For Modern Astronomers, It’s Learn to Code or Get Left Behind

Astronomer Meredith Rawls was in an astronomy master’s program at San Diego State University in 2008 when her professor threw a curveball. “We’re going to need to do some coding,” he said to her class. “Do you know how to do that?”

Not really, the students said.

And so he taught them—at lunch, working around their regular class schedule. But what he meant by “coding” was Fortran, a language IBM developed in the 1950s. Later, working on her PhD at New Mexico State, Rawls decided her official training wasn’t going to cut it. She set out to learn a more modern language called Python, which she saw other astronomers switching to. “It’s going to suck,” she remembers telling herself, “but I’m just going to do it.”

And so she started teaching herself, and signed up for a workshop called SciCoder. “I basically lost the better part of a year of standard research productivity time largely due to that choice, to switch my tools,” she says, “but I don’t think I could have succeeded without that, either.”

That’s probably true. Rawls’s educational experience is still typical: Fledgling astronomers take maybe one course in coding and then informally learn whatever language their leaders happen to use, because those are the ones the leaders know how to teach. They usually don’t take meaningful courses in modern coding, data science, or their best practices.

But today’s astronomers don’t just need to know how stars form and black holes burst. They also need knowledge of how to pry that information from the many terabytes of data that will stream from next-generation telescopes like the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and the Square Kilometer Array. So they’re largely teaching themselves—using a suite of open-source training tools, focused workshops, and fellowship programs aims to help and actually prepare astronomers for the universe they’re entering.

Segmentation Fault

Back when telescopes produced less data, astronomers could get by on teaching themselves. “The old model was you go to your telescope—or you log in remotely because you’re fancy—you get your data, you download it on your computer, you make a plot, you write a paper, and you’re a scientist,” says Rawls, who is now a postdoc at the University of Washington. “Now, it’s not practical to download all the data.” And “a plot” is laughable. You just try using graph paper to nail down the correlation function that shows the distribution of millions of galaxies (go ahead; I’ll wait).

There are social costs to that inadequate education. First, it gives a booster to people who knew, early, both that they wanted to be astronomers and that astronomy meant typing into your computer all day. You know, the kinds of kids who sat in Algebra I “hacking” their TI-83s—ones with access to autodidactic materials and the free time to do that didacting. That kind of favoring is a good way to, on average, keep astronomy’s usual suspects—white guys!—on top.

Beyond the social costs, though, lie scientific ones. Let’s say a scientist writes a program that analyzes quakes inside the sun (that happens!). But there’s no documentation on how the program works, and its kludgy, coagulated subroutines are opaque. No second scientist, then, can run that code see if they get the same result, or if the program actually does what Scientist 1 claims. “Reproducibility is held up as the gold standard for what is real or not,” says Lucianne Walkowicz, an astrophysicist at the Adler Planetarium. “You need the materials upon which the experiment was performed, and you need the tools. Code is the equivalent of our beakers and Bunsen burners.”

Plus, the way astrophysics programming has historically worked is inefficient. Out on overheating desktops across Earth’s universities are dozens of programs that do the same thing—catch those quakes, comb for exoplanets—different research groups having made their own. Instead of applying increasingly refined algorithms to their research problems, ill-trained astronomer-coders sometimes spend their time reinventing the wheel.

Data Drama

Walkowicz wants to help fix these problems before they get worse—which they’re about to. She is the science collaboration coordinator for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which will essentially make a 10-year-long HD movie of the sky, so astronomers can see—and, ideally, understand—what changes from diurn to diurn. “Part of the reason we could all get by on being self-taught is that datasets, even when they’re on the fairly big side, are pretty small,” says Walkowicz. “They’re not as large and complex as the data from LSST will be. Problems will be amplified.”

Knowing this, and knowing that astronomer apprentices are getting essentially the same training astronomers have gotten since always, she and LSST colleagues decided to help prepare those apprentices. The LSST Data Science Fellowship program was born, bringing cohorts of students to six weeklong workshops over two years. To select fellows, they use a program called Entrofy, which optimizes diversity among each class.

The idea doesn’t always go over well with professors. “Reactions that I’ve gotten run the gamut from ‘That’s a good point, but our students don’t have time’ to ‘Stop trying to turn our astronomers into computer scientists,’” says Walkowicz.

