There is no doubt that Sci-Hub, the infamous—and, according to a U.S. court, illegal—online repository of pirated research papers, is enormously popular. (See Science’s investigation last year of who is downloading papers from Sci-Hub.) But just how enormous is its repository? That is the question biodata scientist Daniel Himmelstein at the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues recently set out to answer, after an assist from Sci-Hub.

Their findings, published in a preprint on the PeerJ journal site on 20 July, indicate that Sci-Hub can instantly provide access to more than two-thirds of all scholarly articles, an amount that Himmelstein says is “even higher” than he anticipated. For research papers protected by a paywall, the study found Sci-Hub’s reach is greater still, with instant access to 85% of all papers published in subscription journals. For some major publishers, such as Elsevier, more than 97% of their catalog of journal articles is being stored on Sci-Hub’s servers—meaning they can be accessed there for free.

Given that Sci-Hub has access to almost every paper a scientist would ever want to read, and can quickly obtain requested papers it doesn’t have, could the website truly topple traditional publishing? In a chat with Science Insider, Himmelstein concludes that the results of his study could mark “the beginning of the end” for paywalled research…


Panama Papers & Ransomware

Before we dive into ransomware, we thought you might enjoy a readable overview of the latest and largest data breach. Have fun.

Panama Papers & Ransomware

We’ve mentioned before the reason most people don’t get hacked is they’re too poor. It’s far more lucrative to go after banks, to include the IMF et alia, where the hackers can be sure they’ll score actual money and not just overdraft fees. 1

Where the lumpen masses are affected is the hyper local – their own PC/laptop, via ransomware. And this works surprisingly well even on a larger scale: Short of banks and idiotic companies like Target, the easy money turns out to be in…hospitals.

That’s right – hospitals. They are increasingly becoming prime targets for ransomware. Last month it was Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center that dolled out the coin…bitcoins, that is, in order to regain control over their network. $17k worth.

Two weeks ago another three hospitals were nailed.

And just last week a whole hospital chain was attacked by ransomware, holding hostage the entirety of the MedStar server network in Maryland and WDC.

Naturally, the FBI was called in. 2

Interestingly the ransomware forced the MedStar hospitals to reroute ER patients to outside hospitals; the attack prevents patients from receiving timely care. It’s also possible some of thos patients may suffer a negative outcome does that make the hack more? Does the act morph into, say…assault and battery? Then there’s the fact that hospitals are considered part of our “critical infrastructure”: does this ransomware attempt now get classified as terrorism?

Panama Papers & Ransomware

Show 2 footnotes

  1. This doesn’t include CC theft/identity impersonation, which is its own distinct sub-genus.
  2. It’s too early yet to know if the FBI will issue yet another subpoena to Apple. Naw…who was I kidding? Of COURSE they’re going after Apple again.

Lees and Orts

It has finally begun to feel autumnal, with daytime highs in the mid 50s and overnight lows scratching the 30s, so obviously global warming doesn’t exist. Or at least it doesn’t exist here in the Midwest (or the chambers of Congress where members keep showing up with snowballs) but we’ll tell you right now – the Middle East is fucked.

Those pesky scientists 1 released a new study yesterday subtly entitled Future temperature in southwest Asia projected to exceed a threshold for human adaptability, wherein they posit that by the turn of the century the region will be inundated by severe waves of heat and humidity sufficient to kill people who spend a few hours outdoors.

The women will undoubtedly die first, swaddled as they are in their burqas/chadris/paranjas, allowing the men a prolonged period of silence in which to meditate upon their wisdom.

Lees and Orts

Elsewhere a chocolate Lab named Trigger shot its owner in the foot when she laid down her fowling piece.

Authorities have tentatively ruled the shooting accidental contingent upon Dick Cheney’s whereabouts at the time of the incident.

Lees and Orts

We mentioned last month that Exxon suspected back in the early 80s, then confirmed with in-depth climate models, that continued use of their product would bring about global warming. The Los Angeles Times recently followed up on the original reporting with some user-friendly graphics and photos; more tellingly Washington Monthly has called for Exxon to be prosecuted:

A fossil fuel company intentionally and knowingly obfuscating research into climate change constitutes criminal negligence and malicious intent at best, and a crime against humanity at worst. The Department of Justice has a moral obligation to prosecute Exxon and its co-conspirators accordingly. 2

Won’t happen, of course – DoJ hasn’t performed a moral act in our  lifetime. Moreover, prosecution would cause every Congressional ReThug head to literally explode. 3 Right after they shut down the government. 4

Lees and Orts

Finally, and sadly 5, the card catalogue is finally dead.

These little beauties have been quietly disappearing from libraries for over a decade.
But now it’s official – the library cooperative that produced catalog cards has officially called it quits.

DUBLIN, Ohio, October 1, 2015—OCLC printed its last library catalog cards today, officially closing the book on what was once a familiar resource for generations of information seekers who now use computer catalogs and online search engines to access library collections around the world.

This final print run marked the end of a service that has steadily decreased over the past few decades as libraries have moved their catalogs online.

The advent of computerization made this inevitable.

We suppose some libraries, those who due to fiscally ‘conservative’ (usually) ReThugs on local boards have cut or halted funding to purchase new books 6 and never even considered bankrolling computerization, will happily trundle on with their lovely card catalogues. But most libraries, those that haven’t already done so, will warehouse them, perhaps even put them up for sale.

And in half a generation most Americans will have forgotten them entirely.

Until the innernetz goes.

Lees and Orts

Show 6 footnotes

  1. Yes, them; the little bastards who screw up everythin’ Right With Amurica.
  2. Not to mention Sanders trying to browbeat DoJ into doing the right thing.
  3. Which would not be a bad thing.
  4. Which they may well do again in December. Because…it worked so well the last time.
  5. Perhaps it’s just us?
  6. Usually in response to a sane librarian refusing to pull material from the shelves because it does not meet with the extortionist’s ReThug’s views on most anything.

Heartbleed Bug

The Heartbleed Bug is a serious vulnerability in the popular OpenSSL cryptographic software library. This weakness allows stealing the information protected, under normal conditions, by the SSL/TLS encryption used to secure the Internet. SSL/TLS provides communication security and privacy over the Internet for applications such as web, email, instant messaging (IM) and some virtual private networks (VPNs).

The Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. This compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content. This allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users…

As long as the vulnerable version of OpenSSL is in use it can be abused. Fixed OpenSSL has been released and now it has to be deployed. Operating system vendors and distribution, appliance vendors, independent software vendors have to adopt the fix and notify their users. Service providers and users have to install the fix as it becomes available for the operating systems, networked appliances and software they use.

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