#377 Sep 02, 2014 – Student Hackers Improve on College Systems

This week’s headline story: Student Hackers Improve on College Systems

studentFrustrated by Rutgers University’s registration system and being unable to get into the most popular courses, Vaibhav Verma built a web-based application that repeatedly queried the university’s registration system and notified him the moment a seat became available. By the next semester, 8,000 students were using Vaibhav’s system.

Mr. Verma isn’t alone in his ambitions. Similar efforts have taken place at Brown University, Furman University, Baruch College in Manhattan, University of California, Berkeley and others. In some cases, the new innovative systems were embraced by the administration, in others the students were reprimanded. In one extreme case, traffic generated by a student’s system took down an entire University’s network.

This culture of innovation has accelerated debates about the flow of information on campus. “Students are always more entrepreneurial and understand needs better than bureaucracies can,” said Harry R. Lewis, the director of undergraduate studies for Harvard’s computer science department, “since bureaucracies tend to have messages they want to spin, and priorities they have to set, and students just want stuff that is useful.

Recently 10 students and newly graduated seniors from colleges around the country converged on a lodge at Lake Tahoe for what they called a Campus Data Summit. They have since published a guidebook for dealing with uncooperative university administrations, including advice like “be proactive about their fears,” “make friends with faculty” and, perhaps most crucially, ask for “forgiveness, not permission.”

It’s not just University registration systems being hacked. Students are also hacking coursework as well. It’s not unusual for classmates to create a Facebook group for a class, where they can share notes, and help each other with issues. Now full web apps are emerging to help students with class work. Boasting over 100,000 members from hundreds of different schools, Study Room is a product built for students by students. Study Room is a website where students from any institution can

  • Connect with classmates
  • Get help on homework
  • Get access to notes and files

Such outside resources are often frowned upon by instructors and institutions concerned with cheating. But the democratization of education is inevitable in this era of online communities and entrepreneurial students. Universities that nurture and promote student innovation, rather than attempting to stifle it will end up with, not only systems that better satisfy student needs, but also with more innovative and engaged students, that graduate into high-profile careers.

Student-Built Apps Teach Colleges a Thing or Two [NYTimes]

The Campus Data Organization (and guidebook): http://campusdata.org/

and elsewhere in Tech News.

  • Google tests airborne drones to deliver goods [Reuters]

    Google’s Project Wing building drone delivery service [Computerworld]

    Amazon made headlines earlier this year when CEO Jeff Bezos announced that the company is investigating the use of drones to deliver products. Well it turns out that Google has been experimenting with a drone delivery system for the past two years. The effort, which Google calls Project Wing, will take years of development to create a service with multiple vehicles flying multiple deliveries per day, Google said.

  • California Lays Down the Kill-Switch Law [Ecommerce Times]

    California’s Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill into law requiring that anti-theft measures be incorporated into all smartphones sold in California. The law, which applies to phones manufactured after July 1, 2015, will likely bring the highly anticipated “kill switch” to phones sold across the country. It is hoped that being able to render phones useless will reduce cell phone thefts which have become a major concern in the U.S..

and in Information Security news this week..

  • China Developing an Operating System to Take on Microsoft, Google and Apple [NYTimes]

    Computer technology has become quite an area of tension between China and the United States after several run-ins over cybersecurity. China is now looking to gain independence from US software while helping its domestic tech industry catch up with imported systems such as Windows and Android. It has established an official operating system development alliance with the goal of developing a desktop OS by October – complete with an app store that will distribute Chinese developed Apps, later extending to smartphone and other mobile devices. It will be interesting to see how the county’s well known censorship laws are integrated into the OS.

  • CryptoWall ransomware held over 600,000 computers hostage, encrypted 5B files [Computerworld]

    A file-encrypting ransomware program called CryptoWall has infected over 600,000 computer systems in the past six months and held 5 billion files hostage, earning its creators more than $1 million. CryptoWall spreads through spam emails with malicious links or attachments, drive-by-download attacks from sites infected with exploit kits and through installations by other malware programs already running on compromised computers. The ransomware demands ransoms of between $100 and $500 for victims to recover their encrypted files. CryptoWall is now “the largest and most destructive ransomware threat on the Internet” and will likely continue to grow, say researchers at the Counter Threat Unit (CTU) at Dell SecureWorks.

and in Tech Industry news…

  • New iPhones expected at Sept. 9 Apple event [Reuters]

    Apple has issued invitations to a media event planned for September 9th. The invitation simply reads “Wish we could say more,” but it’s anticipated that new iPhones and an iWatch will be unveiled.

  • What’s Twitch? Gamers Know, and Amazon Is Spending $1 Billion on It [NYTimes]

    The online gaming video site Twitch didn’t even exist a little over three years ago, and now it has over 55 million unique viewers a month globally. The company has been instrumental in turning online games into spectator events as much as a participatory activities. Amazon has recognized the value of Twitch and has decided to buy the company for $1.1 billion.

and finally…

  • Samsung’s New Smart Watch Makes Calls Without Phone [NewsFactor]

    Samsung has announced a smart watch that can make and take phone calls and text messages independently, without a bluetooth connection to a cell phone. The Samsung Gear S, is head and shoulders above other smart watches in appearance, featuring a two-inch curved Super AMOLED display, with a 480×320-pixel resolution that rivals some smartphones. But the question is will anyone want to buy a cellular data plan for their watch?

Download the mp3 version of this post, or subscribe through the iTunes Store.

Sponsored by:

Cengage Learning Logo

© 2012 Cengage Learning, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication, reproduction or redistribution of Cengage Learning, Inc. (“Cengage Learning”) content, including by framing or similar means, is prohibited without the prior written consent of Cengage Learning. To request permission to photocopy, duplicate, republish or otherwise reuse Cengage Learning material, or for efiles for students with disabilities, go to www.cengage.com/permissions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *