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The Almighty Buck

'No Such Thing As a Free Gift' Casts a Critical Eye At Gates Foundation ( 154

theodp writes: The Intercept's Michael Massing takes a look at "How the Gates Foundation Reflects the Good and the Bad of 'Hacker Philanthropy." He writes, "Despite its impact, few book-length assessments of the foundation's work have appeared. Now Linsey McGoey, a sociologist at the University of Essex, is seeking to fill the gap. 'Just how efficient is Gates's philanthropic spending?' she asks in No Such Thing as a Free Gift. 'Are the billions he has spent on U.S. primary and secondary schools improving education outcomes? Are global health grants directed at the largest health killers? Is the Gates Foundation improving access to affordable medicines, or are patent rights taking priority over human rights?' As the title of her book suggests, McGoey answers all of these questions in the negative. The good the foundation has done, she believes, is far outweighed by the harm." Massing adds, "Bill and Melinda Gates answer to no electorate, board, or shareholders; they are accountable mainly to themselves. What's more, the many millions of dollars the foundation has bestowed on nonprofits and news organizations has led to a natural reluctance on their part to criticize it. There's even a name for it: the 'Bill Chill' effect."

What the Sony Hack Looked Like To Employees ( 51

An anonymous reader writes: The cyber attack on Sony was one of the highest profile hacks in the past several years. Slate tracked down two dozen people who worked there at the time, and asked them what it was like on the inside while it was happening. Quoting: "The telephone directory vanished. Voicemail was offline. Computers became bricks. Internet access on the lot was shuttered. The cafeteria went cash-only. Contracts—and the templates those contracts were based on—disappeared. Sony's online database of stock footage was unsearchable. It was near impossible for Sony to communicate directly with its employees—much less ex-employees, who were also gravely affected by the hack—to inform them of what was even happening and what to do about it. 'It was like moving back into an earlier time,' one employee says." Some employees had their workloads doubled, some had nothing to do. While the hack brought the company together at the beginning, it eventually descended into recriminations and lawsuits.

And the Pulitzer Prize For SQL Reporting Goes To... ( 27

theodp writes: Over at the Stanford Computational Journalism Lab, Dan Nguyen's Exploring the Wall Street Journal's Pulitzer-Winning Medicare Investigation with SQL is a pretty epic post on how one can use SQL to learn about Medicare data and controversial practices in Medicare billing, giving the reader a better appreciation for what was involved in the WSJ's Medicare Unmasked data investigation. So, how long until a journalist wins a Pulitzer for SQL reporting? And for all you amateur and professional Data Scientists, what data would you want to SELECT if you were a Pulitzer-seeking reporter?

Donald Trump Obliquely Backs a Federal Database To Track Muslims 594 writes: Philip Bump reports at the Washington Post that Donald Trump confirmed to NBC on Thursday evening that he supports a database to track Muslims in the United States. The database of Muslims arose after an interview Yahoo News's Hunter Walker conducted with Trump earlier this week, during which he asked the Republican front-runner to weigh in on the current debate over refugees from Syria. "We're going to have to do things that we never did before," Trump told Walker. "Some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule." When pressed on whether these measures might include tracking Muslim Americans in a database or noting their religious affiliations on identification cards, Trump would not go into detail — but did not reject the options. Trump's reply? "We're going to have to — we're going to have to look at a lot of things very closely," he said. "We're going to have to look at the mosques. We're going to have to look very, very carefully." After an event on in Newton, Iowa, on Thursday night, NBC's Vaughn Hillyard pressed the point. "Should there be a database system that tracks Muslims here in this country?," Hillyard asked. "There should be a lot of systems, beyond databases" Trump said. "We should have a lot of systems." Hillyard asked about implementation, including the process of adding people to the system. "Good management procedures," Trump said. Sign people up at mosques, Hillyard asked? "Different places," Trump replied. "You sign them up at different places. But it's all about management."

Video Meet Mårten Mickos, Serial Open Source CEO (Video) 23

Marten was the MySQL CEO who built the company from a small-time free software database developer into a worldwide software juggernaut he sold to Sun Microsystems. Next, he became CEO of Eucalyptus Systems, another open source operation, which Hewlett Packard bought in 2014. Now Mårten is CEO of hackerone, a company that hooks security-worried companies up with any one of thousands of ethical hackers worldwide.

Some of those hackers might be companies that grew out of university CS departments, and some of them may be individual high school students working from their kitchen tables. Would a large company Board of Directors trust a kid hacker who came to them with a bug he found in their software? Probably not. But if Mårten or one of his hackerone people contacts that company, it's likely to listen -- and set up a bug bounty program if they don't have one already.

Essentially, once again Mårten is working as an intermediary between technically proficient people -- who may or may not conform to sociey's idea of a successful person -- and corporate executives who need hackers' skills and services but may not know how to find non-mainstream individuals or even know the difference between "hackers" and "crackers." Editor's note: I have known and respected Mårten for many years. If this interview seems like a conversation between two old friends, it is.

