Most people, when considering whether to get involved with Bitcoin, look to the ebbs and flows in its price. This way of thinking is misguided.

The value of Bitcoin is not in its price at any given moment, but in the collective work of the thousands of people who maintain it. These are often highly intelligent people, more than capable of getting cushy jobs in San Francisco or Wall Street, who instead choose to spend their time working on a strange, emerging technology. It is by virtue of this intellectual capital that Bitcoin has a price at all.

The following…

Don’t Try This At Home

(image by Marcelo Leal)

The Threat to Hospitals

It was late on a Tuesday evening, and the MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center looked like a time capsule.

Without an operational computer system, secretaries, nurses and doctors beelined through hallways and up and down elevators, trading patient records on paper. Hospitals keep paper records for precisely such occasions — if a computer system fails, it can’t bring the whole hospital to a halt. But these backups aren’t perfect copies of their digital counterparts, nor can they be entirely up-to-date. As MedStar nurses told The Washington Post:

[T]he paper charts are far less comprehensive than those kept in digital form…

It’s Not That Hard

(image by Daan Stevens)

Hacking the Vice President

On September 11th, 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney was running the United States from a bunker under the East Wing of the White House. The President was in Florida, so it was up to Dick to handle the country’s most significant day since Pearl Harbor. To manage intelligence and, if it came to it, shoot down passenger airplanes.

With the weight of a nation on his shoulders, his body began to spin out of control. According to a test taken that day, there was a deadly amount of potassium in his bloodstream. The condition, hyperkalemia, could’ve incited cardiac arrest. …

(image via


A patient walks into a physician’s office with pain in her right shoulder, but nothing appears to have happened there. There’s no bruise, no rash, nothing.

Perhaps the symptom is psychosomatic (in her head). More likely, the issue has to do with her gallbladder — a small organ in the middle of her chest.

A second patient walks into the office. This patient has a pain in her left shoulder. Again, nothing seems to have happened to the site itself.

The diagnosis? A ruptured spleen.

The body is a marvelously complex, interconnected network of biological systems. “Referred pain” — when…

What’s Wrong with QA, and Whether Algorithms Can Fix It

(image via Markus Spiske)

The Monotony of Testing

Software testing can be some of the least enviable work imaginable.

The gaming industry is a good example. Video games may be fun for the rest of us, but only after they’re really not fun, for a long time, for all the people who have to test them.

An open world RPG will have vast expanses of digital valleys, mountain ranges, and cities, every inch of which requires excruciating collision testing to ensure players don’t accidentally walk through walls or underneath oceans. A first-person shooter with multiple DLC packages can have so many permutations of game states that testing…

What Makes it So Tricky

(image via Alistair MacRobert)

3 Ways to Break into a Building

There’s a witticism in the world of security (albeit not a common one) that goes something like this:

There are three ways to break into a building: from the roof, underneath through the floor, or through a wall. So, to stop someone from breaking in, protect the roof, the floors, and the walls.

It’s tongue-in-cheek, of course, but it can be helpful to think in such simplified terms. If you can picture every avenue through which an attacker might break in, you can picture everything you’ll need to do to prevent them from being successful.

Extending this analogy, we can…

A Security Risk for Large Companies

(NBC News)

Vendor Glut

Total SE, a petroleum corporation based in Paris, is a behemoth. And you don’t need to know a thing about them to tell: all you have to do is look at their massive, beautiful, almost frightening headquarters. The Tour Total is not only a skyscraper, it’s three skyscrapers smushed together plus a little extra on the side. Whatever goes on inside those buildings, you can bet, requires a lot of people and a lot of resources.

Will Remote Survive IRL?


Unforeseen Consequences

Pandemics, natural disasters and crises in general tend to have consequences beyond the obvious death and destruction. A hurricane can cause infrastructure damage that affects the economy and mobility in a city a decade later. Climate change brings animal and human populations in closer proximity, opening more avenues for disease spread.

In the mid-1300s, the Black Death killed somewhere north of 75 million, possibly up to around 200 million people. It’s an almost impossibly high number, 200 million — equivalent, in today’s terms, to the population of Western Europe. That kind of seismic shift in the population, naturally, had effects…

A Horror Story


A Deadly Bug

On March 21st, 1986, a man walked into the East Texas Cancer Center (ETCC) to receive radiation therapy on his upper back tumor. It was his ninth visit, so everything felt pretty ordinary. He entered the treatment room and laid down underneath a big, bulky Therac-25 machine (pictured above). The operator, in the control room next door, began the operation. MIT engineer Nancy Leveson recounted the story in a postliminary report:

She entered the patient’s prescription data quickly, then noticed that she had typed “x” (for X-ray) when she had intended “e” (for electron) mode. This was a common mistake…

An Introduction to Penetration Testing

(via Illumio)

Where Good Cybersecurity Gets You

In the mid-2000s, a big data company hired a new CEO named Richard.

Richard had big plans, and was good at following through on them. In a decade’s time, he’d more than double the revenue of the company, and quadruple its stock price.

One of the things Richard had an eye for was cybersecurity. In a speech at the University of Georgia, he called security his “number one worry.” It was a remarkable statement — CEOs care a lot about revenue and stock price, but hardly ever give so much thought to security. In this way, Richard was different. …

Nate Nelson

Tech writer.

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