Reactions that I’ve gotten run the gamut from ‘That’s a good point, but our students don’t have time’ to ‘Stop trying to turn our astronomers into computer scientists.’ Lucianne Walkowicz

But for their part, the students—perhaps more aware of the future of their field than the more senior researchers—feel more like astronomers. “Before being in this program, I already knew my thesis and my thesis hasn’t changed,” says Charee Peters, a grad student at the University of Wisconsin, “but I feel more comfortable now being able to approach it. I feel more like a scientist.”

Grad student Bela Abolfathi of UC Irvine has similar feelings, and thinks it makes sense that education be driven by data. “I had been trying to learn a lot of these techniques on my own, and my progress was glacial,” she says. “It really helps to learn these skills in a formal way, where you can ask questions from experts in the field, just as you would any other subject.”

You can often spot a formally untrained astronomer’s code a light-year away—with its lack of documentation, its serpentine subroutines. But you can also spot a computer scientist’s astronomy code. It’s high and tight, but it doesn’t display the same depth of knowledge about what the program is doing, and what those actions mean for, say, supernovae. “The key thing is combining the two approaches,” says Joachim Moeyens, an LSST data fellow from the University of Washington. “My goal is to keep everyone guessing about whether I’m an astronomer or a software engineer.” (My guess: a new kind of hybrid.)

Put a GitHubcap on that Wheel

The LSST’s fellowship only admits 15 students at a time—hardly the whole field. But the curriculum is online, and it has company. The Banneker & Aztlán Institute preps undergrads from all over in Unix, Python, computational astronomy, and data visualization. There are general boot camps, astro-specific modules, and continent-centric workshops. NASA and the SETI Institute recently teamed up to start the Frontier Development Lab, which brings planetary researchers and data scientists into contact with the private sector. And the University of Washington has a whole organization—the E-Science Institute—dedicated to the cause.

Astronomers have also given each other actual tools. The open-source AstroPy is “a community effort to develop a single core package for Astronomy in Python and foster interoperability between Python astronomy packages.” AstroML has a similar goal for the machine learning and data mining side. Scientists, here, can use the same code to do the same things on different data, fixing both that whole redundant wheel thing and the reproducibility problem.

Still, there’s some resistance in The Academy, reluctance to integrate all of this into curricula instead of requiring students to (or just tolerating students who) boot themselves off to camp. Alexandra Amon, an LSST Data Science fellow and a grad student at the University of Edinburgh, feels this acutely, in thinking about how, in the view of some, her hours spent learning to deal with data detract from her science—essentially the same sentiment Rawls expressed, despite the difference in their years. “Traditionally, from a job application point of view, time spent doing data analysis is detracting from delivering science results and paper-producing,” Almon says, “and therefore a hindrance.”

But “doing science” means—and has meant, for a while now—doing the kind of analysis that demands data and computer science expertise. Without that, the gap between knowledge and scientists’ ability to get that knowledge will only grow, like, you know, the universe itself.

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How to Uninstall and Reinstall WordPress

Recently, one of our users asked us the way they can uninstall and reintsall WordPress? Reinstalling WordPress can solve issues when all other troubleshootings tips fail. In this essay, we are going to demonstrate how exactly to properly uninstall and reinstall WordPress without losing important computer data or Search Engine Optimization.

how exactly to uninstall and reinstall WordPress

When Should You Reinstall WordPress?

Reinstalling WordPress should not function as first option. Most frequent WordPress mistakes are often fixable, and also this could save you from the hassle of reinstalling WordPress.

If you fail to find out the reason for a concern, then follow the instructions within our WordPress troubleshooting guide. It can help you pin-point the matter and find a solution.

In the event of a hacked WordPress website, you can test the guidelines in our guide on how best to clean a hacked WordPress site.

If everything else fails, then uninstalling and reinstalling a fresh copy of WordPress can be used while the final measure.

Action 0. Create a crisis Backup

If your wanting to do anything, you should first produce a complete backup of the existing WordPress website. You can make use of a WordPress backup plugin to do this. Make certain you store your backup files on your pc or even a cloud storage space service like Bing Drive or Dropbox.

We shall never be making use of this back-up to reinstall WordPress, however it’s good to have in case one thing goes wrong.

Step 1. Export Your WordPress Content

Initial thing you must do is export your WordPress content by making a WordPress export file. This file will contain your entire articles, pages, categories, tags, and comments.

Restoring a WordPress website applying this export file allows you to abandon data created by WordPress plugins.

This is how you’ll produce a WordPress export file.

First, register towards WordPress admin area after which go to Tools » Export page. Select all content and select ‘Download Export File’ key.

install WordPress export file

When you yourself have plenty of registered users in your web site, you might want to export them too. See our guide on how best to easily import/export users in WordPress.