Anonymous Takes Down Thousands of ISIS-Related Twitter Accounts In a Day ( 320

BarbaraHudson writes: Softpedia is reporting that Anonymous, along with social media users, have identified several thousand Twitter accounts allegedly linked to ISIS members. "Besides scanning for ISIS Twitter accounts themselves, the hacking group has also opened access to the [takedown operation] site to those interested. Anyone who comes across ISIS social media accounts can easily search the database and report any new terrorists and supporters. The website is called #opIceISIS [slow right now, but it does load] and will index ISIS members based on their real name, location, picture, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts." Anonymous crowdsourcing their operations... welcome to the brave new world, ISIS. An article at The Independent reminds everyone that this information has not been independently confirmed, and that Anonymous is certainly capable of misidentifying people. It's also worth exploring the question of why Twitter hasn't already disabled these accounts, and why intelligence agencies haven't done anything about them, if they're so easy to find.

PostgreSQL Getting Parallel Query 83

New submitter iamvego writes: A major feature PostgreSQL users have requested for some time now is to have the query planner "parallelize" a query. Now, thanks to Robert Haas and Amit Kapila, this has now materialized in the 9.6 branch. Robert Haas writes in his blog entry that so far it only supports splitting up a sequential scan between multiple workers, but should hopefully be extended to work with multiple partitions before the final release, and much more beside in future releases.

DNA Data From California Newborn Blood Samples Stored, Sold To 3rd Parties ( 187

schwit1 writes: "This might come as a surprise to California natives in their 20s and early 30s: The state owns your DNA. Every year about four million newborns in the U.S. get a heel prick at birth, to screen for congenital disorders, that if found early enough, can save their life." However, when those tests are done, the leftover blood isn't simply thrown away. Instead, they're taken to an office building and the DNA data is stored in a database. "It’s a treasure trove of information about you, from the color of your eyes and hair to your pre-disposition to diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer." And that's not the end of it: "The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is not the only agency using the blood spots. Law enforcement can request them. Private companies can buy them to do research – without your consent."

Hackers Who Hit CIA Director Break Into Law Enforcement Tools ( 35

An anonymous reader writes: The same group of hackers who hacked into the personal email account of CIA director John Brennan have now exploited a vulnerability to gain access to a private law enforcement portal. They demonstrated access to a system called JABS — the Joint Automated Booking System — which is a database of arrest records. "It was through the vulnerable law enforcement portal that the hackers say they also obtained a list of about 3,000 names, titles, email addresses and phone numbers for government employees that they posted to Pastebin on Thursday. The posting, which they indicated was just "Part 1" of a presumably multi-part leak, consisted of a snippet of an alphabetical list of government employees working for the FBI and other federal agencies as well as various local police and sheriff departments around the country. It included job titles, email addresses and phone numbers."

Stanford Identifies Potential Security Hole In Genomic Data-Sharing Network 23

An anonymous reader writes: Sharing genomic information among researchers is critical to the advance of biomedical research. Yet genomic data contains identifiable information and, in the wrong hands, poses a risk to individual privacy. If someone had access to your genome sequence — either directly from your saliva or other tissues, or from a popular genomic information service — they could check to see if you appear in a database of people with certain medical conditions, such as heart disease, lung cancer or autism. Work by a pair of researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine makes that genomic data more secure. Researches have demonstrated a technique for hacking a network of global genomic databases and how to prevent it. They are working with investigators from the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health on implementing preventive measures.
The Courts

Harvard Project Aims To Put Every Court Decision Online, For Free ( 66

Techdirt comments approvingly on a new project from Harvard Law School, called Free the Law, which is a joint effort with a company called Ravel to scan and post in nicely searchable format all federal and state court decisions, and put them all online, for free. As Techdirt puts it, This is pretty huge. While some courts now release most decisions as freely available PDFs, many federal courts still have them hidden behind the ridiculous PACER system, and state court decisions are totally hit or miss. And, of course, tons of historical cases are completely buried. While there are some giant companies like Westlaw and LexisNexis that provide lawyers access to decisions, those cost a ton -- and the public is left out. This new project is designed to give much more widespread access to the public. And it sounds like they're really going above and beyond to make it truly accessible, rather than just dumping PDFs online. ... Harvard "owns" the resulting data (assuming what's ownable), and while there are some initial restrictions that Ravel can put on the corpus of data, that goes away entirely after eight years, and can end earlier if Ravel "does not meet its obligations." Anything that helps disrupt the stranglehold of the major legal publishers seems like a good thing.

IMDb Hits 25 59

An anonymous reader writes: The year 2015 heralded a number of notable Internet milestones — the humble .com domain name reached 30 years of age, while both eBay and Amazon reached the grand old age of 20. That the Internet Movie Database, a gargantuan film and TV show encyclopedia better known as IMDb, began 25 years ago as a pre-Web hobby project and is now one of the top 50 most visited websites on the Internet is a notable achievement. "IMDb is the only pure Internet company that can celebrate its 25th anniversary," said Col Needham, founder and CEO of IMDb, in an interview with VentureBeat.

