions of an FTP URL, the Java FTP client can be tricked to execute rogue commands..."
Education

Arizona Bill Would Make Students In Grades 4-12 Participate Once In An Hour of Code (azpbs.org) 142

theodp writes: Christopher Silavong of Cronkite News reports: "A bill, introduced by [Arizona State] Sen. John Kavanagh [R-Fountain Hills] would mandate that public and charter schools provide one hour of coding instruction once between grades 4 to 12. Kavanagh said it's critical for students to learn the language -- even if it's only one session -- so they can better compete for jobs in today's world. However, some legislators don't believe a state mandate is the right approach. Senate Bill 1136 has passed the Senate, and it's headed to the House of Representatives. Kavanagh said he was skeptical about coding and its role in the future. But he changed his mind after learning that major technology companies were having trouble finding domestic coders and talking with his son, who works at a tech company." According to the Bill, the instruction can "be offered by either a nationally recognized nonprofit organization [an accompanying Fact Sheet mentions tech-backed Code.org] that is devoted to expanding access to computer science or by an entity with expertise in providing instruction to pupils on interactive computer instruction that is aligned to the academic standards."
Government

Security Lapse Exposed New York Airport's Critical Servers For a Year (zdnet.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: A security lapse at a New York international airport left its server backups exposed on the open internet for almost a year, ZDNet has found. The internet-connected storage drive contained several backup images of servers used by Stewart International Airport, but neither the backup drive nor the disk images were password protected, allowing anyone to access their contents. Since April last year, the airport had been inadvertently leaking its own highly-sensitive files as a result of the drive's misconfiguration. Vickery, who also posted an analysis of his findings, said the drive "was, in essence, acting as a public web server" because the airport was backing up unprotected copies of its systems to a Buffalo-branded drive, installed by a contract third-party IT specialist. When contacted Thursday, the contractor dismissed the claims and would not comment further. Though the listing still appears on Shodan, the search engine for unprotected devices and databases, the drive has since been secured. The files contained eleven disk images, accounting for hundreds of gigabytes of files and folders, which when mounted included dozens of airport staff email accounts, sensitive human resources files, interoffice memos, payroll data, and what appears to be a large financial tracking database. Many of the files we reviewed include "confidential" internal airport documents, which contain schematics and details of other core infrastructure.
Bug

Cloudflare Leaks Sensitive User Data Across the Web (theregister.co.uk) 87

ShaunC writes: In a bug that's been christened "Cloudbleed," Cloudflare disclosed today that some of their products accidentally exposed private user information from a number of websites. Similar to 2014's Heartbleed, Cloudflare's problem involved a buffer overrun that allowed uninitialized memory contents to leak into normal web traffic. Tavis Ormandy, of Google's Project Zero, discovered the flaw last week. Affected sites include Uber, Fitbit, and OK Cupid, as well as unnamed services for hotel booking and password management. Cloudflare says the bug has been fixed, and Google has purged affected pages from its search index and cache. Further reading: The Register, Ars Technica
AI

Microsoft Research Developing An AI To Put Coders Out of a Job (mspoweruser.com) 338

jmcbain writes: Are you a software programmer who voted in a recent Slashdot poll that a robot/AI would never take your job? Unfortunately, you're wrong. Microsoft, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, is developing such an AI. This software "can turn your descriptions into working code in seconds," reports MSPoweruser. "Called DeepCoder, the software can take requirements by the developer, search through a massive database of code snippets and deliver working code in seconds, a significant advance in the state of the art in program synthesis." New Scientist describes program synthesis as "creating new programs by piecing together lines of code taken from existing software -- just like a programmer might. Given a list of inputs and outputs for each code fragment, DeepCoder learned which pieces of code were needed to achieve the desired result overall." The original research paper can be read here.
PHP

PHP Becomes First Programming Language To Add 'Modern' Cryptography Library In Its Core (bleepingcomputer.com) 204

An anonymous reader writes from a report via BleepingComputer: The PHP team has unanimously voted to integrate the Libsodium library in the PHP core, and by doing so, becoming the first programming language to support a modern cryptography library by default. Developers approved a proposal with a vote of 37 to 0 and decided that Libsodium will be added to the upcoming PHP 7.2 release that will be launched towards the end of 2017. Scott Arciszewski, the cryptography expert who made the proposal, says that by supporting modern crypto in the PHP core, the PHP team will force the WordPress team to implement better security in its CMS, something they avoided until now. Additionally, it will allow PHP and CMS developers to add advanced cryptography features to their apps that run on shared hosting providers, where until now they weren't able to install custom PHP extensions to support modern cryptography. Other reasons on why he made the proposal are detailed here. Arciszewski also says that PHP is actually "the first" programming language to support a "modern" cryptography library in its core, despite Erlang and Go including similar libraries, which he claims are not as powerful and up-to-date as PHP's upcoming Libsodium implementation.

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