Step 2. Download wp-content Folder

All your WordPress themes, plugins, pictures, and uploads are stored inside /wp-content/ folder in your website.

Let’s down load this article to your computer, to enable you to put it to use later on to reinstall WordPress.

Connect to your WordPress website having an FTP client or File Manager in cPanel. Once connected, select the wp-content folder and down load it to your computer.

install wp-content folder

After getting the wp-content folder, you’re prepared to uninstall WordPress.

Step 3. Properly Uninstall WordPress

To uninstall WordPress, you’ll want to connect with your WordPress site employing a FTP client or File Manager in cPanel. You then have to delete all WordPress files.

You don’t should delete your WordPress database. Most WordPress contains allow you to produce as much databases and usernames as you need.

Instead of deleting the prevailing database, you can produce a new one having a new username and password.

Generate new database, you will need to login towards cPanel account and click on MySQL Databases icon.

MySQL Databases

This may provide you with toward add new database page.

First, you need to enter a name for the new database and click on create database button.

develop a new database

From then on, scroll down seriously to add ‘MySQL Users’ area and put in a new user. You will have to enter a password, and then select ‘Create User’ key.

include New MySQL user

Now you need to include the consumer on database you created earlier in the day. Scroll right down to ‘Add individual to database’ section and find the username and database you created earlier.

include individual to database

Click the ‘Add’ key to keep.

Your database is ready to be utilized when you reinstall WordPress.

Now that you have got successfully uninstalled WordPress, let’s see how to reinstall it and restore your internet site.

Step four. Fresh Install WordPress

You will need to download a new copy of WordPress from web site.

install WordPress

After getting WordPress, you need to unzip the down load file.

You will discover a WordPress folder within it. Open the WordPress folder, and you may see all the WordPress files.

Now, you’ll want to upload these files to your website having an FTP customer.

Upload WordPress files

After uploading the WordPress files, go ahead and see your site. WordPress will now request you to enter your database information.

include database info

You’ll want to enter the name of database, username, and password you created earlier in the day. Your host information will in all probability be localhost.

Once you are done filling in the information and knowledge, click on the submit button to carry on.

WordPress will now make an effort to hook up to your database. Upon successful connection, it will explain to you successful message. Now you can go through the ‘Run Install’ button to continue.

Run WordPress installation

Next step, WordPress will ask you to offer your website information like site title, description, admin email and password.

Site information

After filling out the information and knowledge, select ‘Install WordPress’ button to carry on.

WordPress will now finish the installation. Go right ahead and log in to the WordPress admin area utilizing the password you entered early in the day.

An individual will be logged into WordPress, you need to delete the standard content.

Head over to articles and delete the ‘Hello World’ post. Go to the ‘Comments’ section and delete the standard comment. Finally, head to Pages and delete the sample page.

You’ve got successfully reinstalled a fresh copy of WordPress.

Now let’s move on to restoring your articles.

Step 5. Restore Uploads, Graphics, and Theme

First, you will have to restore your uploads, images, and theme situated inside the wp-content folder you downloaded earlier.

To accomplish this, you need to connect to your internet site utilizing an FTP customer and go to /wp-content/ folder.

Next, you’ll want to find the /wp-content/uploads/ folder from your own computer and upload it to your site.

Upload the uploads folder

When you yourself have made changes to your WordPress theme or child theme files, then you can certainly upload them now. Your theme folders are observed within the /wp-content/themes/ folder.

Action 6. Import Content

Now let’s import your articles, pages, categories, tags, alongside content.

First, you will need to go to Tools » Import page after which click ‘Install Now’ website link under WordPress.

Install WordPress importer

WordPress will now download and install the WordPress importer. You then must click on the ‘Run Importer’ website link.

This will provide you with to WordPress importer web page where you need to click on the ‘Choose File’ button and select the XML file you downloaded during our step 1.

Importing WordPress XML file

Click ‘Upload file and import’ switch to continue.

WordPress will ask you if you wish to produce brand new writers and designate the articles for them or if you would like to designate all articles to your current user account.

Import settings

When it is a single author WordPress website, then you can certainly designate all posts to your self. Otherwise, do nothing and WordPress will import the authors.

You also must make sure which you check out the box under ‘Import Attachments’. This can allow WordPress to properly import the pictures in your /wp-content/uploads/ folder toward WordPress media collection.

Go right ahead and click the Submit key to continue.