Lessons From a Decade of IT Failures ( 118

New submitter mixed_signal writes: IEEE Spectrum has an online set of articles, or "lessons," on why big IT projects have failed, including analysis of the impacts of failed systems and the life cycles of failed projects. From the summary: "To commemorate the last decade's worth of failures, we organized and analyzed the data we've collected. We cannot claim—nor can anyone, really—to have a definitive, comprehensive database of debacles. Instead, from the incidents we have chronicled, we handpicked the most interesting and illustrative examples of big IT systems and projects gone awry and created the five interactives featured here. Each reveals different emerging patterns and lessons. Dive in to see what we've found. One big takeaway: While it's impossible to say whether IT failures are more frequent now than in the past, it does seem that the aggregate consequences are worse."

MySQL Servers Hijacked With Malware To Perform DDoS Attacks ( 55

An anonymous reader writes with news of a malware campaign using hijacked MySQL servers to launch DDoS attacks. Symantec reports: "Attackers are compromising MySQL servers with the Chikdos malware to force them to conduct DDoS attacks against other targets. According to Symantec telemetry, the majority of the compromised servers are in India, followed by China, Brazil and the Netherlands, and are being used to launch attacks against an US hosting provider and a Chinese IP address."

LTE 4G Networks Put Androids At Risk of Overbilling and Phone Number Spoofing 113

An anonymous reader writes: Carnegie Mellon University's CERT security vulnerabilities database has issued an alert regarding the current status of LTE (Long-Term Evolution) mobile networks, which are plagued by four vulnerabilities that allow attackers to spoof phone numbers, overbill clients, create DoS (Denial of Service) states on the phone and network, and even obtain free data transfers without being charged. The vulnerabilities were discovered by 8 scientists which documented them in their research.

Beware of Oracle's Licensing 'Traps,' Law Firm Warns ( 136

itwbennett writes: Slashdot readers are no strangers to Oracle's aggressive licensing practices, practices that have earned them notoriety over the years. This week, Texas law firm Scott & Scott wrote a blog post warning enterprises about the 'traps' in Oracle software licensing. One of the biggest problems with Oracle software is how difficult it is for companies to track internally what they're using and how they're using it, said Julie Machal-Fulks, a partner with Scott & Scott, in an interview with Katherine Noyes. 'They may use just one Oracle product and think they're using it correctly, but then Oracle comes along and says, 'no, you're using it wrong — you owe us a million bucks.'

Scientists Hope To Attract Millions To "DNA.LAND" ( 32

An anonymous reader writes: Started by computational geneticist Yaniv Erlich, and geneticist Joseph Pickrell at the New York Genome Center and Columbia University in New York, DNA.Land is a project which hopes to create a crowdsourced DNA database for genetic studies. Nature reports: "The project, DNA.LAND, aims to entice people who have already had their genomes analyzed by consumer genetics companies to share that data, allowing DNA.LAND geneticists to study the information. Although some consumer genetic-testing companies share data with researchers, they provide only aggregate information about their customers, not individual genomes. Because the data are not always accompanied by detailed information on patients' health, they are of limited use for drawing links between genes and disease."

IP Address May Associate Lyft CTO With Uber Data Breach ( 103

An anonymous reader writes: According to two unnamed Reuters sources the IP address of Lyft CTO Chris Lambert has been revealed by Uber's investigations to be associated with the accessing of a security key that was accidentally deposited on GitHub in 2014 and used to access 50,000 database records of Uber drivers later that year. However, bearing in mind that the breach was carried out through a fiercely protectionist Scandinavian VPN, and that Lambert was a Google software engineer before become CTO of a major technology company, it does seem surprising that he would have accessed such sensitive data with his own domestic IP address.

Ask Slashdot: Where Can I Find "Nuts and Bolts" Info On Cookies & Tracking Mechanisms? 84

New submitter tanstaaf1 writes: I was thinking about the whole tracking and privacy train-wreck and I'm wondering why specific information on how it is done, and how it can be micromanaged or undone by a decent programmer (at least), isn't vastly more accessible? By searching, I can only find information on how to erase cookies using the browser. Browser level (black box) solutions aren't anywhere near good enough; if it were, the exploits would be few and far between instead everywhere everyday. Read below for the rest of tanstaaf1's question.

IBM's Watson Is Now Analyzing Your Vacation Photos 117

jfruh writes: IBM's Jeopardy-winning supercomputer Watson is now suite of cloud-based services that developers can use to add cognitive capabilities to applications, and one of its powers is visual analysis. Visual Insights analyzes images and videos posted to services like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, then looks for patterns and trends in what people have been posting. Watson turns what it gleans into structured data, making it easier to load into a database and act upon — which is clearly appealing to marketers and just as clearly carries disturbing privacy implications.