WordPress will now begin importing content from the XML file towards fresh WordPress install.

When completed, you’ll be able to to see your articles by visiting your website.

Action 7. Install WordPress Plugins (1 by 1)

After successfully importing content towards reinstalled WordPress site, you are able to move on to installing plugins.

You need to install all plugins one at a time after which trigger them. You may want to by hand setup plugins to modify their settings.

That’s all, you have got successfully uninstalled and reinstalled WordPress. You can now review your internet site and setup things because they had been before like your navigation menus, sidebar widgets, contact page, and more.

We hope this article helped you learn to uninstall and reinstall WordPress. You may even want to see our ultimate thorough WordPress safety guide.

If you liked this informative article, then please sign up for our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find united states on Twitter and Facebook.

How to Create a Custom WordPress Widget

Do you want to create your own custom widgets in WordPress? Widgets allow you to drag and drop elements into any sidebar or widget ready area of your website. In this article, we will show you how to easily create a custom WordPress widget.

Creating a custom WordPress widget

What is a WordPress Widget?

WordPress widgets contain pieces of code that you can add to your website’s sidebars or widget ready areas. Think of them as modules that you can use to add different elements by using a simple drag and drop interface.

By default, WordPress comes with a standard set of widgets that you can use with any WordPress theme. See our beginner’s guide on how to add and use widgets in WordPress.

WordPress widgets

WordPress also allows developers to create their own custom widgets. Many WordPress themes and plugins come with their own custom widgets that you can add to your sidebars.

For example, you can add a contact form, a custom login form, or a photo gallery to a sidebar without writing any code.

Having said that, let’s see how to easily create your own custom widgets in WordPress.

Creating a Custom Widget in WordPress

Before we get started, it would be best if you create a site-specific plugin where you will be pasting the widget code from this tutorial.

You can also paste the code in your theme’s functions.php file. However, it will only be available when that particular theme is active.

In this tutorial, we will create a simple widget that just greets visitors. Take a look at this code and then paste it in your site-specific plugin to see it in action.

 // Register and load the widget
function wpb_load_widget() { register_widget( 'wpb_widget' );
add_action( 'widgets_init', 'wpb_load_widget' ); // Creating the widget class wpb_widget extends WP_Widget { function __construct() {
parent::__construct( // Base ID of your widget 'wpb_widget', // Widget name will appear in UI
__('WPBeginner Widget', 'wpb_widget_domain'), // Widget description
array( 'description' => __( 'Sample widget based on WPBeginner Tutorial', 'wpb_widget_domain' ), ) );
} // Creating widget front-end public function widget( $args, $instance ) {
$title = apply_filters( 'widget_title', $instance['title'] ); // before and after widget arguments are defined by themes
echo $args['before_widget'];
if ( ! empty( $title ) )
echo $args['before_title'] . $title . $args['after_title']; // This is where you run the code and display the output
echo __( 'Hello, World!', 'wpb_widget_domain' );
echo $args['after_widget'];
} // Widget Backend public function form( $instance ) {
if ( isset( $instance[ 'title' ] ) ) {
$title = $instance[ 'title' ];
else {
$title = __( 'New title', 'wpb_widget_domain' );
// Widget admin form

After adding the code you need to head over to Appearance » Widgets page. You will notice the new WPBeginner Widget in the list of available widgets. You need to drag and drop this widget to a sidebar.

Custom WordPress widget added to a sidebar

Now you can visit your website to see it in action.

Previewing your custom widget

Now let’s study the code again.

First we registered the ‘wpb_widget’ and loaded our custom widget. After that we defined what that widget does, and how to display the widget back-end.

Lastly, we defined how to handle changes made to the widget.

Now there are a few things that you might want to ask. For example, what’s the purpose wpb_text_domain?

WordPress uses gettext to handle translation and localization. This wpb_text_domain and __e tells gettext to make a string available for translation. See how you can find translation ready WordPress themes.

If you are creating a custom widget for your theme, then you can replace wpb_text_domain with your theme’s text domain.

We hope this article helped you learn how to easily create a custom WordPress widget. You may also want to see our list of the most useful WordPress widgets for your site.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

The Bizarre Quantum Test That Could Keep Your Data Secure

At the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich, the basement of physics building is linked to the economics building by almost half a mile’s worth of optical dietary fiber. It will take a photon three millionths of the second—and a physicist, about five minutes—to travel from one building to the other. Starting in November 2015, scientists beamed individual photons between the structures, again and again for seven months, for a physics experiment that could 1 day assistance secure your data.

Their immediate goal would be to settle a decades-old debate in quantum mechanics: perhaps the event called entanglement really exists. Entanglement, a cornerstone of quantum theory, describes a bizarre situation when the fate of two quantum particles—such as being a pair of atoms, or photons, or ions—are intertwined. You might split those two entangled particles to opposing sides of this galaxy, however when you wreak havoc on one, you instantaneously replace the other. Einstein famously doubted that entanglement had been actually a thing and dismissed it as “spooky action well away.”

Through the years, scientists have run a variety of complicated experiments to poke within theory. Entangled particles exist in nature, but they’re excessively delicate and hard to manipulate. So researchers make sure they are, often making use of lasers and special crystals, in precisely controlled settings to test your particles act the way in which prescribed by concept.

In Munich, researchers set about their test in two laboratories, one in physics building, others in economics. In each lab, they used lasers to coax an individual photon away from a rubidium atom; in accordance with quantum mechanics theory, colliding those two photons would entangle the rubidium atoms. That intended that they had to get the atoms both in departments to emit a photon basically simultaneously—accomplished by firing a tripwire electric sign from lab to another. “They’re synchronized to less than a nanosecond,” claims physicist Harald Weinfurter associated with the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich.

The researchers collided both photons by delivering one of these within the optical dietary fiber. They made it happen once again. And again, tens of thousands of times, followed up by statistical analysis. Even though the atoms had been separated with a quarter of the mile—along with the impinging buildings, roads, and trees—the researchers discovered the 2 particles’ properties were correlated. Entanglement exists.

So, quantum mechanics is not broken … which is precisely what the scientists anticipated. Actually, this experiment fundamentally shows the same results being a variety of similar tests that physicists started to run in 2015. They’re known as Bell tests, called for John Stewart Bell, the northern Irish physicist whoever theoretical work inspired them. Couple of physicists nevertheless question that entanglement exists. “we don’t think there’s any severe or large-scale concern that quantum mechanics will be proven wrong tomorrow,” states physicist David Kaiser of MIT, who had beenn’t involved in the research. “Quantum concept never, ever, ever let’s down.”

But despite their predictable results, scientists find Bell tests interesting for a many different explanation: they are often important to the procedure of future quantum technologies. “throughout testing this strange, deep feature of nature, people understood these Bell tests might be placed to get results,” says Kaiser.

Including, Google’s baby quantum computer, which it plans to test later this year, utilizes entangled particles to do computing tasks. Quantum computers could execute particular algorithms even more quickly because entangled particles holds and manipulate exponentially extra information than regular computer bits. But because entangled particles are incredibly hard to control, designers may use Bell tests to confirm their particles are in reality entangled. “It’s an elementary test that will show that your particular quantum logic gate works,” Weinfurter states.

Bell tests could also be beneficial in securing data, claims University of Toronto physicist Aephraim Steinberg, who had been perhaps not active in the research. Presently, scientists are developing cryptographic protocols predicated on entangled particles. To send a protected message to someone, you’d encrypt your message using a cryptographic key encoded in entangled quantum particles. Then you definitely deliver your meant receiver the key. “Every now and then, you stop and do a Bell test,” says Steinberg. In cases where a hacker attempts to intercept the important thing, or if the key had been faulty to start with, you will be able to view it within the Bell test’s data, and you also would know that your encrypted message is no longer secure.

Soon, Weinfurter’s team desires to use their test to produce a setup that could deliver entangled particles over long distances for cryptographic purposes. But at precisely the same time, they’ll keep performing Bell tests to prove—beyond any inkling of a doubt—that entanglement actually exists. Because what’s the purpose of developing applications along with an impression?

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Why Governments Won’t Let Go of Secret Software Bugs

It’s been three days since WannaCry ransomware attacks began rippling across the world, affecting more than 200,000 people and 10,000 organizations in 150 countries. And the threat of further infection still looms.

The pervasiveness of WannaCry reveals just how insidious wide-scale ransomware attacks can be, endangering public infrastructure, commerce, and even human lives. But the implications of the incident don’t end there. The attack has transformed from an acute situation to be dealt with by security experts to a symbol of how fundamentally vital cybersecurity protection is and the true scale of what can happen when systems and devices lack crucial defenses. The far-reaching consequences of WannaCry has also revived a nuanced and longstanding debate about just how much risk the public should be exposed to when intelligence agencies secretly take advantage of vulnerabilities in consumer products.

Stockpiling Vulnerabilities

WannaCry’s evolution is the latest example. The attack spread by exploiting a Windows server vulnerability known as EternalBlue. The NSA discovered the bug and was holding on to it, but information about it and how to exploit it was stolen in a breach and then leaked to the public by a hacking group known as the Shadow Brokers. Microsoft issued a fix in mid-March, but many computers and servers never actually received the patch, leaving those systems open to attack. By holding on to this information instead of directly disclosing the vulnerability to manufacturers, this NSA espionage technique—ostensibly meant to protect people—caused a great deal of harm. And there’s no sign that groups like the NSA will discontinue this practice in the future.

“Even if what the NSA and the US government did is entirely right, it’s also okay for us to be outraged about this—we’re angry if a cop loses his gun and then it gets used in a felony,” says Jason Healey, a cyber conflict researcher at Columbia University, who studies the US government’s existing vulnerability and exploit disclosure process. “I think the government’s response to this is often ‘Look, this is espionage, it’s how the game is played, quit crying.’ And that’s just not cutting it. Everyone is right to be outraged and the government needs a better way of dealing with this.”

There’s certainly plenty of outrage that an NSA spy tool was stolen in the first place, then leaked, and then exploited to the detriment of individuals and businesses around the world.

“An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the U.S. military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen,” Brad Smith, the president and chief legal officer of Microsoft, wrote on Sunday. “This attack provides yet another example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is such a problem. … We need governments to consider the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities and the use of these exploits.”

It is vitally important that tech companies release patches in an accessible way and that customers—both individuals and institutions—apply those patches. Experts agree that the tech community and its users share responsibility for the WannaCry fallout given that Microsoft had released a protective patch that wasn’t installed widely enough. But with intelligence agencies around the world essentially betting against this process, their decisions can have an outsized impact. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin invoked this reasoning while speaking in Beijing on Monday. “Genies let out of bottles like these, especially if they’ve been created by the secret services, can then harm even their own authors and creators,” he said.

Who Determines the Greater Good?

For its part, the US has been developing and implementing a program called the Vulnerabilities Equities Process since 2010. It requires intelligence agencies that obtain zero-day (i.e. previously unknown) vulnerabilities and/or exploits to disclose them within the government for review. The idea is to determine on a case-by-case basis whether a greater public good is served by keeping a particular vulnerability secret for espionage purposes or by disclosing it so the manufacturer can issue a patch and protect users at large.

So far the process has proved imperfect, and in fact, there is evidence that some agencies have been shielding bugs from oversight. “How do you reconcile [intelligence agencies’] stated need to use these tools and keep them secret with the fact that they keep leaking or being stolen and with the fact that they don’t seem to be accounting for that risk,” says Andrew Crocker, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “We need to have a reform of VEP or something like it where those risks are properly accounted for.”

Experts say that one possibility is to create a mechanism through which tech companies can participate in intelligence oversight when it comes to vulnerabilities in their products. Such an arrangement would be a major departure for spy groups used to extensive independence and secrecy, but companies that bear significant responsibility when spy tools leak could work as a check on agencies. “There just has to be balance,” says Stephen Wicker, a computer engineering professor at Cornell University who studies privacy and regulation. “The corporations themselves have to be involved in this line drawing somehow.”

There’s no reason to think that intelligence groups will stop seeking out and using undisclosed vulnerabilities and exploits, but WannaCry may serve as a more effective wakeup call for the intelligence community than past incidents simply because of its scale and impact on vital services likes hospitals. “Whether it results in changing anything on the inside, we the public don’t really have any way of knowing. There are mechanisms like Congressional oversight and reporting, but it’s all discretionary,” EFF’s Crocker says. “So I hope that’s an actionable thing that comes out of this—it does seem like everyone agrees that transparency and reporting and oversight and auditing of this area of the intelligence community is very much needed.”

And one concrete thing agencies can do to reduce incidental impact is devote even more resources and effort to securing their digital tools. Perfect security is impossible, but the more control intelligence groups can maintain, the less danger these spy tools pose.

“You cannot do modern espionage without these capabilities,” Columbia’s Healey says. “If you want to know what the Islamic State is doing if you want to keep track of loose nukes in central Asia, if you want to follow smugglers who are trying to sell plutonium, this is the core set of capabilities that you need to do that. [But] a minimum role of public policy is if you’re going to weaponize the IT made by US companies and depended on by citizens, for fuck’s sake at least keep it secret. If you’re going to have to do this, then don’t lose it.”

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